Lot of tired articles knocking around at the moment, complaining about St George's Day. It's jingoistic, he's of dubious provenance, he never visited England, it panders to right wing racists, etc, etc, blah, etc.
1) If we dispensed with silly, anachronistic, pseudo-religious festivals, we basically wouldn't have any scheduled national piss-ups at all.
2) Most saints' lives are conflations of various popular myths, at best interlaced with a smattering of tenuous 'facts'. Most saints' days are pagan festivals hijacked by Christians. St Andrew never visited Scotland. St Nicholas never shinned down your chimney. St Patrick didn't chase the snakes out of Ireland. Don't pretend that historical veracity is remotely relevant. You'll just make yourself look ridiculous.
3) Last I checked, surrendering anything to ultra-right wing racists was a profoundly bad idea. If there is just one compelling reason for claiming St George's Day and clutching it to the national bosom, it's to stop those drooling Neanderthals from appropriating ready-made branding. Let's make it a celebration of weedy, disabled, feminist, multi-ethnic gayness. With real ale. After all, if Bletchley Park is anything to go by, it's these unique aspects of our national character that probably did more than anything in our history to really stick it to the fascists.
Say what you like about Hitler, he killed Hitler. It's a shame we can't say the same for Anders Breivik, the squinty-eyed fascist mass murderer currently having his day in court in Norway. If only he'd started his killing spree with himself, the world would be a happier and brighter place.
Utoeya island: because I didn't want to use a picture of Breivik
As it is, the loathsome little prick is still alive and apparently loving it. It is a credit to the civilised values of the Norwegian people that this insecure, infantile sociopath is facing justice and not hanging by his balls from a lamppost.
But many are still asking: what's the point? He's admitted his guilt. The police aren't looking for anyone else. Why give him a platform for his warped world view?
I'm inclined to agree that he shouldn't have been handed the opportunity to strut and posture as he has, but a trial - or perhaps more accurately a dissection - is precisely what is needed. It really is a very good thing that he's still alive, so he can be examined in minute detail and we can learn from him, the better to stop someone like him happening again.
As Stanley Baldwin so aptly put it "the bomber will always get through", and so we can expect more horrendous, meaningless one-man massacres in the future. But stretching the bomber analogy to breaking point, we should nonetheless ensure that we study the enemy and array the best defences possible against him, especially if the dumb fuck surrenders and lets us do it.
It's when he's been wrung dry of useful insights, and only then, that Anders Breivik should be hung by his balls from a lamppost.
Six weeks out it all seemed to be going very well. The earlier calf/hip flexor/groin issues, which my cheering squad laughingly put down to "being a fat fuck", seemed to have disappeared entirely. You see, I'd blitzed YouChoob, the font of all knowledge, for stuff on running posture and, remarkably, had changed my running posture. It's not an easy thing to do, but I was encouraged by the fact that everything hurt less when I did.
Running long distances is all about motivation.
I was actually clocking some quite tasty times. I was doing eight minute miles over the first 12, goddammit. You haven't seen me running. That pace is unreal. Such was the blistering ferocity that even Bosie and Mack, my constant running companions, were starting to look tired after three laps of the Windsor Great Park. I imagined nervous looks as I ran down Kenyans on race day. Obese, elderly Kenyans, but Kenyans nonetheless. Yep, this marathon lark was in the bag.
Six weeks out, you start to train up past 15 miles, hitting a handful of 18 milers before knocking a swift 22-miler on the head and putting your feet up for a week before setting out to skittle Ethiopians somewhere along Tower Bridge.
Then I tore my calf. I swore so loudly that swans took flight and the dogs both had that "It wasn't me" look on their faces. Thirteen miles, meaning two miles to limp back to the car. No problem. I am blessed with turbo-healing, a gift from the sporting gods, and after a week's rest I was ready to hit the trail again.
Or at least I thought I was. Boom. Thirteen miles and the calf went off like the proverbial firecracker. Unlucky, accursed thirteen. Hurt like a bitch. Two mile drag-walk back to civilisation. I was so angry I punched a tree. Bosie sweetly commiserated. Mack bounced around like Tigger, wondering quizzically why the hippo had suddenly stopped lumbering. This was getting serious. I needed to be hitting 18 miles or I simply wasn't going to win this London Marathon thing at all.
I took my trainers back to the shop where I bought them. The tall Polish girl looked at them briefly and said, matter-of-factly "They are fucked" in a tone of voice that suggested I was an idiot for not working that out for myself.
I went somewhere else for my next pair, somewhere that promised 'gait analysis'. This looks very cool on the poster. A bronzed Adonis lopes on a treadmill while Scarlett Johansson videos his footstrike and finds him a pair of trainers cast from pure light that fit him better than his own skin. By contrast, I had to jog in a shop window in a pair of lemon yellow sneakers with my work trousers rolled up to my knees while pasty passing shoppers munched chips, pointed and laughed.
One pair of fabulously expensive Mizunos later, I'm back running. Eighteen miles. Boo ya. In ze tank. Everything still feels a bit out of kilter and I'm attempting once again to modify my running style to avoid striking on the outside of my foot then rolling in - apparently the source of my recurring blow-ups. Tiring but OK. I'm behind on the training, so the world record will have to wait for another year. Still, all to run for.
Twenty one miles and I've found the wall. Or rather I've run smack dab into it, seriously wounding my dignity in the process. You know the bit in the nature documentary where the water buffalo, bitten three days earlier by Komodo dragons, finally slumps into a drooling, comatose heap as he succumbs to their poison? I made him look dapper.
This is now such a long schlep that I have to stop and put Boz in the car halfway. Mack, whose only use for a wall is something to cock his leg up, is unaffected by the distance that killed Pheidippides. As he lopes excitedly up to me, wondering if we're going to go for another six mile lap, I briefly consider drinking his blood.
Everything feels OK, so I decide that with less than two weeks to go to the big event, I'll lay a patio. This involves manually shipping a ton of sand, a half tone of stone slabs and eleven hours of unstinting, OCD-driven tweaking, levelling, lugging, shovelling and hefting. Such is my application to the cause, that I have neglected to take even the most rudimentary precautions against overdoing it. The result? Nice patio, shame about the catastrophic back injury.
Ten days to go to the marathon and I cannot walk. I shit you not. Sciatica alternating with pins and needles in both legs. Turbo-healing gods, I implore you, fix me this one last time so that I make break myself properly over a distance that I am fundamentally unsuited to run.
One week to go and I can walk again, but running really hurts. It's Sunday. It's cold and it's wet. I've just spent the day jointing the patio I laid the week before and I am stiffer than Captain Oates. There's only one solution. Go out running and hit it as hard as you can. Make or break time.
Halfway round, lungs burning, legs screaming, my left glute and hamstring experiencing what I can only imagine being bayoneted must feel like, cold hail beating down, a frosty wind whipping in through the avenue of trees and my head pounding like the artillery barrage before the Somme. Nothing is good. Everything is terrible. I am a failure.
And then the sun came out, just as I hit the mile down the back of the Guards' Polo pitch. This road is incredibly straight and is flanked either side by bucolic vistas of lush green-grass loveliness and ancient, aristocratic trees. As the land fell away in front of me on its descent back to the lake, it revealed a hopelessly pretty watercolour sky, emerging from behind blankets of black cloud. The dogs capered like lunatics over the lawn, stupid fat dog grins all over their stupid goofy dog faces and suddenly the world seemed so utterly magical I briefly, and for perhaps the only time in my life, identified with Maria in the hill twirling scene at the start of Sound of Music. If I have a happy place, it looks like this. And when I'm lugging my fat arse around the 25th mile and I really feel like there's nothing left, like nothing is good, everything is terrible and I am a failure, I'm going to go to my happy place and stay there until it's all over.