All posts by David

48 – Church Bells

St Mary's spire

This is a hangover from my sunday run.

Although I have many different routes they all start with a warm up jog down to the park, by St Mary’s Church. On sundays  it is usually when the bells start ringing. I like the sound of church bells –  I don’t know why but I find them reassuring.  They also remind me of my childhood.  For my first seven years I lived near Christ Church, Colliers Wood. Every thursday they would practise their bell ringing at 7:30 in the evening and every thursday my mother would complain about the difficulties of trying to get young children to sleep. “I like church bells from a distance” I can remember hearing her say “But when they are so close and you have children it is just a horrible noise.”

My fleeting moment is the passing reminder of me as a young child.

47 Blue sky

wall and sky

This is so bloody obvious that it is hardly worth mentioning  but something being obvious doesn’t make it any less true and sunshine certainly does makes you feel better. It lifts the spirits makes you want to go outside, stand taller, breath more deeply, and feel more alive, especially if the bright day is an interlude in  otherwise grey, wet, and oppressive weather.

The picture is  of blue sky poking up from behind a wall, inviting me to break-out, get outside and play. Now I don’t think I actually broke out that far – there was no exploring, just a normal sunday morning run – but it did feel better. Others had the same idea and a park, that a week ago was empty, was full of people strolling and socialising.  It was almost as if everybody was nodding to each other and saying ‘nice isn’t it?’

46 – Gravestones


Almost all my runs end at the Hemel parish church of St Mary’s. I then cool down by walking up to my house. If it has been a good day and I feel fresh i will look about with keen eyes and notice things with clarity. If t has been hard work, my eyes will only look inward and I will just want to get in, shower and recover.

Today was pretty good and I did, what I sometimes do, and looked at the gravestones.  I love looking at the names and seeing how they change over the years, and like looking at what is written. With this one I was just taken by the depth of the eye holes in the skull. It looks quite macabre

45 – Losing keys

key ring

This is not any sort of pleasure. Losing keys causes nothing but angst, inconvenience and a questioning of mental competence.  But it happens and I usually do not have a clue how.

Last week I took some stuff out of my car, opened up the garage,  put the stuff away. Because I had  my hands full I put the keys down – somewhere – whilst I crammed things into a disgracefully disorganised cupboard and vowed, once more, to have a good tidy up. When the job was done I looked round for my keys but could not find them. Damn – they had vanished. I looked in all the right places, several times, but they were not there. Gone, it was almost as if they had dematerialised. they must be somewhere but if they have slipped  behind something or into a box of bits and pieces they will take some finding (did I mention the garage is a mess?). It is not worth worrying to much about as I have spares,  but  I have a slight regret about the key ring. It came from Grizedale and  although I mostly paid it no attention, sometimes, not very frequently but sometimes,  I remembered where it came from. A thought of fresh air, scenery and the Lake District to leaven the day is always good.

The photo shows the replacement. It comes from visiting the exhibition at the British Museum  - ‘Beyond El Dorado: the power of gold in ancient Columbia’. These little figures just amused me – for no good reason – and that is all that is needed for a memory trigger.

44 – Charm

I came across this today (although obviously it is not new) and had to post it.

This blog is meant to be a collection of small insights (whether they are mine or someone else’s doesn’t really matter.

“He had one of the rarest qualities in all literature, and it’s a great shame that the word for it has been thoroughly debased by the cosmetic racketeers, so that one is almost ashamed to use it to describe a real distinction. Nevertheless, the word is charm — charm as Keats would have used it. Who has it today? It’s not a matter of pretty writing or clear style. It’s a kind of subdued magic, controlled and exquisite, the sort of thing you get from good string quartettes.”

RAYMOND CHANDLER referring to F. Scott Fitzgerald in a 1950 letter to a friend (source).

43 – Comparing versions

This follows on from thinking about Dave Van Ronk. There were two time when he might have had commercial success. The first was when he was asked to become one of the members of what later became Peter, Paul and Mary (Peter, Dave and Mary doesn’t have the same ring and who knows if it would have been as successful – he didn’t really have the look); the second was when he recorded Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’. He had recorded it early and it was gradually creeping up the charts until it got swamped by Judy Collins’ version, which came out only a little later.

A while ago I watched a TV programme about rock stars growing old, which mentioned that although they still performed, they didn’t write good songs any more. Robert Wyatt (who still writes good songs) said something interesting about this: that sometimes a singer could grow into what they had previously written, understand it more and interpret it better. In other words, evolve. The example he gave was Joni Mitchell’s reworking of Both Sides Now, which is lower, slower and a little world weary. Much more like Van Ronk and less like Judy Collins or her original.

My fleeting pleasure today is the appreciation of the huge library that a is YouTube and the chance it offers to compare these versions (though I haven’t posted the Judy Collins as I have never liked it very much)

42 – Joy of sport

Sometimes you lose sight of this. Sometimes you see elite sportsmen and you see skill, handwork, drill, brilliance, drama, and achievement but it weighs heavy and means too much, and so becomes full of tension and anxiety. You see little of the pure joy that would have caused them, as a child, to practise endlessly for the sheer hell of it, because they enjoyed it so much. We need to be reminded that sport is also about joy.

I have been watching snowboarding at the Winter Olympics. I know nothing about it, will never attempt it, and will probably only watch it every four years – but I found it compelling. The thing I particularly liked was joy of the riders. When they finished a run many of smiled and waved or bounced up and down with excitement. It might well have something to do with adrenaline but nevertheless there was clear enjoyment. Not only that but there seemed a genuine appreciation of the tricks of the other competitors. When someone got bumped down the medal podium by a later competitor the congratulations seemed warm an genuine, not a grudging handshake, and in the women’s events there were lots of hugs.

So in an Olympics that I had doubts about (for all sorts of reasons related to Putin, money and Russian social attitudes) I ended up being captivated. I have been reminded of the meaning of sport.

41 – Dave Van Ronk

I haven’t yet seen ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’. It has all the ingredients that should have had me rushing to the cinema as soon as it was released – but I have hung back. Why? It is a Coen Brothers movie, and they are sometimes magnificent but never less than interesting. It is about the Village folk scene of the early 60s and I love that. It is based on the life of Dave Van Ronk, a figure of some stature in my imagination. So why have I hesitated?

Perhaps I fear disappointment, or more to the point worry that what makes a Coen Brothers movie doesn’t necessarily mesh with the subject. They tend to deal with isolated disappointed people, whereas the folk scene was more about a communal effort to find a new (old) authentic way of making music. Dave Van Ronk was not a loser and I don’t want him to be confused with one. I don’t want him to be downgraded. But such hesitation is soft headed. The time might still feel alive for me, because it happened in my lifetime, but in all other respects it is distant and this is a historical piece. I cannot worry if this detail or that is not quite right – it is a work of fiction. And it is a valid artistic project to take some incidents from someones life but invent a different character. There is no reason to be precious and I know I will see it.

But being reminded of the era has sent me back to listen to the music and my moment of pleasure. Attach is a YouTube clip of Dave Van Ronk singing ‘Cocaine Blues’. When I was young the first live music I saw (i.e. the first live music I chose to go to, as opposed to going with the family) was at Les Cousins, in Soho. I remember seeing people like Bert Jansch, Roy Harper, and John Martyn. At the time this song was in John Martyn’s repertoire. Hearing it again brings on a warm feeling of nostalgia.

40 – Visualisation

This morning I woke early (about 4 o’clock) and could not go back to sleep. Instead I dozed, with my mind drifting from subject to subject. It was warm under the covers and I felt snug and quite happy, as long as I didn’t worry about not getting enough sleep.

At some point I started to think about the run I intended to do in the morning and the route I should take. I  pictured the streets and imagined running them –  trying to decide   which would be the best and whether I should do a hill at the beginning or the end. I didn’t make a decision but I  imaged the roads and was surprised at how much I could remember. Time went quickly and when it was time to get up  I felt surprisingly refreshed.

I can understand why visualisation is used so much by sportsmen – it feels good and is calming. But I’m not sure it made any difference to my actually run as I didn’t follow any of the visualised routes – I made a random decision and took a turning I had not tried before.


39 – Pen & ink

pen & notebook

I am lax about blogging everyday.  I continue to notice things but lack the discipline, or inclination, to type them up every night.  Ah well – I must slap my wrists, give myself detention, or even write out 100 lines. It might not do any good though as I have a long history of struggling with consistency.

Even though I might not follow through and complete a post I still keep notes – and that will be today’s pleasure. I like the sensation of writing with a fountain pen in a notebook. There is both the physical pleasure of a direct connection with the medium and the enjoyment of being deliberately anachronistic. I look around a coffee shop and almost everyone else is using a phone or a tablet and most times I am the only person with pen and ink. There can be pleasure in the old ways.