Thursday, 31 May 2012

Do you know what I think is crazy?

All credit to Alastair Humphreys' blog for this one:

“People look at me like I’m an insane person. Do you know what I think is crazy?

Waking up at 6am, eating breakfast, getting in a car and sitting in traffic for an hour on your way to work, sitting in a box for eight hours, sitting in traffic on your way home, eating dinner in front of the TV and then going to sleep. Then repeating that process for the next 60 years of your life until you retire and then die.

I think that’s completely and utterly insane.”

Friday, 18 May 2012

Town of Runners

"In Bekoji, running is a way of life"

Well worth watching, a good documentary. It is actually less about running and more about life in Ethiopia.

I think I was naive going into the film. Over the last year I have come to a much clearer understanding of my running, and for me it is like Scott Jurek says in the previous blog post, it is about joy and it is the ultimate expression of "this is what I am for". Maybe the runners in Ethiopia do have a similar love of running, but as the director explained in a Q&A after the film, they never run "for fun". Running for them is a chance to escape poverty, it is a job, when they run they are at work. This left me with mixed feelings after the film - it was inspiring, but in a different way than the Born to Run movement is inspiring.

Check out to find your nearest screening.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

TED - Frans de Waal: Moral behaviour in animals

Fascinating TED talk by Frans de Waal on the origins of moral behaviour.

The concept of evolved morality is compelling, and the evidence he presents includes some great videos of animal behaviour studies. Particularly like the final one (about 3 mins from the end) on the possible sense of justice in Capuchin Monkeys.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

"Humans are creatures of constant motion"

All I was thinking about on my post-work 10k run today was the news that Micah True, better known as Caballo Blanco, has died. While these things are always sad, Caballo's story has always been a deep source of energy, happiness and inspiration - giving lessons not just for running, but for life. Today's run in tribute to him was no different. Easy, light, smooth and fast. Run free!

As always Chris McDougall writes beautifully:
His blog - Thanks for everything, Caballo.
His article on BBC Magazine - Who was the mysterious White Horse?

Monday, 4 July 2011


It has been almost 3 months since I wrote a blog post and it might seem that I have been struggling to stick to my new year's resolution. But this time my reasons for not blogging don't stem from procrastination, but rather from a conscious choice to reduce my online activity.

I've realised in the last year that online life can very quickly become addictive. The constant stream of information and communication plays on basic human instincts. We are biologically programmed to be curious and to seek out connections with others, it is one of the reasons why we are such successful animals, and the internet gives us an endless supply of new information and connections. Blogs and news sites play their part, but social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are the equivalent of an internet drug.

Since university, like many in my generation, I've been fairly addicted to the internet. Up until recently, there wasn't a day in the last 8-9 years that I haven't been online. The level of information intake has stayed relatively constant but the level of communication with other people, and sharing personal thoughts and information, has steadily increased. At first it was just emails, then Facebook appeared, and then Twitter. "Being connected" online formed the pattern of each day, part of the fabric of day-to-day life.

However, this all came to a dramatic halt when I travelled to Africa. The laptop and smartphone were left at home and we were plunged into an environment where internet access was a rare, slow and expensive luxury. Internet cold turkey. I expected it to be a real struggle, that the cravings for human connections and information would go achingly unfilled. That expectation is perhaps testament enough of how deep it possible to get. Because the reality is that when you put yourself in a situation where you can no longer get your information and connection fix from the internet, you go out and seek it in the real world.

In Africa, without the internet, there was more knowledge and human interaction than I could have ever possibly absorbed. The fabric of day-to-day life is full of real human connections and interactions with nature. I started to realise that "online life" is a very poor substitute for "real life". The things we learnt and the connections we made were all done using the old fashioned mechanisms of talking, walking, travelling and first hand experience. These unplugged experiences were so much more valuable, so much richer and fuller than anything online.

On return to the UK I realised that this was not specific to Africa. That despite the increasingly online nature of life here, it was perfectly possible to unplug. I dabbled with Facebook and Twitter again, but I found them so much less fulfilling now that I had rediscovered the technicolor of the real world. I also began to realise that there is an inversely proportional relationship between time spent immersed in online life and time immersed in the real world. The more time I spent online, the less I was getting out of life. So I decided to go for self-imposed internet cold turkey. I didn't check my emails for weeks, my social networking for months and evidently haven't been on my blog until now. In many ways, I've never been happier than over the last 3 months. There is so much to do in life, I don't know how I ever had time for the internet before.

I guess, in the end, there is a balance to be found. While I've effectively given up on "social networking" and I'm going to continue to maintain my new dramatically reduced level of online activity, I still enjoy reading small amounts of online news, comment and blogs – and I'll continue to add my contribution to the collective discourse with posts on this blog.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Why I'm no longer interested in being in politics

Today I wrote an email to the executive committee of the Salisbury Lib Dem party explaining that I won't be putting myself forward as a candidate for them at the next election. 

I tweeted last month that I finally felt comfortable describing myself as a "ex-politician" and I thought it was only fair to explain this in more detail.

In the email, I gave two reasons for not putting myself forward:

A) I can't afford the financial cost. I don't think that most people realise this, but being a parliamentary candidate is a really expensive thing to do. In the run up to the last election I spent thousands of pounds of my own money financing the campaign (and I wasn't on a great salary to start with!). I'm not sure what happens in other parties, but I got ZERO help from the central Lib Dem party. I understand the reasons: Salisbury was not a target seat. However, that doesn't change the fact that it is a very expensive thing to put yourself through.

B) I have new priorties and no longer have the time. Being a candidate requires a huge devotion of time and energy, if you want to do it properly. This comes at considerable cost to your personal life. Our trip to Africa made me realise my real priorities, and politics simply wasn't one of them. I want to focus on building my career and making sure that my family and the people around me are secure. Ultimately, I am no longer prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to stand for Parliament.

So those were the two reasons I gave to the local party. However, 12 hours after having written the email, I realise that there are in fact way more than just two reasons why I don't want to do it. I can add at least an C, D, E and F to the list:

C) Salisbury is unwinnable for the Lib Dems at the next election. The upcoming boundary review will seek to equalise the number of electors per constituency (at around 76,000). This will mean the Salisbury constituency (with only 67,000 electors) will expand and take in new areas to the North and West with high numbers of Conservative votes. This will make an already "safe" Conservative seat even "safer", and basically unwinnable for the Lib Dems or anyone else. I'm not excited about entering a contest I know I will loose. Particularly when you factor in how unpopular the Lib Dems are. Which leads me on to point D...

D) I don't really identify with the Lib Dems anymore, my political views have changed. It isn't all about winning, there is a huge amount of value in promoting the democratic process, giving people a choice and standing up for something you believe in. I still believe all this, but unfortunately the Lib Dems aren't really something I "believe in" anymore. Contrary to what you might expect this isn't because of the disastrous press that the party has received since May. I actually agree with 80% of what the coalition is doing. Where as before I would have described myself as a centre-left social liberal, I would now probably describe my views as centre-right and closer to classical liberalism, even libertarian on some issues. I've no hard feelings against the Lib Dems, they are a good group and I had fun with them. However, there is now no UK political party that represents my views. This was an unexpected result of our trip to Africa. I thought it would make me soft and woolly, but in fact it made me tougher and harder. We saw a lot of the world, how things really are, as opposed to how they are when talked about round western dinner tables - seeing these things changes your views.

E) I don't actually like politics. Even during the campaign I never enjoyed the "politics" of what we were doing. What kept me going was the idea of "running a successful project". We had set aims and objectives, but how we got there was up to our creative skill and effort. I was building something, achieving something. Yes of course I agreed with what the party was saying, and believed in much of it - and I certainly believed in and was sincere about representing people in Salisbury - but it was never the "cut and thrust" of the politics that stimulated me, in fact I really didn't like that side of it. Politics just happened to be the subject matter of the project I was running. I was asked recently why I did it, why I stood for Parliament? I answered by saying that when George Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb Everest he simply replied "because it's there". I stood for Parliament "because it was something worthwhile to do". Nothing more complicated than that.

F) I'm really enjoying having time for other things in my life. In all the 5 years that I was in politics, I never met a single person involved who came across as content, peaceful and happy in life. Everyone in politics is strained. I just don't think it is an occupation which puts you at peace. There is constant conflict, drama, hyperbole and everyone is always in a rush. You're always being attacked or attacking someone - it's just not good karma. It leaves you nervous, paranoid, hollow. There was no time for the simple things in life. These days I feel like a different person. I have a quiet, wholesome happiness right at my core. I know it sounds cliched but I have an "inner peace" which I never had at any point in the last 5 years. I get to read books, go for runs, make good food, research obscure topics that interest me, spend time with my family and with Eeva, dream and make plans for the future – it's like a whole new lease of life.

Don't get me wrong, I don't regret standing for Parliament, it's just that I don't want to do it again. I mean, I had an amazing experience which I couldn't have had in any other way. I created a successful project, learnt a huge amount about the world and hopefully did something worthwhile in the process. As a citizen, I stood up to be counted in the democratic process and to represent people in my community - which is a cool thing to have done. I'll always be able to look back and think "I gave it a go".

But now it is time to move on. It's time for the next adventure.