Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's An Odd Boy Who Doesn't Like Sport!

The whole noisy controversy surrounding the recent France vs Ireland match, which has certain excitable types on the web and beyond worked up into a veritable frenzy, puts me in the mind of the whole sweaty, repetitive, tracksuit-wearing topic of exercise. Not that I care about the result of the match – I’ve never had the slightest interest in soccer and the weird tribal activity that surrounds it – but this week sees me starting an exercise regime in our local gym and I felt that, in addition to providing a contemporaneous opening to my little article, it demonstrates the total indifference towards sport that has coloured my perception of exercise since my teenage years, and which has left me the physically feeble and puny specimen that I am today. My energy levels are so low that it is affecting my work, and seeing as I have no underlying health problems that could otherwise explain my lassitude, I’ve come to the conclusion that twenty-plus years taking no serious exercise have left me as weak as a rotten twig. This must change. Above pictured is the Egg digging his small vegetable patch, a little garden of plenty to keep all at Chez Doubtful fed next year (for at least a day or two, anyway), the sort of physical activity which, like exercise, has been foreign to me until recently. But no more, as I have transformed from the kind of indolent aesthete who disdains any activity which doesn’t have a fluffy, delicate pastry at the end of it, to a weight-lifting, jogging, sweating, “feel-the-burn” type of keep-fit enthusiast that would bring Charles Baudelaire out in a rash by his very presence.
You know, in school, those guys who are always picked last when teams are being selected for football (or whatever)? That was me, back in my teens (and the end of every year is a celebration for me as it is 365 days further away from secondary school). I was small, frail, wore glasses, read science fiction, and couldn’t see why the hairy hell I should be interested in charging around a muddy field after a ball while some stubbly, hungover adult with a grubby tracksuit and a whistle shouted at me. Doing it was pointless and uncomfortable, while watching other people do it was tedious in the extreme. I also hated the whole competitive aspect of sport; in any match that I did end up watching, I would always take the side of whichever team happened to be losing, and I always felt sorry for whoever didn’t win in the end. So once I shook the dust of my school off my heels, burned my uniform, and flung myself into the boozy, badly dressed, bearded, anarchic world of art college, the part of my time devoted to physical exercise (never that large even in school) shrank down to a tiny point and imploded. And this remained the state of affairs for nearly two decades.
Of course, the side effect of this neglect of the body was a conspicuous lack of energy. My endurance was pitiful, my physical strength laughable, and work colleagues found it hilarious that the most frequently uttered phrase on my lips was “I’m tired!” But my contempt for exercise was such that it never occurred to me that this could aid me in increasing my vitality; besides, working as a waiter kept me on my feet, and cycling around the town no doubt gave me the bare minimum of aerobic exercise needed to prevent total collapse (I am also blessed with a naturally slim physique, so I rarely put on weight). However, as I proceeded into my thirties, and especially once I fled, laughing, the by-then tiresome world of catering, this disregard for my body’s condition began to take its toll on my constitution, and certainly within the last two years it has combined with anxiety and depression to seriously affect both my work and my life. When I read accounts of other people’s lives, I marvel both at their achievements and at their energy, and I began to seriously ask myself: why can I not maintain such a work rate? Why do I get headaches and exhaustion after the slightest exertion? I went to several fine physicians, who prodded me and bled me and gazed knowledgably at various fluids that I produced; they concluded that, slightly high cholesterol aside, I’m as healthy as a well-fed flea. But the real shock was when I went to the gym in a nearby town and did a fitness test, which revealed that I am (unsurprisingly) grossly, even dangerously, unfit; testing my lung capacity, they pointed out that 80-year-old men could do better than I. This clearly cannot stand!
The reason I went to a gym is because exercise is a tricky thing to do down the country. Communal sports (like football) are impossible, as I hate the competitive, tribal behaviour that accompanies them and my endurance is such that I wouldn’t last ten minutes in such a fast-paced environment. Jogging is both excruciatingly boring and hard to do safely, as well as being conditional on the weather; the torrential rains we’ve seen recently add little to the experience. Cycling, which I’ve always enjoyed, is too dangerous on Irish country roads; one quite literally takes one’s life into one’s hands amid the tyre-bursting potholes, hurtling lorries, and careless speed-freak drivers. Besides, for someone as unfit as I, a trained assessment of my capabilities and limitations was necessary before embarking on any life-changing courses of action; I could just picture jogging for six months on the nearby beach and due to my appalling jogging techniques, my kneecaps one day exploding off my legs like mortar shells and greviously injured a passing walker. And so, finally, after several years of prevarication and dawdling, I began my set programme of cardio-vascular exercises, weights, and stretches, which should, in a few months, have me on the road to full fitness, increased vitality, and the ability to crush bowling balls to powder between my thighs (one never knows when that skill could come in handy!). So, as this is my absolute priority for the next few months, I hope y’all wish me luck. And, after two sessions this week, my first response is: “Damn, I’m knackered!” My feeling about sport hasn’t changed, of course, and here’s a song I particularly like on the subject:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wexford Sights (IV)

I've not been writing much recently, due to personal circumstances, so here's a few photographs of a small river near a hydroelectrical station, taken on a forest walk near Castlebridge in Wexford. Some were taken with a long exposure, which I feel captures the velocity and force of the water, which I have rarely seen as turbulent as it was today, due to the extraordinarily heavy rainfall we've had recently. Of the photos below, the top is a delightful (and accidental) shot of my partner's parents' new puppy, and the bottom is of a dead fox washed up on a beach near me. I could make a point about this, life and death and all that folderol, but I'm too tired... (A Doubtful Egg apologises for being such a sour old git, and promises that, once my new regime of healthy exercise (a first for me) and proper eating begins to pay off in terms of both more energy and a sunnier outlook on life, posts here and over at the neglected "... crumpling paper ..." blog will contain more substance and entertainment.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The NAMA Vote

Seeing as NAMA is one of the most important (and grotesque) pieces of legislation to appear before our Dail, I think it's important to make a list of those who weren't able to make the time to be present to vote, a list I haven't yet seen anywhere else (at the time of writing; if it does exist, please let me know, and do likewise if I've made any mistakes, so I can make the necessary correction).
On the government side, Martin Cullen (FF), Beverley Flynn (FF), Jim McDaid (FF) and Michael Moynihan (FF) didn't vote, nor did Noel Grealish (PD) or Finian McGrath (Independent). All the Green Party were present, and voted in favour.
On the opposition side there was a breathtaking 10 members absent from Fine Gael, including party leader Enda Kenny (!) and George "Economic Superstar" Lee. Other FG non-voters were Sean Barrett, Michael Creed, Lucinda Creighton, John Deasy, Olwyn Enright, Charles Flanagan, Olivia Mitchell, and Alan Shatter. Also missing were three members of Labour: Kathleen Lynch, Brian O'Shea, and Ruairi Quinn. All (four) members of Sinn Fein were present, and voted against. The Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk also didn't vote, but he's not supposed to unless there's a tie.
Those who voted in favour: 81.
Those who voted against: 65.
Those who were absent on the government side: 6.
Those who were absent on the opposition side: 13.
Ceann Comhairle: 1.
Total: 166.
The list of those who voted is here. The bill now goes to the President to be signed into law, and once that's done the real fun commences. And to get that unpleasant taste out of my mouth, here's a really enjoyable and entirely irrelevant pop song.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Two Songs

Where are protest pop songs (such as those presented below) today? Cthulhu knows we need them! (This isn't a rhetorical question, by the way; seeing as I'm hopelessly ignorant about a lot of contemporary pop and rock, I'm genuinely curious. The UB40 song is included because it might be the first politically aware pop song I ever heard.)