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

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Individual Pursuit For Dogs

I didn’t over indulge last night and a good job too, with another 6am start and another day at the show. It’s hot again, not quite as bad as yesterday but there’s still plenty of scope to top the sunburn up.

Most club members are assigned to the same ring this morning for a Crufts qualifier for something called the Circular Knockout. 96 dogs pitched one on one, racing against each other from the other side of the course. Think cycling and the individual pursuit in the velodrome but for dogs. I’ve never seen this before as it’s for little dogs, they don’t do it for collies. Now that would be mayhem. It would probably attract upwards of 300 entries, take about 8 hours to run and cause a fair number of on course fights and that’s just the handlers. I hate to think what the dogs would do to each other.

As it is, it’s mayhem anyway. Seven rounds of knockout and the fights are restricted to the queue as handlers jostle for position to take their turn. It’s exhausting administering it but the finale is good. With both finalists going to Crufts there are jubilant scenes as the competitors win their semi-finals. It’s good to see. With most events usually being against the clock, it’s often hours later before you know who’s won and by then there’s hardly anyone there to witness it. A refreshingly different sort of competition.

That takes up the first few hours of the day. When I finally get around to running my own dogs, MD is better than yesterday but still gets 5 faults in pretty much everything. Then again, one of those 5 faults lands us an 18th place rosette; again we are the fastest of those with faults, although not below the winner time on this occasion. Then he rounds off the day with a clear in a qualifier that could have taken us to Olympia. It wasn’t quick enough though, but we didn’t want to go to Olympia anyway. Well, who am I kidding, maybe next year.

I run Doggo in three but they’re all a bit too simple for him and we don’t come away with anything.

It’s been a tiring weekend but a good one. Later as I attempt to round things off with a romantic dalliance with L, as you do, it is to the sound of gunfire outside... How romantic. It can’t be gunfire surely? This is supposed to be a leafy suburb. Doggo hides just in case, MD is oddly quiet. Perhaps we should hide under the duvet. Later it transpires that it wasn't gunfire after all. Phew, relief. It was only a car on fire. That's alright then.

(Sunday 31st July)

Saturday, 30 July 2011

There’s Always Tomorrow

It’s a much busier day today at our show, twice as many entrants. It’s mad in fact and much hotter than yesterday. It’s also not going so well competing wise. In complete contrast to his barn storming performance yesterday, MD looks like a rank beginner this morning, either that or he’s eaten too much celebration sausage.

Things aren’t much better with Doggo. I negotiate the first eight obstacles of a very tricky course with him only to be told by the judge that the timing has failed and we’ll have to start all over again. Typical. Second time around I tie myself in a knot and fall over jump number five, eliminating us. Bugger. There were only eight clears on that course, so we’d have got rosette for sure, had I got us round.

It’s still Doggo’s day though, on a day of hard courses, which do suit him, I make him do four runs when I’d only intended to do two with him but it pays off with a 10th place towards the end of the day.

MD meanwhile amasses 55 faults over his four runs and never less than 10 in each one, despite some positive starts to some of the courses. There’s always tomorrow.

In the evening, we’re at a 30th birthday party. Yes we're hanging out with relative youngsters. As it’s a colleague from work there’s a good turnout from the office and we pretty much avoid talking shop. There’s beer too, even if it has come all the way from St. Austell and a half decent buffet. There’s also karaoke, which ensures most people are crammed into one end of the room, the other end to the karaoke, or outside. Still a pleasant evening though.

(Saturday 30th July)

Friday, 29 July 2011

Grill That Dog A Sausage

I'm off work today for the first of the three day event that is my club’s own dog agility show. This involves me spending a lot of time helping run the competition rings and somehow finding time in between to compete with both of the boys. They are both booked into eleven runs over the three days, which will be fine for MD but I might restrict Doggo to just two a day now he’s such an old hand.

Nail biting stuff to start the day. Eleven runs over three days for MD and what does he do on his very first run? He sets the quickest time. It wasn’t even a particularly smooth run but who’s complaining. We’ve just got to sit it out now, fixed crossed, waiting for everyone else to do their runs and hope no one beats his time. At home a celebration sausage is made ready and poised to go under the grill. Well it'll probably go under the grill anyway, as L's soft like that, but it's a nice image.

A couple of hours after we did our run the last dog is on the course and as a pole goes down and the judge’s hand goes up to indicate 5 faults, we know we’ve won. A win! Yay. Our first. Grill that dog a sausage.

As it was a jumping course not an agility course it’s not instant promotion to grade 4. Three jumping wins or one agility win take you up.

L confesses it was obviously the roast chicken and baked potato he had for tea last night. Hmmm. I’m surprised he could get his paws off the ground after that lot.

Not to be totally outdone there’s a nice clear round from the old hand as well but he’s out of the placings.

Then a surprise, another rosette for the Pocket Rocket. 7th in agility and that was with 5 faults. Hmmm there were only six clear rounds and we were the fastest of those with 5 faults, 2 seconds quicker than the winner! Now that nearly was a promotion winning run. It nearly required two sausages.

We celebrate some more later in the local pub, just L and I, the dogs are at home sleeping off their sausage overload and topping up their energy levels for tomorrow.

(Friday 29th July)

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Lack Of Ambition

I bike to work, then when I arrive I enter Friday’s Jägermeister 10k run and next Sunday’s Great Shakespeare 100km Ride. So I guess I must be feeling fitter.

Then I play tennis... after fuelling up on the Thursday pub trip of course. I got mash with my pie today rather than chips, so it was actually really healthy... That should power me round the tennis court.

L’s been working from home all day. With the dogs at her feet, when she’s eating that is, or when she’s sat in the garden, when they’re joined by a football or two. Such a loyal pair.

It’s been a while since Wimbledon, when I honed my game plan in front of live internet feed and I noticed that several players had actually nicked one of my favourite shots. My bounce three times just over the net shot, a shot my opponent says isn’t a proper tennis shot, a least not for anyone over the age of eight. So now I feel vindicated.

I'm happy with tonight's result, a 4-6 4-6 defeat. I would have hated to have had to play for another hour and a third set. Some folk would perhaps call that a lack of ambition.

(Thursday 28th July)

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Alcohol Free Wednesday...

I’m hoping to do the race tonight. It’s only four miles, how hard can that be? Even with fractured, I mean bruised ribs. I’m tempted to cycle to work as well and make it a really good training day but L points out that this might not be wise. Wise? For once I take her advice.

So, I get the bus into work and then later to the race start at the Navigation Inn in Breaston. L does the same from the other direction.

I get changed and jog along part of the course. When I don’t double up in agony, I decide the jobs a good ‘un and hand over my £6 to enter. It’s a good job it’s an alcohol free Wednesday, they’ve got Abbot Ale and Screech Owl on the bar. Not often you get two 5%ers side by side.

Anyhow, the race, I aim to take it nice and steady, I don’t want any relapses. I’d even be happy with 7:30 minute miles. In the end I do 7:00 minute miles, which I think is quite impressive considering.

I would have had to have gone quicker if protégée had been here but he isn’t. I’ll need to up my game by September though. He’s taken on a personal trainer so that he can do a good time at the Wilne 10k. He classifies a good time as 43:00 minutes and he only did a 44:00 at Derby but he’s bluffing. I know he can go faster than that. He knows he can go faster than that.

As he’s not here, I don’t have to worry about him but then a chap I used to work with overtakes me before the one mile marker. That shocks me, he’s never beaten me, ever. I speed up, stalk him for a while, then when I get bored with that and see something much more interesting to follow up the road, I pass him.

I thought that would be that but when I pass the line in a respectable 28 minutes for the 4.2 miles he crosses the line not 30 seconds behind me. When I check my previous times for this race I see I’ve run a 25 in all three previous years. So, blimey I was taking it easy wasn’t I?

L too isn’t that far behind me, well seven minutes, and complaining how hard it was. She says the shorter the distance the tougher the race and she may well be right.

No mug this year, which is disappointing as I’ve got the previous three. Two in white, one in black and was hoping for another black one to make a nice set. Instead it’s a pen and a chocolate bar.

My father has turned up to watch us, so it would be rude not to offer him a pint particularly as the race finishes right outside the Navigation and therefore alcohol free Wednesday goes out of the window.

(Wednesday 27th July)

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Battle Cry

I cycle today and feel fit enough to return to using the hillier route via Ilkeston. I’ve almost convinced myself that I’ll be recovered enough to the run the Erewash 4 mile run on Wednesday. Almost.

L takes the car to go visit her folks and leaves me with the boys and the lawnmower. Thanks. Its best to get some distance between yourself and MD when he gets together with the lawnmower but twenty odd miles is a bit excessive. She certainly won’t be able to hear his battle cry from there, as he attacks the lawn mower. I will try and restrain the lawn mower from fighting back but there’s always the risk he might lose a whisker or more than a whisker even, an ear or his nose for instance.

Perhaps I should have suggested that she take MD with her...

The deed is soon done and MD is still intact, at least physically, if not mentally. The lawn doesn’t take as long as it used to, we have a long, brown, muddy bald patch running down the middle of it. MD’s runway and it’s also where he practices his digging. Which he’s getting very good at.

Then I cook. We have an extra guest tonight. Son has returned from Stoke where he’s been for the last four or five days, clearly he enjoyed it so much last time. Clearly he did, he’s going back again at the weekend.

(Tuesday 26th July)

Monday, 25 July 2011

Schools Out

I see an interesting deal on curry powder in Sainsbury’s - £3.96 each or 2 for £2. Only problem is they only have one packet left and I’m not paying £3.96 for it. They were only £1.49 the other week. Supermarkets, don’t you just love ‘em.

I mentioned yesterday that at Splendour I saw a guy wearing a t-shirt from the 1979 Leigh Rock Festival.

I hadn’t heard of this music festival and was intrigued by the stellar line-up so I gave it a good old google. The t-shirt the guy was wearing is a reissue; I’d already guessed this as his was in pristine condition. If I had any t-shirts from 1979 they certainly wouldn’t be pristine, my ones from the mid 1980’s certainly aren’t. In any case the original ones were white not black but thanks to him anyway for bringing this event to my attention.

This was the 1st Leigh Rock Festival (and I assume the last) and it was held over three days on the August Bank Holiday weekend of 1979 with weekend tickets at a fiver with camping included. It was held on an old coalfield at the back of the Halfway House pub on Plank Lane in Leigh.

There were 24 acts over the three days, all on one stage but that mightily impressive line up only applied to the Monday which was co-hosted by Zoo and Factory Records. Factory titled the day 'Zoo Meets Factory Halfway' because of the position of Leigh, which is roughly half way between the two labels’ home towns of Liverpool and Manchester.

The original idea was to raise cash for an 'Open Door Resource Centre' for the youth of Leigh. Unfortunately the festival was a disaster, the total weekend attendance was a mere 600, no money was raised, the organisers went bankrupt and the music press labelled the festival 'Top of the Flops'. So a farce, albeit a legendary farce.

Thanks to the Leigh Rock Festival Myspace site for the info.

L’s out running tonight while the boys and I have our final training session before school’s out for the summer. On a testing grade 6 practice course MD does not disgrace himself, even though he's a lowly grade 3, so it’s fingers crossed for the upcoming three day show this weekend. Eleven runs over three days, surely we must land something out of that lot.

(Monday 25th July)

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Sun Shines On Splendour

As I exercise the dogs on Wollaton Park, before we dump them for the day, there's already people flooding across the park and a big queue forming at the gates to get in to the Splendour Festival which isn't even open yet. In a little while L and I will join them, this is about as local as you can get gig wise, we are but a few hundred yards away.

It’s been a while since I went to a music festival on Wollaton Park and this is the first time I’ve paid. Those freebies were the Heineken festivals of the late eighties and early nineties, halcyon days. Later the historic hall looked down up on the City in the Park and Distortion festivals and now we have Splendour. An odd and slightly off putting name for a music festival if you ask me.

The whole thing is organised by Nottingham City Council and ran by DHP Concerts, the music mafia of Nottingham, owners of Rock City, The Rescue Rooms, The Bodega, Stealth etc etc. They own Nottingham. This one day festival is now in its fourth year, although it did originally run over two days in 2008 and it’s the first edition to sell out.

Today Wollaton Park is awash with sunshine and it is interesting to sit on the grass, listen to the music and study the various ingenious methods people have used to smuggle alcohol in, which with prices at £3.75 a pint and with no half measures available, there’s plenty of incentive to do.

The winners of the ‘Future Sound of Nottingham’ competition, The Money, get to open the main stage. They then walk away with another award, that for best trousers courtesy of both their singer and their guitarist, especially their guitarist.

After which we wander over to the Jägermeister Stage where Royal Gala are belting out what can probably be described as world music. Not my thing, so we head up to the courtyard stage wondering if they really did name themselves after a type of apple.

We are briefly delayed en route by Nottingham City Council trying to sell us a Flexible Fitness membership. It's good to see them giving it some publicity for once, but we’re already members so we get out of that particular hard sell easily. Up in the court yard we miss Jake Bugg. Who seems to have finished very early.

So we head back down the hill and into the real ale tent, which is very impressive with a large selection of beers, sadly at the aforementioned £3.75 a pint and with what appears to be only one barrel of each, which clearly with a reported 20,000 here today isn’t going to last long. I make a mental note to pop back soonish.

With a pint in hand we settle in for Sam Duckworth on the main stage. He is the man behind Get Cape Wear Cape Fly and I really enjoy his acoustic set, although you can’t help thinking he would have been a better fit on the Jägermeister, while perhaps the world music of those apple folk might have gone down better over here.

There are some impressive T shirts out today. Modern ones - Foos, Blink 182 etc. Old ones - Ramones, Husker Du, Bauhaus. There’s one that might be an ‘Echo Park’ era Feeder one, damn late 90’s poverty, probably the reason I never got one. I’d hate to put the blame for that on the girl I’d not long met and who is beside me today. Wouldn't dare.

Out of all of them, the award for best t-shirt goes to a chap wearing one from the 1979 Leigh Rock Festival, although it's brand new, so he probably just bought it off ebay. I'll tell you more about Leigh another day.

Again I try hard to like Nottingham’s Swimming but still find them a bit dull. Swimming unlike Sam D are not very communicative with the crowd, perhaps they’re just a bit knackered after having just finished a UK tour with Killing Joke, I imagine the after show parties were pretty intense. They also try a lot of new material out on us, which isn’t really what festivals are about.

We preselect our evening meal while they’re on, from the same curry stall that fed us at Summer Sundae last year.

The two key stages are alternating half hour slots but there does seem to be some overlap and we appear to be ‘The Last To Know’, ha ha, that Del Amitri are up on main or rather Justin Currie, who is now solo. He’s best described as looking weathered but no matter, we dally for a while and listen to his mix of new solo material and Del Amitri hits.

Then we wonder off to see Romance, who are one of many bands today with an un-googleable name, so it’s a fight to find anything out about them. Romance... The Money... you try it, as for The Virgin Mary, don’t get me started.

There is a band called Romance from Seattle but these folk aren’t from Seattle. Although they still can’t pronounce Nottingham, despite this being their second visit here in three months - they were at Dot to Dot, so they must be from down south, deepest Cockneyshire. Their songs have catchy names like ‘Burn Like Fire’ and the ‘River Runs Red’. A lot of them also sound like covers but don't appear to be. One sounds a dead ringer for the Manic’s ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ but isn't. Another sounds stunningly like something by the Cult but again isn’t. That’s probably not so surprising when you find out they opened on the Cult’s last tour.

Romance also win an award and that is for most over used cliché in the form of a bass player. Yep, female, black stockings, denim shorts, a dark bob topped off with a pout and the obligatory deep red lipstick. We’ll call her Samantha, for that is her name. All she needs to do is one of those backwards hair flicks.

Yep, there we go. So so clichéd but so good to see it back, if it’s ever been away. It has to be said that lead singer Jamie does a pretty mean hair flick himself.

Did I get a close up of the bass player you ask. Of course.

They clear the field but I really like them. More please.

Or has everyone headed over to Cast. We have a decision to make. Cast or a comedian called Monkhouse, who isn’t any relation to the late great Bob, I don’t think but then I don’t know my comedy. Clearly though he'll still have a lot to live up to. Cast win.

Cast don't seem to have aged at all or changed even and John Power along with the rest of the original line up pull a big crowd to the main stage. They have a few new ones to play us as well as plenty from the last 15 years. The trio of ‘Walkaway’, ‘Alright’ and ‘Free Me’ finish a pretty good set.

Time for another pint, or not. All the beer has gone by 4pm! Shocking. I'm guessing but I think this must be the first time they’ve tried a real ale tent. Seriously up the beer order next year guys.

The ungoogleable Virgin Mary prove to be more bloody than virginal, time for that curry I think. After which we wander back up to the courtyard and see a comedian called Wes Zahruk, who doesn’t have any jokes just comedic behaviour or should that be just downright weird behaviour. He can do things with vacuum cleaners and sink plungers that I really don’t want to tell you about.

Then I'm hastened quickly past Cecile Grey, who is dull but cute.

Which is something that could also be said of Eliza Doolittle. I concentrate on the cute part via the big screen while L joins a bladder testing toilet queue. Seriously up the portaloo order next year guys. By the time L reemerges I’ve gone off even the cute idea, we skip the rest of Eliza.

Instead West Bridgford's Dog Is Dead, who seem to get an invite to play here every year. This is their third appearance in four years and they’ve now got a record deal to brag about. They also pull a huge and vocal crowd. Fair play to them but they sound like Friendly Fires to me. Time for a sit down and to discuss tactics for the finale.

After alternating bands all day the organisers have decided to pitch Blondie head to head with the Bluetones. We’re heard more than a few grumbles about this, as couples seem split over who to see. We too want to see both. We decide to get an early spot for Blondie, watch fifteen minutes or so before moving over to the Bluetones and hence bag a good spot for Feeder, which is the main reason we’re here before legging it whilst the Scissor Sisters are on.

As ‘Union City Blue’ drifts across the field towards us we realise Blondie have scuppered this plan by coming on a full fifteen minutes early, which is so un-rock n roll. Somehow we squeeze in down the front to the side of the stage and watch Debbie Harry pirouette to ‘Atomic’ in some strange blue tutu outfit.

In the end they do us a favour by starting early, by the time new track ‘Mother’ rings out we’ve seen enough and now we can see all of the Bluetones set. Which is doubly fortunate because they proved to be the best act of the night.

Hounslow’s finest have announced that they are to split and have scheduled a final tour for the autumn. I have never seen them live, despite loving their early stuff, ‘Expecting to Fly’ was one of the best albums of 1996. It’s really remiss of me, so at least I put one wrong to right tonight.

They are excellent from the opening ‘Bluetonic’ to the closing ‘If...’ via ‘Slight Return’ of course, many people’s favourite and Mark Morris’s personal favourite ‘Never Going Nowhere’. I’m with Mark. Also excellent is the heavily requested (by the folks next to me anyway) ‘Carnt Be Trusted’ (from ‘Expecting to Fly’), and then there’s ‘Marblehead Johnson’ and many others. Great stuff.

Morris in particular is very humble and appreciative of our attendance. As they say, they realise we have a choice between which ‘has beens’ to see and they don’t come any bigger in the ‘has been’ stakes that the legendary Blondie. The 'tones' even parody Debbie Harry and co with a bit of excellent improvisation by their drummer and guitarist as they make a stab at the intro to ‘Heart of Glass’.

If anything the word ‘Splendour’ fits this band better than any other tonight. Terrific stuff. This will be their last visit to Nottingham but some of those farewell dates in other cities are looking very attractive.

So to Feeder, who have no trouble at all in pulling a big crowd but then the Scissors Sisters aren’t due on yet but I can’t imagine there being much crossover fan wise. I thought perhaps tonight Feeder would concentrate on the hits and quite looked forward to that but no they still blend old and new together and do so quite nicely, playing five tracks off the now year old Renegades album.

It’s a manic gig, the crowd are lively or just pissed up and we have to move out of the mosh a bit whilst still maintaining our near front row view. Despite the crowd being up for it, they don’t quite take the hint when Grant tries a teasing intro to ‘Buck Rogers’. If they don’t want it mate, don’t play it, play ‘My Perfect Day’ instead I dream.

Highlights... I don’t know. It’s always good to hear ‘White Lines’, they don’t always play that. Of the classics, some suit the open air better than others. ‘Come Back Around’ for instance comes across rather tamely where as ‘Just The Way I'm Feeling’ is a perfect fit.

I guess somebody had to dedicate something to Amy Winehouse tonight and its Feeder who do it but dedicating ‘High’ could be taken one of two ways. He could be being a little tongue in cheek but then again the song was chosen by Jon Lee’s (former Feeder drummer) parents to be played at his funeral, so perhaps not.

‘High’ actually should be the perfect festival tune but it’s sadly not quite well known enough to get a mega sing-along going. The traditional closing ‘Just A Day’ though, goes down well everywhere.

They’re good, as ever, but too brief. Despite headlining the Jägermeister stage they only get an hour and no encore, while the Scissor Sisters gyrate in their... whatever they were wearing... jumps suits and bin bags? for another hour and a quarter. I was hoping to give Jake Shears and co a miss but Feeder finish too early. Even so a quick glance at the big screen is enough. Off home.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Last Night's Indiscretion

Today really is the dog show, so I take the dogs this time.

Both boys are clear in their first run. Although MD and I have a stand up row (yes another one) in the middle of his first course about which obstacle was the next one. Personally I thought the jump marked ‘10’ was the tenth obstacle but he swore blindly (and nosily) that no, it was the one marked ‘16’. Eventually we decide that I am right and the judge claps us at the end, indicating a clear round and so proving my point, that I was right all along. It’s just a shame we wasted five valuable seconds arguing about it. So no rosette.

Second run, no arguments, just a few wide turns and a slow set of weaves, perhaps because he's still sulking? We go third but it’s early and we slip to a final position of eighth but that’ll do nicely.

Meanwhile L’s been very busy. I must take her for a curry more often because this morning she’s been a blur of activity trying to work off last night's indiscretion. She’s ran into town to collect her bike, then biked to the gym, where she did a gym tri (run-bike-row) followed by a deep water aquarobics class. Scrub that last bit, the council seem to have cancelled it without telling anyone.

Back at the show, inspired by the lack of poles going down, MD and I go for it on run three. We overshoot a weave entry and have two poles down but it had to be tried. Our fourth run is tidier but still quick until three quarters of the way round when MD falls off the see-saw. FFS. I put him in the car in disgrace. Which I think is hard but fair.

L seems to disagree and is more concerned for MD’s wellbeing rather that for our stuffed up ‘winning’ run. She even pops him a sausage under the grill. Hmmm. He’s fine, he bounced on impact and it was his own fault.

A trip over to Derby tonight and it’s disappointing. Neither the Smithfield, the newly revamped Exeter Arms (now owned by the Dancing Duck brewery) or the Royal Standard have beers that light my fire.

Sometimes you get nights like that but next time it could be brilliant.

(Saturday 23rd July)

Friday, 22 July 2011

Simply Not Fair

I head off to a dog show today without the dogs, which would be kind of a stupid thing to do if I was actually competing but I’m not, just helping set up. So I walk the boys first and check out the setting up of the Jägermeister stage that the mighty Feeder will grace on Sunday.

Then at the show I help construct six tents, build two rings and mark out a few others. Knackered now. I head home, well ready for a beer.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

L though is out, already in town with Daughter and already on the beer at 5:15. That’s simply not fair. Particularly as she proclaims it’s a rather nice dark one. This will confound the brewery ‘experts’ who reckon girls need beers designed for them that taste of lychees and are called something like Animee. Err no, not in my experience.

She’ll be half sloshed by the time I get there. I meet her in the H&H and take her for a posh curry at Mem Saab, probably the second best curry house in Nottingham, purely to sober her up. Well that’s my excuse. Then afterwards I attempt to catch up beer-wise in the Ropewalk.

(Friday 22nd July)

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Doubt Anyone Will Notice The Difference

In the news today... ‘Tall people more like to develop cancer’. Whatever next? Now being tall is unsafe. Tomorrow... small people more like to develop heart disease... I'm guessing here but there's bound to be something the reverse of this.

It's a day for stupid articles...'Treadmill shows medieval armour influenced battles'

Researchers always suspected the armour would have been tough to wear.

No kidding! Really? So the lesson is, don't go for a run on the treadmill in a suit of armour. I think we could have worked that one out on our own.

Not only do I cycle again but I’m feeling up for tennis. We’ll I’ll give it a go, the ribs are still sore but much improved. My serving might be rubbish but doubt anyone will notice any difference.

My plans are quickly thwarted. It’s the wheelchair British Open this week and they’ve booked all the courts. Perhaps they could leave out a wheelchair when they’ve done, in my current state it might help my game.

(Thursday 21st July)

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Only When I Laugh

I managed not to fall off the bike today. Meanwhile my ribs continue to improve slowly, only when I laugh as they say, luckily I’m at work and there’s nothing to amuse me.

L’s cycled too, claiming it was purely because she was a late. This is entirely her own fault for refusing to get up when there was still a six in the time. Blimey... that must be about three times she’s cycled now in the last month. She’ll get a reputation. Though I note that her bike doesn't come home with her this evening. Left at work hopefully and not dumped in the canal.

Have Greggs invented the perfect sandwich for me, the shape of the Mexican Bandit? I stumbled across it today, having grown tired of the inedible sandwiches being served up by the sandwich van. The bandit consists of spicy chicken, Monterey Jack cheese, jalapeño peppers and red onion topped with chilli sauce. Quite a combo. Then they spoil it by having a bit of mayonnaise lurking in there and of course there’s the white bread but it’s a good effort. Nice n spicy. If I cycle again tomorrow, I might be able to justify having another one. I hate to think how unhealthy it must be.

Later the boys and I pop onto Wollaton Park and check on the preparations for this weekend’s Splendour Music Festival. We’ll be there, well the boys won’t but L and I will be.

(Wednesday 20th July)

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Mitigating Circumstances

I head into town at lunch time and drive the wrong way down a one way street. St Michael’s Lane in Derby. I claim mitigating circumstances your honour, e.g. it wasn’t there the last time I drove in this area a few months ago. It’s also only one way from half way down, so there’s no sign when you turn into it. All very confusing. I even followed someone else down it and someone followed me. Isn't that what they call collective responsibility?

As I park up and walk into town, walking past the very same street, I see two more cars do the same. A daft idea I think that clearly isn’t working.

At the vets tonight, for MD's annual MOT. Doggo wants to come to. No you don’t mate, you don’t realise where we’re going. Nor does MD, until we get there, then he tries to climb onto my knee. When that fails, he sits quivering by my side. He’s a very stressed little boy, L would say he needs chocolate.

He is examined by yet another new vet and yet another one off the same production line - young, attractive and female. Note to prospective male students, pick a veterinary science course even if you know nothing about animals, at least you’ll fail with a smile on your face.

This one’s a bit hard-nosed though and isn’t about to offer us any treats, not even to get MD to come out from behind my legs. I have to haul him round by his collar so that she can jab him in the neck.

Injury usually drives me to the gym and so it does tonight. I drop the little ‘un off at home, collect L and we both go to the Tennis Centre, where I do 20km on the gym bike and manage not to fall off it. This takes me 43 minutes, that’s 28kph average (or over 17mph), faster than I cycle to work but I’ve no idea how accurate these things are and I didn’t have to stop at any traffic lights.

(Tuesday 19th July)

Monday, 18 July 2011

Stretching Out

Work have already booked our Christmas Party for this year. Yes, I know it’s only July. They’ve book us a table at Derby Sixth Form College... interesting choice. It’s better known as the Roundhouse, the renovated old railway building. It’s a rather impressive building but not terribly big as we found out at the beer festival. I hope they’ve upped the menu a bit, as the best we got there last time was a hot dog in the student canteen.

Training with MD tonight and our trainer promises a session to stretch the dogs out, which it probably does but it also stretches me out. I hadn’t been troubled by my ribs today, until now.

(Monday 18th July)

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Small Margins

There's Crufts Team qualifier at Rugby today and we have a decent team out. Good chance here. Our first dog goes clear, then its Doggo and I. it's a good round apart from a missed dog walk contact, criminal. Our next dog does the same but our final paring goes clear. 10 faults, which isn't good enough. It’s usually clear or nothing in these things. Today only one team gets those crucial four clears and qualifies for Crufts. Their time however is slow, three seconds slower than ours but faults are faults. Small margins. Then again several of the teams that only got five faults will be saying the same thing as they sob into their beers tonight.

Amongst the on and off rain, Doggo gets a clear in a individual agility run but we mess up the weaves in another. MD hits the ground running, a great first run from him but he fetches the second to last pole down. Here we go again. On his next run he keeps all the poles up and hits every contact, a perfect run but as we cross the line the judge does not clap as is the convention for a clear round. I dig out our score card... five faults! For what? Turns MD failed to hit the ‘up’ contact of the ‘A’ frame. I'm not happy with that, judges hardly ever give that, it’s so hard to mark. Gutted.

As things are going so badly, L makes me a enticing offer to come home. I get in the car, tempted.

All comes right in the end on his last run. It’s typical that his slowest and scrappiest of the day winds up being clear. Only 14th but we’ll take it. We'll take anything at the moment.

Meanwhile L’s in Belper for the Belper Charity 10k with Roy Mc and Nigel Clough. Turns out though Roy’s only doing the prize giving and Nige is running the 5k. Footballers eh?

L’s told to add six minutes to her expected time, it’s hilly and apparently inaccurately marked. Hmmm, we’ve done a few of those recently.

So it’s not one of her quickest runs but looking at the winning mens' times, which are horrendous, it looks like she did well. In the photos they upload later, she’s powering it, smiling and looking great. If I’d ran it I would probably have gone over 45 and then I’d have to have topped myself, yet I would have been top 10.

We head out for food, revisiting the scene of Daughter’s birthday, the Hemlock Stone, for a very nice Thai curry.

(Sunday 17th July)

Saturday, 16 July 2011

It All Ends, I Think

A lazy start to the day, horizontal, and there’s no great rush to get up and take the dogs on the park as it’s raining again. So once we emerge from the duvet, I catch up on the cycling instead, much to the dogs’ frustration. It’s raining I reiterate to them. MD hops from paw to paw (‘so what?’), Doggo nods, understanding, yet still looking through the door with a longing look (for a football) in his eye. I give them breakfast to shut them up. Well, lunch actually, as its gone 12:00. The rain does eventually stop and we make it onto the park.

Then it’s into town for Butter beer and Muggles Mead. I examine the pump clip for Muggles Mead and see it’s a Nottingham Brewery product. So it’s going to be very pale and quite bitter then. Yep. Like all their beers.

‘It all ends’ here of course. I’m all for that, as long as they hang on a few minutes whilst I quickly revise part one (whilst the adverts are on) and then tee-up the subtitles (Wikipedia) for part two. Now is not a time to get lost.

So, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. The film picks up swiftly from where part one left off, with Johnny No-Nose (Mr Voldemort to you) stealing the awesome elder wand from Dumbledore's tomb. Now I am invincible... and all that... cackle, cackle, cackle etc etc.

Meanwhile our three heroes continue to play hunt the horcrux to undermine Voldemort’s invincibility idea, as usual surviving only by the skin of their teeth.

In one instance stealing a dragon to escape from Gringott's Wizarding Bank, destroying half of London as they go before ending up in a lake. With all three of them soaked to the skin, Harry and Ron take off their wet clothes and share a ‘manly’ torso moment, well, until Ron can no longer hold his stomach in. In the last film it was Harry and Hermione in a topless clinch, I hope this isn’t a weird reworking.

Then with Hermione beginning to unbutton her dress, we all (the men) sit there with bated breath. Go Hermione go, but no, this time she keeps her kit on. That could well have been the moment when you'd wished you'd paid extra for the 3D version but, typical girl, she'd rather be cold and miserable.

Anyhow back to ‘horcrux watch’. Pretty soon they just have two left to destroy. There is Voldemort's snake Nagini and then rather inconveniently they find that there’s one imbedded in Harry himself. Oops, that’s a bit weird and a bit tricky too. Harry says his goodbyes and heads off to sacrifice himself for the greater good.

RIP Harry... or rather not. Let’s just say, he got out of that one nicely. Just don’t ask me to explain it, even Wikipedia didn’t seem sure.

Which brings us to the final battle.

Of course there’s a battle, as there must be, but as ever battles leave me cold despite the wholesale attempted slaughter of the students (nice thought). It’s all a bit too exciting for me, I preferred the doom, gloom and depth of part one but I cope. The film is exciting yes, but it’s mainly the Daniel Radcliffe show, fair enough, while Emma Watson pants and gasps in the right places and Rupert Grint sucks his stomach in and smashes the odd horcrux.

Severus Snape bids a tearful goodbye, slaughtered by Voldemort and his tears, yes his tears, reveal an interesting secret he’s been keeping to himself.

The pleasantly deranged Bellatrix Lestrange checks out too, in a costume that Tim Burton probably has his wife Helena Bonham Carter wearing for the weekend lie-in, and explodes into confetti. An interesting way to die and less messy I guess.

I would say Maggie Smith stole the show, as Professor McGonagall, you’d certainly want her in charge of protecting your castle, if it wasn’t for Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom who steals several scenes.

He has the best line for a start, with a cheery “Well that went well” as they all narrowly escape death, to stepping forward to single handedly denounce the dark lord and slaying Nagini, Voldermort’s snake, the final horcrux. Then all of a sudden Voldemort gasps his last and the movie kind of ends a bit quick.

The big question of course is does Harry get off with Hermione? Afraid not. Then does she get off with Draco Malfoy? Again sadly not, but wouldn’t that have been cool. Oh well, Ron will have to do then. Then we're back at King Cross Station platform 9-3/4, again looking very St Pancras, which must really confuse the American tourists. It's odd that at this point they suddenly leave the CGI paintbrush in its box and don't age the characters much for the final scene nineteen years on with them all packing their own offspring off to Hogwarts. Bless.

The first film came out in 2001, when JK Rowling was still working on book five. Since then its taken ten years, seven books and eight films but the marathon is finally over and I feel like I've run one myself. Like my running, it started well, peaked too soon, flagged a bit in the middle, made you momentarily want to give up, then got its second wind, ran the last stretch well and then tonight sprinted over the line. Just don't ask me for a resume of the whole lot. ‘It all ends’, I think.

(Saturday 16th July)

Friday, 15 July 2011

Pink And Spotty

This may not be as newsworthy as the furore about the News Of The World but we have a new loo seat, the old one fell off. That's cheap tat from B&Q for you. L assures me I’ll hate it. Reason being it’s pink and spotty. She recommends I do the business with my eyes closed.

L’s murderous mood, nothing to do with me I hope, could produce a sub-50 time tonight. I’ll look forward to that. It’ll be prawn cocktails all round later then, although apparently that pre-race strategy is old hat. Tonight’s experiment is with rice pudding.

I leave work and walk the three miles or so to Elvaston Castle, while L gets the bus over. I have entered this one but I think I’m watching. I feel I ought to run but also feel it might be a bad idea. A gentle jog might do me good, but I don’t know how to gentle jog. My folks turn up to support, despite the fact I’m too decrepit to run it.

I seem to have supported at this event so many times but I’ve never ran it. Last year I was saving myself for Crich the next day, in previous years it’s clashed with the Erewash and/or Hathersage triathlons that I’ve run. This year was to be my year, pre falling off the bike that is. I think I’m destined not to be in this one.

It rains again as usual, so at least I’m out of that. As I’ve entered I still get to pick up my t-shirt, the bright fluorescent yellow race t-shirt. Nice.

So how does the rice pudding go. Pretty well actually. L’s quickest 10k since Barnsley in November and only one second off that.

Afterwards we head over to Beeston and straight to the Wetherspoons which was excellent last time. Not so tonight, a poor beer range and appalling service, so we move on to the Crown which is better but the beers seem to suit L more than me. We leave with the idea of popping in for a late night curry but the place is already closed. Home for toast and a bag of crisps then.

(Friday 15th July)

Thursday, 14 July 2011

A Sound Strategy

L is stressed, again. She’s off for chocolate, which she reckons may improve her race performance tonight. I’m so stressed, not really, that I’m off to the pub for pie and a pint. Which definitely won’t improve my performance but then it doesn’t need to, seeing as I’m not running.

There’s good advice from Miguel Angel Jimenez at The Open golf. Asked if he will celebrate his excellent round of 66 with a glass of Rioja, Jimenez apparently replied, 'it doesn't matter what I shoot, I always have glass of Rioja.' There's a man with a sound strategy.

As I doubt my PVR has decided to tape the cycling for me, I listen to it on the radio. Go go Johnny ‘33 stitches’ Hoogerland. Go go our very own Geraint Thomas, who is off the front, in the Pyrenees and leading the field up the Tourmalet. Bradley who? Geraint is 3 minutes ahead with 12k to go, of course it doesn’t last but it was good to get excited about it for a while.

Tonight the Hardwick Nearly 10k Run, 6 miles and 285 yards which works out at 9.917km. It’s been ran almost every year since 1981 and this is the 29th running. So I might be in it next year, as I can’t seem to resist a birthday celebration.

It’s an unmissable evening with Elvis laid on as post-race entertainment and the Rotherham United cheerleaders during. Which is ok for us who aren’t competing. Although their routine to Katy Perry at full blast drives me down the lane for a walk with the dogs instead.

Before the race starts this year’s ‘Mystery Runner’ lights three beacons on route from Hardwick Hall to the start in Pilsley. This year it’s Philip Harries, former GB Olympic 400m hurdler and also once part of the Olympic Bobsleigh team. He's running late. I guess 400m runners aren't used to running as far as three miles.

L’s prep not only includes chocolate but prawn cocktail as well. I’d be pretty ill if I tried to run on that, it’s almost as bad as a pie and a pint. I do try a short run of my own, around 1k, just to see how it goes and to assess the possibility of running the Tara Kinder 10k race tomorrow. ‘Listen to your body’ is what they say but mine is still arguing with itself.

The course record is an impressive 30:54 from way back in 1986, on a very hilly course, and doesn’t come close to being broken this year. Although the winning time, 33:54, is still mightily impressive. L gets under the hour which is an achievement in itself.

(Thursday 14th July)

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

No Repercussions

I wake up with the very obvious sensation that I’ve eaten far too much pizza. I try and burn the pizza off by cycling, but it doesn’t seem to work. I skip breakfast. Then I pretty much skip lunch as well, unless you count a banana and a scotch egg as lunch.

The ride was actually ok. No repercussions, rib wise, but then I’ve still got to make it home yet.

L’s having another good day. Mad, Oscar award winning, jumping in the canal mad. Oh dear.

Is there anyone else who uses the thisis...co.uk websites?. Both www.thisisnottingham.co.uk and www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk have undergone a shocking makeover. You pull up the new homepages and it makes your eyes bleed. It looks more like the website for a kids TV programme, not for a serious publication.

There are things moving and flashing all over the place but very little content. The front page is way too long and means you have to scroll down for everything. The whole thing puts more emphasis on people’s comments and advertising than the actual news. Which is just so wrong on many levels. I do not wish to read peoples comments, ever. A lesson in how not to do a website.

I’ve seen my visits plummet from daily to once a week at best. Driving me back to the BBC local pages which only ever include half a dozen stories and no way back into the archive other than through google.

Dog training tonight for both dogs. It’s quite a hard session, particularly for the old man. As I try and coax one last run out of him, L suggests that telling him there’s Spag Bol waiting for him might work. It would inspire me, that is, if there’s some for me as well.

(Wednesday 13th July)

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Dr Google

I could have cycled today but I decide to give the rib injury another day to settle. Dr Google hasn’t been very encouraging, suggesting a week is nowhere near enough recovery time. However the cycling and running forums seem to have better advice. Most cyclists seem to be back on the bike within three days, most runners are back out doing gentle running within a week, whereas everyone else is pretty much off work for a month... hmmm, but that’s society for you.

L’s threatening to throw herself in the canal, or the Sainsbury's chocolate aisle, work related stress I assume. Always looking for the positive, I recommend the canal. It sounds like a training opportunity to me and it’s got to be lower in calories.

Talking of calories... pizza tonight, way too much pizza as it happens. Not helped by the fact that Pizza Hut are now doing ‘free’ salad and I can’t say no to that, as obviously I’ve paid for it in the increased pizza prices. At least it will temper the unhealthiness of everything else but I’m stuffed now. Somehow I manage to squeeze a couple of pints of Hobgoblin in around the edges.

I get home to find that my PVR hasn't recorded today’s cycling despite the fact I’ve got the whole three weeks on ‘series link’ and it’s worked for the first ten days. Bloody technology. Yesterday’s rest day seems to have upset it. So it's the internet highlights tonight then instead.

(Tuesday 12th July)

Monday, 11 July 2011

Life’s Too Short To Be Injured

Two nights camping on hard ground didn’t help my bruised ribs, so a night in a proper bed was very welcome. My ribs are on the mend and as long as I don’t make any sudden movements I’m fine, but word on the street is that these things take time e.g. around four weeks and that’s not good news. Life’s too short to be injured.

Still, it all pales into insignificance compared with poor old Johnny Hoogerland’s injuries. He’s the chap who got shunted by the press car into a barbed wire fence during yesterday’s Tour de France. Have you seen the photos? OMG. I’m sure I’m not legally allowed to reproduce those photos, not that it’s stopped me before, but do have a look, from behind the sofa. Oh go on, here you are, everyone else seems to have reproduced them.

His legs are totally lacerated and it’s incredible that he didn’t sever some other vital equipment; that is apart from his legs.

The man’s already a legend for carrying on and finishing the stage, even if he doesn’t continue in the race. Luckily he’s got a rest day today to try and recover. I’m guessing as he’s got the polka dot jersey he will at least start tomorrow, if only to get his five minutes of fame and he has to pull up five miles down the road.

I’m late for dog training but not as late as everyone else. It’s ten past before anyone else turns up, I thought I’d been stood up. Wouldn’t be the first time. To kill time, I let Doggo help me put away the horse jumps that our kind hosts have again left out for us. Once in the arena, he marks his territory, then sits in the middle and refuses to leave. ‘I am training tonight’ his eyes say. Sorry mate you’re not, but I promise on Wednesday you are.

(Monday 11th July)

Sunday, 10 July 2011


We let everyone else get on with the business of competing with their dogs this morning and head over to Adel, ten miles or so away for the Eccup 10 mile race. I had always intended to sit this one out but after my cycling mishap it’s looking an even better decision. Anyway, I love a bit of supporting.

After the race has started, I have time to grab a welcome coffee or two, even more welcome seeing as we forgot out own coffee supplies and I was stuck drinking tea all day yesterday. There is only so much tea I can take. Then I use the runners changing facilities to grab a shower, as the dog show has neglected to provide such basic facilities.

I get back to the start/finish area just in time to see the winner cross the line five minutes ahead of the field and, checking my watch, in roughly 55 minutes. I think that’s impressive until I get nearer to the finish, see the electronic clock and realise that the race was almost near five minutes late starting. His time was actually 0:51:18, very very impressive and a new course record.

I’d have been over 20 minutes behind him. L will be a bit longer than that, time for another coffee I think and to watch a bit of cricket. There’s a junior game going on next to the finish area. A bit too close to the finish area really, which is really the only organisational failure of the race because all the runners end up walking on the cricket pitch. I don't think this would have been allowed to happen had it been an adult cricket match.

L comes in, in another good time, but in not quite her quickest 10 miles of the year. The race memento they dish out here varies every year. In 2007 it was a kit bag, in 2008 a mug (glad we missed that one, we have plenty of mugs), 2009 it was a rucksack and last year, they gave out a technical t-shirt. L chooses to enter in the year they decide to give out a paperweight... Not just any old paperweight but exactly the same paperweight we have already received from several other races. The Yorkshire crowd seemed pleased with this, it was something different for them, not realising that there’s a pandemic of these things in the Midlands at the moment and it’s clearly now spreading northwards.

We head back to camp, via Sunday lunch in a pub in North Rigton, which again sells exactly the same three beers as the other two pubs. It's just like the bad old days of the 70’s and 80’s when a few breweries had monopolies on the pubs only these beers are supplied by three separate independent breweries.

After taking the tent down we head home and find the house exactly as we left it. How many years has it been since that has happened? No dirty pots piled in the sink, no discarded socks down the back of the settee, the bathroom floor isn't underwater and there are even towels hanging up in there etc etc, I could go on. Utopia.

Then I settle down to watch the Tour de France and that horrifying accident caused by the press car.

(Sunday 10th July)

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Hyped Up

Saturday dawns fine and almost sunny. That’s in Yorkshire, I’m not sure how things are in Wales.

L heads into Harrogate and to Bettys (no apostrophe!) under the premise that it’s perfect pre-race prep for tomorrow.

MD is well hyped up for his first course. Too hyped up and demolishes everything. I attempt to calm him down before course number two which is a very tricky course aimed at the higher grades and for which we have no chance of getting round clear, let alone getting a placing. Oh. Brilliant run MD, never doubted you. Sadly he clips one pole and with five faults we come 17th, out of 220, so that isn’t too bad. Still, had we not had that pole... 4th.

After his third and final run, I’m considering remaining him ‘one pole’. Just one down again but so frustrating because we set the fastest time. Two hours later, only one dog has beaten us on time but that one pole means we get nothing. Off to strangle him.

The old master, Doggo, does an impressive clear in his Olympia qualifier, not quick enough to qualify but impressive all the same. Unfortunately we mess up his second run, well I do.

L texts to ask if I’ve got room for a fat rascal? Well, I’ve got room in my tent for a thin one if she’s game. The fat rascal turns out to be a type of cake, the apostrophe-less Betty’s speciality. Sorry Betty but it’s nothing special, not as good as the lemon drizzle they serve up at the farmhouse here.

We can’t head up the local again because the pub is closed on Saturday night for a wedding, which seems an odd way to run your business to me, so we drive elsewhere. Frustrating the pub we drive to serves exactly the same three beers, Black Sheep Bitter, Theakston’s bitter and Taylor’s Landlord. Food is good though.

(Saturday 9th July)

Friday, 8 July 2011

Two Shocking Words

Two shocking words from L this morning. ‘I cycled’. She did what???? Dangerous things bikes you know, just ask Bradley Wiggins. Poor guy. Absolutely soul destroying stuff. You train for a year and then one little tumble puts paid to all that preparation. You don’t get to run five miles around Colwick Park and ultimately you don’t get a final placing in the Grand Prix series. I imagine bombing out of the Tour de France with a broken collarbone is almost as bad. I’m sure he feels my pain.

Just a half day at work today followed by a couple of hours sat not moving on the M1. We divert, take the M18 and sit not moving on the A1 instead. Where did all this traffic come from? Does no one work Fridays anymore? It does genuinely seem quicker to not take time off to beat the traffic these days.

We hear that it’s raining in Wales at Wakestock but then it always rains in Wales. This is not just ordinary rain but 'sodding' rain according to Daughter. As we arrive at our destination in Yorkshire it starts to sodding rain here too but then it always rains in Yorkshire.

The rain abates; we put the tent up and head off in search of food and ale at the local pub. The boys are not allowed inside, so we find a nice cosy spot sat under shelter in the garden watching the rain fall, very romantic.

Oddly, there are not many people in the pub. You would have thought 200 caravans camped half a mile down the road would have been a boon for the local economy but we only meet one other person from the dog show, who seems to have tunnelled out of the camp to escape from his wife for a couple of hours.

(Friday 8th July)

Thursday, 7 July 2011

An Odd Definition Of A Treat

Daughter has booked a coach from Stoke to Abersoch for her surfing weekend at the Wakestock Festival. Hey ho. So I leave home this morning at 6am to take Daughter and her friend to Hanley Bus Station. What is strange is that stowing away on the front seat is Son. L's simple explanation is that 'there’s a girl in Stoke'. Well I would hope there are plenty of girls in Stoke but I assume this is one specific one. I suppose poor students can't miss out on a free lift but it's a shame he couldn’t have had her over here, given he has an empty house.

In theory three excitable teenagers should have been a car driver’s nightmare but not at six am, they were all pretty much comatose most of the time. I drop the girls off right next to their bus bay and they promptly disappear off to find a McDonald's. So if they subsequently get lost, they’ve got no one to blame but themselves. Son had long since wandered off, killing time until it was late enough to text his lift. His parting words ‘God this is a depressing place’. Welcome to Stoke. Hope she’s worth it.

Commonsense and the fact that I find even a brisk walk painful after amassing fifteen bruises (approximately) in my bike fall yesterday, means I skip tonight’s final race of the Grand Prix series and support L instead. I think of asking her to push me round in a wheelchair but decide against it. At least this way the boys get a night out and a chance to bark at some runners.

L does well again, again knocking over a minute off last year’s time. All of which will give her a good overall placing in the series. Better than mine obviously, having skipped this race I won’t get a final placing at all. I do still claim my series t-shirt, which is disappointingly long sleeved, which means it won’t get worn until November at the earliest.

I must be anticipating a soonish return to fitness and form because I enter us for the Cardiff Half Marathon today. We are so cosmopolitan. Stoke one week, then Wolverhampton, Harrogate and Cardiff. Wherever next? St Neots, Morecambe, Birmingham... the list goes on.

Cardiff is just the sort of huge mass race madness we thrive on, with 15,000 entries last year. Despite the fact it appears to be all around the Cardiff Bay area and looks a bit like a larger version of the Notts 10, e.g. laps around Holme Pierrepont.

I even book us a cosy cottage near Cwmbran, so that we can make a weekend of it. L offers to treat me to the Leek Half by way of a thank you. She seems to have an odd definition of a treat.

(Thursday 7th July)

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Teflon Corner

I have a bit of a bike problem this morning, I fall off it. It happened on the notorious ‘Teflon corner’ at the end of our road at work here on Pride Park. I kind of forgot it was wet, despite the fact it was raining. I went round too fast and leant over too much on a corner that has claimed practically every cyclist in our office and a few others who we've seen hit the tarmac from nearby offices.

The corner is always the first place in the Northern Hemisphere to ice up in winter and we’ve seen many a car spin on it. It has zero drainage and I’ve no idea what it’s surfaced with (we assume Teflon) but it’s a temporary surface to go with the patchwork of surfaces and exposed drains that makes up the roads and pavements around here. We’ve been here three and half years now and all the building work was finished over a year ago but still they haven’t put a permanent surface down. Anyhow, don’t worry, the bikes fine.

With the park now reopened, L and the boys ‘sniff out’ the impressive gravestones that have appeared outside Bruce Wayne’s mansion. I would nip down to get a few photos, if it wasn’t for the massive ‘no photos’ sign and the security guard, although some have appear on the internet. I hope Doggo weed up it.

I take the flatter but freshly stone chipped route home, to avoid putting my bruised body through the hillier route. It's not too bad at first, all the stones have now been swept to the sides by the cars, into the cycle lane of course but by not riding in the cycle lane it's not too bad. Until the downhill stretch into Risley that is, where there's loose stones everywhere. I had a few iffy moments there but managed to keep the thing upright this time.

It’s also a crash strewn day at the Tour de France, so I can feel some empathy with them. Particularly for Tom Boonen who limped across the line some time after everyone else had finished, luckily for him he didn’t have a stone chipped Risley to put the icing on his already bad day at the office.

Much better though from Mark Cavendish, who appeared out of nowhere to the win the stage and on a uphill finish as well, which is far from his natural habitat, making it possibly the best of his sixteen Tour de France stage victories (so far), particularly as the route planners (loads of uphill finishes), the officials (docking him points) and the other riders (blocking him) appear to have it in for him. Then he dedicated it to his dog Amber, who sadly died yesterday. Sob. Bless.

It’s been a good tour for Britain so far, three riders in the top seven and none of them are Cavendish. Dave Millar is fourth, Bradley Wiggins fifth and Geraint Thomas seventh (as well as leading the best young rider category). Heady days.

Dog class tonight, at a hobble. Somehow I manage not to hold MD back, who is simply brilliant this evening.

(Wednesday 6th July)

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

All Out Sprint

It’s the third race of the Grand Prix series tonight, not held as usual at Bruce Wayne’s Manor, sorry I mean Wollaton Hall, but tonight at good old dependable Rushcliffe again. Where we were on Thursday for race two. This is rather unimaginative of the organisers, who had the chance to take this popular race series back to one of its old haunts, such as Forest Fields, or to a new location at one of the many parks around Nottingham. Somewhere like Bestwood would have been a good choice.

So back to those lovely gravel paths for just 5k this time. The shortest but also possibly the hardest of the four distances because for many hardy folks this is simply an all out sprint from start to finish, and if you’re like me, it’s hard not to join in.

L got the hundred miles up on Saturday, so she’s already well on the way in her quest for five hundred miles by next May and she’ll be adding another eighteen or so this week.

I start brisk-ish, avoiding the footpath wherever possible and keeping to the grass edges. One four minute km follows another and then my legs collapse. 4:08, 4:24, 4:19 I gasp across the line and land in a heap. Things are not going well at the moment.

L does better again, knocking a minute off her time from last year, whilst I add over a minute.

Back home I enter us for the all new Birmingham Half, sorry Bupa Great Birmingham Run, in the belief (probably mistaken) that I am now a long distance runner. Then I start looking at Cardiff....

(Tuesday 5th July)

Monday, 4 July 2011

Intellectual Stuff

L asks how I am. I’m feeling a bit sun blasted after two days out in the open but other than that, fine. Now, did that warrant a comma? L and I were discussing commas the other day, as you do. Intellectual stuff.

I’m sure nobody takes the selection of which checkout queue to join at Sainsbury’s quite as seriously as me. Usually it comes down to who the checkout operator is. Generally I dislike pretty much all of them because mostly they delight in watching me disappear under a pile of tins, fruit, meat, vegetables etc etc as I attempt to pack everything into bags as they hurl items at me as fast as they possibly can. Then they sit there with their arms folded demanding I pay while I dig myself out from under the dog food, still with three bags worth to pack. Well tough, you’ll have to wait.

Because of this I run a league table system, awarding points for things like:- the speed they scan at (the slower the better), whether they have the second belt in operation (the nice ones don’t), whether they hold things up by chatting to the previous customer for hours, as well as general grumpiness/helpfulness etc.

It usually the male staff whom top the league, which is perhaps surprising given the fact that the female staff have an advantage in that they can obtain bonus points for attractiveness, which can help ease the trauma of shopping. The men though score better on all the other criteria and today’s chap was brilliant, straight in at number one. I bet here’s not there next week.

Tonight L says we’re going to eat American as its 4th July.... homemade burgers, salad, potato salad and corn on the cob. It all sounds good, although I’m not sure I like celebrating anything American.

I miss dog training tonight, again, for another committee meeting, although not sure why I bothered. Talk about stuck in their ways.

(Monday 4th July)

Sunday, 3 July 2011

A Useful Trick, Sometimes

Another early start, another dog show, in Wellingborough this time but there’s an even earlier start for L who picks Daughter up at 5am. There’s a strategy here, Daughter and Son both need to be on coach to Milton Keynes by 11am for the Foo Fighters gig they’re going to.

L comes to Wellingborough with me and has to organise the kids getting out the house and to the coach from a hundred miles away, which proves stressful. Yeah I know they’re both adults now and should be able to catch a coach unaided but it’s good to make sure, particularly when expensive coach and concert tickets are riding on it.

My schedule for the dog show is about as inconvenient as it gets. MD has drawn numbers 1 and 8 in two classes that both start at 8.30am, which isn’t feasible, so I make my apologies to the class he is due to run at 8 in and promise to get there as soon as possible.

His 'number 1' class is against dogs in grade 4, one level above him, so predictably he goes clear in that, where he's unlikely to get anything, but not in the second one for his grade only, where he may well have done.

As expected, against the dogs of grade 4 we get pushed out of the placings but by only half a second and we wasted far more than that when MD turned left off one jump when he should have turned right. This was my fault really, we’ve been practising like mad getting him to turn away from me rather than towards me which is the natural way, but it's a useful trick to have in your armoury. It’s just that he’s only supposed to do it when I tell him too and on this occasion I swear I didn’t.

His third and final run comes up soon after but doesn’t go well. Meanwhile poor old Doggo has to wait and wait in the increasing heat for his runs, finally running his first at 4pm and then his second straight after that. Not ideal for an old timer. As I said, possibly the most inconvenient schedule ever. He’s clear in the first, although just outside the placings, but looked a bit tired and wasn’t in the second.

We’re not the only ones hanging around. The kids are in MK for around 1.30, the first band doesn’t hit the stage until 4.30. So we get home and have the house to ourselves, which is always nice.

The day ends pretty much as it started with another late night/early morning Daughter (and Son) collection. We pick them up at 2am from the bus station.

(Sunday 3rd July)

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe

We head over to Birmingham early-ish this morning and park at the NIA, which is eerily quiet and only seems to have one entrance open. Parking there has shades of the Birmingham Half last year, just ten thousand people quieter. We see one other runner, who unfortunately sprints off before we can follow him to New Street station, which we struggle to find having left via some back entrance to the car park.

There are few more runners on the train and a few more get on at some of the stops as we head over to Wolverhampton. Once at Wolverhampton station the crowds start to ramp up considerably and we follow the increasing throng to the semi-secret start location at the British Waterways Boatyard, not far from the station.

This is already a fairly unique race experience and it’s about to get even more so. The Birmingham And Black Country Half Marathon is a point to point ‘race’ along the towpath of the Wolverhampton to Birmingham canal. It isn’t really a race at all, due to the narrowness of the towpath it is run as a time trial, with staggered starts over three or more hours. I’ve been given an assembly time of 9.30, whilst L’s is 11.40, over two hours later. So I'll be finished before she starts.

While I stow my kitbag in the baggage van, L sets about getting her start time brought forward. She’s worried about what three hours waiting at the finish might do to my liver and the fact she might have to drive us out of Birmingham city centre.

The start times turn out to be only loosely enforced, e.g. they’re not, and she’s told to basically go for it when she likes. So that’s less time in the pub for me.

After a quick but entertaining pre-race briefing for my start group, we line up in single file and then like a scene from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, we disappear through a door in the boatyard wall. As I emerge onto the canal bank and a marshal keys my number into his PDA I fail to realise that I was now 'under orders'. The guy released a second after me is already itching to get started and sighing heavily in my ear hole. Two steps later I practically fall over the timing mat as I fiddle to get my watch started, then we're off. I quickly let Mr Impatient past me.

The single file start works well; it actually makes it much easier to get into a rhythm than in a mass start race. A few runners come past me early on but not once do I feel the urge to push one of them into the canal, although if they try that in the last half a mile I might feel a little different. After the first mile or so, it’s mainly me doing the overtaking and everyone is very courteous as I get the better of them.

The downside is that there’s not exactly a crowd roaring you on as go and at times it felt like a training session or rather it would, if I did any training sessions of this sort of length. There are plenty of marshals to give you a mini-roar but a big city half marathon it certainly isn’t.

Then there’s the wildlife, such as the evil looking swan and its chicks about a mile in. This was followed by a pile of feathers a little further down the track, where someone had perhaps got their own back.

At four miles comes the ‘highlight’, the 329 metre long Coseley Tunnel. They advise that if you are afraid of the dark to bring a head torch or to at least make sure you lift your shades before entering. It’s not really that dark as they have lit it in parts with battery lamps but it’s a bit uneven under foot and I fell down a hole at one point. It was also the only place where single file had to prevail, although some people still insisted on pushing past others in there, which I thought was a bit unnecessary.

Then there’s the random heavy duty hosepipe at five miles to steeplechase over, courtesy of the local fire brigade and the youth of Tipton who have been out on a burning spree but that was about it for obstacles. Totally flat, apart from the many bridges that really messed around with your legs, your pace and made the whole thing harder than you would think.

I missed the first mile marker and they were pretty invisible all the way around, always turned sideways to the course. The girl proclaiming to be the seven mile marker was great. Can all the mile markers do that next year?

The gravel towpath started to grate quite quickly and I began finding as much grass verge to run on as possible. This seemed to chip 30 seconds per mile off my times, although this may have been simply psychological. It was never going to be a PB course for me on that surface.

There were four drinks stations en route with a mix of water and sports drink, although I didn't realise about the sports drink until nine miles in. Some of the drinks stations were utilising barges which saved blocking the towpath, a nice innovation.

I kept a loose eye on my times and seemed set to break 1:45, which I would have been happy with. At the 12 mile marker, it left me nine and half minutes to complete the last 1.1 miles, even having slowed to an eight minute mile pace that was going to be easy peasy. The only problem was it was far further than .1 of a mile from the 13m point to the finish at Brindley Place. I usually reckon on forty five seconds for this last bit, today... two minutes sixteen seconds and no, I didn’t crawl it. Someone with a GPS later told me the course was 13.3 miles. Hmmm.

I’ve finished the race but the trauma isn’t over yet. An impressively painful but helpful massage is followed by what appears to be endless flights of stairs as I attempt to find the showers.

Overall, a well organised half marathon and a bit, that somehow manages that big event atmosphere after all, perhaps it was the well organised finished area. I got my kit bag back, along with a medal and a commemorative goody bag which included a stick of rock, which I was initially unimpressed with, until I realised that it had the race name printed through it. The 25% off at Pitcher and Piano certainly encouraged most people to stick around which helped, we certainly took full advantage. It was just a shame there wasn’t a t-shirt.

Probably not the ideal race for anyone doing their first half but I met some for who it was. One chap, a 17 year old, even told me it was his first race of any kind. I was still reeling from finding a teenager who’d run a half marathon when he told me he’d only done 100 miles in training for it... err that’s much more than me.

In the end, L starts half an hour behind me, which just about gives me enough time for the massage, shower and to get changed before she comes in. Almost enough time, but not quite. I just miss her crossing the line.

Then we set off to find Son, who has come over from Warwick looking for a lift home and probably lunch, which at 25% off at Pitcher and Piano isn’t a problem. If he can stay awake, he looks like he’s been up all night, which he probably has and being kicked out of his accommodation at 10am clearly hasn’t helped.

We get home around four, with Daughter out and Son by now asleep, we’ve just got two neglected dogs to satisfy before we can have some time to ourselves. Two neglected dogs who clearly cannot believe their bad luck when we nip down the Johnsons and White Hart later without them.

(Saturday 2nd July)