Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Last Supper

MD seems to bark at most dogs he meets on his morning walks but not the dogs he trains with at his agility, unless of course they make a careless error on a course, in which case he often volunteers help and advice to them. So L tries introducing him to a couple of the dogs he usually sees, so that they can be friends. Unfortunately he wasn't having any of it. Oh well. Perhaps it’s too late for them to be friends once MD has made his mind up about another dog.

I was a bit late leaving on the bike this morning. L suggest I pedal quicker, and then adds her usual ‘be careful’. I can hardly do both, can I. So I pedal quicker and put ‘careful’ on the back burner. It was also very windy but I think it was blowing my way as it didn’t seem to slow me down much.

L is torn about going into work today, as she feels she ought to be at home on her little boy's last day. Her little boy? She means our great hulking nineteen year old; who is probably saying his goodbyes to a few hostelries as we speak. That is when he gets back from his GP, where he’s having the required meningitis jab. Which I hope doesn’t put him off his curry tonight.

The other day I blogged about the weirdness of age adjusted performance. L reminds me of the time she won an orienteering competition but because the second place girl was fourteen, the girl was given the win on a handicapping system. That is even though most fourteen year olds who take up a sport like orienteering are going to be pretty physically fit and quicker than someone of our years. She reckons the girl had a ponytail and they give extra points for that... Hmmm. Well I would but I’m not sure it’s standard practice. I can see I’ve reopened a raw wound here.

I too, remember it all so well. It was known as the Galloppen, was run on a league basis and had a totally unfathomable handicapping system. It wasn’t just L. I was out galloppened every year by a chap who was twice my age and also happened to be on one of the organising committees (not that I’m saying this had anything to do with the formula used for the handicapping...). This chap never came anywhere close to beating me on a course ever, in fact I’m sure a couple of times he finished the following day... However he was still champion several years running.

I think we’ve both been psychologically scarred by the experience which is perhaps one of the reasons why we don’t orienteer any more.

The weather turns foul. By 5pm it’s blowing a gale and throwing it down. At least I’ve got full waterproofs unlike L who ran into work and hasn’t even got a coat. At least she’s not cycling or anything crazy like that.

I get home and Doggo takes one look at my bedraggled state before heading straight for the sanctuary of the bedroom, that’s before I even open the back door to show him the rain. Thankfully it doesn’t look as if there’s much will there to go for a walk on the park. Instead, MD and I play football in the garden whilst Doggo continues to hide indoors.

Then we head into town for the last supper. I can confirm that the condemned man ate a hearty meal of Lamb Madras, rice and naan bread. Tomorrow it’s Uni.

(Friday 1st October)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sheer Genius

I’ve think I ate too much pizza last night. I can barely move this morning. Yet I still attempt to force the pedals round on my bike.

Perhaps L was right last night; it has gone a bit cold. The thermometer says a measly five degrees this morning, surely not. Personally I didn’t think it was quite cold enough for central heating but the radiators obviously had other ideas and turned themselves on. I shall have words.

All the same I decide to go for the long trousers option on the bike, as I attempt to find work through the fog. It’s well gloomy, maybe it’s about time I dusted off the bike lights.

I’ve found the perfect training plan, for women anyway. As trialled by the England Women’s Hockey team. Making them train in a sweat box in just a sports bra and shorts combo is sheer genius. I suggest to L that I think it should be the next part of my training plan for her...

Things going rather well in the world road race championships for Team GB. Time trial gold for Emma Pooley and silver for David Millar.



I should have been reviewing the Emerge NME Radar Tour but unbeknown to me it was a 10pm curfew. Should have guessed really. The doors opened at 7pm and Flats were apparently on soon after, so we missed them completely. Sorry guys. The people who schedule these things obviously don’t have dogs to walk.

Wilder aren’t even here, choosing to only play three of the dates on the tour. Presumably they won’t play Nottingham because they don’t want to detract from their own headline show at the Bodega in three weeks time.

Chapel Club were on at 7.45, so when we arrived just after 8pm it was to the sound of ‘O Maybe I’ being belted out from the stage. We assume it was from the stage, we can’t see it because it's so busy. Full. Blimey, wasn't expecting this. We can barely get in the door. So we head back outside to go up to the balcony. Closed. No balcony. Odd. Ok. So we're going to have to fight for a decent spot. I grab L by the arm and pull her through the crowd. She’s not as rude as me at pushing through. When we get closer we suddenly burst out into a clearing. No one is anywhere near the stage. Why is that people are often too ‘shy’ to stand close to the support band? Anyhow not our problem. Voilà, front row. Again. We always are for The Joy Formidable.

We only get to hear four tracks from Chapel Club, but they are good, very good. Not remotely chatty though. I’m just getting really really into it when ‘All The Eastern Girls’ and ‘Paper Thin’ close the set. We were handed a CD of ‘All The Eastern Girls’ when we walked in which was odd as I thought that was their new single but it turns out it’s just a blank disk to burn the track on to. Odd concept.



There’s not much setting up to do because while Chapel Club have had their drum kit in the ‘traditional’ position at the back of the stage, the Joy Formidable’s Matt Thomas always has his sideways on. I thought this must be due to space constraints at some of the small venues they've played but no, apparently not. Lifestyle choice. I suppose it makes him more visible.



He takes the stage alone, amongst the golf balls in bird cages and what appears to be British Sea Power’s air raid siren at the back of the stage. He starts to play, then Ritzy and Rhydian come on to join him. ‘Cradle’. Magnificent as ever. The golf balls turn out to be fairy lights. Well weird.

Next up, the only truly unfamiliar track of the night ‘Magnifying Glass’, which ends with Ritzy spilling her wine for what she says is the third night in a row. Someone brings her the whole bottle, which she then ignores for the rest of the night. Ungrateful or what.



The new single ‘I Don't Want To See You Like This’ follows but there is a lack of new material considering they have an album coming out in January. In fact there’s less unfamiliar stuff than when we saw them last in Derby and that was back in June last year. What’s worrying me is that they are now referring to last year’s ‘A Balloon Called Moaning’ album not as an ‘album’ but as a ‘mini album’, saying that in January they will release their ‘debut’ album. Which all sounds like record company talk to me and probably, but hopefully not, just an excuse to recycle a lot of the three year old tracks off the previous record. That’s not a good route to take, just look at bands like ‘Glasvegas’. They have been stuck in a creative rut playing the same songs over and over for five years now whilst their audience has got bored and moved on.

Then the band fall back on those three year old ‘classics’ to which they’ve added some intros and some outros, generally extending them. It’s time to crack open the Kopparberg. ‘Greatest Light’. Awesome of course. ‘Austere’. Superb. The sound often isn’t the best in Rescue Rooms but they certainly make it work for them tonight.



It’s quite a show; they’ve clearly worked on their performance and polished up their stage show. Though Ritzy almost gets a symbol in the face when she fronts up to Matt on the drums.

My favourite JF track and the best moment tonight is last year’s ‘Greyhounds In The Slips’ single, simply ferocious tonight, but there is no place in the set for its follow up ‘Popinjay’.

Then Ritz picks up an acoustic and we get a surprise in the middle of the set. Well more of a shock really. I can’t complain, I love an obscure moment and this was one. They play a slowed down version of 'My Beerdrunk Soul', which was their ‘Christmas song’ of a few years ago. It’s perhaps a bit early for all that but then I’m sure a lot of the population have already completed their Christmas shopping. I hope Ritzy Bryan isn’t one of them.

Then it’s back to that non-album of last year and Matt’s orgasmic drumming intro to ‘The Last Drop’. Ritz, very well spoken tonight, thanks us all for coming and they close with an eventful ‘Whirring’. During which I thought she was going to do a 'Leeds' on us with her guitar. At the festival she totally smashed up her guitar but tonight the air raid siren gets it instead. I just hope BSP don’t want it back undamaged. Matt has a bit of a fit with his sticks and Rydian breaks a string on his bass. He starts kicking it on the floor and into Ritzy, accidentally I assume. It’s all a bit unnecessary really. Good gig though.



There’s no encore, presumably because of the damn 10pm curfew. It’s a shame because the crowd seemed up for more but it didn’t happen. We were out the venue just before 10pm. How often does that happen?

Time for a couple in the Ropewalk. Good job we’re in the car. L has a ton of Son's stuff for Uni stashed at her work that she needs to bring home. Blimey how many pot noodles has he bought?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Service And MOT

I pick today to come in the car and what do they do, close the A52, naturally. Typical.

After work I take Doggo to be serviced and MOTed, that’s him done for another year. He’s lost 1.5 kg, I’ve been slimming him a bit, and successfully it would appear. The vet says he’s about the perfect weight now, so I expect a few more rosettes. Someone in the waiting room asks if Doggo has any Alsatian in him. I hope he didn’t hear that, perish the thought, he hates Alsatians. The only way they’d be any Alsatian in him is if he’s eaten one.

Later I’m out with a mate of mine and we do our usual pizza thing at Pizza Hut. Well we try to but they’ve removed the ‘any 5 toppings’ option off the menu. Although they now allow you to swap any or even all of the topping on any pizza which amount to almost the same thing. Though they now no longer give you a list of available toppings, so you have to guess. We work out that if we want five toppings we could remove all the topping off a Meat Feast, which only has four toppings, and then pay extra for the fifth or remove all seven off the Supreme, replace only five of them and not bother with the others and still pay the original price. Bizarre. Whoever wrote their latest menu has clearly never eaten at Pizza Hut.

Exhausted by all this menu tampering we move on to Langtry’s where a chap jumps up from his chair near the window telling us there’s more room for the two of us where he was, as he takes a smaller table for himself. That was very nice of him. We do like a seat with a view, particularly in Freshers’ Week, we tell him. ‘Oi’, he reprimands us, flashing his Uni badge and a knowing smile, ‘they’re my students’. University lecturers in the bar on a school night, I don’t know. He obviously needs a stiff drink to recover from all those short skirts and skimpy tops. Good job it’s not cold.

Well I don’t think it’s cold but L texts to say she’s in bed with the boys and a hot water bottle. A hot water bottle! It’s summer! She tells me it most definitely isn’t. She says its boots and woolly tights weather. No complaints there, I like that sort of weather. If that’s what’s she’s wearing now I’m on my way home. Oh she’s not. I best finish my pint then before I rush off home.

(Wednesday 29th September)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Student Life

One way to get MD geared up for a fast walk is to put his breakfast in his bowl before he goes out on his morning walk. To make him ever faster slip a few of last night’s potatoes on the top. Yep that works, now he’s barking at L to get going, so that he can be back asap. I have tried to do all this surreptitiously but even if he’s out in the garden with the door closed, he still hears the rattle of food into his bowl no matter how quiet I try to be. Then he tries to batter the door down.

I wonder if I could get away with putting his food bowl at the end of the agility course. That would make him fast, though I imagine all the poles would be down.

I drive to my parents' house, leave the car there and then run the 5.5 miles to work. Its hard work and those bloody road works at Raynesway extended my route again. Whether you’re in the car, on foot or on a bike, I'm afraid there’s no chance of anything improving around there any time soon. Nothing is happening because there are no workmen or equipment there any more because the contractor behind the road development has gone into administration. Great.

At least John Grisham kept me entertained. Julia (Roberts) is really getting going on the case now.

L tries to give Son a dress rehearsal as regards managing to survive on his student loan on a weekly basis. She gives him a week's money and off he goes to Poundland... Do they sell food? Don’t they just sell bags of out of date boiled sweets, made by Taiwanese women on £1 a month?

Later he drops off his week's worth of shopping. 6 pot noodles. Oh and a plates and dishes set that he got for a fiver. Which is actually very resourceful of him. I’m impressed. He says he’ll sort the rest of his supplies later and then heads off to meet some friends in the pub. Student life? Seems he's got the hang of it.

The run back the other way to my parents' is much better. I always struggle with morning runs. Unfortunately 99% of races are in the morning.

At the match tonight Derby are even more impressive than they were on Saturday. It's been quite a transformation. They win 3-1 against Middlesbrough, who were a much better team than Crystal Palace on Saturday but we even give them the lead, miss a penalty and still win with room to spare.

(Tuesday 28th September)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

End Of A Beautiful Relationship

It's a grotty morning, ideal cycling weather... I’m the car and already getting well into my new John Grisham 'The Pelican Brief'.



One thing though is spoiling it so much. The lead character is a young female university law student called Darby Shaw but what I can’t get out of my head is that in the film she is played by Julia Roberts, Ugh!



Meanwhile L’s beautiful relationship (her words) with The Count Of Monte Cristo is over. She finished it. The book that is. Next up may be Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables... Which is a bit of a tomb, even on audiobook but L likes a massive book. She’s a self confessed book snob. I’ve always thought it sounded an interesting story, just can’t understand why they decided to ruin it and turn it into a musical.

I wonder if it’s possible to be an audiobook snob? L says not.

There’s now an age-grading calculator on the Runner's World website. This aims to iron out the injustices of age and even sex on your performance. That’s sex as in gender and not as in any pre-race rituals.

So when a younger man overtakes me during the Birmingham Half Marathon next month with only a mile to go all I have to do is mutter C’est La Vie under my breath and console myself with the knowledge that I only have to achieve 89.95% (or whatever the factor is) of his time to have ‘beaten’ him. Nice idea... but it’s just not going to happen.

And what happens when a young girl sashays past, flicking her bouncing blonde ponytail in my face and waving her Lycra clad rear at me in defiance? Will I think it doesn't matter because the stats will give me an 'adjusted victory'? No, of course not, I'll follow her and then try to sprint past her on the line.

L’s out doing a bit of sashaying herself tonight, because I dropped her in the middle of the A6 and consequently she had no choice but to run her Mum’s, from where I will pick her up later after training. She did actually asked to be dropped off there.

Doggo gets 10 minutes to brush up on his contacts at the end of MD’s training. He’s brilliant, as he always is in training. Now can he please not show me up in Sunday inter-club match?

(Monday 27th September)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Haven’t You Forgotten Something?

L does the Crossdale 10k, which is what we usually do on this weekend of the year, whilst I opt to continue MD’s education in the dog agility world.

I pick a good Crossdale to miss. Bizarrely there are no t-shirts this year. They have run this race for 10 years with a t-shirt and last year they had a special 10th anniversary one. Then in year 11 they drop the t-shirt. That’s not going to be popular.

L does a good time on the tricky cross-country course with that notorious hill to finish but she isn’t pleased. She sounds so like me. I’m very proud of her displeasure; it must be her competitive side coming out.

At the dog show, MD frustratingly has one pole down in each of his three runs. On the last of those, he celebrates the 100th competitive run of his short career by flattening the jump three from home on what would have been decent clear round. So close. That said all his events today were pitched at grades 3-5, whereas last week they were for grades 1-3 and were consequently that bit harder for the 'Pocket Rocket'. He’s done well really.

So 100 runs, of which only 12 have been clear rounds and a fair few have been eliminations but we’re getting there, as last week showed.

Meanwhile on the 545th run of his career, as you can see I keep count, Doggo and I are having disagreements about his contact points again. He nonchalantly skips one of them but carries on regardless, hurdles the long jump and is heading for the finish line when I call him back. Err, excuse me, haven’t you forgotten something? To his embarrassment I make him do the last three obstacles again, correctly.

We have a similar disagreement on his next course but this time when I shout loudly at him, he stops, in the correct place, and the old man achieves the first of his two clears today but unfortunately there are no rosettes to be picked up today.

Once home, L and I celebrate our respective successes and failures by heading off out to find the Dunkirk Inn. Once we find it and discover that we can get its Nottingham beers at our local, we adjourn for a pleasant evening at the Johnson’s instead.

(Sunday 26th September)

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Girl Thing

12.5 mile run, 60 miles on the bike and 45 minutes of squash. I suppose it doesn’t sound much over three days but this morning I wake up and can’t feel my legs. It’s like a great weight has been sleeping on my legs all night. Which they probably have. Then I feel the sensation of two tongues licking my flesh. This would almost be a nice fantasy if I didn’t know that any minute now I’d be receiving a furry paw in the stomach. I push the dogs off me and roll over searching for some female company but L has gone. Blimey she never gets up this easily on a school day.

She runs off to the shower before I can apprehend her. She’s off to Milton Keynes today with Daughter to meet up with her sister and to go see Hairspray on the stage. I don’t know. All that way for Les Dennis and some shopping. Must be a girl thing.

I take them to the bus station and then let the boys help me cut the lawn. MD seems to remember the telling off I gave him last time and rather than attempt to savage the mower, instead he glares at it from a distance.

Then it’s the match. Derby v Crystal Palace and Derby win 5-0. Blimey. Where did that result come from? Our new Spanish superstar Alberto Bueno, only on loan regrettably, shows the others how to strike a ball, first time, no messing and on target. Simple really.



Later I collect L and Daughter, who look remarkably well and even entertained considering that they’d spent the afternoon with Les. Daughter comes back with a new fur coat, 100% acrylic naturally, she’ll kill me for saying that but at least we’ve not contributed to the slaughter of anything. Doggo immediately starts eyeing it up amorously. He’s weird like that. L has new boots, which I start eyeing up amorously, much more interesting.

After dinner, L can tell me all about Les, over a bottle of wine in bed.

(Saturday 25th September)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

All Adds To The Experience

I tried to get Doggo into the vets this evening for his annual MOT but couldn’t get him a slot before Wednesday. So bang goes my excuse for using the car today. It’s the bike again today then. I’ll probably end up sleeping through tonight’s film.

The ride in was a little bit interesting to say the least. Very windy and very decorative as bits of bushes and the odd tree branch are blown across the road like tumble weed. Yes, it’s a bit grim out there this morning but it all adds to the experience.

L agrees. The two collies were apparently in a mega hurry on their walk today. Whether it was their breakfast they were desperate for, or whether it was the grim weather, who knows. I would guess breakfast for one of them, MD the greedy one and the weather for the other, Doggo the lover of home comforts.

MD probably didn’t even get chance to bark at passers-by. Which would have been to L's relief, though she might thank him one day for being so protective. That is if she ever gets attacked by a bear on our estate, like that woman in Montana did, and she doesn’t have a courgette handy. No bear would ever dare come near MD.

We’re at Broadway for a film tonight. L suggestion, although I was kind of interested myself.

Tamara Drewe was originally a weekly comic strip serial by Posy Simmonds in The Guardian. It is supposedly, loosely based on Thomas Hardy's nineteenth century study of country life, ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ and ran for 110 episodes from September 2005 until October 2007. This was then released as a graphic novel in Nov 2007.



So take a dash of Thomas Hardy, add in Stephen Frears to direct it and then get Gemma Arterton to wear some really brief cut-off jeans and hey, you have an audience. Hmmm, I didn't expect to like this but at least I can check out Gemma’s rear.

After the death of her mother Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton), a young journalist working in London, returns to the Dorset village of her childhood, Ewedown. She intends renovate and sell her late mother's house and cash in on her inheritance.

The village, which is tranquil to the point of being in stupor, well that according to the two fifteen year old girls who inhabit the bus shelter there, Jody (Jessica Barden) and Casey (Charlotte Christie), has become a retreat for authors. A place where they can work on their stories in peace without the fear of anything exciting coming along to distract them. Novelist Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam) and wife Beth (Tasmin Greig) accommodate a bunk of these literary folk in their own home and what a desperately shallow and stereotypical lot they all are. Among these is an American called Glen (Bill Camp) who is struggling to get published with anything, let alone his current book on Thomas Hardy (naturally).

So when Tam’s Mini Cooper roars down the country lanes she shakes up everyone’s dull but happy (well apart from the teenagers) little world. She also turns a few heads; the once ugly duckling schoolgirl with a big nose is now a real stunner. Tam’s former boyfriend Andy Cobb (Luke Evans) isn’t impressed though, he’s not impressed with her nose job or her new glammed up image but then he once got his leg over the old version. He has a point. Any girl can buy herself a new nose but presumably that cute rear end is all her own work. To which all eyes are drawn as she climbs over a stile in nothing but a skimpy top and an even skimpier pair of cut-off jeans.



Still, Andy is happy to work on her house for her, whilst Tam starts work on a novel about herself. A touch vain perhaps but she appears to be exorcising ghosts as well. Tam’s father walked out on her and her mother as a child and she says she got the nose job to feel better about herself.



Whilst she’s ‘home’ she also continues her journalist work and heads off to a local music festival to interview one of the members of the band ‘Swipe’. Her interview with their drummer Ben Sargeant (Dominic Cooper) takes place in her kitchen, at first, but quickly moves upstairs to the bedroom.



He moves in along with his dog, which has a liking for chasing cows, and when he proposes marriage she accepts, even though he quickly grows bored with the countryside and longs to return to take Tam back to London with him.

This is bad news for one of the teenage girls. Jody is hopelessly in lust with Ben and will stop at nothing to keep him in Ewedale where it’s easier to fantasise about him. She lets herself into Tam’s house and starts interfering with her emails. The two girls seemingly hate ‘Plastic Fantastic’ as they have christened Tamara but are none the less obsessed with her.



‘Writers are just thieves and liars’ so says Nicholas Hardiment to his literary fan club and he should know. His wife entertains them for him whilst he’s out cheating on her with other women. When Tam’s relationship with Ben implodes, Nicholas, who the film gives the impression that Tam had a thing for when she was a teenager but got knocked back, moves in. He catches her at a low point and they embark on an unlikely affair. She’s obviously a very flawed girl is our Tam. Girl, you spent all that money on your nose just to be another notch on the rock star bedpost and then to shag a serial philander twice your age. Good call. Plastic surgery will get you everywhere...



As I said I didn't expect to like this but after a slow start, where the film seemed to wander around a bit wondering which plot line to follow, it settled down and became pleasantly entertaining. It’s clever in parts, funny in others. It’s not laugh out loud funny, which is fine with me, as I don't like comedies anyway and it’s actually surprisingly perceptive. Well up to the dreadful ending that is, which is one of those all too common neat and tidy ones, that’s ends up tarring the film with a stroke of the Rom Com brush.

Plus, I hate happy endings. At least, Nicolas got was coming to him but the graphic novel also killed off Jody. Dead in her bed clutching a can of computer cleaner apparently. My sort of ending but perhaps the 15 certificate couldn’t stomach that. Which means our underage stalker is there for the finale, as she finally gets close to her hero Ben. Then as she comforts him over the death of his dog, the film plays out with Swipe’s ‘Jailbait Jody’. The dark humour of which is probably lost on a lot of the audience who leave as soon as the credits start to roll.

So plastic surgery will get you everywhere... well, seemingly back where you started with the guy who didn’t mind the old you, the old nose... who basically always accepted you for what you are. Perhaps that’s the moral of the story.

(Friday 24th September)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Slightly Damp

I'm on the bike today which after yesterdays run probably wasn’t a great idea but it wasn’t as painful as I expected. Almost enjoyed it.

L sees a student in the Co-Op wearing a dressing gown and slippers. Ah, the student life. Not wanting Son to feel uncool she considers equipping him with similar appropriate attire for when he goes next weekend. I wasn’t sure he’d thank her for such a suggestion but... he appears keen, on the dressing gown at least.

Talking of Uni.



The latest photos of student digs for the coming year have been released.



Oh hang on, those are from the athletes village at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

At the end of the day I move back into my ‘new’ old office. An added feature is that they have moved my boss into a glass box in the corner; well a glass partitioned office anyway. So at least we can now keep an eye on him or perhaps the intention is the other way around.

The weather has been a bit iffy all day and when I look out of my window at 5pm, it’s suddenly gone very black... By the time I get downstairs and to the door, the monsoon has started. Thankfully it doesn’t turn out to be as bad as it looks and I get home just 'slightly damp'.

I’m quite pleased with my portfolio of decent shots at squash tonight. In fact, some of the best I’ve played for a while. Unfortunately I alternate them with my other portfolio, the one of miss-hits and air shots, which balances things out.

L walks over from the gym to join us for a pint. Which is a relief, I’m that tired I need someone to lift my pint for me.

(Thursday 23rd September)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Something Horrible Planned

Today is World Car Free Day. Has anyone noticed any difference? Nope. Me neither. I’ve not noticed that Nottingham is not a car dependant city either. At least today I’m on the bus. I have something horrible planned for this evening.

I settle into my new office this morning, a temporary one. They are making my old one bigger to get a new employee in. That’ll make four of us in there. I’m not terribly happy about that. ‘Back in the day’ I had my own office until we moved to new premises three years ago since when I’ve had to share. I’d only just got used to sharing with one other person when they moved another chap in. Now there’s going to be four of us. Whatever next, they’ll expect us to start talking to each other.

Did you see that dress of Lady Gaga's?



The one made of meat, that the media were going ‘gaga’ (excuse the pun) over, wondering if it was a feminist gesture, an artistic statement or maybe a comment on the fashion world? Well no, none of these, it's just like most things in the music industry these days, another rip off cover version. I knew I’d seen that done before... The Undertones post-split compilation album ‘All Wrapped Up’ in 1983.



Thanks to indie-mp3.co.uk for jogging my memory.

I embark on the 'something horrible', a mammoth 12.5 mile run towards home. Well it feels mammoth tonight and surely must have been further than 12.5 miles as it took me almost two hours. Even if I did have a few stops. However the GPS says nope it was 12.5 miles, so I check it on a map, which says nope 12.5 miles as well. In which case it must have been the lack of a good book to listen to that made it seem so long. I’d finished the ‘Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest’ last weekend on the way up to Durham.



It’s time to start a new John Grisham I think.

(Wednesday 22nd September)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Old Dog, New Tricks

MD has slotted effortlessly back into his usual routine after his weekend away and heads out on his morning walk determined to reassert his authority on the neighbourhood. So much so that L threatens to leave him at home tomorrow.

On Tuesdays I usually do the weekly food shop during my lunch break. Today L adds washing powder to the list, nothing unusual in that except that this time it’s for Son to take to Uni with him. Son... wash powder... somehow those words don’t seem to fit together.

I get home and take the boys to their last Tuesday dog training session before they get a winter break, from Tuesdays at least.

As I load up the car with their stuff and then go back for the boys themselves, Doggo is stood behind me. Despite the fact that I’d shut him in behind the dog gate. That’s one of MD tricks. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks or can you? MD seems to have taught Doggo how to open our dog gate. He’s such a bad influence that one.

(Tuesday 21st September)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mementos

We stay an extra night at Witton Castle, then head home, back to normality.

L runs and MD goes training, where he gets chance to boast to the rest of the class about his weekend exploits.

He’s quite a handful at class. Well he usually is but it’s not just his vocals tonight. He’s just as quick at training as he has been all weekend. After which I feel as if I’m the one who’s been out running.

Back home, Son has been gearing up for University... well the ‘going away’ parties are in full swing anyway. I hope he hasn’t got too many more planned because there isn’t much space left in his room for any more road signs after this weekend’s bout of drunken collecting of souvenir street furniture. Quite how many of them it took to carry one particularly heavy memento I’m not sure. Quite what we’re going to do with it now I’m not sure. I may consider taking it back under cover of darkness one night, at least then we’ll have room for the next selection.

At least if his stint at Uni doesn’t go well, he knows he can now follow the lead of that Irish student who is suing his university for not giving him the grade he wanted. Of course that student could have just tried the more traditional route of attending some lectures and doing a bit of study between all the partying. Just a thought.

(Monday 20th September)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Have I Won?

Day two of competition and the brie doesn’t seem to have quite the same effect on MD today but Doggo picks up the baton and has a cracking day. He’s 8th place on one of his jumping courses is our best for a long time and really good at his level. He is three levels above MD. He also picks up another rosette for 16th when we’re pitched up against the ‘professionals’ in grade 7 in a later class which is also highly impressive. Unfortunately he’s also mortified when I again bundle him back onto another contact that he tried to skip. We will relearn this skill.

As regards the ‘pocket rocket’, I decide it’s sh*t or bust today, particularly as we have three jumping courses, from which he can’t get an automatic promotion, and only one agility course. Basically I push him to go faster and so the poles started tumbling. Oh well, so out of sh*t or bust we got the former but it was worth a go.

On one course he’s going so fast, he misjudges the tyre and clips it as he goes through. Well, clip doesn’t really do it justice. He hits it so hard he uproots it and leaves it lying on the ground. I think surely that must have hurt but he doesn’t seem to notice and carries on to complete the course where he grabs his lead and turns around to me, asking ‘Have I won?’. Well, no. I look back at the course where several poles are scattered over the grass and where the judge and two helpers are trying to reassemble the tyre obstacle. Funnily enough, I don’t think we actually got faulted for that. It’s a bit of a grey area I think. We flattened it but he did actually go through it which I think is all the rules require.

We take it slightly easier on his agility course and do better. All the poles stay up but he is again quick. This is despite us wasting precious seconds at the tunnel having a stand up row about who was right about which way to go next.

MD: "Woof".
Me: "Tunnel", pointing at the rather obvious tunnel entrance.
MD: "Woof".
Me: "In the ***** tunnel" and pointing even more furiously.
MD: "Woof Woof".
Me: "In that ***** tunnel NOW".

He relents; we carry on and get 10th!

So six rosettes this weekend, three for each dog and two trophies for MD. It’s been a good trip. Naturally we celebrate by driving into Durham, leave the dogs in the car and go for a curry. Sorry guys.



(Sunday 19th September)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Supreme Enlightenment

It’s lovely and sunny this morning in the north east as I leave L to lounge in bed and get three agility runs in before breakfast. During his two weeks without an event MD seems to have experienced some sort of supreme enlightenment about what he’s supposed to be doing in this agility lark and he storms around his first course. He’s very quick and leaves everything standing upright, which is a bonus. Then Doggo puts in a decent showing on his first run that lands us a 12th place, although we’ll have words about some of his contact points later, which were a little too close for comfort. MD then spoils our collective good start by demolishing his jumping course but I soon forgive him when I wonder back to check on where we ended up on his first course.

It’s still running but OMG we’re in the lead... OMG. The class runs for around two hours and 110 dogs but it takes until 5 minutes from the end for someone to finally beat his time. We get 2nd. I give him a hug, he ignores me and yaps at a dog three rings away. I’m sure he’s just playing it cool and trying to look nonchalantly unbothered.

For a while there I thought we were on for a surprise win. I’m partly disappointed and partly relieved that we didn’t win. An agility win would mean we get promoted up to the next grade, which means tougher courses. I’m not sure he’s ready for that yet. Well he might be but not sure I’m ready for that yet.

Doggo meanwhile is still pushing his luck with his ‘contacts’, so I stop him on one course, pick him up and put him back on the contact point. He looks at me incredulously, as if I’m treating him like a novice who doesn’t know what he’s doing whilst the judge makes throat cutting gestures to the scorer to indicate we’ve been eliminated for the illegal manhandling of my dog. He redeems himself with a clear on his jumping course.

MD hasn’t finished though, on his next course he puts in another stormer. His dog walk has suddenly become so awesomely fast, he travels across it so fast that he slides off the end seemingly unable to stop, until he suddenly remembers he supposed to (when I yell at him in panic) and does. Clear again. We go straight into 2nd, so at least no nervous wait worrying about winning it this time.

In the end we get bumped down to third but that’s another trophy. Looks like its brie again tonight then and posh crisps. Seems it was a waste of time bringing dog food with us.

(Saturday 18th September)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Reloading The Loose Cannon

We are heading up to County Durham for the weekend and a dog show thing but first L suggests we take the boys out for a morning run, so they’ll be nice and tired for the journey. I could have pointed out that they’re always nice and tired, even when they haven’t done anything, stamina is not their thing, but I don’t. Instead we reload the loose cannon and off we go. The cannon is particularly loose today. Thankfully it’s not that early, so we don’t have to apologise to the neighbourhood on MD's behalf for awakening them

Then we head up to Witton Castle, which is somewhere near Bishop Auckland. It’s a nice location and very un-dog show like.



It’s a pleasant one mile stroll from there along footpaths to the village of Witton Le Wear which we soon discover has two pubs. One is almost empty but doesn’t do food or accept dogs. The other is busy, has an extensive and cheap food menu including the vitally important cheeseboard, and welcomes in Doggo and MD for their sins. There may be an economic lesson in there that’s so obvious I won’t point it out.

Unfortunately pub one has the slightly better beer but it’s not so significant to make that much of a difference to us or seemingly anyone else for that matter.

Neither of the pubs sport a local beer, which is very disappointing and means I enjoy good old Bombardier (brewed in Bedford) for most of the weekend. The most interesting beer, on at pub number one, is the exceedingly rare John Smiths cask, once of ‘nearby’ Yorkshire but now being brewed in Cheshire. This has all but vanished in a sea of their ‘Smooth’. It’s always been pleasant and still is despite its move away from its traditional home. Sadly it is the only cask beer I've seen that has to be labelled 'cask' to differentiate it from it's ugly brother called 'Smooth'.



The dogs have a right old feast tonight, kettle chips, naan bread from my curry and for dessert, crackers from my cheeseboard accompanied, of course, by their usual brie.

(Friday 17th September)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rest And Recuperation

L signals her intention to go to the gym tonight, if she can remember what to do. I know what she means; I’ve cycled so infrequently in the last few months that my legs struggle to recall the correct technique to power the thing forwards.

I receive an email that points me towards this cycle route planner.

It’s a nice idea but... I keep getting an error, ‘To plan a cycle journey on Transport Direct the origin, destination and via points must either be in the same area or in adjoining areas with a direct connection between them.’

I only asked for Nottingham to Derby, how more adjoining can you get?

The best cure for aching legs is probably not a game of squash this evening but having already agreed to it, it’s best to get the necessary rest and recuperation in during the day. A lunchtime trip to the pub does the trick. Chicken, leek and Stilton pie, which is very heavy on the Stilton washed down with a pint or maybe two. Ok, it was two.

It must have set me up nicely for the game. A very narrow 3-1 defeat, it should have been and very nearly was 2-2.

(Thursday 16th September)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Small Steps

Here’s a rarity. A bit of a ‘perk’ from work, albeit a small one. After 15 years or more I finally get an invite from the company to go to the ‘Recycling and Waste Management Exhibition' at the NEC. Wooahhh. Small steps perhaps. Only an afternoon though, let’s not get carried away.

Four of us go in the same car. How hard could it be to drive to the NEC? Simple you would think? Not according to our drivers SatNav, which makes an appalling choice of route. Our driver can't function without it, so contradicting the SatNav took her well out of her comfort zone. Probably didn't help that her passengers disagreed among themselves on the route as well but at least we all agreed to disagree with the SatNav.

The show was ok. Interesting, ish. Although I met a few customers who I’d rather not have done, sometimes it's best to stay anonymous. Apart from one, it was nice to put a pretty face to the voice, particularly as I had her down as a bit of a... perhaps I best not put down what I had her down as.



Which reminds me, I must get the bike out tomorrow.

Would you believe they're doing Land's End to John O'Groats on that six-seater bike. Why...

Apparently ‘it's not so good at going around corners’. No kidding. I can imagine. Terrifying more like. Bet it takes some stopping as well, particularly on the downhills.

It’s all in a good cause though. The men are cycling to raise money for Bowel Cancer UK, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support UK, Mesothelioma UK and Myeloma UK. To learn more or to support them, visit www.saddle-row.com.

(Wednesday 15th September)

Monday, September 13, 2010

How Much For A Cheap Seat?

Nottingham is the least car dependent city in the UK. Apparently. Ahemmm. I fell off my chair when I read that. I dread to think what the other cities they surveyed are like. Admittedly there's a decent bus service in Nottingham but the place is still gridlocked with cars. The 4x4’s on the school run are plentiful and deadly. Cycling is a total nightmare. Come to think of it walking isn’t much easier. We also have a council who keep insisting on building new car parks smack bang in the city centre. So considering all that, it's quite an achievement.

L uses unacceptable language twice in the same sentence. First she mentions the X word, Xxxxxmas, then goes on to mention that her ‘wish list’ for that December event contains Kylie tickets... OMG. How much for a cheap seat? sixty-bloody-five quid and a choice of only London, Manchester or Glasgow... She not coming to the Bodega then?

I take the plunge and sign L up for this Birmingham jog thing. As a nice reward for Sunday’s performance. Keep up the good form and she’ll be getting the Helsinki Half Marathon gift wrapped for her next birthday. Now then, which particular start pen shall I put her in? Perhaps I’ll put her in the red zone with me....

Job done. She's in, correction, we're in.

Dog training is cancelled. Nothing to do with the appalling weather, the trainer has hurt her foot. The lightweight. She only has to shout and point to tell us what to do, and perhaps hop around a bit. The boys are thrilled to get on the park instead.

Derby sold Rob Hulse because he was too old at 31 and because the club are planning for the future with a lean mean young side, so now we’ve signed 33 year old Shefki Kuqi! That’ll improve things. Tonight’s result, a 2-0 defeat at Hull.

(Tuesday 14th September)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Just Say No

Somehow L manages to get her tired legs to work in the pool this morning, swimming forty lengths or ‘just’ forty lengths as she calls it. I’m not sure I could have managed four lengths this morning never mine forty.

Work seems kind of impressed with my half marathon exploits; though mainly they just think I’m mad.

L asks about Birmingham... I had mentioned following it up and sort of encoring with, probably the only big race left this year... the Birmingham Half Marathon. I ask if she’s entering. ‘Only if you are’ She says. This is how these things always start. Now if one of us could just say no.

Daughter is very chirpy this morning, probably, no actually, almost certainly, something to do with her mobile phone upgrade. I’m hoping to pick it up for her at lunch time. Not sure I dare come home if I don’t manage to get it.

Apparently from October 4th the details of driving test routes will no longer be published online by the Driving Standards Agency. How long has this been happening? And why wasn’t I told? No such assistance was given when I took my test, some time back in the middle ages. Is there nothing left that they haven’t made easier since ‘my day’? I reckon the day after I hang up my running shoes they’ll be shortening half marathons by a few miles just so that more people can get the t-shirt.

I get Daughter's new phone and put it on charge as I head off to dog training. So Daughter’s happy or will be... only ten hours on charge before she can use it.

(Monday 13th September)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Battle Of The Sexes. Lost.

The big day arrives. My biggest race yet. The Nottingham Half Marathon. 12,000 signed up apparently, this transpires to 8,000 entries in the half-marathon but only just over 6,000 finishers. This means, I hope, that there were quite a few who bottled it and didn’t start, rather than assuming that 2,000 who keeled over on route.

My father comes over to support and I do him a schedule so that he can see L and I at as many points as possible at the 4, 6 and 9 mile marks which are all close together. L predicts she’ll be finished by about 3pm, so I’ll have time to nip home, put lunch on, have a hot bath, before coming back to pick her up. Ha. I’ll expect her about 12.30, which will give me ample time with the University’s massage girls.

I’ve been allocated a start in the red zone, which is the second zone from the front, just behind the elite. So I can actually see the start gantry with my naked eye rather than needing binoculars like some of the other zones further back will need to do.

Then we’re off and heading into Nottingham and up past the Castle. After which we head out to the University. I wave to my father at the four mile point. He's on the wrong side of the course, the outside, marooned. Meaning he can’t get across the runners to the other two viewing points. So I won’t see him again.

Then it’s through Wollaton Park before heading back into Nottingham. The route has been fairly hilly, as I had expected, but not too bad. I reckon I’m on course for a 1:34 time (perhaps) but then suddenly the last three miles seem really tough and then with around a mile to go we end up running into a head wind. The legs start to get a bit heavy and I lose a lot of places in that last mile. A couple of girls against whom I’d been winning the battle of the sexes, go past me and as for ‘Big Mike’, well that’s what it said on the back of his shirt, who I’d followed for the first twelve miles, he pulls away and disappears into the distance.

My time is again 1:36, the same as my previous best, although on closer inspection I have shaved 10 seconds off it. Not bad I suppose, all the same straight away I head for solace in the massage tent.

L had jested that I’d need a double slot for my knotted muscles. Well... I got it. A masseur on each leg, regrettably one of them is male but you can't have everything I suppose and it's actually the lass who's the evil one.

They patch up my muscles and then I go to meet L, who does her best time for years, a lot faster than either of us had predicted. Then we discover that we can’t dally for long, our supporter, my father, has a flat car battery and we battle out way around the closed roads to get to him. This takes over an hour. Then finally we get to crash in a hot bath before heading out for a well deserved lunch.

It would be nice to get quietly drunk tonight but good gigs don’t come around on the days you’d prefer to have them and tonight we head over to Birmingham for the second time in four days.

Having been smitten by the Handsome Furs, whom I stumbled across last year, it only seemed natural to investigate Dan Boeckner’s other band, Wolf Parade, who conveniently booked a date at the Nottingham Rescue Rooms but then later cancelled it. In between L had rushed down, she says she quite fancies him, and got us tickets. Then suddenly they’re not playing Nottingham any more, citing scheduling issues. So rather than being disappointed we decide to go to Birmingham, where they are playing the Glee Club... which conjures up horrid images of America TV programmes...

The Glee Club is actually predominantly a stand-up comedy venue that has expanded into music. Situated in Birmingham's Chinese Quarter close to the Hippodrome Theatre, it opened in 1994. Since then they have opened venues in Cardiff, Oxford and now this month, one is scheduled to open in Nottingham.

Quite what the name has to do with comedy I’m not sure, the TV series had one thing right; traditionally a glee club is to do with music.

Support tonight is from Peter Kernel, who we thought was probably a soloist but may even have been a comedian but we’re totally wrong. ‘He’ is a three piece from Switzerland and as they start up, the floor immediately starts to throb under the assault of the very heavy bass. My ears will probably be out of commission tomorrow. Musically they sound a bit like our own Johnny Foreigner with the interplay of words between their female bass player and male guitarist. Then again, the girl kind of fancies herself as a Kim Deal I reckon and the chap doesn’t do anything to dispel the Pixies comparisons. That all sounds quite promising but for all that they are oddly unsatisfying.



So to Montreal’s Wolf Parade. I’ve been digging though Wolf Parade’s first two albums which are full of great moments but something about them just doesn’t completely satisfy then last month their new album ‘Expo 86’ dropped through my letter box and it’s bloody brilliant.

The ‘Expo’ is that big exposition ‘fair’ type thing that Prince Albert started up 150 odd years ago and now travels around the globe every year. Expo 86 was held in Vancouver and apparently that is where five young boys first became friends and made a pact to meet up sometime in the future to form a rock band. Believe it or not, that is the alleged beginning of Wolf Parade.

But never mind all that, they are now just a four piece who still find time to do Wolf Parade between their assorted side projects. The band take the stage and Dan Boeckner launches into ‘Soldier's Grin’ from their second album.



Boeckner, on the guitar, democratically shares lead vocal duties with keyboard player Spencer Krug, who promises us a mix of old and new songs without obviously playing the one you really want to hear. He takes vocals on ‘What Did My Lover Say?’ off the new record before handing back to Boeckner for another new song, the wonderful ‘Palm Road’.



Krug and Boeckner have complementary but differing styles and talents. Krug’s songs are more poetic and melodic such as on ‘Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts’ and he works away busily on his array of keyboards and other assorted electronic gadgets. He is not only a man in dazzling control of the technology at his fingertips but it is equally enthralling to see him perfectly in control of his stool, which he rarely sits on but instead manages to pivot around with his foot, never once losing control of it.

Boeckner is more old school. He belts out his numbers and pours passion into both his singing and his guitar playing. Whipping songs like ‘Pobody's Nerfect’ off the new ‘Expo 86’ up into a fervent, hot-blooded frenzy.



As a new recruit to the Wolf Parade cause I find all the new songs sound terrific tonight, although so too do oldies such as ‘This Hearts on Fire’ and ‘I'll Believe in Anything’ which are less familiar to me.



When they are not playing the lead Krug and Boeckner back each other up well, letting their respective instruments take a more background role. Everything combines together very well. In fact, the band as a whole have a lot of chemistry and that always makes for a good live show. On the other side of Krug to Boeckner is Dante DeCaro pummelling his guitar as hard as Boeckner does while behind them Arlen Thompson is a thunderous presence on the drums.

Damn good stuff.

(Sunday 12th September)

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Lot To Cram In

Due to today’s football match being moved to a 1pm kick off, not for television but on police advice, because there was some skirmish between Sheffield United and Derby supporters a few decades back, I have a lot to cram in this morning.

Such as waking up early, so that I can get as long a lay as long as usual on a Saturday! Then I still need to find time to take the boys for a session on the park. When we get there, we are momentarily distracted by one of those ‘military fitness’ sessions, that seem to be so popular at the moment. This instructor had his group, of predominantly young women, crawling around on all fours for, what seemed, far longer than necessary. That is, if it was necessary at all. Hmmmm.

The 1pm kick off makes no difference to the result. Derby lose again and the sole highlight of the game was the ironic cheers for their first and only shot on target after 76 minutes. The ‘no strikers’ strategy, a kind of lopped Christmas tree formation, clearly isn’t going to be prolific.

In the interests of an alcohol free evening, we have the half marathon tomorrow, we take in a play tonight, ‘She Stoops To Conquer’, a comedy by the Irish author Oliver Goldsmith dating back to something like 1773.



The plot concerns a wealthy country squire called Hardcastle who arranges a blind date of sorts between his daughter, Kate and the son of an aristocrat called Charles Marlow, hoping the pair will get it on together, marry and therefore he’ll find someone else to fund his presumably high maintenance daughter. Unfortunately, whilst Marlow apparently flirts with ease with ladies of a lower social standing, he becomes tongue tied and awkward around posher totty. The resourceful Kate though is willing to ‘stoop’ to the any level it takes and decides to pose as a barmaid. Presumably on the premise that a man will always notice a lass serving beer.

That all sounds quite promising, which I guess is why we’re here but... I don’t know, it does little for me but then perhaps I’m just not in the mood tonight. It is a play of slightly dubious comic appeal based upon multiple misunderstandings and mistaken identity. Sound familiar? Very Shakespearean. It also launches off into various sub-plots, again ala Shakespeare. I love a bit of Shakespeare but I much prefer his tragedies and histories to his unconvincing comedies but then I don’t really do comedy.

Kate’s disguise consists of just a mere cord that she ties around her waist. Instantly making herself unrecognisable as the daughter of a country toff and becomes a simple barmaid... but then she picks up a feather duster. I’m already confused, and I’m sure she could have been more resourceful and come up with a more effective approach if she’d thought about it but I guess this was the 18th century.

The most confusing bit though is when Marlow and his mate, who on the way to the Hardcastles' manor for his blind date, get lost and stop off at the Three Pigeons pub. There they are played a joke on and are told that they are a long way from the manor and will therefore have to stay overnight at an inn. Then they are told that the Hardcastles' house is an inn, so they turn up there, get drunk and treat Hardcastle himself like a landlord... but it’s supposed to be a country manor house... that’s too far fetched for my logical mind.

Everything of course sorts itself out in the end. Kate's plan succeeds and she gets her man. The acting is good, as it usually is at the Playhouse house, but personally I thought they were all upstaged by the oversized animals, particularly what I think was a dog.



(Photo - Robert Day)

(Saturday 11th September)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Favouritism?

When L hands in her ‘Change 4 Life’ card to claim her £50 cash back, she gets invited to sign up for another year. They didn’t do that with me. Favouritism? I shall have to have words. It also seems you can do the once a month trip on swims this time, which will make life a lot easier as it’s been so stressful having to remember to go to the gym once a month as part of my fitness campaign.

Talking of fitness campaigns, I get an email from something called Run Britain, who have launched a revolutionary (so they say) online scoring system for runners. Through it you can obtain a ranking based on your performances at 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon distances, and make comparisons against your bitterest rivals via a handicap system.



It's the kind of uncool thing I love and looks hellishly complicated but it accepts the results of seven of my races from this year, though it spits out some of the more low-key events I’ve done. Presumably they are not worthy of comment. This of course included my sole victory at the Run To Read 10k.

The system tells me that my rating (handicap) was 14.9 back in March, during that half marathon phase I went through, when I did Sleaford and Grantham. This then improves to 8.9 in July after I enter the two Grand Prix races that qualify and the Colin Potter 10k the week after. Oddly the statistical abomination that was Crich, e.g. where the course was almost a mile too long, the terrain was horrible and where I consequently ran it in a pedestrian looking time, didn't drag it down. The website does say that terrain is taken into consideration, perhaps the lack of marshalling and wayward signage is also factored in.

We take the dogs for a long walk to Beeston in the evening, mainly to see if the chap who drinks at The Victoria, who lost his Alsatian a little while back, has bitten the bullet and ventured over to the wild side of puppy ownership. Nope, not yet, sensible chap.

(Friday 10th September)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

One Big Rebellion

Well that wasn’t the gentle training run I was looking for. I missed the R4 bus because it was on time for probably the first time ever and I was a touch late. Then just as I was resigning myself to getting the Red Arrow straight to Derby and then making up some kind of loop around Derby to run to work, an Indigo turned up unannounced. It was probably running late. This bus though takes a longer route and I got off it earlier, as soon as we got into Borrowash, which also gave me a slightly longer but more pleasant run. Then I had to leg it to make it to work in time. Knackered.

L apologises for not showing concern and not checking my ‘injury’ last night. Those are her inverted commas, not mine. She questions whether it was my body rebelling because I've not cycled for so long. I’m sure she’s right. Then it rebelled because I hadn’t swum for so long. It’s just one big rebellion at the moment.

My foot seems ok now though. All the same, she best check me all over for damage tonight. This will have to after Jónsi, for whom we will have to leave early, if we want to be up front.

The well made plans of L and I fall apart with the closure of the A52 out of Derby. Derby is a city in a state of chaos as I attempt to get the bus home. I arrive at the bus station in time for the 5.20pm but finally get an ‘every ten minutes’ Red Arrow at 6.00pm. Unfortunately a bad situation is made worse by Derby’s ‘cleverly’ designed bus station. Buses heading out are blocking the paths of those coming in. We watch our Red Arrow for a good 15 minutes across the tarmac, stuck the wrong side of the steel fencing that enforces the internal one-way system as it queues with the buses heading out. When it finally gets to us, and we get on-board, the bus then has to rejoin the same queue to get back out of the bus station. This isn’t the first time this has happened. Surely now they'll take this pointless fencing out or at least put a gate in it.

So we’re a touch late heading off to the Birmingham Academy where ‘Riceboy Sleeps’ an instrumental album by Jónsi and his other half, Alex, who is also part of his band tonight, is playing as we walk in. We have missed the support band, Mountain Man, who are (obviously) three girls from Vermont, USA. That's the first time for a while. Thanks to the good old A52, Derby bus station and a helping hand from the dire road system of Pride Park.

I’m not sure what I’m expecting tonight. Only that the whole Jónsi experience is going to be a bit different. The things you do for love.

Jón Þór Birgisson is better known as the guitarist and vocalist of Sigur Rós, a kind of Icelandic Cocteau Twins. A band who, after 16 years in existence, are now on ‘indefinite hiatus’ presumably having temporarily ran out of new ethereal soundscapes to craft and have all gone off to have babies, an option not open to Jónsi.

The thing with Sigur Rós was... well... I have to be able to sing along to my music, which is why this new wave of instrumental bands just don’t do it for me and with Sigur Rós, Jónsi went one better than being instrumental and choose to sing not just in Icelandic but also in some made up hybrid that he called Hopelandic, or Double Dutch if you prefer. Tonight though, cue drum roll, because Jónsi’s debut solo album 'Go' is predominately in English, we won’t need subtitles, mostly.

Suddenly a couple of chaps amble on to the stage, catching everyone by surprise and probably some folk still at the bar. It’s the man himself and his drummer Doddi. It’s the most low-key of low-key starts ever and Jónsi keeps it simple for ‘Stars in Still Water’ with just his guitar and a little added glockenspiel courtesy of Doddi.



The rest of the five piece band join them on stage, then after dabbling with the English language on the opener, Jónsi reverts to Icelandic or whatever for ‘Hengilás’, while Doddi get serious with the glockenspiel playing it with a couple of large orchestral bows.

The music I suppose is broadly similar to that of Sigur Ros but far easier to get into, the songs are shorter, happier, poppier. Making it all more accessible for the Academy crowd tonight. The somewhat large Academy is though, I would guess, only about half full.

The set seems to be cleverly structured. The slow numbers come first, building things up, through moments like the thumping bass drum finale to ‘Icicle Sleeves’, eventually bringing us to the faster numbers, whilst saving the epic ones until last. Not that it's not all epic.

The band alternate between a selection of instruments, continually swapping roles, while Bass player Ulfur Hansson plays with a brace on his hand. His thumb struck permanently upwards after slicing his hand open on broken glass after their Gothenburg show last week. They all engage in what appears to be a mass xylophone love-in session before ‘Tornado’ and then Jónsi takes over at the piano for ‘Sinking Friendships’ as he works his way through the entirety of ‘Go’ plus a smattering of unreleased tracks.



Visually too it is spectacular. A continually changing animated backdrop accompanies the music, brings us a steady flow of assorted woodland animals, birds and even a wolf who appears to be stalking them all.

So far he hasn’t uttered a word to us and then when he does, to introduce ‘Go Do’, it’s such a shock no one knows what to say. There seems to be a brief moment of embarrassed silence on both sides before he picks up a ukulele and then suddenly an audience that has been mainly transfixed to the spot so far, is suddenly rocking to ‘the hits’.

He even offers the mic to the crowd during ‘Animal Arithmetic’... Yeah right. Love to mate but... even in English the lyrics still tend to leave you a little bewildered ‘Wake up, comb my hair, making food disappear, riding bikes, making out, elephants swimming down...



He slow things down again with something called ‘New Piano Song’ which is a bit more than what the name implies. Then to close ‘Around Us’ for which he starts seated at the piano before seamlessly handing over the ivories to come back centre stage. The set ends with the band leaving Jónsi alone crouched at the front of the stage doing his best ‘My Bloody Valentine’ impression only without the guitars, generating plenty of feedback with only a microphone at his disposal.

The band return quickly for an encore with Jónsi wearing a Red Indian head dress and starts with the up-tempo ‘Sticks and Stones’ from the score to the film ‘How to Train Your Dragon’. Then to finish ‘Grow Till Tall’ appropriately grows in stature, the animated screens fill with rain and the band are drenched in strobe lights as the show comes to a dramatic conclusion.



Then after the encore the band come back on to the stage, take a bow and clap the audience, just like at the theatre, and it’s a nice touch.

I know exactly what L is going to say before she even opens her mouth, ‘gig of the year’. Well... It was unique. Different. An experience. Rather good actually. Maybe not gig of the year, but up there. Well worth going to see ‘Go’.

(Thursday 9th September)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hopeless At Counting

Cycling to work was terribly hard work this morning, which doesn’t bode well for the weekend.

I've always had a very soft spot for one of my local non-league clubs Ilkeston Town Football Club and have watched them on many occasions in the past. So it's been very sad to see them in their current financial plight which culminated with them being wound up in the High Court today, over £50,000 of unpaid taxes. Hopefully the club, who were established way back in 1894, can still be saved and they are appealing the ruling, claiming that they have transfer funds of £20,000 due imminently and parties interested in buying the club. Their scheduled Conference North fixture at Redditch United will not take place this weekend.



After work I pedal off to the pool. L says 'do a few for me'. Ok, I will, but not many. I have enough problems getting through my own quota. My quota takes less time than I had anticipated as I end up having to share lane number three with a ‘psycho’ doing flip turns. A psycho in lowly lane three? I ask you. What’s the world coming to?

On the plus side, I’m actually about his pace, apart from the flip turns that is, which enables him to gain a few metres on me every length. I consider attempting my version, the flop turn (trademark applied for... maybe), but decide against it, figuring it will just make me slower.

When I think I've done my 30 lengths, I'm hopeless at counting, I do a few more ‘for luck’ and perhaps on L's behalf. On number 32 I get cramp in my foot. So I stop and massage it. On number 33 it spreads to my toes. I stop on 34 when it becomes clear, that with only one leg fully functional, I’m starting to list to one side. I limp back to the changing rooms.

It’s just so typical to injure myself swimming, again. It is such a dangerous sport. I must take up something safer, Bobsleigh perhaps.

The cramp, or whatever it is, hasn't cleared by the time I go dog training. I know, dog training for three days in a row, it’s seriously overdoing it. This though is an extra session which I have specifically booked for Doggo, his first session with a trainer in nine months, because he seriously needs a refresher course. It means we’re back on the graveyard shift, the 9pm session, which we had given up. I think he enjoys it. He certainly slots right back in and is Mr Prefect, well almost. All the problems that have shown up in the last six months of competition are now oddly absent and seemingly solved overnight. He has clearly been having me on.

(Wednesday 8th September)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Carrots

We’re received an update on the Great North Swim, in that’s it’s been totally cancelled. There’s no new date. So L’s looking at either a refund or free entry into next year’s event, should it go ahead.

Apparently the organisers sought assurances that the water quality would be acceptable for them to stage the event and didn’t get it. In this not-so-brave new world of Health and Safety that is an assurance they were never going to get, even if they’d drained the lake and turned it into a run instead. So if they’re going to ask daft questions like that again next year, they’ll get the same result.

At least L seems pleased with her training for it. Training which has also done Son good!

Dog training again tonight, outdoor. No rain, surprisingly.

I don’t have to call for my usual Singapore noodles on the way home as L is going to replicate my post-training delicacy at home. They’re excellent, better than the take-away version. Well, apart from the carrots. L always says you can't have a Chinese without carrots. I have absolutely nothing against carrots, love them in fact, but I’m sure the Chinese’s that I buy never have carrots in them. Though I know hers will and probably celery, sweet corn and peas.

(Tuesday 7th September)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Back To School

We head home from Malham today and after a weekend of nice sunny weather it starts to rain. Suppose we can’t complain really.

We’re back in time for the new school term, for MD that is, Monday training restarts tonight. L comes along too, for the ride and the run, to her parent’s house, from where I will pick her up later. Hope she enjoys the run, despite the rain.

During training, MD and I have a disagreement. He is so typically the naughty schoolboy on his first day back. I tell him to ‘release’ his tug but all he does is knot his eyebrows in disagreement and bite harder on the toy, in a gesture that clearly says ‘nope’. Hmmm. Who’s the boss here? On second thoughts don’t answer that.

I persist in my efforts to assert my supposed authority over him and eventually he relents... but then seems to change his mind and lunges to get the just released toy back between his teeth. We clash heads. There are few things more sturdy or boney than a dogs head. Suddenly there is blood everywhere from my cut lip. We head off back to the car to have 'words' and to try to stem the flow of blood. Now I'm going to have to go into work tomorrow to the accompaniment of claims that L is beating me up again.

(Monday 6th September)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Unplanned Activity

We get up early-ish and drive the thirty odd miles south to a place called Mytholmroyd, near Hebden Bridge in the Calder Valley. This is the setting for Alice’s Run which is a 10k race.



A bit of research reveals that this event is in memory of Alice Redmond, who was a student at Leeds Metropolitan University. One night she climbed out of her kitchen window on the third floor to help a fellow student who had become locked out of her flat. Unfortunately she slipped and fell to the concrete below. She died a few days later. She was 21.

This was in 2005 and ever since an annual 10km charity race has been run in her memory. The event also raises money for Epilepsy Action, whom Alice had worked for during a student placement.



Race registration and the finish are at Calder High School, where Alice was a pupil but they take us across to Brierley Field for the start, where they make us do a lap of the playing field. It takes us over 4 minutes to lap the field and we don’t get a km marker, so I assume there aren’t going to be any. Then my worst nightmare appears... mile markers. Well I need to get used to them, I’ve got thirteen of them to look forward to at the weekend.

After the lap around the field the route takes us onto the river tow-path and then becomes a mixture of road, woodland tracks and footpaths. None of which are too evil on my ankles. The same can’t be said of the hills, which started short and sharp but seemed to get progressively less short as the race went on or was that just my imagination and tired legs.

Some of the uphill sections were a bit narrow and caused bottlenecks as when one person up ahead decided to walk a stretch, we all had to. Overall though, it was all very scenic and somehow I clawed my way around in a very respectable 12th place.

The goody bag was reasonable; Dorset Cereal Bars were a sponsor! There were also crisps for the dogs and of course the coveted T-shirt.

There’s a bit of a mix up at the presentation when they give the over-40’s prize to someone who was behind me! I queried the results, as did several of the other over-40’s who'd left me for dust! I think it was all sorted in the end.

Hopefully this unplanned activity, as I was hoping to have been simply watching others swim this weekend, will have topped up my half marathon preparation and perhaps edged up my appetite into cheeseboard territory.

Which I finally got to indulge myself with... but it was a disappointment. It wasn’t a very local selection and very light on actual cheese, it was mostly salad. The Buck Inn has many things going for it but it won’t be making my (as yet unwritten) Good Cheeseboard Guide.

(Sunday 5th September)

Friday, September 3, 2010

An Interesting Route

A pleasant day around Malham today. Good weather too.



We walk out to Malham Cove.



Then onwards to Malham Tarn.



Then back to Gordale Scar. The path takes you down (or up depending on your direction) the waterfall at Gordale Scar.



This is an interesting route to say the least. That is to say the path goes down the waterfall. Somehow, eight years ago, we got the kids and Doggo to climb it. This time I’m not even sure I could sweet talk L down it let alone persuade the dogs to abseil down it.



We abort and find an easier way back to the Buck Inn.

As well as having decent beer, the food is pretty good at the Buck and certainly plentiful. What’s more, there’s a cheese board on the dessert menu. Unfortunately for the second night in a row the main course has defeated me. I must try harder tomorrow, as it’s our last night.

(Saturday 4th September)