little black dress
and little black bag
of dog shit
little black dress
and little black bag
of dog shit
On a blue-bright day of
We saw infinite value
In things of transient beauty
Diamonds were shattered icicles on
Forest paths promising all the world
And two old men closed their eyes to
Face the sun
As they shared a picnic of peaches
A mile below
The city fully visible
Clustered round the bay
To watch a ferry draw a white line
Pointing to the horizon
Last night after work. I set up my target in the garden to shoot a few ends before it got dark. As usual, the first few arrows went in the middle, and as usual I thought ‘Ooh, I’m on to something good here!’. And then, as usual, things went down hill and I ended up shooting a distinctly average Worcester score of about 260/300.
I tend to use a target face until it’s shot to pieces. My current one has about 250 arrow holes in it. Normally, I evaluate each arrow as I draw it from the target. ‘That one’s in the middle so it was good, that one is nowhere near the middle so it was rubbish’. Perhaps you probably do something similar. This time it occurred to me to look not just at individual arrow holes but at the pattern of all the holes left in the target. The pattern looked something like the picture on the left below. The centre of the group is not in the middle (which on a Worcester face scores 5), but in the next ring out, somewhere round the 7 o’clock position.
So I adjusted my sights!
Tonight I went into the garden to shoot, and once again I plotted my arrows. The group is about the same size but its in a different place. This time the ‘average arrow’ – the centre of the group – is bang in the middle.
I scored 281. That’s the second best Worcester score I’ve ever had, and equates to a Portsmouth of about 566.
The lesson is, don’t read too much into single arrows. Shoot a load of arrows (at least 60), plot them on a chart, then work out where the middle of the group lies. If its not in the middle, then adjust your sights.
Free points. Your welcome!
Saturday. What day?
Rainy day or sunny day
I don’t really care when it’s a
Checking out my systems
Knees ache, wheezing its
Absolutely freezing but its
Warm up? You’re joking! I can
Just about stagger, I’m a
Back-marking lagger but it’s
Thank the volunteers and
Applaud all the achievers
Watch for dogs and leaves and then its
GO, and we’re away
And I’m running – me!
Feel your rhythm, find your pace,
It’s a ParkRun, not a race
Left foot, right foot, not too fast
Never first but never last
Past the café, through the trees
Hit your stride and feel the breeze
Round the corner, on the mud
One lap down, you’re doing good
Second lap, it starts to burn
Thank the marshal, take the turn
Extend your stride and push on through it
You’re a runner, you can do it!
I’ve been lapped but now I’m lapping
Desperate to close that gap in
Front of me I
The throttle and
A woman with a buggy
For fifty-third place!
Who says ParkRun’s not a race?!
Now I’ve recovered and I’m
Chilling with my buddies
Talking times and laughing as we
Stand in line
Thoughts turn to breakfast
Time to put the kettle on
So don’t forget your barcode and I’ll
See you next time.
Peter Pan Parkrun
7th December 2016
the village bell
Left the familiar surroundings of the pond
And the company of his fellows
To cross the road
Having not conducted a risk assessment
And lacking any capacity for reflective thought,
In the middle of the carriageway
He tucked his feet beneath him, and just sat down
A car came round the corner.
The driver saw the duck, and stopped.
Looked from left to right, and
Then from right to left
But did not move
His was not the paralysis of indecision
Nor the limb-freezing terror of imminent danger
He was just a duck sitting in the middle of the road
Entirely lacking the capacity for reflective thought
The driver looked at the duck
And the duck looked at the driver
But nothing really happened
Except that I joined the queue of traffic
Behind the driver
Behind the duck
At this point the driver bethought himself to
Move things on a bit
So he opened the car door, and got out of his vehicle
To address the duck
Such was his haste
To do the right thing, display the right attitude
Towards a duck who lacked entirely the capacity for reflective thought
Or the intention to move
That he forgot to apply his handbrake
And his car began to roll gently backwards
Down the slope
Emergency! Crash imminent!
The man spotted the danger and leapt to his car, which would not
Stop. Why should it? It was just a lump of metal on wheels, entirely in thrall
To the laws of physics which made it work in the first place
Panicking now, the man flung
Open the door, and himself across the
Drivers seat, legs sticking out as if the car had
Just in time
He wrenched on the handbrake and the car stopped
One inch from mine
The man climbed into the car
No eye contact with me, or the duck
And drove away
I looked at the duck and the duck
looked at me. I smiled and the duck smiled back in a shared
Moment of understanding
For we both recognized that its not just ducks, but folks
Who sometimes lack the reflective capacity to think through the consequences of their actions
To their logical conclusions.
And with that, the duck stirred his stumps
And waddled slowly back to the pond
To stick his white head under the green water
And I drove home for tea
See the man
In Trafalgar Square
Who wears no shirt
Having breath in his lungs
and a tune in his head
But no horn
He improvises with
A traffic cone
To play the ancient lament of the dispossessed
Groaning, keening, whale-song
Beautiful and absurd
Fresh every day
This Riding landscape
The mile-wide Humber
Is a silver stitch
A bright button sewn on evening’s
And the wolds about us
Flowing and folded
Breaking in geological time
Winter and summer
We walk the mile
To this companionable bench
Today I shot a Portsmouth score of 577, setting a new personal best by a big margin. I’m absolutely chuffed with that. Sure, I shot it in my garden rather than at the club, so it’s not official – but I did it and I’m pleased. And I did it by thinking. Ultimately, archery is not about equipment (though I’ve got a lot of that) or even technique (which I spend hours and hours refining through reading, watching and practice). Archery is a mental game.
The Portsmouth is a rigorous test of an archer’s technique, and in the indoor winter season we spend hours and hours trying to improve our scores. The round consists of 60 arrows shot from a distance of 20 yards at a 60cm target divided up into 10 concentric circles. The smallest circle, in the middle, is 6cm in diameter (just under 2.4 inches). Hit that, and you score 10 points. The next ring out scores 9, the next 8 and so on. You shoot 10 ‘ends’ of six arrows. If you get 6 arrows in that little golden spot, then you score 60 points. Like this:
For more than a year, I’ve been getting scores in the 550s, sometimes in the 560s. My normal pattern is to shoot two or three really good ends of say 56 or 57. Then I think – ‘I’m onto something here – maybe I’ll get a great score!’ – and from that point onwards my scores take a nosedive. I start paying attention to the numbers and that’s fatal. A good shot needs a good technique, and a key part of that technique is rhythm. Lose that rhythm, and the groups begin to spread and the scores to drop. I have felt for some time that my basic technique is ok. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be able to get scores of 57 or 58. My problem was that I was inconsistent in the way I used it. I needed to find a strategy to take my attention away from the scores whilst simultaneously keeping my technique consistent.
So how did I fix the problem? Before shooting every arrow, whilst settling my mind and preparing my body, I spoke out loud to myself. ‘Archery is not about scores. Archery is about only one thing, and that is moving my right elbow backwards’. Then I took the shot. Having shot it, I went through my shot cycle again. Once again, as I settled my mind and body, I said out loud ‘Archery is not about scores. Archery is about only one thing, and that is moving my right elbow backwards’. Then I took another shot. Arrow after arrow went into the gold. 41/60 hit that 6cm centre circle, 17 went into the outer gold ring to score 9, and 2 went into the red. The result of this simple process was to improve my PB of 566 (a score I had only managed to hit once in my life) by 11 points to 577.
There are technical reasons why ‘moving my right elbow backwards’ makes sense in the context of archery technique. Its all to do with how you use your back muscles, and how you release the string. And my strategy of talking to myself only worked because my technique is basically sound and repeatable. But the main point is that I gave my mind something simple to think about – the movement of my right elbow – with the effect that my body could then get on with the task of using the technique I have worked so hard to teach it. My body doesn’t need to be supervised by my mind. It needs to be trusted.
So there we are. The next challenge of course, is this. Can I do it again? Can I do it under stressful competition conditions? If I can, then I’ll be scoring well enough to win competitions the next time the indoor season comes around. And if I can’t? Well, I’ll just keep right on trying!
I watched a young woman
brush her hair for sleep.
she worked from forehead to crown
each stray wisp caught
she wound tight
rolling the band
from wrist over hand
to make a ponytail.
Done, she closed her eyes
resting her head back
against the bin
And I walked on