Sunday, October 31, 2010

Airing Opinions

I leave the house not long after L and the boys have headed off on their morning walk. Consequently I am still in earshot and I can hear the dulcet tones of barking coming from somewhere down the far end of the street. Of course it may not have been him.

He enjoys his training later and another chance to air his many opinions.

L is out running in Ockbrook and on the way home, I rescue her from Borrowash where she is trying to get a bus home. The next bus is due in twenty minutes. I can get there in ten and, with due respect to the bus, get some pleasurable company for the trip home.

(Monday 1st November)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

'A Run Is A Run'

This morning the clocks go back, so we get an extra hour in bed. Although we do try and keep this information from the party goers in case they try to stay a bit longer. Not that it will affect them if they don’t plan on sleeping.

Once we are up, we head over to the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham. This is the location for the Birmingham 10k, our second race in the second city in eight days. ‘Birmingham 10k’ is a grand title that implies a ‘big city’ 10k. An image reinforced by the finish of the race being inside the Alexander Stadium and the fact that the race was advertised on Runners World.

After we’d entered at a cost of £12 + a £2 booking fee, closer inspection revealed a lack of information on a London based football website that would have been the location for further details had there been any.

Finally a few days before the race an email arrived informing us that the course was now multi-terrain not road as advertised and consisted of four laps of Perry Park. It also would not start or finish inside the stadium due to building work taking place there. Quite a few entrants were not happy about this and some demanded their money back.

I was unsure about it all myself but 'a run is a run' I suppose. I can’t believe I just said that. I’ll be out ‘jogging’ next. Oddly though it sounds like the sort of race I do well in. So we leave Doggo and MD in the car, to howl their displeasure at our absence, and head off to collect our race numbers from the organiser.

On paper the organisation didn’t look good at all but in the end it all went off very well. The race was well marshalled, well signed and even had a half decent goodie bag that included both a t-shirt and a medal, though no munchies.

There were no km markers, which wasn’t a surprise. Just how do you km mark a four lap race? Somehow they need to adapt this into, at most, a two lapper. In fact the four laps actually turned out to be four and a half. Luckily for me, as I’m crap at counting, they had marshals counting for you and letting you know when you’d done enough. Luckily for them, it was quite a small field that they had to keep track of.

It was a pleasant-ish course or would have been if we hadn’t had to do it four times. Though quite hard work at times as there were long sections on the long wet grass which at least got trampled down by lap four. Counting how many people I had lapped kept me occupied and relieved the monotony a touch.

At the end of each lap there was a drinks station. Well a pile of bottles on the floor and a surly teenage girl with her arms folded wondering why she was stood in the middle of a damp park early on a Sunday morning when she could have been doing something less constructive like a normal teenager.

By the second lap someone had clearly had a word, she had some bottles in her hands and looked as if she might be considering handing them out.

By the third lap she had help. All the other marshals were great though.

In the end I came 13th, although my time wasn’t great. It turned out to be a half decent race that could have better had more (and correct) information been provided in advance. We would not have entered but for the inaccurate information on the usually reliable Runners World website. There’s potential there and they hope to sort that stadium finish for next year.

In the evening we work on Daughter’s personal ‘sodding’ statement, her angelic words not mine. Her first draft is pretty good, my re-draft even better. L reckons I’d be sure to pull a fresher with that sort of spiel. Hmmm. She thinks...

Unfortunately my sort of girl is the type who gets up to run four laps around a park fifty miles away on a Sunday morning. I know how to pull her. I take a bottle out of the wine rack and reach for the corkscrew.

(Sunday 31st October)

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Well Earned Winter Break

A rare Saturday lie in. We have no dog shows for a while. A well earned winter break for the boys and they have no problems sleeping in this morning.

Things are still kind of surreal at Derby County. After a defeat last week they are back to convincing winning ways again. A 4-1 win over Watford today at Pride Park.

In the evening we are kind of forced to go out to the pub but admittedly it doesn’t take much coercion. We could really have done with a low alcohol night before our race tomorrow but Daughter had requested whether she could have a few friends around to celebrate Halloween and basically we weren’t invited.

The best thing about her having a bash is that it’s compelled her to tidy her room and we’ve binned a ton of stuff. She now has a room with a floor that you can actually see and even walk on. I’d forgotten what colour her bedroom carpet was.

We decamp to the Plough, for just a few.

(Saturday 30th October)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Redressing The Balance

I’m redressing the balance somewhat this week, three bike rides. Today was probably the best of the week, a bit windy but still very good.

I’ve been told I’m doing next year’s Derby 10k, as two colleagues at work are allegedly doing it and have already entered. Though that doesn’t often mean much, two of them entered last year’s Kilomathon but didn’t turn up on the day. One of the 10k-ers is 'Protégé'. That’s all my health needs, another race against him.

I offer to enter L, at the same time as entering myself, and she promptly asks to be put in the 55 minutes pen. Blimey. I didn’t expect to hear her say that. That’s why I offered to enter her, so that I could surreptitiously slip her into the 55 minutes pen. I was convinced she’d want to be further back. She’s really is getting almost competitive with her 10k time.

A little while later, after a short break to do a bit of work, I also enter us into the Reading Half. No turning back now and no Kilomathon, which is on the same day.

Later we head down to Nottingham’s historic ‘Trip to Jerusalem’, which purports to be England's oldest pub, dating back to 1189AD.



I haven’t been in there for some time and was curious to find out what beers they now stock. Hardys & Hansons owned the pub until they we taken over by Greene King from Bury St Edmunds, who then closed the Kimberley brewery and I think we’ve only ventured down once since. So it was somewhat of a pleasant surprise to find some Nottingham brewed ales on the bar, courtesy of the Nottingham Brewery in Radford, alongside the ex-Nottingham ones which are now trucked up from Suffolk, such as the former Hardys & Hansons beer Olde Trip.

Also on the bar was Greene King’s ex-Oxfordshire beer ‘Old Speckled Hen’ - now sold on draught in its ‘lite’ 4.5% version, as opposed to the traditional 5.2%. Oddly Greene King still describe this as ‘Strong Fine Ale’ on the pump clip whilst its own strong ale ‘Abbot’ at 5.0% gets no such annotation. Confusing or what.

We meet up with some friends and head up to Mem Saab for food. Somewhere else we haven’t been for a while. In our opinion, the Laguna has retaken the mantle as the best curry house in Nottingham, which had been in the possession of Mem Saab for a while. Can it retake the honours?

Well it was good, but not outstanding, so no the title for the moment stays with the Laguna.

(Friday 29th October)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Naughty But Nice

I don’t manage to get out of bed in time to run or cycle but a day off will do me good and it is squash tonight.

I carbo-load down the pub over lunch... Milestone Raspberry Stout. Very very nice. I kind of forget we have to get back to the office for the afternoon or that I have a match tonight and have two pints. Naughty but nice. I’ll be kipping at my desk this afternoon.

Oh and we had game pie, though neither my colleague nor I could decide what type of game it was and the chef didn’t know... hmmm, worrying. Very nice though.

L’s still very keen on Reading. I delay a decision until after the Raspberry Stout has worn off but I suppose it’ll have to be done at some point. If not this year, some time in the future. It’s not that far really. 142 miles. It’s a 10am start. So if we aim for 8.30, means we leave around 6.30 or a bit before. It’s not even as early as a dog show.

My squash opponent is getting desperate to win his 100th game of the year and I know he’s getting close but he won’t tell me how close. He doesn’t make it tonight and I do take one off him but he’s been very cagey about whether he has a chance of making the magic number next week. Perhaps I’ll inexplicably call off next week's game. He would, if the situation was reversed.

(Thursday 28th October)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Cow Is Just A Cow

I cycle again. Why does passing a field of cows make me think of Wayne Rooney...

'Sometimes you look in a field and you see a cow and you think it's a better cow than the one you've got in the field'

No Alex, it’s just a cow. Did you hear that Cantona-esk waffle from Alex Ferguson comparing his star striker to a cow? After which bizarrely he signed a new contract.

Someone drafts me all the way home. I’m not happy about that. When we pull up at the lights he stops right behind me but won’t look me in the eye. I suppose if he did I’d poke him in it.

Daughter is out, so no personal statement tonight. So quality time with L instead, who’s still being very insistent about Reading. Maybe she’ll resort to dirty tricks to persuade me.

She’s also mentioned the midnight half marathon in Brighton. That could be interesting. L would find it hard to whinge about getting out of bed for that one but the race preparation would be so difficult. Do you sleep before or after the race? When do you eat? And when do you hit the pub? Nightmare.



(Wednesday 27th October)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Damp, Miserable And Dark

On the bike. It’s damp, miserable and dark. Though not as cold as yesterday. There is a rumour that the powers that be are considering stopping putting the clocks back in winter. Though this would mean that Greenwich would never be on Greenwich Meantime. Which is just wrong.



It even appears to be a popular idea. Not with me. It’s dark on the bike in the mornings at the moment but when the clocks go back this weekend, I'll have some light back for cycling to work. If they didn't go back, I'd ending up going to work in the dark and coming home again in the dark as well. Great. It would be like living in Greenland but only without the benefit of the snow.

In honour of it being damp, miserable and dark, I make my first trip along the winter route to work.

After I didn’t the honours yesterday, L, is back on dog duty and the daily 'bark on the park'. Although she’s got the day off, the weather is foul and presumably wishes to delay it for as long as possible. Yet MD will be gagging for his breakfast, which as usual I have measured out and placed in the front room behind the closed door, ready for their consumption after the park. Out of sight but not out of mind. This morning, with the park delayed, MD attempts to burrow under the door to get to it. We do starve that dog.

L’s is in one of her ‘enthused’ moods and still on a high after Sunday’s half marathon. She keeps asking me about doing Reading. I use all the delaying tactics I can think of in case her enthused mood runs out this week. She may be on a high now but come March I’ll have to coerce her all the way down to Reading. With her ‘on the day’ nerves and last minute doubts it can be hard enough getting her to the local park for a race, let alone the two hours down to Reading.

Daughter tells me we’re doing university applications tonight. Hers not mine, unfortunately. First though I go for a swim, which is very pleasant. Scenic. Some very nice swimsuits. Nice lines and colours. Swim’s ok too.

Well Daughter’s five university choices have been selected and we didn’t even resort to the pin and blindfold approach. Now all we need is a personal statement but that’s for another night.

(Tuesday 26th October)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Blackmail

L gets up at the unearthly hour of 5am to take Son to the station so that he can be back at Warwick for a 9am lecture. Despite the fact she’s only gone for less than half an hour, MD has to go through the whole welcoming a member of his pack home routine, loudly. So now the whole street are awake, including Daughter who is on half term break and is particularly unhappy about it. After which, it hardly seems worth us going back to sleep, so we don’t.

Talking of MD. L saw this, the World Loudest Bark, and thought of him. He should have been there. Oddly there doesn’t seem to be a collie among them.

The understatement of the year award goes to the organisers of the Birmingham Half Marathon who have admitted the event needs ‘fine tuning’... They’re referring to the delays crossing the finish line, which were so obvious they couldn’t deny they’d happened. They seem to be in denial about everything else. Even then they blame that problem on medical incidents which ‘had to be dealt with quickly’. Which wasn’t the case. There may have been a medical incident but there always is somebody who’s need medical attention after a half marathon and they would/should have been prepared for that. The hold up was actually caused by the handing out of foil blankets, water and collecting timing chips far too close to the finish line. That was obvious when I arrived, as it was already starting to back up then.

Steve Hollingworth, Birmingham City Council's director of sport and events, goes on to mention the ‘great feedback’ they’ve had. Hmmm. There are over 300 messages across three forums on Runners World and rising by the minute. Probably only two or three of them could be described as ‘great feedback’, the rest are highly critical.

Something I learn from looking at all the post race comments is that everyone rates the Reading Half Marathon as a really big, well run marathon - 12,300 finished this years in March.



It’s the world’s 19th largest Half Marathon according to 2009 figures and second only to the Great North Run in the UK. 5th biggest in Europe.

1. 30th Goteborg, Sweden 40,523
2. Bupa Great North Run, UK 37,582
3. OneAmerica 500 Festival, USA 30,281
4. Country Music, USA 22,920
5. P.F. Chang’s, Arizona, USA 22,111
6. Paris, France 21,552
7. Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio, USA 20,077
8. Vattenfall Berliner, Germany 17,888
9. Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas, USA 17,880
10. Rock ‘n’ Roll, USA 15,729
11. Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle, USA 15,677
12. Wien-Energie, Austria 15,483
13. Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago, USA 14,459
14. Chicago, USA 13,532
15. Nike Women’s, USA 13,421
16. Walt Disney World, USA 12,444
17. ING Philadelphia, USA 12,379
18. Medellin Int’l, Columbia 12,100
19. Reading, UK 11,867
20. Disneyland, USA 11,645

It’s already almost full, so if we’re interested we’ll have to get in quick. L says she’s game. I assume she means for the race.

However it’s the same day as the Kilomathon. Which I’d like to support, as it's local, but they’re being very cagey about the route, which is worrying. I have no wish to do circuits of Derby’s new ring road, if it’s finished by then.

I check the Kilomathon website to see if there’s any update on the route and my support suddenly evaporates. They say they have changed the entry system to 'something much more beneficial to charities and also gives runners the option to enter a fantastic road race for just £5'... if you raise at lot of money for charity that is. That's blackmail. If you don’t fund raise then its £45, which is an inflation busting increase of 50% on last year's price of £30, plus a £2.75 booking fee of course. I'm thoroughly fed up with running being hijacked by charities. Reading isn’t that far is it?

(Monday 25th October)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Congestion

I wake up this morning alongside a redhead. Bugger, it’s nice to have a bit of variety but L’s going to kill me. How did that happen? More to the point why don’t I remember it? Oh hang on, it is L. She says its aubergine. Hmmm. I guess so. I don’t think my reference to red cabbage went down too well.

No time to debate now, we’re off to the second city. L did the Birmingham Half Marathon last year, when it was the second running of it and it was combined with the World Half Marathon championships, and really rated it. I didn’t do it, as I did ‘Survival Of The Fittest’ the day before, but there’s no such clash this year.



The first odd thing is that the start time for this race, known as ‘The Race for Climate Change’ has been brought forward to 9am from 10am last year. Which is before the first train has arrived in Birmingham, forcing everyone to drive and they didn’t even provide a map.

We got caught in a traffic jam on the way to the car park at the NIA, which turned out to be caused by some temporary road works. Road works being done before 8am on a Sunday? How rare is that? But surely on race day, these seemingly minor works, which had a major congestion impact, could have been delayed a few hours. We get there a bit pushed for time, have to leg it to the loos and then on to the start. At least it’s not raining, wouldn’t want L’s new hair colour to run.

Last year there were some mumbling about problems with the start pens... This year there were more than a rumblings... in fact I thought they’d turned it into a ‘Survival Of The Fittest’ type event, as many people were having to leap over the crowd barriers to get into their start pens on Broad Street. The street seemed to be an inadequate location for a rumoured 15000 runners to assemble.

I think I managed to get into the correct pen, which was the black one but as there was only one black marker I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to be in front of it or behind it. I looked to be a long way from the start and the dominant colour around me was certainly not black. Two girls in front of me were debating whether they could manage nine minute miles. Nine minute miles? I look behind me at the thousands of runners stretching back towards infinity, they should be back there somewhere but there were no marshals either policing the zones or offering people advice on where they should be. It was every man for himself.

I tried moving forwards but progress was difficult. Things didn’t get any less chaotic after Great Britain's European Champion Mo Farah had officially started the race. It took me a good two minutes to cross the line and then just as I was beginning to get up to speed, everyone came to a grinding halt as the course narrowed where they crazily attempted to channel a dual carriageway into a single lane.

Then we were off again but unfortunately the course was still way too narrow for the amount of runners and the situation was made worse by the lack of segregation which caused faster runners to attempt, somehow, to pass the slower runners in front of them. The race spilled onto the pavements and spectators who had originally been stood at the edge of the course were suddenly in the middle of it and at risk of being knocked down. These human slalom poles were interspersed with traffic cones, which may have once marked the edge of the course but now that the race had burst its banks had become obstacles that needed to be hurdled or swerved around. Again ‘Survival Of The Fittest’ sprang to mind. I was surprised that nobody got badly hurt.

The runners themselves alleviated the pressure on the course by joining the opposite lane, which was for when the race came back the other way. The marshals understandably tried to shoo people back to the correct side of the road but there simply was no room. Thankfully the field spread out a bit before the leaders started coming back towards us.

So I spent the first five miles or so of my race weaving and tumbling over people's feet as I overtook folk, some of who had already started to walk. It was disappointing because I had trained really hard for this and felt that I was in very good shape to get a good time but trying to achieve a PB when you have to swerve around a lot of ipod wearers with coloured numbers that indicated they should have started way behind me was so frustrating.

Also frustrating was the fact that the drinks stations simply appeared from nowhere. There was no signage indicating that one was coming up, which meant that there was more confusion as people changed direction at the last minute to try to grab a water bottle. Unlike at Nottingham the other week, there was water only on one side of the course and not enough people to hand them out. I got a drink at three miles but then kept missing out until around ten miles. I never did manage to get a bottle of Lucozade Sport but it was rumoured to be out there somewhere.

In the end I simply assumed a PB was out of the question and just tried to enjoy myself because generally I loved the course. It had PB potential written all over it as it was very flat, on a mostly good road surface, and pretty fast, when I wasn’t weaving obviously. Then there was the support from the people of Birmingham, which was terrific and a credit to the city. So too were the bands and the guy DJ'ing in his garden.

We pass Headingly cricket ground which is currently undergoing redevelopment. Mainly brand new glittering corrugated iron stands. Ugh. We do a loop through Bournville before heading back to the city centre via a trip through Canon Hill Park and one of the few hills on the course.

I looked at some of my splits, when I managed to see a mile marker, but I didn’t look at my total time until mile 12, when I realised that surprisingly I was back on target for a good time. It had taken me several miles to claw back the time I had lost in the first few miles but somehow I’d just about managed it. So I put in a bit of a spurt along the finishing straight which was back on Broad Street, where they’d had the pens for the start. Now I see why there were barriers enclosing the course, to keep the spectators off the course so that it could be used as the finish. Unfortunately it also kept the competitors off the course before we started. An idea that I’ve not seen anywhere else. I think we know why now. It doesn’t work does it?

I was also confused to as why they’d left a row of cones and no entry signs across the road fifty yards before the finish. Oh well, one final obstacle.

I was thirty seconds slower than Nottingham, which I have to be pleased with and I had plenty left in the tank, which shows my training was probably spot on. Although that just makes it all the more frustrating. Some people even said that their GPS’s made it too long at 13.3 miles. Well I reckon with all that weaving I ran 15, or at least that's was I’m putting down in my spreadsheet.

I would have liked a massage but that was back at the NIA and it was just too far to go. My muscles would already be cold by the time I got there and then I'd have to come all the way back to meet L. So I wrapped myself in two foil blankets, began eating my way through the excellent goodie bag and settled in to wait for her.

I stood and ‘marvelled’ at the pandemonium now occurring on the finish line. They were handing out the foil blankets, drinks and removing your timing chip far too close to the finish line. This had now caused such a bottleneck that other finishers couldn’t actually get across the finish line, which is terrible and makes a complete mockery of the use of chip timing. I have never seen that before at a race, ever.

I really felt for anyone doing their first race and wanting that 'crossing the line' moment. L tells me later that she was even told by a marshal to slow down as she approached the finish, presumably to try and ease the congestion. People were receiving automated text messages from the organisers congratulating them on finishing the race while they were still marooned on the actual timing mat.

Somehow I missed L; perhaps it was the unfamiliar hair colour, so I headed back to car park and found her there.

My father who was going to come to support, never even got there. This is partly his fault but was also due to lack of signposting to the recommended race car park. I'm actually glad he didn't get there. Those crowds at the congested start/finish would have made it very difficult for him anyway. He would have had to have walked miles to see anything.

Oddly all this disorganisation would usually have really annoyed me but I actually enjoyed this run a lot, I won’t call it a race, but it should have been so much better. There's a lot of potential here but you just have to laugh when you consider that the supposed ‘Race for Climate Change’ caused so many congestion problems.

I will do it again, despite my criticisms because I would come back for that course. Although they've changed the route now three times in three years, so who knows what the route will be next year. They will also have to police the start pens in 2011 because I’m arriving early and going straight to the front zone. I imagine I won’t be the only one.

It should all be a source of great embarrassment for the organisers but that was Birmingham City Council and councils don’t get embarrassed about anything. This race was a classic example why you should never let a council organise anything and they’re talking about 20,000 runners next year. Perish the thought. I would hope that at some point it will be taken out of their hands by a private organisation, so that the race can realise its huge potential.

We head home for a warm down that included the traditional hot bath and a tub of something strong from the Fox and Crown.

(Sunday 24th October)

Friday, October 22, 2010

'Bonio' Money

The courses for MD at today’s show are horrible. The jumping course was simply impossible for him. Despite the fact that under the rules at this indoor show we get two cracks at the same course, we got E’d both times. I even stopped him on the course after we’d been eliminated and tried the same sequence again, several times, still no joy.

Then we get another ‘E’ on a tricky Helter Skelter, although that was mainly my fault. Suppose it’s ALL my fault really, as I’m the handler. I’m hoping his agility course is a bit easier.

It is easier but it’s far from being a ‘gimme’ but MD nails it and goes clear. Then we do our second run and I try to make a few improvements. Not only does he go clear again but we’re two seconds faster than on the first run. Blimey. 6th place, a rosette, and a cash prize. £4 beer money! I mean Bonio money.

Doggo meanwhile goes well in everything, although not clear in two of his five runs, and gets a 6th place, and then later a 4th, but doesn’t even get a rosette because there are less dogs in his classes, so the prizes don’t go down as far.

That 4th was almost a 3rd, which would have got us something. Despite the fact I needed to be back home sharpish, for an early gig tonight, I was hanging on and hanging on cause he was holding that position for ages until eventually he was pushed down to 4th and we could leave for home, empty handed. Sob.

Back in 1985 I recall seeing New Model Army make an appearance on Top Of The Pops with their single at the time ‘No Rest’, which went top 30. Most striking, apart from the great song, was the bands T-shirts with the slogan ‘Only Stupid Bastards Use Heroin’ which the BBC didn’t quite know how to deal with, what with it being a bit too confrontational for them but at the same time appearing to give out some rather good advice, that probably fitted in with its remit as a public service broadcaster.

It wasn’t long after that that I was persuaded to go see the band in the flesh at Rock City. It soon became a regular occurrence, going through the routine of donning shin pads, putting all valuable belongings in a very safe pocket and double checking the life insurance before heading down to join in the mosh at these exceedingly 'lively' affairs. The band's fans have always said the concerts were friendly occasions even though you’d be counting the bruises afterwards. They may be more on the friendly side these days but in the earlier days I’m not so sure. Perhaps it was just other more unsavoury types attaching themselves to the band at that time.

This was all some time ago and I don’t think I’ve seen them in at least five years. Consequently I have somewhat lost touch with their material but rather like 25 years ago I’ve been persuaded down to Rock City tonight for the second of their 30th anniversary shows in Nottingham. Rock City has, despite the band coming from Bradford, become somewhat of an adopted home for them. The band are playing two consecutive nights in various cities worldwide playing a different set each night and supporting themselves. There are only two shows in Britain:- London and Nottingham, so people have come from far and wide tonight to pay homage. I hear they played 29 tracks last night and we’re due a completely different selection tonight. Tonight, by the way, really is their 30th anniversary. The bands very first gig was in their home town on 23rd October 1980. Exactly thirty years ago.

Justin Sullivan, the band’s lead singer, guitarist and only constant factor in the bands existence takes the stage a little after 7.20 with just an acoustic guitar and his fellow guitarist for company. It’s a gentle start and hey, I know this one, ‘Heroes’ from 1986’s ‘Ghost of Cain’ album opens the night. I don’t know much else of what follows, save for ‘Lovesongs’ again from ‘Ghost of Cain’, in a nine song ‘support’ slot which includes a mix of material across the 30th years of the band and even includes a b-side ‘Modern Times’.



Throughout this set they gradually build up the pace and the instruments, first the drummer joins them, then the bass player. Sullivan’s long term partner, the artist, novelist and poet Joolz Denby who has frequently worked with the band makes an appearance during ‘Space’ (from 1990’s ‘Impurity’) before they close the set with ‘Ocean Rising’ from last year’s ‘Today Is A Good Day’.



After a twenty minute break they return to the stage and are straight up to full throttle. The crowd are also now well warmed up and I let myself drift backwards away from the stage as mayhem erupts during ‘Christian Militia’ from their debut album 1984’s ‘Vengeance’, to avoid having to explain the multiple bruising to L later. Now they’re in my era. This is how I always remembered New Model Army nights absolutely heaving and one constantly moving dance floor.

Another obscure track ‘Falling’ gives way to a few newer numbers before another track from ‘Ghost of Cain’, unsurprisingly well represented, ‘The Hunt’ stirs things up again. The usual no crowd surfing signs were up at Rock City and I didn’t actually see anybody doing any but instead we get a bit of ‘crowd walking’.



At one stage they were building a human pyramid which predictably collapsed.



Security doesn’t usually put up with any of that sort of behaviour, not these days, but it appears as it’s a special occasion and it’s the ‘Army’, I think security have been given the night off.

‘Get Me Out’ from ‘Impurity’ and ‘Here Comes The War’ from 1993’s ‘Love of Hopeless Causes’ are more stand out moments before an awesome threesome close the set. ‘White Coats’ (1989’s ‘Thunder and Consolation’) is followed by ‘51st State’ (‘Ghost of Cain’ again). Referring to the subject of the song, Justin points out that ‘some things haven't changed in 30 years’. It’s a reworked version which verges into reggae territory in the middle but still doesn’t stop the crowd singing every word back at the band. Then finally the track I mentioned right at the beginning, ‘No Rest’ (1985’s ‘No Rest For The Wicked’) finishes things off.

They return for a five track encore, which may have been longer had it not been for another of those annoying 10pm curfews, that concludes with a double from ‘Thunder and Consolation’, ‘Stupid Questions’ and then finally what he describes as the only way to finish, with ‘I Love The World’.

If there’s a drawback for me, being an old git, is that there is only one track from each of their first two albums tonight. Particularly as I’d expected the place to be full of fellow old gits but surprisingly it’s not. There are an amazing number of people, who as Justin points out, were not even born when they started.

See you at the 40th’, says Justin. Yep, I imagine you will.

There’s time for a quick pint before I head home to cook up some healthy pasta to fuel up for the run tomorrow.

(Saturday 23rd October)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

UK Tour

Last night we dropped Son off at Nottingham Trent’s Clifton campus where he had arranged to meet some friends. That was at about half-past-midnight. Four hours later he turns up back at our place for a few hours kip before departing again just before 7.30 on the next leg of his UK Tour, back to Warwick for an 11am seminar and then up to York for the weekend.

L had taken a bag of provisions for him with us up to Leeds. This had then travelled back with us and then had spent the night on his bedroom floor, via a stopover in Clifton. We hope the meat and cheese isn’t too rancid by the time he comes to eat them. It's done some miles.

The media is full of Wayne Rooney and the Liverpool sale. How this is of any interest to anyone outside the supporters of those two clubs I’m not sure but we’re being force fed it anyway. Thankfully the Rooney saga now appears to be over after he agreed a new five year contract just days after announcing his intention to leave over concerns that the club's squad was not up to scratch... Seems he forgot about that once they waved wads of money in front of his eyes. Unfortunately for Wayne, the amount of money they are now going to be paying him will mean they'll be none left for any new signings.

After work I walk to Chaddesden and then attempt to get the bus over to Long Eaton, where I’ve arranged to meet L. I get there five minutes before the bus is due but the electronic signs say that the next one will be in 24 minutes. How can that be, when the buses are every 20 minutes. The one after the one I was waiting for hadn’t even left its start location yet.

One eventually turns up, only around ten minutes late, I rendezvous with L and we head off to the Erewash Valley Beer Festival. This nomadic festival, which was originally held in Sandiacre then Ilkeston, is back on the calendar after an absence of two years.



It is being held in one of the old lace mills in the town, which has recently been refurbished, The Westgate & Clifford Suites on Westgate.



It’s only a week after the Nottingham Beer Festival but we reckon we’re up to it. A not too bad selection of beers as it turns out and almost all were from local breweries, which is how it should be.

Set List

FUNFAIR - WALTZER 4.5%
BLACK HOLE - NO ESCAPE 5.2%
LEADMILL - RAMPAGE 5.1%
NUTBROOK - COW JUICE 6.0%
FUNFAIR - CAKE WALK 6.0%
BURTON BRIDGE - FESTIVAL 5.5%
BURTON BRIDGE - TOP DOG STOUT 5.0%

There were a couple of repeat performances in L’s selection.

FUNFAIR - CAKE WALK 6.0%
BURTON BRIDGE - FESTIVAL 5.5%
THORNBRIDGE - KIPLING 5.2%
FUNFAIR - CAKE WALK 6.0%
DERVENTIO - CLEOPATRA 5.0%
BURTON BRIDGE - FESTIVAL 5.5%

(Friday 22nd October)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Travel Mayhem In Leeds

Today we set Son a challenge. To get the train from Warwick Uni up to Leeds where we'll meet him for tonight's Feeder gig.

Having got to Coventry from Uni, his train then suddenly terminates at Birmingham International and by the time he’s got another one to New Street he’s missed his connection to Leeds. He won’t arrive until 9.05 and they could be on stage at 8.30.

By now we’re on the M1, a gloriously and surprisingly quiet M1, so we make good time. We are organised as ever. A packed lunch for the way up and coffee for the trip home.

We find the venue quite easily and are just outside by 7.20, looking for somewhere to park. All the nearby car parks seem to be private so we make for the huge multi-story across the dual carriageway but when we get there it has a big sign saying it closes at 21:00. Not helpful. We find another one but its £6 to park and only takes coins, we do not have that much change. Then the one way system tips us in the wrong direction and with no signs saying City Centre, Train Station or Universities, we get completely lost. L takes over the driving and I google map us back to the city centre.

Eventually we’re back at the venue, this time we spot some car parks on the way and go into one of them. Then we join everyone else driving up and down levels looking for spots that don’t seem to be there unless you’re disabled or a mother with baby. Other events appear to be happening tonight, including Plan B at the Academy, so it’s really busy. In the end L pretends to the mother and I pretend to the baby. Then we rush to the venue and race up the steps. It’s now 8.40, Son could have almost beat us there. Thankfully we’re told that we don’t have to rush, the band aren’t on until 9.00. Still a rush for Son, we tell him to jump in a taxi as soon as he arrives at Leeds station. Time for a pint I think.

Our late arrival means that we don’t get to see the support band ‘Cape Fear’. Had we managed to park on our first lap of Leeds we would have done but it wasn’t to be. The students union turns out to be a good venue, with a nice high stage. It has to be as we can’t get near the front due to being so late. The sound is pretty good too.

Feeder re-emerged at the start of the year as Renegades and played two blindingly good low-key tours showcasing their new material. Now with an album of that name released they’re out to promote it but back under the Feeder banner.

The now familiar strains of ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ signal that this is going to be basically a Renegades show in all but name, just on a bigger scale and with the hits re-added to shut up the handful of hecklers who disrupted a few of those shows.

It’s also though, about bums on seats or more precisely feet on floors. Like a lot of bands they are finding that the records aren’t selling much but the gigs are. So the band are playing a lot of gigs at the moment and by the time their current schedule ends in March 2011 they will have played nearly 80 gigs in 15 months. Serious gigging and there's no sign they're done yet. Apparently they have another album in the can, that may contain lighter material, though the band haven't confirmed this and to be honest Grant and Taka appear to love playing the heavier Renegades stuff so much. The record was originally rumoured to be out around now but it's now shelved until at least early next year, perhaps longer.

The band take to the stage, then seconds later ‘Barking Dogs’ launches itself out of the kennel and growls its arrival (sorry), opening the night in breathless fashion. A style that is typical of their new record.

If nothing else the Renegades experiment showed what a tight live band Feeder still are and you can hardly spot the join as they vault back eleven years for 'Insomnia'.

Like the opener, ‘Sentimental’ is also from that first Renegades ‘Black’ EP and its heavy chords continue the raucous theme. Feeder's new material has been a trip back to their dark side of old and a welcome one. A dark side of short, sharp, adrenalin fuelled tunes.

Even when they do show their lighter side, when the first of their two suicide infused power ballads arrives in the form of 'Feeling A Ooooh Ooooooh Ooooooh Moment', it’s as if the track has been taken out the back, given a bit of kicking and then let back on stage. It seems a much more intense animal tonight. During which Son rings and I leave L in our spot to go fetch him. She would be too polite to push her way back to the same spot. Son and I have no such airs and graces.

The band are just about still a three piece, although the keyboards are back for those softer moments, of which there aren’t that many, even then the keyboards are kept pretty much in the background.

‘Renegades’ itself, a track as good as anything they've ever done, with its subdued opening before it explodes into life, gets the crowd really jumping for the first time tonight and starting to appreciate this new/old Feeder sound.

Then just as the tone has been set, most of the big hits arrive in a clump in the middle with newbie 'Down To The Ooooh Ooooooh Ooooooh River' for company, and this disrupts the tempo a touch. Of the ‘big’ tunes, ‘Pushing The Senses’, which I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for, is the pick of the bunch. Pretty awesome tonight.

Karl Brazil is, with respect to Mark Richardson and the late Jon Lee, one of the ‘keenest’ drummers I’ve ever seen and he tries to leave the imprint of his drum kit on everything but I swear he was drumming something else, possibly ‘Home’, over the top of ‘Just The Way I'm Feeling’. Which has also been roughed up a bit at the edges but if anything comes out sounding a bit muddled.

Well ok, I don’t like it much anyway, the song grates on me but always has, though I can’t begrudge the band their moment. It’s such a sad song that draws heavily on Jon Lee's suicide. There’s also the fact, admittedly, that this song and the following one about drinking cider from a lemon get a very big crowd reaction.

Then we’re back to those heavy guitars for 'White Lines', so good they played it twice. Well the first verse anyway, after Grant messed up but I think he was the only one who noticed and then 'Home' which just seems to get faster each time they play it.

Throughout the show Taka Hirose prowls the stage with his bass guitar, showing no signs of his alleged passport problems. Apparently the Home Office don't believe he’s been living in this country since 1992... and if he went out of the country he may not get back in again. Which could cause a problem or two for the upcoming European Tour. Tonight though, he's seems to be an adopted Yorkshire man.

Unlike with ‘Silent Cry’, Grant seems to like their new record and pulls heavily on it tonight. Whereas on the tour for that album they played very few tracks from it live. So it’s no great surprise to hear nothing from that album tonight. Perhaps they’re trying to forget that record ever happened, which would be shame. Just one track tonight would have been a nice touch but Feeder never were big on surprises. Well until recently, when the Renegades tour briefly broke the mould.

The big moment for me comes after they close the set with ‘Call Out’ and return for the encore for which the crowd are already singing ‘da da da’. For God’s sake Grant just play the damn thing when they ask for it and don’t be so predictable by leaving it until the end. Better still, why not blow everyone’s mind and open with it or something. Encores should be for surprises.

I had mentally pencilled in a ‘predictable’ encore of ‘High’ followed by ‘Seven Days’ and that ‘da da da’ number but we do get a treat. Even a surprise if you like. ‘We’ve not played this one for a while’ he admits, as he lights up my evening with the wonderful ‘Yesterday Went Too Soon’, performed all too rarely. You see, it’s not difficult, I’m easily pleased. One more like that and they’ll be carrying me out on a stretcher.

Then he decides to ditch 'the big rock ending' he said they had planned and play some old ones instead. ‘Ooh good’ me thinks, fingers crossed for 'Sweet 16' and 'Descend' again, which were so wonderfully resurrected for those Renegades shows. Get that stretcher ready... but no. He means ‘Seven Days’ and that ‘da da da’ number. Well suppose they are old too, it’s been ten years now. Nothing from ‘Silent Cry’ is maybe understandable but nothing from either ‘Polythene’ or ‘Swim’ is just criminal.

That said it’s a lively finish, a good finish, sending the crowd into delirium and yes I do love ‘Just A Day’ as much as everyone else but it’s all a bit too predictable.

Still an excellent gig though. The Renegades stuff still sounds awesome and largely blends with the older stuff well. Now if Grant just had the conviction to draw on their amazing back catalogue a bit more, because he clearly has a liking for the grungier stuff, then we'd really be in business.

(Thursday 21st October)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Short Measures

L’s had the morning off and has been running, we’ll call it extra training on the sly shall we, under cover of the excuse of meeting her parents for coffee. She says Sunday’s Birmingham Half isn’t her focus, 10k’s are her focus, but she’s certainly put some work in for it.

We’ll all do good times if they repeat the mistake that they made in Cardiff, where the course was short by 193 metres. So there was no excuse for not doing a PB there then. It’s not much, 193 metres, but it could be enough. Could you live with yourself afterwards though? Yep. Probably.




Puppy watch. L points out that I neglected to tell her about Monday’s puppy. It just slipped my mind. There’s nearly always a puppy at training but this was a particularly cute one. It wasn’t a collie though, some little dog of unknown breed because I’m hopeless at these things. It was about as big a chocolate bar but with legs and obviously very sharp teeth. I suppose I should have got a photo for her really. It’s not there tonight though.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Neck And Neck

I run the last four miles to work again. I’m not sure whether to do a short run on the way home as well or just rest up until the weekend now.

I do so listening to Pat Barker’s ‘Border Crossing.



L and I are reading the same audiobook at the moment, with slightly different takes on it. It will make a lively discussion over a few beers when we've both finished it. Which in her case will be quite soon. She's more adept at this reading lark than me and has, after giving me a head start, caught me and now we're I think we’re about neck and neck but I know she's just slipstreaming me and is about to rocket past. This is one thing I won't beat her to the finish line on. If she was a cyclist on the morning commute, she'd be deadly and not popular with tactics like that.

I decide that I will do another run tonight and the weather turns out nice for it. No, not really. It’s mainly horizontal, the rain that is. Thankfully it stops for 5pm and I run to Chaddesden, from where I’ll get a bus to nearer home and then run from there. Then it starts hailing, sideways. Three of us take refuge in the bus shelter. Which is cosy. All lads unfortunately.

L's at the gym, probably sheltering from the rain and she says she's not coming home until she’s finished the book. Told you. I’m going to get comprehensively beaten in to second place on this one.

Thankfully the rain/hail blows itself out whilst I’m on the bus and I run the last four miles to home, only getting wet on the very last stretch, half a mile or so. As I wind my way through our local streets, I cross the road and nearly get mown down by a cyclist. No lights! He swears at me. Perhaps he has a point. Perhaps I should have seen him. Then 50 metres down the road he almost drives into the side of a car which had just pulled out of a side street and obviously hadn’t seen him. Perhaps he hasn’t got a point. Perhaps he should get some lights.

(Tuesday 19th October)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Puppy Power

I’m in the car, so naturally someone breaks down on the A52 and makes me late for work. Oh for a bike.

I’m not on it so that I can get the weekly shopping and make it to early dog training tonight. Where someone showcases a new puppy and naturally it acts like one of those ultraviolet fly trap things, on the women that is. Puppy power. This keeps three-quarters of the class occupied whilst us boys get some quality training time in on the vacated equipment.

Wonder if they’ll lend me that puppy... It's a bit soon for us to get another one and unfortunately they grow up. Well fortunately in some ways, at least they stop chewing things or digging up the garden. Eh MD? Wonder if he’ll ever grow out of barking?

(Monday 18th October)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Nice Warm Bed

I’m late arriving at Shrewsbury, because I misjudged the distance, for what is the final outdoor dog show of the year. It’s a very chilly morning, so it’s probably a good job it’s the last one outdoors. In fact, it’s so cold here that they have to de-ice some of the equipment before it can be used. Hmmm and I’ve left L all alone in a nice warm bed for this.

I get Doggo out of the car and he stares at me with a look of disbelief, I believe that those very same words ‘nice warm bed’ are on the tip of his tongue. Look on the bright side mate. The icy conditions mean that a couple of the courses don’t start on time so that we can get away with being late and get to recce the course.

Despite the conditions, the old master sure footedly puts in a clear round on the icy surface. Then so too does MD, although at the third attempt. He’s been skipping some weaves today, once at the end, once in the middle and on both occasions there were only six of them. Surely even MD can count up to six?

Later, Doggo has a bit of a moment on one of his course. He stops and has a good look around before continuing. Not helpful. I think he was looking for the photographer. No mate, he’s not here either, he’s at home too, probably in a nice warm bed.

Then there’s a tricky last course for Doggo, we totally nail the hard bit but then get eliminated on the easy bit at the end, as I urge him to go faster and he takes the fastest route by missing out the penultimate jump.

In the end, not a bad day but no rosettes.

Daughter goes over to visit Son, so we send a food parcel with her. You know fruit, veg, juice, meat etc. He’s been surviving on just pasta and sauce for a fortnight, and he’s not even trapped down a mine. So we had to do something so that he doesn’t die of malnutrition before he’s 21. He’s already contracted Fresher’s Flu, presumably from lack of nutrients, although it can be contracted in more pleasurable circumstances, by snogging an infected person.

(Sunday 17th October)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Getting Back On The Horse

There’s that rarity this morning of a weekend lie-in. Then a pleasant-ish stroll on the park with the dogs. MD sets the tone early, or should that be lowers the tone, by loudly chasing a squirrel up its tree as soon as we arrive. He seems smug with himself but is too busy being smug to notice another squirrel stranded in no man’s land on the field, tying to get back to the tree MD is now guarding. The squirrel seems to shrug off this inconvenience as it hops into the nearby bushes and I’m sure it brazenly waved at him as it did so.

On the way back, Doggo stops for takeaway pizza. Discarded by someone last night I assume. Hope it wasn't a Mexican or else it’ll be disagreeing with him later. Then again, it might make him run faster tomorrow.

Derby win again and it’s 3-0 again. Somebody pinch me. Even their crosses from the wing are going in now. Yes Mr Moxey it was a cross not a shot but I’m sure you wouldn’t claim anything else.

Despite yesterday L declaring that a ‘new me starts today’, she said she was never drinking ever again, we head into town. They do say ‘You have to get back on the horse that threw you’ as soon as possible. With our freshly recovered alcohol legs, we head off to Broadway for food and then to the Ropewalk for a few drinks.

I’ve only just discovered the Ropewalk website which makes an interesting read. Among other things it boasts of its ‘Well fit staff. So if you fancy just sitting there with a pint ogling us that’s fine, just remember ‘tippers make better lovers!’’. Now there’s an interesting marketing approach. Don’t mind if I do.

(Saturday 16th October)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Waiting Around The Corner

I get the bus in, as I have a long run pencilled in for later but this is currently on constant review, after last night’s rather enjoyable evening at the Nottingham Beer Festival. The beers were very good or perhaps it was just my clever selections.

The hangover’s there but it’s not all encompassing. The main problem is the curry I had, one of those dishes was really spicy and my insides are reliving it this morning. It needs to be ‘despatched’ a.s.a.p.

L looks worse than me though and she had three drinks less. I advise her that getting up would make her hangover seem better. She advises me a little later, after she’d crawled in to work and soothed her battered liver with a cup of tea, that I was wrong and it didn’t.

Before I start my run home, I enrol L and myself in the Birmingham 10k, which is in a few weeks time. She did want to enter herself because she was worried about what start time I’d put down for her. That’s a good point. I tell her to leave it to me.

Just before 5pm, the weather report is emailed across to me from Nottingham. It’s raining. Naturally. It isn’t here yet but I’m sure it’ll be waiting around the corner for me. It was. So the run is a bit on the damp side. I do nearly eleven miles and then drip dry on the Indigo bus.

In the interests of common sense and liver redemption. We stay in tonight and recalibrate our alcohol units.

(Friday 15th October)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No Mean Feat

I’ve already done one short run this week and I’m intending on doing a long one tomorrow. Today was supposed to be a gentle bus day ending up at the beer festival tonight but L said that if I was getting the bus, I might as well combine it with a run. So I did, despite the bed pulling this morning.

At least I've got someone to blame if it doesn't go well... but it does. In fact I’m feeling very in shape for this race next week. Which means that I’ll do a slow time, I bet. I always seem to run faster when I’m feeling unfit.

I spend my lunch hour trawling through the list of 810 beers from 280 breweries that will be available at the festival tonight. My cunning plan is to narrow this down to around ten for a bit of a ‘session’. No mean feat. First remove all the ones that aren't dark, as this is a preference of mine. Then remove all the ones I drink regularly or have tried before but don't rate. Then erase anything too weak and anything too far the other way. Then anything described as floral or citrus or smoky or flavoured with paradise seeds and curacao... The apricot beer gets the chop as well. This leaves me with a list of around 35. Still too many. The final cut brings it down to 15. Need a few reserves on the subs bench.

The 'good advice' is to not go straight for the strong beers, as you won’t remember the weaker ones you have later. There are two holes in this theory. One, why would you revert to weaker ones later? and two, the strategy of leaving off on the strong ones until later only works if everyone else does the same thing and believe me, they don't. So this is just 'advice' put out by Camra members who want you to leave the best stuff for them.

The best beers and particularly the strong ones will start running out well before the end of day one, Thursday. So my advice is don't mess around and although it’s not advisable to hit the festival on a ‘school night’, it’s the only way.



So it’s straight from work to the festival at the Nottingham Castle where I’ve arranged to meet L outside at 6.30 but I’m a touch early, so naturally I start without her. The rum and raisin porter is a disappointment, as deep down I kind of expected it would be. It had only just made my list but with that one out of the way early, things get better and better.

L is well sorted because they have a selection of her favourites:- Screech Owl, Jaipur, Fullers ESB, and even Marston’s Owd Roger. It was particularly good to see Owd Rog’ there, such a rarity on draught and damn good tonight.

The food was good too. Not only did I get a two course curry but a cheeseboard (well cheese platter) as well.

Set List

SPIRE OLD JAMAICA 4.8% - Staveley, Derbyshire
THORNBRIDGE MURMANSK BALTIC PORTER 7.4% - Bakewell, Derbyshire
ANGUS DRIVER'S STOUT 4.4% - Carnoustie, Angus
MARSTONS OWD ROGER 7.6% - Burton on Trent
BRAMPTON MILD 4.9% - Chesterfield, Derbyshire
NOBBY’S T’OWD NAVIGATION 6.1% - Guilsborough, Northants
FLIPSIDE DUSTY PENNY 5.0% - Colwick, Nottingham
FULLERS LONDON PORTER 5.4% - Chiswick, London
MILTON MARCUS AURELIUS 7.5% - Milton, Cambs.
SHARPS SPECIAL 5.2% - Rock, Cornwall

I have counted the number of alcohol units in that lot but I’m not telling. I'll tell you about the hangover tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sardines

Well they’ve finally started pulling them out. The Chilean miners that is. It’s all very impressive stuff and something actually worth turning the TV on for. It’s amazingly what the rescuers managed to do. Not only the final rescue but the way they’ve fed, clothed and entertained them through a tube for the last couple of months. I believe there’s even a Burger King and a Starbucks down there now. It’s just a shame someone didn’t apply all this technology to the mine in the first place, then they probably wouldn’t have got stuck down there at all.

It’s a shame to have to switch over to the cycling, where there’s gold for David Millar and silver for Alex Dowsett in the time trial. Whilst my hero Michael Hutchinson comes in 4th, again, for the second games running. Gutted for you Michael.

There’s success in the women’s too and as I cycle to the pool I contemplate Julia Shaw’s bronze medal for England, at the age of 45. So there’s hope for me yet.

I’ve been meaning to sign up again for the £50 cash back offer than Nottingham’s leisure centres are offering again. I just haven’t got around to doing it. OK, so perhaps it's because I haven’t been to the gym or the pool for ages. Then when I make it to the pool tonight, they tell me that the last place on offer was filled at 1pm today. Sob sob. So no £50 then. I suppose it serves me right for not going often enough.

To compound my misery the swimming pool is packed, which makes swimming any number of lengths without stopping to get out of someone’s way or to overtake is difficult. Mind you being crammed like sardines in one of the lanes isn’t too arduous as most of the swimmers seem to be from Nottingham University’s female swimming team. Then just as I’m about to give up and get out, the pool empties and I feel duty bound to swim a few more.

Its Doggo’s monthly training session tonight, which means MD’s had a totally lesson free week. He’ll start thinking he's at University if I’m not careful.

The session is good, we practice tight turns tonight, something the old man is good at but tonight’s training shows up just how much I’ve let things slip with him. All my fault, basically I’m not doing the handling right. I need to be more focussed on Doggo at our final outdoor show of the year on Sunday.

(Wednesday 13th October)

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Couple Of Seconds With The Staple Gun

This week is National Chocolate Week.



Not that I shouldn’t really say that, what with two women in the house at home. In fact I had considered mentioning next week that last week was Chocolate Week but thought that was perhaps too cruel. Then again, perhaps not.



I run into work and nearly get run down by a cyclist. He would say that I should have seen him coming and I did, as he had fairy lights flashing away all the way down the front of his jacket. I just didn’t know which way to jump, plus I think I was momentarily dazzled by all his lights. I’m not sure all that illumination is really necessary, just to ride on the pavement.

That incident apart, the run goes well. I felt fit and I never feel fit in the mornings. I’m also fairly sure it was quite a quick time but I don’t know, as I chose to run with ipod and watch rather than my usual approach of phone and mapmyrun, then my watch battery went. I have no watch at all now, as the strap has broken on my proper watch. That watch is sat on my windowsill at work waiting for me to take it into town for a new strap. As I sit looking at it, a thought occurs to me. Hmmm. A couple of seconds and a few goes with the staple gun later, it’s as good as new.

I catch up with some more of the Commonwealth Games and watch the potentially lethal squash doubles. Fascinating and amazingly no blood yet but I can see why they're all wearing protective eyeglasses.

I'm not sure what's going on here though, between the two New Zealand girls, Jaclyn Hawkes and Joelle King, who had just defeated our English girls,
Jenny Duncalf and Laura Massaro, for the gold medal.



I have a night out in Derby after work whilst L goes to the Booker Prize evening. Kind of. Not the real one, hers is at our local library, where they are read excerpts from the six books on the shortlist and get to vote on the winner.



Everyone disagrees with the actual winner, Howard Jacobson's 'The Finkler Question', but isn’t that always what happens. L always says the winner is unreadable. So I’ll skip that one then, although I do need something new to ‘read’ now that I’ve finished the Pelican Brief.

(Tuesday 12th October)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Too Much Swinging

I gather than both of the intrepid girls from Saturday are still feeling a bit battered this morning. In her defence, L points out that in last year’s blog I mentioned that I wasn’t exactly 100% either and was suffering with aching arms, neck, back and shoulders from too much swinging on the monkey bars. Ah happy memories. The only thing is I don’t recall either of them doing any of the monkey bars.

Rather worryingly her Sis seems to have got quite a buzz from it and she says she is definitely on for next year... L wasn’t expecting that. She vows to pump a lot more iron and find something to practice swinging on.

I dump a load of books in the recycling that have been evicted (and about time too) from Daughter’s bedroom. Quite a few seem to be school library books... hmmm, some of them seem to be five years late but I’ll drop them in at the school, as long as they don’t expect me to pay the fines for them.

No training for the dogs tonight, so we hit the park instead. It’s packed even though it’s already starting to get dark. We pass a chap who is training his woman by making her run up the hills and hop around cones. I’m obviously too soft with L. Though I’m not sure whether he’s her loving partner or just her personal trainer, or perhaps both. It’s nearly seven o’clock and he’s making her do all this in near darkness. I’m impressed and take notes for my future personal training career. He obviously wasn’t very happy with her Survival Of The Fittest time.

(Monday 11th October)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Role Reversal

Only just the other day, L and I were trashing the concept of ‘runner’s nipple’ and what have I been suffering with since Friday? Yep, you guessed it. Or ‘fissure of the nipple’ to give it its correct title. How embarrassing. I’ve never had any such problems before and I always wear the correct type of ‘technical’ shirts and not cotton ones, just like you’re supposed to. I also have a bruise on my upper arm, which I’ve no idea how I got.

However all my wounds are trivial stuff compared with Miss Black ‘n’ Blue herself, who is struggling to even roll over in bed unaided. L always has to try and go one better and has outdone me in style. She’s bruised all over from the Survival Of The Fittest experience. Daughter even has to slice the bread for her so that she can have toast for breakfast. Despite that she’s off today to run, or maybe hobble, around the Merrill 10k.

Meanwhile I’m at the East Of England Showground, for a spot of dogging. Things don’t start well. Doggo skips his dog walk contact. So as soon as we leave the competition ring I drag him off to the practice one. Which is an ‘honour’ I’ve not bestowed on him in over three years. He looks gutted but is immediately better, although not perfect like he is in training. Hopefully that has given him the hint that I want him to be just as good in competition as he is in training.

MD makes a decent effort on a grade 1-7 course, which is above his usual level. He has only one jump down, although I do mean down, as in flattened. Both wings down as well as the pole.

Next up is his G3 course, his usual level. He’s perfect to jump 10 out of 20, then if all goes spectacularly wrong as he hurtles off down what I assume he thinks is the finishing straight, eventually hurdling the last jump with the timing gear on it. Only problem was, it was the start jump not the finish. An easy mistake to make I suppose, both have the timing gear on them. All the same though he should be taking instructions from me and not adlibbing.

Doggo redeems himself, temporarily. He is clear on his jumping course but then tries to take a chunk out of a Weimaraner, for which he gets booted. As in sentenced to a stint back in the car boot, which is where they usually travel. Whilst ‘he who usually get booted’, MD, is curled up quietly by my feet. Role reversal. L will never believe this.

So that’s all my runs done by 11am, bar one. I’ve got just one more to do with MD, in about four hours time... I pour a coffee from my flask and start reading the paper, slowly.

Bugger. A four hour wait and then MD does a near perfect clear round. So we’ve got to wait for the results now. I drain my flask and sip the last of the coffee, slowly.

We get 15th, not bad out of 185 entrants. Almost worth waiting four hours for. We’d have done even better if the judge hadn’t got in my way on the course. We took a revolutionary route and he clearly wasn’t expecting such innovation. Now I’ve just got to wait a little bit longer for the presentation and our rosette. Yet I’m all out of coffee.

Home for roast lamb, a take-out tub of ‘Brush’ from Fox and Crown and a romantic night with L. Who was a bit slower in her 10k than she had hoped for but after her exploits yesterday, it’s not surprising. So I won’t call her in for extra training.

Only thing is we’re both knackered, L protests that she got about as much stamina as a collie, and we both promptly fall asleep. Although not as promptly as the collies.

(Sunday 10th October)

Friday, October 8, 2010

How’s The Hair?

I’ve been on stand-by for this year’s Survival Of The Fittest for what seems like forever. In theory L had talked her sister into joining her for a good hosing down by the local Fire Brigade but I was never actually sure that I wouldn’t be called upon as a replacement team mate until her sister actually turned up on our doorstep this morning. I suppose even then there was still a possibility she wouldn’t go through with it.

I wouldn’t have let L go through the ordeal on her own. I would even have run at her pace all the way around, on the condition that she piggy backed me across the river. I’m not going back into the Trent for anyone.

Her sister seemed to think that not being much of a runner would mean that she’d struggle with the 10k distance. Though it’s not actually 10k, it’s nearer 12. Sure there’s running involved but honestly that’s the least of her worries. The Trent, now that’s something to get worried about.

Sis comes well prepared. That is well prepared to not put her own trainers in the river. Smart girl. So L lends her a pair.

Hubby and the kids come to support, complete with bikes, so that they can cycle around the course with me. Which will be cool. Our own little peloton. L suggests she load me up with jelly babies and perhaps a bottle of Chardonnay with a straw. Nice idea but I ought not to drink wine whilst I’m cycling.

They are in wave 4 and at 10.45 they’re off. We wait at the first obstacle for them to come over the hay bales and wait... and wait. They are dead last over hay bales and it’s only fifty metres from the start. Cunning tactics I assume but they get appropriate abuse from the commentator for letting everyone else go ahead so they have the bales to themselves. I lead the fan club in trying to up that level of abuse.



Then we set off in pursuit on our bikes, well we overtake them and get a good photographic spot for the mini assault course outside Nottingham Forest’s City Ground. Which seems a bit easier than when I did it last year. We weren’t allowed to put our feet on the ground between obstacles nor were we given a bunk up over that wall nor were we allowed to skip the monkey bars. What happened to equality?

Then I lead the peloton round to Holme Pierrepont and the really ‘fun’ bit. The mud crawl is well received... and there does seem to be more rocks in it than last year, which is one improvement at least. Sis crawls out of the mud and asks the photographer how her hair looks. ‘Great’ he lies, but her her hair will be fine, it’s about to get a rinse, in the Trent. Anyway, she’ll have more serious things to worry about soon, like not drowning.

First though there's more monkey bars and... I can’t believe they’re skipping them again. Then it's the river traverse and then the water slide back in to that cold cold water and a chance to wash all that mud out your hair.

There's assorted inflatables, tunnels, a clamber across the skate park and a chance to shoot some netballs until eventually it’s the last obstacle, the wall of fame. L has been worried all week that there won’t be anyone behind them to heave them over that wall. True she won’t be getting any help from the bunch of Santas who were spotted heading off in the other direction, destined to dip their suits in the river. No matter, there are still plenty of guys around who are willing to push a girl over the wall by her bottom.



They do well. A respectable time and they’re not even last, quite a long way from last actually. Generally though I just think they’re relieved to be alive.

After a pub lunch and a chance to embellish those survival stories, we head home and then later up to Sheffield. It’s October, so it must be about time for another Delays gig.

We miss the tackily named ‘Scars on 45’ but catch the unusually named Ruberlaris from nearby Chesterfield, who seem to have a bit of a ska/reggae thing going on. Well, at least the lead singer/guitarist Chris Alsop does. Sometimes I think the rest of the four-piece band, who apparently are usually a five-piece with a saxophonist added, are playing something more conventional but it all blends together quite well. Lyrically he is strong too.

The band struggle at first to get much reaction, other than warm applause from the small crowd, because it’s still quite early in the evening but the crowd gradually warm to their high tempo music and energetic stage presence. They’re pleasant enough but really not my thing.

After a short delay (that’s nearly a pun), Greg Gilbert bounces onto the stage in typical Greg Gilbert fashion, wearing what I’m almost sure is the same shirt he always wears when we see the band live. I just hope he washes it occasionally.

‘Girls On Fire’. It's back. The Bodega in June was good but this is already better, they didn’t play it then. Well its better until I start getting picked on. That's all I need the lead singer having a go at me for not clapping to ‘Lost In A Melody’. It’s not even one of my favourites. Then he seems to keep his beady eye on me all night which, I think, makes L a touch jealous.



Greg introduces ‘One Night Away’ as just a song from ‘Faded Seaside Glamour’, their first album. I don’t recall them playing it before but I’m sure they must have, just not recently. I always like it when bands chuck in an obscure oldie. The song ends with a touch of feedback and morphs into the excellent ‘Friends Are False’.

Four tracks in and nothing new yet, nothing from their new album ‘Star Tiger, Star Ariel’. Then ‘Find a Home’ appears but the only track we’ve not heard before is ‘May '45’ which appears mid-set. That apart there’s a lack of new stuff.



A chap in the crowd keeps yelling for his favourite song but he doesn’t actually know the name of the song he keeps yelling for. Aaron fights him off once but then Greg has a go when he requests ‘In Bittersweet Sunshine’ for the third time. ‘How can I play that when I aint f***ing written it yet?’ he protests before launching into ‘In Brilliant Sunshine’.

Tonight I think it's possibly the liveliest Delays crowd I've seen, the place had filled up considerably, adding to the small crowd who witnessed Ruberlaris. The band are as lively as ever, well Greg is, he even bounces his shoe laces undone during ‘Wanderlust’.

‘Panic Attacks’ is accompanied by an order to ‘get your arms up Sheffield’ and I’m sure he’s looking at me again. He hasn’t got much time to hassle me though; they seem to be in a rush now, up against another Saturday curfew. To coin a phrase or an album title, ‘Everything’s A Rush’. (Mental note: in future pick midweek gigs for longer sets).

‘Hideaway’, ‘Nearer Than Heaven’ and ‘Valentine’ end the set with the crowd continuing the latter even after the band have left the stage.

They return and Aaron protests about the curfew, ‘they’re trying to kick us out’. Yes but you were late coming on mate. They still run slightly over budget with ‘You And Me’ and ‘The Earth Gave Me You’ appropriately from the aforementioned ‘Everything’s A Rush’.

I’ll let my partner sum it all up. ‘Such nice boys’, so says L. So there you have it.

(Saturday 9th October)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Silencing The Doubters

L rings what’s-his-name, oh you know, he who used to live with us but is now at Warwick University. He’s doing good, he says. He's even managed to cook something, so the free pizza must have come to an end and cooking is probably a necessity if he’s going to have any money left. He’s even done some washing and the rumour is that he may have to go to a lesson next week. Unfortunately we still don’t know what he wore to the pyjama party; he doesn’t have any pyjamas.

L is jealous. She wants to be a student. Not a problem. I tell her we’re both going. Once we’ve got Daughter there, it’s our turn.

L goes to sign on for tomorrow’s Survival Of The Fittest. The important question is, of course, what colour is it? The t-shirt that is. It’s white, well pre-Trent anyway, obviously grey afterwards, even after several washes. If I was her I’d wear something else tomorrow.

I leave work and run towards home. My work colleague and occasional protégé asks if I’ll be running all the way home this week. I keep saying this is something I intend to do. No, I have that pencilled in for next Friday, which will be my last long training run before the Birmingham Half Marathon. ‘You’re not going to do it’, he says, ‘are you?’ Of course I am. Next week. Hmmm. Doubter.

It’s busy out there on the streets, lots of runners about. The men sweating away profusely. The women glowing away... so they say. ‘Men perspire, women glow’ you know. Some of them are glowing buckets. Attractive actually, I do like a bit of sweat, I mean glow.

The run goes very well. I don’t walk any of it and don’t stop apart from at the occasional road junction. It probably goes too well. I get carried away and run fourteen miles, carrying on past my intended stopping point by about three miles. Well at least that should silence the doubters.

Three quarters of the way across the university campus, close to home, I decide to walk the rest as a warm down. Then L texts to say she’s got the house to herself and she's just about to slip into a hot bath... I break back into a run.

Later we naughtily slip out to the Plough but no one notices, as no one is home.

(Friday 8th October)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Moderate Success

I cycle in and it’s very foggy again, well it is in Derby. Nottingham wasn’t too bad.

Apparently L’s dog was mega noisy this morning. Making up for being out-noised by Doggo at training last night obviously. He was so rowdy that when he got back from his walk, and began loudly demanding his breakfast, he woke Daughter up and you don't want to do that when her college day starts with a free period.

As you may have gathered I like a girl in figure hugging Lycra but this has nothing to do with why I’ve been watching the Commonwealth Games cycling every morning this week. I was very impressed with Becky James this morning, her cycling ability that is, as she clinched the silver medal in the women’s sprint on the track in Delhi and she’s only eighteen. Naturally I had to watch her terrific semi-final performance on the internet because the BBC were still being obsessive about the swimming and now the athletics as well. They did however wise up for the final, where she lost out to the vastly experienced Australian Anna Meares. Watch out Victoria Pendleton she’s on your tail.



Rant time...

There’s a lot wrong with the Commonwealth Games because a lot of the sports just don’t get a good enough field, due to a lack of eligible countries. Track cycling should though be the exception though because the best two countries on the track are Australia and Great Britain, with New Zealand not being too bad either. However, what essentially could have been an enthralling head-to-head between the Aussies, who have almost a full strength team in Delhi, and the home nations has been a bit of a let-down because team GB has failed to turned up in any sort of force.

This is partly the fault of the European Track Championships which are coming up in November in Poland, a new event that has sprung up from nowhere and has been designated as an Olympic qualifying event. It also didn’t help that the World Road Race Championships in Australia were only a fortnight ago but the Aussies have coped with that inconvenience ok.

Whilst the individual events have been well attended by the ‘minor’ countries some of the team events have struggled for competitors. The highly specialised Team Pursuit had only three participants, Australia, New Zealand and a very game Indian team who were willing to have a go against the big boys. As it stood, with England choosing not to participate, the Indians stood to win an unopposed bronze. That was until the organisers persuaded both Northern Ireland and Wales to cobble together teams. Which they did do, made a competition of it and denied India the bronze, which went to Northern Ireland.

Why though, with the UK’s huge depth of cycling talent, weren’t England there in more force? It was thought that the UK’s first professional cycling team for some time, Team Sky, were a good thing for Britain. This week however they haven’t been. Top British riders who are on Sky’s payroll, such as Geraint Thomas, Ben Swift, Ian Stannard, Russell Downing and Peter Kennaugh said they were going but then pulled out. Whilst Sky's Bradley Wiggins never had any intention of going.

You can say what you like about Mark Cavendish and he’s not everyone’s cup of tea but he is in Delhi for the road racing this weekend, as is David Millar, and both have ridden the Tour de France this year as well as the other two big tours, Vuelta a España and Giro d'Italia, as well as the World Championships. Both must be knackered after a long season but they’re there and strikingly neither ride for Team Sky.

At squash I try a new serve, as see in Delhi. I stick with it all night, with moderate success but moderate success is step up from my old serve. Four very good games tonight, well three of them were good anyway plus we had dark ales in the pub afterwards. Followed by late night spam curry. Quite a night.

(Thursday 7th October)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Grand Ideas

My ears are still ringing from last night. I hope nobody wants to speak to me today.

They wouldn’t be able to anyway, I’m plugged into the Commonwealth Games which streams nicely on my phone.

I see Price Charles got introduced to the Australia hockey team. I can understand why he wanted to meet them but I'm not so sure why they're dressed as they are. Chas doesn't seem to mind though.



Naturally I’m glued to the cycling and to the squash, from which I’m trying to pick up a few tips.

I’ve been having to watching it all on their internet channels because the main BBC TV channels are showing wall to wall swimming. Yawn.

I’m not sure I’ve learned much from the squash. I was hoping that I would turn up for my game tomorrow night a new improved player, but I doubt that’ll happen. It’ll just be the old one with some grand ideas that won’t come off.

Perhaps I would have learnt more from watching the men’s quarter-final rather than the women’s one but I do like those skirts. Anyhow, I best do some work.

At dog training later even Doggo gets a go and he’s more vocal about it than MD. Another bad habit the little one has passed down or should that be up?

(Wednesday 6th October)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Could Be Fatal

It would have been a rather pleasant ride into work on the bike had not the intermittent rattle on my bike returned. I think it always happens when I get the bike wet, like I did in that downpour last week. Best get the oil can out tonight.

It cheers me up when my favourite terrier (not) spotted me and chased my bike again, with its owner still attached to its lead. That always make me laugh.

Then someone tried to wipe the smile off my face by opening a car door on me. I actually heard the click of the door opening and reacted immediately. Which is a very good advert for not wearing headphones whilst on the bike like a worrying number of people do. Losing the ability to hear could be fatal on a bike.

I have a gig tonight and it could be a difficult one to blog. The Twilight Sad appear to have no website, no forum, no recent setlist.fm listings and no live reviews of their current tour. Add to this the fact that, although they have a great line in song titles, the titles bear little or no relation to the song, so much so that the band themselves can’t even remember them and resort to cryptic codes on their own set lists. Then throw in instrumental band Errors as support and you can see I’m going to be in for a tough evening set list wise. Even if the bands were to introduce everything, what with them both coming from in and around Glasgow, it probably wouldn't help as I won’t be able to understand the accents.

So first, Errors, last seen at Summer Sundae wedged between The Besnard Lakes and Los Campesinos. They are billed as co-headliners, which means they get fifty minutes on stage and I suppose theoretically even an encore.

Well, honestly I haven't a clue what they played but it was good and the small crowd at Stealth approved. There was nodding aplenty from a crowd desperate to sing along to their infectious blend of electronics mixed with traditional guitars and drums, but with nothing to sing along to, a good old nod had to do instead. Sorry... I just don’t really go for instrumental bands. I'm not sure of the point but presumably they are. Perhaps, to get their music used as backing tracks by the BBC. Which these days seems to be the ultimate endorsement for any slightly obscure band and in this case the BBC don’t even have to strip the vocals off. How convenient is that?



Errors like everything just so. Their lead man Simon Ward seems a bit of a perfectionist, often signalling instructions to the sound desk and then smiling to himself when it all goes to plan. The Twilight Sad on the other hand are much more rough and ready, brash even. They start loud with the lead track from their new EP ‘The Wrong Car’ and get louder.

By track two, ‘That Birthday Present’, I had already realised that in my eagerness to get a look at their set list I have made a tactical error. I am standing far too close to guitarist’s Andy MacFarlane’s amp because the wall of guitar noise that he is producing is now swallowing me whole. So much so that most of the time I can’t hear James Graham’s vocals at all or the keyboards. I know there are some keyboards in there somewhere.



I consider moving across to the other side of the stage to see if I can hear the keyboards or perhaps moving to the back in the hope that I can hear everything but then a) I wouldn’t be able to see and b) I fear the damage has already been done to my eardrums.

Their albums, particularly their first one ‘Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters’, are quite sombre affairs which did not quite prepare me for the intensity of the band live, where the cacophonous noise dominates everything, unlike on record, where the guitars are reigned in, letting the vocals shine.



More blistering guitars obscure their finest vinyl moment, set listed as ‘hit single’, more commonly known as ‘That Summer, at Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy’. Gripping his microphone in both hands, James Graham’s face is a mass of anguish as he delivers his impassioned vocals. Sometimes I can even make them out and at the moment he is informing us that his ‘kids are on fire in the bedroom’.

He frequently stands sideways to the crowd, appearing lost in his own world and I can see why he’s often compared to Ian Curtis, although isn’t everybody these days. Although this guy even sound-checked like I imagine Ian Curtis would.

‘I'm Taking the Train Home’ is equally piercing and far louder than its vinyl counterpart. The floor starts shaking. Did I mention that the Twilight Sad are loud? Very loud. Not just ear bleeding loud but nose bleeding loud and probably causing internal damage loud too. As I walked down to the gig tonight I had to thread my way through the hoards queuing to get in to see Mumford & Sons at Rock City, probably less than a hundred yards away as the crow flies and this lot are trying to drown them out.



Then a quiet moment. A slow burning start to ‘Cold Days From The Birdhouse’, sung pretty much guitar-less, until the song eventually bursts into life, well exploded if I’m honest and practically blasted the head off the front row. The song as a whole though worked well live and was undeniably the best bit tonight.

Then to close, the noisier but still slow building, ‘And She Would Darken The Memory’ driven again by MacFarlane’s guitar and the powerful drumming of Mark Devine.

Then James Graham thanks us all for coming and for not going to see Mumford & Sons. Wouldn’t have mattered, we’d have heard them from there anyway. I leave with my ears ringing. That was one incredibly loud gig. As an overall spectacle it was rather impressive. 10 out 10 for intensity but a lot less for audibility. I have to say overall the experience was a little underwhelming. I’d go again but next time, perhaps I’ll stand further back.

(Tuesday 5th October)