My Butch Rapidity And The Dad-Dance I Did

Being the aforethreatened post about the seventh-day activities of one John Soanes; a post whose position in this world is hampered by the contrivance of its title, if not its contents

So, I promised yesterday to tell you about my Sunday of contrasts; the butch morning and the camp evening. And so I shall.

The rugged and manly activity in the morning, lest you should think I’ve taken up yomping or arm-wrestling polar bears or something new and exciting, was my perennial favourite of running. Specifically, the Great Capital Run in Regent’s Park in London. Yes, when much of the capital was groggily waking and wondering why there was a kebab on the pillow next to its face, I was tying on my running shoes and heading off to run.

Not that I was going too far, you understand – it was 5km (which I think equates to 3.3 miles), but I haven’t done a formalised bit of running in a while (possibly not even this calendar year). So I was both looking forward to it, as a test of my running ability, and dreading it in case I ran out of breath, fell to the ground, and soiled myself a couple of metres past the start line.

Still, I made my way to Regent’s Park (assisted, as ever, by London Underground, who had cleverly scheduled engineering works and station closures on eight of London’s eleven tube lines – they’d clearly decided that I’d run better if I’d faced a challenge in getting from A to B before getting to the run, and increased my adrenaline levels).

The race itself began at 10am, but at 9.35am there was a ‘mass warm-up’. This was a good idea as you should warm up anyway, but especially as it was moderately cold yesterday, and there’s nothing to be gained from running with unstretched or cold muscles. And it was a good warm-up session, with stretches of all available muscles, though at one stage I looked at the thousands of us, all putting our arms up in the air at the bidding of one man on a podium, moving in unison, and I couldn’t help but think it looked like a rather scary political rally. Only with tighter-fitting shorts.

Nuremberg aerobics completed, there were some proper – oh, sorry, I mean elite – athletes running as well, and they set off before the rest of us, at a pace that genuinely caused eyes to widen amongst the common herd. And just like the Generation Game, once the display of world-level ability was over, it was time for the less capable to have a go. They gradually moved us forward to the line, and then we were off.

Regent’s Park is a pretty good place to run – it’s generally flat, and the concreted paths we were running on only occasionally turned gravelly, and I have to say that it was well-marshalled; there was never any doubt about where you should be going next, even if – as was the case just before the 4km marker – it was slightly uphill.

I kept up what I felt was a pretty steady pace, and despite the handicap of having to run as part of a cluster of people (something you can’t really incorporate into running practice unless you’re really good at arranging flashmobs), I felt I should be able to make it in under 40 minutes, which was my fairly conservative estimate based on how practice runs had gone. It turned out that I was being overly harsh on myself, though, as I came in at just under 31mins (30m 53s, according to the official timing), which I was pretty pleased about.

The combination of the warm-up and the exercise left me feeling physically fairly enlivened, and awash with testosterone, which of course was important since I was just about to go off to an event which, I sincerely expected, was going to be more camp than Alan Carr performing a tribute to Larry Grayson.

Because, constant reader, I had agreed to attend the BBC Radio 2 event in Hyde Park called Thank You For The Music – a tribute to the music of Abba.

Now, there’s nothing inherently camp about Abba – granted, the intervening years have given their clothes a certain kitsch appeal, but at the time they were pretty much the fashion – and the music’s perfectly fine, though I would make an argument that only a dozen of their songs are ones which, as the cliche now has it, we all know the words to, and not all of them, as some people seem keen to maintain. But I’m not knocking the work, and when Mrs Wife asked if I wanted to come along, I agreed pretty rapidly.

Once the tickets had been bought, though, I suddenly realised that the event had a pretty strong chance of turning into a bit of a camp bash: Lulu was on the bill, then Kylie Minogue was announced as performing, I started to hear stories about ‘lots of people going dressed up’, and I had the sudden feeling that as a heterosexual male, I was going to feel slightly out of place. I foresaw a sea of peacock feathers and spandex, neither of which I can pull off, not with my colouring. Yes, yes, you’re right: I’m just jealous.

Anyway, when we got to Hyde Park, along with some 30,000 other people, I was reassured to see that it wasn’t the case. There were a few people in late 1970s style gear, but not many feathers. In fact, the nearest that I got to a feather boa all night was the white one draped around the neck of the very drunk man who danced – well, all right, swayed – around us for most of the evening, looking (to paraphrase Fight Club) like the corpse of David Tennant, if you gave it too much drink and made it shamble around the party being annoying to everybody.

But he was in the minority. It was a friendly crowd, and the music was pretty decent – The Feeling were clearly having fun, and some of the people I hadn’t heard of were very solid too, though I struggled to hear the vocals by Lulu and, later, Chaka Khan; was there a sound problem, or was someone on the sounddesk dialling them down for other reasons, I wonder? Hmm.

Benny and Bjorn took to the stage at the end, and thanked the crowd, and seemed genuinely rather surprised that their music was eliciting such a strong reaction so many years after it’d been written, which I thought was rather sweet; fireworks went off overhead, and we slowly made our way out of the park, once more to negotiate the hardly-running tube system and go home.

Not bad for the so-called day of rest, then; like New York, London is a city that never sleeps, but of course that means that it can be rather short-tempered, and doesn’t always look its best. Still, beats being bored, I think you’d agree.

That’s enough about my weekend, though; what have you been up to ?

EDITED TO ADD: If you want to see me gasping my way round the Great Capital 5K, click here and enter the race number 727.


A Day Of Contrasts


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  1. I'll overlook your cool attitude towards Abba, and award you a high 8/10 for the title of this post.

  2. Thanks David – my attitude is only cool in a temperature sense, not in an attempt to seem like one of the hip kids (I've given up on that, it's clearly not going to happen).

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Try again.

    fwiw I didn't mean 'cool' in the trendy sense either.

  5. And there was me thinking you were using that groovy txtspk that all the trendy kids use.
    Like that profile photo, by the way!

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