Saturday, 6 February 2010

Parakeets, Capello and Cruddas

10.00 a.m. Not very nice now, grey, damp and a bit chilly. But it was brighter when I got up and by going out before 8 I may have had the best of the day. Since it’s clear I'll never go to a gym again, and running’s not for me (a hip’s beginning to go, though it’s left me alone for months), I've been trying to walk for exercise, i.e. faster than I normally would and with ‘technique’ -- a recent Guardian guide purported to tell you how to do it -- take off from toes, land on heel, roll through the foot, hips level, arms at 45%, max distance earlobes to shoulders. There was a video but I've no idea if I'm doing it right; I need the lady to come and watch me.

Anyway, at least I do more walking and this morning, being Saturday and nice, I bused to Kingston and walked up the other side from Kingston Bridge to Hampton Court. The small birds were being birdish and springish; a parakeet perched on a spray in fine close-up view; rooks cawed, swans swanned; fours were training, first some lads in a big canoe, then some middle-aged men rowing, then some younger men, probably Kingston University students, then some girls ditto. Actually the last two, now I think of it, were eights. Cyclists and runners shared my path, which was fortunately wide and firm; the river’s on the left, wide and active, and across the other side moorings and the occasional boatyard, ugly flats and then, further up, more picturesque houses and a couple of pleasant pubs; then some posh school’s playing fields. On my right a hedge with some trees and beyond it parkland, the estate of Hampton Court. And finally the palace itself, through gilt-tipped railings: first a swanky classical country house with formal garden, then, when you’ve rounded a corner, the Tudor brick original with those chimneys.

With the radio on the phone (via earphones) I listened to the Today programme. Interesting stuff about brain scans establishing communication with a proportion of patients thought to be in a vegetative state -- but now judged to be, rather, ‘locked in’. As they said, poses deep questions about what it is to be human, minded, with intentions etc. Reports too of the chorus of approval for Fabio Capello’s decisive dismissal of the England captain (Capello being the Italian manager of the England football team): I sense a longing for leaders like him, old-fashioned, unshowy, clear about his values, severe, strong on discipline. The nation feels (or so you’d think from the press) like a class that’s had a succession of ineffective young teachers who long for a strict older one. Capello for Prime Minister? Naive dream: he’s not a politician, we know nothing of his ability to negotiate and do deals or compromise or cope with complexity. The football scene is complex but at least it’s a contained zone, in a way that national and world politics and economy aren’t.

From Hampton Court the way back is by train, for which I had a half hour wait so went and had a coffee and croissant and read the New Statesman interview with Jon Cruddas, potential Labour leader. He has some of the Capello qualities -- dignified, honest, intelligent, learned -- but, similarly, how much of a politician is he?

Now for the ironing.

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