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

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Please Explain

We enjoy the scenic route on the bus this morning, via Ilkeston and Spondon. There’s been another disaster on the A52 apparently, almost a daily occurrence at the moment.

L and I are battling to get one of the 250 places in the Barrathon, the Isle of Barra half marathon, entry to which they seem to making as taxing as possible. Entries go live on the web at 7.30 tonight and I leave L in charge alongside her spreadsheet ticking knitting, reading and chucking hot dogs (that’s a dog thing and probably not actually on the spreadsheet, I don’t think). I’ve had to move squash to Tuesday this week.

Technical problems however, with the online entry not with squash, where I have lack of talent problems, mean entries are quickly suspended and now we await a new date with the internet.

It’s not easy this race entering business I’ll have you know. In exchange for L doing Barra I was going to enter us both for the much less illustrious Droitwich but that’s now full. It's unbelievable that so many people want to run around Droitwich? So I enter us in Milton Keynes instead... Yes I know, why would anybody want to run around Milton Keynes? I have no idea. Please explain it to me.

(Tuesday 31st January)

Monday, 30 January 2012

Celebrity In The Family

Doggo’s twin brother is going to be on the stage and we receive some promos of the show in the post. We do keep telling Doggo that he's got a celebrity brother, but he doesn't seem bothered.

It’s intriguing to hear on the radio that a woman has managed to dump her car in the River Trent. Not intriguing that she put her car in the river, so much as where she did it, on the Victoria Embankment. Where it’s incredibly difficult to get anywhere near the river especially since they’ve built the new flood wall, which she must have had to drive around. I’d love to know more.

There are two runs for our veteran at dog training tonight, much to MD’s disgust. He gets six and still isn’t satisfied. Well, at least he’s mean and hungry.

On the way home I pick up some young lass whose hanging around the bus stops in Borrowash. L’s been out for another night of running and noshing.

(Monday 30th January)

Sunday, 29 January 2012

North Of The Humber

It’s zero degrees as we drive up the M1, M18, M62 and journey north of the Humber for the nowhere-near-Ferriby ten mile race. The start is in the village of Skidby and the car park half a mile away in the next village of Cottingham. This year we find somewhere to park in Skidby itself, which is much easier and we stumble across a mini race HQ at Skidby Windmill. Toilets, food, hot drinks etc. Everything you need really.

The race is set off punctually at 11am, it’s still chilly and I’ve forgotten my gloves but daren't nip back to the car to get them, in case the race goes without me, which I think it would have done. From memory I know the course is more or less uphill to halfway and then flat or downhill to the finish, apart from the final half a mile which involves another climb. Perhaps it would be nice to run it the other way around sometime...

I amble my way around to that halfway point in 37:42, 40 seconds slower than last year and pointing towards a race time of 1:15 at least. Awful. Even with the downs to come, that’s a lot to pull back to get under 1:13 which was my unstated aim. It would require a storming second half, better than 7 minute miles and I’ve been doing 7:30, 7:40 so far. Then I do a 7:00 and then a 6:50. Hmmm, possible.

My second half IS storming and I scrape home in 1:12:56, I fair sprinted up that last hill. Perhaps the training is starting to pay off. Last year’s t-shirt of the year is followed by another good one, although not quite as striking. It’s also long sleeved, which is needed this time of the year but will sadly be redundant by Easter.

While I hack 5 seconds off my time from last year, L hacks 5 minutes off hers. She does like to upstage me. That’s nearly 374 of her 500 miles down now. I wonder what my tally is, I ought to work it out and also the tally of miles to and from the races, that would be scary.

Then we do the same as last year and seek out some friends near Market Rasen, it’s been a year... and they again kindly do us a Sunday lunch.

(Sunday 29th January)

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Something To Disrupt

There’s another cross country race on the park for the dogs and I to disrupt this morning and this one seems rather important. It’s the Midland Counties Cross Country Championships.

I would have stayed to watch it and disrupt it some more but it’s the FA Cup 4th Round today. A rare treat in these parts, although they’ll be no 5th round treat as Derby lose 2-0 at home to Premier League Stoke City. This is no disgrace of course but I didn’t feel we really gave it a go. Reverting to one up front, after such a good run playing with two strikers, was initially perhaps tactically astute against a Premier League team but then having gone a goal down in only four minutes... not changing the system until fifteen minutes to go seemed rather unambitious to me.

In the evening we partake of the ‘Margaret Thatcher’ film, the ‘Iron Lady’ which is on in the cosy romantic confines of the Paul Smith screen at Broadway. Well it would have been romantic had it not been a total sell out and I suppose not a film about Margaret Thatcher/dementia.

The film opens with an old lady complaining about the price of milk in her local shop. That lady is Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep) who has given the security cordon around her flat the slip. Thatcher is now in her mid 80’s and growing physically and mentally frail. This is the focus for the majority of the film, an old lady in her twilight years, wandering around her flat, conversing with her daughter and her few staff, whilst sorting out the belongings of her late husband Dennis who died in 2003. Someone whom she seems to struggling to cope without because Dennis pops up regularly in her imagination, and in the ghostlike form of Jim Broadbent. This is at first confusing and then eventually quite annoying.

Interspersed with these present day scenes are flashbacks of the rest of her life. From growing up as a Greengrocer's Daughter to being inspired by her father and building a career in politics.

This is the real strength of the film as key events, such as the 1979 Election, the assassination of Airey Neave (Nicholas Farrell), the Brighton bombing, the miners' strike, the Poll Tax and the Falklands War vie for screen time. All of these scenes leave you gagging for more and while there were political omissions, personally I wanted more back story, of her life before politics, at university or while working as a barrister.

I also wanted to see the fight for the leadership of the party but her story is a vast one and there wouldn’t be enough time in any film for everything. Which makes it just the more annoying that after these too brief scenes we are returned repeatedly and rather frustratingly back to the present day.

It’s been a commonly expressed opinion, and I totally agree, that the film focuses on the wrong thing. A massive two-thirds of the film is set in the present day, which isn’t terribly interesting and actually makes me feel a bit uncomfortable for being a fly on the wall during somebody else’s declining health. Although it did achieve one thing and that was to humanise a woman who many people thought was anything but. Still, I got to the stage that if I saw Jim Broadbent's ghost one more time I was ready to stand up and punch him.

I can’t help feeling that if you want to make a film about an elderly person’s slide into dementia, then make one but you don’t need to focus on a famous figure to do that. Equally, if you going to make a film about Margaret Thatcher's life, make one. One day somebody will make a great one but unfortunately this isn't it. Two great story ideas do not together make one great film. An opportunity missed.

It’s still very enjoyable though, Dennis aside, with some great performances. Michael Pennington is hilarious as Michael Foot but then Michael Foot always was hilarious but Richard E Grant makes an odd Michael Heseltine. Meryl Streep meanwhile is outstanding as MT, but if we’re talking best Actress statuettes... is her Thatcher as good as Michelle Williams' Monroe? Probably not.

(Saturday 28th January)

Friday, 27 January 2012

Test Drive

Time to test drive some new trainers today. Same brand, different model. The bad news is they don’t seem very comfortable walking into work. This does not bode well.

I run to the bus stop in Chaddesden with the shoes still not feeling at all comfortable. Then I get the bus to Stapleford, getting off opposite the new Wetherspoons pub which is rather confusingly called the ‘Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren’, which is within an Admiral of being the same name as the well established (since about 1814) ‘Sir John Borlase Warren’ at Canning Circus.

Yet I’m sure they were going to call this new pub the ‘Staff and Serpent’ after the medical centre they demolished to make way for it but obviously they’ve changed their minds.

The man himself was born in Stapleford in 1753, became a Member of Parliament (although not in Nottingham), an able seaman and then obviously later an Admiral. So I suppose we have to say well done Wetherspoons.

We have, until recently, the ‘Warren Arms’ in Stapleford, almost opposite the new Wetherspoons, but I never made the connection with old Sir John. That pub was demolished last year to make way for some new shops shortly before the medical centre was demolished... to make way for the new Wetherspoons. Where's the sense in this? Couldn’t Wetherspoons have just renovated the pub? I’m being too logical aren’t I?

I also didn’t realise that the good Admiral was also commemorated by and appeared on the pub sign for the ‘Happy Man’ in nearby Hickings Lane, which is also no more. He was a ‘Happy Man’ because some lass called Caroline gave him the eye once and he said that if she married him she would make him the happiest man. So presumably she did.

Anyhow, I digress, from here it’s around five miles home, in my uncomfortable shoes which do eventually seem to bed in, either that or my feet have simply gone numb.

Once home, a night in with episode 3 of the Millennium Trilogy or if you prefer part one of film two e.g. ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’ which has loads of extra scenes, actually makes sense, unlike the film and is really excellent.

(Friday 27th January)

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Good News And Bad News

There’s good news and bad news on the squash front. The good news is that they seems to be promoting squash through England Squash And Racketball.

The bad news is that the council are ‘consulting’ about selling the centre, as new owners should be able to attract new investment and run the centre at a profit, which begs the question... why can’t the council.

There’s more bad news when we see table tennis being played in the other court. I hope that was only allowed because they’d been a last minute cancellation because courts are like gold dust on a Thursday evening.

It also seems to be a bit of a vicious game, judging by the blood curdling screams coming from that court.

I employ a change of tactics at lunch time, chicken, bacon and mushroom pie rather than usual steak and whatever. Doesn’t work.

(Thursday 26th January)

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Interesting Discussions

A rare outing for the bike today and what is almost even rarer is the lack of any punctures. Then I sit at work unable to feel my legs after the combination of yesterday’s long run and today’s bike, so I guess it must have gone alright.

Daughter causes an interesting discussion by referring to something she ate as the Hitler of all foods. Which I assume means it was bad but who knows. You never can sure these days now that bad often means good etc

The 2012 Hull Marathon causes another interesting discussion but one that is perhaps best deferred until after a few pints. It's only worthy of discussion at all because there’s a relay... so L and I could do half each. She’d probably want me to do the Humber Bridge though. It’s negotiable.

It turns out it’s a four leg relay, so we’d get two t-shirts and two medals... each. Unfortunately it also says a runner cannot run more than one leg. I can’t think why this would be, so naturally I’ve emailed them to complain.

It’s Burns Night tonight, on a Wednesday. So we can’t really celebrate it.

(Wednesday 25th January)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

I’d Rather Have Snow

It’s cold, wet and miserable this morning. The worst weather possible, I’d rather have snow.

L swims, 40 lengths. Another box ticked. She plans to run tonight (tick) and paint (tick). I hope she doesn’t forget to tick her reading box as well. Tick.

You may have seen that ex-future (ex-nailed on cert for) England manager Harry Redknapp is up in court this week. Answering questions about a Monaco bank account that is held in the name of his dog, Rosie. Poor old Rosie, having her financial details sprawled all over the papers like that.

I run home from work tonight. All the way. It was tough but I got there in the end. 21.8km, just over half marathon distance. It was actually as quick as stopping after 16km and getting the bus. Just more knackering obviously.

I recover with a salad... Do we have a box for salads? Tick. It was no ordinary salad though. Why do people have salads when they’re on a diet? They’ve obviously never feasted on one of L’s mega salads. Huge.

The Oscar nominations are announced tonight and what an awful bunch, the worst selection I’ve seen for years. Last year’s selection oozed with class but this year... oh dear. Both the films from my torrid weekend, War Horse and The Artist, get nominated. So too does Puss in Boots! Say no more.

(Tuesday 24th January)

Monday, 23 January 2012

Girls Are Quieter Than Boys?

Back to the grind today. Back to work, to the gym for L and dog class for MD. Doggo and I take the day off, exercise wise.

Someone told L that she should get a girl dog because apparently they are quieter than the boys. Clearly MD was having one of his noisier days at the time... one of the many... all of them really. There’s no evidence of girl dogs being quieter of course, certainly not at dog class tonight... but girls never have been quieter. Have they?

(Monday 23rd January)

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Sound Of Silence

Back over towards Shropshire today, for the second time within a month for the Blymhill 10k. It’s at a civilised time of 11am but it’s also a cross country, so I opt out. I’ll leave it to the girl who’s chasing the mileage. L bought some Kanadia trail shoes, just like mine, especially. The only difference is that they’re a rather ‘pretty’ pink, mine aren’t. Still, it seems a shame to get them dirty. She should stick to boring colours for her running shoes.

Blymhill is raising funds for their new village hall, which now looks pretty much complete. Registration is in it. Does this mean there won't be a race next year?

They march the runners down to their fate, and the start, somewhere in the middle of a farmer’s field. The boys and I go along to bark encouragement. They did say on the info that the event wasn't suitable for dogs but it turns out to be one of the most dog friendly events there is. There was some great walking down public footpaths both at the start and at the finish.

Apparently some of the km markers were a bit comedic and everyone thought they’d done a PB for the first 5k but the organisers were just having a laugh and spaced the markers further apart for the second half of the run.

After battling through the wind, over a few stiles, through some woodland and probably a bit of mud they are all handed a fluffy blue buff for their troubles. Wind, stiles, woodland, mud... would I have liked it? Probably not. Still, there are nice cakes at the finish for which you didn't have to do the run to partake in.

Tonight, in the age of 3D and CGI, we watch Golden Globe winner 'The Artist' which is a silent film, made in black and white and not even widescreen. Ho hum. I must be feeling rebellious.

Hollywood 1927, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a silent movie star of huge proportions. After another successful premiere, a pretty young fan throws herself at him (1920's style) and he poses for photos with her. The young girl is Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), who starts to audition for the movies herself and gets a role as an extra. George is even more impressed when he meets her legs. It's lust at first sight (1920's style).

Times are a changing though, movies with words are on the way... 'talkies' they call them. George scoffs at the mere thought but audiences want change he's told. It's time to move on but filled with a sense of his own importance and perhaps a little fear, he doesn't. Meaning his fall from grace is almost as swift as the rise of the new star and the pin-up of the 'talkies'. Some chick called Peppy Miller. Ouch.

George stumbles on, from one crisis to another. His self-funded film, silent of course, flops. The stock market crashes, leaving him destitute. His wife leaves him and he is forced to fire his loyal butler Clifton. Then when he runs out of alcohol in which to drown his sorrows he auctions off everything he owns. When that fails to solve his problems he sets fire to his old film reels and, with them, his apartment. This leads me nicely on to the star of the film, who rushes to his aid, Uggie the dog.

Meanwhile bizarrely, frighteningly, Peppy Miller not content with backwardly slagging George off in public, has started to stalk him. Maybe she's just taking pity on him, but come on she bought ALL his possessions. Obsessive or what. She even takes on his discarded butler. She’s one scary woman, steer clear, but he doesn't and he convalesces from his fire damage at her house where he finds out the extent of her obsessive behaviour/kindness. He puts a gun in his mouth in an attempt to kill himself. For God's sake man, think of the dog, the one that is anxiously pulling at your trouser leg.

This isn’t actually a bad plot when you write it all down but it’s all old school silent, complete with the overblown gestures and storyboards of the day. Oh, apart from a brief dream sequence where we had sound, which teased you into thinking the plot would develop in that direction. It was certainly odd for the film to continue completely silent with Miller now acting in ‘talkies’ but not being able to hear her.

Its hard work, the lack of dialogue just keeps you focused on trying to lip read what everyone is saying. This is perhaps why I’ve never made it through a silent film before and why everyone unanimously thought ‘talkies’ were such a big step forward. The chap next to us clearly agreed, he went to the loo or the bar at least three times.

At the end Valentin is back in the spotlight tap dancing, partnering Peppy Miller. So is the message of the film that unless you adapt to the times you become obsolete... and to make their point they make a silent film about the end of silent films, in black and white and not even widescreen. Ho hum. Now who's obsolete? Confused? I am.

Ok... it's not a bad film... it’s a well crafted period piece with some excellent attention to detail... but you still walk out thinking that there was a valid reason why silent movies disappeared. Well I did. However, I am clearly in the minority. There appears to a Best Picture Oscar waiting for ‘The Artist’. Which I think will be a bit of a kick in the teeth for the actors and actresses who have put in great performances this year, that is if they get beaten by two people who do not speak.

Well at least everyones favourite character has already had his recognition. In Cannes last year, Uggie was awarded the 2011 Palm Dog award for Best Canine Performance in a film. Bless.

I need a drink after that. We head to The King William IV in darkest Sneinton and then the Newshouse on Canal Street.

(Sunday 22nd January)

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Horse Stew Anyone?

A nice lie in, then a park session with the little balls to save Doggo having a limp for the rest of the weekend followed by a doze in front of the radio as Derby bore draw 0-0 with Burnley.

Then to Broadway for one of L’s choices. N.B. I chose ‘Drive’ and ‘Shame’, L chose ‘Puss In Boots’ and... ‘War Horse’. Say no more.

‘War Horse’ is a children's book by Michael Morpurgo that I wasn’t really aware of until recently. I’m assured it’s a cracking book and that there’s also a rather good stage production of it using life-sized horse puppets. That’s perhaps where it should have stayed.

It appears to be a fanciful tale that perhaps works in those formats, perhaps a cartoon would have worked also but here, where Steven Spielberg tries to tell it as a real story on film, it fails spectacularly.

Yeah it’s got great, well actually overdone, cinematography, loads of dramatic music and an able cast. Sadly they are all asked to play clichéd stereotypes and to work with a script that asks you to suspend belief at the cinema door. Welcome to the equine offspring of a one night stand between ‘Lassie Come Home’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’.

Now I've never trained a horse, but I've trained dogs and simply whispering in their ears what you want them to do doesn’t work. I'll go out on a limb here and suggest that it doesn't work with horses either but I suppose I could be wrong.

Then the way the bone hard rock strewn field suddenly becomes ploughable to a foot depth after five minutes of rain was hilarious, almost as hilarious as the plough itself splitting a large rock in two. Again I’m no expert but surely it would be basic farming practice to remove as many of the rocks as possible before you attempt to plough the field? Therefore not making it as hard as possible for your horse, even if that horse does happen to be Joey the wonder horse? The story doesn’t get any less ridiculous from there onwards, very little of it made any sense at all.

Sorry I’m skipping the actual plot here. Farmer Narracott (Peter Mullan), a Boer war veteran (he doesn’t talk about it), buys a thoroughbred horse at a Devon cattle market rather than the usual type of nag you’d use to plough a field with and he uses the family’s rent money to do so. Oops. Commonsense bypass. His missus, Emily Watson, with her brow permanently furrowed (unlike their field) isn’t happy. Cue yet more furrowing of brow. No matter, their teenage son Albert (Jeremy Irvine), occasionally called Albie, trains him, hence the whispering. He names our hero Joey.

Well the field gets ploughed and the crops get sown but then they all destroyed by another freak storm, not unlike the one that got the field ploughed in the first place. Joey gets sold to a captain in the British cavalry (Tom Hiddleston) for use in a suicidal WWI military manoeuvre, so that the rent can be paid.

Once the cavalry have all been slaughtered, Joey ends up in the hands of the Germans where he is cared for by two young brothers, one of whom is only 14 but then presumably after having lied about his age to get in the German army, the pair of them inexplicably decide to desert using the horses to escape. They are captured and shot. Good riddance.

Joey and another horse are now in the hands of a sickly young French girl called Emilie. We only know she’s French because she calls her grandfather ‘grand père’ in a terrible French accent. Joey is only briefly in these pseudo-French hands because soon a group of soldiers with equally bad German accents snatch the horses back. A bit of real foreign language dialogue here would have added a much needed touch of reality and clarity to the proceedings because it’s anybody’s guess what language the ensuing German-French conversation takes place in.

Now Joey the wonder horse visits the Somme circa 1918, where he escapes from the retreating Germans and goes for a gallop across no man’s land, running straight through at least two barbed wire fences... er, no, terribly unlikely. Finally entangled in the wire we get the one great scene of the film as a British and German soldier team up to cut him free from the barbed wire.

Back in the hands of the Brits, Joey is about to be shot because he’s too damaged to save when Albert, himself now fighting and subsequently wounded in the war, recognises his beloved Joey. Quickly the armistice is declared, yet Albert and Joey, suddenly in perfect health again, are set to be parted once more because all the horses are to be auctioned off.

Grand père turns up out of the blue and outbids everyone for the horse, wanting Joey in memory of his granddaughter who has since died. Blimey, ten minutes ago she looked as strong as, well, a horse. Still, it’s a relief of sorts because my partner suspected that she'd resurface later as romantic interest for our Albie. Phew.

I don’t feel guilty spoiling the plot and saying that it all turns out ok in the end because you’d know that from the off. It’s all so inevitable. The more interesting back story was whether Albert's father’s Boer war pennant, which accompanied Joey the whole time, would make it home safely. Thankfully it did.

In the book Joey actually narrates the story (it probably worked better that way around) and it would have been nice for the horse to have said something like ‘That’s All Folks’ at the end to complete the charade but sadly it didn't.

It is, I think, supposed to be a tear jerker and my partner may have shed a few at some point but then she cries in most things and it’s hard not to cry for the horse for putting up with the corny script. Surprisingly the usually able Richard Curtis worked on it. He does reuse what he can from ‘Black Adder Goes Forth’ but even that doesn’t save the film.

I was originally going to say it’s an ok but not great film but the more I think about it, the more terrible it seems. Frankly it was awful, apart from the horse that is, who to be fair, was great, nay, terrific and acts everyone else off the screen. Give that stallion an Oscar and send the rest of them back to the trenches.

(Saturday 21st January)

Friday, 20 January 2012

The Wrong Socks

L bemoans her 2.3 mile run this morning. Well it’s better than not doing a 2.3 mile run and it’s another tick on the spreadsheet. All hail the spreadsheet. I intend to do mine after work, although I think it might be a short run due to the foul weather.

In the end I run another ten miles, the second time this week, because amazingly it stays dry. Although I did the whole thing with the wrong socks on, having packed my ‘short distance’ socks rather than my ‘long distance’ ones. The blisters will be hell. Still, it’s another ten miles for the spreadsheet. Tick.

Then it’s ‘Dragon Tattoo’ night as we watch episode two of the TV series and hence complete book one. So far it's much better than both films. The rest will be interesting. Books two and three had so much cut out of them, they made little sense at all.

(Friday 20th January)

Thursday, 19 January 2012

A Very Small Tea Cup

I leave the house this morning noticing that the spare key is still in the front door and L’s keys are on the worktop. L meanwhile is out with dogs. I leave the front door unlocked correctly calculating that someone has forgotten their keys.

The traffic is horrendous again as I drive to work.

The dog club call an emergency meeting about what to me is a very small storm in a very small tea cup but some people like to decant these things into a bigger cup and stir furiously in the hope of getting a good crisis going. I refuse to attend. I have an appointment with a couple of spreadsheets and a curry tonight.

The spreadsheet appointment is with my mate to get a few ticks in his ‘squash games’ column. I suggest we ought to do what those guys in Thame did... 200 games. I bet their spreadsheet is looking healthy.

We manage four and I don’t win any of them.

After one in the Globe with him, I meet L, who has walked up with the dogs, at the now refurbished White Hart. The Thursday curry has gone down from £5.00 to £4.49 and they’ve added a free pint and poppadoms but taken away the naan bread. The free pint is Greene King IPA but they agree to pour me something more decent for an extra 50p, taking it back up to a fiver plus a £1 extra for the naan.

It wasn’t as good as it was before but it was ok and much better than the Wetherspoons one we had at Christmas.

Tonight’s ‘emergency’ meeting was cancelled. Must have ran out of cups.

(Thursday 19th January)

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Subtle Pressure Fails

The ructions from the great Loughborough Half Marathon rejection rumble on. I try and exert a bit of gentle pressure on the organisers by email. I imagine there’s a pretty high chance of a place coming up but can we afford to risk it by waiting and end up, horror of horrors, with a weekend off. The obvious way of ensuring a place is probably by entering something else on the same day, then for sure we'll be offered a place in Loughborough.

When the subtle pressure doesn’t work... stuff 'em... I ask to have our names taken off the waiting list and we enter Stafford instead.

It’s further to go but L assures me it was a good t-shirt last year. How does she know that? I don’t remember running it... but then there’s a lot things I don’t remember these days. She’s says she’s seen loads of people wearing them, that’s ok then.

It’s also not far from Leek and that was a hilly b****rd. It does say ‘incorporating two steady climbs’ on the info. I will so look forward to it.

I run from work and run a bit further than last week but I’m not sure how far as my GPS packs up. I’m guessing around 16k, 10 miles. I’m almost at Bramcote when it dawns on me that if I go much further it will become rather pointless getting the bus for only another couple of miles. So I stop there and then, at least making it worth getting the Mango card out. I’m also not sure I’ve got another three miles in me.

I get home and then, as instructed, shove L out of the door for hers.

(Wednesday 18th January)

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Ye Old Frog & Parrot

I get the bus. It’s sort of too cold to cycle... and I’m sort of too bruised to run... and we’re due in Sheffield tonight. Excuses excuses.

We’d entered a new local race, well a resurrected one from years gone by. The Loughborough Half. The bad news is, we’re not in because it’s full. We’ve been placed on a waiting list and encouraged to bid for a free place that been placed on ebay. Hmmm.

I think sending a postal entry was our downfall, we need to stick to online entries for these big races. Not that we thought this was a 'big' race. In fact I suspect it’s a very small one but as they still haven’t divulged the race limit we don’t actually know.

In the evening we head up to the M1. L is taking Daughter swimming at the hugely impressive 50m Olympic sized pool there at Ponds Forge.

I’m not tempted. I recall how bloody far it was from land to land last time I swam there, which was the only time actually and anyway I’ve got the dogs to look after. We couldn’t really leave them at home after being at work all day. Maybe next time.

So we pub crawl Sheffield, the dogs and I, with the electronic version of the Good Beer Guide in one hand and the furry twosome in the other. All without actually going in any pubs. I’m just casing the joint because L and I fancy a night out in Sheffield some time.

We’re already got our eye on the 'Sheffield Tap' by the station but the boys and I head more into the centre and find some interesting venues. ‘Henrys’ isn’t very promisingly named but looks ok. The ‘Devonshire Cat’ looks even better and the ‘Old House’ better still. Sort of a bit like our 'Ropewalk' here in Nottingham. The ‘Old House’ is on trendy Division Street which is where you’ll also find 'Bungalows and Bears', which L’s been in and, although not in the Beer Guide, probably needs to be tried. Also on Division Street is the once legendary Frog & Parrot...

Time to reminisce...

The Frog & Parrot has its own brewhouse, although this is currently mothballed. The place used to be run by a chap called Roger and was a Whitbread house that had free reign to brew their own beers. Which they did with abandon and sold nothing else, which was quite a thing in the 1980’s and 90’s, thus gaining the place quite a cult status.

Its main notoriety however came from brewing 'Roger and Out', which was at the time the world's strongest beer and was served only in thirds of a pint. You got a certificate for each third, on which the writing got more blurred on each one.

Then having drunk a full pint and acquired all three certificates you were eligible for a t-shirt, at extra cost, and an ambulance home. It was 16.9% ABV when it was certified by the Guinness Book of Records but I believe they toned it down over the years to around 11%.

'Roger and Out' was more a gimmick than a beer (see Brewdog for a modern equivalent) and was pretty much undrinkable. Some of their other beers were excellent though. Reckless at 4.5% was the beer of choice but 'Roger's Conqueror' was also worth a go at 6.7%. I also vaguely recall one called 'Roger's Rocket Fuel' as well. The house beer was called ‘Old Croak’ but that was too weak for me.

(from the 1994 Camra Good Beer Guide)

The staff in the pub were often dressed up like the serving wenches from that bar in Black Adder (the women anyway) and he had a real parrot called Toni, which allegedly used to fly around the pub and drink from people’s glasses but it was always confined to barracks in its cage when I was there. The parrot apparently got so stressed by it all, it pecked most of its feathers out, had to be retired and was replaced by a plastic one. I’ve no idea what happened to the frog...

Sadly all this is mere history now and if I mention the two words ‘Greene King’ you’ll probably nod your head in sad recognition of the reason why. The Frog & Parrot now appears to be just another run of the mill Greene King pub and is now outshone by the more promising establishments on the street, so we’ll probably, sadly, give it a wide berth when we come up.

Still it should be a full and fun night, as long as we avoid the students...

(Tuesday 17th January)

Monday, 16 January 2012

A Flaw In The Planning Stage

I made it on time to work, somehow. The A52 was backing up into Bramcote but I managed to divert through Ilkeston.

I’m at training tonight and L is munching on Brussel sprout casserole as her mother’s. I’m well out of that one. I’ll have pate and cheese when I get home.

Training goes well even though our trainer is away and I’m asked to set the course. It is well received, despite a flaw in the planning stage that means I run out of space and one of the obstacles ends up sending the dogs straight into a wall. I have to adapt it, which means it ends up being harder than I’d planned, but no one lynches me.

I’m the only one who has problems. When I run Doggo, just for a bit of exercise and only over the low jumps, he deviates and tries to jump the bigger ones. I try to stop him and run into a horse jump that someone hadn’t put away. Now they’re a bit bigger and more substantial than our dog jumps. Ouch. Another bruise to the dodgy hip.

(Monday 16th January)

Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Logical Place To Start Looking

Today the oddly named ‘Not The Roman IX’. The name came from the original sponsors back in 1968, Roman Motors, and when the race was over nine miles. Eight years ago the host venue was changed to the Sports and Social Club of NFU Mutual in Tiddington, which is just outside Stratford upon Avon. The change to the start and finish meant a new distance of 12k. So at least we’re both guaranteed a PB as neither of us have done a 12k before. It’s also going to be a frosty one, its -3 when we leave home. Time for long sleeves I think.

The race organisation was pretty faultless, they was also chip timing and a nice cotton t-shirt at the end. I, for one, am getting a bit sick of technical ones. I have to go for a run four times a day now just to use all the ones I have acquired.

The start was a km down the road which made for a nice little workout for my father who had come to support. Route wise, it was hardly exciting but that’s fine by me. They said there was one climb just before half-way, although I’m sure the road started going upwards at about 3.5k. Then it was downhill into the only civilisation on route, the village of Loxley. It was quite a steep downhill section which they had thoughtfully gritted. Around there was the first of two water stations, not that I partook at either.

There was a final short kick upwards near the end followed by a slightly downhill run over the last km to the finish. Out of just over 600 entrants, I come in 148th or something like that. My time is nothing special but is at the right pace to break my Half Marathon PB, should I be able to maintain it for 13 miles. Which is my project at the moment.

When we drop my father off, my mother offers us Sunday lunch. Which is great and very welcome. Unfortunately this stuffs up our plans of a film and meal at Broadway this evening on the grounds (a) we’re now running late and (b) we’re stuffed, but all in a nice way and you can’t have everything.

Instead we head to the South Side of Nottingham, continuing the quest perhaps for the Midnight Owl. The Canalhouse would have been a good place to start, if it wasn’t shut. So we head to the Vat & Fiddle, which being effectively the brewery tap you would have thought might have been the logical place to start looking. We certainly could have saved ourselves some shoe leather because there it was on the bar.

A very pleasant night ensues and it’s just one of several decent ales on the bar tonight. We ought to come here more than once every couple of years.

(Sunday 15th January)

Saturday, 14 January 2012

No One’s Holding Any Breath

We stay in bed as naturally we don’t expect the gasman to turn up at 8am, if at all and I’m certainly not getting up on the off chance. Anyway it says he’ll call when he’s on his way. Only, he doesn’t and at 8.30am he’s banging on the door. ‘Hi, I’ve come to disrupt your Saturday morning’ he tells us, or something like that.

He fixes the heating, sort of. No one’s holding any breath around here.

I take the dogs on a very frosty park and have no problem with Doggo refusing to go through the gate. I have no idea what L was on about. The frost does seem to perk him up though and he overdoes it with the football, perhaps I should have rationed him, and he’s limping around by the end of the day.

At the match, Derby again bore the pants off us but again win 1-0. I’ve said this before but, yet again, this is looking uncannily and rather worrying like the Billy Davies promotion season.

Tonight’s film is Shame.

On the surface Brandon (Michael Fassbender) seems to be your typical office worker and typical red-blooded male, checking out the girls from behind, eyeing them up on the tube and if he can pull someone in the bar after work then he wouldn't turn down any action offered to him.

Only I hope she doesn’t want to talk afterwards. She’ll likely be ushered out of the door pretty quickly, that is if she got in the door in the first place and wasn’t just offered a quickie in the street.

The Buzzcocks would have said ‘he's an orgasm addict, he's always at it’. Nipping off to the toilets if he gets a spare minute in his work day, for a quick one to one with his right hand and then later, a night of virtual sex in front of his laptop.

Although he seems to have little problem picking up women, he prefers prostitutes. He finds it easier to relate to them, or with his right hand, than with a real person. No strings attached. No feelings, no emotions. We’re led to believe he’s a junkie feeding a drug habit.

He certainly struggles to relate to his younger sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) who turns up unannounced in his shower one night. Sissy has her own problems, is incredibly needy but probably just requires a bit of attention and to spend some time with her brother. They are both a bit of a mess, in different ways.

Brandon resents having her crash at his place as it interferes with his routine and he grows increasingly frustrated with her invasive presence. He also isn't too thrilled when she mimics some of his own behaviour by hooking up with a married man (James Badge Dale) who also happens to be Brandon’s boss. More than anything it’s not terribly good form to shag your brother’s boss in your brother’s own bed.

When Brandon actually tries to enjoy a date with a colleague from the office, it’s an uncomfortable night. He is much happier when he drags her out of work the next day and takes her to a hotel for, yes a quickie, but he can’t go through with it with someone he actual knows and respects.

Meanwhile the secrecy around his habit is starting to unravel. His computer at work is taken away by the IT department, to have all the porn he’s downloaded on to it removed. Luckily they don’t seem to suspect him. Then Sissy stumbles across one of his virtual friends on his laptop. Slowly his world begins to spiral out of control as he is forced to hunt outside his normal boundaries to feed his addiction.

There really is not that much to the film story wise. It’s a portrait of a man struggling with his inner sexual demons and it leaves a lot unresolved. There are no reasons offered for his addiction or for what is behind the strained relationship with his sister.

There’s plenty of explicitness, which in a film about sex addiction is understandable. However there is also quite a bit of gratuitous nudity... unless the film is hinting at something deeper. Sissy certainly isn't shy about being naked around her brother. If that had happened in our household there would have been plenty of choice words said on both sides.

At least the nudity isn’t discriminatory. A Michael Fassbender full frontal is followed by Carey Mulligan full frontal but then there’s that scene of Fassbender urinating... Was that really necessary?

The film sort of hangs around a shocking scene that comes towards the end, which I won’t divulge but again we’re left wondering, does it change anything?

Right at the close, he sees a woman on the tube, the same woman he eyed up right at the start of the film. On that occasion, as he pretty much telegraphed his intentions to her, she was happy to give him the eye back, clearly interested. Then when she got up, we saw her wedding ring and her expression change to one of shame for flirting with him before she ran out on to the platform. Despite running after her, he lost her in the crowd, leaving him gutted he would have to go elsewhere for his next ‘hit’.

Now she has glammed up and appears to have had second thoughts about having second thoughts but is Brandon still tempted after all he’s been through?

We came out of the cinema and my first thoughts were ‘is that it?’ I was a little disappointed but then we talked about it constantly for the next 24 hours, still trying to decipher it. Which is always the sign of a good film.

(Saturday 14th January)

Friday, 13 January 2012

The Curse Of Friday The 13th

Late again. After such an awful drive in yesterday it’s got to be the bike today. It’s cold but I’ve got my new Christmas Pressie Booties, I mean overshoes, which keep my feeties very warm.

Today though, it doesn’t take fifteen minutes less by bike. Despite making sure I leave well early, I’m late again due to getting yet another puncture. No idea why. Well it is Friday the 13th but I didn’t know bad luck was supposed to last all week.

L works the morning and then goes home to await the gasman. Where she says its freezing but she daren’t put the heating on in case it burns the his fingers. I sympathise from my comfy seat in the pub over a lunch of steak pie and beer. I recommend a strategy of one collie across her feet and the other one on her lap.

Then we hear he’s gone off sick and isn’t coming. I get the feeling this doesn’t go down well at home. Instead he’ll be round at 8am in the morning to ruin our Saturday morning.

I bike home and carry my lock with me. I threaten the bike that if it gives me any trouble I'm locking it up and hopping on a bus. It behaves.

The now (almost) traditional Friday night in, where I cook and we watch the Top Of The Pops reruns. Which thankfully we only have one to watch, so we end up viewing the Millennium Trilogy that I’ve just purchases on DVD. It’s in six parts and part one, which we watch tonight, is the first half of ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’. The whole series adds a total of two hours to the film versions and already it is more like the books and makes infinitely more sense.

(Friday 13th January)

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Jovial Fist Fights And Knifings In The Back

L goes for an early swim and leaves the house before me. As I leave not long afterwards it seems odd turning the lights off and leaving the boys in the dark. It doesn’t seem to be getting any lighter in the mornings. Still they probably like it dark for their morning kip.

I arrive late for work again because it took an hour and five minutes to drive the fourteen miles to work this morning. Nightmare. It takes me fifteen minutes less than that by bike.

I consider putting in for this year’s Great North Run but not for long. £48!

We decide that neither of us are wealthy enough or stupid enough to pay that but just wait until we’ve had a few beers this weekend... then who knows.

I have a committee meeting tonight which brings the usual jovial fist fights and knifings in the back. It also seems to go on forever. Such joy.

(Thursday 12th January)

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Mrs Beeton

On the bike and I’m late for work, not that I have any reason for this, other than being sluggish getting out of bed.

L complains about one of the dog refusing to go through the park gates and wanting to go home. I assumed she meant MD, keen to get back for his breakfast but no she means the old man. I've never had that problem with him. It’ll be interesting if he refuses when I’ve got the footballs on Saturday. Neither of them are actually that much into walking... they’d both make terrible dogs.

L plans a night of running, painting, knitting, reading and hoovering as well as soup and noodle making for tea. A woman's work is never done. Her words not mine. She’s turning into Mrs Beeton. Her words not mine. That’s a much fitter and sexier Mrs Beeton obviously, I don’t recall Mrs B running many half marathons but I could be wrong.

Did you know Mrs Beeton died age 28 and allegedly couldn't cook? Me neither.

Meanwhile I’m swimming. When L swam yesterday morning there were only two folk in the pool, including herself, and she bragged about spreading herself around a bit. Tonight, even the quietest of the six lanes has at least three people in it. If I spread myself around a bit I’ll end up spread all over the five young bikini wearing ladies in lane 3. Such is life.

Then its dog class with a very fired up MD. He does fired up so well. I need to get him booked into some events soon before this fired-up-ness wears off.

(Wednesday 11th January)

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

New Year Spreadsheets

L sends me her New Year spreadsheet, everyone’s got a spreadsheet for the New Year or so it seems. Squash opponent sent me his the other day.

His involves targets for badminton games, squash games, km on the treadmill, km walking, holes of golf, AF nights and meat free meals. An interesting combo.

L’s on the other hand consists of miles ran, hours in the gym, lengths swam, miles cycled, alcohol units, films watched, books read, rows knitted, hoovering... and there’s talk of a decorating column being added... fascinating.

What shall I put in mine? Or shall I just combine the three I’ve already got. Yes, I'm afraid I already have a bit of a spreadsheet thing going on.

L spots the No Pants Subway Ride. Which is an annual event on subways worldwide including London.

Check out Going Underground, the London Underground blog.

I wonder if the commuters on the Nottingham Tram took part?

While L heads to the gym and book club, to de-stress after a day when she threatened to put her boss in a straightjacket, I run home, vowing to have something simmering for her by the time she gets home.

14.7km. I got carried away again but a good run nonetheless. I jump on the bus and then hobble the rest of the way home. Somehow I need to be able to kick the dogs around the garden when I get home.

(Tuesday 10th January)

Monday, 9 January 2012

Punch Up At Sainsbury’s

It always nice if something livens up your lunch hour and the punch up in Sainsbury’s car park certainly did that. Plenty of blood split until security broke them up. I would like to say it was two women smashing the hell out of each other with their shopping bags but it wasn’t, it was two blokes. Find it hard to believe they were scrapping over the last bag of Granny Smiths but who knows.

L threatens rabbit food tonight, she says she’s not feeling slim and suggests I might want to come home from dog class via the chippy. Wash your mouth out girl. I can’t do that, I’m now in half marathon training mode. I can cope with the green stuff, particularly as I’ve got best ham, cheese and coleslaw to defile it.

(Monday 9th January)

Sunday, 8 January 2012

If No One Decent Turns Up

L had tried to get into a race up in Rother Valley today but that was so badly advertised it was cancelled due to lack of interest. There was one in Birmingham, a five miler and it looked like we would be heading there. I didn’t really mind where we went, I intended to be on bacon butty duty no matter what but then L found something far more local. The Burton Joyce 10k. It sounded ideal. If it was on... as it wasn’t exactly being heavily advertised but it wasn’t far to go if it’s cancelled or full.

When we found some details, it confirmed the main thing, that they had bacon cobs. Although I quickly became tempted with the run. The photos on the website show people running on tarmac and not through some muddy field. It’s also the sort of race I might do well in... e.g. badly advertised and no one decent turns up, but only if I prepared properly the night before... e.g. four pints of something 5% followed by a whisky chaser. Which I haven’t done, unfortunately.

It says that if you walk the 5k you get a free bacon cob – all for £2, or you can run the 10k for £6 and buy your own. Incentive? Not. Decisions decisions. If I was a mileage slag like L I wouldn't have such a tough decision to make.

Then L expresses concerns for my street cred, not that I thought I had any. What if someone I knew saw me doing a poncy 5K walk? Could I live it down? Could I have a pint of Abbot on the back of a 5K walk? Clearly there's much more to think about than a mere bacon butty.

So here I am, on the start line. However you can scrub that doing well. There are quite a lot of entrants and they look a pretty fit bunch to me. We start and the first thing to say is I’m not sure about the km marking. 3:38 for the first km and then 4:40 for the second doesn’t sound right. I also find the ‘Fun Run’ signs all the way around unnerving, they seem to imply either I’m on the wrong course or I should be enjoying it. I’m not particularly; it hurts all the way around due to Friday's run.

They make us run back past the finish, which I assume is where you stop if you’re only doing the 5k. However we’ve only done 4.5k, which makes the £2 ‘Meal n Walk Deal’ even better.

I’ve made my choice though and now I’ve got two laps of a 1k loop around the pub, where there’s no one counting your laps and I suspect a few short cutters. Before I even get on to my first loop though the winner blasts past me in the opposite direction, in the lead by some distance. I’m not even at the 7k marker, such was his lead.

Finally loops done, I’m on the final stretch and I hear someone coming up behind me heavy-footedly, I'm knackered so I decide that he can go past, I won’t fight it. That is until I realise there's three of them. That puts a completely different complexion on the matter, I can't allow that. I try and speed up, ultimately holding them off.

I cross the line, having flogged my guts out all the way round, only to discover there’s no one taking results at the finish. Now I understand the bloody ‘Fun Run’ signs, only it wasn't.

At 43:47 I’m about a minute quicker than I have been doing and allegedly 9th but I can't confirm this. There’s a good time for L too, who’s back in the 58's.

Then after coffee and ball chucking with the dogs its home for a Full English, a hot bath and some last minute Puss in Boots persuasion.

Ok, ok, I give in, we’ll go.

It opens with Puss crawling out of the boudoir of another cat, though not only is Puss (Antonio Banderas) gaining a reputation with the kitties, he’s become an outlaw. He’s a wanted cat with a price on his head.

One night in a bar he hears that Jack and Jill, murderous outlaws obviously, are in town and in possession of the fabled magic beans that they have stolen from another Jack (he of the beanstalk) who’s in jail. You may already be spotting here that the story is not exactly faithful to the original Puss in Boots story but some hybrid collaboration of fairytales.

Puss wants those beans but is thwarted when he tries to get them by a fellow feline in a kinky mask. This is Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) - master thief, useful with a sword, on the dance floor and potential love interest.

Unfortunately Kitty is working for Humpty 'Alexander' Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis). I kid you not. I kind of lost it at this point and spent the rest of the film wondering why it had a giant egg in it. Though, I guess, once you base a film on a talking cat, it isn’t much of a stretch to include a talking egg as well... but Humpty Dumpty? Oh my.

Hump and Kit want Puss to help them get the beans but he wants nothing to do with them. Well not with Humpty anyway; the over-sized egg had betrayed him once before and clearly he doesn’t wish to end up with egg on his face again. Kitty on the other hand... flutters her eyelashes and... oh, ok then. He’ll do it to try and restore his good name. Puss was once in an orphanage before being taken in by a kind-hearted woman called Imelda. While living with her he gained the trust and respect of the whole town before it all went wrong thanks to the egg.

So they steal the beans and plant them at a ‘special’ spot from which sprouts a beanstalk to the heavens. All they now have to do is shin up to the Giant's castle which lies at the top and grab the goose that lays the golden eggs. Sound familiar? I’m not sure how Puss thinks that snatching a baby goose from its mother will restore his good name but anyway. At least they’ll all be rich, maybe. Maybe not.

I went into this film with very mild expectations, they were not exceeded. Puss himself was quite good but he was clearly working with a very amateur supporting cast and as for the scriptwriter, oh dear. Some of the cat jokes are clever but it’s not enough to save a very lazy plot. It’s a family film obviously but I think as a child it would have bored me. Years ago, this was the sort of thing that would have been a mere TV series, shown at 4pm on the BBC’s Children’s slot. Definitely not put on the big screen. It’s certainly not a classic that they’ll be dragging out to reshow year after year. Could have been a lot better.

We head to the Keans Head in search of our own fabled beans or rather the fabled Midnight Owl, Castle Rock’s winter ale that went down a storm at the Nottingham Beer festival but which has proved totally illusive ever since and winter/time is running out. No luck in the Keans either, although they have trusty Salem Porter on.

We pop in the Ropewalk on the way home, once home there’s homemade cheeseboard waiting.

(Sunday 8th January)

Saturday, 7 January 2012

A Very Very Rare Feat

The first thing to note today is that hot on the heels of three wins out of three over Christmas, a very very rare feat around these parts, Derby also win a cup game. It’s only 1-0 against a Crystal Palace reserve side with Dougie Freeman understandably resting his entire first team ahead of a League Cup Semi-Final on Tuesday but, as they say, we’re in the bag for the next round.

It was also mind-numbingly dull as Derby hung on to a ninth minute lead courtesy of a Theo Robinson goal. The highlight, apart from the scrappy goal, is the DJ playing ‘Mrs Robinson’ in his honour. They must have got that teed up ready in the hope of Theo bagging one. A rare spot of humour in what was a humourless game, that only 10,000 turned up to watch.

Totally the clubs fault though and nothing to do with the FA Cup allegedly losing its appeal. It was only £12 a ticket and no offence meant to Crystal Palace but if the club had asked Season Ticket holders to pay £12 to watch the league match again Crystal Palace they’d have got the same gate. It should have been a freebie, bring back those cup vouchers we used to have.

Tonight we’re at Broadway for the swift and pointless remake, sorry re-adaptation, by Hollywood of, yep, ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’. Luckily most pointless remakes, sorry re-adaptations, aren't directed by David Fincher and, to my immense surprise, I rather liked it.

That is once I got over the rather unexpected opening credits which involved Led Zeppelin's ‘Immigrant Song’ remade, sorry re-adapted, by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross with vocals by Karen O. Together with rather striking visuals. It was totally out of place and was more like a supporting feature. It was how you’d expect a James Bond film to open and then low and behold on walked Bond himself, Daniel Craig.

I won't go over all the plot again because you should know it and if you don't, either go read the book, see the Swedish original or if you’re American and you can’t read subtitles, then read my review of it. This review could only ever have been a comparison between the two.

Just like the Swedish original the first hour felt rushed with too much to fit in. You urged it to slow down and eventually it did. At which point it dawned in me that this version was actually more faithful to the novel and included plenty of scenes that were omitted from the original. Blomkvist's daughter is back as is his affair with Erika Berger but not his one with Cecilia but it’s also clear that Fincher has seen the Swedish version because he steals plot from that as well, using the same shortcuts in places.

Of course, the Swedish version was spliced from a TV series which, across the trilogy, left a total of two hours on the cutting room floor. I've just ordered the DVD of that, so that'll be an interesting watch to see what was cut for the cinema release. However, they still cut it, so they have to take the rap for it.

This version also seems to big up Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) role and reduce Mikael Blomkvist’s (Daniel Craig) which considering we have a rather wooden Mr Craig here, is perhaps no bad thing. Craig’s Blomkvist lacks emotion and personality, at times looks lost and forgets to wear enough clothes for the Swedish winter. Although, to be fair, Blomkvist is a bit dull in the book as well, save for his liking of trysts with his women. Don't we all.

Talking of trysts, this version seems to throw Blomkvist and Salander together on the screen a lot more, both in bed and out of it, but still the pair badly lacked chemistry. Not that a lack of chemistry has ever got in the way of a good shag. Mara certainly throws herself, totally naked, into that and into the whole role. She is good throughout although she will inevitably forever be overshadowed by Noomi Rapace from the Swedish version. She just doesn't have the same presence. Mara’s Salander is waiflike, more pouting teenager where as Rapace was simply a menacing woman who had never learnt how to pout. Loved the t-shirt though Mara, ‘F*ck you you f*cking f*ck’.

If it’s raunchier, it’s also funnier, not sure if that's a plus or not. It’s also possibly more sadistic. Whether this is because Yorick van Wageningen who plays Nils Bjurman looks like Rory McGrath, which is a scary enough thought on its own.

The slightly altered ending may actually be better but isn't correct. Sadly Harriet no longer runs a cattle ranch in Australia but the reinstatement of Salander’s gift to Blomkvist is welcome and is necessary to set up her antagonism toward him later, should the second book get filmed. Although I’m sure some scenes from the second book appeared here - e.g. Salander's confrontation with Bjurman about his tattoo removal.

As remakes go, this is actually a good one. The scriptwriter deserves praise and the cinematography is better, although I expect done on a much larger budget. They also resisted the temptation to transpose this story to America, which was a relief.

I would almost say it was better than the Swedish version but for Daniel Craig. So overall it’s still the rawer original for me, I think... maybe... I'm actually not sure.

(Saturday 7th January)

Friday, 6 January 2012

I Wasn’t Expecting That

It’s a bit slippery underfoot, due to a sudden drop in temperature, as I head for the bus this morning. I wasn’t expecting that. The bus takes 20 minutes to get into Derby today compared with an hour yesterday. I wasn’t expecting that either.

L runs this morning despite the conditions but at least it’s dry, I’ll be running in the rain later. Then she's working from home so that she can deal with the boiler repair man who is coming to fix our boiler, which worked fine until they serviced it a couple of months ago. Predictably he can't fix it and has to come back again; they always have to come back.

L asks what she has to do to get me to take her to see ‘Puss in Boots’ this weekend... We’ll... a cosy night in tonight perhaps... then she’s got to find somewhere showing it in 2D, I'm definitely not seeing it in 3D and at a reasonable time, which is difficult because they rarely show these cartoon things at adult times. She’ll probably also have to take me to see something more intellectually challenging over the weekend., say the new Dragon Tattoo film. Oh and wear that skirt and boots combo that she wore in Derby at Christmas. Simple really.

According to the BBC this morning brain function starts to decline at 45. So we are all doomed. The thing is when does the brain function increase in the first place? Current evidence suggests this is clearly not before you’ve finished Uni...

I do my run, it stays dry and I get a bit carried away running nine miles. All good.

After some complex negotiations on the ‘Puss in Boots’ front we tee-up a night of Top Of The Pops 1977 style.

The 1976 shows have of course been terrible, in almost every respect. There's only so much Demis Roussos and Our Kid (look em up, if you dare) the human body can take. We must have been made of stronger stuff in 1976. It all made Chicago’s ‘If You Leave Me Now’ look almost cutting edge. There was a bit of Bolan of course but even Thin Lizzy looked dull on TOTP.

1977 though should be little better. 1977 heralded a bit of a watershed moment with the arrival of punk/new wave. Not all things will improve though. Although the awful Ruby Flipper were quietly axed after only six months, we now have the almost-but-not-quite-so-awful-but-at-least-they’re-all-girls-and-their-outfits-are-even-skimpier-than-before Legs & Co. Who were introduced via a competition that we didn’t get to see the result of because apparently someone wiped the 11th November show where it was announced. Still, the public clearly wanted a more traditional all female dance troupe again just like Pan's People. e.g. totty for the Dads, and they got it.

Here is the competition winner, with the girls, who are looking remarkably overdressed...

It’s amazing what you can find on the net.

(Friday 6th January)

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Golden Hour

It's even windier this morning than it’s been all week, if that’s possible. Although obviously not as windy as it was in the Lakes. I’m on bus, which is delayed due to the A52 being down to one lane due to flooding. Yes its rained a bit too.

More tales from L at the gym. It appears that not only is Simon Bates alive and well but he's also still doing the Golden Hour, only now it's on Smooth FM. Whatever that is... According to Wiki, it was once Jazz FM, which swallowed Saga Radio and then forgot to play any jazz. Apparently this year they launched a spin off station called Smooth Christmas that played nothing but Christmas music. Which is all you need to know. Sounds ghastly.

Anyway... Simon Bates...Hmmm. Always liked the Golden Hour, always hated him. Apparently now he even gives the date of the Golden Hour away at the start. Another reason to dislike him, that’s hardly in the spirit of things even if people are going to google it.

Squash tonight with a new price tag of £7.10 a game and that’s with my Citycard discount. Happy New Year from the council then. I would actually have no objection to paying £7.10 if the courts were worth that price but they’re not. I’d pay £10 a game if they gave us decent facilities.

I win the first game of the New Year but lose the match 3-1. It was close though, two of those went right to death, losing both by two points.

It’s the FA Cup 3rd Round this weekend, now horrifically sponsored by an American lager. Just like Christmas Eve was once the best night out of the year, the first Saturday after New Year was always the best day in the football calendar. I’m still a big fan of both.

Tie of the round is obviously the big local derby. No not the Manchester derby, City play United twice a year already, so it’s not really a big thing. You could raise a case in the West Midlands for Birmingham v Wolverhampton but that happens pretty frequently too. No the big match of the day is the Fylde derby with Blackpool going to their non-league neighbours Fleetwood Town. How often does that happen?

Fleetwood’s 5,094 capacity Highbury Stadium is obviously completely sold out for the match. The only person in the area not gripped by the prospect of the game appears to be Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston, who says he isn’t attending because he says 'the game is neither exciting nor a high priority'. Clearly the whole thing terrifies him.

'It's a competition that neither club will win' he says, as if that's important. So too was the Premier League Mr Oyston, that thing you had a brief dalliance with last year, I assume you went to some of those games. This sort of match is exactly what football is about.

I imagine he is probably bricking it that his manager will rest key players. Because with Fleetwood flying at the moment, two points off the top of the Conference and with only three defeats in 26 league games this season, any weakening of the Tangerines team would probably make Fleetwood slight favourites. Be afraid Mr Oyston be very afraid.

I love the FA Cup and still will, even when our manager rests his own ‘key’ players, tells the rest to take it easy in case they get injured and we lose at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday. A result which would effectively end our season being as we are a mid-table Championship side with no real prospect of movement in either direction this season. A good cup run would revive our season.

(Thursday 5th January)

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Another Record Bad Year

On the bike today and it’s bloody hard work. I’m so unfit etc etc but there’s no wind and no rain, so it’s perfect conditions really.

It’s time to look at my end of year bike stats and they’re not good. 139 rides last year which is 4 down on 2010 which was also a record bad year. I suppose I have been running more instead. I think. A bit. A little bit.

Total distance wise, 3,266km sounds good but is again down on 2010, 355km down.

L passes on some advice someone gave her in the gym for dealing with sore knees post race. She was recommended to go along to Clarendon Sixth Form College where there's loads of students willing to give massages for a fiver. Apparently they’re really up for runners legs to practice on because they are different from the ones they normally get to lay their hands. Better I assume. I’m there.

We’ve snuck into the Liversedge Half, at least I have, not sure if L’s had her confirmation yet. I’m number 567. So much for the 500 limit.

It’s a bit wet when I cycle home but not as wet as it gets when I head to dog class for MD’s first day back at school after the Christmas hols. He is very very up for it. Which I think is a good thing.

I’m glad I’m not on the late 9pm shift and therefore have to carry the equipment across the car park in the driving rain to put it away. I will be next week though, so it better not be so foul then.

Talking of rain, L’s phone has dried out and is still dead, so she’s bought a new one. Unfortunately she’s lost her phone book on the old one. Which means she is now having deep and meaningful text conversations with people without knowing who they are. I send her an anonymous text but she guesses it’s me. At least this shows she can’t have that many admirers randomly texting her.

(Wednesday 4th January)

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

What's this? Fruit?

I eat a piece of fruit today, in fact several. Well, the first fruit that hasn't been part of a Christmas pudding or a mince pie for about two weeks. Back to normality on one way at last.

I manage the stairs at work ok; my so legs can’t be too bad after yesterday’s race.

We seem to have brought the Lakeland weather home with us. L gets to work soaked and complaining that Ilkeston Road resembled Langdale’s Mickleden Beck but not of course anywhere near as pretty.

Having lost her jacket and trashed her mobile, L at least reports that her watch that stopped ages ago has now started working again. Small mercies.

We start planning our next series of races. The Liversedge Half Marathon has an entry limit of 500, yet their entries page is showing 540 people entered. I enter us both quickly online and hope they let us in. No such luck with Wilmslow, that is full but we are in Liverpool, L entered us in that before Christmas. Good old Sleaford isn’t full yet but if we delay entering hopefully it might be...

(Tuesday 3rd January)

Monday, 2 January 2012

Duller Than Ditchwater

We get up at the unearthly hour of 6.30am and take the tent down in the dark, brushing a light covering of snow off it as we do so. We’ve often erected the tent in the dark but I cannot recall us ever taking it down in the dark.

We then have an hour or so’s drive back down the M6 to Catforth, which is a village close to the M55, not far from Preston. The race we have entered is called the Central Lancashire New Year Half Marathon and is one of many races organised by Fylde Coast Running. L did their Blackpool to Fleetwood race in October.

The weather is bleak to say the least but does appear to be improving by the minute. Although it is not improving anywhere near quickly enough to save the parking field. We are the third car to be ushered on to the paddy field that has been designated for parking but the first to refuse to budge off the gravel at the entry gate as we watch the first two cars going nowhere fast and wheel spinning themselves deeper into the mud. I reverse out of the field and a marshal quickly deduces that we wish to park elsewhere.

The race itself was right up my street, duller than ditchwater, I loved it. Fairly flat throughout on country lanes but with a long drag uphill from 3.5 to 5 miles and with no noticeable compensatory downhill to follow. To liven things up we had a strong head wind at times and a bit of hail, which is all part of the fun. The scenery was augmented with four trips across the M55, over bridges that is, we didn’t have to dash across between juggernauts. Counting is not my strong point though and I’m sure we did it five times but I may have been mistaken or delirious with exhaustion by then. At least I hope I was mistaken or else I ran extra.

Then there was a nice canal crossing over a humpback bridge to finish, which was the prettiest, or rather the only pretty bit.

I made a slow start, 7:58 for the first mile but then as I worked out that this would get me a 1:44:00 time overall I decided I was happy with that. Then I was unsure if my 7:19 second mile was good news or not. It all went very well considering I’d barely trained for it and I felt so strong that I ran a final 7:15 mile to finish, coming in at 1:43:00 exactly. Pleased with that.

As I crossed the line I was handed a medal (ugh, but a nice one), a kitkat (yum) and bottle of water. The organisation was good, two water stations both with bottled water (brownie points earned), it was well marshalled by some rather cold looking folk and they made good use of the village hall where there were plenty of refreshments on offer. An enjoyable event.

I didn't think the bleakness and the dullness would suit L but it seemed to, she said she enjoyed it too.

We get home to find that Daughter has already headed off back to Sheffield. It was disappointing to have missed her but good in that we thought we were the ones taking her back. So we’ve been saved a trip, which after already around four hours on the road today is no bad thing.

L describes the weekend as an interesting New Year’s break, as she tries to get some life out of her mobile phone which seems to have shipped some water over the weekend. I think perhaps she enjoyed it.

(Monday 2nd January)

Sunday, 1 January 2012

All Is Quiet On New Year's Day

After a very windy and wet night. I have to stand and applaud a very impressive performance from our tent, which barely batted an eyelid in the conditions.

Talk of flooding that was abound in the pub last night seem unfounded, although lots of tents do depart today. Whether this is because they just came for New Year’s Eve or whether the weather saw them off I’m not sure.

We have a relaxing day and take the car to Grasmere. Which is a bit of a cardinal sin in such a walking area. Taking the car that is, not the going to Grasmere.

In the evening, L is eminently sensible, AF and clearly taking tomorrow’s race seriously. Even I’m restrained, well I keep off the strong dark stuff and only have a couple.

(Sunday 1st January)