Down To Zero

So for the first day of my new running streak, which I’ll hope to break before it gets too ambitious, the weather went to frigid again (-1°) (but dry), I saw a very healthy-looking fox at the corner of James and St Mary’s, I passed an auto on its side in the middle of the Iffley Road (cordoned off by Thames Valley’s finest), and almost ran over a tabby cat on Magdalen Road when it didn’t budge as I came toward it.


Apparently the hour from five to six o’clock in the morning is a rain-free zone according to some meteorological rule governing Oxford. I keep planning to skip my run for a day when the Met Office predicts rain in the morning, and my preferred running time keeps clearing up long enough for me to go ahead and run it. I believe this makes thirty-three days.

Further Chills

Another zero-degree morning, another run, thirty-one days in a row.

The psychology of the streak-running phenomenon, now that I’ve been made aware of streaks as a popular phenomenon, is brilliant and insidious. I’m at 31 now; that means that if I were to take tomorrow off, it would be more than a month till I regained the ground I’ve built up. The higher the streak gets, the more intense the pressure not to break it, in a cycle of heightened stakes. I feel the temptation to break my own streak this week just to dispel that haunting duress.

Surprise Streak

I didn’t expect to run this morning; the snow is still lying in the garden and on the garden path. But I looked out the front window and the pavement was clear, so I decided to give it a go. Everything was fine and dry to The Plain, but the Iffley Road’s pavements were occasionally a bit slippery, and as I headed southeast on Iffley the pavements were getting worse, so I opted to cut the run short. On the side streets that lead home, the pavements and even the streets were covered with that sort of almost-ice that’s really not slippery at all unless you hit it at a particular angle. Anyway, thirty days in a row.

Not Much Happening

Yesterday made twenty-eight, today (before it snowed) twenty-nine days of running in a row; around 0° and slippery on the pavement yesterday, dry and subzero this morning, though about three cm of snow had fallen before it was time for church. I spend these days alternating between trying to concentrate (almost typed ‘consecrate’) and get work done, and allowing myself to drift. Lockdown life.

Friday of First

No desktop photoi this Friday; I’m working on one of our twin dining room tables, and don’t have the rest of my study to conceal paperwork.

Twenty-seven days in a row.


Weather was rubbish this morning, and it’s been alternating handsome blue skies and grey downpours every 90 minutes or so ever since. I started my morning run in chilly weather with a firm wind, and within a few blocks was running in light rain, which had turned to more-than-light rain by the time I got back to James Street. So, a short run, but nonetheless the twenty-sixth day in a row on which I ran.


I’m looking forward to the US having a president whom I can comfortably ignore for days, if not weeks, at a time. Thank you, America!

I have been ravenously hungry in the mornings recently. In a sense, this is no surprise since breakfast is my favourite meal of the day — but I think I’ve noticed an uptick in hunger, even on my (blessed) hot breakfast mornings. I just finished a good plate of brreakfast, with a bit of apple left over from M’s breakfast, and I feel as though I could tear through another few eggs, rashers of faux bacon, and hash browns. But I won’t, cos I want to stay in fighting trim, to ward off that malevolent virus.

It was raining the proverbial domestic animals this morning at 4:30 when I woke up, so I drifted back to sleep thinking that I’d let my running streak lapse — but when I awoke an hour later, the skies were… well, not ‘clear’, but at least not chucking it down. So chalk up another day, streak stands at twenty-five.

Tuesday of First

So, that happened. Today was my first full-on, for-credit, enrolled-students, part-of-a-formal-module online class. I won’t try to imagine what it was like for the students, but bits of it were easy for me (the parts where I was lecturing/monologising) and parts were more complicated (the parts where I would ordinarily have been pointing to places on a map, or writing on the board). I also had less sense of the passage of time than I do in a lecture room — I shouold probably set up a clock, or timer, to manage the bits of the class better. But no catastrophic results, unless my refusal to be drawn on the question of whether the historical Paul studied with the historical Gamaliel was more consequential than I would anticipate.

Four more of that class, four sessions of Intro Bible, eight Greek classes, eight meetings with finalists to discuss the Set Texts, and innumerable tutorials to go.

Plus, twenty-four day running streak. The weather was much warmer today, about 10°, but very blustery. No matter — I did my part and ran my the race.

Flash and Blessed

Yesterday morning, Radio Four covered the progress of the government’s vaccination scheme in a feature on the ‘Broadcasting House’ programme. Toward the end of the segment, they interviewed beloved actor and big personality Brian Blessed, who apparently has been vaccinated now. I recognised Blessed from his role as King Richard IV in the first series of Blackadder, and from sundry miscellaneous appearances on panel shows and chat shows. After the usual and well-deserved praise of the NHS, the BBC interviewer prompted Blessed to send a message to all listeners named ‘Gordon’, at which point Blessed roared ‘Gordon’s alive!’ (at the 20:00 marker).

I’ve lived here for nigh on to twelve years now, and this still mystified me. Though I had always kept an eye on goings-on in British film, television, popular music, and so on, I don’t have the background of a lifetime fully immersed in British popular culture, and this one hit not just one, but areas of my ignorance.

For US readers: it turns out that this all hinges on the campy Flash Gordon film (the one for which Queen performed the soundtrack), in which Blessed plays Prince Vultan. I had no interest in Flash Gordon when the film was released in 1980, so I missed it the first time around, and I never returned to a film that I thought cartoon-y (in a bad way), dated, and probably tone-deaf about cultures and gender. In this respect I differ, apparently, from Her Majesty who allegedly watches the film every Christmas. At a certain point in the film, Prince Vultan learns that the eponymous hero has not, in fact, nbeen killed by Ming the Merciless I still have not watched Flash, but I’m fascinated by catch-phrases and the way they develop, so I sought out a clip from the film that includes Blessed expostulating ‘Gordon’s… alive?!’

Two things struck me as I watched the clip in question. First, I strongly doubt that anyone would have guessed at the time that Blessed’s query would develop into a catchphrase. Nothing in the dialogue, the blocking, or the cinematography suggests emphasis on these words. It is a certain sort of emergent phenomenon, catching particular viewers’ attention, in a particular way, in connection with a particular actor, at a particular cultural moment.

Second, if you listened to the radio clip and then watched the film, you might be surprised (as I was) that although Blessed bellows his line on the radio (and everywhere else he appears — Blessed has been given a unique vocal instrument and he makes the most of it), in the film he expresses it in a fairly ordinary tone. Ever since then, though — and in keeping with the magnitude of Blessed’s persona in everything he has done since then — the phrase has necessarily been roared at full volume.

So learning, and deliberating about quirky details in life and culture, never stops.

Oh, by the way: running streak = twenty-three days.

Ha! Again I Say, Ha!

I hope you didn’t tear up your betting slips on my running streak, because it’s up to twenty-one, bay-bee! The weather turned lovely yesterday afternoon, and I decided to run in the afternoon after having skipped in the morning.This was illuminating, since I don’t usually go outside apart from my early morning run (sometime between 5:00 and 6:15 AM, usually) or going to the college through our back garden (thus not seeing any of the roads that ring our block). The pavements were every bit as busy yesterday afternoon as I’d have expected on any other Saturday afternoon, despite the government exhorting us to stay at home during Lockdown Three. I’m not surprised that our COVID rate is high, if the sample I saw yesterday is in any way representative.

After I got home, and Margaret got home from her longer, more leisurely walk, we had a chance to see Thomas, the Certified* Best Grandson in the World. He’s growing and learning and talking and exploring in amazingly expansive ways. Quite apart from the changing-nappies and temper-tantrum differences, being a grandparent and seeing our grandprogeny at intervals rather than day-by-day, we can see the changes from incremental visit to visit, and it’s a great thrill. Tom is, and will be, a terrific kid.

And once again, my running streak stands intact, at twenty-two days.

* I’ve started a side hustle in certifying things. If you have a claim to certify, give me a call, we can work something out.