Friday 30 August 2013

Seamus Heaney Tribute 4: Keeping Going

My final poem is one that sums up my Ulster Scots roots and the fact that I have spent over 10 years of my life living and working in Scotland.

Keeping Going

The piper coming from far away is you
With a whitewash brush for a sporran
Wobbling round you, a kitchen chair
Upside down on your shoulder, your right arm
Pretending to tuck the bag beneath your elbow,
Your pop-eyes and big cheeks nearly bursting
With laughter, but keeping the drone going on
Interminably, between catches of breath.

The whitewash brush. An old blanched skirted thing
On the back of the byre door, biding its time
Until spring airs spelled lime in a work-bucket
And a potstick to mix it in with water.
Those smells brought tears to the eyes, we inhaled
A kind of greeny burning and thought of brimstone.
But the slop of the actual job
Of brushing walls, the watery grey
Being lashed on in broad swatches, then drying out
Whiter and whiter, all that worked like magic.
Where had we come from, what was this kingdom
We knew we'd been restored to? Our shadows
Moved on the wall and a tar border glittered
The full length of the house, a black divide
Like a freshly opened, pungent, reeking trench.

Piss at the gable, the dead will congregate.
But separately. The women after dark,
Hunkering there a moment before bedtime,
The only time the soul was let alone,
The only time that face and body calmed
In the eye of heaven.

Buttermilk and urine,
The pantry, the housed beasts, the listening bedroom.
We were all together there in a foretime,
In a knowledge that might not translate beyond
Those wind-heaved midnights we still cannot be sure
Happened or not. It smelled of hill-fort clay
And cattle dung. When the thorn tree was cut down
You broke your arm. I shared the dread
When a strange bird perched for days on the byre roof.

That scene, with Macbeth helpless and desperate
In his nightmare--when he meets the hags agains
And sees the apparitions in the pot--
I felt at home with that one all right. Hearth,
Steam and ululation, the smoky hair
Curtaining a cheek. 'Don't go near bad boys
In that college that you're bound for. Do you hear me?
Do you hear me speaking to you? Don't forget!'
And then the postick quickening the gruel,
The steam crown swirled, everything intimate
And fear-swathed brightening for a moment,
Then going dull and fatal and away.

Grey matter like gruel flecked with blood
In spatters on the whitewash. A clean spot
Where his head had been, other stains subsumed
In the parched wall he leant his back against
That morning like any other morning,
Part-time reservist, toting his lunch-box.
A car came slow down Castle Street, made the halt,
Crossed the Diamond, slowed again and stopped
Level with him, although it was not his lift.
And then he saw an ordinary face
For what it was and a gun in his own face.
His right leg was hooked back, his sole and heel
Against the wall, his right knee propped up steady,
So he never moved, just pushed with all his might
Against himself, then fell past the tarred strip,
Feeding the gutter with his copious blood.


My dear brother, you have good stamina.
You stay on where it happens. Your big tractor
Pulls up at the Diamond, you wave at people,
You shout and laugh about the revs, you keep
old roads open by driving on the new ones.
You called the piper's sporrans whitewash brushes
And then dressed up and marched us through the kitchen,
But you cannot make the dead walk or right wrong.
I see you at the end of your tether sometimes,
In the milking parlour, holding yourself up
Between two cows until your turn goes past,
Then coming to in the smell of dung again
And wondering, is this all? As it was
In the beginning, is now and shall be?
Then rubbing your eyes and seeing our old brush
Up on the byre door, and keeping going.

Tribute to Seamus Heaney 3: Digging

Today marks the death of Ulster's most world renowned poet Seamus Heaney as I said earlier I will be sharing some of his work that has touched me through the years for different reasons.

This next one is another experience we both shared, my father had a sizable vegetable patch out the back of the house I spent my formative years in. Planting seeds and harvesting the various vegetables and fruits became a family endeavour. I was too young then to have homeworks over the weekends but later on when we moved house I would on occasion be working away in my room and hear my parents at work in the garden somewhere below me.


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pin rest; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

Postscript there is something of a irony about this poem inspiring this poet. As someone said to be near the end of my A'Levels I was probably the most widely read poet in the sixth form. The reason being that some of mine would circulate the sixth form centre when we were supposed to be studying and there were more people there than took English Literature.

Tribute to Seamus Heaney 2: Blackberry-Picking

As I said earlier today marks the sad passing of Seamus Heaney and I shall be marking today with some of his poems. This next one reminds me of an activity that I enjoyed around this time of year with my grandfather as we walked along the hedgerow of a farmer friend's fields, him reaching high and me lower.


 Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

Tribute to Seamus Heaney 1: Death of a Naturalist

Growing up in Northern Ireland part of of English Literature course was to study the works of Irish posts. Even then we had a living luminary that the world recognised who wrote sometimes about things so quintessentially about Ulster and in language that was so us (or our grandparents as some of us were urban youth) that it made us hunger for more.

Today we have learnt that the Nobel Laureate (1995) poet has passed away. As a tribute today I'll be publishing some of his works, some are the ones I learnt about in school, some are ones I came to love later. All are the essence of the man and his rural upbringing in Ulster.

Death of a Naturalist (1966)

All year the flax-dam festered in the heart
Of the townland; green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring
I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied
Specks to range on window-sills at home,
On shelves at school, and wait and watch until
The fattening dots burst into nimble-
Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how
The daddy frog was called a bullfrog
And how he croaked and how the mammy frog
Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was
Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too
For they were yellow in the sun and brown
In rain.
Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges
To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked
On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:
The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Justin Welby and the church's 'wicked' stance on LGBT people

Speaking yesterday at the opening of the new premises of the Evangelical Alliance the Archbishop of Canterbury had some forthright things to say on the churches stance to LGBT people. It was also of course the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King's I have a dream speech, and while the language wasn't as all encompassing and inclusive ad King's famous words it was a radical step forward.

What he said was:

“One of things that I think is most noticeable where we make a bad impression in society at the moment is because we are seen as against things, and you talk to people and they say I don’t want to hear about a faith that is homophobic, that is this that that, that is the other."
Later on he added:
"What I voted against was what seemed to me to be the rewriting the nature of marriage in a way that I have to say within the Christian tradition and within scripture and within our understanding is not the right way to deal with the very important issues that were attempted to be dealt with in that bill.
 "The bill was clearly, quite rightly, trying to deal with issues of homophobia in our society. As I said at the time in the House of Lords, the church has not been good at dealing with homophobia – it has at times, as God's people, either implicitly or explicitly supported it and we have to be really, really repentant about that because it is utterly and totally wrong.
"But that doesn't mean that redefining marriage is the right way forward. That discussion is continuing and the church is deeply and profoundly divided over the way forward on it. I am absolutely committed not to exclude people who have a different view from me, I am also absolutely committed to listening very carefully to them." 
"But I am continuing to think and listen very carefully as to how in our society today we respond to what is the most rapid cultural change in this area than there has been for a very long time.
"We have seen changes in the idea about sexuality, sexual behaviour. We have to face the fact that the vast majority of people under 35 not only think that what we're saying is incomprehensible but also think that we're plain wrong and wicked and equate it to racism and other forms of gross and atrocious injustice. We have to be real about that. 
"I haven't got the answer one way or the other until my mind is clear on this. I'm not going to get into the trenches."
While he has tried to defend the way the Lords Spiritual (and others) used Christianity as their shield in the same-sex marriage* vote, he did say that the Church had failed to counter homophobia and even at time been explicit in nurturing it.

I know many of the LGBT community will be saying this isn't good enough, his comments don't go far enough. But you have to look at the history of the way the Church first dealt with the issue of slavery and then the issue of racism. First they acknowledged that they themselves were involved in something that was wrong and then they moved to sort it out.

But the fact that he recognises that those under 35, even within the church, are at odds with the stance that the Church has taken on this issue is surely a sign of hope. I truly do hope that he does listen to other opinions that those, that as he said in his speech, he still holds. As someone who has come up against a church that encourages members to study the scriptures for themselves but then not to listen when you come to a different view to them about homosexuality I know there is still a long way to go.

Of course while Justin Welby mentioned these issues I notice that Christian Today ignored all this and focused only on the racial unity he called for. Maybe emphasising that some of what the Archbishop has said has certainly landed on stony ground in the 'Christian' press.

Yesterday I noticed this story about a church in the States that kicked out an entire family because they 'failed' to stop loving their lesbian daughter. I tweeted along the lines that they seem to have forgotten the tale of the prodigal son. Unlike the prodigal son a vast number of LGBT Christians are finding that instead of the constantly open arms of the father, the church is the one who is looking them out, keeping the fatted calf for the chosen ones that they allow into their midst.

* And I hate the fact that this is all that was achieved and not equal marriage for all.

Thursday 22 August 2013

BBC Fail where even Daily Mail get it right

It is not often I do this but I am using the Daily Mail as a good example of journalism in a story in which the BBC have failed.

Here is the BBC online coverage of the Chelsea Manning story about her starting the process of gender reassignment the day after she was sentenced to 35 years for her role in spilling details that embarrassed her country to Wikileaks, while serving in the US Army.

Throughout they constantly refer to Chelsea, as she is now known, by male pronouns. Come on BBC! It isn't that hard even the Daily Mail have got this right.

So for the benefit of the BBC Online News Editor here is the copy he can replace this insensitive and transphobic article with, based on there own with corrections in red.

The US soldier, formerly known as Bradley Manning, who leaked secret US government documents to the Wikileaks website, has announced she wants to live as a woman.

"I am Chelsea Manning," Pte First Class Manning, 25, said in a statement to NBC's Today programme. "I am a female."  

She said she had felt female since childhood, wanted at once to begin hormone therapy, and wished to be addressed as Chelsea.

She has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for crimes including espionage. She could be released on parole after at least seven years in jail, his her civilian lawyer David Coombs has said.

Mr Coombs has asked President Barack Obama to pardon Pte Manning, and has pledged to appeal against the verdict and sentence.

Pte Manning will serve her sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and on Thursday, Mr Coombs indicated he was willing to take legal action to force the prison to provide hormone therapy if authorities refused.

He said Pte Manning had not indicated whether she wanted to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

"The ultimate goal is to be comfortable in her skin and to be the person that she's never had an opportunity to be," he said.

 Asked why Pte Manning was making this announcement now, the day after  her sentencing, Mr Coombs said: "Chelsea didn't want to have this be something that overshadowed the case."

Pte Manning's struggles with her identity formed a key part of her defence through her weeks-long court martial.

Defence witnesses, including therapists who had treated Pte Manning, testified she had said she wanted to transition to being a woman, suggesting her problems with her gender identity affected her mental health.

US military prosecutors, meanwhile, described Pte Manning as a notoriety-seeking traitor and asked for a 60-year sentence in order to deter future intelligence leakers.

Pte Manning, who grew up in the US state of Oklahoma and in Wales, joined the Army in 2009 to help pay for university and, according to court martial defence testimony, to rid herself of his desire to become a woman. Trained as an intelligence analyst, he was deployed to Iraq in 2010.

There, she became disillusioned with the war and felt increasingly isolated from her friends and family. In May of that year, she initiated what subsequently became one of the largest leaks of classified US government documents ever - hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and battlefield reports from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Pte Manning has said she hoped the documents would change the world by sparking a debate about US foreign policy and the military. Since her conviction she has apologised for her actions.

At her court martial, Pte Manning's former Army supervisor testified Pte Manning had sent him a photograph of herself wearing a blond wig and lipstick.

He said Pte Manning had not indicated whether he wanted to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

Monday 19 August 2013

Feeling sorry for Mexican Congresswoman's unvaried sex life

***Parental Advisory***  This Blogpost contains some images relating to sexual positions***

Mexican congresswoman Ana María Jiménez Ortiz must lead a very sheltered and unvaried sexual life in the bedroom. I don't think her sex life exists outside the marital bed nor in any position other than the ordinary. Which means from what female friends have told me probably means she has experienced very many, or very intense experiences.

The reason I am saying this is that Ana Maria Jiménez Ortiz has come up with the following as a definition of marriage

'marriage should only be considered in those relationships in which the members have sex while facing each other.'

So I'm asking, does this mean that when a couple engage in doggy style (see below) that they rescind their marriage vows?

Or the reverse Cowgirl?

But there is another side to this argument, gay men can and do have sex facing each other. It is not a physical impossibility.

Exhibit A the octopus:

Exhibit B the cowboy:

There are of course many variations some of which face the partner and some of which face away for both straight and gay couples. Which brings me to the following conclusion, Ana María Jiménez Ortiz is favour of marriage for all as it is anatomically possible for any blend of homo sapiens to have sex either facing their partner or not, whether it is one man and one woman, or two women or two men. Therefore with a slight alteration may I suggest:

'Marriage should only be considered in those relationships in which the humans having sex can anatomically face each other should they so choose.'

So well done Ms Jiménez Ortiz for almost coming up with a fully inclusive definition of marriage.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Is the IOC having a 1968 moment?

The International Olympic Committee was asked by Gay Star News if they were going to 'make sure the LGBT community in Russia can have a visible, proud, safe presence at the games.'

The response from the IOC was 'Regarding your suggestions, the IOC has a clear rule laid out in the Olympic Charter (Rule 50) which states that the venues of the Olympic Games are not a place for proactive political or religious demonstration.'

Rule 50 states:

No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.

The penalty for violating this clause is “disqualification or withdrawal of the accreditation of the person concerned” without appeal. This is what happened to Tommie Smith and John Carlos for making their Black Power salute on the podium in Mexico in 1968 after the men's 200m.

However, near the start of the Olympic Charter are the fundamental principles of Olympism, I'm highlighting just a few of them:

  1. Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the
    qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism
    seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good
    example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles
  2. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development
    of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the
    preservation of human dignity.
  3. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of
    practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which
    requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
  5. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race,
    religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic
  6. Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter
    and recognition by the IOC.
My question to the IOC would be where is the preservation of human dignity by the hosts of the XXII Winter Olympic Games. The practice of sport and spectating is a human right, which should be defended for all without discrimination of any kind. Yet where does a same-sex couple whether a competitor of spectator stand if they are caught holding hands, or maybe kissing their partner after successfully winning a medal?

The IOC itself allowed for a Pride House at both the 2010 Winter Olympics and in London last summer. They had a place where LGBT athletes and supporters could be highlighted and supported in the end to discrimination. As I wrote on the lead up to the Games there was a Team LGB that was visible in London. There is a Team LGB that is hoping to be selected for Sochi.

There will be LGB athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, some may like Matthew Mitcham after Beijing 2008 been seen with their partner after they have competed. There are also LGBT spectators from around the world who are Olympic-philes, people such as myself. Some will go to any length to watch a Games, or to be in the area where the Games are taking place to soak up the atmosphere. How are the fundamentals of Olympism, going to help them should the new laws in Russia with such a loose definition of propaganda? The talk of coming down on 'non-traditional sexual orientation' does not offer much hope.

Is it time to add coherently sexual orientation into the list of discrimination listed in the Olympic charter rather than including it under 'or otherwise'?

The IOC is heading towards  a repeat of 1968. Remember their banning of the two athletes who gave the black power salute didn't prevent their message from being heard, it is heard loud and clear even to this day. Do we have modern day martyrs ready to show the IOC and the Russian National Olympic Committee that such a prejudicial and discriminatory law has not place in a member of the Olympic movement?

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Estimado España, vamos a hablar acerca de la geografía

Or in English.

Dear Spain, let's talk about Geography.

Now we all know that Spain are currently up in arms about a little piece of land claimed by a country that is at the other end of a continent. But imagine what they would say about a little piece of land claimed by a country on another continent.

Well we don't have to, they say Gracias and call it Ceuta

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Just how in the real world is Alderman Humphrey.

Woodvale Park in Belfast is one of those locations that is surrounded by names that many around the world will even recognise. The Woodvale Road that leads up to the park is an extension of  the Shankhill Road. Not far away at the Springfield Road which itself comes off the Falls Road and loops round the back of Falls Park and up in the hills where often they are messages of protest that can be seen from the M1.

But it is also close to the Crumlin Road and as a result the Ardoyne shops, past which the Orange order have not been allowed to march on each weekend since the 12th of the July.

It is also one of those locations that I have played bowls in (just like Falls Park) because bowls does not recognise the various divides that are marked by high walls topped with steel fencing and sharp points. Indeed Woodvale Park was where I played my last competitive outdoor match at the end of last season before my move to Orkney.

The season before as we were trying to make out way there, we were trying to avoid bands and lodges that where marching all over the place between the Shankhill and Crumlin roads. Indeed after our game we just about managed to get away before trouble broke out at Clifton Street and Donegall Street. After going up the Crumlin to avoid the marching (so we thought) we came down the Shankhill, just in time before that entire part of Belfast got sealed off. Having spend 3 hours in tranquility of the park it was sad, though not a surprise having seen the police presence that this was how that day would end.

The reason that today I am retelling all this is because last season we saw that there was some work being done to restore the park to somewhere that local people could enjoy more fully. Today was supposed to be the day that the Lord Mayor officially opened it. A Lord Mayor who promised that he would go to every part of the City of Belfast that invited him, when he took his office.

The issue is that the current Lord Mayor is Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, which as regular readers may be able to guess from my correct use of the fadas in his name is a Sinn Féin Lord Mayor, while the park is in a staunch Loyalist area.

Now of course any first citizen in almost any part of the UK would be expected to be the one to reopen a £2 million redevelopment within their city of a public space. But protestors came out in such force that they injured a police man and the Lord Mayor himself was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital for check-ups saying he was sore in some places. He since then carried on with his schedule for the day.

However, the incident was not helped by one of the City's Aldermen, William Humphrey of the DUP saying:

"We asked that the deputy lord mayor or the high sheriff carry out this duty here today.

"There is real anger, frustration. It started when the flag was removed. The lord mayor's party, the SDLP and Alliance came together to do that.

"This should have been a day of celebration for a £2m investment by the council and the Department of Social Development and quite honestly the lord mayor needs to understand he cannot make statements and go around doing press interviews calling for our flag to be removed, remove the flag, and then when he has a chain around his neck as lord mayor of this city, expect people to welcome him as first citizen.

"That's not how it works in the real world."

Actually Mr Humphrey in most of the real world, while people may disagree with a political decision made by a Mayor or his party he rarely comes under the physical threat and actuality of violence while carrying out his civic duties. As Mr Humphries said the Council had invested in this redevelopment, it is right and proper that the Lord Mayor should there to reopen it. Calling for the deputy (who happens to be the DUP Christopher Stalford) or the High Sheriff to carry out this task actually demeans the Council's involvement.

Does Mr Humprey not know that 'in the real world' the position of Deputy Lord Mayor has a representative role within the city along with the Lord Mayor. When the Lord Mayor is unavailable for whatever reason, it is the responsibility of the Deputy Lord Mayor to carry out the representative functions of the Lord Mayor. Now it appears that the Lord Mayor was available to go to Woodvale to open this park. He was willing to go somewhere where he knew they might be hostility for the wider public good.

Politics is about more than flags and at council level providing amenities for the local people is a key part of that role. That is what should have been celebrated in Woodvale today, Mr Humphrey is right about that. The opening of improved civic amenities for their people is what was important about today, not turning it into an extension of the protest that has been going on in one form or another since December.

In the news offer the last few days we have heard of people being threatened so often by online troll. But since December those who fail to understand how the real world operates with regard to flags have carried out heavy handed threats and actual violence against those that want Northern Ireland to actually live in the real world. Some who are my friends have been direct victims on that intimidation and violence.

Mr Humphrey and his DUP colleagues talk about wanting the best for Northern Ireland, maybe it is time for them to start acting and speaking like they actually meant it.

Update The Belfast Telegraph has video coverage of the arrival of the Lord Mayor on their news story.

Thursday 1 August 2013

Men and body image

Last night and on quite late at 11pm there was a programme on Channel 4 presented by The Last Leg's Alex Brooker in which he sought to gain his perfect body in just 8 weeks.

It was a look at the male perception of body image and how in the past 20 years of so men have become as obsessed, if not more so, than women to achieve the perfect body as sold to them to the media. It appears that a lot of men, and male adolescents actually are unhappy with the shape they are in.

The programme if you haven't seen it is available on 4OD for the next month and raises serious questions about men and how they perceive their bodies; gay or straight.

Confession time:

Am I 100% happy with my body? The answer to that is no.

Would I like to improve it? The answer would be yes.

Would I go to any ends to achieve this, plastic surgery or extreme dieting. The answer there would be no. But there is reasons for my answers to all of the above.

In my late teens and early twenties my body mass index would actually have measured me as being on the verge of being underweight. Not because I was starving myself, far from it I had a healthy diet and appetite. But I was burning all that food off by being a long distance runner with a training regime to match. Now of course I'm not running 45-60 miles a week during the winter months, nor am I capable of running 10ks in 30 to 33minutes.

However, I do know that even I have let my weight slide a little bit more than even I would like. My body mass index is slap bang in the middle ground of being normal weight, but I know there are bits of me that carry the weight more than others. My arms and legs almost look like they did when I was in my prime, there is no or little excess weight there. Instead all the extra is located on torso especially my waist line. Last summer for the first time since I was 15 I had to buy trousers that didn't have a 32 inch waist. For me that was devastating. I had been a regular 32/32 trouser measurement for all of my adult life and suddenly the stockpile of trousers didn't fit me.And as a result some of my suit combos were no longer wearable.

That was one of the reasons I set myself the target to get back into running. I knew I wouldn't scale the heights of my twenty year younger self, but I wanted to achieve the one goal I had yet to do and that was to run a full marathon. So I set about getting back into running and it was tough, tougher than I ever remember it in the past. At the start I just couldn't do it. My brain was telling me I should be better than this but my body kept saying no.

Does that mean I have body image issues? Maybe in a bit but I am realistic that the me that smiles out of photographs on from Malta, Spain, USSR or Orlando is not the goal. I know that is unachievable without having to give up way too much. But carrying a little less of the flab is what I want to do for the sake of my health. You see I am heading to that milestone in the Glenn male line five-o. As my father used to say getting past that line for him every year was a bonus, he picked up only 14 of them though. I want to give myself as much chance of getting there and beyond.

However, the question I have to ask myself, is did my 20 year old self look at himself and think he was too fat? In a way he did, a little less weight to carry around the track might have improved my times, I would have to have worked out how I could have done it and still kept the strength. But I do remember at times (especially when I was out with injury) thinking that I was getting too heavy when I clearly wasn't. The pressure didn't so much come from others back then, it just came from my perfect image of me.

Why the Drewitt-Barlow's going to court have got it wrong #equalmarriage

This is not what I wanted!

What you may ask?

Well Tony and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow are going to take the Church of England to court to make them have to carry out same-sex marriages. You may remember them as the first same-sex male couple in the UK to legally be both named of fathers of their children.

But what are you opposed to them doing that, you may ask, aren't I a gay Christian too?

Well yes I am, but I don't want to coerce any faith group into having to carry out marriage irregardless of the sexuality involved, I want them to come to that decision voluntarily. That is done not by threatening them, but by being inside and asking them why not. Not just from the LGBT couples but from our straight friends, families and allies.

We live in a country that allows both personal freedom and religious freedom. If someone's religious freedom means that they don't want to marry a same-sex couple in their church that freedom is to be protected just as those faith groups and people of no faith who do want to carry our a same-sex marriage is also protected. We cannot demand anything of another group and claim it to be in the name of personal freedoms when we are denying their. That is why in the Liberal Democrat policy on Equal Marriage we allow any faith group 'that wishes to do so' to perform same-sex marriages.

We are not in the business of interfering with outher freedoms. Until the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act comes into effect no faith group is even allowed to legally carry out a marriage ceremony for two people of the same-sex, nor is any registrar, nor humanist celebrant. What the act does is enable most faith groups to come to their own decision within their own Governance structure.

The one glaring exception of course if the Church of England. They wanted protection behind a quadruple lock, which should a General Synod at some point in the future decide in all three houses that they do want to carry out same-sex marriage will need secondary legislation to untangle the web that the Bishops and their supporters in both Houses have put in the way of them doing so.

The Drewitt-Barlow's say "The government is attempting to enshrine discrimination in law against people just because they are gay." going on to say "It’s not just about human rights; it’s about doing what is right?" Yet they are prepared to roller coaster over the religious freedoms, which along with sexual orientation are enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. They are discriminating in a different way and that is the issue, another wrong doesn't make it right.

Read also Jae has also covered this in his own inimitable style.