A day in London

I went on a visit to London yesterday.  I started with a limp from Euston to South Bank, stopping off at Muji on the way. I don’t need any new stationary but still bought a few things.  I then went to the Hide and Seek festival (review here) where I waited to meet some friends. 

I felt too awkward to join any of the directly interactive events but enjoyed looking around.  I particularly liked Trap Street which involved making an imaginary map of London.  I also signed up for The Day of the Figurines, an SMS game that I’d missed when it was in Brighton (picture below).  The game was interesting and I liked the gentle flow of messages updating me with game events.  The only problem I found was with text messages as an interaction – it was a little like a terse text adventure.


Since my friends were running late I spent some time exploring the South Bank.  I found a beach at the riverside where people practiced somersaults on the sand.  I also joined up with the event I’d come to see, the London-as-tokyo tour given by Momus, which consisted of outrageous lies and facts about Tokyo.  Meanwhile my friends tried to find me by SMS, which they described as ‘Hide and Seek with James.


We wandered to the Tate Modern where we checked out the Street & Studio exhibition, which contained an interesting range of work.  My favourites were Wolfgang Tillman‘s pictures of tube passengers and a couple of group shots by Richard Avedon, of the Chicago Seven and the Factory.  The image below is from outside the Tate, where the exhibition’s sponsors have provided an Information Tunnel – ‘thanks’.  We then ate at Tas Pide where we had lovely food and lousy service.


Sadly the day ended with another train problem – Virgin trains are not a means of transport, more an open invitation to go fuck myself.  I’d assumed I’d have no trouble travelling back a little later than planned but discovered the last train north of Northampton left London at 9:50pm.  Do people from the Midlands not visit London for the day? My sister helped out by booking a National Express ticket which was sent my mobile and I arrived home a couple of hours later than planned.  She also cheered me up by telling me about Jay-Z’s Glastonbury set, where he proved himself to be a better man than Noel Gallagher.

But it was a good day: drifting, catching the sun and staying up late.

London as Tokyo &c.

I'm still limping from the weekend and growing frustrated at not being able to do any training.  Hopefully things will be back to normal without disrupting my training for the half marathon too much.

Speaking to one of my old creative writing tutors this week I learned they'd lived in Coventry for a few years after graduation.  She recommended seeing the Kennilworth Road, telling me that President Eisenhower described it as "A million dollar entrance to a two-bit city"

This weekend I hope to visit the Hide and Seek Festival in London, where Momus is presenting London-as-tokyo: "Momus and Mizutani will transform London into Tokyo – a city they both
know well – using nothing more than language and the collective power
of imagination.

See James Run. Run, James, Run.

I've just managed to put my neice to sleep.  She was very tired and not too happy about Mummy and Daddy being out.  I read to her, sang, played and let her mess around with my phone.  Nine Inch Nail's 13 Ghosts II helped out as a soothing lullaby.  I need a wider selection of music on my phone.

Aside from limping like Dr. House, I'm feeling pretty good now.  My final time in today's race was 31 minutes and 30 seconds which I'm very pleased with. 

The race was an interesting mix of locations.  It started off with a run uphill to Breedon Church then downhill to the golf course and through Breedon before following the railway track for a mile.  The race ended with another hill through the middle of a crop field before a gentle descent to the finish line. 

The further away I get from the race the more I enjoyed it.  I need to get much more training in before August and the half marathon, but for now I'm going to have a short rest.


Breedon on the Hill race – part 1

I've just come back from the Breedon Race and have enough energy to blog but not quite enough to drag myself to the shower yet.

The race was incredibly painful.  At the 3K-to-go marker I was despairing because I thought I'd gone further.  But then I realised I'd not be feeling much better if it was 2K to go.  And it's not like I could have stopped because I'd never have started again. 

I should get the time later today (my sister was helping with the recording).  No idea how fast I was but I don't think I embarassed myself.  I coped with the hill better than I'd feared and managed not to grunt bad words as I climbed the last hill towards the finish.  So, actually not that bad an afternoon.  Despite the limping afterwards.

And, for the record, I was wearing shorts for the first time in, I think, 15 years.

Bingeing on movies

I've had a quiet weekend in Coventry so I've been doing lots of reading and catching up on some movies:

  • Fast Times at Ridgemont HIgh was an OK high school movie, but with an impressive cast – three actors later won Best Actor at the Oscars.  Apparently David Lynch turned down the chance to direct, which would have been quite a movie.
  • Saw 2 was disappointing.  I enjoyed the first Saw film because it was creepy and well designed.  This one was convoluted and annoying.
  • The most enjoyable thing about The Incredible Hulk was not the CGI fights (which were kind of tedious) but the aerial shots of the Brazilian Favelas.  The Brazilian sequences were far more interesting than watching more monsters trash US cities.
  • The DVD of Glengarry Glen Ross came free with the Daily Mail.  It was fun wondering what their readership made of it.

The most interesting film of the weekend was the Happening.  I love M. Night Shyamalan's films, even though he's not made a great one since Unbreakable.  This film was similar to Cloverfield, in that you had normal people trying to survive a disaster but in Cloverfield it was obvious what they needed to do to survive.  In The Happening the deaths seemed random to the characters, meaning there was little dramatic tension.

But Shyamalan makes wonderful films, and this one had incredible scenes such as the isolated old woman and the suburban Philadepheans forced into the country to survive.  The rest of the film was so-so (the ending being particularly poor) but it was incredibly well made.  So, definitely the best value for money film of the weekend.

Interesting links

Haruki Murakami and running

Thanks to an email from Disappointed Kid, I learned that Haruki Murakami's new book is called What I talk about when I talk about running (the title apparently a Raymond Carver reference). I have a strange relationship with Murakami, in that most of his books leave me cold, apart from South of the Border, West of the Sun, one of my favourite novels.  At the same time, I find Murakami fascinating: how can you not love a writer who was "inexplicably inspired to write his first novel … while watching a baseball game"?

Apparently Murakami took up running in 1982 and now runs long
distance, aiming to complete a marathon each year.  His new book
reflects on the links between running and his writing and comes out on August 7th (just before the half-marathon!).  An extract of the new book was published in the Guardian:

"Most ordinary runners are motivated by an individual goal: namely, a time they want to beat. As long as he can beat that time, a runner will feel he's accomplished what he set out to do.  The same can be said about my profession. In the novelist's profession, as far as I'm concerned, there's no such thing as winning or losing. Maybe numbers of copies sold, awards won and critics' praise serve as outward standards for accomplishment in literature, but none of them really matters. What's crucial is whether your writing attains the standards you've set for yourself. In this sense, writing novels and running full marathons are very much alike. For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. I'm at an ordinary – or perhaps more like mediocre – level. But that's not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday."

Which leaves me waiting like ginquinn for the release date of the new Murakami book.

"Raymond Chandler once confessed that even if he didn't write anything, he made sure he sat down at his desk every single day and concentrated. I understand the purpose behind his doing this. This is the way Chandler gave himself the physical stamina a professional writer needs, quietly strengthening his willpower."

The weekend

After last weekend's running around this weekend was more sedate.  Friday night I had a quiet night watching Infernal Affairs and woke early on Saturday to visit Melbourne.

In the month since I last saw my niece she's changed a lot.  She's happily tottering about now, and seeing her walk is one of the coolest things I've seen in weeks.  There are also some amusing 'tricks' she's picked up.  She's becoming just like she's a real person…

While in Melbourne I did some running.  I'd hoped to improve on last week's 6.5 miles with a run along the old railway line.  I took my sister's dog with me and she lagged behind from the second mile.  When we passed the turning for home, intending to run another few miles, Stella sneaked back home.  I turned round and found her safe with a few locals.

The running is going well.  I hate the second mile of any run but, after that, I slip into a rhythm.  In two weeks time is the Breedon Run.  The race starts with a fearsome hill and I'm wondering how well I will cope with that.

One of my colleagues is a huge fan of South Korean movies and had recommended the director Kim Ki-duk.  While babysitting I watched his movie 3 Iron.  The film was a revelation.  There are very few lines of dialogue but the film is gripping.  It tells the story of a man who breaks into houses to stay the night but any synopsis I gave would do it little justice.  The film is only 80 minutes and worth taking a chance on it.  I can't wait to see it again.

Books you really should read

The Potlatch blog discusses Waterstone's advertising books as 'Books you really should read':

"…the last thing Waterstones wants is for people to actually read the 'books you really should read', but to buy them, put them on a shelf, then feel ashamed for not reading them… Meanwhile, those who really do read such books are probably perfectly happy with a combination of second hand bookshops, friends' bookshelves, public libraries and Amazon, having no need for the moral lecture.

200,000 titles are released every year in the United Kingdom, with the number of books sold rising faster than the number of books read. The publishing industry would collapse if it depended on reading.