How the girl who hated PE became the woman who loves to run

A woman running along a path by the sea

It’s finally spring on this side of the world, and one of the reasons why I feel like celebrating is that the warmer, lighter evenings will allow me to start running again. I’ve written on here before about how much I love to run the streets of Hobart – not in any attempt to set records, simply because it makes me happy.

This year I’m hoping that my running routine will be even easier to keep up, because as part of the redevelopment of the oval across the road the council has installed a new track around the perimeter. It’s a huge improvement on the bumpy, soggy ground that I had to contend with previously, and while running short laps isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, it’s a great way of getting started again.

Voluntarily choosing to go out for a run or a cycle still feels strange – it doesn’t sit very comfortably as part of my identity because it’s something I didn’t start doing until my mid-twenties.

As a kid living out in the country I stayed fit without really trying – walking the dogs, shooting hoops, and kicking a soccer ball against the side of the house for hours on end. And as a university student in Edinburgh I got good workouts walking all over the city each day and dancing until the wee small hours several nights a week. But I hated school PE lessons with a passion. So how did the girl who hated exercise become the woman who loved it? Continue reading

In Praise of Libraries

stack of books

Libraries have always been a big part of my life.

I remember the excitement of finally being old enough to join the tiny library in the village where I grew up; the responsibility of having a card to look after; the solemnity of the ritual where I would approach the counter with my chosen books and stand watching while the librarian stamped each one with a return date.

(25 years later I am still slightly ashamed that I was once careless enough to lose a book from that library. Sorry sorry sorry. I have no idea where it went.)

At primary school I was selected to be a student librarian. It was a pretty unexciting job – one for those of us who were diligent and smart, but not popular enough to be elected house captain. Still, it won me a red enamel badge with gold lettering, which I pinned to my denim jacket with pride. Continue reading

Signed GPJ

GPJ

My Grandpa died almost twenty years ago. I remember the date because it was the day after my 12th birthday. Most of my primary school classmates were away on a residential trip, but I’d chosen not to go (an introvert even then) and so there were just a few of us left.

Later that week the headteacher – the perfectly named Mrs Spankie – came into the classroom, placed a gentle hand on my shoulder, and told me I’d won a national competition for my project on Robert Burns.

I have never liked Robert Burns. Continue reading

I am Beyonce, but better

Mouth organs

In my head I am Adele. I am Aloe Blacc and Eminem. I am Florence Welsh and Fiona Apple. I am Elton John and Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Michael Stipe. I am Kylie and Dolly, Janis and Dusty, Aretha and Billie, all rolled into one pitch-perfect, perky-breasted package. Give me a stage and I will strut with the best of them.

Except back in the real world, I am Ruth, and I can’t even sing Happy Birthday in tune. I am that girl who was asked to mime in school performances. Continue reading

Internships: just for the young?

spiral bound notebook

Internships are wasted on the young.

Or maybe they’re not. Maybe it’s just that mine was wasted on me.

How I look back now and wish I’d taken more advantage of the opportunity. I was 21. I applied on a whim, scrabbling together a last minute CV, and was stunned to be invited to an interview. That meant a day away from my full-time but unpaid summer job as an arts reviewer at the Edinburgh Festival. I took the 5am train down to London, the 4pm train back, arriving in Scotland just in time for my publication’s launch party.

In between train journeys I spent several hours in the offices of a national newspaper, along with a dozen other wannabe hacks. First we were just observed as we sat and chatted, not realising it was part of the screening. Next we were given a marker pen and a copy of the paper to scrawl on. ‘Tell us what you’d do differently,’ they said. I circled the headlines. ‘Too small to be effective signposts on the page,’ I wrote. Finally we were paired up and had to interview each other – ten minutes to talk, then twenty minutes to turn it into a publishable piece. That bit was easy. Everyone loves to talk about themselves. Everyone has a story.

Continue reading