Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Reason I Didn't Win.

As I wake up this morning it becomes evident why I didn't win yesterday's race. Apart from the obvious reasons of insufficient talent and fitness. It appears that somebody kneecapped me half way round when I wasn’t looking. A tad unfair don’t you think? I can barely walk now.

So I have to skip my planned cycle and crawl to the bus stop. I don’t fancy operating a clutch in the car for an hour in heavy traffic without any legs. I hobble in to work to find that hardly anybody is in, so I can’t even impress folk with my new found disability.

L’s slotted back into things after our holiday more quickly than usual. Almost immediately life is back to normal and she’s loathing her computer once more. Her problems with the wonderfully obtuse Windows 7 continue, before our hols she was threatening to resign and go to work in Asda. Whereas life with MD has also picked up from where it left off and he’s back to yapping his way around the neighbourhood. L’s attempts to distract him with dog treats don’t seem to work when he devours the treat and her finger, briefly choking on it (the treat that is, not L’s finger) in his rush to carry on regardless with his yapping.

Rather worrying is that yesterday an avalanche swept two skiers 2,000ft down the mountain at Glencoe ski area. What’s most worrying is that although they had gone off piste they had only done so by 10ft, that’s not very far. We were up there ourselves on Friday. Thankfully they’re ok apart from a fractured leg for one and a knee injury for the other.

I get home and follow the example of A level students everywhere. MD and I attempt to cram the homework, that we’ve had for two weeks, into the two hours before dog class this evening. Well we have been on holiday and I couldn’t fit MD’s cage in the car, so I kind of have an excuse but I don’t think we get away with it. At one stage we were made to train in the equivalence of the dunce’s corner until we got it right.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Test Of Endurance

Now here's a first. Well for me anyway. L's an old hand at these but I best not use a phrase like that in front of her. Today is my first half marathon and unfortunately I can’t say it’ll also be my last because I’ve got another one next week. It’s supposed to be just a training run for the bigger picture, that being the Kilomathon, which is even longer and is now only two weeks away.

We've driven all the way over to the back of the beyond, well Sleaford, at the back end of the coldest February for centuries (or so some of the papers would have you believe) and to top it all it's raining.

Oh well, this is what you get for trying to arrange a low key entry into the world of distance running. I say low key because I'm expecting there to only be about 30 entries but L disagrees. She says this race will be on everybody’s London training plan. London being that populist marathon thing they do down south. She's right. I'm wrong. There are hundreds here.

Another problem is it's not at all dog friendly. The start is within the grounds of RAF Cranwell and dogs aren’t even allowed on the RAF's sports field. There are all sorts of dire military style threats posted up on signs. To make it worse they then take the run in and out of the far side of the base, not the side where we have been forced to park the car. This makes even taking the dogs a walk to watch L run the last mile out on the road impossible.

The start is on grass, not a preferred option of mine. I stand well back from the idiots at the front but still I find that the pace seems quite quick. 7.07 for the first mile confirms it, I was looking for an 8.00. In fact, it’s so quick that two chaps near me stop dead in protest. I ease off too. One mile done, twelve and a bit to go, how hard can it be?

The early promised hill is just a slight incline. So far so good but then there’s a stretch of around two miles that takes you across cross country. This unsettles me and aggravates the ankles but at least it slows my pace. Then when that’s over and we’re on to Viking Way, a Roman road which is now part of a cycle trail, I settle into a good 7.30 pace.

The six mile point arrives; this is where I usually stop. Today I can’t.

I slot in behind two lads who seem to be going at about the right pace and this has the added bonus that they shelter me from the wind. Then we take a sharp left onto a busy road, where we have to run in single file. Somehow at this point, the two of them manoeuvre me to the front and now I'm pace setting for them. How did that happen? When I slow slightly on a small incline one of them even has the nerve to criticize me for slowing down.

I'm sure he then lifts the pace and sure enough the next mile, mile 10, is done in 6.50. Ouch. I tell him off. We slow to 7.15s. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that at around this point my right knee starts to go, a mile later the left one’s comes out in sympathy.

There are three drinks stations and I have a small drink at each, I’ve never done that before. Though I can't drink and run, I have to slow to a walk, causing one of the chaps who has been stalking me to almost run into the back of me. Serves him right. There’s also a jelly baby stop, never done that before either. It's a day of firsts. Very welcome, although chewing and breathing is something else I need to practice.

At mile 11, my new friend the stalker and I, hear music and rustling... an ipod wearing guy in full waterproofs, gloves and a bobble hat catches us... and passes us. Oh the shame.

At 12 miles I feel surprisingly good and I go for home, outwitting Mr Stalker. I lose him and pass a few others as well. I come home in 1 hour 38 minutes which is 2 minutes under budget. Success.

L had already warned me that she'd be a while... so I grab a free massage, get changed, exercise the dogs (briefly) and grab a coffee... then I go back to see her finish.

In the evening, having not seen the kids for a week, we take them out for a meal. Well Son has a prior engagement, so we bung him the money for a takeaway and take Daughter for a Chinese. I thought perhaps the hardest test of the day was the half marathon, I was wrong. The sheer size of the Chinese meal we order tests my powers of endurance to far greater levels.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Too Much Snow

The trip up to Glencoe takes seven hours (again) and is as good as it gets really. No hold ups and once you get to the Lake District its pleasant views all the way, well apart from Glasgow obviously but you can close your eyes for that bit. We had a brief stop which almost blighted the whole trip when some chap tried to park his car on top of the dogs, who were having their lunch. Ok, so perhaps we shouldn't have been feeding the dogs in Tesco’s car park but that's no reason for him to try and park on top of us when half the car park was free. These places all have baby changing facilities etc etc but dog feeding zones? No I don’t think so.

As we arrive the thermometer descends to -5 at times and there’s snow on the ground in the village but not a lot. The mountains though look loaded. Back home, in my absence Derby lose whilst in Vancouver Amy Williams lands Winter Olympic gold in the skeleton bobsleigh.

Sunday. It snows! In Nottingham. Typical. That’s not supposed to happen. It's supposed to be snowing up here. That's why we came. To exercise the dogs and us, we go for a run (what else). 9.2 miles in the snowy valley below Ben Nevis. Very picturesque. Although I didn't expect the valley to be so relentlessly uphill, even on the way back or was that just my imagination? Then just for good measure we run the 2.5 miles to the pub, where the dogs (both of them) are threatened with expulsion for being gobby. Running back probably wasn't such a good idea after four pints and chilli n chips. It was a good job I skipped dessert.

The next day we ski at Nevis Range, where there’s tons of snow. All the ski runs are open, it’s sunny and there’s no wind. It’s just so unlike Scotland. Give me a Weizen Bier or a Gluhwein and it could be Austria. I could have skied my favourite run, Warrens, forever. Then I attempted the Nid Wall (a black), totally unpisted and full of holes due to hill walker’s size eleven boots. In fact I had to slalom down through the descending walkers, around twenty of them. It was memorable but only because it was hard work. Glad I did it but I soon return to my mate Warren.

We checked out the finally reopened (after over three years) and now refurbished Glencoe Hotel. Nice but their only beer is Deuchars. The only Scottish beer you can get everywhere in England. Not an inspired choice and an opportunity missed. The whiskeys were cheap though.

We are alternating ski days and dog days, so on Tuesday we run again. This time along the Caledonian Canal from a place called Caol where Neptune's Staircase is, that’s a series of locks, to Moy Bridge, a swing bridge. The route is known as the Great Glen Way. It goes all the way to Inverness, I think. Fun was had by all. Particularly MD who got to bark at sheep, cows and the odd cat. Even the cats up here are ganging up on him. I think the Nottingham feline fraternity must have passed the word on, that he’s so easy to wind up.

The weather forecasts can't seem to agree whether the current nice sunny weather is going to last or not. The BBC forecasts that the Nottingham snow is heading our way but there’s no sign of it as I go to bed on Tuesday night. So I contemplate making the eighty mile drive over to Cairngorm on Wednesday, to sample the once in a decade conditions but...

As I pull back the curtains on Wednesday morning, suddenly all plans are put on hold. The snow has arrived. Nil visibility persuades us not to ski at all. The dogs love the alternative, a walk in a blizzard and the fresh snow. MD loves it so much he shins up a mountain to say hello to a few wild deer. Then gets severely reprimanded when he rejoins us.

The forecast says today's snow is just for starters before the deluge due tomorrow. So perhaps we best batten down the hatches in the Clachaig Inn with the wonderful Black Gold, a beer teasingly produced by a brewery named after the unattainable Cairngorm. We bravely wade through the falling snow to the pub. Intrepid or what. Certainly less hazardous than driving given the conditions. Using the skis might have been an option though.

The next morning it's still snowing. I decide to stay in bed until lunchtime with Cycling Weekly and L for entertainment. We’re snowed in. The news says that the A82 main road up to Glencoe is shut. So we’re cut off and in more ways than one, we also seem to have lost mobile reception. So Daughter can't have her morning alarm call.

We walk to the road and yes sure enough the snow gates are shut and a lorry is parked across it, making sure no one passes. In the village it's milder now and raining but higher up on the A82 past the Three Sisters and the ski lifts it's still snowing. So another day walking the dogs and chilling out. I’ve even finished the Sunday paper by Thursday, now there's a first.

Things improve enough later for us to battle against the elements and the road conditions to get to Fort William for a curry and a pint in the Grog n Gruel. They have mobile reception up there. So at least we can tell people we’re still alive and to find out how late Daughter was for college.

By Friday, the snow has stopped although weather reports say Nevis Range is stormbound. Glencoe mountain though is apparently open. We give it a go. They've had a ridiculous amount of snow and it was too deep really but good fun anyway. Waist deep drifts. Totally un-skiable especially on blades but we’ve left our proper skis back at the cottage. At least I can now say that I've skied/slithered/staggered/fell/waded all the way down to the car park. There's never been enough snow to do this before. It wasn’t elegant but at least I’ve done it. L celebrates surviving the car park run by getting addicted to Grozet (Gooseberry ale) in the pub.

By Saturday and home time, all the roads are open again. Although the guy at the petrol station advises us to head south whilst the going is good, as the strong winds are drifting the snow back across the road. We make our escape and make it all the way home, again in around seven hours. The trip is even prettier on the way back; the snow went all the way down to Glasgow and then reappeared again, in the Pennines and the Lake District.

Back home, we assess the damage that two teenagers can wreak left to their own devices in a house for a week. Although we had a fair idea because Daughter had been sending us preview photos.

Los Campesinos!

Last Friday, the day before we went up to Scotland, we were over in Leicester at the Musician to see Los Campesinos!

First on stage though were a band called Islet but band is perhaps the wrong word. They’re a three piece which included Emma from Victorian English Gentleman's Club, who were always a bit weird but not this weird. Islet are more of an experience than a band. They leap around the stage, swapping instruments and spewing forth (there is perhaps no better way to describe it) their unique sound. It’s chaotic, it’s noisy, it’s different, it’s drama. It’s so very L’s sort of thing. Their instruments are not so much played, as chucked in to a blender to see what comes out the other end. They utilise them in ways you just wouldn’t think of. There are drums, guitars, keyboards but there’s also stuff like maracas and tambourines, sometimes played, sometimes flung into the crowd. In fact most of the band disappear off into the crowd on a regular basis and for all we know they’re buying a pint at the bar as they emit their vocal screams, yelps, etc.

They use two drum kits at one point, one borrowed it seems from the next band up, Swanton Bombs. When one of them decides to stand on one of the drum kits before hurling himself off the top of it, it’s good to see that it's their own and not the one they’ve borrowed.

If like I, you think all this sounds intriguing then you might want to look them up on the internet. Good luck. They’re not into websites ‘n’ stuff or so it seems, for that matter, releasing records. Even the info they hand out at the gig tells you nothing. Unique indeed. You may not find them anywhere other than live, so go see for yourself.

Much more conventional are Swanton Bombs. So conventional in fact that the stage seems bare once all Islet’s stuff has been removed and we are left with just a drum kit and a guitar. So it’s the White Stripes approach then but although they try hard and come smartly dressed in their prom suits, it simply doesn’t do anything for me.

They seem confused about how to follow Islet and also not sure whether they should make fun of them or compliment them. Sandwiched between two bands from Cardiff and two fairly unique ones at that, they are sunk really before they start but to be honest they don’t rise to the task much either.

Their simple manifesto is... Guitar, play it loud. Drums, play them loud. Vocals... well loud but perhaps the vocals are the problem. The drummer is good and the guitar riffs have their moments but vocalist Dominic just can’t hit the notes. He’s so out of tune, that sometimes it’s painful. He might have got away with this if the tunes had been more memorable but mostly they're not. I’m sure there’s something there, well there’s energy and commitment, but as for satisfaction, tonight I’m not getting any.

So to our headliners. The first question is how the hell they are going to fit all seven of them onto the tiny stage. It is seven at the moment isn't it? No tonight it’s eight. This venue is far too small for them. Both for the band and for the crowd who need much more room to seeth around. As is demonstrated when long standing favourite ‘Death To Los Campesinos!’ kicks in early, after two new tracks open the set. The so brief, you’ll almost miss it, ‘Heart Swells/100-1’ and the delightful ‘I Sighed. I Just Sighed. Just So You know’. Yes we like long titles here, get used to it, they get longer.

Once it gets hectic, and after the minor riot caused by 'Death', lead singer Gareth pleads for the safety of the little people at the front. We’re quite thankful for the amplifier that Islet dumped in the middle of the floor because it acts as a buffer from the mosh. There appears to be no back stage area at the Musician, only a side stage area and it isn’t anywhere near big enough for three bands, certainly not when your headliners have enough members to almost fill a football team. Several times pieces of Islet’s gear got stacked on my foot. I’m even asked to assist them packing up at one stage. Well... I hold a box open for them. Yep, I too could be a roadie.

Each of Los Campesinos! songs are as exhausting to listen to as they are for the crowd to dance to but I expected a lively performance and we certainly got one. Each song of theirs is packed full of contrasting musical ideas, conventional Swanton Bombs stuff like drums and guitar but with added glockenspiel, flute and the lovely Harriet stood right in front of me playing violin. Then of course it’s all topped off with Gareth's wonderful way with words. Sometimes it all seems to descend into chaos and it’s actually exhausting simply watching it all happening.

‘Miserabilia’ is an unreasonably short title for a Los Campesinos! song. It’s also strange that the band with the longest song names in history are working from the most abbreviated set list in history. Perhaps they can’t remember what they’re songs are called either.

Next up, Gareth tells us, is ‘Letters To Charlotte’. Well no it isn’t mate, it’s called ‘A Heat Rash in the Shape of the Show Me State; or, Letters from Me to Charlotte’ and it’s not ‘Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #2’, it’s ‘We've Got Your Back (Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #2)’ and don’t forget the brackets but I’m being pedantic.

An energetic rendition of last year’s single ‘There are Listed Buildings’ is followed by the new single and title track of the new album, ‘Romance Is Boring’. Another corker of an album, although perhaps slower paced than their previous efforts. Tonight there is a very high ratio of material from that new album which is to be expected and perfectly understandable but for someone like me, seeing them for the first time after years of failing to get to one of their gigs is disappointing, as there are many notable omissions.

The perfect pop of ‘My Year In Lists’ doesn’t need any introduction, and the audience bounce off the walls of the Musician and scream along with every word. Whilst the rest of the band try to make their own voices heard over the crowds as they too attempt to sing Gareth’s lyrics back at him.

‘Can we please all just calm the f*** down’ shout the entire band. Ok ok. Oh hang on that’s just the opening line to ‘This Is A Flag. There Is No Wind.’

The biggest riot is saved for ‘You! Me! Dancing!’ which announces itself with the teasing foreplay of its long intro before all hell breaks loose, as the guitar riff finally gets going, leaps from the speakers and slaps you in the face.

It’s a hyperactive performance from start to finish, by both band and crowd, right up to when they close with another well received old favourite ‘Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks’, delivered with just the right amount of indie tweeness.

Their approach to encores is remiss to say the least and when they play one it tends to include some of the missing classics I alluded to earlier. No encore tonight though. Damn.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Off For Some Tranquillity

Drove in again today but the traffic was kind of weird. It was very quiet. I know its half term but today was almost like driving in over Christmas. Perhaps everyone’s snowed in or think they are.

Just a short entry today because I need a week off in order to get my head back together after the ‘out of body’ experience that was Mika last night. So I'm off to the tranquillity of Scotland for a week.

Should get some skiing in, they’ve had a foot and a half of snow at both Nevis Range and Glencoe ski areas this week with more on the way. It’ll just be our luck to not be able to physically get up there due to too much of the white stuff.

First we have another gig tonight. Los Campesinos! at The Musician in Leicester. A review will follow when I get back.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Golden Boy

I get the honour of taking the boys out for a meander this morning. We meet a road sweeper which caused a bit of a yap from MD, ok a lot of a yap. So I made him walk past it quietly, well fairly quietly. Then I’m a bit miffed when a chap and his dog cross over the road to avoid us. Not sure if this was because Doggo was off lead or because of MD’s growing reputation.

My colleague has the biggest burger I’ve ever seen for his pub lunch today. I wouldn’t normally consider having a burger but even I regretted not having this. Two beef burgers, topped with cheese, salad, onion rings, couple of slices of bacon, all in a bun with a skewer running through it to hold it together. Not something, anybody, and I know some people with big mouths, could have bitten into without disassembling it first. It was about a foot high.

After work, I have half an hour with the dogs before cruising down Ilkeston Road to see what I can pick up, or more specifically L. Today sees the end of the usefulness of the phrase ‘You’ve got about as much chance as you have of talking me into Mika’, as here I am, about to accompany L up to the Sheffield Academy and an evening with the glittered one.

We eat our tea on the way up, not the Kit-Kat sandwiches promised by L, she’s had a hard day (and week), but cheese and ham instead. This time we save ourselves a fortune by shunning the official car park and parking in the street for free. We actually park by the Leadmill; I’m thinking that if we’re lucky there might even be a gig on there.... no joy, L frog marches me to the Academy.

She asks whether I would speak to her if she bought a t-shirt. Of course I would. Buying one is fine; wearing it though would be a different matter.

Support tonight is from a ginger Swede called Erik Hassle, who’s electro-pop-rock seems to have a bit of a 1980’s edge to it. All very pleasant in a ‘The Script’ sort of way, so nothing to get excited about either. Power pop but without much power, although he was fairly well received. He can sing I guess but his stuff was largely unmemorable. So he could be huge. Nice hair by the way Erik.

So... to Michael Holbrook Penniman. As they bring a table and chair out to the front of the stage, the rather large female behind me screams in my ear before quickly apologising and introducing herself to me, I think I’ve pulled, before she gets back to her screaming.

The atmosphere appears to be cross between what I would expect at a boy band gig and a hen party; I spot a feather boa and several sets of bunny ears. The predominately female crowd is supplemented with a few husbands and boyfriends, who have been dragged along, some seemingly willingly. The average age is worryingly high and makes me feel as if I’m one of the youngest here. Although I'm not because there are several children here, some even of primary school age. I have no idea how they got past the 14+ restriction and most of them haven't a hope of seeing anything.

Then as the lights go down, someone comes and sits at the table and starts drawing or sketching or something. Cue more screaming, mostly in my ear. Excuse me people. It’s is NOT Mika and I’m sure you know it’s not. It turns out to be the keyboard player. Not sure what all that was about but then the man himself wonders on stage with a suitcase (?) and launches into one of his better numbers ‘Rain’. We’re off and running on a multi-coloured trip through the strange kitsch world of Mika.

The second track, ‘Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)’ is dedicated to all the larger women and men in the audience of which there are more than a few. This is not, as you can tell, my usual night out at a gig. I’ve asked L several times what the attraction of Mika is and all she’ll says is ‘he's such a nice boy’. I’m a nice boy, won’t I do? And I don’t have a falsetto, or perhaps that’s the problem. She never really mentions his music and as for being a nice boy... is she sure? Because tonight folks, I’m sorry to tell you, Mr Nice Boy swears and utters the F-word, not once but twice.

So Michael 'treats' us to a selection of tracks from his two albums, plays keyboards on a few, but generally just dances and sings his way around the stage, rarely standing still long enough for me to get a photo of him. When he does stand still he is obscured by two women waving lollipops above their heads, right in camera shot. I’m tempted to go over to them and tell them where to shove said lollipops.

Mika’s music may not be my cup of tea, in fact the relentless high pitched-ness of it all starts to grate quite quickly but at least he’s entertaining. I guess this is also why people go see the likes of Robbie Williams. Some of the songs though... whether Sheffield or anywhere for that matter, is quite ready for such nuggets as 'Stuck in the Middle', I'm not sure, I'm certainly not but the crowd show I’m in the minority tonight.

Then suddenly and unexpectedly, a moment of brilliance, a slowie called 'Any Other World'. Tonight it’s a more stripped down version to the one on the album and has been sawn of its orchestral effects. It sounds classy tonight, almost a Kleenex moment amongst too many bucket ones. I applaud but hold back from trying to out-scream my new friend behind me. Then normality is quickly restored with 'Blue Eyes'.

One of his crew, who for reasons known only to him, is dressed in something that resembles a convict’s uniform crossed with a romper suit chucks a bundle onto the stage. Mika unwraps it and it appears to be Hessian sacking with a few feathers attached to it. He puts it on and I wonder if he’s supposed to be a chicken as he performs 'Love Today'.

I’m glad to say we’re getting through it now, I’m ticking them off one by one and when ‘We Are Golden’ appears I know there is light at the end of this particular tunnel. This closes the set on a hallucinogenic ‘high’ accompanied by a shower of golden ticker tape from a couple of stage side cannons.

Our golden boy returns for an encore to sit at his piano with a puppet of himself and perform ‘Toy Boy’ before its number one hit time, ‘Grace Kelly’. I’d forgotten about that one.

Then the entire band come to the front of the stage and start belting the hell out of a load of steel dustbins which evolves into the song ‘Lollipop’ which in turn builds to a crescendo that is accompanied by more ticker tape from the cannons and huge inflatable balloons bobbing through the crowd, that brings back horrific memories of a night with the Hoosiers.

Then the day-glow partying comes to a close, it’s finally over and I’ve survived. I get a kiss from L and an offer of sexual favours all next week on holiday. I knew there was reason I agreed to this.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Squatters Rights

I’m in the car today, running late and therefore in a hurry but also out of petrol. So thanks to the woman who parked her car midway between two petrol pumps during the busy morning rush, so that no one could use the pump she wasn’t using and also so that no one can get past either. Then she pretended not to notice and proceeded to do a week’s shopping in the kiosk whilst the petrol station became gridlocked and the queue snaked back onto the main road.

So I was in no mood later to be asked in Sainsbury’s (yet again) where the beans were. Why is it that people think, just because I have a shirt and tie on, that I work there? And why me? Three quarters of the men there are similarly attired as they’re all there on lunch break and anyway, Sainsbury’s employees DO NOT wear a shirt and tie, they wear a very obvious uniform!

Both dogs looked creased when I got home. Must be because the kids are on half term break from college and they must have kept them awake. This may or may not have involved the multiple chucking of rubber bones, plastic chicken drumsticks and balls.

All the same we still have training to do but everything is delayed by a horse taking up squatters rights in the arena. This delays everything by fifteen minutes and after MD’s session, which goes well, team training for Crufts (but not Doggo’s team) delays his training. So another late night out with the 'boys' with not a drop of alcohol in sight.

I get home and again try to catch some of the Winter Olympics. Again I miss the exciting stuff, the skiing and anyone hurtling down the bobsled/luge/skeleton track and get the curling instead.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Not Rocket Science

There’s a match again tonight, that’s two Tuesday’s on the trot. I can’t recall that happening before, ever. So again and I take the car to my parents place and run in from there with the added bonus this time that they let me run the short route down Raynesway this time.

Then I do the whole thing in reverse again after work, although according to the latest Kilomathon newsletter, worryingly entitled ‘3 weeks to go’ I needn’t have bothered. They reckon at this stage of the proceedings, ‘mental preparation may be more beneficial than physical preparation, as most of the hard work should be done by this point’. Which planet is that they’re emailing from?

So I take them on trust, mental limbering up for the run back. This involves pondering which route to go and whether to risk listening to Mika or not. It would be a waste of several weeks of training if I inadvertently hurled myself in front of a passing car part way through ‘Big Girl (You Are Beautiful).

Freaky things occurring as regards Derby County at the moment. Tonight they score five, although the three they concede hint at the fact that the holes in that defence are far from fixed yet. The make up of the rest of the team is looking up though. Although team management is hardly rocket science. If you pick your best strikers (Rob Hulse and Kris Commons) rather than leave them on the bench, then they have a better chance of scoring and your midfield has a better chance of performing if you put your best central midfield player (Paul Green) in central midfield rather than on the wing where he looks lost. As I said, not rocket science.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Strange Noises

My cycle in is better than I expected, mainly because my annoying clicking noise seems to have gone and without me even doing anything constructive to get rid of it. I hate annoying noises like that. So I’d hate to be in L’s shoes at the moment or, to be more precise, her socks. That is the new waterproof one’s she bought which seem to be made of knitted plastic and crackle when she moves. That would annoy me. I don’t need any more strange noises whilst I’m cycling.

Every day you cross paths with at least one driver who is obviously blind and today is no exception. I work on the principal that it’s safer to have a driver irritated by you than unaware of your existence. So I’m stood right in front of this guy at the lights but still he doesn’t appear to see me and tries to drive straight through me. Perhaps he’s just having a bad day.

L’s having a bad day. She been trying to get a visa out of the Chinese Embassy for her boss but they’re closed for several days as its Chinese New Year. So it’s not just city councils who take extended holiday in such circumstances. She’s well stressed out and is considering going home and drowning herself in chocolate. Sounds like that under no circumstances should she go home but I have faith that she’s strong enough to resist such things. Oops. Too late. She’s OD-ed over lunch.

She’s off out tonight and now probably won’t be AF or PF (pudding-free) and CF is already out of the window. Meanwhile I’m at dog class with MD. I have a month to teach him the rest of the obstacles he needs before his next show, which will be a step up from Saturday’s one.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

No More Parties

I am awoken by seriously loud music coming from our kitchen at 4am. I get up to turn it down, carefully avoiding the broken glass on the way. There isn’t even anybody in the kitchen; it would have been too aurally painful to stand that close anyway, so I turn it off. On the way back to the bedroom I detour to the bathroom, only to find that something is missing... the door handle is no longer there. Half an hour later, L gets up to deal with some kerfuffle upstairs. She reports that there is a chunk of stair banister missing.

Morning arrives. Damage report. Assorted glassware and crockery, the stair banister, the bathroom door’s handle and the hall lightshade decoratively shredded across the floor. Plus the usual assortment of bottles and cans discarded everywhere. Teenagers appear to have no concept of ‘bin’ or even for that matter a surface to put things on and liberally use the floor instead. Same goes for the cigarettes outside, scattered around the periphery of the dustbin but none actually in it.

So in conclusion, no more parties. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Time for some fresh air on the park. MD, as well as becoming an agility star, has been working hard on kicking his various bad habits. Even L thinks he’s now over his car habit. Though it might take him a bit longer to kick the people habit, the other dogs’ habit, the squirrel habit, the cats’ habit...

In the afternoon I run with L, seven miles, along a very nice canal side, river side route. Very pleasant.

Then as its Sunday, it’s film night. Tonight a treat for all the ladies who lust after Colin Firth... ‘A Single Man’. The directorial debut of fashion designer Tom Ford and based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood.

Firth plays George Falconer, fifty-something English man working in Los Angeles as a college lecturer during 1962, the period of the Cuban missile crisis. A role for which Firth has got an Oscar nomination. George is also gay.... but relax ladies, there may be kissing but there are no tongues involved and no steamy sex scenes.

George is a man wracked with grief and is struggling to come to terms with the death of his long term partner Jim (Matthew Goode) in a car accident. George lives life as if in a trance, slightly detached from everything, going through the motions of life.

The whole film takes place over a single day, eight months after Jim’s death and is replete with flashbacks that as usual truly addle my mind. This day is the day he decides that he cannot carry on as he is. We see him putting his affairs in order. Meticulously arranging his insurance policies for people to find, leaving money for his housekeeper and buying bullets for his gun. Today, he decides, the bullets will end his pain.

Meanwhile he is stalked by one of his students, Kenny (Nicholas Holt), as well as being picked up by a young Spaniard, Carlos, who's keen to jump into his car and beyond. He arranges to spend the evening with his close friend, and fellow English exile, Charley (Julianne Moore), yet still he is not distracted from his intended task.

Unfortunately he just can't get comfortable enough to kill himself or in a way that won’t prove troublesome for his housekeeper. This introduces a moment of humour into the film which lightens the tone slightly but also seems slightly unfitting.

It’s an enthralling film but the one thing that stops you really getting drawn in is that unlike with George, who you do get to know, you never really get to know his dead partner, Jim. This means you never really quite feel his pain but then Charley has the same feeling and she did know him. When it comes down to it, Charley, who is divorced and equally alone in LA, is simply miffed that he will never be the red blooded heterosexual male that she thinks she needs. She fails to grasp the magnitude of his relationship with Jim and her assertion that his sixteen years with Jim wasn't real love but was ‘just a substitute for the real thing’ doesn’t go down well with George. This is sixties America, not a good time to be gay. George wasn’t even invited to Jim’s funeral and only got told of the accident as an afterthought.

After a enjoyable but non-sexual evening with Kenny, George seems to decide that life might be worth continuing with after all. He puts away his gun and burns his letters of goodbye, only then to be struck down by a heart attack. Life’s a bitch.

A good film and one full of fine detail. Well crafted and well acted. They've obviously tried to make it Oscar worthy. Oooh I’m a cynic.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Landmark Day

Today is a landmark day, it's MD’s agility debut. I picked this slightly obscure low key indoor show, where we have entered something degradingly called Grade Zero, so that I could craftily sneak his debut in under the wire whilst no one was looking... so obviously L is attending, my parents are attending including my mother making her debut at a winter show (just for MD), as well as half the members of the two clubs I train with. His ring will probably have the biggest attendance figures outside the main arena at Crufts. L even does a 30 mile plus cycle ride to get there. She calls it training, I call it avoiding the early start I made and trying to get an extra half an hour in bed. I’m being unfair there; she’s training hard for this Cheshire Cat thing. Harder than me as it happens, as I’ve been concentrating on my running. Even to the extent of getting the Battenberg in on a BOGOF offer... well she says it's for her cycling.

As it turns out neither L nor my parents arrive in time to see us queue up with the other grade zeros, known affectionately as the noughties, for our first run. In my father’s absence I have to get someone else to video MD’s first ever run for posterity. We don’t go clear or anything silly like that but he does well, loads of enthusiasm, doesn’t embarrass me and gets everything right although admittedly not always at the first time of asking but we’ll get there.

He has four more runs and all his fan club are there in time for the rest of them. Eventually we get the faults down to ten, that’s two lots of faults (five points for each). I am very proud of him. These are small steps but promising ones.

Doggo, now reduced to a supporting role, has the same number of runs and puts in his usual steady but in no great hurry clears. L quips, as they all watch Doggo for the first time that day; that this is how the expert does it... or rather doesn’t do it. Whereas MD has been totally focused all day, Doggo sees my father watching and not realising he was even here goes to say hello, and why the hell didn’t you come see me earlier?, mid run. Embarrassing or what and all recorded on video. Thankfully we have a second run on the same course and I clear the spectator area of anyone he might know before we run. This time we go clear.

It’s a satisfying day, that I even skipped a match for, Derby’s 5th Round FA Cup tie with Birmingham City. This was after all MD’s long planned debut and Doggo’s only event pre-Crufts. Unmissable really. In the game, Derby lead in their cup game against Birmingham but concede two late goals, one in injury time, to lose 2-1.

Back home, Son has arranged another party so we’re exiled to the local tonight, no bad thing really. The dogs are too tired to party anyway.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It Doesn’t Work Anyway

I’ve inflicted some tough training schedules on myself but playing an hour of squash and then getting up early the next morning to run to work must be one of the most punishing.

I don’t run home after work and I get the bus instead, which is packed. Well it wouldn’t be if everybody didn’t want a seat for their bags as well. So there are no seats free to sit on. What we need is an attractive young lass to get on the bus. Then suddenly half the ‘occupied’ seats would miraculously become available, as all the men move their belongings and seductively pat the seat next to them. Well perhaps not the second bit. It doesn’t work anyway, she’ll probably opt to perch on the end of the luggage area whilst you just end up with a twenty-one stone chap with a body odour problem sat next to you instead.

L does run home, opting to run six miles and promising to be several hours. She’s jesting of course. If she wasn’t I’d have beaten her home and I didn’t. In fact she’d even cooked. We eat then head off out and back to Derby.

We’re at a new venue for us tonight, the catchily named 'The Venue', a place owned and run, or so it seems, by the same people who revived the now once more defunct Rockhouse. Maybe they just decided that this was a better proposition than the Rockhouse and I think they’d be right. No idea what the place was before, it still looks like an old warehouse and it’s perfect for gigs, much more so than the Rockhouse. A better prospect to front up in battle against the also excellent Royal.

We’re here to see the Sunshine Underground, a band who seem to have disappeared, well underground, for the last few years. Their new album 'Nobody's Coming to Save You' can hardly be described as hot on the heels of their debut album, 'Raise the Alarm', which was one of the best albums of 2006. Yes guys, almost four years between albums, that’s bordering on Portishead territory but anyway welcome back. First though we have two support bands to enjoy.

I immediately like Birmingham’s ‘51 Breaks’, although on the surface there’s nothing inherently different about them. They’re just another indie band that’s following the fashion to plonk a keyboard stage centre. In their case a rather large specimen as well and one that lead singer Michael Turner barely touches. Most of their keyboard stuff seems to be pre-programmed anyway, so it’s a bit of a waste of stage space to be honest. All the same they’re still a decent outfit who put in an energetic half hour shift and play some dangerously catchy tunes. They even have a touch of Sunshine Underground about them, which endears them to most of the audience, so appropriately arranged support I guess.

We wander off to get a drink from the bar which at £4.50 for two drinks was not bad at all. It’s that for one drink at most of the places we go to see gigs. I’m starting to like this place more and more. We return stage front and watch ‘Cosmo Jarvis’ take the stage.

I wasn’t sure if ‘Cosmo’ was going to be a band or a person and in fact he’s/they’re a bit of both. L immediately likes him/them, I’m not so sure. I’ve always been a little unnerved by people who name a band after themselves and he does appear to be a ‘band’. I’m equally mistrusting of anybody called something like ‘Cosmo’ but that’s just me being silly I’m sure. His album is also called, as you may have guessed already, ‘Cosmo Jarvis’.

Putting any ego issues aside he’s undoubtedly got talent. If you check out his website he’s also an actor and a film maker, who has made dozens of videos and short movies, as well as recording a stunning amount of music, which is all available there. No idea if they're any good, haven't got that much time to check. He appears a nice chap though, desperate to be liked, and clearly wants the crowd tonight to appreciate his talent but it’s not always that straightforward mate. A lot of his lyrics are very clever but unfortunately most of the crowd don’t notice and their attention span isn’t helped by the long and complicated instrument changes that disrupt the flow of his set.

He starts off in my kind of territory with a song called ‘Clean My Room’, in which he starts off promising to ‘clean my room and dump my girlfriend’. This is my kind of angst and it gets darker. By the time the song reaches its finale this line has metamorphosed into ‘burn my room and kill my girlfriend’. Nice.

His songs continue in that sort of vain, a track called ‘Crazy Screwed Up Lady’ sticks in my mind, if only because I knew her or was that her sister? Originally from New Jersey but having grown up in Devon, I’d describe him as a cross between Billy Bragg and good old Granddad Rob the Voluntary Butler with his home made mawkish I'm-a-loser-but-not-really songs. Then as a complete contrast he closes the set with a song about gay pirates...

So from Cosmo, busy chap, he of a thousand songs, to the unbusy ones, those we haven’t seen for nigh on four years.

I do love a good rave, not. So The Sunshine Underground shouldn't really be my thing, nu-rave or whatever it was termed four years ago. The lads from Leeds though, always seemed better than the genre they ended up pigeon-holed with.

They open with last year’s 'Coming to Save You' single with not a keyboard in sight, although certainly more than a hint of a backing track, and set about disposing of that pigeon-hole. Their sound seems bolder and brasher than before but still predominately revolves around the strong voice of front man Craig Wellington and the crunching riffs of his and Stuart Jones' guitar.

Gems from ‘Raise The Alarm’ are interspersed amongst the new stuff, a lively ’Wake Up’ and a predictably well received 'Commercial Breakdown' sandwich their forthcoming new single 'We've Always Been Your Friends'.

The new album is in many ways a continuation of the first but perhaps a little heavier and more expansive. As for the old stuff, that seems slightly reworked tonight, beefed up if you like, to fit in. Still though they are as anthemic as ever, and L and I are right down the front, dodging the fists punched towards the ceiling and just out of reach of the crowd surfer’s boots, as the diehards dance and jump around, singing along to every word, old or new.

Mid set, they slip in an obscure one, the b-side/album bonus track ‘You Never Party’, probably the raviest track they’ve done before a wonderful reworking of their finest moment, ‘Borders’ steals the night.

Of the new stuff, I prefer the slower numbers like ‘Any Minute Now’, simply ace tonight, an affecting song that builds to a soaring climax, but the best track is the penultimate one ‘Here It Comes’, a bouncy track, with a great intro that reminds me of Doves’ ‘There Goes The Fear’.

They are a band in a hurry tonight. Probably having cut too much slack with their supports they are now pushed for time. The original set list appears cut down from what they had been playing on this tour, although in the end they do add to it and helped by rolling the encore into the main set, they get in all but two of the tracks on the new album.

They close with a rushed and slightly messy ‘Put You In Your Place’ but I think it’s only me that notices. Then we tumble out into the cold night air to discover that we’ve missed our bus. Damn, now we have to stay on in Derby for a few extra beers and get the night bus home.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Have The Bruises To Prove It

I ought to have run to work this morning but a sore ankle, a sore knee and the icy conditions persuades me to take the bus. My two ailments are on different legs. This makes developing a sympathy grabbing limp almost impossible. I just end up walking like Quasimodo which impresses no one.

As ever on the bus, I am the only person who removes their coat after they sit down. What's a matter with these people? Didn't they're grandmother tell that what mine did? That you won't get the benefit when you go back outside.

Apparently, according to something I found on the internet, the fastest speed achieved by any projectile (such as a ball) in sport is 206 mph and that was a badminton shuttlecock.

This is followed by 204 mph for a golf ball then 188 mph - pelota, 188 mph - jai alai, 155 mph - tennis, 127 mph - baseball, 80 mph - volleyball. I assume they’re not including bullets in this because shooting is a sport... as is archery. Surely though squash should be in there? I have the bruises to prove it.

A squash ball must travel faster than a volleyball? A quick Google reveals several unproven reports of a squash ball travelling at 178mph. I will have a go myself later.

By the way I have no idea what the sport of jai alai is. I thought it was a chilli based dish.

The trick for getting the bus back home is to correctly pick which of the two buses arriving at 5.35 is the one that's come all the way from Chesterfield because this is the 5.20 and it’s always late. Because it’s late you can claim a free ride. Tonight I guess correctly. Bingo.

I think I’m on a promise tonight. L mentioned something this morning about booking me for 10pm... unless that is Mika’s on the TV and she wants me to rehearse before next week’s big occasion. She is cooking when I get home from work which means an early meal which sounds promising... or ominous.

First I have to survive squash which I do and I win my one game, that's three in a row. This year is going well so far. I might have to try and be more ambitious.

No Mika on TV. Phew.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Decent Burial

Apparently there were flurries of snow in centre of town this morning but I’ve seen nothing. Even L reports it snowing during her morning walk with the dogs.

L’s been looking at cycling undies in Evans Cycles. Cycling undies? Really? There are such things then but apparently there’s not much of a range. Not quite La Senza then. Although I’m not sure L's idea of cycling undies is quite the same as mine.

Finally we get a flurry of snow here. Then suddenly the flurry turns into a white out, albeit a brief one. I check my phone, no texts about dog training being off tonight, yet. They are a fickle bunch; surely it’s just a matter of time.

I receive an email from the Derby Triathlon Club entitled 'Dear Athlete'. Flattery will get them everywhere. The Derby Double Duathlon, which is three lots of running and two lots of cycling, is on again. This year they’ve even avoided a clash with the Derby 10k. It’s the week after, not that that helps much as I already have several options for ‘entertainment’ that weekend. Another weekend where I’ll be pulling events out of a hat.

The Save the Victoria Leisure Centre Campaign rumbles on as the council attempts to close the centre a year early, before it has even obtained planning permission for its replacement. A petition of 3464 signatures and 233 letters of objection have been submitted. There was also a demonstration last weekend that attracted hundreds of people.

One interesting fact about the ‘public consultation’ has emerged. Initially, the consultation on the future of the historic old building produced a majority in favour of refurbishment. That was until the council went into local schools and made presentations to the children. Once their views were counted, the results were reversed and there was suddenly a majority in favour of knocking the place down and building a new one. No doubt swayed by the option of a child-friendly fun pool? Nice maybe but a loss maker for the council. Kids now swim for free and the money the council gets from central Government doesn’t cover their costs. Perhaps they should listen to what the paying customers want but then they’d be in danger of turning a profit.

Shame about the Americanised spelling.

Dog training actually survives the two millimetre deep drifts we have here and I head off over there with the boys. MD’s weaves are excellent. Unfortunately he won’t be required to weave on his debut on Saturday. His jumping is ok; he even keeps most of the poles up. His tunnels though are rubbish. I mean how hard can a tunnel be for a dog? There’s very little you can do with a tunnel rather than go through it but MD doesn’t seem to quite get it yet. Unfortunately, I’m sure they’ll be plenty of those on Saturday.

After training I go around to my father’s again, he’s still having computer problems. Well that might be an understatement. It’s totally died. I take it away with me, to give it a decent burial.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Stranger Things Have Happened But Not Often

I park my car at my parents’ house and run in to work. It was a reasonable run and my iffy calf seemed to behave itself. I did have one problem though. The building of the rather unnecessary industrial park hear Alvaston has been snarling the traffic up for weeks and it’s a long term project, so there's no prospect of any respite any time soon. This morning though they had also closed the main road, Raynesway, to pedestrians. Apparently that includes runners as well. Flippin’ roadworks, can’t even avoid them when I run. So I had to detour through Alvaston, which must have added a mile or so. Yes I know it's all good extra training but it made me late for work.

As for my time... 9k in 46 minutes. Terrible. Slit my wrists stuff, but I suppose I did waste a lot of time scratching my head, trying to decide which route to go and attempting to negotiate with a yellow coated workman whose only form of communication appeared to be the ‘shrug’, as in ‘of the shoulders’.

So not happy... but happier than my Kilomathon training work colleague who ran the eleven miles home last night and crawled in this morning. Say he’s exhausted and can’t see how he’s going to add another five miles to that. L suggests I tell him to try training for a cycle event at the same time... but I daren’t. I think he would turn violent, if he had the strength.

I apologetically confess to him that I am running again tonight, back to my parents house, although going nowhere near Raynesway this time.

Ah the joys of the Fantasy Football League.

Where you find yourself performing complex mathematical calculations each time some player in a match somewhere crosses a ball.
Where you find yourself supporting teams that you really should hate.
Where you find that you are more bothered about your fantasy team than your 'real' team.
Where you get up early in the morning to update your team selection for the thirty-second time.
Where you spend more time thinking about team selection than work.
Where you wish you put this amount of thought into the rest of your life.

We’re starting a self-help group called Fantasy Football Anonymous. So if you can answer yes to more than two of those statements, let me know and I’ll put the membership forms in the post. Not that you’ll be able to spare the time to actually fill them in as this week some teams play more than once... and one of your players has probably got booked or injured and will not play...

Seriously though, you can’t beat it, great fun. Well I am top of the league at the moment... but that is before tonight’s games. This reminds me, I must update my team selection again.

Derby County are not eligible for the Fantasy League, what with not being in the Premier League, so at least I don’t get a conflict of interest. Tonight’s game though is as close to ‘fantasy’ as you can get. League leaders Newcastle United are in town and like Forest the other week are in the midst of a long unbeaten run. So obviously Derby win 3-0 and thoroughly deserve it. Stranger things have happened but not often.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Nothing New There Then

L and the boys claim to come home from their morning walk with a thin layer of snow on them. Where did they find that? I didn’t get any, which was perhaps a good thing as I was on the bike... on slick tyres. At least I didn’t get a puncture today, although I have developed some irritating noise on my front wheel that I can’t track down.

It proved to be a very good call to cycle because the A52 shut was this morning. An overturned vehicle or something like that. So I probably wouldn’t have arrived before mid-morning had I driven or got the bus. The only problem with that was that all the traffic displaced from the A52 was on my route instead, which meant a fair amount of weaving in and out of it. Smiling and waving at the frustrated motorists of course as I overtook them.

Here’s a nice photo.

So where’s that then? Austria? France? Switzerland? USA?


Cairngorm Mountain in Scotland last weekend. We’ll be up there soon, not actually at Cairngorm but it’s looking like it’s worth a day trip.

Note however, the train track on the left of the photo. The track is submerged under the snow about three quarters of the way up. So no train running, which is a problem they’ve had all season. The building of the horrendously expensive and loss making railway has been a complete disaster from day one. A gondola would have had no such problems.

As I come to cycle home I see that my rear tyre has gone soft. Oh dear. I did use a repaired tube, perhaps it wasn’t a very good repair. I pump it up and thankfully it stays up.

MD’s a bit lippy at dog class again, so nothing new there then.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Reasons To Be Cheerful

I get a few jobs done today, walk the dogs, go to the tip, build a new computer for Daughter and change the tyre on my bike. As the new winter tyres I want are currently out of stock and on order I put an old summer slick tyre on instead. I’m sure we’re not going to get any more wet or icy weather... are we?

Then I spend the afternoon in the gym, mainly on the bike. L and I both do ten miles. I take the exercise bike next to hers, give her a head start and then wave politely as I overtake her.

I power along averaging something like 220-250 watts, so I’m well on Hutch's tail. Not. That’s Michael Hutchinson who’s reckons on needing to average 400 watts for an attempt on the world hour record. So just another 150 to find then.

In the evening we’re back at Broadway to immerse ourselves in ‘Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll’. This is of course the new biopic of the late Ian Dury. Personally I was never a great fan of his music but I was still intrigued enough by the man to go see the film. I knew his life would make an interesting story.

Ian Dury contracted polio at the age of seven, most likely from a swimming pool during the polio epidemic of 1949. This resulted in him spending a year and a half in hospital, including six weeks in a full plaster cast, followed by an extended stay at a institution for disabled children, which resembled a prison and whose ethos was to toughen their 'inmates' up. A view further endorsed by Dury father, Bill (Ray Winstone) who aside from seeming to abandon his Son in the institution also believed in encouraging his son to stand on his own two feet and callipers. It was his sufferance of polio and his resultant treatment that probably moulded Dury into the determined and uncompromising man he became. If he felt he missed out on his childhood was lost, he was about to make up for it.

Golum himself, Andy Serkis, plays the role of Dury putting in a passionate and brilliantly believable performance. Serkis is uncannily like Dury and no mean singer either, performing all the songs himself along the real Blockheads.

Early on we are introduced to his first band, ‘Kilburn and the High Roads’, who are rehearsing at his home. Their session is ‘disrupted’ by the birth of his son upstairs. The film then takes us progressively through his career and chaotic life whilst throwing in flashbacks, animation and live performances along the way. It's all very well done.

His first band soon implodes but out of that he meets groupie Denise Roudette (Naomie Harris), who becomes his girlfriend, and Chaz Jankel (Tom Hughes). Jankel, a talent musician ten years younger than Dury, takes on the task of fashioning Dury's offbeat lyrics in to the songs that would make him fame as Ian Dury and The Blockheads. No much is actually said about their chart success, although we do get a demonstration of how quickly things can go awry once stardom is achieved.

The film is much more interested in his complicated relationships which Dury struggles to reconcile with his music career. Dury and his father; Dury and his women (his long suffering wife and his girlfriend); Dury and his Son, Baxter (Bill Milner of Son of Rambow). Baxter appeared on the sleeve of 'New Boots And Panties' with his father. Re-enacted here.

Dury is not a good role model for Baxter. Initially alienated by his father, he becomes increasingly in awe of his rebellious father and starts to mirror him and becomes a regular truant from school. In fact did he ever go? Baxter goes somewhat predictably off the rails.

Always the absent parent, Dury moves in with Denise and they live in a tower block in Vauxhall. A tower block that he calls ‘Catshit Mansions’. All the while he continues to do things in his own anarchic way, practising his well honed ability to rub people up the wrong way.

Then keen to give something back to people with disabilities like him, Dury records the notorious 'Spasticus Autisticus' as his contribution to 1982's United Nations Year of The Disabled. It is perhaps good intentioned but is subsequently banned and brings him into conflict with the Spastics Society who disagree with his assertion, passed down by his now late father, that people like him didn't want sympathy, they wanted respect.

Overall, it’s an excellent and playful film, just like its subject matter. Never sentimental although it had plenty of opportunities, had it wanted to be. Towards the end, as presumably Dury approached his own end, he died of cancer in 2000 at the age of just 57, he himself appears to regret nothing. ‘The only thing I've missed is a few buses’ he declares.

The end credits roll to Serkis’s rendition of ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’. Good stuff.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Not In The Traditional Style

I wear the boys out on the park and then try and follow Derby’s away game at Sheffield United on the internet, via the text updates. I used to listen to it on the radio on Medium Wave but Radio Derby now use Medium Wave for Burton Albion’s games which I can receive in perfect clarity, should I be interested. Unfortunately our FM reception is very poor and they don’t yet have a DAB channel. I could pay for internet commentary but don’t see why I should, as I don’t really understand why BBC local radio should be banned from broadcasting its own commentary across the internet, as they currently are. It would be different if someone else was broadcasting it, but no one is.

Anyhow Derby nearly win but concede a late equaliser. Although I think we would have been happy with a draw before the game started.

In the evening we get the bus out to Keyworth and meet some friends for a curry at the Cinnamon Indian restaurant there. My friend rarely has a good word to say about any meal he’s eaten in any restaurant, anywhere. However he says he rates this place so L and I, along with two other friends of his, have flocked there to find out why.

It’s not obvious. My starter is good but my main, my favourite Jalfrezi, is one of most anaemic I’ve ever had. Even my friend who recommended the place isn’t impressed on this occasion and complains about the Tarka Daal. They promptly bring him another one which is in a different league altogether. I wonder whether someone nipped out to the neighbouring takeaway when we weren’t looking because it’s so different and so much better. It has taste. The owner explains that the one he’s has just brought us has been done in traditional style... it is what the chef would cook for himself and his family... I’m confused here, I thought we’d come out here to sample the chef’s cooking but instead he’s cooking in the style of someone else. Someone who thinks none of his customers have any taste buds. This doesn’t say much for the good folk of Keyworth. Apparently if we’d asked the chef to put taste into all our meals he would have done. Well NOW you tell us. So now we’ll probably have to go back to sample it all over again, traditional style, but tonight was a wasted meal really.

Even the naan bread wasn’t very good, thin and uninteresting and it certainly didn’t have the face of Christ on it like that university student claimed his did or perhaps I just hadn’t drunk enough bottles of Cobra. That student must have been well trollied. Supposed we've all been there, drunk and hallucinating. Seeing Kate Moss walk into the curry house naked just as you’re dipping your poppadom in the lime pickle. Seeing that fit young lass from your maths class decades ago sitting at the table opposite, she’d always been too aloof to speak to you, but she’s winking at you now. Seeing that lass with the Oboe from the Guillemots tucking into her Madras... personal favouritism creeping in there.

We check out a few local pubs, a fairly uninteresting estate pub that did as decent a pint of Bombardier as you’d get anywhere, it’s just that all pints of Bombardier are on the dull side, and a better more traditional pub that forced me to drink the dreaded banned brewery closing Greene King’s Abbot Ale because all the other options weren’t that exciting. Yes, I’m a traitor.

Back in Nottingham we pop into the Canalhouse’s Beer Festival to see what they have left. The answer to which is very little, they have been more or less drunk dry. So, as it’s a Castle Rock house, I have the old faithful Screech Owl instead. The Canalhouse is an interesting pub, well it's a Canalhouse you know. It has a couple of barges and a canal in the middle of it.

Photo Matthew Black

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Taking It Seriously

L has the day off and indulges in a lie in whilst I take the bus into work. It’s long run day again and I’m saving it for after work again.

I think perhaps L regrets the lie in as this disrupts the dog’s routine. They’re used to an early walk and then being left in peace for the rest of the day. A disrupted MD is more boisterous than an undisrupted one and that doesn’t bear thinking about. No squirrel or cat will be safe or anything else for that matter. I think she learnt her lesson; she won’t leave his walk this late again.

Can L’s day get any more stressful about taking MD out? Well yes. She makes herself a flask of tea and heads off cycling. Of course if she was really taking it really seriously she’d have remember the Battenberg and the Cherry Bakewells as well.

She’s taking it seriously enough to check out Fearne Cotton’s bike apparel. She’s in training for her Sport Relief ride, which is no Cheshire Cat... but it’s a good effort for a worthy cause. The relay team of seven are cycling from John O’Groats to Lands End in a bid to raise £1 million. The rest of the team are David Walliams, Davina McCall, Jimmy Carr, Miranda Hart, Patrick Kielty and Russell Howard.

Poor old Fearne dismounted (fell off) her bike twice, I hope she didn’t scratch that nice new carbon bike.

L is right, she does look quite stylish but then L has some nice cycling stuff too. The difference is that Fearne is only wearing one of everything, whereas L needs four cycling tops and three pairs of trousers just to keep her body temperature stable. L has one thing though that Fearne doesn’t and that’s cycling socks with elephants on them.

After work I do my run and despite a tight left calf manage to do twelve miles. The tight calf is quite worrying. It eases after about eight miles but I don’t really want to have to wait that long on race day. Perhaps doing more of a warm up might help.

I end up in Beeston, where I again meet L and the boys for sustenance at the Victoria.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Green And Paperless... Sometimes I Wonder Why

I run in to work and considering I find running in the morning quite a drag it wasn’t too bad. In fact, I nearly enjoyed it. Well... I suppose I must have enjoyed because I do something really stupid in my lunch hour.

I can’t believe I’ve actually entered two half marathon but I’ve got the confirmation emails to prove it, so I guess I must have done.

Here’s a farcical situation. L has been trying to cash an old endowment policy in. One of those policies that has done practically nothing for the last ten years and is forecasted to continue doing so until maturity. It currently offers a return that would have been bettered by stashing your fivers under the bed.

To cash it in she needs to prove her ID with a bank statement or a utility bill in her own name. This is despite the fact it will be sent in cheque form to the address they’ve been sending statements to for the last decade, so I fail to see the point but anyway... All the utility bills are in my name. I've asked the various companies before if they’ll put them in joint names but they won't. So the utility bill route is out. Then there’s the fact that all our various banks have encouraged us (or forced us) to go green and paperless. So subsequently we don't receive any paper statements through the post for any of our accounts and apparently one printed off the internet won't do.

So we set about trying to get the banks to send us one... which they won’t do unless we pay for a duplicate. How can it be duplicate when we don't receive statements in the first place? Well, naturally me being me, I have no intention of paying. So there follows a game of email tennis between the banks and I, followed by a stand-off on both sides. Eventually I get one bank to back down. However, the Nationwide still won’t budge. A compromise is that I have to opt to revert back to paper statements and then re-sign up for the paperless option after I’ve received one statement. What a charade... and you watch, it’ll end up where a lot of our post does, through the door of the house with the same number as ours in the next street.

Squash goes well and I win my one game. I even manage to keep a lid on my celebrations this time. That’s two for the year now, at this rate I’ll pass last year’s total of nine by the time summer starts and I’m dragged kicking and screaming onto the tennis court.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Surveying The Damage

With the bike temporarily out of action, perhaps it’s a good job I planned to be in the car today anyway... or perhaps not. It takes over an hour to get to work in the car. Just too much traffic I think, which is why I hate driving to work. L runs to work and then rubs it in.

I was late going to Sainsbury’s today and whereas when I usually go, in the traditional lunchtime window of 12:30-13:30, you get a shop full of well dressed office workers when you go later this gives way to the tracksuit wearing fraternity. Who are out buying their weekly supplies of Stella and Doughnuts.

There are probably some pyjamas wearers in there as well, which is topical at the moment, but they probably inhabit a different aisle.

Thing is these people give sports clothing a bad name. I’m sure when I was a lad they didn’t even make tracksuits in XXXL? Those of us who do actually use these garments for what they were intended wouldn’t of course be seen dead out shopping in them. Perhaps shopping is what they regard as a workout.

This week must be my week for computer support. My father has contracted a computer virus. Well not him personally, although he has got a bit of a cough at the moment, but you know what I mean. So I drop round after dog training to survey the damage. The dogs are thrilled with this development, after a night out at training they now get to spend half an hour playing football with my father. I’m not sure who will sleep better tonight, him or them.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Long Standing Tradition

Yesterday’s ice gives way to an old favourite, rain. So I bike. As I meander through the estate I can see L and the boys up ahead of me. I can also hear them, well one of them, MD. He seems to be in good voice this morning.

I pull up at a red light in Spondon but the cyclist behind me simply carries on regardless, as do the two cars behind him. I know it’s a long standing tradition that at every set of traffic lights at least two cars jump the red light but the cyclist should have known better and all of us cyclists get the blame for that. He’ll stop one day though, when he meets those two cars coming the other way.

One of the events I’d fancied doing for a while was the Humber Duathlon in April but now I’m rapidly going off the idea. Mainly because there were only 27 entries in the last one, so I could end up doing the event and hardly seeing a soul for most of it. This defeats half the object of doing a ‘race’. This April’s event would be the third running of it. They had 41 entries for the first one but then it dropped to 27 for the second... so it’s getting less popular, either that or they lost the other 14 over the side of the Humber Bridge... I expect it's a bit blowy going over the bridge. Depending on where they land, that would make it a triathlon, technically speaking.

I was describing to L the other day my plan for avoiding a head on collision when a car overtakes another car and is coming towards you on your side of the road. This is when cycling. Basically it’s a case of getting ready to hurl one’s self sideways and home there’s a soft landing, like a hedge, there. I nearly got to put it into practice today on my way home. It was a close run thing.

My eventful journey continued a few miles down the road when I got a puncture going through Bramcote. I pull over and install a new tube, getting nice and cold doing so. I do the usual check for nails, shards of glass etc, which may be imbedded in the tyre. Nothing. I do notice that tyre is very thin though. Is that a hole? Hmmm, to be honest I have known that these tyres were on the way out, since... well, before Christmas. Half a mile down the road, whoosh, all the goes out of the tyre again. Another tube blown. It must be the tyre. I have another tube but I don’t wish to waste it, so I walk the remaining mile home.

All this means that I don’t get my swim again but still I get home at almost exactly the same time as if I’d been. Not the best day on the bike.