Friday, 21 October 2016

it's the only thing that there's just too little of...

I've been thinking a lot about anger this week.

Well, to be honest, I've been angry quite a lot this week.  I was angry as a teenager, but I think I've actually grown up to be quite even-tempered.  It might sometimes appear to be otherwise, but I loathe conflict and will go well out of my way to avoid it.

But this week has nearly broken me.  I'm angry and ashamed at the state of my own country.  It's bad enough that a majority of people voted in the referendum to leave the EU, but what's happened since then has been just awful. Most depressing has been the rise of racism and the plummeting descent of national debate into the gutter.  This hasn't come completely out of the blue, and we had a taste of this in the last General Election, but watching people hurling abuse and hatred and suspicion at refugees and also at the people who dare to show them an ounce of compassion has been depressing in the extreme.  52% of voters in the referendum voted to leave the EU, but that doesn't make the other 48% traitors or remove their right to speak up.

Ugh. I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about it.

But, you know what?  This is no good.

John Lydon famously said that "Anger is an energy", and maybe it is, but it's not a positive energy.  One of the best pieces of advice I've ever received is to try to worry about the things that you can control.  I find this incredibly helpful when thinking about my health in particular, but maybe that's something I might be wise to try and apply here too.  I can't change the result of the referendum.  I tried debating with people who were thinking of voting leave, and essentially nothing that I said was ever going to change their minds.  I was wasting my time. I'm not sure that anything I say now is likely to change anything either.  It might upset and annoy me that people feel this way, and I find it very hard to understand, but getting angry about it doesn't help anyone... and it definitely doesn't help me, because it just makes me feel impotent.

Buddha apparently said "holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die".

I think maybe he's right.

Why don't we try just being kind to people? I'm not asking you to be reasonable in the face of someone idiot racist calling you a traitorous bremoaner, but you can just be a little nicer to the people around you... whether that be at home, at work, on the bus or wherever.  I'm going to give it a try.  It can't hurt, can it?  I want to try and do something positive, because I'm sick and tired of all the anger and all the negativity. I can be in control of that.

...although, it's so hard because they are *such* arseholes.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

what's cooler than bein' cool?

I don’t think I’ve been cool at any point in my whole life.

When I was around 8, I jumped a year at school and was generally in classes with people a year older than me. This was probably good from an academic point of view, but it meant both that I was young compared to my classmates and also generally considered a nerd because I was bright. I was made head of school at the age of 12 or 13, and I’d consider this to be the point in my life when I was the most mature. I sat exams and was awarded a scholarship to my next school and I was generally ridiculously sensible and with an overdeveloped sense of responsibility.  It's been pretty much steadily downhill ever since.

At my next school, as a scholar, I was streamed with the other bright kids and was generally held in disdain at a school where academic achievement was actively frowned upon. I was only averagely good at sport, so I was generally just the tall guy in the top sets with an older brother also at the school. In fact, for much of my first couple of years at this school, people didn’t even bother to call me by my own name and just called me “Little Dave” after my brother (who is actually shorter than me anyway, dammit!). Even worse than just being in the top sets for everything with the other dweebs, I also marked myself out by being so appallingly bad at maths that I was initially in set 5 (out of 6)….So I stood out because I was the guy who was smart but comically bad at maths.  Perhaps even worse, I was also the guy in maths set 5 who finished his end of year exam with half of the 90 minutes still to go and when almost everyone else was still sweating over their answers. I handed my paper in and the teacher actually began to mark the two finished papers there and then, turning to put down the scores so far on the board.

BOY A: 48%.

…You can only imagine how popular this made me with everyone else in the room, particularly when I then demanded to know what I’d got wrong.

This was a mostly single sex school, with girls arriving in the sixth form. I know.  Old school.  Generally speaking, the boys split up into three groups over this:

- high status: guys who were in one of the school sports teams and/or who were generally considered to be cool. These guys were the top of the pile, and some of the girls were drawn to them. It must have been difficult being a girl thrown into this sort of an environment, but an attachment to one of these guys could radically change your status within the school. You became cool and desirable by association.  It's hard to blame the girls that took this option.  These were the sort of guys who grew their hair, played in the first XV, smoked, had copious facial hair and played the guitar

- low status: nerds and odd-balls. In the awful social ranking that took place in the school, if you were one of the girls who were generally – and there seemed to be a general sense of these things – considered unattractive, then these were your people (and, at my school, 13 year olds thought nothing of giving girls aged 17 or 18 an audible mark out of ten, or... below a certain score... just making vomiting noises). These guys probably played the euphonium and – even within the confines of a strict uniform code – managed to look like they’d been dressed by their mum

- the rest: Neither one thing nor the other. I was definitely in this group. Definitely not cool, but also not quite the total opposite end of the scale either.  Not quite, anyway.

It feels ridiculous to even type this, but we even sat like this at the meal table…. cooler guys and “pretty” girls at one end of the table, odd-balls at the other end and me in the middle. I did my best, but aged 17, I was very poorly emotionally equipped to strike up conversation with anything so alien as a GIRL.

It’s one of my biggest regrets from this time of my life that I wasn’t nicer to people at the far end of the table / social scale. A few people I treated very badly, and I’m not really sure why. Generally, I just went with the flow of things and didn’t feel able to just take people as I found them. It sounds like a terribly limp excuse, but I essentially lacked the social capital to stand out; I was clinging on by my fingernails and didn’t feel that I had anything left over to help anyone else out.  Pretty cowardly, but there you are.  I was a teenager.

This theme continued through university too, where I always felt slightly “other” because, having been to a boarding school since the age of 7, being away from my parents and being able to go out drinking and stay up late really wasn’t that big a deal. I wasn't cool here either, but nor was I yet comfortable with myself to be entirely happy in my own skin. I don't remember university all that fondly - either my bachelors or my masters degree. Both were fine, but they just weren't the massive milestones in my life that everyone would have you believe.

And then to work.

I’m still not cool, but at least I’m old enough now not to care. I joined a choir because I like singing; I’m happy to listen to Taylor Swift, Iron Maiden and Bloc Party; “La Reine Margot” is one of my favourite films, but so is “Anchorman”.

I’ve got a framed 7” single of “Don’t it make you feel good” by Stefan Dennis on my desk at work. My team gave it to me because they caught me earworming it out loud at my desk one day.

I’m still pretty far from cool, right?

Monday, 17 October 2016

cos I hobble when I wobble...

I'm acutely aware that this blog is a little in danger of turning into an MS blog.  No matter how much I want to be writing about inconsequential ephemera, I seem to keep coming back to my multiple sclerosis. I try not to allow it to dominate my life, but there it is.  That and running.... or actually about how it affects my running. I try to have lots of other facets to my life that I extemporise on at length here, but i'm afraid that my portfolio of subjects seems to be narrowing.

Of course, when it comes to MS,  I’m very aware that - relatively speaking - I’m pretty lightly affected. If I was looking for a dedicated following of the kind of people who really hoover up the misery of MS Sufferers - and I have to tell you, that if you are a part of this audience, then there are many, many blogs for you to choose from that will be all too eager to serve you up some unmitigated wallowing - then you're probably looking in the wrong place here and you'd best go back to Azkaban with the other dementors.  In fact, eleven years since my first symptoms and I’m probably as fit as I’ve ever been. I’ve run a couple of marathons, for goodness sake… things could definitely be worse and I try not to moan about my lot in life.  Why moan about my health when the country - THE WHOLE DAMN WORLD - is going to hell in a hand basket around us?

But of course, that doesn’t mean that MS doesn’t affect me at all.

Any misery hoovers still there?  I know I generally seem excessively stoical about such things, but let me throw you a bone:

I’ve been bothered over the last few weeks by my legs: they don’t quite feel like they belong to me; they’re stiff and awkward and I’m finding increasingly myself hobbling around like an old man. It’s affecting my running too, and although my mind and heart and lungs are willing, my legs just aren’t able to carry me as fast as the rest of me wants to go. Although, to be fair, every runner probably knows that feeling.

It’s frustrating. I'd love to be setting new PBs like all my running friends seem to be doing at the moment... but I'm miles away from that kind of form. I'm delighted for them, of course I am... but I'd also love to be improving and not going backwards and running through treacle.

The other night, I had restless legs, with the muscles of my thighs twitching uncontrollably of their own accord as I watched TV on the sofa and tried to ignore them. The next morning, it took two attempts to get out of bed and to get my legs working at all. I'm still running, of course - I ran that very night.  It takes more than something as trivial as my legs not working properly to stop me running...If I thought that, then I would have stopped running years ago.  To be honest, I'm also not sure that resting will help all that much; this might just be how things are for me now.  I'm stoical about this, but it's still frustrating to feel so slow and to feel that 26.2 miles - a distance I ran as recently as six months ago - currently feels like a very, very long way.

But of course... 26.2 miles *is* a long way.  A really long way. I really shouldn't feel bad about slogging around 6 miles: it might be slower than I'd like, but at least I *can* still slog around six miles.

It probably sounds ridiculous, but no matter how slow and painful it might be, I do try to remember that running still feels a whole lot better than not running.

In fact, given that I'm not running a marathon in 2017.... is it bad that I'm thinking of entering a 20 mile race?

Friday, 14 October 2016

living for the weekend...

At a little after 4pm this afternoon. my phone rang.

It had been a pretty busy week, peaking with a big meeting yesterday, and I was winding down towards the weekend when my phone played "The Imperial March" -- my wife's ringtone for most of the last 15 years, and boy did she love this scene in Ted.

"Hello.  Are you nearly done?" She was working at home today after the normal busy week.
"Well, I've a couple of things to finish off, but I was thinking of heading off pretty soon"
"Good, because we need to go to the vet to pick up the cat's flea and worm drops, and I thought we could pop across to Morrisons whilst we're there to pick up some dishwasher tabs"

As I hung up, I turned round to see the only member of my team still in the office looking at me and shaking his head sadly.

"The vet and then dishwasher tabs?  On a Friday night? You are literally living the dream right now"

It's hard to argue.

He went on to suggest that "to be honest, it doesn't sound like a two person job"... but I haven't lasted 17 years in this relationship by entertaining thoughts like that.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

telling stories...

A little while ago, I discovered a little stash of my old school yearbooks. My mum and dad have got all my old reports kicking about somewhere too – that’s fun for another day – but these were the end-of-year magazines that told parents about how the sporting teams had been getting on, who won what prize and things like that. They also contain little poems and short stories and things written by the pupils.

One issue was from about 1985, and I was amused to discover that it included a little short story that I’d written – aged 11. It’s probably about 500 words long, and much to my surprise, was quite interesting. It tells the story of a couple of guys walking along Hadrian’s wall (I think we’d been on holiday in Carlisle that summer). Something underfoot catches the eye of one of the walkers, and they stop to pick up a piece of rusty metal…. at which point we flash back to a Roman garrison manning the wall and see the attack by the Picts that led to the end of a sword breaking off in someone’s chest. The fragment of metal is dropped in surprise, and we’re taken back to the present day.

Not too bad, I thought…. but it’s not even the best story in the magazine: there’s another one, set in an unspecified future where a teacher is telling her class about an animal called an “abbit” that used to be common but has now disappeared entirely and has almost been forgotten. This story ends in another classroom, a little further into the future, where another teacher is telling another class about an animal called a “bbit” that used to be common but has now disappeared entirely.... This story was written by an 11 year old in 1985, but it’s so striking that it has stayed with me ever since. In fact, the environmental message it conveys is, if anything, more resonant now than it was then.

I’ll have to have a dig around and see if I can’t find it again to at least give you the name of the author to give them a bit of credit.

In 1987, I was made Head of School at this place. I often tell people that this – at age thirteen – was the peak of my maturity and that it’s been a slow decline from that high point ever since. I think that my creative writing peaked about the same time too.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

safe and sound...

I've got a new phone.  Because I've used iPhones for a while now, the process of moving from one phone to another is usually fairly straightforward: back up the old phone to iTunes, then plug the new one in and restore it from that backup and off you go.


...or it would be, except that this time around, when I plugged the new phone in to load all my settings and apps and music and things from the backup, it told me my backup was encrypted and I'd need to enter the password before I could access it.


Naturally, I googled.  It turns out that at some point in the last year or so, I must have set up an encrypted backup (it's a check-box in iTunes, so easily done).  Why had I done such a thing?  Well, I've no recollection of this, but apparently one might do such a thing because one is security conscious and wanted to backup passwords and health data and suchlike.

OK then.  So what's the password?

I tried some of my old classics.  No joy.
I tried the iPhone access code.  Nothing.
I tried a few combinations of various things.
I tried every old password favourite that I could think of. Nope.

I did some more googling.  Apparently, if you can't remember this password, you're screwed: there's no way of recovering it, and the only option you would have is to start all over again and manually move across everything from one phone to the other.  Not a disaster, but a massive pain.

I tried all the old passwords again.  Nothing doing.


I started using a password vault a few years ago. Initially with a free trial of one thing (Keeper), and eventually with a proper subscription to another service (Dashlane).  This had the immediate effect of making my passwords much more complex (because I didn't have to remember them), but also much less prone to repetition.  Mixes of characters and numbers and upper and lower case letters are much harder to crack, but are also much more difficult to remember.  With a password vault, you only need to remember one password and you are instantly more secure (as long as that password is a good one and you're sensible enough to have two-step authentication set up and TouchID enabled).  I was pretty sure I hadn't saved the password to a vault (I frankly couldn't remember setting up the backup encryption in the first place), but just on the off-chance, I checked the password vaults anyway.....I checked the old one first.  Nah.  Nothing doing and none of the other passwords stored there for other things worked either.  As a port of last resort, I checked the new one.  It almost certainly wouldn't be in here.....

....and there it was.  Filed under "iTunes encryption key".  Obviously.

So, to recap, the last place I looked for this bloody password was the one place that is custom built to store passwords.  I pay a bloody subscription for this service. Of course it was the last place I looked.

And yes, I do realise that you always find things in the last place you look.  You know what I mean.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

stranger than fiction...

I’ve been watching the West Wing again.

Well, I say “again”, but really it’s another one of those programmes where I’ve watched a few and made a mental note to watch it all, and then never quite got around to it and didn’t want to watch the new series on TV because I was behind… I finally bit the bullet and bought the whole lot on iTunes the other day. Say what you like about Apple, but the convenience of being able to pull down a series like that, episode by episode onto your chosen device is pretty much unbeatable, in my books (if you’ve ever manually ripped a DVD into iTunes, then you’ll understand exactly why.)

It’s such an amazing programme. It’s obviously a preposterous liberal wet-dream, but with the current state of world politics as it is, I find that kind of thing remarkably comforting. Plus, of course, it’s beautifully written and performed. I doubt that President Trump’s staff in the White House would look anything much like this lot… but, then again, has any White House staff ever looked quite like this lot, with their good looks, talent and principles? Doubtful.

Of course, there’s one element of the plot that is resoundingly more significant for me now than it was when I first watched the show: the issue of President Bartlet’s multiple sclerosis. I haven’t really got far enough into the series yet (we’re just starting S2) for it to really have taken off… but already it’s there, waiting to blow up as a central issue: a major health problem that the sitting president has effectively kept totally secret from the public. I find the show’s handling of the disease fascinating (why on earth does Abbey Bartlet feel the need to disclose the MS to the anaesthetist in the hospital? Would anaesthetic work differently with relapsing-remitting MS? Does the incoming president not have to have some kind of medical on taking office, or do we rely entirely on their honesty? Please tell me that we wouldn’t just be taking Trump’s word on this)….but I also find it incredibly moving because it is now directly relevant to my personal experience. I watch Martin Sheen’s Bartlet looking tired and weighed down by his responsibilities, and I watch his wife and his chief-of-staff watching him, wondering if this is something else…. and I find it very moving because it’s so close to home. Well, not the being-leader-of-the-world thing as such… the other stuff.

This is a show that often has me welling up as they shamelessly manipulate my emotions, but now I find myself emotionally connecting with the show in a way that I hadn’t really expected. I expect they’ll get lots of the details wrong, but I’m still looking forward to seeing how sensitively they handle this as the show moves forwards. (No spoilers, thanks).

At its heart, the West Wing was just areally, really good show. It’s impossible not to look at President Bartlet and wonder if someone like that could ever actually get elected: erudite, principled, educated…. there’s one scene in the double-episode that starts the second season where Leo McGarry, trying to convince Bartlet in a flashback scene that he should stand for president, turns to his friend and says, "A good man can't get elected President - I don't believe that.”

I’d love to believe that was true, but my faith is wavering. It was a comforting thought at a time when George W. Bush was in the White House, but it seems like a ridiculous pipe dream now (Let Trump be Trump? The mind boggles)

Or perhaps my impossibly high standards for elected officials and their staff comes from a love of the West Wing.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

How much Latin do you think Trump knows?

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

summer's gone...

I was determined to leave work reasonably early today.  It was a little crisp on the cycle to work this morning, but it soon became another one of those beautiful autumn days. I sat at my desk, looking out of the big window behind me, and decided that it would be nice to get home and to squeeze another run in down by the river whilst the light still held.  There won't be too many more of them this year.

By the time I actually left the office, the day was already closing in and, to be on the safe side, I put my rear bike light on to blink gently at the traffic behind me.  I was still going to go out for that run, obviously, it's just that I was now going to be doing it on one of my winter routes and wearing a fluorescent top.

As it turned out, after cycling home, I decided that I'd wear a beanie too.  I do have a tendency to wrap up too warm when I run, but I greatly prefer that to being too cold.  For now, I'm still running in shorts and leaving my gloves at home, but I broke out the woolly hat and I'm not ashamed to admit to it.

In summer, I'm able to run along the River Trent and the canals around Nottingham after work.  As the season turns, I'm forced to pound the mean streets around my house.  I don't mind these routes; after all, it's here that I did the bulk of my marathon training over the last couple of years; all those Thursday night ten-milers after work.  I don't really mind the cold and the dark either, and one of the things I love most about cycling to work every day is that I really get a chance to see the seasons as they change.....It's just that, well, I don't think I'm quite ready for winter yet.  I'm not ready to let the summer go.

I was planning to do my 4.5 mile Compton Acre route, but the mile up the hill on Musters Road told me that my poor old body simply wasn't feeling up to it.  I injected last night, and it was a long day at work.  Besides, my knees felt a bit stiff, and the exercises I've been doing to strengthen my left leg and to work on my balance have left me feeling distinctly lop-sided.

It seems I have all the excuses.

Anyway, I thought 5km would be a respectable compromise on a cold evening and set my sights on my cut-off route.

At this point, my watch (which is very clever and reads my heart rate and things and probably knows how I'm feeling better than I know myself) beeped at me.

I glanced at my wrist.


Well, everyone's a critic.

Friday, 30 September 2016

I'm going where the cold wind blows...

Earworms of the Week

Mary Did You Know?” – Pentatonix

It’s reached the point – 4 weeks into the season – where we can’t avoid the Christmas songs at choir any longer. We’re not quite onto Shakin’ Stevens yet (yes, we are going there...), but we have started work on this annoyingly insistent number. Our musical director has a growing love affair with Pentatonix and their acappella style arrangements of songs – last Christmas we did their version of “White Winter Hymnal”. I can take them or leave them really. This song is a bit God-dy for my tastes. OK, it’s a lot God-dy.

Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you delivered, will soon deliver you

I mean, stop grovelling already! Also notable for describing the Son of God as “The big I Am”, which makes me chuckle.

Dog House Boogie” – Seasick Steve

So, it turns out that Seasick Steve was never really a hobo, that he’s 10 years younger than he said he was and that he was a session musician all along. Does that make a difference to his music? Probably not, but I bet that story made a difference to his bank balance. I imagine he doesn’t get seasick either, the big old fraud.

Murder on the Dancefloor” – Sophie Ellis Bextor

This has been a colleagues earworm of choice all week, so naturally it’s now my problem too. Best sung in a very mannered style.

The Man Machine” – Kraftwerk

Sarah bagged us tickets to see Kraftwerk in June next year! Yes, it's a lot of money to see for some middle-aged guys do a powerpoint demonstration, but this is perhaps some compensation for the end of my Glastonbury streak, which has seen me attend every festival since 2002. All good things come to an end, and there’s just no way that I’m going to miss one of my New York friends getting married in Connecticut. You watch, this will be the year that The Smiths reform for a one-off gig. Oh well. I’m sure I’ll cope. How will they manage without me? It’s the first time I haven’t been there since they put up the fence. They should maybe be a little worried.

Tired of Sex” – Weezer

So, Pinkerton has just turned platinum in time for its 20th anniversary. I guess that’s what you’d call a slow-burner.  Apparently, Rivers Cuomo hates it. Amongst other things, it reminds him of a time when he was an actual rock star trying to study classical composition at Harvard and got rejected by the choral society. Poor lamb. Them scars cut deep.

Kiss from a Rose” - Seal

We’re doing this one at choir too, and not only is it actually quite difficult to sing, but the lyrics are almost certainly not what you think they are either. Walking back from the session this week, Sarah remarked that she listened to this album so much the year this came out (1994, would you believe?)

“What? You bought the Batman Forever soundtrack!”

No… she didn’t. Anyone care to name any other songs from that soundtrack? How about Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me by U2? Also songs by PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, Flaming Lips, Mazzy Star, Massive Attack, the Offspring… yeah. Who knew, right?

Most people think about the batsuit with nipples. Unless that’s just me?

Breakfast at Tiffany's” – Deep Blue Something
Justapozed with U” – Super Furry Animals

On hold to IT, I have to say that these are two of the songs that I would least have expected to hear (the super furries was some kind of sensitive acoustic cover version). I was secretly quite impressed and then began to wonder who chose their hold music. That Deep Blue Something song will forever remind me of an old housemate of mine from my time in York. He wasn’t a short man, but if I had to pick a race from Middle Earth who he represented, he would definitely – without a shadow of a doubt – be a dwarf. I think he’d wholeheartedly agree, too.

In The Pines” – Billy Bragg & Joe Henry
Where Did You Sleep Last Night” - Nirvana

Two versions of the same song – made famous originally by Leadbelly. The Billy Bragg and Joe Henry version is pretty good – from their recent album of great railroad songs – but the Nirvana version is show-stopping. Cobain sounds like a werewolf howling on that last verse, with raw pain dripping from every word. Infidelity and decapitation under a train’s wheel. Cheerful stuff, huh?

Ah, that’s your lot. Have a great weekend, y’all.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

we are family...

For 26 weeks in the summer months, the parkrun team from Colwick run a weekly interval training session on the Victoria Embankment in Nottingham.  It's called the Weekly Wednesday Workout (WWW) and meets on the open parkland just by the river Trent at 6pm from early April to the end of September.  We warm up, do loads of stretching exercises and strides, and then we run intervals around a coned out track.

We follow a structured programme, working on pace in some weeks - with short, sharp intervals - and building endurance at speed in other weeks with longer sessions around the track. Three times in the season we run a "magic mile" - a mile time trial.  At the end of every session, we plank: building up our core strength. Each session is carefully supervised and stopwatched by members of the Colwick parkrun core team.

It's hard work, but it's very rewarding and a lot of fun too with some real characters from Nottingham's running community. I've made some friends here. It also works: training like this does make you a stronger and better runner.

I actually started attending these sessions before I ever ran a single parkrun.... although it only took a few weeks before I felt so ashamed of that fact that I turned up at Colwick Country Park for the first time in August 2014.  I'd been aware of it for at least a year, but had been sort of avoiding it because I thought I knew myself well enough to know that I would want to flog myself against the clock every week and that it would hurt.  After a slow start, I guess you could say that the habit stuck.  I've now run 72 parkruns and volunteered 36 times, including 6 times as Run Director - and I'll be timing at Colwick on Saturday and marshalling at Gedling Juniors on Sunday to take that total to 38.... I never would have started guiding visually impaired runners either, if it wasn't for parkrun.  And to think that it all comes back to those interval sessions on a Wednesday evening on the Embankment over summer.  I think I only started attending at all because they used to offer loyalty stamps for my running club, and I was very keen to get the 50 stamps in 53 weeks that would earn me a pair of running shoes and had missed every other qualifying run that week.

And you know what? Every session is completely free.  Everyone there gives up their time for free to help other runners out of nothing but love and community spirit.  They're amazing people. I've met a lot of generous people through running over the last five years, but these guys are definitely right at the top of the pile.

Helen - one of the core team - told me at one session as we walked back to the start line at the end of an interval that the main reason they do this was to build links with the running community and to generate a pool of volunteers for the parkrun.

....well, they definitely hooked me.  These people - this community - have enriched my life immeasurably.  I get so much pleasure from volunteering too.  I came here to run faster, and actually my times have become almost completely irrelevant to me. I would even go as far as to say that I enjoy volunteering more than I enjoy running.

It was the last session of the year this evening.

I'm going to have to go for a run on my own next Wednesday after work, and it just won't be quite the same.