Friday, May 29, 2009

I recently picked up a fashion magazine which informed me in authoritative, but breathless tones that as a man in my 40s I can no longer go on dressing the same as I did in my 20s. I now have to project an air of quality and individual self assuredness rather than trying to ape the fashions of youth…

I’ve always had a tense relationship with fashion – as far as I’m concerned it’s a kind of circular dictatorship – run by nobody but with each link in the chain of command (designers, shops, customers, critics) kept so terrified of being out of step with everyone else that they have to keep the intimidation going. It’s only purpose is to keep people intimidating each other into buying stuff they don’t need at over inflated prices from idiot corporations.

Still, we all like to look good, and since everyone else judges what that means by the rules they’ve been given, there’s not much point arguing. If you’re living in a dictatorship, you can either fight it or go along with it…but there’s not much mileage in pretending you live in a free society.

…. So anyway, I read this article and although most of it is mindless dribble designed to fill the four pages in the magazine that aren’t dedicated to arty photos of people standing around in demolished buildings in pin-striped suits and pants, they do have a point.

There are massive gaps in my wardrobe and despite the fact that I have by and large been buying the same kind of stuff for years, I don’t really like much of it.

Plus, it’s just been my birthday, so on Saturday I bought a whole lot of new clothes – actually choosing things rather than grabbing them as I passed the rails before George got bored….

I’m planning to buy more on ebay soon….

In the evening, Lisa took me out to dinner for my birthday – it was a little restaurant near Victoria which managed to take the strange, but tasty fashion for the “amuse bouche” (tiny snacks served in flash restaurants before the main dishes) to a tasty, but silly extreme.

They served four different minute add-ons to the menu randomly throughout the meal – even giving us an extra one to take home. On Saturday morning I served lisa’s breakfast with an amuse bouche of warm porridge served in a shot glass…

Gardening is a lie… Gardeners always like to think gardening is about caring for things and growing things and looking after things. The truth is that most of the time, it’s about destroying things – pulling them up, poisoning them, cutting them down or smothering them. That’s what we did on Sunday anyway – and that seems to be what everyone does when they do gardening…

On Monday, the weather forecasters warned of rain on bank holiday Monday – so we cancelled our planned trip to Osterly house – only to discover the weather was perfectly good… As it turns out a lot of people were fooled… the city of Bournemouth seem to have done very well by putting out a press release claiming that the met office are responsible for them loosing millions in tourist revenue… but they got lots of publicity out of it.

Running three times a week is tough, but getting less so. George falls over about 20 times a day, but you don’t hear him complaining. I tripped over once while jogging on Wednesday and I’ve got a feeling I’ll be suffering from it for weeks - that’s the difference between falling over when you’re 2 and when you’re 40.

Luckily the crows weren’t waiting on Peckham Rye park. They’d obviously been scared off by the football team and the two skidivers who’d touched down just before I arrived and were rolling up their chutes as I passed. I suppose you have to be quite a skilled skydiver to avoid landing in the middle of Peckham High street (which would be a very bad idea).

Kate Bush’s “hounds of love” kicked in on my ipod as I entered the jungle at the top of the park. It’s not a great running song, but I’ve got it on the playlist for sentimental reasons.

I first jogged in the summer of 1986 and that was one of the tracks on my Sony walkman (actually, my Alba walkman, to be pedantic). It juddered repeatedly as I pounded along the beach on the family summer holiday.

I was running because of a philosophical debate I’d had a few weeks earlier with Neil Davies in the sixth form common room. He insisted that some people were just naturally good at things and others weren’t – whereas I argued that hard work and dedication were what really made the difference between success and failure.

As it happened, every year, just after the summer holidays, there was a school cross country run which everyone had to take part in, and Neil was regularly up there with the front-runners. I on the other hand, along with a few friends competed over who could come last without actually stopping.

So, I thought the best way to prove my argument was to issue a challenge. This year, instead of loosing, I would win the race – or at least finish along side Neil.

All summer long, I ran every day, raising my fitness and improving my time. Wherever I was and whatever I was doing, I made time to run and by the end of the holidays, I was feeling fit and ready.

Two weeks before the cross country run, the teachers went on strike and cancelled the event, but I invited Neil over anyway to run my course.

We kept pretty good pace with each other until the final straight, where Neil effortlessly stepped up two gears and left me as though I wasn’t there, settling the Nature Vs Nurture debate once and for all.

Mind you, I still don’t believe him. I still think hard work is more important than innate skill… Or perhaps, I’ve just moved the debate on a little in the intervening years. Perhaps, my actual argument isn’t about being the best, it’s about not acknowledging your limits.

I guess my real argument with Neil isn’t that someone with natural skills can’t beat someone without them, but that if you accept that you’re good at some things and not at others, then you’re giving yourself the ceiling of your own self belief.

Before the 4 minute mile was run, nobody was GOOD at running a 4 minute mile because nobody thought it was possible. Once the 4 minute mile barrier was broken and people knew it was possible, it started being broken all over the world by lots of different athletes. Not because they were suddenly capable of something they couldn’t do before, but because somebody’s refusal to accept their limitations allowed everyone to stretch what was possible.

Before the first powered flight, nobody thought they were good at building flying machines because nobody had done it. Afterwards, there was a road-map to the sky.

It may be that people are naturally better at some things than they are at others, but believing that keeps you locked within the limits of normality….

Food fads
We’ve finally found a food George doesn’t like, but we persevered and got through it. It’s one of those things we thought he needed to learn to like, so we just kept patiently giving it to him until finally after a lot of fuss and a lot of mess and a lot of tantrums, he accepted it.


So what was it? Broccoli? Carrots? Liver? Nope. Jelly.

Lisa has been off some of her food too during this pregnancy… she’s fine with most things, but she can’t bear truffle oil. I don’t know – and she calls herself middle class!

We haven’t had a kick from the new baby yet, but it’s making it’s presence felt… and Lisa’s tummy sounds like a half filled hot water bottle, so there’s definitely something going on in there!

I went to check on George last night just before I went to bed. I opened the door expecting him to be sound asleep, but instead found him sitting up staring back at me. He froze as though being caught out and we stared at each other for a few seconds, agreeing non-verbaly that I wouldn’t say anything about the encounter if he didn’t. I shut the door and went to bed.

Ethan has been down this week staying with Sam and doing mosaics on the wall of her garage (which she is, of course turning into a cocktail bar). He’s a nice kid and loves playing with George, but he’s not as responsible as he’d like to be. It’s a shame because he thinks he can be left to look after George, but he doesn’t quite have the skills to do it yet.

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