Category Archives: Uncategorized

Back On Air

I had a digital hiatus here for a week or so, as a problem at the server knocked the blog offline. Since I last wrote anything, I (a) pretty much got over the flu, (b) got a tiny bit of work done and had waves of anxiety over how little time is left to complete my remaining tasks, (c) have resumed light exercising, feeling very stiff and sore, (d) went to St Albans yesterday to do what I can to advance the cause of religious education among our nation’s young scholars.

I have remaining: (a) about 160 pages of translating, (b) revisions to an article under consideration, (c) a chapter-essay to write, (d) marking. This will not all be done by the end of my term’s leave, which is daunting and frustrating. Strong advice to colleagues: Avoid the flu when on leave!

Not Exactly

Alas, yesterday went so well that I fell for the illusion that I was mostly better. I was up all day — no naps — and even stayed up later than I ordinarily do, without feeling tired. But I had some trouble falling asleep, and my phone dinged about an hour after I (at length) fell asleep with FB messages from several friends in the USA. It took some time to fall asleep again, then I woke a little after 3:00, took awhile to return to sleep, and woke up alert and ready to go at 6:30. The blustery winds may have made sleep more of a challenge. I will take some time to nap today.

On the positive side, yesterday was almost normal, I ate well, didn’t have sweats or deep chills — and during the night I had some hot spells but not full-on sweating, and some uncomfortably chilly intervals, but not the ‘how can I still be cold in a cocoon of hoodies, track suit, bathrobe, duvet, socks, and so on?’ deep chills.

21:00 to 7:30

One of my longest nights of sleep, ever, last night. I can’t say it was a good night’s sleep — I had several interval of sweating like a horse, some congestion and occasional coughing — but I did genuinely sleep for roughly nine and a half hours, and I feel much more nearly alive today. Yesterday I ate only a little, and half-heartedly; I spent almost all day in bed; I couldn’t imagine trying to read, or write, or think very hard. Today I’ve been sitting up since I got up at 7:30; I cooked eggs and [faux] bacon for breakfast, and enjoyed eating it; and although I haven’t undertaken anything very ambitious, I don’t feel as though it would be pointless to try.

It’s not that I feel great — but I feel weak, and ill, rather than comprehensively miserable.

Not On The Plan For My Leave

I’m certainly glad I ran Sunday morning, because there is no way on earth that I will be able to bestir myself out of bed and onto the streets to run a mile tomorrow morning. In fact (checking) I haven’t even walked a half mile in the last forty-eight hours, when the flu hit me.

I do mean ‘hit’. At about five o’clock Sunday I made a joke on Facebook about my achey shoulders and my weariness, and within a few minutes I felt as though I had insulted The Incredible Hulk’s mother. (With him there, obviously.) I think I went to bed about about 8:30, woke at 3:15 and went downstairs to avoid disrupting Margaret’s sleep, tossed and turned till Margaret was up and away to her class, then napped intermittently for the rest of the day. Last night I spent the whole night downstairs for Margaret’s sake, and have been stationed here on the couch in the lounge or upstairs in bed the whole time.

I must confess: Over the past few years, I have sometimes noticed a friend’s observations about being bed-ridden, and I have thought, ‘Man, I could use a few days of mandatory bed rest. Get some reading done, maybe watch a film, catch up on much-needed rest.’

I don’t get the flu or colds as often as some other folks; I had entirely forgotten that, when you have the flu and are obligated to stay in bed, it’s because you don’t have enough energy even to… watch en episode of Castle*, much less an interesting film. I don’t have enough appetite to enjoy a casual treat. I can’t sleep steadily enough to get better rested. I can’t read more than a few sentences at a time.

In the second day of this flu, I’ve felt mostly seriously chilled (one hot spell at midday), achey and tired, some congestion, tossing and turning, aching ribs from coughing, and generally as miserable as they say that people with the flu feel. It’s not a relaxing vacation.

I apologise to all whose infirmities I have carelessly discounted. I yearn for the energy and stability to step back into something more like everyday life.

* I say Castle because I have to admit that I have been watching Seinfeld.

Another Day, Another Mile

This morning my legs played me false, heavy as wet cement, holding me back from making any time progress over Wednesday’s 12:00 (came in at exactly the same time today). On the other hand, I stretched my not-break-stride distance to the crosswalk after Aston St (just beyond the sign that points down Chester St to the Seventh Day Adventists and the playground) (by the way, if you’re visiting Oxford with a view to exploring the exotically-named ‘Adventure Playground’, you may want to prepare yourself and your friends for the possibility that although the ‘Playground’ part of the name is undeniably apt, it is not necessarily a more ‘Adventure’-ous playground than many you could visit). Step by step, pushing forward to Stanley Road!

The Joy of Aural Spellings

I’ve seen two lovely examples of aural spellings this morning.* The first comes from my cousin Adele in St Croix, who saw a sign that reads

Not for the fainted heart

‘Home of the Famous XXX Margarita — only $1.50 — WARNING: NOT FOR THE FAINTED HEART.’**

The second came from someone’s FB comment thread, wherein a comment on the US President’s legal affairs referred to ‘torte reform’ — a slip that turns out to be pretty common (both deliberately and inadvertently), but which is so sweet I had to record it here. Plus, Margaret is on her way home from Chester and I’m about to order a smoothie and slog through some translating — so this infinitesimal slice of the world is pretty good at the moment.

* There may indeed be other explanations for these misprisions, but the point is the effect, not the ætiology.

** Evidently if you crave margaritas, especially the XXX variety, St Croix is the place to be.

Teacher’s Retrospect

When I started my training for ministry at Yale Div, I wanted to move as rapidly as I could past the tedious readings from non-canonical sources that Richard Hays and David Lull assigned for NT Introduction. Yeah, yeah, yeah, C. K. Barrett’s New Testament Backgrounds; when will we get to reading the New Testament itself? I was generally acquainted with Judaism from having grown up in Squirrel Hill, and I had read philosophy as an undergraduate, so I reckoned that I didn’t need these background readings. I think I wasn’t the only one.

Then in my S.T.M. year I took classes on the Second Temple period with Lee Levine and David Tiede, and Hellenistic Backgrounds from Abe Malherbe and my vision of the New Testament exploded — I could see so much more when I read the texts in their wider literary, theological, cultural contexts. And I understood why my first-year lecturers had wanted me to read before I presumed to write essays and sit exams on the New Testament.

And now, I urge my students to acquaint themselves with Judaism of the Second Temple, with the Mishnah, with Josephus, with Stoicism and Cynicism and Epicureanism, with Lucian and Dio Chrysostom. And I know how impatient most of them will be with that urging, which makes me a bit sad; and I know that some will take my advice, which cheers me up.

Too Much Of A Good Thing


Readers may well have doubted that I would, in fact, start running on Wednesday mornings as well as Sundays, but my poor showing three days ago impelled me to try again this morning. The sound of rain at 4:00 AM, and my expectation of chilly weather, combined to damp my ardour for getting back on track; and as I laced up my trainers I felt my legs go all leaden. Nonetheless I strode intently to the door and launched a mile run.

The good news Part One is that I pushed my ‘didn’t break stride’ distance a half block to Aston Street. In many ways, this is the most important bit of the whole exercise for me: If I can, when I can eventually go the whole mile without breaking stride, times will take care of themselves. These were often only baby-running-steps, but they kept up momentum, and I pushed further (Aston St is more than a third of the whole mile). The good news Part Two is that I regained almost thirty seconds over Sunday, clawing back to a clean 12:00.

I still don’t like running. I still affirm Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers’ adage that for every minute you spend running, you add a minute to your life (such that if you eschew strenuous working out, all you miss is the time you would have spent working out anyway). But there’s a lot I have left to do, including making sure I’m there for Margaret as long as I can be, so hammering this weary flesh into somewhat more functional condition is probably worth the effort.

One Step Forward, Two Stumbles Back

Since the last time I ran was… 21 days ago, one would only expect that I fall back significantly on my comeback run this morning. Alas, I lived up to expectations. This morning’s time was 12:28, a full minute slower than when I left off in December. Disappointing, but since I hope to ratchet up my runs/week while on my term’s leave, my time should drift back toward the times I was setting a few weeks ago.

My amateur analysis of the run puts down the slower time to (1) breathing and (2) freezing weather. My wind was far from the efficiency I worked up to earlier, and the frigid weather doesn’t help a bit. My legs, though leaden, weren’t what slowed me down so much as my need to gasp for air at intervals. On the positive side, I didn’t break stride until about a block before my past best landmark, which feels reassuring. We’ll see how Wednesday goes, assuming weather permits.

Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted…

As constant readers may recall, last week Oxford experienced the heaviest snowfall of the recent past — certainly since Margaret and I moved to Oxford, and (we were told) for at least a couple of years before that. I didn’t venture out for my weekly constitutional, since (a) the pavements seemed likely to be slippery [as it turns out, they were slippery] and (b) my running shoes have a hole in the right foot, and if I hadn’t slipped and fallen, I would certainly have developed a case of Cold Wet Sock.

I expected, then, that this week’s adventure would mark a setback, and I was technically correct. My time this week was 11:28, a few seconds off the pace of a fortnight ago. On the other hand, I pushed my ‘didn’t break stride’ mark another half block (to Aston Street, for those of you keeping score at home) and I didn’t feel especially stiff or extra-winded. This week wasn’t an upset (over the forces of indolence and bad weather), but neither was it a disappointment. And although I expect to miss another couple of runs over the holidays, I am actually looking forward, a bit, to Hilary Term and running on Wednesday mornings as well as Sundays.

Lo, He Comes with Run and Walking

Not as cold as last week (somewhat to my surprise, since yesterday was freezing). This week my breathing held me back; my legs — though by no means very strong — held up pretty well, but I was gasping throughout. Time was 11:20, I think.

By the way, both of the last two weeks I made it to the bus stop past Henley St before I broke stride.