Category: Italy


mboy258There are no books or websites (at least none that I’ve found) written for vegan men who decide to run their first marathon at the age of 59.

By way of contrast there are plenty of guide books and blogs with photos of healthy young athletes; a fact that tends to have a de-motivating effect on mature runners like yours truly.

This post therefore has the twofold aim of plugging a gap in the market and sharing my experience after finishing the gruelling 42.195 km (26.219 mile) course.

I am living proof that you can go the distance on a plant-based diet and at my age.

I am not one of life’s natural runners. At high school I made a conscious attempt to avoid the cross-country races that were part of physical education curriculum.

I only really started seriously jogging late in my 40s when the effect of the ‘dolce vita’ in Italy was starting to be evident through a rapidly expanding waistline. Continue reading

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Aldous Harding live at Hana-Bi, Ravenna – August 22nd 2017

aldous

Aldous Harding at Hana-Bi

The striking stage presence and breathtaking vocal dexterity of New Zealand’s Aldous Harding is a thrill to behold.

The assured body language and the way she makes eye contact with members of the audience is in equal measures flirty and defiant. She is warm and genial between songs but then is like a woman possessed while singing. The focus and feeling this generated gave me goosebumps.

Her one hour set,accompanied by Invisible Familiars (Jared Samuel) on keyboards, begins where the new album, Party, ends.

In her song by song guide on NPR, she talks of ‘Swell Does The Skull’ as having the same “archaic fume” that fired the gothic folk songs on her self titled debut album but the baseball cap wearing Indie Girl who graced the cover of that record has evidently grown up and moved on. Continue reading

Ferragosto

People having fun at Ferragosto.

Most of the time, as an Englishman in Italy, and Brexit notwithstanding, I generally feel like an integrated European. However, there are still times when I feel I stick out like a sore Johnny Foreigner.

Depending on whether you’re a half empty or half full kind of person, Ferragosto is either the point at which Summer is just getting started or marks the date (August 15th) when it is nearly over.

Back in the day when people made things, paternalistic factory owners conceded this mid-August holiday to the workers. Since it coincides with the Catholic feast of the Assumption of Mary, it is also a good excuse to stuff yourself stupid. Old habits die hard, especially when you get to enjoy a day off work (unless, of course, your job is in the service sector attending to the needs of the thrill seekers).

So, traditionally, this state endorsed vacation is a day when traffic is severely jammed, restaurants are booked solid and beaches are ridiculously overcrowded.

What could possibly spoil your enjoyment? Continue reading

brainThe final section of case studies in Oliver Sacks’ ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat’ is called ‘The World of the Simple’.

The first of the four essays examines the case of a young woman called Rebecca who, because of a number of physical and neurological handicaps, had spent her life being branded as a moron.

Sacks admits that he also initially regarded her as little more than a “broken creature” and something of a hopeless case. The neurological tests he carried out only served to confirm her retarded state. But when he saw her outside the clinic, he formed an entirely different impression.

He witnessed her instinctive and serene response to nature then later observed that when she danced or performed in theatre workshops she exhibited none of the awkwardness and clumsiness he had assumed was her permanent condition.

All this forced him to question how such subjects are judged; he wrote: “I thought, as I watched her on the bench – enjoying not just a simple but a sacred view of nature – our approach, our ‘evaluations’, are ridiculously inadequate”.

Reading this chapter made me reflect how the same inadequacies Sacks described can routinely be found in our educational institutions. For instance, standardized testing in schools is,at best, only a measure of one aspect of a young child’s intelligence. Continue reading

9e1294e6fcdbbaf68ecdf171bd269f81651a92e2“Kill yr idols” advocated Sonic Youth back in the day, an extreme strategy that is not actually an invitation to murder but a warning against putting faith in heroes. Bob Dylan meant something similar when he sang (in Subterranean Homesick Blues) “Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters”.

Be your own person is the implicit message. While it’s ok to admire and respect others, it’s always worth remembering that people have a nasty habit of letting you down. Keeping a healthy sense of detachment avoids being disillusioned. Far safer to set your own goals, maintain your own standards and generally search for the hero inside yourself.

Devendra Banhart is a case in point. I was a huge fan of his when he burst upon the scene under the wing of head Swan Michael Gira. 2004’s Rejoicing In The Hands remains one of my all time favorite albums and I had the good fortune to see him play songs from this and its immediate follow ups – Nino Rojo and Cripple Crow. For a while he could do no wrong in my eyes. His charm, wit and good looks added to his appeal. In short , though not quite an idol , he used to be a hero. Continue reading

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