Twelve Angry Men*

So, how are you dealing with this unrelenting stream of shit? My Twitter stream has almost ceased to mention anything if it’s not related to coronavirus, social isolation, lots and lots of dead people, crap policing and clapping for the NHS. Last weekend, there was a brief break in the Twitter weather and there was a lot of silliness, #Caturday posts, hashtag games and all sorts of other nonsense but that seems to have passed and we’re now back to Angry Twitter and nothing does anger quite as unremittingly as Twitter after a couple of weeks of confinement.

Anger can be a useful emotion. It can be a driver for necessary change, and God knows we need that. The thing is I don’t have room for anger right now, I’m too busy dealing with fear and trying to avoid despair. I saw a couple of posts yesterday, this one from Siena Rodgers:

…and another from Carole Cadwallader:

…and to be honest, I don’t find either of them helpful right now. The former implies that anyone who doesn’t feel the same as she does just doesn’t understand what is going on or is somehow a moral failure. The latter thinks we’re just lazy.

We’re not. For the most part, we’re terrified, or we’re anxious for the safety of ourselves, our friends and family, or we’re confused or we’re just fed up because we’ve been stuck indoors for what feels like months when spring has finally decided to show up. It’s a really bad idea at the best of times to tell people how to feel, or to dismiss someone who doesn’t feel the same way as you do as lazy or inattentive.

It’s not that I’m content with the way our government has dealt with things, or with the way some of the media has held them to account on our behalf. I’m really not that impressed with the parliamentarians who haven’t done that much to do their job either. However, I just don’t have the bandwidth for it. I have been indoors shielding from this sodding virus for almost two weeks now. I can’t go for a run – which would be my usual mechanism for dealing with stress or distress – because even if social distancing measures were relaxed, I could still contract the virus and end up in Addie’s or Papworth.

There is nothing I can do to change our government’s woeful lack of preparedness for this emergency. I’m not going to get angry about that. There is nothing I can do to ensure that the NHS, the people working in social care, driving buses, delivering food, working in supermarkets, or fulfilling any of the hundred other vital roles in our society get the PPE they need right now and I’m not going to feel guilty about that. I am going to remain grateful that they are there. I will certainly make sure that I don’t forget the work they have done in extraordinarily difficult circumstances when I next come to vote.

And I need to remember not to allow my resentment at being told how to feel by people who don’t know me nor even know that I exist turn into anger at them. Life’s too fucking short as it is.

*Women can be angry too. I only borrowed the title for a blogpost.

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‘Morning!

I get confused when I’m running. I can only really concentrate on one or two things at a time. Today it was all about running to a pace, keeping a nice upright posture and only if I had sufficient extra mental capacity would I worry about bits of me hurting. I saw Megan for some advice and massage on Tuesday a year to the day after my last trip to Fit Again Sports Therapy and she said I could train as long as I cut back on my mileage while I was still doing the physio on my Achilles. I did a very easy parkrun at Milton yesterday and nothing pinged or went twang so I thought that a longer run today would be a good check on whether I could restart training with a light week next week. I think I’m good to go. I have an odd wee twinge from my ankle but both Achilles are fine. There was a momentary flare from the right one just at the end of the session a couple of hundred yards from home but it was so fleeting it might not have happened at all. It might have been in my head. Runhausen’s Syndrome, perhaps.

What with all that going on, concentrating on my pace and form – don’t go so quickly that you break or so slowly that your form collapses – what with all that, I didn’t really have a lot of brain-room left for other things. We were told during our CiRF course that most athletes can only cope with one or two coaching points during a session and I’m definitely one of those athletes. So, I’m moving along, glancing at my watch every minute or so but running on feel for the most part and my pace is fine. I think about a balloon coming out the top of my head to keep everything nice and upright and I find that everything else follows from there. I’m relaxed, my arms are moving easily, my knees are coming up and it’s all good. As usual, I occasionally feel my left shoe brush my right calf as it comes through but once I concentrate on keeping everything in line then that stops too. It’s all going marvellously.

Then I spot some people on the path ahead. Now, I know some of you will find this hard to believe but I was brought up to be polite. It wasn’t all “Fuck you, you fucking humpbadger!” from the age of six. I still feel the need to greet people with a smile and a nod and to say something as I glide athletically past. I don’t want to be one of those runners, the wordless ones who avoid eye contact in case they have to deviate momentarily from their course, the ones plugged into some iPod-driven hell of introspection and sweat-sodden self-loathing. You know the ones. I saw one like that this afternoon coming the other way. I smiled. I nodded. I said “Hi!” Nothing. Not a thing. The fucker wasn’t even going so quickly that he couldn’t get a word out. Headphones will do that to a man.

So, these people coming the other way. There was a family of two adults and two children occupying the width of the path. Not a problem for the considerate runner. No traffic in the road so I run along it for a bit, do the smile and nod thing as I go past and get a smile and nod in return. The positive exchange, as the Naked Runners used to call it. Next is a little old lady walking along at little old lady pace with what is almost certain to be a badly buggered hip from the way she is limping. She smiles. I smile back, nod and say “‘Morning!” It’s almost five in the afternoon. I’m an idiot. I almost run back to her and say “Sorry, I meant to say ‘Good afternoon,’ because it’s afternoon after all, isn’t it? But I’m a runner, you see. I can only concentrate on my pace and my form and I don’t have time to think about the time of day too. Terrible, isn’t it? I’m quite bright, really. Well, it’s the first time I’ve seen you today. The first time I’ve ever seen you so for some reason my brain says that I should wish you a good morning and not a good afternoon. Brains, eh? Who’d have one? Anyway, sorry to startle you coming back like this. I’m not a mugger, ha, ha. No, not me. I’m a runner. Nice talking to you. Bye!'” What would you have done?

Onwards again. My route takes me through the grounds of Cherry Hinton Hall and then out along the babbling brook where the path is very narrow. I pass a couple heading in the same direction as me by running on some grass where the path goes past some houses. I give them a wide berth. I’ve caused screams before as I’ve gone by because people can’t always hear me coming. I take that as a compliment to my form but I don’t like to cause anxiety. I wave thanks to them as I go by and wish them a pleasant evening. There are a couple of cyclists coming the other way down the narrowest stretch of the path. We each slow down to allow the other to pass. Smile. Nod. Onwards. Finally, I have to come to a stop to allow a couple of families with pushchairs past. Of the four adults, only one man returns my nod and smile. The rest avoid eye contact. I know I’m a bit sweaty by now, a bit snottery and slightly breathless but I was being polite and all I get in return was one hurried and embarrassed nod.

I can’t be the only one who’d like to build a community one exchange at a time. It’s not just about the runners or the cyclists or the swimmers. I tell my athletes on a Tuesday night to be careful when they encounter pedestrians. A group of athletes moving at pace can be a very intimidating thing for someone to encounter. They’d be alright, speeding up and buggering off round a corner. It’s me that’d be in the shite. I have the club’s name and badge emblazoned on my chest and Coach Rich on my back. I’d get the letters. So I tell them to slow down or to give other pedestrians room and acknowledge them as they pass. It’s only polite after all. I don’t want us to be one of those clubs after all. I’d like to include those of a less athletic disposition in the community even if it’s just by nodding sweatily as I go past whether they want to be included or not. I might get fewer screams that way and fewer of those fuckers with headphones instead of social consciences would irritate me.

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