Sunday, April 25, 2010

Running the Marathon, and the Country

London Marathon today in a v disappointing 4:24. My test runs suggested a better time and I had a clear race plan which worked fine for the first 15 miles and then I fell off badly. Next time I will:
  1. Do at least 2 20-mile runs beforehand, not just one.
  2. Decline any invitations for Fri & Sat evening before the race, not accept and leave early (but still not in bed before 11:15).
  3. Double-check the weather forecast - the BBC had Heavy Rain at 1300 so I had my light goretex running jacket (unzipped which I can run in fine) but this was obsolete and the goretex slowed me down I think by making me hotter and then (when I took it off) drag & annoyance. I gave it to C at mile 22.

It took ages to get to the Serpie pub because a lady had collapsed in the crossing queue, and by the time I got there C had left, so I went home. After a rest I played the first 8 Shostakovich Preludes & Fugues: nice to do something musical after a marathon.

Have been reading Yes Prime Minister and the episode (financial scandals) is strangely topical. Hacker comes up with the immortal characterisation of newspaper readers: "The Times is read by the people who run the country. The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country. The Guardian is read by the people who think they ought to run the country. The Morning Star is read by the people who think the country ought to be run by another country. The Independent is read by people who don't know who runs the country but are sure they're doing it wrong. The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country. The FT is read by the people who own the country. The Daily Express is read by people who think the country ought to be run as it used to be run. The Daily Telegraph is read by the people who still think it is their country. And the Sun's readers don't care who runs the country so long as she has big t**s"

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Portraits, hustings and still lives

Business lunch at National Portrait Gallery Weds and had quick look at the Tudors afterwards. Elizabeth never ceases to fascinate, Drake looks very Devonian, Walshingam and Donne the most interesting.

Hustings at our Church on Thurs. Labour really are trying to scaremonger, whipping up fears that a 30-year plan produced by the local Council will result in immediate evictions. They do seem pretty desperate. Green Party engagingly frank that he didn't have a chance, LibDem candidate nice and also bemused, but thankful, to be so much in the limelight. Sponored by Theos the think tank and lots of TV cameras.

Earlier today went to Charles & Liz Handy to have my "still lives" and portrait taken - a very generous birthday present from them. Liz's fascinating concept is that people choose 5 objects and a flower which in some sense epitomise their lives. These are then arranged and photographed. FWIW mine were:
  1. My interlinear Greek Testament. Reading the NT in Greek really does open up layers of meaning that are lost in any translation. It also forces me to read it slowly.
  2. Beethoven Vn & Piano Sonatas (Vol 2). This is really to epitomise the piano, which I have been playing since I was 2, and collaborative music, having accompanied my brother, sister, wife, son and occasionally some other fine musicians of which the most amazing are Catherine Wyn-Rogers and Ruth Palmer. It was open on the 2nd subject of the 1st movement of Sonata 10.
  3. My laptop. This is my 2nd keyboard instrument and also epiotomises my career as a computer scientist and then as a strategy consultant and social philosopher, but also containing many pictures of my beloved family (pictures are "not allowed" under the rules).
  4. A running shoe in which I will DV run the Marathon tomorrow. This epitomises excercise but also "the way".
  5. The Genneker from our boat. This is really to epitomise my love of the sea, a constant presence at our family house in Cornwall.

I wanted to bring a Magnolia Grandiflora but these were unobtainable at the florists. Instead I got some astramaria. We had a big M.G. tree by our cottage in Wraysbury and astramaria (amongst many other flowers) in the grounds.

Charles and Liz have tranferred most of their house to their children and now live in a few rooms centred on an amazing circular living room whose floor and walls are made of bamboo. This required them to move a tree and replant it, or rather a cutting I think, further down in their garden. It is.. a Magnolia Grandiflora, so my portriat was taken leaning against it.

They are such delightful people - it is a great pleasure and privelege to spend time with them.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Real Thing

Went last night to The Real Thing at the Old Vic. Curiously disappointing. Toby Stephens is very good as Henry the self-parody famous playwright. But the others don't convince: in particular you really need to care about and believe in his 2nd wife Annie and Hattie Morahan, although a fine actress, doesn't really convince. The play has been very successful and as we suspected the role was created by Felicity Kendal, with Glenn Close doing it on Broadway and Jennifer Ehle played it in the revival. Not sure it is fair to blame the actress though: maybe it only works when you have an amazing actress in this role.

We watched the TV Debate on Thurs - I should have been flying to Harvard but was grounded by the ash. Clegg did well but the LibDem Mania sweeping the country seems overdone. Do we really want a party commited to entering the Euro and ceding more powers to Brussels? Will a hung parliament sort out the appalling economic mess? Could Gordon Brown credibly lead a cross-party team, when he loathes and despises the other parties and cannot even bring himself to refer to the LibDems by their proper name? Certainly international investors are not impressed. We will have to see what happens. Interesting times indeed.

Friday, April 09, 2010

An interlude near Diss with the Handys

Found myself unexpectedly passing through Diss yesterday so called the Handys who kindly invited me to drop in to supper on my way back. I had not been before to their Norfolk home which they have moulded over the last 35 years from a couple of condemned cottages into a beautifully integrated living and working space.

It was lovely to catch up with them. They have been working on a project for Oxfam photographing and interviewing Palestinians - mostly women - who work in cooperatives. The theme is how business can change and improve society. There will be an exhibition with a talk by Charles at a big firm of solicitors in Canary Wharf and at the RSA: other great venues are sought. I really hope I'll be able to introduce Charles to Ned Phelps and to Bob Catell at some point.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter and the Boat Race


For Holy Saturday had a big family lunch (16 in all) then went to my London Sailing Club where we had been fortunate to secure the starters box and thus pretty much the best view of the boat race that can be had from a static vantage point. The box is on top of a mast and accessibe by ladder and trap-door, much to the delight of the grandchildren (and me). The race was thrilling but it was pretty clear as the crews came past us that Cambridge would win because Oxford were not far enough ahead after the river had been to their advantage.

Easter Sunday the sermon was about how the resurrection gives meaning and purpose to life and death, with death swallowed up in victory. We heard later that Mark Ashton, the much loved and enormously fruitful Vicar of St Andrew's the Great in Cambridge, had died on Holy Saturday. A wonderful man: may he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Ten for lunch including three actors. Then I was on safety boat duty at the sailing club, and contrary to the forecasts it was a lovely day (there had been a very small hailstorm just before lunch - "hail, the day that sees him rise" I thought) so great to be there on the river supporting the sailors.

The Lord is Risen: He is risen indeed - Alleluia!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Good Friday, Love and Music

Wonderful Good Friday observances. We had a "walk of witness" from the Church to the Kings Mall shopping centre, with people from many of the local churches from all denominations. Police horses stopped the traffic as we walked in silence along the road, led by one of the clergy carrying the cross. At the central concourse in the Mall we had a short act of worship. One of the local Baptist ministers gave the sermon, where he likened the eyes of faith to the 3D glasses you are given in the cinema: until you put them on the picture is blurred and the colours strange, with them it all makes sense and you can understand what his happening.

Then back to the Church for a series of meditations with music provided by the brilliant Oboist Rachel Baldock and friends. These were very powerful, and centred on how the heavens were torn at the baptism and the veil of the temple torn at the crucifixion, and how the torn world can be healed by Jesus' love and sacrifice.

Later in the afternoon I played some Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues, then a middle-Beethoven sonata and then, when Daughter pointed out that middle-Beethoven was not very suitable for Good Friday, the last 2 movements of Op 110, which certainly is! Finally after supper we listened to the 2nd half of the St John Passion - we had the first half on the evening of Maundy Thursday.

The short story in Nature called "The balance scale" by Shelly Li is about a man who chooses to die slowly rather than have a clone created and killed to harvest the organs. He realises that "I don't need to prolong the inevitable, for I have made my life beautiful with love. And love is a weight that nothing in this world can balance."

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Little Dog Laughed

Went last night to The Little Dog Laughed - in which Tamsin Greig stars - with two american friends plus Janie Dee and Miranda Hart, who had never met. The play is extremely sharply written, with excellent dialogue, one-liners, and an extensive use of soliloquies. It also has a great line in ironic "meta-dialogue" so that the Great Playwright (unseen) whose play is being bought is called "He meaning Him" and the Actor, protesting his integrity to the playwright, says "I promise by the memory of ..." Lots of bad language and some nudity so would not have taken Daughter had she been significantly under 18, but she is now, officially, an Adult.

For some reason there were lots of theatricals in the audience that night. Miranda said she spotted about 8 people she knew, and was accosted by a well-known (to her, not to us) agent and a number of people went up to her on the way out to say how much they had enjoyed her work. Janie was also accosted (nicely) by an actor friend and then all the front of house staff wanted to say bye to her because they had worked with her in her magnificent Betrayal.

Tamsin Greig was really wonderful - Janie gave her a standing ovation - and the other cast members, who were very good, seemed to improve in the second act and come up to her level. Sadly we weren't able to go backstage: Janie and Miranda had to get home to babysitter/writing so they travelled together in a cab. Although it would have been great if they had been able to stay with us for supper I hope and expect they had a good chance to chat on the way back.