Sunday, January 31, 2010

Going Down A Storm

It seemed very icy as we walked back from the cinema last night and if anything it is worse this morning, so I duck out of my planned cycle this morning. It wouldn’t have been pleasant on the bike and it was particularly cold. My feet would have taken hours to thaw out. Instead of cycling I take the bus in and run home. I miss out on the weekly freebie on the Red Arrow, as I’ve already scanned my smart card. They really ought to put a sign up when they’re not charging, as they often seem not to.

After a successful gig the other night Daughter now plans to model herself on Emilie Autumn and her band 'The Bloody Crumpets'... This should go down a storm next time she goes to her father’s.

Just a ‘short’ run tonight as I have to negotiate MD through his training later. I run from work but miss-time my bus chase. It goes past me just before it disappears for its trawl around the housing estates, by my estimation it is four minutes early. I have approximately five seconds to decide whether to jump on or no. I don’t. Instead I race along the main road in an attempt to head it off. I don’t make it. I see if emerging from the estate and it’s now a good thirty seconds ahead of me and still running early. Damn. It’s gone. I run to the end of Borrowash, around five miles in all, and wait for the next bus. This according, to the electronic signs, will be twelve minutes and late.

I get cold waiting and don’t warm up when I get off the bus at the other end. It’s a chilly last three miles to home even with all the layers I have with me on.

At training, MD has it on him and gets caged for being disruptive and barking. I can almost imagine L at home giving a smug smile and muttering ‘told you so’. Hmmm, he’s not usually like this with me.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Apparently Some People Find It Useful

After a late morning session on the park I take on the role of computer engineer on call and head off down to prison with L. L has affectionately started calling her work prison, as she spends so much time there. I’ve offered to attempt to fix her new computer for her. Windows 7 is refusing to talk to her printer; whilst her old computer running XP is refusing to talk to the printer it has now been assigned. A definite driver issue. Now if only I can find what they’ve renamed and moved in Windows 7. Why do they always have to do that? Alter things that were fine before. Fixing her new machine proves infinitely easier than fixing her old one which is possibly the slowest machine I’ve ever met and I’ve met a few.

Whilst I’m there I show her how to get rid of that ‘ribbon’ thing in Office. Apparently some people find it useful... can’t imagine how.

Later we head down to Broadway for a film. Tonight’s choice, again one of L’s, is called ‘Precious’. It is based on a book called ‘Push’ by Sapphire.

It's 1987 in Harlem and we are introduced to a 16-year old black girl by the name of Claireece ‘Precious’ Jones (Gabourey Sidibe). She is seriously obese, illiterate and lacking a whole host of social skills. We are told this is because, in the sorry little apartment that she calls home, she is being monstrously mistreated.

Her mother, Mary (Mo'Nique), is an unhinged and unstable woman, who is unemployed, probably unemployable, and subsists on welfare payments. She treats Precious as her own personal slave and thanks her for this by telling her how stupid and worthless she is. This doesn’t exactly do much for the girl’s self esteem, which is already on the floor. For them both, life consists of watching TV, eating crap food, the odd arguments, a spot of physical abuse dished out by the mother, the occasional visit from the welfare officer and oh, did I mention TV. During the brief visits from the welfare officer normality is attempted at and deceiving the welfare proves to be terribly easy.

Precious’s only ‘escape’ is to fantasize about a better life but to her that seems to be simply becoming a pop star. She sees herself in this role, being the centre of attention, desired by gorgeous men and cheered by her adoring public as she walks the red carpet. Yes her utmost aspiration is to rise to the level of ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’... but then don’t most people these days.

Oh and when she looks in the mirror, she’s no longer fat, or even black for that matter, but an attractive slim white blonde. I’m surprised there hasn’t been a complaint about that...

The story gets darker because it emerges that her mother’s boyfriend, Precious’s father, has been raping Precious since the age of three and seemingly her mother simply held his coat and trousers for him whilst he got on with it. This is despite the fact her boyfriend's sexual preference for her daughter makes her viciously jealous. Both of Precious and of the child that this union ends up producing. Then Precious finds herself expelled from high school when she falls pregnant by him for a second time.

In a way Precious attempts to fight back against her situation and despite resistance from her mother, who simply wants her to join her on the welfare, she moves to an alternative school called ‘Each One Teach One’ where dropouts go to get their GED (General Educational Development).

Her new teacher, the improbably named Blu Rain (Paula Patton), proves inspirational and Precious starts to read and write. Her classmates too, whilst far from perfect themselves; have enough empathy to become supportive friends.

When she returns to the apartment with her second child, her mother intentionally drops him and then sets about Precious. Precious takes her baby and flees but falls down the stairs. She is followed down them by the TV that her deranged Mother hurls after her. It misses her, just. She never goes back.

A few days later at the halfway house where she is now staying, her mother turns up to pass on the cheery news that her boyfriend/Precious’s father/father of her children has died of AIDS. Precious finds out that she herself is HIV positive but her baby isn't.

She has one final showdown with her mother, in the office of her oddly familiar social worker Mrs Weiss. OMG, I though she looked familiar, it’s Mariah Carey. Where her mother attempts to explain her actions. As Mariah looks on in disgust, Precious leaves with her children and tells her mother that she will never see her again.

There's no happy ending. As her teacher points out, if she really wants to better herself, she'll have to put her kids up for adoption and that’s not going to happen. So probably Precious will simply end up being reabsorbed back into the welfare state.

It’s an ok film, bordering on good even. Depressing enough and it's very well performed. Mo'Nique's performance is particularly harrowing and there are other notable performances. Even from Mariah Carey, I knew she must be good at something, and Lenny Kravitz who pops up as a male nurse.

However it all smacks rather too much of it being the awards season. It plays the sympathy card rather too often and perhaps even attempts to make you feel responsible for Precious's life. It also packs as many social issues and stereotypes as it can think of into its two and a bit hours. Now let me see... physical abusive, sexual abuse, incest, teenage pregnancy, HIV, illiteracy, bad parenting, ethnic groups, welfare dependents... and it’s all played to shock but in the end social work and education save the day, maybe.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Omens Are Not Just Bad...

Two park sessions in two days with the footballs seem to be too much for the dogs. They’re supposed to be outdoor dogs, which allegedly go on forever... simply not true. I cut it short as I’m the only one of the three us still playing football.

Then I head over to Derby with trepidation. My mate predicts the score line Derby 0 Forest 3 and lots of booing. Not sure what he means about ‘lots of booing’, probably be from the Forest fans if they only score three.

Did he say 0-3? I’m not that optimistic. Forest are nineteen games unbeaten, unbeaten away all season and they won 5-0 on Tuesday night whilst Derby were losing at lowly Plymouth... the omens are not just bad, they’re horrific.

Football though is a funny old game, so they say. Which I suppose is why I retain an interest amidst such adversity. Almost from the kick off, the game is all Derby. Forest are, if we’re being honest, largely rubbish and rely on high balls forward, which are probably the one thing our defence can cope easily with. So perhaps it’s not going to be a thrashing, although I still expect Forest to nick it as we simply don’t score goals very often. It’s also a feisty game but only really because we have one of those referees who insist on stoking it up at every opportunity. As if a local Derby needed any spice adding.

Then with twelve minutes to go Rob Hulse powers in a header and Derby have a lead that they manage to hang on to.

There’s even an entertaining bust-up on the touchline over a throw-in as the game headed into stoppage time. As players and staff from both teams piled in, goal scorer Hulse appears in the centre of it, despite already having been substituted five minutes earlier. Afterwards Nigel Clough declined to comment, as he was accused of kneeing Forest manager Billy Davies in the leg during the melee. Excellent stuff, pure comedy. I'm sure they’ll be some great chants emerging in stands about this soon.

In the evening we’re at a party, L's brother's 30th. The bash clashes with one of Daughter’s gigs, Emilie Autumn at Rock City. I’d never heard of her... quick Google... quick Myspace... hmmm... she looks interesting.

I would quite like to have gone and been an embarrassing parent there but never mind.

A quick perusal of the menu for L's brother's do informs me that it’s a post-Christmas party... which means they're serving Turkey with all the trimmings and Christmas pudding on the 30th January! Honestly how long does this Christmas lark go on for these days? Or is this the start of next year’s build up. I bet there will be some saddo sitting there already saying ‘Phew, I've just finished my Christmas shopping’.

We resist the temptation to turn up in reindeer antlers and have a pretty good evening. As good as possible considering it’s over on the outskirts of Derby and we end up driving. We leave just before eleven and drop Son off at home before slipping into town for a few, thanks to everywhere being open until 1am these days. Although we seem to tumble from one 30th party to another, as there’s the dregs of one still going on in the Ropewalk. Just hope Geoffrey didn’t mind us gate-crashing.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I Don't Like The Look Of That

I take the bus in to work. It’s big run day today and I’m planning on running 12 miles tonight. This is all training for the Kilomathon and I notice that they have now put up the route on the internet

and an elevation map.

Which I don't like the look of, at all. It’s uphill all the way. I suppose I should have known that but all my training has so far been, although along parts of the actual race route, in the opposite, eastbound direction, e.g. downhill.

So it’s all the more worrying that when I run the route after work, backwards and downhill, my pace is terribly slow. At this rate I won’t break two hours for the course and will struggle to make 2.20 but at least I seem to cope with the distance ok. My legs feel ok until I try and up the pace in the last few miles, making those last few miles not pleasant at all. Still I suppose with six weeks to go we’re still in base training territory. Speed can come (maybe) later.

I run 12.5 miles to the centre of Beeston where I meet L who has walked the dogs up and brought me a change of clothes. L threatens to be on the wine tonight, so heads off to raid the nearest cash machine for a wheelbarrow of money. The wine isn’t cheap at the Victoria. I have no such concerns, they have a beer festival on, so the beer choice should be good.

We don’t get a place inside the pub as it’s so busy and end up the huge tent thing they have in the garden there. It’s quite pleasant actually as they have big gas heaters keeping it warm. I sit under one as my body is now haemorrhaging heat at a rate of knots after my exertions. I’m even colder than L for once. Thankfully they have a nice spicy curry on their food menu for me to refuel with. Oh and the beer of course.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Always A Pleasure

L asks if I would take the dogs out this morning. I think L is too crippled by her back injury to do it herself but obviously she wouldn’t admit it.

It’s always a pleasure to walk the boys. Although MD left the house with his nose in the air, constantly looking left and right, and with a ‘let me have em’ attitude written large across his face. Perhaps this is what L is on about when she complains that he’s a pain in the mornings. I sit him down on the pavement outside our house and ask him just what he thinks he’s doing. He’s still not listening and I have to tap him on the nose to get his attention. Meanwhile Doggo rolls his eyes and looks bored; shuffles to the end of his lead and lifts his leg up the nearest gatepost.

Once I have calmed MD and had words about his attitude problem, we continue and the walk then goes ok. We nearly have a ‘situation’ with the usual little black terrier but its owner, rather bizarrely, although perhaps thoughtfully, hid behind a parked car.

I drive to work today, in order to have a pub lunch and therefore I’m well rested and well nourished for squash in the evening. Though I no longer have huge ambitions for our weekly joust on the squash court, if I ever did. I started the year with the simple aspiration to win a game a week but even that hasn’t happened yet. Today, because I haven’t run or cycled, I feel in good shape and I duly get my game.

This does not go down well with my opponent. As tuck away the winning point, his shoulders slump and his jaw hits the floor with a thud. I suppose my lap of honour didn’t help his mood much and he looks about as suicidal as a teenager who’s just been forcibly unplugged from Facebook. He looks so crestfallen I’m not sure whether to get ready to mop up his tears or duck when he hurls his racket at the wall.

That was supposed to be the last game of the match but he talks me into another one, as he doesn’t wish to finish on a low point. Worried that he might go home and put his head in the gas oven I agree. After all I have nothing to lose, having already achieved my aim for the evening. I promptly storm into a commanding lead in that game as well. I hate to think how bad his mood in the pub would be afterwards, had I managed to maintain my advantage... unfortunately I don’t manage it but it’s still a successful night.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Semi Colons

It took a gentle kick yesterday; it takes more of a body slam this morning to get L moving. She does fade as the week goes on. Although come to think of it, she isn’t very good on Mondays either.

L’s not so secretly plotting my next film. There are two films due out soon, both based on books that she’s read, brilliant ones or so she says, but she can't decide which one I'll hate the most. Apparently when I dislike a film I write a much more entertaining review. That’s despite the fact I still get the usual critique from her about my use or rather lack of use of semi colons. This is unwarranted, both the criticism and usually the semi colons. Who needs a semi colon when you can have a full stop? Anyhow, I don’t see a potentially entertaining review being a sufficient reason to take me to more awful films.

As I was looking something up about itunes on the internet today, I came across an article by someone who was moaning about the petty restrictions in the licence agreement. I just had to check to see whether they were correct, and yes they were.

You also agree that you will not use these products for any purposes prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, the development, design, manufacture or production of missiles, or nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

(Quoted from the itunes licence agreement)

Yes folks, you cannot use itunes to manufacture missiles or nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Damn. So what are we supposed to use instead? More to the point, what feature of itunes enables you to do this? My searches so far on google haven’t been very helpful.

As I head off to dog class, L tells me to make the little fatso work hard. The poor mite, now L is been less than complimentary about him. Daughter never has been; she’s been calling him fatso since day one. I promise to try and give him a good work out. Doggo too could do with shedding a bit of his podginess. Then whilst I attempt to trim down the chubby ones, L goes off on a cycle. I text her to say ‘enjoy it’ and promptly get told off for putting the words ‘enjoy’ and ‘bike’ in the same sentence. It’s lucky I didn’t throw a random semi colon in there as well.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Quiet As A Mouse

L gives me permission to kick her out of bed at some unearthly hour so that she can take the dogs for an early walk. I don't really want to do this but here goes... I kick L out, tenderly. Now all I’ve got to do it kick the dogs off the bed as well. I think part of the idea of the early walk is that they’ll be less on the streets to wind MD up. I gather it didn’t quite work out like that.

I have my swimming stuff and cycle straight there after work. Then I have to come away again because there are no available bike lockers. Two of the four are broken, the other two are occupied. One of the broken ones has a damaged lock and probably needs major surgery but the other one has simply had its door pushed in, again. This happens a lot, bike lockers are always picking fights with the local no-marks. This has happened many times before and it doesn't usually take them this long for it to be rectified. This one has been in this state for months. I would do it myself but I don't what to be accused of vandalising it.

I dejectedly pedal home from the pool. Once home, L talks me into joining her on a run with the dogs. The first problem, before we even leave the house, is that we can barely get MD into his running jacket. OMG. He has put on such much weight; it looks like a corset on him. Lettuce leaves for tea for him tonight. L anchors herself to the porky one and I get Doggo. I think she chose MD to demonstrate to me what a stroppy little so-and-so he is. Consequently, he’s a saint, as quiet as a mouse. So I’ve still no idea what she’s on about, or perhaps he was just too preoccupied with trying to breathe within the tight constraints of his jacket.

L tries is sporting some new running socks. They are pink and called ‘Speed Diva’, which may refer to running or may be a drugs reference. I make sure I get a good look at them because we’ll probably never see them again. Daughter isn’t proud; she’ll wear anyone’s clothes. So it’s best not to leave anything lying around because she’ll put it on and go out in it. Socks are her speciality. Once in her possession they are generally orphaned from you for good and if you do get them back, it'll only be one of them. So L best keep them under lock and key.

One of my favourite bands of yesteryear has always been Feeder, a great band in the late nineties, who got a bit soft (but admittedly more successful) as they got older. They have now reinvented themselves as a side-project called Renegades and have gone back to their roots, playing small venues and making music that sounds just like the stuff that enamoured me to them in the first place, all those years ago.

For various reasons I haven’t managed to get to any of their short run of six dates, so I hope they’ll do some more. The mini tour opened last night in Glasgow and although they promised to only play new stuff, everyone was wondering whether they’d slip in an oldie or two. They did, real oldies. The long requested ‘Tangerine’, a very early single from 1997 and the even older ‘Sweet 16’ make a treasured appearance. Regrettably I only got to see it via someone’s camera phone on YouTube. Tonight in Manchester, they added another old favourite ‘Descend’. Perhaps they’ll throw in some more in the later dates or perhaps they’re saving ‘Cement’ and ‘Shade’ for their next dates, when I get to see them.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

In Need Of A Brown Paper Bag

It’s a bit cold this morning, especially on the bike but in the home it certainly isn’t, despite what the girls in the house might say (it’s never warm enough for them). The central heating is still working.

I feel sorry for a fellow cyclist who stops to let out at motorist from a side road and then nearly gets mown down by another car turning left from behind. He won’t do that again. Most cyclists are this nice to motorists when they start out, usually being one themselves, but it soon gets battered out of you after a few months cycling to work.

L got her bike out as well today, or the dreaded bike as she prefers to calls it, and made it to the pool for a swim. Seems she was pleased she did. As not only did she get a bike and a swim, she got to share the pool with a lifesaving class, complete with allegedly hunky lycra clad lifeguards. Glad I missed it.

I try and administer the kiss of life to Daughter’s ailing ipod, well itunes does. Not that itunes has ever achieved anything positive for me and it doesn’t for Daughter’s ipod either. It’s making a strange noise, I think something terminal has gone inside. It appears to be an ex-ipod, a deceased one. Funeral arrangements and where you can send flowers to will be announced in due course.

The hell of technology problems. Our CD drive at home is also deceased, so I churn my way through twelve disks of Sophie Kinsella converting them to mp3, so that I can bring her home with me tonight, for L you understand. Now all I need is the digital equivalent of a brown paper bag to cover that part of my hard drive, in case I get caught with something dodgy on my computer.

In the evening L takes Doggo out for a walk. I take MD to class. He’s such a well behaved dog at class, no idea why L moans about him.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Life Is Full Of Difficult Choices

More park and more football, during which a mate texts me to say that he’s been watching Glee Club, enjoyed it and is now seeking help. I consult a teenager, namely Daughter and L to find out just what exactly he’s on about. They show me some footage of horrid cover versions on YouTube. Though there’s no sign of the cheerleaders in mini-skirts that he mentioned.

I spend the afternoon trying to swap our computer out for one nicked from work, without the necessary drivers to get it on the internet. Temporarily admit defeat.

We all thought that Son’s new look, his stubble, was a fashion statement but actually it turns out that there’s a much simpler explanation. His shavers been on the blink but he just hasn’t mentioned it. L was even considering getting him a stubble shaver... Which I’d never heard of. Are there really stubble shavers? It couldn’t have been invented by a man. It would never get used. You’d still have to shave with a stubble shaver, so can’t see the point. Any sort of facial growth is because you can’t be bothered to shave. If this has unintended benefits then mores the better but can’t imagine anyone cultivating it.

In any case if you shave in the morning, then you’ve got stubble for the evening. Shave at night, and then you’ve got stubble for the morning. It just depends when you need to use it. That simple system works and it’s cheap.

Derby draw Birmingham in the FA 5th Round, at home. Damn, such is my lack of faith in them that I’d scheduled a dog show for that day. It’s supposed to be MD’s debut as well as Doggo’s only competitive appearance prior to a possible run at Crufts. What a dilemma.

How do I decide between more stupefying negativity from my football team ending in an almost certain defeat or being embarrassed by MD playing the fool on his agility debut? Life is full of difficult choices. Of course Derby might pull off a shock and win? MD might pull off a shock and not humiliate me? This needs to be decided in a logical and well thought out manner. Heads it’s the show, tails it’s the match...

Oh and the central heating has survived the weekend. Never doubted them.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I’m No Fan Of Musicals

I wake up and the house feels warm. I can even hear the reassuring clunk of the radiators being filled with hot water. I usually have to get up, put something on to be decent and warm as I go outside to reboot the boiler, which resides in a small outhouse. Well still I have to get up to put my hand on the radiator just to check... ouch. Blimey, the central heating is STILL working.

I dive back in bed and nudge L awake to tell her the good news. I think she’s impressed.

I give the dogs a good session on the park with the footballs, so good I practically have to carry them both home again afterwards. Then it’s over to Derby for the match. The glamour tie of the FA Cup 4th round, Derby v Doncaster. It lives down to expectations. Stupefying negativity from Derby, which in the end seems successful as they bore Doncaster into submission and manage to score with pretty much their first shot on target in the 88th minute, cracked in to the back of the net by our substitute left back. I’d say we’re off on a good cup run but it’s more of a drunken stagger than a run.

I stay in Derby as we’re off to see a film at 6.30 but it turns out L’s got the time wrong. Its 8.45 instead, which means after killing time with several pints I may well nod off during the film. Perhaps this may not be a bad thing or it might at least be advisable to be drunk when seeing what L’s got planned for me tonight.

Things start badly as I get chucked off my comfy settee upstairs at the Royal Standard where I am waiting for L with a pint of Ram Tam in my hand. They have a private party on upstairs but as its packed downstairs, I and several others leave and go elsewhere. So I hope that party was a money spinner for them, as they upset quite a few regulars.

As it happens L arrive at that moment and we head off to the Smithfield for a few Gorillas, a stout by Blue Monkey. Soon, though, the moment arrives and we head to Quad.

Now I'm no fan of musicals you know and personally I think if you’re going to do one, it belongs on the stage and not in the cinema. So Rob Marshall’s film adaptation of the Broadway show ‘Nine’ was not really on my radar but it was clearly on L’s. So being the dutiful partner... here we are.

Daniel Day Lewis unpacks an impressive Italian accent and becomes Guido Contini, the man who can’t say no. He can’t say no to his producer and especially he can’t say no to his women. His producer expects his new movie to start shooting in ten days but there’s one big problem, there’s no script. Just like an A Level student with an English essay due to be handed in, Guido hasn’t written it yet, he’s not even started it and with the cast already assembled he’s going to have a problem winging it.

The title, 'Nine', is the number of films Guido has directed. Although the original film that the play was based on was Fellini’s '8½'. The half is because he co-directed some films, but obviously this is too complicated for American audiences, hence the rounding up.

Or... ‘nine’ might just be the number of women he's sleeping with, which is, to be honest, most of the cast. Among which are his neglected wife Luisa (the rather lovely Marion Cotillard), his mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz) and his star actress Claudia (Nicole Kidman, cast as an actress).

Guido, now pretty much a burnt out creative force turns to his women for inspiration. They gleefully spring to his aid in their underwear and stockings, and sing to him. This seems to cause Day Lewis to hang his head and look shameful, miserable, desperate, depressed or whatever and to chain smoke, and to be honest doing it all rather well. It seems to dawn on Guido that not only is his film career stuffed but he has epic women problems as well.

That’s about it as regards plot... then there's the music. Ah. Doesn’t a musical live or die by its songs? Ah. It’s a long, slow death, then. As I didn’t see anyone tapping their foot or humming along to any of the songs, either during or on the way out, I assume the rest of the cinema agreed with me. This for a musical must be a very bad sign. Usually for a week after seeing a musical you have the songs stuck in your head, no matter how irritating and whether you want them there or not. Eventually you have to hardwire yourself into something decent on your ipod and remove them by force. No chance of that here. Even L hasn't asked me to download any of the numbers for her... Oh you know Dear, that one, the one that didn’t sound quite as samey as all the others, the one Kate Hudson mumbled her way through... nope, she’s not asked. Did I mention Kate Hudson’s in it? Must have blotted it from my mind, she pops up as fashion journalist and sings of course.

In fact musically, it’s all very democratic because everybody gets to sing, which is not necessarily wise... and get this, they even let Judi Dench, who pops up as his costume designer and friend, Lilli. Judi Dench? Why? Actually she's not terrible and she does seems to really enjoy herself, like she’s stormed the karaoke down your local after several litres of ill advised WKD but seriously, why?

They do get a proper singer in, in the shape of Fergie... no not that Fergie. Stacy not Sarah, her of the Black Eyed Peas. Not sure why on this one either, they don’t let her do anything else, speak or anything complicated and she gets to play a prostitute, I think. Sophia Loren on the other hand gets to play a dead person, Guido’s mother, reincarnated for a chat and yes you guessed it, one last song from beyond the grave.

Somehow they've half built a stage set for the film with no script. This serves to make it look even more like it should have stayed as a play. In fact, it might have worked on stage... or it might not but I'm no fan of musicals anyway, did I mention that. So it's all a bit of a slog where I found myself thinking, I've not had enough to drink. As you may gather, the film didn't do anything for me. Perhaps the whole point is that the film is clever and ironic and actually mirrors Guido’s plot, the one he hasn’t written.

As I said Day Lewis does ok, he’s good even, but the star is undoubtedly Marion Cotillard but then these two are the only characters that are given any kind of depth to work with. Cotillard carries what little plot there is, knowing that her husband is cheating on her but still appearing to be in command of the situation. Her husband needs her, and she knows it. As for the rest... Judi Dench does what Judi Dench does, apart from the singing... Cruz is.., well Cruz.

Everyone tells me that Penelope Cruz is sexy, so I assume she must be, but save for one film I saw her in, I can't abide her or her acting. Sorry, that's not very objective. So having Penelope Cruz's scantily clad crotch waved in my face didn't lift the standard of things too much to be honest.

Then there’s Nicole Kidman... but moving on.

L liked it and it did have some beautiful visuals, if you like that sort of thing but I'm no fan of musicals.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Critical Opinion

I get the bus in with the intention of running home, although my legs feel wrecked after cycling yesterday and then playing squash last night. Then it rains for most of the day, putting a dampener on my enthusiasm as well.

I read on the bus that in a recent study, women who considered themselves to be good looking were more likely to get mad if you argued with them, than those who didn’t think they were good looking... particularly I would guess if you told them they weren’t pretty...

L says she is fine... She didn’t look fine earlier when she couldn’t bend down. She’s somehow done something to her back. I’ve not seen her in this state since she fell over skiing a few years ago and landed on the bottle of sun cream that was in her pocket. On that occasion it took weeks until she could bend properly again.

She has the afternoon off work, so that she can wait in for the man who says he’s going to make all our central heating problems go away. She ‘hobbles’ home, her words, not mine. So much for being fine. If that was me she’d be nagging me to see someone about it and I would have ignored her, just like she is me.

She attempts to work from home. I have visions of her lying on the floor, nursing her bad back whilst jabbing her finger at the keyboard she’s holding above her head. Perhaps not.

Her work is scuppered because our computer won't co-operate. Although she's not being very helpful with the details, and sounds just like one of our clients. Turns out it's an internet problem. I suppose it’s possible that this has something to do with reports of an explosion in the centre of Nottingham and 3000 premises that are reported to be without power. Someone’s blog post that the whole of central Nottingham is on fire does appear to be a little wide of the mark.

The gas man turns up, a different one, who has no idea what the previous man did or didn’t do and hasn’t brought the parts we were promised. So he has to start all over again. He replaces the standard pressure release valve that the other chap said, on its own, wouldn’t fix the problem. We’ve had this replaced before, so presumably it won’t make any difference this time either.

L is now complaining that our computer has locked totally and refuses to accept her latest Sophie Kinsella audio book... it could of course just be expressing a critical opinion.

The rain stops and I run home. Well as far as Attenborough. It was rather uneventful run, pleasant at times, unpleasant at others. I had one sticky moment when I hopped into the cycle lane to go around a car parked on the pavement and almost got run down by a cyclist. They don’t stop you know, these cyclists.

I reach my destination, hoping for 11 miles, I get 10.5, that is according to my GPS. According to my legs it’s far enough. I lean against the bus stop, sweating profusely and alarming the rest of the bus queue. It alarms them even more when I join them on the bus.

At home Son is out, again. He may be getting good grades at the moment but it won’t last if he keeps popping down the pub at such regularity. Don’t know where he gets it from. I reassure L that he’s just practising for University. All my best assignments we’re conceived in the pub.

He’s bringing a few friends back later, as it Daughter, so we are told to make ourselves scarce. We best pop down the pub then.

When we get back a few hours later the central heating is still working. Strange.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


It’s fairly cold but dry and no sign of the frost they promised us. So on bike.

I learnt a new term the other day, ‘nodders’. I pass one today. ‘Nodders’ are cyclists, usually new ones, who are so called because their heads bob up and down with the effort of cycling. The one I pass is also particularly red faced due to the unfamiliar physical exertion he is putting his body through.

I get a text to say that, unlike last week, my squash opponent has successfully negotiated the washing up without cutting off a limb. So we should be on for a game tonight. Mind you, there’s still a few hours to go, still time for catastrophe to strike.

I also have to negotiate the traffic home on my bike. The roads are still busy but one added bonus is that I finally get to speak to a cyclist I’ve been passing in the opposite direction for the past two years. As she weaves through the same congestion as me but from the opposite direction, we eventually end up meeting in the middle of the road. We briefly exchange pleasantries. Quite a nice little number, that I’ve had my eye on for a while, and it was good to have a closer look. As I thought, it’s an expensive looking Trek. Very nice. That’s the bike not the girl of course. She’s a short little blonde number, not that I noticed. The bike well outdoes my scruffy mount. I must get one of those stickers that says ‘my other bikes a Karma’, if you can get them. Of course I’m not, strictly speaking, currently in the market for a newer model. For a new bike that is, not for a new girl, well that’s what L tells me, but it’s always good to keep your eye in. Bike wise.

Meanwhile L, who’s blaming a spot of back ache on the gym bikes, has decided to try the real McCoy tonight. She intends to go out on the road. So she definitely won't be AF after that. She also reckons, perhaps not during either. Which is an interesting thought.

Squash happens and is a good workout, on already tired legs, if a totally fruitless one for me.

Back home, neither of us are AF.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mr Pothole Claims A Victim

It takes over an hour to get to work by car but I just couldn’t physically have biked and made it to class tonight. So I just have grin and bear it and start a new audio book.

Perhaps I had a lucky escape because today Mr Pothole claims a victim. A work colleague gets a puncture on his road bike. Unfortunately he’s about half way between work and home, and has neither a spare tube nor a repair kit with him. Not that either would be much use without tyre levers and a pump, which he also doesn’t have. These people who are used to riding MTB’s and therefore not used to getting punctures.

So does he walk the five miles in cycling shoes... He makes it as far as Asda, where he buys a pair of training shoes to make it the rest of the way. I think carrying a repair kit would have been easier and cheaper.

I wasn’t even going to comment on the Brit Award nominations but then I notice I’m going to see one of the nominees. OMG. Bloody Mika. Then when you see who he’s up against for the award, I’d even be tempted to vote for him.

Later MD’s training goes well. Though he seems oddly subdued whilst waiting his turn. He then confounds everyone by refusing to leave the dog walk before emptying his bladder over it. So embarrassing.

Doggo had a fairly naff session afterwards. I just wanted to give him a run out but there wasn’t much room. So much for splitting the arena in two, the trainer nabbed around three quarters of it. We couldn’t even get much equipment out as our store room is so new we haven’t got any lights in there yet and we couldn’t see what we were doing.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Reunited With Old Friends

Today, hurrah, my first bike ride into work for what seems like decades. Well it was last year, 17th December to be precise.

The roads are vile. Lots of grit and gravel all over them. I overtake a road sweeper which appears to be having a go at clearing up, which may be good news but maybe not if it drops cold again and they have to lay down more of the grit that he’s just got rid of.

It’s also time to get reunited with some old ‘friends’ and I don’t mean the cyclists I greet every day. I’m talking about the holes of yesteryear. Yep, Mr Pothole and his extended family are back and this time it’s personal... or perhaps not. I count six real corkers but they not exactly new, they were all there last year until they eventually got filled in. Now the freeze-thaw effect of the cold weather has brought them back to life from their summer hibernation. Councils up and down the country will be quick to complain about the cost of filling all these in but... perhaps if they’d made a better job of it last time around they wouldn’t have to go out and re-repair all the same potholes, all over again.

Thankfully I manage to dodge all the holes and also the lemming on a mobile phone whom walks straight out in front of me, crossing the road and looking in totally the wrong direction as he does so. I try to run over his foot but miss. Just.

My legs ache rather badly at the end of my ride, which just goes to show that you can’t just get straight back into these things.

As I get into work, I see that, I’m afraid, he is no more.

The ‘Death Of A Snowman’, sounds like an Arthur Miller.

L doesn’t email me to check I’m alive but then I did say that I didn’t want to hear from her if she’s in post-weekend away morose mode, which she always seems to be in after a break from work, no matter how short. She’ll be entering the lottery later this week to raise the necessary retirement funds; that is if she hasn’t already bought a ticket.

Later at the pool, something else I can’t recall having done for decades, I’m struggling with cramp. Whether it’s the shock to the system of the cycling or of the swimming I’m not certain. All the same, I’m just about managing to keep up with the chap who has joined me in lane one when a lane sixer, a rather large woman, joins us and puts the equivalent of a very large pot hole in the way of our progress. I have to resort to overtaking her. What I don’t release is that at the same moment that I have passed on her right and touched the side to turn, the chap, who had caught me up, had passed on her left and we all touched at about the same time. This experience seemed to freak her out and the two of them seemed to become involved in an argument. I didn’t stick around to find out the details and carried on swimming. Next thing I notice is an attendant is refereeing and having a word with her. This is unusual as the attendants normally don’t intervene in anything. Whatever he said, it seemed to work, as the woman was soon re-homed in lane four.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

His Backwards Walk

It’s been a good weekend but all good weekends have to come to an end. We get up early, at pretty much the same time as on a normal work day, pack up and head south from the Lakes. We manage to get home in time for Daughter to print off all her weekend masterpieces, do one of her paper rounds and get to college to hand in the work for 1pm.

Our friends say they had a good weekend too, although perhaps much beer and food was consumed. Well there was an easy remedy for that; they could have joined us for our run.

As I’ve got the rest of the day off work, I’ve also taken the opportunity to get yet another repair man to try to figure out what is wrong with our boiler, which continues to insist on turning itself off and has done for well over a year now. Rather inconveniently the colder it is, the more it likes to turn itself off. Mind you with the price of gas, this has at least succeeded in keeping our heating bills down a touch.

The company who installed it couldn’t stop it doing it, so now it’s the turn of British Gas. The chap who comes claims to know what the problem is. He tells me that basically we’ve bought a duff make of boiler and they always do this sort of thing. He says he’ll come back on Friday and fit an external pressure value to it, which will put an end to its fun. He sounds confident in his ability. I’m not.

Daughter now informs us that her assignments didn't need to be in today after all. So procuring her a laptop was a waste of time then, or perhaps not. At least she’s got the work done, she probably wouldn’t have done had we been at home. She would have been out partying instead and then she would have had to have written another essay about it.

MD has another good session at his training and now for his homework I have to teach him to walk backwards on command. This won’t be easy, as I’ve spent the last eighteen months trying to get him to walk forwards. Well at least forwards in something approaching a straight line.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

This Is The Life

Another lie-in. Another breakfast cooked for us. This is the life. Oh yes and another run. The weather is fine today, although still cloudy. I run the hilly 3.5 miles over to Grasmere. L drives over and then hands over the car, so that she can run back. Only problem is that I’m the only one in running gear. So I strip off my running trousers and hand them over to L, who puts them on. All this is happening in the car park much to Daughter’s embarrassment but what are parents for, if not to embarrass their children. Daughter claims to long to have ‘normal people’ as parents. Well, tough. I complete the cross-dressing experiment, with my thoughts on the possibility of an extra £10 on ‘my fine is’, by getting back to the cottage and putting on L’s running trousers but Daughter rules this out as not being proper cross-dressing.

Daughter has spent part of the weekend working away on my mate’s laptop because she has some English assignments that are due in on Monday. On the surface of it this seems quiet harsh scheduling, as she has just spent a week doing exams but then again she’s probably been putting this work off since September. Turns out the subject of one assignment is about being unable to get an English assignment done because of, well the nonstop partying. L and I nod and agree with such a factual piece. Daughter claims it is pure fiction. A claim that probably isn’t backed up by her ‘my fine is’ tally. Well the bit about drinking coffee’s obviously fiction, as she hates coffee.

Usually we head home on a Sunday but this year we stay the extra night. Unfortunately the Grasmore Ale is no more but the Snecklifter is still going strong, despite all our efforts.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Bambi Moment

The lie-in the next day is probably longer than it should have been as we had intended to go out for a run but we can hear the rain pounding on the skylights of our room on the top floor and we are on holiday. Breakfast is being cooked for us by our friends who we have persuaded to come away with us solely for this purpose... and their excellent company of course. By the time we get out after breakfast, which should perhaps be known as lunch, its 2pm but a lot finer. We head out on a circuit of the Langdale valley, hampered only by a bit of drizzle and a lot of ice. Not many cars venture down the bottom end of the valley and consequently the roads down there have not been cleared. I have a Bambi moment or two on the ice. It doesn’t help that I’m tethered to the lively and unpredictable MD. The run turns out to be around 8.5 miles which is quite satisfying as we tumble into the Britannia Inn at Elterwater at 4pm.

Ok perhaps it’s a bit early to hit the pub, so I have a hot chocolate first but then get tempted on to the beer as our friends arrive after their less taxing afternoon shopping.

After a brief interlude back at the cottage, we take up where we left off back at the Wainwrights in Chapel Stile. I was a bit radical this year and booked a different cottage. Still in Chapel Stile but a lot nearer the centre of the village and therefore the pub. Not that this was the reason I picked it. Honestly. It was simply a better sized cottage for the five us and the two dogs. Still though the troops are not happy! Only one bathroom and no internet someone complains.

Again too much beer is consumed but what do you expect when both the Grasmore and the Snecklifter are sat there flashing a bit of leg from across the bar. The Grasmore comes from the Loweswater Brewery which was founded in 2003 at the Kirkstile Inn. A pub that has been West Cumbria's Pub of the Year several times but I don't think we've ever visited. This has been a major omission, that we must, at some point, rectify. The brewery has recently had to move out of the Kirkstile Inn in order to expand and last year purchased the Cumbria Legendary Ales Brewery and now brews out of their premises in Hawkshead.

Meanwhile Daughter instigates a session of ‘my fine is’, the latest quirk to hit Facebook. Thankfully I do not win; luckily my mate has always been more rebellious than me.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Not Smiling Much Now

I’m only at work in the morning and in the afternoon we head up to the Lake District, after first collecting Daughter hot foot from her exam.

Unfortunately we aren’t going to get any snow up there, which is a pity and its forecast to be a warm 6 or 7 degrees all weekend. If anything they’re expecting rain. Our company snowman is so far surviving the warm spell but only just. He’s not smiling much now, well because he can’t, as his face has fallen off.

M6 was a doddle for once, which was probably just as well with no audio book to take my mind of it. I’ve just finished the last one that L got me, Owen Sheers’ ‘Resistance’. She got me it on the basis that it sounded wonderfully bleak. Its concerned the hypothetical situation that in 1944 the Germans repelled the D-Day landings and counter attacked with their own invasion. With the Americans, although in a war with Japan, refusing to get involved in a European war, Britain is effectively left to its fate. The German invasion is a success and they eventually take full occupation of Britain, with the country being governed by a collaborative government based in Harrogate. It’s an intriguing plot and it looked to me that L had made a good choice.

Unfortunately the book doesn’t elaborate much on what I’ve put above. It mentions the war situation only occasionally and when it does they are brief mentions. So it fails to slake my appetite for that side of the story. Instead the majority of the novel concerns life in a Welsh valley, in to which a small German patrol is despatched. In the valley they find just the women and their farm animals, their husbands having left the valley to become members of the Auxiliary Units, a resistance movement. The author tells us in the afterword that he heard from locals the story of these Auxiliary Units and how they were made ready for any potential invasion, which of course in reality thankfully never came. It sounds like fascinating stuff and makes it all the more mystifying why Sheers then let this and the entire occupation of Britain become such a minor part of this book.

Instead he focuses on the continuation of farming life in the valley as the German soldiers desert from their duty to spend the harsh winter there and assist on the farms, forging uneasy friendships with the locals. There is even a love story of sorts between the main characters from either side. The author shares with us his obvious love of the Welsh countryside and does so with plenty of rich language but it’s all very unsatisfying for an unromantic like me who’d rather hear about the war. Probably one of the most frustrating books I've ever read.

We’re in the pub early and our friends turn up a little later. Whilst being early for them, we had still managed to despatch three pints by then and now I’m ‘forced’ to have some more. They have a rather nice dark ale by the Loweswater Brewery’s called Grasmore Ale, a 4.3% mild, that wouldn’t really be able to be bettered had it not been that the celebrated Snecklifter was on as well and tasting particularly fantastic. This is despite the fact that with the Jennings Brewery still being a bit soggy after the floods in Cockermouth it is currently being brewed by their parent company Marstons.

We stagger back to the cottage for some chilli to soak up our excesses.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Man After My Own Heart

Having delayed L getting up, I volunteer to walk the dogs. Though it’s not too icy today, I bet she wishes I’d volunteered yesterday, when it was truly hell on ice. The skittish one, as L calls him, was relatively good, although I did have to remind him how to behave a few times but I think he took it on board.

More news on the campaign to keep Victoria Leisure Centre open, at least until planning permission for a replacement has been granted. There is now an online petition.

Originally the council agreed to fund the centre until March 2011, by which time it was hoped a replacement would be close to being available. However now the council has changed their mind and the centre will close on April 1st. They have been trying to close the leisure centre since 1993 and it looks as if they may get their wish this time. Whilst I'm not great fan of Victoria, closing it and not replacing would put an intolerable strain on the other centres, some of which are already heaving.

I also think the proposed redevelopment plans are a mess and will do little to enhance sport and leisure facilities in Nottingham but that’s another story. If the council for once actually put together something that people wanted and would use then they might find that they'd actually make some money from their investment rather than forever having to subsidise it, as is the current case.

Squash is called off at the last minute as my opponent cuts his finger loading the dish washer...

So I have to hastily rearrange my fitness schedule and I meet L at the Tennis Centre gym, where I do 16km (10 miles) on the bike. I’ve recently started reading a new book about cycling called ‘The Hour: Sporting Immortality The Hard Way’, it’s written by a chap called Michael Hutchinson who is a rather successful British time trailist (that’s cycling by the way). In it he decides to have a crack at the ‘hour’ record, which is how far you can ride a bike in an hour, which was at that time held by Chris Boardman.

Well Hutchinson likes the science side of the sport, a man after my own heart, and mentions that he reckons he can generate around 400 watts of power for an hour and that should put him close to Boardman’s record. Wrong. When he attempts the required pace in training 400 watts is nowhere near enough, turns out he needs to generate over 500 to get even close, which caused him to have a bit of a rethink. Anyhow, my point is, as I sit pedalling away, at a furious pace, generating a lot of power... I see the power readout on the bike reads 200 watts. Ouch. So I’m no Chris Boardman nor Michael Hutchinson nor even half a Michael Hutchinson for that matter. As I draw to the end of my session I see what I can push it up to. Eventually I reach 300 watts, for about two minutes. Hmmm. No ‘hour’ attempt for me just yet then.

It’s been lurking in the freezer for nearly a week now but tonight we finally bite the bullet and cook the conger eel, well L does anyway. I’m always up for something new but it’s possibly the boniest fish I've ever seen. So not sure we’ll be having it again.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bolero With Dogs

As it rained almost all the way through extra time last night and as the thermometer currently reports that the temperature is above freezing, I didn’t expect it to be icy and I get ready to use the bike for the first time this year.

Then L staggers back through the door after doing an impromptu performance of Bolero with dogs around the estate to advise otherwise. Undeterred I venture outside to see what the main roads are like. Unfortunately it’s impossible to walk to the main road in cycling shoes to find out. So I abort, change into running kit and speed skate down to the bus. If the ice melts during the day it should give me the opportunity to run home.

The bus is ten minutes late because the A52 is gridlocked, which once we’re on the A52 and back into the gridlock makes us even later. So I end up running from Derby city centre to work to make up lost time. Oddly in Nottingham we had ice and drizzle, but in Derby we have snow and better conditions to run in. It’s even snowing as I arrive at work. So perhaps not cycling was the correct choice, although there are plenty of bikes about.

It snows all morning and we soon have a nice covering. Then I get the first text of the day about MD’s training tonight, the start has been delayed until 7.30 but at least it hasn’t been cancelled.

Later though, despite the snow turning to rain, it is cancelled. All the main roads are totally free of snow and ice which makes it all the more annoying. In fact I’m seething. I had planned to do a short 5 mile run tonight before heading off to training but now I run off my anger by running nine miles, so at least I can thank the club for that.

I would possibly have gone further and maybe even ran all the way home had there not been a long stretch with no street lighting. The ground is very runnable, most of the snow we’ve had has already melted, what remains is mainly soft slush.

I mistimed my rendezvous with the R4 bus, which cheats, deciding not to take its usual detour through the side streets and therefore easily beating me to the bus stop. So I have to wait for the next one to come.

Feel pretty smug though, once I get home. That’s 19 miles in two days, despite the weather. Not bad.

Monday, January 11, 2010


I park the car at my parents place and run the 8km (5 miles) into work. The temperature seems to have stayed marginally above freezing overnight. So although there are a few icy patches left it’s not too bad underfoot at all. The worst stretch was along the river path, so when I do the journey in reverse this evening, in the dark, I avoid that bit. Instead I stick to the well lit main roads and do another 8km.

This morning I skipped over the ice to Los Campesinos and this evening I ran back the other way to Sunshine Underground. I am revising for our next bout of gigs. These are two of the next three artists we are down to see. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to revise the one that falls in between them two yet.... Mr Michael Holbrook Penniman.

I’ve stayed in Derby for the match tonight, for which I’m really surprised we still have a manager. Nigel Clough had the look of a manager about to resign as he stood forlornly on the touchline on Saturday. I suppose defeat tonight could tip him over the edge but who knows. To win, we’d have to score, which we won’t do if he continues to insist on leaving all his creative players out of the team. At best we’ll lose on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

Makes you wonder why I’m going... but what else is there to do on a Tuesday night. I doubt they’ll be many of us there; the club have set high ticket prices. I assume this is to try and keep the gate down, to minimise the embarrassment. I can’t think of any other reason why they’d charge nearly full price for a mid-week cup replay against a mid-table division three side.

Armed with a larger flask of coffee than Saturday, my Dad and I brave the cold and it’s not a bad game, if you forget that fact that the opposition are from a lower league. Derby, with thankfully a slightly more attacking line up tonight, have the majority of possession but still create very little. Almost from the start, you can see that this game is heading for penalties but then at the start of extra time, Millwall awake from their slumber and attempt to win the game. They very nearly do, taking the lead at the start of the second period of extra time but Derby bounce back and equalise, so the promised penalty shoot out ensues.

Oddly for a side that can barely muster a shot on goal in two hours, once they are faced with no other option from the penalty spot they all suddenly know what to do and we score five out of five, taking us through to the fourth round. Where it’s another glamour tie against Brentford or Doncaster, should they eventually manage to stage their weather delayed third round tie.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Bit Of A Pain

I would have biked, as roads are just plain wet not icy and the council has apparently ran out of salt, so I won’t be having to wash that out of my gears afterwards but I have an early dog training session tonight so it’s not to be.

The roads may be ok but the pavements are more slippery than ever with a mix of the remaining ice and the slush from the melting snow.

I don’t think L enjoyed going out in that with the dogs, particularly the littlest one. Whom she says she’ll be leaving at home tomorrow, to amuse himself in the garden, while she walks Doggo. Oh dear, I think he’s been a bit of a pain again.

In the evening only three of us turn up for training. This isn’t good news as regards mustering enough person-power to lug the equipment around but is actually perfect for training MD. I get loads done with him and there are only two other dogs to distract him. He’s turning into quite an attentive pupil at the moment.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Way To Go

As I check the news this morning I’m really surprised not to see a resignation at Derby County following a performance like yesterdays. I’m not saying I wish him to go but he really did look like he had given up and had no idea whatsoever on how to improve things out there.

The temperature is above freezing today and we have a thaw of sorts. So we both run, separately of course. I do 9.5km and it was quite a pleasant. The ground was actually very runnable, provided you aren’t required to try and stop quickly on the icy surface. Then when I get home, after a quick break, I go around the park again, this time hurling a couple of little yellow balls into the melting snow with two dogs in hot pursuit. Well more of an ambling lukewarm pursuit in Doggo’s case.

Then later on we hit the gym, so that I can do the bike ride that the weather doesn’t really permit. I do 15km at 90rpm which makes the legs burn a bit. In fact I have to walk on the treadmill to loosen up afterwards before crashing in the cafe to wait for L, who opts to lengthen her stay on the weights. Frankly I think I’ve done enough today.

Where once it was a little lad in a flat cap pushing his bike up the cobbled hill to deliver his Hovis now it’ll be no other than World and Olympic champ Victoria Pendleton, who has signed a deal with Hovis to recreate the famous advert from the 1970s. Now no messing around Victoria, we know you can get up that hill without getting off and pushing.

Then, as it’s my brother’s birthday, we head over to his place for a curry night but mainly to try and beat his seven-year-old on the wii. Much to the amazement of all of us, even my mother gets on the balance board and has a go at the downhill skiing. She even sneaks in ahead of the seven-year-old. Ha. Way to go Mum. My father loves it so much I can already see what’ll be top of his birthday list.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Wrong Sort Of Stimulant

We have some fresh snow overnight and L goes out for a run in it. I’m well jealous. I haven’t got time to do so, having already enjoyed too much duvet time and then I having to take the dogs out for a ball session. This is enjoyable but very traumatic as the balls keep disappearing into the snow.

Then I get the bus over to Derby for the match, which is one of the few fixtures to have survived the weather. The postponements are also making it impossible to do the Fantasy League. We were joking last week about whether we could raise enough players to resurrect our own five-a-side team, well today I’m struggling to raise five-a-side team of real players for the Fantasy League and I‘m supposed to be picking fifteen. The games have been going down like flies over the last 24 hours. Trying to pick a team is like playing Russian roulette with the fixture list.

As I walk down to the stadium I at least discover the answer to one pressing question. That being why the council has already ran out of grit. The reason is because someone has layered it on the pavements around Pride Park about an inch thick, which is a lot of trouble to go to, just to get the game on. So if they need any, all they need to do is simply turn up with a lorry and a spade. Then they can scrape the excess off Pride Park and keep the rest of the city going for a few more days.

Although this may answer one question, it also poses another. Just why have they let the employees of all the companies on Pride Park slither around on icy pavements for the last couple of weeks and only get the grit out now because there’s a football game on?

It’s also bloody cold as I await the arrival of my father, who will hopefully have a flask of hot coffee with him. He has, but as my mother has dipped out of going to the game today, he’s packed a smaller flask. Damn, not really enough to get me through the whole game. At least he’s brought the whiskey to go in it.

As it happens coffee is not the right sort of stimulant required to get one through the game. Valium would have been more appropriate. Yet another apparently clueless team selection is followed by another clueless performance. Again no width and therefore no goals, save a deflected effort when already 2-0 down. It finishes 4-1.

After the match I meet L in Derby and we go for something to eat in the Royal Standard. Then we move across to the Silk Mill, which is disappointing because they haven’t changed their beers from last week, so we consider a move to the Flowerpot. Then a comfy chair by the real fire comes free and so naturally, we make do and stay the rest of the night.

One of our Christmas presents is playing havoc with my head, well my hangover. The bottle of Baileys seemed a pleasant and inoffensive thing for a nightcap but I’m not sure it’s been a wise choice at all. It’s not even the sort of thing I’d usually drink. Oh well, it’s nearly all gone now.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Positively Terrifying

I got the bus in today and develop a technique for gliding over the icy surface as I walk at each end of my journey. Apparently it was the coldest night of the winter so far with temperatures well down in the minus figures. I get into work really early as there seems to be very little traffic on the roads. Think all the usual suspects must still be skiving.

A colleague rides in on his MTB. I’d like to say he was a smug b****** after doing so but he actually looked a bit frazzled by the whole experience.

L recommends the video for Big Pink’s Dominoes. Saying I'd love the girl drummer's long boots and thighs. I will check it out. Now. A bit disappointing to be honest but probably mainly because the drum kit is in the way.

I get home from work and everyone is on their way out. This isn’t a problem as it allows L and me to get up to whatever we like. Well, whatever the dogs will allow us to get up to.

Later on we head down the local, which is kind of a mistake as I’d forgotten that Forest were live on TV tonight, playing away at West Bromwich. We hide in a corner and try to keep ourselves to ourselves but I can’t help watching some of the game. I have to say that Forest looked positively terrifying as they surged into a 3-0 lead by midway through the second half. The game finishes 3-1 and they hop over West Bromwich into second in the table. I’m afraid to say they look pretty awesome and unhappily we have to play them in a few weeks time.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Usual Run Around

Saw this advert reproduced on the Red Bikes blog. I like it.

Now if only I could get out on the bike. Love the weather, but hate the lack of training opportunities. If I had a MTB I’d probably risk coming to work on it but I’m not getting the road bike, particularly not with all that salt on the roads.

The Carriageworks Theatre in Leeds has demonstrated the Dunkirk spirit and vowed that the show must go on, although only nine people showed up for Wednesday night’s performance of the very appropriate ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’. Of course we’ve no idea if that’s a normal sized audience for them or not but by braving the weather and putting the show on regardless they’ve gained some excellent publicity. Smart move.

Seems Nottingham City Council has reneged on its promises as regards the Victoria Leisure Centre. Originally they had planned to keep it open until the new centre was ready in 2011 but now apparently they now intend to close the centre at the end of March this year. Yet there are no approved plans yet for the redevelopment and no planning permission in place. Seems it’s all to do with the council running out of cash after playing Icelandic bank roulette with our money and losing.

There is public meeting next Wednesday January 13th at 6pm at the Training Suite, Victoria Leisure Centre to discuss this latest development.

Finally some exercise and I play squash tonight. It’s a good workout as I’m given the usual run around, which is exactly what my legs need.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Better Late Than Never

The snow finally reaches Derby. Better late than never I suppose but there’s still not very much of it. There is just enough though to enable the first snowman of the year to appear outside work.

Due to the carnage being caused by the weather up here, not, I get a text at 9.30 to say that training tonight has been cancelled. As I’ve said, we’ve still not had very much of the white stuff compared with what the rest of the country has had and I had even got to work quicker than normal this morning because there was less traffic on the roads. Obviously a lot of people had either believed the hype and stayed at home or just simply took the opportunity for a skive and a day’s sledging. So the cancellation of training is just a little premature, particularly as the snow is due to stop around mid-morning.

Then an hour later I get another text to say that it’s all back on, although with a reduced session. I think perhaps they’ve had a lot of responses along the lines of ‘Snow? What snow?’. Even Nottingham City Transport appears to be running almost a full service and the kid’s old secondary school is open, when it’s usually one of the first to throw in the towel. Unless of course all those complaints I wrote last year have had an effect.

L keeps sending me events that clash with the Cheshire Cat cycle ride. She claims this is accidental and the Cheshire Cat, which she’s already entered in, had simply slipped her mind. Which it keeps doing.... I’m sure it is accidental but if I didn't know her better I'd think she was trying to get out of that particular event. Won’t happen though. I’ll keep reminding her and she knows she can rely on me to get her to the start line.

MD is simply excellent at training. For once he seemed to understand what he was supposed to be doing and does it well. It’s a tad cold though, if L was here she’d make him wear a coat. By the time I get the old man out of the car for his training I’m starting to lose the feeling in my feet. They feel a bit like they did when I dipped them in the stream at the Huncote Hash.

Thankfully L has a welcoming and warming curry ready for me when I finally get home.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Deep And Crisp And Even

As I’ve already mentioned, with the freeze predicted to last for some time, chances of biking this week at all are remote. However, as overnight we gained a nice inch of the deep and crisp and even stuff. Well it’s not exactly deep but I figure this morning would be a good time to attempt a run. It got to be better than running on the dreadmill, which is what I’ll be forced to do otherwise.

Snow can be quite good to run in when it is fresh and still quite grippy. This does appear to be the case as I jog up to catch the bus from the QMC. Unfortunately once I alight from the bus in Borrowash I realise that yet again Derby seems to have missed out on the white stuff. So I’m faced with a slither along icy paths instead. Thankfully the route down by the river allows for plenty of running on the grass which is good because running on the path is more than a touch dicey. Despite this I see almost as many bikes as usual, probably 30 or more, and only about half with sensible tyres. The rest of them on the sort of unsuitable mount that I usually ride. Despite this I don’t see any one fall off.

The next problem I face is due to latest bout of concreting over of the countryside that’s going on down there. They’re shut the river path again and divert me on to the main road, where more slithering ensues. I eventually skate into work, only six minutes slower than usual, which isn’t bad considering the ice and the detour that must have added half a mile.

L reports that not only has Daughter taken a tumble on the ice, mind she was probably Facebooking at the time rather than looking where she was going, but Doggo has taken a slide too. Both are apparently fine.

After work, I opt out of playing roulette with the ice pavements by running home and take the easy option of the Red Arrow instead.

I get home to find that Daughter has gone and had all her hair cut off, well not quite but it’s pretty short. Question is what she going to spend two hours a day doing now she has so little hair to style? No need for hairdryers, hair spray and the like.

The girls head off to see the Derby Panto or are they just going to see Neil Morrissey.

Either way I decline their offer to join them. Pantomime has never really been my sort of thing but I’m sure they’ll have a good time. Oh no they won’t, oh yes they will. Apparently the pantomime is packed out but there’s not a man in sight. Funny that.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

In Case Of Emergency

I had hoped to cycle today and would have done, had it not been so wintry. L had planned to do her Cheshire Cat training around Holme Pierrepont and that’s not happening either. Looking at the forecast, the weather isn’t going to make cycling very feasible for a while.

I console myself by supplementing my lunch with assorted goodies from L’s Christmas presents. This is totally legit by the way. She asked me to dispose of all the edible gifts she received and I didn’t like to refuse. Hence the reason they are now all in my drawer at work. Save for one small box, which I’ve hidden in the bedroom, in case of emergency.

In the evening, MD starts his new class, with cage. L is worried he might be cold in his cage and suggests an extra blanket. She’s missing the point. His cage is not supposed to be comfy as he’s not supposed to spend much time in it. He’ll only end up in it if he’s a bad boy and I’m sure he’s not going to be.

In fact, MD does very well. He only gets caged a few times for barking and each time he was provoked by another dog being the first to bark. That is until later, when we do some start line sprints which means there are dogs racing across the arena. He can’t resist having something to say about that and becomes a more permanent inmate.

Relaxing later in bed, I see something large and black crawling up the duvet, it’s almost as large as a pint sized collie but it’s not MD, who is asleep across the bottom of the bed. This creature’s got eight legs and, in fact, climbs over MD as it moves towards me. From its lofty position on MD’s back I’m sure it winks at me before continuing its journey upwards, along L’s thigh. At which point I warn L that we (the four of us) are not alone in the bedroom, we have an unwanted visitor. I can immediately tell from the expression on her face that she thinks that I best put a stop to its crusade forthwith. So I chivalrously but regretfully slay the beast. L seems grateful, very grateful. So I don’t get to read any of my books again tonight.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Trench Foot

This morning we defrost the car and drive down the M1 to Huncote in Leicestershire for a spot of cross country, something by the name of the Huncote Hash. The race is on because unlike the Caythorpe run last week it’s not on road so won’t be as slippery. That’s the theory anyway.

Cross country is not my thing at all. I prefer any terrain that I run on to be smooth and tarmac if at all possible, kind of road like, certainly not muddy. Luckily, the fact it’s so damn cold should render the mud meaningless.

I have my River Trent hardened shoes on, the ones I used for Survival of the Fittest and they still have bits of genuine Trent algae hanging off them. They will feel at home in this race, as there’s a stream that we are required to run down. L considers wellies but in the end pulls her orienteering shoes out of what they thought was their peaceful retirement.

As we stash the dogs in the car and head down to the start, they immediately start a duet of howling, totally embarrassing but we can’t give into such blackmail. We ignore them, fully expecting someone to report us to the RSPCA.

We line up for the start amongst a group of cowboys and Indians; fancy dress seems to be the order of the day. Some of the girls are in saris; they have perhaps come as the wrong type of Indians. There’s even a gorilla lurking somewhere near the back of the pack.

I start well but then concede a lot of places. I’m not pushing myself too hard on such a perilous course. I have bigger fish to fry coming up and this event is basically just an excuse to get some miles in. How many miles, I’m not sure, as they are very vague about the length of the course, 6 miles, 6.5, maybe more. I also don’t have the correct footwear on and some of the hills they have us on are quite steep. I almost slide off a few of them. A camber up one ice covered hill, the surface seemingly polished by the runners ahead, and go sliding most of the way back down again. Despite struggling to stand up at times, I still think I’m doing quite well until a gun toting cowboy comes running past me.

Rumour has it that the course offers spectacular views of the surrounding villages and countryside but unfortunately I can’t look up to see because I’m too worried about where I’m putting my feet.

Towards the end, some parts of the course have thawed out a bit and I finally get some traction, managing to run at something approaching normal race pace but then just as I’m getting in to it, we come to the ‘highlight’ of the run. The wade through the stream. Thankfully the earlier runners seem to have broken the ice on the surface. The water though is still feet numbingly cold. My first thoughts are that thankfully it’s only a short section of water. Then once I’m up to mid calf in the freezing water, I think what a long stint it is. As I emerge out the other side, I have to look down to check that my feet as still attached to my ankles as I can now no longer feel them. It takes a good few minutes to warm them back up again and then thankfully it’s the finish.

My time was over 54 minutes for however far it was. They describe it as a fun event, a chance to fun and blow away the Christmas and New Year excesses. Doesn’t stop them disqualifying the first two runners home, who were minutes ahead of the rest of the field and it’s suspected that they found a short cut somewhere.

I fetch the dogs from the car and wait for L to come in. She duly does, managing to hold off a late surge from the gorilla.

Afterwards we retire to Scruffys, to nurse our trench foot and to try out their Sunday lunches. They are all out of beef, so their roast consists of grilled best steak, which is a rather nice variation. The soup starter is also rather tasty and filling, particularly when I remind L of her resolution to cut down on her bread consumption, which means I get double. I’m always thinking of her wellbeing.

(Photos Huncote Harriers AC)

Friday, January 1, 2010

What Does It All Mean?

It starts snowing quite heavily on the park this morning but later it turns to rain. All of which puts paid to any aspirations of repeating the long cycle ride that I did last week.

Instead, shock horror, I venture down to the sales. Not that anything I ever want is in the sale and this year is no exception. I do yet a cover for my new phone though but couldn't get the walking boots I wanted.

The best day of the football season, the FA Cup 3rd Round is pretty much shock free, unless you regard Derby not losing at Millwall as a shock. It shocked me. So I have a replay to go to a week on Tuesday.

Then due to the weather curtailing any serious outdoor exercise I visit the gym with L. 6k bike, 1k row, a few weights but then only enough time for a 1 mile run as we rush out, coffees in hand, to catch the bus to Derby to replenish lost fluids.

The best thing about the gym session was my new gadget, my new Heart Rate Monitor toy. Which to my utter amazement, the councils gym equipment manages to pick up seamlessly and display my heart rate on their screens. Wow. This moment is worth savouring because it is the one and only time I’ve been impressed in a council gym.

My gadget tells me 'my zone' is 120-141 bpm or something like that but the bike takes it up to 161. The run surprisingly tops this and it goes up to 170. Which seems high but I have a bit in hand, as my limit is 178. I assume this the point at which your body gives out. It’s calculated as 220 minus your age (226 for women).

What does it all mean? I have no idea, I need to Google it.

I continue to mull it all over, with a few beers in my hand, in Derby’s now rather wonderful, Silk Mill.

Fantasy Shuffle Selection: 20 Tracks From 2009

As the final part of my review of the year, I thought I would have a 'fantasy shuffle' selection. A varied selection of 20 tracks that my ipod would pick out on it's own, if it was clever.

Its 20 Tracks From 2009 would probably have looked something like this (in no particular order) :-

Talking Hotel Arbat Blues - Handsome Furs
Some Dresses - Dananananaykroyd
Who Can Say - The Horrors
Only If You Run - Julian Plenti
The Outsiders - Doves
Scheme Eugene - Red Light Company
Reflection Of The Television - Twilight Sad
Place To Hide - White Lies
Multiplayer - The Voluntary Butler Scheme
Devour - Marilyn Manson
Cradle - Joy Formidable
The Fastest Way Back Home - Frank Turner
Shock Horror - The View
Oh! Forever - Brakes
Think Again - The Hours
Crystalised - The XX
Bricks And Mortar - Editors
This Blackest Purse - Why?
Cornerstone - Arctic Monkeys
Little Lion Man - Mumford And Sons