Magazine article The Spectator

Candid Camera

Magazine article The Spectator

Candid Camera

Article excerpt

I inserted my earphones and stepped up on the treadmill. I kept my finger on the treadmill's speed-control button until it showed 11.5 kilometres per hour, then I pressed 'recently purchased' and 'play' on my MP3 player. The first track was Albert King doing his version of 'Honky Tonk Women'. I was up and running.

If I'm in the right mood for it, I go a bit mental when I run on the treadmill while listening to music. I mouth songs, or dance and run at the same time. I get a few looks, but let them look. Running's the governor, as boxing trainers say, and I enjoy running more than anything else at the moment. The novelist Haruki Murakami put me on to it.

Last year he published a meditation about running called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. It's hard to read his book, even in your 50s, without wanting to take it up.

At our gym, the treadmills face four flatscreen televisions fixed to the wall at eye level. They are permanently tuned to the four terrestrial channels. You can plug your earphones into a socket on the treadmill, select a channel, and watch telly while you run. I never do this. Once I'm into my stride and sweaty, I'm far too deranged by endorphins to concentrate on a telly programme.

But on this particular day I was facing the ITV screen and the ITN lunchtime news was on. Gordon Brown and Ed Balls were visiting a secondary school. They were shown seated side-by-side on a sofa in the school library. You could tell they were devoted friends. A group of pupils were kneeling in rows on the carpet in front of them. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families were grinning like naughty schoolboys. The children were grave as statesmen.

What were the Prime Minister and his minion doing there, I wondered? (As Albert King picked a blues lick with exquisite precision and sang about this gypsy bar-room queen he'd met in Memphis, who'd tried to take him upstairs for a ride. I increased the speed to 12.1. ) Had they decided to apologise, perhaps? They didn't look apologetic. If anything, they were looking pleased with themselves, as if they'd come there to receive the schoolchildren's gratitude for some act of kindness.

This grisly scene fascinated me. …

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