Tag Archives: running

On Ray Lewis, Jasper Johns and London…the last one 100/100

davSo here it is. The 100th post. I thought this project would take 2 years.  It has taken almost 3. But, as John Lennon is credited with saying, “life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” And wow is that true. For better and for worse. The world is quite a different place than it was 3 years ago. Terror, Trump, Brexit, Corbyn, North Korea, to name but a few. But no need reiterating the obvious, let’s get to 100.  But how? What could possibly be the topic of the final scribbling? This is London, so the possibilities are endless…but it has to be right. A clear finish, a final wrap up.  The universe, who keeps me on a short leash, got tired of listening to all this self-indulgent angst and said:  “OK.  You want a final post, well hold on tight. I will give you a weekend so full of experiences and thoughts and connections, there will be a cats cradle of interwoven threads when it is done.” And so it was. And here it is.

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Several weeks ago the Cathedral asked if I would be the guide for some VIPs when the professional American football team, the Baltimore Ravens, came to town. Would I ever! Not because I follow celebrities, I am pretty clueless about most. And not because I know anything about American football, because I don’t. But because I love, feel it my raison d’etre, to show the Cathedral off to fellow Americans. Sure, I am delighted to show round any and all nationalities, but I especially enjoy the Americans. Because only the best of my country come to the Cathedral. The best of the best. It makes me proud. I have met amazing Americans. Of all ages, regions, ethnic backgrounds, interests and lifestyle cofchoices.  They are people whose existence I want to be reminded of as often as possible, particularly of late, when so much of not-our-best seems to be on permanent display. The one thing all these visitors have in common is curiosity. Intellectual curiosity. A dying virtue. So, on Friday, there I was. No surprise, the Ravens’ VIPs were terrific. Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis, Hall  of Fame players both. I took these lovely gentlemen and their sizable entourage on a tour of the American Chapel and the Quire, which they seemed to enjoy very much. But upon leaving the Quire, Bill Viola’s video art installation Mary caught Ray Lewis’s eye….and despite the efforts of the handlers, I had to speak. It had stopped him in his tracks, after all.  It is piece that I feel passionately about. The essence of human life, in cofsome ways.  As I gushed away about why this work is so relevant for us today, I could actually see the instant (it didn’t take long) when Mr. Lewis got it. I mean he really “got it.” That beautiful moment when you are talking about art and you see the spark in the other person. Not only was he charming, interested and curious, he got the Bill Viola. Honestly, I have the best job in the world. I floated out of the Cathedral.

And onto more art. Not ready to go home,  I popped into the RA for a preview peek of the Jasper Johns retrospective. Another American. And one who is without question one of the best of the best. At the first glimpse of his Target, I almost wept. It was the perfect carry on from the morning. Concrete, or rather paper and paint and objects, proof that not all is broken in my native land. That there is still greatness. And Johns is great. One of the greatest.  So much of his work is about seeing and, a rather loaded word these days, perceiving. How we perceive the world matters. Johns is a master at asking us to look at the familiar with fresh eyes. cofHis art invites us to look again, “let go of habits of perception and see things in a new way.” In today’s ever polarized society, these are almost fighting words. Oh yeah…and Johns is perhaps most famous for his American flags. A symbol, once again, mired in controversy. But that is Sunday….

As if Friday hadn’t been full enough I had one more engagement. Theatre. The Ferryman by Jez Butterworth. I have a  complicated relationship with Mr. Butterworth’s work, but this is a play about the cycle of  violence of the IRA (though they certainly don’t have the monopoly on this most damaging of issues.) The acting was excellent, despite someone walking off stage due to illness in the 3rd act and the understudy having a broken hand. Add a real but unhappy goose, a pocketed bunny, and an unusually placid baby into the mix and I admit I did wonder if health and safety had had a chance to look round. But the message of the play was clear. This world is a disaster thanks to our own doing. Ever thus. And on to the next.

davHaving just turned 49 I have given myself the challenge of running 50 races or running events before turning 50. Almost immediately I realised this was a challenge of dedication and logistics rather than athleticism.  Or so I thought. The first 5 races were rather fabulous. The 6th, Sunday morning, 10k in Hyde Park. The weather was glorious. One of those perfect, warm London autumn days. The location could not have been more beautiful. Hyde Park, in the sunshine. And the race, sponsored by a Crohn’s Disease charity, was well organised.  But my legs weren’t in it. They were tired and tight and every step hurt. Every very slow step. It is true that there is no run you regret. But there are runs that disappoint. This was one.  Alas.  Life often disappoints.

But a slow run is really not something to fuss about. I went home via Marble Arch, for a little trip down memory lane. Because it was here, just off Marble Arch that I lived for 3 months in the Winter of 1989 while attending LSE.  Art and theatre, theatre and art is davhow I spent most of my time. What had always been an ember burst into flame over those months. I was hooked. No wonder many, many years later, for reasons that have nothing to do with me at all except for exceptionally good taste in a husband, I was back. Art, theatre and everything that London has to offer. While revelling in nostalgia I noticed the new  sculpture, Celebration of Life, by Bushra Fakhoury. Dancing with naked, masked abandon. Yup, that is it. But I couldn’t linger for long as I had promised to take the kids to the Colourscape on Clapham Common.

Colourscape, an annual music festival “of unusual instruments and sound,” since 1989, the same year I first lived in London.  The wait was so long I sent my children to find conkers. Conkers aren’t just so English, they aren’t just beautiful symbols of Autumn, they keep moths at bay. I need them. Stephen and Katherine returned with two bulging mdesacks. Very pleased. But while alone in the slow moving queue, social media started to implode. Ray Lewis had dropped to his knees during the American national anthem at Wembley Stadium.  And people on both sides of the issue went wild. Insane. Out of their minds. With hate. So much hate. He seemed to have suddenly become the most reviled person in the world. No small feat these days. Everybody, from all sides, was baying for blood. Yikes. And the language being used, again, from all sides of the argument was unacceptable. Utterly unacceptable. Ugly, ugly ugly stuff. I was mulling over how much I would not like to be famous when we finally made it to the top of the queue. And those thoughts were put on hold.  We stepped into  Colourscape and time evaporated. We were literally cocooned in colour and sound. Strolling musicians at every rounded turn. So peaceful and beautiful. Yet the shifting colours made me feel unsteady. The experience, as lovely as it was, was unsettling, disorienting. Such is life, isn’t it. Unsteady even at the best of times. When I got home I switched on the television to watch the opening ceremony of the Invictus 10631274_949261878433867_4232479405504663826_o (2)Games, the Olympic-style games for wounded service people, an event close to my heart.  (see post #96.)  The overriding message, or series of messages, of the long weekend fell into place.  No one, Prince Harry reminded the audience, would have wished to be eligible for these games. Yet here they are.  The keynote speaker before him,  a man who had been attacked with an axe by the Taliban, said that no one thinks it is going to be them, until it is. And the competitors all spoke, after they crossed the finish line, of having made a choice, a choice, sometimes against all odds, to keep going. To keep going when life if horrifically, cruelly or even just irritatingly, interrupted. Real life happens as you’re busy making other plans.

davMy gorgeous, fabulous, wonderful sister in law, who I have known since we were teenagers, has breast cancer. The devastating recent hurricanes and floods and earthquakes. The seemingly unbreakable cycles of violence. The idolization of symbols and causes and slogans over the simple act of caring for one another. The hate. It is enough to set the Black Dog howling. And here I come with my tiny little banner of hope. Call me naive or even stupid, though I prefer the epitaph that a lovely elderly Indian visitor to the Cathedral gave me, “most excellently cheerful.” Perhaps that is why I was brought back to London. Because in this greatest of all cities I will never ever be lacking in things to inspire, to be curious about, to fill me with crazy, passionate joy. Not just the big stuff, and lucky me, I have plenty of big stuff, but the little moments too. Sharing a great piece of art with someone who gets it. Running, slowly, past a Henry Moore sculpture. An uncrowded art gallery. Conkers. A bassoon player appearing round a colourful corner. Theatre with friends and yeah, being followed round by photographers at St Paul’s cathedral is pretty great too. I love them all.

So, having reached 100, writing about my adventures has come to an end. What have I learned? I am very American, in all the best ways. I love London, really, really love London. I am the luckiest person alive. And having adventures, every day that I can, with enthusiasm and joy and passion, that is what I do.  My London Passion. Thanks for sharing it with me.

@mylondonpassion

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On a kringle of santas…London Santa Runs 68/100

dsc_0005_36-2img_4743-2The British love to dress up. Any excuse will do. Fancy dress, as it is called, is a staple of the social scene, year round. Costumed runners have long been part of races of all lengths, especially for charitable fundraising.  Why not combine the two? Not a great idea, so I thought. I am not a fan of dressing up for parties. I really don’t like dressing up to go running. But when in Rome, or London, to be exact…I have run in a bunny costume, particularly humiliating as it was after Easter so we all looked deranged. I have also run in a gorilla suit, much too hot and heavy to try again. In 2011, the older two children and I ran in a Nativity run. The remit was to dress as a Nativity character. I dug out a battered pair of wings from our dressing up box. My daughter wore a cape, crown and carried a box, a wiseman obviously. Joseph ran in his bathrobe holding a real hammer. He was Joseph because he is Joseph. The organizers seemed overwhelmed by this fact, as if he was in on a secret joke. They couldn’t stop mulling it over aloud, which was rather off putting.  As I said, I’m not much for the costume runs. With one big exception.  I have run in a Santa suit. Many, many times. Too many to count now. The Battersea Park Santa Run has been a fixture in my diary for years now, even when I wasn’t in a running frame of mind. Usually, 10854272_1006953772664677_5097500656784772341_oI have been able to convince a child or two to tag along. Felt, one-size fits all, santa suits are distributed upon arrival at the start, which means we all look the same. For most, the suit is far too big, though occassionally there are matching child-size ones, ill-fitting in their own way, so we are rather a motley crew of santas. And the beards are horrible. But we are all willing. No one doesn’t wear the suit, and the few girls who show up in sexy elf suits just look like idiots. They are shunned by the pack. I love this race. For many reasons, but most especially for the looks on the young Battersea residents’ faces, staggering round the park in hopes of clearing their holiday overdosed heads, when suddenly one thousand (literally) santas come lumbering along….”I am still 1396756_775235222503201_1053749200_odrunk” and “I’ve got to stop the recreational LSD” are but a few of the visible responses. We santas wave, we cheer, we photograph ourselves and others as slack jawed strangers try to settle their over-excited dogs. A perfect way to start the Christmas season!

This year I decided to try something new and signed up for the City Santa run, and convinced 3 of my children plus Katherine’s good friend and frequent running partner, Lexi, to join me. As you know, I will do pretty much anything in the City. And running in the City is a beautiful thing. This morning was perfect, blue, sunny sky and just cold enough to make the fabric felt a welcome overcoat. The santas gathered were fewer in number than Battersea, but just as enthusiastic, maybe more so. The crowds watching were also fewer, but made up of tourists instead of hungover locals. They were amused, delighted, baffled, all holding phones aloft. No telling how many of us are on strangers’ social media sites. dsc_0023_16-2And what a glorious run it was. Starting from the north end of Millennium Bridge, a flood of red flowed, poured over my favourite bridge, much to the surprise of early morning strollers. We continued along past the Tate and the Globe, back across Southwark Bridge. Along the Thames Path the Shard and Tower Bridge came into sight, dodging tourists I drank deeply of this view I love so much. dsc_0026_15-2Through the hordes queuing to get into the Tower of London and then back along Fenchurch Street, through the festive Leadenhall Market and then the final bit, my beloved St Paul’s ahead, to the finish in Paternoster Square. The race was only 6k, yet it seemed to pass in seconds. And despite the cloying felt suit, I felt invincible. Yes, the world still exists with Syrian and Brexit and Trump and upcoming French elections and Italian referendum and Austrian vote (relieved to have just seen the result) and the youth football child abuse, but for a little bit of time, none of that mattered. Instead, my eyes and brain could only concentrate on things I love: art, theatre, history, Harry Potter, beauty. The things that keep us all going in troubled times. Running in the City, the city I love the most, it just might be what gets me through.

Instagram: @mylondonpassion