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

Wednesday 30 November 2011

A Valiant Attempt

I had penciled in another run but I did do eleven miles yesterday and the calves are feeling a bit tight. So I take the bus instead, listening to another murderous book. The second of two Mark Billingham books, having listened to ‘Sleepy Head’

I’m now on to ‘Scaredy Cat’.

Gruesome but good.

It’s National Christmas Shopping Day today of course, or something like that. A lot of people are off anyway and the roads are lovely and quiet. L reports that the leisure centre and the park are both closed. Which is a bit inconvenient, although this randomly happens from time to time anyway but perhaps it’s not a coincidence this time. The leisure centre staff are a bit daft not turning in, everyone is fighting hard to stop the council closing the leisure centres for good and another day of lost income won’t help their cause. A good pension is all very well but having a job is surely more important.

My turn to break the house rule today. A Christmas celebration before the 1st of December, albeit on the last day of November. I meet up with the old school chums for a few pints in the Alexandra and the Royal Standard. We order food in the Standard and are then offered a load of leftover sandwiches and snacks from a meeting that’s been held there. We make a valiant attempt at both our meals and the leftovers.

(Wednesday 30th November)

Tuesday 29 November 2011


There’s a match tonight (whoopee doo, another defeat), so I park the car at my parents' place and run in. Five and a half miles. It was good, well ok. My legs still ache from Sunday’s unnecessary, as regards the cashback, gyming.

I avoid the rain too, L says she got drenched on the way to work but we've had no rain here. There are some very black clouds skulking around but no rain. Had I cycled, then obviously it would have rained on me, probably while I was fixing my puncture.

It does rain in the afternoon and L says she doesn’t envy me sitting at the match in it. That’s undercover, what about not envying me running back to parents’!

Somehow I again avoid getting wet and have a decent run back in the other direction. The match though is a washout. No I don’t mean rain wise but performance wise. Another defeat.

A quick pint and then I head home with a food parcel from my Mum. No not for the hard up students. Its Sunday lunch leftovers for the dogs, although it looks like two full portions to me, each in their own little plastic boxes. Spoilt?

(Tuesday 29th November)

Monday 28 November 2011

Supermarket Wars

Supermarket Wars. I’ve been handed several slips of paper at Sainsburys since they launched their ‘Brand Match’ a month or more ago. Usually it’s a voucher to use next time but confusingly sometimes it’s an identical slip showing how much you’ve saved instead. Although this has only happened to me once.

They say they ‘compare the price of brands against what Asda or Tesco are charging for them that day’ and then ‘work out any difference in price. If the same branded shop could have been bought for less at Asda or Tesco, we’ll give you a coupon for the difference when you checkout’.

It’s all a con of course. Rather than admitting it's a 'fair cop, you should have gone to Asda' and deducting the difference from your bill or converting it to Nectar points they give you a voucher which has to be used within two weeks. So it’s now in their interests to be the most expensive so that they can give you a whopping big voucher, in my case often a fiver or so, which makes you come back smartest to spend it. When of course you’ll be given another voucher... etc etc.

Today’s voucher is for £4.14 on a basket of goods worth £52 of which the majority of stuff was fruit, veg and meat products which are not ‘branded’ and therefore don’t count for their ‘promotion’. Baffling.

L’s Christmas list arrives by email, breaking the house rule of no mention of Christmas before the 1st December. Tut tut.

I have a quick look at it. Asics Gel DS Trainers! Those are serious running shoes and obviously what I wear. Welcome to the club. Ah, what’s this, they have to be in fuchsia. Hmmm, I’ll take back, you can’t run quick in fuchsia, surely.

I train MD tonight and even the old man gets a run around. He was whining so much, like a puppy, when I took him in to say hello to a few people that I let him have a little play. He loved it, stuffed up his weaves up though.

(Monday 28th November)

Sunday 27 November 2011

Gary Speed

With no events, a day off to recover from two nights predominately on the wine. Which is not often a good thing. The two nights that is, not the day off.

Daughter returns from the Skegness Music Festival... or whatever it’s more glamorous name is and we dispatch her back to Sheffield via the train.

In the evening I’m tempted into the gym, which is the second time this month and as I only need to attend once a month to get my ‘cashback’, it was actually unnecessary. 15k on the bike was sort of impressive but 1k on the rower is a bit meagre. Still it all keeps my fitness ticking over.

The whole day though is sort of overshadowed by the awful death of Gary Speed. I saw it first on the BBC website and just went cold. I had watched the guy not 24 hours earlier, as he put in a polished performance on Saturday’s Football Focus, which just made the news all the more shocking. He was only 42.

I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s death but I think it’s fair to say that because a lot of people in the public eye and in particular footballers are not the most likeable of people, the initial shock of their deaths is often followed by a general collective shrug of indifference.

Not so Gary Speed. His death has rocked people because he was a genuine nice guy and a footballer who simply got on with playing football and didn’t trouble the tabloids. If you wanted a role model he was it. When he became a manager, he simply got on with managing and with Wales he was starting to have some deserved success.

Simply stunned. RIP.

(Sunday 27th November)

Saturday 26 November 2011

An Impressive Table Decoration

An odd sort of weekend... no events. No dogs shows, no running. A bit of cycling though as I cycle the nine miles to where I abandoned the car at the wine tasting last night. I take my best bike, leaving the errant puncture prone one at home. It was actually quite a workout, more so than I intended due to how windy it was and all against me. All this after a session on the park with the boys of course.

In the evening we’re over in Derby in the time warp surroundings of the International Hotel. Nothing seems to have changed in this place since the 1970’s including the menu. This actually probably means it’s an ideal location for a 50th Wedding Anniversary, which is why we’re here tonight. No, not ours, for L’s parents.

I think the International does Christmas menus all year round, so it’s not surprise that’s what we get tonight, along with Christmas Crackers, a visit from Santa and dancing girls in little red fur trimmed outfits. So it wasn’t all bad.

It’s quite a good do actually, although mainly for the occasion rather than the location. L provides the defining moment by getting a couple of old black and white photos of her parents blown up to poster size proportions, which make an impressive table decoration.

We top and tail the evening with a visit to a couple of local pubs, that we haven’t been to for ages. In fact L says she’s never been with me to the Ye Olde Spa Inn on Abbey Street. Oops, that must have been someone else. While we’re there they treat us to live coverage of Derby’s latest defeat, so we don’t linger too long.

We’ve definitely been to the Crompton Tavern together though, which is where we kill time before the bus home.

(Saturday 26th November)

Friday 25 November 2011

Retail Ventures Of Ill Repute

The second day of my course and we’re ripping through the material at a rate of knots, which means the tutor starts to cover additional areas with us, which is very good of him. The sandwiches are slightly posher today, pretty much the same range but they must have heard my mutterings because they cut the crusts off and sliced the sandwiches into finger strips. Completely unnecessary of course but posher.

When I finish and head for home, L is already on her way back from work. On the way we both go in and out of retail ventures of ill repute, you know, Mr Booze, Booze Are Us, Boozerbuster, etc etc. We’re looking for Le Piat D’Or because we’re going to a wine tasting tonight and it would be nice to take something classy with us and L says it’s where her red wine habit started.

I pop into the Tales of Robin Tescos, formerly an attraction dedicated to Mr RH, now it’s... yep, what else. Surely Lidl must sell Le Piat D’Or? Nope, not even a Blue Nun. I find a multitude of dodgy wines in Londis but still no Le Piat D’Or.

Then I think I’ve possibly found the next best thing in 'The Booze Stop' when I stumble across a dusty bottle of Black Tower, hardly cheap at £7 a bottle.

Then though L trumps that by finding the genuine article, also not cheap at £6. So we’re sorted. Our hosts tonight will be so impressed.

The wine tasting consists of eight red wines, one for each guest, all disguised in brown paper to hide their dodgy (or not so dodgy) origins. We then all taste each one and give them marks out of ten.

As well as Le Piat D’Or we also take what looks to be a rather nice Malbec but isn’t. In fact the Le Piat D’Or beats it in the scoring as both wines finish sort of mid-table. Bottom is a wine someone reckons they paid £18 for. Ouch. Top are a couple of homebrew jobs, brewed by our hosts... So it could all have been a fix or it could just be a fair indication of the quality of supermarket wine.

An interesting evening though and our hosts also put on a terrific cheeseboard.

(Friday 25th November)

Thursday 24 November 2011

Something Appropriate For The 21st Century

After years of resisting, my company has finally managed to get me on to a training course with the intention of updating my computer skills to something appropriate for the 21st century. I previously managed to look so appalled at the prospect of a five day training course in London, that they dropped the idea for a full year.

Anyhow, their latest offer of two short two day courses in my home town of Nottingham seemed a difficult proposition to find fault with. So this morning I get to walk down into Nottingham with L before meeting up with a colleague, who is also on the course, and heading to the sophisticated surroundings of the Lace Market Hotel, where the course tutor will attempt to instruct us in newfangled internet development techniques.

The course turns out to be pretty good and the new language we're being taught not that dissimilar to what we do now. So it's all fairly easy to get the hang of. The hotel lunch was a bit disappointing though, not at all posh, as was expected. The sandwiches they brought us were a mix of cheese and tomato, egg mayonnaise and salmon on white bread with crisps. It wasn’t quite what I had in mind. They did bring some poshish salad I suppose, you know those inedible salad leaves you often see used as plate decoration.

It’s every runners dream... to set a new PB with little or no effort. Well, it seems a runner who had decided not to even compete still managed to trigger the timing at the start and finish with his timing chip that was in his bag and thereby knocked eight minutes off his PB and came top 20 as well. Well, at least that’s his story.

Daughter is heading to us from Sheffield today. I’ve helped her purchase two sets of train tickets. One set for coming home and another for getting herself to Skegness for a music festival thing tomorrow. So let confusion reign or in her words ‘it’s gonna go t*** up’. Thankfully it doesn’t.

It’s good to have her home... well, it's different anyhow.

(Thursday 24th November)

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Tea & Chocolate Biscuits

It’s cold this morning, a mere one degree, which is one reason not to cycle. Another is that I don’t trust the damn bike at the moment, I take the bus.

We’ve hosted a few student parties at our place over the last few years and our ‘guests’ have never ceased to amaze us at their powers of destruction. One thing they have proven to be very adept at breaking is clothes horses, using just their bare hands and an unusually large intake of Strongbow. So it smacks of a bit of a setup that a student from the University of Derby managed to get herself trapped in one for more than an hour.

Hmmm. She's probably just got a thing about firemen.

The people across the road from us put up their Christmas lights a week ago, now they’ve added a flashing blue lights and an illumianted Santa. The effect, I assume, is supposed to be Christmassy but it just makes me feel like we’ve moved to Soho.

L’s at a leaving do tonight, for one of the council librarians, which is actually being held at the libary and will be, according to L, a night of tea and chocolate biscuits.

I walk up with the dogs to meet her. She tumbles out looking a bit sloshed. Tea and chocolate biscuits indeed.

(Wednesday 23rd November)

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Totally In The Dark

Well it wasn’t raining when I set off on the bike this morning but it certainly was by the time I arrived at work. Soaked. Still, I managed to keep the bike right way up on those slippery corners and avoided all the potholes, for a change.

I’m not so lucky on the way home. Another flat! I’m not sure whether I actually hit a hole or a nail or something or whether I just managed to get something 'sharp n deadly' between the tyre and the tube last time I changed it. It happens.

I guess perhaps I’ve been kind of lucky where I’ve had flat before... either in daylight or in well lit streets, but not tonight. Tonight I’m totally in the dark, midway between Borrowash and Risley. No street lights and not even a pavement on my side of the road.

I’ve not long crossed over to the other side and I’m sat doing the deed by the light of my own bike light when a nice young lady stops in her car and turns her headlights on me so that I can see what I'm doing. What a star. Unlike the half dozen or so fellow cyclists who don't stop to even commiserate. By the way, I do always stop to offer help. It's always declined thankfully but it's the thought that counts.

We chat a bit, as I struggle with a new tube that refuses to inflate. Then when I'm nearly done she makes her excuses and leaves. Either my small talk is boring her, she's fed up of standing in the cold or perhaps she only pulled over to check me out and has now decided, nah, not interested. Anyhow, off she goes. Still a star though.

The tube is still refusing to inflate, so I try and get a bus. Two turn me down. The first is too full, the second says it's company policy not to take bikes. Hmmm. Even though I’ve done it countless times before. Clearly he thinks I’m going to stab someone with my bike pump. The third driver I stop has an empty bus and probably feels he has to take me. Another star.

Unfortunately all this means that I’m too late to make squash, so I have to ring and cancel.

I also can’t get hold of L, who’s forgotten her mobile today. She will get a bit of a shock when she gets home and finds the car still there, when it should be at the squash courts.

I spend the evening repairing the tyre and testing all the tubes that have been failing me. They don’t appear to be puncturing; it’s more a case of the valves seem to be failing. Time for a new make of tubes I think.

(Tuesday 22nd November)

Monday 21 November 2011

A Little Bit Fit

Neither L nor I ache as much as we did after the Lakeland Dirty Double. So I guess we must be just a little bit fit.

MD enjoys this evening’s dog training so much that twice when I try to get him to go in the boot of the car after his training is complete; twice he turns heels to run back into the training arena for another crack at the equipment. I have to admire his dedication but it’s time for Doggo’s walk around the car park, then it’s time to barter with the cheese man for a slab of Stilton and then its home time.

Well after I’ve rescued L from the International Hotel where she’s talking champers and trying to negotiate the minefield that buying some is. She welcomes my advice but speaking as someone who has yet to find champagne that he likes that could be difficult. Do I recommend we go cheap on the assumption that I won’t like any of it or go expensive in the hope that you might get what you pay for? Looking at those prices... decision made. Hope her folks aren’t reading this, as it’s for their anniversary bash on Saturday.

(Monday 21st November)

Sunday 20 November 2011

It Wasn’t Supposed To Be Like This

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I was supposed to be stood on the sidelines, a bacon roll in one hand and a coffee in the other, watching everyone else run the St Neots Riverside Half Marathon. I have however discovered I have much less self control that I thought which has caused me to buy a race number off someone who has wimped out of competing today, I mean was unable to attend.

So we drive an hour and a half down the A1 to discover that, to my untrained eye at least, the race isn’t actually in St Neots and isn’t down the riverside. We appear to actually be in Eynesbury which is next door to St Neots, so perhaps close enough. The river though is not in evidence anywhere. No matter it’s supposed to be a scenic run anyway, river or not. Well it may have been a scenic route but it’s difficult to tell as everything is under a very heavy mist for most of the day. Still I’m sure it was very nice.

It’s also quiet cold. We leave Nottingham at a barmy 6 degrees but as we head south the temperature actually dips into the negative on occasion. Neither of us has brought any cold weather kit with us, long sleeves etc. I haven’t even got my running gloves and make do with a fleece pair I had in the car.

The 1200 places sold out long ago but despite operating a transfer window system for those who bottled it; there are still only 950 on the start line. What is it with competitors? Nice warm bed too big a pull was it? Hmmm.

Even with 950 it’s still a bit congested in the first few miles on the narrow roads around here and I tread on a few toes. We also cause chaos with the local traffic and annoy dozens of car drivers. I’m not sure how they got away with that but I’m all for a bit of traffic annoyance.

The reason for the congestion is maybe because I’m directly behind the 1:45 pacers, along with about 200 other people. What we need is a nice big hill to drop say 190 of them off the back but aside from one cheeky short incline through one of the villages it’s a relatively flat course. I could actually quite fancy a gentle 1:45 today and being wedged in with them at least stops me setting off at a suicidal pace. This pace though, 7:25 for mile one and 7:37 for mile two, isn’t exactly 1:45 pace, they should be doing 8:00s.

Overall it’s a very well organised race and an honourable mention goes to the marshals, of whom there were many and all were very encouraging, if occasionally in a ‘I’m glad it’s not me running this’ sort of way. The drinks stations (four of them) all had bottled water, which is much better than cups and they even had jelly babies. Although I had to decline because I’m trying to give them up as I can’t breathe and chew at the same time. Plus the girl who was handing them out them had a bit of a dispense problem and most of them were ending up on the floor. She needs to work on that. The only thing missing for a perfect race was the training. My training that is e.g. the lack of it.

So loosely enjoyable and the flat (apparently slightly downhill) last three miles meant that even I had a fast-ish finish as I tried to keep ahead of those 1:45 pacers.

Race HQ was at the local leisure centre, yet the start was amongst a housing estate and the finish at a nearby school. It was actually quite a long way back to the HQ, well it is if you’re crawling there. It takes me so long to get there that my name is already up on the results when I arrive. The queues for the massages are already quite long and the masseurs don’t look that gentle either, or attractive, so I head back to the car to get the boys.

L finishes before I get back to the finish, ahead of schedule again. I wish she’d slow down; she’ll be overtaking me soon if she keeps this up. She’s just outside her season’s best which she did at Birmingham last month.

The T-shirts are long sleeve, of the technical variety and predominately red but they’re not too bad. They have a bit of a supply error though and L doesn’t get the small size she ordered, or even a medium for that matter.

L offers to drive back home and I happily hand over the reins.

In the evening we refresh down the Admiral Rodney with Broadside and decent enough food. I was impressed with the size of my ‘Codfather’. There was enough for two dogs as well as for me.

(Sunday 20th November)

Saturday 19 November 2011

Voyage Of Discovery

L’s off jet setting again. This time on a voyage of discovery by bus to Mansfield. It’ll be interesting to see if she discovers anything there.

I’m on the park, trying to teach MD to carry his ball in a straight line, preferably a sort of forwards direction, to save myself some shoe leather. I’m supposed to be exercising him, not the other way around. I’m not sure I have much success.

Then I’m off to watch the flypast and perhaps some of the match. As Derby lose 2-0 to Hull, the flypast is obviously the highlight. This is the flypast trailing the ‘We only had ten men’ banner that many fans have clubbed together to raise money for.

It refers to when we beat Forest last month 2-1 after being a goal down and a man down from the 3rd minute. It flies over the City Ground before circling Pride Park at around 3:15.

It’s good to see that the Forest fans haven’t trumped us and clubbed together for an anti-aircraft gun.

We stay in, bloody half marathon tomorrow.

(Saturday 19th November)

Friday 18 November 2011

Big Cats

On the bike and yet another puncture. I even fell down the very same hole again. (Sigh). It is such a dreadful stretch of road, hole after hole. I think at least half of the punctures I’ve had over the years have been on this same half a mile of road.

I think the chap whose front fence I lean my bike against while I repair it is a getting a bit sick of me. Then again, he said ‘good morning’ to me today, so perhaps not. We’ll be exchanging Christmas cards soon.

Then as I pedal into work I pass a pack of leopards, tigers, cheetahs and other assorted cats, I’m sure there was a tabby in a short skirt among them but I may have been mistaken, all heading to the Roundhouse sixth form college. So it must be Children in Need night again.

The very cosmopolitan L takes her second train journey in two days and meets Daughter for lunch in Sheffield. In Bungalows and Bears, no less. Which looks (via their website) as interesting as it sounds. I wonder if Pudsey will be popping in there later?

I take it easy on the ride home. I have to. I have no more inner tubes.

Then a little wander to the Victoria in Beeston tonight.

(Friday 18th November)

Thursday 17 November 2011

You Are In A Queue...

Having failed to get Cycling World Cup tickets via British Cycling on Tuesday I’m online at bang on 10am this morning to snag some the moment they go on sale to the general public, unfortunately via the incredibly clunky system that is Ticketmaster. After a ‘you are in a queue - waiting time eight minutes’ message I am informed, around eight minutes later, that they’re all sold out.

So having not missed a Cycling World Cup for three years, I won’t be at this one. I'm beginning to hate the Olympics. Unlike the Olympic Stadium itself the new velodrome is supposed to be for life, not just for the Olympics, so one wonders why they didn't they build one with more seating?

After that perhaps I could have done with something stronger than my first ever 2.7% beer at lunchtime. 2.7%? Why? You ask. The government has reduced beer duty for beers of 2.8% strength and below in an attempt to persuade us to not get ratted every night on Special Brew. A worthy aim but one that will only work if the beers taste good. So what does Everards’ Southgate Bitter taste like... well, water. So I’m afraid I’m going to stick to something with at least a 4 on the front.

It does mean that I’m sober enough to give Daughter a cookery lesson by email this afternoon.

‘Shoot me now...’ It sounds like L’s having a ‘great’ time in London, where she is for work. ‘Chill some nice white wine for me and I'll be forever grateful. Just leave a straw by the bottle.’ Yep a great time. I dutiful put the wine in the fridge as requested because I like the sound of forever grateful.

Another committee meeting tonight and for once it’s a good one. A small majority group of us voted everything that moved down and despite starting half an hour late still finished at around 9pm. Which means I can get back to Nottingham in time to pick a girl up off Ilkeston Road and bring her home to devil my kidneys. I think that’s what she said they were called.

(Thursday 17th November)

Wednesday 16 November 2011

The Austerity Sandwich

I attempt to run into work. It was hard work. I just couldn't get going, then when I did I ran rather flatfooted which made my Helvellyn ankle sore, then I think my back went. So it went quite well really.

We have a new sandwich van on Pride Park which looks promising. I just hope it keeps coming and doesn’t give up after a few months like most of them seem to have done. The sandwich selection looks good too. No austerity sandwich though, like the 7.5p toast sandwich that made the news this week. Victorian apparently. News that may interest the studently challenged Sheffield and Warwick branches of our household.

My pub trip after work is off, which is a shame, as I've used it as an excuse to not do any training tonight. One mate forgot all about it and hasn’t been checking his email but isn’t on the ale anyway, as he's been ill. The other mate is ill right now, full of cold, but would have answered the call of duty anyway. So it sounds like I had a lucky escape really. Anyhow, we’re rescheduled, so now I can now reuse it as an excuse to not do any training before my next race in a fortnight.

Still tonight's cancellation is all good news for the dogs, whom I can now speed home to.

(Wednesday 16th November)

Tuesday 15 November 2011

You Can’t Be Too Careful

I’ve just realised its Tuesday and I’ve not had to fight off any paparazzi yet. I’ve been lying low all weekend after our ‘Oscar’ win last week but now I feel it was perhaps unnecessary. Might you, you can’t be too careful.

In a rather last minute attempt to get fit for Sunday’s half marathon, I come in on the bike today. The shopping can wait or be forgotten about.

Tickets go on sale today, to members of British Cycling, for the World Cup cycling event which will be the first event at the new Olympic velodrome. I am a member but unfortunately I was little late going online. It was 10:40 by the time I logged onto Ticketmaster and by then British Cycling’s allocation had all gone. Not that it probably mattered than I was late, plenty of people who logged on at the time they went live (10am) didn’t get any either. So I’ll have to have another punt when they go on general sale on Thursday. Which is exactly what I had to do to get last years. This British Cycling membership isn’t really proving it’s worth.

Apparently I’m allowed out on the pull again tonight, so I pop down to Rock City.

The Damned downgraded to the Rescue Rooms last year but they’re back at the much bigger Rock City tonight to celebrate their 35th Anniversary. The occasion certainly seems to have pulled in the punters, the place isn’t sold out but there’s not a lot of space to be had.

The chap in front of me is doing his 571st Damned gig or something like that. I recall it was a very impressive number, he’s clearly their biggest fan as is proven by the fact practically everyone comes up to shake his hand. This is my third Damned gig but who's counting.

Up on stage first is a lass called Viv Albertine who hails from the same era. She used to be in the Slits you know. Isn’t there a saying ‘old punks don't they just go acoustic’. Perhaps. Although I do understand that Albertine plays as part of a band sometimes but tonight she brings just herself, a guitar, a good (and often dirty) sense of humour and some catchy little seemingly autobiographical songs to the party. Songs for which she pulls back on her punk years and everything in between for lyrical inspiration, if not for the musical side.

It also has to be said she's aged well, taking a twenty odd year break from the music industry probably helped, and there’s a steady stream of 40+ (or should that be 50+) blokes shuffling closer to the front to check her out. Damn their failing eyesight.

I wouldn’t say she gives the most inspiring of performances but she makes for a thoroughly entertaining support.

After a blast of 633 Squadron Captain Sensible strolls on stage, up to the mic and imparts a sort of opening speech. Sadly there is to be no ‘Happy Talk’ but instead we’re going to get to hear two records that changed the face of music... starting with ‘Damned Damned Damned’, the band’s debut from 1977.

I’ve never been sure about this playing a whole album business but then I’m also not keen on bands who just play the same songs year after year. So here goes... Enter a dapper Mr Vanian and cue ‘Neat Neat Neat’

The Damned re-enact their debut album in around 35 minutes with barely a pause between tracks. Delivering a rapid fire sequence of eleven simple, stripped back numbers, just as punk intended music to be played, with many old skool punks trying to remember how to pogo and probably wishing they’d left their lambswool pullovers at home. Yes I did say eleven, they skipped over the Rat Scabies penned 'Stab Yor Back' for reasons unknown. Perhaps reasons of a petty feuding nature perhaps... but no one’s actually saying for sure.

‘Is she still going out with me?’ asks the Captain, as is perhaps the new way before ‘New Rose’. ‘I hope so because she's working on the merch stand tonight’. So hello to Mrs Sensible.

The Captain is a laugh all night, introducing songs with increasingly more tenuous links as we go along. In fact they all seem to be having a ball. Monty the keyboard player is doing air guitar among other things, for want of something to do. He’s certainly not going to get much keyboard practice in on this album, so he hollers along instead. He’s so into it he’s bought the t-shirt.

It’s a shame when they complete the album and go off for a short break, having kept the crowd pretty much hanging an inch off the floor for the last half an hour, even those in the lambswool pullovers.

Less than ten minutes later we're in 1980 and its shades all round for ‘Wait For The Blackout’. The Damned haven’t actually been that prolific album wise in their 35 years. In that time they have produced just ten, ‘The Black Album’ was their fourth and it anything, they seemed even more in their element on this than on ‘Damned Damned Damned’. Certainly Monty was much happier, actually having some notes to play.

This is the album where they moved on from punk into a darker more gothic sound. It’s not as powerful of course; just simply compelling and with great songs such as ‘Lively Arts’, the Captain singing ‘Silly Kids Games’, ’Drinking About My Baby’, apparently they’re nearly all failed relationship songs, then ‘Hit or Miss’ get things lively again.

The band seem to having as much fun as we are. When a glass lands on the stage during ‘Sick of This and That’ and John the Roadie comes on to mop up, the guys block his exit. Eventually he escapes through Sensible’s legs.

The best though is still to come. ‘The History Of The World’ is simply superb and then there’s ‘Therapy’ which I wouldn’t have expected to steal the show but it may well have done. Though if anyone can make sense of the Captain’s story behind the song then they’re a better man than me.

Then there’s a dramatic closing ‘Curtain Call’, complete with impressive laser light show... at a ‘punk’ concert! The album was released as a double album back in the days of vinyl, with this one song making up the whole of side three.

It's so long that various band members wander off stage, nip to Sainsbury’s and then reappear seemingly at will. There’s just Captain and Monty alone onstage at one point, huddled over their keyboards, producing a wild electronic soundscape as laser warfare breaks out all around them. How very avant-garde. Very good though. It’s all good. The first album was as well of course but it's the ‘The Black Album’ that stands out the most tonight.

And there’s more.

They return asking for requests, which results in them playing part of Deep Purple's ‘Black Night’ for no obvious reason, amidst lots of messing about. Ten minutes later they decide to play 'Disco Man'.

Then they round proceedings off with three from 1979's ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’. ‘Love Song’ of course, ‘Anti-Pope’ and then 'Smash It Up' or if we prefer 'Happy Talk'. Decisions decisions.

After a bit of the latter, the former, with Mr Superfan on stage. Jonno, long time Damned fan and friend of the band. Turns out he's a bit of a local legend too.

The gig finally draws to a close a good ten minutes after the 11pm curfew. A pleasant evening.

(Tuesday 15th November)

Monday 14 November 2011

How Not To Maximise Your Income

As I take my suit back I have to step over a beggar, in a rather nice puffer jacket (the sort that I think L wants for Christmas) and sipping a costa coffee, who asks if I have any spare change. Somehow I don’t think he’s got the right idea on how to maximise his income but then he’s probably just on his lunch break. He got a ‘no’ by the way.

I’m impressed with the service tonight at the not-so-intimate-anymore-since-its-refit Rescue Rooms as the staff move a chap in a wheelchair right to the front and barrier him in. For his own safety I imagine, in case it gets lively. I’ve also got a good spot but again we have an annoyingly back lit stage which makes photography difficult but I’ll have a good stab.

Moments later two ‘Movember’ supporting chaps, of course that could be their permanent look, and two others who look like they haven’t started shaving yet take the stage. This is ‘Fanclub’, without the 'teenage'.

They embark on a noisy and promising start but when the vocals start they don't quite back up the promising guitar work. Most of their stuff then descends into the standard indie fare and they actually seem most inspired on their slower numbers and when the second guitarist joins in with the vocals.

They’re a quiet lot, who don't attempt to get any banter going with the crowd and that’s to the detriment of the atmosphere. After a little under 25 minutes they’re done and we await the headliners.

At 8.45 something Japanese, according to Shazam, heralds the arrival of Yuck. Who are straight out of the blocks, no messing, and into the rather wonderful ‘Holing out’.

Yuck are three-fifths British and were formed by two ex-members of the defunct Cajun Dance Party, who I had a bit of a soft spot for. Those two, Daniel Blumberg and Max Bloom, flank Mariko Doi who, oddly for a bass player, gets centre stage. She hails from Hiroshima and also probably gets to choose the intro music.

Then there’s Jonny Rogoff from New Jersey, a man with big big hair who powers most of the songs along adeptly from behind his drum kit.

There are just four of them tonight. Daniel's younger sister Ilana has presumably been left at home to do her homework. Sadly this means the delightful ‘Georgia’ lacks Ilana’s vocals tonight and it suffers for it.

Daniel Blumberg reckons they stayed every night in Nottingham on their last tour to save money. Returning even from Glasgow... really? That saved money? Is that the tour when they didn’t even play Nottingham because they cancelled to appear on Later With Jools? Or was that the tour when they played to ten people at Stealth? Well according to Max Bloom it was ten, the reviews tend to suggest around thirty but perhaps they were counting staff, road crew and the support band.

Those two chat a bit while Doi barely speaks and instead concentrates on some great Kim Deal-esk thudding baselines to add to the boys fuzzing guitars. We’re sort of back in the early 90s territory here. Rogoff speaks only to enlighten us to the fact that this is the first time in three shows that they haven’t blow up the PA. Yet.

In fact everything hangs together sublimely, from the acoustic delight of 'Suicide Policemen' to the distortion drenched sound of 'Get Away' in a set drawn from their so far only album and a few inspired extras. Those include the sort of a double A side ‘Milkshake’ and a new track ‘Soothe Me’, both of which appear on a new deluxe edition of the album, along with b-sides and such, that is just out.

The vocals briefly swap to Max Bloom for the tremendous ‘Operation’ before they sort of amble rather than sprint to the line with the slower numbers ‘Stutter’ and the closing 'Rubber', the latter being bathed in a sea of feedback before they leave us.

(Monday 14th November)

Sunday 13 November 2011

Delivering Food Parcels

On the park again with the boys, which is a shock to them, two days in row, and means they’ll sleep the rest of the day. Then a bit more bathroom work before we head over to Leamington to visit Son, deliver a food parcel and then go for lunch with him and his significant other. If that is indeed what she is.

We head to the gym on the way back, I feel I have to put in the effort and also achieve the monthly visit that will trigger my £50 cash back at the end of a year.

I suppose having asked me to download something from The Wanted, ‘purely for the gym of course’, L needs chance to use and abuse it. Perhaps for her own good I should have refused. Not that I’m really sure who The Wanted are, although I've heard rumours, but I wasn’t going to listen to it first to find out.

I do a mere 10k on the bike before turning to the dreadmill. After only around three quarters of a kilometre this already feels like a bad idea. Maybe it has something to do with the Lamb Shank followed by chocolate pudding that I had around an hour ago. I’m already feeling queasy before the silly device starts flashing up heart rate warnings and telling me to stop. It was reading 165bpm. So it doesn’t know what it’s talking about. Whatever happened to ‘HRmax = 220 - age’? I’m not 55 and I have told it this fact.

(Sunday 13th November)

Saturday 12 November 2011

I Just Had To Get Involved

We’re both having a weekend off racing, even L, the 500 mile girl. So it’s a lazy morning, getting up late, taking the boys on the park and then working on the tiles in the bathroom.

Not only was I supposed to be having this weekend off, I was planning on not doing any serious races until next year... but L mentioned a few weeks ago that up on the Riverside Runners website there were people willing to sell their numbers for next week’s St Neots Half Marathon. I just had to get involved didn’t I and the other day I had an email from someone who was offloading their place and I’ve accepted. Bugger. How am I going to train for that? It’s next Sunday.

I’m sure L’s laughing as she runs off to the gym. Perhaps I ought to join her tomorrow.

At least a lack of a race means we can hit the town tonight. Out on a Saturday, how rebellious is that?

We check out my old student haunt, the resurrected Gooseberry Bush for the first time. It's now a Wetherspoons with a decent beer selection but the pièce de résistance could have been a rather tasty sounding 5.4% dark ale from Milestone which is on the bar, pulled through and looking rather dapper with its pump clip. It's smiles at me teasingly. Too teasingly, the barmaid points at the ‘coming soon’ label above it. They’re not serving it because it’s quiet tonight. Well it’ll be even quieter now because, after eating, we move on. Whereas we’d have stayed if they were serving it.

So to the Lincolnshire Poacher, who have their own 5% dark selection, including the excellent Black Adder, which runs out after the second pint... Damn.

So to the Ropewalk, who also have a tasty dark one on, a Stout. Actually quite a good ‘dark’ evening despite far too much moving on.

(Saturday 12th November)

Friday 11 November 2011

Where's The Bacon?

We get a lie in at the hotel and then breakfast at a leisurely 9am. I mean you don’t want to be tackling London rush hour if you can avoid it and certainly not with a hangover.

Breakfast is not the best at our Holiday Inn. Scrambled eggs, sausages, beans and ... err, that's it. There are so many components of a Full English missing from that list that it defies comment but most glaringly is the lack of bacon. How can you possibly have a cooked breakfast without bacon?

The hotel has a manic toaster too, worse even than ours at home. How would you like your toast sir, lightly warmed or burnt to a crisp? Sadly, we have nothing in between. Still it soaks up last night’s excesses.

Then we head back up the M1 to a momentous reception (sort of) back at the office. Once at my desk, I call up the BBC News website expecting to see our photos plastered across their home page but I’m sadly disappointed.

Then its home to get reacquainted with L before a night out at my brother’s. Which is an immediate opportunity to brag a bit and show off the photos. L offers to drive so that I can celebrate in style but I’m a bit celebrated out to be honest. It's her turn with the family hangover if she so desires.

(Friday 11th November)

Thursday 10 November 2011

... And The Winner Is...

Tonight I’m at the UK IT Awards Night at the Battersea Park Events Arena in London. One of our customers has managed to get their computer system, which my company provided, nominated in the best Small Business Project category. I don’t suppose we’ll win, for a start we’re up against such illustrious opposition like that well know ‘small’ business, the Royal Bank of Scotland. Miscategorised surely, even if they have fallen on hard times. At first I felt a bit railroaded into going but it sounds a bit of a laugh and I suppose if we did win, I’d regret not being there as I did actually do the majority of the programming on the project. So complete with black suits and dickie bows etc, four of us leave Derby at 2pm to head for the bright lights.

We check into the Holiday Inn in Hammersmith and fall straight into the bar, as you do. The place is crawling with IT nerds, so there must be something going down here tonight... My room is ok, once I work out the secret method of switching the lights on, but no free biscuits. Another cutback. The room does have a rather kinky full length mirror at the end of the bed... presumably that’s to make up for the lack of biscuits and the view from the window but it's not much good to me tonight.

We get a taxi to Battersea but its dark, so we don’t really get to see the sights, the Dogs Home and the Power Station. The arena though is rather impressive and our table is thankfully not too near the back. We're on one of the cheaper tables, so sadly there are no inclusive liqueurs, but still plenty of inclusive wine. In fact the table is just a mass of glasses and bottles, before we’ve even drunk anything. Each place is set with a white wine glass, a red wine glass, a champagne glass, a water glass and a coffee cup. So it looks like we’re eating off our laps as they’re no space left for a plate.

The compare is Alexander Armstrong, who I don’t know a lot about but doesn’t he flog insurance? He’s very good as a compare, very funny and knows when to keep it short and snappy.

L has asked whether the event is going to be televised or anything via perhaps a web link. Sadly not, coverage is left totally in the incapable hands of Twitter, for which they have put up a big screen to convey all the tweets to the audience. L says she’s going to sign up, so I’ll keep my eye on the screen just in case she gets carried away and starts twittering. The screen is actually a good idea. Along with the many ‘congrats’ and ‘good lucks’ you also get some really thought provoking contributions from the head honchos of the IT industry such as ‘Dave is very drunk tonight on table 46’ and ‘check out the lass on table 7’. Everyone does by the way.

After a two hour meal, e.g. served slowly but very nice, the awards finally kick off at 10pm. Once they start they come apace and our category is the second one to be announced. They announce the two medallists (e.g. runners up) which included the ‘small’ business of the Royal Bank Of Scotland. Don’t bother coming up for it chaps; you collect the medals from the back of the room, perhaps as you get your coats. We’ve barely started cheering their defeat when they announced the winner. Us. OMG. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

As a representative from the company goes up to collect the trophy the rest of us try to take it all in and to get the champagne opened. The next ten or so awards go by in a blur. Well apart from the frequently nominated HM Revenue & Customs who get roundly booed every time their name is announced, even when they finally win something.

Then awards over, the band strike up to entertain us and it’s time for some photos of the victorious team with the lump of plastic we’ve won. Not bad for a piece of software that’s took me fourteen years to write. Well not continually, it’s sort of evolved. You know one year to write it and thirteen to get the bugs out of it. I hope this increases my Christmas bonus.

Am I drunk enough to try the bucking bronco thing in the foyer, oh go on then. I just hope no one’s videoed it, oh, they have, have they.

(Thursday 10th November)

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Old Dog, New Tricks

A rare outing for the bike this morning. It was ok but I can still feel them Cumbrian hills, or should that be all that Cumbrian mud, in my legs.

On the way to work I pass L, Doggo and a traumatised MD. The road sweeper upset him. Perhaps though, he just protecting Doggo, who usually hides behind trees when things like that come around the corner.

My dad drops in some cufflinks, so now I’m suitably suited for tomorrow’s Oscars ceremony.

At training tonight, we have a new set of weaves. The Kennel Club have changed the spacing between the poles for 2012. Whereas before there was an accepted range, now it’s a fixed spacing, set at the largest end of the previous range.

The thing is I don’t notice we have new 2012 regulation weaves. MD doesn't either, unless the fact he got them bang on correct was an indication that he prefers them. Doggo, on the other hand, the old hand, who is training for the first time in two months, gets half way through them and stops sensing something isn't right.... He aborts, shakes his head and thereafter refuses to go all the way through them. Perhaps it’s a good thing we’re packing it in mate. Old dog, new tricks and all that.

(Wednesday 9th November)

Tuesday 8 November 2011

I Shall Complain To My Tailor

In the car again, mainly to get back early to keep the boys company. Who I then take to squash with me again. They enjoyed the car park that much last time, so why not.

They have a new system at the leisure centres, because people weren’t turning up for courts they’d booked you now have to pay in advance. I’m not sure this will actually increase revenue, if that’s the intention, because we got a court easily for tonight, despite only trying to book yesterday. So it may simply reduce spurious bookings which at least it should mean we get a court more easily.

It's a good game actually, for me. I lead 2-1 and then think I've sealed the match when I win the fourth game but he calls a highly controversial let. Controversial in that there was no way (in my opinion) it was a let. You have to honour these things though... and then of course he wins the game to level at 2-2. After that, I CBA in the last game, so a 3-2 defeat but I claim a moral victory.

I try on my posh black tie suit, complete with dickie bow, and L takes a photo. I think she described my look as ‘sweet’ or something similar. She certainly didn’t say sexy. I shall complain to my tailor.

I also discover a problem with it. The cuffs of the posh shirt don’t have any buttons on them... Hmmm. I’m going to need some of those cufflinks things to fasten them. Another first, never worn cufflinks before. I text my father, he’s bound to have some.

(Tuesday 8th November)

Monday 7 November 2011

The Cleanest Room In The House

The office seem impressed with parts of my ‘activity weekend’ in the Lake District, unfortunately it’s mainly the fact that we met Shergar and Lord Lucan.

I head into Derby to collect my black tie suit. The big question then is do I bring it home, where all the dog hairs are... I do but I put it up in Daughter’s room, which due to her being away at University and the fact that L has blitzed it, is now, for the first time in its existence, the cleanest room in the house.

I do a bit of a double take as I drive home. I’m sure that was a tandem I just passed. You don’t see many of those. Even odder were the people riding it. Whilst there was a chap in his hi-viz gear and helmet powering away through the light drizzle on the front of the bike, behind him, his female co-pilot was not so attired. In fact she seemed to have come straight from the office, still with her hair up and sat there almost regally, despite the rain, freewheeling and not contributing at all to the forward propulsion of the bike. As I said, an odd sight.

MD has his quick paws on at training tonight. Perhaps he’s missing competing, now that we’re having a winter break. The trainer is impressed with his enthusiasm and his head almost managed to keep up with his paws though I’m not sure my head can.

(Monday 7th November)

Sunday 6 November 2011

Shipped Out, Dropped Off And Told To Run Back

Part two of the ‘Dirty Double’. Sadly it doesn’t say that on the race t-shirt of which we get another one today. Bright orange. Today it’s the Ullswater 13.6km trail race which requires an earlier start, which for L is 9.30am. This means we’re up at around 7am, finding that the weather has suddenly dropped cold and is below zero in places. We head back over ‘The Struggle’, hoping it's not icy. It’s still quite sunny though.

The race also requires full body cover. Every competitor must carry a hat, gloves, a cagoule and overtrousers of some sort. This is partly for the boat journey... where it may be cold on board. L needs to be at Glenridding Pier to catch the first of three trips by the Ullswater steamer ‘Lady Of The Lake’ which will take us to the start at nearby Howtown. It’s a case of being shipped out, dropped off and told to run back. I’m on the third sailing at 11.30am. So after a one hour head start yesterday she gets two hours today.

The boys and I was goodbye to her before heading off for a sausage cob and a cuppa. Well we do have two hours to kill. Well two and a half actually because it quickly becomes apparent that the other boats are going to be running late.

We finally board at noon and the finishers from the first trip are already coming in. I keep a lookout for L but don’t see her. As we sail (or should that be steam), we go close enough to the bank to cheer the earlier starters along. Which is a nice touch but one which will be unavailable to us on the last boat. We also go close enough to see them all clambering up a big hill. Oh dear. That'll be us next.

The boat trip actually reminds me of the one to Alcatraz, only I think, I hope, we don't have to swim for it to make our escape. During the half hour journey we are serenaded by a singer/guitarist who among other songs sings us ‘Sailing’ with especially adapted words for this journey. Then both the guitarist and the race organiser announce that they are so inspired by their own race that they’re going to join us.

We arrive at Howtown, which turns out to be no town at all. Just a landing stage and a start line. Well, a tree masquerading as a start line.

GB Marathon runner Susan Partridge is already there waiting, having eschewed the boat and ran there instead. Our guitarist dons shorts and promptly overtakes me. As does the organiser, who having acted as official starter then joins in and overtakes practically everybody.

The course is hillier and rockier than yesterday, which means I walk a lot again but it’s still kind of enjoyable. We run around the lake with almost always one eye on the finish, the only problem being it's across the other side of the water. So no shortcuts then. In fact you can hear all the cheering at the finish from around 5k out.

It’s a bit disheartening too that when we near the end they send us uphill again just before the last decent. Which takes us past a cafe but it’s a bit late to stop for coffee and cake now. Just 2k to go as we head into Patterdale.

L is waiting at the line with the boys. Where I'm surprised to find I'm not last. 01:22:56, slower than yesterday but not bad for an anti-fell runner.

Then it’s back to Langdale to take the tent down in the gathering gloom before joining the queue for the M6 south. I reckon I'm going to need a take away curry to get me over all this.

(Sunday 6th November)

Saturday 5 November 2011

Hell-vellyn. The Clue's In The Name.

Today is the first of our two races, known collectively as the ‘Dirty Double’. My little treat for my girl with mileage on her mind. She needs five hundred of them before May. First up it’s the 15km Helvellyn Trail race which starts and finishes at Jenkins Field in Glenridding.

We drive there via the scenic route over the road they call ‘The Struggle’ which runs up from the back of Ambleside to the Kirkstone Inn at the top of the pass. It’s an entertaining route. L refuses to drive us back.

They hand over the race t-shirt before we start and it’s a tasteful little black number. The Helvellyn Trail race doesn’t actually, thankfully, go up Helvellyn but the t-shirt is nicely ambiguous on this. So I can pretend it did. Although it’s still sure to be tough, Hell-vellyn the clue's in the name.

There are two races. L has chosen the less serious ‘Challenge’ race at 1pm, whilst I’m in the main ‘Trail’ race at 2pm. Both nicely late in the day starts. We hit a cafe for a bacon sarnie and a cuppa before we start. Continuing our involuntary quest to break every pre-race rule in the book.

At quite a few races that I do, they like to worry you by introducing the opposition. Today is no exception as they announce current GB Marathon runner Susan Partridge and former Olympic marathoner Jon Brown, who won the race the last time it was held in 2008. The organisers don’t elaborate on why it’s not been held since. I wonder how many runners they lost three years? Too late to google it now.

I start near the back because I know that most of the other runners will do the nasty rocky bits faster than me and will just want to push past. Then they throw in a few miles of Tarmac through Glenridding and up the first climb. Terrain I excel on and I overtake a lot of them. Then, as predicted, they thunder past me when it gets difficult.

It beats me how parts of the course passed a Health and Safety inspection and let's face it, they're not good at making paths up here. They just throw a few boulders in a random pattern and be done with it. There you go, walk on that or in our case run on that. Treacherous.

I’m not complaining really, I was expecting this. It is a ‘Fell Race’ after all. ‘Fell’ as in you’ll probably fall a lot and people do. The course keeps the medics busy. I twist my old war wound of a dodgy ankle and hobble through three quarters of it.

The course runs down two valleys. First the Glenridding Valley and as we turn at the end it is with a nod to the peaks of Catstye Cam and above it the great Helvellyn him/herself. Then we pop into the Grisedale valley, with Helvellyn now on our right as we head out towards the likes of Dollywagon Pike.

Finally we’re off the rocky bridleways and the mud, on to much more substantial hard packed gravel tracks and finally another section of my beloved tarmac at the end.

As I head back in to Glenridding it is odd to see L there cheering me on but it’s very welcome. Although I’m a little gutted I didn't catch her, as I did at Cartmel last year on our last Lakeland Trails expedition. When she did assist by taking a wrong turn.

1:17:56 is an adequate time and 151th out of 366 is a more than adequate position for a non-fell runner who steps around all the rocks rather than plummeting over the top of them like the experts do.

I tuck into the Kendal Mint Cake at the finish and wait for the spot prize draw, which neither of us have any luck with.

Well done Lakeland Trails. I consider their motto ‘Inspiring Races in Beautiful Places’ as I look at a woman at the finish holding a bloody hanky to her forehead and asking someone to text a photo of her before the bleeding stops... Nutters these fell runners but yep, I’m inspired. Where’s the next ROAD race? Ah, that’s after I’ve negotiated tomorrow.

We sit in the Old Dungeon Ghyll in our stylist black Hell-vellyn t-shirts, dodging the Guy Fawkes Night displays for Doggos sake. L looks wiped out although it doesn't quell her appetite for the pre-race chilli again. Less beer all round though and an earlier night, despite a few late interruptions for fireworks and noisy neighbours.

(Saturday 5th November)

Friday 4 November 2011


I wake up in what feels like a muddy field but is actually our tent. It’s hard to tell the difference when you’ve shared your sleeping quarters with two incredibly muddy dogs. Well at least they seem to have dried off nicely overnight, depositing their grit as they did so.

A second day walking and as the weather has got a bit worse we stay on the flat. Or rather L and her knees have demanded we stay on the flat. Fair enough. Doggo, who perhaps is being blamed for L’s knees, is a saint today or just plain tired.

I choose a meandering route from where we are at Great Langdale to arrive us at the Skelwith Bridge coffee shop in time for late afternoon tea and cake. The first few miles is more problematic than we would have thought. Firstly the stiles have no ‘dog gates’, which means lifting the already muddy (again) dogs over them and getting incredibly muddy ourselves. Then the local cows at Baysbrown Farm organise a road block and cause us to divert through something that is probably best described as swamp land. So we're well muddy before we even get properly started.

Thereafter it goes quite well. Although we never make it to the Skelwith Bridge coffee shop because we stumble across the Muddy Boots Barn about a mile before we got to Skelwith Bridge.

It's at the Elterwater Park Guest House on the Cumbria Way just past Colwith, they’ve done their barn out into a rather fetching cafe since we last ambled this way. So Tea/Coffee, some nice sticky pudding thing and biscuits for the boys. Enough to power us all the way back to Great Langdale.

Doggo is then gutted that we don't stop at Skelwith Bridge or at the Britannia Inn in Elterwater or the Wainwrights Inn and instead we walk all the way to the Sticklebarn back in Great Langdale. It is closer to home. They also have the beloved Snecklifter on and chilli. Great pre-race food...

Ten miles today and surprisingly, for a ‘flat’ day, 540m of ascent (and descent) despite not really going up anything. Just don’t tell L’s knees.

Doggo has coped very well with all this walking. His old legs are bearing up well, as incidentally are mine. It’s a good job because it gets more serious tomorrow.

(Friday 4th November)

Thursday 3 November 2011

Tarn To Tarn

It’s a bit misty on them there hills this morning but it's not too bad up by the Stickle Tarn where we head first.

However, it's still misty enough for us to miss the path to Easedale Tarn, which is our second target. So after having a ‘lost’ moment, we backtrack before finding the correct route and getting it right second time. It's such a large tarn it’s difficult to miss really or it should have been. Ah, there it is.

Then it’s the little matter of a fairly tricky descent down to it. Made more difficult for L by Doggo, whom she repeatedly falls out with over his pace setting. MD though, seems quite chilled beside me.

We reach Easedale just as it starts to rain, so just in time really. Then it’s the fairly easy, although quite long, walk down into Grasmere.

All of this for a bit of shopping. In Grasmere L buys a waterproof for the race tomorrow. Bright yellow, she’s being very safety conscious ahead of the weekend fell races. Then after a quick cafe break and with darkness falling, we get out the torches and switch on the dogs flashing red lights. Told you we’re safety conscious.

We head back over by road, over Red Bank, to reach Chapel Stile and the Wainwrights Inn for evening refreshments (e.g. copious amounts of Snecklifter) just before 6pm. It’s ‘only’ a 3 miles stagger to camp from here. The route was around nine miles on the map with a total ascent (and descent) of around 700m but we added a mile or so to that by getting a bit directionally challenged in the fog.

Not one but three dark ales on the bar tonight. The nearby Watermill Inn at Ings supplies Dogth Vader, a strong stout, that appeals to L but quickly runs out. It’s usually me that happens to. Also dark is Ulverston Brewery’s Fra Diavolo (The Devil’s Brother).

Ulverston was the birth place of Stan Laurel and all their beers celebrate the great comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. Fra Diavolo was one of their films.

The food is good. I have chilli just to try the tear and share garlic bread which I don't share obviously. They’ve also added a cheeseboard to the menu which has to be tried and is impressive.

(Thursday 3rd November)

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Shergar and Lord Lucan

A bit of travelling today. Up the M6 and then back down again. First we head up and pitch camp at Langdale before heading back down a junction to the Capernwray Dive Centre near Carnforth for tonight’s ‘Dip in the Dark’. The Dive Centre is in somewhere called Jackdaw Quarry that they’ve flooded and turned in to basically a diver’s amusement park. There are sunken ships to explore, as well as submerged helicopters, garden gnomes... Shergar... and Lord Lucan... So that’s where they ended up... or rather fibreglass versions nabbed from Blackpool Pleasure Beach. I can't imagine how freaky it would be coming nose to nose with Shergar in the dark or for that matter, even in the light.

Tonight the Dive Centre is hosting a 500m swim in the dark. The dogs are fascinated, well, freaked. I'm fascinated, well, freaked. L looks fascinated, well no, actually terrified and freaked.

At least as it's a circular pond and they’ve also illuminated the buoys that mark the edge of the course, she can't possibly get lost. I hope. Each swimmer has helpfully attached a glow stick to the back of their wetsuits, so that the organisers can find the bodies later.

It's all over in around 15 minutes for L or just under 7 if you're the smart arse who won. L gets out of the water predictably no longer terrified and simply elated. She'll be smug as hell tonight.

Then we leg it before the fireworks start, mainly for Doggo’s sake but there doesn’t look like they’ll be much happening anyway. We make it back to camp and then head for a busier than expected Old Dungeon Ghyll Inn but its still quiet enough to be pleasant. Then it’s down to the real business of the evening, the Old Peculiar and some hearty pub grub.

(Wednesday 2nd November)

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Yay, Its Friday

Yay, its Friday. For me anyway. My last day at work this week.

At lunch I head into town and book a black tie suit for the awards evening next week. L heads into town for survival rations for the two runs at the weekend. She reckons with her navigational skills she may need a couple of days worth. I’m sure she’s worrying unnecessarily, for a start she’s got a huge lake by the name of Ullswater to follow on the Sunday. Although I’ve not mentioned the killer walks I have planned before then.

I manage to fit a game of squash in tonight, although we won’t dwell on the score line. The dogs insist on coming too, so they get a nice trip out in the boot of the car and an hour or so in the car park.

(Tuesday 1st November)