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

Friday 30 September 2011

Almost Romantic

I’m having trouble turning over in bed this morning, thanks to the re-broken/bruised ribs. Not good. Luckily I have no race this weekend. Things aren’t so bad once I'm upright just as long as I don’t cough, sneeze or laugh and keep breathing to a minimum. Other than that they're fine.

Later L picks me up from work and we head north. I’ve found some fool of a B&B owner who will take us and the boys in Blackpool. Which is roughly where we have two dog shows and a run this weekend. It’s a quaint little place, almost romantic, if we hadn't brought the dogs. A weekend without them would be nice but I’d look a bit daft at the dog shows.

Well, we try to head north. We join the M6 at Stoke and then queue from there all the way to Blackpool. Curse the good weather. 4 hours is a new personal worst.

When we finally get there and Blackpool is horrendous. Full of people. Families, drunks, Scots, the lot. We wander round looking for somewhere to buy fish and chips, there's plenty of those and then somewhere nice to eat them, there's none of them. The seafront would be a nice location if it’s wasn’t fully booked and there wasn’t a massive traffic jam, known as the illuminations traffic blocking the way to it.

There’s absolutely no chance of finding a bar that sells anything you’d want to drink or in fact one that isn’t offering karaoke. We head back to the hotel and enjoy some wine from the bar there, sitting on the front veranda. Quite pleasant actually. Then some more contraband wine in the room, as alcohol is not allowed in the rooms.

(Friday 30th September)

Book Review: One Day - David Nicholls

Now as promised, a book review. Every so often I like to read a spot of popular fiction, I even read a Sophie Kinsella once you know but I’m not proud of the fact. So I’ve just finished ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls and I sort of liked it.

I liked the premise of the book. Following two people over twenty years through a glimpse into their lives on the same day every year, July 15th, St Swithin’s Day, sounded like a good idea. Although the book does cheat at times and sometimes summarises the whole year through that one day but then at other times Nicholls leaves you wondering what has happened in between by glossing over some vital developments because they didn't happen on that day.

The book starts with Emma and Dexter, thereafter simply Em and Dex, in bed together just after their graduation from Edinburgh University in 1988. The fact that nothing sexual happens in that bed that night is so unlikely that, for me anyway, it underlines the whole credibility of everything that follows. They both clearly want to get it together, yet not only do they pass up on the opportunity that night but they also fail to follow up on it in the weeks and months that follow as well. This, particularly as Dex is painted as such a womaniser, is just so implausible that it makes 1989 to about 1992 whizz by in a fog of disbelief.

Once I’d got over that gargantuan plot hole and what with being an un-romantic at heart, I decided I didn’t want them to get together anyway. Although I knew this was perhaps a vain hope having consumed some of the promo material for the film which billed it as a great romance. Instead I started to enjoy the book and its slice of real (ish) life.

I found the book very, very amusing but what really made it for me is that we start with their graduation in 1988, this being the same year I graduated and the book is full of anecdotes from that period. Then as we move on through the years, Nicholls drops in reference after cleverly observant reference about the culture of the 1990’s and what was happening in the world at that time. So it was quite a nostalgia fest for me, as I could live fully the time line of the book. With all the quotes in the book it surprises me that Dex never quoted from ‘When Harry Met Sally’ (released conveniently in 1989) that 'men and women can't be friends', before using it as an excuse to manoeuvre Em on to her back. Sadly he didn’t.

The two lead characters fit the old ‘different side of the tracks’ story line, Dex being rich and public school educated, whereas Em is a mere working class Yorkshire lass. They have different aspirations too.

Dex merely scrapes through his degree and after graduation his lofty ambitions are to attain a job which will sound impressive but won’t be too taxing, as well as to engage in a threesome. This he hopes to achieve using nothing more than his apparent good looks and the arrogance of youth. In a way he achieves this, drinking and shagging his way through life and somehow becoming a minor television star. He is the flag bearer for the ‘laddish’ culture of the nineties and is immensely unlikeable.

Em, on the other hand, gets a first class degree and has grand plans but is utterly clueless as to how to achieve them, so she ends up waiting tables in a Mexican restaurant. She dabbles at being a teacher but really wants to be a writer. Lost and directionless, she decides no man is good enough for her and stumbles through life. She too is pretty unlikeable.

As the years go by they grow further apart rather than closer together and while Dex continually goes off the rails, Em never really gets on them. Although I nearly cheered when she had a totally out of character fling with the headmaster of her school.

Throughout the book Nicholls is constantly hinting that Dex needs a good woman (e.g. Em) to keep him on the straight and narrow. Although what both of them really need is a good hard slap around the face and a kick up the arse.

As a ‘will they or won't they’ story it’s either going to end in success or failure. Planning ahead my preferred ending was that they'd confess undying love to each other on Dex’s deathbed after he'd drunk and/or smoked himself to near extinction or maybe after someone had taken a sledgehammer to him.

But what actually happened is that in a bombshell moment in Paris, Em, again out of character again I felt, dumps her French lover for him. Then it all goes a bit normal with them breaking their promises not to live together, get married etc etc. To his credit Nicholls quickly seems to realise his mistake and rewrites the ending.

Having chosen to end it all with Em's demise, I didn’t see the point of him carrying on with the story. He should have wound it up with a short epilogue and the message ‘that’s what you get if you fanny around for 20 years’. I mean he has been on about ‘seize the day’, Carpe diem and all that malarkey, throughout the whole book and nobody ever did.

Instead of finishing though, the book went in to flashback just to annoy me, showing more of that first 15th July back in 1988. I have no idea why he held that back, withholding it added nothing and it should have been in its proper place in the first chapter. We also get Dexter reverting to type and going back off the rails, just to bang home the point about him needing his good woman as a guiding hand. It all spoilt what should have been a dramatic ending.

As soon as I finished the book I rushed to find a film review because surely they must have changed the ending into a happy one. I was very surprised to find that they hadn't. Hopefully after her death, they quickly roll the credits over shots of Dex tearfully going through twenty years of Em’s belongings, accompanied by some suitably sombre music. How good would that have been as an ending? But I bet they haven’t.

Thursday 29 September 2011

Just Part Of The Game

Another puncture. Clearly, something is askew in the heavens. Though it was my own fault really, I put a wheel down a hole I knew was there avoiding one I didn't know was there. Sigh.

None of which bodes bode well for this winter when they haven't got around to fixing last year’s pot holes yet and we're just about to head into this year’s pothole season.

L frogmarches the boys down to squash. To meet me, not to play. It's a good four miles, so it's brave of her considering she almost topped herself walking them down the shorter distance to meet us at the White Hart last week. I’m not sure walking them all that way would be good for her alcohol intake afterwards.

It’s a hard fought squash match tonight. He fires the ball into my back at pace, so he gets my racquet smashed down on his fingers, he retaliates with a blow into the ribs with his elbow, so I fire the ball into his eye socket. None of this is deliberate of course, just part of the game and it happens over the course of four games, not all in succession. So bruised but not blooded we complete another friendly squash game.

Unfortunately his blow to my ribs is exactly where I fractured/bruised them when I came off my bike. They were 95% recovered but now I'm set back to about 60%. I struggled through the rest of the game, you do don't you, as long as I don't start breathing heavy they're fine. Cue long breaks between points. I even win the last game.

Then we head off to the White Hart for the £5 curry, only to find it’s closed until further notice. Oh no. I hope it's not another pub biting the dust. We head home and have to cook our own curry.

(Thursday 29th September)

Wednesday 28 September 2011

In The Dark

It’s not the best weather for cycling, in between weather. It’s too cold this morning for shorts but too hot for long trousers. Although by the time it comes to cycling it will almost certainly be shorts weather if this late heatwave continues.

Tesco Watch. We've found yet another one. They are springing up about every half mile or so now. Surely all these Tescos must take trade away from... well all the other Tescos. Perhaps they’ll all put each other out of business.

The plan tonight is to trim MD’s ears with the lawnmower. E.g. to cut the grass. This with the nights pulling in isn’t going to be easy and sure enough, I end up cutting the grass in the dark, which is probably as hard as you would think it would be.

Had to do something though, I need to start sorting the garden out. Over the last year of so, MD has been carefully, ok not carefully, sculpting a scale model of the Grand Canyon down the centre of our back lawn. Impressive though it is, it’s not very appropriate for a small garden such as ours and it’s actually downright dangerous as I keep falling into it.

So I want to try and reseed some of those bare patches... once I’ve had a lorry load of topsoil deliver to fill in the canyon.

(Wednesday 28th September)

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Military Operation

I park at my parents place and run the five miles to work from there. I’ll do the same tonight in reverse prior to the football match.

The run wasn’t too bad, hard but not bad, ‘sobbing’ or rather grinding my teeth along to Em and Dex at the same time. Yep, I’ve decided to read (well listen) to a spot of popular fiction in the form of David Nicholls’ massively hyped ‘One Day’. I have 40 minutes left to listen to, so I will finish it tonight. I didn’t like the book at first but it’s grown on me. I may even review it when I’ve finished it.

At least parking the car five miles away and somewhere where it would take a military operation to get a bus to makes we summon up the enthusiasm to run back to it. Which means I don’t have the 'shall I, shan’t' I debate with myself that L is having tonight concerning her run.

The match, oddly, yields Derby’s best performance for at least eighteen months. They are all over Barnsley like a rash, although Barnsley themselves contribute to what is, for once, a quality game of football. Rather annoyingly this excellent performance yields only a 1-1 draw and that was only thanks to being awarded a slightly dubious penalty, whereas when we play just averagely, as on Saturday, we win 3-0. Football eh?

(Tuesday 27th September)

Monday 26 September 2011

Not A Soul

I walk boys this morning and hardly see a soul. Even the local cats were conspicuous by their absence. Both boys looked too knackered to be bothered anyway but maybe MD would have stirred himself, if necessary.

He’d certainly perked up by the time it came to training this evening, which was useful.

L seems to have perked up too. She says she’s hobbling less and feeling positive for the ten miler at the weekend... but do I believe her.

(Monday 26th September)

Sunday 25 September 2011

Up For It

It’s dull, windy and miserable here in Bakewell but still oddly picturesque with the hills behind us.

The old man seems really up for it today as if he knows the dreaded ‘r’ word is imminent. Retirement. He was so quick on his first course that he had a pole down, which is practically unheard of. It’s a shame but good to see him going for it. He’s clear on his second course but unfortunately he’s expelled most of his ‘up for it’ on the first run and we’re outside the places. He's done now, over to MD.

There are loads of moans from competitors about the difficulty of the G3 course that is MD’s first run of the day. We though like a challenge, although perhaps I was not cautious enough on this course and MD has five faults when he comes off his dog walk sideways, seemingly looking for a short cut. The course yields only three clear rounds from 79 entrants. We are 9th with 5 faults which gets us a rosette and a cash prize of £5. Blimey. £5 for 9th, what would a win have been worth?

Glossing quickly over run two, we queue up for run three and are near the front when they call a lunch break and we are told to go away and come back later. That’s appalling ring management, if I may say so, speaking as someone who has run many a ring.

When we return after lunch it is now throwing it down and Doggo looks a little smug that he got all his runs in before it rained. Still, my little trooper does a clear round in the rain and had it not been for a bit of a 'moment' before the weaves which cost us a few seconds and a few places we might have even won it. We are 9th again. Another rosette but no cash this time. Run four... we’ll skip over that one too.

L is running in Keyworth, the Crossdale 10k, and up against the U23 GB canoe team. Not sure if they’re any good at running though. She is three minutes down on last year. ‘Shoot me now’, she proclaims, as she heads off to make a donation at the charity cake stall. Does she mean for the run or the cake?

Her time isn’t too bad considering she did have two working legs last year and she was supposed to be taking it easy. Then she’s off to Broadway for an afternoon of dark brooding passion and romance or rather Jayne Eyre, which I have declined, still not having recovered from the TV adaptation a couple of years ago.

Back home and an empty nest of course. So we can have our own dark brooding passion and romance if we want, or a bottle of wine, or I can cook a slap up two course meal for the two of us without worrying about feeding the five thousand. Perhaps a combination of all three after of course the cycling...

A stunning performance from everyone in the Great Britain team for keeping the race together and teeing it up for Mark Cavendish to do his stuff. Cav sprinting home to bring home the world title for the first time since 1965.

(Sunday 25th September)

Saturday 24 September 2011

Don't Blink

Derby 3 Millwall 0. I don’t really understand this. Six wins out of eight and third in the league. It’s encouraging if nothing else and a sign that perhaps we should avoid relegation more easily this year but I’m not reading anything more into it. The more testing run of fixtures that we have coming up will be very interesting.

Now I remember the 1970’s BBC TV Series of John le Carre's 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'. I vaguely recall it at the time but have re-watched it since, although even that would have been some time ago. I found the series fascinating but it also baffled the hell out of me and that was a seven part series that had over five hours to tame the meandering plot. The new film version however intends to do this in just over two hours...

So perhaps they’ll cut out those long pregnant pauses of unspoken dialogue and those lingering meaningful stares that didn’t convey very much... Nope.

Like the TV series the film nonchalantly tosses little bits of raw information or ‘hints’ at it’s largely unsuspecting audience and says make of that what you will. It is not big on explanations. In fact so little is made of the revelation of some vitally important points that you’re likely to miss them. So concentrate, don’t blink. Don’t even think about going to the toilet.

Essentially there is a double agent, a mole, amongst the heads of British intelligence, known here as the ‘Circus’. At the time all this was very current affairs, now it’s a 1970’s cold war history lesson. Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) is sent to Budapest by boss man ‘Control’ (John Hurt), to bring in a Hungarian General who wants to defect to the west and will reveal the mole's identity but the meeting is a set-up.

The meeting at a Budapest cafe ends with Prideaux shot and taken away to endure months of vicious interrogation, cue a particularly shocking scene, before he is eventually returned to Britain where he is ‘retired’ to live in a tatty caravan and to teach at a public school. Which is very 1970’s, these days even public schools don’t employ shady men who invite young boys into their caravans.

Back at the Circus, Control has died and his deputy George Smiley (Gary Oldman) has been forced to retire in shame at the botched operation. Yet the investigation is reopened when agent Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy), a loose cannon if ever there was one, turns up with pillow talk corroboration of the mole theory gleaned from a love affair with the wife of a Russian intelligence officer he was tracking. Smiley is subsequently drawn out retirement to track down the mole.

Tarr promises to help Smiley, if he can reunite him with his Russian blonde, a promise he cannot possibly keep. Smiley’s suspicions fall on four men:- Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), who is now head of the Circus and three other top ranking officials, Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds) and Toby Esterhase (David Dencik).

I’m giving a more linear version here, which the film does not, instead relying on the dreaded flashback. You soon lose count of how many times we end up back at that Lenin themed staff Christmas party.

Assisted by Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch), Smiley investigates. Talking to the increasingly bitter Prideaux and the sacked head of research Connie Sachs (Kathy Burke) who suspects that the Soviet Cultural Attaché in London is really a spy. Smiley discovers that pages have been removed from the duty officer's log book for the night Jim Prideaux was shot. So he speaks to the duty officer himself, who tells him who was the man in charge that night...

The Circus's Russian intelligence source ‘Merlin’ is looking increasingly dodgy as indeed is the entire operation coded name ‘Witchcraft’. Now who was the man responsible for that, and could the same man simply be shagging Smiley's wife to make any accusations levelled at him by Smiley look like sour grapes.

Having gleaned enough, Smiley set a trap and catches the traitor. If you’ve not blinked the mole’s identity is no great shock and perhaps that’s part of the problem with the film. I think perhaps the film makers knew it too and jazzed up what happened next.

Some say this is a masterpiece. So you're supposed to describe it as compelling, tense, absorbing, involving etc etc and in some ways it was. Some would say dull. In reality, it's probably somewhere in between. It’s well made with strong performances all round. Gary Oldman's portrayal of Alec Guinness, sorry Smiley is excellent. Just gen up big time before you see it.

(Saturday 24th September)

Friday 23 September 2011

Falling To Earth

I walk the boys this morning. Doggo, ever the cautious one, looks worried at this development, not that it’s that unusual. Perhaps he's keeping an eye on the sky for that falling satellite which Nasa says could crash to earth ‘anywhere’. Reassuringly there’s only a 1 in 3,200 chance of it killing someone which is probably about the same probability of me breaking my half marathon PB this year. So we feel safe.

L has a physio appointment this morning. I just hope she doesn’t throttle the guy when he tells her to take a break from running.

In fact, she probably kissed him as he’s told her not to stop running. The prognosis is a ‘yanked’ muscle between hip and knee. Time for some MEAT - movement, exercise, attenuation (massage I think) and treatment.

Running is encouraged although no sudden bursts of speed, no sprinting for the finish line, rushing downhill to make up time or overtake anyone. She’s also been told to take lots of hot baths. A ‘take it easy’ strategy that could have been written by herself.

In the evening I am taken out by work to ‘Thai Dusit’ in Derby. Dusit apparently means paradise and the food was rather good. Beforehand a few of us, stranded in Derby for a few hours, had to kill time in the Alexandra but we managed.

(Friday 23rd September)

Thursday 22 September 2011

Empty Nest Syndrome

The company that owns Daughter’s student flat has gone into liquidation. So we’re sending up a collection of cardboard boxes just in case she needs somewhere to live. I’m sure she’ll be fine.

Meanwhile MD is still wandering round looking like a lost soul, suffering, we think, from empty nest syndrome. Personally, I'm loving it. So too I think is L, although she’s been getting loads of advice on how to ease the anguish, whether she wants it or not. The easiest way would be to get someone in to ransack the kitchen and to drop wet towels everywhere, except in the bathroom but the advice is usually one thing. Get a puppy. Good advice. I’ll get tonight’s paper and have a look in the classifieds.

L’s less keen. Well actually vehemently opposed. I think ‘Absolutely not. Never again’ were her words.

All that chewed furniture? All that digging? Going through obedience classes again? Walking three dogs? Three dogs in a tent? No more cottages or hotels... She has a point, well several actually.

So having established that two dogs is enough, I buy her a different sort of pet. A pet ipad, which she seems to immediately fall in love with. Which is inconvenient, when you want to check your Fantasy Football scores at midnight without turning the PC on. Not that we can, as our PC's in Sheffield. Actually the new one arrived today. Well when I say new, I mean £30 off ebay but it’ll do for us.

L had already treated herself to something to ease the pain, new shoes. She so takes after her Daughter. The shoes are called ‘Coniston Fells’. So I was expecting a pair of boots but you wouldn’t get very far on Coniston Fell wearing them. Most inappropriate name of the year.

Squash is ‘relaunched’ today with possibly the longest game ever, 21-19. Which I actually win. 21-19 is partly a result of us playing first to 15, not 11 as the professional do. I’ve no idea why we play to 15 but it’s so engrained in us, we’ll probably never change it.

My opponent is also 15 minutes late as he claims he’s still hardwired to the 7pm tennis start time and not the 6.45pm squash start time. Then again he was nearly always 15 minutes late for tennis as well. I think it's just a tactic of his to wear me out through excessive warming up. Which wasn’t really necessary, having already cycled to and from work today.

Afterwards, in the pub, there’s a 5% porter and 6% Batemans victory on the bar but I'm drinking neither. I'm driving and then meeting L back at the 'tennis' pub for the £5 curry. To which she arrives looking frazzled having walked the boys up.

(Thursday 22nd September)

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Positive Feedback

The feedback continues to roll in from Daughter; it was never like this with Son. She continues to get on with the farmers and Oxford rejects at Sheffield Hallam. Well that was what she was expecting them all to be.

Her housemates sound a fun bunch, and artistic people too, constructing cardboard genitalia (both sexes, very PC) to celebrate someone's birthday, along with a similarly decorated cake and the obligatory inflated condoms as improvised balloons. Very clichéd but I suppose it has to be done. They do say university brings out a new found maturity in people... eventually.

We both take Doggo to the vets so that they can have a look at this cyst (or whatever it is) that we’ve found. Strength in numbers in case he considers having the vet’s arm off if she starts prodding his rear end. I think he might have to have it scalpelled off. Meanwhile poor old MD's has to go through the whole drama queen rigmarole of being left all over again.

L then joins us on the park but I think we ruin her walk, which was to replace the fact she can’t run due to this injury she seems to have picked up.

Then running a bit late I head down to the Rescue Rooms. Welsh five piece Straight Lines seem to be going down well with the crowd as I push my way to the front. They also seem quite well known. There’s plenty of head bopping and even singing along. I’ve not come across them before and their punk/pop/hardcore blended sound could be described as sounding like everyone else’s but it wouldn’t be fair to say that on the few numbers I heard, so I won’t say it, I’ll just think it.

So to another band who could be accused of sounding like everyone else ‘The Subways’. I haven’t seen them for a while and I need to top up this year’s gig list, which is rather low, so I thought why not. They were rather good on the NME stage at the Leeds Fest in 2005, blimey that was a while ago. I saw them at Rock City a year later as well but now they’ve been downgraded a little to the Rescue Rooms. You may say the real reason I'm here is to get some photos of Charlotte Cooper, now a veteran at 25, but you’d be wrong of course.

Some things have changed. Rock City’s little brother ‘The Rig’ is now the ‘Black Cherry Lounge’ and the stage at Rescue Rooms now goes all the way across. Bigger. Tidier. Better? In a summer refit the steps have gone, the bar moved and balcony access is now no longer from some secret door at the back of the main bar where you had to utter ‘Phil sent me’ or something, to get in. The place now finally looks like a gig venue rather than an afterthought. They’ve even got real ale on the bar for crikes sake, heady days indeed.

So some things change but in a way it’s comforting that The Subways haven’t. The band bounce on stage to Gene Wilder’s ‘Pure Imagination’, then bounce their way through early single ‘Oh Yeah’ and basically don’t stop bouncing throughout the night.

Songs from their heavier second album ‘All or Nothing’ rub shoulders with the poppier sound of their debut ‘Young For Eternity’, in pretty much an even split of tracks between the two. In between they mix in a some tracks from their new album, released just yesterday, the style of which seems to fall somewhere between the two.

‘Young for Eternity’, ‘Obsession’, ‘Alright’ the songs tumbles out one after another, each one igniting the crowd and setting off a fresh wave of bouncing by crowd and band alike. It’s nice to see a crowd so up for a gig and a band too. The threesome give it their all from start to finish.

Isn’t there something great about threesomes, I mean three pieces. Concise, raw... limited yet eminently appealing.

Vocalist Billy Lunn tells us ‘Mary’ is about his mum and then goes off for another charge around the stage, passing bassist Charlotte Cooper on the way as she charges in the opposite direction, head banging, hair tossing with her bass guitar.

Billy's younger brother Josh bangs the drums. Legend has it that he was such a wild kid at home that his parents got him a drum kit to channel that wildness. I think he’s still got that drum kit because it’s kind of a mini set. The type they used so sell in the toy section in the back of the Argos catalogue, perhaps.

The new album ‘Money and Celebrity’, takes a pop at celebrity culture with tracks like current single ‘We Don't Need Money to Have a Good Time’ which provokes another a surge of energy from the crowd. As does the older ‘Shake! Shake!’ which goes down a storm with lots of, well, shaking.

The best moments are the older ones though, the slow building ‘I Want to Hear What You Have Got to Say’ being rolled into ‘Rock and Roll Queen’ was a clear highlight.

Billy and Charlotte stand some distance apart tonight on the somehow bigger Rescue Rooms stage, making it difficult to photograph them together. I’m sure this is the norm and not indicative of their eight year romance that ended sometime ago in marriage, to other people. Their relationship now appears cordial, friendly but also businesslike and lacks some of the on stage chemistry of before.

I was particularly surprised to hear that Billy had recently got hitched because he’s cheating on his missus already, tonight Billy is truly, madly, deeply in love with his audience. He urges them to get a ‘circle pit’ going to ‘Turnaround’. After a few false starts, due possibly to a lack of understanding (honestly, youngsters today), they finally get it going. Then after a resounding ‘With You’ they’re off without a word, which I thought was a tad rude.

They return for an encore that opens with ‘Kalifornia’ and continues into ‘At 1 am’ at which point something comes whizzing past my ear and lands on the stage. A bra, a very large bra, in fact a scarily large one. So large that I daren’t turnaround to speculate on the owner of such a huge garment. Clearly our freshly married man isn’t impressed either, as he kicks it into touch. Instead he strips off his own top and dives headlong into the crowd. They catch him and carry him aloft as the band close with ‘It's a Party’, a song about how awesome a party they have on tour.

The Subways remain mostly unvaried but a more upbeat rock band you could not wish for. They also put more energy into tonight’s performance than a lot of bands put into a lifetime of touring. They’re a band clearly enjoying what they do. Though I still think they may need to move on a touch to survive, if they get time amongst married life of course.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

In The Swing Of Things

More texts from the one exiled in Sheffield and complaints about hangovers. She’s only been there since Sunday and any ways she always told us she didn’t get such things. Still, it sounds like she’s getting in the swing of things. Life is tough though because she’s got no cutlery and has left the vital mayonnaise in our fridge, where it’s currently making friends with the salad cream. Pre last weekend both used to go their separate ways long before they had time to get properly acquainted.

The cutlery situation is almost ironic; we often had no cutlery at home because it was all up in the kid’s rooms, along with all the plates and bowls. Well we can’t be expected to remember to pack everything. It’s another personality building challenge for her to overcome and may involve a trip to Wilkos.

I run part of the way home along the R4 bus route. I do just over five miles before hopping on the bus and then another three after getting off in Bramcote. So, not a bad work out. The boys are pleased to see me and we walk up to meet L from the gym where she’s being aided and abetted by the Mormons, in book form. Which she surprisingly has found fascinating, in an appalled sort of way.

Doggo’s back at the vets again tomorrow. That’ll shock him, twice in three days. He’ll love the attention. Not. Typically just after he got back from his trip to the vets on Monday we found a small lump on his leg, which he’s making worse by licking and biting it. Best to get these things checked out. L suggests we mark the spot where it is by putting a dob of nail polish on his fur. Now that would really freak him out.

(Tuesday 20th September)

Monday 19 September 2011

Nest Flown

L’s off collies. All of them. Oh dear. Clearly not a good walk this morning then. MD’s being a pain and he’s back to moping again, just like when Daughter was in Greece. I think he misses her, we might have to put him on the bus to Sheffield at weekends.

With the kids now having temporarily ‘flown the nest’, to coin a cliché, it makes for an interesting shopping trip. L indulges herself by adding salad cream to the shopping list in the knowledge that is won’t mysteriously evaporate inside two days, and yoghurt. I haven't seen a yoghurt in our fridge for years, they always dig a tunnel and escape. I’m also self indulgently constructing a selection of cheeses for a cheeseboard, in the safe knowledge that an entire block of best Stilton won’t end up on toast for someone’s breakfast.

We’re missing them both really. I send Daughter a good luck text for her first day. She replies saying that ‘Uni is painful’. Not sure if that means she’s had to walk to campus or that she has a hangover. She usually likes to go everywhere in a taxi. Another text tells me that her internet isn’t working. Which makes it feel just like the old times, only there’s not much I can do from 40 miles away. She’ll have to bribe a geeky flatmate with one of the fondant fancies we sent her with. Although I’m not sure she’d give up a fondant fancy for anyone.

Doggo’s at the vets tonight for his annual MOT and booster injection, which naturally he isn’t happy about, at all. MD is more unhappy about it though and L has to sit with him to quell the histrionics when he doesn’t get to go with us. Believe me mate, you don’t really want to. The park will cheer them both up once we get back.

(Monday 19th September)

Sunday 18 September 2011

Tearful Goodbyes

D-Day arrives but first the Notts 5. I can see the anguish on L’s face as she wrestles with the fact that her injury has flared up again and she’s going to have to give this one a miss.

In a rare show of family unity and on her last day in Nottingham for a while, Daughter comes along to support. Which is really nice, I’m not actually sure she’s been to support me before.

The Notts 5 is usually run on a midweek evening in July but this year it was cancelled because the usual course could not be used due to the flood defence works on the Embankment. Yet to keep the race alive they belatedly and hurriedly arranged this Sunday morning version on a new course which starts just shy of the Embankment at The Ferry Inn in Wilford.

The route heads over Wilford Toll Bridge then turns right along the Embankment before crossing the suspension bridge and heading back along the other side of the river path past The Emmanuel School back to the start. Well that’s the route you should do, if you’re the chap ahead of me you carry straight on under the suspension bridge heading for Trent Bridge. Somebody clearly hasn’t listened to the briefing. Although to the fair (well fairer) there should have been a marshal there. All the marshals seemed to be in the wrong places.

I shout him back. I didn’t have to do that but I’m a nice person generally. It still enables me to overtake him, which is more a curse than a blessing as I now have him wheezing along just behind me which is immensely irritating. Eventually he wheezes past me and wheezes a breathless ‘thank you’ in my ear. You’re welcome.

So that’s lap one. Then we do it all again, only this time we do head up onto Trent Bridge rather than crossing over at suspension bridge. I’ve no idea whether Mr Wheezer gets it right this time or not because I’m back ahead of him by now and pulling away from his wheezing but I assume he simply followed me.

This all means that lap two is slightly longer than the first but course wise that is basically that. Hardly an exciting route, mainly flat and straight bar a couple of sharp turns on and off the bridges but not too horrible either. Unless you have a blister on the bottom of your foot of course, which I have. Something I acquired yesterday but it’s amazing how easily you forget about these things once the red mist of competition comes down or you have someone wheezing loudly behind you.

Talking of which, as we approach the finish he is catching me again but I hold on.

I had my mind set on a sub-33 which meant 6:30 miles but my legs were set on a different agenda. Perhaps one influenced by a couple of drinks last night and a Chinese. So although the first two miles are on target, the last three aren’t, but 33:53 isn’t bad.

Only 59 runners is a fairly poor turnout for the race, although it was short notice and there are a lot of races on this weekend. The t-shirt was disappointing too, the same as when I last did this race four years ago.

Then it’s time to load up the car with all of Daughter's worldly possessions (although leaving far too much junk behind for my liking) and Daughter, to head north, as she flees the nest. It’s nice sunshine in Nottingham as we leave but it starts raining as we cross the Yorkshire border. It’s grim up north as they say.

When we find her accommodation, Daughter doesn’t seem overly impressed. I think she was expecting something nicer. A bit like the Ritz and in a posh area. We think it’s actually very nice, very studenty, in a very studenty area. Very appropriate.

I setup her computer, well our computer, as hers expired last week or rather I would if I had the power cable and didn’t have a PS2 mouse and no PS2 sockets. Hmmm. Problem. We off head into Sheffield city centre and find a Tandy to buy replacements. An annoying extra expense but still cheaper and quicker than fetching the bits from Nottingham.

Then just as I’m trying to sort the internet out we get evicted, thrown out, Daughter is off down the off licence with her new flatmates. The very same flatmates she swore she’d have nothing in common with. Alcohol, as ever, is a great common ground. So little chance for a tearful goodbye then or to cartwheel down the street.

(Sunday 18th September)

Saturday 17 September 2011

The Final Meal

D-Day minus 1. Tomorrow Daughter starts Uni so we cleared the decks event wise this weekend until we knew what was happening. Then amazingly, once we knew the details of when she was required up in Sheffield, we managed to find not one but two local events we could slot in.

Tomorrow we reckon we can fit in the hastily rescheduled Notts 5, which is taking place on the Embankment now that the flood defence work is nearing completion. Today it’s the Tails n Trails 5k at Catton Park, which, as you can probably tell from the name, requires a dog. So I’m doing it with MD. There’s a 10k as well but that’s on the Sunday and it’s a bit far to go bearing in mind the maelstrom of last minute packing we’re expecting. Today's race doesn’t start until noon, so we even get a lie-in first.

L decides to enter the 5k with Doggo – the old team. We think ‘Granddad’ can manage an amble round 5k, question is, can L cope with the mental stress, 5k’s a lot of sniffing.

The publicity hasn’t been the best and there are only six entrants, consisting of three men and three women. L starts texting everybody before she starts telling them of her podium finish.

There’s also a dog agility show going on as well, one that I wasn’t aware of but I vow to support them and put MD round the practice ring before we leave. Topping all that entertainment wise, is a fun dog show. You know the kind, with categories such as ugliest dog, waggiest tail etc etc. We reckon MD has the noisiest dog category sewn up. On second thoughts we might skip that.

L takes it really seriously and borrows a proper running harness off a chap who looks like he knows what he’s doing. When we start he goes off like a rocket and I didn’t see him again. So he wins, while MD and I pursue him in second place. We probably pursue him faster than necessary and I rush MD through the many drinks stops - bowls for dogs, nothing for humans, in an attempt to defend our position. A cup of tea at half-way would have been nice; something to do while MD has one of his mega long drinking sessions. We lose by three minutes but come second by a further six minutes, so as I said, the haste was perhaps unnecessary.

Our time isn't great but the course turns out to be on the long side, 3.6 miles rather than the 3.1 miles a 5k is supposed to consist of.

Once finished we go out to the edge of the course to cheer L and Doggo along, which doesn’t quite work out. Doggo grinds to a halt when he sees us cheering him along with still around half a kilometre to run. L accuses me of sabotaging their run. So I lash MD to a nearby tree, climb over the fence and go join them for the last stretch. This gets Doggo moving again. It upsets MD though, the howling was pitiful.

We get medals, rosettes, dog biscuits etc. In fact we got a goody bag before we started and another one afterwards. It doesn’t get better than that!

Derby were playing away at Nottingham Forest today in a lunch time kick off. I had considered going but after losing our last two games couldn’t face the humiliation. This is a decision that is looking exceedingly wise when within the first few minutes of the game Derby’s goalkeeper is sent off and from the resulting penalty Forest take the lead. There’s no way we’ll come back from that... but, oddly, amazingly, we do. Derby equalise and then score a winner. Victory is achieved despite having ten men for almost the whole game. Humiliation is suddenly on the other foot. Another one of those ‘I was there’ moments, only I wasn’t.

Daughter has requested a final meal, just like a condemned prisoner has on their last day on death row before they’re finally summoned for execution. I’m surprised she can fit us in with all these goodbyes but we are glad to oblige. We’re not over enthusiastic about her choice, our local Chinese Mr Man's. It has a great reputation but we’ve never rated it. Well, at least it’s in walking distance.

One of the problems is they always seemed to rush you and it’s always uncomfortably packed. By arriving a bit later I hope we’re cracked this but we still have to fight off three requests to order drinks and then three requests to order our food before we’ve had time to properly peruse either menu.

Thereafter things get much better. It goes quieter, I think they realise it’s now too late to reuse our table and they leave us alone to enjoy ourselves. Food wise, we avoid the set menus, which is our usual choice and go a la carte. Much better, a very good meal. L even says it’s possibly the best Chinese we’ve had, although, I have to say I was trying to choose un-Chinese type meals. I have Pepper Steak and Daughter has Mongolian Lamb!

(Saturday 17th September)

Friday 16 September 2011

The Scenic Route

I wake up this morning alongside a dark haired girl which is a nice variation but understandably one takes this in their stride and gets acquainted. L's been at the hair colouring and gone dark again. Looks very good.

Then it’s my usual mad dash for the early bus because I want to run into work. I make it with an impressive five minutes to spare, if only it had turned up. Fifteen minutes later I hop on the direct bus to Derby and have to reassess my plans. The driver gestures up the road to where my first choice bus is apparently sitting, broken down.

I get into Derby and end up running down the river, across Pride Park and through Alvaston Park. The scenic route to work. It doesn't work out too badly in the end but the run was shorter than I had planned, only around three miles.

Tonight L and I rendezvous after work in Long Eaton for the 2nd Long Eaton Beer festival. It was rather good last year and L is looking forward to copious amounts of last year’s beer of the festival ‘Cakewalk’ from local brewer Funfair. Ah. I don’t know if I dare tell her. Bad news... no Cakewalk, in fact no Funfair at all. We'll cope.

That is, once we get there. I’m a bit late but make it just in time before L resorts to pre-drinking something orange with the local teenagers in the Green, then we have to shelter from the deluge in shop doorways during which L spots a job she fancies, in a funeral parlour...

It’s not often that beer festival bands are any good but tonight entertainment is provided by Long Eaton’s own Verbal Warning who are very good. Their old skool punk and new wave, along with a few of their own numbers, go down well with the ale.

We cope very well indeed with the special of the festival, Bill Camm Stout brewed by the local Nutbrook Brewery and named after the late Borough Councillor for Sawley who was also a County Councillor. It’s not often anything to do with local government is worth a mention but this is. With due reverence paid to Titanic’s rather tasty Plum Porter and L’s favourite Oxfordshire Ales Marshmellow, which may or may not have had a hint of marshmallow about it.

I think I’m rather restrained, 8 halves. L has the same but two of them are rather potent fruit wines...

Set List


Ramsgate Gadds No. 5 4.4%
Milestone Rich Ruby 4.5%
Nutbrook Bill Camm Stout 5.2%
Titanic Plum Porter 4.9%
Nutbrook Bill Camm Stout 5.2% (reprise)
Three Castles Knights Porter 4.6%
Titanic Plum Porter 4.9% (reprise)
Milestone Old English 4.9%


Oxfordshire Ales Marshmellow 4.7%
Milestone Old English 4.9%
Black Beer & Raison Wine 14.5%
Tower Imperial IPA 5.0%
Cherry Fruit Wine 14.5%
Full Mash Bhisti IPA 6.2%
Nailsworth Royal Flush IPA 5.2%
Oxfordshire Ales Marshmellow 4.7% (encore)

Then L lets me take her for a curry at the Savera. So a very good night all round.

(Friday 16th September)

Thursday 15 September 2011

The Other Side Of The Road

L threatens to get up at six so that she can get into work early. I don’t like the sound of that and offer to take the dogs out instead. Win win situation, an extra half hour in bed with L and a pleasant amble with the boys... MD’s always pleasant for me, well nearly always.

The two other dogs we meet this morning are both mysteriously forced to cross over to the other side of the road by their owners. Anybody would think we had a reputation. The result is, however, a pleasant morning stroll.

A good day all round really, as its pub lunch day today as well.

Ah, then it’s the dog club committee meeting which promises to be well fiery and looking at the size of the agenda, could potentially go on all night.

First I drop the boys off at my parents’, so that they can spend the evening exercising my father, although it’s supposed to be the other way around.

The meeting doesn’t disappoint either in fieriness or length, unfortunately.

(Thursday 15th September)

Wednesday 14 September 2011

The Cycling Gauntlet

I’m hurt, mentally. I’ve been at work for two hours and L’s not asked yet if I’m alive, having ridden the cycling gauntlet again... I could be in a ditch somewhere. She’s apologetic when I point out her lack of concern.

It's probably the pain of being back at work, which is also making her consider drowning her stresses in Waterstones because she’s not allowing herself booze or chocolate this week. AF and CF, well she ought to be BF as well. That mountainous book pile alongside her side of the bed can’t really take another addition. It’s already doubtful whether those at the bottom will see daylight again in myhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif lifetime. AF, BF and CF, L's ABC of being ‘free from’.

The local press are up in arms that they’ve changed the recipe of HP sauce, which was conceived in Nottingham. What they don’t mention is that the once great ‘British’ sauce is now made in Holland. I've been boycotting it ever since. Although Wikipedia says the sachets are made in Telford, so perhaps I’ll nick a few of them the next time I’m out.

I pedal home as fast as I can following an SOS from Daughter. Typically a few days before she goes off to Uni her computer has decided to break down. The prognosis does not look good, as I have a quick look before heading off to dog class.

Meanwhile Daughter heads off out for yet another round of tearful goodbyes before she becomes a Yorkshireite (be careful how you say that) or perhaps the term's a Yorkie? I thought all the goodbye-ing would be done through Facebook these days but apparently not. Although a lack of a computer wouldn’t help...

Christmas is going to be manic for her if during her fortnight off she has to fit in a week of tearful hellos and another week of tearful goodbyes, somehow slotting Christmas in the middle of it.

(Wednesday 14th September)

Tuesday 13 September 2011

A Parting Gesture

It’s still too windy to cycle, at least on tired legs. Although I feel guilty for not doing so, it is actually tough walking to the bus stop with Hurricane Katia in your face. She whips up the remaining detritus of Sunday’s race and throws it at me. They seem to have been a bit lax with the clean up operation this year; there are still loads of bottles strewn across QMC Island.

On the plus side I can get through a bit more of my Logan McRae book which is now totally gripping after a slow start, well... after a slow first 8 hours actually.

Later when I hear that the Tour Of Britain stage from Kendal to Blackpool has been cancelled I feel better about wimping out of cycling. They were worried that someone would get blown off the top of the Pennines or maybe off Blackpool seafront into the Irish Sea.

Tonight we’re in the intimate surroundings of the upstairs room at the Sheffield Academy, complete with a reassuringly sticky floor, as is so often the case in these places. It’s nicely full which is good to see.

Now I must confess that I’m coming a bit late to the party on this one. So late in fact that everyone else has got their coat and is making for the exit, including the band, who announced in March that this will be their farewell tour.

They are of course ‘The Bluetones’, purveyors of thirteen Top 40 singles and three Top 10 albums. All some time ago. Yet they have continued to tour to a loyal but sadly decreasing fan base. I’ve been remiss in never seeing them prior to Splendour this year, despite being an admirer of their early successes. I feel that tonight many others are returning after too many years of absence and if you neglect something it falls apart. Which appears to have been the cause of the demise of the Bluetones. Even the playing the classic album trick, with ‘Expecting To Fly’ didn't do the job. So, now as a parting gesture, we get this final tour.

First though we have Pugwash, shiver me timbers, but they have little in common with the cartoon Captain. I bet they’ve heard that sort of pun a few times but if you pick the name, you get the comments.

They fit the bill as a warm up act for their comedy element as well as for their music. They’re entertaining and easily strike up a good banter with the crowd. The Lindisfarne loving (apparently) Irish outfit have a bit of Liverpudlian thrown in, on bass guitar, actually sound incredibly like Elbow at times. Well until they dig back into their catalogue where the older stuff is more rocking. Lead man Thomas Walsh, for it his baby and has been since 1999, even seems to be going for the Guy Garvey look, e.g. physique or perhaps he had it first.

He’s also not adverse to a bit of name dropping, e.g. ‘Ben (Folds) popped in to do keyboards on this one’ or ‘here’s one I recorded with Neil Hannon’, when apparently they toured as ‘The Duckworth Lewis Method’. Still they’re good, affable and talented not that I’d buy any of their records. I’m just not sure when the right mood to play them would be.

Half an hour later, “breaking up is so very hard to do...” blares through the PA, “just tell me that we're through...”. The Walker Brothers playing “Make It Easy On Yourself”, this as Mark Morriss tells us is ‘the beginning of the end’. Cue boos. He scowls at the booing, we’re not here to boo, we’re here to celebrate the career of the Bluetones.

They open with a couple of album tracks, ‘Unpainted Arizona’ and ‘Zorro’ or as Mark describes them an ‘opening of openings’ as he adds ‘Surrendered’, the opening track from album number five. Odd idea but clever. So let’s spoil it, be pedantic and point out that ‘Unpainted Arizona’ was track number two on ‘Return to the Last Chance Saloon’.

From here the pace is gradually hiked, starting with ‘Fast Boy’, who we’re told is the man who once sold him weed. There after we get the same professional and polished performance that seduced me (belatedly) at Splendour.

Mark Morriss’s vocals blend with the intricate guitar playing of Adam Devlin, together with drummer Ed Chesters and Mark’s younger brother Scott on bass.

Mark is always entertaining to listen to, even when commenting on Sheffield’s road system. Now after sixteen years of coming here on tour, they’ve finally finished it, as the band split up. This acts as his intro to the automobile inspired car ‘Autophilia or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Car’. Unfortunately the parking charges seem to be paying for those improvements. Ouch, as my wallet would say later.

‘Cut Some Rug’ needed no introduction and didn’t get one but Richard Payne, the fifth member for nearly four years did, as he comes over from Australia to rejoin them for this final tour and to treat us to keyboard on the like of ‘Tiger Lily’ from their third album ‘Science & Nature’.

They seamlessly move from one of their oldest tracks, the excellent ‘Bluetonic’ to one of the newest, last year’s ‘A New Athens’ from the album of the same name, with ease and without dropping the quality. Then we’re into a run of singles ‘After Hours’, ‘Keep The Home Fires Burning’, ‘Solomon Bites The Worm’, ‘Marblehead Johnson’ from back when, he says, they were fashionable.

So what words of wisdom have the boys got to offer after sixteen years...? ‘We've learnt many things after years on the road so here’s another song about drinking...’ Cue ‘Carry Me Home’, a recent single that shows that they still had it to the end. Then moving swiftly from ‘a single that didn't sell enough to one that sold too many’ ‘Slight Return’, a track they’ve struggled to throw off the shackles from ever since and Mark always seemed slightly irked that they have to play it.

Then closing with possibly the band’s favourite and mine too, ‘Never Going Nowhere’ and then they go off, promising to return swiftly but in the interim leaving us with an empty stage so that we can contemplate what it will be like from now on, forever. No more Bluetones.

The mandolin, ‘hard to play and look cool’ comes out with one of those blowy keyboard things, A Melodica is it? for a quirky encore of ‘Slack Jaw’ and ‘Vostock of Love’ the B-side to ‘Autophilia’, and that they claim is ‘one if the best we've done’. Not totally convinced about that. Then it’s the traditional close of ‘If...’ before they go off for a second time, leaving us to wonder if that really is it.

Not if the crowd have anything to do with it, impressively picking up the ‘na na na na na’ from ‘If...’ and hurling them back at the empty stage.

So the band return again, in dressing gowns and clutching bunches of flowers to play something that has ‘always been requested of them’... seriously? A hilariously light-hearted but still excellent cover of KC and The Sunshine Band’s ‘Give It Up’. An ‘I was there’ moment I think.

They finally close the night quietly and with little fuss courtesy of an obscure moment from their debut ‘Expecting to Fly’. The track called ‘A Parting Gesture’ is an appropriate way to go. Then with four final final words from Mark, "We were The Bluetones...", they are gone... forever. Well, call me a sceptic, until they reform of course.

The Bluetones Farewell Tour runs until the 27th September, catch them while you can.

(Tuesday 13th September)

Monday 12 September 2011

A Dog Walker’s Nightmare

Daughter arrives home as high as a kite, almost as high as MD is to see her. Which I hope she noticed because she always says the dogs don’t care about her. Not true. Perhaps this is why he’s been so out of it, he’s missed her. She might have to take him to Sheffield with her... not that I’m trying to get rid or anything.

She also seems to have brought home, what according to the reviews is, the standard souvenir from her (slightly dodgy) hotel. A cold.

I hear the boys had an excellent walk this morning, mopping up all the sniffs from the split Lucozade and impromptu loo stops from the marathon. A dog walker’s nightmare.

Then tonight it’s back to school for the boys, well MD. Training restarts.

(Monday 12th September)

Sunday 11 September 2011

Running In The Best City To Run In

I struggle to sleep due to a sore back, which doesn't bode well at all. A week in a tent and the back’s fine but as soon as I get in a comfy bed it falls apart.

So to today’s half marathon in the place which has been crowned the best city to run in the UK. The tannoy keeps telling us this, so it must be true. I can’t say I agree but I haven’t ran regularly anywhere else, so I assume all the other cities must be worse.

There’s a field of around 7,000 for the main two races, the full and half marathons and the start is a bit more chaotic than I remember from last year. Perhaps because of the use of metal barriers on the start pens, which rather than encouraging people to get in their right start areas I think has the opposite effect and you simply get in where you can.

Once we've started though, the brilliant organisation kicks in and it's this along with the excellent support of the spectators and marshals, that makes this such a good race.

It took a mile to get in my stride which isn’t too bad I suppose. My stride being 7.15 per mile pace. Which I hold quite well at first. I’m slightly up at 3 miles and then on pace until 8 miles. Then it collapses a bit. Nothing over 8.00 mind, which is encouraging, although 7.59 for mile 12 was edging it a bit. Mostly my last five miles are in the 7.25-7.40 window, which means simply that I must train harder.

My excuse is that for some reason it seemed hillier this year. L says not. Well at least not until the end where the finish has been made more interesting due to the flood defence work. They zigzag us though the new flood wall before finally taking us up and over it on a steel ramp. It was nearly one hill too far and then still you can’t see the finish because it’s off to the side but eventually I staggered over it.

1 hour 37 minutes is a minute down on my PB set last year but a best for this year, so I can’t be too dismayed or perhaps I can. I’ll ponder that over a pint later.

The goody bag was a bit pathetic again, for what isn't a cheap race. Some cleaning cloths and toothpaste might come in useful but it’s hardly much of a reward for thirteen miles. Thank heavens for the pack of crisps and the mars bar...

The medal is ok, if you like medals, personally I don't and I’d rather have a t-shirt or one of the much maligned and now axed lace panels but probably just because I’ve never had one.

L's quick, a lot quicker than at Leek but a bit slower than at Newark. So she's not happy. She sounds so like me. Today's thirteen miles takes her total over the 200.

By the time we’ve lingered a while to watch some finishers and exited the car park, which takes more than a while, we only have time for a quick spruce up before playing chauffeur to Son’s luggage as we hike it over to his new place in Leamington Spa. I make L drive there on her tired legs, my tired legs bring us back and we didn’t even get a cup of tea. No kettle... or milk apparently... or will.

Finally make it back home and we get to have a debrief in the local.

(Sunday 11th September)

Saturday 10 September 2011

A Report From Down South

Last Monday morning, well more like lunchtime, we headed south to the secret location of our training camp for next week’s Nottingham Half Marathon, or something like that. To start with, we have based ourselves at the not very imaginatively named Forest campsite in the middle of a forest. Rendlesham Forest.

Little did we know that this is the site of reported sightings of unexplained lights and the alleged landing of a craft of 'unknown origin' in late 1980. It is perhaps the most famous UFO event to have happened in Britain and they have a ‘trail’ to celebrate it.

Oblivious to this fact we set up camp next door to a huge encampment that houses three border collies, their owners and a giant rabbit. Yep, the beer is good down here and perhaps we’ve already had too much of it.

A (short) two mile walk to the Oyster Inn at Butley yields four of the local delicacy, Adnams beers, but more specifically the 4.7% Broadside, which we are already well acquainted with, although at an eye-watering £3.60 a pint. Suppose we are 'down south'. The food is good too. Too good as it happens because I’m too full for their cheeseboard. The pub is dog friendly as well with Bonios on tap. So everyone is happy. Afterwards we wobble back home to the giant rabbit.

On Tuesday we awake to rain on the tent, then after skulking undercover as long as we can we emerge for a three mile 'training' run in the forest following the ‘red’ trail rather than the ‘UFO’ one. It’s a tapering week but my schedule says I should still run around twenty miles this week but for now three will have to do.

I’m not sure it was only three miles. Either the route was longer or we were very slow. Then we go for a (short) walk which gets longer when the cows which are now manning the WWII sea defences won't let us back inland. We have to back track which must have added at least a mile to our route. Thank heavens we’re near a pub and we aim for The Bell Inn at Boyton but it’s closed. Long since closed. 1999 apparently, although it’s still on the maps. oh well, it’s only a three mile walk, in the rain, to the Oyster Inn. So we head there again and I revive L with more Broadside.

They even provide a fitting sign to commemorate our walk.

I reckon we’re done around 10 miles this afternoon, with the three this morning, that’s a half marathon. Training almost achieved.

We met this chap on the way.

He is St Andrew the Fisherman of Capel St Andrew.

On Wednesday we up camp and move. Visiting scenic Aldeburgh on the way to Southwold.

An interesting clock on the pier.

One of the pleasures of UK travel has always been moving into different brewery areas. Even more so these days with national brands taking over because areas where local breweries dominate are now harder to find. The prospect of a week drinking Adnams, who have their home in Southwold, didn't particularly excite me but how wrong I was as we camp in touching distance of the brewery.

We know their bitter and the excellent Broadside of course but I wasn’t expecting to see seven different Adnams beers on in the Lord Nelson alone. They even have a dark one, the excellent Gun Hill, with which I instantly fall in love with. Named after this place.

Thursday we visit Doggo’s twin brother in Lowestoft. It’s your typical family reunion. Familiarity, followed by mild elation, followed by OMG what now. A pleasant afternoon though, which is followed by the Red Lion, with another impressive Adnams range and better food than the Nelson. Again the food portions are huge which means that's now four days and still no cheeseboard. Scandalous.

Friday and I force L out of the house, sorry tent, for a 5k run with dogs. I ad-lib a rather impressive route with nothing but Google Maps on my mobile. Unfortunately Google Maps omits footpaths and we do it all on footpaths... So thanks Google for nothing.

Then we do a nice harbour walk ending as all harbour walks should at the Harbour Inn.

Only three Adnams beers here and not even a sniff of a cheeseboard but still a pleasant end to the week.

On Saturday we head home. We’re all a little sad as we were really impressed with Southwold. An old fashioned type seaside place without the fuss, the rides, the amusements or the kids, although the school holidays were already over. Of course the sadness might have something to do with the impending 13 miler on Sunday as well.

When we get home no one is as distraught to be back as MD, who is totally out of sorts. He seems gutted to be back to his garden, his ball and everything else. He just mopes around, worse than a post-holiday L and that’s saying something. I'm sure he’d thought we'd become nomads or something.

(Saturday 10th September)

Sunday 4 September 2011


L likes being inaugural. So despite the fact I point out it’s the inaugural Dunchurch bike ride and offer to hire a tandem, we’re here a mere ten miles down the road a Church Wilne for the inaugural Wilne 10k. So too is protégé, so I have competition. This is what his personal trainer has been destroying, sorry I mean training, him for.

It is possibly the most hyped new race I’ve ever known and I mean that in a nice way. The organisers have promoted this race at every opportunity and have been present to push it at many local races. They are rewarded with a field of over 560 entries.

The organisation is impressive apart from one major fail, a distinct lack of loos. Which is a basic thing to get wrong. I could also gripe that the car park and race village falls mid way between the start and finish points, about half a mile from each. This makes spectating for people like my Dad difficult, as he’s not capable of hot footing it from start to finish. He’s happy though and positions himself at the finish which is also the 4k point on this is a two lap course but I do think having the finish by the race village would have made for a better post-race atmosphere.

The race itself went well. Almost as flat as they advertised but not pancake flat. The course was basically a big square, lots of straight flat traffic free sections. We could have done without the rain though. Mainly dry for the actual race but downpours before and afterwards.

The local residents came out in force especially in Draycott and especially the mad woman with the bell, which may or may not have helped. Plus a nice cotton t-shirt at the end, I’m a bit sick of all the technical ones that we keep getting and they usually don’t fit me anyway.

I went for a 42, held a pretty constant pace and just dipped under 42:00 so was happy. Three minutes ahead of protégé, not that I’m counting. As for L, a dodgy groin seemed set to put paid to a good time for her but no. She gritted her teeth and got home in her first sub-57 of the year and for some time. Perhaps her sessions with her personal trainer are helping, I hope she thanks him properly later.

We head off for celebratory Sunday lunch with my parents in nearby Shardlow.

Later we despatch Daughter to East Midlands airport en route to Zante, which is apparently a Greek island. She’s on a Club 18-30 holiday, which is a terrifying thought. She withdraws money on the way, her own money. Never seen that happen before.

In the morning we’re off as well. We’re heading down to Suffolk for a holiday and to touch base with Doggo’s twin brother. I kid you not.

(Sunday 4th September)

Saturday 3 September 2011

Ahead Of The Game

A dog show today down at Huntingdon which is around 90 minutes drive but was nearly more as I had to quickly detour via the M1/A14 as the A1 was closed due to some light aircraft coming down somewhere it shouldn’t have. Luckily I heard about it on the radio within a mile of setting off, so changing route was easy.

Doggo starts the day off and we mess up his jumping course when I omit a command I didn’t think a dog with his vast experience needed but clearly did. So my fault I suppose. MD though it is sparkling form. The dry ground this week seems to suit him, compared with the paddy fields of last week and no poles go down.

He opens up by going clear on a G3-5 course, which unfortunately isn’t split by grade. This means we are directly competing against dogs in the two grades above us. Typically it’s his best run of the day, where we don’t have much chance of a top placing. Brilliant run though, worth the trip already as we come 11th and are 3rd G3 dog.

Meanwhile L and Daughter are job hunting, for Daughter that is, I think, in Sheffield. Trying to get ahead of the game before she starts Uni in two weeks time.

We have three more runs, which come back to back and all before lunch. Then we just have to wait for the results before we can head home. Doggo is clear and comes 14th. Unluckily the rosettes go to 13th. MD is clear in one of his two, the other is a bit of a nightmare. I think I tried to rush him as the course was clearly winnable. The second one was a bit lucky and very ragged but still good enough for 7th.

A night in with the pasta and sports drinks tonight. Wilne 10k tomorrow.

(Saturday 3rd September)

Friday 2 September 2011


As I’m supposed to be metamorphosing myself into a proper runner rather than a part-time runner I’ve not been spending much time cycling. So today’s cycle to work makes a rather pleasant change. Cycling always gives my legs a nice pleasurable throb afterwards, as opposed to after running when they just plain ache!

I’ve been spending far too much time running, in my opinion anyway, although actually not enough according to the training schedules. I ought to be doing 30-40 miles a week if I’m taking it seriously. Gulp.

I contemplate that thought again later in our local.

(Friday 2nd September)

Thursday 1 September 2011

End Of Season Bash

September. Another month gone. Soon be Christmas. I had pencilled a speed session with L in for this morning but she’s injured, although she’s playing it down.

Things are getting a bit hysterical at the World Athletics Championships. Jess Ennis didn’t win, although she actually amassed more Heptathlon points than she did when she won the title two years ago. So hardly a disaster, as she’s improved. While Mo Farrah ran a 53 second last lap and still lost the 10,000m. There’s not much you can do about that.

Today step forward Dai Greene with a gold in the 400m hurdles and Hannah England with a great run in 1500m to get a silver. A silver that gets treated a bit different to the silvers of Ennis and Farrah.

I try and book a tennis court for tonight but can’t. The Tennis Centre’s computer has now decided that it’s dark at 7pm and won’t let anyone book a court without floodlights but all the courts with lights have already been booked... so in theory we can’t play even though all the unlit courts will be free and it's light to past 8pm. So I book a floodlit court from 8pm but we’ll turn up at 7pm anyway and find an unlit one.

I'm there at 6.45 to take full advantage of the light, my opponent arrives at 7.10 by which time I’m shattered. Serving to oneself is an exhausting business, all that walking around the net to get the ball.

It’s our final tennis game of the season. It’s back to squash the next time we play. Thankfully. So it’s the end of season bash tonight in the White Hart with the Abbot and the £5 curries. Even Son walks down to join in the celebrations, well, for his tea.

(Thursday 1st September)