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A stitch in time saves stress down the line

May 2nd, 2017 by

Renaissance in needlecraft is fuelled by huge social media interest

With his bald head and tattooed triceps, Jamie Chalmers is an unlikely advocate for the delicate art of cross-stitch, but the 42-year-old is a self-styled kingpin of contemporary embroidery.

Mr X Stitch – as he is known to his many social media followers and those who attend his workshops in London’s East End – is leading a march of young, hip men and women embracing textile crafts. Across Britain, an army of needle-wielding folk are joining sewing and knitting groups, signing up to classes and enjoying the rewards of stitching, knitting and crochet in a renaissance of traditional needle skills.

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My workout: ‘I was freestyle slalom skating before I even knew it was a sport’

May 2nd, 2017 by

Alice Lean, 11, on the thrill of freestyle slalom skating

On my fifth birthday, my dad bought me a pair of inline skates. I loved them. For a few years, all I did was skate around, but after a while that got boring, so he got me some cones. I’d dance through them at the local park. I really enjoyed it, so we looked it up and found YouTube videos of people slalom skating, doing all these different tricks. It was so exciting that this thing I’d been doing actually existed as a sport.

My dad discovered a community of slalom skaters in Hyde Park, London, about an hour and a half from our home in Gravesend, and took me there one summer. I was really nervous. There were all these people in their late teens and mid-20s. They were skating along to music and their style was amazing. Everyone was so nice to me, treating me as an equal and teaching me tricks. They’ve become my friends.

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Do bigots just lack imagination? | Oliver Burkeman

May 2nd, 2017 by

Empathy requires mental gymnastics at the best of times. Empathy for whole categories of people requires Olympic-level skills

It is usually seen as a depressing paradox about human beings that we find it easier to sympathise with one person’s suffering than with that of thousands: Stalin probably never really said “one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic” – but he was right all the same. It’s not much of a paradox, though. It makes sense: each of us has access to only one set of thoughts and emotions – our own – so we’re obliged to relate to others by analogy, working on the assumption that they feel pain and joy like we do. (As philosophers enjoy pointing out, you can’t truly know that your family and friends aren’t just meaty robots, with no inner life at all.) And it’s obviously easier to draw an analogy between yourself and one other person, as opposed to “the population of Somalia” or “all victims of domestic violence”, let alone those killed in the future by global warming, who aren’t necessarily even born yet. Empathy requires mental gymnastics at the best of times. Empathy for whole categories of people requires Olympic-level skills, and most of us aren’t up to it.

But there’s an intriguingly easy way to induce compassion for groups, according to a new study by the psychologist Kurt Gray and colleagues, published in the Journal Of Experimental Psychology and reported by Vox. It makes a difference, they found, whether you say “a group of 50 refugees” (for example) versus “50 refugees in a group”. The first phrasing focuses on the group, not its members, with the result that we think of those members as less capable of rich inner experience – and less human, if we’re honest – than ourselves. The latter phrasing focuses on the members, rather than the group. That linguistic switch proved sufficient for participants in the study to treat them as fully human, and fully deserving of compassion.

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Experience: I had a free birth

May 2nd, 2017 by

We never extricated ourselves from the system; we just didn’t go for check-ups or scans

A free birth is one without medical assistance. For us, that meant no scans, no doctors and 58 hours of labour in our lounge: just me, my husband, Flynn, and our friend Claire.

I’m 32 and a yoga teacher, so yoga and mindfulness have allowed me to understand and trust my body. I’m also practical. I looked at all the things that could go wrong, then all the things that could go right – and chose positivity. I fell pregnant with our little girl, Fox, in May 2016.

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Look, no cars! Riding the closed-road Etape Loch Ness

May 2nd, 2017 by

Peter Walker takes in stunning views and steep climbs on one of an increasing number of UK cycling sportives that take place on routes shut to motor traffic

If there is one single activity most responsible for the recent mini-boom in Britons taking up road biking, it is arguably the sportive.

These organised, entry-only mass cycling events have sprung up around the UK in ever-increasing numbers. For various legal and insurance reasons they are not races but instead challenge riders only against the clock.

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The government just announced a gamechanger for cycling in England – Sam Jones

May 2nd, 2017 by

The new cycling and walking investment strategy is the first legislation of its kind to legally bind the government to long-term funding for cycling and walking provision

Unless you’re an avid transport campaigner, it’s likely that among the rush of government announcements made last week, you will have missed one very important one: the publication of the cycling and walking investment strategy (CWIS),

The government’s intention to launch a CWIS was first announced in January 2015. It took more than two years, but we now have the first legislation of its kind in England to bind the government with legal commitments to invest in cycling and walking provision.

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Marathon man Matthew Rees: ‘It was fate. We were meant to cross the finish line together’

May 2nd, 2017 by

The London Marathon runner on how he got a memorable moment, if not a personal best time, when he helped fellow runner David Wyeth to finish

It has become the defining image of the 2017 London Marathon: Matthew Rees stopping 300 metres short of the finish line to help David Wyeth, a stranger on the verge of collapse, complete the race. “I was just about to sprint to the finish when I saw David,” Rees tells me. “His legs were completely jelly-like and he collapsed in front of me. So I decided to forget my race. He had come so far and after 26 miles of running I wanted him to make the finish.”

Rees, who was running his third marathon as part of the Swansea Harriers club, was having a tough race himself. “Earlier on, some calf issues that I had been experiencing flared up and I was in a lot of pain,” he confesses. “I nearly dropped out but I decided I wanted to get to the finish line. When I saw David, he was clearly having the same thought. It felt like fate, that we were meant to cross together.” What did he say to him? “I was trying to motivate him and keep him coherent. I just kept on saying: ‘You will finish, I won’t leave your side, we’ll get to that finish line.’”

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My marathon crossword challenge: 26 clues in 26 miles

May 2nd, 2017 by

Guardian cryptic crossword setter Paul challenged himself to write one while he ran. Here’s how he did it …

You run the London marathon, you need a gimmick. For the past 22 years I have been writing the Guardian cryptic crossword under the pseudonym Paul, after my late brother, and I had already run four marathons in his memory. I realised there are about 26 clues in a puzzle, and 26 miles to a marathon. Suddenly the idea was there, and I began to regret it immediately.

I asked my crossword-setting colleague Richard Browne, AKA Imogen, to fill a grid with 26 words. Twenty-six crossword-loving volunteers were each allocated a mile, and a word. They were briefed to stand within yards of each milepost holding up their word, yelling “Crossword Paul!” to attract my attention as I passed. I then had until the next milepost to think of a suitable clue.

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How was your weekend running?

May 2nd, 2017 by

Sometimes it’s the tough ones that you learn from. Or so I hope. Not the result I wanted in yesterday’s London Marathon, but I’ll move on. Eventually. And as always, I want to hear your own stories from the weekend, whether you ran a marathon or did something altogether more sensible

Well. This is not the post I wanted to write. I wanted to wake up this morning knowing what it feels to be a sub 3 marathoner. Instead I got a kicking. I’ll get up again, slowly, painfully, but I will get up.

Everything looked so good. I wasn’t complacent, I think, but all the signs were there. PBs galore. No niggles, as I had going into Berlin last year. And yet. From mile 14, quad pain which started bad and got worse, far far worse than anything I’ve ever had before. The longest 11 mile run/jog/limp home of my life. An absolute eternity of just saying “one foot in front of the other. Just one foot in front of the other”. Some miles which lasted, I’m sure, about three weeks. Eventually, the finish line. No triumph, just a collapse. Not the picture I had in my head for weeks, months now. 3hrs 10mins, which I do know is not a ‘bad’ time but it’s not what I wanted, or trained for, or hoped for.

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‘Uber for bikes’ comes to Cambridge – if you can find it

May 2nd, 2017 by

China’s popular dockless cycle share schemes allow riders to drop their bike wherever they want. Ofo is the first to launch in the UK – but what will our rider make of it?

Ofo, one of a host of Chinese start-ups hoping to do for bikes what Uber did for taxis, has chosen Cambridge for its first foray into Europe, a trial of which launched without fanfare this week.

Chinese cities have seen hundreds of thousands of these ‘dockless’ bikes hit its streets, that now have tens of millions of regular users.

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