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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An Idiot Abroad


I have a thing about new clothes. I won’t buy any. I will buy bundles of boxers and party-packs of socks from time to time but that’s about it. I haven’t bought a t-shirt since I started running because I get all the tees I need from races. I have very occasionally bought a shirt in an emergency, usually after I’ve dribbled my lunchtime soup down the one I’m wearing or I’ve been caught in one of those rainstorms which soak me so completely that complete strangers are transfixed by the sight of my nipples and chest hair through the now-transparent fabric. Generally, however, I won’t buy new clothes.

I will buy second-hand clothes. My ex introduced me to the delights of the charity shop. (Hello Jane, if you’re lurking. Hope it’s all going well.) I thought it was weird at the time but she bought me what became my favourite blue shirt in a charity shop in Oxford. I’ve worn it so much that the collar is threadbare and becoming detached and yet I can’t bring myself to throw it out. It’s just such a beautiful colour and the fabric is softer than a kitten’s kiss. I have bought a few things from charity shops myself since then but now that I’m not a fat man any more, there is little on the rails my size.

That’s the basic problem I have now. I need skinny clothes but I don’t want to shell out for them. I’m stuck with shirts I bought five or six years ago because there is lots of wear left in them. It’s a waste for me. I could take them down to charity shops and make space in my wardrobes for clothes which fit but I never quite get round to doing it. Twice in the past week, I’ve gone into shops to buy a new pair of trousers and a couple of shirts, spent half an hour carefully selecting the items I want, taken them to the till and then bottled at the last minute and left the shop empty-handed. Partly it’s the cost. Clothes are expensive. Nice clothes are really expensive. The clothes I like are really very nice indeed. I tried again at Tesco. Tesco clothing is not particularly nice but it’s not that expensive. It’s like new charity shop stuff but even thirty quid for two shirts which don’t billow like spinnakers and a pair of decent trolleys which won’t fall down is too much for me to pay. I’m too tight to pay for snugly fitting clothes.

There is a proviso to that last statement. I’m not too tight to pay for snugly fitting clothes made from Lycra. If you can run wearing it, I’m more than happy to fork out for it. I wouldn’t buy those things for thirty quid on Friday but I paid £40 for my lovely new, too sexy for slow, track spikes yesterday. I didn’t even buy them from the interwebz. I went into a real shop and talked to real people and really bought a real pair or really quick shoes. Shame I’m too broken to use them right now.

Yup, I’m on the injury bench again. I broke at mile four of the Wimpole Half Marathon Hoohaah. In truth, I shouldn’t have even started but it’s my favourite race in my favourite place. Who wouldn’t want to run around Wimpole for a couple of hours and get a medal at the end? There was the additional delicious prospect of hugs from various marshals round the course but I never got as far as seeing any of my mates who were out there. They were perhaps a little relieved not to have to deal with a sweating, slobbery, wheezing mess of a man clinging onto them in an attempt not to fall over. Social runs can sometimes be so detrimental to social relationships.

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