Category Archives: Cheese

Janathon – Day Deux

So, day 2.

I’m bored already to be honest. No, only joking.

The run today (14.3km) was fairly engaging. I high-fived a passing cyclist and a random green metallic Ford Focus beeped at me. If that’s not high octane excitement then I don’t know what is. Not quite sure about this mysterious green car. I’ve seen it about for months, and every time it goes past it always beeps furiously. I don’t know anyone with a green Ford Focus, so perhaps they’re just beeping out of a sense of solidarity. Perhaps they like my shapely buttocks. Who knows? The strange thing is that every time they go past I can never catch sight of the driver. By the time they beep, they’re already gone. Which is a Bob Dylan lyric I think. Or perhaps not. Anyway. It’s some sort of phantom car I reckon. Driven by Death. Or someone with a green Ford Focus who has kept it from me for reasons of embarrassment. I might be hallucinating it, but to be frank if the best hallucination I can come up with is a boring family hatchback with an invisible driver then I’ll probably need to knuckle down and actually start taking some proper drugs.

High-fiving the cyclist was fun though. A real sense of camaraderie and togetherness with a fellow athlete that is all too rare on French roads. Normally even dragging a smile from a passing garcon du sport is more difficult than getting blood from a turnip. In this wanton, dangerous, split-second – where my lycra-clad cycling brethren decided to throw Gallic caution to the wind and touch my palm as he passed – I experienced a sense of sporting closeness I have rarely experienced while out and about. I think he recognised in me another TRUE ATHLETE. Not the shuffling adverts for the local sportswear shop already feeling the pinch just 48 hours into their New Year’s resolution, oh no. But a hardcore distance runner, forged as he was on the unforgiving tarmac we both made it our daily duty to conquer. Either that or he was drunk. Which to be frank is probably the most likely explanation.

I wrapped up the day with a 16km cycle to go and get the milk. I got a free cheese today because of a broken cream promise.

I’ll leave that last statement deliberately ambiguous to try and inject a little bit of excitement into this blog.

It’s not working is it?

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Janathon Day 1

So, here we are again. This Janathon thing.

I think I came eighth last year with about 350km run through the month. I was hopelessly adrift of the more hardcore runners – the top guy placed did double that, or something ridiculous. But, it doesn’t hurt to try for a magnificent top 5 placing, so this year I think a target of around 450km fits the bill. This is around 15km a day, entirely doable. Unless you miss a day, and then things get messy. Or you get injured. Or you just can’t be arsed.

Today was the first of a formula I’ll be repeating frequently. A 15km slow, endurance run in the day (with the backpack) and a faster 5km speed run late at night in the pitch black (without the backpack). it was good to see the hordes of fair weather runners out today on the usually deserted roads. 2 or 3 weeks time they’ll all be back indoors cramming Brie and red wine into every orifice and pretending they’ll get back to it at some point. I love a fresh faced New Year runner though – all kitted out in 250,000 euros worth of sweat-wicking fluorescent body suits and military-grade satellite navigation systems. Red faced, puffing, dragging their feet like a partially paralysed turtle. Happy days!

Anyway, back to me. The additional motivation of Janaton should be useful in getting me churning some serious kilometerage this month, but the looming 80k I need to run in March will probably be the bigger incentive. I have shook off many of my niggling injuries, with only a bad right hip still causing problems, so I should be able to train. But, critically, it’s whether I can train enough so I don’t collapse halfway through the Paris ultramarathon and need to get resuscitated  by a Frenchman. Who in my nightmares is normally played by Gerard Depardieu.

So you can see why I’m worried.

God vs. Dawkins, Optimism vs. Pessimism, Sheep vs. Elbow

You know when you’re making a new enclosure for some sheep and one of the ungrateful bastards head-butts you in the elbow when you’re kneeling down and fixing the last bit of fencing?

Well, if you don’t know how this (admittedly niche) event feels, then believe me it feels rather painful. Normally I’m pretty adept at avoiding the sheep, but I got complacent as he was the other side of a fence. A wire mesh fence doesn’t really absorb a sheep collision though – so lesson learned. Thankfully, while I also have a knackered back I don’t think it’ll stop me running, as long as I keep it bent (the arm obv.) What a January this has been. I swear to God it would be quicker to list the parts of my body that are still working 100% rather than the faulty bits. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a bad run of luck. I’m starting to think I’m developing Münchhausen Syndrome and I’m subconsciously hurting myself to get attention. So keep reading the blog, otherwise god knows what’s going to happen.

Talking of Janathon (another 10k today) I think I’m going to have to accept that 8th place may be my finishing position in the leaderboard. There are a couple of strong challengers from behind, but the leading pack is starting to draw away from me, and I’m not sure I’ve got the willpower to close them down. I think I’ve got just enough willpower to stay ahead of the people behind. So I’m exhibiting a sort of average amount of willpower overall.

What has bugged me slightly today is my lack of talent. Now I’ll clarify this slightly – I’m not saying there aren’t things I’m fairly good at, and there are plenty I’m awful at, but what really annoys me is the way I haven’t been given a prestigious talent. For example, I can just about play the guitar, but why am I not gifted at playing the guitar? I can run, but I’m not a gifted runner. Why? I’m fairly intelligent, but not especially so. WHY? It seems unfair that some people are gifted exceptional talents and I’m not. How unfair that someone genuinely gifted can wake up and go “oh, I’ll just write a sonata before breakfast” or something while I just wander about bleary eyed, scratching my crotch and trying to find a bowl for my Wheetos. It’s not fair is it?

It can’t be graft that cuts down this advantage, as I’ve met plenty of people who have worked really hard at improving a skill and are still utterly crap at whatever it is they’ve chosen to do. Some people are just born gifted. I’ll give you another example. I’m crap at maths. Not so crap that people would point and laugh at me in the street because I was trying to eat a calculator, but bad enough that anything involving algebra brings me out in a cold sweat. I can’t do it. But I toiled and toiled and managed to get a B in GSCE maths. A joke, of course. I could as much describe a quadratic equation to you now as I could go surfboarding on a cheesecake. That’s GCSEs for you. But even so I toiled and learned by rote and managed to scrape through. But there were people in that class who were “gifted” at mathematics. For whom a quadratic equation was as complicated as a performing a bowel movement. How must it feel to wander into a classroom and feel the thrill that you’re going to understand it all because you’re a smartarse? Brilliant, that’s how.

So, so unfair.

I don’t have a single natural talent like this. It’s hard not to be bitter. I’d take anything. Incredible, uncanny ability to name a cheese by smell alone? Photographic memory for telephone area codes in the Sudan? I’d take anything. But I was given NOTHING. I don’t care whether you believe in genetics or religion, I’ve been screwed over by Dawkins or God. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe every person has a prestigious talent, they just need to uncover it somehow. Maybe one day I’ll pick up a vaulting pole and find I’m Olympic standard. But I don’t buy it. I just think some people are damn lucky and I’m irritated about it.

Another thing that irritated me recently was a couple of other Janathon blogs talking about how certain people exude positive energy and others are black holes of depression and despair. There was some guff about how certain people are victims because of their lack of an optimistic world view and others are victors. Or something. I’m paraphrasing. I can’t remember. As someone not disposed to be cheery and who has a firmly pessimistic view of life I wanted to stand up for the under-appreciated negative thinkers out there.  It’s all very well thinking positive, but if you think positive you can’t help but get kicked in the teeth. Nearly every overly positive person I’ve ever met in my life has had a remarkably low threshold for getting weepy, teary and depressed.

If you go through life pushing yourself to be better and trying to bring joy to those around you, inevitably you’re going to fail. That’s because people like me exist, and when we see cheery people like you coming our way we get annoyed and mark you out as someone who needs their day ruining. As pessimists we are flexible and willing to become even more miserable just to stop the optimists spoiling our world with their rainbows, flowers and dancing unicorns. Pessimism is just common sense, because ultimately the ratio of good people to arsebags on this planet is astronomically big. A healthy defence of expecting the worst and preparing for it is the only way to proceed.

If you accept the world is fundamentally terrible and full of terrible people then it actually becomes a lot more enjoyable living in it.

I say victims of the world unite! Negative thinkers, to arms! Pessimists, take aim!

We march at dawn!

Nah, can’t be bothered.

Utilitarian cheese

Ye gods!

The rain.

I forgot what a bloody nightmare it was doing anything in the rain when you have glasses. I also regret my “cheapest lenses possible” policy, as what with the coating of water and the steaming up (and the dark and a failing headtorch) I constantly felt like an Italian cruise ship captain struggling to stay on course.

At least I didn’t trip into a lifeboat. (Too soon?)

Still managed 10km, but I’d pulled my back out a bit as I woke up and since I’ve been out running it’s been absolute agony. Hopefully it’ll sort itself out overnight.

I thought today, rather than take a few more cheap shots at the French (tempting though that might be) I’d list the five things I most miss about the UK. (What this amounts to is another thinly disguised list of things I don’t like about the French)

What I miss most about the UK

1) The BBC

You pay a licence fee in France. Or at least some sort of charge for having an ariel on your house and it’s roughly the same amount as the UK licence fee. But while the UK offers multiple commercial-free TV and radio channels for your money, as well as a suite of on-demand and catch up services online, the French licence TV basically appears to just allow you to watch fat, sweaty men discussing politics, or badly dubbed German cop shows interrupted with adverts every 3 minutes. I can’t stress how wonderful the BBC is, and you only really appreciate this when you don’t have ready access to it. Thankfully, tuning to the World Service in the car I can have a little oasis of Britishness in the middle of Franceland, but when I hear people complaining about the licence fee (especially people who pay 25 quid a month for Sky) I want to scream.

2) People in villages

Bit of a strange one, but I really miss the general “life bustle” of the UK. In France if it’s cold; dark; raining; hot; windy; foggy; October through February or lunchtime nobody leaves their homes. It’s genuinely weird. Most villages in France, most of the time, look like they’re preparing for a zombie attack. Houses will have their shutters closed and only the occasional stray dog will break the silence as it skips through the tumble-weed. In contrast people in the UK make the best of any opportunity to go outside. If the weather tips the right side of hurricane then villages are packed full of people wandering about, gossiping and passing the time of day. The contrast is so striking, whenever I cycle through the UK into France it always makes me feel very homesick.

3) Cheddar

You have to accept that the French are largely going to consume their own homegrown cheeses. Cheddar isn’t a big thing here. Our local supermarket carried a couple of UK brands of cheddar for a while but you couldn’t help notice that week after week the shelves remained fully stocked, and fairly soon they gave up on the idea. Inevitably I’ve had to transition to the French equivalent of cheddar known as Comte. It’s the same sort of utilitarian “works-with-everything” cheese as cheddar is, but it tastes a little more…. complicated. After a while you get used to it, but I miss a nice plasticky Tescos cheddar.

4) Takeaways

I used to live in Scotland near some quite scummy towns. As everyone knows the worse the town, the better the takeaways, as they can’t afford to sell bad food or they’ll get their windows stoved in. Nothing on the planet matches a dirty, MSG-laden Scottish Chinese. I’ve been back to the UK many times, and I’ve often found myself in Portsmouth or Dover with time to spare, desperate for a decent Chinese takeaway, but there isn’t one. In fact, thinking about it, I’m not sure I’ve found a single decent Chinese takeaway anywhere in England or Wales. You can get Chinese takeaways in France but they aren’t the same. They take them a bit too seriously – they’re a little too healthy and you can’t get egg fried rice. The French also don’t understand kebabs. I once had an argument with a kebab “artisan” near Caen that hand-making his pitta breads and putting organic salad in the kebab was missing the point entirely.

5) Driving

Generally driving on the continent is pleasant. Less speed cameras. Better maintained roads. Less traffic. But I crave driving with people who understand roundabouts. Where priority is always given to the person on the main road, not a random punter merging from the right. Where flashing your headlights to say thanks rather than “get out of my way” is the norm. Where people can overtake without pretending to be Ayton Senna. I also don’t like changing gear with my right hand.

So there you have it. My ideal day would be driving through some heavily populated villages, listening to Radio 4, eating a cheese sandwich and patting a bag of hot, filthy Chinese food by my side.

I am a simple man.