Category Archives: Dodos

Penitence and dodos

Well, a bit of an embarrasing day for team runthomasrun today.

I was out building a gate when my wifepartnerfriend came out to bring me a cup of coffee. She said she’d been reading the blog but she’d felt awkward laughing “because of the picture”. Because of the picture I thought? Odd? “What’s wrong with the picture?” I asked, and she told me that she thought it was in poor taste to use a picture of a handicapped man. WHAT? I thought back to last night, and the quick skip through Goole Image Search trying to find “a person with tray of cakes”. I’d been so excited to actually find one, I just uploaded it without really thinking. I just thought it was a guy with some strange looking cakes. As the cold icy chill of realisation began to hit, I realised I needed to get inside ASAP and do something about it. I sprinted to the computer and swapped it, but felt rather guilty all day.

So sorry if you were mortally offended by my man with a tray of cakes. I still contend that just in passing it just looked like a guy with some cakes, but I should probably pay more attention.

It reminded me of my other, major, published faux pas. This story is a bit rambling, but bear with it.

I’ve never been one for clubs and societies. I remember my mum and dad trying to convince me for months that I should go to Cubs. Personally, I felt there was plenty of time in my life when I could dress up in a uniform and be told what to do by a potential child molester, so I wasn’t particularly keen. In the end we reached a compromise and I agreed to go to Swimming Club – which was great as most of the time I was in the water and don’t have to interact with anyone else. (Can you tell I’m an only child? I keep it so well hidden!) Apart from a bit of swimming and being forced at gunpoint to play in a local brass band I pretty much avoided clubs through school. I figured I’d carry this through further education too.

Anyway, when I arrived at university there was the ubiquitous Fresher’s Fair where all the different organisations in the university pimped their clubs and societies. I wandered round for a while and couldn’t face any of them. Well, all but one. I joined, on a whim, the club that wrote the student newspaper. I was a science student reading (it’s so poncey to say “reading” I love it) Biology – a degree I chose because it contained hardly any maths, but wasn’t an arts degree – and as the only non History of Art/English/Journalism student in the club I was handed fairly strange assignments. I have only vague memories of my first few articles, but I think did a few album reviews and tried my hand at a popular science column. So while Prof. Brian Cox was arsing about in D:REAM I was already making a difference to the public perception of science.

The newspaper had a wide distribution, I’m guessing thousands of copies. It was free, so hardly a job writing for Vogue, but there was a certain prestige attached to appearing in it. Now, when I was at university the Internet was in its infancy and when writing anything you couldn’t just hop on to Wikipedia to double check facts and figures. It was late, and I was writing an article on something or other. For some reason I saw fit to write the sentence “… the dodo may have been fat, hopeless and stupid, but at least it could fly!” That’s right. My brain told me dodos could fly. Possibly the world’s second most famous flightless bird (behind the ostrich).

A bird famous for becoming extinct mainly because it couldn’t fly.

So, very pleased with myself I sent my smug, oh-so-clever article to the editor for review. Either she didn’t proof read it, or she hated me. The dodo line was still there, and to top it all A LARGE PICTURE OF A DODO had been added to the article. A gigantic picture of a dodo, sitting on a rock, looking like flying was the furthest thing from its mind.

The article went to print.

My first inkling that something was wrong was when people all started squawking and flapping their arms at me when I entered my university halls common room the day the latest issue of the newspaper came out. Over the course of a week the newspaper received 50 or 60 e-mails and letters pointing out the error, and the following issue dedicated a large part of the letters page to my humiliation. It was even mentioned on the student radio station, not just once, but forming the backbone of a running joke that lasted about a week. The fact I was a biology student didn’t help. Poor flightless bird identification might be expected of a mathematician or a physicist, but a biologist?

I was so humiliated by the article I never wrote for the student newspaper again. I couldn’t face going back to the club. I just packed it in, nursed my wounds and prayed that I’d never again cock-up a written article due to incompetence and poor proof-reading.

17 years later, here we are.

I never learn….

Anyway, only managed 5km today, but it was a perky one. Tried ramping up the speed near the end, and it felt pretty good. There’ll be some strong challenges over the weekend, so I’m going to try to put in a pair of 16k’s back to back just to be sure I don’t get gazumped at the final hurdle….

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