Some inane burblings about uninteresting stuff I did and thought about yesterday in my real life. As opposed to my unreal life of detached cogitation which is what usually features in this blog. Don’t worry, I don’t tell you what I had for breakfast. Well, not exactly…
Yesterday, I went for a walk. Quite a long walk, actually – I consulted with multimap after the event, and it turns out that it was a 10 mile walk (5 miles there, 5 miles back). I covered the distance in about 3 hours, which makes for a pace of around 3.3 mph, although it’s hard to be certain, because I did some errands on my walk, and was thus out of the house for longer than I was walking for. According to that fount of wholly reliable knowledge, Wikipedia, that’s about average speed for a man. (Fun fact: when you type ‘average’ into google, it’s top auto-suggestion is ‘average penile length’; it appears insecure boys still dominate the online world.) Mind you, that average speed is over level ground, and quite a bit of my walk was over gentle-to-moderate inclines, both up and down. Anyway, I’m quite proud of myself for maintaining that speed over that distance, because it has been a while since I’ve walked so far.
I discovered some interesting things on my walk. For example, I discovered that, after a while, the repeated friction of a swinging scrotum against somewhat hairy inner thighs can create a chafing effect not dissimilar to that which would be caused by buffing the affected area with sandpaper. You’ll have heard of Jogger’s Nipple; I seem to have developed Walker’s Scrotum. I still wince when I stand up and sit down, even though I assiduously applied soothing creams to my manly bits on my return home.
On the plus side, I have only one blister – on the side of my left big toe – and one patch of worn-away skin (on the back of my right heel). So that’s good. I have also discovered that sporting and fitness types aren’t lying when they say that soaking in a bath immediately after exercise is a good way of minimising aches and pains the next day. I had a hot bath rather than the apparently-better-for-your-muscles iced bath. This is because:
- I had just walked 10 miles, not run a marathon or competed in a 5-set match at Wimbledon (most actually fit people would regard a 10 mile walk as a gentle stroll in the park);
- I’m not that much of a masochist (despite the impression I may have given by seeming to know what a sandpapered scrotum feels like);
- I didn’t have any ice cubes;
- I thought my genitalia had suffered enough, without having to go through the ‘contracted-to-the-size-of-an-acorn-and-two-peas’ humiliation
- I’m a total wuss.
I am aware of the benefit even so. In particular, my neck and shoulders (which always seem to stiffen up when I walk any distance: I must have a weird way of moving my upper body) are a lot less painful and ‘locked-up’ than they would usually be. In my legs, as well, I am aware of a sub-painful weakness rather than anything more acute, which is good. I was planning to go for a gentle stroll today to give things a gentle stretch, and hopefully get rid of the aches and pains altogether, but that’s rather been knocked on the head by the fact that it’s freezing cold, pissing it down and blowing a gale. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve rather enjoyed having a proper winter for a change, and as a general rule I prefer cool and overcast weather to that overrated sun nonsense, but this is April, surely the spring is meant to have started by now? Although, to be fair, the BBC weatherman last night did promise me a warm, wet, blow-y day (oo-er, missus), and two out of three’s not bad.
As I mentioned, my walk involved some errands. Firstly, I returned the first volume of Remembrance of Things Past to a university library I’m a member of. I borrowed it in October, and had to take it back because I’d reached the limit on the number of times they let you renew things. Clearly when I borrowed it I was largely being a wannabe-intellectual poseur, although I was also interested to read something that has been cropping up in the background of an awful lot of my reading for the past 20-ish years. I got about halfway through the first volume (there are three in the edition in question), which is, I think, better than a lot of students who’ve written about it for their dissertations.
One section of the book – ‘Combray’ – is brilliant; a warm, funny, beautiful evocation of an idyllic childhood in rural France. This section of the novel included some incredible writing, amongst the best I have read anywhere, which, given that it’s in translation, is extraordinary. Unfortunately it then degenerates rapidly into what becomes a weird hybrid of a vaguely Oscar Wilde-an comedy of social manners and social status (but without actually being funny) and a bleak study of sexual obsession (but without ever managing to make the passion feel real). Most strangely of all, it becomes stylistically an entirely different book, shifting from a decidedly 20th century feel to something that seems far more Victorian (if it makes sense to use the word Victorian in relation to French literature). Given that the version I was reading was translated by two people working almost 60 years apart, I do wonder if the shift in style may result from that, rather than from changes in the French original. Or, I suppose, it could be deliberate: the jealous lover is a more conventional person than the child, and so gets more conventional prose. If that’s true, then it was a poor artistic decision, how ever ‘clever’, since it results in page after page of ineffable dullness. Perhaps Proust just needed the services of a good editor: “This 200-page section here: what say we cut it down to 50?”
I shall probably try to give Remembrance another try at some point, not least because later sections of the book include some of the first detailed representations of same-sex relationships in Western literature, and if I ever gather my mental spoons together long enough to go back to academia, that’s what I want to research. Anyway, as it was I decided to replace Proust with EM Forster, specifically Howard’s End. Shamefully, for someone who claims himself to be a Forster fan, I’ve never actually read HE. It’s the only one of Forster’s novels I haven’t read, and I have in some senses been avoiding it, because once it’s read I will have no more to read. But that’s silly. I don’t expect to particularly enjoy it – I’m a fan of the Longest Journey, Passage to India, Maurice version of Forster, not the Where Angels Fear to Tread, Room with a View version, and what I know of HE leads me to suspect that it’ll be closer to the latter rather than the former category – but it should at least be an easier read than Proust.
I’d like to pretend that I read these kinds of books because I have a keen interest in improving my mind, but actually it’s because, as a non-student, I have to pay an annual fee to belong to the library, and I feel the need to read ‘clever’ books as a way of justifying the expense to myself (although you’d certainly get Forster, and probably Proust, in an ordinary public library anyway). I actually belong to the library because catastrophically flunking out of the last stage (the dissertation stage) of my MA is one of the biggest regrets I have about being a loony (probably the biggest, after the other one). I like to pretend when I go there that I am at least a semi-detached member of the academic fraternity. I may not belong in academia, my mind may not function well enough to earn me a place there, but I can at least pay to sit next to the people who do belong, and try to catch the scent of clever ideas in the second-hand air.
Also, there are many pretty students in the library. Apparently. Not that I’ve ever noticed.
The trip to the library was one of the errands on my walk, but the other was in a sense more fundamental to the walk, or at least as to why I was walking rather than going by bus. You see, I had to buy a new pair of jeans. I had been holding off for as long as I could, in the hopes that the half-hearted diet I’ve been following since christmas – no sugar in tea, no-added-sugar squash, medium-size Mars bars in place of big ones – would have an impact on my waistline, but it had become clear that, although the diet has certainly stopped me adding weight, my existing trousers were going to fall apart long before it had any significant impact on reducing my fatness. So walking was part of a deal with myself to kick the Make Aethelread Less Wobbly Campaign into a higher gear in return for giving myself permission to buy a disturbingly large pair of trousers.
The current plan is that I will undertake the 10 mile walk perhaps twice a week (continuing with the approx. 3 mile walks I usually take on the other days), in the hope that this will help me to begin the process of gradually deflating the monster-truck-sized spare-tyre I have been carrying around my midriff for the last little while. Obviously this will be effective in terms of burning a few extra calories, but a not insignificant extra factor is that while I am outside the flat I will not be grazing on McVitie’s Oat and Syrup Flapjacks like the fat, docile cow I am. If the 10-mile walks don’t work, I may have to consider alcohol – which kills my appetite dead – or, failing that, heroin (joke, but you knew that, right?). I would, other things being equal, quite like to have achieved a circumference less than that of Pluto by the end of the summer, or, at least, to have found a way of walking 10 miles without developing crippling Walker’s Scrotum (I’m guessing a more supportive style of underpant may prove advantageous).
In addition to new jeans, I also bought some new bed linen. This is as exciting as my life gets, but at least I now have a spare set again for the first time in months (I put my foot through both duvet cover and sheet), and so don’t have to get up extra-early and go to bed extra-late (and in slightly damp sheets) on washdays. Plus I can have a friend to sleep over on my sofa-bed, assuming I ever become capable of letting anyone besides myself through the door. (My housing association currently want to come in to re-wire the place – yeah, like that’ll be happening in any scenario that doesn’t include either, a) my dead body or, b) a brief ceremony involving two doctors and a social worker…) I bought the bed linen from a young man who, if he had not been standing behind a till and obviously working for a living, I would have identified as being about 12 years old. To say this was disconcerting is to put it mildly. Clearly, I’m getting bad at judging age, although, in my defence, he was short – about 5’0”, I’d guess – and pretty ‘young-acting’. Still, give me another couple of years and I’ll be going on about how the policemen all look young, and, oh, while you’re here, can you tell me where that terrible draft is coming from – it’s cutting right through to the bone…
I eventually got back home after buying the bed-linen, though not without the carrier bag it was in thinking it was a kite and trying to get airborne. I noticed while I was waiting for my bath to fill that the looks-like-I-might-have-eczema-again-but-I’m-not-a-doctor-so-what-do-I-know rash that’s been vaguely troubling me on my wrists has spread to my knees. This would be annoying, since I only had officially-diagnosed-by-a-doctor-and-even-he-wasn’t-certain eczema once (when I was approaching my finals at college), and, once it cleared up, being slightly careful about the kinds of soap, shampoo, deodorant and washing powder I use seemed to be all I had to do to stop it coming back. But it is a lot less itchy than I remember eczema being, so probably isn’t eczema (although inevitably, now I’ve thought about it itching, it feels like the itchiest thing that has ever existed). This rash also seems different, in that it’s almost sort-of painful when under hot water, which I don’t remember from last time around. I’m going to assume moisturiser will make it better, anyway.
This is, I think, almost it for my assemblage of largely unconnected recollections. I had a nice dinner involving several tons of roast potatoes (what was that I was saying about trying to lose weight?), gallons of gravy, a small amount of leftover meat, and as much as I could fit on the plate of my new favourite vegetable, red kale. It doesn’t really taste of anything, but it has a nice al dente texture without any stringiness (provided you cut off excess stalks), and it turns the water you cook it in bright red, which is kind of exciting, if you’re the kind of sad person who, like me, gets excited by cooking water changing colour. (As a cook I am in many ways still 12 years old, which means, of course, that making popcorn is the single most exciting thing you can do, but turning vegetable water red comes a respectable second.) I also read over a post for the blog about something Will Self had written. I’d set it aside on Monday rather than publishing it straight away because I was worried it might be too bitchy, and I realised as I re-read it that, yes, it probably was too bitchy to post. This was a shame as it was quite funny bitchiness, but experience has taught me that the people who read here don’t mind comic bitchiness if I direct it at myself – the monster-truck-sized spare-tyre I’ve been carrying around my midriff; like the fat, docile cow I am; I would quite like to achieve a circumference less than that of Pluto – but tend to object when I bitch about other people. Plus, you know, I don’t want to be an actual bitch – bitterness is not a healthy mindset, nor an attractive one.
I rounded off the day by going to bed about 1am (that’s early for me). I slept with the window open, so I could hear the sound of the wind roaring and rushing through the darkness outside. It made the room cold, but snuggled in under the duvet, I didn’t mind.