Monday, May 31, 2010

It’s Enough To Make You Want To Retire

I run in. 4.4 miles. It goes surprisingly well and my new shoes are growing on me. It’s also a change to rehearse the Delays, yep them again tonight.

Yesterday Mo Farah set a new British 10k road race record at the Bupa London 10k. 27 minutes and 44 seconds. Ouch. The world record by the way is 43 seconds under that and the track record even quicker at 26 minutes 17 seconds. It’s enough to make you want to retire.

I’ve inadvertently turned L into a sweaty mess, with the fitness programme I gave her that is. She achieved the target pace I set her on the treadmill and for 1.5k, which is over budget. I only told her to do 1k at that pace. Not sure if, as her personal trainer, I should reprimand her for that.

I also intend to give her a target for the bike. So I sent her off to find out what her usual ‘power rating’ was. The bikes give you this in watts, as well as your cadence and a resistance setting. It’s a combination of the latter two that influences your power rating.

She gives me two different ratings depending on whether she’s listening to ‘Popcorn’ (slower) or ‘Little Lion Man’ (faster). Clearly music selection is going to be the key here.

I have to rethink my strategy for running home as the Delays have announced, what turn out to be false, new stage times proclaiming they’ll be on stage at 8.45 rather than the usual 9.30. So I need to make it a fast run.

Thankfully the rain stops just before 5pm and I run the 3.3 miles to Spondon where I throw myself in front of a bus, just to stop it you understand, before hitching a lift on said bus to Bramcote. From here I run the 3.7 miles home. Amazingly I miss the rain again. The downpour arrived whilst I was safely undercover on the bus. Although I was that wet from sweat it probably didn’t matter (you probably didn’t wish to know that) and I could see the bus driver having palpitations about letting me on. I was expecting him to mutter something about Health and Safety and a no sweating rule but he didn't. He just gave me an evil look.

So that’s 11.4 miles today across three runs. Not bad and not far off the half marathon distance I’m doing at Buxton on Sunday, only I had a few breaks in between and there weren’t any hills. Although I did try and run hard up the few inclines there were to try pretend it was hilly. Don't think I fooled myself though.

We get down to the Bodega Social for 7.45, 45 minutes after the new door time of 7pm. Even this is a bit late if we want to secure a front row spot. Tonight we are ticket numbers 29 and 30 and traditionally we’re always 1 and 2 at the Social, so we’re expecting it to be busy. Who are all these interlopers? We have to be close. L’s aim isn't very good, so she doesn't want to have to throw her undergarments too far. Of course, she could just throw them at me rather than at Greg Gilbert. I’ll be the one stood next to her.

The doors to the Bodega Social are locked and there’s a mini queue of other folk who’d also heard about the new start time. Misinformation obviously and from an official source as well. We abort and head to Broadway for a pint, returning later.

Tonight’s support is Nottingham’s Amber Herd, last seen supporting That Petrol Emotion. I remember it well. They were a right mishmash of sounds as I recall but tonight they seem more sorted, more consistent in their music style. Probably because they appear to have dropped the keyboards tonight. Their new single ‘Red Gold’ sounds good to me as does a later track ‘Days Like These’ with singer Neil Beards sounding as if he’s got his Mick Jagger voice on at times.

By now there’s a healthy crowd inside the Social, all waiting for the Delay’s to take the stage, which they do at 9.30... so what was all the fuss about stage times...

As a band they are always entertaining, always alluring and always a good target for hurling underwear at (so I’m told), if you’re near enough. It also appears that they have now learnt a thing or two about how to hook an audience. Their first three tracks tonight arrive in an almighty hurry with little or no chat and they all go for the jugular. ‘Lost in a Melody’, ‘This Town's Religion’ and ‘Friends are False’ make a lively trio. The latter, tellingly being the only track tonight from their last album, 2008’s patchy ‘Everything’s The Rush’.

This threesome, combined with Greg Gilbert’s boundless energy and enthusiasm, ensures the crowd are well won over before they hit us with the first newbie. Even that’s not that new. ‘Find a Home’ has been out as a free download and features the Clangers on back vocals. Honestly! Just listen to that intro.

All the old faves are there of course, ‘Nearer than Heaven’, ‘Wanderlust’, ‘Long Time Coming’, with Greg’s voice on top form, as well as other tasters from their forthcoming fourth album, ‘Star Tiger Star Ariel’, in the form of the guitar driven ‘Lost Estate’, ‘In Brilliant Sunshine’ sung brilliantly by Aaron and the new single ‘Unsung’. Then Greg’s back to leaping around the stage again as ‘Panic Attacks’ ignites the venue.

It’s good to see a different oldie thrown in as 'Bedroom Scene' from 'Faded Seaside Glamour' makes an appearance but things get even more obscure as requests come from the floor. We seem to have a knowledgeable crowd tonight, who are shouting out for obscure album tracks that I’m not familiar with. Please stop it. That’s exactly the sort of annoying thing that I’d do. What’s even more annoying is that no band ever takes the blindest bit of notice when I do it but tonight Greg Gilbert actually takes on board the suggestions and steps up to the plate, adding an acoustic excerpt from 'You Wear The Sun' to the set list before the closing ‘Valentine’.

Then for the encore I’m hoping for ‘Hey Girl’, which apparently they’ve resurrected recently and been playing a lot but some other clever sod in the audience wants something more unfamiliar and of course, gets it. Greg apologises for barely being able to remember the words, or so he says, before obliging the fan and performing acoustic duties again for the requested ‘Overlover’. Can't complain, I do love an obscure oldie.

Then we’re back on familiar territory to close, with a lively ‘You and Me’. As always the Delays can be relied up on to put on a good show and tonight was no exception.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The High Life

Another day competing with the dogs. Yesterday Newark, today Bakewell, where we're perhaps slightly upstaged by the car boot sale next door. Oh the high life. Today’s more for MD, the standard yesterday was too high for him, today’s courses are more his level. He runs well but doesn’t deliver a clear round.

I actually need to do more practice with him. Not that L would believe that I could possibly spend any more time dog training. However it is obvious today that I need to do longer sequences of jumps with him, so that he can get up top speed. Unfortunately our garden isn't long enough for this. It would be typical if we have to move, just for the dog. Not that any houses come with much of a garden these days.

Doggo is still not 100%, although he does clock a couple of clear rounds.

After the show is over we try and find a pub to have a drink in but it’s sheer hell in Bakewell on a bank holiday, so we end up back in Wollaton at Middletons, and very nice it is.

L tells me she’s entered the Great Nottinghamshire Bike Ride. Why???? It involves a bike! She hates anything that involves a bike. We're even contemplating doing the Windermere Triathlon as a relay team, so that I can do the bike section for her and she still gets to swim in the lake.

She says it's got a lot going for it apart from the bike...

I have to take a glass of wine to bed to get over that.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Phantom Limp

There's a Crufts Team qualifier today. Can Doggo and I make it three years in a row at the NEC. Probably not on this evidence. Doggo, running first, refuses the last jump. I think because there was a dog the other side of it, which is the nature of team, it’s a relay. Still unusual though. So that’s the end of that for now. There may be other qualifiers if we can raise a team.

In fact he doesn’t seem himself all morning. He was not all interested in his second course and it was so us. In that one we should have done well on. Perhaps he’s ready for retirement.

Then when I take him for a walk his phantom limp is back or perhaps it’s a real one. Perhaps that’s why he’s having a bad day. I consider skipping his last run but then later on he seems fine, so I run him and he goes ok. Weird.

MD does ok but all his courses are a bit too advanced for him but he’s decide he's skipping weaves today anyway.

Son’s mates all crashed at our place last night and camped, in his bedroom. We gave Son a tent as a birthday present, as he’s going to the Leeds Festival. It’s now pitched in his bedroom and full of hung-over teenagers.

STOP PRESS: I'm seriously thinking of a career change. People are continually asking me advice on getting fit, improving their times, how to get back from injuries, all sorts of stuff like that. I’ve got friends asking, colleagues at work asking, people at the dog club asking, even L... in fact she’s off to the gym today to try out some of the workout ideas I gave her. So perhaps I could do this for real?

I have already got my name down for a coaching programme that the council a running. Which, yes I know, is hardly going to be dynamic but it’s a starting point.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Double Header Of Sorts

I got home from sleeping on the tiles, where it looked like the dogs have savaged the postman. There are shredded envelopes everywhere. He must have put up quite a fight. Poor chap.

Fear not, it’s just Son’s birthday and he is the worst opener of envelopes I've ever seen. None of this putting your finger under the flap to open it. I think he must punch a hole in the middle and work outwards. If we ever have to reseal and return anything, we’re stuffed. We have in the past experienced ripped bank statements and torn exam results slips. I scan through the wreckage to see if there’s anything that might be legal tender and repairable but I think he got those out first.

L is out, doing core stability stuff again. The boys seem thrilled to see me, at least they seem thrilled to get on the park, even though it is raining.

I heat up last night’s spicy mince for breakfast/lunch. I suppose traditionally I should have had it cold but I’m not a teenager any more.

Tonight we have a double header of sorts. First, late afternoon we head over to Newark for the 15th Newark Beer Festival and it’s our first visit. A bit remiss to be honest.

We even go on the train. Come to think of it, 15 years might also be the amount of time that has elapsed since I last used a train but in this case it’s the most convenient transport available. Apart from the fact the last one back is 9pm! The buses are no better. This is in a age when you can get a late bus almost anywhere from Nottingham, even in the middle of the night unless it’s Newark obviously.

This is a blessing in disguise as it enables to meet up with Son on the night of his 19th Birthday. Good job I was on the soft stuff (mild) last night and I have units to burn (kind of). We weren’t sure if he’d want to meet us but as it happens his mates and he are camped out in one of known haunts... so it appears he does or perhaps he just wants us to finance his birthday drinks.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Wild Night

A bit chilly again on the bike this morning. Summer? What summer. Again I regretted not putting long sleeves on.

L is at home today, which upsets the dogs who feel it is their job to keep her entertained in a game of football all day long. They’re so thoughtful.

Her day off also gives her time to trawl the internet for events... which is always dangerous. Sure enough an email arrives that starts with 'Darling', so I know straight away that it's a request for something.

Not content with forcing people to swim a mile around Windermere for the Great North Swim in September, the organisers have now added a longer one, two miles, for people who enjoyed it that much they’d like to go around again. Twice. The two mile route being two laps of the one mile route. You’d have to be badly affected by the polluted water to consider it of course or slightly mad... So we’re doing it, well L is. One mile route on the Saturday, two mile route on the Sunday. She points out there’s also now a shorter 500m swim, should I wish to partake. The only partaking I’ll be doing will be in the bar not the lake.

I'm off out on the pull in Bingham tonight. Well I was but L’s kindly cooked me some tea and ladled plenty of garlic and curry powder in to it to foil any such plans. So it’ll have to several pints with the lads from Uni instead.

The beers aren’t that good actually and I end up drinking Otter Mild, so almost AF. it's nice to catch up with friends and to, err, compare puppy photos but, shhhh, keep it to yourself. Don't tell L what a wild night out it was.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Jury’s Still Out

I needed to try out my new running shoes either today or tomorrow. I feel it would be easier this morning rather than on ‘squash legs’ tomorrow, so I run in from Borrowash to work.

The run went ok but more importantly... the trainers? Inconclusive I think. I’m not convinced about the amount of cushioning in them, they just don’t seem that bouncy to me but my knees are ok and that’s the test, although it was only 7k. So the jury’s still out. Buxton will be the test obviously... of shoes, fitness, sanity...

L reports a bit of a deer problem on the Park or should that be a bit of a dog problem. That being our little dog with the big attitude.

Daughter has her first AS exam today at the Nottingham Ice Arena where Lady Gaga is playing this evening and she was doing her sound checks during the exam apparently. So we know who to blame if she fails. I suppose a couple of hundred A-level students suing her for failing their English Language would be a mere drop in the ocean to Lady G. Or perhaps she provided inspiration for their essays? It doesn’t seem to have put Daughter off going to see her tonight and at least she has the good grace to turn up this time.

Squash does not go well.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Virginity Lost

What happened to summer? It feels like winter again on the bike this morning and I totally regretted the short sleeves and fingerless gloves. Well at least if that is summer over with I won’t bake at the Buxton Half Marathon next weekend.

I haven’t had to report any near misses with traffic for ages unfortunately now that L’s back on the bike they seem to be picking on her. Apparently she had a bit of a near miss with a bus this morning. Oh dear.

In the evening, I do something that I’ve been meaning to do for decades and that is to go see the stage version of ‘The Rocky Horror Show’. It was more L’s idea really but it was something that just had to be done. I’ve seen the film version many times, at the cinema, at parties and on TV, but I’ve never seen the stage version.

The ‘thing’ about the show of course, which is now branded as Richard O'Brien's Rocky Horror Show, is the dressing up and the audience participation. So I suggest perhaps seats on the ‘shelf’ safely away from where all the action is likely to be. Daughter, who joins us, seems a bit irked by this. Perhaps we could have swapped her seat, there does seem to be a few free nearer the front. There’s appears to be one between a rather large chap in hot pants and somebody in a French maid’s outfit who could be of either sex.

Actually half the fun is costume watching. There are corsets and fishnets in abundance and that's just the men. I also didn’t know that you could get either in such large sizes. L was worried about what on earth to wear, as she didn't want to be labelled a ‘Rocky Virgin’ But she is, we all are and proud of it! In the end L went for the fishnets, although not a corset or a basque. Although she’s welcome to wear one any time she likes. By the way, no I didn’t.

Some of the stilettos seemed a bit extreme and one girl, or is it a guy, has to be helped down the stairs to their seat. Lord knows how they’re going to get back up the stairs, hope they don’t need a loo break mid show. Could get messy. Thankfully I don’t get somebody too camp in the seat next to me and a girl in a glittery outfit comes to sit beside me.

The other debate was whether to be AF or not and although it would probably have been advisable to be completely sloshed, we resist.

This is not a normal night at the theatre but of course we already knew that. Where else would you be watching a play peering over the top of the massive wig belonging to the guy in the basque sat in front of us. The play itself, part rock musical, part spoof science fiction, part soft porn is obviously quite outrageous. The lights go down and the usherette wanders on singing ‘Science Fiction/Double Feature’.

After the opening number the curtain goes up to reveal Brad and Janet and... well, I’m sure you know the story, such as it is. Two squeaky clean kids, freshly engaged, get stranded in the middle of nowhere with a flat tyre and end up spending the night, literally, with an alien transvestite and his groupies. That transvestite of course being Frank N Furter, the Sweet Transvestite from Transsexual Transylvania, who makes his entrance to a huge adulation. Award winning actor David Bedella has been doing this role for some time and it shows. He’s excellent and possibly made for the role. He has enormous stage presence and is a complete master of the raised eyebrow.

Well the kids get caught up in his mad and murky world; and on the very night he brings his latest creation ‘Rocky’ to life, and get their innocence well and truly corrupted. All good wholesome fun.

The show uses different celebrity narrators each week, although we get the not terribly well known Maxwell Caulfield whereas some places have had odd balls like Nigel Planer or Ainsley Harriott, which would have been interesting. Max though is brilliant and copes well with the ‘call backs’, the audience pitching in with the script, anticipating, adding to or even attempting to alter the plot. I think one or two of the shouts might even have been clean, although I may have been mistaken on that.

There’s not actually as much of this as I thought they’d be. The place is quite bit quieter than I expected. The theatre is probably about three quarters full, suppose it is a Wednesday. I imagine a weekend show would have been a lot livelier. The use of props at appropriate moments also seems to have died out, mainly because firing water pistols or throwing rice has now been banned due to the posh-ness of the theatres the show is performed in.

The play’s most famous song always seems to come far too early, yet some people were up on their feet even before the first note had been played. It soon because apparent that no matter how I handled the ‘Time Warp’ I knew I was going to be outdone by glitter girl next to me, who was already going overboard with the most amazing pelvic thrusts, even before the chorus required her to do so. I bet she’s popular at parties.

One thing I’ll tell you, is that it’s far far easier to do the ‘Time Warp’ in Rock City, where they played the damn thing every Saturday night for twenty years in a row during the 80’s and 90’s, than in a cramped theatre. I inadvertently punch glitter girl in the face and then for good measure stamp on her foot. Sorry love but it’s all in the name of theatre.

In a way ‘Rocky’ is very dated but that doesn’t seem to matter. 1973 was when it was first performed. The film followed in 1975. I knew it was old but didn’t realise it was quite that old. Even I’m only just old enough to understand the references to people like Charles Atlas. Not sure how all that bisexuality and exaggerated hedonism went down in the 70’s. Though I see some things have moved with the times though, the axe Frankie hacks Eddie the delivery boy to pieces with is now a chainsaw.

It’s all excellent fun and frivolity. Terribly gothic. Ok the plot it negligible and some of the songs are cringe worthy but most people only remember ‘Time Warp’, ‘Sweet Transvestite’ and perhaps ‘Damn it Janet’ or ‘Touch-a-Touch-a-Touch-a-Touch Me’ anyway. The band are very good as well and it’s a nice touch to have them positioned in full view above the stage and dramatically lit.

Then after the cast take a bow at the end they encore with a reprise of the ‘Time Warp’. Glitter girl takes the opportunity to spear my foot with one of her heels, despite the fact that it's supposed to be a 'step' to the right not a ‘stamp’. Suppose it was in exchange for the black eye I gave her earlier.

Excellent night. Virginity lost.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Still Skiing!

It’s the fourth weekend of May, it’s been glorious weather and yet they’re still skiing in Scotland. It’s been one hell of a year up there.

At training, MD’s running and hurdling style gets criticized. He’s dragging his back legs. He could just be lazy, which I’d say is favourite and this can be trained out of him or he may have a hip problem which would make him unsuitable for agility unless it can be treated with doggie massage. He’d hate that, he’s a bit touchy about being touched sometimes, though I suppose if the masseur was a nice blonde he might go for it.

Someone at the club has a video of him and she lends it me to study. In fact she lends me the whole camera as not being technically savvy, I won't throw in any sexist jokes here, she doesn’t know how to get the video off the camera and on to her computer to email it to me.

As it happens my Dad also took some videos at the weekend, so I spend the evening studying all of them. Inconclusive I think.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dangling A Carrot

Thoroughly enjoyed the bike ride this morning. Glorious weather. As I hopped out of bed I even looked forward to it. Perhaps I should have taken my best bike and made the most of the sunshine but I didn’t consider that until I had already left on the old one.

I wasn’t the only one on the bike this morning either because L had blown the dust off her wheels and taken the brave move of trying to circumnavigate her way across the city centre to get to her new 'psycho' gym. I enquire with trepidation how she got on. Badly is perhaps the best way of summing it up. Not really her fault though, because there's no discernible help given to cyclists around Nottingham City Centre at all. As there is no obvious route, as ever the only way to deal with these things is to keep trying different routes and methods until you find one that works.

So we’re both on bikes today but I’m still in awe of the two guys who set off from the office next to us this morning on route to John O’Groats, having already come up from Lands End.

On my ride this morning I hit something with my front wheel but I thought I'd gotten away with it, as my tyre stayed up. Unfortunately when I came back to my bike after work the tyre was now flat. So that had to be changed before I could start the ride home.

L tells me she intends to crash in the garden this evening with an ice cold smoothie and a book while her chicken roasts itself. Well, she’ll only be crashing in the garden with an ice cold smoothie and a book if I take the dogs out, if not she’ll be kicking a ball. Which is probably why she asks whether my girlie friends have persuaded me to go out and play? Play? I think she means is dog training on.

Then she mentions dangling a carrot of a glass of chilled white wine... if I stay in, I like her thinking but it’s an AF Monday and we are supposed to be cutting down the alcohol...

In the end, no training anyway and no wine either, being very virtuous, but still excellent company at home, oh and a lot of ball kicking.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Wide Boys

I had a bit of a dilemma between two 10k runs today. In my newfound role as a race winner... the Long Clawson 10k looked intriguing. The winning time was over 41 minutes last year... but it’s off road, so perhaps it’s a tough cross country course or maybe it's just badly measured. More importantly L enquires about whether there are t-shirts or cakes? There aren’t. Being Long Clawson you’d expect free cheese but that doesn’t appear to be the case either.

Then there’s the Long Bennington 10k which has a t–shirt on offer and is also all road running which should suit me better, I hate off road. It’s also described as flat so it could be PB territory, if I’ve recovered from Friday’s run that is. I’ll just have to content myself with going back to being mid-field. There’s also another thing that might harm my chances of going for a PB, it’s blisteringly hot.

In the end the heat doesn’t bother me that much; oddly it gets to L more than me. I manage a steady if not spectacular pace all the way around, due to my tired legs and come in three minutes slower than my last 10k run but in 15th I think, so not bad.

On the way home I buy some new running shoes with the vouchers I won the other week. The staff check my running style on a treadmill and tell me that I don’t overpronate, contradicting my physio.

I shun my usual Asics and buy some very expensive New Balance shoes, the cost of which nullify the effect of the vouchers but they felt good, so worth a go. They’re a lot lighter than my Asics.

Then back home we chill out a bit and then just as we're getting ready to walk down to the now done-up Willoughby, now renamed the Wollaton, for Sunday Lunch in the sunshine, a couple of wide boys, who are probably gypsies, turn up on my doorstep and offer to cut my trees for me, cheaply.

At first though their idea of cheap isn’t my idea of cheap but once their fee has tumbled to something far cheaper than what I had quoted last year, I let them loose on the job. Big mistake. It soon becomes apparent that they have neither the equipment nor the knowhow to do a decent job. After I have sent them back several times to make a better job of it I lose patience and pay them off purely to get rid of them. Then I find they’d dumped a lot of the cuttings in my garden waste bin after promising to dispose of everything themselves, in some lay-by somewhere no doubt. So I have to haul them back to empty that. Well at least we've got our front tree topped, that needed doing. Even if it isn’t that neat.

By the time we get down the pub, Sunday lunch is finished but we still get an excellent meal and to my surprise good beer. The local Magpie Best is very nice indeed.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Boys' Done Good

Busy busy dog day. We’re at what is effectively a low key show but both of the boys get five runs and I’ve been roped in to ring manage for the morning. So it’s hectic and it’s hot.

First run of the day and MD goes CLEAR. Shouldn’t have been because I should have stopped him and put him back on his ‘dog walk’ as he didn’t wait to be told to be released but I couldn’t resist bagging his first clear. When he does the same thing on a later course, I do stop him, pick him up and put him back on, which gets us eliminated when it could have been clear number two but we need to get these things right.

Then on a jumping course later, which is just jumps and tunnels, none of this troublesome ‘contact’ equipment, he goes clear again and I’m a little disappointed with only 17th. He gets 12th with his other clear and gets a rosette for that, his first one.

So MD has a good day but Doggo has an even better one. Two thirds, a fourth and a fifth. It’s only a small event but you have to be pleased with such results, like me winning the 10k the other week, you can only beat the opposition put in front of you.

We head home to L, to check up on her core stability, which she’s been brushing up on in a Pilates class and for food before we head to the cinema later.

The film ‘Four Lions’ is about suicide bombers, which is hardly the most jolly of subject matters unless of course the terrorists are totally inept in achieving their aims and the whole thing descends into farce.

This film will be different things to different people. You could view this as an incredibly funny film and roll around the cinema in torrents of laughter, and a few people did, but anyone seeing this as a comedy is missing the point really. I don’t think that's what’s it’s about at all.

Yes, there are plenty of opportunities to laugh out loud such as when this little group of ‘terrorists’ are forced to transport their bomb making equipment by hand when their car breaks down, probably due to its dodgy ‘Jewish spark plugs’, but tellingly the majority of the cinema audience choose not to.

The humour gradually gets darker and you get a warning when a ‘suicide crow’ becomes a martyr for the cause but it still comes as a bit of shock when a member of the group trips over a sheep and blows himself up. Yes that’s funny, well kind of, but at that point you realise what it is that you would be laughing at and probably don’t. Although perhaps the odd guilty smile is allowed.

In this film Chris Morris has taken an interesting approach and has actually refused to have a go at terrorists through their race or religion and has instead shown us the type of people who could quite easily be lured into terrorism, whatever their race or religion. That they are predominately Asian doesn’t really matter and in fact one of them, Barry, is a white Englishman who has converted to Islam but possibly only because he quite fancies playing at being a terrorist. He turns out to be much more of zealot than the others.

The rest of the terrorist cell are hardly feared assassins. There’s the weak minded one, who would be easily lead by anyone; the stupid one, who hasn’t a clue what he is doing but is looking forward to the afterlife which he imagines is like a ride at Alton Towers and the brave one, who is actually all talk and bravado but clearly out of this depth.

Then there’s their leader, Omar, who we see at home with his loving wife and young son, both of whom support him in his aims. There are some quite bizarre scenes of the family unit. Like where he reads his son a bedtime story about 'Simba's Jihad' and where his wife talks him back in to martyrdom after he threatens to walk away from it all. She tells him he how ‘much more fun he was when he was trying to blow himself up’. That is if he can get the rest of the group to talk to him again, they’re all ignoring him on their chosen form of communication which is through their avatars on the Puffin Party website.

The film takes us through their many blunders as they prepare for and decide on a mission. They build bombs and even go to a training camp in Pakistan, from which they are sent home in disgrace.

It becomes clear early on that their mission is doomed to fail and this, in a way, makes you feel pity for them and concern, as to how much damage they are going to do to themselves and to other people in the act of failing. Despite the horror of what is probably going to happen, the film makers have blurred the edges between good and evil. They have encouraged you to form an emotional attachment with these guys because they are actually not monsters but just naive, misguided, and perhaps even likable people.

Their plan is to attack the London Marathon for which they will all don fancy dress costumes and of course there is a sad inevitability about it all. Where oddly, despite their supposed opposition to the ‘Church of McDonald's’ and western consumerism in general, it all in the end comes down to those very western inventions, mobile phones.

I thought it was an excellent film, entertaining, well written, thought provoking, very well performed and yes, funny. Well worth a couple of beers in Scruffy’s for a debrief.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Misery Shared

I take the bus today, ahead of my second long training run tonight for the Buxton Half Marathon. I’m hoping to do eleven miles tonight.

L intends to run as well. She’ll be setting off from Nottingham and I from Derby. Hopefully we should meet somewhere in the middle. We’ve both entered the Half Marathon, a misery shared is a misery made marginally more sufferable and all that. If it stays this hot, the half marathon, which being in Buxton obviously isn’t going to be flat and is only two weeks ago could refine suffering.

L’s dreading tonight’s run because she reckons she feels so tired and skipped the gym, to save her legs for it. The run should wake her up, shouldn’t it? She’s starting off with a stretch along the canal. Alongside it, not in it. Well if the run doesn’t wake her up, toppling into the canal should do the trick.

I’m dreading it too but mainly because I went out for a walk at lunchtime and almost died in the heat. It’s going to be a hot run.

We may never meet, she’ll be asleep in Beeston and I’ll be collapsed from heat exhaustion in Long Eaton. Just got to make sure I ring her before I pass out. As L says, the way to get through it is to think of my first pint. First? and the rest.

In the end it’s not too hot as there’s light breeze, yet all the same I feel sick after only two miles. A quick stop and a bit of head between the legs and I recover. Then at four miles, stitch. I never get stitch, well not since running cross country at school when they made us do it straight after the indigestible school lunch. Perhaps I should have chucked up, I mean at two miles, not years ago after the school lunches.

I walk a bit, even though I know this won't help. Then I turn my music up, in some odd attempt to blot out the stitch and start running again. In half a mile I’ve run it off and the rest of the run starts to become enjoyable.

At just past nine miles I meet L. Well actually I would have run straight past her, heading in the opposite direction, but she sees me and detours towards me. We run together, for a minute or so, after which I unsociably push on at my own pace. I wait for her a few minutes down the road at the retail park that had been my intended destination. Only 10.3 miles but that's enough, I’m not going any further tonight.

Its good weather so we take the dogs down to one of the local pubs that we don’t usually frequent, as we can sit outside with them. It has Thwaites' Lancaster Bomber on, which almost makes it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Can't See The Band For The Trees

I wonder about taking my number one bike into work but in the end after fiddling with number two bike, oiling things, tightening things, shaking things, it doesn’t seem to rattle as much so I give it a go. People aren’t stopping and staring this time. Well, not as much. It's actually warm enough to enjoy the ride, even though my legs are very tired. No idea why, I’ve done very little this week so far.

I must be enjoying it because I’m under 49 minutes for the ride home, not done that for ages and on a squeaky bike as well.

Tonight we’re at the YMCA! Well Leicester’s Y Theatre, a totally new venue to me and quite an impressive one too. Though I dillydallied on getting tickets for this one and the standing tickets sold out, so we ended up with seats on the balcony of what turns out to be quite a lovely little theatre, very intimate and with great acoustics. Looking on the bright side, with being on the balcony we should get a good view of British Sea Power’s guitarist, Noble, when he goes on his usual climbing spree.

Support tonight is from John & Jehn or should that be Nicolas and Camille as those are their real names. The couple, and they are apparently a couple, are from France although they do have or at least had a London base and they sing totally in English. They’re another of the current crop of bands with an experimental edge and claim to have recorded most of their debut album in their bedroom.

In the last year or so they have expanded to be a quartet and follow another trend of late, which is proving their musicianship by getting everyone in the band to trade instruments at various times during the set. They appear to have expanded their sound too, embracing more of a pop side and less of the experimental. Still means they can throw in a few animalistic yelps occasionally. Pleasant, promising but not spectacular.

So to one of the most eccentric bands around. The eccentricity starts as ever before the band even comes on stage with the setting up of the equipment, which is again adorned with numerous flags in a nod to their ‘Waving Flags’ track and far more foliage than I’ve seen for a while. In fact the strategic placement of so many sprigs of plant life probably delays their entry by a good ten minutes or so. Then when they take to the stage you can only just see the band for the trees.

Opening with an oddity, ‘Apologies to Insect Life’ from their debut album, ‘The Decline Of British Sea Power’ they are soon up to speed with the wonderful ‘Atom’, which concludes as usual with the use of the air raid siren. Although their singer Yan, in some sort of woollen cricket jumper thing, he must be really hot, and with a hunting horn across his back, claims to feel a little out of sorts. Something is missing as regards his guitar he reckons. A plectrum perhaps someone kindly ventures from the crowd. Yan is as ever the most absurdly dressed of the band but the rest always run him close, all looking as they come fresh from the nearest charity shop.

‘Atom’ is taken from their most recent album, 2008’s excellent ‘Do You Like Rock Music’, which forms the bulk of the set, seven tracks tonight, with a few old favourites thrown in.

Yan hands over vocals to his brother Neil for a couple of tracks, which also happens to be some of their best recent stuff, ‘Down on the Ground’ and ‘No Lucifer’. Both are standout moments.

Then there’s the usual brilliance of oldies of ‘Remember Me’, the superb short burst that is ‘Favours In The Beetroot Fields’ and ‘Please Stand Up’, the only track from ‘Open Season’ tonight, played back to back.

It’s a laid back and relaxed performance from the band but then the Y Theatre is a very relaxed sort of place. The crowd is chilled too, no crush down the front and certainly no beer throwing. The band themselves are not quite so way out this evening, concentrating on the music. Again we have the violinist, Abi, on stage and playing throughout, although again we can barely hear her, drowned out by the rest of the band. This is despite the sound quality being excellent tonight, crystal clear in fact. As I’ve said, excellent little venue. Suppose Abi serves the purpose of being nice to look at but I can’t see her from my position ‘up on the shelf’.

There are three new songs, the last of which is dedicated to someone who’s been to 250 gigs... although the band seem to think only they qualify for this. All of new songs sounded impressive and went down well.

We know the end is nigh when their first single ‘Fear of Drowning’ gives way to the usual madness of ‘The Spirit Of St. Louis’, an oldie that is still not proving any easier to get hold of, despite manic googling. As expected, Noble is climbing up the speaker stack before the song is barely out of it’s blocks. He poses on top of the speaker for a while before decamping up on to the old gits' shelf where we’re slumped. Only the length of his guitar lead, which is actually impressively long, prevents him doing a full lap of the balcony.

They finish with a demonstration of roadie Paul’s muscles??? and with Yan promoting their own brand ‘Zeus’ beer, which also seems to the title of one of the new songs, before eschewing it for a glass of white wine and sending us home with the terrific ‘Carrion’. So no improvised ‘Rock in A’ tonight.

I wasn’t expecting an encore but the crew seemed to be setting up the guitars again as if we’re going to get one but it’s already gone 11.00 so we’re not. There’s a bit of a frustrating delay before this is confirmed.

We head to the merchandising stall and purchase a bar of BSP chocolate, at £3 hardly a bargain but it will fuel us for the drive home. ‘Bar is not dark, bar is not light, it just tastes good, especially tonight’, so it says and proves. Most bands sell t-shirts, CD’s, posters and perhaps a few badges. BSP sell chocolate, beer and even tea. As well as mugs for the tea to be drunk in, mugs that allegedly do strange things when you add hot water but they'd sold out, so we didn't get chance to find out. Another reason to catch them next time, not that I needed one.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Nothing's Wrong, I'm Fine

L has to be in work early, so I get up and do the boys. This is an immense pleasure obviously. MD is restrained and not just by his lead. Well, restrained for him that is. Despite a cat causally lounging on the pavement across from us, who seemed to lift and wave a paw in our direction. Also despite the squirrel who appeared to deliberately shake his bushy tail in MD’s face as he disappeared up a nearby tree. Even old git behaved himself and didn’t wander off when I let him off the lead.

Here's an odd survey. They say that men are more likely to tell lies than women and also to feel less guilty about it. Of course, any survey is only accurate if the interviewees tell the truth and as this is a survey about lying... presumably you can take the results with a large pinch of salt.

The survey reckons that Mr Average tells three lies a day, whereas Ms Average lies only twice a day but again, that's assuming they didn't lie to the survey about how many times they lied.

The most popular male lie was ‘I didn't have that much to drink’... but I can't use that one as most of my drinking is done with L and she knows how much I have to drink.

The most common female lie was, ‘Nothing's wrong, I'm fine’... like we didn't see that one coming.

Training tonight is regrettably much busier, not our usual exclusive group of two. Five of us tonight. It’s then too busy to train Doggo after as well, so he gets a walk instead. Well at least I’m home early.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Manly Bunch

L throws in a comment by email towards the end of the afternoon along the lines of ‘I'm going home now to change into my Derby strip’. Now at one time in my life this would have excited me. The fact it no longer does is no reflection on L, it’s more of a reflection on the state of Derby County and perhaps on the lack of excitement in football in general these days. Now had she said she was going home to change into her triathlon strip, I’d have rushed home and headed her off at the door.

The reason for the strip is she’s decided to participate in the Cheryl Cole/Derby County fancy dress birthday run thingy after all. Mainly because the run is only a couple of miles from where my dog training is, so I can drop her off and pick her up again afterwards. When I drop her off I get chance to check out the bevy of Cheryls who are posing for a group photograph and what a manly bunch they all are.

Then it’s on to class, where I return the tyre, that MD now appears to have got the hang of, although we have yet to come face to face with one in the ring again, since our bad experience at Easter. I hope that no one notices it now smells overwhelming of Swarfega. I had to give it a bit of a scrub, after getting oil on it, as it has been stored next to my bike.

L seems pleased with her run. MD’s training also goes well, although Doggo gets a shorter walk than usual so that I can meet L and socialise briefly with a pint in my hand.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rattling Along

I spent part of Sunday cleaning number two bike, so now it’s nice and clean. Unfortunately I, somehow, seem to have introduced a rattle to it. The noise drove me insane as I cycled to work. The ride took far far longer than usual as I had to keep stopping, checking the tightness of things, spinning wheels, tipping it upside down to see if anything was inside the frame etc etc. All without success, I simply can’t see what’s causing it. I really must book it in for that service.

My bike might have needed more than just a service if the woman who was behind me at the lights in her VW Polo had had her way. I sensed something was not right as I waited at the lights and then realised that her car was creeping ever closer to my back wheel. I moved forward a touch and then looked at the driver, who was squinting into her rear view mirror applying her eye-liner. Oblivious to the fact that what she should have been applying, her handbrake, hadn't been.

L’s new psycho gym has her in for a nutrition check today, she’s been filling in a diet sheet all week. Saturday night’s beer and curry fest may not make happy reading for her nutritionist, and she skipped lunch today to make the appointment... I'm surprised they let her back out again. Apparently she got her wrists slapped mainly for over toasting it, as in too much toast... and too much tea, but she got away with the alcohol. That is assuming she didn't doctor the figures...

It’s the last of MD’s Monday training sessions tonight, although I intend to switch him somewhere else, that is if I can persuade anyone else to have him. He goes out with a bang... as well as a yap, a bark and a bit of a growl. A good session actually.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

In The Good Old Days

Thankfully L’s race, the Wymeswold Waddle which is part of Wymeswold’s Duck Racing festivities, doesn’t start until 10.30am, so we don’t have to be up at the quack of dawn. This gives us a bit of time to let last night’s curry settle down.

I’m just spectating which is how things always used to be, in the good old days, before I started to join in with this running business. Personally I feel I’m quite justified to opt out of something called the Wymeswold Waddle. It appears L will be racing against some very large ducks, one of which directs us to a parking space, showing just how diverse these creatures are.

The course is a five mile route from the village to a place Six Hills (sounds hilly) and back. The winner storms it in 26:21... as I said, I’m well out of this.

We don’t stay for the duck races and instead join the masses at the DIY centres, where I purchase a new lawn mower for MD to play with, to replace the one that exploded the other week.

L buys one of these new fangled men hating toilet seats that refuse to stay up, we have one at work, phenomenally dangerous it is. Everyone’s had a go at adjusting it, well all the men anyway, so far without success. I fear some feminist plot or it may just be crap design work. I’ll be threatening ours with a large spanner and a pair of pliers later in the week.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Quirky Underdog

Today’s ‘dogging’ extravaganza is up in sunny Scunthorpe, which indeed it is today. Doggo starts well with a clear and keeps that up throughout his three runs. Although the speed of his last run, late in the day, takes slow and steady to new heights. Speed wise, he doesn't do afternoons. By contrast MD does most things in a rush, a habit I don’t wish to knock out of him. So although he runs really well today, in fact the best he has run, smoother and quicker than before, he still doesn’t go clear. Next week... didn’t I say that last week?

Daughter texts to ask if Armenia are in World Cup. It’s good to see she’s taking an interest but unfortunately they’re not.

When I tell her this she switches her allegiance to Benin. Asking me if they’re any good? Well no... not really, and more to the point they’re not in the World Cup either.

I think she’s after a quirky underdog to support. So just who are the underdogs?

According to the bookmakers, the country with the longest odds are New Zealand but they’re hardly quirky. Then come North Korea, un-Democratic People's Republic of Korea, who could possibly be described as quirky... but would most likely be labelled as a secretive Stalinist dictatorship who may be inclined to nuke anyone who beats them. So to Honduras who might fit the bill as might Algeria, who are the weakest of the African nations to have qualified.

Back in Nottingham we have the best curry we’ve had for a long time. Full praise to the Laguna Tandoori Restaurant. In fact all of the dishes that the four of us have are excellent, well I can vouch for three of them anyway. I’m too full and not that much of a pig to sample all four. Well, I'm too full anyway.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Zoning Out

I'm feeling a bit knackered this morning, three days cycling to work and a game of squash is taking its toll. I’m on the bus, not for a rest but so that I can run part of the way home. I need to restart the long training runs. The Buxton Half Marathon is on the dim and not too distant horizon, just three weeks away.

L says her training for it will be ‘not serious’. Just three or four 10 milers and the bluff her way round... doesn't sound like much of a bluff to me.

I do 9.25 miles, then get the bus home from Long Eaton. It seemed to go ok, once I got over the first two miles that is, which was the usual ‘I really don’t want to do this’ territory. After that, once I forgot what I was doing, zoning out I think they call it, I was fine. I just had to think pleasant thoughts.

Then I sat on the bus and everything solidified. So once home, we head off down the Plough for quite a bit of alcohol to re-lubricate everything.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Not Serious Training

It’s much sunnier today for the ride in, much more like spring but it’s still a cold! Spring? In fact we’re only just over a month away from summer. Believe it or not.

L hasn’t complained about MD on his morning walk for ages. You know, I think they’re starting to get on and it has only taken two years.

One of the first things the new government does is ban mobile phones from cabinet meetings. Bravo. Now if they can ban them from:-

Colleges - I have a vested interest, a Facebook obsessed Daughter
Supermarkets - I don’t wish to hear your argument about what soup to buy
Buses - I don’t care what happened in Eastenders last night
Streets - I’m sick of dodging people who aren’t looking where they’re going
Cars - Oh they did that didn’t they... apparently.

On the way home a fit looking chap whizzes past me but then stops for a chat at the lights, just to rub it in, which is nice... He apologises in advance for what he says will be a slow getaway from the lights. Yeah right. Somehow I don’t believe him and sure enough once the lights go green he accelerates away from me as if I’m not there.

Squash... isn’t worth mentioning. Except to say that L forces me to have a second pint in the pub afterwards because she is late meeting me there, after she decides to run there. Not that I’m complaining.

She runs nearly nine miles which she describes as ‘not serious training’. Sounds like a pretty serious training run to me but she denies it, she says if she was serious about training she would have been born a man. Hmmm. Best not mention my ‘not serious’ training run tomorrow then.

Oh and my squash opponent turns up in a new t-shirt with the final Fantasy League table printed on the front. Yes, it was he who won it. Not content with beating me every week at squash, he goes and wins that as well, by one solitary point. Did I mention that?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bad Apples

A damp, chilly morning. Ideal cycling conditions. Not.

Thankfully the rain seemed to clear up as I go along. It was still cold though and by the time I get to work my knees still haven’t warmed up. All the same I’m sticking with the shorts, I’m not going back to long trousers, it’s supposed to be May after all.

I pull up at one of the roundabouts on Pride Park between a cyclist on a MTB who has his mobile phone glued to his ear. Surely he’s not going to go around the roundabout like that, one handed, still on the phone? Oh yes he is. It’s bad apples like him that give cyclists a bad name. It would serve him well right if a motorist came around that roundabout doing exactly the same thing. It also wouldn’t be a surprise, there’s sure to be one along any minute.

Doggo has developed a limp, I think he’s just trying to get out of training tonight. Little does he know... we’re not going. We have a night off. MD won’t completely escape because he’ll have to put up with a brief refresher course in the garden but he’ll get a park session afterwards to compensate. Mysteriously Doggo’s limp has disappeared long before we reach the park gates.

Before then I also manage to fit in a rare session in the pool. To my surprise I even remember how to swim properly. I was tempted with the pool at the new Djanogly Leisure Centre, which they have built only a mile or so from the one at John Carroll, which seems an odd distribution of facilities but at least it’s handy for us. Unfortunately they don’t do an early laned session on a Wednesday whereas John Carroll does, so I stick to the usual.

There are a couple of big football games tonight both of which go to extra time. Fulham fall at the final hurdle and lose their UEFA Europa League thingy to Athletico Madrid through a very late goal. Whereas Leicester City go out of the play-offs on penalties to Cardiff City. So we keep hold of both of our east midlands derbies for next year.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Seismic Shift

Well, at long last, Gordon’s bags are packed and we are instead celebrating the marriage of Dodgy Dave and Naughty Nick. It’s a ‘seismic shift’ in British politics apparently.

Annoyed by my narrow defeat in the Fantasy League I’ve already started formulating my team for next season but then again, I know what will happen, they’ll up all the prices, I’ll run out of money and end up with only half of the players I want and a team full of Blackpool players...

Oops, cheap crack but you have to laugh, poor old Forest. Although I must say Billy D seems to be taking it well. Maybe that’s because it’s about time for him to move on again. He doesn’t like to let the grass grow too long under his feet.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to watch it. I was dog training yet again, dodging the rain showers. It’s a shame because Forest’s capitulation to Yeovil the other year, from a winning position, was one of the highlights of that year.

It’s sad that I’ve had far more ‘entertainment’ out of teams like Leeds and Forest in the last few years than I have out of Derby. Suppose this wouldn’t be the case if Derby actually supplied us with some entertainment. You never know, next season we might get a ‘seismic shift’ there as well... but I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Double Whammy

It’s a successful cycle in, unlike last Thursday when fate treated me to yet another flat tyre. Suppose it was about due, must be weeks since I last had one. It is so difficult these days to stay on that narrow strip of tarmac which threads its way through all the pot holes. I’m sure I must be cycling almost an extra mile on every trip just avoiding them. It’s probably also the reason why my back wheel seems to be seriously buckled.

Gordon Brown has announced he will step down by September. No rush then Gordon. Someone’s going to have to crowbar him out of that office aren’t they?

Another double whammy of training for MD again tonight. Half an hour in the garden, then a good hour or more at his training session. He looks knackered afterwards but he’s looking good at the moment. Fingers crossed for the weekend.

Talking of double whammy’s, L joined a second gym and this new one comes with even more torture apparatus and a dungeon mistress to make sure you’re not a shirker. I think she crawled home after her first session there. Not sure if that’s because of the workout or whether that is actually part of the training plan.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

He Who Cannot Be Rushed

I suppose it should be expected that after a 6th place last week, that this week was going to go the other way. It didn’t look like that at first, as Doggo put in a storming run on his first course but then picked up faults for dipping his head in the tunnel, then out again, just to check that’s what I really meant him to do, before dipping back into it and completing the obstacle. That’s a refusal mate. As we come off the ring, one of my trainers is waiting for me, to give me a right telling off for rushing him... rushing Doggo? He who cannot be rushed? Hmmm. Later the same trainer praises me over MD, who picks up 15... I got crucified when Doggo got a mere 5!?! But I guess expectations are lower for the little un.

Still not got a clear with MD, although again we were close. It’ll come.

Things go from bad to worse with Doggo. He’s on some far away planet for his second course, it’s certainly not planet Earth and gets himself E’d. I’m certainly not taking the blame for that performance. He’s much better on his last run, so I guess I best take the can this time, as it was me who sent him over the wrong jump and got us E'd.

I think this is what you call a bad day. No clears all day, from either dog. It's a long time since that last happened.

To make matters worse my team plans have again collapsed into rubble. Terminally this time... but being someone who doesn’t give up easily. Well actually someone who doesn’t give up at all. I start work on raising a team for the qualifier after that, and the one after that.

Then just to put the boot in on my day... the Premier League concludes and dishes up the final set of points for our Fantasy League. I had closed a considerable points gap in the last few weeks to go into this week’s final set of games, dead level at the top. The final result is a points difference between first and second place of one point. Yes, one bloody point. I’m sure you can guess who was on the wrong side of that gap.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Nosebleed Territory

There’s a bit of a run going on down at Wollaton Park today. The Run To READ 5k and 10k, organised by READ International.

It wasn’t really on my schedule and I’m trying to have a bit of a break from running to let my knees recover a bit. All the same I entered this but mainly because a couple of friends of mine were doing it and I felt I ought to support them by joining them in it.

In the end only one of them enters, into the 5k. L and I do the 10k. It’s not the best organised or best supported of races. It’s clearly new ground for the organisers but hopefully if they run it again, and I believe they intend to, they’ll learn from this one. It’s not been terribly well publicised and there’s a distinct lack of club runners here, which hopefully means I’ll get a good overall placing.

At the start, in the rain naturally, about twenty students put their heads down and sprint for it. As if they’re taking on Usain Bolt in the 100m but instead they just look like a bunch of school kids taking on a fun run and naively thinking they can run like that all the way around.

I hang back and let them get on with it. Even if they can sustain that unlikely pace, they may only be doing the 5k. None of them look like ‘serious’ runners and sure enough one by one they run out of steam and I pass them. I find the only person around me who looks remotely like they can last the distance and I use her to pace me around the early stages.

It’s actually a nice course. They take us around the lake; races in Wollaton Park don’t normally do this. I guess the smaller field makes this possible.

My running partner pulls me up into the top ten, then the top five and then the top three. By now we’re running side by side and after about 3.5k we take the lead. Something that has never happened to me before. Nosebleed territory.

Thing is I was pretty sure that I could drop the girl any time I wanted and go it alone but running the remaining 6k on my own with the ever present threat of someone attempting to reel me in doesn’t appeal at all. So I stick with her. We cross the line at the end of the first lap, side by side, nominally winning the 5k event and I think to the immense surprise of my non-running friend. I think he was impressed.

I’m still feeling fresh and confident. Although now obviously I have to start thinking about winning this. Oh the stress. Had I known that leading a race on Saturday morning was on offer I wouldn’t have had quite so much to drink last night... or perhaps I’ve stumbled on the unlikely information that a night out on the lash before a race is actually good preparation but it’s not in any of the training plans I’ve read.

Then... I knew this was too good to be true, we have company. Somebody is attempting to catch us up. I look behind. He still doesn’t look much of a runner. He’s got tracksuit bottoms on for a start. There are limits. I am not being beaten by somebody running in tracksuit bottoms, under any circumstances, no matter how good he is.

At 8k he’s right with us, not alongside us sharing the pace obviously, just shadowing us. Knowing that the last km is all on grass, at 1.5km to go, I apologise to my running partner, as I put on a spurt, dropping her and hopefully our shadow as well, doing so whilst we’re still on the path. Dropping her is not a problem but the shadow in trackie bottoms comes with me. Damn.

9km. On to the grass and I’m going to have to attempt some sort of sprint. So I hope there’s good traction and that I can dodge the pot holes and mole hills. I sprint but he proves stubborn. I still can’t shift him. 9.5km. I have a bit of a gap but he’s still with me and I’m dying, counting and recounting every one of last night’s drinks. I re-live each one. Now I have 10 metres. That should be enough. Surely.

Victory. I don't quite believe this and unfortunately no one I text does either.

Shadow comes in second and my former running partner third, although she almost catches him on the run in. She too obviously has limits and also doesn’t want to be beaten by somebody running in tracksuit bottoms.

As winner I get £20 in Sweatshop vouchers but there’s no trophy, no good bags for all runners (as promised), and nothing for first lady or the second place guy. Entries are clearly down on what they wanted/expected but then they still managed to raise over £900 for the READ Book Project. Which is all well and good but if you don’t look after your competitors they’re not going to come back.

Football wise, Derby have hung up their boots for the season, so I keep my eye on Forest in the play-offs. It’s good to see that they lose 2-1 at Blackpool, although I’m sure they’ll turn it around in the second leg.

Then there’s Leeds United. It’s been so amusing seeing Leeds struggle in League One for the last three seasons but to be honest the jokes over now and I’d like to get back to playing them. Problem is they seem determined to not go up. All they have to do is win today at home to Bristol Rovers, not a big ask, but they are soon 1-0 down and down to ten men after a sending off. So it looks like the charade will continue into the play-offs but then somehow they come back from that, win 2-1 and stumble across the finish line.

I think the way I sold tonight’s entertainment to L was 'Do you fancy something pink for your birthday?' It’s her birthday today by the way. What I was offering was big and pink and on at the Sheffield Leadmill. She even gets to drink the pink stuff, Rose, in the bar beforehand.

First though, Esben and the Witch, from Brighton, who take their name from a Danish fairytale... They take the stage with a couple of miniature street lamps and a porcelain owl or two. Enough said? Singer Rachel Davies, stands between her two guitarists and delivers an ethereal sound that is perhaps part Portishead, part Bat For Lashes, maybe. Most of the real action seems to revolve around the solitary drum and cymbal that is set up in the middle of the stage.

Dark, gloomy and intriguing... nothing like tonight’s headliners, The Big Pink.

Who open with the wail of guitars and an ear shattering rendition of ‘Too Young To Love’, that sounds little like it does on record. This is the approach they take to most of their material. They make everything bigger, beefier, louder, more distorted. So much so that some folk who have come for more of the bubbly pop of their hit record ‘Dominos’ immediately seem disappointed. Once you make the mental adjustment though it’s all rather good. Personally I have never actually been a big fan of 'Dominos' anyway, the track quickly became irritating but I was swayed, surprisingly, by the heavier sound of the rest of the album which I rather like.

The Big Pink are actually officially a duo. Consisting of singer/guitarist/self appointed rock God Robbie Furze and his keyboard maestro Milo Cordell. Cordell has his hoodie over his head all night as he prods at his keyboards, while simultaneously working an impressive range of effects pedals (for a non guitarist) and updating his Facebook profile via his laptop (or whatever else he’s using the laptop for). These two are joined on stage by their scantily clad drummer, Akiko Matsuura. Who was hidden from my view practically all night (shame) by a combination of her own drum kit and the band’s bass player who completed their live line-up.

'At War With the Sun' followed again accompanied by Furze’s shrieking guitar and a bass cranked up so loud and rumbling it’s almost painful. Although this is probably my own fault for standing right in front of the bass player’s amp.

The guitars are cut back slightly for ‘Velvet’ and ‘Frisk’, which are slightly more electronic, as tracks from their album made up the first half of the set. The best of which are probably an excellent ‘Crystal Visions’, sounding particularly huge tonight and a fave of mine, the wonderful ‘Count Backwards From Ten’.

The content of the second half is less clear cut, as they slip in a few covers and a new song. They cover ‘100%’, although I’m not sure where they got it from. Didn’t Mariah Carey do a song called 100%? and didn’t Sonic Youth? To be honest, it could be either or neither. Someone please advise.

No one is particularly talkative, apart from the odd cry of 'Sheffield’ from Furze and a brief introduction to a new track called ‘Twilight’, there’s little chat.

They finished in more of a pop mode with the new single, ‘Tonight’, a cover version of Beyonce’s ‘Sweet Dreams’, yes really and of course, 'Dominos'. I hate it when bands save their 'big' record until the end but it sounds good tonight and at least they don't elongate it.

We get back home at 11.30, quietly park the car in the street so as to not disturb the dogs’ slumber and then head into town for a beer or two. Son texts to ask if we’re in town and L informs him where we’re headed. Moments later as we walk into the bar, there he is sat at a table, waiting for us, looking very much like a man with a thirst.

After a few drinks and the walk home, I crawl into bed at 2am. That is after setting the alarm for 6.15. Dog show tomorrow...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

As Clear As Mud

So we’ve had an election and somebody has won... only they haven’t and somebody has lost... only they haven’t. We have a new prime minister... only we haven’t. It's all as clear as mud. It’s no wonder nobody has any faith in politics any more. Perhaps I was wrong urging people to vote.

Unlike Son, Daughter appears to be taking an interest in the entire political goings-on’s, even though she isn’t yet old enough to vote. Not that it stopped that 14 year old lad who’s in the news today.

Daughter poses some great questions to me by email, which isn’t necessarily what you want when you’re in the pub and on your third pint... or perhaps that’s the best time. I’m out on a bit of a session tonight with some work colleagues. Although I didn't think it was going to happen, it's been on and off all day long, just like an election result.

One of the things Daughter asks is ‘Why were the Lib Dem’s never going to be in power? And if they were never going to be in power what was the point of them trying?

What a good point! Has anyone got Nick Clegg’s email address? I'll ask him. Mind you he’s a bit busy right now sorting out this hung parliament business. Which was what her third question related to.

Say someone won, what's the point of other people being there in parliament? It isn’t their business because they lost.

Blindingly good logic, that I can’t cope with right now. Someone get me another drink, so I can try and explain our form of democracy and ‘first past the post’.

As for question number six, ‘When do we find out who won...?’ That’s anyone’s guess.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Voting Intentions

L's terribly unscientific way of narrowing down her voting options was to not vote for any candidates who stopped her outside the polling station and asked her for her voting intentions or for her card number. I hope for her sake it wasn’t another party playing the double bluff and pretending to be somebody they weren’t.

My method, of not voting for anyone who direct mailed me election material was blown out of the water when they all did.

As I cycle home I wonder what a chap is doing standing in the centre of one of the roundabouts in Spondon waving a placard. Then I realise he's promoting the BNP and amazingly no one has tried to run him over.

Son doesn’t intend to vote, despite the fact that a lot of his mates appear to be doing so and that L’s really been on his case about it for the last few days. He ought to take an interest really, as someone who’s becoming a University student in September, the differing polities towards student finance should interest him.

I'm one of the few people who love a good election. So after a family meal out at L's parents, I grab a few hours sleep before getting up to watch the results come in. The TV news shows long queues at polling stations and people being locked out when they closed at 10pm, making us look like a third world country. Although anybody who takes all day, when the places have been open since 7am, to get to the polling station doesn’t really deserve any sympathy.

The BBC coverage of it all is appalling, even David Dimbleby seemed bored with it as we get pictures of cars, which may or may not contain important politicians, speeding down motorways and a debate on a boat rather than actually concentrating on the results themselves.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Is There An Election On?

Rather amazingly I have sold Daughter’s ‘spare’ Reading Festival ticket. I put it on Viagogo at midnight last night and it had gone by lunchtime this morning. Partly perhaps because I priced it just below all the other tickets on there. It was all far easier than I thought and it appears that we’re going to make a small profit on it. Perhaps I could change career and become a ‘ticket reseller’ or perhaps not.

Is there an election on? For once the hot talk in the barber shop is not concerning the hemlines and necklines of every female passing their window, as it usually is, or when it isn’t that it’s about the last customer to leave the shop. Your ears really do burn as you walk down the street after a trim.

Today though they are taking about the General Election for crikes sake. This isn't what I come here for, which was... well a haircut I suppose, but the banter is usually good and worth coming for, although more politically incorrect than you get practically anywhere these days.

The big ethical question today is should one of the guys, who didn't intend to vote at all, cast his vote on behalf of his mother who has been detained out of the country. Well firstly, of course, I take him to task over not voting. Everyone should vote or else you have no right of complaint about who you end up getting. Even spoilt ballot papers count as votes, so at least go and draw a pretty face on it and get your vote counted.

His problem, as he sees it, is he doesn't approve of who she wants to vote for, not that he would have approved anyway unless it had been the Natural Law Party, who famously advocated using transcendental meditation and yogic flying to cure all the ills of society. Unfortunately they don’t seem to be standing this year.

Actually I think having to vote for his mother's choice frankly serves him right.

Meanwhile all the real politicians seem to be out on an all-night bender only without alcohol, doing a full 24 hours campaigning, chasing your vote. It’s kind of funny that happens on the same day an article comes out telling us sleeping for less than 6 hours a night can kill you. So bye bye guys.

I head to dog training, where the talk is also of rumours, untruths, back stabbing and behind the scenes deals. No, not election talk, we’re talking about teams for Crufts. Much more interesting and much more controversial.

Monday, May 3, 2010

That’s Next Year's Birthday Sorted

The traffic seems quite light today; I think lot of people skivvying for another day.

L tells me she's lending the old Derby County football kit she has to a friend, who is doing a ‘fetish run’ for someone's birthday. The girls have to dress up in a Rams' strip and the boys have to dress up as Cheryl Cole. How quaint. Why didn’t I think of something like that for my birthday?

Oh well, at least, that’s next year sorted. Though L makes it quite clear that she’s not running near any man dressed as Cheryl Cole. It’s true. No matter how hard they try they will still look like Dick Emery. I must admit I’d have done things a little differently. I’d have got all the girls to dress up in the style of Cheryl Cole, or some other appropriate role model, and the men... well... they could wear what they liked, Rams’ strips would be fine.

I head off to dog class with the intention of fluttering my eyelashes and trying to woo another woman. You know, I think L is impressed at how many women I have in my address book... although don’t misunderstand, it’s not the woman I’m after, it’s her dog, for my team.

I am sadly disappointed because my target doesn’t make it to training this week and I end up trying to woo her husband instead. This wasn’t anywhere near as much fun but was almost as successful and I didn’t have to resort to fluttering anything.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Putting A Few Noses Out Of Joint

I take the boys for a Bank Holiday stroll on the park. This includes MD, who now seems back to normal, much to everyone’s delight. They’ll soon wish he wasn’t.

This team management lark isn’t so bad. In 24 hours I have raised one team and am well on the way to getting a second team together. The previous team manager hadn’t got this far in three months. I have to deal with a few squabbles though, along the lines of ‘I won’t run in team if so and so does’. It’s just like organising the six-a-side team that I used to be involved with. I might even end up recruiting a few new members for the club, which has got to be good surely. Although new members going straight into the team and potentially to Crufts might put a few noses out of joint. Hopefully. They only have themselves to blame for not making themselves available.

After de-gritting the inside of the car followed by a quick pedal/run at the gym we head down to Rock City for a gig.

By delaying her entry until 8.30 Sarah Blasko risked being upstaged by the impromptu balloon show organised by the impatient crowd. Then once on stage it takes an age to get her band’s double bass booted up, or whatever you do with a double bass. Finally she gets started.

I was worried we'd get an Australian Ellie Goulding but she's more of a Florence, with a touch of Cerys Matthews thrown in. Well, perhaps more than just a touch as it happens. Overall, her sound is a simple mix of drums, keyboard and double bass with only a light sprinkling of guitar and the occasional banjo. A blend that lets her strong vocals shine through.

Her tunes are generally quite mournful and her rockiest moment comes during the closing 'No Turning Back', which is perhaps pure Florence but then I have a suspicion that Sarah Blasko got there first. Her rather long 45 minute set doesn’t drag and she’s entertaining but frankly, just not my type.

After the resumption of the now rather tedious balloon show, fellow Aussies The Temper Trap take to the stage and open with something, according to their set list, imaginatively called 'Intro'. This is basically a jamming session for the band but is actually rather good. Then it’s into ‘Rest’ and a trawl through every track on their debut album and solitary release, last year’s ‘Conditions’.

‘Fader’ is a real crowd pleaser, vocalist Dougie Mandagi singing in the highest pitch I’ve heard since Jimi Somerville warbled Smalltown Boy but it’s the band I find most impressive, at times they pile three guitars on top of Mandagi's distinctive voice. Bassist Jonathon Aherne was entertaining in his own right, as he bobbed around the stage, and his long hair, piled weirdly on top of his head, bobbed along with him.

‘Sweet Disposition’ has frankly been everywhere in the last year, in numerous TV adverts, repeatedly used as background music for, well, practically anything and it even featured in the film '500 Days of Summer'. In fact, you only had to be walking down the street and it would come up behind you and tap you on the shoulder. Tonight though it seems to creep up on the crowd with an elongated teasing introduction, before exploding into life.

After which they closed the set with ‘Resurrection’ amidst a blinding light show, ‘Resurrection’ like ‘Down River’ which was played earlier, builds up gradually in layers towards a grand finale. They then segued this into another jam session that turned out to be 'Drum Song'. The band letting themselves go like they did on the equally instrumental opener and we get our first crowd surfer of a so far quiet evening for the security staff.

Dougie pours a bottle of water on to the solitary snare drum that he is playing and then illuminated by strobe lighting, he bangs the drum so that the water splashes up high, to quite impressive effect.

They depart after almost 50 minutes on stage, which is only marginally longer than Ms Blasko but after a short break they return. The break being just long enough to give the roadies time to mop up the water from the stage.

For the encore, they play a new song called 'Rabbit Hole’; again it’s another song that starts slow and builds up, something that seems to be a bit of a trademark style for them. They leave us with their most recent single, 'Science of Fear', and Dougie again gives security something to do by seemingly trying to hug as many of the crowd as possible.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Children Please

Final football match of the season today, it’s a fixture with nothing hanging on it and it’s a 1pm kick off. So you wonder why anyone would bother going but it’s a near sell out. Bizarre folk are football fans. There’s even 2,000 from Cardiff, who are safely in the play-offs so don’t need to get anything from the game and have widely publicised the fact that they’ll be putting out a reserve side. So clearly they’re even more bizarre in Cardiff, although I suppose at least they have something to celebrate.

The result, not that is matters, is a 2-0 win for Derby, not that anyone seemed that bothered either way.

Whilst I’m out, two important bits of information arrive via text. Firstly, and most importantly, there’s news that ‘We’ve eaten a bowl of dog food’. Though not too sure what L means by we? Has she had some too, just to make sure that the invalid eats? Apparently they all stood and watched MD eat breakfast. Awwww. Seems he’s on the way to recovery.

Secondly, the team for the one of the Crufts qualifiers has collapsed, as no one seems to want to go. A mix of a bit of apathy and a lot of 'I’m not being in the team if he/she/it is in the team'. Children please. So the team manager has thrown in the towel. We have no team.

For my sins, I ask if I can take over the task of organising it. I’ve sorted out a multitude of football teams over the years. So how hard can this be? I am quickly granted full control of the team. So... now what...

Back home, there's confirmation of MD’s recovery as I get the lawn mower out and attempt to cut the grass, with a dog attached to the wheels. If he’s up to attacking the lawn mower, he must be almost back to normal. As it turns out, he seems to have some success as well. Just as I’m completing the lawn it conks out. Not totally sure it was his fault. It had been making strange noises for years. Probably beyond repair and anyway I can’t be bothered to try and revive it just now.

Instead I try him over a few jumps to see how fine he is. Fine enough to be back in training a.s.a.p. I reckon.