It’s the little things I miss

The end of another day
A chance to reminisce
About the things I long for
It’s little things I miss

Standing on the platform
Whilst waiting for my train
Familiar commuters
In sunshine, wind and rain

Alighting at the station
When the campus comes alive
Walking to the Med School
‘Cross the road on Vincent Drive

Catching-up with colleagues
Many now are friends
Hearing all the stories
Of fun-filled weekends

Interactions with my team
Individually; together
The walking one-to-ones I have
In every kind of weather

To ask for help, or lend a hand
Before and after meetings
Those nods and waves across the road
Brief, yet, friendly greetings

I miss those chance encounters
Which happen every day
Making swift arrangements
In passing, on the way

Our glorious Green Heart
Old Joe, at once, appearing
Aston Webb and Winterbourne
Muirhead, Engineering

I miss the campus catering
The wraps and salad bowls
The fresh baguettes in Med Café
The Staff House soup and rolls

Of course, I miss my running club
The Tuesday warm-up drill
Down the tow-path to the Vale
Around the lake and up the hill

It’s been so busy lately
Reflection time is rare
But at this chancing moment
I wish I was elsewhere

As I sit at home and reminisce
It seems opportune
For me to say, I miss you all
Stay safe, and see you soon.

RR 💚

Twilight Days

We’re sitting in the cast of a shadow
The sax is feeling the mood
The waves outside are crashing on the sea front
We’re inside enjoying our food

Your eyes hold a truth in a whisper
They sparkle like the wine in your hand
Your lips send a shiver down the back of my spine
My heart beating quicker than the band

Will it be like this forever?
Will your face be the thrill of my gaze?
Will your palm seem so pure, when our time is fewer
When we’re in our twilight days?

We talk like we could talk for hours
Your voice is a cure to my ears
And the words that you say, won’t ever go away
’til the day they’ll reduce me to tears

You lead me up to the dance floor
You dance with such eloquence and grace
And we laugh at a joke we remembered
Your laughter illuminates the place

Will it be like this for ever?
Or will laughter turn in to dismay?
And will the joke seem so funny
When we’re in our twilight days?

We finish the meal and the liquor
And the waiter brings us the bill
You say shall I go back to your place
And I nervously say that I will

You bring out the tea and the coffee
We relax in more comfortable chairs
And my heart beats so fast, it could be my last
When you say, ‘shall we go upstairs?’

Oh will it be like this forever?
Or is it just a passing phase?
Will I lust for your body, your soul and your mind
When we’re in our twilight days?
When we’re in our twilight days.

RR

Split-screen singing

The other week I posted a video of my friend Sally, and I, playing “Lean on me“, recorded separately, then mixed together and shown as a split screen, synchronised recording.

On this occasion we needed help from Sally’s friend, but I have since learnt how to do this myself and it occurred to me that this might be my most significant new ‘lockdown skill’. There is very little chance I would’ve invested the time working out to do this had we not been propelled in to home working and had I not taken on the role of the University Facebook group ‘Live Lounge’ curator – where I encourage people to perform live or post videos of their music.

Here is a video of a further two duets performed with Lisa and Sally:

I have really enjoyed creating these duets and in the process have discovered fellow musicians who want to perform. None of us are professionals, but it doesn’t matter, we’re doing something we enjoy and our colleagues and friends who are watching are being very generous with their support and feedback.

For anyone interested in the technical process, this is what I’ve been doing (I’m doing this partly to be helpful, and partly as something for me to refer to for when I inevitably forget how I did it!):

  1. Find a friend who wants to do this with you
  2. Choose a song and carefully decide who will sing and play what. Then learn your respective parts.
  3. Whoever starts the song ought to do the first recording – on your phone is fine.
  4. Send it to your friend
  5. They then need to video record themselves playing along to you, whilst listening to you through earphones. This will require two devices – one to connect your earphones to and another to record.
  6. They send their video recording back to you and you then have two separately recorded parts of the same song which you need to then synchronise.
  7. This isn’t easy, but the way I have done it is time one recording up until a point that you know you both should be playing exactly together, or singing together. Make a note of how how many seconds in that is. I’ve been using an app called Videoshop for this part of the process.
  8. Then revert to the other recording and again time up to that same point. You’ll then know what the time-lag is on the respective videos and you need to edit that down from which ever is the longer lead-in time.
  9. You will need to do this down to the closest 100th of a second as you can, otherwise they won’t quite sync.
  10. Using iMovie (I’m sure there others out there), select one video recording, create movie, select the other one and choose split screen, and you’re pretty much there.

I am *not* an expert, but I’ve used this method to create these amateur recordings that I’m pretty happy with.

So there you go. I’ve become a music video hobbyist. Who’d have thought?!

RR

Are we nearly there yet?

Are we nearly there yet?
A voice spoke soft and slow
Not quite yet, you’ve been so good
But there’s some way to go

I’ve played all the games i brought
Through windows now I’m staring
It started off quite interesting
Now it’s overbearing

I don’t really travel well
Long distances, small spaces
I prefer short, solitary hops
Interspersed with faces

My movement is restricted
In the back seat of this car
I need to stop and stretch my legs
Before we go too far

I’m getting tired of wandering
Through the fog haze of my mind
Finding insecurities
I thought I’d left behind

They lurk amongst the loneliness
And strike when least prepared
Some of them i beat back down
But others leave me scared

Sound bites on repeat, it seems
Blaring from my phone
‘We’re all in this together’
But i feel all on my own

So are we nearly there yet?
Just a bit more up this track
It’s a one way journey
And we won’t be turning back

RR

End of week five

Me and the vast majority of my colleagues have been working at home now for the past three and a half weeks, and we’ve all been in this lockdown for coming up five weeks.  

Actually, I’ll correct myself. I saw a good post on Facebook that articulated the whole working from home thing quite well. It said something along the lines of, we’re not working from home, we’re at home during a crisis, trying to work.  That explains the situation much better.

I’ve been at pains to let my team know that it is well understood that everyone is in a different situation. Some people have caring responsibilities, some don’t. Some people have jobs which limit what they can do from home, some don’t. Some people have gardens, some don’t . And so on. Everyone is in a different situation, comparisons should be avoided, and no-one is being judged.

It’s only now we’re a few weeks in that one can see patterns emerge. Here are some reflections in no important order:

  • With my working routine changed, my exercise routine has changed. I’m doing a lot of exercise. Including walking I’m not doing as much as I would normally do, but I am doing more running and high-intense cardio than I would normally. Which I guess is good. But I am feeling the lack of regular movement throughout the day, in my lower back particularly, which is stiff and aching pretty much all the time at the moment. I’ve only done one yoga session in the last four weeks, so I definitely need to address that.
  • I’ve been much busier than I thought I would be. It’s been so busy at work.  With hindsight it seems obvious we would be busy given the nature of my role, a large team, and all the rapid changes that are being cascaded, interpreted and implemented across the University. Quite a lot of business as usual and project work has continued uninterrupted, and in some cases, the pace of work has increased.
  • I’m beginning to miss people now. Early on it hadn’t been so long since I’d seen many of my friends and my family, but now those weekend zoom chats are becoming more and more important to us, especially as it becomes clear that even though restrictions will be lifted, social distancing will still need to stay in place for a while yet. I am missing the contact with colleagues and friends at work as well. I usually see a lot of people every day. Hundreds probably, in formal meetings, corridor conversations, or even just in the café, car-park or train station. We do a lot of socialising at work without even realising it, and this is now restricted more to group chatter before a meeting and then at the end we all log-off and it’s a like a great shutter coming down on your social interaction, which still feels very artificial.
  • I’m connecting more with my local community. I am part of a WhatsApp group with our neighbours. This, together with the Thursday night clapping for NHS and care home staff, is bringing us together. My wife and I are also doing quite a lot of shopping for some of our elderly neighbours as well, which is bringing us closer to them and it’s nice to be able to do something helpful.
  • I’ve realised I need stimulus beyond work. I have been doing live piano performances for colleagues on a University Facebook page. This has been a good focus for me as it requires practice beforehand.  Also, members of the running club I established last year raised over £3,450 for B30 Foodbank by running a virtual, solo 5k or 10k race on 19th April, which was just joyous to be part of and again provided external focus. Regular contact with my runners and more Facebook Live performances (sorry!) will continue but I am now thinking of the next project…watch this space! Writing this blog is also something I enjoy spending time doing and I hope it provides a real-time record of how I’ve been feeling throughout these weird times.
  • I’m not missing live sport as much I thought I would.
  • I’m occasionally allowing myself to get overloaded with COVID-19 news. There’s a lot good stuff, there’s a lot of nonsense, and then there’s Donald Trump in a league of his own; there are no words. Even the scientifically sound commentary is coming in from so many angles I do wonder how policy makers are meant to interpret it sensibly and at the break-neck speed we all seem to expect them to.
  • People are fundamentally the same. Whether at work, in person or at home, people are the same. The generous ones are still generous. The kind, caring ones are still kind and caring. The funny ones still make you laugh, and the idiots remain true to themselves. This is kind of reassuring continuity in a period of unprecedented changes (though, idiots, please try a bit harder, please?).
  • This week was particularly busy and even though home is the workplace, shutting down the laptop on a Friday evening makes it feel more like home and less like the office and I’m finding I need that down time more than I thought I would.

  • I’m getting used to this. But I know it won’t be long before we have a new routine to get used to, even though we don’t know what form it will take or when it will start.

As ever, these reflections are as much for me as anyone else, but if anything resonates, or provokes a reaction, do let me know!

RR

Green Heart Runners’ Virtual Race – 19/04/2020

25 club members, 2 children, 1 Police Community Supporter Officer and 4 dogs achieved something quite special on 19th April!

Many of our members were due to run at an event in Sutton Coldfield on 19th April. It would’ve been the first time we had entered runners into a race as a running club. Like many thousands of races up and down the country, it was obviously cancelled.

During this lockdown period we have switched our online social interactions from WhatsApp to Facebook and have been keeping touch, supporting each other, celebrating each other’s running efforts, and even adding in a running photo competition! This has been a joy to be a part of.

Earlier in the month, Hasan Patel, one of the early members of the Green Heart Runners, suggested that we revive our plan of running a race on 19th April, but do it virtually, and in a safe, solo and socially distancing way. A few zoom meetings later between myself, Jess Harrington (run leader) and Hasan, and we had a plan.

In order to encourage people to stick to the socially acceptable hour of exercise we decided to restrict the distance options to 5k and 10k.

Next we had to decide on a charity to raise money for. Hasan came up with the idea of the B30 Foodbank, which is not far from the University of Birmingham’s Edgbaston campus where the majority of our members work or study. B30 have seen demand for their services and provision rise dramatically lately; it just seemed the perfect fit and they were delighted.

With a date, a cause and an event, we set about promoting it both within the club and amongst friends, families and supporters just one week ahead of race-day. Many people sponsored us in the build up to the event, on the day itself, and in the days afterwards, and we have so many people to thank for supporting us in this endeavour.

There was that same sense of anticipation in the build up to the day as there is for any normal race and I felt the butterflies as I went to bed the night before, knowing that the next day was going to be special.

I woke up early on Sunday and did my 10k at the crack of dawn to ensure I could be back, showered, and ready to enjoy watching all the runners post their finish-line selfies on social media and get a wonderful reaction reaction from friends, family and followers. It was just glorious to watch it all unfold and wonderful to see the money keep on coming in. Overall, 25 club members, 2 children, 1 Police Community Supporter Officer and 4 dogs took part (Green Heart Woofers anyone?!)

In the afternoon we held an online celebration via the world’s new favourite video conferencing platform (I’ll let you work that one out!), which was just joyful and quite emotional, for me anyway. Emotional for different reasons – because I hadn’t seen all my fellow runners for over a month, and because we had (at that point) raised £2,500, which was well beyond even our most optimistic hopes, and made us all realise we had achieved something quite special.

Jess made a wonderful video montage in record quick time that we were able to show at our online celebration, and we have since shared that on the University’s Facebook group, on the Green Heart Runners social media platforms, and on our own personal accounts as well. We were also very grateful to the University’s internal communications team for giving us a mention in the staff-wide email two days later, following which more donations came pouring in, pushing us beyond £3,000.

I established the Green Heart Runners just over 9 months ago. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life and been more rewarding than I could ever have imagined. In Jess we have another run leader and huge club supporter and organiser extraordinaire, and will soon have more run leaders (Hasan, Charlotte and Rebecca) which will enable us to expand further.

I look forward to the day we can return to campus and meet up again as a club. I know it will be emotional. But for now, I couldn’t more proud of my club members and more grateful to the many many people who got behind this event and supported us all.

Thank you

Run

Run.
Keep running.
Keep running forwards.



Keep running even if you don’t feel like it.

Run for the health of your mind, body and soul.

Don’t listen to people who tell you shouldn’t; run because you want to.

Help other people who want to get in to running but feel embarrassed and about their shape or speed.

Encourage people when you see them running. Say hello. Congratulate them online.

Don’t run away from the problems you encounter. Use running to address them.

Use running for all the positive benefits it can bring you and others.

Run in all weather conditions outside and in your mind.

Keep running even if you don’t feel like it.

Don’t run backwards.
Keep running.
Run.

RR

#keeprunning

Run, Hannah, Run!

A couple of weeks ago Hannah wrote about food in “Han Eats AND Runs”. Lovely, deliciously Brum-based food! But I know Hannah through running. Little did I know when I met Hannah in June 2019, that little more than 12 months previously, running was the one thing she thought she couldn’t do. This is a great story. With the current lockdown, and with severe limits on what kind of exercise we can now all take, maybe this will inspire other ‘non-runners’ to bust a few self-myths.

Favourite quote, and then I’ll let you read it: “…running for me is about so much more than the actual sport. My head is better for it. You never regret a run, always feel after it…”

Go Hannah! (in the grey hat and yellow top in the picture above, taking the obligatory group selfie ahead of leading a Run Brum Crew run)

Anyone who knows me knows I am no long time runner. Exercise in various forms has always been part of my life. Trialling gym and swim from the earliest of ages, it was dance in the end which stole my heart and framed the first 22+ years of my life on two feet. The social, supportive team just became part of my nature; growing up together and working towards a goal, be it an exam, competition or show.

Then grew a love for group gym classes at the end of uni through to moving back home; discovering and soon obsessing over HIIT, spin and body pump. When gym classes were good, well led, attended, they filled my need for routined exercise, a team dynamic, filling the now danceless adult void *tear*.

It was never, ever running. Even at the gym, never the treadmill. I tried to run during summers at home in our very local park when the nights were light and other friends were enjoying it. Competitive nature withstanding, I couldn’t even run 1k to said park without gasping for breath, retching and hating every second. I’d written myself off as a runner, it just wasn’t for me.

Taking on Tough Mudder with the work team in 2018 was my biggest physical challenge. 10-12 miles of hardcore obstacles and running in between. And run we did for lots of it, a feat I was personally so proud (and surprised) of.

Inspired by a work friend who carried on running post-Tough Mudder, I faced my treadmill fear and strode into my first 5k on 26th June 2018 (high five to me for insta-recording that). Shortly after, I tepidly stepped out onto the beautiful Brum canals a couple of weeks later. I’m currently lucky enough to have a little bit of beautiful nature and history on my city doorstep, which in the early runs helped spur me onto the next bridge. Each time a little further, just staying out for longer enjoying the fresh air after being cooped up in an office, the flat, the gym, and before I knew it I was up to 10km (5rd August 2018, again obsessive Insta-story recording – win). WHAT.THE.HELL.

So being competitive and for the hell of it, I went all the way and joined the half marathon challenge for LoveBrum just 4 months after running my first 5k on the treadmill. I beat my core target of just getting the bloody hell round (no thanks to the horrendous wind/torrential rain conditions of that year) (RR – remember that well Hannah. Awful!)

Why am I telling you all this, in this seemingly narcissistic blog post on someone else’s blog? Because, without wanting to be that person, I pretty much have fallen whole-heartedly head over heels (not quite literally yet) in love with running in such a short space of time. I wanted to prove to anyone who thinks ‘they’re not a runner’, struggles with motivation, even detests talking about it (I used to be said person), that even this girl who had written herself off as a runner, has done a complete 180 and now can’t do without it.

Although I’m banging on about it, running for me is about so much more than the actual sport. My head is better for it. You never regret a run, always feel after it and can do so much more than competitions/races with it.

I don’t want to be that runner who obsessively hunts to beat segments on Strava or record so much of my own body data I could clone myself when the time comes. I don’t want to bore myself or others with the intricate details of my splits or which leggings will make me run .2seconds faster.  I MIGHT push to a smart watch this year, something I’ve previously been against, but only because my armband is thinning out…

Totally fine if you do want those £90 leggings or do want to beat personal goals – we all have them – I won’t let it consume my personal chat/life. There’s more to running for me than splits, segments and support socks.

Since that 5k back in June 2018, it’s led on to some wonderful things:

  • I’m now a x5 weekly runner (although right now it’s daily, thanks Covid). Running is now my sole form of exercise – I quit the gym in late 2019. Yay for free exercise!
  • I’m a founding fan of the totally awesome Run Brum Crew (RBC) alongside Mike Parker; our weekly FREE social run around the city we love (Monday night 6pm @ Vic Square ;-), finishing with pints/softs/friendships at Purecraft. Leading to…
  • Completed my Leadership in Running Fitness qualification with England Athletics (!!!) and joining the RBC Leadership Team along with Mike & Robbie of this here blog.
  • 1 short bout of IT band injury
  • Couple of running books read (Jog On + Your Pace or Mine – highly recommended). Both are particularly poignant in reaffirming that running is totally your own experience and everyone runs for different reasons – not just for splits, Strava and competitions.
  • Various miscellaneous anecdotes; running past Stephen Fry when he happened to be taking a stroll down our canal route; running past the paddle boarding Santas in December; being a huge fan of the obligatory running nod; having to run into the mailbox early doors because of THAT gravity pull…

And so for a couple 2020 aims:

  • Run a half marathon solo (that’s one LONG run outside for the day done) and hopefully beat that sub 2hour dream
  • Champion and encourage anyone who chooses to use running for good – be it mental health, fitness, goal-making, charity, environmental, saving money. However big or small the impact on you or others, running knows no bounds.
  • Continue to use running as a mode of transport – we don’t have a car living in the city centre so I’ve taken to running places for leisure / errands e.g. shopping, cinema and nail appointments!
  • Complete a running tour (thanks to the latest RBC Leader Lucy for introducing the concept into our lives and documenting her global tours via @lucy.runs.the.world on IG so well!)
  • And finally, something I never thought I’d say or see myself doing EVER… scouting around for my first marathon, to be ultimately completed before my 30th/my 30th year (that’ll likely be 2021 now…) Watch this space (and come for a run/chat/beer on Mondays!)
     

Remember Grenfell?

This may seem a rather left-field subject for me to write about. However, I have friends who I met through a social running club, who are suffering due to the consequences of living in, and owning, an apartment in a block with unsafe cladding. What is happening to them, and thousands of others, is not fair. The world is a strange place now but their voices need to be heard, and their plight, not forgotten.

Remember Grenfell? Hard to believe but it was almost 3 years ago when a fire broke out in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block, in North Kensington, killing 72 innocent people, with just as many also suffering injuries and burns. It was the worst UK residential fire since the Second World War.

Most of us watched on with horror as the news unfolded, felt dreadfully sorry for the victims and their families, and did what we could in any small way whilst also marvelling at the community and hospitality in the immediate area.

Then, the news turned to other matters. Brexit. And our minds turned to other matters. Our lives.

The fall-out and ramifications of the Grenfell disaster continue today though, and is having a massive impact on the lives of people. Huge amounts of testing has been undertaken on different types of apartment block cladding. There are different types of cladding. There is Aluminium composite material (ACM) and there is high-pressure laminate (HPL).  Grenfell Tower had ACM. There is a government funding scheme (£200 million for private leaseholders) to replace ACM in apartment blocks across the country. Whilst this is absolutely right and proper, it takes a long time to replace such materials the length and breadth of the country. In the meantime, residents can’t move (their apartments are unsellable and are unable to be re-mortgaged), and they feel unsafe.

Imagine though, being deprived of the opportunity to move, feeling unsafe, and then being told that you need to pay north of £30,000 to cover the costs of the replacement cladding in your apartment block. This is what many people who live in apartment blocks with HPL cladding which has been deemed also to be unsafe have been told, and it is still not known if this will definitely be covered in the new £1 billion fund available which was revealed in the recent budget. This is the material that covered the student accommodation block in Bolton that caught fire in November 2019

Imagine that. How many people that that kind of money? Even if you do, why should they have to pay for it, in a building, a home, that independent surveyors at the time of purchase confirmed was safe and insurable.

Political, legal, financial and technological issues overlap, connect, unravel and get shunted up and down the priority line. This is felt now even more than ever as the fight against the Coronavirus outbreak is now front and centre of the government’s attention.

However, spare a thought for those who live in affected apartment blocks where remediation work has halted and they are self-isolating in homes that are unsafe. The impact on their mental health and well-being is real and should not be underestimated.