The running is going grand.
I have started on a new pair of shoes and they seem to be breaking in nicely and I am gently ramping up the weekend run to figures north of 12 miles. Work has been busy for the past 3 weeks (for busy I mean sitting in loads of meeting while nodding, doodling and saying random things about risks and delivery and opportunity) so I’ve had to drop a few of the shorter maintenance runs.
If my plan succeeds (What’s the saying? – Men plan and God laughs) I should be doing the Wicklow Way in late March (51k = 30 miles) and then the Highland Fling in late April (52 miles) so I think I need to be knocking out a decent set of long runs (18 – 25 miles) towards late Feb and early March then a week or two to get over the Wicklow Way and maybe another long run to make sure I still feel fit and then off to Scotland.
For anybody thinking that this sounds good I would refer you to my God laughs bit. My wife has said (more than once) that there is no chance of this coming off. I am trying to volunteer to raise funds for the school and all sorts of other things just to convince her that it is a good idea.
Back to the blog post title.
Back when I was a teenager in the late 1980’s I tried to read the John LeCarré trilogy of George Smiley books and failed miserably. I had no interest in dull, old, fat civil servants and their philosophy on life. Metaphorically, I was lying on my stomach on the beach of life, drilling a hole to Australia and ogling the topless girls from behind the cover of my sunglasses.
I was doing it non-metaphorically as well, now that I think about it.
Now, 25 years later, I am rapidly becoming a dull, old and though not yet fat civil servant and I have managed to read all three of the books in about 3 weeks. In case you’re wondering what the books are they’re Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Honourable Schoolboy and Smilie’s People. I suppose it’s all about appropriateness. What’s right and when is it right and all that sort of thing.
The books are a great read as (I think) they show you two things:
1. Society is made up of a collection of minorities – that’s how it succeeds.
2. Absolutism cannot succeed as a moral philosophy – ask a stroppy teenager, a fascist or a communist.
You have to find these things out for yourself and they’re not stated explicitly anywhere in the books but that’s what I took from them.
The books also take you back to that period in our civilisation when we lived under the threat of The Bomb (for anyone too young to remember, just imagine the threat of Reality TV becoming the only form of entertainment available and you get close to the continuing terror we felt). The existential enemy that was the Slavic hoards that gathered behind the Iron Curtain. All of them fed on a diet of anti-western propaganda and trained to kill us with their bare hands.
All I wanted back then was new colouring pens.
I would be first for the pot once the Red Army marched down my street corrupted by the rainbow of colours you got in a 30-pack of markers.
Of course most of the threat we felt was our own state indoctrination but we were too busy with the colouring pens to notice.
This era (The Cold War) saw many crimes perpetrated on individual citizens and on whole countries. Events like the Prague Spring, poison umbrella assassinations, The ‘Re-education’ of people in the gulags and the global proxy wars fought between the super-powers – Vietnam, Afghanistan, Central America and Central Africa.
But the biggest crime?
It wasn’t perpetrated by the evil commies. No it was our own Dear Leaders who are guilty of the worst crime of the Cold War.
Before the fall of the Berlin Wall every woman in the Warsaw Block was either a Bulgarian Shot putter or a tractor mechanic and very hairy into the bargain. They all ate boiled cabbage and could kill you with their bare hands.
At least that’s what we were led to believe.
Imagine my surprise, as they’d say in the letters to the editor section of the newspaper, when they started moving to Ireland about 10 year ago. Not a tractor mechanic or shot putter among them. In fact quite the opposite. All very pretty, blonde and petite. As I marvel at these Slavic beauties I can’t help but think that the shot putter lie was the biggest crime of the Cold War.
The exception to this rule are the two Russian tractor mechanics who serve the food at my local chip shop – Dennys – in Cork.
The men on the other hand – they’re all tinted windows on a lowered Passat, white socks, binge drinking vodka merchants with questionable facial hair. How were these the hardened Red Army assassins of my youth?