Monday, February 17, 2014

Wimbledon Common Dash for the Splash 10km race review

We’ve all seen that bit in a BBC wildlife documentary where the herds of wildebeest frantically scrabble their way down a steep river side, before wading across and emerging on the other side, unless the crocodiles get them.

Well, on Sunday at about 930, on a cold, hard but bright morning, I and 199 hardy soles went through our own river crossing on Wimbledon common. Down a slippery mud bank, through 2 feet of freezing water, and up the other side. Feet sodden, socks soaked through, and still 9.5km of hard, muddy, slippery running ahead. Brilliant.

The Dash for the Splash 10km was my first race for over two years, which is appalling, but it was certainly one to remember. The course not only involved the above water crossing, but numerous sections filled with grey, gloopy mud that weighed you down and long rising hills that dried your feet out. Then there was a middle section where we ran through saturated common ground, filled with water from the recent storms, forcing you knee-deep in freezing water to find the path again.  

As such it wasn’t a course for a personal best but a time of 45 minutes and 31 seconds was one I was very happy with. It would have been quicker but for the fact the final kilometre was on unbelievably slippery grass across a playing field.

I was overtaken by about five runners in spikes, while my old trainers (thankfully chosen over my shiny, clean news ones) just failed to gain any traction at all, forcing me to run like Bambi and focus more on staying upright than putting in a hard kick for the finish.

Still, even losing those places I came 37th, which wasn’t too bad. Now, the next time I do a 10km (possibly next weekend) the lack of mud, water and river crossings should make it seem a doddle.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

London locations

Ah an office move, the first in my long and distinguished career. This means the joys of ‘crating up’ your kit and then finding it waiting for you in a shiny, new office space about 800m away. I’ve gone from the bustling streets of central Soho to the bustling streets of the Haymarket.

Head in one direction its Piccadilly Circus and the flocks of tourists eating lunch on Eros, while head in the opposite direction and you enter the supposed-razzmatazz of Leicester Square. Head in another direction, though, and I’ve found the streets become rather quieter, with imposing streets that sort of peter out into nothing as they reach St James Park. This is quite nice really and brings another insight into the unique landscape that is London.

Wandering the other day I found a beautiful arcade, the Royal Opera Arcade, with high white arches and little boutique shops. I snapped a picture, included below.  I also found the hiding place of the Number 22 bus before it begins its slow, winding journey to Putney Heath. The driver looked a picture of contentment sat on the back seat of the lower deck, paper in hand and a Pret cup of tea in another.

So, I’ve now taken in Pimlico, Soho and now have the Haymarket and its surroundings to explore and work within for who knows how long. London, what a wonderful city.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

High Hopes

Bruce is back and he's still dragging around that half-decent guitarist Tom Morello with him. Below is the first song from the new album. A joyous, rollicking New Orleans sawdust-and-spit rocker that infuses trumpets and wailing guitars into a sound that is similar to Wrecking Ball but seems to bring back some of the Seeger Sessions vibes too. Certainly gives me 'high hopes' for the rest of the album. Sorry.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

In print

Despite being a journalist for almost seven years (!) I rarely see my name in print. As such, on the very rare occasions when it happens I can't deny getting a thrill that was one of reasons I was drawn to writing for a living.

So, when I was asked by London's free paper of choice the Metro if I could offer some comment on the success of the iPlayer, I jumped at the chance, although not literally. The fruits of my waffling can be seen below. For those of you that like it online, you can read it here.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Radio punning

I went on BBC FiveLive this week to discuss more woes at BlackBerry. I went into a remote studio in the BBC for this and stared into a big, fluffy red mic as I chatted to the invisible Nicky Campbell and his colleague, whose name I can't remember, via the big, official looking headphones placed upon my head.

This was a particularly fun interview, I thought, because we break down in the middle for a brief bit of punning, which I definitely regard as a bit of a career highlight.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

More radio words

I was on Radio 2 last night talking about Twitter's move to float on the stock market. You can listen to my insights below.

Barging about

I have just spent a very enjoyable week in France visiting the parents who are travelling through that strange and charming country, living the retirement hippy dream of a barge lifestyle. It involved plenty of lock work - looping ropes, fending off, looking out for boats coming the other direction, and other boaty goodness, as well as eating plenty of nice food, drinking beer and wine and playing with the dog, so all in all, a lovely sojourn.

Getting the ferry across the channel was also fun - travelling as a foot passenger along with my brother - as I always used to wonder when I was younger why anyone would be travelling by foot, how you could end up needing a ferry crossing but no car, and now I know as I was one of those people.

However, the good folk of Calais have certainly no desire to please the foot travellers of this world, with little help or information for the onward journey you need to make in the town to stations. Still, through a combination of walking, ranting and taxi drivers (bizarrely wearing English football shirts but actually French) we managed to make it to our connections - well, excluding the ferry we missed on the way back because we had to spend 20 minutes waiting for a bridge to raise to let a large Danish boat out of the harbour in Calais.

Back to the barge. It's a strange idea, that you can just move your home around as you wish, waking up in one city and moving to the next, having negotiated a few locks and long, slow bends of course. Then you're free to wander the towns and fields at your leisure. We stopped in a lovely town called St Quentin which has a fascinating history and some lovely architecture and monuments.

We were passing through the heart of the First World War battle grounds, with flat and gently sloping fields rimmed by hedges and trees and numerous cemeteries and monuments to the fallen, a war now 99 years old.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Whale song

Some of my favourite text, from Moby-Dick:

"Why, thou monkey," said a harpooneer to one of these lads, "we've been cruising now hard upon three years, and thou hast not raised a whale yet. Whales are scarce as hen's teeth whenever thou art up here."

Perhaps they were; or perhaps there might have been shoals of them in the far horizon; but lulled into such an opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious reverie is this absent-minded youth by the blending cadence of waves with thoughts, that at last he loses his identity; takes the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible image of that deep, blue, bottomless soul, pervading mankind and nature; and every strange, half-seen, gliding, beautiful thing that eludes him; every dimly-discovered, uprising fin of some undiscernible form, seems to him the embodiment of those elusive thoughts that only people the soul by continually flitting through it.

In this enchanted mood, thy spirit ebbs away to whence it came; becomes diffused through time and space; like Crammer's sprinkled Pantheistic ashes, forming at last a part of every shore the round globe over.

There is no life in thee, now, except that rocking life imparted by a gently rolling ship; by her, borrowed from the sea; by the sea, from the inscrutable tides of God. But while this sleep, this dream is on ye, move your foot or hand an inch; slip your hold at all; and your identity comes back in horror. Over Descartian vortices you hover. And perhaps, at mid-day, in the fairest weather, with one half-throttled shriek you drop through that transparent air into the summer sea, no more to rise for ever. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Childhood memories

When I were a lad my parents took us on holiday to France in a camperva
n. We chugged around France, stopping at campsites, eating bread and other French-related activities.

During the trip my Dad read us a story called The Haunted Reef. In my memory this was an amazing tale of treasure and sailing, sharks and great escapades of derring-do. It was with nostalgic glee, then, that my girlfriend presented me with a copy after I'd mentioned it, sealed in a plastic sandwich bag.

Re-reading it, it was funny how little of the story I remembered, with almost none of the major incidents jogging any memories, while the story itself, read with critical, English literature degree eyes, was full of weird moments, and unsatisfactory outcomes. Also, the main character Dirk, (or, Dork, as my Dad reminded me he called him), is an annoyingly perfect hero - cool, strong, impervious to nerves and always quick with an explanation. He's hard to like.

Despite this I enjoyed reading it again and the story, with a few modifications, could make an excellent film, as there are plenty of good characters and some excellent potential landscape shoots, while the story has plenty of death and savagery that is required for all modern action films.

Pretty Saro and tired horses

As a big Bob Dylan fan it is no surprise I enjoyed Self Portrait (for the most part at least) and have also found the Another Self Portrait album a very enjoyable listen too.

The standout track from the latter is Pretty Saro, as you can watch and listen to below. It clearly dismisses the lame old criticism leveled at Dylan by people who have never listened to him, that he can't sing, as he croons his way through the lovely ditty:

Pretty good eh?

By the by, one of most intriguing tracks on Self Portrait, and no doubt purposefully placed at the start to confuse the hell out of listeners, is All The Tired Horses, which you'd never believe or guess for one second was Bob Dylan. Check it out below too.

DYLAN: all the tired horses in the sun by mrjyn

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Been listening to the new Bob Dylan, Another Self-Portrait at the moment on Spotify. Lovely stuff.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Unknown history

There are just so many stories in the world it's impossible to read them all, but it's always fascinating when you come across an incident you never knew of before, despite it's clear interest and wider impact on society.

The Bristol Bus Boycott, covered in great detail by the BBC today, is one such example, with a nice echo to the wider US race issues taking place at the same time.