Wednesday, June 30, 2010

All For A T-Shirt

Tonight it's the final leg of the Nottingham Grand Prix Races, it’s the Colwick 5 miler but more importantly we get to find out what colour this year’s t-shirt is. Yep, we're doing all this for a t-shirt.

This has always been my least favourite of the four races. There's just sometimes about five miles that is so wrong. I can't abide the Long Eaton 5 Mile Race either.

I look back over my previous three attempts at this race and see that 2007 was by far my fastest effort. 32:12. That's 6:26 per mile which sounds awesomely fast to me. Oh well, lets give it a go.

I have a slow start when a chap stumbles and falls in front of me and I stop to help him up. Despite that interruption...

First mile 6:17. Not bad.

Second mile 6:26. Starting to fade.

Third mile 6:25. Hanging in there.

I attempt to put on a spurt to catch up two chaps just ahead of me who seem to be going at a good sort of pace, thinking they might pull me along. I reach them and..

Fourth mile 6:06. Wow.

Although as I recall mile four usually seems a touch short here. One of the two chaps drops away but I stay with the other guy, letting him do all the pace setting. Sorry mate. I lose touch with him in the last quarter of a mile but I think he's served his purpose.

Last mile 6:30. That'll do nicely.

Total time 31:45. Wow. Almost 30 seconds off. Result.

Somehow that phenomenal run only makes me 36th. My worst placing of the series. Is there no justice. Oh well. More importantly the t-shirt is great. White and a dryflo one. Excellent.

It's been a good series, I have set PB's in three of the four races. I was 23rd overall after the first three, I will await my final placing with interest.

I’m disappearing off for a few days now. Armed with the tent, the dogs, my posh bike and the beer guide. Should be heaven. Oh yes and I'm taking L as well. Wouldn’t be the same without her.

So blog on hold for a bit.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Spooky

I hate driving to work. Someone had broken down on the A52 this morning. The ensuing traffic jam made sure it took me an hour and a quarter to get to work. Well, at least I got another disc of John Grisham done.

When I get home, I know I have two things to remember. One, to take something out of the freezer for tea. Done. Two... oh yes, Son, remember to bring Son down to the college for his presentation. He's won an award for being a swot or something. We are proud parents. So I best remember him, it wouldn't really work without him.

As his lecturer presents him with his prize I notice how spookily alike the two of them are. It’s scary and I have photos to prove it.

After all that excitement, I decide to skip dog training and delight the dogs by taking them on the park instead. Suppose it's a bit like when you were a kid and you turned up for school only to find that someone had burnt it down, so all lessons were off.

As it’s now mid evening, the weather is cooling off but still they return with tongues dragging on the floor. That’ll be the last we hear of them tonight.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mr Consistent

It’s Son’s last A Level exam today. Then he’s a free man, until mid October. The holidays just seem to get longer. He’s also mega confident. He reckons if he doesn’t turn up to the exam he’ll get an overall C but if he turns up and puts his name on the form he’ll get a B. Hopefully if answers a question or two then he might get an A?

It’s the third of the four Grand Prix runs tonight and I notice on the results that I’m in 25th place overall after the first two races. Not bad.

L complains that she meant to bring a sports drink to work but forgot. Blimey, that’s taking it a bit seriously. She says her personal trainer's a tough cookie. Who’s that then? Me? Although she has been talking of two timing me with a more qualified model, a real personal trainer.

I’m on the bus and I notice at the bus station they’ve now put messages on the information screens telling you where to queue. This is after the managers complained that people weren’t queuing in the right place. So the screens now spend half their time telling you what to do rather than giving out bus times. Not that the bus times are right anyway. The screens are not linked to the live bus times service that tracks actual progress of the bus and are currently merely showing the scheduled timetable. This, and not where to queue, should be priority number one to be sorted out. We know the majority of this information is available because a lot of the bus stops in Derby (the Trent Barton ones) and all the stops in Nottingham already show live times.



L gets home with a box of biscuits that were a freebie from work. They'll be coming to me then. Yep. She hands them over. I’m required to save her from herself again and before she does something stupid with them post-race.

Race three, Wollaton Park and a mere 5k. It goes well. After we find the start that is, we both forget that last year they moved it to a different part of the park. It also means we get a good warm-up as we have to leg it to the start.

As ever this is a fast race. A lot of people see this as a sprint all the way from the start to the finish line. My times for the first two kilometres, both around 3:35, suggest I might even be one of them. The second half though is harder as the course gets hillier and is therefore slower. My sub-4 minute times become over 4 minute ones. It’s still a good pace though and my time at the finish is my fastest here, in four attempts, by ten seconds. After finishing in the same position at the first two races, tonight I’m one place higher. Mr Consistent.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Small Margins

I actually feel quite sprightly today despite yesterday’s seventy mile plus cycle. Even my shoulder feels fine. So it was worth getting a massage from that attractive young masseur after all.

L feels sorry for poor old England because they got to the top 16 in the whole of the world and don't get any credit for it. She says she would be elated to be in the top one hundred. Perhaps she has point.

The media are slating them but had the USA not got that late goal in their group game, we’d have won the group, played Ghana, probably played just as badly as we did against Germany but scraped a win and would now be facing a quarter final against Uruguay. The media would have them all as heroes. Small margins and a fickle press.

Work has put L in a bad mood, so she heads off to pump iron in the gym. More like she’s sloping off for another sneaky session with Mikael and her audiobook.

I'm dog training again in the evening. What started out as a nice quiet ‘do your own thing’ session is rapidly ballooning in size. It’s now getting far too busy. Mind you tonight there was free tea and ice creams afterwards. Things are looking up.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Invisible Friend

This morning I get up early, this is proper early, 6am early, and drive over to Bourne for my Sportive. It’s called Flat Out In The Fens and claims to be a sportive with a difference. They say they have got rid of the hills.



It’s also a mere 73 miles, which is actually less than what I thought I’d entered. Phew. That should make it easier on my shoulder, which was dreadfully painful in the aftermath of last week’s Nottinghamshire Bike Ride. There’s two cake stops on the route, which is the same as last week then... well maybe there were five last week but I only managed to find the brakes for two of them.

They also have some nice new trendy timing chips which involves simply sticking a strip of sellotape with a bit of metal in it to your helmet. Hope it works but there’s no reassuring beep like when you cycle over a timing mat. I'm not doing all this for no time.

On the way to the start at Bourne Leisure Centre, I miss the junction off the A1, get a bit lost and end up having to cut across country. So I arrive a bit later than I intended and find that there are not many folk there waiting to start. They’ve probably all left early, the starts were from 7am and it’s now gone 8am. If you were doing either of the longer routes (112 miles which is Ironman Triathlon distance or the eye watering 153 mile option) and wanted to see the match, you would have had to have got started as soon as possible. The upshot of my rural diversion is I don’t end up starting until 8.10. This means I’m going to have to keep up a reasonable pace if I’m going to be back in Nottingham to catch the match myself.

Well they’re right about one thing; they have got rid of the hills. The course is flat, very flat. Although this leaves us very exposed to the elements, which are a strong sun but also quite a brisk wind as well. So the going isn’t quite as easy as you would have thought.

The route consists of mainly quiet country lanes, which often have pretty poor road surfaces but other than that it’s all very pleasant and a chance to top up the sunburn. It’s also very quiet cyclist wise. I find very few groups to cycle with and there never seems to be more than three or four in a group. All the same, as I pull into the first feed station, at a place called Thorney, with 24 miles covered, I feel things are going fairly well and to plan. The feed station is ok but not great. The snacks are a bit naff and there’s no hot tea again.

As I restart I end up cycling with a guy and a girl who I think at first are a couple. I feel a bit of a gooseberry but then I realise that it’s more a case of just her hitting on him. He seems to tire of the attention and takes the opportunity afforded by a tricky road crossing to get rid of her. He powers across a small gap in the busy traffic before she can follow him and doesn’t wait for her on the other side. By the time the girl and I get across a few minutes later, he’s long gone. Now he’s left her with me.

From there it’s not far to feed station two which comes at 54 miles covered. Note, feed station number two, that’s two out of two. See I'm remembering to stop today. The feed station is in the car park of The Ship Inn at Pinchbeck just past Spalding. It’s not open for business, unfortunately.

The 'couple' seem to make it up when they rendezvous at the feed station and they leave together but in the closing stages I pass her again, once more cycling on her own.

I did notice on the route profile that there was one hill on the route and that came in the last few miles. It actually a makes a nice change from the rest of the course and my legs are still thankfully up for it. Glad there weren’t any more though, it was far too hot for taxing climbs.

I complete, what turns out to be, 74.5 miles in four hours and six minutes which is a slightly slower pace than last weekend. 29.2 kph. I put that down to the lack of big groups to cycle with and to hide from the wind in.

There are no drinks at finish, which is a bit naughty. Water would have done. Instead I have to buy some out of the leisure centre’s vending machines. My prize for completing the event is another buff, exactly the same as the one I got at the Cat.

L texts me congratulations and suggests that I get my shoulder massaged so that I don’t struggle with it like I did last week. Problem is if I stop for a massage, I run the risk that it will make me late for the match. Dilemma. Still that nice looking young girl who’s doing the massages would be a good compensatory measure for only getting another buff and she may make my shoulder feel better as well. If she doesn’t, I’ll just grin and bear the experience. As L is insisting, who am I to refuse.

The girl actually gives me a very nice calf massage, very gentle and soothing as she chats... chats... chats... It’s probably completely ineffectual but it feels nice. Then she turns her attention to my shoulder. Obviously her specialist area. Talk about getting a good seeing to. I feel more bruised now than ever before. I’d hate to get on the wrong side of her. I stop answering her questions and bite my knuckles instead.

I arrive back home at 2.30 and head into town. L has gone off to Scruffys with Mikael, her invisible friend, the star of her audiobook. I hope he's saving a seat for me. Surprisingly I make kick off because a bus fortuitously turns up at the precise moment I needed it. A good sign? Perhaps not, once the match kicks off, I start to wish I’d been delayed. It’s not pretty, they are soon 2-0 down and I’m left wondering why England appear to have taken Derby's defensive coach out there with them.

The experience isn’t helped by the fact that Scruffys is oddly and annoyingly, in the middle of a world cup and on the day of the big match, out of cask ale, pretty much any other beer and all but one of their lagers as well.

Then suddenly England are back in it and playing moderately well, then comes that ‘goal’, the one that wasn’t. Scandalous. Ok we barely deserved it but still. It starts an immediate clamour for goal line technology to be introduced but really, it was so obviously a goal it shouldn’t be necessary.

It hasn’t been a good tournament for referees. There’s been some ridiculous sending off's and numerous other bad decisions. In fact later that evening, Argentina's first goal was allowed when it was clearly off side. They then mistakenly replayed it on the screens around the stadium, sparking a near riot.

Whether Lampard’s disallowed screamer would have made any difference who knows, and with the way Germany waltzed through England’s defence at will to add two second half goals, you kind of think not.

If the tournament has been bad for referees, it also didn’t start off that well for football either but the games have been getting better all the time and can only get better still with the demise of a very average England side. In fact the Argentina v Germany quarter looks very tasty.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fond Memories

Daughter’s party seems to have gone quite well; at least I’m not crunching through the kitchen on broken glass. In fact downstairs seems to be just as I left it.

It’s kind of odd for L to be out of the house early this morning and to leave me lounging in bed. Well it wasn’t actually that early, not compared with my sort of dog show/bike sportive/duathlon type early.

She heads off to Pilates and then gym. She offers me the chance to join her but somehow I don’t think Pilates is quite me. However I could go for a swim I suppose, if the pool is open that is. A swim looked infinitely more inviting yesterday compared with the mini gym session I ended up doing. Of course this had nothing whatsoever to do with the new blonde lifeguard they have. Almost worth drowning for, slowly. Probably the first slim female attendant I’ve seen there. Why is that? Why is that most leisure centre staff, and particularly the female ones, look like they’ve never set foot in a leisure centre?

Instead I take our old tent in for repair, damaged after a dog managed to dig an escape route from it on our last trip. I also test out the new one by putting it up in the garden. We’ve gone for the same tried and trusted design, yet they’ve tampered with it again and attached both inner and outer sheets together. This is pointless and annoying. Can’t see me getting on with this model.

I decide it’s too hot to walk the dogs. I try a bit of training with MD but it’s too hot for that as well and we soon both drop from heat exhaustion.

Later we head off to Newark on the train for a friend’s 10th Wedding Anniversary. I thought I ought to put in an appearance. A 10th anniversary is 'Tin' I believe, but I'm not into cans so I take a couple of bottles instead. It’s not a bad do actually and they have photos of the wedding with L and I on. It was L’s long hair era, nagged for by me, which I have fond memories for. I too have an impressive amount of hair, I have fond memories of that as well.

We're back in Nottingham early due to the last train annoyingly being at 9.10. Time for a quickie in the Ropewalk, beer that is.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Horrible Premonitions

There’s another outing to work for the posh bike today, ahead of Sunday’s Flat Out in The Fens Sportive. It’s going to be a hot 70 odd miles on Sunday apparently. It’s pretty hot this morning as well.

As I’m still on for a £50 bribe from the council for using their gym every month for a year, I thought I best show willing and drop in to do my June session. As it’s now the 25th of the month, I’m running out of time.

So I pedal to John Carroll and book in for a short session. Not that I particularly want to. I do a massive 1km run on the treadmill, two small weight sessions and then sit on the bike for a while. The exercise bikes are so awful that again a km is all I can bare. I think cycling further on those uncomfortable contraptions would actually do you more harm that good.

So having passed a bit of time on the bike, I get off and go for a coffee. So, not exactly a tough session but I've had a hard week.

Today is Daughter's 17th birthday and we have bowed to concerted pressure... yep, we've let her have a small party. This is despite the horrible premonitions I’ve been having for weeks, well at least since 'that' incident... but she assures us it’s not going to be like one of Son’s bashes, which have got progressively more out of control with each one. That’s a relief. Of course if it was jelly and ice cream, pass the parcel and a Disney film like the old days it would be fine but it’s not going to be is it. Perhaps I should have faith in her or at least get drunk. Mind you that didn't work with Son's parties. With the blue touchpaper lit and the sick bucket in place, we retire to a safe distance and take the dogs down the local.

When we get home later all seems orderly, unbroken and well civilised. Perhaps Daughter has been ruling them with a rod of iron like she does us.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Who’s Got Time For Work?

It’s the Wheelie Big Breakfast in Nottingham today, part of national cycling week, where cyclists get a free breakfast if they pedal down to the Market Square. I see there’s free massage on offer as well, no idea why but perhaps I should go with my shoulder.

Unfortunately as the event does start until 8am I can’t go and get to work on time, so I send L by proxy. She grabs a Breakfast Grab Bag for me. It contains an orange, a bottle of water and a council supplied trans-fat pastry. Healthy, not. Who knows how far you need to cycle to work that out of your system.

L didn’t bike there either; she walked, which doesn’t say much for their cycling strategy. She told them that cycling to and from work was a horrible experience because the roads were too busy, the one way system too complex and the cycle paths too poor. She wasn’t the only one complaining. Perhaps they ought to keep their heads down in future.

I pop out to the pub at lunch to get some carbs for tonight’s race. Carbs and sausage, Yorkshire pudding, mushy peas, chips and ale. Who knows how far I need to run to work that out of my system.

It’s been a cracking week of sport, typified by today. The BBC don’t have enough radio channels to cover it all and we don’t have enough radios in the office anyway. Murray is through at Wimbledon and now Isner and Mahut are back on court slugging it out. Their epic first-round contest is already the longest game in tennis history and it isn’t over yet. The match was locked at 59-59 in the final set last night when it was suspended because of bad light. They started it the day before. 10 hours and still counting.

Score flash: Isner 62 Mahut 62.

Meanwhile England are getting the better of Australia in the one-dayers and at the World Cup Italy are making England look good and being beaten by Slovakia. Who’s got time for work?

Score flash: Italy 0 Slovakia 2. Yay!

Score flash: Isner 65 Mahut 65. Tense.

My car is in for its MOT and Service today. It passes with flying colours. That’ll be £260 please the mechanic says. How much! but you said it didn’t need anything doing. Nothing is so expensive these days.

Italy get a goal back but then Slovakia score again, it’s 3-1. The Azzurri are going to be following the French home... meanwhile...

Score flash: Isner 68 Mahut 68. Will this never end.

Final Score: Italy 2 Slovakia 3. You have to laugh.

Hang on, it’s ended. 70-68 well done John Isner.

I feel weak after all that, plus a lot lighter in the wallet but I still have to get myself around round two of the Nottingham Grand Prix at Rushcliffe Park, a mere four miles tonight.

Despite my body falling apart around me, it goes well. 6.15 for the first mile, then surprisingly an identical 6.15 for the second unless my watch is broken. Then, err, 6.15 for the third, spookily consistent. It goes a bit pear shaped in the last mile though, 6.58. Not quite as quick as 2007 but my quickest since. God knows what I was on back then. My position is exactly the same as on Tuesday. Shoulder ok, but that blister is back.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Well Worth It

Things seemed to go really well last night. Just a huge blister (and I mean huge) on the ball of my right foot and a dislocated shoulder (ok slight exaggeration). All the same I bin my planned light jog to work and get the bus instead. I hobble in to work and limp up the stairs. I can just about manage to lift my coffee cup with my bad shoulder. So well worth it.

L reckons I may need to contact my physio. Pah! Mere flesh wounds.

Bee Update. It doesn’t sound good at L’s work place, in fact it sounds a bit like the Somme. Apparently there are little striped bodies everywhere. She reckons she’s sealed all the skirting boards with parcel tape but having to have the windows closed isn’t doing much to keep the room cool in this weather we’re having. I hate to be negative but if the Bee man is a typical tradesman, he’ll probably turn up, have a quick look around, say they didn't tell him it was a bee problem and vow to return tomorrow with the correct tools. He certainly won’t stick around long, there’s a match on this afternoon you know.

Ah yes the match. L escapes the Somme and goes to watch it in Scruffy’s with Son. I’m jealous. Though somehow she manages to get through it without a bottle of wine in her hand. Hope Son has his revision with him, he has an exam first thing tomorrow. I shall listen to it on the radio because I have a feeling the internet will grind to a halt as everybody and his dog will be attempting to watch it online.

England take the lead just like they did that against the USA but this time the final outcome is more favourable. 1-0 win. Slaughtered them. Bring on the Germans.

Bee Update. They are not masonry bees, the bees turn out to be wasps. That first bee inspector wasn’t very good then was he.

In the evening I’m out in Derby with a friend, on the premise that alcohol heals all wounds. The shoulder soon feels better but best to have another pint. It’ll help the healing process. Prevention is better than cure.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Luckily For Him, I Don’t Die

Did you see that some chap put posters up on the London to Brighton Bike Ride in an attempt to head off attempts by his wife to divorce him? I wonder what he'd been up to. He probably overtook her on a previous bike ride or in a 10k or something or perhaps he set her too tough a training schedule when he offered to be her personal trainer. Any of these would explain why she blanked him at the finish line. I best watch my step. I wonder if he did the ride as well and overtook her.

On the day that it’s in the news that bees are dying out and that this will cost the UK economy anything up to £440m per year (about 13% of the country's income from farming), L has a bee problem at work. She says they keep popping up from somewhere under her desk, through the floor perhaps and she reckons some are even burrowing through the wall. It sounds like something from a James Herbert novel.



Of course, she’s not allowed to kill them; they’re an endangered species you know. So she can’t even keep them at bay with a rolled up newspaper. In fact she has to get permission from some official beekeeper to get anyone to come out to deal with them. At this point I would have thought deserting her post and going home would be a good option but she can’t until the beekeeper has made an assessment. This all seems above and beyond the call of duty. Eventually, someone on behalf of the beekeeper makes an assessment... over the phone. They are masonry bees, so tomorrow they can be killed.

In the evening it’s the first race of the Nottingham Grand Prix, my fourth year of doing it. I don’t usually do events four times over but what else is there to do on a Tuesday night. Well there’s dog training I suppose, which I have to miss tonight for this. What will my training colleagues do for fitness advice tonight or for that matter PC support? This is fast becoming another hot topic of theirs. I really should have kept my hobbies and career to myself.

It’s a nice night for a run, a bit warm perhaps and there’s no wind, not even off the rowing strip. As it’s a predominately flat course and I’m feeling fit, I feel it’s time for Plan A. I’m going sub-40 tonight.

Well I was feeling fit... but now as I get ready to start I’m struggling with my breathing a touch and I haven’t even started running yet, perhaps it’s a bit of hay fever. I also seem to have a stiff shoulder, the side effects of cycling 75 miles I suppose.

Off we go. I set some good sub-four minute split times for the first 4km and I get nicely paced through these by a chap I latch on to. I struggle to hold him after 4km and I let him go. Someone else catches and passes me, so I run with him and he drags me along for another two km. I repeat the process and get paced as far as the 8km point, where although I’m now doing slightly over four minute splits, I'm still on track, just.

Then at 9km I’m off the pace, five seconds over target pace, so I need a gargantuan effort to get back on track. Something my legs don’t have left in them and I’m twelve seconds down at the finish.

My legs give way, I collapse and crawl to the drinks table. The St. Johns man eyes me suspiciously but he doesn’t put down his cup of tea. Luckily for him, I don’t die. I recover and go find my ever supportive parents and then cheer L in.

Looking back, I was quite consistent all the way through and my overall placing was good plus only two of the 172 women beat me. This is always a good indication. So a good effort I reckon. Almost happy.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Faint At The Thought

I take the boys out this morning whilst L goes off for a swim. My legs don’t feel too bad after all that pedalling yesterday but still I think I hold the boys back.

L again swims 1.5K. I feel faint at the thought. I think this morning I would have just sunk. Which may have been because of my exertions yesterday, or possibly from the weight of all the flapjacks and cakes I ate.

I’m so glad we have an easy week. Just two midweek running races and another bike ride at the weekend...

L brags about the two lie-ins she’s looking forward to at the weekend. She’s not doing this weekend’s bike ride and says instead she’ll be curled up in bed with the dogs, thinking of me. Hmmm, I’ll be tucking into my chocolate coated shortbread and thinking of her.

I look at the photos from yesterday, L is smiling on both the before and after photos. How odd. She never normally smiles before any event, let alone a bike ride.

My dentist, who is usually so punctual, is running forty minutes late tonight, which makes me late for dog training. Might be for the best as it’s still rather hot. I train both MD and Doggo. Doggo has been taking liberties since I cut his training back. Not any more mate.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Chase Is On

Today L and I take part in the 29th running of the Great Nottinghamshire Bike Ride along with around 4,000 others. Though these are Nottingham Council figures, so give or take a thousand or so. There are apparently 400 in the 75 Mile Sportive that I do with the others making up the roadblock that we will have to overtake later. L opts for the 50 Mile Challenge Ride which gives me around a 30 minute head start in my quest to do 75 miles before she can do 50.

First we cycle the six or so miles to the start, no point getting the car out for that. Today is supposed to be a sunny day but down by the rowing strip at 8am its bloody freezing. It will warm up I keep telling myself as we are led to the start and reminded that this is ‘not a race’ but judging by the maniacal grins on the faces of some of the participants, oh yes it is.



We both did the 50 a few years ago. I haven’t returned since, until now, because certain aspects of the course were simply not suitable for bikes, well not road bikes anyway. These were the last few miles through Colwick Park, a farm track near Newark and the first few miles out of the start at Holme Pierrepont which was full of craters so large you could hide a wheel in one.

Well the start hasn’t changed much. Still awful but less pot holes, although I see four people fixing punctures in the first mile. It’s now basically a rock strewn grit track. Thankfully this unstable surface doesn’t seem to have anyone off. Good job really as the pre-event information only recommended wearing a helmet. It wasn’t compulsory, not even on the Sportive. I’m not sure how this council sponsored event managed to square that with its own Health and Safety department.

The odd thing about this Sportive, as opposed to something like the Cheshire Cat, is the sheer number of mountain bikes doing it and the amount of people not in a hurry. L would call this riding sensibly. So at first it’s a real struggle to find a group of cyclists not riding sensibly and err, going for it.

Eventually when a red light stops the field five or so miles in, yes contrary to popular belief most cyclists do stop at red lights, I manage to rendezvous with some appropriate company. Then when we have to stop again to cross the A46 there is a further regrouping.

Now we’re motoring. Through Hawksworth and we whizz past a row of portaloos. Was that the first feed station? I didn’t see any cake stalls. No matter, too early to stop anyhow. Then suddenly we’re in Hawton, which I know is just outside Newark. Blimey, here already. Then as we blitz through Newark I don’t even see the refreshment stop as we are waved through en mass.

Hmmm, I think I’m getting a bit carried away here. This group I’ve got involved with seem to have no intention of stopping for a cup of tea and a wedge of cake. Perhaps ever. I resign myself to having elevenses on the go, munching on a chocolate bar and an energy gel whilst simultaneously draining my water bottle. Now I’m out of fuel.

The route had been pretty much pancake flat but now past Newark things started to get a little bit hillier. The group starts to splinter and before long I seem to be riding on my own, which isn’t as much fun. As we pass through quiet country lane after quiet country lane we eventually arrive in somewhere I recognise, Walesby. I pull over and check my map to see where the next feed station is, of which I am now in desperate need. About four miles I reckon.

So onwards around Ollerton and then there it is at the oasis of Wellow, which I think was supposed to be stop number three. I’m well knackered; I have been riding far too fast. The feed station has a bountiful supply of drinks and snacks, all for free. I find out later than none of the other stops are free. So it was very clever of me to have the forethought and planning to skip the first two stops and come straight here. I embark on a full lunch of cheese sarnies, four slabs of cake and three cups of teas. In fact I consider staying here for the rest of the day, well at least until the chocolate coated shortbread runs out. Then I realise that L would expect me to catch and overtake her, so I decided I best get on with it.

Now a couple of stone heavier I pedal down a few more nice quiet country lanes through Eakring and down to Southwell but then when we reach Fiskerton we hit the expected roadblock as we rejoin the 50 mile route. So it’s a case of picking ones way through the slower moving traffic as best I can. I arrive at the next stop at Thurgarton and see that L had texted me from there just 19 minutes ago. Whether that was as she arrived or as she left I’m not sure but clearly I’m right behind her. The chase is on. I have a quick cuppa, that’s 70p’s worth and a bottle of juice for a £1. I guess pedalling back up to the utopia of Wellow isn’t an option but if I do this next year I’ll certainly be stuffing my pockets up there.

The 50 milers aren’t all slower rides and I tack on to the back of three guys who are motoring. One is on a fixed gear bike with no brakes! Looks like a track bike. Hardly safe.

Then as we approach Nottingham, the Sportive riders are directed to stay on the A612 to Lady Bay Bridge rather than on the twistier route that would eventually take us through the racecourse and Colwick Park but it also means we miss the last feed station.

On the A612 I find myself on my own again with just the white vans and the juggernauts for company. It’s a nice straight route but a few signs confirming I hadn’t gone wrong would have been useful.

I started out clocking a nice 30kph average and I had hoped to maintain it all the way around but due to traffic problems as I cross the line it’s dropped to an annoying 29.9. My time of four hours sixteen minutes isn’t bad. All in all it wasn’t a bad route, as I said a few more signs would have been nice but other than those first few horrendous miles it was a good route.

I look around for L. Not here. Ha. Beat her.

Another small blip in the organisation was that there were no t-shirts this year. Apparently this was to keep costs to a minimum for participants. This is a bizarre thing to say when they are paid for separately. If they are subsidising them with the entry fees then just charge more for the t-shirt. Simple.

I sit on the grass and try to put on my cool, I’ve been here for ages look, as I wait for L to cross the line. Then we cycle home together. L’s pedals making an awful knocking sound, needs oiling me thinks. Don’t know how she put up with that for four hours. Though she’s now complaining of sore knees, so perhaps it wasn't actually her pedals that were clunking.

I catch a bit of the football before we head down for refreshments at one of our locals, which goes down almost as well as the famous feast of Wellow.

(Sunday 20th June)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Comfy Slippers

L kindly keeps me supplied with audio books to keep me awake on the sometimes long drives to my events. She usually makes good choices but sometimes not so good ones... her latest selection, the dark tale of a sister exacting terrible revenge of her brother for something that happened many years before, sounded good on paper (or on audio) and the author Rose Tremain had impressed me with the ‘Road Home’ but... welcome to one of the most long winded and tedious books ever. Certainly no good for avoiding becoming road kill on the M6.

In this book Tremain has the gift of the waffle. So if you like long, meandering descriptions of the French countryside or for that matter, long, meandering descriptions of the whiteness, softness and smell of the sheets on the characters’ beds, repeated for hours on end by Juliet Stevenson (who reads it), then this is the book for you. Utterly mind numbing I’m afraid, and why is everyone homosexual? And even if they are, why does she have to tell us about it? However, never one to shirk a challenge, I ploughed my way through it, finished the damn thing and then tried to forget about it.



So today on the journey up the M6 to the rather elegant setting of Arley Hall, I started a John Grisham book.



It’s so good to have him back; it’s just like slipping on a pair of comfy slippers. Well it would be if I wore slippers but I couldn’t think of a better analogy.



Perhaps it’s JG’s fault and I’m still in slipper mode when I get lost on Doggo’s first course, which is a shame as we were really going for it. Then he had a pole down as well, so we wouldn’t have done any good anyway. He looks back in disgust at the pole as it falls. So at least that shows he cares or perhaps he was wondering what it was. A fallen pole is such a rare thing for him.

He’s clear on his next course and on his last one, twice over. We run early on that course, third to go, and go clear but the timing gear fails. So after a short break we have to run it again and we’re clear again, with a time this time but only just. As we were both still knackered after our first run, I let a woman with her Alsatian go ahead of me. There was the added incentive that seeing an Alsatian on the course winds Doggo up and makes him faster. The timing stops on her, so that could have been us.

MD meanwhile has three very commendable runs, not clear but he’s listening to me all the time. So good that’s good and I’ll say it again promising...

(Saturday 19th June)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

We Needn’t Have Bothered

I’m at the East Of England Showground today, near Peterborough. Yes, it's another dog show. L joins me for the day out and I even manage to blag her a free ticket. It’s a full country show type thing, so there’s an admission charge for non-competitors.

On the competition front, things start well and Doggo seems up for it on a difficult course until he goes over a jump that he wasn’t supposed to, he should have been doing the A Frame. It may have been more my fault than his, he was going for it and I just didn’t have tight enough control of him. On his next course we get our combined acts together and we get a rosette for 10th.

MD in the typical fashion he has now adopted, follows a good first run with a bad second one and then rounds the day off with another good one. Although none of them are clear rounds, he does seem to be making progress and he’s undoubtedly getting quicker.

In their final runs of the day and for the first time ever the two dogs compete over the same course. This is because it’s an open class, that means open to all grades, you don’t get many of these. Doggo is clear in 27.4, MD has just five faults (a pole down) in 28.7. So not much between them time wise but MD at the moment is a bit wayward and hardly takes the shortest route. So I expect him to be going faster than Doggo fairly soon, though we still need to cut the faults out.

We head home mid-afternoon, all runs complete and as it starts to rain. Well first I give MD a quick run out in the practice ring. He’s a dedicated dog, training in the rain, not that I gave him any say in the matter.

We are back in ample time to head in to town to watch the England match, we needn’t have bothered...

At least we rescue the evening by having a good meal in Scruffy’s, including an awesome cheeseboard.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

No Fit State

Well I’ve done all the training for Friday and Saturday’s dog shows, so today I thought it best to do some training for Sunday’s bike ride and on the right bike as well. Yep, as it’s a nice day, I get my new bike out and ride it to work for the first time.

It takes me around five minutes less than usual, although it wasn’t quite the fastest I’ve ever done it. It’s not that my new bike is that much quicker, it was just a case of having to see how fast I could do the distance.

My posh wheels cause a bit of a stir at work and everybody admires it, which is kind of nice, particularly as no one likes it enough to nick it. They say there's no turning back once you've ridden your best bike to work... we’ll see, I’d hate to get it dirty.

The football fixtures are out today and yet again its Leeds v Derby first game. I’m so glad the first game is away, as I plan to be on holiday that week but I’m a bit gutted to miss going up to Leeds for that one.

Luckily not one of the mad events I have planned in the near future clash with any home games. So I came out of that rather well, for once, and highly unexpected, as everything clashed last year and I missed three of the first five home games.

I’m fast riding home as well. Then, as I arrive with stinging legs, it dawns on me... I have a squash game tonight. It’s 6.15, I can barely stand up and we’re playing at 7.00 rather than at the usual 7.30, which gives me less time to recover.

So basically I’m in no fit state for squash, to coin a phrase 'fit for nothing', consequently I get slaughtered because he happens to choose this week to be on his best form, and I spend most of the match lusting for the post match pint. This, when it arrives, is incredibly well received.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How To Queue?

I’m in the car but it would kind of been nice to be on the bus as everyone is whinging about Derby’s bus station at the moment. I said it was too small when it opened and now the owners are suggesting that people aren’t queuing properly and they’re going to paint lines on the floor to show them where to queue. Bizarre. It is true that you often have to get plough through lines of people to get to your bay but I can’t see how painting a few lines is going to help, as there simply isn’t room to queue anywhere. The place just isn’t big enough.



In the evening L comes to dog training with me and she runs over to her Mother’s in Mickleover. Then after training the boys I head over there to pick her up and bring her home.

Both the boys show good form in training, which means I’m really looking forward to the weekend’s events but OMG it’s hot in the arena tonight and we can’t have the doors open in case any of the baby dogs in the beginners class escape. It’s even so hot that our trainer takes her coat off for the first time this year, and I thought L did cold better than anyone. L's had her coat off since May, well a couple of times anyway. At least this unveiling dispels the long running rumour that our trainer has been hiding a pregnancy under that coat. Though to be honest, if the rumour had been true right back from when it started, the child would be at school by now.

Monday, June 14, 2010

There Hasn’t Been Much Else To Do

To cap my choice of wrong race over the weekend. I get to work to find that Protégé, who ran Long Eaton on Sunday, was over two minutes slower than last year, so I would almost certainly have beaten him particularly as I’m feeling in form at the moment. Unless of course my presence spurred him on to knock a few extra minutes off but he hadn’t train much for it. Then again had he thought I was going to be there he may have trained harder.

I enquired when his next race was, thinking of a head-to-head, but he said Long Eaton 2011. I think he's avoiding me.

The World Cup is on and in full flow. Well, it’s more of a trickle than a flow. This is perhaps why all the talk is of the vuvuzelas, those annoying horns. People have been complaining in their droves to the BBC, as if it’s their fault. Perhaps most things are but surely not this time. You can’t really blame the supporters, I mean there hasn’t been much else to do whilst the games have been on, you wouldn't really have wanted to watch many of them.

All the same the BBC seem willing to take the rap for it and have said they will consider showing coverage that cuts out the noise of the vuvuzelas on its red button service. If they can tamper with their live coverage like that, then can they also cut out the goalkeeping errors and other bad play when England are on. Thanks.



Training tonight for both the boys. Both do well. We have a double header of shows this weekend and I’m quietly optimistic.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Small Shetland Pony

I walk the boys this morning, who were both a bit disappointed we didn’t do the park, even though it was open. I just couldn’t be bothered to be honest. MD wouldn’t have been happy unless I was hurling a ball or a stick around. So we pound the streets and the grass verges instead. Doggo is happy anyway as there’s plenty of sniffing material.

With me being on duty this enables L to go for a training swim. ‘We’ have the Windermere Triathlon coming up. She does 1.5k! Call that a training swim? 1.5k is full race distance and that’s in her first swim for ages.

Now she says she can eat a horse. Not advisable for one in training, unless it’s a small Shetland pony of course.

I have the day off because I’m off down to London today. Last Wednesday a friend emailed me to say he’d got tickets for the launch party for Feeder’s new ‘Renegades’ album.



Woah. Good call. I had considering going for tickets for this myself. You just pre-order the album and then cross your fingers... but I thought if I won, I’d be going on my own but then he gets in touch.... so in short, I snapped his hand off.

The first problem was getting down there. We booked the train but a ‘super off-peak return’ was a cool £54.30 each. I can’t see what’s super about that and it forbids us from coming back before 7.30, unless I remortgage the house to pay the increased ticket price. So it looks like a full day in London then.

We meet up at Derby railway station, which is full of mud and unwashed bodies. Downloaders. As in refugees from the Download Festival who are getting their muddy selves back from whence they came and presumably all waiting for the first off peak trains like us. Consequently all trains to London are packed.

Still we make it to the Camden Barfly in good time for when doors open at 1.30pm, for this is an afternoon show. Rather worryingly as we queue we can hear the band bashing out a couple of their new songs. Have they started without us? Thankfully not, as we grab a free Aisha beer and join the queue for the upstairs room where the gigs are held, we realise they were only sound checking.

Taka, the band’s bass player, is of course Japanese, which perhaps explains the Japanese beer and why they’re screening the Cameroon v Japan World Cup match at 3pm. I assume he has an interest in it but perhaps not that big an interest as the band don’t hit the stage until 2.45, obliterating most of the first half's viewing.

They play an eight song set consisting exclusively of tracks from the new album, songs they’d premièred on their Renegades tours. Including, to close, the new single ‘Call Out’ and still, thankfully, they’re doing it all as a three piece. The crowd are understandably really up for it and the band seems to enjoying themselves too. The new material sounds better and better each time I hear them play it, although even the lighter moments of the new tracks, such as on ‘Down To The River’ are now starting to sound on the heavy side. We were hoping for an encore of oldies to follow the set but instead what we got was the promise of another complete set later on. Cool.



So we head back into the bar area, where the match is being shown. Cameroon v Japan wasn’t really on my must see list but I keep a vague eye on it as we try out the free Sake. Very nice it is and far too easy to have too many of. We also have a few more beers, just to water down the Sake and pass the time, as ever bands like to keep folks waiting. Although all three band members were milling around meeting their fans. Grant seemed to have positioned himself outside the toilets so everyone shook his hand en-route. I just hope everyone washed their hands before shaking his.

Later turns out to be quite a bit later, not when the match is over but a full hour after that. In fact the band doesn’t come back on until around ten past six but I’m sure it’s going to be worth the wait. This set could be interesting.

They open with ‘Godzilla’ off ‘Comfort In Sound’, not a great fave of mine and to be honest it sounded a bit messy tonight but it set the groove for the songs that followed. The ‘Renegades’ set may have been heavy but this set if anything was even heavier. Included were the two missing Renegades numbers that we usually get live, ‘End Of The Road’ and ‘Left Foot Right’ but it was when they went back to album number two for an awesome ‘Insomnia’ that the place really got rocking. ‘Insomnia’ has not sounded this good or this raw for years. Probably not since the band were last a three piece and playing in venues of a similar the size to the Barfly. It cannoned off the roof and the walls, sounding simply fantastic.



Top that? Well, it was perhaps equalled by ‘Lost And Found’, which stripped down and played raw like this, took on a new lease of life and, please takes note, sounds much better without the Foo Fighters in the middle of it.

Before which we got a slightly unnecessary reprise of ‘Renegades’ because someone requested it. They’re just being too accommodating, when there’s so much else that could be played. Yet second time around it is kind of special as the crowd start off singing it before the band have even started to play it.

Then there’s ‘Sweet 16’, still so amazing and aren’t they getting better and better at playing it again now it’s had a few outings after years of neglect. This has got to stay in the set for the October tour. Surely?



Grant has a huge grin on his face and appears to be saying to Karl, ‘What we going to do now? Are we going to finish on Breed?’ Well, that’s what it says on the set list but seven songs have been got through in such a fast time, surely there’s time for more. Karl seems to agree, hits the drums and ‘Come Back Around’ emerges. Yes, another track that sounds just amazing stripped down to its basics.



Then they do close with a cover of Nirvana’s ‘Breed’. Good though it was, it begs the question... ‘Descend’? ‘Shade’? But still it’s not a bad way to finish and it’s been a wonderful second set, not that the first one wasn’t good because it certainly was.

Then rather surreally we head out into daylight! We need food, so we have to get an even later train back. I roll back in home at 11.30 but it’s been one hell of a day. I find everyone in bed. Even the dogs, who are not waiting for me by the front door like proper dogs would be.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Life In The Old Dog Yet

L races again this morning, taking her hangover on the bus to the Long Eaton 5 miler. Where she proves my point that alcohol is the perfect sports drink and clocks a great time. Particularly impressive with yesterday’s 10k still in her legs. For some reason though she can’t face the free post race Marston’s Pedigree.

She gleefully informs me that there are cakes, a decent t-shirt and a goodie bag which contains chocolate rather than just hair and shower products like yesterdays. There was nothing to eat in yesterdays goodie bag at all and a rubbish polo shirt. I knew I picked the wrong race to do and what’s more she having to eat her goodie bag all on her own. This is very irresponsible of me.

I’m at a dog show, of course. This doesn’t start well as Doggo misses the penultimate jump on his first run. MD though does lovely first run, not clear but still really good, quite smooth. So hoping we’re on a roll, I go straight over to do his next one.... Ah, nope, we’re not on a roll. That was rubbish. Just like an England world cup performance. Well perhaps not quite that bad.

Then later, he puts in another excellent run, regrettably one pole down but he’s only five seconds behind the winner which is good. That’s the closest we’ve been to being on the pace. Progress.

Then, not to be outdone, Doggo puts in two excellent runs. Both clear. His last run was particularly good. He looked quick and he was. Three seconds off the pace of the winner, this is really good for us at this level and checking back it’s actually his best for a jumping course at this grade. Unfortunately it only bagged us 8th, one place outside the rosettes. My father offers his congratulations and the observation that there’s life in the old dog yet. I’m just not sure if he means Doggo or me.

So four super runs from the two boys, yet nothing to show for it but still I’m pleased. At least I get home to find that L’s saved me something from her goodie bag.

Then in the football, a team finally puts in an impressive performance. Of course it just has to be the Germans. Cue horrible premonitions of them going all the way again.

(Sunday 13th June)

Friday, June 11, 2010

We Know What We're Doing This Time

This morning we both run the Wollaton Park 10K, organised by the local secondary school. L has entered in advance whereas I check the weather before going down to pay on the day. I nearly didn’t get in. They reached the race limit of 300 around ten minutes after I’d registered.

The course doesn’t endear itself to me. Around 80% of it is across the grass as they seem to avoid the footpaths for some reason, unlike the Run to READ 10k which was the opposite, 80% on path. Running on the Wollaton Park grass isn’t pleasant; it’s very uneven, full of mole hills and pot holes. Real ankle twisting territory and I have ankles that love a good twist.

Perhaps this is why I do a decent twenty minute first lap of the two lap course before going round two minutes slower for the second lap. Still a good overall placing though. Unfortunately both the goodie bag and the t-shirt are rubbish. There’s nothing edible in goodie bag, what use is that? The shirt is a polo shirt with BMW on it, and not a very nice one and that. Not that I got one anyway, as a late entry I got a bag instead. L gave her shirt away. I bet she gets much better goodies when she does the Long Eaton race tomorrow.

I watch all three world cup games today. The first two at home, both are on the dull side but then World Cups are always slow starting. It’s just this one seems to be the slowest starting ever. The first round of games is always lacking in action, things will liven up as the games gradually get more meaningful as teams panic about not making the next round. We hope.

Of course the third game of the day is England’s and we head down to Scruffy’s to see it there, hoping that it will have pulled some punters in for them. All the newspapers, along with L’s cleaner at work, are predicting England to win. So that's that sorted then. I’m not so confident. We shall see. Even if they were good enough, half the team are walking wounded anyway. At least we appear to have a manager who knows what he’s doing this time...

Scruffy’s has pulled them in, it’s packed and we’re early as well. Where are all these people on a normal night? And who’s that sat in our usual spot? on our settee! Oh well. We find a seat although not a good one. Thankfully the chap next to me, frustrated by the view, removes a vase of flowers off the bar. I joke to him that he should move the guy sat on the stool at the bar as well and he has a go.

England score early and even an old sceptic like me expects them to go on and win easily from there, but of course that wouldn’t be playing to the script. The rest of their first half is woeful, as demonstrated by a spaced out James Milner who is withdrawn after half an hour and also sees the end of another centre half as Ledley King is substituted through injury. Did I say we have a manager who knows what he’s doing this time?

The misery is of course capped off nicely by Robert Green’s howler as he fails to gather the much criticised Adidas beach ball that they’re using for these games. So a 1-1 draw then. Still the wine is good, as is the beer and the pizza on the way home, as we both prepare seriously for our respective events tomorrow.

The result and the performance are of course very disappointing but I’m sure the whole country and in particularly the media will pull together, get behind the team and put a positive spin on tonight’s failings. Some hope.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Live At The Kebab Shop

Daughter is out late celebrating the end of the AS exams, which keeps me up. This in turn keeps L up. So then we both oversleep. Yet still somehow I manage, after the problems with the traffic on Tuesday, to get out of the house ten minutes earlier. Consequently I arrive at work a massive half an hour early, as there are no traffic problems. Typical.

I go shopping at lunch time in JJB looking for dogging shoes, where they are playing a mix tape of (presumably) England football songs. It is truly shocking in its content, far worse than the worst of Christmas tapes. If anything ensures we fail miserably again, this will be it.

In the evening we finally make it up to a venue that I’ve wanted to check out for some time. The Plug in Sheffield. I like it. Some places just have the right ambiance and this place has it in spades. Then there’s the good viewing with a high stage, this always helps. There is no tickets to commemorate the event though, L’s not happy about that, instead she’s printed off the confirmation emails but they'll make rubbish bookmarks. She uses all her gig tickets as bookmarks, this is why she has to keep buying more books, one for each ticket.

First tonight, a local Sheffield band called Starlings. Which if we’re being honest is a really naff name, and a very girlie one at that and there’s no girls in this band. As with a lot of new bands around at the moment there’s something a bit 80s about them with their bass and synth pop sound. That said they’re rather good and seem determined to make the most of their stage time. They rattle through their songs in a hurry and it makes for quite a breakneck half hour.



Front man Justin Robson is a strong vocalist, albeit one with terrible knicker line, that is one above his low slung trousers. I’m not at all keen on how he keeps waggling his underwear at us. Thankfully it’s not quite enough to put you off the music.

L’s a big fan of Kele Okereke, so I valiantly save her from seeing him at Gatecrasher in Nottingham with the voddi swilling teenagers and take her to the more refined surrounding of the Plug instead. Of course I like Kele too, well I like Bloc Party but haven’t been too impressed with their direction of late, they have been heading deeper and deeper into dance music. L adores all the electro stuff, I don't, but I thought the main man Kele with just a guitar would be a good way for him to get back on track... unfortunately (for me) that is not the track he intends to be on.

Tonight, there’s barely a guitar in sight and for me the best music = guitars. Instead Kele surrounds himself with electronics, a wealth of percussion and a new three piece band, so this is actually Kele far from being solo. They all take the stage to the sounds of Gary Numan’s ‘Airlane’ and beneath a big neon sign with Kele's name on it. A sign that makes him look a bit like the proprietor of a kebab shop as he delivers the first number ‘Walk Tall’, also the opener to his forthcoming debut album, ‘The Boxer’.



... and yep it’s all very dancey, as too is the next track ‘On The Lam’ but pleasant, in a dancey sort of way. The third track ‘Meet Me In The Middle’ is a bit different, with a slower introduction and those famous yearning vocals of his. His vocals are also supplemented by the lovely Lucy, his new keyboard player and added eye candy, whom Kele seems to be rather fond of despite the fact he’s not supposed to be of that persuasion.



So far Kele hasn’t even touched an instrument but he pitches in with the maracas for ‘The Other Side’. He doesn’t seem to miss his guitar, preferring to be a free spirit, jumping around to his own music and interfacing with the crowd. Perhaps this is his way of letting his hair down or it would have been if he’d not had it all cut off.

Then there’s a treat for the ‘home of knives and forks’, as Kele announces a medley of tracks from a band I ‘used’ to be in. Oooh, Freudian slip... That’s not good news for a band who are supposed to be on a year’s sabbatical. He dishes out ‘Blue Light’, ‘The Prayer’ and ‘One More Chance’ segued together, it turns a so far simply appreciative crowd in to lively one and warms them up for his debut single ‘Tenderoni’ which follows. Its pounding synth beat goes down equally well and almost everyone knows the words. Well suppose they’re not hard to grasp, if you can spell. T-E-N-D-E-R-O-N-I. See! Even I know it.

Then Kele dabbles in a little bit of guitar and I mean a little bit, for the intro of the closing ‘Rise’. It’s only to lay down the backing track, that he records ala Voluntary Butler Scheme. ‘Rise’ is a good closer and my favourite of the night.



He’s clearly enjoying himself and is already over running his allocated slot by the time he returns for an encore. Which he opens with the Bloc Party rarity ‘Your Visits Are Getting Shorter’. He’s overrunning so much that he has to cull a song from the encore. On asking the crowd what they’d like to hear, they opt for the Bloc Party song ‘Flux’ rather than a new song, which is predictable but disappointing.

He’s good but after a promising start it turned into too much of a Bloc Party covers night and that was a shame. There was simply not enough of his own stuff if he’s supposed to be promoting his forthcoming album. If I was you mate, I’d cut out the medley in the main set and play a couple of new songs instead. Then the show would just about have been as perfect as you can get (without a guitar) and still not good news for the rest of Bloc Party.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tips For Future Reference

Another miserable morning, drizzling again, but still I venture out on the bike. Things are better by the time I head home, which is a good job as I need to get a shift on as we’re at the theatre tonight.

L and I go see ‘Run For Your Wife’, which is play by Ray Cooney written back in 1983. It’s being performed at the rather quaint Nottingham Arts Theatre. We nip in the small adhoc bar they have there and take a drink in with us.

‘Run For Your Wife’ is a comedy farce with quite ‘adult’ undertones. It is the story of a taxi driver called John Smith, who greedily has two wives, each unknown to the other, and consequently has two houses in different parts of London. This means he leads an interesting double life juggling the two of them. To do this he keeps a detailed schedule in his diary, making sure he arranges his days and nights to spend equal time with them both, whilst not arousing the suspicions of either. It is all performed on a clever set which represents both of the houses, the one in Wimbledon and the other in Streatham, at the same time.

At first I feel a bit frustrated as we don’t see any of the initial wife juggling, so you don’t get a feel for how impressive it must have been. Plus I might have been able to pick up a few tips for future reference... I sense that L already reckons it's all based on me, as she assumes my dogging activities (as in dog shows and training) are a front for something else, perhaps dogging of a different order... ahhh, if only I had time... of course, I wouldn't be interested anyway.

Instead the play starts with John being late for both of his women due to a stay in casualty after a blow to the head. This is when it all starts to unravel for him. Whilst in hospital, he gives one address to the police whilst the other appears on hospital records. This discrepancy causes both the police forces of Streatham and Wimbledon to investigate. Then when a press reporter turns up to photograph him and splashes it across the front page of the local paper his cover(s) is effectively blown. Although resolution is not as simple as that, this is a farce remember.

Smith becomes utterly entangled in his attempts to explain himself to his wives and the police officers. Meanwhile the assistance given by his upstairs neighbour, Stanley, is far from helpful.

I don’t know about the lead character having a schedule but the cast must be applauded for keeping to theirs and keeping track of all the confusions they had to confuse us with, without confusing themselves. If you see what I mean. That was impressive. The acting wasn’t bad either. As ever with amateur productions, you get at least one actor who's a bit wooden, one's who's over acting and a few who are quite good, ones who could go on to better things.

So a good night really. Now to take L to the pub and convince her it's not about me.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Van Trouble

On the bike, despite the weather being totally miserable and I have a problem with a couple of vans. Firstly white van man tries to park his vehicle at the curb, the one I’m trying to cycle along. I see him coming towards me, head on, coming at me from the other side of the road. I get ready to attempt a particularly difficult bunny hop up the particularly high kerb when suddenly he sees me and offers me about 200mm of gap, which is just enough to allow me to escape from being flattened.

If white van doesn’t get you, red van man might. He tried to undertake me at the roundabout, which is fine because there’s a whole lane available for doing this. That is if only he would get in it rather than straddling the white line. How much space does he need? I move over to give him the whole road and hold up the local bus but at least red van man is happy.

I don't think I've ever seen the back wall of the Rescue Rooms stage before. It’s not a big stage and it’s usually piled high with equipment. For all I know there might not have even been a wall there at all. Tonight though I can confirm that yes, there is a wall. I can see almost every square inch of it and that’s before the kit of the support act has been removed. Something rather obvious is missing. Ah yes. A drum kit. For either act. So no drummer induced deafness tonight then. The bereftness of the stage points to tonight’s show being a minimalist type of offering.

It’s 8.30 and Acoustika wanders on to the stage. One man, an acoustic guitar and a box of electronic tricks. Just like you get outside the train station, next to the Big Issue seller. Only better.

He must be a mate of Julian's, I can see the resemblance. Except unlike J he's a man of few words. Well one actually. 'Cheers' is all he says for five songs in a row but then what's this, a couple of 'thank you very much's. Then a full blown speech, as he confesses he must be mad for attempting it as he closes his set with ‘Fear Loves This Place’, that’s a Julian Cope song by the way. It’s Acoustika’s best moment, a very good rendition of a Cope classic. Step aside JC but then again, can we live without the banter?



So to the man himself, Julian H Cope, all the way from Wessex to entertain a curiously busy Rescue Rooms. I haven’t actually seen the great man live since 1998, which is a bit remiss of me. So what has changed? Not much really. Except perhaps his eyesight. He has the largest set list I’ve ever seen and I don't mean as regards the number of songs on it. It's the size of the paper, it must be a metre deep at least and it’s printed in very large type. Well I suppose he is 52 now.

He opens with a couple of newer songs ‘Come The Revolution’ from his latest Black Sheep project, and a delightful little gem, entitled ‘I'm Living In The Room They Found Saddam In’. Which sounds very witty on first listen, unfortunately I haven’t a clue how you get hold of it. I can’t find any CD on his website that it’s contained on.

After arguing with record labels almost his entire career, Cope opted out of the mainstream approach of releasing proper records around 1996, instead promoting his music via his Head Heritage website. Oh and he’s not just a musician these days. He’s also an antiquary, an occasional poet and also an author. His latest book he tells us is entitled ‘Lives Of The Prophets: A New Perspective’, that’s from the view of an atheist. His banter and his forthright opinions are very much an integral part of his live shows. If you don’t get how the man thinks then you won’t get the music either, plus there’s the added bonus that Julian is funnier than your average comedian.



He’s also a well researched chap and he goes back to 1984’s ‘Fried’ album to tell us the story of ‘The Bloody Assizes’. The Winchester trials of 1685 where over a thousand rebels were sentenced to death, many were hung, drawn and quartered, for attempting to overthrow King James II.

Then he rambles on about people he admires. Britney, Mr R Williams.... he’s joking we assume. His real hero is Leila, a Palestinian terrorist but only because he thought she was beautiful. How very superficial of him. Cue the Teardrop Explodes' love song to a highjacker, ‘Like Leila Khaled Said’.

Amidst the rambling we get the quiet protest song ‘I'm Your Daddy’ and several cuts from 1991's ‘Peggy Suicide’, regarded by many as his best work but surprisingly there’s nothing from its follow up, the venomously anti-Christian, ‘Jehovahkill’. A record that caused a major record label, Island, to get shut of him.



He’s skipping songs on the set list now as he’s already behind schedule, now there's a surprise. He says he only has the set list as he doesn’t want to overrun the curfew. Well, it’s not working. ‘Land of Fear’ works though, not heard that one live before. Brilliant.

He moves to keyboards for a couple more old oldies, ‘Head Hang Low’ and ‘You Disappear From View’ before back to the guitar for another stand out moment, ‘Autogeddon Blues’.

There are impressive rain effects for ‘Search Party’ unless that is, it’s real, and it’s started bucketing it down again outside.

He’s back on the keyboard for ‘O King Of Chaos’, a song about a séance that went wrong and for ‘Screaming Secrets’ off ‘St. Julian’ which apparently was a song rejected by the Teardrop Explodes. I didn’t know that.

‘Las Vegas Basement’ is blindingly good but he’s now getting further and further behind schedule. The 11pm curfew is fast approaching. So play then someone cries out, stop bloody talking! That’s simply not his style.

‘The Greatness & Perfection Of Love’ is the closest we get to a hit, obviously no ‘World Shut Your Mouth’, ‘Trampoline’, ‘Charlotte Anne’ or anything like that.

He pre-warns us that there will be an encore but to make sure that we demand one anyway, just to make an old man, who doesn't get out much, happy, before he plays a rousing ‘Pristeen’. There’s a shambolic sing-along from the crowd to ‘Sunspots’, the fifth track to be taken from 'Fried' tonight, the album that caused him to get dropped by another label, Polygram this time, but thankfully JC rescues the song before departing.

Then, what a surprise, an encore.

Even less of a surprise is that it’s ‘Sleeping Gas’, which sees him joined by his entourage, beating drums, waving flags and oddly holding paintings. Acoustika, who also seems to be his roadie, is among them.



It’s a good gig but the sad fact is that Cope and just a guitar will never make a great one. He’d need a band for that and he doesn’t show any signs of wanting to take a band out on the road to perform his songs. As ever it’s the banter that makes it all worth the while. This is Julian H Cope, musician, antiquary, occasional poet, author and all round entertainer.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Puppies

I’m in the car, so naturally the traffic is terrible and I’m fifteen minutes late for work.

I forward on to L some photos of my friend’s new puppy. I get the expected reaction. ‘OMG he's gorgeous’. She’ll go all broody on me now. Problem is, he’s got a little brother, a tri-colour who’s in need of a good home... but NO. Just think of the teeth and the furniture. Oh hang on a sec, we haven't got any furniture anymore. MD’s eaten it all.

L’s already got a name from him... Toby. Which would be awful, you can’t call a dog Toby, everyone will call him ‘my little Toby jug’. Yuk.

Having a new puppy would of course mean our current one will be out-puppied and he might have to face up to the fact that at some stage he’ll need to become more of an alpha dog. Maybe.

Training tonight, MD this time, although I'm not so sure we’ll be quite as lucky with the rain as we were last night but surprisingly we are. It throws it down all day until mid afternoon, and then stops.

Daughter texts me whilst I'm there, asking me to check out the new gadget she wants, the HTC Desire, which thankfully turns out to be a mobile phone.



It must be a day for puppies, there’s another gorgeous one at training, a Pyrenean terrier. I take a photo, so that I can show it to the two broody girls back home with again predictable results.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Dream Team

I rest my legs on bus this morning. I was going to cycle but feel this is a more sensible option, as my knees ache. I’m hobbling a bit but I’ve had worse. I think the new shoes must have helped.

L topped yesterday off nicely by entering us, yes, both of us, in the Windermere Triathlon. Yes I was sober at the time, so L can’t be accused of taking advantage of me, well at least not over this.



It’s not as bad as it sounds; we’re doing it as a relay team. So this means I don’t have to swim in the lake or even do the 10k run, all I have to do is pedal around the outside of the lake. Sorted. L and I, the Dream Team...

Well when I say it’s not as bad as it sounds, this will be the first time we’re teamed up together since the ill-fated Peacock Challenge Orienteering events. Which I won’t go into but we did fall out a touch.

It’ll be novel. Handing over the baton to each other, well... the timing chip, and we’ll be the only ones also handing over a couple of yappy dogs in transition.

My work colleague has proposed to his girlfriend and she’s accepted. He must be mad, the arm and the leg he lost in his last marriage still hasn’t grown back yet. Good luck mate.

I manage to blag some extra training time tonight, mainly for Doggo’s sake, whose contacts have frankly become awful. Somehow we even manage to dodge the rain showers.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

What Goes Up Must Come Down

It’s a good job that the new race start time for today’s half marathon allows for a mega lie in because it’s still tipping it down with the forecasted precipitation. It might make the race cooler but I’d actually like it to stop now.

When we emerge from under the covers, the big dilemma then is what to eat for breakfast or lunch or brunch or whatever the most appropriate time to eat for a 2.15pm race would be.

Then fuelled on eggs, bacon and mushrooms, who knows whether that will be a good idea or not, we set off in search of the Buxton Opera House, from where the event starts.

The weather is now fine and it’s sunny but not too hot. Good job really. The first mile is slightly uphill but nothing outlandish. The real climbing starts after the first mile when the climb up to Axe Edge starts and goes on for another two miles. 'This is really pretty' I think to myself, as everyone around me groans as they look up and see the road snaking out above us. Wa-hey I think, we’re going up there. That's what you do if you're a hill psycho like me. OMG, the rest all seem to think, we’re going up there. There’s none so weird as folk.

I love the climb, all three miles of it, and the cracking views from what is the highest point of the race. Then, of course, what goes up must come down. So wa-hey, downhill. Actually it’s more of an OMG for me this time, the descents are rather harsh and don’t really give your legs a break at all.

We arrive at the first drinks station and they supply us with water in bottles. So it’s half over the head, some down the throat and the rest in the hedge. I walk briefly to get a decent drink but soon realise that with bottles, rather than cups, this isn’t strictly necessary.

The weather is quite hot now and, despite the organisers promising plenty of drinks stops, the gap between the first and second drink stations is way too long. The second one was after half way, way too late for a hot day. Plus, why did they put all the drinks stops at the start of a climb, when there were flat sections close by. That makes it hard to drink. Grumble over.

The course then undulates, passing High Edge Raceway, where some 4x4 are still heading to the event there and cause a few problems by getting in among the runners. Then it’s down down deeper n down, so down we’re going to go below the water line soon. More worrying is when are they’re going to require us to climb back out of this hole they’ve sent us down. What goes down must come up...

Sure enough, eventually we have to. The second big climb of the day appears at first harder than the first, mainly due to me being more tired I suppose, but it does appear to be slightly steeper although shorter. Lots of people start to walk but I will not even consider that and once I get my climbing legs back on, it’s fine. I smile politely as I pass all the folk crawling up it.

At least the third drinks station isn’t too far and there’s later a fourth but only one marshal was manning it and we were on the wrong side of the road for it anyway, so I missed it.

There was one last climb which started just after the 11 mile mark and the marshal told me it a mile long. It wasn’t, it was about 300 metres. It was presumably his idea of a joke but it disappointed me. I’d been losing places on the many steep downhill sections, I don’t like going downhill fast as it hurts my calves and knees, but then I’d catch them all again on the uphills. I needed another hill to settle a few scores.

Then we do an extra loop bit through a housing estate to make up the distance before they route us through Buxton Pavilion Gardens and back round to the Opera House for the finish where there was a good crowd to cheer us in.

My time is almost the same as at the far less hilly Sleaford, so very pleased with that. I would have been happy with 5 minutes slower. It was tough but not as hilly as I was expecting, well from the impression they gave in the pre-race info anyway. I must do a flat one sometime, just to see what time I could do. Even though it would probably bore me a touch.

The race was one of the best things I've done, though I've said that a few times but perhaps I mean it this time. The marshalling was excellent and I got a top free massage at the end. The only downside, apart from the lack of drinks stops, was the red t-shirt. Ugh. Oh well, can’t have everything.

In the evening, we stay in, put the feet up, open the wine and have a curry.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Swim Home

I was going to say that I had a bad day at the dog show because the morning was terrible. Four eliminations, three for MD and one for Doggo and nowt else. Though MD’s first run was actually brill until he had a pole down and then flew the seesaw, that is, without letting it hit the ground, although I think the judge didn’t mark it. All the same I put him back over it which got us E’d but he has to learn...

Things can only get better as they say and they do.

In the afternoon MD gets a clear round, although not sure how, it was a very scrappy run but clear is clear I guess. Then Doggo lands an 8th place, again not sure how, wasn’t the best of runs but it was a tough course.

It should be juice all round to celebrate tonight as we both L and I have the half marathon tomorrow. Although I’ve done rather well recently racing after several pints and now the race doesn’t start until mid-afternoon, well... it just makes you wonder how many pints I could get away with tonight. Typically Broadway has two excellent beers on, one of them a 5% which never usually happens, at least not when you haven’t got a race. So can’t resist really.

‘The Killer Inside Me’ is an arty film noir set in 1950's Texas. Casey Affleck seems to reprise parts of his role as the coward Robert Ford from ‘The Assassination of Jesse James...’ even down to having the same surname. His character, Deputy Lou Ford, seems a polite well mannered sort of chap but oh, how appearances can be deceptive. When the son of one of the town's top business men is discovered in the arms of a prostitute (Jessica Alba), Ford is given the simple task of running her out of town.



When she won’t go easily and has the audacity to strike out at him, this arouses more than anger in him and his reaction, to return the blows with interest, certainly does plenty for her too. After they exchange increasingly forceful blows, they fall into bed. Then despite Ford having the delectable Amy (Kate Hudson) as his girlfriend, they embark on an affair, a sadomasochistic affair at that. One where the Alba rear end gets a regular tanning and some more, as they switch from sex to violence and back at a moment’s notice, redefining ‘liking it rough’, as she unearths his inner psychopath.



Unfortunately some manner of the plot and particularly the occasionally mumbled dialogue makes it hard to follow at times. We gets flashbacks about what happened to him as a child but was he abused, or was he the abuser?



The pair of them team up to blackmail the business man, threatening to expose his son. Ford however double crosses her, which brings us to the real talking point of the film, when the violence turns nasty. The scene where Alba gets beaten to pulp is probably not going to be everyone's cup of tea. Shocking? Yes. Gratuitous? Maybe. Necessary? Probably. I don’t think a Disney version would have worked.

Then there’s the way he does it, with his fists, while telling her how much he loves her. I love you, thump, I love you, thump thump. Nice. Not.

Then he shoots the business man's son and presses the gun into her hand, hoping to make the deaths appear to be a lovers' tiff or perhaps a prostitution transaction gone wrong. Yet quite how she got to land a prefect shot on him with a broken neck and only one eye... I’m not sure.

The murder pricks the attention of the District Attorney, who seems to have spotted the same glaring holes in the staged double murder. Yet he doesn’t seem to do anything about it. Meanwhile inside Ford’s twisted mind he doesn't seem to believe he`s a bad guy at all. He tries to build an alibi and to frame other people for the murders. However, when his plans don’t go quite as well as he hoped, he’s forced to commit more crimes to cover his trail, including using his boxing skills again, this time fatally on his girlfriend.



Director Michael Winterbottom tries to paint a picture of a seriously disturbed human being. Maybe, he doesn't go far enough because I don’t think he quite succeeds. It’s a fascinating but slightly meandering film that’s not helped by Affleck’s deliberately vague portrayal of Ford and the ending’s a bit weird too.

Still, I thoroughly enjoyed it but needed a stiff drink to get over it. Damn, the 5%er has run out. I knew that would happen. Yet somebody in the heavens doesn’t want us to leave the bar yet. Tomorrow’s precipitation has arrived early. In fact the rain showers are phenomenal, so we stay for a few more before embarking on the swim home.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Peace Shattered

I’m resting my legs on bus today and hoping I can walk off the twisted ankle. It’s seems ok for walking but for running, who knows. Suppose it’s only 13 miles on Sunday...

The race now starts at 2.15 in the afternoon, apparently to make sure that no one gets run over by the traffic heading to an event at Buxton Raceway that is being held on the same day. This actually gives us time to do one of the many 10k’s that are on that morning as a warm up... perhaps not.

The problem with 2.15 is of course that it could be very hot at that time of day. Thankfully the weather forecast is saying cloudy, mild, a 90% chance of precipitation and a temperature of 16°C which would be almost perfect.

In the evening I walk up to L who’s at the gym and then we head down to the Wollaton Pub to sit in the sun, drink and eat. The peace is momentarily shattered when Daughter, having forgotten her door key, turns up to borrow one of ours.

I’m probably not supposed to mention the further shattering of peace, on a far more impressive (for want of a better word) scale (by the way, belated apologies to our neighbours), several hours later by the same person, after, shall we say, a few too many. Best not mention it.