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

Monday, 31 January 2011

With His Mouth Taped Shut

This morning I walk the dogs. Having, sadly, pushed L out of bed and ushered her off for an early gym session. It’s a pleasant walk, that L won’t believe, although a very cold one. -5 on the thermometer. MD is a saint... told you L wouldn't believe it, although we didn’t see any other dogs. Just two cyclists, a few pedestrians and a man in his own garden but he was fine. L reckons I must have taped his mouth shut. I suppose I did have his halti so tight that he could barely breathe.

It’s in the news that girls learn better at a temperature of 24C whereas boys work better at 21C. Blimey I usually have our heating set at 18C. No wonder L is always asking me to warm her up. Still, that works for me.

The transfer window closes today. Not that I’m expecting much activity from Derby. We don’t normally do permanent deals, so it’s not really deadline day for us as loans can still be done until March. Something needs to be done though, unless a few players come in a relegation battle is highly likely.

The news today is that we’re going to sell our best left back which will further destabilize an already dodgy defence and reduce squad numbers further. Dark days indeed.

My legs must be ok. As well as managing a walk with the dogs this morning, I’ve also managed to hobble around Sainsbury’s. Now there’s just the matter of running round a dog course tonight.

(Monday 31st January)

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Not Quite A Full Elephant

Today we drive up to somewhere near Hull for a ten mile race known as the Ferriby 10. A race that turns out not to go anywhere near North Ferriby, which is its spiritual home and the place that gives the race it’s name. We are directed to a car park at a High School in a place called Cottingham and then we have to walk to the start in nearby Skidby but no sign of Ferriby. We line up to start in the shadow of Skidby Windmill. Well there would be a shadow if there was any sun, which there isn’t. It’s not terribly warm, around 2 degrees I believe.

A glance at the history of the race tells me that this race has been held every winter since January 1954 and originally started at Hull’s Costello Stadium before passing through North Ferriby en route but only eight years later the race was rerouted, avoiding Ferriby due to increasing traffic levels on the main roads. The race did though remain close to Ferriby until 1991 when construction of a new road rendered the race route unusable and the whole event was moved out to Skidby, where it remains today.

The fastest time ever recorded across any of the routes used is an impressive 48.01 by some chap called Brendan Foster in 1980.

I say it’s cold today but, of course, running was colder in the 80’s.

I hesitate to use the words ‘fairly flat’ to describe the course. Those words have been misused quite a bit recently but this course does indeed fit that description... if you start running from around half way. In fact it’s probably even slightly downhill from there. The problem is the seriously ‘rolling’ first five miles. Did I say ‘rolling’? Because it felt like almost constant uphill at the time. Oh and I’m forgetting the sting in the tail, a final uphill section back to the finish by the windmill.

At the finish I’m handed a very nice technical tee shirt with quite a striking design on it that tells me I’ve just ran more than seven lengths of the Humber Bridge or 2,200 African elephants, if that’s how you prefer to measure things, or even more bizarrely 126,700 sparrows. How the hell did they work that one out?

I was pleased with my performance, mostly. I felt in quite good shape all the way around and my time was slightly quicker than the only other ten miler I can recall doing, the Chesterfield Spire 10 last year. The only real down side was that I’d been battling all the way with a ‘senior’ gentleman and was slightly gutted (ok massively gutted) when he skipped away from me on the final hill and beat me by, well, too many sparrows to mention, although probably not, thankfully, by a full elephant. So as the t-shirt says ‘1 happy runner’ (moderately).

I walk back to the next village, where the car is parked, to collect the dogs and then we all head back to meet L. We don’t quite get there before she crosses the line. Although the dogs get the good walk that they desperately needed, whereas I get a ‘good’ walk I didn’t need at all.

After the race we head down to visit an old school friend of mine somewhere near Market Rasen and they kindly do us a cracking Sunday lunch. Great post-race recovery food.

(Sunday 30th January)

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Ruined Wedding Photos

L goes into work while I take the dogs on the park where somebody's wedding photos get ruined by a dog sneaking into camera shot. Oops.

Blimey, the council are spending money. Please excuse my excitement at this but for the first time in nearly 20 years, new bins!

When we first heard about it, we had no real urge to go and see the story of the founding of Facebook. That was until everybody kept saying how good it was. So now here we are, The Social Network.

It seems it all happened in 2003. In the same year that someone cut their arm off with a blunt pen knife in Utah, across in Massachusetts someone else was stumbling across a half decent idea.

The film opens with a socially inept Harvard University student called Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in conversation, if you can call it that, with his then girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara). He is so immensely annoying that you soon wonder what possessed her to become his girlfriend in the first place. Your second thought is why is she still his girlfriend and then, why hasn’t she hit him yet because you, the audience, certainly want to.

Suddenly she comes to her senses and dumps him. In some style as well. ‘You're going to go through life thinking that girls don't like you because you're a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won't be true. It'll be because you're an asshole.’ Don't mess with Rooney Mara; she's to be the new Lisbeth Salander you know.

So Zuckerberg is an asshole and he reacts as most teenage assholes would. He goes home and dreams up the least likely way of making himself more appealing to the opposite sex. In one night, whilst drunk, he hacks into the databases of various student halls, downloads pictures of all the female students and creates a website called ‘FaceMash’ that enables male students to rate the 'hotness' of their fellow female undergraduates. His best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) is on hand to provide the scoring system, an algorithm previously used for ranking chess players.

It's such a success that it brings down the computer network at Harvard, gets Zuckerberg into trouble and of course takes his status with the ladies even lower. It does however impress the Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler (Armie Hammer, both of them). They plan to launch their own website called Harvard Connection, a social networking website, with the main attraction being exclusivity to Harvard students.

They ask for Zuckerberg’s help and he agrees to work with them. Only that, Zuckerberg’s social interactions are about as false as your average Facebook user’s. He immediately sees a better idea and although he maintains a sham 'friendship' with them, he has no intention of helping them, as he sets up his own site.

Again Eduardo helps him, this time providing the finance to get the project off the ground. Once complete, they distribute a link to ‘thefacebook’ and it quickly becomes popular throughout Harvard. The ‘Winklevi’, as he calls them, are enraged that he effectively stole their idea.

The story zips along at a frantic pace as ‘thefacebook’ expands into more universities. Zuckerberg certainly comes over as a nerd but a determined one and also one that can be easily lead, if it gets him what he wants. Enter Napster co-founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake). Parker discovers Facebook in the bedroom of a girl from Stanford University, presumably he knew he was at Stanford because Stanford girls seem to have, rather helpfully, the words ‘Stanford’ written across the back of their knickers.

Eduardo is immediately sceptical of Parker, whilst Mark just about falls in love. As Parker persuades Zuckerberg to drop the ‘the’ and ingrains himself into Facebook's project, Eduardo gets more and more sidelined as Zuckerberg increasingly sides with Parker on business matters. Eduardo gets angry, freezes the company's bank account whilst simultaneously falling out with his girlfriend over why his Facebook profile still lists him as ‘single’. With such cast iron evidence that he’s having an affair at her fingertips his girlfriend sets fire to the scarf he just gave to her as a present. Yep that's Facebook.

Then when Eduardo discovers his share in the company diluted to next to nothing, he feels betrayed by his one-time best friend, he confronts him and announces his intention to sue. Parker, the wag, offers him his original stake back. Meanwhile the ‘Winklevi’, after much heart searching over the un-Harvard-ness of suing a fellow Harvardite, have also eventually decided to take Zuckerberg to court over intellectual property theft.

At first the film is a little hard to get the hang of. There is a lot of rapid fire dialogue and the format of the film is a little confusing at first. We are watching the two resulting court cases, or at least the two pre-trial deposition hearings, in tandem with flashbacks to the events being submitted as evidence in them, namely the founding of Facebook. Both lawsuits ultimately resulted in large out of court settlements.

This film come docudrama may be about Facebook but it’s also about the universal themes of friendship, loyalty and betrayal, where money and greed can ruin almost anything. The characters may represent today's world but the themes are as old as the hills.

The principal male characters were all pretty odious, so you don’t really care too much about what happens to them but then I guess they were all supposed to be, well, assholes, and to this end they all played their roles really well. It's hard to feel empathy with any them, well except perhaps a little for Eduardo, the outsider, who’s a far nicer guy than any of the others.

The film ends with Mark sending Erica, his ex, a ‘friend’ request on Facebook and then refreshing the page every few seconds searching for a positive response. After all, getting girls was the whole idea of the Facebook project in the first place.

As one of the lawyers puts it. ‘You're not an asshole, Mark. You're just trying so hard to be one.

Zuckerberg may now be a millionaire but in one sense he’s learnt nothing at all.

The Social Network is an engaging film, a good film. It may not be a classic, but it’s trying so hard to be one.

Just time to pop into the Silk Mill for one before heading home.

(Saturday 29th January)

Friday, 28 January 2011

Four Legged Passion Killers

Very cold this morning, so I suffered a bit with cold fingers on the bike. Oddly enough by the time I’m half way to work my fingers have usually defrosted but this is also about the same point that my toes start to go numb with cold. Still, as I weave in and out the stationary traffic, it’s better than driving.

The roads were white over this morning, I thought it had snowed but it was just the grit. My back wheel slid a bit at one point, I don’t think it was because of any ice, I just lost grip on the inch thick dusting of salt. It's like Blackpool beach out there.

Hmmm, I shouldn’t say that. It’ll give the council ideas about having a winter beach in the Old Market Square. Talking of which, perhaps they’ll have to scrap the beach this year to save money but then again, they’ll probably close a leisure centre or a care home instead.

Latest scare story cyclists 'unaware of health risk'. The article basically says there might be a health risk but we're not sure, someone needs to do some research. Typical pointless BBC article but if it puts a few people off cycling I'm sure it will make them happy. It also comes hot on the heels of one last year that said you inhale more fumes whilst in traffic sat in a car than you do on a bike. Make your minds up.

By the evening it doesn’t seem to be getting much warmer, so it’s still a chilly ride home. L goes for a post work swim. Damn, I haven’t got my kit with me or else I could have joined her, I haven’t swum this week.

Daughter’s out so I contemplate skipping the pub, dimming the lights, lighting the candles, putting on some soft music, opening the wine and cooking something romantic. Whilst kicking and throwing stuff for the dogs of course, the passion killers. I’ll give it a go anyway.

(Friday 28th January)

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Sudden Upsurge

Both Nottingham and Derby councils seem to have gone mad with the gritters last night. Apparently a dusting of snow was forecast last night, although I’m not sure by whom. I didn’t see any snow on the forecast; I’d have got all excited if I had. If it snows now we’re stuffed as they’ll be out of grit.

We really struggled to get a squash court for tonight. There appears to have been a sudden upsurge in playing, which will annoy the council, who I'm sure are trying to phase it out. My opponent's theory is that perhaps everybody is trying to lose weight like him.

So we end up playing at 6.15, which means I have to be radical and use the car to get to work.

As I said opponent is on a diet and bemoans that one unfortunate side effect of reducing his calorie intake is that he now have the drinking capacity of a 12 year old girl. I can’t say much, having had the fainting threshold of a 12 year old girl whilst watching 127 Hours the other night.

Anyway he shouldn’t dismiss lightly the drinking capacity of 12 year old girls. Some pre-teens are very experienced drinkers these days, so he shouldn't consider entering into a drinking contest with one, not in his current state.

I play better tonight and lose a close match 3-1. Then a quick, early, one in the pub. Him on diet coke of course.

(Thursday 27th January)

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Impressive Parking

I see a car in hedge on my way to work. So I park the bike up and take a photo. It was an impressive bit of parking.

The Oscar Nominations are out and are pretty much what we expected, although I’m gutted for Mila Kunis, who didn’t get a best supporting actress nomination.

The weather seems to get windier and windier throughout the day and by the time I come to cycle home its turned into a full on head wind. Obviously it’s going to be against me.

Second attempt for Blue Valentine tonight and again it is sold out. Luckily I've booked in advance. Broadway are seriously coining it in this month.

So Blue Valentine, pretty small town girl meets nutter with a ukulele and he falls in love, whilst she marries him for convenience... kind of. Happens all the time, just without the ukulele. This nutter though, does appear to quite charming. Well I liked him, at first.

What follows is a kind of a weighty relationship study. Several years Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy’s (Michelle Williams) marriage is failing. They both know its failing but they just haven't quite reached the endpoint yet. He seems to want it to continue, she doesn’t.

The story of everything falling apart is told in parallel with the story of them/him falling in love. See I’m not convinced she ever loved him. We see how they met and how they fell for each other. In his case at first sight. In her case after he stalked her on the bus with a ukulele with lines like ‘In my experience, the prettier a girl is, the more nuts she is, which makes you insane’. She seems amused and sort of flattered that he can ‘compliment and insult somebody at the same time, in equal measure’.

He’s more nuts than she is though. Later he strums said ukulele in a shop doorway whilst warbling eccentrically the song ‘You Always Hurt the Ones You Love’, which should have been a warning to both of them, but it works, he pulls the girl and gets into her knickers. Which is impressively quick work until we find out that she’s had 'about' 25 partners from the age of 13.

Dean doesn’t know this though, so it comes as a bit of a shock to him when she almost instantly announces that she’s pregnant. Not that it’s his of course but courtesy of the guy she’s been hanging around with before Dean.

When she goes for an abortion and we learn about her promiscuity, we wonder why it’s taken her so long to get caught out? It’s an abortion she finds she can’t go through with and aborts the procedure part way through. Luckily for her Saint Dean is all too willing to devote his life to the gorgeous girl he’s just met and her unborn child, even after getting beat up by the biological father. So he marries her and raises her daughter as she’s his own.

Back in the present, we see their relationship deteriorate further. Cindy is stressed out, overworked and claims to be raising her husband along with her daughter. He meanwhile still appears to be infatuated with her and puts up with more rejection than most people could stomach but for her, it’s clearly already all over. Cindy notes early on that her parents very quickly fell out of love with each and wondered how anyone can trust their feelings when they can just disappear like that? It’s like she was waiting for it to happen.

Yet he still tries to breathe life back in to their relationship with a perhaps ill advised and ill timed trip away to a motel for a night. She's not keen, not keen at all. Especially when it turns out the room they book is a futuristic themed room that looks like the inside of Dr. Who’s Tardis or as Dean describes it a ‘robot's vagina’. Perhaps romance died then.

Perhaps because I'm a man I look at Dean and wonder what it is that he did wrong. I felt sorry for him; on the surface he's done a lot for her but now she seemed to be out of gratitude and now more narked about what he hadn't done. Get a better job for instance. Although probably just so that she could afford to go back to medical school.

True, somewhere along the way, his character has changed. The nice guy started to smoke too much, drink way too much and become very short tempered. Here lies the problem with the film. Just when did this character change occur? When did their relationship suddenly go bad? There seemed to be a bit missing in the middle between the past and the present, a big bit.

Dean say early on about girls in general that 'they spend their whole life looking for Prince Charming and then they marry the guy who's got a good job and is going to stick around'. So perhaps he knew it wasn’t going to last. A better observation would have been 'don't marry someone you just met ten minutes ago and who is pregnant by someone else'.

Gosling and Williams are both very good in this, although only Williams got an Oscar nomination yesterday. The film itself, whilst a good watch, is flawed and nothing special, nothing we haven’t seen before, like say in Revolutionary Road. The film itself got a nomination in the now expanded list of ten Best Film nominations but if they’d stuck to the original five of old, I guess it wouldn’t have.

(Wednesday 26th January)

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Ingrained On The Mind

I ran in to work and it wasn’t too bad. I felt fit-ish. Although I did think I was having a heart attack as I came round Pride Park stadium, so I had to stop for a second but I think it was just a flashback to the horror of Saturday’s match or perhaps even the arm removing moment in Sunday’s film. Fine now.

Later I run home and having GPSs-ed the route from Bramcote I’m horrified to find it’s only 3.8 miles, so I haven’t done as far today as I would have liked to have done. I’ve not even done, in two stints, the race distance for this coming Sunday.

I thoughtfully remind L about our plans for Sunday, just in case she may have forgotten. She claims to be very forgetful at the moment. As it happens the Ferriby 10 is ingrained on her mind.

Oh and I’m reliability informed that it’s fairly flat. Not really but that’s what every other hilly race has been claiming recently. It is though described as scenic and starts at a windmill. She’ll love it.

She saves her run until the evening and typically seems to outdo me. She first does a run alone and then does a stint with each of the two dogs. At least we’ll all sleep tonight, certain canines have been a bit lively of late come bedtime.

(Tuesday 25th January)

Monday, 24 January 2011

Bring On The Westies

I found out last night whilst checking their website that Nottingham’s smallest and in fact the world’s smallest (check the Guinness Book of Records) cinema is no more. The Screen Room, in Hockley and just across the road from our favourite cinematic haunt Broadway, had been closed over Christmas but now will not be reopening.

I'm on their mailing list but they didn't tell me, either that, or they tucked it away at the bottom of their last email and I didn’t see it. Well, at least I suppose it was a fitting low key end for a low key sort of place. The cinema was a mere 15ft by 15ft, had one screen and just 21 seats. Because of its size, the projector was behind the screen, unlike in a conventional cinema.

Once a porn cinema it opened in its current guise in September 2002 and showed mainly independent films and was great for catching things you'd missed at Broadway. You could though book absolutely any film you liked if you rented the whole place out.

According to the manager there, their nine year lease had simply come to an end and they chose not to renew it. ‘Time to move on!’ their website says. They leave the place on their own terms and debt free. So if anyone fancies taking it on, despite its smallness, it appears to be a going concern.

The Screen Room is survived by several local independent cinemas. The four screen Broadway of course, Derby Road’s traditional Savoy, Belper’s Ritz and Derby's new Quad.

Oh and if you’re missing an umbrella, give them a call, apparently they have at least thirty of them in lost property.

The place will be missed.

L is out an age with the boys this morning. I think she’s giving them a good long walk but she returns complaining of Doggo dragging his paws... sniff, sniff, sniff, goodness knows what he sniffs at but it must smell good. MD of course was just looking for something to yap at. Bless him. He’ll be in top vocal form for his return to training tonight.

Vocals aside his training goes well, all I need to do is find an event for him, after having had to miss yesterdays event. I need to make the most of it because we’ll be transferring from Collies to Westies soon, so I’m told. I don’t much fancy agility training a Westie.

L is out on the razz in Derby and we pick her up on the way home.

(Monday 24th January)

Sunday, 23 January 2011

A Move Towards Sexual Equality

This morning the 25th Bolsover 10k, which I have to skip a dog show for, due to a clash of dates after the rearrangement of the race which was originally scheduled to be run before Christmas. The race starts around half a mile down the road from Bolsover Castle from where they walk us down to the start. Last year it was called the Bolsover 11k... perhaps they made them run to the start or perhaps they just measured it wrong, like that race in Cardiff. On one I hand I would have preferred a more handy starting point but on the other, it would have been an incomparable distance with other races.

The dogs are banned from the grounds of the castle, so I found a nice quiet street to park them in. To my horror I find it is the same street we walk down to the start. Doggo is not happy and barks his disapproval. He’ll be even more unhappy when we run past him again on the way to the finish. Yep, I’ve parked the boys next to the course, with a perfect view of the last 200 metres of the race. Oops.

I’m late reaching the start because in a move towards sexual equality they have made the queue to the mens' toilets as long as the one for the womens'. Once line up, the veteran next to me tells me he’s done this race twelve times and tells me how good it is. He doesn’t mention the hills. This is another of these ‘fast and fairly flat with PB potential’ courses that are nothing of the sort. It has PB potential if you only ever run this race or hillier ones like Barnsley.

I’m slow but not as slow as at Edwinstowe. I can’t get close to four minute kilometres, so I have some work to do for the bigger races to come later in the year. That said it’s a pleasant enough run out.

The finish is down a track just outside the castle grounds. Last year the finish was inside the castle courtyard. There’s no explanation why it didn’t this year. A baffling decision by some official somewhere I imagine.

It’s the same t-shirt as the Chesterfield Spire 10, which they also organised, but obviously with a different race on the front. It’s ok but uninspiring. Oddly only 584 turned up despite the fact all 1000 places were sold, clearly other people had dog shows to go to.

We turned up at the cinema tonight to see Blue Valentine but despite it being Sunday and an early 5.15pm showing it was sold out. Nowhere else is showing it nearby, so I thought we were faced with a wait until the 8pm screening and a challenge to stay sober enough to enjoy it. Not so, L suggests '127 Hours' which she had previously assured me was definitely not on her radar, ever. Hmmm. I fancy it but I’m unsure as to whether I could get through it. I warn her I'll probably faint on her. We have a drink, debate it and then book tickets.

Danny Boyle's film tells the true story of Aron Ralston (James Franco), a reckless young adventurer who spends his weekends bombing around America’s wilderness.

The film opens with Ralston packing his gear, but unfortunately not his Swiss Army knife, for a trek into Blue John Canyon in Utah. He jumps on his mountain bike and is off determined to traverse his route 45 minutes quicker than the guide book suggests is feasible.

After a stint on his bike, he’s locks it up and continues on foot, running. It’s a fast moving start to the film and the pace doesn’t let up when he rescues two female hikers Kristi (Kate Mara) and Megan (Amber Tamblyn) who are lost. This, you get the impression, is the speed at which Ralson lives his life.

He spends time walking with the girls, showing them his beloved canyons and how to drop, rather scarily, into an underground pool, where they spend a while repeating the drop and swimming.

Then just as quickly he says goodbye to them and heads off on his own canyoneering. 'We did not even feature in his day' they say, disappointed. Before he departs they invite him to a party, look for the huge Scooby Doo they tell him, but they know he won’t show. Ralson is his own man. Little did he know that they could well have been the last two people he ever saw.

Then the pace slows down, as he takes a tumble, a boulder falls on him and traps his arm. He makes frantic efforts to pull himself free but gradually it dawns on him that he is stuck and this is where he will stay, and we will stay with him, for the next 127 hours.

Ralston, being the sort of guy he is, had not told anyone of his plans and therefore assumes no one will come looking for him. It is just him, the boulder and a fight to survive. He starts chipping away at the rock with the only knife he has, a cheap one, ‘what you'd get if you bought a $15 flashlight and got a free multi tool’. It doesn’t help.

He spends the next five days eking out his water supply and when that runs out, he has to drink his own urine. Because this is Danny Boyle we get to see this from the inside of Ralston's water pack.

Ralston re-examines his own life, philosophises, battles the elements, hallucinates and even fantasies for the best part of four days. Some of it is real in flashback, some of it wishful and hopeful thinking.

Dehydrated and delirious, we see him wonder about the two hikers and there are also a few Scooby Doo induced illusions about the party he's been invited to. Whether this is the same party as the naked one he imagines in a people carrier I’m not sure.

In fact, it’s so terribly ‘Black Swan’ (that we saw yesterday) at times. Two consecutive days, two films, two lots of hallucinations.

He thinks about his ex-girlfriend (Clémence Poésy), who dumped him for being too self centred. His ex turns out to be no other than Fleur Weasley nee Delacouer, we saw her get married last year. These Harry Potter people get everywhere.

He also feels regret. Regret at not returning his mother’s phone calls and for not seeing enough of his family. Regret at not telling anyone where he was going. Whoops. He does a darkly humorous talk show style interview with himself on his camera admitting this failure. Then he carves his name, along with his dates of birth and death, into the canyon wall before videotaping his last goodbyes.

Throughout his time stuck in the canyon we have seen his life perspective change from being a total loner to suddenly include other people, his family, his friends, the two female hikers, even his ex. Together they have given him the will to survive.

Finally he decides he has the courage and the means to extract himself from his predicament, whilst we wonder what we would do if placed in similar circumstances. Problem is you know what's coming. You know how all this ends before you even step foot in the cinema, hence my partner’s initial reluctance.

Ralston starts to amputate his trapped arm at the elbow. First he snaps the bones because he knows he won't be able to cut through them. It’s enough to make you feel faint as it’s all captured painfully on screen. I tried to look away but oddly couldn’t. At which point I believe I blacked out. Oops.

Then without an arm, Ralson still has to abseil out of the canyon and walk out of the valley, where at least he gets to drink from a lake. Finally he encounters a Dutch couple on holiday who help him get rescued.

It’s a tribute to Boyle that he kept us engaged in the film for the length of Ralson's ordeal, the boulder incident occurs very early in the film, but he does. Once trapped, the film becomes a one man show starring James Franco and his facial expressions. Franco puts in a brilliant performance. The camera is right in his face the whole time and shows us graphically as the situation gradually takes its toll on him. In the end 127 hours turns out to be less a film about a man who cuts off his arm and more one about why a man cuts off his arm. It’s a performance that ought to snatch the Oscar out of Colin Firth’s hands but we’ll see.

Ralston survived and lived happily ever after but how many of us would have died in that canyon?

He now has an artificial arm, his real arm was eventually retrieved by park authorities and cremated by Ralston, who then went back to the canyon to scatter the ashes there.

127 Hours is an experience that I survived. I think. Unforgettable, for several reasons.

Time to put my head under the cold tap, grab something to eat, and get a stiff drink.

(Sunday 23rd January)

Saturday, 22 January 2011

You Know Who Is On The Bench

The dogs don’t get a park session this morning because first I have the opticians and then an early match. Derby v Forest has needlessly been moved to a 1pm kick off.

I’m not optimistic but at least we have everyone in their right positions for a change and they’ve left out that bloody Earnshaw. Unfortunately, you know who is on the bench, so expect a late winner.

The game is not a classic which I suppose means we do better than I expect. It looks like a 0-0 but it’s also all set up for someone to come off the bench and win it... and here he comes.... and there it is... Derby 0 Earnshaw 1. Typical.

It’s the rescheduled Bolsover 10k tomorrow. Fast and flat it says, although this is usually a lie. All the same I decided I ought to take it seriously. Well that was my thought when it was originally scheduled in December. Tonight, just the one drink while we watch a film about ballet, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.

Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) is the artistic director of a New York ballet company. His latest project is a new production of Swan Lake for which he promptly forces his star ballerina Beth (Winona Ryder) into retirement.

Boo hiss, always been a Ryder fan. You’re too old love. Her replacement in the coveted role of the Swan Queen is to be Nina (Natalie Portman). Boos turn to cheers over here. Always been a Portman fan.

Ryder is so distraught, that after insinuating just how down ‘n’ dirty Miss Nat P had to get to land the role, chucks herself under a car. Of course our Nat, well I best call her Nina, wouldn’t do any such thing, she is the White Swan personified, a real goody two shoes.

Let me explain and give you the idiot’s guide to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake... Evil sorcerer turns pretty young girl into a white swan and she can only be turned back if her prince swears eternal love to her. Evil sorcerer though has dirty trick up his sleeve, he invents an identical black swan who he sends to seduce the prince and divert his affections. You know how easily men are swayed.

As Swan Queen, Nina has to play both swans. The good, sweet, innocent White Swan as well as the wanton black one. Nina has all the technical ability to dance the White Swan dance but the director seriously doubts her ability to capture the brazen sexuality of the Black Swan.

Enter the rather fetching Mila Kunis as Lily.

Mmmm. Move over Ms Portman, slowly. I’ve suddenly become a Kunis fan. Nina finds the self assured Lily totally incomprehensible. She’s the sort of a girl who dabbles in all sorts of naughty pastimes, such as fun, as well as drugs ‘n’ alcohol, and carries her knickers around in her handbag. Nina feels threatened by her, more so when she finds out she’s to be her understudy. Lily has the all the sensual blackness that Nina lacks, she is the Black Swan immortalised, at least in Nina's eyes. Oh and she even has black feathers tattooed on her back. Subtle? Not.

Somehow Nina must find a way to evoke her inner Black Swan. Thomas tries to provoke and manipulate her into the role, demanding that she live a little and be less 'white'. He kisses her, she bites him, he’s impressed, and she gets the role.

Nina tries hard to live the role but still struggles to discover her dark side. The stress begins to tell on her and she starts to have delusions. Thomas, getting sleazier by the frame, takes her back to his place, for what we assume is an education in sleaze. Though you suspect he’s going to seduce her more for his own ends rather than just for the sake of the production and that she'll go with it for the role, as Ryder implied and maybe did herself, but that's not what happens. He sends her away with 'homework'. Homework she throws herself into with abandon (nice technique Nat), until she realises her mother is in the room.

Ah yes, her mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey). She too was once a ballerina but gave it up to raise Nina and now lives her life through her daughter. Always pushing her to be successful, whilst sheltering her from the world. She has raised an insecure young woman who looked fragile from the opening scene.

Nina’s hallucinations grow. The scratch marks she inflicts on her shoulder, yet we never see her do. She tears a piece of skin off her finger, ouch, but then realises it didn't happen. Her reflection in the mirror moves on its own... Nina becomes increasingly unhinged and before long she can barely distinguish between what is real and what isn’t and nor can we.

Enter again, the black haired temptress to lead her further away from reality. Lily takes Nina into what is probably uncharted territory, a bar and a night club, where Nina is so uptight that Lily offers her a drug to lighten her up.

Tugged along by Lily, Nina has a few drinks and the two of them indulge in an alcohol and drug fuelled night of clubbing and flirting with a couple of chaps called Tom and 'Jerry'. Then she takes Lily home and to bed, at least in her mind, via an argument with her mother. They lock lips, in several configurations, as Nina embraces a more lustful version of herself. Nina wakes up the next morning, alone and late for rehearsal where she finds Lily in her costume, dancing her routine, fresh from spending a night with Tom.

With so much pressure being exerted by her director, her mother, her rivals and herself, Nina continues to buckle under the strain. Becoming more and more obsessed with the role and the role takes her over. Aronofsky takes his audience inside her deteriorating sense of reality, making sure we see what she sees, we experience what she experiences. It is intense stuff.

It may have been her mother's paintings moving and talking to her that caused her to fall and hit her head. She comes round, in her own bed, on opening night to find out that her mother has called her in sick... mothers don't you just love ‘em.

When Nina finally gets to the theatre and performs, things don’t go that well. Lily is still up to her tricks, flirting with one of the male dancers. Nina loses her concentration and falls. The girls argue in the interval and fight or is Nina fighting with herself? Are these two girls actually two halves of the same person? Is Lily even real?

Whatever happens in that dressing room, Nina comes out and dances the Black Swan with the sensuality that Thomas has been asking for all along. She leaves the stage to rapturous applause and kisses him passionately, finally having seduced him with her dancing.

Then in the final scene of Swan Lake, as the White Swan commits suicide, perhaps we finally realise what is real and what isn’t... or perhaps not.

Either way, it’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking. An enthralling experience from start to finish, something you would not expect from a film about a ballet. So perhaps the Kings Speech isn't the best film of the year after all. As for Portman, does she deserve the plaudits she’s been getting? She’s always been easy to look at but as an actress, the jury was out. In this though, you have to admit she was terrific. Best film, best actress, best director... maybe, we have a few more to see yet.

(Saturday 22nd January)

Friday, 21 January 2011

It Would Make A Nice Bookshop

I was hoping today would start warmer than yesterday so that I could cycle. Nope. -3 yesterday, -5.5 this morning. Ouch. Cold. Nothing for it but to run. Later. I'll run after work. I put on my kit and go for the bus but I end up running to the bus stop because I was late. I still missed the first bus, the second one was late and then it got stuck in traffic, so I then had to run to work from Derby and I was still late. So I’ve had quite a workout today already.

Nottingham’s ‘Tales Of Robin Hood’ which has been closed for some time is to become a Tescos.

Wonderful. Just what we need is another Tescos. As L is fond of saying, ‘If I stood still for long enough I'd become a Tesco’ or a Sainsburys... The old Dillons/Waterstones building in the centre of Nottingham is now going to become a Sainsburys. It’s a lovely old building. It would make a nice bookshop.

I run home, partly, and then walk up with the dogs to meet L from the gym. Then we dump the boys and revisit one of our locals, the Wheelhouse, that we ventured into for the first time for ages on Boxing Day. It now has bouncers on the door. Odd for a suburban local, though it’s clientèle perhaps aren’t the most salubrious. Well, we're in there for start. Pleasant evening, even if the Special Reserve is no longer on. At 6.5% it was probably for the best.

(Friday 21st January)

Thursday, 20 January 2011

A Slight Tweak To My Match Preparation

I wimp out of cycling as its -3 degrees outside and I don't want to have to have my fingers surgically unfrozen from the handle bars once I get to work. Hopefully it'll be warmer tomorrow.

It’s L’s turn to make it to the pool this morning and she too remembers how to swim. Unlike me though, who gets four to a lane, she gets one to herself.

My squash opponent freely admits to blowing his current health kick, he’s trying to lose weight, by having a can of Special Brew during the second half of Leeds' exit from the FA Cup to Arsenal last night.

Perhaps someone should invent Diet Special Brew. Now that would be an interesting product and a fascinating marketing campaign.

So Leeds didn’t get any further in the cup than Derby but clearly it was a slightly more dignified exit. Losing to Arsenal after a replay is probably somewhat more impressive than losing to Crawley Town.

So tonight, because I'm good like that, I’ll try to make him run around more than usual to work off that can. Unfortunately my capacity to make him run around depends on how well he plays. The more badly he plays, the more I can make him run around and therefore the higher his weight loss. Thing is, he will sacrifice most things for his diet but not countenance a defeat a squash.

I make a slight tweak to my own preparation for tonight’s squash game. Whereas last week I biked to work, had a healthy lunch and then went on to win 2-1, today I revert to the pie and a pint preparation and spend lunchtime in the pub. I lose heavily. There's probably a lesson to be learnt in there somewhere but I'm damned if I can see it.

(Thursday 20th January)

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Bring Back Vinyl

It’s cold, below zero, but thankfully the roads are not too icy. It’s mainly frost, which isn’t as slippery. I wear two pairs of gloves to keep my hands warm and they are just about warm enough. Luckily my Christmas present from L, my new cycling trousers, are very toasty.

Last week we had HMV complaining they’re on their uppers, now this week we have record clubs trying to re-launch vinyl.

Personally I have no sympathy for HMV. They spent all my record buying youth (so we’re going back anything up to 30 years) trying to shut down the little independent shops and when they’d managed it, in the end with help from the internet, they decided to stop selling records and sell computer games, DVDs and all manner of electronic equipment instead. Well, they don’t sell anything not in current top 40, and even then they place them in some bizarre random order or in a bizarre categorisation that nobody understands, confining the simplicity of an A-Z filing system to history. I just walk in... walk out... go on line these days. Hopeless.

Virgin were never any better of course. Now they expect sympathy. Ha. No chance. Personally, I think there is still a place on the high street for decent record shops, e.g. not HMV, who were just trying to sell to the general public, who weren't interested, rather than people like me. It is now a niche Market and if their absence creates space for someone else then it’s all to the good.

As for vinyl though. I embraced the CD wholeheartedly when it came out but now... I think it’s a product stuck in the middle of two worlds. It is neither something you want to play nor something you want to own. Not when mp3s are easier to play and dare I say it, vinyl is better to own. They will, like tape cassettes before them, probably only survive until they’re no longer required for in-car entertainment. Personally, I would love to go back to buying vinyl. Go back to flipping through racks of the stuff, something that CD’s aren’t good for.

Physically vinyl is the best thing to have, bands used to really bother with the artwork and it was a decent size to do the artwork justice, but these days you also need the digital version. So bands need to start chucking the digital version in free with the vinyl. Crucially that would get me back in record shops because I'm not entrusting the post office to deliver vinyl.

These record clubs though, where groups of music fans sit in silence with the lights dimmed listening to vinyl, not being allowed to talk or text. That sounds a bit weird. Is this really how these artistes intended you to listen to their music? No, of course not. Otherwise why would they bother taking their music out on tour and play it in front of a thousand or more noisy fans in a sweatbox of a venue. If you’re not at a gig, you’re jumping and singing your way around the house to it. Well I am. When no one else is in.

I cycle to the pool and remember how to swim. It’s busy though, four in my lane. Of which I’m the quickest and everybody else stops to let me past, which is nice. They usually just block me. I notice the two girls in my lane; although they let me past, have no intention of giving way to each other. So being competitive isn’t just a man thing, as L would have me believe.

We get a communication from Son saying he’s sorting out accommodation for next year... Err hang on, as in university accommodation for next October? This is not our Son. Dark forces or other people must be at work here but either way it’s great to have it sorted so early.

(Wednesday 19th January)

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Feeling Rebellious

L tells me she needs kicking out of bed this morning. I try to do so gently but gently doesn’t really work, though she is eventually up well before me. She’s out with the dogs and back before I have the boys’ breakfast out which doesn't go down well with MD, who looks well confused by that turn of events. He wants his breakfast and he wants it now. I’m feeling rebellious and make him wait.

There’s a bit of a chill in the air this morning and it’s a scrape the car day. Definitely a porridge morning but I’ve barely finished getting my oats before I’m dragged into an early morning meeting. I don’t get chance to inform L of my safe arrival and she automatically assumes I’ve parked the car in a ditch somewhere along the A52. Which would almost have been preferable to the meeting.

Some things are sent to challenge me. L sends me shopping for baking soda but of course I can’t find it. I enlist help but the shop assistant is convinced that no such product as Baking Soda exists any more. I either need Baking Powder or Bicarbonate of Soda? L has a ‘recipe’ that mixes baking soda with bleach for spreading on the ceiling to remove mould. Baking Powder apparently is good for cakes but not so good for ceilings, although Bicarbonate of Soda might me, but I decide I best check back with L first. The whole cocktail sounds deadly for the person stood underneath spreading it on the ceiling.

I have part two of my first aid course tonight.

Thoroughly enjoyable. The chance to slap people repeatedly on the back, hard, and try out the Heimlich Maneuver. Yep, we’re covering choking this week. Along with spinal injuries, shock, heart attack, asthma attacks, breakages and bleeding. Bleeding involves mummifying each other up (kind of) which is great fun.

Then to close I sit my first exam for around twenty years and get ten out of ten. Gimme that first aid certificate. Off home to practice on L.

(Tuesday 18th January)

Monday, 17 January 2011

Finally Made It In Life

We are supposed to vacate the cottage this morning by 10am and it’s purely Jeremy Kyle's fault that we don’t. My friend is clearly a regular fan and L seems riveted to the point that she seems to be contemplating throwing a sickie tomorrow. I’m, of course, only mildly interested.

Back home, Daughter is up earlier than us due to me accidentally leaving my alarm on. I don’t know what she’s complaining about, she needed to be up early for college anyway. She ought to be thanking me.

Eventually we’re out of the cottage only a little late. We then rendezvous again at Ambleside Pier to perform a dubious looking handover of wads of twenty pounds notes. Cottage payment. We don’t seem to get billed extra for having the best bedroom; he’ll probably get his own back next time.

Only a few hours after heading home I’m off out again to my first meeting as a committee member of the dog club. Yep, I’ve finally made it in life. The first item on the agenda appears to be an hour’s arguing carried over from the AGM which descended into... well, arguing. The second item appears to be an attempt to dissolve the committee because it wasn’t elected with a show of hands and as far as we can remember never has been. So I might as well not be here then, we do not exist.

Eventually things calm down and I get the team manager’s job, that I fancied but will surely regret and a few other tasks. It turns into a very late night session, just like the House of Lords perhaps, and it’s around 11pm when I get home.

(Monday 17th January)

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Research Purposes

It finally stops raining, so today we get to walk in the dry. Although, because we leave later, it’s probably not going to be as long.

We stick to the Langdale Valley. Out along the valley floor to Great Langdale, then up through an almost deserted campsite to Blea Tarn. To be fair the campsite was probably quite busy last night, as it always is, despite the rain but they will have packed up by now as its gone 2pm.

The rain has created all sorts of adhoc lakes.

Doggo decides to disgrace himself and sees off a sheep. I thought he’d retired from that sort of behaviour.

We head round to Little Langdale where we consider stopping for a coffee at the Three Shires Inn but figure we ought to push on back before it gets dark as we intend to head across country. The pub is closed anyway, for renovation, as oddly was the Sticklebarn in Great Langdale.

Once we reach Elterwater we do stop, at the Britannia. Where’s L’s urge for coffee has turned into an urge for red wine, so I cave in too and have a pint. We can stagger back along the river from here in the dark no problem. In fact we just let Doggo off the lead and follow him, he seems to know where he’s going.

Yesterday L’s GPS watch didn’t last the distance and ran out of juice but freshly recharged today it clocks our walk perfectly. About thirteen kilometres today.

Back home Daughter seems to be having a good time without us. She’s needs to enjoy it whilst she can because she says we’re going to kill her for what’s happened to the lounge carpet. A whole bottle of red wine deposited on it apparently. Well it was an old damaged carpet anyway, so we’re not too fussed. So not really worth killing her over, but if she insists. Why not.

In the pub the Snecklifter is still going down well and I don’t know why I bother trying anything else but I do. Just for research purposes.

(Sunday 16th January)

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Room At The Top

Our room is on the top floor and not only can we hear the wind howling outside the window but we can hear the rain being thrown against it as well. Time for another hour in bed I think.

Daughter emails to say that she and her friends are having pizza for breakfast. We are appalled at the decadence of Daughter but not too appalled to tuck into our full English, courtesy of our friends who we gave the 'lesser' bedroom to. We’re really riding our luck this holiday.

Some sheep brave the weather and sit outside our window. Neither dog notices, well not yet but the whole village will know when they do. Ah, now MD has.

Eventually we go out for a walk in the elements. Leaving our base in Chapel Stile to head out along the edge of Rydal Water to Rydal itself before taking the Coffin Route to Grasmere. The Coffin Route was originally used to transport the dead from Grasmere to Ambleside for burial. Though apparently not since 1821. Then it’s around Grasmere Lake, through Grasmere itself before heading up Red Bank and back to Chapel Stile. A distance of around fourteen soggy kilometres. The rain did stop briefly on a couple of occasions but only very briefly.

At one point MD fell into a lake. Not that the lake should have been there. We were theoretically on a path and the edge of Rydal Water should have been about 20 metres away but the weather had built a huge watery extension to the lake. This caused us to shin up a rocky outcrop in order to circumnavigate it. MD lost his footing and... splash. We had to fish him out.

We head back to the cottage and attempt to dry and de-mud two very dirty canines. I consider hanging MD on the washing line to dry but the RSPCA might not approve. So a good towelling down has to do instead.

Did I mention we also have the better of the two bathrooms? So we make use of the only bath in the cottage to warm ourselves up after our soaking.

The evening follows a similar pattern to the previous night. The pub has another dark ale on the bar, from Ulverston, although the Snecklifter is still better but these things have to be tried. Then its home for another dose of bottled reindeer from the selection pack.

(Saturday 15th January)

Friday, 14 January 2011

Difficult Questions

I finish work at lunchtime, as we’re off for a weekend in the Lakes later but first I get sent into Derby to pick up some wool. Yes wool. The things I have to do. I have to face several difficult questions about what sort of wool, what it was for, etc etc. I thought wool was just wool although obviously in different colours. And what was it for... err knitting... it’s not much good for much else, such as tying people up, if that’s what they were thinking I might be up to. Luckily L had briefed me, a little.

We get home, pack and pay a tearful goodbye to Daughter. Well sort of, I figure that things are going to be going on once we’re gone that we are glad we won’t be a party to. The clues in the p-word.

We arrive at our cottage which is very pleasant and as we are there before our friends we blag the best room. We seem to get away with this, even taking into account the storage heaters in their room don’t seem to have been switched on and it’s a tad chilly. Theirs in fact appears to have once been the garage, though now a tastily converted one I hastened to add.

Our friends are happy though, we have wi-fi. Well we did have wi-fi until MD arrives and takes aim at the power sockets. He misses and wees up the living room wall. Oops. Hasty mop up job and no damage done. I think.

I had my doubts but, to be honest, the wi-fi does appear to be useful. We can keep in touch with Daughter via email as mobile reception isn’t readily available here. This is better than the previously tried and untrusted method of going to the local pub, standing on one of the tables outside and waving your phone in the air until a text goes. So at least I can look a bit saner this year.

It also means the pub can be used for the exclusive purpose of drinking and eating. I can report that the Cumberland ale was very good but the Snecklifter, well, simply superb.

All washed down each evening with a night cap from the reindeer selection pack from Milestone Brewery that our friends brought.

I think I had 'Dasher The Flasher' or something like that but it’s all a bit hazy after the Snecklifter.

(Friday 14th January)

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Well You Would Do Wouldn't You

It’s very warm this morning. 10 degrees and raining. It could almost be August.

So summer’s here then, no excuse not to get on my bike again. Though I find cycling two days in a row very hard work. I’m so unfit, as L would say. On the plus side, my knee seems ok. In fact, I’d forgotten about it.

In the news is a man who threatened to blow himself up in Accessorize on Regent Street, London. Well you would do wouldn't you.

It’s a nice dry ride home but two days biking in a row is made harder by getting involved in a bit of a race on the way home. Well you would do wouldn't you. It’s not my fault, it’s my testosterone or his testosterone. After all, he started it.

Then tonight I’ve got squash. Honestly L will be hosing down the testosterone tonight, from a distance. If I’m awake after all that activity. Which I might just be because I’m celebrating. I won 2-1. Had the fourth game gone to completion I may not have done but even a draw would have been cause for celebration but scrub that, I bloody won.

(Thursday 13th January)

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

On The Late Shift

On the bike, at long last. Although I nearly didn't bother when I saw the rain but it eased off, eventually stopped and the ride turned out rather pleasant in the end. I didn’t even notice my dodgy knee as I was cycling but it’s a bit stiff now as I sit at work.

Had a few problems with a woman in a pointlessly large vehicle. She pulled out in front of me, then when she realised her error slammed on her brakes and therefore rather than just causing me to brake heavily actually blocked my path. So I had the swerve around the back of her car, at which point she started to reverse back into the side street from where she’d come. Crazy. Unless of course her aim was to actually try to kill me.

In the evening L runs. Unfortunately I need her running partners for dog training. She says I’m welcome to them. It’s a double session tonight, a session each. Doggo’s on the late shift, so perhaps he'll sleep tonight. Any more of his random barking at 2am and he'll be getting a muzzle. Even MD seems to have got bored with it now and doesn’t even bother getting out of bed to see what the old git’s barking at, let along bother joining in.

L suggests I forgo my post training takeaway that I very occasionally go for when we don’t finish until late and it’ll be around a 10:30 finish tonight. She’s says to think carefully about those ulcers before I turn down her offer of home cooked food in which she is very adept at cramming in vegetables. Hmmm perhaps, she has a point.

(Wednesday 12th January)

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Such A Nice Bunch Of People

L takes the boys for a run this morning, individually. Starting with the alpha dog, that's supposed to be Doggo.

MD copes with being dumped and is actually quite calm or so I think. A few whimpers at first but then he just lay down at my side, admittedly looking a bit worried. Daughter disagrees. She thought he looked psychologically scarred and that L was evil for leaving him, and Daughter is not known to exaggerate...

L finally finishes reading the Booker Prize winner, Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question.

I think it’s safe to say that L has not enjoyed it one bit and nor, by proxy, have I. I advise her to google some blogs and find out what other people think. Bloggers are such a nice bunch of people.

Other that the newspapers I think she struggles to find anyone else who liked it. Quite a few folk even gave up half way through. Such is the world of the Booker Prize. Don’t think I’ll bother reading it.

The council ring to ask if I’m coming to my coaching course tonight for this evening’s compulsory first aid session...

It’s actually the first part of the first aid section, part two is next Tuesday. It’s all very interesting and probably useful. It’s the first time I’ve administered Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). You know where you compress the chest with your hands in an attempt to return life to a person in cardiac arrest. We are advised to go for it and not worry about breaking a rib or two... We do this on a dummy and also administer mouth to mouth, again to the dummy.

We also did the recovery position. The instructor asks if I would mind playing dead whilst a fellow student, a young blonde lass as it happens, puts me in the recovery position? Of course now. Pleasant evening.

(Tuesday 11th January)

Monday, 10 January 2011

They Don’t Have Rain In Spain

Before I ask... apparently he was almost a saint. That means MD’s walk went well. I must admit I was surprised when he hadn’t been returned home by the time I left for work.

Perhaps he and L have bonded or perhaps he’s just couldn’t be bothered today. Very little barking and no hurling himself at cars apparently. He didn't even shout abuse at the dog with no knees, which is an open goal really that he declines to take this morning.

I collect my bike from the doctors. It’s been fixed, serviced and is looking good. The price also wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. I didn’t need a new wheel after all.

L asks when I think I'll be fit enough to bike to work. Well the cough is subsiding nicely but my leg is still painful and I’m finding standing up easier than sitting, which is quite a dynamic way of working. So perhaps April? I think L might have to trade me in.

Then again, cough wise, Wednesday should be possible... I’ve just got to shake this knee injury.

L suggests I should cancel squash. That’s a bit rash.

It’s a tricky game in the FA Cup tonight for Derby away to Crawley Town, who are flying at the top of the Blue Square Premier. They’ve also thrown a lot of money at their squad in an effort to get into the Football League. Which means they've probably spent more highly on their squad than we have this season and they’re in form, which we certainly aren’t.

Anyway like most ‘big’ clubs I imagine we have dismissed the game as being an irrelevance, as finishing 15th in the league is clearly of more importance than a cup run. Not.

So assuming the worst, that Derby wouldn’t cause a shock and win, I arrange to go out rather than listen to it on the radio. I have no idea how you get ESPN to watch it on TV.

Defeat is as a good as confirmed before kick off with Derby not only repeating recent mistakes by playing the best right back in the division at centre half and a midfielder at right back but by bringing a centre half into centre midfield and pushing a central midfielder up behind the striker, a position he hasn’t played before. Then just to make sure of defeat, we leave our second best player, our on loan Spanish striker, on the bench all evening... I suppose it was raining, I understand they don’t have rain in Spain. Well ‘mainly on the plain’ so I'm told, not that that’s likely to be true either.

So we lose, although it’s closer than I expected and I don’t find out until later we even missed a penalty. No one from the club would speak to the press afterwards. I imagine the manager is still trying to understand his own team selection.

Mind you, I had a good night out. Glad I didn’t ruin it with football.

(Monday 10th January)

Sunday, 9 January 2011

There's Always Something

It’s the delayed Edwinstowe Christmas 10k this morning with no doubt the expected red t-shirt to be presented at the finish. My preparation hasn’t been great and that’s the understatement of the year, even if 2011 is only nine days old. I’ve not done enough training due to the weather, the fact I’ve developed a sore throat and because my bike has been in for a service. My diet has been crap, causing a mouth full of ulcers, ulcers which have made fuelling up for this race difficult. Then to cap it all a restless night due to the dogs having a restless night. The fault, I think, of a couple of foxes screeching loudly intermittently through the earlier part of the night. I don’t wish to begrudge Mr Fox bringing home a young vixen after a night out on Wollaton Park but could he at least keep it to himself.

But anyway, back to the race. As I was, sort of, ill, I took it steady with full body cover so as to not get cold. Embarrassingly steady as it turned out, doing a 4:45 for the first km was positively upsetting. Things improved slightly from there onwards but not by much and to be honest I couldn’t have gone much faster even if I’d wanted to.

So basically I power walk (without the power) around the course, which is still a little icy. There were still a few piles of snow around. So I can see why it was cancelled back in December and even today they had to reroute it away from the Major Oak where it was sheet ice in places. The fact it’s still quite cold is good as it made the course firm underfoot, otherwise it could have been really muddy.

So a time of 47 something, which I would have assumed would have put me near the back but oddly doesn’t. L rubs it in by bragging about her time, which was eight minutes quicker than last time she ran this race two years ago. I blame her personal trainer, although she’s still behind me.

Home for the hot bath that I’m more than ready for, so too the wine we hit later.

On the positive side, the exercise seems to have blown the worst of the illness out of my body. So that’s good. Instead I now have a really painful knee. There’s always something.

(Sunday 9th January)

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Morning Coffee

I get home from Bingham in time to join L and the boys for morning coffee in bed. Then after a traumatic park session where we not only forget MD’s ball but we have to share the park with a cross country race complete with a Doggo upsetting starting pistol, we take an impatient Son back to Warwick University.

It’s the best day of the football season today, FA Cup Third Round day. Although Derby do not get their annual elimination by a lower division team until Monday.

Shock horror. A member of the dog club is not only on TV but doing physical activity. They’re on 'Total Wipe Out'. I think she came last but never mind.

Theoretically we have a race tomorrow, so it’s an AF night and a film.

‘The Kings Speech’ opens with King George V (Michael Gambon) asking his second son Prince Albert, the Duke of York, to deliver a speech at the 1925 British Empire Exhibition. The Duke (Colin Firth) is not the most confident of people, not helped by or possible the cause of a speech impediment and the prospect of public speaking simply terrifies him. He immediately becomes tongue tied in front of the crowd and stammers what words he can manage.

The Duchess (Helena Bonham Carter) takes her husband to see Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist from Australia. A man with no academic credentials but one who comes highly recommended although with unorthodox methods. They have already tried many professional therapists without success.

Before he realises who his new customers are Logue suggests that if her husband cannot cope with public speaking then perhaps a career change might be in order... not really possible she admits.

Logue agrees to treat her husband but only under his own rules in his own office. He doesn’t do house calls he tells her, not even for royalty. He also insists on using Christian names, so a reluctant ‘Bertie’ is coaxed to his first appointment. It doesn’t go well and when Logue records him reading the famous opening lines from Hamlet, you know ‘to be or not to be’ and all that jazz, but whilst wearing headphones so that he can't hear his own voice, the Duke’s patience runs out and he storms off.

It is not until sometime later than the Duke plays the recording of this speech that Logue gave him and realises his reading was almost perfect. Oddly the headphones trick is one that Logue doesn’t reuse; although it probably leant itself perfectly to some of the radio work the Duke has to do later.

So the Duke goes back to Logue and his therapy continues, during which an unlikely friendship develops between the two.

If he thought being in the public eye as a Duke was bad, circumstances were about to make things a whole lot worse. His elder brother David (Guy Pearce), the heir to the throne and a much more confident person, is chasing the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Meanwhile, going on in the background is the build up to World War II. It’s all actually a nice history lesson and for once no one has seen the need to alter the past. So this film will educate many people who do not know the history of this period.

When his father dies, David becomes King Edward VIII but in less than a year he has been forced to abdicate making Bertie now reluctantly King of England and his first task is to face a very public coronation ceremony.

Then the weight of leading Great Britain into conflict is thrust upon him as Britain declares war on Hitler’s Germany and the King is required to broadcast live to the nation on radio.

Now if I was King and was handed a nine minute broadcast I’d have told them to reduce it in size or face a trip to the Tower. Nine minutes... no thanks, shall we do four? Or off with your head. I'm sure that's how Queen Elizabeth I would have done it.

It is a tension filled scene but Logue is there to coach him and thankfully it is a resounding success.

It is a true story that the screenwriter David Seidler had wanted to write for some time but when he first attempted it in 1981 he was thwarted. Lionel Logue's son would not let him use his father’s diaries without permission from Buckingham Palace. Permission was given in principle but King George VI’s widow, by then commonly known as the Queen Mother, insisted that it would not be done ‘in her lifetime’. Poor Seidler then had to wait another 30 years to write his script as she went on to live to be 101.

I was very impressed with some excellent casting; everybody looked like the real people they were portraying, right down to Prime Minister’s Baldwin and Chamberlain. Even Timothy Spall was near perfect as Winston Churchill and I can't help thinking comedy whenever I see Spall.

Colin Firth gives a performance for which he is certain to be nominated for an Oscar while Helena Bonham-Carter was spot on as his wife but for me, it was Geoffrey Rush at his best as Logue who stole the show.

It’s a thoroughly entertaining piece of historical cinema that gives a fascinating insight into King George VI. Not only into the struggles he had with his speech but it also paints a picture of a man who never thought he would be King but, unlike his brother, he wanted to do his duty. He wasn't meant to be King, he wasn't groomed to be King nor was he particularly suited to be King but he did it and ultimately history shows that he did it well.

(Saturday 8th January)

Friday, 7 January 2011

Good Old Post Office

Just as I’m getting ready to leave for work this morning, someone pushes MD back through the front door and closes it again. Ah. He didn’t last long on his walk. L did say she wasn’t going to put up with his misbehaving any more.

It starts snowing but it’s not that wonderful, unpleasant wet snow.

At lunch time it takes me ages in the hairdressers because the chap asked if it was me he saw at the View concert before Christmas. Having discovered a common love of live music we embark on a long discussion about all the gigs we’ve both been too. Don't you just hate people who takes ages to get their hair cut.

I see Starbucks has dropped the charade that it actually makes coffee and has removed the word from its new logo.

About time. We wondered what it was they were serving in those cups.

Mouse watch: L tells me how much she loves mice and hopes we're feeding them something decent... Of course, cheese, on traps.

Over to Bingham tonight for our bi-annually mini Uni reunion. One of the lads hasn’t had a drink since August, so he’s going to be slaughtered. It will probably cause him to give up again for another long stretch. Another of the guys was going to criticise me for not sending him a birthday card but it arrived rather tardily this morning, his birthday was 29th December. It was postmarked 22nd December. 16 days for a first class delivery. Impressive. Good old post office.

(Friday 7th January)

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Bring On The Cold Shower

Rather than an alarm clock L suggests a Flashdance type cold shower would be more effective in getting her up in the mornings, out with the boys and to the gym....

Hmmm. I quite like the sound of that. It was pretty sexy in the film. Tomorrow perhaps something can be arranged?

It is in fact another of those days when you wish you’d stayed in bed. Blimey it was icy. I thought of L doing the dog walking as I slithered to the bus. Though some brace soul at our place cycled into work.

The council send a Pest Control officer to look at our mice problem and look is all he does. He informs us that modern poisons don’t work unless taken repeatedly. Bizarre. Is this a health and safety thing in case you inadvertently feed them to a small child for lunch? But he advises against poison anyway because, should it work, then dead mice would need to be retrieved from their final resting places, wherever that may be, before they start to decompose... He also informs us that they do not supply traps either... so what does he do for £50 an hour? No idea. He drives off in his van and our MD follows him out of the car park on his way to Wilco to buy some mouse traps.

Governments are always on about citizens doing their bit to stop the spread of crime and then they turn around and prosecute someone for doing just that...

Michael Thompson, 64, from Grimsby has been fined £175 and ordered to pay £250 costs after being found guilty of 'wilfully obstructing a police officer in the course of her duties'. What he was doing was flashing his headlights at the oncoming traffic to warn them of a speed trap up ahead. Therefore he not only prevented a crime possibly being committed, although there was no evidence that those drivers were speeding anyway, but also by causing drivers to slow down possibly prevented accidents occurring.

They tell us speed cameras are a deterrent, to slow people down and to prevent accidents... Isn't this exactly what Mr Thompson helped them achieve?

Unless of course it's all about the money.

I’m still coughing nicely but I’m up for a game of squash tonight. In such circumstances, my opponent would of course have cancelled but then he daren’t lose. I have no such hangs up and I need the activity. A nice gentle game of squash is exactly what I need.

I survive and even win a game, using the tactics I picked up listening to Ian McEwan's book ‘Saturday’ in which he takes half an hour to describe a squash match in great detail.

I knew this frustrating book would come in useful in some way.

(Thursday 6th January)

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

My Poor Girl's In Need Of Some Attention

It’s a miserable day and L says it's one of those days when you'd rather still be tucked up in bed. I can’t disagree with that.

At work, our mice have moved on and munched someone’s headphones. I make a mental note to shut mine in a draw this evening.

At lunch time I take my bike in for a service. It’s around two years and five thousand miles since its last service. So the poor girl's in need of some attention. The shop give her a disapproving sideways glance but still take her off me. They say they'll ring me...

They ring back later and say it’s going to be expensive. Why did I know they were going to say that?

England are poised to beat the Aussies at cricket and in Australia. Their star man Alistair Cook, who’s been racking up the runs, reveals he’s keen to get the job done and return home to Floss... This sets the media off in a right tizzy. Cook’s girlfriend is called Alice but no one seems willing to ask him the obvious question about who Floss is. Has Cook put his foot in it and inadvertently let slip that’s he’s got a bit on the side waiting for him in Blighty? It’s so very odd of our media to be so un-prying.

Then the answer comes from England’s press office. Floss is his dog. Ahhhh. Bless. Well until it turns out it’s a bloody collie. They get everywhere.

The furore about Deepdale Duck intensifies, sent for the early bath against Derby at the weekend, as Sheffield United mascot Captain Blade comes out in support.

MD’s back at school tonight as dog training resumes after the Christmas break. He’s in good form and good voice.

(Wednesday 5th January)