Thirteenth Night

Or what you can get away with.

There is no magic left for Thirteenth Night. No more suspension of disbelief. The only magic possible is that we create between and for ourselves. Of course that’s true every day but it’s easier at some times of the year than others. All the special food has gone. There might be a handful of your least favourite chocolates lurking in the bottom of the box somewhere. I still have have half a panettone.

The Christmas bonomie has gone. Any hangover you give yourself for the next few months is entirely your own fault. Again, that much is true anyway but at Christmastime we have a kind of communal excuse for excess which dissolves after Epiphany. There is nobody to share your hangover with, nobody who will sympathise because we’re back in our little boxes until the warm weather comes back and we can have some summer picnics with bottles of fizzy things. We’re supposed now to live lives of continence and restraint.

In the old days, the best bits of the pig would have been consumed in the Christmas feast so in order to survive for the rest of the winter we couldn’t have continued to eat and drink like there was a continual glut. We’re luckier now, most of us, so abstinence is a choice rather than a necessity.

It’s strange that even in our very secular times we still depend on religion and spirituality to give our year a rhythm and pace. Our next big holiday is Easter, after all. We haven’t found an alternative in popular culture in spite of secularism and the presence of other religions. And the good news is that I’ve seen Creme Eggs in Tesco.

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Fourteen Ways Wasps Are Better Than Michael Gove

1 Wasps die off in the winter. Sort of. A wasp colony will produce a lot of horny males and females in the autumn which will mate and then find somewhere to hibernate. The rest of the buggers get old and cantankerous and really, really want your jam before they die. Michael Gove has never been known to die off in the winter. Records on his autumnal sexual appetites are blissfully incomplete.

2 Wasps are pollinators. Much as it pains me to say this, wasps do serve a useful purpose. They’re not just wee, yellow and black sacks of stinging badness. They will forage for nectar and in doing so, carry pollen around like bees with bad attitudes. I’m not completely sure what Michael Gove is for, any more than he is himself but I’m certain he has never pollinated anything.

3 Wasps eat pests. Every summer, whenever they’re not ruining your picnic, wasps eat 14,000,000 tonnes of caterpillars and greenfly which would otherwise further lay waste your garden. Where do they find the time? They’re always after my ham sandwich. Michael Gove eats things from Waitrose. He’s one of the pests the wasps should eat.

4 There are innumerable cures for wasp stings. The one everyone seems to mention is goose dung. There is no know cure for Michael Gove but throwing goose dung at him might be worth a try. Failing that, the entire goose.

5 A wasp can only hurt us one at a time. Michael Gove can screw things up for millions before he’s finished his cornflakes.

6 It’s not illegal to spray wasps with a nerve agent. While spraying Michael Gove with a nerve agent might give you a few passing moments of satisfaction, it’s only a small step from that to gassing everyone who doesn’t agree with you. Even I can see that much.

7 See also hitting wasps and Michael Gove with a rolled up newspaper.

8 Wasps cannot be expected to have empathy and are only being wasps when they sting you on the bum when you’re having a wee in the countryside. Michael Gove, while he has not as far as I am aware has not stung anyone on the bum, has shown little empathy for the communities he has fucked over in his ideological slap-fest in the Conservative Party. We’re just collateral damage.

9 There are seven species of wasps in Britain varying in unpleasantness and aggression. There is one Michael Gove and he is invariably unpleasant. I think most of us could take him if he became aggressive though.

10 Wasps harbour no ambitions to become prime minister and tell us all how to live our lives. Michael Gove slipped a bit the last time he tried to shin a bit further up the greasy pole.

11 Wasps make impressive nests out of paper. They are skilled engineers and architects. They can do it by chewing up strips of wood and then spitting it out, a bit like you probably did to make pellets for your pea shooter. Am I projecting? Michael Gove has made nest for himself by chewing up facts and regurgitating them in new, curious and not entirely accurate ways.

12 The Asian giant hornet can fly at 24mph. It’s a right bastard of a thing and you can probably never outrun it. Michael Gove can’t fly, I have no idea what his 10k time is like but you can probably outrun him. I had to get running into this somehow.

13 There are social wasps and solitary wasps. There is only a solitary Michael Gove. Nobody wants to be Michael Gove’s friend.

14 Wasps come in a wide range of colours, not only the familiar yellow and black. For example, there is something called a tarantula hawk which is not a bird but is an inch and half long and blue and orange in colour. It hunts tarantulas. Fucking tarantulas. Thank little Baby Jesus it’s a solitary wasp. Michael Gove only comes in gammon colour.

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Podcasts Are Better Than Husbands. Discuss.

I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts. Podcasts on history. Podcasts on science. Occasionally podcasts on politics. Podcasts on weird realities where nobody can pronounce Michigan. I can’t listen to the radio any more because the news makes me angry or sad or sad and angry. Is that sangry? You know, like hangry but you’ve already had your Weetabix and the European Research group are still being a bunch of cunts. So, I don’t listen to the radio but I still can spend seven hours a day in the car and I need something to pass the time while arseholes in Audis and seven year old Volvos try to kill me.

There is a point to this, I promise. It’s coming up now.

On today’s trip to the supermarket, I turned on the stereo in the car and the History Hit podcast started playing automatically and then it stopped because of something I had done or forgotten to do or because it was Saturday and something weird was going on with the moon. I have no idea why things happen sometimes. I am a constant victim of the quantum tech butterfly flapping its wings and sending out random, incomprehensible reset signals through the aether. So there was a sudden silence and Anne said “Well, we’re just going to have to talk now.”

Shock, horror.

Dan Snow was being interesting. His guest was being interesting. I was struggling to find something to say more engaging than “Cold, eh?” I am a man who knows are really tiny amount about quite a lot and a great deal about hardly anything. Were Dan Snow to run out of guests almost completely four times over and end up with me, we could just about talk for 20 minutes on the topics of minimalist running fads, Ford four-cylinder engines from 1977 to 1981, a small grumpy cat called Kick or trends in academic book publishing and how fucking awful it might get before, if ever, it gets any better.

None of these topics are fit for a ten minute journey to Waitrose. Not again anyway. Not so soon after the last time. That was awkward. Not something Dan Snow would try.

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Just In Time Blogging

Like just in time manufacturing, just in time blogging is going to be completely fucked by a No Deal Brexit. All the things which will prevent Honda from getting widgets from Belgium into its Civics rolling down the line in Swindon will prevent me from getting a blog post out into the world every day. Basically, I’m using the real misery caused by inept politicians to draw a false equivalence between manufacturing and a cack-handed attempt to write a hundred well-judged words a day and put them on line.

I’ll give this a go anyway.

Just in time logistics needs everything to work just so. There can’t be any friction in supply chain or the production line grinds to a halt. Warehousing costs are minimised because Honda – for example – doesn’t keep stock of anything much on hand. They tell their suppliers to get what they need almost into the hands of the assembly line workers just as they reach for it. If that supplier is in Belgium and they in turn want to minimise costs so they don’t hold the things they make for long. Everything depends on keeping things moving on lorries, trains and ferries until they end up in a Civic in Swindon.

Just in time blogging needs everything to work just so. There can’t be any friction in the thought train or everything just grinds to a halt. Impacts are minimised because I – for example – can’t keep a thought in my head. I need to get it out of my brain, down my fingers, through the keyboard and onto the internet with as little pause as possible or I will miss my midnight deadline and lose my train of thought. Everything depends on not having things get in the way, like a lack of tea and biscuits, or too much work delaying the start of the process. This train of thought is more easily derailed than most.

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That hurt. It hurt more than it should have and it wasn’t supposed to be pleasant. Eight reps of the Fulbourn Windmill Hill which is only really a hill because the rest of Cambridge is so flat. I overcooked it just as I did the last time I did this session and completed six reps including what Strava insists is a PB on one of the reps so I was putting in the effort. I wanted to complete the session so I didn’t hit my goal, in spite of the sector PB.

I could have jogged the final reps just to complete but that felt wrong. I could have swallowed my pride and not pushed quite so hard but that felt wrong too. I could even have just set off on the final reps just to see if I could hold the pace but I bottled it. I was unsure and I wasn’t prepared to hurt myself in a training session just to see if I had enough in the tank.

I have a weakness. There is a fear attached to training sessions now which won’t go away. It’s particularly strong at the track but it also hangs around road sessions now. I think it’s a bit like performance anxiety. It’s the antithesis of that rock up feeling I was talking about the other day.

Tomorrow is another day. A recovery run round Wandlebury and along the Roman Road in the morning should help shift the negative feelings and maybe I should try a few pacing exercises over the next few weeks.

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The Application of Arse to Sofa

If you want to do a spot of regular writing all you need to do, apparently, is sit down and write. It’s a lot like running in that respect, except you’re sitting down and you can’t be too liberal with commas. Not that there are many commas in running but there are times I come to a horrible full stop.

So just like getting my arse out the door for a run, I need to velcro it to the sofa for long enough to bang out a couple of hundred words or so a day and remember how my laptop works. This might occasionally become a blog about blogging. Or nose-picking. Quality is likely to be variable at best. I’m sorry about that. I’ve posted before that I usually write something once a week but seldom post it because it’s just nonsense. Now you’re going to get the nonsense. Whatever the blogging equivalent of opening your mouth and letting your belly rumble is, well that’s what you’re going to get but with a spellcheck run over it at least once.

It counts as cross-training, doesn’t it?

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The Almost Inevitable New Year’s Day Post

How’s the hangover? I said how’s the hangover? 2018 was a bit of a shitter for lots of us and you might be carrying some of last year’s energy into this year along with the alcohol load your liver is clearing today. I’d like to make clear that I feel a little better about everything today than my biscuits do. My biscuits have been beaten up on the way to the plate, poor things.

We have passed that arbitrary moment time again and taking stock and making plans is more or less unavoidable. I’m using it as a cynical excuse for writing a few hundred words and getting at least a couple of dozen of you to read this nonsense. I’m no different from everyone else out there except I’m not trying to flog you anything. Not even biscuits.

For all the utter shite that landed on our heads and spilled onto our laps in 2018 – and there were Imperial fucktons of that, God knows – we had passing moments of joy. Sometimes it’s enough. It has to be enough; it’s all we have.

This is a bit bleak, even with the biscuits. It’s dreadful if your diet has already started and you can’t have biscuits. Me? I’ve eaten all the chocolate but there’s still the best part of an entire box of biscuits and a whole panettone in the kitchen. A whole very good panettone. And a bag of amaretti. And some of the biscuits Anne made in the week before Christmas. Were it not for the arbitrary moment in time this would just be an opportunity for a major diabetic crisis and not a character flaw.

I hope that 2019 is kind to us. It might be more practical to wish that we can be kinder to one another but there’s Brexit happening this year and that shit is awful. I’m going to have to remember that some of its proponents are human a few of them might have once had feelings too.

I’m getting it out of my system while I can.

Happy New Year, peeps. It could be considerably worse.

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