Plateau, Chmatteau

When I wake up on Sunday or Wednesday morning, my first thought involves whether there’s any way on earth that I can rationalise not running. ‘Oh, it’s raining…’ ‘Oh no, there isn’t time…’ ‘Maybe a meteor will strike me…’ Yesterday morning my left knee was complaining when I woke up, and the pavements were wet (though it wasn’t actively raining or drizzling), and Margaret and Jennifer and I were planning to make an early start for the day, so I felt the temptation to just give the mile a miss this time.

On the other hand, I am constituted by duty as a leading element, and I’m particularly acutely aware of the value of keeping healthy, so I donned my trainers and set out for the mile. The knee turned out not to bother me, and though my breathing hasn’t advanced as much as I’d like (‘Why is that man making those gasping noises when he runs, Mummy?’), I did push my not-break-stride back to the Rusty Bicycle at the corner of Magdalen and Hurst. The rest of the mile went smoothly, though nothing exceptional stood out in my experience of it. And when I hit the ‘Stop’ button at the front gate, my time was 10:29 — almost ten seconds faster than any previous mile, and fifteen seconds faster than the plateau at which I’d been stuck.

I don’t assume that I won’t fall back, but it’s an encouraging advance toward a ten-minute mile, just as the corner of Magdalen and Hurst is an agreeable milestone (almost two-thirds of the way) toward taking the whole mile without stopping.


Back to 10:44. Not much to observe about the mile; I didn’t push not-break-stride (I stopped at the coffee roasters’), didn’t feel especially one way or another, just wasn’t very energetic.


Just when I thought I’d be stuck at the 10:44-ish plateau for a long time, I wrapped up my mile in 10:39 this morning. I felt heavy, not loose and limber (one experience I want to recapture is the feeling of just stretching out and running freely, if only for a few strides), and I let my not-break-stride point drop back to the intersection of Magdalen and Iffley, but the overall time seems not to have suffered from that.

We’ll see about Sunday.

Grey Grim Morning.

Did I mention that I very strongly dislike running?

10:42 — yes, that sounds like a plateau. I felt all right most of the way, and pushed my don’t-break-stride mark to the 20 kph street sign on Hurst, but finished in the same general time as the last three or four miles.


Just leaving a marker here — another day with scintillating scotoma. Will look back and add previous dates.
Here we go: 5 June and 24 February, the last two. On a previous occasion, I told Ed Turnham ‘I experienced two of these as an undergraduate — the first while I was up late reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I ascribed to exhaustion and the intensity of the novel; and the second while I was driving at full speed on the motorway between Maine and Pennsylvania, at which time I narrowly avoided a catastrophic collision. Since there was no internet back then, I had no convenient explanation for the latter incident. I put it down to residual trauma from the assault I had experienced in secondary school, which included my face (and especially my left eye) having been clubbed. After those, I have no recollection of any specific recurrence until recently.’

Come On

What makes ‘Come On, Eileen’ great?

In the first place, plenty of people don’t think it is great, and even people who think it’s great can agree that it’s painfully overplayed. Whether you like it or not, it would probably sound better if you hadn’t heard it seventy krillion times.

It’s overplayed for a reason, though: there’s a lot to admire about it, mostly in the arrangement — The lyrics are all right. The repeated ‘thoughts verge on dirty’ (then ‘Well, they’re dirty’) motif provides an ingenious turn on outright explicit candour, or cloying romance, the first time you hear it; but it doesn’t wear well. Kevin Rowland’s singing as a grown-up, and we get what he’s referring to. It might do well as a device lightly deployed, but instead the Dexys hammer it home. The trope of ‘we’re different from those people’ does its usual work, though the song is unassuming enough* that it doesn’t seem too condescending, and ‘beat down eyes sunk in smoke dried faces’ is a fresh way of making this characterisation.

He’s sweet-talking Eileen, but he invites without threatening (in the song; the video shows Rowland and another member of the band grabbing and holding Eileen against her will, though it concludes with Eileen joining Rowland and walking into the distance arm in arm with him). Partial credit.

But the art lies in the arrangement, in several ways. First, the arrangement underscores the lyric’s hopefulness with brightness, but without drama (contrast ‘Born to Run’ — another ‘we’re not like them’ song). Predominantly up-tempo, with prominent hooks in the upper-register fiddle, banjo, and tinwhistle (and a high-end piano part), the arrangement is both full and at the same time airy and light. Langer and Winstanley did their job well.

More important, I’d argue, is the episodic structure of the song. If you count the outro, the song shifts among five distinct portions: verse – slightly slower chorus – verse – chorus — slow, but accelerating bridge – chorus, slightly faster – fade to outro. The very distinct sound of each portion flows utterly convincingly into the next. I’m a sucker for episodic structure in popular song, and ‘Come On, Eileen’ hits that squarely

I can hear out people who don’t like it, but even when I try to be too sophisticated to like it, many subtle touches in ‘Come On, Eileen’ win me over. At the second modulation from verse to chorus, Rowland sings ‘We’ll hum this tune forever’ — I probably will.

* Does anyone think that the role Rowland’s playing really believes that his/their youth and cleverness ensures that they will escape resigned fatalism? The music expresses hopefulness and confidence, but the lyric sounds to me as though they’re self-aware that they’re enmeshed in the same circumstances that beat down their older neighbours. Maybe that’s me as an old, arguably beat-down, guy.

Yup, Plateau

This morning I pushed my did-not-stop till a few steps beyond the corner of Magdalen and Hurst, and I felt about as good as ever, and my final time was around 10:48 (maybe a little less, maybe more — I had trouble hitting the correct button to stop the timer). Still better than regressing, and I still hate running.

Catching Up (At the Same Pace)

We’ve had some downtime here at Hermeneutics and Wheezing Central — possibly connected with a nasty bout of comment spam (‘Comment spam’? What is this, 2006?) — but things seem to be stabilising. Thanks again to Christopher for the hosting.

So, the last I remember posting a time, I was running a 10:46. I thought that was still slower than I had worked up to toward the beginning of the year, but no! I was hovering around 11:00 when I stopped due to the Health Scare, and now I’ve pared almost 15 seconds off that mark. I have hit a real plateau there — a 10:47, 10:46, and yesterday 10:48. That’s fine; I obviously can’t expect to improve by five or more seconds every go. The good news is that last Wednesday I pushed my not-break-stride mark all the way to the intersection of Magdalen Road and Hurst, well more than halfway. Now, yesterday I didn’t do nearly so well, falling into a walk somewhere around Magdalen and Iffley, maybe as early as Stanley. My lungs were the culprits, I think; my legs felt relatively limber. But I still lost only a couple of seconds from my current normal pace.

Anyway, I’m at a plateau for pace, but it’s a reasonable plateau given my history of motionlessness; and I’m improving my steadiness by fits and starts. Someday I will go the whole route without walking, and that will be a Great Thing.


Sunday I was very, very reluctant to get out of bed, and a good deal more reluctant to run my morning mile. I decided to compromise with myself: I would do a mile, but not press. I came in at 11:46 — a humbling rate, but at least I didn’t bail out altogether.

This morning I woke up feeling all right, loosened up with some rope-skipping and stretches, and successfully pushed my not-break-stride point to the point where Stanley Street joins Magdalen Road, and I had Hurst in my sights. A significant part of the distance I had a physical understanding of how it would feel to run, limber and adequately aerated, the whole way. Nothing revolutionary as a result, but I did come in at 10:48, a full minute faster than Sunday’s semi-effort.