"for the happy, the sad, I don't want to be, another page in your diary"

Saturday, 2 April 2022

Creak

My knees creak round Monday’s morning walk. I should probably be running later, topping up yesterday's distance but I’m not sure that would even be possible. Instead I manage to get a bike ride into work on Tuesday which was hard work, as knees still ache, and also quite cold.

I’m also in work on Wednesday which was very busy. So busy in fact that I fail to make the gym at lunchtime but do manage to go for a quickie afterwards.

It gets even colder on Thursday and L gets soaked in a blizzard, a very wet blizzard. So I probably don’t need to take a spade to dig my way out of Asda despite the persistent snow showers when I do my parents’ shopping later. 

On Saturday with the Lad now outlawed from Parkrun, I run it solo, which is weird, while L spectates with the boys.

There’s a match in the afternoon. L gets the SkyLink to Aston to sit with my Mum after having lunch with her Mum first.

Then in the evening it's the Psychedelic Furs at Rock City.

 (Saturday 2nd April)

The Psychedelic Furs

Pauline Murray & The Invisible Girls open up for the Psychedelic Furs tonight. It is far from the first time I have seen Pauline Murray as she has been the perennial support act for many bands from the early 1980s era since, well, the early 1980s. At least at the gigs I go to.

She is now 72 and her voice is still sounding great. Accompanied now by her daughter Grace on backing vocals and her son Alex on keyboards. As she says it’s a family affair. She’s clearly still having a great time playing live as are tonight’s headliners.  

Since getting back together at the turn on the century, The Psychedelic Furs have never really been away from the live arena but they have been away from the studio. That is until April 2020 when 'Made of Rain' became their first album release since 1991's 'World Outside' and you know what, it's an absolute cracker.

For various reasons, well one big reason actually - Covid, they haven't had chance to play it live until now but when you’ve waited that long to make a record what’s a two extra years?

Tonight they go big on the new album, really big, with no less than seven tracks played from it but it comes off big time for them. It helps that it is so good.

The album is not an attempt to reinvent the Furs material of the early days, nor the poppy Furs of the mid-80s but it still has all the hallmarks of a Furs album including Richard Butler’s trademark rasp of a vocal which remains a thing of wonder. In many ways, the album continues the logical progression from their previous work. You can’t really tell there’s been a gap of 30 years since ‘World Outside’. While tracks like ‘Don’t Believe’ and ‘Ash Wednesday’ are broodingly atmospheric the likes of ‘You’ll Be Mine’ are powerful, exhilarating and just as anthemic as some of their more famous stuff.

There are of course plenty of juicy tracks from their other seven albums as well or at least the first five more famous ones. From the opening of ‘Highwire Days’ and ‘Dumb Waiters’ to the closing double of ‘Heaven’ and ‘Heartbreak Beat’ through the likes of ‘Mr. Jones’, ‘The Ghost In You’, ‘Pretty in Pink’. ‘Love My Way’ and ‘President Gas’

Throughout it all the 65 year teenager Richard Butler bounces his way through the set in his rock’n’roll shades. Although he does seem to have a music stand in front of him in case he forgets the words?

Then after a night celebrating the new album it is perhaps somewhat appropriate to go full reverse circle and to close the night with a encore of the opening two tracks from their self-titled debut album. The glorious anguish of ‘Sister Europe’ followed by the adrenaline whirl that is ‘India’.


Sunday, 27 March 2022

Quordle

If you’re bored with Wordle there is now Quordle which is basically four Wordles in one and it takes forever. I conclude that life’s too short for Quordle. 

After Sunday’s antics in Ashby, Monday’s walk is more of a hobble than a walk and now somehow I seem to have pulled a muscle in my side as well.

On Wednesday I cycle to work, which was a bit painful and pushing off from junctions was very difficult but I made it. I meet my ex-colleague in the Brunswick for Lunch and a pint seems to dull the pain a touch.

Back working from home again on Thursday, L asks how the pain is. He’s in his bed obviously and the other one is yawping in the garden.

I take the rash decision to push the pain envelope even harder and go for a 10k run with sore knees, a sore side and also nipples still sore from Sunday as I forgot to use glide at Ashby but otherwise the run was fine.

On Friday we have a big HR meeting at work to attempt to find out why everyone is hating the takeover, so everyone is summoned in. It’s almost like a school reunion, seeing people you haven’t seen for ages.

Saturday is the Lad’s last Parkrun, which we do at Wollaton. It’s a sad occasion for us but probably not for everyone else who will now be able to listen to the briefing rather than his barking.

On Sunday I run the Sheffield Half Marathon, which has always been one of my favourite races with its no messing straight uphill first half up Ringinglow and then the plummet back down to Sheffield in the second half. Well it was my favourite before my knees went awol.

When I last ran Sheffield in 2018 my calf, which seized up during most races in those days, gave up the ghost in the warmup yet I still hobbled round in 1:55. Today it’s a 1:58.

(Sunday 27th March)

Sunday, 20 March 2022

Ashby 20

My colleague from work is doing the Tromso Rat Race this weekend. Snow biking, snow shoeing and cross country skiing across three countries. It sounds amazing and costs an amazing amount of money. None of which is of course is going to be as amazing as the Ashby 20.

They haven’t had a lot of luck at Ashby in recent years. 2018 was snowed off and although 2019 went ahead the last two years have been Covid-ed off. The original 30th Anniversary was cancelled at the 11th hour in 2020 with the first lockdown about to be announced.

I have the iconic hoodies for that race and the 2021 Virtual one, so I thought I best actually earn this year’s 30th Anniversary ‘take two’ one. Plus I need the training.

'Organised by runners, for runners' by Ivanhoe Runners, race HQ and the finish is in Bath Grounds although we start at short walk away on the road.

The weather is good, sunny but cool. The course has a great first mile which is all downhill, which of course means that the last mile wiil be all uphill. Then you arrive in Packington where you start two nine mile long laps.

These are hilly laps but with steady and rolling hills rather than anything too severe. We head through Sponge, then up an incline through Swepstone towards Heather and then finally through Normanton Le Heath as we head back to Packington where my support team of L, MD and the Lad await. I've kept a good pace at around 9 minute miles and lap one is done in a decent 1:29. Then I do it all again, just more slowly slipping down into the 10s and 11s.

Although I finish five minutes quicker than at Oundle last week in 3:12:10 this isn’t the fastest Ashby 20 time recorded by anyone in our house. L’s 3:07 from 2003 still stands and may never be beaten.

Then it's time for the iconic hoody, the iconic cheese cob and a commemorative 30th Anniversary medal which is the first time the Ashby 20 have issued a medal.

Funnily enough I quite enjoyed it.


  (Sunday 20th March)

Saturday, 19 March 2022

Not Saving The Planet

This week I receive the traditional annual London Marathon rejection which comes as no great surprise and its probably good news given my knees. Which the Lad treats to a hard work out on our morning walk but then the Lad is hard on everything.

As I am now predominately working from home, L reluctantly goes off to her early gym classes. She says she finds it hard going for a class when I’m not zooming off to work. Well, I can always pretend I’m going to work if that helps.

Actually today, Tuesday, I am really going to work. I head in by bike with my laptop on my back. It’s not ideal carrying the laptop because I can’t really fit anything else into my bag and it’s heavy but I’m not sure there’s any alternative.

I can at least leave it at work as I’m back at work the following day. I am out in the evening so I go in to work on one of those rare Red Arrow things. Problem is then that I have to take my laptop with me on the night out, so that I can work from home the rest of the week, which also isn’t ideal.

I also go to the gym while I’m in work which is a good way to spoil your lunch hour.

By being at work I miss a parcel delivery and DPD leave me card saying they’ve dumped it at some shop 2.5 miles away in deepest Aspley. Not helpful. They say that by dumping it miles away they are saving the planet as they don’t have to attempt a redelivery. What they mean is that they are saving their own petrol and using mine instead as I now have to drive over there to collect it.

It's ‘dog ban minus two’ at Parkrun this week as we run at Alvaston again and my fellow dog runner suggests he might simply ignore the forthcoming ban but I'm not bothered enough to try that. 

(Saturday 19th March)

Sunday, 13 March 2022

How To Destroy Your Confidence

On Monday L goes to the pool for a swim for the first time in ages and sends through the feedback ‘I managed not to drown’ which is exactly the sort of thing I’d say had I been near a pool, which I haven’t for some time.

Despite sore legs from doing Retford I take the Lad out for a run and we do 9k. MD gets shoved in the car, which makes him think he’s going somewhere even though he isn’t and the car stays on the drive throughout but he’d probably howl if I left him home alone.

Tuesday is International Women's Day whatever that means these days. I tell L she can choose what we have for tea but then I usually ask her anyway.

On Wednesday I cycle into work as part of my marathon training.

On Friday we go with some friends to the Shalimar in Derby which is somewhere we went with them about 20 years ago but not since. Although I’ve been on my own a few times. The place gets progressively more expensive every time we go and their sales pitch, for their Gold cards, get progressively more creepy. I’m not sure we’ll be rushing back.

On Saturday we Parkrun at Wollaton. Just two more now to go for the Lad before his enforced retirement.     

Then on Sunday I race a 20 miler. What better way to destroy your confidence for a marathon than to attempt to run two 20 miler back to back. My ‘long awaited’ Ashby 20 debut is next week but first the Oundle 20 miler down in Northamptonshire.

This a newish event by Nice Work that started in 2018 and rather sweetly has most of the same snacks etc that you get on their 5ks.

The next thing I notice is that almost everyone from the Stamford race last month is here. Anyone would think there are some marathons coming up.

The race HQ is at Oundle Primary School but parking is all in the little estate roads around the start. I’m not sure what the residents thought of this... the ones in Retford last week would have gone ape and have done so in the past.

The route takes us out from Oundle around the local country lanes taking in the villages of Fotheringay, Nassington, Yarwell and King’s Cliffe.

They describe it as undulating with PB potential which is of course both contradictory and a lie. It was indeed hilly although not quite as bad as Stamford and quite windy too but thankfully not cold like it was for Stamford.

Like Stamford I started off with 9 minute miles and this time avoided dropping into 10s until about mile 13, two miles later than at Stamford. Then into 11s at mile 18, one mile later than at Stamford. All of which meant nothing as my overall pace was about the same. I’ll blame the obligatory last bit around the playing field. I came in with 3:17:36 which is about 4:25 marathon pace. 

Overall it wasn’t too bad an event and I’d probably do it again, if I had too...

(Sunday 13th March)

Sunday, 6 March 2022

Not Going To Happen

We come back from Scotland to be faced with the news that Parkrun intends to bring in what is effectively a ban on most dogs from 2nd April. They will no longer allow you to run with your dog if you’re using a waist harness but not only that, your dog must run nicely at your side on a normal lead. That's not going to happen with 99% of dogs and it's 100% not going to happen with the Lad.

We Parkrun at Alvaston where I have a chat with a fellow dog runner who is very morose about it all. I’m more accepting. The Lad will miss it more than me and he won’t now get the chance to do his 50 like MD has. He has three more, after today, to make the most of it.

On Sunday I run Retford Half which was the last run L and I did in 2020 before lockdown. L even put in extra distance afterwards as we expected the Ashby 20 to still go ahead the following week but it didn’t.

Instead of Retford this year I had considered Warwick Half which we could have possibly combined with a trip to see Son and it would have been more interesting place for L to spectate. Then I found out that Warwick is £36 and a t-shirt is £15 extra whereas Retford is £20 including a t-shirt. Given that Retford is also organised by the local running club that I would like to support, rather than a profit making race company, here we are.

Run wise it is what it is. Country lanes, not terribly exciting but useful training.

During the race I get caught by someone local to us who I’ve sort of being trying to beat for years and have usually done so until recently. Now he’s ageing better than me and he’s five years older than me as well. As we run a few miles together he’s delighted that we’re running at around 8:10 pace. While I’m dying because my target marathon pace is 9:00 and that's what I want to be running at. 

I ran a pretty amazing 1:45 for this race back in 2020 which was a typical time for me ‘back then’ even though I was struggling to get my distance up for the marathon. These days I’m running closer to two hours (different era, different knees). 

His daughter is running with him and is in training for the Manchester Marathon. Even 8:10 is too slow for her and she skips off in front because clearly we’re holding her back. A mile or so later I tell him I’m slowing down and drop off his pace. 

I finish in 1:54, which is still quite good and I suppose all thanks to his suicidal pace making.

(Sunday 6th March)

Friday, 4 March 2022

The Return Of The Mask

With skiing abroad still not being particularly attractive especially with the situation at airports right now we resurrect the winter break in Scotland. We head north with ‘Dead Lions’, Mick Herron’s Slow Horses Book 2 on the audio.

Surprisingly almost everywhere takes dogs but at varying degrees of cost. So we do another mini tour staying at three different places.

We drive up through a snowstorm just south of Glasgow, then after better weather through Glasgow and around Loch Lomond we follow a snowplough past a very snowy Glencoe Ski Centre. 

 

It is disappointingly not snowy in Fort William where we stay for the first night on the banks of the Caledonian Canal at the Moorings Hotel.

We are immediately caught out to find that unlike England, Scotland has not declared an end to Covid, scrapped all Covid rules, testing, track and trace and mask wearing. All those things are still very much a thing up here. In fact mask wearing still applies at all indoor venues including bars and restaurants, the likes of which we haven’t had in England since late 2020.

Then next day I make use of the Caledonian Canal and do a 10 Mile run down it accompanied by my Stephen King audiobook. Two days later I repeat the run accompanied by the Lad. Which he loves.

 

We have a couple of meals at the hotel and I’m quite taken by the Glen Spean beer they have in bottles, so we go to stock up from the brewery which is at Spean Bridge. The best place for breakfast, which we haven’t booked at the hotel, turns out to be at the Highland Soap Company which is something that has sprung up since last time we were up here.

Saturday brings the inevitable Parkrun which is at the Nevis Range Ski Centre although the Ski Centre itself is closed due to high winds. There are only 30 people in the run but despite having to start dead last due to someone’s excessive over excitement we come in 5th.

We have breakfast afterwards in their café where they have the oddest anti-plastic policy that sees them use cardboard instead rather than just using normal plates and cutlery.

In the evening we eat at Spice Tandoori which seems to have done for our old favourite the Everest. Somewhere else we visited many years ago is the Grog and Gruel but it’s beer range is disappointing when we revisit this year.

On Sunday we move to Onich and the Onich Hotel which is just along from the Ballachulish Bridge. It has a few interesting beers but on keg and the food is pretty good although one evening we eat at the Isles of Glencoe.

Breakfast is a bit shambolic because you have to wear plastic gloves at the breakfast buffet. That’s not a restriction we’ve had anywhere before.

Whilst in the area we visit another old stomping ground of Glencoe Village, visit both the cafes there and revisit the old Lochan Lake walk. We also walk the section of the West Highland Way that goes through Kinlochleven which is a bit too uphill in places for MD. L then runs back to the hotel from Ballachulish and across the bridge. The next day I do a similar run in the opposite direction meeting her at the car park for Signal Rock.

On Wednesday I get a bit of skiing in on my snowblades at Glencoe Mountain where there is quite a lot of snow but also quite a lot of fog, so it’s not really feasible to go up to the top. It gets quite windy and snowy later with the visibility getting worse although L, who is looking after the cake in the café below, assures me it’s raining at the bottom which persuades me to call it a day and get the chairlift down. 

Sadly they had a fire in their main lodge the other year and are rebuilding it. It is just about complete and should be open in a few weeks’ time. 


Then we move to our final destination, about an hour down the road towards home, where we stay at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel. It is somewhere we have passed every time we’ve headed up this way and wondered what it would be like to stay there. We stay in their ‘annex’ because of our furry accompaniments but it’s still quite posh.


While there we do another small chunk of the West Highland Way and eat both nights at the hotel because there really is nowhere else around here but it’s good in any case.

Then before long we’re heading back for home.

(Friday 4thMarch)

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

New Fitness Hero

L’s new fitness hero is Curling’s Eve Muirhead despite the fact she has two Border Collies. She may be able to lift some serious weights but there’s little excuse for the collies and definitely not for two of them. Who'd be daft enough.

Tuesday’s morning walk and my subsequent cycle to work were both very windy. The boys are quickly asleep in their baskets after their walk and I’d probably be asleep in mine if I had one. L has a much more enjoyable morning walk (to work) but that's probably because she wasn’t attached to a dog.

It is unfortunate that Boris Johnson’s plan to declare the end of Covid this week should have coincided with our 95 year old Queen testing positive but I’m sure it won’t deter him. He is however scrapping testing. We started all this without any testing and it appears that will be how we end it as well.

In one of those bizarre things you do, I attempt to vacuum the car before I take it to be cleaned ahead of our holiday on the basis that there is so much grit in it they would probably give up on it if I didn’t pre-clean it first.

The plan falls apart when the vacuum refuses to cooperate. L gives me some technical advice on how best to prod it with a skewer. No wonder she and the vacuum are barely ever on speaking terms.

Then it's our final dog training and final match before we head off to Scotland. I am fitting the trip in around the football so that my Dad doesn’t miss a match.

(Wednesday 23rd February)

Monday, 21 February 2022

The Libertines

Tonight’s support seems particularly well chosen as the Dead Freights from Southampton fit tonight’s vibe very well. They hit the stage with an energetically punky set that has levels of volume and bass not seen since the Health and Safety free 1980s. I’m going to be very deaf tomorrow. 


With the Libertine’s Gary Powell producing some of their material and vocalist Charlie James having more than a bit of Pete Doherty about him, there’s plenty for the crowd to relate to as they warm us up nicely for the main event.

That main event is The Libertines catchily titled Giddy Up A Ding–Dong Tour which finally makes it to Rock City. Postponed from December due to Pete Doherty experiencing a non-Covid respiratory infection while Carl Barât tested positive for the real thing.

Now 25 years after they started the new Libertines take the stage on time, cut out the messing around and don’t even look sloshed. Perhaps they’re finally growing up a bit.

Naturally Pete Doherty still looks like he’s just rolled out of bed and to be fair he could look healthier. Although that is probably more to spreading waistlines these days rather than anything more sinister.

Musically though he and everyone else is on form tonight and we’re straight into the debut single ‘What a Waster’ from way back in 2002. That is followed by ‘The Ha Ha Wall’ and ‘Up the Bracket’ before arriving at the brilliant comeback single ‘Gunga Din’ which now itself dates back to 2015.

It is quite an achievement to have been in existence for 25 years in total, 20 since your debut single, and yet to have produced only three albums. At least most people will be getting to hear what they want to hear tonight which may have been more difficult had they say at this point released a dozen or more records.

They ‘may’ have grown up a little but the music still remains a little rough around the edges but now it looks more deliberate rather than accidental.

After each salvo of livelier numbers they slow things down with the likes of  ‘What Katie Did’ and ‘You’re My Waterloo’ back to back. Another slow pair of ‘Begging’ and ‘Music When The Light Go Out’ come later. That’s the pattern they follow through a set of 16 songs before they return for an encore of five more.

Closing with ‘Don’t Look Back into the Sun’ into a rambunctious ‘Time for Heroes’ they send everyone home extremely happy.

Are they growing up a bit? Yeah, I think so.