Saturday, February 16, 2008


So there I was yesterday, enjoying a day off and having bought the seven year old a Beano max, to keep him quiet, when he appeared in the kitchen, clutching his comic and as excited as excited can be, beaming all over his face. The thing was full of sport relief stuff and it had inspired him to really, really want to do it. The poor little chap doesn't ask for much, and he gets even less, so in a moment of weakness, I agreed that we should both enter. Which is how I came to be throwing up by the river in downtown Cwmbran at 5 o'clock this afternoon.

When I tell you that I haven't run anywhere for at least 20 years I am not shitting you. I haven't. I was a member of a gym for a couple of years but I never went anywhere near the treadmills. A bit of rowing, a bit of resistance and a hell a lot of dossing about in the various pools and sweat rooms..............and I only ever went about once every 6 months anyway. And it was years ago. So, while a mile not seem like very much to you, it seems like a very great deal indeed to me.

It was obvious that I needed to get a bit of training in. I don't own anything resembling jogging pants trousers so I had to wear my craghoppers, which at least meant I could carry my wallet, change, phone, etc, etc. Nor do I own anything resembling trainers, so I had to wear a pair of regular shoes. When I say regular, I don't mean highly polished brogues, they are soft walking type shoes, so that wasn't too bad. Incidentally, is there a shop that sell running gear for little fat short arses? The nipper was OK , he had his new sport relief socks on, and that was all the specialist equipment that he required.

So, late this afternoon off we buggered to to the riverside walk. I knew I was going to make a prize tit of myself, so I was hoping it would be quiet, hence the late afternoon start. It's a good place as it is a nice path along the river, but it gets better for us shy folk. Either side of the river are acres and acres of football and rugby fields and further afield there is another long path, along a sort of avenue of trees, by the railway track. If you have ever been through Cwmbran on the train you will know where I mean. It was a beautiful, if cold evening, and the path by the track was empty, so we headed over there.

Now, I haven't run for years, and I am small and fat............5"7 and around 15 stone, which is a fair load for my little legs to lump around and this could kill me. I read in a supplement a few weeks ago that when starting to run, you should do two minutes running, two minutes walking and so on, building it up bit by bit. Two fucking minutes! What planet was the guy on? As I jogged across the rugby pitch, past the clubhouse, the terrace of which was well populated with fit young men, I put in a supreme effort. I doubt if I manged 30 seconds, and I can tell you I felt quite ill.

I think the theory is that after a little run, the walk is a power walk. No chance. I dragged my miserable arse over to the path by the tracks, panted, gobbed, swore, and had another go. Maybe another 30 seconds, followed by at least two minutes of very heavy breathing and feeling sorry for myself. However, the good thing about the path I was on, as well as its solitude, is the number of markers you can use, trees, benches, I would use them. Run to that bin, then walk to that bench, then run to the last tree. Then back up the same path.

It was that last tree that saw my dinner come up, after about 15 minutes of exercise, most unpleasant. Meanwhile, the nipper was skipping about like a spring chicken and gleefuly vaulting over every fallen tree, of which there were many. In the end, I don't think I was either running or walking, I was sort of "wrunning", neither one thing nor the other, and in the intervals I was not walking, I was sitting, and coughing, and gobbing, and thanking the lord that I have given up the fags.

I suppose we were arsing about, wrunning about for about 40 minutes and after the upchucking, it actually started to feel OK, although I still couldn't gather any speed, or wrun for more than about a minute at a time. I remembered that I used to love running when I was kid and that during my long summer holidays, spent with relatives in Devon, me and my cousin would run for hours every day, up and down lanes, across fields, on and on and it would feel great. He was a competitive runner, I wasn't, I would amble around the cross country course at school, with frequent stops for a fag, but I could always keep up with him, and enjoy it.

Everything hurts now, as I sit here, and the initial experience was profoundly unpleasant, but I've had a glimpse of the potential pleasures of having a run. It was great being out on such a cold day, but feeling aglow with the effort of the exercise, and the long wallow in the shower when I got home was righteous indeed. Still it feels like a long and hard road ahead, even it is only a mile. And the bloody nipper only wanted to do it for the socks! You can sponsor us if you like, there is a handy link to the left.

If you go to the BBC I player and listen to any Bob Harris show, at some point you will hear the Felice Brothers, and then you will be happy.

One way or another, I have acquired the new Gary Louris album, (hear it, the whole of it) and while it is not going to change your life, it is, without any shadow of any doubt, brilliant. If you like that sort of thing. I became aware of the Jayhawks and Wilco , I dunno, about ten years ago and instinctively, I disliked them.

I spent my early teens feeling distinctly odd because I didn't like any of the music my mates liked, and I thought there was nothing out there for me. Glam, prog, pop, metal all left me cold, and then came pub rock, and then came punk and then came Pete the taliban. Everything I owned went to Oxfam. Cat Stevens, Dylan, Don Mclean and lord knows who else........binned. Year zero. I hung on to my Cockney Rebel and Split Enz though.

So I was bit intolerant, and a bit po faced. Punk died in childbirth: by the time everyone was wearing spiky hair and pare clips through their noses the game was up......but I retained my pathetic insistence on authenticity.....not that I was deprived, there was loads of good stuff coming out, although now we looked for a punk "sensibility", whatever the hell that is. Neither Wilco not the Jayhawks fit this template, so I was more than happy to dismiss them as generic American guitar bands, without ever having heard them.

As I say, I became aware of them both at about the same time, dunno why, and I was surprised by both and bought a couple of albums and at the same time as being sniffy about them, I kept playing the buggers, until I had to admit that I loved the pair of them. The Jayhawks, were, quite simply, sublime; perfect literate pop and then Mark Olson left and they weren't as good. Then I saw Olson live a few times and just about fell in love with the bloke and came to regard him as a genius..........obviously, he was the driving force in the Jayhawks and the reason for their brilliance. Wrong.

This Louris album is something else. If you liked anything that the Jayhawks did you will love it, it is far better than anything the Jayhawks did and far better than anything Olson has done, and I love both............that's how good it is. Don't expect anything groundbreaking, expect a superb set of beautiful songs performed by a master craftsman. Gary Louris, Mark Olson, Jeff Tweedy, we have lived through a golden age, but hardly any bugger realises it.

While I'm on a pop theme, the Times had a major interview with Cerys Mathews today. Never liked her band, but when she buggered off to Tennessee, I liked that album and saw her live and it was pretty good, then she made a tit of herself in the jungle and lost all her credibility. The point is, the interviewer took a train with Cerys from Londinium to Port Talbot (why not Swansea?) and Cerys then drove them both to Solva; the journalist made a big point of mentioning the lunatic speed at which Cerys drives and said even then it took 90 minutes to complete the journey. Cobblers, I can get to Solva from here in 90 minutes while observing the speed limit, and Port Talbot is a long way down the road.
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