The Running Man on Being Antisocial

An excess of alcohol and chocolate over the Easter break – please don’t ask me to define ‘excess’: suffice to say that my grandkids are wondering where the eggs have gone and my wife is sure that we had another bottle of gin somewhere – and the return of sub-arctic air have combined to make my first couple of post-holy week treks even more miserable than usual.  I drag myself to the door, thrust it open and shrivel away, like a plastic bag near a radiator, at the first blast of wind-borne sleet.  Who in their right mind would go out in that – particularly dressed like this?  The issue of my running attire presses on me once again after, what I assume must be a recently reconvened, post-covid running group, passed my house yesterday, all neatly ironed, in unstained hi-viz, unwrinkled running tights and not a hairband out of place.  They were chatting happily, smiling some of them, and not a single one gasping for breath.  They looked as if they had all been waiting for months for this moment: whilst you and I battled house-bound neuroses, they collected lycra.  There was a distinct lack of the secondhand about them.

I am reluctant to spend heavily on running gear because I am still unconvinced that I won’t just decide one day that running really is not for me.  (Interestingly, it really is not for me, I have decided, although I don’t know what to do about it now.)  The course and distance of my thrice-weekly lopes varies enormously, depending on how many other runners I have to avoid along the way.  I hate crossing paths with them, as I am so conscious of looking like a convict who has gone on the run without his asthma inhaler; I will not run in front of them because I dread them catching and passing me; I will not run behind them because I fear that passing motorists may think that we’re together and that I just can’t keep up.  I would love someone to offer me an explanation as to why, when I stumble into the wake of another runner, I always appear to be running comfortably faster than them, until the very point at which I move up to their shoulder, when I suffer the kind of coughing fit that tells me that I should have followed my first instinct and gone the other way, even if it meant trying to get past the elderly lady on the mobility scooter with the Chihuahua on a ten-foot lead.  I cannot run at ‘school time’: whilst I am much too long in the tooth to allow myself to be bullied by gangs of school kids, I am none-the-less haunted by the fear of silent laughter.

Most of my runs take place mid-morning or mid-afternoon, when the rest of the world is either in school, at work or on a Zoom call, in order to minimise my detours, but I continue to zig-zag my way around the empty paths and byways avoiding any kind of interaction the best I can.  It’s not that I’m antisocial, it’s just that I’m… Actually, it probably is that I’m antisocial – although if they had a club, I certainly wouldn’t join it.

(First edit red biro, second edit green felt-tip, third edit black Sharpie – a particularly bleak moment – final edit a cross-shredder and a return to what I started with.)

If you want to join the beginning of this run, you can find ‘Couch to 5k’ here.
Last week’s ‘Running Man’ post ‘…on the Time to Run’ is here.
The next ‘Running Man…’ episode ‘…on a Bicycle’ is here.

D.I.Y (part 1) – constructing bird boxes and hanging shelves.

black claw hammer on brown wooden plank

Easter. Time to face up to all those jobs you’ve been putting off since this time last year. Please accept my little Easter guide in the spirit in which it was written e.g. to give you something to do whilst you are attempting to concoct a reasonable-sounding excuse for not doing them. It is a little longer than normal, so it is split into two parts – not unlike sections of your anatomy if you are not careful…

As you grow older, and your time becomes less consumed by children, dangerous sports and Himalayan trekking holidays, you may feel the need to fill the void with a more age-appropriate pastime. Sadly, many will consider that sitting in an armchair drinking cider and doing the quick crossword is not such a hobby, and you may be forced to seek something a little more challenging. There will come a time in the life of all of us when we are tempted to say, “I’m not paying that. If I had the tools, I could do it myself, it can’t be that difficult.” Well, here’s my first warning for you: generally it is. All DIY projects end up costing considerably more than getting a tradesman in. A friend of mine once managed to remove the party wall between himself and the neighbouring bungalow whilst putting up a photo frame. He is, I believe, now a speech writer for Donald Trump. Of course, it would be wrong to suggest that all DIYers are so inept (there is, after all, only one Donald to go around) but the potential is always there. Never-the-less, if you feel you really must give it a go, I find it incumbent upon myself to offer such advice as I am able. Since you have probably decided to ignore my imploration to quit whilst you are ahead, e.g. before you have started, we may as well begin.

Before commencing any DIY project it is important to ensure that you have the following items easily to hand:

• Elastoplast
• Antiseptic Cream
• Mobile phone pre-programmed to dial 999
• Car: this is essential in order to fetch the vital components or tools that you always            manage to forget until half way through the job
• A small child to blame when it all goes wrong.

Most prospective DIYers will begin with a little woodwork. The lure of producing a 3-legged coffee table, an asymmetrical magazine rack or a wonky pipe-rack will prove irresistible to many. In addition to the wood, which is available from any good timber merchants at little more than two to three times the price of a finished product, you will need tools. Woodworking tools are seldom, if ever, used for their intended purpose. A chisel is usually used to hack a notch into the top of a pozidrive screwhead when you do not have a pozidrive screwdriver with which to remove it. A smaller chisel is subsequently used to remove the screw when you discover that you have also forgotten the other screwdriver. A nail punch may then be employed to drive the screw head into the wood when you discover that the chisel will not remove it. Your shoe will be used when you discover that you have lost your hammer. You will also need a stout toolbox from which to misplace your tools.

Warning: All woodworking tools are either sharp, pointed or both. If you must keep woodworking chisels I suggest that you blunt them by knocking holes into walls when your drill has fused.

Let us begin by looking at a suitable early project for the keen DIY woodworker: the bird box. Begin by constructing a simple box of 4 equal sides, a top and a bottom which can be held together with nails and glue or, if you have misplaced the hammer and bought toothpaste instead of glue, blu-tack. The box should have a sloping roof (as it is likely to slope in all directions, just choose the surface that slopes the most) and a little hole at the front through which the birds can enter. When correctly assembled the box should be capable of being lifted without the bottom falling out. Take a photograph of the finished box before it ‘weathers’ (falls to pieces) and put it out into the garden in the spring. Having been affixed to a suitable tree, shed or bonfire, the nest box will remain unused for three years before you discover that the hole is too small. By this time the bottom will have fallen out anyway and the perch will have been taken away by a sparrow for nesting material.

At some stage all DIY enthusiasts will be called upon to hang a shelf. Before you commence the project you should amass the following:

• Electric drill
• Chuck key for a completely different drill
• 3 semi-rusted drill bits, none of which are suitable for masonry, one of which has not had its head broken off during a previous project
• A selection of wall plugs, all for the wrong kind of wall
• A selection of screws in different sizes, none of which match the wallplugs
• A selection of screwdrivers, none of which match the screws.

Warning: Electric tools offer all the risks associated with other woodworking equipment multiplied by 240 volts.

Choose a likely-looking drill bit and insert it into the drill chuck and tighten best you can. If it wobbles a bit, don’t worry too much unless it shoots out when you turn the drill on and decapitates your daughter’s goldfish. Then worry. Carefully measure and mark the walls and drill the holes in something resembling the right kind of area. Insert the wall plug. If it will not fit, chop a bit off it with a kitchen knife and hammer it in with a ladle. If it is too small, simply insert another plug inside it and hammer it in with a ladle. Put shelf against the wall and insert a screw into any hole that roughly matches a wall plug. Tighten as far as the screwdriver allows and then hammer in the rest of the way with a ladle. Now, take a photograph of your shelf in situ before it has the chance to fall from the wall and scalp the cat. Find something suitable to put on the shelf that will not roll down the slope and blu-tack it in place.

Warning: never sit underneath a shelf – particularly if you put it up.