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

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Roger Brown

L and Daughter get the train up to sample the city and the shopping (of course) of Daughter’s chosen university destination of Sheffield but they end up at Meadowhall. That’s girls and sense of direction for you or perhaps that’s just girls and shopping for you.

No such trips for me, I’m back at work and with no emails from L to reply to it, it leaves me time to contemplate Roger Brown’s meaningful relations. One of the latest titbits of A Level revision to appear on the back of the bathroom door.

Roger Brown’s relations, as far as I can tell, were with another man for 42 years and all in secret. Until the chap died and our Roger went on a two year long spree with various younger men, chronicled them all in his memoir and then topped himself. Fascinating. I wonder what it’s got to do with A Levels?

(Tuesday 31st May)

Monday, 30 May 2011

An Interesting Project

It rains today, most of the day, as is the way on a bank holiday. So our not very convincing plan to run in the Cross Country race at Oaks in Charnwood is shelved. It’s entry on the day only, so it’s not like we’ve paid for it or anything. Bet they got more than a few ‘no shows’.

Instead we stay in bed as long as possible, at least until the rain stops, well almost stops. Then the boys get a park session but no footballs. I’m thinking of Doggo’s legs.

Later I’m in the loft pulling out a shoe box of concert tickets and stolen setlists. I’ve recorded all the gigs I’ve attended from October 2006 onwards in this blog, separated them out for clarity at 'Fit For Moshing' and also recorded them on 'setlist.fm'. Now I’m trying to assemble a complete list of all the gigs I've ever been to. That means all the way back to the middle of the 1980’s. Gulp.

Luckily I've saved most of my gig tickets, well I've tried to save them all but often they take them off you and some never had tickets in the first place. I also used to pay on the door for a lot of gigs.

My computerised diary, good old (fashioned) Lotus Organiser, goes right back to 1994 and has most of the gigs I went to listed. Although it also has a lot of ones that I made a note of, but never went to... and can I remember which ones I skipped... hmmm.

An interesting project me thinks.

(Monday 30th May)

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Should I Resign Now?

I’m in Newark and L’s in Burton. She’s running the Burton 10 mile road race and also running the gauntlet of public transport on a Sunday to get there. I’m in Newark at a dog show for a qualifier for the Crufts Team Event. I’m now team manager. No one else wanted it if I’m honest but at least I’ve raised two teams which is one better than last year. I also have a dog in each team. Team manager’s prerogative.

It’s raining in Burton but it’s not here in Newark. Although windy, yet again. Most of the hurdles have to nailed to the ground to stop them blowing over. Our B squad is a work in progress, one for the future as they say, our development squad. 270 faults... not sure how we managed that. An elimination is 100 faults and we had two of those but I’m not sure how the other two dogs clocked up the other 70. Particularly as I’m sure MD, who had a good run, only got 10 of them.

The A team does better - 210 faults. Should I resign now? Again two eliminations and the other two dogs got 5 each. That includes Doggo who missed out the first jump. He then he goes on to miss out the last jump in the Olympia qualifier. After which he did look knackered, perhaps retirement might be on the horizon again or perhaps he was still feeling Fridays football session. Then I make a real hash of his jumping course.

MD though continues to do well. Despite starting before he was told to and before I was ready, he records a clear on the grade 3-5 jumping course. Real skin of the teeth stuff but as he’s a lowly grade 3 on a course designed for up to grade 5 that’s a good performance but we don’t get a rosette for it. Then he unluckily has one jump down in his agility, again on a 3-5. Then just in case we start getting complacent, he demolishes his last course.

Meanwhile L goes two and half minutes quicker than at Holme Pierrepont last week. A good run then and she gets another t-shirt, as well as a mars bar. Hope she’s saved me the mars bar. Then she heads back from Burton sober, now there’s a first.

Today is Son’s 20th birthday, so we rifle through all his birthday cards, remove all the money and head into town for a wild night out. Well after I’ve transferred a sum of equal amount direct into his bank account. Our mini tour of town takes in the Keans Head, the Cock and Hoop, and the Cross Keys.

(Sunday 29th May)

Saturday, 28 May 2011

A Bit Of A Westerly

It’s almost a two hour drive up to Richmond but it’ll be worth it for some decent scenery to cycle through and there’s plenty of that up there and hills too... L joins me, although she’ll be shopping in Richmond, as best she can while attached to two hounds. Yes the boys are here too.

I leave the start line at Richmond School with three others just ahead of me and a large group getting ready to start behind, who I hope will catch me up and give me some company, if I don’t gel with the three I’ve tagged onto. I don’t, they are way too slow and I’m not quick, so I leave them behind. Then that large group comes flying past me and keep flying. I don’t have a hope of catching them up. Oh well, on my tod, for now at least.

Apart from the short sharp hill just after the start, to warm you up nicely, the first ten miles are very pleasant and picturesque. Chocolate box villages, country lanes, rolling hills etc etc. L would love this.

Then the first big climb of the day arrives at around 15 miles. They call it 'The Stang' and it’s number 57 in the little black book (‘100 Greatest Cycling Climbs’) rising 241 metres in 3.8k. Ouch. L wouldn’t love this. Nor would she love the strong wind and the occasional rain shower, which don’t help one bit. I no longer feel the need to find a group to cycle with. Suddenly it’s every man for himself.

I do love it, kind of. I love the nice alpine hairpins towards the top, very Tour de France. I’m just not so keen on the gradient, I promise myself if that ridge up above isn’t the top then I’m stopping for a breather. Thankfully it is and I plateau over the top to see the boundary signs of the Yorkshire Dales and County Durham. It’s also bloody windy on top. At least it’s downhill for a bit now or at least that’s the theory because the wind kept trying to blow me back up the hill.

Finally I make it down the other side of the Stang and back in the valley I take a seat on a roadside bench, have a drink, a gel and attempt to text L. No reception.

Time to push on. ‘Tan Hill 8 miles’ the sign says. Presumably uphill all the way. Tan Hill, number 51 rising 206m metres in 9.9k. Not so serious but long. It would probably be a really nice climb, if it wasn’t for the howling gale, in my face. Apparently there’s always a westerly breeze around these parts but this was something else.

The climb up Tan Hill goes on and on, eight miles worth I guess, with each pedal rev feeling as if it’s taking place in thick toffee rather than on tarmac, due to the aforementioned wind. At times it was all you could do to keep moving forward. Again I find myself promising that if that ridge up above isn’t the top then I’m stopping for a breather. This time, as I pop over the top, I see the lonely exposed building that is the Tan Hill Inn. An oasis. The highest oasis in England. There are numerous knackered cyclists sitting on the benches outside, all looking rather shell shocked and showing no signs of any rush to carry on. I park up and head inside, where I order an Old Peculiar. You have to don’t you. Although only a half. I have reception on my phone so I text to tell L I'm still alive.

Then it’s time for another wind resisted descent. I leave the pub and my fellow cyclists, some of whom are probably still there now. The descent of Tan Hill is interesting to say the least, with many riders being blown sideways across the road and many of the few cars that are up there passing by far too quickly to be safe. Again there are a few alpine hairpins but thankfully on the way down this time. Eventually I arrive at the refuge, sorry I mean checkpoint, on the edge of the village of Keld (30 miles in) for some pastries and cakes. Where I got the impression that it was not just I who was running a tad behind schedule.

Then it’s just twenty-odd blissful miles back to Richmond unless you’re mad enough to turn right out of Keld and do the 80 or 100 mile routes with the serious climbs of Park Rash (number 45 - 238m climb in 2.1k) and Fleet Moss (number 50 - 323m in 5.3k). I’ve only entered the short one, a mere 56 miles. That’s far enough for today.

The route back to Richmond is undulating but seems mainly downhill or is it just wind assisted. I certainly don’t notice any wind against me. As I said, bliss. I ride with three others for a while but then they unaccountably stop, so I leave them and go it alone again.

The finish is on the outskirts of Richmond, as the town is very busy with traffic by now, mostly shoppers. Problem is this isn’t good for spectators, e.g. L and the boys, and also they don’t bother putting up any direction signs back to the start. So almost everyone gets lost. That was after a very well signed route as well.

For my unimpressive time of 4 hours 22 minutes I get a ‘merit’, for that read ‘ungraded’. I had to get under 4 hours to make a bronze and that wasn’t going to happen in that wind. I think I would have done it under normal circumstances, although perhaps without the pub stop.

L drives home, resting my aching legs which I’m tempted to soak in a few glasses of vino but in the end I drink it instead. Not many though, I stay dry-ish in sympathy with L, who is prepping for her run tomorrow.

(Saturday 28th May)

Friday, 27 May 2011

Glycogen Stores

On the bus and feeling a bit queasy again, as I finish ‘Blind Eye’ on audio. At least it’s out the way, problem is I worry how gruesome the next book by Stuart McBride is going to be. You just have to keep reading don’t you.

It’s Daughter's last day of lessons at college, assuming she passes of course and we have every faith that she will, even if she doesn’t. I’ll get the Kleenex ready for tonight, as L sobs that it’s the end of an era, etc, etc. Think of the poor college, the students have probably all been around collecting souvenirs off the walls. We know it happens, Son's room is a testament to last years.

I take the dogs on the park, where we are all fascinated by a chap who is stood in the middle of park waving his arms about. Perhaps he's having a rapture? Which can't be easy with two dogs chasing balls around your feet.

I’d planned a night in tonight, as I’m doing the Richmond Sportive tomorrow, not because I want an alcohol free and/or an early night but mainly because L is coming with me and I’m worried about getting her up in time for my planned 6am departure.

This plan goes pear shaped when I talk her into coming to meet us on the park after the gym. She drops her bags off at home, whilst I bring mine along to the pub with me, Doggo and MD. Where I top up my glycogen stores in the Admiral Rodney and the Wheelhouse.

(Friday 27th May)

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Kept In For Observation

The weather looks well dodgy but, despite my better judgement, I risk my best bike. As for my not-so-best one, the bike shop tells me they’re keeping it in for observation over the weekend.

L’s at the pool, on her own. Well, her and three lifeguards. It was busy then. It’s amazing that they open for that in the mornings, then in the evenings they close up when it’s busy.

During the afternoon, the weather alternates between bright sunshine and heavy downpours. Doggo's probably having a good old dig trying to hide from the storm. I’ll be leaving him in the shed tomorrow if he is. As I don’t intend getting my bike wet if I can help it, I might be working late tonight...

By 5pm it’s fine but windy and still very overcast. Somehow I dodge the showers.

For the last three miles or so another cyclist slipstreams me. I hate that. Then finally he comes past me on Adams Hill and I manage to tag on to him, then his chain comes off. I smile politely as I pass him.

Squash and a terrible performance. In fact, I reckon I’ve not played that badly in years. I missed everything, apart from the ones I hit, and those would have been better if I’d missed them. Then as I finally hit a decent shot into the back corner, the next couple of players hammer on the door to signal that it’s time up.

Afterwards I seriously considered retirement. My opponent consoles me and reassures me that I’ve played worse. He even offers to send me the spreadsheet to prove it. Thanks but no thanks; that really won’t help.

I consider switching sports... I could perhaps take up kickboxing, having just caught sight of the blonde be-ponytailed babe of an instructor. Perhaps not, I’d just get hammered at that as well.

We head to the pub where, just to make things worse, every beer on the bar has the word ‘pale’ in its title. Not good but I’ll probably drop my pint anyway.

L tells me to come home and seek comfort in her box of Maltesers, because if it was her, she would.

Hmmm, I need to talk her out of those, for her own safety of course, gently, perhaps with a crowbar or, after a quick tactical rethink, I offer to swap them for a Leffe. Ok, two Leffes. Deal.

(Thursday 26th May)

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


I cleaned all the assorted road debris, gunk and dog hairs out of my gears last night on bike number two, then give it a go this morning. Not promising and I didn’t fancy labouring into work with it and back, fifteen miles each way. So I abort and return home. I could have swapped bikes but instead I fetch the car and chuck the misbehaving bike in the back. I shall take it to A&E.

They tell me the rear wheel spindle has gone or something. They even showed me the play in it, blinding me with science at the same time. So it’s a new spindle or more probably a new rear wheel. I leave it with them.

Later whilst L's arguing with herself, trying to talk herself out of the gym again, she does a lot of talking to herself, I take the boys on the park. I’ve bought MD a new ball because we lost his old one over the fence into next door's garden. Which shouldn’t be a problem really, except nobody has dared venture into the darkest corners of their garden for years, probably decades. It’s very overgrown, with some fearsome triffid like plants lying in wait for anyone who ventures there.

So unfortunately it’ll probably stay lost. It was a great indestructible dog ball as well, which I can’t find another one like.

His new ball is great too but for a different reason. I can kick it miles. He’ll sleep tonight.

L comes home from the gym. So not sure who won the argument.

(Wednesday 25th May)

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

No Yuck

It’s still windy as I pedal into work on my best bike again.

L tracks down Son's abode for next year on Street View. Quite posh, detached, I was expecting a terrace. The landlord has even thoughtfully put a ramp up to the front door to make it easier for them to drag all those traffic cones, ‘For Sale’ signs and other assorted shop signs in to the house.

I go to the pool after work, to do my meagre number of lengths, compared with L’s mammoth Great North Swim training anyway. It’s very quiet when I arrive. They have just two lanes in, with only three of us using them and only two others in the main pool. I share the 'fast' lane with girl in a flowery bikini, who is a better swimmer than her attire suggests but I soon get the better of her and she decamps down to lane two. So I must have been impressive, or scary. Then at 6.30, as if by magic, the place is suddenly awash with people as the rest of the six lanes went in. There's a lesson in there somewhere for the council.

This means I get a more seriously attired and faster woman in my lane, time to finish up and bail out I think.

Back home I'm sitting watching a new band called ‘Yuck’ on ‘Later with Jools Holland’. Something I should have been doing tonight at the Rescue Rooms.

Unfortunately, we're going to have to postpone our Nottingham show at the Rescue Rooms on the 24th of May until the 14th of November. This is because we've been offered an incredible opportunity to play Later with Jools Holland :) :) :) All your tickets will remain valid and you can refund them if you need to. I hope everyone understands!"

I would understand better if they offered me a Jools ticket as compensation.

(Tuesday 24th May)

Monday, 23 May 2011

Safety In Australia

Back to work, life goes on, despite the end of the world not happening. Don’t worry, it’s been rescheduled for 21st October, which will nicely get me out of the Birmingham Half Marathon. If they’re right this time.

Doggo’s been taking this 'rapture' business very seriously. He’s been digging an escape tunnel in our spare room for some time. He was obviously in the know. Problem is it was under the computer table, damaging cables as he went, but somehow not electrocuting himself, on his mission to find safety in Australia. So I piled a load of boxes up under the computer table to stop him. Worked a treat. He just dug one somewhere else. So more shredded carpet to pick up after a brief un-apocalyptic storm this afternoon.

I take him to dog class, where I leave him in the boot, where he can’t do any damage whilst I train MD.

(Monday 23rd May)

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The End Of The World As We Know It

Bugger. We’re still here. Does that mean I’ve got to run the Notts 10 today after all? Looks like it.

We arrive at the ends of the earth, or rather Holme Pierrepont Watersports Centre, to be greeted by an overcast sky and wind, wind and err, more wind. For those of you who think a 50 mile sportive up two quite serious hills is madness, how about two and half rather featureless laps around a rowing strip in a gale. Possibly madder?

I’ve only entered this race because it’s the event’s 40th birthday and I’m a sucker for a good birthday bash. So I’m hoping for some good ‘freebies’ at the end.

This used to be a Friday evening event but has been moved to a Sunday this year. Health and Safety I imagine was responsible for them introducing a tight time limit on the Friday race, so that nobody finished in the dark, which wasn’t popular. So it’s on Sunday this year. Still might have a darkness problem through, looks like it’s going to rain.

As ever I start too quickly, and then have to try to get some grip back on reality and my own limitations as people, generally the old, the infirm and the female, overtake me. That’s perhaps a bit unfair. This is no mugs race, it’s full of club runners and everyone is pretty quick. I do manage to hang onto the shirt tails of one of the old and run with him for a while, but possibly only because of the assistance of the prevailing wind that was behind me at the time. Inspired by this, I finally get brave enough to drop him and push on ahead, only for him to catch me up later and return the ‘favour’ as we go around the lake, turning to run headlong into the wind.

Did I mention the wind? It was so rough I half expected to see foot high waves coming towards me across the lake, sweeping away any competitors who were running too close to the edge.

It’s a shame because the race is run over a very flat course but any chance of a PB always depends on the conditions on the day, and being hunched over trying to streamline oneself against a headwind isn’t going to be conducive to a fast time.

Then it starts raining... oh joy. ‘That's great; it starts with an earthquake...’ Actually I think the apocalypse is happening here and now, wind, rain, ‘Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn...’ and what a nice place for it all to end... Holme Pierrepont, delightful. ‘It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.’ Or not. I’m singing to keep my spirits up. Classic R.E.M. by the way, if you weren't born in 1987.

Thankfully the rain shower quickly passes but with strategy number one, of following the old chap, in the bin, it’s time for a new approach. I get a hold of some eye candy who attempts to pass me, oh no you don't, just mentally not physically you understand. She seems to be moving at the right sort of pace and I let her tug me along as we start lap two.

Lap two isn’t as dull as lap one, not if you close your eyes or simply keep your head down to try and minimise the drag from the headwind. When I next look up the girl is still there and we stay together for the majority of the second lap, we even move up the field a bit, then she drops me like a stone with a mile to go. Perhaps I annoyed her when I didn’t wait for her after the last drinks station or perhaps she was just better than me.

I stagger across the finish line muttering, ‘deary me, that was a challenge’ or words to that effect. 1:13 again. Three ten milers and the same time on every one... I am handed a tasteful 40th anniversary mug and a rather fetching (depending on your point of view) bright orange 40th anniversary T-shirt. I will wear it with pride and sunglasses.

I head back to the car, fetch the boys and we bark L across the finish line.

Then home for some R & R, a hot bath etc, a quick listen to the conclusion of the relegation roulette at the bottom of the Premier League (why do they bother with the top?) and then it’s down to the Wheelhouse for a late Sunday lunch.

(Sunday 22nd May)

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Judgement Day

What’s this? No events. So, a lie in and we best make the most of it because today is ‘judgement day’.

Without any shadow of a doubt’ and that’s a quote, the world is going to end today and there is no ‘Plan B’. So that's that then. There really was no point in me training for tomorrows Notts 10 race or for next week’s sportive or even brushing up the dogs agility for next week’s Crufts qualifier. Selecting my Fantasy Team was also a complete waste of time as indeed was any last minute training the five Premiership football teams about to engage in relegation roulette tomorrow had planned.

So I just stay in bed, snuggle up to L and contemplate Skinner and his pigeons for one final time.

Sorry, that’s probably gone over the head of anyone without A Level revision going on in their household and therefore rooms covered with post-it notes. Personally I’m come to a decision, just in time as it's 'judgement day', and I'm with Chomsky, who disagreed with Skinner, I’ve never liked pigeons either.

So we lie there waiting for Jesus Christ to return to earth and round up the true believers before zapping the rest of us with a giant earthquake. The dogs nag a bit, so in the end I get up and take them for a final park session. They do not seem to have grasped the magnitude of the situation.

Still nothing happens, so I give the lawn a final trim. Don’t want to leave things in too much of a mess for the ‘rapture’.

Then we settle down for our final supper, of pasta, just in case somehow tomorrow's race goes ahead after all.

(Saturday 21st May)

Friday, 20 May 2011

Little Black Book

I get number one bike out today. Pump up the tyres, straighten the seat, straighten the handlebars, straighten the bike computer... it may have had passing contact with partying teenagers but seems to have survived the ordeal more or less unscathed.

Number two bike is misbehaving, so that’s one reason for getting number one out. The other reason is I’m tempted with a Sportive up at Richmond next weekend. So perhaps a bit of practice is in order, not that Nottingham to Derby and back is any preparation for an assault on Tan Hill but it’ll have to do.

I’ve also not entered yet. L questions whether I’m trying to talk myself into it... or out of it? Both. I’ve always wanted to pedal up Tan Hill, I think, for a few reasons. Firstly there’s the Tan Hill Inn, generally recognised as the highest watering hole in England (528m above sea level), and the on-off home of British Sea Power’s own Music Festival. It was also a place I visited with L back in the early days of ‘96. Whether I stuff up my time for the Sportive and the chance of a gold, silver or bronze medal by stopping for a swift one I’m not sure.

Then there’s the question of my little black book.

L got me it for Christmas - ‘100 Greatest Cycling Climbs: A Road Cyclist's Guide to Britain's Hills’. There at number 51 is Tan Hill. It’s about time I started chalking a few off the list. Well two actually, number 57 is The Stang and that appears to be far more fearsome, albeit shorter than Tan Hill, but inconveniently pitched between the start and Tan Hill itself e.g. on the route. It’s going to be fun... or purgatory, according to L. I’m also a natural born psycho, according to L. Flatterer. Actually, I think she's persuaded me and it is only the short 50 mile route. They say the 80 and 100 mile routes have harder climbs, number 45 - Park Rash and number 50 - Fleet Moss to be precise but we don’t talk about what I’ve bottled out of.

Anyhow the bike in on number one was much more pleasurable than on number two, although it was a shame the wind was against me all the way but it's all good practice for those winds they have up there in the Yorkshire hills.

So I’m feeling fit-ish for Sunday's run now. L isn’t. She complains MD was a bit lively this morning and is now complaining of shredded knees. Oh dear. Not what she needs before our 10 miler. She says she’ll have to spend most of tomorrow in bed to recover. Good old MD, that's another biscuit I owe him.

We don’t even have an event tomorrow, nothing to get up, for which means we can head into town tonight and stay out as late as we like. It doesn’t matter a jot if we’re still sat in the Ropewalk at close to 1am.

So we do and we are.

(Friday 20th May)

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Not Thwarted Today

On the bike today, complete with a few gearing problems. Looks like I might have to get it looked at again.

Last night I was thwarted over the Timothy Taylor’s Ram Tam but rather conveniently we’re due in that very same pub for lunch today. So I get a second crack at it and no one drags me next door this time.

I’ve taken a punt and booked squash, even though I don’t know what injury my opponent has planned this week. As it turns out, he doesn’t come up with anything, so our game looks like it’s on.

There are some real nutters about tonight. As I drive to squash there’s a guy pulling wheelies behind me on his motorbike. Well actually its moped and he looks pretty stupid but clearly he doesn’t think so. I wish him to fall off but unfortunately he doesn't.

Then later when I head home, after a not very successful match, I pass a chap walking up the ring road, on the road, against the traffic. Everyone was having to swerve around him. It was a good job it wasn’t dark. Death wish.

(Thursday 19th May)

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The White Elephant

I had thought of running again this morning but frankly, I’m knackered. So I opt to miss the bus again. This is becoming a bad habit. It’s not all my fault. The bus has started stopping 50 metres or so before the bus stop because there's never any room at the QMC bus stop and I can't see it sitting there when I'm walking up.

I’ve got a customer in for a demo this morning which means battling with the ‘white elephant’ plasma screen that we bought for such occasions but that never works. Today I’m feeling lucky and it works.

Our salesman is more confident than me about how well he expects the meeting to go and conveys his confidence by betting fifty quid that I can cover every scenario that they come up with, with one hand tied behind my back. Well if there’s fifty quid riding on it, I’m more than happy to stuff it up.

But I don’t. Meeting goes well.

After work I head into Derby to meet a couple of friends. Meanwhile L is, as usual, trying to talk herself out of the gym. I offer to join the debate, because I think she should go. Then I can think of her working out whilst I sip a beer. She heads off, muttering about thinking about me sipping a beer. She goes early before, and I quote 'all those young flashy students with their pony tails start queuing for the machines'. I’d wait if it was me, sounds heavenly. I really don't go to the gym enough.

I ought to be ‘good’ tonight really, I have ten miles around Holme Pierrepont to do on Sunday but any thought of being ‘good’ is dispensed with when they put Timothy Taylor’s Ram Tam on the bar. You just don’t see that very often. Unfortunately I got dragged away from it. I was in the wrong pub, we were supposed to be meeting next door.

L’s done her workout and is on the Mocha. Now I'm in the right pub, I’m on similar. Titanic Chocolate and Vanilla Stout, which I reckon is about as close to Mocha as you can get.

Somebody suggests we go watch the football in the Wetherspoons pub. Unfortunately he means Porto v Braga, which is the all Portuguese final of one of these European tournaments which I didn’t think anybody cared about and is being played in Ireland. I had hoped we were going to watch one of the play-off games.

Porto v Braga is predictably dull, ends 1-0 to Porto and is about as exciting as waiting for our food, which takes ages to arrive. The play-off game by the way was Huddersfield v Bournemouth for the dubious privilege of getting to play Derby in the Championship next season. The game was poised at 1-1 after the first leg and ends 3-3 tonight (4-4 on aggregate) after extra time and goes to penalties, which Huddersfield win. Which game would you have rather been watching? Exactly.

(Wednesday 18th May)

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Don’t Hold Your Breath

I thought I best start my training for Sunday’s ten miler, so I get the bus in and will run after work. Well I try and get the bus in, I miss it and have to get a later one.

The Metro says we’re going to have a two week heatwave from Sunday onwards... Not that I’m sure the Metro ever gets anything right. Isn’t most of the Metro pre-printed weeks in advance and then wrapped in a bit of up to date news and sport? So don’t hold your breath. That was probably last year’s prediction.

The organisers of this year’s Nottingham Marathon and Half Marathon have assured everyone that the race will still start and finish at Victoria Embankment this year as usual despite the flood defence work that is going on there. Unless of course the site floods before they can finish it.

It’s going to be interesting because they’re building a 1.8 metre high bank across the field, cutting off the finish line area from the road. The organisers don’t seem daunted by this. They’re going to erect a ramp over the flood defence wall. That’s going to be interesting... it’s going to be just like ‘Survival Of The Fittest’.

I run from work to Long Eaton, all 15km of it. I’m rather pleased with that. I even dodge the rain, it starts raining almost as soon as I get on the bus.

(Tuesday 17th May)

Monday, 16 May 2011

Blind Faith

My other club, Ebbsfleet United, who I have a membership with via www.myfootballclub.co.uk have got themselves promoted back to the Blue Square Premier at the first attempt after being relegated last season.

They bounced straight back via the Blue Square South Play Offs beating Farnborough in the final on Farnborough’s own turf. Hopefully this will also boast their membership figures. Anyone can sign up for a free 30 day trial via www.myfctrial.com.

Now they’re back in a national division I might even get to see them play again. It can’t be any worse than watching Derby. Next season there’s also the re-launched Ilkeston Town to support. So who needs league football? Ah, obviously me. I’m one of the 16,200 blind faith-ers at Derby who have already renewed for next year. Amazingly that’s only 500 down on the renewal level last year. There really mustn't be anything to do in Derby on a Saturday, as well as Sunday to Friday obviously.

It could also be to do with the 'your money back if you’re not happy with the pre-season signings' offer. Of which there are none yet, apart from capturing the signatures of the loan players who propelled us to the dizzy heights of 19th place this season. No doubt some season ticket holders will already be sharpening their pens and getting ready to fill in their refund request forms before the rush. What would be really funny is if 16,100 asked for their money back come August, unfortunately it won’t happen.

My other other team e.g. Fantasy Football, lose in the newly invented Play Offs, at the semi-final stage, by one solitary point. Why do I always lose every year by one point?

As its British Sandwich Week (15th - 21st May) it’s appropriate that Sainsbury’s have run out by the time I get there at 1pm.

No dog training tonight. We hit the park instead.

(Monday 16th May)

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Racing Gebrselassie

I’m on TV this morning, me, Haile Gebrselassie, Paula Radcliffe and 38,000 others. Well not Paula actually, she got wind of the fact I'd entered and pulled out, citing breathing difficulties while training. Hmmm. When I get ‘breathing difficulties’ I usually blame it on too much Snecklifter. Us athletes are all the same you know.

It’s The Great Manchester Run, self styled as Britain’s Premier 10k, although that's a bit of a cheat because there are actually five races happening here = five waves. Everybody doesn’t run as one like at the London Marathon or the Great North Run. The run was first staged in 2003 with a field of 10,000, this year they have sold 38,000 places, although afterwards the results will show that only 28,000 turned but that’s still pretty big.

Today, I have a proper race number ‘5287’ not ‘666’ and they’ve helpfully put everyone's name on their numbers as well, just in case you are so delirious at the finish that you forget who you are. Which is possible, as I’m in the first ‘Orange’ wave with Mr Gebrselassie.

Parking is great. We drive straight into the centre and park up in an NCP with no problems at all before heading off for a wander around. We’ve left the dogs at home but actually it wouldn’t have been too bad for them here, as it will be relatively easy for me to nip back to the car and fetch them once I’ve finished. They do love a bit of supporting.

I head to the start to join the other 6,000 or so in my wave. Such numbers don’t leave much room for an aerobic warm-up and means there’s every chance you could gain a black eye if the runner next to you flails around too much to the warm-up music. It’s also quite difficult to get up near the front. I stand just behind the sub-40 pacer but we’re still miles back and I soon lose him in the crowd as he starts to push forward. I reckon we need waves within the waves here.

The marshals make a good fist of stemming the flow of runners across the start line with a sort of a funnel system, so initially it’s not too congested but things very quickly bunch up again. Not good, I fear Gebrselassie may be getting away from me already.

The sheer volume of runners makes it very difficult to maintain a steady pace and I’m 15 seconds or so behind where I want to be and nowhere near Haile. It’s not until half way that I manage to get a bit of space and record a few quicker splits. It’s a shame because it’s a course full of PB potential on pancake flat roads although the route itself is rather dull. When going past Old Trafford is the highlight, you know it’s not the best route in the world. It would have been nice to have seen more of the city centre.

The weather isn’t great either, it’s been drizzling on and off all morning, but it stays fine for my actual run, although if you’re a later starter you probably got soaked or if you opted to go through the ‘cooling’ shower that was erected at 6.5km. I gave it a very wide berth.

The atmosphere was patchy, probably the weather again. There was a good turn out but the spectators seemed subdued, certainly not as up for it as at Reading. Again the bands on the course were good, giving everyone a musical boost.

Then before I know it I’m sprinting (sort off) across the finish line on Deansgate. Then because L was in start number two, twenty minutes after me, I’ve got plenty of time to get back to the car to get some warmer clothes before heading back to the course in time to see her finish.

All in all, mass participation at its finest and achieving what these sort of races are all about, that is getting new folk into running.

The Great Salford Swim is also going on today, which we don’t get to see but we do wander up to have a look at the athletics track which will be in use later.

We would have stayed to watch but by now the weather is really foul so we opt to hit the motorways and head home.

Back home we do a few pubs, the White Hart In Lenton where we haven’t been for ages before revisiting the Johnson’s Arms Beer Fest. Then to round off things off, a well earned curry, for which Daughter joins us.

(Sunday 15th May)

Saturday, 14 May 2011

That Sort Of Day

A bit of neat organising today. There is a Leamington Dog Show, which obviously isn’t in Leamington as dogs shows never are in the home town of the organising club, but is somewhere relatively close and it’s also the same day as the Kenilworth Running Festival. Both events are in spitting distance, that's a slight mega exaggeration, of Warwick University and therefore Son. Naturally we expected Son to scupper these carefully made plans by being in Nottingham that weekend but no, he’s there.

So I drop L off in Kenilworth for her 10k, then the boys and I go off to find where in Leamington the dog show isn’t.

The run turns out to be 3 laps... nice. Five hills per lap, even nicer. They’ve even managed to get a team from Warwick Uni to enter but no sign of Son turning out for them. Bit early for him. He won’t even be alive at this sort of time, unless he’s not gotten to bed yet.

I locate the dog show at Hatton Country World, which is all farm animals and craft shops. Oh and collies. Unfortunately the agility field has uncut grass and loads of pot holes. So it’s going to be more like a cross country run than a dog event and I best be careful, I don't want to injure myself for the Manchester run tomorrow.

MD has the morning, all three of his runs are up first thing. We stumble around the terrain that makes up his first course but the run is aborted when the wind blows half the jumps down. I have a feeling it's going to be that sort of day.

We start again and have a few poles down. Although I’m sure it must have been hard for MD in that long grass, what with him being such a short a**e. I survived the pot holes on the course, though to be fair, by now they’d filled most of them in and then put my foot down a huge one whilst walking to the next ring.

Our first event was called ‘Circular jumping’ but it isn't remotely circular. It was very twisty and tricky. I opted to enter MD in this and not Doggo because it was supposed to circular e.g. = easy. What we get is a course that would have very much suited Doggo but doesn’t MD at all. Oh well.

MD’s 2nd run is excellent but then he spoiled it by coming out the weaves. I did them with him on my right and he doesn’t like that side but he has to learn, it would have been much slower to have swapped sides. He does them fine 2nd time. Still a good run.

He has the first pole down on his last run. Which was a shame because the rest is clear and quick. I reckon we’d have been 4th had he not had that pole but then probably half the field could say something similar. So nothing for MD and it's over to the old man after lunch.

L has done her run. Not the quickest apparently and she was muttering something about bloody hills. She's probably saving her quick one for tomorrow. She then heads off to meet Son, who agreed to meet her, albeit briefly between getting up and the FA Cup Final. Well a student has to eat.

Doggo goes clear in both his runs and we twiddle our thumbs waiting to get pushed out of the places before we head off to find whatever watering hole Son has left L in, now that the match has started. Surprisingly they're not in Varsity having a ‘dog bowl’ meal but the ‘Dirty Duck’ instead. L does get about.

Amazingly we don’t get pushed out on both runs and Doggo gets a 7th place rosette.

Tonight, just a couple of naughty small glasses of wine to go with that pre-race pasta meal. Manchester tomorrow.

(Saturday 14th May)

Friday, 13 May 2011


I’m on the bike again. Is this a good idea? With a serious-ish run to come on Sunday. Probably not and what’s worse it’s Friday the 13th. First running number ‘666’ and now Friday the 13th. Omens everywhere. I try to take it easy, luckily no one tries to overtake me.

I do manage to upset MD, whom I pass on his morning walk. The poor little dog seemed distraught that I’d gone off without him. Apparently he sobbed for ages, well, at least until they found a squirrel to take his mind off it. It usually does the trick.

Meanwhile I was distraught that Doggo didn’t react in the same way, in fact he didn't seem bothered in the least. He used to be bothered. I’m hurt that he no longer is.

The author of the post-its has been at it again. Those post-it notes are taking over. We now have Chaucer on the back of the bathroom door and something interesting to ponder whilst you’re busy in there.

Love of money is the root of all evil’, isn’t really top of my ‘must ponder’ list but if it gets her to Uni I’ll cope.

I didn’t realise it was Chaucer until told but yes, ‘Pardoner's Tale’, should have know that. Seen it on TV! And as a play. But I was pretty sure the quote was actually from the bible and Wikipedia, and Wikipedia is never wrong..., agrees. Plagiarism by Chaucer, tut tut, or perhaps he credits his sources, I haven’t looked.

We’re AF tonight. I have the aforementioned serious-ish run on Sunday and L has one tomorrow as well. However Sheffield Hallam have finally fixed their accommodation website, it’s been down for a month, so guess what I’m doing tonight. Going to be difficult without alcohol.

(Friday 13th May)

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Quotes Of Wisdom

Squash is cancelled tonight, my opponent is injured again, his back or something, I lose track.

Does that mean I cycle again... 3 days in a row? Or 4 even, if I do tomorrow as well. Or do I do some training e.g. running. Or taper even for Sunday.

I did get an email from the Great Manchester Run the other day saying ‘if you haven’t trained as much as you’d hoped, relax. What’s done is done’. Which is code for you’re stuffed. I get the bus, I’ll run later after work.

I get to work feeling knackered and I’ve not even ran yet.

L reports a pleasant amble with the angels this morning. Pleasant? Angels? Is MD not himself then?

I’ve buggered by training again. I forgot we were due at the pub for lunch, so now I’ve got to run on steak and ale pie and beer. I should have cycled. Too late now. It’s a very slow but funnily enough quite pleasant run. Just four miles or so.

At home the post-it notes have spread to the lounge, along with some sheets of A4.

I’m feeling quite educated at the moment. Not that I’m sure what much of it means. I keep thinking of adding a few quotes of wisdom of my own but then think better of it.

Madame Post-it, Daughter, is out and L’s at the gym. So I offer to walk down and meet L for a swift half after her session, as we’re probably AF over the weekend with a lot of running going on. The Johnsons Arms has a Beer Fest going on... There’s only one downside, they’ve got Morris Dancers on. How much alcohol will it take to get through that? Probably more than a swift half.

When we get home later, I try to update this blog, as I’ve been getting miles behind. Cue excuses. I've been busy at home and they’re been asking me to do some work at the office as well. Cheek. Being in London didn’t help either. Now though I can blame it all on Blogger. The site has been down for the last couple of days and I’ve actually had material to post, honest, but couldn’t. So it’s not my fault, ok?

Of course you won’t be reading this until it’s fixed.

(Thursday 12th May)

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Cheese Or Cheese?

Another day on the bike, dodging the showers. Which I’m sure have nothing to do with a Spanish Plume ones because they look like typically foul English ones to me.

L offers the choice of cheese or cheese for tea tonight. Either a copy of the cheese and mushroom pie she had in the pub on Sunday or macaroni cheese? Neither sound particularly low calorie... but I think she’s in sod it mode due to work.

Yep, she’s just announced she’s off to drown her sorrows in Waterstones. Oh dear. Her book ‘units’ will be higher than her alcohol units. L has a serious book hoarding problem.

People complain about the councils shutting libraries. Well, I’m thinking of starting my own, simply by lending out L’s book collection. I'm sure I could lend them out whilst they're on her 'waiting to read pile' and she wouldn’t even notice.

I get home to find that the other literary buff in the household (sort of), Daughter, has carried out her threat to redecorate the bathroom with post-it notes. All revision pointers for her exams. I said she could, as long as she got an 'A'. More worryingly, she obviously intends to spend a lot of time in the bathroom. I just hope the ink doesn’t run when someone takes a shower.

It’s Doggo one night a month of official training tonight and he does well, as does MD. In fact the trainer says that was one of the best bits of agility she's ever seen me do. With MD? Is she mad?

(Wednesday 11th May)

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

One Glass

On the bike today and bloody hard work it is too. I’m so unfit.

L suggests I slip the bottle of white wine she got for her birthday into the fridge. Hmmm. On a Tuesday? She must be having a hard day at work. I shouldn’t really collaborate on such an evil deed.

It’ll only be ‘one’ she assures me and I have permission to wrestle the bottle off her after the ‘one’, although she isn’t specific about the size of it. She might be planning a large 'one', a pint even. I’ll give it some careful consideration.

First I cycle to the pool, do a few lengths and bump into L who’s heading into the gym. Then when heads off to her book club, still asking for just ONE glass... I head home with the intention of putting the jumps up in the garden and doing ten minutes or so training with MD before taking both the boys on the park.

Whereas the swimming went to plan nothing else does because it then rains, so my plans with the boys are shelved. Instead I cook Spanish Plume. Which doesn’t exist of course, so I make it up and even concoct an accompanying side dish. Then contrary to my better judgement, I also put the wine in the fridge.

The weather fines up and while the Plume cooks, I get to do a bit of training with MD after all, although it’s now too late for the park. Problem is the rain has made the garden a touch muddy and both boys, even Doggo who hasn’t even been training, come in looking like... well two dogs who’ve rolled in the mud.

As L comes in from her book club and sees the state of the boys, I wonder if 'one' glass is still going to be enough. I distract her by asking what her club’s latest book is. Another Ian McEwan? Another dreaded Rose Tremain? Or perhaps they’ve diversified into some eye ball gouging courtesy of Stuart McBride? Nope, it’s Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go’. Ha, we saw the film last week and prior to that L read the book. So I guess she gets the month off for good behaviour.

I decide I’m going to have to bath the dogs, well at least their paws. MD isn’t happy, Doggo is terrified. It’s only water mate.

L’s race pack for Manchester on Sunday arrives. She’s in start number two ‘White’ at 10:55, only twenty minutes behind me. She’ll be chasing my tail. We can’t remember what predicted time she put down to get that but I’m certainly not going to be able to finish in time to see her start.

(Tuesday 10th May)

Monday, 9 May 2011

Some Head Start

A Monday at work? What’s that all about then?

It’s also back to a 'usual' sort of Monday, in the car, shopping at lunchtime and training with MD in the evening.

The highlight of the day is the arrival of my race pack for The Great Manchester Run. The instructions for which look well complicated. There are five different start times, ranging from the ‘Orange’ start at 10:34 to the ‘Pink’ start at 12:30. Two hours apart! That’s some head start.

The good news is that I’m in the ‘Orange’ one, the same as a certain Mr Gebrselassie who, they say, is a bit useful over 10k. Well over any distance actually. Hopefully he’ll have an off day.

L hasn’t got her pack yet so I’ve no idea what colour she’s been given. I might even be able to finish in time to see her start.

(Monday 9th May)

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Competition For The Kenyans

Happy Birthday to L today and as a special birthday treat, she gets to do the Leeds Half Marathon. This is her first race in a year of running up her 50th birthday. 500 miles in 50 plus races in her 50th year and hopefully 50 t-shirts as well. Hmmm, we’ll need to get a bigger bedroom or get Daughter to move out. Oh yes, forgot, that’s already the plan.

The last time L ran in Leeds they made her go around twice, that was in the full marathon in 2001. It’s ten years on but L doesn’t appear to be feeling nostalgic enough to repeat that feat today.

That race no longer exists, it was axed after the 2003 event due to dwindling numbers. Not many people seemed to fancy the two lap format. The half marathon too was also almost lost despite regularly pulling over 4,000 runners, in 2008 the council tried to drop it to focus on running a 10k instead but people power saw to it that that didn’t happen.

I'm in 10k training for Manchester next weekend; well I’m supposed to be, hence the Trailblazer yesterday, so I’m not running and looking forward to spectating instead.

It’s a good one to spectate at. A marching band leads the runners down to the start; you don’t see a lot of that when you’re running. MD isn't impressed by the band though and tells them so. Doggo isn't impressed that he isn't running but just stands there looking agitated.

Everybody claps the giant Clanger, who is running for Cancer Research and obviously going for a good time, as he takes his place on the front row next to the Kenyans and the other psychos.

They don’t look particularly worried.

The race starts and L is in there somewhere amongst the 4000 runners but we can't see where. Which is lucky in a way, because I feel Doggo would have joined her.

One person we don’t miss is the chap in the Mankini, not really missable (unfortunately) but unlike the chap who passed me at Reading, he’s combined it with a pair of Y-Fronts, so it’s a bit less obscene.

With the main race gone we await the start of the fun run but it starts in a different place and emerges at the other side of the square. A bit crap. The only downside in an otherwise well organised race.

L does well, a good time but not so good so that she can’t chip chunks off it throughout the season. At least that’s what I keep telling her.

She had suggested ‘Facebooking’ all the races on her challenge. So rather than give her chance to change her mind, I upload the first set of photos for her. I’m kind like that.

Later we escape down the local for some food and a few birthday beers.

(Sunday 8th May)

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Spanish Plume

Apparently this weekend will bring high temperatures mixed with thunderstorms and it’s all the fault of the Spanish, and their ‘Spanish Plume’. They’ve sent their warm air over here where its immediately got into an argument with our resident Atlantic cold front and the result going to hot and thundery. So they say. It'll probably hail, during my race.

I start to explain all this ‘Plume’ business to L but she miss understands and starts texting Daughter to tell her to leave off the beef that’s in the refrigerator as it’s probably for my recipe. No... ‘Spanish Plume’ isn’t a recipe.

Oh well, as it happens the weather is fine in Clumber Park for the Trailblazer 10k. For some reason I quite fancied this one and when those nice ‘Survival of the Fittest’ people at Men’s Health sent me a voucher for a fiver off, I was in. If it was a bribe, it didn’t work, there’s no way I’m swimming in the Trent again and doing ‘Survival of the Fittest’ this year.

MD quite fancies it too, I think he’s got the running bug but he can’t join me today. Nor does L, she got bigger fish to fry and it comes a day too early to count in her ‘500 miles in her 50th year’ challenge. Her 49th birthday is tomorrow and she’s starting things off with a bang in the form of a half marathon.

The race start area and events village are in the same place as for the Clumber Duathlon, although the parking was further away but more importantly free of National Trust parking charges.

I register, collect my technical T-shirt and my race number. The technical T-shirt is good, has ‘Trailblazer’ across it but isn’t dated nor race specific, there are three Trailblazer races. Which is a bit of a shame. My race number is 666...

Hmmm, somebody’s having a laugh. It must be an Omen...

Everything is well organised. There’s free post-race massage, wine sampling and they even advertised ‘local’ ales in the beer tent. Unfortunately they fell down on that one. Their ‘local’ beers are Old Trip and Old Speckled Hen which are both brewed in Suffolk and by the brewery that closed down our local one.

I didn’t expect the organisers to get many people in the first ‘red’ wave (for predicted times of less than 40 minutes) involved in the aerobic warm-up ‘preparing their minds and muscles’ and they don’t. I think there were three of them and I think one of them might have been a ringer from the organising team.

There are eight waves in total and I’m in the second one, ‘blue’, which is for those who think they’re good but hadn’t got the bottle to put themselves in to ‘red’. I think there were half a dozen in our aerobic session; I’m not one of them. Don’t want to pull anything before I start.

The race briefing tells us all about the course and then the chap sends us off to ‘blaze those trails’. Who’s he talking to?

The course is well marked, apart from one spot where a marshal seems to have gone AWOL and we nearly follow the ‘spectator route’. There are also kilometre distance markers and two water stations. The trails are narrow, which means the staggered starts were probably a good idea, and sprinkled with bumps, roots and the odd dip. It’s quite undulating which soon saps the energy. For someone who hates off road, I seem to be doing quite a lot of them at the moment.

At first I let a few idiots career off ahead and wait for them to fade, which they do, whilst I stick to a sensible consistent pace. 4:25-ish. Consistently slow but imminently sensible. Then, suddenly, horror of horrors, I’m the idiot careering off in front. Well into second place. My legs tell me it isn’t going to last and it doesn’t. I eventually come in eighth in my wave.

The goody bag was ok with gels, energy bars, drinks and only the one sachet of body lotion, which makes a nice change. Unfortunately the three free magazines (Runners World, Triathletes World and Men’s Health) although a nice touch, are no use to me. One I already subscribe to, one I’ve retired from and the third wants you to swim in the Trent.

In the results, when all the waves are added together, I ended up 35th overall out of 669. Not bad. That’s also quite a good turnout for a first running of a race. Then it starts to rain, the ‘Plume’ has arrived, so we head home.

It’s the final match of the Championship season and Derby bow out with a defeat. Four in a row, good eh? It was heavy going though; they had to work hard for that defeat. They had to give away two penalties and a soft goal before they finally managed it by two goals to one.

Meanwhile Robbie Savage bowed out in ‘style’, in his underwear, as he threw all his kit and his boots into the crowd. Not a pretty sight. Fair play to the Reading crowd who had to put with that and still gave Mr Savage a standing ovation. I imagine that’s the first time in his 631 appearances that he’s got that from the opposition supporters.

A busy day ends with a trip to Birmingham. Its 6pm doors tonight at Academy 2 but there’s no support band. WTF. So it’s a bit of a drag waiting for the main band to come on, to say the least. There are only so many pints of Tuborg you can stomach while you wait e.g. one. Merchandising doesn’t keep us occupied for long. Sadly there’s no tour t-shirt, a special would have been nice because tonight it’s the 30th Anniversary Tour for The Icicle Works.

We were kind of here for the 25th, although the ‘here’ we had to go to was only as far as Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms on that occasion. That was the first time Ian McNabb had toured under the Icicle Works name for 15 years, then after a string of dates in 2006 and 2007 he retired it again. The purists (like me) were a bit miffed that original members Chris Layhe and Chris Sharrock weren’t involved but we had to lump it. Sharrock, to be fair, has been a bit busy and is currently spending his time with one of the Gallaghers in Beady Eye.

The line-up that takes the stage tonight, the last of just four dates celebrating their anniversary, is the same as that 2006 version: - bassist Roy Corkill, keyboard player Richard Naiff and the drumstick twirling ‘Dodgy’ drummer Matthew Priest.

They open with ‘When It All Comes Down’ a single only release from 1985, the extended version. If they're all as long as this, we might be here all night. McNabb confirms that possibility when he announces there’s no curfew tonight, so they can play as long as they like, and I see the colour drain out of my partners face. She prefers her gigs short and punchy, plus she’s got an early start for a half marathon tomorrow. Cheer up, this one’s your favourite, it’s ‘Evangeline’.

A nostalgic trawl through the band’s back catalogue follows: - ‘Little Girl Lost’, ‘Seven Horses’, ‘Rapids’ then what he describes as Scouse country rock ‘Who Do You Want For Your Love?’. Third LP side 1 track 5 he tells us, from a day when albums had sides.

McNabb’s voice still sounds great on all of these and he’s certainly giving it his all. He’s already dripping with sweat, yet he won't give up that army jacket. Which changes colour before our eyes, track by track, getting darker and darker as it gets wetter.

The title track from the fourth album ‘Blind’, the last the original trio recorded, follows with its ‘there's an actor in the White House’ lyric. He probably meant Reagan but he sings it as if it’s still relevant.

‘Melanie Still Hurts’ from ‘Permanent Damage’ recorded after the original line up broke up, is a run through his ex-girlfriends. Julie, Jackie, Carol - check. Sarah, Karen, Michelle - check. Though, he quips that, at only three minutes and forty seconds it only take us up to 1985.

Then there's the heavier 'Shit Creek' which I just don't get and never did. ’Starry Blue Eyed Wonder’ is as good as ever and then, an hour in, if you’re old school you settle in for some indulgence, if you’re not you’re in some trouble. Seven of the next nine tracks come from their self titled debut album. The audience is split, half are ecstatic, the other half are looking at their watches. L is texting furiously and I don’t think it’s a review the Sunday Times is going to print.

We get a convoluted introduction to ‘Reaping The Rich Harvest’ in which McNabb confesses he has no idea what the song is about but assures us it sounds good. This causes confusion amongst the rest of the band, as this is not the next song on the set list. Yet, having given the song such a build up, they have to revise the order

Richard Naiff's piano and keyboard playing was a delight all night, as was his recorder playing on ‘Lover's Day’. Then the dark and brooding ‘What She Did To My Mind’, pretty outstanding despite its four false endings and it’s followed by 'Up Here In The North Of England'. McNabb's view of north/south divide circa 1986. Tonight, he decides that Birmingham is more north than south.

Then after a trio of excellent cuts from that first album, the two hour set is finally ended with 'Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream)'

They come out for an encore with McNabb still in the same sodden jacket for a rocking 'Understanding Jane' but he must be feeling the heat because he’s removed his shades. Then they go off again. How quaint. No one splits their encores anymore. How eighties.

They’re soon back again, as is the jacket, for ‘Love Is A Wonderful Colour’ who some x-person off x-factor called Rhydian has just covered and the closing ‘Hollow Horse’.

To be honest it was probably 4 or 5 tracks too long but the ones I would have axed wouldn't have been the ones to go. It was so good to hear old album tracks like ‘As The Dragonfly Flies’ and ‘Factory In The Desert’.

I imagine now its back to Ian McNabb solo shows, at least until the 35th anniversary.

(Saturday 7th May)

Friday, 6 May 2011

Clean Living

I partake in the full English to prepare myself for the Leptospirosis, the cloud of Lime particles and the dust... Today they tell me about the dust. They’re shot blasting one of the weighbridges and there’s half an inch of dust on the floor. We are advised to wear a mask to go with the plastic glasses, the boots, the high-viz and the hard hat. Is there anything else I'm missing?

I’m supposed to be into clean living and I had to have extra alcohol last night to prepare myself for this. Well that was one reason, the other reason was because it was on expenses.

The day goes well though and we get to leave around 3pm. So back off up the M1 we go and we make it home in reasonable time despite the SatNav.

I walk in the door and the dogs greet me like a long lost friend. Then L gets home and I greet her like a long lost friend, and some. The dogs then get a welcome home park session, then L meets up for a drink. I need something to get all that dust out of my throat.

(Friday 6th May)

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Down Amongst The Rats

Ok. London here we come, with dodgy SatNav. I’ve been to this place many times, although not for a few years but never via that route. There are so many London side streets I’ve missed out and the detour thorough Cockfosters was lovely. I’ve never been to Cockfosters before. Very scenic. It’s also never taken me so long to get there. As you can probably tell I’m not a fan of SatNav and I’ve not seen anything to change my mind today.

Our first meeting (indoors) goes well but then we have to have our Healthy and Safety Briefing before we can go out onto site. I’m warned about Leptospirosis, that’s Weils Disease. Many a dead rat has been found around here. More than the presence of rats themselves, it worries me more what killed them. All the same I’m given a card to give to the surgeon if I’m rushed to hospital within three weeks of getting back home.

This is one unhealthy place. We are advised to wear plastic glasses when we pass the Lime building. My colleague has a pair, I don’t. I would have to apply in writing to get some and that takes time. Healthy and Safety you know. At least in these boots my toes will be ok if a lorry tries to run over my foot.

On the upside the hotel is ok and we’re in the bar by 6pm. They even have real ale. The food is good too. They serve a decent curry and have a cheese board, with Camembert, which is a nice variation from the usual Brie.

(Thursday 5th May)

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Bob The Builder

Due to ongoing problems with our new customer, Mr Stroppy, my colleague and I are incredibly underprepared for our London trip. We manage to get together for a couple of hours but could have done with a whole day of preparation. As usual, we're just going to have to wing it.

We do though have all the necessary PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Although for me, it’s a case of beg, borrow and steal. My boss’s hard hat, my colleagues spare high-viz jacket and a new pair of boots which have to be specially ordered. L says I'll look like Bob the Builder and they wonder why I don’t go out on site much.

Later I head over to dog class and drop L off on the way because she wants to run to her mother's. She doesn’t look keen at all and I have to practically push her out of the car in Derby. She still doesn’t look like she’s up for a run. I wonder whether she’ll have made it there by the time I get back from dog class. She does. I’m sure she enjoyed it really.

(Wednesday 4th May)

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Four Day Week

Back at work today and you know what, they expect us to work four days this week. What’s the world coming to.

Daughter kindly emails me a picture of the Absolut Raspberry vodka that she wants.

The reward for finally getting those university choices in. She says that if I can’t get that, then get another one that's in a pretty bottle... that’s so the sort of thing her mother would say.

Welcome back to work... I have a day of meetings. Our newest customer is a pain in the rear, nothing we do for him is enough. We have an internal meeting about him and then a conference call with him. Which all means that my 10am meeting to discuss what we’re doing at another customer in London on Thursday and Friday doesn’t happen.

L meanwhile asks for fresh tarragon... what does a tarragon look like? Didn’t they used to be on Dr Who in the good old days? Tarragon is green and spiky apparently. As I said, didn’t they used to be on Dr Who?

Due to my London trip, squash has been brought forward to tonight. Tuesdays never suit my squash game but a 3-1 defeat is a victory of sorts.

(Tuesday 3rd May)

Monday, 2 May 2011

Lunch In A Dog Bowl?

We trek over the Coventry this morning for the May Day 5 mile race, organised by Godiva Harriers, held just a mile or so down the road from Son’s university abode.

It’s not my favourite sort of race at all. Multiple laps of a park, two and a half laps in this case. Thankfully Memorial Park is a very pleasant location which eases the pain, unfortunately the extreme headwind on the back stretch of the course heaps it back on.

It’s reflected in my time 34:38 but 32nd out of 101 isn’t too bad I suppose.

The boys are with us but have to stay in the car. MD doesn’t get to participate today. Then we head over to meet Son for lunch, who probably has to get up early especially. We eat at one of the Varsity chain bars, where they’ll serve your meal in a dog bowl if you wish. I kid you not.

We have one in Nottingham, a Varsity that is, and it was our bar of choice when I was a student, although it had a name back then. In fact I don’t think we knew what a ‘Varsity’ was, but then we weren’t at University either we were at ‘Polytechnic’.

As it happens the food at Varsity was good, we go for the plated option not the dog bowl, and they even served proper beer, so no complaints.

Later we take in a film. ‘Never Let Me Go’, not the vampire one. It is based on a book by Kazuo Ishiguro, which I haven’t read. It’s a dark, depressing tale, which opens with a man in hospital on an operating table but soon we get flashbacks to the happier surroundings of a typically English boarding school. The period is the late 1970’s/early 1980’s and it is here at Hailsham that Ruth, Tommy, and Kathy H grow up together. They fall in and out with each other and do all the other things kids do.

Tommy is a bit of a misfit but Kathy is always keen to help him out and he becomes the not so secret love of her life. Their affection is mutual but ultimately he's stolen from her by the jealous and much more confident Ruth.

Boarding school is often a sheltered existence but this school is more sheltered than most, there are no parents in the background, no brothers and sisters at home. The children don’t question it, in fact they don’t question much and when a new teacher (Sally Hawkins) reveals the reason for their existence, and is fired the next day for doing so, they pass it off with a shrug. They had suspected something like that all along. They are human clones, born to exist solely to have their organs harvested once they reach adulthood.

This is an alternative Britain, where life expectancy has risen to over one hundred years because science has eliminated disease by taking organs from clones like them. The dating of this in the past rather than the future is interesting, does the author suspect this goes on now... and the period adds to the ‘1984’ touch the film already has.

When the three of them are old enough to leave ‘school’ they are moved into a farmhouse where clones from other institutions in the ‘National Donor Programme’ reside. The other institutions were more ruthless places. Hailsham was an experiment in treating the donors humanly; elsewhere the clones were treated more like livestock. Now though, for all of them, the clock is ticking. The farmhouses are simply waiting rooms until the day of their donations arrive. Meanwhile Tommy and Ruth are very much an item and consequently the relationship between the two girls gets more strained by the day.

Keira Knightley plays Ruth and I've always had a bit of a problem with Keira’s acting. She’s much the same in this. When the two leading ladies are required to do ‘sad’ Keira does it by quivering her bottom lip as if it's on a puppeteer’s string whereas Carey Mulligan, who plays Kathy, does it with every part of her face. Different class. Although the rivers of tears were perhaps a bit overdone by the special effects department.

Roll on a few years to 1996. Kathy is now a carer, the only recognised way to dodge the knife for a year or two. Carers help the others through the donation process until eventually they too have to face their own demise. She comes across Ruth, who she hasn’t seen for years, in one of the hospitals. Ruth has already made two donations. No one usually survives a third and they’ll be no Holby City style cardiac team rushing around trying to save a donor. They are simply said to have ‘completed’ and it’s Goodnight Vienna.

Ruth leads Kathy to Tommy (Andrew Garfield), who has also made multiple donations. At which point Ruth apologizes to them both for stealing Tommy. Just a touch bloody late love.

Although... had Tommy already donated his brain at that point, so that he was unable to choose between the two girls for himself? Ruth clearly thoughtlessly forced him to have night after night of raucous sex with her, against his will, and in Kathy’s face, when they all lived in the farmhouse together.

This does though tally with the theme of passive acceptance that runs throughout. There is no fight in any of them. Their situation is seemingly just one more thing to add to the long list of things a teenager can get pissed off about but CBA to find a solution to.

I guess, the point is supposed to be that they have been bred and raised to accept their fate, just like farm animals and farm animals don’t tend to plot revolution. People though are not farm animals and although she claims to regret it now, Ruth did at least have the balls to embark on a passionate affair during her short life. While the other two generally just wandered around looking lost. Kathy would probably never have gotten around to jumping Tommy even if they’d been given another 50 years to live. She only pairs up with him now, in 1996, because Ruth throws them together and equally it’s Ruth who persuades them to seek out their former guardians to find out if the rumour that people who are in love can be given a deferral, a few more years of life, is true. It isn’t. This though shows that there's perhaps a little fight in them somewhere.

Yet nobody, not even Ruth, rebelled in the face of the establishment. No one ever tried to run away. Would anyone have tried to stop them if they had? Who knows? They had wrist bands to clock in and out of the farmhouse but other than that... nothing, no watchtowers, no razor wire. What's the worst thing that could have happened to them? Death? ‘Never Let Me Go’ isn't a story that is big on answers.

Instead their fate is chillingly accepted and the utter passivity of the three of them is heartbreaking but also quite annoying.

So, no, the story does not have a happy ending. There is to be no final twist. In the concluding scene Kathy stares out across the fields, both her friends are now gone, her carer duties are completed and her first donation is scheduled. Although she can at least reflect on the fact that she did finally get to slip into bed with what was left of Tommy and thankfully found something that had yet to be donated.

In her life, as I guess in ours, there are no deferrals, no second chances. In the end we are all powerlessness to prevent death. It comes to everyone and always too soon, perhaps leaving us all thinking that we've not had enough time to do what we wanted to do.

This was a difficult film to make I would imagine and ‘Never Let Me Go’ is very good, to a point. It is dark, tragic and thought provoking, yet it's exasperating because it’s difficult to get attached to any of the characters or their unfulfilled love affairs and therefore the overall impact is perhaps not as great as it could have been. Still, I do love an unhappy ending.

(Monday 2nd May)

Sunday, 1 May 2011

What The Bob?

Another early start and drive down to Worcester. Dog show.

Things go ok but I rush Doggo on his weaves. I got to the end of them and turned to face him. So he stopped three poles from the end in sheer shock, looked up at me and muttered ‘what the bob?’ or words to that effect. He is a dog who cannot be rushed and he knows it. So 5 faults. Later I try and mess up his other run but this time he ignores my insane instructions and completes the course correctly, although we are placed outside of the rosettes.

MD continues his brilliant weekend. First he goes clear on what was a very tricky jumping course. That was a shock but it wasn’t quick, so no rosette. Then he makes a hash of his next two courses, so I conclude that he’s tired after his run yesterday... so he confounds expectation by storming around his final course faultlessly. It looked quick to me but again we just missed the rosettes. Tough work getting a rosette today. Two clears in one day though is promising.

(Sunday 1st May)