Category Archives: Running

Der Man im roten Pulli, or the man in the red jumper

I saw him again yesterday – der Man im roten Pulli. Actually I heard him before I saw him. I was out for a run, bracing some pretty unforgiving elements, when a high-pitched male singing voice reached me. The words were too battered by the wind and the rain for me to make them out, but their accompanying tune sounded very much like this.

I strained to listen, hoping, oddly I admit, that he was indeed singing “Now the harbour light is calling, this will be our last goodbye, though the carnival is over, I will love you till I die.” But just as we see what we want to see, we hear what we want to hear. And I evidently wanted to hear some sort of melancholy romance come out of this man’s mouth.

That, however, was not what I got. As he levelled with me, he paused to offer me a jolly smile and a line about the weather. “Tough conditions,” he said before jogging on again while crooning fragments of what, it turned out, was not The Seekers, but quite probably a German folk song, into the wet winter air. “Ja-ja-ja- aaaaaaa.” Silence. “Ein A-a-a-a-bend. La-la-la.”

He bounded towards the park exit, taking his red jumper, his singing and his general cheer with him. Although I could no longer see him, he stayed with me for the rest of my run, the happy man who sometimes sings and sometimes dances his way around the jogger’s circuit. He is with me again today. Making me smile.

Bad blogger, distracted jogger

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I have been a bad blogger. I am tempted to blame it on the holidays and family festivites in England, but that would be too easy. Truth is, I was struck by a touch of blogger’s block. I tried to encourage ideas in my usual way, but running doesn’t seem to have the same effect in rural Yorkshire as it does in Berlin. It might be sleepier, but its distractions are more… distracting.

For one thing, the uphill, down dale-ness of the experience makes it hard to hit the steady, meditative pace that subtly provokes thought; then there’s the rain, the gale force winds, and the ankle deep mud to contend with. But the greatest distraction of all is the sheer beauty of the panoramic moorland views, and the big skies that shift and drift above them.

I’m back in Berlin now though, where the skies are currently their usual January pale grey. If past years are anything to go by, they will stay like this until the end of February at least. So watch this space. There should be plenty of blogging coming up.

Category: Berlin, Running, Seasons | Tags: , ,

Unruly children

I was asked to write a post for the blog about Molly Eyre. When I asked if there was anything specific I ought to be writing, I was told “something about your new play…”  Here is what I decided on. A little piece about badly behaved characters.

I have come to realise there are some similarities between raising children and giving a voice to characters in a work of fiction. Prime among them is that they refuse to do as they are told. I’m working on a play at the moment, and following some insights I gleaned at a series of workshops given by CJ Hopkins, I decided to try and replace my rather ambling approach to plotting with something more systematic.

It was a departure, and within a relatively short space of time, I knew exactly what was going to happen in my second act, as opposed to just having a rough idea. When I sat down to put flesh on the bones of my plot, I could almost hear my one-time tutor Richard Beard, novelist and director of the National Academy of Writing (NAW), cheering me on. (“Write towards something, Tamsin…”) So I did.

I wrote. And I wrote. And I wrote some more. But my characters were not saying what I wanted them to, and they were certainly not sticking to my carefully mapped out plot. On the contrary, they were tearing it up as if they were two year-olds and it were a crisp newspaper.  And when they finally ran out of energy, and were sitting in a sea of paper sheds, tired out from the sheer exhilaration of being alive and thoroughly disobedient, they looked at me and started to cry for help.

My response was to take them out for a run. When I run, I sort out my writing questions. Unblock my blocks. Time and again. So we ran; my characters and I. And as we went, I laid down some ground rules. I told them that from now on in, we would be writing the play my way, not theirs. There would be no more plot shredding. They would go where I said, when I said, and what’s more, they would say what I said. They conceded, and by the end of the run, I had them back under control.

On that basis, we started over. We trotted along nicely for the first seven pages of Act II, and I allowed myself to think “this not so hard after all”. But then just as we were moving onto page eight, they suddenly reared, broke free of their reins and galloped off around a corner. I had two choices: I could let them go and follow them with interest, or try and catch them up and bring them back into line. I opted for the former.

They are still going, and I am still interested. So for now I have decided to stick to my more ambling plotting methods; the ones that allow my characters to become who they are going to become without too much meddling from me. I’m sure I will still offer them advice from time to time, and I hope that even if they don’t actively listen, they at least hear, and that the essence of what I try to teach them will reveal itself in surprising and beautiful ways.

Snow graffiti

I had been going to write something else about snow today, but as I stumbled through it on my run this morning, I saw this image. I couldn’t have put it better myself. Happy winter.

Dappy, happy or…

More years ago than seem real, I was spending the evening with friends in a Soho pub, when one of them said I was being “dappy”. Another told said friend that he’d be closer to the mark if he were to replace the “d” with an “h”. In terms of the letters themselves, there’s not much in it. Just a spin and a stroke. By the same token, the two states are no more than one degree apart.

I saw someone today who reminded me of that fine line. A man – late sixties – wearing big round glasses, headphones, and a bright red sweatshirt was part- running, part-dancing his way through the park, arms flailing and eyes smiling as he went. I watched people watch him with expressions suggestive of blandly imperceptive thoughts. They may, of course, have got the man’s measure, and he may have been utterly dappy, doolally even. But then again, they may have been way off.

From the outside: A man of advancing years, sporting the type of specs and headphones the cool kids wear, and running a strange jog-dance through the trees, waving his arms around as if he were trying to take off.

From the inside: Music flooding into his ears through the headphones his grandson left on his kitchen table. Bach. A chorus of angelic voices that, heard in the fresh cold of the park air, render him weightless, unwilling to bridle his joy, and unable to keep his body from expressing what he feels. He knows his glasses are out-of-date (and doesn’t know that in fact they are not), but he loves them because they were chosen for him very many years ago by the love of his life, the woman who is waiting for him to return home, to wash, change, and take her out to lunch on what happens to be their 49th wedding anniversary.

Dappy, happy, doolally or married for almost five decades… we see what we want to.