About this blog

This is a window into the weird world of Anglicanism, as experienced on a Cathedral Close. Has anything much happened since Trollope's Barchester Chronicles? You will still see the 'canon in residence' hurrying across to choral Evensong, robes flapping, as the late bell chimes. But look carefully and you will notice he is checking the football score on his iPhone as he runs. This is also a writer's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the novelist's life. And it's a fighter's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the judo mat. Well, the agony, anyway.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

What to Wear on a Walk in the Country

Well, look at that.  I've nearly done 4 months without buying any new clothes or accessories.  Only 8 more months and I can run amok with a credit card in TKMaxx.  Or more likely, the posh charity shops of Alderly Edge, rummaging through the footballers' wives old designer duds.  In my imagination the charity shops of the North West glow like so many Aladdin's caves.  Exploring them is one of the things I'm looking forward to when we move to Liverpool.

But in the meantime, What to Wear on a Walk in the Country?  I ask this because I have recently been on a muddy walk in Shropshire, while tutoring a school's course for the Arvon Foundation.  The experience flushed out a gap in my wardrobe: wellies.  I do not own a pair of wellies.

So I borrowed a pair.  I found them lying about the Main House.  Maybe they are The Arvon Wellies, donned by many a great poet or playwright down the years who happened to have size 7 feet?  They were pretty and floral and very nearly my size.  I wish I'd photographed them for you.  The left boot fitted slightly better than the right, for reasons which became clear when I confidently strode into a deep puddle.  There was a two inch split up the back seam.  But it was a lovely walk.  I saw some cowslips:

And holey wellies were better than ruining my suede boots, which were my only footwear for the whole week.  I tend to pack light.  After all, I'm seeking to impress people by my superlative wordsmithery, not my wardrobe.  It matters not a whit to teenagers what adults wear, anyway.  We are invisible--unless we are their parents and we decide to dance at a party.  One of the girls admired a necklace I wore on Thursday, but that is a rare exception.  To be fair, the necklace draws the eye somewhat.  It's so chunky it could double as nunchucks.

Wellies will not be on my list of clothes to buy in the New Year.  I don't have a welly lifestyle.  This was an emergency.  Normally when I'm out walking I wear walking boots, or trainers.  Or else I wear high heels and book a taxi.

Friday, 13 April 2012

What to Wear When Jogging

Ha!  What to wear when jogging!  For some of you that's a bit like wondering what to wear when turning a pumpkin into a coach-and-four.  It's never going to happen, is it?  Well, never mind, you just sit back on your sofa and eat lard pasties while I continue with this post.

My first hint is that you wear running shoes.  Indeed, it is possible to go running in nothing but trainers, as has been ably demonstrated year on year here in Lichfield during the Buff Run.  The Buff Run used to be engaged in annually by our Choral Scholars, but currently we don't have any.  I believe some of our lay clerks have taken part in the challenge as well, round the cathedral Close in the noddy.  It is generally scheduled in the wee small hours to minimise the chance of running into the dean's wife, and to maximise the opportunity for Dutch courage.  I look forward to learning whether there's a similar tradition in Liverpool cathedral, when I myself shall be the dean's wife, poised to be shocked at the sight of naked young men.  In fact, I shall station myself at my front window with binoculars in order to be shocked properly.

Where was I?

Oh yes.  What to wear while jogging.  The second most important thing is a good sports bra.  In fact, if you have a large chest, it's a good idea to wear two sports bras one on top of the other just to tether everything, especially if you are a woman.  One of the worst problems I've hit with this not buying any new clothes malarky is in the sports bra department.  After a couple of thousand washes the elastic toughens up and is about as flexible as a steel tape measure.  My dears, the chafing!  I've started tucking a sock in the centre front under the band where it rubs raw.  How I suffer for this blog.

For outer wear I have an array of sports gear dating back some dozen years.  Most of it is black.  Much of it has magical wicking properties.  Moisture is simply wicked away! We believe that, don't we?  I also run in special running gloves with special metallic finger and thumb pads which would enable me to use an iPod if I owned one, or was stupid enough to listen to music while out running instead of being constantly on the alert for assassins lurking in the flowering currants like the highly trained martial artist I am.  Yes, I have indeed used my judo skills while out running.  I tripped over a bump in the road and executed an impressive martial arts rolling breakfall outside the cathedral school once.

My final piece of advice is that you don't wear tight lycra compression gear unless you are spectacularly fit (in both senses of the word) or have a good friend who is willing to cut you out of your shorts when you get back home from your run.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

What to Wear on Easter Sunday

What to wear on Easter Sunday?  Somehow one instinctively feels the answer is white.  We should sally forth to worship clad like Housman's cherries, 'wearing white for Eastertide'.  This is all very well if it's nice weather.  But if the rain is lashing down and you have muddy paths to negotiate, then white starts to feel like a foolish choice.

In the end I wore two different outfits this Easter.  My first was thrown on in a hurry.  It comprised trackie bottoms, ratty trainers and a big pink cardigan.  I was also wearing my glasses.  My defence here is that it was 4.55am.  And anyway, it was dark and the rest of the congregation was half asleep.  After the Easter Vigil was over nearly 3hrs later, I went home to get showered and changed into my Acting Dean's Wife clothes.

The other instinct when it comes to Easter is the urge to wear something new.  In the old days ladies would wear their new Easter bonnets.  This tradition is gallantly upheld by the lady consorts, who were sporting some fine mother-of-the-bride type millinery this year in Lichfield cathedral.  We got a good look at it as they processed in with the chaps in tricorn hats, gold chains of office and all the civic regalia that comes out on such occasions.

As you know, I'm not in a position to rush out and indulge my passion for new clothes this year.  What a good thing my oldest friend gave me that stunning coat a month or two back!  I wore it with navy wide legged linen trousers (charity shop) and a sage green slink top (charity shop) and...

Ta da!  Pink shoes!  A Christmas gift from the chancellor.  How did he know exactly what I wanted?  So clever of him to glance up and concentrate for 5 seconds while I held my laptop in front of his face, open on the Office website.

So that's my answer: wear whatever makes you feel like rejoicing on Easter Sunday.  'My love, the crucified, hath sprung to life this morrow.'

Sunday, 1 April 2012

What to Wear to a Karate Grading

This is fairly obvious: you wear your karate suit.  A karate suit is basically a pair of loose white cotton pyjama things which you can buy from any martial arts shop.  I believe I got mine via Amazon.  The only thing to decide is how much you want to pay, and what size to buy.  Do make sure you buy a karate suit, not a judo suit, which is heavier and thicker.  If you are a novice and still not entirely sure whether you are going to carry on with this mad karate enterprise, then you will want to buy yourself a nice cheap kit.  It will come with a white belt, which is the first colour of belt you will need.

As anyone knows who has ever worn white trousers, white or 'nude' underpants are essential, unless you are something of an exhibitionist.  Personally, I think thongs are unwise, though you are less likely to lose your trousers during karate than judo.  Women and girls can wear a T-shirt.  In judo this has to be white, but as far as I can see, this isn't strictly policed at my karate club.  And that, my friends, is it.  Oh, apart from a good stout sports bra if you are blessed bosom-wise.  No jewellery, no shoes, no socks.  Undies, white pyjamas, T-shirt (women) and a belt.  (If you are sparring, you'll need shin/foot pads and mitts; and a gum-shield if you are under 18.)

Today I went to my second karate grading.  I wore my red belt.  By happy coincidence red is the correct liturgical colour for Palm Sunday.  This was some slight consolation for spending my morning at King Eddie's leisure centre rather than in Lichfield cathedral.  Despite cocking up some of my renraku waza (combination techniques), I managed to pass, so from now on will be allowed to wear a yellow belt.  It will be awarded at my next training session.  Again, by happy chance, this is the correct liturgical colour for Easter.  

Probably if you are going for a higher grade you will have some kind of totemic garment which you will don with trembling fingers as part of your preparation for the ordeal that lies ahead.  Your 'lucky' trousers, your old 1000 wash grey T-shirt.  But I am still dabbling in the shallows of karate and quite blithe about the whole thing. To be honest, after the adrenaline-drenched horror of judo dan gradings, when I faced psychotic teenage girls across the mat and got repeatedly slaughtered, karate gradings--tra la la--hold few terrors for me.  Sssh! Don't tell sensei I said that.