Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Feet of Clay

I began writing this post before the news broke today that Johann Hari had been suspended by The Independent, so much of what I was going to write is redundant now - read the Guardian article for the details I have been a fan of Johann Hari for some time. I liked his style, and that he seemed an individual in a sea of identikit rent-a-gob commentators. I sometimes disagreed with him, but always found his articles lively and entertaining. Then the news that he routinely passed off quotations from books as quotes he had obtained in interviews appeared, and he immediately lost some credibility. That was compounded by his initial denial that this was wrong.
That was bad enough, and then, a couple of days ago, Nick Cohen wrote a blistering piece on Hari, characterising him as a vindictive and deceitful prat. Then a  tweet by David Allen Green, alias Jack of Kent, suggested that there was something even murkier about Mr Hari. Green wrote this, which confirmed that the Orwell Prize winning author seemed to be at the very least condoning some juvenile and nasty behaviour.  This evening, Green said that he now knew the identity of "David Rose", but was not going to reveal it, for fear of triggering an expensive libel action.
It's a sorry tale, and you wonder if Hari can recover from it. I can't imagine taking one of his columns at face value again.
Update: and, according to Guido Fawkes, even his Orwell piece was nicked.
Update 20th July: Hari has taken his website down completely.
Update 21st July: Hari is accused of more dishonesty here.
Update 26th July: Hari has broken his silence to say he's been instructed by the Indy not to say anything until the outcome of their investigation. Meanwhile, the Orwell prize committee all but confirm he's to be stripped of the prize. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fartlek with Laura

OK, I'm 56, I'm unfit, and I'm overweight. So I had a choice to make at the end of last month - do I renew my gym membership again, or try something else? I'm not a great fan of the gym, as I've mentioned before, so I decided to save my money, and try a different tack. I'm lucky enough to live close to an urban water park, so I have the perfect environment for some outdoor workouts. I came across the C25k (Couch potato to 5 kilometer) programme, and on the recommendation of a friend (thanks Lisa!) chose the NHS version. The advantage of this is that you have a podcast to guide you through, rather than having to check your (in my case, non-existent) watch to keep on track.
The  programme itself seems to be based on what I used to know as Fartlek. My gym teacher at school, Reggie Bell, used to make us do fartlek at the end of games sessions. As the name was already inherently hilarious to us, we used to find it hard when Reggie's rich Lankysheer voice urged us to "do some Fartlek, lads!" The word is Swedish, and means speed-play, and the technique is really simply about alternating bursts of more and less intense activity. The etymology is interesting - the first syllable survives in the German "Fahrt" meaning journey. "Gute Fahrt" - bon voyage - can always raise a laugh in a German lesson, and you can hear the Viking echo of "lek" in Yorkshire where kids still ask their mates if they are "laikin' out".
Anyway, I downloaded the podcast, loaded up the iPod,  and have now completed the first week. Your guide is Laura, who is very encouraging and sympathetic. She tells you when to run and when to maintain a brisk walking pace. Whilst you are running or walking, music takes over - a kind of bland, sub-Coldplay vaguely uplifting wash of guitars and keyboards when walking, and a more urgent generic 70s / 80s rockular sound when running, probably knocked out in a morning by old session guys on union rates.  One riff sounds suspiciously like "Sweet Home Alabama". But I digress.
You run, you walk. You sweat, you get a bit breathless. Laura encourages you - "You're doing really well," she says. How does she know? But it works, and eventually, you have managed a fairly basic half-hour aerobic workout. And that isn't much at all, but it's a small step for me. I do feel a bit fitter, and I will try to complete the nine-week programme. So far so good. And Laura says I'm doing great.
Photo: by me!