Monday, September 30, 2013

On running

My sister-in-law is a serious runner ---- she has won the New Zealand 800m National Women's Masters competition, and on Sunday 29th September 2013 came 3rd in an extraordinarily hilly and demanding 10k run in Kinver for Action Heart.  She runs pretty much all the time and is incredibly fit.

This is the amazing Sarah doing the 800m Dunedin Masters games in 2012.

Anyway, today she and brother-in-law completed the VERY HARD Kinver 10k.  Just to give you a sense of the route, there's a MapMyRun view. It's a pretty challenging set of hills that the race includes, and I really won't be doing it anytime soon.

It's pretty amazing that she came in at a time of just over 45 mins, with Mark coming in at just over 60 mins.  That rather puts into a cocked hat mine and Neil's achievements at doing a 2k 'family fun run' (alongside 3-8 year olds, with various parents and few pre-teens) and covering the distance in a mostly-run, and a little bit walked 13-14 mins.  Pah.

Still - Mark and Sarah did great.

Neil and Lisa post-race (note my "UN-healthy U" t-shirt from Nottingham Uni!)

Mark and Sarah post-race

Sarah and Mark pre-race

Next spring I seem to have signed myself up for doing Race for Life - that's 5k (I keep telling myself 3k just to not scare myself witless).  I'll be part of the Art History team from Nottingham Uni (honorary associate member) and I'll be running alongside awesome Gaby Neher who promises we will have Haribo as rewards during training and certainly post-race.

Believe me, Haribo crocs are a REAL incentive, especially when they're the make of Haribo crocs generally only sold in France which are FAR superior to versions sold in the UK!

Friday, September 27, 2013

In praise of Thursday night telly

Peaky Blinders

Educating Yorkshire (though it ain't a patch on Educating Essex, the original and the best)

The Sound of Cinema: the Music that made the Movies

It's almost like they WANT to make it clear this is the digital catch-up age: three excellent programmes all scheduled for 9pm on a Thursday (we missed the potential of The Guilty starring lovely Tamsin Greig, but it seems it wasn't worth the effort - that TOO was on Thursday 9pm).

BBC1 Peaky Blinders
Peaky Blinders is ludicrously stylised and heavily anachronistic in parts (although we're especially enjoying the soundtrack: you can't hate a programme that uses Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' "Red Right hand" as its intro music).

The storyline is barking, the politics no doubt flawed and yet....

It is pretty irresistible   Murphy first came to my attention as The Scarecrow in the Batman Begins movie, and he's since cut quite a role for himself as mesmeric anti-hero types.

His character in Peaky Blinders, Thomas Shelby, will naturally head for a fall one feels (you want it to work, just as you want Aunt Pol, Helen McCrory, to keep slapping these useless blokes about the head), but you can't help rooting for him.  A real gem, slo-mo included.

Channel 4: Educating Yorkshire
Well, it's not the glory that was Educating Essex - possibly the best advert for comprehensive UK education imaginable.  In contrast, the teachers, whilst well-meaning, seem less in control and take a very different approach to interacting with students (please don't claim it's a 'northern thing' though; that's just insulting to everyone).  I'd prefer ties that were properly tied, no shoes on the desks, and no swearing - even faux swearing - at students (it makes the infamous "clear off scumbags" in EE seem positively lightweight).

But the teachers and staff clearly ARE well-meaning, and managing teenagers is no mean feat for anyone to attempt.

Last night, was for me a key episode though, highlighting my personal weak points in these sort of programmes: the relationships between teenage girls.  I've been there, been on the receiving end of rumours, 'friends' setting people against each other, the stress and hurt and anger that goes with it.  I felt for both smart   articulate Hadiqa and the academically struggling but bubbly Safiyyah - both to a certain extent victims of the malice that can be 'the other girls in the group'.

This was the first time in EY that I felt that sense of identification with the situation; something that felt much more live, more of a consistent undercurrent in EE even where events were outside my personal experience.  Young people with Aspergers? I understand that one.  Teenage pregnancy?  Nottingham has (had) an awful reputation in that regard. Frustrated smart teenage girls? Oh yeah. Family circumstances for teenagers that would break any stone heart? Seen it around me. Boys who can't control their anger?  Social media bullying?  Desperately trying to teach the attentive and inattentive simultaneously? Feeling overwhelmed at what you cannot control (among both staff and students)? Pass me the hankies. It's the same production team, so does the difference, that lack of my feeling empathy for both students and teachers in EY, to do with the show or me? I felt it in every episode of EE - recognising the situations, the dramas, the reactions on both sides of the desk.  With the Yorkshire show, it's like the desk is blurred and everything is more uncontained, less well-managed. It's really just to do with a different style of teaching and management, but somehow the flaws at Essex felt like things they were learning from and doing better each time they dealt with similar things. Essex set the standard with Mr Drew and Mr Goddard.  I don't think Mr Mitchell or any of the year heads have yet quite measured up as yet (though Miss Uren has come close, as has Mrs Crowther).

BBC4: the Sound of Cinema series
The Sound of Cinema: The Music that made the Movies has been presented by Neil Brand who is just the right combination of nerdy and knowledgeable, passionate about film and able to communicate it to audiences.  I am fascinated by the use of music in film so this series has been delightful and yet I have learnt things as well.  Wonderful treat.

Makes me want to listen to film scores all over again, whether orchestral scores or popular music soundtracks (did I mention I once wrote about soundtracks for 'Chick Flicks'?)

It's all gone a bit 'Socialism is back!' hasn't it? Fear and loathing in the energy market debate

One can't help feeling that all the fearful yelling about Socialism coming back (if only it were), by the likes of - most of - the national press and Peter Mandelson, is something of a indication that finally Ed MilliB may be doing something right in his proposals around fuel pricing.

If it is hacking them all off that much, getting energy companies et al to be screaming 'foul play!', it's hard to resist the notion that there may be something in the proposals being made by the Labour party.

And if the energy companies try to get around things by ramming prices up before the next election (as they have so repeatedly done regardless of whether wholesale prices are up, down or spinning around) isn't that a huge "I told you so" that would only confirm the complete lack of 'bovveredness' of said companies for the impact of their pricing policies on everyday cost of living?  Wouldn't that prove how toothless the so-called regulators have been of the privatised energy industry (sorry - I mean of course 'nationalised energy industry, except they're owned by OTHER nations than the UK)?  Isn't the problem of more being spent on shareholders than on investment, that said companies are merely paying lipservice to notions of weaning consumers off damaging fossil fuel practices, an indictment of how the market hasn't really worked for this provision we take for granted in the developed world?

And if AFTER any price freeze, prices did rocket again, how would that prove that the status quo of letting the companies and markets do as they please is the right option?

Rubbish at this malarky

It's near ridiculous to think of a lack of blogging as being 'tragic' but I feel so bad about my inability to get online and write.

The ease with which I have shifted to the dread FB - and my ineptitude at finding solutions to cross-post (I should probably just move the blog elsewhere where cross-posting is easier) - do instill in me feelings of remorse for sure.

Does anyone foolish enough to still believe this site is alive have ideas how to get around this?

One of the reasons I have resisted so far in moving to WordPress is not just that I have no aptitude for the task but also that generally moving sites seems to lose all the comments on existing posts (and it is there that I have most fun reminding myself how good I used to be at this lark).


Sunday, September 08, 2013

Books, books, books: in praise of libraries

Within an eight day period, I've been inside six great libraries, to varying degrees.  Sometimes just to see an exhibition (and not visit the library per se) and others to just glory in the building and its book contents.

The British Library

We kicked things off with the British Library - the building is hardly loved, but the contents are spectacular, and it has very good exhibitions.  The BL suffered from a protracted development of a new site, and the leaving behind of the old Reading Room at the British Museum where it had been housed for so long.  The BM has hardly known what to do with the room since the BL moved out, which is a real shame.  The temporary exhibitions seem to have come to stop. At least at the new BL site, the temporary exhibitions are cracking opportunities to see the breadth of the collections.

We went to see Power and Persuasion, which closes soon: a very good exhibition material as diverse as war propaganda (from all sides), films promoting health (an incredible short on combating venereal disease) and the London Olympics.  With posters, films, printed tracts and books, it shows the diversity of the materials held by the BL and also the slippery nature of the term propaganda which is taken here to include all information designed with the intention to change/inform behaviour and attitudes.

Chetham's Library

The library at the famed School of Music at Manchester is a beautiful collection and feels how an old established library should feel.

The John Ryland's Library
or should that be the Enriqueta Augustina Ryland's Library

It's hard to resist a place so gothically beautiful as the magnificent JRL, but it highlights how women are often lost from history.  I came away wanting to know more about the woman who powered the construction and collection of the library far more than about her husband in whose name she developed it.

The redevelopment to extend the space is sympathetic and well-done - keeping the proportions of window spaces is always a nice touch

The Portico Library and Gallery

On his preparations for the trip, Neil had found The Portico was a fellow library of the same group that Bromley House belongs to (our own local subscription library in Nottingham: see below).  The photos on the website don't do it justice though and hidden as the location is at the side of its original entrance (the downstairs is now a pub), many would walk past without realising.

I would heartily yell that Portico should NOT be missed.  It is beautiful (as are the other libraries we saw in Manchester) but the welcome was by far the best.

This was in no small thanks to two factors: first, that we are members of Bromley House (this gave us the right to look at the whole place, and not just the public exhibition space), and second, that we ran into a long-not-seen friend who is closely involved and indeed was attending a meeting of the library trustees.  This meant we had a lovely long visit AND had lunch together in the reading room at the back (a proper treat!)

Bromley House Library

Having had such a warm welcome thanks to our BH membership, I thought it only fit that I pass on the hellos from Emma, Taylor, and Lyn at Manchester's Portico Library to all at Bromley House as the Portico gang were clearly very fond of the wonderful Nottingham library.  Ducking in after having my hair done, it was good to see the progress with some of the internal refurbishments including the new toilets!

I'll reserve judgement on the impact of the new student accommodation on the garden...

The Bodleian Library

We had missed the tour (9.15am arrival in Oxford was beyond even our early rising) but we DID go to see the very lovely exhibition on Magical Books covering fantastical tales from across the ages.  Just to see author Alan Garner's beautiful handwriting was enough of a treat.