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

Wednesday 29 February 2012

Thank Heavens For Leap Years

Thank heavens for leap years. No I don’t get any proposals of marriage but I do manage to slot a second bike to work in during February. Only two bikes in a month is not impressive but in a 28 day February it would only have been one.

I’ve organised a special night tonight at dog class - a team relay night. I’ve had very little feedback from club members, only a few sending their apologies for not being able to make it. Together with the fact we have a 90% female membership and L keeps telling me women don’t have a competitive edge, so there’s little chance of anyone wanting to participate in a team relay. So I head down to training, not anticipating that anyone will actually turn up and fully expecting to be back home within half an hour. So I’m pleasantly surprised by the good turnout. It goes well.

(Wednesday 29th February)

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Just Three Minutes

Oh dear. Quark. That’s going to be taxing, even though I think I know what it is. I’m sure I’ve got it from Sainbury’s before but... the supermarket is in Chaddesden, so I’m not hopeful.

Everyone’s talking about the Horizon programme about how three minutes of exercise a week can get you fit. Fascinating stuff. Clearly we have it all wrong and I shall have to adapt my half marathon training accordingly.

L’s sceptical but then if she cuts down to just three minutes a week think of all the books she’d get read, all the painting she’d get done and think how little she’d need to eat to refuel. It has its plus points.

I head home without the Quark.

The dogs are at the vets tonight for their kennel cough jabs ahead of their ‘holiday’ next week. It will be interesting taking them in together. Who do we let the vet inject first and do we let one watch the other getting it in the neck?

We let the vet do Doggo first, giving him less time to contemplate what’s happening and then of course MD will be easy because he always wants whatever Doggo’s having.

Doggo gets a full body fondle to see if the vet can find a reason for his many foibles but mainly the incessant scratching. This ends up with him being pronounced flea free but on the receiving end of another 'anal squeeze' treatment by a young female vet who is about half the size of Doggo. He also gets a tube of cream for his crusty elbows.

The kennel cough vaccine apparently has to be squirted up their noses rather than injected, which is also entertaining.

Later, at squash, my opponent and I compare bruises but manage not to add to them. We also compare colds. His has been hanging around longer than mine but I think mine wants to come on holiday with me. I wonder if it’s any good on skis.

(Tuesday 28th February)

Monday 27 February 2012

You Can Always Rely On A Run

You can always rely on a run. Today I feel slightly worse than yesterday morning but better than Saturday. The coughing has eased... at least.

It was the Oscars last night. This year, unlike in previous years, I felt totally underwhelmed by it all. The nominations were just so tame. Whereas last year we had films for grown-ups:- Black Swan, the Fighter, The Kids Are Alright, Winter’s Bone, True Grit, Social Network, Kings Speech, 127 Hours etc. This year they’re all family friendly, films about kids, horses, baseball and mythical things... Where for instance is Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Drive, Shame, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Margin Call, The Iron Lady, even The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I’m not saying they’re all good but at least they’re grown-up and a bit taxing on the brain. They didn’t even use the full ten nominations that were available, choosing to only pick nine films. Very poor guys.

So it’s hardly surprising that The Artist won, amongst such company as War Horse, Moneyball, The Descendants, The Tree of Life, Midnight in Paris, The Help, Hugo and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, it looks positively risqué, even I was rooting for it.

The weather’s not great here as L wishes me a ‘good run’. It’s very unlikely to be ‘good’ in this rain. Good job I’m not ill.

I survive another five miles, boxed ticked. Half marathon coming up on Sunday.

No dog training tonight, our trainer is in Orlando. It’s alright for some. She’s actually doing a half marathon while she’s there. I repeat, it’s alright for some, as I dry off after my run.

(Monday 27th February)

Sunday 26 February 2012

It’s All Downhill From Here

The Weston 5 is not really my sort of run. It’s too short (5 miles), is mainly on pavements (which I don’t like the undulating nature of), has the first section on a potholed track and the last on grass. L isn’t taking it very seriously either, misdemeanours last night with alcohol and this morning without. So she’ll probably post another season’s best.

This race counts as part of the championship for the club I’m in and I had contemplated giving that whole series a go this year until I saw the other races in the series, most of which didn’t appeal. Plus there’s one other teensy eensy blip in the plan, that I’d have to wear a club vest and rather unpatriotically I haven’t got myself one yet.

L offers me hers, suggesting we cross dress for the day but I decline. As I’ve said I don’t fancy the other races in the championship. I don’t fancy this one much either but it’s local and it ticks boxes. Training for me, mileage for L.

There’s another reason I don’t fancy it much, I’m still sort of ill. Yet needs must. I have to do some running at some point or else I’m sure my body will implode. So it’s a case of gently does it. Unfortunately these races are so damn fast and it’s difficult to do gentle.

At least it’s generally flat. So there’s no need really for a female marshal to throw in at half way a ‘it’s all downhill from here’ unless she was being metaphorical, but I assume she's simply lying, as all marshals do regularly. Well all male marshals do. The female ones are usually more honest or at least have the honesty to look dishonest when they’re lying. This one at least looks sincere. The thing is I lived here for 18 years, so I know that’s it’s a steady uphill all the way back to the finish line.

I’m slow as expected but box ticked. L does relatively better although she doesn’t do the season’s best I predicted but still, box ticked.

Time for Sunday lunch at the New Inn in Shardlow me thinks. They do the excellent Derby Brewery beers there as well.

New Inn - Shardlow (J147) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Then there’s a bit of a panic as Daughter has to change trains on her way back to Sheffield from Loughborough via Edinburgh. Well hopefully not via Edinburgh, dependent on her not nodding off as the train passes through Sheffield station on its way to Scotland. Joyful texts of success are received just as we take out seats in the cinema.

We have put this off and put this off because it's George and well, it can't possibly be any good, can it? Eventually we cracked. It's been nominated you know and so has George.

The Descendants is theoretically a film about a land deal because Matt King (George Clooney), a workaholic lawyer in Hawaii, is the sole trustee of a plot of land that has been in his family for ages. He and his cousins have to decide who to sell the untouched land to before the trust becomes dissolved in seven years time or they could of course do the unspeakable and leave it unspoilt.

You can probably guess how that turns out but it’s all a bit incidental really, the deal is just a side show in the film. The main plot centres around King’s thrill seeking wife (because he is so dull) who suffers a serious head injury in a powerboat accident. Now King not only has to deal with a wife in a coma but he’ll have to try to communicate with his daughters as well. Scary.

His youngest, Scottie (Amara Miller), has started to go off the rails and is acting up at school whilst Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) has been off them for some time, moving on to drugs and alcohol. King hops on a plane to bring her back from her boarding school, which is on a different island. Unfortunately, the best bit of the film, where he gets his drunken rambunctious eldest daughter on to the plane and then all the way home is cruelly edited out. All we see is him carrying her up the stairs to her bedroom. Cop out. That could have been good.

Then oddly from struggling as the self-confessed ‘backup parent’ remarkably, twenty minutes or so later, the entire family are getting along like a house on fire.

There are plenty of unbelievable moments like that but also some good bits too. There’s a strong scene where he has to tell Alexandra that her mother isn’t going to make it and according to her living will, they will have to take her off life support. Then Alexandra drops her own bombshell; that her mother was having an affair.

Faced with this knowledge, King does not go off the rails or go off to find the man to punch his lights out, as he would have done in many films. Instead we are asked to believe that yes King would want to track down his wife's lover but only to give the man a chance to say goodbye to his mistress. That may be sweet but it’s also slightly insane. At best, wouldn’t you send him an email?

So the whole family, along with Alexandra's annoying friend Sid (Nick Krause) who thinks her Grandma's Alzheimer's is hilarious, embark on one those road trips that America films are so fond of. Sid’s reason for being there is revealed towards the end, when you’re well sick of him, but even that’s an odd moment, where King seems lost for words or just lost and the moment is, well, lost.

Ultimately nothing really happens. When King finally confronts the man, again it’s all so, well nice. The whole film is like that, so lightweight, inconsequential. It’s another film where I was itching to amend the screenplay. In the end, little of it is really believable. Even his wife's eventual death isn't sad because at no point do we really see her alive nor are we given any indication that she could survive.

I can't help thinking that if someone like Mike Leigh had restaged this in some rundown housing estate in the UK with a bit of ‘kitchen sink realism’ we might have had something.

So is Clooney any good? Is he worthy of his many nominations? Not especially, he’s ok. Clooney does what Clooney does but he's been better.

It’s not a bad film, just nothing to get excited about. It’s got a sort of a RomCom feel to it; only without the Rom or the Com. I ought to say here that my partner loved it but for me... nah.

We fall into the H&H. Certainly need a pint after that.

(Sunday 26th February)

Saturday 25 February 2012

A Sudden Interest In Rugby

I roll home from Bingham at about 9.30am, despite several laps of the A46 roadworks. This is early enough to bring L her morning coffee in bed and to join her. Eventually the dogs get their park session and then I take an interest in the rugby.

I’ve never taken so much interest in rugby for years but the intense media dislike for new England boss Stuart Lancaster, despite two wins out of two, makes me root for the England rugby team like never before. Unfortunately they come up just short against Wales. Controversially up short as it happens.

It’s ‘only’ a five miler tomorrow, so we have a drink with our pre-cinema meal tonight before we head into the film.

As ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ starts, Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) is running away, from what we’re not sure yet. She’s also pursued, by one of her new ‘family’ but strikingly he doesn’t take her back. Instead she calls her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson), whom she hasn’t spoken to for two years, but nonetheless Lucy drives three hours to pick up her younger sister.

From there they go to Lucy and her husband Ted’s (Hugh Dancy) holiday home in Connecticut. Martha won’t say much about where she’s been for the last two years, why she hasn’t called or what she’s running away from. Well apart from ‘boyfriend trouble’... ‘we had a fight’ you know.

In flashbacks we learnt that Martha has been living in a farmhouse with a host of other runaways where they are under the ‘leadership’ of the creepy and controlling, some would say charismatic, Patrick (John Hawkes). A man with a unique philosophy on life. ‘Death is but a continuation, not an end’... etc.

In this little commune, a woman's role is subservient. They all share their clothes, belongings, themselves... and sleep together on mattresses in the same room. They work around the house, in the garden and in the kitchen. They are only allowed to eat once the men have finished.

Patrick enchants Martha by singing her a song, renaming her Marcy May and making her feel as if she belongs. Which she will, once she’s undergone the initiation ceremony. Which is to be given drugs and then shagged by Patrick. Apparently, the house has many of his babies but they’re all boys...

Once she’s done a runner, Martha has problems readjusting to normal life. Her sister and her husband try to accommodate her despite her sometimes difficult attitude. Sleeping at the end of their bed whilst they are having sex etc.

Which highlights the film’s only real flaw, that she has unlearnt so many things that would have been embedded in her head from being a young child. Such as putting a swimsuit on when you swim in public and not swimming in the nude.

Otherwise it’s a clever and engrossing film, exploring how a person can get manipulated and brainwashed into an alternative way of life.

I like a film that poses more questions than answers, like this one does. Towards the end things start to happen that are simply not explained. She damages a car but whose car? Or did she? Did she really escape when she ran away or is it all so immersed in her that she may never truly escape? Is that why they didn’t come after her? Because they were confident that there was no escape in her mind and that she will eventually return of her own accord...

The film leaves us unsure of what is real. Are the things that are now happening really happening or are they just in Martha's mind? She thinks that she is being tracked down but is she? The film leaves us in the same state of mind as Martha. Confused. Wondering what is real and what isn’t. She doesn't know the answers, so how could we?


Friday 24 February 2012

Live Text Updates

I don’t bike. I get the bus.

My mother sends practically a full steak pie for the boys. They have half for breakfast with the rest probably for tea. Their diet is as bad as mine at the moment.

L is at a funeral today. The wake afterwards has apparently a stunning collection of cheeses. That’s the sort of send off I’d like as well. It’s just a shame the guy wasn’t there to enjoy it himself.

Back home, things are a bit tense as Daughter attempts to get the train from Sheffield to Loughborough and I get live text updates. There are celebrations all round as she negotiates the ticket machine, the ticket barriers, the correct train/platform combinations and arrives in the correct place.

I’m out again tonight; it’s been that sort of week. Whereas next week will probably be the opposite. The beer in the award winning Horse and Plough at Bingham is good but very uninventive. I’m stuck on the light beers all night with nothing to restore my dark-light balance. It will have to be attended to over the weekend.

The pub is also packed, hardly surprising when practically every other pub in Bingham is closed pending refurbishment.

(Friday 24th February)

Thursday 23 February 2012

The Middle Of The Night

I don’t run today, normally I would when there’s a home match but I’m not quite fighting fit enough. Home match? You say. On a Thursday? Yep. Thanks Sky TV. I walk the boys instead, so at least L can get her fitness training in.

MD has a couple of barks. One for no reason that I could see. The other at another dog, probably because the owner was hiding it behind a parked car. Which is odd behaviour but L tells me this isn't unusual. No wonder MD barks a lot with such weirdos around.

The BBC print an intriguing article about it being unnatural to sleep for eight hours in one go. I totally agree. I always wake up in the middle of the night. L says I don't often come to bed until the middle of the night. How does she know, when she’s asleep? She also says she doesn't get up for few hours in the middle of the night as the article suggests. Which is a shame really, because if she’s was making tea or something, she could bring me one as well. I know what I like to do in the middle of the night but that’s another story.

At the match, Leicester turn out to be quite good and we’re not, obviously. They should have been four up by half time but having survived that we probably had more of the second half. Apart from when it came to actually threatening the goal that is. So 1-0 was good enough for them.

I will definitely bike tomorrow.

(Thursday 23rd February)

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Fighting Fit

Still fighting fit but I’ve relapsed a little and that’s official. I didn’t think a gentle game in an overheated squash court would have a detrimental effect. I blame the bump on the head.

My new ‘X-Socks’ have arrived but I’m not getting chance to use them. They are frighteningly complicated for a pair of socks. They come with their own hologrammed unique number and a two year guarantee, although I’m not sure what they’re guaranteed against. Does it mean that if I don’t set some quick times in them, I can send them back?

Daughter is ill again and we cough at each other over the phone. There’s been something going around their student house, she says. Probably doing several laps of the house I bet and having a whale of a time.

To be fair, she has been working hard on getting the unhealthiest student of the year award, an award which admittedly is going to be tough to win. There’s an awful lot of competition in that category but she’s been giving it a fair go.

I meet up with a couple of mates for a drink after work. Well only one of them actually, as the other one cries off ill, obviously not fighting fit like me.

(Wednesday 22nd February)

Tuesday 21 February 2012

A Blow To The Head

The organisers of the Brighton half marathon race admit they got the distance of the course wrong. It was 'too long'. 13.42 miles to be exact. Good job we didn't get in!

They are adjusting everyone's times... how does that work then?

L says she would have just assumed she was a bit slow but then again knowing her she'd have set a PB. She likes to do that in the most unlikely of circumstances. I’d have been fine with it. If I’d set a PB it would have been just even more impressive. However if it’s just missed a PB by a few seconds...

I feel I’ve recovered enough from my minor bout of the lurgy to go for it at squash tonight. My opponent always seems to play his best when he’s not at his best, so perhaps it'll work for me.

It doesn’t work for me and it takes a blow to my head when I’m 3-0 down to improve things. Final score 3-1. Although I can feel the lump coming up rapidly and a bit of a relapse coming on.

(Tuesday 21st February)

Monday 20 February 2012

Over To You Then Nottingham

You’ve got to hand it to Derby... but not to Nottingham. It looks like Derby’s Velodrome plans are going ahead, with building to start in the summer. It will include a huge gym and sports halls as well.

Plus they say they plan to reveal their plans for their Olympic sized swimming pool soon. So then Nottingham, what do you have planned? Apart from cancelling this year’s marathon.

L heads off to Derby for her run. She’s says she’s not in the mood at all. She never is but she’ll do it, the spreadsheet says she must. I pick her up later after a productive dog class. MD had his thinking head on tonight. While Doggo had his boot sitting head on and didn’t get a go. Sorry mate. Next week.

(Monday 20th February)

Sunday 19 February 2012

Send For Harry

L runs the Sleaford Half Marathon for the third year in a row. I’ve bailed out this time but then I haven’t got a mileage target to hit. At least not yet. It’s the warmest it’s been for a race in Sleaford in living memory, probably ever, but that’s not actually saying much. Despite their being a frost in the car park the temperature is officially above zero, the wind below 30mph and it’s not raining. Yet.

L, has she makes a habit of, hacks several minutes off her best time here in her last ever race here. So see you next year. Maybe.

We head home for the usual post race chill out session, which is so chilled out that we’re well late getting out the house for tonight’s film. Then the bus doesn’t turn up. After a long wait we start to walk and then hop on the next bus as it catches us up. In the meantime we negotiate, renegotiate and then renegotiate again the film we’re going to see.

We manage to cram in a Broadway meal and then I break my AF fast of two days, as we settle down for the latest Harry Potter.

Something is wrong though. Harry’s ditched the glasses, gone for contacts and grown some stubble. Ah, this must be ‘The Woman in Black’ then, a ghost story from the once great Hammer Films. It is based on a book by Susan Hill from 1983. There is also a popular stage play and a TV movie, made in 1989.

It grabbed my attention immediately when three children leapt unexplained to their deaths from a window in perfect synchronisation. From walking in with not very high expectations, I'm already slightly impressed. Nicely morbid does it for me every time.

Arthur Kipps (played by Harry), who lost his wife (Sophie Stuckey) during childbirth, works for a law firm. His firm, not very impressed with his recent efforts, ask him to travel to the remote village of Crythin Gifford (wasn't that one of the houses at Hogwarts... perhaps not) to find out if the recently deceased Mrs Drablow has left any unknown wills. His employer warns him that it's his last chance to prove his worth to the company.

When he gets there, after a long trip north, there's suddenly no room at the Inn, despite booking, and there’s also something not quite right about the whole village, whose residents clearly don't want him around. It could be connected to the mysterious deaths of a lot of children and the sightings of a woman in black.

That is, apart from one man, Simon Daily (Ciaran Hinds), a man with a car, a rare thing at the turn of the last century. He too has lost a child, his son, and his wife (Janet McTeer) has gone slightly crazy. She also has two dogs, how more crazy can you get?

The late Mrs Drablow lived at Eel Marsh House, which is your standard horror film rundown mansion, which lies at the end of long winding road that is impassable when the tide is in. Like Lindisfarne or Amityville on sea. I'm not sure how long the woman has been dead but the house is already very dilapidated but then the process of law can be pretty slow or perhaps she just wasn’t into cleaning.

Now what we get is a good old fashioned haunting as Kipps looks through a mound of the old lady’s paper while bumps, bangs and creaking floorboards happen around him. Kipps copes admirably. He possesses an uncanny stupidity/bravery in the face of it all but then I guess when you’ve seen off one shady figure you can see off them all and the Lady in Black is no Lord Voldemort.

She is though a wronged woman on a mission and we all know to steer well clear of those. They cannot be appeased. Kipps discovers the back story, how she lost her child and it appears now that she’s determined that everyone else will lose theirs too. The bad news for Kipps is that his own son is coming up to visit in a few days time.

I rather enjoyed this. Whereas most modern horror films just pile in loads of blood and gore, this is a real throwback, old school horror, with plenty of scenes that keep you on the edge of your seat. It's just you, a creepy old house and Mr Radcliffe. Oh and the dog. I was worried about the dog.

It's even sort of scary. You see them coming but the scares are still quite effective. They probably overdid it a bit at times and stuff like murky liquid leaking from a faucet has never been scary but overall, I loved it.

Plus Daniel Radcliffe is actually rather good. They handled brilliantly and didn’t ask him to do anything he couldn’t. Just stand there and look moody, which he did well.

So does it all end happily ever after? We'll I'm not saying but I left the cinema with a spring in my step but then I do love a good death.

Afterwards we pop into the H&H for a slowie and then head home. Where I try to watch all the cycling before dawn. Vicky Pendleton hasn't had a good weekend and she's been saying this week that she's been having nightmares about being chased by a monster called 'Olympics'. She needs to send for Harry.

(Sunday 19th February)

Saturday 18 February 2012

Time For A Psychoanalysis Session

Oddly no plans today. So a chance to laze in bed, a brief park session as its raining and howling a gale, then L suggested completing the Millennium Trilogy during the afternoon, now that is radical.

Then we do an early film, so that we can get back to catch most of the evenings cycling.

We had a quite a few options for films this weekend, so I was going to pick one tonight and then L could pick one for tomorrow. To say I was disappointed with my choice would be a bit of an exaggeration. Yes it had Keira Knightly in it, which is always a flashing amber warning light but it was also directed by David Cronenberg, starred Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender as well as being about Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. So it sounded good on paper.

Actually Keira, bless her, is far from the worst thing about this movie. In fact she has perhaps found her vocation, playing a mad person who likes a bit of a spanking. I can see it would have been the odd sort of role that awards committees love and she certainly put in the required amount of overacting to be considered, if only it had come in a decent film. Which 'A Dangerous Method' isn't.

It’s nicely shot, well made and reasonably well acted. It’s just a shame about the screenplay. The film is about the professional relationship between Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). Unfortunately too much of the film was taken up by discussions between these two men. These went pretty much how you'd expect discussions between two psychologists to go and you wouldn't really have wanted to sit in on that. Would you? Somehow I expected them to have jazzed it up, showed the back story, developed the characters etc etc.

I guess the spankings were there to liven things up but it was all a bit laughable really. Although not laughable enough to count as light relief. I suppose I best explain that there’s a third party in this professional relationship called Sabine Spielrein (Ms Knightly).

An insane Spielrein is sent to Jung’s clinic in Zurich for treatment, where he uses a new form of therapy known as the ‘talking cure’. Basically Jung sits behind his patient whilst they attempt to describe their problems to him. In her case, these turn out to be sexual fantasies generated by her father's ill treatment of her as a child. My diagnosis would have been that she was insecure and in need of attention but then I’m just the viewer here and not the psychologist.

As it turns out, I could have prescribed the same treatment Jung does but doubt I’d have got away with it. He didn’t think he’d get away with it either until a meeting with the maverick psychoanalyst\patient\mad man (delete as applicable) Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel). Gross convinces Jung that there’s only one remedy for her mixed up libido and, by the way mate, monogamy is for wimps.

So Jung gives Spielrein the attention she craves and the spankings via a prescription of regular sex, taken as often as needed, with him. Code of ethics? What’s that?

It does seems to work, Spielrein recovers and turns out to not be as stupid as she looks as she enrols in medical school. Where she becomes... another psychoanalyst. FFS. Meanwhile Jung takes his successful treatment method on to another patient.

So everyone is happy. Well except Jung’s wife Emma (Sarah Gadon) and even she didn't seem too bothered. Perhaps because, on the evidence provided, it seemed pretty crap sex anyway. In a clever parallel with the film itself, there is little passion or emotion on display. So she probably thought she was better off out of it.

Amidst all this 'excitement' are the insomnia curing discussions between Jung and Freud which involves a lot of reading of letters, which is hardly compelling viewing. Eventually their relationship deteriorates over a clash of ideologies.

Reading my review back it makes the film sound far more interesting than it was. It’s a weird film but sadly not remotely weird enough to be interesting. David Cronenberg made a name for himself with films about dark, controversial topics, so this seemed a perfect fit for him but it’s as tedious as a psychoanalysis session. I guess it was probably educational but only in the way an Open University broadcast would be. You have been warned.

(Saturday 18th February)

Friday 17 February 2012

Well Over Budget

Friday is long run day but I will see how far last night’s beer festival lets me go.

All the way as it happens, although I feel rather ill afterwards. The slight cold I was keeping under wraps seems to have taken the opportunity to become unwrapped.

Then I push L out on hers.

It’s TOTP and Dragon Tattoo night but we watch neither. TOTP didn’t seem to be on this week, so that must be another episode they’ve lost and we watched the cycling instead of Dragon Tattoo. Well worthwhile as it turned out, how good was that cycling? Two golds and a bronze on the first night. Time for a photo of a couple of girls in figure hugging Lycra I guess.

I usually cook on a Friday but we team up tonight, a bit like the above team sprinters. L leads off with a starter, whilst I take us home with the main. We break a world record too, price wise, with well over budget fresh scallops. We’re not sure whether to cook them or frame them. Then to add even more value, she adds king prawns to them. We eat like royalty in our house tonight.

(Friday 17th February)

Thursday 16 February 2012

A Confusing Version Of The Alphabet

British Gas have talked us into fitting a filter to our hot water system, if we don’t, they have threatened (gently) to revoke the service contact for our boiler. Isn’t that called blackmail?

Therefore L works from home today, so that someone can come and fit said filter. The guy turns up but without the filter... which is really useful, as this is the only reason for him coming. He promises to be back in an hour, once he’s acquired it.

Only he isn’t. He telephones me to say he’s not coming back because he can't get the part. The part that was the reason for the appointment... So, that’s the second day of ours that British Gas has wasted this year and we’re only just into February. I ring to complain but get absolutely nowhere with their call centre, where the right hand clearly doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, let alone what the hands of it’s engineers aren't doing.

I daren't ask L to be in the next time they come, she'll do serious harm to the engineer with one of her knitting needles.

We both need a drink after that. So it’s a good job it’s the Derby Winter Beer Festival tonight. L comes over on the bus and I meet her there, at the Roundhouse, which is just a short crawl from where I work.

There is a good selection of beers, decent chilli con carne and some good cheeses as well. So a top night apart from a confusing use of the alphabet. The beers are supposed to be in alphabetical order but I think the organiser had had a few when he set them out.

Some beers seemed to be randomly inserted e.g. a Gloucester beer among the ‘B’s. We also found a lot of beers that were listing were missing but then found them on a ‘dark ales’ stall in another room or on the separate ‘Derbyshire’ stall and all the Marstons beers were amongst the T’s for some reason... We were confused, others were confused, even the staff seemed confused. Can we have a map next time please or else I might have to not drink so that I can unravel the system.

My favourite brew, Snecklifter (not that I had any but L had two pints!), was also listed as Marston’s from Staffordshire, that’s just plain wrong. It’s either Marston’s Jennings Brewery from Cumbria or Jennings Brewery (owned by Marston’s) from Cumbria.

Marstons to my knowledge, do not brew a drop of Snecklifter in Burton. Same goes for Ringwood’s Old Thumper, also listed as Staffordshire. It’s hard to criticise breweries for deceptive labelling when beer festivals are at it as well.

This is what we drank, although L cunningly mixed halves and thirds to stay more sober than me.


1. Copthorne Black Beauty 4.6%
2. Elland 1872 Porter 6.5%
3. Raw Dark Peak Reserve 6.0%
4. Great Oakley Delapre Dark 4.6%
5. Nutbrook More 4.8%
6. Townes Pynot Porter 4.5%
7. Grainstore Nip 7.3%
8. Fulstow Sledgehammer Stout 7.4%
9. Steel City Dark Funeral 5.3%


1. Jennings Snecklifter 5.1%
2. Griffin Bmw 5.0%
3. Five Towns Winter Warmer 5.7%
4. Jennings Snecklifter 5.1%
5. Thornbridge St Petersberg Stout 7.4%
6. Jennings Snecklifter 5.1%
7. Nobbys T-owd Navigation 6.1%
8. Jennings Snecklifter 5.1%
9. Parish Bazs Bonce Blower 12%

(Thursday 16th February)

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Stand Well Back

A rare outing for the bike today. Damn all this running... and still not getting close enough to the planned 30 miles per week. Bike goes well though and no punctures in either direction.

Down into Nottingham for a gig tonight. It was supposed to be a three band performance tonight but Let’s Wrestle cancelled last night’s London show due to illness and they don't make tonight's either. Their loss is Childhood’s gain who are promoted to main support and a later slot.

They are, I believe, Nottingham based Londoners. It doesn’t start too well for them, the sound is muddy, but it’s soon sorted. At first, I think, typical indie. Could have been anyone. Probably were. Then they get a bit of a jangle going. Hmmm, quite nice. Catchy. Pleasant. Very clever at times. They steadily win me and everyone else over. In the end we're all sad to see them finish.

Play.com are refusing to send me The Twilight Sad’s new album 'No One Can Ever Know'. It only came out last Monday, yet they are saying it is out of stock. How can that be? Amazon already hate me and it seems perhaps now that Play do too. A few months ago, they refused to give me three downloads that I’d ordered. They never did say why, although they did refund me, presumably downloads can’t be ‘out of stock’?

So I’m ‘unrehearsed’ for tonight’s gig at Stealth, which as Nottingham’s ‘musical Mecca for dance fans’ is again an unlikely place to see them. It’s almost as if someone is trying to keep them under the radar.

Learning from past experience I opt to stand well back, in what, I hope, is a more acoustically advantageous position. Beeston. That’s a suburb about three miles outside Nottingham for those that don’t know. The Saddos (may I call them that?) are well known for making an ear reshaping but poetic racket and I may need the use of my eardrums in the next fortnight.

The band take to the smoke encased stage fashionably late and set the tone with the thumping bass and heavy synths of ‘Kill It In The Morning’. Rumour is they’ve gone all Cabaret Voltaire and yes I can see that, with a side dish of industrial phase Depeche Mode perhaps.

The formula is repeated on ‘Don’t Move’, which is almost a pop song. Almost. They’re still loud of course but I think they’ve turned it down a notch or two, or is it just my new position?

With the musicians in the band frequently disappearing into the fog of smoke it’s difficult not to centre your attention on the fascinating individual that is singer James Graham. He stands there, at the centre of it all, delivering his vocals as passionately as ever, eyes closed, seemingly lost in it all. In fact I don’t think it’s until three songs in that he actually opens his eyes and realises we're there. Hello! At which point he explains they’re from up in Scotland, there’s nothing like keeping it general, and thanks us for coming before he submerges himself back into his own little world.

So far the ears are fine but the big test is going to be when they play one of their oldies. Enter ‘That Summer, at Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy’. Which is again glorious but have they toned it down? A little. Enough. Tonight, amidst perhaps a more considered approach, Graham’s voice soars above absolutely everything that the rest of the band can throw at him and you can hear practically every word of the song. The band’s trademark guitar feedback is still there but it seems to occur increasingly at the end of songs and less in the middle.

Then it’s back to the new album, from which they play all but two. Among which there’s the faster pace of ‘Dead City’ and the almost soulful ‘Alphabet’. Sandwiched in between is ‘Reflection of the Television’, which is just so massive tonight. All the old ones, maybe just because they are more familiar, are absolutely epic. The cheery ‘I Became a Prostitute’ is intense. Graham makes it so emotional but then he could probably make having a cup of tea seem emotional.

There’s recent single ‘Sick’ which I haven’t quite got to grips with yet but then there’s also ‘Cold Days From The Birdhouse’, which eases its way in gently and then explodes, taking Stealth with it.

As we head towards the end of a mesmerising hour long set, Graham once more opens his eyes and thanks us again for coming before the band wind the guitars up again for ‘And She Would Darken the Memory’ and finally ‘At The Burnside’. An oldie that I’ve not heard them play before.

With a final fading squall of guitar noise it’s all over. Absolutely brilliant and as a bonus, the ears are fine, still attached. The band may continue to fall under the radar but they don’t seem too bothered, me neither, let’s keep it to ourselves shall we.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

An End Of Season Affair

It seems odd that the Football League have scheduled a full set of fixtures today, Valentine’s Day. You’d have thought Wednesday would have been more sensible. It was bound to hit the attendance and does. Once upon a time we always used to play midweek games on a Wednesday. Them were the days.

L has book club, which is also attendance hit, so we’re in different places tonight. Clearly not everyone managed a romantic weekend with a dog show, a half marathon and sub-zero temperatures.

L also has the car, to amuse the dogs with a bit of boot sitting. So I bus to work and then run to my parents’ which is five miles. I probably should have got off the bus early and ran five into work as well because that is what I would have done if I’d had the car but I don’t. Too lazy I guess.

The match was awful, one of those terrible end of season affairs and it’s only February. Our season may be as good as over but you’d have thought Reading would have made more of an effort, as they are at least looking play-off bound rather than mired in mid-table like us.

Our great leader, in a surprise move, sacrificed an almost certain 0-0 by making two changes early in the second half and went to a more attacking formation. Perhaps he was sick of the constant snoring from the crowd. Second half was much better but they nicked it. L rescues me from drowning my sorrows in the pub afterwards.

(Tuesday 14th February)

Monday 13 February 2012

Treated Like A Dog

I got some very odd looks in Sainsbury’s at lunchtime, for having a trolley predominately full of fruit and veg, a sight not normally seen in Chaddesden where the supermarket is. L, the Queen of Soups, is after material for one of several soup recipes features in Runners World of all places.

They reckon one of their soups takes 35 minutes to prepare but having read several of their training plans, I know some of their ‘timings’ are a bit optimistic. 35 minutes sounds like the sort of pace they would envisage for a 10k. We’ll round it up a bit shall we.

L catches the bus over to Derby and runs to her folks’ place in Mickleover. From where I again collect her after dog class. At which MD is dreadful, we have a bit of a red mist problem or perhaps he’s just tired after his ‘tough’ weekend.

Talking of which, Carlos Tevez reckons he was treated ‘like a dog’ by Manchester City. Personally I doubt very much that his manager hand fed him two meals a day, tickled his tummy, let him curl up on his settee and sleep on the end of his bed but yes Carlos, it's a dog's life. You'll be wanting him to kick your ball for you next.

(Monday 13th February)

Sunday 12 February 2012

What Goes Down...

A bit of a hangover this morning, after some far from ideal race preparation. I blame the free champagne. I’m also not sure the full cooked breakfast will help but it’s paid for, so has to be consumed.

All week I’ve been assuming the Liversedge Half Marathon near Huddersfield will be off but it isn’t. We awake to a view of hills, hills and more hills. As we drive to the race HQ at the Roberttown Community Centre in the Spen Valley, it doesn’t get any flatter. Where we collect our numbers along with around 500 or so others.

The course was worryingly downhill for the first mile. What goes down must come back up and it did. Enjoyable though. I like a bit of a challenge. After a bit of a long steady climb there’s another down at around five miles, which is a more violent plummet.

We cross a ford a mile or later at Brighouse, they do let us use a bridge, and then there’s the steepest climb of the day up Thornhills Beck Lane but thankfully it’s quite short. The route also has a few flat sections which gives you a bit of a break from the upping and downing, especially the downing which I find hard on my legs.

It’s all relatively scenic and offers good views of the M62. If you look into the distance you can even see Hartshead Moor Motorway Services. There are drinks at around four miles, eight miles and then a bit too quickly at 10 miles but as we were passing the first drinks station again, only in the other direction, it was perhaps understandable.

Then we’re on to Windy Bank Lane, which isn’t (windy) in either direction, this is our second visit to this stretch of road. Then we’re almost done.

Not a great time, it was hardly likely to be, but not bad either.

L kindly drives me home, where nicely knackered from the weekend we forgo our usual Sunday film and stay in. It would have been an act of cruelty to have scraped the dogs off the bed. Not that they’ve done a great deal to warrant so much sleep.

(Sunday 12th February)

Saturday 11 February 2012

How To Show A Girl A Good Time

I know how to show a girl a good time, so I set the alarm for 5am and take L two hours up the A1 to an icy Richmond (approximately -5) for their Valentines Dog Show. Who says romance is dead? Careful on the car park Dear, it's well treacherous.

There’s standing room only in the equestrian centre’s cafe where they have industrial heaters thawing out the competitors and their supporters. MD keeps himself warm by having five runs, although an ‘E’ on the first one, where he took a jump instead of the weaves (probably my fault), isn’t really the start we wanted.

We go clear on a couple of G1-7 courses and get 10th in both. In one of them all the dogs but one that beat us are in grades 6 or 7 and we’re a lowly grade 3, so it’s actually a really good result for us. L is proving a bit of a lucky charm for us. She can come again, if we can persuade her.

We should have done better in the G1-3, as it’s more our level but I actually thought that was one of the G1-7’s (it was almost difficult enough) and didn’t really take it as seriously as I should have done. Must concentrate more! We got 15th, with 5 faults because we had a pole down.

Then we make a bit of a mess of his final run, a G3, but we’re still clear and come 10th. Four rosettes in all, which is definitely positive, even if the best was only 10th.

Doggo went for it in his only run at Veterans but just missed out on a rosette.

Then we head back down the A1/M1 to Huddersfield where we stay in rather nice dog friendly pub, The New Inn at Marsden.

We have taken advantage of their special valentine’s deal which means we also get champagne and chocolates in our room. Oddly, the mini box of chocolates contains three chocolates... ah, I must have inadvertently signed up for the Ménage à trois package. Never mind. We also can’t touch the champagne because we have a half marathon tomorrow.

Once we’ve finished that off we head down to the bar for the inclusive meal and a bit of hydration. Taylor’s Landlord and Copper Dragon Bitter, since you ask. Should be a good run tomorrow.

(Saturday 11th February)

Friday 10 February 2012

A Disappointing Effort

It’s a disappointing effort by the weather and the forecasted heavy snow doesn't arrive. Even to call it a dusting would be a disservice to dustings. It all makes last night's meeting cancellation look as daft as calling off a local derby football match.

Apparently all last night’s predicted snow landed in Lincolnshire. Which means that the coldest place on earth, Sleaford, has it all and we’re there next weekend.

I run from work. I’m not planning on running all the way home, what with the Liversedge half marathon on Sunday, but that doesn't mean anything. So I get the bus to Stapleford to save me from myself and run home from there. Once home, I push L out of the door to do hers.

Of course with all this ice around, Sunday’s race may not be on. The race website is sounding a bit more positive about the race’s prospects, than they have been all week, but not much. Though they are from Yorkshire, where they don’t do positive so I expect it’ll probably be on.

On to episode five of the Millennium Trilogy, e.g. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest.

(Friday 10th February)

Thursday 9 February 2012

Every Snow Cloud Has A Silver Lining

A bit of a disaster this morning as MD knocks his ball over next door and into the middle of a huge thorn bush. It’s going to be difficult to get back. We will have to mount a rescue mission sometime and get L to dangle me over the fence by my ankles or something.

MD doesn’t get on at all well with his ‘substitute’ ball. It doesn’t quite fit in his mouth, which I know is hard to believe.

I have a dog club committee meeting tonight, so I’ll probably be on the post-committee meeting double whiskies later. We have lunch in the pub where a pre-committee meeting double whisky is tempting but I resist, sticking to beer and Steak pie.

I rush home to get my stuff ready for the meeting only to be told that’s it’s been cancelled due to the forecast of heavy snow. FFS. The ‘heavy’ snow isn’t due until the early hours and it’s drizzling with sleet/rain here. Anyway it’s been forecast for days, why wait until an hour before to call it off. Where’s that double whiskey.

L texts with a consolatory offer that I can’t refuse. Cosy night in then. Every snow cloud has a silver lining.

(Thursday 9th February)

Wednesday 8 February 2012

I Have A Plan

It’s too icy to run. I take the car. I have a plan.

L advocates a few loops around the University’s Jubilee Campus, which she says has been salted and is therefore pretty good underfoot. That is if I’m not going to join the bikini clad students at the pool. I can’t believe she’s advocating multiple loops... that’s so un-her.

Meanwhile I’m becoming her... covering all eventualities. I have my gym kit and my swimming kit with me. All options are possible. As I said I have a plan, I’m just not sure what it is yet.

A swim is currently favourite, nothing to do with bikinis obviously but when I get there I find that the swimming pool doesn't actually open until 6:15. When did that change? I know it’s been a while, a few years actually, since I've driven here straight from work but even so. It’s also not really a money spinning strategy that will catch the post-work crowd.

So I’m in the gym instead, again. Just as I’m crouching down to tie my shoe laces, a nice pair of legs decked out in very familiar Adidas three-quarter length Lycra trousers stands next to me. It's L! I'm just about to run my hand up her leg, as you do, when I realise that it may be L's trousers but L doesn't, as far as I know, own a 'Carnage 2010' t-shirt, unless there’s something she’s not been telling me. I abort.

Obviously relieved at not getting groped 'Carnage 2010' wanders over to join 'Pub Crawl 09' and 'Pub Golf' (year unknown) on the treadmills, which are all taken. Then just as I’m contemplating the baffling prospect of a weights session because there are also no bikes free, 'Beyoncé... I am... Tour’ (2009, since you ask) vacates one. I hop on.

Then I remember how horrible the bikes at this gym are. You can't strap your feet in properly and the screens are near vertical, which means they are great for watching TV but not great for getting down over the handlebars and erm... cycling. You can at least do that at the Tennis Centre gym. The bikes seem harder to pedal here too. I can’t break 165 watts where normally it’s over 200 at the TC. After quite a painful 10k I decide to go for a refreshing swim.

Now tactically I almost had this spot on. I had left most of my stuff in a locker in the ‘dry’ changing rooms and now as I had my tri-shorts on and a towel with me, all I have to do is dump the rest of my gym kit in a locker in the ‘wet’ changing rooms and I’m sorted. I get in the pool, only to realise that my goggles are in the ‘dry’ locker. Bugger. No front crawl then. I breaststroke for four lengths before my arms give out. How do people breaststroke all night? Baffled and knackered I get out. Then I dry myself enough to elope to the ‘dry’ changing rooms and head home.

Then its dog training, where Doggo is delighted to get to socialise, if not to train. MD is just delighted, about everything.

As regards the cancelled Derby v Forest game, my worst fears are realised when the club come to the same conclusion that I already had. That the next free midweek date is 13th March, when we’re away skiing. Wonderful.

(Wednesday 8th February)

Tuesday 7 February 2012


I slither to the bus.

I’ve noticed a few gigs being advertised at the Ballroom in Birmingham. Where? In Dale End? It's the old Hummingbird. I thought they were supposed to be knocking that down? But apparently it reopened late last year. Their website says they are three rooms: - The Ballroom, The Other Room and The End. Awful names all three of them. The 'Ballroom' may sound very retro but... the Hummingbird, there's a name.

We have a bit of a problem with stray teenagers on Pride Park, lots of them wandering aimlessly down the centre of the road. We are near a sixth form college. They always expect the traffic to stop for them, which it does, grudgingly. The flaw in this laidback approach of theirs is what happens when they step out in front of a car with a teenager at the wheel, with the same view on life, who will obviously expect them to get out of his way. Happened today. Very funny.

I win a game at squash. Box ticked.

(Tuesday 7th February)

Monday 6 February 2012

Breathing Space

It’s all gone a bit slushy this morning. Sadly.

The dogs are now on a wheat free diet after L discovered on the internet that a wheat allergy could be causing Doggo’s scratching. I’m not sure how we’re going to break it to MD that they’ll be no more toast and marmalade, actually he doesn't have marmalade on it, often. We'll gave to check out the health food shops and stock up with gluten free...

L’s beginning to panic about her 500 miles as we enter the final quarter... well not ‘beginning’ as she’s been panicking all along. Though, as I explain, she doesn’t want too much breathing space, it would take the edge off it but she's not a girl who appreciates edges. She prefers comfort zones. Well there is a comfort zone, just not a terribly big one. So there’s something for everyone.

Still, Sleaford is clearly unavoidable, at least for L. I’ve still not succumbed, yet. I enter us in Worcester, although it’s not actually in Worcester but I’m sure it’ll be nice.

In the evening we have some very chilly dog training. Perhaps it’s just for warmth that MD spends all evening running around manically and barking noisily. Perhaps.

(Monday 6th February)

Sunday 5 February 2012

All About Money

I get up early to take the dogs on park as we have a 12:15 kick off for the Derby v Forest local derby today but then when I check the news, I find that the match has been called off and promptly get back into bed.

It’s so frustrating. I check the travel reports. Roads clear, buses all running, trains running. Chelsea v Man U on. Newcastle v Aston Villa on. Sainsburys open... clearly unconcerned about the safety of their customers.

Mystified and p***ed off in equal measure but probably not as mystified and p***ed off as all the people who travelled over last night or early this morning to beat the weather including the 30 guys who came over from Switzerland. Even the 'We only had 10 men' banner was ready and draped over a bridge on the A52.

Whilst it’s true that some fans may not have been able to get to the game due to the weather, equally this will also be true for the rearranged game, which will now fall in midweek. The match was even on BBC TV for anyone who couldn’t get. Maybe the sad death of Forest’s owner Nigel Doughty was a factor, if they'd give that as the reason then then we would have understood.

Instead I take boys on the park in the snow, which they love.

Although Doggo over does it and will probably limp for the rest of the day.

Meanwhile L goes for a run in the snow. Jealous. So when I get back from the park, I put my kit on and run as well.

Late afternoon we visit the gym and I do 15k on bike, then it’s this week’s film. Rather bizarrely L chooses one about money. 'Margin Call' which is all about the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the collapse of the Mortgage Backed Security market around 2007/2008.

At some unnamed Wall Street firm they are letting go a massive 80% of the trading floor, security staff watch employees clearing their desks before they escort them from the building. One of these is Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci), a middle manager in the Risk Management department, who is laid off after 19 years of service. As he is lead from the building he hands a flash drive to one of his young analysts Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto). He tells him to take a look and ‘be careful’.

A few hours later, the remaining staff head out to the bars to celebrate avoiding the axe but Sullivan stays behind to take a look at what Dale has left him. He quickly realises the reason for Dale's warning. So many of the firm’s assets are now toxic that, according to Dale’s projections, they will soon owe a lot more than the company is worth. He calls his boss Will Emerson (Paul Bettany) back from the bar.

The film ‘simplifies’ the crisis in to a single overnight session as the situation is escalated up the corporate ladder and we are introduced, one rung at a time, to the hierarchy. First, sort of nice guy, Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey), then top risk officer Sarah Robertson (Demi Moore) and the unlikable Jared Cohen (Simon Baker). Dale meanwhile has gone AWOL, which is entirely their own fault for letting him go of course.

It all culminates when the CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) arrives by helicopter. Tuld, like his managers below him, doesn't understand the figures presented to him and needs someone to explain them to him, as he puts it, as if he were a Golden Retriever but they didn't really. I think I could have done a better job and I do later, to L in the bar over a beer that she didn't previously think she needed.

Tuld’s only focus is keeping the firm alive, at any cost. Although for others it poses a moral dilemma of sorts but still self-preservation comes first. It’s nothing personal, just business. Rogers, for one, seems a genuine guy, but cries more tears for his dying dog and even forgets to call his son who’s also in finance.

You can't feel sorry for anyone, as they'll all get well paid anyway. When Dale is tracked down, he and Robertson, whose head has been selected to roll for the mistakes, are required to sit in a room all day, doing nothing and getting paid to do so, because they both know too much. Meanwhile their traders attempt to land $1M+ bonuses for offloading the near worthless assets onto their unsuspecting clients before picking up the US equivalent of their P45s.

It’s all done very well, it’s engrossing and at times the tension is immense. The acting is excellent helped by some very good characterisation. We are given time to get to know everybody and understand the golden handcuffs that tie them to their trade. Everyone gets used to spending whatever they earn, however large.

At times the film seems to suggest that some bankers might be human after all... Nah, don’t think so.

(Sunday 5th February)

Saturday 4 February 2012

Holding The Coats

Today the 2nd year of the ‘Rauceby Ripper’ from good old Sleaford Town Runners. Famous for the Sleaford Half Marathon with its muddy mile in the middle and home of the coldest place on earth (whenever we go). I tell L to go for it, I’ll hold her coat. She reckons I’ve done 259.6 miles whilst she’s been clocking up over 370 on her challenge. I’m impressed. Time for a day off I think.

Rather appropriately, with it being Sleaford, we get there and there’s a dusting of snow on the ground, yet there isn't anywhere else for miles.

It’s a 8½ mile, approximately (I love that word) multi-terrain course, which is another reason why I’m holding the coats and the dogs.

It starts within the grounds of Rauceby Hall, although I’m damned if I can see the hall before looping around the villages of North and South Rauceby. We managed to watch the runners at a point a few miles in, bark at a few horses and upset a few locals. All in a day’s work.

We miss L at the second possible viewing point either because she’s too fast or we collectively spend too much time sniffing, scratching, taking toilet breaks, as well as continuing to bark at horses and upset locals.

Then it’s off to greet all the runners (and walkers as well) at the finish near South Rauceby Village Hall. L, of course, loved it and got the golden boot.

Tonight we had pencilled in a trip to pub crawl Sheffield but the doom and gloom on the weather forecast looks like it’s going to put paid to that. Not that you should ever believe anything on a British weather forecast but unfortunately a threatening weather forecast alone is enough to cause transport chaos with Heathrow cancelling a third of its flights to ‘minimise the disruption to passengers’. Work that one out?

Anyhow if the railways decide to do something similar we’re stuffed, stranded in Sheffield, sleeping on Daughter’s floor amongst the dirty washing and the half eaten kebabs. People have been known to survive down there but never for longer than a few hours, even the rats daren’t risk it.

So we head into Nottingham instead, where it starts to snow... and snow. Excellent stuff and for once they're right. After one in the Borlase we camp out in the Hand & Heart, where it’s ‘Warm Inside’ and watch the carnage ensue outside.

Pretty soon nothing is coming up Derby Road, which is quite a steep road. Coming out of the pub later to walk home we notice the Red Arrow bus slewn across the bottom of the hill, nicely nuzzling a few parked cars. Then like everyone else it's the walk home, as there’s little choice, often down the middle of a very quiet road.

(Saturday 4th February)

Friday 3 February 2012

Where's Me Jumper

It was so cold this morning, that even I put an extra jumper on. Snow’s on its way. So they say. Probably even MD found it too cold to bark. Maybe. Well, maybe not. Actually, probably not. He is very resilient.

L complains about the loss of twenty minutes in the gym and the consequential reduction in box ticking, due to the sheer volume of clothing she had to remove and then reapply.

I have to apply several layers of clothing myself, just to go out to the sandwich van, which is worthwhile for yet another free sample. A chilli beef wrap, very nice heated up in the microwave. It pays to be a regular scrounger, I mean customer.

After work I run home, all the way. It's still so cold that I barely break sweat and then need a hot bath to thaw out afterwards.

Later, Millennium Night part four. During which L has the awful dilemma of not knowing how steady to go with the alcohol before a rare Saturday race this weekend. It would be awful to go totally without only for the race to be snowed off. So glad I'm spectating. Cheers.

(Friday 3rd February)

Thursday 2 February 2012

Sticking Plaster

Someone has stuck a sticking plaster on our internet connection and email is now beginning to trickle through. Still think something needs a kick though, either the equipment or a person at our internet provider.

I'm afraid I have to grass L up and say she’s been cheating at her box ticking. The swimming pool is shorter at Lenton, where she’s been doing her lengths this morning. Sneaky.

Online entry for the Barrathon has been rearranged for tonight at 7.30, when we’ll be in transit to Coventry. Damn. I'll just have to try and do it on my phone. It worked for L’s Sleaford entry last year when we were in Glencoe.

Everything actually goes swimmingly, we’re parked up in Coventry at 7:32 with full 3G reception and our entry goes through without a hitch. Never thought that would happen. I had visions of us having to wait until we got home and then finding the race is full. Then we head off to rendezvous with Son and his gf at the Kasbah.

We walk in to what is a very crowded Kasbah and squeeze ourselves up against the bar. The support band are already playing. They’re called fiN, yes that’s ‘fiN’ with some eccentric reverse capitalisation, a lowercase ‘f’ and a capital ‘N’, presumably to distinguish themselves from early 90's band Fin, not that it makes a jot of difference to google.

As they play away we barter with the girl on the bar to find exactly what’s actually available tonight, beer - nope, San Miguel - ran out, wine - nope, shall we just have Tuborg then.

You sort of get the impression that fiN don’t get to play to such big crowds very often but tonight’s 1000 capacity sold out Kasbah doesn’t faze them and the four piece from deepest Surrey throw themselves wholeheartedly into the experience.

On first listen, perhaps just another generic indie band with arena sized ambitions but they succeed by mostly keeping it simple and not adding in keyboards and the like. Coming over as a cross between a roughed up White Lies and a smoothed out Nirvana exhibiting some nice heavy moments blended with some decent choruses, not unlike Feeder in fact.

Tonight is the third date on Feeder's four night stint previewing their new album 'Generation Freakshow' which is due in April and there's quite a buzz around the place tonight. We’re still buzzing away when Grant Nicholas wanders almost unnoticed on to the stage and strikes up acoustic style, assisted only by a little keyboard accompaniment from Dean Deavall, hidden stage left behind a speaker stack. Which is where he stays all night, the guy really should be given a proper stage presence one day, maybe.

I'm not too sure of the merits of opening with a solo acoustic number, it’s a very low key way to start and a lot of people simply continued with their conversations, the philistines, but 'Children of the Sun' is certainly a simple, yet enthralling number.

Then the rest of the band join the party and we're into 'Oh My'. Damon has a shirt on! Blimey. I didn’t recognise him dressed. He’s also looking particularly hairy behind his drums. Grant has had his locks shorn but seems to have donated them to Damon. Then there’s Taka, just being Taka, almost expressionless, powering away on that bass with, just for the record, plenty of hair.

Tonight, it’s all about their new album, album number eight, from which they preview no less than eight tracks. Grant always seem to enjoy himself the most when he's got new music to push, as he’s nearly always evangelical about it, and it’s always good when a band has to work that bit harder for an audiences approval with material the crowd are not familiar with.

The word was that this album would be more commercial, lighter than the previous ‘Renegades’ album but there’s little evidence of that with ‘Tiny Minds’. It’s as heavy as anything on that record.

The best news tonight is that the 'Renegades' album hasn't been forgotten unlike, err what's it called... 'Silent Cry' although the track 'Renegades', undoubtedly the best thing they've done for years, is probably undroppable from the set. However it’s ‘This Town’ that is the first track to get the place really rocking tonight accompanied, as it is, by Damon attempting to punch holes in his drum kit with his sticks.

'Hey Johnny' would also have sat well on the 'Renegades' album but work on that ending boys, it just peters out catching everyone by surprise and quelling the applause. We did like it, honest. We just didn’t know it had finished. Another new number 'Sunrise', a song about the trials and tribulations of city life, is more mellow and jangling, more ‘Comfort-able and Sound’.

All the new stuff is good, very good but what else did we expect. There's no sign of any dissent to the absence of a few set regulars tonight or to the number of new tracks played. The reception is good for each and every one.

The new single 'Borders', which was previewed some time ago now during the ‘Renegades’ tour, has been everywhere recently and on mid week sales this week was sitting inside the Top 40. This is perhaps why so many people seem to know the words tonight about the border running, asylum seeking or just running away from something Jessie. I hope she made it to the Lakes.

Grant wonders if anyone wants to hear the ‘Lucozade' song? On go on then. The beer explodes in the air for ‘Buck Rogers’, as covered by the 'The James Cleaver Quintet' whilst rolling down a hill.

The best is saved to last though and the finale is impressive. 'Idaho' was apparently written about touring ‘Polythene’ in the States or something. It certainly has the right sound for the era, it sounded like it was off ‘Polythene’ itself. It’s a particular highlight. It would have been cool to have followed it with something actually off that record but a no holds barred ‘Insomnia’ was a good substitute, although it sounded a bit like Grant was playing it with the wrong guitar? Or was it just my imagination that it sound like it was in a different key.

Better still though, was the fantastically heavy title track of the new album 'Generation Freakshow', a song about the student riots and itself bristling with attitude despite being written in Banbury... Promising stuff indeed but when Grant shouts 'Let’s go'... is he trying to start a riot? You can end up in court for even thinking that these days but what a fantastic track and that’s where they close the set, at around the hour mark, which is a little on the short side guys.

Then they return to play two more songs and to end the evening on a 'High', literally. Well not end exactly, that’s 'Just A Day's job obviously and it brings yet another brilliant Feeder gig to a close. With as usual the band leaving you feeling sated but still just craving that little bit more.

We get home and find that Barrathon is full. So it's a good job we didn't leave it until later, it filled up in only 36 minutes BUT we’re in it. Wow.

(Thursday 2nd February)