Monday, 30 April 2012

Pathetic earthlings...

I shaved my head on the weekend, as I normally do but this time I took it a little shorter than usual. It's strange how people notice a 2mm difference. I've had quite a few comments in work today. I rather like it this short; the only problem being that it grows out so quickly. Joking with a friend of mine yesterday, I said that I thought I looked like Emperor Ming the Merciless from the 1980 film, Flash Gordon. He didn't disagree.

Luckily, Emperor Ming the Merciless has been a role model for me since I was 18 when I first saw the film on its original release. With a cosmic cast including, Timothy Dalton, Brian Blessed, Richard O'Brien, Peter Wyngarde, Topol and, of course Max Von Sydow as Ming; a superb soundtrack by Queen; some truly cheesy lines and a barrel of shit special effects, Flash Gordon holds a special place in my heart.
Today's run at 17:57
Distance5.01 kmTime27:16
Pace5:26 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Broken sunshine.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

April is the cruelest month...

This afternoon, as I cycled into a strong headwind and monsoon like rain, battling my way for a swim at Cardiff International Pool, I couldn't help but think of T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland:
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
I must say, this April has been particularly cruel with its rain and cold; especially when you place that against the recent drought headlines. On the face of it, it seems farcical. But, so the BBC reliably informs me, our sopping wet April this year is a lonely peak amongst the troughs of below average rainfall that we've experienced over the last 2 years.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Last meals...

There's a picture gallery published in the Guardian online today entitled Death Row Last Meals. The meals are nothing special in themselves but are loaded with meaning, given they are the requested last meals of those about to be executed.

Of course, last meals are not restricted to those on death row; at some point in our lives we'll all consume a last meal - even if it is liquidised and delivered through a tube. The only difference being that, for the majority of us, we won't know it's our last meal and so it won't hold any significance. Perhaps there's a lesson there about eating well and savouring every mouthful.

What would my last meal be, if I had a choice? As a starting point, I would have to think what my favorite foods are. So, in no particular order:
Green Beans
Red Wine
I can't think of a meal that would contain all of the above. I guess I could just order all of them and graze throughout my last evening.
Today's run at 8:14
Distance5.02 kmTime27:35
Pace5:30 min/kmCadence82 spm
Comments: Grey and blustery.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Suspicious and unexplained...

The inquest continues about the 31 year old MI6 officer, Gareth Williams, whose naked dead body was discovered in a padlocked holdall bag in the bath at his London flat back in August 2010. Speculation has been rife after police said that £15,000-worth of unworn women's designer clothing was found at his flat. This was in addition to tickets to drag shows and mobile browsing records of visits to online bondage sites. This week it has emerged that his landlady had once had to untie him from the bed, after he'd shouted for help, having been tied there in his boxer shorts.

I've been following the story for months and was reading the latest installment in work today. Swimming tonight, I couldn't help but think that it's too early to tell what actually went on leading up to his death but it's hardly a straight forward case. The press is bubbling over with hints and nudges of the "exotic life" he may have led; reading between the lines, they can hardly contain their prurient excitement. It must be hugely upsetting for his family hearing this salacious speculation played out in public.

Given the "nudge, nudge; wink, wink" attitude of the press, it's small wonder that a female friend is explaining the women's clothes as probable gifts for her or his sister, along with refuting the idea point blank that he might have been gay. This denial seems a little forced but understandable, given that some hack's imagination is running wild on the front pages every day.

Whatever the outcome, whatever the circumstances; it's sad that a 31 year old man with everything to live for should have his life cut short at such an early age.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A very narrow view...

So, Robert Redford's had a pop at Cameron (David and not James) for his call to "UK producers to make commercially successful pictures". Redford said that this was "a very narrow view" adding "That may be why he's in trouble".

I would think that the highest priority with most producers is to make good films. I also think that most producers really hope to make commercially successfully films, because that means that people are watching their films.

Of course, the best films aren't always the most commercially successful. The best films, the most innovative films, the most creative films often (to use a phrase adopted by business) push the envelope in some way. They don't always succeed because of this but their styles, themes and techniques are often adopted more widely later and eventually become the commercial pictures of the following season.

Notable box office flops include:
The Great Dictator
The Wizard of Oz
To Be Or Not To Be
New York, New York
Peeping Tom
Citizen Kane
It's A Wonderful Life
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Blade Runner
I'm so pleased that the producers behind these didn't listen to David Cameron.

Cameron's statement clearly displays his lack of understanding and ignorance on this subject. Maybe he should stick to things he knows about such as...
Today's run at 18:27
Distance5.01 kmTime27:12
Pace5:26 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Drizzle.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A fair and just God...?

I used to work with a woman who was a fervent christian. She never missed an opportunity to sing praises to and about the Lord. She was, if truth be told, a very nice woman but, with her constant references to the Almighty, a very annoying woman. If she knew you had a problem of any kind, she'd give you a leaflet on how God could help you with it. It didn't matter what was troubling you, there was always a leaflet: What Jesus Teaches Us About Debt, God Can Help With Acne and Halitosis and the Holy Ghost and so on.

I remember one particular day a few years ago she kept leaving her desk suddenly throughout the day. She'd announced earlier that morning that she didn't feel very well and it soon became obvious to everyone that her sudden disappearances were emergency dashes to the toilet. By mid afternoon she was looking pretty distraught and she told her manager that she wanted to go home as she was still in quite some discomfort. She promised to come in early the next day to make up for the time lost and off she ran.

The next day she came in early, as she'd promised. She said that she still didn't feel 100% but nowhere near as ill as she'd felt the day before. Her manager took her aside to check that everything was OK. Ten minutes later, the manager emerged from the meeting room barely containing a huge grin. The manager later confided in us that this woman had not quite made it home the afternoon before and had soiled herself on the main road only a hundred yards from her house, adding, "And she was wearing tights!"

Now what sort of fair and just God allows that to happen to one of his most fervent disciples?

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

You are what you eat...

As I got into the pool for my swim tonight the warm fumes of belched pasty and chlorine wafted over me. I could see the culprit; he'd just turned and done a little kick to begin his next lap. The exertion must have forced a burp out which had perculated through the water to the surface. I felt sick. Who eats a pasty before going for a swim?

According to many reports, we are beginning to wake up to the benefits of eating a healthy diet. Open any magazine or newspaper and you won't have to look too far for that article on healthy eating. Those of us that care about these things try to avoid too much processed food and we watch the fat, salt and sugar levels in the foods we eat.

However... There are a group of Cardiff school kids that get on the same bus as me in the mornings that have successfully managed to avoid all literature on healthy eating. The stink of barbecue, beef and onion, smokey bacon and prawn cocktail flavour crisps on the bus is overpowering. A packet of Walkers seems to be the preferred breakfast of choice round our way.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Possibly, the best blowjob you'll ever experience...

Yesterday I wrote about Will Self's broadcast regarding opting for challenging and taxing art, books etc in order to deepen our understanding, rather than opting for the easy and convenient "boneless nuggets of McKnowledge" we often find on the internet; something for which I have a great deal of empathy. Well today, I'm going to advocate the exact opposite.

I consider myself to be a knowledgeable and often savvy man; I've been around the block a few times; there's little that surprises me. However, from time to time, I hear of something about which I feel I should know more. And every once in a while that something is known by everyone else but not by me, making it doubly hard to ask what it is. This is where the internet comes into its own; providing answers to those questions you were just too embarrassed to ask.

I like boiled eggs but loathe peeling them. I've tried peeling them as soon as they've boiled, I've tried peeling them once chilled in the fridge and I've tried peeling them under water but, invariably, I end up with shell everywhere, chunks ripped out of my eggs and my nerves in tatters. I typed the following into Google under videos, "Tips on peeling a boiled egg" and this is what I found:

Possibly, the best blowjob you'll ever experience...
Today's run at 18:06
Distance5.01 kmTime27:23
Pace5:28 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Squally showers.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Being difficult...

As I lay in bed this morning, debating whether I should get up, I decided to procrastinate a little further and so, at the risk of catching one of Radio 4's Sunday morning religious programmes such as Bells on Sunday or Something Understood, I turned on the radio. Luckily, God was with me and I'd narrowly avoided Sunday Worship, tuning in just in time for the start of Radio 4's A Point of View.

This morning's broadcast was a piece by Will Self entitled, Challenging Intellect. In this piece he argued that we should embrace the intellectual challenge of "difficult" books and art, and value works which are more taxing than our increasingly low-brow popular culture.
"The most disturbing result of this retreat from the difficult is to be found in arts and humanities education, where the traditional set texts are now chopped up into boneless nuggets of McKnowledge, and students are encouraged to do their research - such as it is - on the web."
I read the transcript of the programme when I got up and his phrase, "boneless nuggets of McKnowledge" has stayed with me all day. His comparison of knowledge to food and its acquisition in our information revolution age being akin to buying something cheap, quick and easily digestible at a fast food outlet is, I think, a powerful metaphor. It's a beautiful and potent phrase that I have returned to today - whilst cycling, at the supermarket, at the swimming pool. It has conjured up images throughout the day that have set my synapses alight.

We live in a 24/7 culture where everything is in competition with everything else for our short attention spans. It's a world of headlines, strap lines and catchphrases; anything longer is overlooked. I believe this to be a major driver in why we now have McKnowledge in place of broad understanding. Everything has to be easy and instantaneous; films, theatre, books, music - it's why so much of what we consume is formulaic. Once it's proven to work, it's repeated and applied to other genres and forms too.

The internet has revolutionised information; how we communicate it, how we access it and how we digest it. There is more information readily, easily and cheaply available to us today than we could ever hope to digest. There are, of course, many advantages to this but, as Will Self points out, there are many disadvantages too.

If you've not already done so, listen to his broadcast, Challenging Intellect.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Observations whilst running...

I'm glad I managed to haul my lazy carcass from my pit this morning and go for a pre-breakfast run. The sky was blue and the sun was shining and, if you ignored the chill air, it felt like Summer had arrived. There was much quacking and squawking from the birds in the Bay. Many of the larger trees have started to bud and the smaller trees and shrubs are almost in full leaf. Everything looked very green and Spring like.

One thing that seems to irritate me most and really tests my patience these days is lack of spatial awareness. People that take up the whole pavement, who refuse to let others through, who make large and sudden movements with no regard for those around them, who don't adjust their pace or space to accommodate others; I think it shows lack of consideration for everyone else. As I ran this morning, a cyclist coming towards me on the pavement refused to move in a little to allow us both to pass each other. There was room; all he needed to do was move a foot to the right. In the end I was forced to run in the road to allow him to cycle on the pavement. I hissed "Cock!" at him as I passed, which made me feel better.

I've always been a bit nervous of dogs. I was attacked by a dog when I was a kid and since then I've always been a bit wary of them. As I ran between two guys who were chatting whilst out walking their respective mutts this morning, the dogs decided to fight at the very moment I passed; both dogs straining at the leash and me with my heart in my mouth in the middle. If I'd been wearing my heart rate monitor strap, the spike at that moment would've been off the page.

My run this morning took me past Harry Ramsden's in the Bay. They have posters everywhere promoting vitamin C and on their website they boast, "It may also surprise you that a portion of chips is very a (sic) good source of vitamin C". While this may well be true, I think there are possibly better ways to ensure you're getting your recommended levels. Claiming that chips are a good source of vitamin C is a bit like claiming that cigarettes are a good source of fibre; true but a little disingenuous.
Today's run at 8:25
Distance5.21 kmTime28:35
Pace5:30 min/kmCadence82 spm
Comments: Sunny & clear.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Alles klar...

Depending on the context and your audience, dropping a few French words and phrases into your conversation may make you sound sophisticated or may make you sound like a bit of a pretentious twat. Dropping a German word or phrase will make you sound even more sophisticated... or maybe an even bigger twat with more pretensions.

Sometimes though, nothing else quite captures the moment as well as one of those German words that seem to sum up what we mean better than anything English could dream up. Where would we be without:
Doppelgänger: taken from German Doppel (double) and Gänger (goer). A ghostly counterpart of a living person. A double or an alter ego.

Lebensraum: from the German Leben (living, life) and Raum (space). The space required for life, growth, or activity. Brought to prominence again by Adolf Hitler in his book Mein Kampf.

Realpolitik: from German real (realistic, practical or actual); and Politik politics. Politics based on practical and material factors rather than on theoretical or ethical objectives.

Schadenfreude: derives from the German Schaden (adversity, harm) and Freude (joy). Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

Wanderlust: from the German words wandern (to hike) and Lust (desire). A strong, innate desire to rove or travel about.

Zeitgeist: a loanword from German Zeit (time) and Geist (spirit). Spirit of an age.
And you couldn't really entitle a post Alles Klar without a word from The League of Gentlemen's Herr Lipp

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Gay theatre, Welsh nudism and a liberal Church in Wales...

Throughout today I have pondered on what to write for tonight's post. During my swim tonight I was unable to settle on anything and equally when trying to shape tonight's post over dinner, I failed. I've sat here and looked for inspiration online but no one thing seems to present itself. I am therefore going to brain dump a number of unconnected thoughts that have passed through my mind in the last 24 hrs:
My first job as an actor was with Gay Sweatshop; a London based, gay, political, theatre company. The play, Compromised Immunity played the Drill Hall before touring nationally. It introduced me to many friends and got me my Equity card. As such, I was interested to read this piece in the Guardian entitled, Q is for queer theatre, which paints an all too brief sketch of gay theatre and asks what next?

Carmarthenshire council seem at odds with themselves over nudism warnings on their beaches. With signs erected stating that nudism is not permitted and warning nudists that they may face prosecution, it's been pointed out that being naked in public is not illegal. Seemingly contradicting themselves, a spokesperson for the council said, "If genuine naturists turn up and aren't causing distress, life goes on". I think they're trying to ward off those nudists who are looking for more than a game of volleyball on the beach. Another spokesperson said, "It is something we are policing religiously and we won't tolerate it!" For those that can...

I knock the church and its leaders enough when they're being homophobic (lots of opportunities there) so it only seems right to praise the voices of reason within the church when they speak up. This week the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan has called on the Church in Wales to support gay people, adding, "Very often homosexuality is talked about as if real people were not involved, and gays and lesbians complain of being talked about rather than talked to in church". How refreshing.
My apologies for not tying these stories together in a seemless fashion with a common thread but my befuddled brain won't allow that today. I hope the nude volleyball video made up for my failings... ;-)

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Popes: A History...

I'm reading The Popes: A History by John Julius Norwich. As you might surmise, it's a history of the 280 Popes; heads of the Catholic Church from St Peter to Benedict XVI. The book opens with the assertion, "What cannot be denied is that Roman Catholicism began with Christianity itself; all other Christian religions – and there are more than 22,000 of them – are offshoots or deviations from it." As the Guardian review states, this is a bit dismissive and cavalier of Norwich. However, his book doesn't suffer from this approach.

What drew me to this book was the write up on the back cover,
Of the 280-odd holders of the supreme office, some have unquestionably been saints; others have wallowed in unspeakable iniquity. One was said to have been a woman, her sex being revealed only when she improvidently gave birth to a baby during a papal procession. Almost as shocking was Formosus whose murdered corpse was exhumed, clothed in pontifical vestments, propped up on a throne and subjected to trial; or John XII, of whom Gibbon wrote 'his rapes of virgins and widows had deterred the female pilgrims from visiting the shrine of St Peter'.
And that's before you mention the Borgia Pope Alexander VI and his crimes of adultery, theft, rape, bribery, incest, and murder.

It's the more salacious passages that appeal to me (and, I dare say, many others). Norwich's style certainly plays to the gallery in this respect. Of Paul II: “He seems to have had two weaknesses, for good-looking young men and for melons; the stroke that killed him was said to have been brought on by a surfeit of both.” On John XXIII: “The most scandalous charges were suppressed; the Vicar of Christ was only accused of piracy, murder, rape, sodomy and incest.”

Of course, the book is more than a romp through the Vatican's dirty laundry over the last 2,000 years; there is much here that is informative as well as entertaining. When Christ said to Peter, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church"; if claims that Peter was crucified then buried outside Rome on the Vatican Hill are true, then Peter is quite literally as well as figuratively the foundation stone.
Today's run at 18:03
Distance5.10 kmTime27:42
Pace5:26 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Grey and cold.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The P in our pools...

I mentioned to a few colleagues today that I was going swimming this evening after work. I can't quite remember how (it was probably my doing) but the conversation quickly turned to peeing in public pools. As I swam tonight I contemplated the amount of urine in the water I was now swimming through. It wasn't a pleasant thought.

Up and down my lane I swam, thinking that only kids would do such a thing. I couldn't see anyone near me younger than 20 and surely no adult would urinate in Cardiff International Pool, would they? Furthermore, if they did, don't they use a chemical that turns the water red when it comes into contact with urine, thereby pinpointing and shaming the perpetrator?

When I got home from the pool, I decided to see what information I could find online. In a US study, when questioned, one in five adult Americans admitted to peeing in public pools. I dread to think what the percentage is for kids. There's even a Peeing in Swimming Pools Facebook Page. As for chemicals that dye the water red or dark blue when urine is detected; it's an urban myth - no such chemical exists.

I then read a US website about pool hygiene which started by asking people not to swim if they have diarrhea. At that point I stopped reading. I can't help thinking that front crawl may not be such an attractive stroke...

Monday, 16 April 2012

Human suffering...

On waking this morning, I found that I had a blister on each of my heels from all the walking I did in Manchester in a spanking brand new pair of shoes on the weekend. These blisters were further irritated today by my work shoes. They haven't broken yet but it can only be a matter of time.

I also have a pain at the back of my leg, just above the knee. I can only describe the feeling as that sharp sort of pain you get when you damage a muscle. I have no idea how this happened. Throughout today it's felt, at best, uncomfortable and, at times, quite painful - like I've torn something.

The mad looking photo of me to the right was taken at a restaurant in Salford Quays on Sunday afternoon. Perhaps the face I'm pulling is as a result of the pain I'm suffering or maybe it's the cessation of it because I've just sat down, taken a glug of my wine and started to relax? Whatever the reason, I quite like it.

I very nearly didn't go running tonight because of my weekend war wounds. In the end, I decided to go for a short run only, promising myself that at the first sign of a twinge I would stop and return home. As it happened, my heels and my leg suffered less pain on my run than they had at any point throughout today. Isn't the body a wonderful thing?

I hurt like hell again now though...
Today's run at 17:26
Distance5.01 kmTime28:08
Pace5:37 min/kmCadence79 spm
Comments: Sunshine and showers.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Caerdydd bound...

I'm jammed in a packed carriage of football fans returning from the Manchester United/Aston Villa game. I want a pee but getting to the loo is out of the question. I'd hoped that most would get out at Crewe; they didn't. At least I have a seat - a wet seat, if I can't have a pee very soon.

As we pull into Shrewsbury, the clouds that fleck the sky are aflame with the dying rays of a blood red setting sun. A child across the aisle has farted and the sickly sweet stench permeates the entire carriage. He giggles with his friend. I am not giggling.

I close my eyes and try to relax. It's been a lovely, spur of the moment, surprise of a weekend. Manchester has certainly changed a lot since I was properly there last. I've passed through it a few times in the last couple of years but you can't gauge a town from passing through it. One thing that hasn't changed is the relaxing welcome it has always extended toward me.

The aisle seems a little more navigable and so I squeeze my way to loo but when I get there a passenger tells me that it's out of order. I press forward to the next carriage and after an agonising wait, enter the vacated loo. It stinks of an acrid and eye watering ammonia. At last I manage to have a pee. The relief almost moves me to tears, or is it the ammonia?

The sun has now disappeared and the sky moves from the palest icy blue in the west to the deepest inky indigo in the east. On returning to my seat, the children are giggling again. I suspect the worst and my suspicions are well founded; that sweet sickly wave envelops me again.

I close my eyes again and the carriage babble melts into a fuzz. I have enjoyed seeing Manchester again; the beautiful Town Hall and Albert Square, Salford Quays, the new MediaCityUK and (is the Pope a Catholic?) Canal St. In addition to this was the introduction to Milnrow and a 70s themed evening in the local pub, complete with a snake-skinned, cat-suited lounge singer. The whole weekend was made even more pleasurable by some lovely meals and, of course, the company of my friend, Howard.

This train journey is irritating me now. I want stretch out but can't. My new shoes have rubbed my heels and they feel a bit sore. I am tired and I feel a bit tetchy. I want to be home and in bed now. I close my eyes and start to day dream. I am awoken by children's giggles again...

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Manchesterford bound...

I'm off to Manchester to visit a mate for the weekend. A last minute decision and a welcome diversion. I used to catch this train every day once, when I worked in Abergavenny. The three and a half hour train journey feels interminably longer as it winds through the Welsh Marches.

After 45 minutes or so, a recorded voice announces that we will shortly arrive in Abergavenny. A ripple of chatter passes through the carriage as it's clear to most that the last station was Abergavenny and we are now on the outskirts of Hereford.

The mix of accents changes as the journey progresses. The sing song Welsh accents interspersed with a couple of broad flat Manchester accents become tempered with the modulations of Standard English as we move north and take on more of a border market town middle class mix.

The conductor picks his way through the carriages. He is tall and slim with buzzed salt n pepper hair. He's in his late thirties and wears an earring. He is confident and has a broad smile. Handsome. The woman pushing the refreshment trolley is more squat and less confident. Not so handsome in her nylon tabard and Deirdre Barlow glasses.

Looking out of the carriage windows, one side is flat and English; the other side is hilly and Welsh. Everywhere is shrouded in a dank dampness that blankets us from any April sunshine. Although, this begins to lift and look a lot brighter as we snake our way northward.

The architecture of domestic housing changes; gone is that South Wales dark stone and whitewash, replaced by a Victorian red brick build. A few properties boast St George's Cross or Union flags. Y Ddraig Goch is noticeable only by its absence.

A man takes the seat opposite me. He types furiously on his Apple laptop. He's in his late twenties. He wears a dull green t-shirt and a fawn corduroy flat cap. He's short and his plump legs are poured into that fashion must have, skinny leg sand coloured chinos. The folly of youth.

Blue sky is now visible between the monumental stacks of cumulus clouds. I continue reading my book, The Two of Us, Sheila Hancock's account of her life with John Thaw. I'm impressed by her honesty and envious of the happiness she found with this man.

Across the aisle sit a fat girl and her male friend. They're students. I know this because they've just been discussing their exams in May. The carriage becomes filled with a strange stench that emanates from them; cheese and onion from the crisps he's eating and a heady chemical mix from the black nail varnish she's applying. I feel sick.

The train is now quite full, as it crawls through the suburbs of Manchester. People are laughing and children are yelling and babies are gurgling and grunting. I shall be glad to get off; to escape this carriage and these people, to stretch my cramped legs, to soak up Manchester and, of course, to meet my mate.

Friday, 13 April 2012

I'm enjoying getting back into swimming...

Until last weekend I'd not been swimming for about 3 months. I don't know why I stopped swimming really. OK, I know why I slowed down and didn't go as often as I might - it was rainy and dark and cold and... a whole raft of other bad excuses but I don't know why I stopped swimming altogether.

Getting back into it has been enjoyable. This last week I've been every other night and swimming tonight was lovely. Although the pool was reduced to it's widthward 25m lanes, there were very few people in the public section and so I had a lane to myself. Bliss. As I huffed and puffed up and down my lane I could hear the furious noise of the swimming club in their cordoned off section. I felt pleased that for once the section I found myself in was relatively quiet.

After finishing my swim, I went for a shower. I'd not been in there long when about 5 or 6 lads in their early 20s from the swimming club joined me. With typical swimmers physiques and squeezed into the tiniest Speedos, I couldn't help but notice them. They joshed and japed with each other, smiling and encouraging me to laugh with them. I didn't need much encouragement. For some reason I was reminded of this scene from towards the end of the TV production of Quentin Crisp's The Naked Civil Servant.

I'm enjoying getting back into swimming...

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Hear my prayer...

O Lord, if, by some bizarre and unlikely fluke, you actually exist, hear my prayer.

Could you please find a way of demonstrating to Christian groups such as the Core Issues Trust and the Anglican Mainstream that their desire to mount a homophobic advertising campaign using London buses is contrary to the central message of Christianity.

I'm not asking that you smite them or visit them with plagues; no - all I'm asking is that you find a way of firmly explaining to them, once and for all, that their actions contradict the  central messages of Jesus' teachings about love and compassion and forgiveness and the like...

So please, no afflictions, fevers, inflammations, stonings, barrenness, banishments or killing of first borns; all I ask is that you clearly tell these people to stop claiming some authority for their crackpot ideas by using your name (in vain). I'm sure they will listen to you.

And whilst you're about it, could you have a similar word with Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, the Pope, Archbishop John Sentamu, Cardinal Keith O'Brien... I won't spell it out for you (being omniscient and all that) but, undoubtedly, you have a long list of these nutters.

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.

Today's run at 17:46
Distance5.03 kmTime27:24
Pace5:27 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Sunshine and showers.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Bobbing along...

I said in last Sunday's post that "swimming in a virtually empty 50m pool is the perfect opportunity to ponder the big moral questions that face us". Tonight's rather crowded splash in a 25m pool was not spent thinking about anything earth shattering but rather something as mundane as the appropriateness of buoyancy aids in a family pool.

When I was here last Sunday, I was having a shower after my swim when a youngish man passed with an inflatable buoyancy aid tucked under his arm. At first glance, I thought I was seeing things; I did a double take. No I wasn't seeing things. There he was as bold as brass. I have to admit it did make me smile... but then, I'm not a parent with two inquisitive kids who are always asking embarrassing questions.

Was it an inflatable shark or maybe an inflatable killer whale or perhaps an inflatable crocodile? No. You guessed; it was an inflatable doll. That's right, with a fully inflated female doll tucked neatly under his arm, this guy strolled about the pool, like he was carrying a swan rubber ring. He even passed a number of pool attendants but they didn't even bat an eyelid.

Next week, I may wear my mankini, just for laughs...

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Gay years are like dog years...

In the shallow end of the gay pool, looks and age count for everything. I sometimes overhear anxious conversations about the tragedy of entering your thirties and how awful that must be. The looks of aghast disbelief are comical when someone as old as me (or, heaven forfend, even older) stumbles into their plastic playpen. The badges of gay youth are, of course, music and fashion. Loosen your grip on those and you may as well commit suicide.

Of course, I'm not describing every young gay man here but there's a large enough minority to warrant mentioning it. While out on Sunday there were two occasions where I got blanked by younger gay men. The first time it happened was on being introduced to a certain young guy; by the look on his face, you'd swear that he'd just shaken hands with Hitler. The second time was the sneering discussion in the gents about what I was wearing (as if I couldn't hear them); apparently my trainers weren't bang on trend - another crime against humanity.

When I was in my twenties I had many gay friends in their forties and fifties; I looked up to them, I enjoyed their witty conversations and their company - I learned a lot from their knowledge of the world. I'm not asking for every gay in the village to cluster at my knee ready to catch each pearl of wisdom that drops from my lips. But they could at least wind their necks back in, shut their fat gobs and stop pointing when I'm dancing to the Nolans.

Gay years are like dog years: you're on borrowed time once you stop being a teenager.
Today's run at 18:13
Distance5.16 kmTime29:15
Pace5:40 min/kmCadence80 spm
Comments: Cold & sunny.

Monday, 9 April 2012


And so it was to Wow Bar in Cardiff last night. If you dislike noise, crowds, swearing, drag queens and go-go dancers then this won't be for you. On those occasions when I need to get out of the house and (if I had any) let my hair down, I like Wow.

By far the best drag queen they have there is Pixie Perez. Pixie is unlike the other drag queens, in that the routine doesn't seem staged, is anarchic and it feels quite dangerous - like anything could happen (and it sometimes does). I've seen her chase passers by down the road and, although her audience have long lost sight of her, her hilarious obscenities can still be heard over the speakers via her radio mic.

On a Sunday night, the crowd is heaving, the atmosphere's great, the eye candy's pleasant, the air is blue, the jokes are course, the go-go boys are buff, the humour's cruel - and it's all done in the best possible taste! Well worth dropping in on those Sundays when you just need to blow out.

You can find more photos such as the one above on Wow Bar's Facebook page.

Sunday, 8 April 2012


Swimming in a virtually empty 50m pool is the perfect opportunity to ponder the big moral questions that face us, such as the meaning of life or is Madonna better than Kylie. Today it was Easter that captured my attention as I thrashed, gulped and gasped up and down my lane.

As the different Christian churches and denominations struggle to make their story more relevant to the communities they claim to serve, I think it's time they sat back and reassessed the situation. Our engagement with their message may not be as pessimistic as they sometimes assume. As an increasingly secular society, we may not actually be that dismissive of and far removed from the central Christian story.

The Gospels would have us believe that Jesus, the son of God, died for our sins and was resurrected today, Easter Sunday - the most important date in the Christian Calendar. In doing so, Jesus proves his immortality to us and, with his aspirational message of "Be nice to others and you'll go heaven", offers us this immortal option too, come the day of judgement.

I'd argue that we have all of us, believers and non-believers, taken that message on board in some shape or form. Immortality has captured our imaginations for thousands of years and has been a tantalising quest for many down the ages. It seems to be a universal obsession. Along with Christianity, many of the other major religions have dangled this carrot as a reward for signing up and living by their rules. Literature too is littered with stories of immortality: Dr Faustus, Dorian Grey, Peter Pan and Orlando, to name but a few.

Pictured on the right is me aged 34 - about the same age as Jesus when he died, give or take a couple of years. No thinning hair, no grey, no wrinkles (other than a few laughter lines) and able to eat any crap in any quantity I fancied. How time changes us! At that age, would I have welcomed being frozen in time as I then was? Probably not. Ask me the same question today and, while it's not quite the simple and straightforward answer it was 15 years ago, I think the response still has to be a no.

While I have no desire to live for ever, I wouldn't mind prolonging my health, maintaining my looks and hanging on to my faculties for a little bit longer. Who wouldn't? At 49, I don't think I'm doing too badly; I try to stay reasonably fit, I try to eat a healthy diet and I try to stay active both physically and mentally. Ultimately though, as you well know, I'm fighting a losing battle; we all are.

As sure as (Easter) eggs is eggs, we're all gonna die. In the meantime, should we need a helping hand in squeezing the brakes and resisting the ravages of time, there are many options open to us, in addition to simply trying to remain active and eating a good diet: anti-aging creams, hair restorers, botox, cosmetic surgery and cryonics are, depending on your budget, worthy of consideration. However, no matter what advancements they make in science, cosmetics and medicine, deterioration and expiry are, ultimately, an inevitability.

While many of us no longer believe in the Gospels' every word, I think that the desire for immortality is part of our culture - even if that only stretches to a momentary and cosmetic defying of mortality and a slight postponement of the inevitable. And, for you believers out there: in the unlikely event that the Gospels got it right and immortality is really an option; well, even you are going to have to age and die prior to your moment of rapture.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Photographic memories...

I went to see this photographic exhibition of Keith S Robertson's work at the Wales Millennium Centre yesterday. The prints and negatives were discovered by Jon Poutney, whilst renovating a music studio. Jon has responded to Keith's work by revisiting some of the locations. It was an interesting take on Cardiff in the 80s and today. Much has changed and how soon the memory fades.

Well worth a visit if you're in the area.
Today's run at 11:26
Distance5.01 kmTime28:35
Pace5:45 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Muggy.

Friday, 6 April 2012

How priorities change...

I once used to think of Good Friday as bit of a waste of a public holiday; most shops and public buildings were closed and licensing laws meant that pubs were open Sunday hours only. There was simply nothing to do.

Many of you will be scratching your heads in puzzlement: what in hell's name are Sunday hours? Well, time was when pubs used to have to close in the afternoon before reopening in the evening and on a Sunday those hours were restricted even further. Good Friday always followed the opening hours of a Sunday and so the start to the Easter weekend was always delayed until this archaic practice was finally binned.

Today has been a relaxed day with no thoughts of any restrictions on shopping or drinking or, for that matter, any other activities. To be honest, I haven't given a thought to anything being shut because it's Good Friday. Indeed, everything I've needed or wanted to do I've done.

I walked to Cardiff city centre today. It was packed with shoppers; a busy day it seemed. The shops were full and restaurants and cafes were doing a brisk trade. Families now treat a visit to Cardiff centre for a look around the shops and a bite to eat as a day out. Time was when there'd have been nothing open in the centre of Cardiff on a Good Friday.

I've not been swimming in over 3 months. It's strange how quickly you can fall out of the habit of doing something. Until early December, I was swimming at least 3 times a week but because of the bike ride to get to the pool, the dark nights and damp weather, I replaced swimming with running. How lovely it was to get back in the pool this afternoon. Time was when the pool would not have been open on a Good Friday.

I called in the supermarket on my way home and picked up some food for my dinner. The aisles were jammed with trolleys as people did their weekly shop. In addition to food, I picked up a couple of bottles of wine that were on offer. Time was when the supermarket would not have been open on a Good Friday and even if they were, they'd not have been able to sell me any alcohol.

How priorities change...

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Maundy Thursday...

Maundy Thursday commemorates the last supper and Christ's washing of his Apostles' feet. Indeed, the word Maundy comes from the first word in the phrase Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos. According to the Gospel of John, this is the explanation that Christ gave to his followers for washing their feet, instructing them to love one another. Such a shame that so many Christian leaders have ignored this Mandatum.

In the UK, it is traditional for the monarch to distribute Maundy Money on this day - well, you couldn't have her washing people's feet, could you? It's a custom that dates back to King Edward I. Maundy Thursday is treated as a public holiday in Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Spain, Colombia, Paraguay and the Philippines.
Today's run at 17:53
Distance4.13 kmTime22:35
Pace5:28 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Cold and grey.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Parents and their favorites...

When it comes to children, parents aren't supposed to have favorites. My gran had favorites. My mother wasn't one of them. This she realised at an early age. My mother never really got on with her mother.

Swansea was one of the most heavily bombed cities in the UK during the Second World War. Children in their thousands were evacuated to the relative safety of the welsh countryside, including to Penclawdd, the village my gran lived in and I grew up in.

During the war my gran was heavily involved as a warden with the ARP (Air Raid Precautions). In fact, so heavily involved was she that she sent my Mum to stay with her aunt, my gran's sister, for a large part of the war.

And where did this aunt live? That's right, in the centre of Swansea.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Stiff and cold...

Euurgh! I woke up in the middle of the night feeling dreadful. I just wanted to throw up. Thinking about it, I'd fallen to sleep 3 hours earlier feeling a little nauseous. The hours ticked by as I tossed and turned and I felt worse with every minute that passed.

As the night dragged on I wasn't feeling any more nauseous but I'd started to ache. By the time my alarm went off this morning, every muscle, joint and bone was aching. I was sweating and feeling really cold.

I was booked on a copy writing course today and was really looking forward to it. I made the effort to stagger to the bus and go to work. To be fair, as the day progressed, I started to feel better.

However, now that I'm home again, I'm feeling a lot worse. I'm struggling to figure out whether it's something I've caught or eaten and, did I bring it home with me from my holiday or does the source lie closer to home?

Monday, 2 April 2012

I like to ride my bicycle...

I rode my bike into work today. It was fairly crisp on my way in this morning but a lot warmer on my return tonight. The sky was clear and blue in both directions. It's such a great feeling cycling to and from work; it puts me in a really great frame of mind. If I had hair, the wind would've been blowing through it...

Until some dickhead in a car that had parked it half on the cycle path decides to open his door as I'm passing. The air was blue with expletives.
Today's run at 17:23
Distance4.02 kmTime22:51
Pace5:41 min/kmCadence80 spm
Comments: Warm & sunny.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

A Spring day...

What a beautiful day! From headlines I'd read in the papers yesterday flying home, I'd been expecting plummeting temperatures and grey skies but Cardiff was sunny and (for early April) warm. You can't believe everything you read, can you? It was certainly warm enough to wear shorts. So that is exactly what I did.

After a lazy, slow and late breakfast I headed over to see Jaime, as I'd not seen her in a while. We sat in her sun trap of a garden drinking tea, soaking up the sun and catching up on news and gossip, after which I cycled over to the supermarket to pick up some food. After returning and filling up the fridge, I cycled out onto the barrage. It was packed with families, couples, joggers and cyclists.

It's not so bad being back home on a day like today...
Today's run at 17:31
Distance4.02 kmTime22:31
Pace5:36 min/kmCadenceUnavailable
Comments: Warm & sunny.