Posts Tagged ‘Balthazar Restaurant’

12 Days to go. A selfish rant about selfishness.

October 20, 2009

Just 12 day until I run 26.2 miles in the New York Marathon. So the weekend just gone I hardly did any running at all. About 7 miles in total. The week before I did about 42 miles in all including another 20 mile run up the canal and a 10 mile run home from work.  Weight still 80 kg – still several kilos above target. Not sure why. Probably just eating too much!

Anyway. Blah blah blah. I hear you say. So you ran a long way. Or you didn’t run a long way. Who cares, I hear you say.

Ok. Forgive me, for I am getting very anxious about this marathon malarky that I have got to do in 12 days. So I think the rant that follows is a symptom of my anxiety.

The other day I got to Acton Central to go home and there was a problem with the train and it was stuck at the station and was quite full of people and I got on and there was a woman with a handkerchief over her mouth and in her eyes I could see a look of disgust verging on revulsion. And it made me a bit angry. I thought, “If the people, like me, you share your train journey with are so disgusting, why don’t you get a cab? Or go and live somewhere without an overcrowded public transport system. Commuting in London means you are crushed, battered and squashed several times a week.” Maybe I am being unfair what with the Swine Flu thing, and some people on the train could do with washing more often, but for pete’s sake this is what living in a city is about. None of us particularly wants to be squashed up in a train on a line which only has temporary signage.

And given that I work for (and am raising funds for – click here for my just giving page) NCT which is all about pregnancy, birth and early parenting – and there is quite a lot of that which is about the fluids, juices and more corporeal side of humanity – I just found the hanky thing a bit insulting really.  A bit rude and selfish, if you will.

And when people shout at others for trying to get on or off the train, I have a similar reaction.  Some people shove and are rude and selfish and some people shout (rudely and selfishly) at others for trying to find a place on the train. And then there are the people who almost knock pregnant women and small children out of the way to get a seat.

And people who let their dog run around in the only designated dog free green space in my area of north London, and when you point out that fact they (the more polite ones) say that “The dog is on a lead and they will clear up after it, so that is ok.” But that is not the point. That is what they should do in all the places where dogs are allowed. It seems like there is no thought for others in these people’s heads.

And I am not even going to mention the banking crisis and the unprecedented greed and selfishness that got us here. No. Not a word.

I know I am coming across like a columnist in Country Life magazine, grumpy and grumbling about the erosion of traditional values and if only people were a bit more polite. (Actually I got shouted at by a traditional red-faced farmer in Gloucestershire at the weekend for straying a few metres off a (badly maintained) footpath – communist insurgent that I am- so I still have a bit to learn before I can write for Country Life.)

“But, Allan,” you say, “You are flying off to New York to have a fine time eating in your favourite restaurants running a flickering marathon which you have been going on, and on, about for nearly two years now. And what about your poor family which has had to put up with you disappearing for three hour training runs and having to suffer being connected to your relentlessly self-absorbed blog! Isn’t that a little bit selfish too, Allan.” Well, yes. I do like New York and this training and everything can be a bit excluding for my long suffering family.

OK, now I have offended health conscious commuters, dog-owners, all of ruaral Britain and the British Banking community (the last must be used to it by now though) and probably just annoyed you, my loyal reader. What’s my point?

My point – yes there is one – is that we have lost a bit of tolerance and understanding and a bit of thoughtfulness about other people. And one of the things that NCT is about is supporting people when they are struggling or in need. And by having our branches which are networks of people helping each other and helping their communities with the activities they provide, I think there is model for a responsible and supportive society. So if I can raise some money for NCT by running a really really long way on 1st November I am doing a small bit for a better society. No really, I am. (And having a great time in New York as well, I hope.) 

Selfishness abounds
but I am running New York
for a better world.

(pretentious? moi?!)



Only 41 Days to go!! Oh Crikey!

September 21, 2009

That’s right. Only 41 days until the New York Marathon. That doesn’t seem very long at all. (Because it isn’t.) It is less than six weeks, in fact.

I have been worried that I have lost my running mojo and my blogging mojo. Blogging has been very sporadic this time around. As has the running. I blame Neil Spencer. He writes the horoscope in The Observer. Like many people I don’t believe in horoscopes except when it suits me to do so. So sometime in early August when Neil told me that I should rest and take it easy until after my Birthday (28 August) I did what he said. I had a very lovely relaxing August with lots of food and drink and the occasional gentle run here and there.

This meant that a couple of weeks ago I spent a long night lying awake getting very worried about how far behind in my training I was and how I was miles behind where I was this time last year. I got into a bit of a panic.

(And did I mention that there are now only 41 days to go!!!)

So I have given myself a bit of a talking to (“Do some more running you soft southern soft softie!”) and have been out running a lot more.

Last weekend I ran a 16 mile run. It took me just over three hours, so it was quite slow.  (To give you an idea of how slow that is, my colleague, Andy, ran the Paris Marathon this year  – also raising funds for NCT – and completed it in pretty much exactly the same time it took me to run 16 miles. In other words he ran 10 miles further  in the same time.)

Helen, my wife, asked what I was thinking about on my long run. I wish I could have said to her, and could say to you, that I was really working through some important and difficult issue to do with work, or even world hunger, or the financial crisis. It would be great to say that after thinking about it all for over three hours I have found an amazing solution to the very important issue at hand.

However, I generally think about things like what can I write in this blog or how many minutes it is until I can stop. This week what I really actually thought about was starting a pressure group to force London Overground to make their signs permanent. (All or most signs on London Overground stations contain the message “Temporary Sign“.) I thought it could be called Make Overground Signs Permanent or MOSP. And we could have rallies and sit-ins and stuff, like in the 1960s, and we could shout:

“What do we want?”
“Permanent signage!”
When do we want it?”
“After a sensible and appropriate period of stakeholder consultation!”

Well it’s something to think about to keep me busy after the marathon!

Other, stuff I think about on my long runs is about the joys of New York and how much I am looking forward to being there again. And where we will eat! We hope to eat in my old favourite, Balthazar, again. So I have been trying to summon up the smells and tastes of New York to help motivate me to run and run and run.

So, this week I have run a total of 35 miles (ish). Including an 18 mile run today. (The longest so far this year – and it really is a long way, by the way (btw).)  My weight  is down to 80kg if I look at the scales at the right angle. (Not as good as at this time last year, but moving in the right direction.) But I have raised £0.00 on my just giving page. (Probably because I didn’t tell anyone where it is before now. Btw, if you sponsored me for the marathon I didn’t run last year, you are naturally excused sponsoring me for this one.) I have raised £5 off line, thanks to one very generous colleague. So please sponsor me if you can.

So, although it is all a bit close to the edge (I don’t know if I mentioned to you that there are only 41 days to go!) I think I am getting there with the running. I will leave it to you to decide on how the blogging is going.

running and blogging
are back on the road again
just in time, I hope


Week 15 – Conflict

September 4, 2008

This week:
Weight:still at about 76kg! (target: 73kg); Miles run in the last seven days: a hefty 37.23! (59.9159 km)
Total funds raised up a bit: £257.56 (including Gift Aid) Only £742.44 to go. Sponsor me at my Justgiving page by clicking here.
Days to go to the New York Marathon: 59 (oh lordy! Less than two months!).

Firstly, my apologies for the last blog which I think was a bit boring. The picture of the mushroom got the most positive feedback so I think that says it all. I think I was too happy and relaxed after my holiday trip to Cornwall (Kernow) to write the edgy, “out there” blog posts you are used to. Because, as we all know, there is no drama without conflict. Which is why Mr Men books are so dull. (Except Mr Nosey, who is taught the lesson of minding his own business by being smashed in the face with a hammer by his friends and neighbours while they stand around pointing and laughing at him(?)! This is how I think it happened:
Roger Hargreaves (Mr Men author) [talking into telephone]: Hello, this is Roger Hargreaves, author of the Mr Men Books. Is that Mr Puffin, my publisher? How are sales of my Mr Men books going?
Mr Puffin the Publisher [talking into his telephone]: Hello, Roger. Yes it’s Jim Puffin, publisher, here. To answer your question, sales of your Mr Men books are OK. But they’re not as good as Dr Seuss’s. Did you know his Green Eggs and Ham is the third biggest selling book in the English language ever? And it only uses 50 words! But what it has is conflict, Roger. Dramatic conflict. Sam-I-Am wants the other bloke to eat Green Eggs & Ham, and he doesn’t want to. Do you see? Conflict. And that’s got the reader hooked so that he (or she) wants to know if (and how) that conflict is resolved.  Does Sam-I-Am persuade the other bloke to eat the green eggs and ham? If so, how? Does he like it? Why are they green? Do you see, Roger, the conflict creates drama and interest. So, what we’re thinking here at the publishing house is that maybe Mr Messy getting his house cleaned by Mr Neat & Mr Tidy doesn’t quite have the same level of dramatic conflict that can hook the reader. And that perhaps, Roger, you could make the next one a bit more edgy. Throw in some conflict. What do you think, Roger?
Roger Hargreaves: Hmmm. Conflict, eh? Dr Seuss, eh? Think you know more about writing children’s books than I do, eh? Well why don’t you just mind your own business (publishing) and I’ll mind mine (writing children’s books)! You want conflict? I’ll give you conflict! [Slams down phone.]
And so, Mr Nosey was born!) (Or probably not.)
Anyway, I digress.

This week I have had some internal conflict because I am feeling quite unwell with headache, stomach cramps and, well lets just call it “bathroom unpleasantness”. So on my run this morning (5:49 am; 4.83 miles (7.77313 km); 50 minutes, 35.49 seconds, a disappointing 10.28 minute miles, and burned 595 calories – equivalent to approximately 1lb (453 g) of topically tasty Alaskan caribou meat) I was constantly in danger of puking or doing a “Paula in Athens 2004”. But the thought that I am behind on my training schedule kept me going. I had a terribly difficult “long” run on Sunday – running out of energy for the last four miles. And I am not doing the speedwork my schedule suggests I should. And I am back at work and the mornings are getting darker. And there is less than two months and I only have a quarter of the fundraising target and I have lost my blogging mojo and and and…. There goes that doubting voice in my head again… (Still not saying “Kill! Kill! Kill!”, you’ll be pleased to hear! but a clear example of some internal conflict none the less.)

So I have had a look back on some of the previous blogs (am I going all postmodern again?) and thought I would try to look at some of my achievements. And they are worth mentioning, I think (with thanks to all those who have supported and helped these achievements):

  • Weight is down 7kg in 14 weeks from 83kg to 76kg.
  • Weekly running mileage up almost 100% from 19 to 37.
  • Blog readership up nearly 900% from 3 to 26!
  • Funds raised up from £0.00 to £257.56.
  • The sport of Competitive Postmodernism™ invented
  • 8 haikus written
  • one picture of large mushroom uploaded.

Which makes me feel a bit better about it all again. And now *stop press* stop press* stop press* someone out there has created a link to my blog!!! It is from a New York blog called Brooklyn Running, which says:

“Here’s a blog entry from a guy in the UK (I think), who just spent some time in Cornwall, clocking down the time until New York (62 training days from today).
It features a photo of a mushroom (or is it a toadstool?) Nuf said.”

It then includes a quote from my Week 11 post about the wonder New York and of Balthazar restaurant. I feel so proud and excited – my reference and quote in another blog. Thank you, Brooklyn Runner. (And yes, I am in the UK.)

So all of this has made me feel a bit more positive about things again. Taking a pause and looking at what’s going well is a really useful thing to do. So my inner conflict, though not entirely resolved, is at least somewhat mitigated. And has hopefully made for a more interesting blog?

Thanks for reading. Please send a link to anyone you think might enjoy this and (really importantly) might sponsor me… This week’s haiku:

Drama needs conflict
Haikus need seventeen sounds
I need your money!

Week 11 – Why I am like Haruki Murakami

August 10, 2008

This week:
Weight: Down 1kg at 78kg! (target: 73kg); Miles run this week: 24.78!
Total funds raised up only £5 this week, but others have promised to “when I get back from holiday”: £217.82 (including Gift Aid) Only £782.18 to go.  Sponsor me at my Justgiving page by clicking here.
Days to go to the New York Marathon: 83 (not many).

This week I started reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir by Haruki Murakami. It is very interesting. It is a book about how important running is to him; how he runs and why he runs.  He does this very eloquently and it is very inspiring to read someone write so well about running.  I am as a result of reading the book looking at increasing the number of runs I do in a week and this week I did five runs (including one of ten miles) and got up t 24.78 miles for the week. (For my growing number of metric readers that is 39.87954432 Kilometres.)

So, like me, Haruki Murakami, runs and wrtites about it. He does running to keep his weight down, to keep fit and because he likes doing it.

However, he runs a lot more than me (six miles a day, six days a week, usually) but then he has more control over his time (he can have a nap in the afternoon). And he is a much faster and more experienced runner than me. Though he describes himself as a “mediocre” runner he has done lots of marathons in times which I can only dream of.

And of course there is a difference in the way Haruki (I feel I can call him that now I’ve read 60 pages of one of his books) and I write. I hope he will take this in the spirit in which it is intended, but I think he could put a few more laughs in there. And not a single haiku so far!

So maybe this blog should be called Week 11 – Why I am different to Haruki Murakami!

Murakami talks about eating and food and losing weight. He says the more he runs the healthier he feels and the healthier he eats – he doesn’t want to eat anything but fruit and fish. Again, I am slightly different.

Earlier this week I found myself in the car park of the Crown Plaza Hotel in Marlow, Buckinghamshire (for work reasons, I hasten to add) surrounded by three smoking men. It is now 8 months since I stopped smoking. And I felt quite pleased with myself, even allowed myself a smug little smile. An interesting (interesting to me anyway) effect of the healthier lifestyle I am now leading (don’t smoke, don’t eat so much, don’t eat stuff between meals unless it is fruit and such like) is the fact that I have started treating myself to swanky meals out.  I used to read the restaurant reviews in The Guardian and enjoyed reading them. But now I think, “Oh that sounds great, and since I am saving so much money by not smoking I can go to that restaurant if I want”. So I do.  And I look up the restaurant on the Interweb and hopefully look at sample menus and think about what I would like to eat and drink. Which I know is sounding a bit obsessional and potentially unhealthy.  Salivating over the thought of a big blow out meal when I am limiting myself to leaves and fruit. But I do eat well – just less of it and no crap. And I go with Helen, my wife, and or the children and we generally have a great time.

So this year I and one or more of my family have eaten some very good food in some very interesting restaurants. Like Belga Queen in Brussels, Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, Maze Grill in London (where I declined the opportunity to eat a £120 steak) and Le Cafe Anglais in London to which I have been twice now. Once with both my daughters, Mathilda and Delilah, and once with just Delilah. Both times it was great.

However, my “I’ve not smoked for eleven months and I’ve run a marathon” treat will be at Balthazar in New York, which is my favourite. (“Ooh, look at Mr Smartypants with his favourite restaurant in New York,” said a voice in my head when I wrote that. But actually it is because it is in New York and therefore something extraordinary and part of the whole experience of being in New York that makes it my favourite. (And by the way, I don’t get lots of strange voices in my head arguing with me all the time, in case anyone was wondering, and they don’t say “Kill, kill, kill” or anything like that.)) Anyway, although eating in a good restaurant is not the main reason I am doing all this, it can help sometimes (like on today’s 10 mile run) to imagine myself sitting there in Balthazar with my wife the day after the marathon and smiling smugly.

Despite appearance
Haruki Murakami
Is not much like me.

See, Haruki, not that hard is it?