Monthly Archives: July 2020

Don’t drop CLANGERS

Clangers blog

Running: it’s cheap and enjoyable – try saying that without sounding smug

Catford looks like it’s been dragged through a hedge backwards. Everywhere you look people have taken the opportunity to dump unwanted furniture and household junk. Many businesses remain resolutely shut, some boarded up with optimistic To Let signs. Advertising hoardings display just peeling relics of a time when businesses could afford to advertise. The only people who look cheerful are the crowds of moped drivers, visors up and enjoying the sunshine outside kebab and chicken shops. Everyone’s comfort eating, and the Thames has the highest concentration of microplastics from fast food containers of any river in the world.

Running along the river bright and early in soft, refreshing rain last Sunday, we weren’t aware of the breaking microplastics story as we admired the new urban planning that has created wooden sun loungers for all on the promenade outside the posh flats around Greenwich. In the lush planters, there are water fountains that have not yet been declared a Covid hazard. There’s artwork, an eco garden centre, interesting sculpture, pretty gardens and shady spaces. And boats a bobbing on the tide. Away in the distance, the Thames Barrier is our weekly destination.

I won’t be needing to run any further, since my September marathon is finally cancelled, and the only exertion on the horizon is the virtual Bewl 15. My favourite summer race, which usually sees its devotees charging around the pretty Kentish reservoir, has become a physically distant one, but my friends and I intend making it as sociable as is legal, by running the route on a week day, at the crack of dawn, preferably in the rain to avoid the crowds. We will have to bring our own cake and ale, which is the usual refreshment after the effort.

That’s something to look forward to, in the absence of anything else to look forward to in this, Week 16 of loosened Lockdown. No Berlin, little gainful employment (plenty of unpaid work); no money ( a wee bit more from HMRC in August); no marathon training; no parkrun. Many runners like me will be bereft if the cross country season is cancelled (and England Athletics are being particularly cautious about letting runners compete in anything exciting…despite cricket, tennis and football all being given the green light. Basketball was one of the first sports to be allowed. Why? All the players get to hold the ball. Is it because they only bounce it for seconds, the virus doesn’t get a chance to stick? Answers on a postcard. I’ll be sure to de-contaminate it).

As usual, my Covid 19 voice of reason is MD (Dr Phil Hammond) in Private Eye. He writes comfortingly about an appealing mnemonic, CLANGERS. No soup dragons here, just

Connect, Learn, (be) Active, Notice, Give back, Eat well, Relax, Sleep

I describe the reasoning behind this slightly tortured Pollyanna-ish aide memoire to my running mate, who is a hospital consultant, as we run along the feelgood riverside at Greenwich.

‘Medics love acronyms,’ she mutters, scathingly, going on to explain (as MD did, to be fair) that all these goals are easily achieved if you aren’t cast low by debt, depression, poor housing, a lack of self esteem and unemployment. When all these harsh realities bully their way into your life, riding on the coat tails of a global pandemic that’s terrifying everyone -no matter how rich and successful they are – you’re likely to be exhausted and more interested in the next Deliveroo dose of cheer than a bracing run along the river with your more fortunate girlfriends. And microplastics will be the least of your worries.



A to B and 2 Seas


Lizard 2020

Keeping a beady eye on the litter louts

All the least attractive bits of normal life – fly-tipping, crowded buses, motorists-on-a-short-fuse, fast-food dependency, work deadlines – are back, but Covid 19 is still casting a long shadow. It’s week 15 of Relaxed Lockdown. I’m not relaxed. The Richmond Marathon website is still bullish about the organisers’ intention to go ahead with the event in mid September, so I will call this week 2 of marathon training.

As the mileage requirements go up, my distaste for the same old Lewisham/Greenwich routes increases, so public transport is called for. In typically laggardly fashion, our esteemed (by far too many) leaders have finally decreed that face coverings are an essential piece of kit for public transport travel. Today, the announcement was that we should perhaps don them in shops too. That was about 24 hours after Mr Michael Gove implied that wearing masks in shops was a bit pansy, or something. I have some rather fetching tartan face coverings that my son sent from Berlin – his partner likes sewing and is as keen as me to avoid single-use PPE. Inside my masks are a piece of the muslin squares everyone buys for babies. I find this comforting. I am breathing through cloth that once mopped up little Charlie Catford, my much-missed grandson.

Thursday’s run was to Stratford International, then, en route to the Kentish coast.  My route went along canals out east from Poplar. I stopped to snap at this pampered pup on the side of a towerblock on Chrisp Street:

Chrisp Street dog

….and ducklings bobbing on the Regent’s Canal. Around Bromley-by-Bow I indulged my usual fantasy of seeing out my days from the confines of a houseboat. Just me and a roof garden. No room for guests and the freedom to push off wherever I wandered.  Lockdown gave me a taste of the sweetness of singledom.

There are many women like me, who go from being one of many siblings, to one young student among thousands in university digs, to flat/tent shares in various parts of the world, to monogamy and child-rearing. It is no wonder we empty nesters become a little giddy and impulsive when faced with the last decades of precious life. We seek a bigger change to go with our hormonal ones. No new partners, thanks, just glorious solitude. Funny how middle-aged men don’t crave that. Some do the new model thing when it comes to partners, but few seem to long to be alone.

Anyway, there were the houseboats, then the still-shiny splendours of the Olympic Park and Stratford International Station, through the mostly closed Westfield Shopping centre. It had been four months since I’d set foot in a station, and this one, gleaming and shipshape at the best of times, looked clinical. Staff all wore plastic face shields and proffered disposable facemasks, gel and wet wipes. There was a special sanitiser fountain outside the loos. You could have filled your boots with sanitiser. Each of the five other train travellers had a bench to themselves. I boarded the train and found I had half a carriage to luxuriate in.

The dreamlike nature of this masked journey continued in Deal, where the clouds sit stodgily on the soupy sea; no waves, just sluggish lapping on to the shingle. It did not look as if it would refresh the overheated runner. The air was still and humid. I drank local ale and ate chips, and admired the seafront flat of a friend of a friend. Londoners like Deal. Almost as much as they like Whitstable. They have bought up second homes here to (English) Channel their inner Jarman.

After Deal and 24 hours back in Lewisham, I cycled to Waterloo to catch another empty train to Poole, and my sister’s beach hut. I took a tent and camped in the garden, the better to distance myself from various members of family foregathered for the seventh birthday of one of my great nephews. Sunshine, strawberries, beer and sandcastles. And bold (protected) lizards sunbathing on the beach hut steps. The one pictured took a speculative bite out of a strawberry, but seemed more interested in the remnants of a bacon bap one of the meat eaters enjoyed for breakfast.

The Sunday long run was by the sea: 11 miles in the heat with a slight hangover, obsessing about my beach-hut breakfast. I became so over heated I removed shoes and run on the sand and into the waves: proper waves, not soupy ones. Despite the heat the beaches were not bothered this weekend by the hordes that generated so much opprobrium in the last heatwave in June, when beleaguered locals (volunteers, all) had to pick up 41 tonnes of rubbish left by revellers.

This morning, a beach hut not so far away from my sister’s sold for £330.000. It is a wooden hut. My sister, a resident of Poole for the past 40 years, rents hers from the local council, by the way. Seems everyone is fantasising about owning their own little beach kingdom, but they need deep pockets for such bragging rights, whether they settle for the pebble dash of Deal or the sandblast of Bournemouth. They’ll still be joining the angry trippers and litter spreaders when the sun shines, however. I think I’ll stick to my houseboat fantasy.

The lunatics have taken over the asylum

Erik's axe 1 July 2020

Crazy axe woman

Shall we call this Week 14 of Lockdown, or Week 1 of New Normal? Perhaps it’s safest for me to label it Week 1 of marathon training. Rather deluded, surely, given the circs, but the organisers of the Richmond Marathon, which I signed up for back in January are still game: hoping to get the go ahead to host a mass gathering of runners (and their attendant hawking, coughing and sweating) on quite narrow riverside paths. The website assures us that:

‘…we will continue to work closely with our stakeholders and monitor the advice given. Let’s keep all fingers crossed for 12 and 13 September and please do everything you can to stay safe and healthy.’

It would probably be quite foolhardy to go ahead with the race weekend, but it’s good for a runner to have something in her diary, and this Good For Age marathon isn’t going to run itself. I suppose I’ll have to do a physically distanced one if push comes to shove, but I am not sure how much clout my uploaded Garmin result will have with the London Marathon authorities when it comes to claiming my old lady pass to the 2022 race.

Foolhardiness seems to be the name of the game as the population sits with its ear to the wireless and meekly accepts everything Mr Boris Johnson instructs us. So last weekend we were all encouraged to go out on the piss. No, sorry, that message was seasonally adjusted on the day of the proposed piss up, when Mr Boris Johnson corrected his instructions and advised us to have a meek sherry in a responsible fashion and use our great British Common Sense to avoid ending up face down in a gutter and requiring the stomach-pumping services of a Covid-fatigued paramedic.

My husband, a Boris admirer, was very keen to go to the pub. I am not, and was not, being knackered after a busy day and slightly off the beer at the moment, stung by my slow 5k times. We ended up compromising, and selecting a usually neglected Irish pub of such extreme, slightly squalid Father Tedness that we adore it. Sure enough, it was pretty quiet and we were able to have a drink at a physical distance from the chatty bar staff and talk about all the parts of Ireland we would like to go to and where my grandmother may have come from. They were delighted by my ancestry  but disappointed that my only Irish credentials were red hair and copious freckles.

So much for the glorious 4 July, then. I hope the pubs made some money. Pubs are good places and they’re paying my wages at the moment, as I’m doing some editing work on the excellent Good Pub Guide and reading about country hostelries whose winsome charms are making me almost cry with longing. One, I have noted, has a fabulous menu (with more than a nod to veganism), rescued donkeys in the grounds, a herb and veg garden, and beer straight from the cellar cask. I will visit this place if we’re allowed summer hiking and pubbing.

On the inglorious 6th, Mr Boris Johnson rammed his foot firmly in his mouth once more by implying that care homes had invoked catastrophe on themselves by not following shielding guidelines when accepting elderly residents from hospital, which is why about 20,000 of these residents and their carers died. This implied criticism was again swiftly retracted and carefully reworded, but hopefully, some more damage was done to this inept PM’s reputation.

The lunacy referred to in the title, is acceptable, I hope, given that it is a reference to Fun Boy 3’s 1980s hit of the same name, which I don’t think has been banned yet. I may be wrong, given the massive furore that landed on the head of Portuguese Vogue for its insensitive cover portraying some One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest style of mental health professionals and headlines referring to madness.

If Mr Boris Johnson displayed some quite lunatic behaviour by exposing his rather dodgy style of push-up to the world’s media to prove he’s fit as a flea, the illustration at the top of this blog shows that I am no better than the object of my disdain. In this one respect. Yup, it’s another loony-tune method of fitness invested in by Erik of Team 6 training. That axe is a heavy thing to swing around, and apparently does wonders for your obliques.

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