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

Tuesday, 3 December 2019


After my improbably quick time on Sunday the old legs are a bit stiff the next day but I’m winning the battle against the stairs at work so all’s good. L continues her recover in the gym.

By Tuesday the legs are good to go for a bike ride into work. L is in the pool with her new festive swim hat. She’ll be getting the Christmas socks out next. She reckons she’s a bit like MD, returning to her puppyhood as she gets older.

Whereas L is possibly getting more festive with every year, I’m getting less so. Although she does point out that I put the tree up last night and its only 2nd December.

This is true and I’ve just picked up a couple of advent calendars for the boys, which I got cheap because Advent has already started. I’m sure the boys won’t notice.

I’m already thinking I’ve peaked too soon festively and I’m wondering when can I take the tree down again.

The main reason I put the tree up so damn early is that I wanted to try to get a photo of the boys in front of it with their antlers on for our Christmas card. I like to think that our Christmas card is anticipated as much as the John Lewis TV Advert but I know I'm deluding myself and unfortunately I couldn’t get a decent photo anyway.

L runs 4k later and seems surprised she did it. That’s on top of doing double gym.

(Tuesday 3rd December)

Sunday, 1 December 2019

The Poisoned Baton

On Saturday we don’t Parkrun as L is still feeling injured although she does go to Pilates. I go to the match in the afternoon.

We stay in later because I have the Notts Christmas multi-looped Half Marathon at Holme Pierrepont on Sunday. Shoot me now. It’s as dull as ditch water but necessary dullness training-wise. L was booked into do it too but she has now passed that particular poisoned baton over to Daughter.

Daughter seems keen (perhaps not quite the right word) to do it, but she says she'll be crap but then she does say that about a lot of things. Instead L runs there, which is a decent stretch. I offered her the Lad’s services but she declined.

The race doesn’t start until 11:30, and I would normally be a fan of such leisurely starts but I’ve got to get a move on afterwards before the dog club’s AGM at 3pm.

The race goes astonishingly well for me in a 'I didn’t know I could do that any more' sort of way. I start off way too fast and then get faster. I start off doing 7:50 miles before accelerating to almost 7:30 miles. This is largely the fault of the two girls who overtake me early on, chatting away as they pass as if it was no effort at all. Naturally I undertake to catch and then pass them again. I am egged on in this venture by my new friend who I shall called ‘Steve’ because that is what it says on the front of his number. This may not be his name because Daughter is running with L's number and therefore under her name. 

‘Steve’ is also trying to catch the girls, most probably for different reasons to me as they are all in their 20s unlike the old codger that is me. Anyhow we pass them and then hope to drop them, well I do but I suspect Steve would like to run with them, but as it turns out dropping them seems impossible anyway as they're just too damn fast.

So aided by a flat course, the novelty of no wind at Holme Pierrepont, lots of nagging from ‘Steve’ and the two ‘passed but not dropped ’ girls constantly breathing down our necks we sprint over the line in 1:41:42. Extraordinary. I ran 1:47:47 here last year. It’s my fastest time since a 1:40:38 at Peterborough in October 2017.

The two girls finish about 30 seconds back and Steve goes off to chat them up while I collapse in an uncivilised heap.

Meanwhile Daughter who got injured the last time she ran at Holme Pierrepont repeats the trick again with her knee stopping her completing it. At least it all means that I’m in plenty of time for my AGM, which goes very well.

L and I head into town later and after four pints in Drafthouse Victoria we go to the Noor Jahan for a curry. We’ve not been here for a while and they’ve done away with the cheap three course menu they used to have. So it’s not as cheap as it was but it’s still a decently priced meal and with an excellent starter’s platter.

(Sunday 1st December)

Friday, 29 November 2019

Nice Bones

MD starts the week not very well, curled up in his bed and not eating his normal food. We put him on the Lad’s food which he seems happier with but by the end of the week he’s fully recovered and back on his own food.

L has her GP appointment on Monday morning where they tell her that her injury is not a fracture but book her in for an X-ray anyway.

I top my mileage up with a five miler from work on Tuesday while, enthused by not having a fracture, L does her own short run after I get home. Then she’s in the gym with Daughter straight from work on Wednesday. So she's not exactly taking it easy. I warn her not to pull anything. 

She has her X-ray on Thursday where they confirm it’s not stress fracture. So the injury must be a pull or a tear. They also tell her that she has excellent bones, which cheers her up a bit. Although I’ve been telling her that for 20 years. Nicest bones I’ve ever jumped.

I do my long run, 9.5 miles to Long Eaton, splashing through puddles in places before jumping on the Indigo. It used to be 9 miles until they knocked down the Meadow Lane bridge at Pride Park but I suppose I should be grateful to them for the extra training. L meanwhile reports that her and the dogs are at home wallowing in the mud like a trio of pigs. Will it ever stop raining?

Thursday is also the General Election, which I pull an all-nighter for as I have done for every election since 1992. Unfortunately we all suspect what is going to happen and we’re not wrong.

L goes for an early swim on Friday and leaves the boys food on the worktop ready for them while we’re out on our morning walk. Unfortunately the Lad thinks this means it’s self-service but I manage to rescue the situation before he's had chance to pull his bowl off the worktop and smash it over his own head. They’re then a bit shocked when I quickly dump them and head off to work but looking at Dog TV later they seem to have quickly got over it (e.g. they’re asleep).

L is getting panicking messages from her sister, saying that entering a marathon was a dumb idea. Funny that, I'm getting exactly the messages from L. Everyone just needs to calm down. As I keep saying Brighton is years away. 

Of course entering a marathon is a dumb idea, if it wasn’t everybody would be doing one but L and I have been doing dumb stuff for years. Her sister has only just started playing catch-up.

Friday is also Black Friday, a day I’ve never really got the hang of because I’ve never been able to find anything I want that is cheaper than at any other time of the year. I think the point of it all is to buy stuff you don’t want but to do so cheaply.

L has been eyeing up a fancy new swimsuit for Christmas and tells me about it now in case I can find a Black Friday deal on it. Which would need me to know what it normally costs which I don’t. In a way it would be helpful if they moved Christmas to Black Friday then it would all be over with much quicker.

I click on the swimsuit because I’ve always been happy to buy her any slinky new outfits for Christmas. She says it will help her stand out in the murky waters. Which sort of implies that she’ll be doing her open water swims without a wetsuit. Which I’m sure isn’t the case.

(Friday 29th November)

Sunday, 24 November 2019

A Long Run And A Genteel Hobble

This morning Daughter comes over and along with the Lad we head off on a 10 mile training run. L would probably have joined us had she not been injured and I'm sure she will be before long if she’s patient with her recovery.

I take us from home down to Balloon Wood, left down Coventry Lane and then we keep going until we reach the centre of Stapleford where it’s round past the Horse and Jockey before heading all the way back to Priory Island where we take right to go around the outside of the University. We hit ten miles just as we pass the Sutton Passey’s entrance to Wollaton Park and then we walk the rest of the way. We bump into L who has been for a 'genteel hobble' with MD while the 'misbehaving one' is otherwise occupied.

In the evening we're at Broadway.

The Irishman is made by Netflix, who have given the film a very limited cinematic run before confining it purely to streaming. The same thing happened with last year's Oscar contender Rosa, which we missed, so here we are making sure we catch this one.

Directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese, who having already made such classics as Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Casino and The Departed, returns to the world of the mob for possibly one last hurrah.

The film is based on the confessions, late in life, of Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran, a real-life mobster, which lawyer Charles Brandt documented in his 2004 book ‘I Heard You Paint Houses’.

The film has plenty of my least favourite thing, flashbacks, as Sheeran (Robert De Niro) looks back on his life from the loneliness of his care home. It even has flashbacks within flashbacks as we follow a road trip from Pennsylvania to Michigan that takes place in 1975 which contains its own reminisces.

Sheeran was a truck driver who started to make some money illegally on the side. When he is found out his union’s lawyer Bill Bufalino (Ray Romano) helps him out. The price for this seems to be further involvement in the crime underworld and Bufalino introduces him to his cousin Russell (Joe Pesci), the head of the local mafia. Sheeran’s Second World War training seems to make him very good at following orders without asking any difficult questions nor developing any feelings or morality, making him an ideal candidate to do the mob’s dirty work for them. 

Russell Bufalino then recommends him to Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), the head of America’s most powerful and corrupt union, where he ends up working for Hoffa as chief bodyguard and hitman. Hoffa grows to trust him completely and becomes close to his family, especially his daughter Peggy (Anna Paquin), who we see become increasingly disillusioned with her father as the years tick by.

After John F. Kennedy comes to power in 1960 the Government sets out to get Hoffa and eventually they send him to jail. Once he has served his time, Hoffa tries to once again retake power at the top of the union but this doesn’t go down well with the rest of the crime fraternity.

It is on the 1975 road trip to the wedding of Bill's daughter that Sheeran learns that he must kill Hoffa. Then in a clandestine journey that involves two flights and four car rides, he meets up with Hoffa and matter-of-factly shoots him twice in the back of the head. Then he has to call Hoffa’s widow Jo (Welker White) to reassure her that her missing husband would be sure to turn up sooner or later. A phone call that he is clearly still haunted by 28 years later although perhaps not so much by the actual killing. 

Apparently Netflix handed over an obscene amount of money to Scorsese to fund this film and in many ways he delivers for them but perhaps Netflix gave him too much of a free hand and should have insisted on a bit more editing as it seems overlong.

Clocking in at a massive three-and-a-half hours, the overused word ‘epic’ has been uttered by many but there isn't actually that much going on a lot of the time and there are a lot of characters in the film, probably too many. These are often introduced with captions giving their names with how and when they died. These are usual violent deaths but actually, for Scorsese, quite dull deaths.

Sure, it's well made film and fascinating at times but it is slower and more labyrinthine than his previous films while not being not half as entertaining or enthralling as say Goodfellas or Casino were.

Scorsese reunites Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci for the first time since Casino and chooses to digitally de-age them rather than hire younger actors for the earlier scenes of a film that spans six decades. Does it work? It’s debatable.

It is an ambitious project but feels like one film too far for Scorsese but if he gets one last Oscar will anyone really mind? Not sure he’ll get it though.
(Sunday 24th November)

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Run Guinea Pig Run

My colleague at work retires today after something like 35 years at the company. Which is scary but what is scarier is that I’m not that far behind on length of service. Even more importantly, who will I go for 2-for-1 pizzas with now?

They shut the company for an hour and a half over lunch, order in an excellent buffet and several bottles of champagne. After three glasses, I’ll be a bit crap on my run tonight.

Also after around three glasses my boss mentioned that the company would sponsor me if I did the London Marathon as a charity place. So that’s food for thought, although it wouldn’t cover all the fund raising I’d need to do it would be a good start. That said, it looks as if getting a charity place isn’t easy as most of them seem to be saying they are full and have waiting lists.

It was suggested, bizarrely, by someone that I do it for Guinea Pig Rescue and run it dressed as a guinea pig. L seems horrified at the thought. I guess that means she wouldn’t be up for snogging a sweaty guinea pig at the finish line. She also confirms that she wouldn’t be up for the training runs with a guinea pig either. I wonder what the Lad’s view would be. Would he still run with me? Or would he try and chase me up a tree?

After work I run nine miles fuelled by champagne and king prawn vol au vents. I also, heroically, even cycle to work the next day. My first ride in three weeks.

We don’t parkrun on Saturday as L is too injured, so we get a very welcome lie-in instead. She vows to throw herself into the gym later. Not that any throwing is allowed, she needs to ease herself gently into the gym.

There’s a match on Saturday afternoon and then in the evening we visit a new pub and one we haven’t been to for about a decade. First we go to the Herbert Kilpin which hides down an alleyway called Bridlesmith Walk off Fletcher Street. Kilpin was a footballer from Nottingham who went on to form A.C. Milan in Italy. Then we revisit the Bunkers Hill Inn.

(Saturday 23rd November)

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Piggyback Home

Not only does L go to the physio on Tuesday, she also has the day off work. So things must be bad. The physio sends her to her GP to request an X-ray saying she might have a stress fracture. I meet her off the bus at the QMC in case she needs a piggyback home.

Despite her current injury woes she’s thinking ahead to a new sporting career in open water swimming. We even have a new ‘Aqua Park’ near us called Spring Lakes that allows open water swimming where she could train. Although it’s a perhaps a bit chilly at the moment.

They even have a dog splash area and I assume, based on the huge amount of splashing when he disappears through the forbidden fence on Wollaton Park, that the Lad can swim. So they could train together.

In the evening I have my second gig of the week. 

I was looking forward to seeing Bryde tonight, who was supposed to be supporting, but Daniel Steer explains that he has been asked to stand in at short notice. So short notice it seems that he’s had to turn up without his band. So it’s just him with a guitar and a piano.

Steer has been around for a while. First as lead singer of The Quails then with These Reigning Days, who are now known simply as Reigning Days and I think are still going, just on a break while Daniel promotes his first solo album. His latest work is produced by Feeder guitarist Tommy Gleeson.

He doesn’t disappoint apart from not being Bryde obviously and apart from not having his band with him, which just makes me want to see his full band show.

The thing about seeing Feeder twice in twelve days is whether anything will be different. The band have a history of playing shorter sets at Rock City due to the earlier curfews at the Nottingham venue, hence my visit to Leeds earlier in the tour.

While Leeds did indeed get the longer set on their previous tour that isn’t the case tonight. Kick off is moved from the 8:45 start it has been at most of the dates to 8:00 tonight to cope with the venue’s club night. That still leaves a full two hours of playing time if the band make use of it and that they do.

They even add two songs to the set from what I saw at Leeds. There’s the return of ‘Universe of Life’ which I am largely ambivalent to, but I know that Grant Nicholas absolutely loves playing it, and slightly annoyed because they place it between ‘Come Back Around’ and ‘Insomnia’ which were such a breathtakingly double act in Leeds. Though as I’ve practically chained myself to the front barrier where I intend staying and not getting sucked in to the mosh this time, it doesn’t matter much to me personally what happens behind me.

Talking of the ‘mosh pit’, which can be a rare beast these days. There was a bit of a disagreement when some folk tried to get the mosh going early to ‘Fear of Flying’ amid heavy resistance from those wanting a more statuesque experience down the front. It caused the band to pause briefly to see what the fuss was about. Those resisting the mosh won that particular battle but not the war, which was over when the aforementioned ‘Come Back Around’ hit a little later causing a major realignment of the troops down the front. I do feel that the bands should set out their stall early and play songs in an order that gets the mosh going as soon as possible to save on these types of squabbles.

The other addition tonight was the return of the always excellent 'Yesterday Went Too Soon' which appeared as a wonderful back-to-back duo with the equally excellent 'Turn'. Hearing those two tracks played together made my night. Given the positive reception received by these two lower profile hits from the past it’s a little frustrating we don’t hear them more often.

The band now seem to have a settled five-piece line up which has enabled more songs to be learnt which will hopefully lead to even further diversity on future tours and the digging up of more forgotten gems.

They have a lot of back catalogue to plunder plus I'm sure Nicholas has plenty more new songs he's going to write too, so it’s good to see that 24 song 2 hour sets now seem to have landed and not before time. They seem to be preserving their stamina and his voice by hitting a nice rhythm of two nights on, one night off.

‘Comfort in Sound’ is one that has been reintroduced this tour apparently due to the influence of guitarist Tommy Gleeson, who is a relative newcomer to the Feeder live show but is now in his third year with the band. Tommy is a session musician extraordinaire also being a producer (see Daniel Steer above), and a songwriter as well as a regular performer. So he knows his stuff and he deserves a big shout out as I think he’s made a real difference to the Feeder sound live. I will just put it out there that he’s the best second guitarist they’ve ever had.

There’s still no ‘My Perfect Day’ though, which I suspect they’re saving for London. I really must get down there for a London date sometime, it usually seems to pay dividends. I’m still not over them playing the epic oldie ‘Shade’ down there on the Generation Freakshow tour and it’s not been seen since.

Overall they play a good strong set tonight pulling in much early material along with a ton of stuff from their new album ‘Tallulah’ including what has fast become my favourite 'Shapes and Sounds'. 

This does mean that several more recent songs that have been set regulars have gone but it is no bad thing to diversify a bit. Although with nothing played tonight from the three albums that span the period between 2005’s Pushing The Senses and 2016's 'All Bright Electric', Nicholas will have campaigns on his hands for three missing albums if he’s not careful rather than the just the one for regularly ignoring the ‘Silent Cry’ album from 2008 that he keeps saying he’s going to rectify... Who’d be lead singer of a band with such a big and impressive back catalogue?

(Wednesday 20th November)

Monday, 18 November 2019

Very Teenage

L says her leg is definitely improving because she can get one sock on today and she didn't have to crawl up the stairs. That’s improving? And she’s only wearing one sock... which is, well, very teenage. She confirms that she managed to get two on eventually and made it to work, after about an hour.

So it’s probably a good thing that she’s been offered physio tomorrow although she hasn’t decided yet whether to go or not. She says I wouldn't go. That’s not quite true, I’ve been to plenty of physios. If I was sure I knew what the problem was then I wouldn’t go, if I wasn’t sure and thought it might help I would go. It’s a judgement call whether a proper diagnosis (and therefore the extreme cost) will help or not. 

In the evening I'm at the Rescue Rooms. 

Opening tonight are Queen Kwong from Los Angeles. The Queen herself is Carré Callaway, who has assembled the band around herself. She starts their set on her own, singing sweetly, beautifully purring like kitten that quickly metamorphoses into a tiger as the rest of the band arrive and pick up their instruments as does the Queen herself. Then amid much hair tossing and grinding away on her guitar, the set quickly becomes a homage to all that is raw, energetic and loaded with noise guitar. Sonic Youth, The Swans, shades of Iggy Pop, Nine Inch Nails perhaps... apparently she was discovered by Trent Reznor, you can tell. Very nice.

Can Blood Red Shoes get nosier than that? Of course the can.

Now here’s a thing. Me finally seeing a band that’s been near the top of my wish list for at least ten years and before they’ve even decided to split up. To be fair, everybody thought Blood Red Shoes had split up when they went on an extended hiatus in 2015. It was, with get relief, that they re-emerged with new material in 2017, a new album ‘Get Tragic’ at the start of 2019 and a stint supporting the Pixies across Europe.

The duo, consisting of guitarist Laura-Mary Carter and drummer Steven Ansell, are known for their hugely energetic shows and the sound they can produce with just a solitary guitar and a drum kit.

The new album however sees them using other instruments as well, additional guitars, bass, synthesizer and drum pads. So they take to the stage tonight with reinforcements and open the night as a foursome while Ansell tells us of his love for Glühwein, which he has in a little plastic cup. Carter’s choice is much classier, carrying her red wine in a proper stemmed glass.

They open with a trio of newer tracks ‘Elijah’, ‘God Complex’ and ‘Mexican Dress’ mainly from the new album but not in the case of ‘God Complex’ which was a one off release, something they are inclined to doing. Two of their set regulars, Black Distractions and Red River, don’t come from albums either but from 2013’s Water EP.

Then the additional musicians are stood down as the twosome launch into their 'old' stuff. Oddly this actually ratchets up the volume levels despite there now being less musicians on the stage.

Typically you’ll see a band’s drummer stuck at the back of the stage but not so here, Ansell has his drum kit positioned right at the front and it is he who does most of the interaction with the crowd. Unfortunately as I am on Carter's side of the stage, one of his symbols prevents me getting a good photography angle on him. Carter meanwhile says very little throughout.

After nine ‘oldies’, including such classics as ‘Don’t Ask’ and ‘Light It Up’ which certainly lit the fire in the mosh pit, the foursome are required again for their second shift but seem to have gone AWOL. Once they are tracked down, together they perform four more tracks from ‘Get Tragic’ including closing with a rambunctious ‘Bangsar’.

Despite their disappearing act, the new recruits are allowed to join in the encore as the band return to play us out with the belter that is 2007’s ‘I Wish I Was Someone Better’.

(Monday 18th November)

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Guided Missile

We don’t parkrun on Saturday but that is less to do with L’s injury as to the fact she at Readers Day in Nottingham. This is a book thing and includes a talk entitled ‘Never Trust an Older Woman’ by L’s author friend. Should I be worried about my older woman?

With the day to myself I decide to take the boys on Wollaton Park for the first time in ages. The reason I stopped taking them on the park was because of the Lad’s obsession with going through the gaps in the wooden fence that surround the ‘conservation area’ in which he appears to go swimming in the mythical lake that apparently resides within.

I’m hoping that he has no grown up a bit and has put aside such puppyish things. Big mistake. After one ball chuck the Lad is straight through the gap in the fence and off for a swim like a guided missile. When I finally get him back its back on the lead to be frogmarched deeper into the park and away from further temptation. Then we leave the park via a different entrance so that he can’t repeat the feat on the way back.

Later we go visit my parents before heading home where us literate ones await the return of our favourite literary buff.

So L has to skip Sunday’s Heanor Pud Run because of her injured hip. I’m skipping it too but because I left entering it until it was too late and the race limit had been reached. This was because I was worried about entering and then getting injured. Oh the irony and now I have the chance to take L’s place if I want to. Not that I’ve ever woke up with the urge to run a race I haven’t booked in to. I suppose there's always a first time for everything but, nah, I’d only end up winning a prize in the Women’s Vets Category. It’s happened before and we’ve never dared go back to that particular race.

We’re both still going to support because L’s sister and Daughter are in it. Instead I decide to run there with the Lad. It’s about 10 miles from ours to Shipley Park Visitor Centre where the race starts, which might be just enough to take the edge off him. I would also feel so much smugger than those doing a just mere 10k. Especially if I ran back at well...

So the Lad and I set out in damp and drizzly conditions. The route turns out not be that great with a narrow pavement along the busy road to Ilkeston and no footpath within Ilkeston meaning some interesting diversions. Once inside Shipley Park we then run past the old American Adventure, now a building site, before finally having to wade through some flood waters to get to the race start. While running I have a few problems with my new GPS watch as it keeps taking laps on its own at random intervals, until I realise that it’s my wet sleeve that is doing it by pressing on the touch screen.

We arrive just in time to see the 10k start. Afterwards, and after a coffee at the café, I accept a lift back by car. The Lad looks like the only one capable of running back.

In the evening we go for drinks in the Old Angel before fulfilling a long nurtured urge to go for pizza ‘as it should be’ at Oscar and Rosie’s. I’m sorry to report that is was a bit of a disappointment. We de-stodge afterwards in the Keans Head.

(Sunday 17th November)

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Good For Peace Of Mind

Monday sees me at the dentist for my annual check-up. I’m never sure if I should be pleased or not pleased that year after year the process is a mere two minute poke around my mouth before they tell me that all is fine and then relieve me of £25 (or whatever it is now) at the door. Good for peace of mind I suppose.

Then it’s a dog club committee meeting which is just as perfunctory but clocks in at around two hours rather than two minutes.

On Tuesday I am actually early enough to the bus stop to catch the earlier bus, the one that would have got me to work on time, but it’s full. So I don’t get chance to get on it and I have to wait for my usual bus, the one that means I’m late. This is why I don’t bother rushing.

Team GB Live put some more tickets for Tokyo 2020 on sale and I snap up a few more than means we now have something for every day we are there. We now have an eclectic mix of Archery, Weightlifting, Rugby, Rowing, Hockey, Athletics, Golf, Canoe Sprint and Beach Volleyball. I don’t believe they actually have a beach and the Beach Volleyball is being held in a park right by the edge of Tokyo Bay. So they have the sea but they’ll be building a temporary beach, just like Nottingham do.

Most of the events are only for a few hours, so we’ll have plenty of time to do other things as well although we are not usually very good at being tourists.

In the evening I run a swift five miles from work then get on the i4 in Borrowash while L does a session at her run club. Then on Wednesday she runs 14k with Daughter. Scarily that’s a third of race distance, marathon race distance that is.

Wednesday is also when she gets her first ‘Happy Christmas’ greeting from someone, which is shockingly early.

I did contemplate biking to work that day because a sunny day was forecast, though a cold one. However when I slip and slide on ice and wet leaves while walking the dogs, falling over at one point, I decide to stick with the bus. My colleague at work does bike in and shows me his bruises where he came off, so I was probably wise not to cycle. He also came off his bike in flood water on Friday.

In the evening it’s dog training where the Lad is well rampant.

Then disaster strikes. No sooner had L commented on the number of races we have booked for next year and started worrying that one of us would get injured when one of us did. So as I’m running the nine or so miles from work to Risley on Thursday evening she is having to cancel her attendance at a new Pilates class in Wollaton. Oh dear.

(Thursday 14th November)

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Such A Saint

We have Saturday night in after a fairly heavy night in Leeds on Friday. We also take Sunday off running with neither the long trek to Draycote Water for two loops of their reservoir in their 10 miler of the mud bath that is Coalville 10k appealing. Well the mud bath may well have been appealing to L and I did offer to hold her coat but she declined.

She goes off shopping instead and meets me later in Broadway. Where despite the fact there are two 5% beers on she’s on the coffee. Such a saint. One of the beers is Shipstone’s Krubera, this time finally on cask. So I pop down to meet her and while we’re there we take in a film.

Sorry We Missed You is a film by Ken Loach about a chap called Ricky Turner (Kris Hitchen) who takes a job in the 'gig economy' working as a delivery driver for a parcels firm in Newcastle.

The story goes that after the 2008 financial crash Ricky lost his job in construction and struggled to make ends meet as a handyman. Then he lost his family’s home when Northern Rock went under. Now, with his wife Abbie (Debbie Honeywood) and their two kids, they are back renting.

In a move to try and get his family back where they were, Ricky takes the delivery driver job. However he won’t be an employee, he’ll be a franchisee as the firm’s obnoxious manager Gavin Maloney (Ross Brewster) explains. Maloney is a man who eats unproductive drivers for breakfast.

Unfortunately Ricky doesn’t fully understand the terms of his self-employment. This is a world where there is no sick pay, penalties for missing targets and if you’re absent you have to arrange your own cover. Thankfully the drama doesn't extend to him struggling to do his tax return.

He can either rent a van from the company or buy his own. So he sells Abbie's car to get the deposit for his own van. The only problem with that being that Abbie is a home carer and now she's on the bus. Therefore Ricky makes the mistake of prioritising his job over hers and immediately puts extra pressure on himself to deliver for the family.

It is a job that is largely inappropriate for him because his family’s circumstances were always going to make it difficult for him to do the job. So, from the outset, we know where this is going.

The thing is Ricky is good at his job and at first things go well but then he starts taking harder and more difficult routes. The extra hours take a toll on him while Abbie struggles with the extra restrictions he’s placed on her job. All this damages their relationship with their kids, daughter Lisa (Katie Proctor) and son Seb (Rhys Stone) who has started skipping school, taking up as a graffiti artist instead.

When Ricky needs to get to the school to sort out Seb the only way he can take time off is to accept a fine from the company who are only interested in the bottom line. When he gets mugged there is little sympathy from his boss and he is charged with replacing a scanner that gets damaged in the process. Although I find it incomprehensible that this wouldn’t be insured by either the company or by the drivers themselves.

Of course everything that happens in the film is possible and it makes for great cinema but it's very contrived. Basically all the worst case scenarios have been lumped onto one family. So we get a rather unbalanced view of a business practice that does indeed have many faults but which are maximised here for full effect. 

Despite that it is a good film that captures real life struggles but ones that could have happened in any industry, inside the gig economy or out of it. In all industries there are good employers and bad ones.

Ken Loach gets his political point across but for me it was more of a film about relationships and parenting. If anything I though the plight of Abbie as a care worker was more worthy of highlighting than Ricky’s was.

(Sunday 10th November)