Thursday, June 21, 2012

A genuine conversation in the office

"Oh, I saw you and your husband on your tandem last night."

"Oh yes?" (in a vague non-committal manner. People seem to like to tell me when they've seen me on the tandem. I'm not sure why, or what response is expected, but it seems to make them happy.)

"Yes, I was just behind you at the lights. Just one thing," (mock scolding) "Where was your helmet?!"

"With my mountain bike, for the next time I need it."

"Well, it meant I took extra care not to knock you off as I went past because of it!"

And that's why I don't wear a helmet on the road, folks!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

It's dryer across the Wet

Whilst England has been experiencing yet more Floods, I took the Eurostar and spent the weekend in the moderate dryness of Paris.

I like travelling by train - there's room to move around, I can take a picnic with a decent bottle of beer (or wine), I don't get airsick, I only need to be there thirty minutes prior to departure, and the security check-in procedures aren't as offensively intrusive as they are at airports. Nonetheless, I was mildly annoyed by the Jobsworth who insisted that I remove my (thin cotton tailored) coat to reveal my (thick cotton tailored) dress to go through the metal detector. I thought it might be funny to turn up at the security desk wearing only a coat with nothing underneath and see how that would be received, and contemplated tweeting such, but then I remembered #TwitterJokeTrial, decided that threatening to get nekkid would probably class as "menace", so I didn't.

Anyway, one train and three beers later, we arrived in Paris for a sunny evening's wander along the Champs Elysees and a wonder as to how many English people each statue's namesake had killed, and how old the grandfatherly bouncer outside the World Famous Crazy Horse actually was.*

*We think mid-seventies. It rather put us off the idea of the nekkid girls, sorry, I mean art, inside.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Don't blink!

For those who have seen Amelie or Moulin Rouge, I have to say that Montmartre is nothing like the films. The region around the Sacré-Cœur is packed with tourists and hawkers trying to sell you special lucky majik pieces of string, and the area by the Moulin Rouge is a tarmacked dual carriageway vaguely reminiscent of Southend seafront, but with sex-shops rather than casinos.

However, it does have a rather lovely cemetery, if you happen to like that sort of thing, which I do. Crows posing goffickly, sun-bathing kittehs, and a plethora of statuary.

Note the contents of the flower trough...

But if the Doctor Who episode Blink scared you, I suggest that you keep away.
Beware the Weeping Angels!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Navel contemplations

I like yoga as a form of exercise, I really do. I first got into it some years ago, when I was doing a lot of cycling and not a lot else, and my body was becoming terribly unbalanced as a result – huge chunky thighs, weedy arms, and very little flexibility at all. I was lucky enough to be working with someone at the time who was a qualified yoga teacher, and she introduced me to Ashtanga yoga.

For those unfamiliar with yoga, just as the term “cycling” can cover anything from “popping to the shops on a bike” to “hooning downhill on a full-suss MTB” to “riding a 600k audax”, there are many different forms of yoga. Ashtanga is a very active aerobic form of fitness which exercises almost all the muscle groups. None of this sitting-around-contemplating-one’s-navel. Each posture should flow into the next, via a vinyasa (a very elaborate push-up/plank/set of bends move), and it’s a lovely workout. I’ve tried other forms of yoga (Iyengar, Hatha), and not enjoyed them half as much as I do the flowing sequence of Ashtanga.

What really does hack me off though, is the fact that seems impossible to find somewhere that does the yoga without the hippy bullpoo and complete lack of understanding as to how the body works. I’ve been to classes where teachers insist on starting with breathing “exercises” which involve sticking your fingers up your nose and your thumbs in your ears and breathing in a peculiar rhythm in order to “detoxify”. I’ve had teachers belligerently insist that menstruating women mustn’t do inverted poses (headstands, shoulder stands, full back-bends etc) because it would do untold damage to one’s insides as the flow reversed (fortunately my first yoga teacher took the more sensible attitude of “What’s it going to do: come out of my ears?”1 and ignored this superstition). I’ve been told by otherwise-sane-sounding people that a certain pose is good because it “massages the liver and releases nutrients into the blood”. I’ve been instructed to “breath deeply into the kidneys”.

My current studio is lighter than many on the bullpoo quotient, but nonetheless there's still an underlying trend. It’s so disturbing that so many rational and reasonably-educated people believe all this and worse that I’m tempted to leave a copy of Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science lying around the studio I currently attending. But I won’t – this stuff is close enough to a quasi-religious belief to some people that I fear trying to persuade them to think rationally about what they’re saying will upset them. And most of them are nice enough people that I don’t want to do that. But the problem is that there’s a self-perpetuating cycle of irrationality around the yoga industry. Anywhere offering yoga classes will invariably also offer aromatherapy, homeopathic nutritional supplements, chakra realignment, and half-a-dozen other half-baked ideas which keeps yoga firmly in the Hippy Woo camp, and makes it unattractive to scientists and rational-minded people just looking for a form of exercise. Which is a shame, because I think yoga is great.

1 Chuffy and Frood have helpfully suggested Mooncup ear-muffs and a tampon up each nostril just to be on the safe side.