Thursday, 31 May 2012

Now voyager...

Walt Whitman was a 19th Century American poet and essayist. He published a collection of poems called Leaves of Grass, which was thought obscene because of it's overt sexuality. He is generally regarded as an opposer to slavery and it's believed that he was gay or bisexual

Perhaps one of his most famous lines is from his poem The Untold Want, "The untold want, by life and land ne’er granted, Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find." It was famously used as the title to the Bette Davis film, Now Voyager. Here's the most famous scene from the film. Cigarette sales went through the roof on its release.

Oh and happy birthday Walt...
Today's run at 17:55
Distance5.08 kmTime27:14
Pace5:22 min/kmCadence80 spm
Comments: Grey.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse...

With the Leveson Inquiry throwing up some awkward connections, many uncomfortably close to the heart of this coalition government, voters' trust is being eroded on a daily basis.

The shit storm hasn't quite blown over from the Parliamentary expenses scandal and now Prime Minister David Cameron's former director of communications Andy Coulson has been detained by police investigating allegations of perjury.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse...

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Aspirin...

Is aspirin the closest drug we'll see to a panacea? It seems to have beneficial effects on so many conditions (with the possible exception of stomach bleeds). It seems that with every passing year, scientists find that it has a positive influence on yet another condition or ailment.

Here is a list of its uses and *potential uses:
To relieve headaches
To reduce the severity of heart attacks
To treat rheumatoid arthritis
To reduce inflammation
As an anticoagulant
*To control pre-eclampsia
*To improve memory
*To prevent HIV replicating
*To treatment migraines
*To improving circulation in the gums
*To fight certain cancers
*To prevent of cataracts
*To increase success rates of IVF programs
To add to this ever growing list there's an article on the BBC's website about growing evidence regarding its use in preventing skin cancers. If you're interested in the history of this drug, then I can recommend Diarmuid Jeffreys' fascinating book, Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Thou cream-faced loon...!

Do you think I look a little simple in this photo? That wasn't why I posted it but looking at it now, the phrase that springs to mind is the one used by Macbeth when he calls one of his servants a "cream-faced loon".

The reason I actually posted the photo was because it was a moment of stillness today, which doesn't seem to happen that often in my life. I had an appointment to see my G.P. this evening and I left work with so much time to spare that I decided to park my bike up and go for a cup of tea in Bute Park.

The weather was so beautiful and it was a joy to just stop and watch the world go by. I could have stayed on in work another half an hour but I'd hit a wall by late afternoon and needed a change of scenery. I'm so glad that I didn't stay on, otherwise I'd have been rushing to get to my appointment. As it was, I relaxed, sipped my tea and then had a leisurely ride along the river to Grangetown where my doctor has his surgery. I should do it more often; a perfect end to the working day.

Shame about the stupid photo...
Today's run at 18:08
Distance5.04 kmTime28:23
Pace5:38 min/kmCadence79 spm
Comments: Warm and sunny.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

You could say I'm a bit of a fan...

I'm off to see Philip Glass along with the Kronos Quartet perform Glass' score to Dracula at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay tonight.

I sometimes hear music snobs diminish his work; the kind of people who link commercial success with lack of depth and talent. These are the kind of people who rate an artist on their poverty and suffering; as if living in a garret and being misunderstood is a prerequisite of true artistry. It's a romanticised and pubescent view of what it is to be an artist; the sort of statement you'd expect from a sixth former who's just discovered Thomas Chatterton.

I've seen Glass perform a number of times before. I've always liked his music; indeed, from the time I was a sixth former discovering Thomas Chatterton. I first saw him perform live back in the 90s when he did La Belle et la BĂȘte at the Royal Festival Hall. Next, I saw him do his Solo Piano tour at St David's Hall in Cardiff and then I saw him do a live rendition of his original score for Koyaanisqatsi at the Wales Millennium Centre a couple of years ago. You could say I'm a bit of a fan.

Here's the Philip Glass YouTube page. Enjoy.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Just call me daddy...

The Leveson Inquiry is a revealing process; before any judgement is passed the details of the evidence submitted is changing our views on a range of subjects that affect our daily lives. It seems that hourly we are presented with new details that challenge our understanding of the way things actually work in this country.

Maybe to the more cynical and worldly of us there is nothing to even raise an eyebrow but for the majority of people living in the UK these revelations have changed the way we view those we may once have held in respect. And there have been many revelations:
The depths to which some of the press will sink to get a good story.

The intrusive hounding of certain people who find themselves in the public eye.

The manner in which some businesses conduct themselves at senior levels.

The relationship that exists between certain politicians and some of the press.

The relationship that exists between certain police officers and some of the press.

The roles of civil servants.

The quality of independence and impartiality in making a fair and unbiased decision.

The lies that people tell.
The revelation that grabbed my attention today is the news that Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt addressed News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel as "daddy". Some of you might argue that it was used because both men's wives gave birth in the same hospital days apart and the phrase "daddy" sprang from that. However, that was not the only instance.

My understanding of one adult addressing another adult as "daddy", when the other adult is not their father, is one where there is a dominant and submissive relationship involved. That relationship often involves role-play and is sometimes of a sexual nature.

For a British Cabinet Secretary to use the term when addressing a senior representative of a company about which he is making "a fair and unbiased decision"; it surely calls into question the extent to which he is being fair and unbiased.

The arrogance and indignance of those whose behaviour has been exposed by this inquiry (Rebekah Brooks, the Murdochs, Piers Morgan and numerous others) is disgusting. Any pleas for clemency and moderation in their treatment will fall on stony ground and deaf ears as the public become more cynical and worldly because of this inquiry.

Here's a lovely dynamic infographic that explains the network of people involved in the phone hacking scandal; the impetus for the Leveson Inquiry.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Chavs and scallies...

Is it perverted of me to think that one of the benefits of this wonderful weather we're having right now is the amount of male flesh on show? Most of it, admittedly, is chav flesh and scally flesh but a welcome sight all the same.

Whilst out running through the Bay tonight I passed two different groups of lads in their 20s; tops off, broad grins and jeans slung low. I nearly knocked myself out looking at the first group by almost running into a lamppost. That wouldn't have done what little street cred I have any good.

Running past the second group a kilometer on, I couldn't help but notice how relaxed and at ease they were. Much easier and more comfortable in their skins than I ever was or, for that matter, could ever hope to be. I was envious.

You'd expect education and culture to bring you a certain poise and surety but the easy confidence exuded by these guys knock my efforts into touch.
Today's run at 17:17
Distance5.03 kmTime28:47
Pace5:42 min/kmCadence80 spm
Comments: Warm and sunny.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Like tadpoles in a shrinking puddle...

A slow start for the sunny weather today. A haze drew itself over Cardiff until lunchtime but then it lifted revealing a wonderful Summer's day. After a lovely bike ride home with the sun on my back, I cycled on to Cardiff International Pool for a swim. The thought of slipping into that cool water was tempting and just what I needed to splash away my cares.

After changing I walked into the pool area and looked for a lane that seemed less busy than the others. I jumped in and that cool water took my breath away. Bobbing back to the surface I then clung to the side of the pool to adjust my goggles. One of the attendants shouted over that I'd have to move into the next lane as the one Id chosen was being used for swimming lessons. I asked him how many lanes were available for public swimming. Three was the answer.

I looked at the guy to my right in my lane and then looked at the guy to the left in my lane. We tutted and commented on how ridiculous this was. The three lanes soon became very full indeed. People were becoming very tetchy and understandably so. I managed to accidentally hit someone again as I passed them. Space was at a premium

With two or three people in a lane you can overtake if you need to when you're swimming at a faster pace than the one in front. Any more than three in a lane and it's difficult to overtake. Accidents happen and swimmers become frustrated when they're tickling the feet of the swimmer in front.

I complained to the manager as I was leaving. I wasn't the only one.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Does the Queen sweat...?

"Her Majesty does not perspire" the Daily Mail boasts in an exclusive on the Queen.

Really? Elizabeth II has turned her back, has she, on millions of years of evolution; shunning one of the biological advantages we have over most other life forms - the ability to sweat? What does she do in the warm weather; pant like a dog or roll in mud like a pig?

Of course she bloody sweats; maybe little in comparison to others but I can assure you that she does sweat. I've no doubt that she also urinates, defecates and enjoys the occasional bouts of flatulence as well. You heard it here first!

And some people pay good money to read this horse shit that the Daily Mail peddles as news? Betty Windsor? Betty Swallocks!
Today's run at 17:11
Distance5.01 kmTime27:47
Pace5:33 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Warm and sunny.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Gran Canaria...

I'm off work in a couple of weeks time. I'd intended spending it here in Cardiff, just mooching about. Perhaps a bit of cycling and swimming, lazy mornings and late nights; all the things I keep promising myself. I could even do a bit of DIY; maybe fix that dripping shower head.

However, fed up with the recent wind and cold and rain and realising that with boredom I'd probably spend more money here, last week I started looking for a cheap holiday somewhere warm. Long story short; I'm off to Gran Canaria - the gay capital of Gayville.

I'm not quite sure how this happened. I've only been to two other islands in the Canaries; my usual quiet and relaxed Fuerteventura (a regular haunt over the last few years) and an alcohol fueled, heterosexual packaged nightmare in Tenerife when I was 17.

I went to Tenerife with a group of lads I used to hang about with at the time. I remember sitting at the back of the plane smoking (it was allowed back then). I can remember the building site of a resort we were staying at. I can remember Fashion by David Bowie being played interminably in the disco. As holidays go, it was pretty dire.

My fear is that I've booked myself back into that nightmare of 32 years ago - a week long booze-soaked session, punctuated only by throwing up. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can escape the rainbow festooned wonders of the Yumbo Centre, should I feel the urge for something quiet and simple.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Finally...

It seems that summer has finally arrived. Cardiff basked in sunshine throughout today; hazy at times but sunshine nonetheless. After what has seemed like the longest spell of cold and damp weather ever, today's warmth was a tonic.

I cycled into work today, which always puts me in a good mood and, although I didn't get much of a chance to enjoy the sun on my face during the day, it was pleasant to emerge into it at home time this evening. My journey home was a joy in the warm breeze, made all the more pleasant by my bike ride back to the Bay.

And for tonight's run, I decided to try a course I'd never run before; the final leg of which saw me jogging down Boy George (Lloyd George) Avenue in the dappled sunshine. It certainly puts a spring in your step.

I finally topped today off with a new potato and egg salad in my determination to enjoy this long awaited seasonal weather. Well, you never know how long it's gonna last.
Today's run at 18:05
Distance5.01 kmTime27:28
Pace5:29 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Bright and sunny.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

I disagree...

This week saw the Government begin to send every state school in England a copy of the Authorised King James Version bible. This is to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the KJV Bible. Education secretary, Michael Gove said that "Every school pupil should have the opportunity to learn about this book and the impact it has had on our history, language, literature and democracy." The costs of £370,000 have been met by charities and philanthropists and the initiative has even won the support of arch-atheist, Richard Dawkins.

I think this is an error of judgement, very short sighted and I disagree.
Some people are atheist
Not everyone is Christian
One bible per school is restrictive
The text is available on the internet anyway
Some schools may not even need or want a bible
This money could have been much better spent on other things
I believe that this is, as Terry Sanderson states, "a proselytising opportunity" rather than something to benefit schools. It has been employed to appease those Christians who've been feeling a little unloved lately with same sex marriage under consideration and the ruling against town hall prayers recently.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

One nation...

We're nowhere near the start of the Olympics or the Jubilee and I'm already fed up with Union Flags everywhere. So much merchandise is carrying the Union Flag theme: t-shirts, underwear, jewellery, bedding, cushions, mugs and biscuit tins. The thinking being, I guess, that we are all to get united behind the flag for these two events that are set to dominate the Summer.

In reality, nothing quite divides us like the Union Flag. Many are unable to look at it without imagining racist overtones because of its adoption by far right, nationalist organisations, half the Northern Irish use it to provoke the other half, the Scots would prefer that their beloved Saltire weren't part of it and the Welsh aren't represented at all.

Ultimately, I'm left feeling as if I'm outside, looking in on a party I don't quite understand.
Today's run at 16:10
Distance5.01 kmTime27:03
Pace5:24 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Bright and sunny.

Friday, 18 May 2012

The death of two singers...

This week we've seen the death of two hugely talented singers:
Donna Summer
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Here they are in all their glory: Donna & Dietrich.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

I'm so sorry...

I'd like to apologise to the man I punched this evening in the swimming pool. I'd like to set the record straight immediately by saying that this was an accident rather than me losing my rag and venting my fury in physical form. Far from it; I was enjoying a rather pleasant swim.

The pool was packed and I was sharing a lane with two rather large women. One of them was doing breast stroke and her arms were rather long in proportion to her body; she reminded me of a sloth. When swimming, her reach seemed to take up most of the lane. Whenever we passed each other I swam tight to the other lane rope, giving her the space she needed.

On one of our crosses, as I lifted my left arm and stretched it forward, ready to enter the water and pull me on, my fist struck an oncoming swimmer in the next lane. My knuckles cracked as my fist and his face connected. At first, I couldn't figure out what had happened but glancing back I could see lots of spluttering before he righted himself and continued swimming.

As I left the pool he shot me a glare which I returned by silently mouthing, "Sorry..." and apologetically shrugging my shoulders.He stared back, unmoved by my apology.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Sometimes, no other word will do...

I was waiting for the Number 7 this afternoon, looking forward to getting home and enjoying this unseasonably good weather. The bus was running late and those waiting with me began tutting. It seemed that I wasn't the only one keen to escape the centre of Cardiff for the cool breeze of Cardiff Bay and beyond.

Just as we'd all but given up hope, a bus rounded the corner. Could this be the elusive Number 7, I thought. I squinted into the sunshine to see if I could read the number on the front panel but, as it drew closer, it became evident that the front panel was blank; no number and no destination.

The bus stopped and I tentatively walked forward to ask if this was, indeed, the Number 7. Other passengers seemed to have the same idea, as I wasn't the only one to move toward the bus. We'd none of us walked more than a step or two when the bus pulled off. Did he not see us?

As he began to round the next corner but before disappearing out of sight, the rear panel became illuminated with the elusive number 7.

What a cunt!
Today's run at 17:04
Distance5.02 kmTime28:39
Pace5:42 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Bright and sunny.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Survival of the fittest...

Given that we use dictionaries as works of reference, to be consulted when we're looking for a definition, a spelling or a usage of a word; you might be mistaken for thinking that dictionaries set the rules. Or rather, that the compilers of dictionaries set the rules.

You'd be wrong. Actually, it is us, the speakers of the language, that set the rules through our ever changing usage and reinvention of words and their meanings. Dictionaries are merely a place to capture the words we use and how we use them. The compilers of dictionaries (or lexicographers) are recorders of language, after the event. Like distant relatives, they are usually not present at the birth.

We live in a world where words are constantly changing. Historically, they always have changed; it's why languages such as English have succeeded and become global languages. Take a look at silly (it once meant blessed), decimate (it once meant to kill every tenth person) and manufacture (it once meant to make by hand). They all carry very different meanings today.

In more recent times, once negative words like bad and wicked are now positive terms, gay, a word once used to describe something bright, joyous and lighthearted, has come to mean bad and nice has totally lost any real meaning altogether.

How did this happen? Because words change and evolve, in some ways similar to the way life changes and evolves; as the environment changes so we must change to survive in it.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Soup, painkillers and antibiotics...

I have a problem with a dental implant where the crown has become loose and is digging into my gum. The gum has become inflamed and the whole right side of my upper jaw is aching and I can't bite.

This is not fun. I rang my dentist this morning for an appointment but he's not well so I saw another dentist at the practice this afternoon who tried but failed to remove the crown.

They think that my dentist will be back on Wednesday and they are hoping that I can see him then for him to try and remove it. I hope so. Until that date, I'm living on soup, painkillers and antibiotics.

Dental pain really is the worst kind of pain...
Today's run at 17:55
Distance5.01 kmTime27:50
Pace5:34 min/kmCadence80 spm
Comments: Bright and sunny.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Don't take your mum for granted...

I spent yesterday afternoon with my mum helping her choose a new mobile phone. Her contract with O2 has been up some time and I know she's been itching to get her hands on a new gadget. For a 77 year old she likes her techie toys.

When we got to the 02 shop, she said she'd like a smartphone with a touchscreen. She tried using one of the display models and soon realised that touchscreen technology maybe a step too far. Or maybe she caught sight of the look of alarm on the salesman's face as she pawed at the screen in frustration.

While she was distracted with another phone a few steps away, the salesman asked me what features did she consider to be the most important. I said, beyond making calls and texting, a good camera and enough memory to store any images. She chipped in, "And the internet, boy; definitely the internet..." I questioned this but she was quite resolved.

She eventually decided to go for a Blackberry Curve. I'd assumed that she'd want the black model but she was quite adamant that the purple model was the one for her. I questioned why the purple, adding that I thought she'd much prefer black. "No boy" came the reply, "The purple goes with my glasses..."

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Have you seen my vastus medialis...?

A lovely 5km run around the Bay this morning. The sun was shining and it was still early enough to be quite peaceful and still; before the crowds descend - as they invariably do on weekends when the weather is good.

I haven't run since last Sunday because I've had a bit of a knee twinge thing going on (technical term). It's felt very similar to the early stages of the problems I had with my knee over two years ago. It's not been painful but a little uncomfortable when going up and down stairs. But then, that's how it started last time.

That episode stopped me running for a month or more and involved regular visits to the physio to get it sorted. This week I've been swimming instead and doing the leg exercises the physio prescribed two years ago. The exercises involve building up the Vastus Medialis (sometimes known as the teardrop muscle) on my right leg.

And the reason I need to concentrate on this muscle in particular? Having dislocated my right hip when I was 18 and then badly broken my right ankle 5 years ago which required surgery to pin and plate my fibula; my right leg is weaker than my left and because of that my knee is prone to track incorrectly - building up my Vastus Medialis corrects that.

I'm pleased to announce that the exercises are paying off; this morning's run caused me no pain, not even the slightest knee twinge thing going on...
Today's run at 7:45
Distance5.01 kmTime27:10
Pace5:25 min/kmCadence83 spm
Comments: Bright and sunny.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Kids looking after kids...

A frustrating swim this evening at Cardiff International Pool because of the kids messing about in the International Pool's laned section rather than the Leisure Pool. I suppose kids will be kids but you'd expect the pool attendants to do something about it, rather than just sit there watching these kids dive bomb and swim across lanes and swing on the lane ropes.

Eventually, I got out and asked the attendant to sort it out. He said he would but when I turned my back to walk to the changing area, he sat back down. I returned and stood there staring at him until he eventually got up and did what I'd asked.

The changing area is supposed to be an area where outdoor shoes are not allowed, however, many people ignore this, including the managers who march about in their shoes and the pool attendants who nip outside for a sly cigarette and then nip back in without changing their flip-flops.

Am I beginning to sound like Victor Meldrew?

Thursday, 10 May 2012

All we're asking for is equality...

Shortly after publishing last night's post about giving up on reason and falling back on emotion to win the gay marriage debate, Barack Obama announced that he was in favour of same sex marriage. This is great news. The support of the President of the United States in this debate is immeasurable.

This will, I think, move the debate forward in America. This will strengthen the hand of all those who support gay marriage and marginalise all the right-wing, crackpot, Jesus freaks that see gay people as the most sinful creatures to walk this earth since Beelzebub himself.

But let's not underestimate the effect that this will have on gay rights the globe over. Take the UK, which is, like the US, debating whether to legalise gay marriage. His statement last night normalises it; it takes the sting out of the debate - if the President of the United States thinks it's OK, surely it can't be that much of an extreme idea. It places the notion closer to the hallowed centre ground.

As I swam tonight, I couldn't help but think that while I am grateful for his support and I don't wish to detract from or diminish his statement; let's face it, it's been a long time coming. Obama is, apparently, the first sitting US President to support gay marriage. Think about it; it should have happened years ago. All credit to him and his team for making the statement but really, this is a long time overdue.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The awww factor...

I've argued and reasoned why we should legislate that gay marriage be allowed. I've tried to demonstrate how short sighted and bigoted those are who campaign against it.

On the same day that North Carolina voted to ban same sex marriage and civil unions and on the same day that the Tories omitted a same sex marriage bill from the Queen's speech in the hope we'll forget about it, I'm abandoning reason in favour of manipulating your emotions...

The awww factor:

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

You've got to laugh...

As some of you may know, I am a diabetic. I have been since I was 15 when my pancreas turned on itself and stopped producing insulin. Ever since that date, I have injected insulin into my system several times a day to stay alive. Life as an insulin dependent diabetic has never been a walk in the park. There are days when it's a bit of battle. I soldier on. So far, I'm winning.

The consultant I see at the hospital, asked me a couple of months back if I'd do a video interview that will be used in a presentation to health professionals about different perspectives on hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). They had lined up interviews with diabetics, paramedics, nurses and doctors to try and gain as a wide a picture as possible. Today was my turn. They asked if I'd any stories about hypoglycemia I'd be willing to tell on camera. And so...
About 9 months ago, for some reason I was getting a higher than normal number of night time hypos. I used to wake at the faintest twitch in blood sugar levels but this had changed. I'd had several where I'd not woken and then went on to fit in my sleep.

Now if I stayed in bed, everything would be great; what safer place is there to have a fit? However, on the rare instances where this has occurred, I've not managed to stay in my bed. No, I've woken on the floor, the bedside lamp smashed and me lying there in dangerous proximity to shards of broken glass. It's a worry.

On this one night, I'd tested my blood glucose levels before getting into bed; a little higher than I'd've liked but better that than a nocturnal hypoglycemic reaction. Listening to BBC Radio 4 I'd gently slipped into a deep sleep. My next memory was feeling very cold; chilled to the bone cold. At first I thought it was a dream but gradually I started to come round. I slowly began to realise that the reason I was cold was because I was outside my flat on the communal landing. Another reason for my chill feeling being, I was absolutely naked. Furthermore, my front door was locked.

I must have started to slip into hypoglycemia, panicked, fled the flat and then in my confusion allowed the door to slam shut behind me. How long I'd been there, I don't know? I had scrapes on my back and arms where I'd fallen and scratched myself on the letterbox. What should I do? I pawed at the door for what must have been 30 minutes, still delirious from the low blood sugars. Eventually, I had enough presence of mind to shoulder barge my own front door in; thereby earning myself yet another bruise.

I had something to eat and returned to bed, stunned, shattered, bruised and bleeding. I got up when my alarm went off and made my way into work. Despite feeling terrible, I viewed going to work as normality; something to cling on to, something aspirational.
When I tell the story now, I smile and joke about it. I see the ridiculousness of it. At the time, however, it was embarrassing, humiliating and grim. But, you've got to laugh, haven't you...?

Monday, 7 May 2012

Thin ice...

I'm not into leather, denim, combat or rubber fetish wear and I'm not a bear, cub or chub admirer.  However, I would argue for the rights of those that enjoy these things. During the 1980s, when the climate toward gay people in the UK was a lot harsher than today, I did my bit to fight for equality.

I went on marches and attended rallies to protest at the prejudices against people living with HIV, to protest about Section 28 and to protest at agent provocateur, entrapment tactics by the police. Working as an actor, as I was at the time, I helped produce work that was concerned with these issues. Equality and fair play has always been important to me.


It's particularly disappointing to hear then that the Eagle, one of Cardiff's newer gay bars, has been asking women to leave the premises. To be honest, I can't understand why any woman would want to go to there; with their rubber and leather themed nights, their boot camp nights, their bears, cubs and chubs nights and their soft porn video displays on every wall. However, again, I would argue for the rights of those that enjoy these things.

There has always existed a misogynous streak in some gay men. The terms, fag hag, fruit fly, fish and a whole host of other nicknames are testament to this. And, as much as lesbians and gay men have campaigned together for equality down the years, it's never been an easy alliance. It seems some animals are more equal than others.

As a part of society that has had to fight to be accepted (and we ain't there yet), we really ought to know better. We're on thin ice...

Sunday, 6 May 2012

An Englishman's home...

Wales has some of the finest examples of medieval castles in Europe. It's been said that Wales is the castles capital of the world. Although the Principality is littered with some 400 defensive monuments from iron age mounds and ditches, Roman forts and right through to 19th Century follies; it is the flourishing of stone castles after the invasion of the Normans in 1066 for which, perhaps, we are best known.

Caerphilly castle, built in 1271, is one of the largest in Europe and Raglan castle, built mainly in the 1460s is, I think, one of the most romantic. Perhaps the finest examples are those built by Edward I during the Welsh Wars of the late 13th and early 14th Century; Aberystwyth, Builth, Flint, Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Conwy, Harlech and Rhuddlan. Other notable Welsh castles are: Kidwelly, Llansteffan, Chepstow and Monmouth. Have a look here for a list of  Welsh castles.

Beautiful though they undoubtedly are; before we get too proud of these Welsh castles, let's remind ourselves that they are, for the most part, English castles, designed and constructed to oppress the Welsh.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Kodak moments...

When I woke up this morning, I switched on the radio and heard the news story of the 60 year old female British tourist who was mauled by (supposedly tame) cheetahs in an enclosure at a game park in South Africa. It must have been a traumatic ordeal, I thought.

Apparently she had entered the enclosure with another family so that they could have their photos taken. She had intervened when one of the cheetahs grabbed a girl belonging to the other family. She survived by playing dead until one of the guides chased the animals away with a stick.

I always feel uneasy when I see people's holiday snaps where they're stroking a lion, patting a tiger or sitting on a crocodile. Willingly standing within striking distance of a large carnivore and grinning has always struck me as a bit dumb.

The only shot of me that comes close to standing within striking distance of a large carnivore and grinning, is the one above taken about 15 years ago somewhere in West Wales. To those of you for whom David Attenborough is a stranger, I'm standing next to a vulture while it played with my sleeve. It had just been fed and vultures tend to prefer dishes that are already dead. I felt relatively safe because, as you can see, I'm no dish and I'm not quite dead.

When I got up this morning, I read the story of the woman mauled by cheetahs in more detail on the BBC's News website: Violet D'Mello tells of Port Elizabeth cheetah mauling. One sentence stopped me in my tracks, "Her husband Archie took photos of her ordeal." WTF...!?!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Just gotta ride it...

A Friday evening before a bank holiday weekend is a little like that tipping point when the roller coaster has slogged all the way to the pinnacle of that first climb, before gravity takes your breath away. It is, without a doubt, one of the best feelings in the world.
Today's run at 17:40
Distance5.04 kmTime26:13
Pace5:12 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Grey.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

It's all bananas...

I nearly choked on a banana in work this morning. As I took a bite from it, the memory of eating one last night popped into my head and I started to convulse with laughter, followed by convulsions brought on by choking on the banana I had in my mouth.

The memory that caused this was when I tried to eat a banana last night: having eaten half of it, I tried to peel back the skin to get at the rest and somehow it popped out of its skin high into the air and landed in a full glass of wine. The wine was splashed everywhere. Over me, the sofa, the curtains; there are even spatters on the ceiling. I could only laugh when it happened (after shouting "cock" several times at the top of my voice).

This story (and the choking that prompted it) sparked a discussion about the best way to peel a banana. A colleague I work with, who shall remain nameless (@NLMButterfly), said that she peeled hers from the end opposite to the the stalk. Silence, We all looked at her as if she'd just announced that she strangled kittens in her spare time.

She went on to explain to us that there was less chance of damaging the banana flesh that way. There were many looks of disbelief until, at lunchtime, she demonstrated her method before us. Begrudgingly, someone said, "It looks a more monkey-like banana, I suppose". Whether this is a good likeness, I guess, is down to your personal preference for monkeys.

And whilst we're on the subject of personal preference for monkeys, before going for my swim tonight, I popped into my local polling station on the way home from work to put a big X on my voting slip for the local elections. At the last general election in May 2010, much to my regret (and shame) I voted Liberal Democrat. I have been a Labour supporter all my life but was won over by Cleggy's smooth patter. Never again; I'm going back to my roots; tonight I voted for my local Labour candidate.

I can never understand those who don't vote. I'm not going to bang on about people laying down their lives so that we could have the right to vote, I'm not going to yap on endlessly about it being our duty and I'm not going to bore you with a list of countries in the world where people do not have this right that we seem to take for granted. No, as undeniably true as all of that is; if you don't vote, then I don't want to hear your whinges about services being cutback or withdrawn, about how crap local amenities are or whether the roads are gritted often enough next January. No, now's your chance to have your say.

If it was up to me, I'd make voting compulsory. Countries exist where not voting is breaking the law. Voting in these countries is often seen as more of a duty than a right and I think that's what I believe. People who don't vote where that right exists have no voice, they are (quite literally) dumb. I just don't get it. To continue with tonight's theme; it's all bananas...

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Rhod Gilbert...

I went to see Rhod Gilbert at the Wales Millennium Centre last night. I laughed like a drain, as he entertained a packed house with his hysterical rants for over two and half hours. I'm not going to review his show, The Man with the Flaming Battenberg Tattoo, as there are enough reviews out there on the internet already.

All I will say is, if you get the chance to see him, then do. For those of you who have never heard of him or those of you wanting a bit more of him, have a look at the clips section of his website.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Number crunching...

Since Novemeber 25th 2011, when I first got my current running watch, I have run:
118 times
490.82 km
For 46:57:50 h:m:s
At an average speed of 10.5 km/hour
At an average cadence of 81 spm
Running 434,122 steps
Burning 39,211 Calories
That's quite a bit. It's strange when you add it all up like that. The figures become so large they're meaningless. Let's break it down: on average I run 4.15 km, each run burns 332 Calories, takes 3679 steps to complete and lasts for a little under 24 minutes. OK, it's starting to make some sense. Sometimes it's useful to crunch the numbers a bit; place them on a human scale so they mean something.

Over the weekend I found this population calculator on the BBC's website. It calculated that when I was born I was the 3,168,926,914th person alive on earth and the 76,938,919,834th person to have lived since history began. Furthermore, living in the UK with a population of 62,345,006, we have an annual population growth rate of +0.6%; that's 85 births, 66 deaths and 23 immigrants every hour. Being male and living where I do, my life expectancy is 77.4 years. I love stuff like this. I hate it too.

It's all based on means, modes, medians, approximations, extrapolations and projections. I'm sure that were I able to submit other details about who I am it would alter the calculations. As it stands, it's a frivolity, a bit of fun. As with all statistics, the danger comes when such broad metrics are applied to quite specific instances. It's like a view from space; it says nothing about my life.

Lies, damned lies and statistics...