As with last week’s posting, this is a blog I’ve written for work, but as it’s not going to be published until December, and as it’s about something that’s going to happen this weekend, I thought I’d bung it up here now, with a few tactical edits…
I’d like to start, if I may, with three pieces of paper fixed to the wall next to my desk.
The first is a picture of Steve Prefontaine, probably the greatest American distance runner that never was, and the first ever rock star athlete. He had proper All-American good looks, he was incredibly gifted as a runner, he pretty much inspired Bill Bowerman to invent Nike, and just before his life could get to be in the least bit ordinary, he turned his sports car over after a party, and created an even bigger legend. Any footage you see of him running not only show a mop of shaggy blond hair bouncing up and down as he effortlessly leads from the front, but also a full moustache. It’s very rare that you see anyone these days who looks good with a moustache, as you’ll witness if you spend any time in any office building in the last week of November, but Steve Prefontaine was always something of an exception. Anyway, his picture is on my wall to remind me that the best runners don’t bother to look behind them.
Next to that is a copy of a cartoon from the Eagle, showing Alf Tupper, the ‘Tough of the Track’. The Eagle was a comic that celebrated all things British, in that post-war period when Britain was pretty much on top of its game, and you couldn’t get much more fantastical than the fictional story of Alf Tupper. Born on the wrong side of the tracks, Alf’s natural athletic ability ran into bad luck on a weekly basis, often because he was running against cheating ‘toffs’ or evil German milers. Deprived of any decent training conditions, Alf had to work sixty hours a week as a welder to make ends meet, and lived entirely on a diet of fish suppers. One of these days, I’m going to start a running club called the ‘Alf Tupper Harriers’. For full membership, you’ll have be a fully qualified welder, be capable of running under four minutes for an imperial mile, and prove to the admissions secretary evidence of a chips only diet for a given four week period. Unfortunately, I’ll be ineligible to join on all but one of the entrance criteria, so will have to settle for bronze membership.
And the third piece of paper is an email to my wife from a couple of months ago. The domestic arrangements in the Emu household are such that we end up emailing and texting each other quite a bit, in lieu of ever being in the same place at the same time. It’s an interesting challenge this, as I spend so much of my life writing emails at work, that it’s easy to mix up your styles. For example, Mrs R has never really forgiven me for sending her a link with a message of ‘FYI’. And I’m pretty sure I once sent an email to my boss with three x’s after my name, although it’s never actually been mentioned.
Anyway, this is an email that I sent in May, just off the back of yet another marathon that really could have gone a bit better. If I’d sent it to someone at work, it would have had four distinct, direct and punchy bullets, and, possibly due to the confusions above, it had four distinct, direct and punchy bullets:
– I’d like to take you to Budapest in October
– this is the hotel we’re going to stay at (link to expensive hotel)
– and on the Sunday afternoon we can go to Margetsziget and watch the well heeled Hungarians walk their Vizsla puppies**
– the only catch is that I’d like to run the Budapest marathon on the Sunday morning
What do you think?
Well, to my surprise, I got a reply within about half an hour:
“Yes. Do it!”
To be honest, I was expecting a little more negotiation. Mrs E/Natasha is tolerant of most of the whining and moaning that’s associated with marathon running, but tends to draw the line where it impinges on any child-free weekends. But, always one to follow a direct instruction from my little Soviet double agent, I booked the flights and hotel that evening.
When I got home a few days later, I mentioned how chuffed I was that she’d agreed to the weekend. She seemed a little surprised that I was surprised, and after a bit of skirting around the issue, asked what bloody marathon I was blathering on about. Switching seamlessly from doting and grateful husband into full defensive mode, I tried the obvious line:
“Didn’t you read the email?”
“Yes, but not after the bit about the dogs. I lost interest after that.”
So, the email is next to my desk, for two reasons. Firstly to remind me to get a bit of a wiggle on with some training, otherwise I’ll have another embarrassing, cramp ridden marathon, albeit one with a nice walk watching some little Hungarian puppies afterwards.
And secondly to remind me how to communicate with people. If I can’t hold my wife’s attention after three points on reasonably interesting subject matter, it’s fairly unlikely I’m going to do more with some of the slightly, err, drier, topics that I might have to cover at work, for example.
So my top tips are:
– never have more than three points
– make it interesting to the reader
– make it direct and to the point
– feel free to ignore this one
I’m off now. Got a plane to catch with Natasha. TTFN.
* Not her real name, but I’m trying some options out. Gives her a bit of cold-war glamour, no?
** This is not a euphemism. But appreciate it might need a bit of explanation some time.