Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Triton of the minnows

I’ll fight with none but thee; for I do hate thee  
Worse than a promise-breaker.

I went along to Shakespeare's Globe on the South Bank this evening to see a Japanese language performance of Coriolanus.  It was my first time at the open-air theatre and the attendant irritations of mosquitoes and low-flying police helicopters drowning out the actors were more than offset by the price of a fiver for a standing ticket.

Coriolanus is my favourite of Shakespeare's plays for its action, its element of tragedy and - not least - its irascible hero and the stuff he shouts at other people:

SICINIUS: It is a mind
That shall remain a poison where it is,
Not poison any further.

CORIOLANUS: Shall remain!
Hear you this Triton of the minnows? mark you
His absolute 'shall'?


SICINIUS: Go, call the people:

[Exit AEdile]

in whose name myself
Attach thee as a traitorous innovator,
A foe to the public weal: obey, I charge thee,
And follow to thine answer.

CORIOLANUS: Hence, old goat!

Senators, &C: We'll surety him.

COMINIUS:                   Aged sir, hands off.

CORIOLANUS: Hence, rotten thing! or I shall shake thy bones
Out of thy garments.


The production was very Japanese in style and completely baffling at points, even though my Japanese isn't bad and I know the play inside and out.  I enjoyed it immensely though and it was very well received by the assembled audience of tourists, students and whoever else.

It was certainly a great deal better than the film version which came out last year.

My mum, despite being a renowned boffin on all things Shakespeare, was somehow surprised by how homoerotic parts of the film were.  ("It was just like a big pride march," she giggled.)  She wouldn't have it when I gave my opinion that Coriolanus is clearly the most homoerotic of Shakespeare's plays.

For example, this from Coriolanus' sworn enemy, Aufidius:

That I see thee here,
Thou noble thing! more dances my rapt heart
Than when I first my wedded mistress saw
Bestride my threshold.

That does seem a wee bit homoerotic, does it not?  The film nailed its flag firmly to the mast by having the 'This is Spartaaaargh!' bloke in it, but there are other obvious clues:

DAN: It's even got 'anus' in the title.

MUM: ...

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Friday, May 04, 2012


Greater Manchester Marathon

Last October, I ran the inaugural RunLiverpool Marathon, where I had a bit of a torrid time. I staggered the last six miles, tipping bottled water over my screamingly painful knees, telling myself I'd never, ever be so foolish as to run another marathon. Then, when I'd finished, I instantly decided that I'd actually really enjoyed myself and I'd sign up for another one in the spring.

I chose another first-time race, the Greater Manchester Marathon, figuring that some of my friends from the area might also fancy a crack at it. They told me where to go.

Around mid-March when we were enjoying some particularly clement weather, I began to fret that an end-of-April marathon might be a bit on the warm side. After all, this is what the last weekend of April was like last year:

Alright for bloody Frankel. Alright for me too actually, as I'd picked Dubawi Gold to come second.

However, the end of April this year was wet. Very wet. It had been peeing it down for weeks and weather forecasts were for a month's worth of rain on the Sunday (race day) with pretty robust wind. This meant that, of the projected 8,000 starters, a couple of thousand thought better of it. Not me though. I'm dead tough.

Look at that weather! Makes you glad to be alive

After training like a lunatic for the last couple of months, I was hoping to make it round the course in 3:10, which would make me 'good for my age' according to the criteria of the London Marathon website. I had a bit of a race plan, which involved going easy-ish for eight miles, picking up the speed until halfway, then hanging on until 20 miles, then really, really, really hanging on for the last six-and-a-bit. Of course, as soon as they let us go, I got over-excited and steamed off like a gibbering, wide-eyed mess. Not quite Frankel, but you get the idea.

Spotters badge!

The day was grey and wet, but there was a lot of support and encouragement around the course. At one stage we passed through a country park which had been turned into a bog by the weather conditions, so unlucky to anyone who fancied finishing with clean trainers. Towards the end of the course, we also got sent through a subway, then up some steps, which really isn't what your legs want after 25 miles of continuous pounding.

The country park in good weather

Most of the way, I felt ok. When I started to feel tired, I'd slow down a bit and try to work out Japanese verbs and their opposites in my head, which proved sufficiently distracting. After a heroic last 10k (I improved about 80 places, although I suspect this was more down to other people being in tremendous physical distress than any olympian burst of speed on my part) I waddled over the line in 3:09:49, making me officially good for my age. In fact, as age 33 is the equivalent of a scratch handicap, my time makes me officially just good, albeit by a rather more slender margin than I would have liked.

What wasn't good was the baggage reclaim fiasco that followed. Everyone's identical 'Greater Manchester Marathon' bags were in a disorganised heap in a tent with no means of being sorted or searched. I ended up waiting about ninety minutes in my piss-wet running gear with a piece of tin foil to keep me warm and I think a fair few people ended up needing medical attention. At one point, I found myself stuck in line next to a guy who'd finished more than an hour behind me.

"When I finally get my bag back, I'm probably going to cry," I told him. "Especially if my wallet's been stolen."

Happily, I did eventually locate my bag, thanks largely to the fact that my tracksuit bottoms were sticking conspicuously out of the top. The lack of organisation and co-ordination at the baggage tent though had caused a completely avoidable emergency and, had I read in the following morning's paper that someone had died of hypothemia, exposure, or simply old age waiting to get their bag back, I should not have been surprised.

The Greater Manchester Marathon is currently scoring about 50% approval on the feedback section of the Runners World UK website (to put that in some kind of context, most events have to do quite badly to get less than 80%) and the organisers have issued an apology online for nearly killing everyone.

A couple of other marathons were taking place on the same day: Milton Keynes ended up being a bit longer than planned as the course had to be altered at the last minute to avoid a flooded area, while the Shakespeare Marathon became the Shakespeare Half Marathon at very short notice after some parts of the course were deemed unsafe. Apparently some of the runners didn't realise this had happened and were a bit taken aback to find out at 10 miles in that they were nearly finished.

Since the weekend, I've been walking like a womble with his shoelaces tied together and getting back on the beer after a month's abstinence. I also need a new pair of trainers, if not a new pastime.

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