Monday, October 24, 2005

About two months ago, on Saturday 20th August, I was...
... sitting on a blanket in Somerset House, watching Shaun of the Dead with the beloved and the cast, writer and some key extras from the film. Following Shaun of the Dead was the premiere of George Romero's Land of the Dead.

We sat near the bar and kept ourselves topped up with drinks throughout the double-bill (though not as topped up as we would have liked as the prices were unbelievably high) and picked at a freshly roasted chicken, some salad and crackers that we had packed in a Famous Five picnic stylee. The introductions by the Shaun of the Dead cast and some fantastic DJ-ing before the films started got the gathered zombie-fans in a real buzz and we ignored the cold, hard, stone floor that was beginning to really wear on our bottoms.

As it got nearer to midnight and as the creepiness of Land of the Dead increased, an enormous bloated yellow moon emerged just behind the big screen and the evening breeze got cooler and sharper. An almost sublime film experience - and an excellent chance to gloat about seeing Land of the Dead before anyone else.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

39 days ago, I was... for mackerel from a boat, in the sea, in seriously heavvy rain, off the Dorset coast.

I have always wanted to fish with my father. I've never climbed trees with him, I can't recall running around parks or learning how to ride a bike with him, he didn't teach me to read or read me stories. I've not longed for any of these things and I've never missed them but as I get older, and as he gets older, I've spent some time thinking of the things that would really mean something to us in our recollections of each other. And fishing has come up in that list again and again.

So, when we took my parents to meet the fiance's parents at their home by the sea, I insisted on a fishing trip for myself, the fiance, my sister, my dad and my extremely patient and generous almost mother-in-law. And it was fantastic. It poured and poured with rain, relentlessly, the night before we were due to go fish and it carried on that morning but fearlessly, we dressed ourselves in waterproof jackets and wellington boots and got on the boat anyway. Dad looked the part: he looked like he had just strolled off a Japanese whaling ship and was bringing his intrepid crew to help cut up the oceanic beast he had just harpooned. In my tightly zipped up waterproof coat with the hood pulled in close around my face, I just looked like a condom.

Eveyone had misgivings as we pulled away from shore; just as the shoreline slipped from view the rain really tipped down and we let out our fishing lines a little apprehensively. And damply. But then - we found the fish! Just as we found a particularly thick clump of mackerel all waiting for us to lower our lines, the rain stopped. And oh, what a half hour we had...

My dad was, of course, the first to catch a fish. He kept it quiet as he pulled the line in and only alerted us to the fact he had gotten a big shiny mackerel, all green and silver, once it was safely in the boat. Then it was all action as everyone else got fish on their lines and we were hauling in fish after fish until the rain started again and the bucket was full of 20 mackerel, leaping about and shuddering their blue, silver and green colours in the last flickers of life.

We had a grand dinner that night, and had mackerel left over to take home. Itwas the sweetest sight to see my parents standing side by side at the double sink, my dad gutting and scaling the fish, then passing them to my mum who cleaned them. And thanks go out to my almost-in-laws who organised such as a fantastic and memorable weekend.

Not only did we fish over the weekend but we also managed an enormously fussy and picturesque cream tea in the town's big hotel overlooking the sea. And a trip to the aquarium where my parents eyed the huge lobsters with the practised eyes of Chinese chefs and no doubt were considering what recipe would be best for such big crustaceans. And we walked on the famous cob, which just about completed the weekend of "must do" activities.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Today, I ran Hyde Park
Sunday 16th October: the Nike 10km Run London event.

Estimated participants (across 3 simultaneous events in Hyde Park, Battersea Park and Victoria Park): 35,000

Hypatia Avenue, t-shirt number 22648, wave 3, 11.30am start, Hyde Park - Nine weeks training completed

Estimated time to complete: 1 hour 30 minutes at worst / 1 hour 20 minutes at best

Weather: crisp, bright, sunny and warm with a refreshing breeze blowing over the Serpentine

Total time to complete: 01:06:37:85

Sprint finish for the final 50 metres to The Killers' Somebody Told Me
- this last burst of speed induced by the line "somebody told me you had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend I had in February"

Paula Radcliffe ran with Wave 1 at 9.30am and finished the 10km in 32 minutes - and after Sebastian Coe finished his 10km in Wave 1, he then cycled over to Victoria Park to join Wave 3 over there for a further 10km.

A jazz trio in tuxedoes played at two different points in the run and the marshals who were posted at every half kilometre gave out endless shouts of encouragement, applause and held their hands out for high-fives as we went by.

Two men ran with their toddlers in all-terrain pushchairs; there was one person in a gorilla outfit with the regulation red t-shirt pulled over the fake fur.

Red signs printed with variations of the " I will run London" slogan were dotted throughout the 10km route - the most memorable were "I will not think of the pee word", "I will really enjoy that pint tonight", "I will nod like Paula" and the most significant "I will dig deep" at 7.5km which caught my eye just as I needed to see it.

We had to all do a cheesy warm-up before being allowed into the starting area which was cringe-inducing but extremely helpful.

I paced myself carefully over the first 3.5km then sped up slightly to cover the 4th and 5th kilometres quicker, kept a steady pace for the 6th and 7th, had to push myself mentally from the 7th kilometre into the 8th...

Then once I turned the corner after the 9th kilometre marker, the right song came on and I started to speed up... as soon as the finish line was firmly within my sight, I pulled every last breath, every last spark of energy and every tiny drop of imagination I had left in me and ran as fast as I could to the finish line.

I could barely look at the time on the counters above the finish line but stole a glance at the last minute and flew the last metres, feeling as if I had left the ground and nothing else mattered - I just had to get past the line before the counter started showing 1 hour and 10 minutes plus. And I did it. I did it: 1 hour 8 minutes - even less when my official time was texted to me later. Fucking fantastic.

I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself once home. After re-hydrating with roughly 1 pint of cafe latte with caramel syrup and refuelling with a poached egg on toast, I found myself restlessly pacing my flat. So I put on flip-flops and walked the route I've been running in preparation for this day, the route that takes me across and back over the Thames, past the Tate Britain, a fish and chip shop and the MI6 building. Those roads, those paths have never felt more pleasant to walk than they did today.

I ran Hyde Park today. I will run more.