Where Power Stops by David Runciman. Book that analyses the use and limits of political power, divided up by various leaders. It gives the impression of being worked up from a series of book reviews, with most of its evidence coming from biographies and autobiographies, but it still works well for its purpose.
It's particularly good on looking at the biases, blindnesses and hidden agendas of the books themselves. In the chapter on Trump he notes that there are lots of accounts of insiders nobly Speaking Truth To Power by admonishing Trump. but they are generally suspiciously slick and it seems unlikely most of them would have been so bold: he thinks they're reporting what they would like to have said in retrospect.
With Gordon Brown he notes the absence of the brutal dirty work done by his spin doctors on his behalf. With Tony Blair he is very skeptical of the claim that only at the end had Blair really worked out the science of "deliverology" to put things in practice. He notes that this is a common feeling among leaders, but it's more that at the end of their terms they only try to do easy things as power wanes.
Overall, an interesting book, easy to read and informative. Can easily be read chapter by chapter.
What I'm Reading 2
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Thriller about a borderline alcoholic woman who becomes involved in a murder investigation after seeing something from the train window on her commute. I liked this one: the characters and in particular the central character seemed plausible but interesting. The mystery is fairly well worked out though the list of suspects is a bit small. Has a lot of pace and tension and the plot was decent.
What I'm Reading 3
Year of the Mad King by Antony Sher. Another volume of Antony Sher's theatre diaries, in this one he is preparing to play King Lear at a time when his family are suffering from terminal illnesses.
As usual it's fascinating to see how he prepares. He talks to a doctor who tells him that Lear can't be seen as having dementia as he can make details plans, he thinks that instead Lear suffers delirium after being caught out in the storm, but gradually recovers and gains some insight afterwards. Sher previously played the Fool in Lear, and a kind of sub-plot is how he's gently talked out of trying to control that role too.
Well worth reading if you like theatre and Shakespeare, but probably a bit dull for people who aren't interested.
What I'm Reading 4
Past Tense by Lee Child. Last year's Jack Reacher novel, there's a new one out soon. Pretty decent: has Reacher doing some geneological research while a couple are menaced in a sinister motel.
So on the 30th of July I signed up to do the London Ultra on the 5th October, a 55km race along the southern half of the Capital Ring footpath from Woolwich to Richmond. That was a bit ambitious as I've never raced more than 10km before and only had a little over two months to train, but I thought I might never get the chance to do an ultra that finishes so near to home again.
I planned to walk the hills and jog the rest at as economical a pace as possible. I'd done each half of it before and at the same speed would have finished in 9hrs 10minutes, inside the cutoff.
First half went really well, felt great, stuck to the plan, got to the halfway point at a little over three and a half hours which would have put me up for a decent 7-ish hours time. A bit further though and I started to suffer a bit: weirdly my left arm started hurting as well as my legs, maybe from holding it up for so many hours. I basically stuck to the plan though until I got to just past the full marathon distance. At that point every running step felt like a little explosion in my knees and I was getting out of breath, so I walked most of the rest. The path was eerily empty as most people had passed me by then. Summoned up a bit more strength and jogged the last few kilometers, especially on the flat but busy footpath by the Thames. Eventually finished in a bit over 8 hours, well inside the cutoff with about 30-odd stragglers after me.
Really glad I did it, good to see this old body can still do some new stuff. Think I need to work on getting faster over shorter distances before doing another long race though.
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