Fit and Healthy?

Going back to what I was talking about in my Original Questions post, one of the things that people often say is “Boy! I bet you have to be really fit and healthy to do what you do!” And the answer is: yes… and no. Let’s start with no…

No

Over the last two years I’ve stopped performing for a couple of reasons. Partly because of injury and partly because my heart was never in performing. Some people live to perform. I could always take it or leave it. My heart was always in teaching. Teaching is a much fuller self expression for me than performing ever was. Ever since I learned to juggle when I was about 10 I started teaching people.

With a bad shoulder it often hurts to train (practice) so you won’t often see me doing acrobatics or flying trapeze anymore. Also, as a teacher, I don’t need to train like I used to.

I’m certainly not as fit as I used to be but I probably have a “base level” of fitness that’s higher than most. And for the teaching I do now I simply don’t need to be as fit as I used to be.

Yes

As a performer, yes, I used to train hard and I was very fit and healthy. My friends who are performers still train hard. (My non-circus friends are sometimes a little intimidated by how strong and fit my circus friends are!)

Nowadays I’m more content with being healthy. I get most of my exercise these days from cycling. I both commute and cycle for fun. This coming weekend I’m doing a Norwood Italian Challenge reunion cycle.

I know I don’t have the healthiest of diets (way too many meals on the go!) so I also take Juice PLUS+® which I discovered in about 2008. It’s a wholefood supplement (pesticide and GMO free) with the juice from 26 different fruits, vegetables and berries.

I wasn’t really into it when I started taking it. I took it on recommendation from my mum because I know I don’t eat enough fruit and veg. But it wasn’t until I started drinking the protein / energy drink that they make, Juice PLUS+® Complete, in the lead up to, and during the Italian Challenge that I really got into it. It didn’t seem to matter how much I trained, how hard I cycled, or how far I went – including 900m elevations gains up Italian mountains – I just didn’t get any fatigue, or muscle soreness after cycling. I wish I’d been taking it when I was still circus training!!

I know I don’t eat enough fruit and veg, and I wish I had the time to eat more healthily. But as much as I know I should do that, I don’t. So Juice Plus is a good way for me to bridge that gap.

Fit and healthy?

So, do I have to be fit and healthy to do what I do? I like to be healthy and I like to be fit, but to do the teaching that I do nowadays, I don’t need to be as strong or fit as I used to be.

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I tweet as @CircusBoy1. And yes, the 1 is important and intentional.

Learn more about Juice PLUS+®.

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Our Coalition Government or: How I Got My Car Towed and Ranted to My MP

I had quite a day on Tuesday. But to tell you about Tuesday I have to go back to last week…

Last week I was down in Devon visiting my parents and some friends. It was a lovely week. I’ve been plotting and scheming about things that I won’t go into here, drinking and generally enjoying some well-earned time off.

When I got back from Devon on Thursday night I had a stack of mail that I didn’t open until Friday. One of the letters was sent to my old address and must’ve been popped through my door by my old landlord. It was a final notice to renew my road tax. Joy. Straight away I tried to renew it online but I couldn’t. It turned out that my car needed its MOT. (For those of you that don’t drive, you can’t get road tax without an MOT.) Being Friday before Bank Holiday weekend, I couldn’t get my car booked in anywhere for an MOT until Tuesday. I figured I’d be able to hold off until then, get my car its MOT and its tax and the whole thing would be sorted by Tuesday. I was wrong.

On Tuesday, before heading to get my car MOTed, I worked from home and also emailed my MP about the cuts in arts funding which I’d been meaning to do while I was away. I packed my laptop, thinking that I’d sit in Starbucks on wifi or something and continue working while I waited, and walked out of my house to my car. Except my car wasn’t there. I walked up and down the street, wondering if I’d parked it somewhere unusual and hadn’t remembered. No. It was gone. Stolen? No. Towed? I thought so.

To cut a long story short, they’d towed my car that morning and I had to get to White Hart Lane to the DVLA impoundheadshot to reclaim it. Oh – and I had to have all my documentation with me and £260. So off I go, traipsing across north London to reclaim my car. Tottenham is only 10 or 20 minutes away by car. By public transport it’s an hour. Finchley Central to Kings Cross on the Northern Line, Kings Cross to Seven Sisters on the Victoria Line and then a train to White Hart Lane. I have an iPhone so obviously I was putting the time I was above ground to good use: checking my email and updating Facebook. But mostly I was tweeting. In fact, I was tweeting so much that I went straight past White Hart Lane by three or four stops. Bugger. I jumped off the train, crossed the platform and discovered that I had 25 minutes until the next train back in the other direction. Bugger. By this time I’d received a response from my MP, Mike Freer, the Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green.

I would be grateful if you would detail the specific cuts you oppose. To date I have not seen any announcements on specific funding streams.

I was pleased that he’d replied so promptly but, I’m sorry? You haven’t seen an announcement about cuts on funding streams? I replied and apparently this helped him remember the cuts. You know, the ones that were heavily reported recently in the news (like this one).

Dear Mr Cohen

The effectiveness of the Film Council is debatable and was it really the attractor of investment or was it the tax breaks offered (which I believe remain). A 3% reduction is minor compared to the level of savings other parts of the public sector are facing. I am sure the Arts Council will be able to manage on 97% funding, if only by a pay freeze/recruitment freeze and being more selective where it spends public money.

sincerely

Mike Freer MP

Now, he may have a point about the UK Film Council. I don’t know about the finer details of it. I do believe that regardless of whether it was an “attractor of investment” or was simply effective because of  tax breaks, it was effective and beneficial to the UK’s film industry. I’m quite the film fan and there have been some truly excellent British films that were made possible by the UKFC.

TIME OUT! POP QUIZ EVERYONE!

Who remembers the following films:

Bend it like Beckham

The Constant Gardener

Gosford Park

Happy-Go-Lucky

Man on Wire [Circus themed Academy Award winner – Best Documentary Picture]

This is England

Touching the Void

Fish Tank

Yes, you guessed it! They were all funded by the UKFC.

Now, back to the original point.

I am sure the Arts Council will be able to manage on 97% funding, if only by a pay freeze/recruitment freeze and being more selective where it spends public money.

Now hang on a minute… Not only are the arts in the UK (film included) one of the best things we’ve got going for us, but you’re seriously saying that the Arts Council should just be more selective about where it spends its money?! This needed a proper reply.

I appreciate your thoughts but as a practitioner in the arts industry, the effects of the cuts have already been felt. Three of my friends have been made redundant from Circus Space, the de facto national circus school, as Circus Space’s Arts Council funding (as a regularly funded organisation) was axed completely*.

Circus as an art form is in its infancy and had only had the support of Equity and the Arts Council very recently. If circus is to continue to grow and establish itself in the UK – which would be appropriate given it originated here – and become able to produce artists of the calibre and talent of other countries like France and Canada, who receive government funding by the way, we must put resources into circus and the arts not take them away. The arts – and circus in particular – receive very little funding as it is; only a tiny fraction of what is spent on health or defence. Perhaps we should stop sending our troops to purposeless wars and instead send some entertainment overseas?

Regardless of our differing positions, you should be aware of the opinions of your constituents whom you were elected to represent.

Kind regards

Adam Cohen

I didn’t receive another reply.

Now, I wouldn’t say I’m politically active. I don’t know much about politics. Most of what I know I know from watching the West Wing. But I do know that my industry is facing a crisis. The economy has finally hit it; it took some time to filter down to us but people are feeling it now. I’ve even been recommended that I “get out now” and find something else to do. And Mr Mike Freer’s arrogant and belittling comment that the Arts Council should just be more selective about where it spends its money is truly disgusting.

I’m sure that Arts Council England will survive and be able to manage on 97% funding , Mr Freer. But will circus? Will the theatres? How many small arts companies won’t survive?

Anyway, in case you’re worried, I managed to get my car back, I got it MOTed, taxed and I managed to get £160 refunded. And them my friend, Andy cooked me beef and venison burgers for dinner.

All in all, it was a pretty good day. And I won’t be forgetting my road tax in a hurry either!

Have you had your car towed? Do you work in the arts? Do you receive funding? How will the cuts in arts funding affect you? Is road tax a con? Leave your comments below. I’ll respond to them all.

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*This isn’t actually true. Circus Space are facing cuts but they have not had their funding ‘axed completely’. That was me being somewhat arsey and trying to make my point.

I tweet as CircusBoy1.  Follow me. Or not.


Cheesecake

This evening I baked a cheesecake. Cheesecakes are one of my favourite things.

Since I was little my Savta (grandma in Hebrew) has made me cheesecake pretty much every birthday. And not just my birthday – ANY birthday that we are both attending! And any other occasion worthy of a cheesecake.

Savta’s cheesecake is renowned for being the Best Cheesecake In The World. Everyone that tries it says something along the lines of ‘Oh my god! This is the best cheesecake!’ A couple of years ago I realised that Savta wouldn’t always be around to bake – yes, bake – me her cheesecake. That was not a happy prospect. A world without Savta’s cheesecake is no world at all. So I asked her for the recipe. It was an awkward moment for me. We both knew that I was asking her for the recipe so that when she passed away the recipe wouldn’t pass away with her. Thankfully it didn’t go unspoken, like an elephant in the corner of the room that no one wants to mention. Instead, we arranged to bake a cheesecake together so she could teach me.

Over the Easter break Savta and I baked a cheesecake. Boy is her recipe simple!! I shared the cheesecake with some friends who all said ‘Wow! This is the best cheesecake!

I have been slightly smug about the fact that I can now bake a Savta Cheesecake.

However, it is not as easy as it seems. I should have been like Sir Ken Robinson when he cooks (see his TED talk on how schools kill creativity below. The whole talk is great but if you just want the cooking moment head for 13:40 – 14:30).

I baked my cheesecake because a 10 year old girl I coach gymnastics to claimed that her mum made the best cheesecake. Obviously I had to set her straight. We arranged a cheesecake bake-off. Yes, a cheesecake-off at the gym!

However, I didn’t heed Ken’s advice, I didn’t remain focused on the task at hand and I let myself be distracted by a phone call from my good friend James and I think I left the cheesecake in the oven a bit too long. This is bad. I could be beaten by a 10 year old girl.

The bake-off is on Wednesday so I’m considering making another cheesecake tomorrow night but I don’t think I’ll have time. I guess I’ll just have to accept whatever shameful fate comes my way.

Either way, whether I win or lose, I have a deeper respect for Savta. Her cheesecake is perfect every time.

But I’ll keep on practicing, perfecting my own cheesecake, so when the time comes, and I have to take up the mantel of Family Cheesecake Baker, I will be ready.

Post-Bake-Off Update

Three gym coaches and one gymnast entered the bake-off. One coach was away (and has promised to bake a cheesecake at a later date), one thought it was the following week. The head of General Gymnastics forgot. (She was going to make caramel slices anyway so she wasn’t really a contender.)

One coach, Ilona, made a white chocolate cheesecake with blueberries. It wasn’t baked. It was a bit like goo. Tasty, tasty goo.

The other coach, Mirela, baked a cheesecake that had so many eggs in it I’m surprised we didn’t all turn into chickens. Or get Salmonella poisoning. It was good, but not that good.

I baked Savta’s cheesecake (which was obviously awesome).

The gymnast, Libby, baked a cheesecake with vanilla and cinnamon in the base. But the base didn’t stick.

Around a dozen people ate the cheesecakes and voted. Some liked the sweetness of Ilona’s (unbaked) chocolately gooiness, some liked the strong flavours of Mirela’s. But the winner by far was my Savta’s cheesecake. Because it really is that good!

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James writes his excellent blog ‘Jesus Is My Homeboy’ here.