A Ball Of String

“Knowledge equals power, power equals energy, energy equals matter, and matter equals mass. And mass distorts space. It distorts a library into polyfractal L-space. So, while the Dewey system has its fine points, when you’re setting out to look something up in the multidimensional folds of L-space what you really need is a ball of string.”

Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!

I have a ball of string. I have several of them. They’re not actually mine, in as much as I went to a shop, asked the nice assistant for a ball of string, took the ball of string from the nice assistant and handed over money in exchange for it. No, my dearly beloved wife did that at least twice to my certain knowledge because there is a ball of string on the bookcase in the hall and another in the conservatory and that dearly beloved wife of mine is no string thief. No, she would have paid for any string in the house.

It’s just about possible that Kick the Cat would have stolen the string and brought it back like she once did with a chicken carcass and a sausage still warm from someone else’s barbeque but she showed no real interest in balls of string when they weren’t being dangled in front of her. Then, she would playfully eviscerate anyone foolish enough to toy with her in such an obvious way and leave the string unravelled over their twitching corpse.

So this ball of string, what is it for and why am I writing about it when I really should be describing great deeds of heroic heroism at the county champs this afternoon? Really, it’s displacement activity. I had yet another DNF today. The calf injury which I picked up over Christmas and which has stopped me running since the Ely New Year’s Eve 10k last week had subsided to the point I could contemplate racing today. I thought that I would start gently, see how I felt at the end of the first lap and push on if I could. It turned out that I couldn’t even get to the end of the second lap and pulled out.

I shouldn’t have started, really. I was certain that I had entered via our C&C website but I didn’t feature on the list of runners which Ric circulated. He got me in when it really shouldn’t have been possible (for which many, many thanks) so I felt obliged to turn up and give it a go. I was right at the back of the field when I dropped out. There were maybe half a dozen runners behind me. That didn’t bother me in the slightest. Today was about getting round and having a play on the course while the the young, the beautiful and the speedy mixed it up at the front.

C&C runners took all three places in the Senior Men’s race. Well done to Jeppers, Sullivan and Chris for that. I was the last of the C&C team on the course at the point I stopped. The pain was too great and I didn’t think it was worth hobbling round for another half hour just to give Richard or Megan more work to do. My stupidity and ambition has already given them quite enough to do.

The ball of string also gives me licence to talk about the quotation from Guards! Guards! above. There is another one along the lines of a bookshop being a cultured black hole which has learned to read. Something like that, anyway.

Words are important. Pratchett knew that. We all know that. You don’t need to be one of the modern world’s wittier writers to know that words have power. What you say, when you say it, to whom you say it and how you say it are all really important. It’s probably the subject for another blog post because I’m thinking now about John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word… and no good will come of that in the context of a race report on a DNF and a really sore Achilles.

I want to talk about the power of words to help and heal and to pull down and destroy but that’s definitely a different post for another day. I’ve already touched on it several times in other posts here and on Farcebollocks. I think I’ll close for now because I’m eagerly anticipating whatever Anne is conjuring in the kitchen from the mince she’s defrosted. Mince is Scottish soul food. It has healing properties greater even than porridge. Neil and Katie will be pleased to hear that the #porridgereport is back on Twitter and who knows, there may even be a #mincereport on occasion too.


(For those unfamiliar with the #porridgereport, today it was blueberries, flaked almonds and maple syrup. Good creamy consistency. Satisfying quantity.)

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It Was All A Bit Runny

One day, not so long ago, a writer went off to do writerly, authorial things with her writerly authorial friends and left her runny husband behind to attempt athleticism for the weekend. They both had a marvellous time. She was witty and erudite, met lots of friends, networked subtly, drank very nice whisky in a dark bar with an illustrious new chum and all in all had the sort of weekends writers can only dream about. Meanwhile, her husband ran so much and so hard he was sick. Twice. He loved it. Not the puking, that would be weird.

They say that’s it’s good for couples to have shared interests and it’s true. It’s also good for them to have things they can do on their own. I had a completely brilliant weekend of running fun and Anne did her thing in peace and quiet. We do have a shared interest in books and history. I love wandering around museums with her, even if I spend far too much time reading the labels on the exhibits and she’d rather take in the objects and do more research at home later.

This weekend, Anne was doing her own thing again. I ran my 50th parkrun at Milton Country Park on Saturday morning, had a wee jog round the course at our new parkrun at the Wimpole Estate and then today gave my ugly, weak legs a complete thrashing at the Cambridgeshire Cross Country Championships where I came 100th in a time of 53:13. I didn’t really have time to enjoy my 50th at Milton because I was in too much of a hurry to get out to Wimpole and get set up for our test event. I posted a respectable 23:30, had a brief struggle with the Chunder Monkey on the finishing line – which I won, by the way – grabbed a very good mocha from Cafe Diem and escaped from Milton only 20 minutes behind schedule because I was too chatty with my mates there.

When I got to Milton, I dropped the Great Big Box of Stuff off and went for a jog round the course to check conditions for the briefing. They were damp in some places and downright muddy as all fuck in others. I even lost a shoe at one point. It’s a challenging course with one major climb finishing at the 2k point with my favourite view of Cambridgeshire. During the summer, it’s going to be a quick one but it’s too boggy just now for outright speed. There are a couple of places where it’s actually ankle-deep in water but you soon thrash and splash your way through those.

The test event went well, everyone had a good time, nobody got lost and the marshals and volunteers were top notch. Our first official run is next Saturday morning at 9:00am. Please come and join us.

I was only slightly broken after a brisk 5k followed an hour later by a challenging one so I wasn’t too worried about the Counties this morning. I had a complete shocker at this race last year. I was 103rd out 109 in 53:02 and felt dreadful all the way round. I was 11 seconds slower this year but felt quicker. I probably paced it much better. I started from the back and cruised up the first hill. I enjoy hills and mud. Anne said to me this evening that she doesn’t understand a definition of fun which includes running up and down a muddy, slippery park. Once I got into the rhythm and began to take the brakes off on the downhills, I really began to enjoy myself.

I managed not to come last. I was 100th out 121 this year. It’s just possible that three of the men ahead of me last year died in the interim because I had my arse handed to me in grand style by some fairly elderly gentlemen. I hope not. Everyone behind me today was either older than me or carrying more weight than me. So were quite a lot of men ahead of me.

We were all out in our club vests. My vest means a lot to me. When it goes over my head, I feel part of the team and our team did very well today. I was never in a school sports team. I lacked both the raw talent and the will to train and improve so I didn’t deserve a place ahead of boys who have both talent and a work ethic in training. I work at training now because I want to give as much to the team as they have given to me.

I have had such a splendid weekend of running with my friends during the day and coming home to fine dinners in the evening. I’m a very lucky man. Weekends like this happen so infrequently and unexpectedly. I’d like to thank everyone who has made mine so good. You all know who you are.

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