Wake Up and Smell the Coffee
March, it is mad hare time, the nights are getting lighter and there is the scent of spring in the air. I have been doing a lot of cycling lately since the wet, wet winter weather broke a few weeks ago. Putting in the miles on my trusty old mountain bike, a GT Aggressor that cost a massively reduced £150 some 13 years ago or thereabouts. I gave it a good scrub on Sunday after a particularly muddy and rocky descent down Fox Hagg up above where I live, a path I have never, in my soon to be 55 years of living in the South West of Sheffield, never before trod let alone rode. I reckon I have had my moneys worth out of this bike and still some to go as I stand apart from this throwaway generation.
My last blog written eons ago stated my intention to work gradually at my fitness and I have done just that. Working steadily, uprooting no trees, and determinedly slogging away at the coalface, feeling the aches and the afterglow in equal measure. In my experience quick wins are all too often quickly forgotten and eroded, trends and fashions come and go and fads continue to attract those seeking the gain with no pain. Often this latter involves cheating the mind and usually the body too, they offer short lived solutions to cravings that are socially constructed. We live in the ‘I want it now society’ where deferred gratification is pushed to the side by far too many people and this manifests itself in training as in life in general. Strangely, as I was writing this one of my training partners, Bill sent a round robin email about a guy who has appeared in the press today in the UK and on Facebook more than once.
Arlindo de Souza risks serious infection or even death for his look and he has already lost one friend to the practice, which is sweeping Brazil, Daily Mail, 11.3.14.
Injecting himself with a mixture of oil and alcohol is extreme and I guess there are underlying body image issues here that facilitates the distortion and fuels easy column inches in newspapers. Thing is whether it is the latest get fit gizmo or diet or gym class, they all promise something for not very much, often the payday comes much later after the money has been banked. So what for the old fashioned hard slog, is it so out of date that dinosaurs like me are the only ones left doing it. Is eating healthily, despite the odd packet of biscuits, training regularly, cycling, walking, pumping a few weights all that bad? Well I say not, indeed I declare that as we should try to eat what nature provides at a given season so we should train.
Is this radical? No of course it is not, except to the ‘look at me selfie obsessed poseurs’ who buy the quick fixes. Nothing about what I am doing is rocket science. I have no schedule, no targets, no charts or apps. I train according to the weather, my body, my desires. I could go all philosophical here and say that I train therefore I am but I would not know what that meant. Training is just part of me, it is integrated seemlessly into my life and is part of what I am, who I am. Training helps to define the I and the me, it is part of who I am to myself and to those I share this world with. That is it, it is very simple.
So what has rattled my cage that made me want to write this blog. Let me explain. Recently I have been working as cover in schools, secondary schools, when teachers call in sick. It has been really eye opening, I can be off to any school in the area with just a few minutes notice in a morning covering any subject. The work is set and my involvement differs day to day, school to school and class to class. There is great variety in the days and the young people I meet and every personality type has been present including some very challenging individuals. That is what they are called now. Last Monday I sat in my old school waiting for my timetable for the day outside the old headmasters office door, it is the business managers door now. It was where I spent large chunks of time as a miscreant back in the day, occassionally waiting to be caned by the deputy head and shortly afterwards my first lesson was in my old form room, a room I often stood outside looking in due to my naughtyness, karma?
Well as a supply teacher you are a sitting duck for those who feel it is their lucky day and there has been plenty of fun and games along the way, thing is the deck is always stacked in my favour and I dispatch miscreants from the class faster than I was ejected myself in the past. Firm with clear boundaries, pleasant and helpful with an edge of steel is how I think I am. I will not bore you with the daily struggle for authority in the classroom but it changes not from their day to mine but for the scourge of the mobile phone. Again a symptom of the need for instant gratification in the hands of many. Nowadays it is not the cane but the ‘isolation’ unit that awaits the persistant offenders, a mysterious and unknown, to me, entity until yesterday and that, together with a few coincidences is why I am writing today.
Yesterday I spent two hours supervising the inmates of an isolation room. I would have laughed had it not been a little sad. In a worn old classroom in a run down estate I sat facing a row of booths fashioned from that black artificial timber cheap furniture is made from. In these booth, like battery chickens, sat four sad individuals of various ages, and there ranks were swelled to eight in the next two hours. They are there because they are not wanted elsewhere, the isolation room is where schools dump their residium, the unwanted, often unmanageable young people that have no connection with learning. Many, this may shock you, are just uncultured yobs, products of parts of society that no longer functions anymore and to be fair is surplus to requirements. Both the left and right of the political spectrum line up, and have done for generations, to take pot shots at the lumpenproletariat or underclass, and here the next generation sit, in their booths deprived of clocks with work they will not and/or cannot do.
Does the isolation room work? Well I guess not, the cane never worked either really except on the good kids who made one mistake, the rest of us laughed in the face of it. The incumbents of isolation will move onto the streets in their hoodies and their ignorance and fulfil the necessary role of social bogeymen. That is the most likely outcome. It was reinforced today by a report on the BBC that shows that inequalities in life are reflected in inequalities in our ability to read, something Pierre Bourdieu called cultural capital many moons ago. What a surprise, not. As a student of sociology and education the fact that what we were describing twenty years ago is still what we are describing today and neither have changed for many generations is not a shock to me. The cycle continues, the wheel turns and everything changes and everything stays the same.
Hidden behind the isolation room occupants on the one hand and the high flyers on the other are countless other young people grinding their way through a difficult system as best they can, the unsung majority. Not for them some quick fix oil and alcohol based learning injection, no gizmo or app, just hard toil, daily, for years. It is the least attractive route but the one most commonly trod. Whatever the outcome desired we need, as a society to rediscover the sense of reward that is felt from an achievement truly earned. Something that we have invested time and effort, often sweat, blood and tears to achieve be it personal fitness, a black belt or a degree, whatever the final destination it is often the journey remembered that is the biggest sense of success.
That is what keeps my legs turning as I pedal up those hills time after time, as I punch and kick drill after drill, as I run carrying rocks or logs and as I read voraciously to improve mind as well as body. It is dogged determination that will separate out the fighter from the fashionista, it is something we need to help our younger generations find and experience, all of them not just the disaffected. There are no quick wins worth having, there is not an app for everything just as we cannot all become x factor overnight millionaires.
There is no short cut injection to happiness, no oil and alcohol to make things look better faster. Wake up, smell the coffee the go out and work your socks off and enjoy it.