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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Small Pleasures

Small pleasures are those little things which mean a lot to oneself and which probably mean nothing at all to anyone else. Some have disappeared. Kit-Kats in foil wrappers, for example, the four-fingered ones. I used to slip the red paper part off and then rub the foil smooth over the fingers so that the logo stood out. Then I’d slide my fingernail down between the fingers. I had to get the tension exactly right or the foil would tear and that would have been dreadful. They’ve changed the packaging and the four-fingered Kit-Kats come in this nasty wrapper which is doubtless more robust and keeps those little slivers of wafer and chocolate fresher for longer.

Small pleasures shouldn’t be the great big things in life. Kissing is never a small pleasure. If it is, you’re probably doing it poorly or kissing the wrong person. My advice would be to find the right person so that every kiss becomes a comma in the sentence of your life together. Who says you can’t combine romance and punctuation? Sexy times shouldn’t really be on the list of your small pleasures either. There’s a reason they call it the Big O. If you’re screaming, it’s not a small thing.

I really liked the smell of Kick the Cat’s head. Other cats don’t have the same smell. Kick the Cat was not a personable creature. She was distinctly grumpy, in fact. She hated practically everyone apart from me. Me, she barely tolerated. She was a serial sausage thief and inveterate bin diver but in her passing few adorable moments she had a sweetly-smelling bonce. When it wasn’t covered in week-old curry sauce. Tilly has even hairier ears than I do. That’s no reason to dislike her, of course, and the space between them doesn’t appear to be filled with anything more substantial than fluff and nonsense. Even though she shares none of Kick’s delinquent tendencies, Tilly just doesn’t smell as good. Bertie of blessed memory would gently chew on on of my fingers which was lovely. Mouse is an instant purrer. You just need to rub her ear and off she goes.

My last post was about the sound of leaves make as you run through them, that ship-ship-ship sound. Getting your cadence and form just right as you run through a drift of fallen leaves is definitely a small pleasure. Even better is running through a puddle. Today’s parkrun at Milton was beautiful. There were puddles the width of the path in places and you could mince round the edges or go straight through the middle. Who ever took pleasure from going round the edges?

New books smell even better than small cats. A magazine which nobody has opened before is a special thing indeed. Lighting the gas on the first click does odd things to the corners of my mouth. A man shouldn’t smile at that. A sane man shouldn’t smile at that. Then there’s the crunch on a good creme brulee when you put the first spoon in. (I can’t do the accent things on this keyboard. Pretend they’re there.) Or what about the texture of extra thick double cream? Mmmm… A spoonful of that and I’m a happy man.

Life should be full of pleasures of all sizes. If your life is like a jar – bear with me on this – if your life is a jar or a vase and pleasures are rocks then you can have two or three big rocks and an awful lot of emptiness or you can pack in more, smaller pleasures – or pebbles in this analogy – even ones as small as a grain of sand. Oooh, that reminds me, running on wet sand on a beach is marvellous, just marvellous.

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