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Lady Lever Gallery

DSCN0570Went here recently. Lady Lever Art Gallery was founded by Sunlight Soap boss, William Lever, and dedicated to the memory of his wife. Set in the amazing garden village of Port Sunlight, Merseyside, England,  the gallery is famous for its British 18th-century and 19th-century paintings, 18th-century furniture and a collection of Wedgwood. It’s a Grade II listed building and part of National Museums Liverpool.

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Brit Hot

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Britain is in the middle of a heatwave right now. We’re not used to this. Our idea of a heatwave is probably Australia’s idea of a slightly chilly Autumn. We’re gripped by the idea that we have to make the most of it because it won’t last very long. Out come the lily white bods; so white they’re practically luminous. Reminds me of Billy Connolly’s joke about Scottish people’s natural colour being light blue. He says it takes him three solid days sunbathing to get white. I’m seeing a lot of people walking about with skin a similar colour to Vimto; naked they probably look like they’re wearing a white bikini. If you accidentally touch them they make a face like Christopher Lee in Dracula Has Risen From The Grave. ‘ Anyway, I took these pics at Hale Village near where I live. The forecasters are saying the heat is going to increase over the weekend and is here for at least another week. I may even have to take off my duffel coat.

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Pulsating legs are never a good sign.

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I’ve been running. Trying to get fit. Ibiza in August, you see. Needed to drop almost two stone! I was 13 stone 11 pounds and I wanted to get down to 12 stone. Those are my legs in the pic. Don’t know why I was wearing purple socks. I don’t even own any purple socks. Anyway, I started running regularly in April and have kept it up (except for a few occasions when it was either too wet or too cold or there was too much weather or whatever excuse I could think of…) When I started, I could do ten lengths of the rugby pitch near where I live followed by a dramatic ambulance ride to intensive care. I reckoned that after three weeks of running three times a week I should start to see a difference; I should be gasping for air and turning crimson less, I should be adding more lengths of the pitch to my total. I was wrong.

After three weeks, I actually felt worse than I had felt on week one! This is the point at which I normally give up; the pain barrier. And I did give up. End of story. No, I actually carried on. I thought that maybe there would be a difference after week four. Nope. Still turning crimson, still gasping like Darth Vader with a heavy cold. And now, in addition, I had agonising pain in the lower backs of my legs (is there a anatomical term for those? Legsobackimus?). But did I give up? Yes. End of story.

Well, I only gave up for a week until my legs stopped pulsating. Pulsating legs; never a good sign. Then I started up again expecting to find some tiny indication that all of this was having some… any kind of effect on my pain-riddled, throbbing, apology for a body. Anything would do! A slight reduction in hyperventilation! A lessening of the need to thrash about on the ground clutching my throat! The absence of that stitch that always appears after about four lengths and lasts till the following Tuesday, about dinnertime. Any of these would be a sign that this was worth persevering with. None of them happened.

This week though, after doing eight (ish) weeks of running three (ish) times a week, I felt, for the first time, a slight difference. At the sixth length, I was still gasping and clutching my throat and writhing in agony with a stitch but then… something happened! The agony got a bit less. I felt like I could carry on running for a little longer. The pain reached a sort of plateau; it was still there, but it wasn’t dominating me anymore. I carried on running and managed to do 32 lengths of the pitch. I know that’s still rubbish (probably only a couple of miles) but compared to the ten lengths I was able to do when I started it was a big improvement. At last! It’s starting to happen.

Two days later I was rushed into hospital with a massive heart attack. Unfortunately, I died and nobody came to my funeral. No, just kidding. I’m fine and continuing to  run, continuing to go through the agony week in week out even though the improvements are tiny and slow in coming. It’s weird how, because the rewards are tiny and slow in coming, they mean so much more when they do come. I’ve learned something about pain, about perseverance, about breaking habits (my chosen sport used to be lying down), and about establishing new ones (I still quite like lying down though). I’ve lost eight pounds in weight and I might even get a bit closer to my target before going to Ibiza in August where, no doubt, I’ll put the whole ****ing lot back on.

Something Wicked from Ray Bradbury

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I just finished reading Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. It’s a great book; entertaining and fast-moving but also big on atmosphere and creepiness. Written in 1962 it’s about two 14-year-old boys who have a harrowing experience with a nightmarish travelling carnival that comes to their Midwestern town one October. The novel’s title was quoted directly from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “By the pricking of my thumbs / Something wicked this way comes.”

The first third of the book is really good. The language is so powerful that it almost feels like poetry. The last third is also great and the ending is actually quite moving. The whole thing is a metaphor for growing up. The second third flags a bit and suffers from being too fast moving! It feels like there’s one climax on top of another without any time to reflect. It feels like sacrilege to criticise the genius of Ray Bradbury but I think the pacing is a bit off in this book. It also suffers from having too many villains in the shape of the members of the carnival.These are minor points, though, and overall Something Wicked is a true classic.