A Desk – an observation

Portrait of Virginia Woolf by George Charles B...
Portrait of Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford Deutsch: Die zwanzigjährige Virginia Woolf, fotografiert von George Charles Beresford (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Virginia Woolf once wrote:

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.

Of course the social political context of this quotation was completely different but I am shamelessly going to use it as a springboard for a personal observation in the complete narcissistic 21st Century style that bloggers have. ( Let this serve as a disclaimer.)

As you might remember, I have been struggling with this concept of making money as a measure of success. I make enough to live as I wish and I am happy with that. I prefer to measure my life in “happiness in the Aristotlesque sense” and I have been trying to achieve this for a couple of years through the pursuit of writing.

Every now and then I get reflective, evaluate whether I am still doing what I want to do or whether I too have become stuck in a pattern, not by society’s pressures but my own. These periods are enjoyed by everyone nearest to me: “BUT WHAT IF I AM DOING THE WRONG THING?”

It makes for delightful dinner conversation I can assure you: throw in a/several bottle(s) of wine and you got yourself a pity party.

What gets me through is the knowledge that “this too shall pass” – the blessing of growing older is that even if you might not have seen it all, you have seen some form of it. You acknowledge it, let it do its thing and ride it out. Meanwhile you try to sooth a scared soul with other people’s wisdom by reading books and articles or listening to lectures from artists, writers and other interesting folk.

For example: Alice Munro winning the Nobel prize in her 80s (for short stories no less) and seeing a video of Doris Lessing reacting to her own win, a few years ago; seeing East-Asian actors in The Extreme World of Happiness at the National; watching Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmin watched on a random Thursday afternoon because I could; hearing a superb lecture by Grayson Perry on art on Radio 4 over breakfast…

This week I moved into a room that, for the first time ages, felt my own. As I created a work-corner, I realised I haven’t had a desk in my own space for years. This blog has come to you typed from beds, kitchen tables, living rooms and shared workspaces but today I am using my home-office. Catching the last rays of today’s sunlight and surrounded by all the trinkets  and mess that got my room nicknamed “The Shanty town”,  I am suddenly at ease.

A job, a room and a desk of my own: it’s all I need to write.

Running with my head aka Counting to 21.

Royal Parks Half Marathon poster
Royal Parks Half Marathon poster (Photo credit: HowardLake)

Lemsip and porridge for breakfast, pasta throughout the day, a funny strained muscle feeling in back… Oh good, the half marathon must be coming up soon. Oh well, who needs to be able to breathe when all you need to do is run. As we all know, running is done with your head anyway. Here a little insight into my thoughts come Hyde Park, Sunday morning 9am:

0-5K: “I need a wee. I hate running.”

I can pretty much guarantee you this will be the mantra for the first few minutes of the run. Although the surge of people will push me forward as soon as we start running, the waiting around makes me so paranoid I will think I need the toilet. I don’t. All those men who stop after the first few miles to relieve themselves against a tree: A) Really? B) Just keep running, it will pass.

The first few K’s my feet are cramping up and it’s annoying to the point of “I HATE RUNNING I AM GOING TO STOP NOW” but I never do. I just hate myself, quietly in my head . My body is all over the place, bystanders shake their heads at this pathetic version of Bambi on ice and suddenly… cramp subsides and my field of vision opens up. Bam, first barrier gone.

5-10K: “Let’s do this… Oooh, shiney things…”

My body has now resigned itself. I can start adjusting myself, get the breathing right, tighten the core. Run on the ball of my feet, get the rhythm right. I can look around me, appreciate other my fellow-man: smile at cute babies and dogs, nod at other runners. When I get too distracted, I refocus on my breathing and pace. I’ll try to find a chaser but this is pretty tricky, rule of thumb: Wobble gives you trouble. The best runners to follow, are steady pace, straight back. They might be ruthless, they might be boring, but hell, they can keep a steady pace to pull you through the hard bits.

10-15K: “My body is A Machine.”

… around 12K:  Everything will go so easy, runner’s high kicks in. I will go several K’s not even thinking about things. I Am Running. I AM RUNNING! SEE ME RUN! There is fluidity in everything, I will try to hold onto this as long as I can… This is why I run: to feel my body do this.

15-18K: “Are we there yet? … What about now?”

Slowly slowly, steam will run out. I am trying hard to keep pace (if I still follow a person this is the moment I find out if I chosen the right one) I am getting tired. If there is a niggle somewhere – a sock not quite pulled right, back muscle nagging, T-shirt chaffing, an itch on a toe – this is when I will feel it. All. The. Time. I am tired and more and more uncomfortable.

18K-20K: “You”

That is right, to distract myself I will think of you, dear Reader. I will think of the people who would want me to keep running, I will think of the people who I’d want to keep on running. One by one, friends from different times and different places, members of my diaspora family will pop up. Either they are suddenly running with me, I see them waving or I imagine them at the end of the race. When I am too tired to even count the mileage signs and dodge the crappy people who stop in the middle of the road, I will see your faces and keep going.

20-21K: “This is crazy, this is amazing.”

One kilometer ( bit less than a mile) is pretty long when you have just done 20. Yet the further you get towards the finish, the more actual people are shouting and waving (not just the ones in my head). This is amazing. It is a crazy wonderful emotional feeling. It’s a feeling though because if you are actually there waving, I probably won’t see you. All my strength is now focussed on the finish line, on keeping pace, on the finish line, on ‘can I go a little faster’, on the finish line, on ‘let’s not speed up too soon’, on the finish line, on ‘damn that is still further than I thought’, on the finish line,  on ‘ok let’s do it – now’ , on the finish line…. On The Finish Line.