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

Monday 31 October 2011

Just A Normal Night

Nottingham is named as one of the greenest cities...

Hmmm. Extremely unlikely.

It's Halloween today and as I head off to dog training there is an almighty traffic jam in the middle of Wollaton. The cause... two witches in little black numbers with pointy black hats lingering outside the local pub. Totally disrupting the traffic, with everyone slowing down to admire their hemlines.

Meanwhile L meets a couple of vampires on Ilkeston Road. Just a normal night in Wollaton then.

Luckily both the boys are at dog training tonight, what with trick or treaters and fireworks, Doggo would probably have dug the walls down. Hopefully in the middle of nowhere where dog training is, it should be quiet. It is but when we get back to Beirut, I mean Nottingham, we have to quickly rush him back into the house.

(Monday 31st October)

Sunday 30 October 2011


I take L up to Sheffield today for the erroneously named Sheffield Ten-Ten-Ten at Endcliffe Park.

Last year the race ran on the 10th October 2010, this year 30th October 2011. So Thirty-Ten-Eleven then. Still starts at 10am though and still 10k.

I’ve decided to give this one a miss. I need a break but also looking at the photos of last year’s race put me off. Is that grass they’re running on? It rather looks like it and muddy grass at that. It’s also two laps. On closer inspection it looks remarkably like two laps of Wollaton Park... and I've done that often enough.

I decide to help the boys with their supporting. When I see the bacon sarnie stall it looks even more like the right decision. I’m not at all jealous of L on this one, it looks a very slow course, but the t-shirts are nice.

After which we meet up with Daughter and her flat mates, who are an interesting bunch. The boys seem please to see her, although MD mopes again afterwards when she doesn’t return home with us but he gets over it much more quickly this time.

To help ease his pain we walk them over to Beeston for a pint or there, shepherding Doggo successfully (mostly) past the odd firework display as we go.

(Sunday 30th October)

Saturday 29 October 2011

Suitably Impressed

I drive out to Ruddington today to the company who installed my double glazing over 15 years ago. The handle of the bathroom window came off in my hand... Clearly I don’t know my own strength. They are more than willing to help and supply me with a free replacement handle. I am suitably impressed.

I am also suitably impressed when Derby score three great goals against Portsmouth this afternoon. Although after that they throw in an almighty wobble just to keep us all interested but still manage to come though 3-1 in the end.

A treat for the dogs tonight, I think. Pet Noodles. Made in just the same way as the human ones with hot water but probably better for you. They even look more appetising.

We stay in tonight to protect the house from Doggo’s digging when the fireworks go off. On Wednesday he fetched a load of wallpaper off the bathroom wall while we were out because the house was presumably under attack. It’s my fault really for replacing the carpet in there with tiles. That carpet was his favourite comfort digging ground, I’ll have to put a mat in there for him.

(Saturday 29th October)

Friday 28 October 2011

Feeling A Bit Retro

I’m feeling a bit retro at the moment, so The Mission’s 25th Anniversary Homecoming Show up in Leeds sounds ideal. I head up straight from work and due to the horrors of the M1 still don’t get in to Leeds until around 7.00 and then for some reason I can't find my usual car park. Well, the one I’ve used once before but I must be getting the hang of the place because I find somewhere much nearer and again cheaper than Sheffield, the most expensive place on earth to park. Well at least in the Midlands and the north.

I rush into the venue at 7.15, allowing just enough time for a quick loo break, had it not been half a mile away in the basement, before the first band come on at 7.20. The rush is to see Salvation, another band of the same era and one not easily seen these days. According to the bands website they have played only two concerts since 1991. In 2004 at a Private Party, bizarrely in my home town of Nottingham, that I wasn’t invited to and in 2007 with The March Violets at the Violets own Leeds homecoming show.

They’re a little late coming on, so a chance to look around. I’m at the Leeds Academy, yes another one of those. Better known, back in the day, as the Town and Country Club and if you’re really old, before that the Coliseum. The place has been out of circulation for many a year, carrying on as a just nightclub, before it got Academy-ised in 2008. Now it’s being used again as a 2,300 gig venue, although with some of those up on the balcony.

Salvation are from Leeds and have had links with The Mission over the years, touring with them quite a bit back in the late 80's. I’m quickly transported back in time by ‘Diamond Child’, ‘She's an Island’, ‘All and More’ and ‘Thunderbird’. Cue jokes about Thunderbird wine. Is that stuff still available? All this accompanied by a gentle mosh for the attending over 40s.

Four of the five band members tonight date back to the heyday of the band, so it’s another reunion on stage this evening. To their credit they sound exactly the same as they did back then, right down to Danny Mass’s distinctive voice. The only thing that has changed is that they’ve got older. I mean we've all got a bit less hair these days but blimey. Danny had such a mop...

Then it’s great to hear the old favourite ‘Listen to Her Heart’ before they end a nine song set with ‘Why Lie?’

Being nicely gothed out after that, it seems a bit unfitting to have the Wonder Stuff up next, who don't really fit the blueprint. No offence boys... and girl. Still I've never been an objector, and I don't think I've ever seen them live. They are billed as ‘very special guests’ tonight, Wayne Hussey and Miles Hunt are the best of mates and have toured together, so it’s an understandable choice.

They start well with ‘Red Berry Joy Town’ with Hunt taking the stage with a bottle of wine in hand. Their set is good and the band lots of fun. Miles Hunt and co clearly love what they’re doing and that comes over from the stage. The downside is the nutters in the mosh pit that they attract. It gets exceedingly lively and this is just the warm up act.

They lose me in the middle a bit, going shall we say a bit baggy and folksy at times. Having a fiddle in the band I suppose makes this inevitable but at least it quells the violent moshing.

Which returns for a lively finish of the all the favourites:- ‘Size Of A Cow’, ‘Don't Let Me Down Gently’, ‘Give, Give, Give Me, More, More, More’ etc. Which causes Hunt to question whether he’ll be in trouble with Mr Hussey for tiring out his audience.

Near the end Erica, the violinist, disappears to change out of her party frock (shame) and returns dressed as a skeleton. Ready for Halloween I assume but still a bit odd.

Personally I think they were given too much stage time but the promoters clearly though two supports with a good fanbase were required to sell out the venue. The alternative would have been perhaps a smaller venue? Because at the end of the day it’s all about the Mission and they’re up next.

If you were a teenager in the eighties looking for an introduction to the world of live music in tight sweaty venues with all the trimmings that go with that you could not really have done better than discover the Mission. They seemed to be in Nottingham almost every other month throughout 1986-1988 and I had many a joyous evening at these fist pumping affairs. Time to dig out the old t-shirts, I’ve got a 1987 one but sadly not one going back to 1986.

I haven’t seen them live since 1990, when a move to bigger venues and the awful ‘Masque’ album tested my loyalty, as it did many others. The band itself started to implode at around the same time and that really should have been that but Wayne Hussey soldiered on with Mick Brown, the drummer, until they disbanded in 1993... before reforming a few years later and playing with differing line ups until finally calling it a day with a run of farewell shows at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in 2008.

Now it's the 25th anniversary, so there's money being waved around and money talks but Hussey has got original members Simon Hinkler and Craig Adams on board although sadly not Brown. Still it’s got me on board and what better place to rekindle the faith after 21 years than in Leeds where it all started.

What's more they seem to be up for it and it’s an absolutely fantastic opening, as the ‘Dambusters’ theme draws to a close and they open with the slow building, brooding ‘Beyond the Pale’ from their second album, ‘Children’. I think I'm the only one who would choose that as their favourite album. It feels like a proper album, whereas their first album was simply an accumulation of the stuff they’d been playing live. ‘Children’ had the feel that they’d actually sat down and written it. Sadly they only play two from it tonight.

Next up ‘Hands Across The Ocean’, which seems a bit out of place, taken from the ‘Grains of Sand’ album which was basically an album of tracks that hadn’t made the cut for the previous ‘Carved In Sand’ offering.

Thereafter, it’s pretty much early Mission classics all the way. ‘Serpent’s Kiss’ ignites the floor before ‘Naked & Savage’ calms things down again, a touch.

For saying they’ve had less than a month to rehearse and a new drummer (who was excellent), the band sound great, looked relaxed and the old magic was there to see.

‘Garden of Delight’ was as good as ever but I’ve never been a fan of the band playing ‘Severina’ without Julianne Regan who contributed so much vocally to the original.

Hussey reminisces about Leeds and not very fondly. He recalls shooting a video here, in the old Town & Country Club but also of his house being burgled every time he went off on tour. Hussey actually hails from Bristol, Hickler as it turns out is from Sheffield, leaving Adams as the only Leeds native but never mind. Great to see Hinkler really getting into the part, complete with a hat again, nice touch.

I forget how good ‘Butterfly on a Wheel’ sounds but remember how the appeal of ‘Stay With Me’ passed me by and still does. Before which Adams is persuaded to do the ‘Vigilante Man’, which I’ve never heard him do before. The guy really looks like he’s having a ball.

It good to hear ‘Wake’ included with Hinkler at the piano, a very early classic that always used to steal the shows and does again tonight.

Then it’s a not so satisfying ‘Wasteland’ remix followed by a thumpingly good ‘Crystal Ocean’ and finally ‘Deliverance’ which provides quite an ending. Adams and Hinkler leave the stage but Hussey remains to lead the audience in the singing. Then he goes too, leaving just Mike Kelly, the man drafted in to play the drums and thereby halving the average age of the band at the same time. He stays to the end, with the crowd still singing. Very effective and effecting.

After just twelve tracks their gone. As I’ve said, too many support bands. While we await the encore I ponder the fact that many of the audience still look good in basques etc well into their 40s and as for the women...

Hussey returns to play ‘Like A Child Again’ solo, a track that comes from that much maligned ‘Masque’ album and it sounds infinitely better acoustic than on record. With its ‘Like a Hurricane’ reference it leads into, what else but, ‘Like a Hurricane’. Then it’s a soaring (you have to use that word) ‘Tower of Strength’.

Then they’re gone again, returning for the classic that is ‘Blood Brother’ and the traditional cover of Iggy’s ‘1969’.

In all, a very good night. The only criticism would be that it was felt just like a Mission concert from twenty years ago, rather than an anniversary one... well, perhaps that’s no criticism at all.

L has been nagging me all day to take supply of biscuits and to get a coffee for the journey home, to make sure I’m awake. She was after all a good girl and had a biscuit every time I told her to when she was giving blood last night. She also had several when I didn’t tell her to as well but we’ll gloss over that. I do as I’m told but I’m buzzing after the gig so there’s not risk of nodding off anyway.

(Friday 28th October)

Thursday 27 October 2011

Mud Surfing

It’s drizzling as I wheel the bike out this morning and then it gradually gets worse as I ride. So, soaked again and this time in both directions as the rain comes back in the afternoon as well.

I haven’t managed to get a squash court for tonight both remaining sets of council courts are booked up. It’s a good job the council closed the surplus courts because there was no demand. We book for Tuesday instead, pulling the rug out from somebody’s regular slot. I don’t like doing that but feel we have no choice.

L is out doing vampire duties tonight, giving blood. Rather her than me. I’d be no use anyway and it would take at least three blonde nurses to bring me round afterwards.

So I get to indulge myself in the kitchen whilst she is out. I enjoy cooking and I particularly enjoy cooking with the radio on and a glass of wine in my hand (which is allowed on a Thursday but not Monday - Wednesday). I top off the indulgence by having the cheese and biscuits to hand, to tide me over until the food is ready and L gets home to share it with me. Meanwhile the dogs urge me to kick their footballs so that they can mud surf across the garden.

L texts to say the deed is done and she’s having a bourbon. I’m initially impressed that they’re serving alcohol to the donors and was about to ask whether it was Jack Daniels, then it dawns on me she talking biscuits. I tell her to have another one to up her sugar levels, she’s earned it, not realising she's already on her sixth.

I decide I best go collect her before she has any more, she probably shouldn’t be wobbling home on her own anyway.

(Thursday 27th October)

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Nice Work If You Can Get It

L’s at the gym, despite the fact that the Daily Mail has been issuing dire warnings about exercising in the morning. Although it’s wise to ignore most things in the media and everything in the Daily Mail.

I do actually find running or cycling much easier after work than before. Not that that’s any indication of whether it does me any good or not. One thing’s for sure, that driving to work is bad for my stress levels, as well as doing nothing for my health.

Just to make sure, L goes in the evening as well, with the Daily Mail’s approval.

I meet her there later and we do our pre-drinking, before we hit town, in the leisure centre. We’re on the hard stuff, vending machine mocha. You can’t beat it.

It’s all happening a bit early tonight, at 8.40 Southend's The Horrors quietly shuffle on to the stage at Rock City unaccompanied by any backing music. This is after a venue change from what was supposed to be an intimate Rescue Rooms night, due to them selling that out rather quicker than expected and it’s not far off being a sell out for a second time in the bigger venue.

Then we’re quickly in to ‘Changing The Rain’ off their new album ‘Skying’. It’s a rather ponderous track and sounds ever more so live but from there, things soon pick up. ‘Who Can Say’ from their award winning ‘Primary Colours’ album is much better. Livelier. The same album also probably producing the highlight of the set, a terrific ‘Scarlet Fields’. The new stuff is less impressive but ‘I Can See Through You’, ‘Still Life’ and particularly ‘Endless Blue’ are decent enough but lack the class and the punch of their predecessors.

Throughout, the band beaver away industriously behind a fog of thick smoke and assorted coloured lights. Faris Badwan says little, although he does mumble a few things that we don’t quite catch and introduces some of the tracks.

Then at 9.20 they’re done. 40 minutes and 8 tracks after hitting the stage they’re gone. Perhaps they were just the support... Actually, it’s really a bit pathetic; three albums to pick from and they can only muster the energy for eight tracks. If I’m making excuses for them, then maybe, just maybe, it’s because he’s been suffering from an infected throat, which caused the band to cancel a couple of the dates on this tour, but his voice seems fine tonight, so maybe not. Still, it was good while it lasted.

There then follows a longer than necessary break before the encore and I can't imagine why they need a lie down after that brief performance. That’s assuming we’re going to get an encore. Ah, I see we are.

The encore showcases what was great about ‘Primary Colours’. ‘Mirror's Image’ and ‘Three Decades’ back to back are a potent combination and go some way to alleviating the disappointment of the brevity of the main set, but then it all finishes as ponderously as it started. The band busily jam away to ‘Moving Further Away’, which to me is all intro and no song. It’s musical Horlicks. I'll sleep well. It’s also almost as long as the main set. Midway through it, as nothing much is happening on stage, someone chucks a full pint at the bass player and then Faris himself lights a firework centre stage but I’m still nodding off.

It sounds like a longer ‘Whole New Way’, one of the many tracks they've now discarded. There’s nothing from ‘Strange House’ tonight, unsurprising but still a shame. It would have been a test of how good they are to see how well they could weave say ‘Gloves’ or ‘Count In Fives’ in to the set. Tracks that would fit, at a shove.

The length of the encore means it’s just over an hours toil for the lads. Nice work if you can get it. Eleven tracks in all. On the ‘Primary Colours’ tour in 2010 they played fourteen songs when they came to Nottingham. So they're regressing, shaving three songs off their set list. So don’t arrive late when they next tour... or you’ll miss ‘em totally.

Somebody somewhere is giving them bad career advice. The mumbles from the crowd heading for the exits is mixed at best. It was very good in the middle though, while it lasted.

(Wednesday 26th October)

Tuesday 25 October 2011

In Defence Of The Male Honour

I’m back on the bike today. Tuesdays no need longer to be set aside for long runs because I don’t need to do any. I don’t have a half marathon in the pipeline until next year. Which sounds further away than it probably is.

Later, the moment I get on my bike at work and start to ride towards home, the heavens open. This means pulling over and piling on all the wet weather kit I can muster. I had planned on riding straight to the pool and going for a swim but there’s seems little point now. I’ve had my swim on the roads. The prospect of getting out of wet kit and then back into it again after swimming does not appeal. So I skip it.

One thing livens up the damp ride home. I catch and then tuck in behind a nice little bedraggled number on the road down into Sandiacre. Full lycra kit topped off with a waterproof jacket astride a sleek road bike. I know I should go past her in a whirr of testosterone, in defence of the male honour, but there’s always the risk that she might rise to the challenge, fight back and win.

We pull up together at the lights in Sandiacre and exchange the customary pleasantries. An American as it turns out. I wait for her tell me to ‘have a nice day’, which clearly it isn’t, but she doesn’t. Then I realise she’s waiting for the lad on the baby mountain bike that I passed back up the road. He pants up to us in his hoodie and a pair of those heavy cotton tracksuit trousers that have taken on far too much water and are hanging way below the decency line. Only four miles or so to my house he tells her. They do say opposites attract, don’t they.

So no problem defending said honour, as she seems compelled to dawdle along, not exactly with him but just ahead of him, as I push on for home through the rain.

When I arrive in Nottingham it’s barely raining and I don’t think L believes me that we’ve had a monsoon in Derby despite my sodden appearance.

(Tuesday 25th October)

Monday 24 October 2011

Top Of My Wish List

I’m not a great follower of fashion, well no follower at all really, so somebody else will have to explain to me why the lad using the cash machine at Sainsbury’s had a golf tee through his ear. Quite bizarre.

After the trials of running around Birmingham yesterday, a frenetic dog training session was not top of my wish list for tonight but, actually, it proves a good leg loosener. MD will sleep well, as will I.

I may also have picked up another potential client for my fledgling (as in not really started it yet) personal training career. The dog trainer has just booked to do her first half marathon and, when she notices my Great Run t-shirt, mentions that she is looking for training tips.

She has time on her side, her run isn’t until February but my initial thoughts are who picks a February half marathon for their first one? It’ll be cold then. Well no, not if you’re doing one in Orlando. Great, I get Birmingham, she gets Orlando and where did I do my first ever half marathon? Sleaford, the coldest place on earth, in February 2010.

(Monday 24th October)

Sunday 23 October 2011

Top Banana

The race literature welcomes us to the 'former Birmingham Half Marathon' which has been Bupa-ised and is now known as the ‘Great Birmingham Run’ but as this gives no indication to the race distance we won't call it that. It is after all still a half marathon and it’s still in Birmingham.

The blueprint is the same as the equally spuriously named 'Great Manchester Run' which I did earlier this year. That was a 10k by the way. Again they helpfully put your name on your number, just in case you forget who you are and I’m again in the first ‘Orange’ wave along with all the elite athletes and a banana, but more of him later. there are four waves and L starts in wave three (green).

Parking is great and practical at the NIA and of course cheaper than anywhere in Sheffield. Everything is so handy, that we take the dogs and my father.

There’s bound to be considerable focus on the organisation this year following the farce of last year’s 'race for climate change' where a pinch point in the first half a mile caused everyone to walk and the finish descended into a shambles as runners queued up to cross the line. Now though, we get the Great Run's well honed organisation skills and everything runs like clockwork.

We clap as the star runners are presented to the crowd and then a huge roar goes up as the final one is introduced. Ah, Mr Gebrselassie we meet again. No doubt feeling he has to prove a point and show that beating me in Manchester was no fluke. Bring it on.

Then we’re off, funnelled through a bottleneck before the start, so that’s there’s plenty of space when you actually cross the start line. I baulk at having to actually run across the line, preferring to save those twenty metres of energy for later.

The crowd is a little quiet as I set off, perhaps all cheered out after Gebrselassie, but the public around the course more than make up for it.

Due to the lack of congestion, I get a much better start than last year and have to hold myself back a bit as everyone goes off like Usain Bolt on the downhill start. I refuse to get drawn into such a suicidal pace and decide to let the likes of Gebrselassie burn themselves out before reeling them in later.

As we run along Pershore Road heading out to Bournville, it soon becomes obvious that this plan is already in tatters. Here the course doubles back on itself and as I approach four miles Gebrselassie is already heading back and passing the six mile point. Tactics wrong. Again. I give him a reluctant clap anyway.

The elite women go past not too far behind, apparently they were being paced around by a chap dressed as a banana. I dismiss this bizarre rumour; surely it would have been a giraffe. We saw how quick they are last week. I think some folk have obviously had too much blue Powerade.

Yes it’s Powerade and not Lucozade this year. This means attempting to avoid those ‘blues’. There seems something not right about any blue drink, let alone a blue sports drink. Although I still end up with one before eventually getting a red one at the second stop.

There’s plenty of live music along the route including the lady vicar again. The course itself is generally flat until you come into Cannon Hill Park, at around mile eight, where it starts to ramp up. By the time you go through Edgbaston and past the newly renovated cricket ground it’s getting rather serious hill wise.

I don’t particularly feel either my cold or my ribs but still blame them both for my lack of training which means I’m not going to beat last week’s time, which was target number one. I’m certainly not going to be anywhere near last year’s time of just under 1:37 despite getting a much better start. A tight calf for the last two miles doesn’t help although I don’t think it actually slowed me down any either.

A marker at 20k throws me out, particularly as there doesn’t appear to be a 13 mile one. Just how far is a half marathon in km? I try and work it out in my head. Is it 21.1k? Then we’re counting down in metres and the problem is solved. 800m, 600m, 200m, done. 1:40:27. Not bad, considering.

Then someone asks me to remove my chip from my shoe. Seriously, I can’t bend down there yet. I kick my shoe off, wobble as I retrieve it, and then attempt to pull the chip free of the laces. Five minutes later one chip is with the marshal and I hobble off with one shoe on and one shoe off. Ten metres along the road is a woman with cutters who could have cut the dam thing off for me. You should have been down there at the finish love.

Goodie bag wise... I’m sure they must all be in league with each other. More Redbush tea and more toothpaste. Argggh. Although at least there’s a chocolate bar this time. The T-shirt is a bit bland too. Exactly the same as the other Great Run t-shirts with just ‘Birmingham’ replacing ‘Manchester’, ‘Yorkshire’, ‘North’ etc (delete as applicable). At least they have a range of sizes. Cardiff take note. The most annoying thing though is that neither the T-shirt nor the medal say half marathon on them.

15,000 entered. Just over 11,400 competed in the end which is pretty much the same as last year but with a lot less hitches.

My mate Haile won of course in 1:01:29 and looked like he was jogging most of the time. Gemma Steel won the women’s race in 1:12:21, just ahead of the banana, bet she was relieved about that. At least it wasn’t a giraffe eh Gemma?. Seriously though, running 1:14 dressed as a piece of fruit deserves an award of some sort.

I head to the car to rescue first the boys and then my father. He’s been hemmed in the wrong side of the finish by the crowds which are impressively five to six deep along Broad Street. I dig him out and we just get a good position when L bombs past about five minutes ahead of schedule. Well impressive. 02:11:43. Six minutes quicker than last week. Then we all adjourn to the Malthouse for a pint.

Later we try the Admiral Rodney for a change, who have Broadside on and Sunday Lunch, although that wasn’t that great. Then its home to fall asleep in front of the race highlights.

(Sunday 23rd October)

Saturday 22 October 2011

A Thing Of The Past

A whole day in. Chance to take the boys on the park and even do a bit of gardening. I hate gardening but I’m trying to plug some of the holes in the lawn created by MD. My grass growing attempts are actually coming on ok. I tidy up the rest of the garden but don’t have any means of disposing of the waste as our council have decided to suspend our garden waste collection until April. Chuck it in the normal bin they advise. So much for recycling.

I spend the later part of the day on the bathroom floor, tiling it. So when the kids return at Christmas wet bathroom carpets will be a thing of the past. It’ll be wet tiles instead. Not that we’ve had any wet carpets since they went away.

It's an interesting way to prep for tomorrow’s run. I had contemplated dragging L to a film tonight but opt to finish the tiling instead. Followed by pasta of course.

(Saturday 22nd October)

Friday 21 October 2011

From The Elements

I’m protecting the body from the elements in the car again today.

I get to work to find out that, blimey, one of our systems and one I’ve done the vast majority of the programming work for has been nominated for a UKIT Industry Award. Blimey again. Our company has four tickets for the awards night in Battersea Park and they want me to go. It’s a black tie do, so I’ll have to hire a posh suit!

We’re out tonight in Derby, with some friends I don’t think we’ve eaten out with for about three years and tonight I think we’re at the vary same Mexican that we went to with them last time. Everyone seems happy with this though and it is quite good there. With manage a swift one in the Brunswick first.

(Friday 21st October)

Thursday 20 October 2011

If It's Not One Thing It's Another

If it's not one thing it's another. As expected, my cold has arrived. No idea where it came from but now that’s stopping me training and not my ribs which have now cleared up. Thankfully Sunday is the last big race of my year, so then I can concentrate on achieving in 2012 what I didn’t manage to do in 2011. Namely get that half marathon time down.

I end up taking the car to work. Oh, the shame... and the traffic. Just to add to the fun, the temporary traffic lights in Bramcote were stuck on red this morning in all directions. Chaos. There were some very stressed workmen trying to direct the traffic but actually doing a very good job of it.

Thank heavens for the pub lunch to cheer me up.

My health is gradually improving, so in the evening I head to the gym. Which I need to do anyway, if I don’t go once a month I don’t get my £50 cash back and I haven’t been in October yet. I do 10k on the bike, which isn’t much but it’s better than nothing. My legs are then perhaps too wobbly for the dreadmill but I give it a go. When 1.5k into a run, my headphones keep falling out of my ear and putting them back in makes me even more wobbly, I decide it’s bordering on the dangerous at 13kph. So I abort and take the dogs for a walk around the University Lake instead whilst we wait for L to finish pumping her iron.

(Thursday 20th October)

Wednesday 19 October 2011

The Leaper’s Residence

I had planned to top up last night’s run with a shorter one this morning but I can feel a cold coming on and daren’t risk it. So I wimp out. L accuses me of overdoing it when I should be recovering from Sunday. Hmmm maybe. That’s the sort of thing I usually say to her.

As I walk to the bus I see L and the boys across the other side of the green. All seemed to be quiet and civilised to me but I’m assured that was just a blip. She says she still wishes we had Yorkies. She doesn't mean that. Often.

I’m out in Derby tonight and there’s already a worrying amount of Christmas decor out around the area. We eat at one those Wetherspoons that isn’t a Wetherspoons which in Derby is right next door to the Wetherspoons that is a Wetherspoons. If you’re with me... it’s called The Thomas Leaper and it’s a Lloyds No 1 or something. It used to be a Yates’s but we don’t like to talk about its dubious past. Apparently it was once Thomas Leaper’s house, hence the name. An impressive pad.

Talking of Wetherspoons. Thanks to them my student haven is back. They have kicked out Varsity and resurrected the Gooseberry Bush where I spent many a happy hour and wrote many an assignment with a pint in one hand and a pen in the other.

(Wednesday 18th October)

Tuesday 18 October 2011

A Poltergeist Moment

I’m not sure the legs are up to a long run yet but I plan to attempt something tonight and see how far I get.

In Canada a British man has become the world’s oldest marathon runner after completing a race in Toronto at the age of 100. Good on him and it shows there’s hope for me yet.

Meanwhile that bloody giraffe is all over the Welsh press. He's even got his name in print. Mr Sub-1:40, not that I’m bothered but he can consider his card well and truly marked.

At work, our air con system has a poltergeist moment and turns itself on, full blast, emptying the room of paper and pinning everyone against one wall. Someone had to remove some ceiling tiles and poke a ruler into the roof space until they found the isolating switch. Quite exciting really, especially for a Monday, sorry Tuesday morning. It is my first day back, it feels like a Monday.

So to tonight’s run, which isn’t bad actually. I plan on 16km and get as far as 14.5km before I decide I ought to head home in case L hasn't got back to the boys. So all systems go, perhaps, for Birmingham on Sunday.

(Tuesday 18th October)

Monday 17 October 2011

In Search Of The Greasy Spoon

Thwarted for chips last night, we depart Cwmbran this morning and look for a greasy spoon cafe for breakfast. Well actually in the end we look for something a bit more highbrow and head for Ross on Wye, which sounds like it might be a bit posh or is that Hay On Wye? Once there, Ross not Hay, we find a nice little cafe but the breakfast still has all the hallmarks of greasy spoonism, so I guess that’s a result on all fronts.

They’ve predicted a cold snap and maybe they’re right for once because at home the heating comes on, all on its own. So it must be cold. I hope it’s not been doing that while we’ve been away. I give it a right lecture on the price of gas and eventually it goes off again in shame.

I have a committee meeting tonight which I’m not looking for to. The arguments have carried on spasmodically via email ever since the last meeting and predictably they are soon back at full throttle once the meeting commences. It all culminates with one of the argumentees walking out with less than half an hour on the clock. It doesn’t get any more exciting than this at the dog club. Funnily enough once they’ve gone everything continues apace, we get loads covered and finish on time at 9pm for the first time in the year I’ve been on the committee. Way to go.

(Monday 17th October)

Sunday 16 October 2011

Giraffe Trouble

We leave the cottage at 6am for the twenty odd mile drive into Cardiff. The race doesn’t start until 9am but as we have the dogs with us the plan is to find a covered car park (in case it gets sunny) and as close to the start as possible.

By 6.50am we’re sorted, parked in a multi-storey overlooking the start/finish. So that’s one tactical plan executed to perfection, now just the race to go. Parking is only £4 per day, all day. Sheffield take note. Soon after that we’re walking the boys around the race village. It’s our first time visiting Cardiff and we’re quite impressed.

We have our photos taken in front of the Tardis...

well it is Cardiff and isn’t that it’s most famous landmark? We even get to see the 2012 Olympic torch. All this and before it’s even light. That's a first, never turned up for a race before when it’s still been dark.

The race gained some notoriety and publicity in 2010, when it turned out to be short by nearly 200 metres. It doesn’t seem to have done it much harm with all 15,000 places sold in advance; although only just over 11,000 make it to the start line. Rumour has it that the missing 4,000 are all men who only entered because Sky TV babe Charlie Webster had her pretty face plastered all over the pre-race literature urging us all to come join her.

Only for her to tweet that she’s ‘Gutted not doing Cardiff half marathon this morning as planned...’ due to injury and nothing to do with the fact that the lifelong Sheffield United fan is covering the Sheffield derby for Sky Sports today...

Well our own organisation has run like clockwork, now what can the organisers do. There were complaints about congestion at the start last year so they’ve decided to colour code it this time. Although there are only three bib colours and they’ve put me in the blue sub-1:30 category. What are they like? Or more likely what the hell did I put on my entry form?

I feel for one of my comrades in the blue zone who comes out of one of the portaloos, falls down the step next to them and starts rolling around on the floor in agony. Oh dear, that ankle is not going to like doing 13.1 miles much.

Then Jamie Baulch starts us off and things go quite well at first. Although, I start too fast obviously. A point that is driven home when a herd of around 100 wildebeest trample me underfoot just past the three mile point as they charge past in pursuit of a chap carrying a little board indicating that he is the 1:30 pacer. Not much point tagging on the back of them, that's well beyond me today.

The drinks stations are a bit odd. Water at three miles, Lucozade sport at six and then what seemed a really huge gap until ten, by which point I was gasping and covered in energy gel. Gel that I had been carrying in readiness for a drinks station at around eight miles, which never came. Then there’s a final, rather pointless one in the last mile.

Oh and they handed out bottles with screw caps at that first water station, so I imagine the road was cobbled with thousands of them by the time the runners nearer the back came through. Not pleasant and a bit of a basic organisational slip up.

Other than that I must compliment the marshals and the crowd, who were excellent and out in numbers. Also the band outside the Royal College of Music and Drama. Overall there was a really good atmosphere and it was good running past all the Cardiff landmarks. Although later I find out that L has missed most of them, which is an allegation she usually levels at me. How could she have missed the likes of Cardiff Castle, the Millennium Stadium and the A4232 Link Road? Actually I’m sure she didn’t miss the link road. That long dual carriageway section was probably not to everybody’s liking but it was to mine. I like a bit of ‘switch off and plod’ and the views were actually great from there as well, the scrap yard aside.

These nice wide roads replaced the ‘popular’ pretty park sections, where everybody fell over everybody else’s feet, last year. So they’ll be complaints but you can't please everybody and anyhow who gets time to take in the splendour of a park while they’re running.

It’s at around this time that the Almighty decides to give me a sign of just how badly I’m actually doing. The giraffe, all twelve feet of him, nonchalantly sidles past me, waving to the crowd as he goes. I’m not the only one to be a little bit put out by this. The guy behind me appears to be organising a lynch mob, if only we can catch the thing, which at the moment looks unlikely.

The dual carriage way is livened up by the hairpin turn at the Bute tunnel which, with its proximity to the finish, is packed to the rafters with supporters and provides a very welcome spur to the aching legs. Then the last few miles across the barrage and through the Penarth Marina are pretty awesome, particularly as it was such a nice day and despite the fact some of us were being paced home by a giraffe who was about to go sub-1:40 and we weren’t. I mean, come on, who’s ever heard of a sub-1:40 giraffe?

Close though. 1:40:10 at the finish line in the bay. A finish line that has been a bit nomadic over the years, it’s been in the Civic Centre, the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Castle and now it seems to have settled in the bay. A good location but the Millennium Stadium would have been nice too.

I’m pleased with my time, considering the rib situation and I’m only 37 minutes (say it quick) behind race winner Edwin Kiptoo of Kenya, who set a course record time of 1:03.26. Smart arse. That is assuming he didn’t get the bus like that guy from Sunderland.

They’ve added a t-shirt this year which is good, the only problem being they’ve only ordered two sizes, medium and extra large. So naturally, and to the surprise of no one except perhaps the organisers, practically everyone goes for the mediums and they run out at around the two hour mark leaving a lot of women acquiring nothing more than an oversized nightie for their two hours of slog. The men doing over two hours weren’t that impressed either. Not good.

L comes in, not happy with her performance, let alone her new nightie. She’s becoming so like me as regards her performance and she is actually four seconds quicker than a month ago in Nottingham. I say at least it was flat, L protests it wasn’t. Well pretty much flat, except for those hilly bits.

The goodie bag yields yet more Redbush tea and yet more toothpaste but not much else. I’ve only just got down to the bottom of the two mini tubes of toothpaste we got from Nottingham and its not pleasant stuff. There is a sports drink in there but I think it’s from Aldi. So we decide that the appropriately Welsh Brains SA is a much better way to rehydrate before we head back to the cottage.

The Cardiff Half Marathon is still a race with teething troubles and rough edges but it was still brilliant fun. I’d recommend it.

We crave fish and chips as post race nosh but I can safely say that there are no chip shops in Cwmbran. At least non that opens on a Sunday. We checked thoroughly, driving around for ages before we finally found a Chinese and settled for that. Then the Bush Inn again, no band this time and more Caerphilly beer.

(Sunday 16th October)

Saturday 15 October 2011

The Housing Estates Of South Wales

This morning MD sits intently watching the glass box thing that I step into to have a shower, just like most people would watch TV. Strange dog.

We discover that our cottage is pitched on a (small) mountain between the two housing estates of Cwmbran and Pontypool. It’s still quite pleasant though.

We take a walk around an ex-reservoir, dating back to 1884, and then on our way back down we pass an about to be very disappointed fisherman on his way up to it.

We try to find an afternoon pub but they're all derelict and/or the type you’d find on a housing estate and/or full of distraught Welsh rugby fans still drowning their sorrows six hours on from defeat to France. Well apart from the one we went in last night but we’ll probably be back there tomorrow.

So, at least it means we resist temptation and get to stay AF, staying in at base camp with pasta and time to contemplate tomorrow.

(Saturday 15th October)

Friday 14 October 2011

Base Camp Cwmbran

We head off to base camp for our assault on Cardiff and get seriously delayed on the way. The A40 isn’t moving at all and has according to the traffic websites a three hour delay. So we detour through some very narrow lanes and eventually Abergavenny. At least we see the sights.

We are actually staying in Upper Cwmbran and our cottage resides on mountain road. I guess it’s going to be that unmarked one snaking steeply up the mountain. Yep.

It’s a nice cottage with a wonderful stone staircase with a polished wooden landing which makes an ideal launching pad for the dogs to plummet headlong down the stairs. Not for us at home I think, on H&S grounds. We have a choice of bedrooms, upstairs or down. We choose upstairs, perhaps for entertainment value.

Then we head off to the dog friendly Bush Inn. Our narrow lane, mountain road, is quite a scary experience to drive up or down, but it's a positively death defying experience to walk down when you meet something like a tractor coming along it, especially in the dark. The cottage supplies a torch, which is quite literally a life saver.

The Bush Inn maybe dog friendly but I think with a Rock n Roll band playing tonight its better if we stay outside. Good job we’re still having such tropical weather. They serve us homemade pizza, with proper Italian style dough, and beer from Caerphilly. Which isn’t bad although L prefers the wine.

(Friday 14th October)

Thursday 13 October 2011

Speeding Antelopes

On the bike this morning I manage to dodge several manic motorists, a few feral pedestrians and a speeding antelope doing twice the speed limit. Well, perhaps not the last bit. That was someone else wasn’t it, South African mountain biker Evan van der Spuy who got knocked off his bike by a charging antelope. He was mid-race at the time, so it must have really pissed him off.

L reckons/hopes that one day a stag in the park will do just that to motor mouth MD. Ah, she was only saying the other day that he was always calmer the morning after dog class (e.g. he’s knackered) but this morning he disproves that theory.

I have the afternoon off to amuse motor mouth, and Doggo of course, before we head off to the beer festival this evening. I do so on the park. Doggo's first visit with his ball since his operation.

Nottingham’s Beer Festival has long prided itself on offering the largest selection of real ales in the UK. These days they are claiming in the world. In the halcyon days of yore, when I regarded it as the best festival anywhere, they managed this with around 80 or so beers. These days, with the explosion of British brewing, that looks a bit piddling.

Last year they reckoned they had 848 different cask beers on sale, up from 698 in 2009. This year they seem to be aiming for around the 950 mark.

I do wish they’d reign it back a touch. With the 80, a seasoned festival goer like me could soon slash that by half by weeding out the ones they already knew, and then further down to about 15 or so, by removing the beer styles they didn’t like. Leaving just enough for two nights at the festival and space to fit in an old favourite or two. Plus if you found some new favourite among the selection you stood a fighting chance of tracking down somewhere that sold it. These days some of the breweries are so small and some of the beers so obscure that you have little or no chance of that.

In the old days those 80 beers were also ordered in sufficient quantity to last for the duration of the three nights of the festival, so even if you went on the last night you’d have almost the full range to aim at. Not so now, hundreds of those brews won’t even make it through the first night. In fact around 300 or so aren’t even on sale tonight and are being held back for when others run dry. So they’re only actually running a festival selling 600 or so beers at any one time, still impressive but not quite what they’re claiming.

Quibbling about the beer aside it’s always a good night and this year is no exception. Once again held in the grounds of Nottingham Castle and for the first time they are selling beer by the ‘third’ which appeals to L, while I stick to the tried and tested traditional technique of halves. We also say hello to the ‘mini-token’, half the size of the previous tokens but of lesser value too. A third of beer costs two mini-tokens and a half pint costs three. The system works well, once the staff got the hang of it. I had to rip one ‘full size’ token in half to convince the barman it was two tokens! As this was several hours in, I hope he had only just come on duty and therefore hadn’t ripped anyone else off.

With so many beers you have to have a method of weeding down the numbers, so I went for anything with the word ‘coffee’ in the description! A tactic that had mixed results. Meanwhile L’s policy of anything with a 5 on the front of the strength, never seems to let her down.

The beer of the festival, and this was not a thorough survey as we only sampled 18 of the 950 between us, went surprisingly to Castle Rock’s Midnight Owl. We’re not often great fans of our local brewery but this appeared to be darkened version of their Screech Owl and it was simply superb.



ASCOT PENGUIN PORTER 4.5% Camberley, Surrey
MAYPOLE GHOST TRAIN 4.7% Eakring, Notts
COPTHORNE DAMSON PORTER 4.6% Sutton-on-Trent, Notts
BRAMPTON WINTER BOCK 6.0% Chesterfield
TRYST BLACKJACK I.P.A. 5.0% Larbert, Falkirk


LONGDOG LAMPLIGHT PORTER 5.0% Basingstoke, Hampshire
MAGIC ROCK HIGH WIRE 5.5% Oakes, W Yorks
MONTYS MISCHIEF 5.0% Montgomery, Powys
HOLLAND DOUBLE CLOG 5.0% Kimberley, Notts

(Thursday 13th October)

Wednesday 12 October 2011

It's Not A Race

It’s not a race of course; it’s just riding to work. I’ve just discovered the website.

Absolute rubbish of course. SCR (Silly Commuter Racing) does not exist, why would anyone beat themselves up just because somebody with a higher FCN (Food Chain Number), overtook them. Well unless their bike had a basket on the front, or a child seat on the back, or was a folding bike or... well, I think I’ve made my point. I'm a 4 by the way.

We do not play 'The Game', no 'The Game' plays us. Absolute tosh.

So many running stories this week. Chrissie Wellington and her internal bruising, Paulo Di Canio accidentally doing a half marathon, that woman who gave birth almost directly after completing the Chicago Marathon and now we get the guy who hopped on the bus 20 miles into last Sunday's Kielder Marathon and then got off near the finish to ‘complete’ the course.

I’m sure he’s not the first to cheat like that but he’s probably the first to have the nerve to finish 3rd and claim a prize. I just hope he got the hot bath etc with his missus before he got found out.

Doggo’s recovery continues a pace, despite the fact he keeps having a sneaky lick of his wound when we’re out. I’ve been told to bat him on the nose and threaten him with the lampshade again if he does but I think it’s punishment enough that he’s allowed to attend but not participate in training tonight. In fact after MD’s session he jumps out of the boot without being asked, as if saying ‘right, my turn now’. Sorry mate you’re not allowed and anyway you’ve supposed to be ‘retired’. Put your feet up, get the slippers on, stuff like that.

I let him know I’m off work tomorrow afternoon, If he doesn’t tell his mum and promises not to pop any stitches, I’ll take him for a small session on the park with his ball.

(Wednesday 12th October)

Tuesday 11 October 2011

I Know Her Pain, I Think

A week after a horrible run home from work, due to the re-bruising of my bruised ribs, I try again. It’s still not a totally pain free experience but it’s not as bad as last week. Oddly pleasant and very very satisfying. I’ve been inspired you see. Former world Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington came off her bike and did considerable damage to her leg and elbow,

but it was the internal bruising to her upper chest and hip that was the biggest problem. I know her pain, I think.

Was this however going to keep her out of this year’s Ironman World Championships? Nope. An Ironman by the way is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle and a full 26.2 mile marathon run. She's a nutter obviously but an admirable one because not only did she enter, she went and won the damn thing. So if Chrissie Wellington can win an Ironman with internal bruising then surely I can jog as far as Stapleford?

In the end I run almost 14k. Very pleasing and it wasn’t exactly slow either. I could have gone further but I wanted to get back to the boys who were home alone, so as soon as got to where the buses into Nottingham were every ten minutes, I stopped to catch one.

If I’d known that those every ten minutes buses were running twenty minutes late, as a senior gentleman tells me, I would have kept going a bit further. I start to say to him that surely if they’re all twenty minutes late then they’ll still be spaced at every ten minutes but I don’t and somehow the wise old man turns out to be correct.

(Tuesday 11th October)

Monday 10 October 2011

Loftier Ambitions

Do we believe Swindon Town manager Paolo di Canio when he says he completed the Swindon Half Marathon by accident? Apparently he was acting as official starter for the Half Marathon and then was due to run in the two-mile fun run but got lost...

Hmmm. He finished the half marathon in 1 hour 49 minutes, which isn’t much worse than my time when I do one on purpose. So I can't believe he did it by accident. Accidentally on purpose more like. He must have trained to run a time like that.

We have a couple of halves coming up but we have loftier ambitions for the beginning of December as we contemplate entering the wonderfully named Percy Pud 10k in Sheffield. Anything to get out of running around Sherwood Forest in the Edwinstowe 10k that weekend and getting a red t-shirt with Christmas trees on it, again, as is tradition.

Percy Pud sounds infinitely better and there’s no mention of a red t-shirt, instead you get a Christmas pudding, which is at least useful. We need to be quick because apparently the race sold out in early October last year.

True enough in between discussing it and getting the entry forms filled in, it’s full. So we still need to find something to keep us away from Edwinstowe.

After a highly successful dog class I collect L from Borrowash where she’s been meeting up with her rival from yesterday for another run, probably a bit of a debrief and hopefully in L’s case a bit of a gloat. Although she’s not really the gloating type.

(Monday 10th October)

Sunday 9 October 2011

Stress Levels

I drop L at the bus stop at 6:45am with her stress levels reading ‘red’, which is more to do with having to rely on two buses turning up on time and to dovetail together rather than the race itself. The first bus doesn’t even appear on the electronic signs. Some buses do, some don’t. It’s nothing to do with it not being a council bus and the signs being provided by the council of course. Thankfully it is on time, as is her coach to Sheffield. So stress levels falls a little to a kind of deep amber.

While L heads north, I head south to Peterborough, where the weather seems to be fining up after the early rain. In fact it turns out to be another sunny day, at least at the Peterborough Showground.

Up in Sheffield, L claims to be on the front row, of the second batch of starters but even so, that’s nosebleed territory. I’m so proud.

Meanwhile MD continues to frustrate. Beautifully clear for half his first run then a pole goes down, he misses his weave entry, then comes out the damn things completely, twice, then for good measure two more poles down. Faults wise it’s a cricket score and the judge will probably sue us for injury caused by overuse of his arm signalling it all to the scorer.

Second run. MD picks a course with the weaves not only as obstacle number two but also set on the diagonal (which incidentally should not be allowed on this level of course) to release himself before I'm ready. I recover the situation, just, and we storm round clear, yet having wasted several seconds unnecessarily faffing around at the start. We come 19th and oddly get a rosette for that.

So not a great day so far and it's only 11am. Then we sit twiddling our collective thumbs and paws until MD’s final run comes around at about 4pm. I spend some time chatting to the wild life, at what is actually a county show type event.

Then to cap it off a lovely clear from MD on our final run is not ruled lovely by the judge who gave us 5 faults for a see-saw contact that we definitely got. Clearly the judge didn’t agree and he’s entitled to his opinion but then I was a lot closer than him and had the better view of me making sure MD got it. Unfortunately it’s his opinion that counts. We would have been 5th, which wouldn’t have been bad but at least he hasn’t done us out of a win.

Meanwhile Doggo, whose been banned from competing today by the vet, has been ambling around all day, soaking up the concerned attention of everyone and generally having a sniffing good time.

Up in Sheffield L does another 57 minute 10k, so she’s getting very consistent. Now we need to work on getting her to break into the 56s. Her rival for the day is a mere four seconds behind. Blimey. Close then. No wonder she’s straight on the Abbot afterwards as she meets Daughter for lunch.

In the evening it’s my turn on the Abbot as she consoles me in the local.

(Sunday 9th October)

Saturday 8 October 2011

Butter Wouldn’t Melt

The patient has his check up this morning which he passes with flying colours. It’s interesting to note that the grumpy old man, who growls at us when we try and inspect his stitches, is bestest pals both with his surgeon and the nurse. They’re all on first name terms and does he growl when they inspect his stitches, oh no, butter wouldn’t melt.

He’s given the all clear but is banned from agility for a further week. Which means no competing tomorrow and no training on Wednesday. I had already decided to retire him anyway, which means at our next event, which probably won’t be until December, I’ll run him in Veterans.

After a trip to the opticians I actually have the rest of the day and evening free... Hmmm... so what happens now then? I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to do in situations like this. Chill out and watch TV or something? Not sure I know how to do that. So L and I embark on a bit of a house tidy and take a load of stuff to the tip. Not that we’re trying to expunge any signs of Son or Daughter from the place, perish the thought. We miss them dearly, on occasion.

At the tip, the council seem to totally ignore the WEEE electrical recycling regulations (it’s part of my job to know about these things) and dismantle our old computers (four of them!) and other defunct electric items with a large sledgehammer. I could have done that, saved them the trouble and had some fun into the bargain.

Then it’s pasta and a night in. L has a rather serious run and challenge match tomorrow.

(Saturday 8th October)

Friday 7 October 2011

Goose Fair

I continue my half marathon training by bike.

L has the day off with the boys and has the ordeal of taking them on the park for the first time this week. Which entails much sniffing and weeing to catch up on.

Interesting news in Mansfield with them planning to reopen the Mansfield Brewery. Bet they wish now that they hadn’t demolished it three years ago. It sounds like a good idea though. I don't think there's even a micro brewery in Mansfield. I was going to say what they really need to do is get the Mansfield name back from Marstons, the ones who stole it, but it appears they've already thought of that.

The vet calls with Doggo's test results. His lump was benign, just a mass of overgrowth of collagen and fatty cells. Which means little to me but it's obviously excellent news. Now who’s going to tell him he didn’t need to have the operation.

We celebrate by leaving him at home, still convalescing obviously, and going to the Goose Fair because L says she’s never been. 717 goose fairs and she’s never been? I can’t believe I’ve never taken her but I’m happy to oblige tonight. I went a few times in my younger days but it wasn’t me then, less so now.

One thing’s for sure, it’s got bigger. It now takes over the whole of the Forest Fields site and even spills over into the local streets, which didn’t used to be the case. It's actually nice, in a ‘it’s nice to have a big festival’ sort of way but it’s still not for me.

There are certainly more rides than ever before, over 500 apparently, and even more evil ones than before. Were they really swinging people around in a ball thing on a piece of elastic, fifty plus metres above the ground? Although what seems to account for most of the size increase though is the increase in food outlets from which the smell is not that appetising at all. A kind of burgered candy floss aroma prevails.

It’s also all terribly terribly expensive but this doesn’t appear to be stopping people. Recession? What recession? It stops us though, that and fear. We move on through the attractions onto Mansfield Road and the bars.

First the Forest Tavern and then the Lincolnshire Poacher where Woods Wonderful from Shropshire is accordingly wonderful and much cheaper than a ride in a bungee ball.

(Friday 7th October)

Thursday 6 October 2011

Playing Myself

Doggo is finally deemed fit enough to get a proper walk this morning, which must have been hell for L, what with three days worth of sniffs and wees to catch up on.

We lied about the collar. Doggo gets another day in it, much to MD’s disgust.

I’m on the bike and it's a bit blustery to say the least but it’s what I need, a bit of hard training as I’ve got that half marathon coming up and I can’t run far.

The weather is foul all afternoon, luckily just after we got back from our pub lunch, but fines up by the time I bike home.

L runs to Portland Leisure Centre where I’m playing squash and goes in the gym. I find out that my opponent has had to cancel at the last minute but only after I’ve paid of the court. So I play myself for half an hour before getting bored and heading off to meet L. Well at least I didn’t lose.

Tesco Watch. We decide to skip the pub and head home to open a bottle of wine instead but with the White Hart still shut we couldn’t have gone there for a curry anyway. I hope it doesn't stay shut too long. We know what happens to pubs that stay shut for longer than a couple of weeks. They become a Tesco and there isn't one for at least a quarter of a mile round there, so it's a distinct possibility.

(Thursday 6th October)

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Another Day In The Lampshade

The ribs are nudging their way up to about 85%, so I'm recovering a bit after my running escapade last night. Although I have considered cancelling squash tomorrow, which was the cause of the problem last week, but cancelling is so far is still at the considering stage...

There’s only eleven days to go to the Cardiff Half, if I’m fit enough. I’ve had my race number for ages but L’s number finally arrives today. So they do want her after all and now I can’t palm mine off on her.

Doggo graciously accepts his collar for what we tell him is one last day. While MD is still jealous that Doggo has a fancy new collar and he doesn’t. Well, perhaps if its Doggo’s last day in the collar then MD can wear it tomorrow.

L says she waved to our giant spider as she left this morning. I think that’s a hint. I keep forgetting to humanely euthanise it, as requested. Although, perhaps I ought to check with Daughter first, after all it used to be her room mate. The spider seemed to emerge only after L started cleaning her way through eighteen years of dirt in Daughter’s bedroom, now that she’s away at university. Eighteen years... and I bet she can return it back to that state in two weeks over Christmas if she puts her mind to it.

I get home and half expert to find the lampshade collar removed and MD skewered on it but no, Lampshade boy is fine. Although he was a bit slow to come to the door. I assume he was stuck on something by his collar again.

Dog training tonight for MD, who again puts his little heart into it, but again without Doggo cheering him on from the boot of the car. Poor Doggo isn’t allowed to play football either. He’s desperate to but he might split his stitches.

(Wednesday 5th October)

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Run A Minute, Walk A Minute

We go to work and leave Doggo which, because he keeps licking the scar from his operation, means he has to wear the lampshade. Well, the vet actually said we could put a t-shirt on him, but somehow I couldn’t see that working.

So the lampshade it is. If he wasn’t already freaked enough, he will be now with MD laughing at him... or perhaps not. MD actually looks rather hurt and jealous that he hasn’t got one himself. I promise MD that when Doggo is done with it, perhaps he can wear it for a day or two.

Doggo copes admirably with his new attire. Although when I get home it takes him a while to come to the door and I hear numerous 'crashing' noises coming from the kitchen as, I think, the collar collides with various things as he tries to extract himself from under the kitchen table, which is where he likes to sleep.

My ribs, which got re-damaged last week, are now back to about 80%. Most people, I guess, would be off work with that but as I’d rarely describe myself as more than 90% functional, 80% isn’t bad.

The test is can I run home as planned. Nope. My ribs are a pain, literally. I managed about half a mile before collapsing in a metaphorical heap. So I revert to one of those beginners training plans, that they use for events like the Race For Life, run a minute, walk a minute. I soon discover it’s not the running that’s the problem but the breathing. If can hold my upper body still and not breathe then everything is hunky dory. Some ask.

I manage to run/walk all the way to Borrowash, which according to the GPS was 7.6km. After a regroup and a team talk (to myself) on the bus, I get off at Bramcote and run the 5.2 km home from there without stopping. So things are perhaps not as bad as they first appeared. Could I run a half marathon though? As I’m supposed to be doing next Sunday. Hmmm. That’s twelve days away, so I’ll worry about that in due course. In the meantime I think I’ll do the rest of this week’s training on the bike.

When I get home L has gone out for a run too. I hope hers goes better than mine. She has requested something hot and Thai, with coconut milk, for later. So I google that on the internet and having ascertained that she probably does mean food after all, I set about attempting to seduce her with my culinary skills.

(Tuesday 4th October)

Monday 3 October 2011

Nil By Mouth

Straight after his performance over the weekend Doggo is booked in for an op this morning. So it’s nil by mouth for him this morning. He’s going to have a small lump removed off his rear thigh. It could be a large zit or it could be something more sinister but we thought we best find out. As we have insurance on him, that we’ve never used, we’re having the works. Pre-op blood tests, post-op histology and one of those hilarious lampshade collars, amongst other things. We’ve even probably paid extra for tea and biscuits for when he comes round from his anaesthetic. Custard creams are his favourite, so my mother tells me. He gets no such luxuries here, not to my knowledge anyway.

L ‘volunteers’ (phew) to escort the patient to what he will see as a fate worse than death while I sit at work and chew my nails with stress. By the way, no punctures on the bike today.

Then there’s the resident drama queen to cope with. MD will be so jealous that Doggo gets to go ‘out’ and he doesn’t... if only he knew. When L comes back without Doggo, MD transforms into himself into Mr Pitiful Creature, moping by the front door, waiting for Doggo to return. He’s such a lost dog. First Son goes missing, then Daughter and now Doggo.

So L takes the day off to console him, walk him (a lopsided walk with only one dog) and plays endless games of football with him. Which is better than having him sobbing on her knee all day long.

The patient is home before I get back from work, with everything having gone well, although he still looks a bit woozy from the anaesthetic. Now I have to explain to him that’s he’s really not up to attending training tonight and has to stay home to convalesce. Then I head off with MD, who is equally unkeen to be parted from his buddy but he soon forgets when he meets up with all his pals at training.

(Monday 3rd October)

Sunday 2 October 2011

The Heatwave Ends

I’m not sure a full English would do L much good pre-race, so the boys have hers instead. We’ll find out if its good agility food or not in due course. It's a later start time today for the team event, so no bolting down breakfast and no problem getting there on time. Although first I drop L in Fleetwood, to make sure she gets there and isn’t at the mercy of the hour long bus journey. Then I hot foot it back to the dog show.

The heatwave appears to be over and now it’s raining. Thankfully I’m indoors; L though isn’t going to be so lucky with her participation in the Twin Piers Blackpool to Fleetwood 10 miler. Having picked up her number from Fleetwood, she has to get the provided coach back to Blackpool from where the race runs mainly along the seafront back to Fleetwood.

The format of the team event is an agility course and a jumping course with the scores from both added together for each dog, with the top four from each club counting. Disaster number one - only 4 of members of our 8 weak team turn up. Great. Dog wise, this means that a 13 dog team is now down to a team of 5, with, as I’ve just mentioned, the top 4 to count. So we might as well go home now.

On the plus side Doggo and MD both record clears on the agility section, whilst another dog records a clear on the jumping section. Good start. Then a fourth dog gets eliminated on both. So 4 from 4 now then. Our fifth dog gets five faults on the agility but goes clear on the jumping. Promising. (Are you keeping up?) Then Doggo goes clear in the jumping, it’s an easy course, so he was always likely to. For the same reason MD probably won’t, he’ll just go too fast and fell everything but so far, team wise, things aren’t looking too bad. Five clears, and one five faults with two to run. We won’t win but at least it’ll be respectable.

Then as I queue up for the jumping with MD, thinking it’s all up to us, I’m told our teenager, whose excellent dog should have coped easily with the agility, has forgotten to do his run. Thereby taking down any remaining hopes for the team with him. He shrugs it off in the way that teenagers do. Hundreds of miles travelled and much money spent to get here and he misses his run. Then again at least he’s here.

There’s not much need to be clear now with MD so we might as well go for the win but 2 poles down puts paid to that. His earlier agility run though was excellent, so we should at least get a rosette. I head off to Fleetwood to collect L, who’s sitting in a bus shelter... in her words ‘looking like wino’, planning to get back in time for the presentations.

A drenched L has run almost a recent best for 10 miles in the race, bravo, and she’s not even fit. I feel kind of guilty for abandoning her, although she seems happy enough, still grinning from ear to ear after her good time and it is probably quite dry in the bus shelter.

We return to the dog show just as they’re doing the results for MD’s grade in the agility. As they work their way through the top ten down to the trophies for the top three there’s no mention of us and I’m about to go complain because surely there must be some mistake because we were easily quick enough to get a top ten placing. Then suddenly they announce my name and MD’s. We’ve won, wow, wasn’t expecting that.

Not such good news for the team though, who come 11th or to give it its proper term, last.

Time to hit the M6 again, hopefully a little less busy this time. Which it is but not by that much. Still we’re home in time for one or two in the local before closing time.

(Sunday 2nd October)