How to think about exercise – WORD Christchurch

Cover of How to think about exerciseAt all the festivals I attend, I like to do a pin stab. That’s where I open the fold-out programme, close my eyes and make a jab at the page. Then I go to that event. No matter what. This year, my jab landed on Body and Mind – How to Think About Exercise which is the title of Damon Young’s latest book.

Well, let’s be frank here, I don’t usually have any problems thinking about exercise. But I had a sinking feeling this festival event would end up making me feel bad about not actually doing it. Still, a pact is a pact.

The audience was reassuringly normal looking. I had feared being sandwiched between gym jocks. Damon himself  looked suspiciously toned, but co-host Marcus Elliott had a suitably disarming presence. But thirty minutes into this one hour event Elliott was still introducing Damon and we were still nudging around the topic of Philosophy:

Philosophy has to make sense in the context of my life and there is a moral dimension to this. Debate about current moral issues is vital, but debate is not just talking about your prejudices.

So far so good, the word exercise hasn’t even been mentioned yet. Whew. But here it comes:

For too long we have broadly defined people as “bookish and ethereal”or “physical and dumb” This is plain bunkum in Damon’s opinion.This notion of dualism is in fact what stops us from flourishing. His book teases out the benefits of removing this duality and breaking down the insidious capture of the notion of fitness by the young and the beautiful (philosophically speaking, whatever beauty may be. But let’s not go there right now).

Put quite simply Damon encourages us to disentangle how we look from who we think we are – our character, in other words. Just find a form of exercise you like. And do it. Think about what you are doing and take pride in this enhancement of your sense of self.

At the end, I elbowed my way out of the room and to the front of the book selling queue. Down the steps and I was second in line at the book signing table. When I handed my little book across, I said to Damon: “I can’t believe I am buying a book on exercise and one with such an ugly cover as well!” He laughed and took the book and signed inside:

To Roberta,

May you not judge this book by its cover!

Damon.

 

WORD Christchurch:

The art of slimming

Book Cover of Modern Art CookbookAre you in a wintry rut? Sitting in your little corner: fat, demotivated and glum. If you’ve given exercise its chance, and it’s too cold to diet, try Art.

That is correct, Art can make you slim. Here’s how:

Ease into this gently. First establish Art as a pleasurable activity. What makes you happy? Food. There is a beautiful book that connects Art and food  – The modern art cookbook by Mary Ann Caws. In this stunning book, you can relate to food (madeleines, red snapper, rare roast beef) as if you were already a famous artist like Monet or Salvador Dalí.

Next step, arm yourself with philosophical arguments that will put all the naysayers in their place. And who better to have on your side than Everyman’s Philosopher Alain de Botton with his academically entertaining Art as therapy. de Botton’s approach could satisfy your senses better than a plate of macaroni cheese. Or not.

Book Cover of Kitchen KitschShould Philosophy fail (as well it might), move on to a bit of aversion therapy. Take a trip back in time, before food photography became the art that it is to-day. There is some scary looking food on display in Kitchen kitsch: pictures of a nightmarish pie on page 15, overly shiny pineapple slices and sliced food trapped in lurid jello might help you lose your appetite.

But if you still just want to e-a-t, you will need to up your game and draw everything that you eat. This is what Danny Gregory in The creative license demands that you do. Every Day. It’s brilliant, you eat less because you are terrified of trying to draw that cheeseburger and fries. Or you are so busy sketching, you don’t have time to munch.

Oh, and you get really good at drawing. I like the look of this!

 

Destination… Airport

Have you visited your airport recently?

Not for anything to do with travel, but just to hang out. Because the clever airport rebranding folk have come up with The Airport Visit as something to do. Just for fun. I kid you not. Actually, there’s quite a bit to be said for it. More interesting than a day in Sockburn and cheaper than a trip to Phuket, an airport is a bit like a mall with benefits.

But what’s it like to be at an airport with no travel purpose in mind? It certainly enhances the appeal of the book  100 Places You Will Never Visit. But, no matter what, I love airports. Alain de Botton beat me to what could have been my dream job when he landed the position of Writer in Residence at Heathrow for a week. But there’s nothing to stop me from blogging from Christchurch International Airport, so here goes.

You’ll be spoilt for choice insofar as cafés are concerned. I settled myself in with my cappuccino and got right down to my favourite airport activity – people watching: retired travellers endlessly checking boarding passes, harried mothers with overexcited children, cool businessmen praying they don’t get seated next to them on the flight. And weaving their superior way through this mêlée are the pilots, co-pilots and flight attendants. Perhaps not quite a glamorous as the Trolley Dollies in the latest TV series PanAm, but surely free of suspender belts at least!

Air travel is a peculiar beast – lacking the romance of train travel or the languor of a cruise, it has failed to generate a body of literature to commend it. My best find is the evocatively named Airports and Other Wasted Days. But sitting in a terminal, you have to marvel at how much air travel has changed. Time was when people dressed up to fly overseas, like the passenger in this old Christchurch Airport 1950 photo who is wearing furs and a hat and is surrounded by men in suits and uniforms. Now it’s baggy pants and Crocs all the way.

Now I know that a trip to the airport is not going to be an easy option to sell to the kiddies (some of whose friends have parents who are actually going to travel with their children) and I never said  an airport outing would be cheap. All I’m saying is: you too can get that travel buzz, buy chocolate coated “Sheep Dropping” raisins at a Duty Free, smell of three conflicting perfumes, wave to a pilot, misidentify jets to trusting youngsters and do it all on a spectacular caffeine high.

And what’s more, not once in the whole outing will a whining child say to you:

“Are we there yet?”

Points of Puzzlement

CoverWith the library move to WiFi, I’ve heard around the network (and I do get around), that in the future we’ll all be approaching customers at their exact “point of puzzlement”. This trip to the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival looks set to provide me with just the dry run that I need.

It all started at Christchurch Airport with self check-in where I was descended upon by a lovely lady who had graduated top of her class in Point of Puzzlement Training which will from here on in be referred to as POP. I was the customer she had been waiting for since 6am and she went way beyond the call of duty. I became her POP Patsy and I can now self check in using three different methods, in several foreign languages and in a state of emergency.

After directing me to cafes all over the airport, I made my escape to the second POP person where you offload your bags. She came from the take no prisoners school of POP and was not going to peak too early in the day with her smiles.

My third POP moment came when Richard advanced on us in the departure lounge but that was mainly because it was the first time I’d seen his new hairdo. Say No More!

Now here in Auckland – Yippee and acting all small townish . I got connected to broadband all by myself and am sitting here in my hotel room all flushed with excitement. Here’s some library reads to get you into the vibe – Alain de Botton and The Art of Travel, Anita Brookner and Hotel du Lac and a new one that I can’t think of right now, but is about a man who spends a lot of time in airports – it has been made into a film. That is your test question for the day.

Over and Out.

Imagine a week at the airport?

I’m not a great fan of flying, but being an avid people watcher I find nothing better than sitting at arrivals and departures and finding myself being pulled briefly into other people’s lives.   Surely then one of the best writing jobs would be the writer in residence at Heathrow Airport?

Alain de Botton, billed on the Heathrow Airport website as one of the world’s most respected philosophical authors , and author of  The pleasures and sorrows of work and The architecture of happiness, was given this opportunity by BAA, a British airport company that owns the likes of Heathrow and Gatwick. An obvious promotional tool, De Botton was however given a free rein as to what he wrote, and passengers could see what he was writing on large screens placed behind him.  Out of this experience came A week at the airport : A Heathrow diary.

The Guardian weekly was rather lukewarm in its response to the book.

De Botton’s run-ins with priests, shoe-shiners and pilots provide a nice glimpse behind the scenes of a familiar facade, but don’t turn to the book for industry analysis, journalistic dirt-digging or flashy first-person writing: it’s as chipper and soothing as an air stewardess.

Nothing wrong with a bit of chipper I say, and I have this book on my list of soothing books to read.