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

Saturday 31 March 2012

Protective Suits And Breathing Apparatus

A fairly relaxing Saturday, a lie-in and then on the park with the boys before heading up to Sheffield for 4pm to collect Daughter. We’re hoping she’s up by then. She’s coming home for Easter to do hot dog (as in dog toy) throwing duty.

Unfortunately protective suits and breathing apparatus are not handed out at the door as we venture in to their ‘well kept’ student accommodation. We aren’t invited up to Daughter’s room, probably wise.

We head back to Nottingham, for a gentle pasta filled night before I hobble around Reading tomorrow.

(Saturday 31st March)

Friday 30 March 2012

Cook It Yourself

Some people are clearly so starved of entertainment in their lives that they’ll queue for petrol for no reason at all. Strange folk. Well at least if this behaviour engineers a petrol shortage then they’ll have to queue for petrol all over again, thereby gaining them a few more hours’ worth of entertainment. I blame 4Music for putting inspiring entertainment like the triathlon on their channel (see my post yesterday) where nobody can find it.

I suppose I’ll need some petrol at some point but I certainly wouldn’t join a queue for it and anyhow being without petrol would simply introduce some interesting challenges to overcome. Would I, for instance, be able to cycle to dog class? It’s do-able. I’d have to borrow that basket that L’s got and attach it to my bike. MD would love it but I couldn’t stand the angst of trying to persuade Doggo to get into the basket. He’d be off into his favourite corner like a shot. So he’d have to stay at home and then he’d be miffed when I go without him. There’s no pleasing some.

Talking of dogs, some survey has said that taking dog to work 'cuts stress'.

I don’t think so. Doggo constantly scratching and digging away, uprooting computer cables while MD barks at the printer every time it starts up. What could be more stressful? How much work would I get done when they both keep putting their toys on my knees for me to throw? And what if a colleague brought a dog in as well and they didn't get on...

I’m out with work tonight but L reminds me that it was Friday yesterday, so I ought to be AF tonight. Hmmm. If Friday was yesterday but Saturday is still on Saturday because we have a race the next day, tonight will have to be Sunday, then Sunday will have to be, hmmm, part of next week.

Our meal at Derby’s new(ish) Black Rock Grill doesn’t start until 8pm so the two of us from Nottingham, for whom it really isn’t worth going home, get slowly sloshed in the Alexandra and then the Wetherspoons before we move on to the Sadlergates wine bar below the Black Rock Grill. Sadlergates wine bar claims to offer 'over fifty of the best beers the world has to offer'. Which sounds enticing until we discover they have only around ten, mainly the usual suspects and nothing from Britain. So not very worldly. The wine bar is empty bar us, not promising for 8pm on a Friday.

The restaurant is better, in a nice setting upstairs, busier, although only small. My salmon starter is awesome but the main course is a bit odd. The Black Rock Grill is an ‘interactive dining concept’ (e.g. you cook it yourself) sold online by the Black Rock Grill company. An offshoot of this seems to be the restaurant in Derby (and other places), where they serve to you what you can buy from the BRG website to use at home.

Basically it’s one of those school meal trays that has a compartment for your salad, your chips and for a great chunk of red hot black rock in the middle on which will be placed, raw, the cut of meat of your choice. I should have gone for Water Buffalo, as it looks good but rather boringly went with sirloin, with a side order of black tiger prawns and a blue cheese sauce. Well, the company are paying.

The food is fine, if the chips overdone. The problem is eating it all without placing everything on the black rock where it sizzles madly at you and continues to cook. They offer us side plates but there really isn’t the elbow space. It’s a race against time (cooking time) as I opt for polishing off the salad first then dicing the now cooked steak into the compartment that the salad has now vacated, adding the prawns and then pouring the cheese sauce over it all. Result.

As I said the food is fine, well overdone chips aside, but the concept needs some work. There’s also a very good cheeseboard for afters, which includes some brie. I dislike brie but the dogs love it, so that comes home with me.

(Friday 30th March)

Thursday 29 March 2012

Taking My Training Very Seriously

Nottingham City Council are apparently the only remaining council who remove bulky waste items for free, such as our deceased washer which we put out for them today. This is obviously a nice service to have available to us but, when they’re in the process of axing practically everything else to save money, is it a wise one?

They even come as arranged, which doesn’t always happen.

Pub lunch today, so I’m well fortified for my run attempt this evening, as well as half slaughtered. I even skip the chips and have mash instead. I take my training very seriously you know.

I jog-walk the mile to Chaddesden to see how it goes. Not bad but ‘good’ would be a gross exaggeration. I take the bus to Stapleford and attempt the four or so miles home from there. Again not bad but I ease up every time I suspect things are going to go pear-shaped, which is frequently. Whether this is due to real concerns or simply paranoia I’m not sure.

I run across the park and catch up with L who is walking home, which means I can sneakily walk the rest of the way.

As I’m out with work tomorrow, we decide Thursday is the new Friday and celebrate it a day early, complete with wine. Rather than TOTP on TV it’s a mix of Triathlons, Ironman and the Adidas Terrex Coast to Coast challenge all bizarrely featured on the 4Music channel. I rather fancy the Coast to Coast challenge, I wonder how good L’s kayaking is?

(Thursday 29th March)

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Just For Effect

I bike again as my calf still twangs a bit when I walk, so I don’t feel it’s ready for another run just yet but I may have to try one tomorrow.

On the ride in, I get overtaken by one of those fast old gits. Who having overtaken me heads off in a different direction, only to overtake me again a few miles down the road. Clearly just for effect. Either he went the long way around or u-turned as soon as I was out of sight. I’d prefer it to be the latter but I suspect it was the former.

L reckons she could be detained at work until about midnight and asks me to chill some wine for drinking in the garden for when she gets home. What at midnight? It could be a bit nippy outdoors by then and it is a AF Wednesday.

I have my swimming kit with me just in case I was tempted to pedal straight to the pool after work but the boys had such a good time on the park last night, as did I, that I decide to repeat that instead. It will insure a more peaceful second part to the evening because they'll both crash asleep.

As it happens L escapes well before midnight and we again amble up towards her, this time in search of a pub in which to have that outdoor glass of beverage, despite it being a Wednesday. The problem is that they’ve closed practically every pub between our house and town, so really there isn’t anywhere palatable to drop in to. Not that any of the ones that have closed were any good in the first place. That’s a bit of a gap in the market, just asking to be filled, you would think.

We pop into the Three Wheatsheaves which has shown potential at times in the past, only to quickly cast such potential swiftly aside. Outside it advertises real ale and delivers, although Courage Best isn’t what I had in mind and would probably not be what anybody else had in mind either. This may account for part of the reason the place is so quiet. Still we do stop for another, two drinks for a fiver isn’t bad.

(Wednesday 28th March)

Tuesday 27 March 2012


I bike again today and tentatively pencil in a ‘run’ (of sorts) for Thursday. My calf started to ache again after Sunday’s exploits, so it’s not exactly promising as regards doing Reading on Sunday.

I'm tempted to get a costume and dress up as a duck or something. Then I won’t be embarrassed for limping in almost last, just embarrassed at being dressed up as a duck, which has got to be better surely?

Now the clocks have gone forward, maybe the dogs and I can get on the park this evening, that is if the council deem that such a thing is allowed and leave it unlocked. They do.

It’s pleasant and it’s a gloriously barmy summer evening, in March. Mark my words it’ll rain all July, as usual.

MD though, is as annoying as usual. He tosses his ball my way, then just as I’m about to pick it up to throw it, he swoops in to pick it up himself and runs off with it again. Hilarious. Not. At least it gets him exercised.

Today is World Whisky Day, on a Tuesday, I ask you... So we decline.

(Tuesday 27th March)

Monday 26 March 2012

Building Site

Sainsbury's is less of a building site this week, the meat counter is open and I also have no problem obtaining the pickled gherkins for L’s phantom pregnancy.

It’s dog training in the evening for a fired up MD. Even Doggo gets a run, so they should both sleep well tonight. So will L too, she got a run as well. No, not over the agility course. Somewhere in Ockbrook on the way to the pub. I collect her afterwards.

(Monday 26th March)

Sunday 25 March 2012

It’s All Relative

Well first we lose an hour in bed due to the clocks going forward and then we head to Stafford for their half marathon. Though again, due to my injury, only L will be competing.

That said, I leave the dogs to howl in the car while I watch the start.

Then as the course does a loop away from the town centre before returning, I wait for L and join in. I’m not sure exactly how far I run but it was over a mile, maybe one and a half and it goes ok. No reaction in my calf. It’s at a slower pace than I usually run at but it’s a pace that actually doesn’t feel too bad at all.

L did tell me to take it gently. Unfortunately, I was doing my sort of gentle when it went in the first place. She quotes me, that I was ‘on for a good pace’. It’s all relative. Good = Gentle. I was about to wind it up when my leg fell off.

Then I leave L to it and run the same distance back to the start, extract the howling twosome from the car. We go to watch the winners finish and then the rest of the race from the pleasant surroundings of Victoria Park.

I’m not sure how L felt about me running with her. I either paced her or annoyed her. I’m not sure which. Her time though is eleven minutes up on last week and her second best of the year but then such wild swings in her performance are not uncommon.

Today I don’t have to request a t-shirt as they were handing them out before the start, along with the race medal. This is of course a cardinal sin of the highest order by the organisers and a massive tempting of fate by anyone who takes one. It also causes unnecessary congestion in the race village. That said it’s a brilliant t-shirt, which I shall wear with unearned pride and a little embarrassment.

Back home, we hit the pubs for the first time since Switzerland, covering pubs supporting Nottingham’s Stout And Porter Trail. We visit the Borlase Warren, the Gooseberry Bush and the Lincolnshire Poacher before at L's suggestion we finish at our favourite cheap and cheerful Indian, the Noor Jahan.

(Sunday 25th March)

Saturday 24 March 2012

Not Playing Ball

So, we’re expecting the gas man and the washing machine delivery man today. Either could be hammering on the door at 8am, so there will be no lounging in bed with my good woman this morning then. Instead I drag myself out of bed and promise the boys that yes, we’ll do the park with their footballs, just once the gas man’s been and gone but of course he isn’t playing ball. So the dog’s don’t get chance to play ball either. Naturally if I’d stayed in bed he would have arrived by now. Finally at about midday I decide to go in the shower. It works a treat. There is a knock at the door.

This time, he’s even brought the part. It’s all fitted and he’s gone in about half an hour, although it’s now too late for the park and I make my apologies to the boys, as I head off to the match. Still no washer but L will deal with that.

Next stop, the post office. Where I have a package. Which could be some free CD’s that a record company may be sending me in gratitude for a review that I did or it could be joint supplement from one of the sponsors of our dog show. As I suspect, it’s joint supplement. Oh well.

The match is interesting and we all sit there in disbelief as Derby storm in to a 3-0 lead. Having come to terms with that, we then all sit there in disbelief as Derby throw away said 3-0 lead and crawl home 3-2. The disbelief includes a bizarre goal where having mistakenly picked up a back pass our goalkeeper throws the ball straight to one of the opposition players to score rather than waiting for the resulting free kick. Clearly satisfied with this act of self-harming the referee declines to book him. Which is poor refereeing as well as poor goalkeeping.

The washer has arrived and I head home to plug/plum it in. L utters those famous last words, ‘this one should last forever’. The theory being that no teenagers will be using it. e.g. running it several times a day as well as double washing everything e.g. adding their washing to what’s already in it, but has already been washed, without emptying it. She is forgetting that the summer holidays from Uni last forever.

(Saturday 24th March)

Friday 23 March 2012

We've Been Around

Four days in a row on the bike and a dodgy thigh for my troubles but at least the calf is fine.

Shock number one. L enters the Great Nottinghamshire Bike Ride. She says she’d rather do that the Grimsthorpe Half Marathon that is on the same day. Hang on, rewind. She’d rather do the cycle... did I hear that right? I best get her bike serviced then.

Shock number two. British Gas ring and say they’re coming tomorrow, to fit the long promised filter. Result. A result for perseverance after taking the intransigent position of demanding a Saturday appointment after they'd already wasted two days of L’s time this year.

Of course there's no guarantee that it will happen, we’ll believe it when we see it. Their record isn’t good and if they do turn up, will they bring the part? Well, they’ve got less than twenty four hours to lose it.

For our cosy Friday night in, I turn up sweaty from my cycle while L turns up sweaty from her run and we put the delightful Rammstein on the TV whilst I cook. Romance eh? I tell L to shout me if anything bursts into flames. That’s on the TV, not on the stove.

Then we dig out some old photos and reminisce on past skiing holidays, going back first to 1999, when we were all a touch younger. Daughter was just five! It’s an interesting reminiscence night over a bottle of wine. Although it should probably have been over a wheat beer and a Jagertee.

‘We've been around’ L says. Quite.

(Friday 23rd March)

Thursday 22 March 2012

Spreadsheet Wars

Three days in a row on the bike. Which means I’ve outlasted protégé, he’s cycled twice this week but wimped out today. These youngsters have no stamina. Us old gits rule.

I'm going to destroy my spreadsheet. It's ruining my life.” So says L. Oh dear.

She says she’s so busy with work and trying to read books that she’s not getting to the gym. Work isn’t on her spreadsheet though, so in theory she shouldn’t be doing it...

I have my swimming stuff with me and consider a brief swim. If only I knew what a ‘Fitness Swim’ was, as that’s the session the leisure centre are advertising. L’s depressive, spreadsheet hating comment “What's a swim?” isn’t helpful.

It also says ‘half the pool only’. Perhaps they’ve sublet the other half?

Turns out they have, to a swim class of six people, which means everyone else is packed into three lanes. Not pleasant. Alienating far more than the six people the class has attracted.

I manage twenty two lengths until a chap gets in front of me and won’t let me pass. After six more painfully slow lengths I get out in frustration. Twenty eight lengths in total. L would have burnt her spreadsheet at such an unrounded number. That is if she still had a spreadsheet to burn.

(Thursday 22nd March)

Wednesday 21 March 2012


I bike again.

Doggo has a cough. Apparently he has Kennel Cough. Naturally we had ruled out this possibility because we’d had him vaccinated against it two weeks ago. So that was useful then. If it continues he'll need some antibiotics from the vet... the vet who inoculated him against it... Somebody is making some money here.

His cough does seem to be improving but even so L says she’s going to rustle up some warm honey and lemon for him tonight. To dip his Bonios in. Hope she makes enough, because MD will want the same.

He’s not got the cough but then he is a tough cookie. Good job really because Kennel Cough is supposed to be highly contagious and I wouldn’t want to infect the rest of my Crufts team at training tonight. I best keep Doggo in the car.

Training goes well and no coughs.

(Wednesday 21st March)

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Cycling Allowed

My physio said I’m not allowed to run but I can cycle. She also said I’m not allowed to ski, but she can’t be expected to get everything right. Anyhow it’s biking all the way this week then.

The ride in goes ok. The leg is fine, although my general fitness is rubbish. Well that’s what I conclude as I sit panting like a collie at my desk.

Our boiler has died. Again. It’s come out in sympathy with our deceased washing machine or perhaps it’s the other way around. Anyhow, the boiler is at least displaying a helpful error code unlike the washing machine. It says 'F5'. I thought at first it was going to flash up 'Press F5 to reboot' or something but no, just 'F5'.

I Google it. Apparently some overheating cut-out thingy may have been tripped but the good news is there’s a reset button that can be pressed to possibly cure the problem. The bad news is you’ve got to remove two layers of the boiler's outer casing to get at it. So if you hear any loud explosions tonight it’s only me but it’s got to be easier than calling out British Gas again. They still haven’t managed to give us an appointment to fit the filter they promised us just after Christmas.

Less usefully, the all knowing Google reckons the circuit board has gone in the washing machine. Not cheap. We best buy a new washer then.

I get involved in a bit of a three way race on the way home, which isn't what you want with a dodgy leg. So don't tell my physio or L.

(Tuesday 20th March)

Monday 19 March 2012

A Heroical Tale

Back to work but I'm not getting much done as I have to recount the same heroical tale of my one legged skiing exploits several times over. Then there are the folk who say it would be too cold for them to spend a week in the Alps and don't know how you coped. So you show them your sunburn but they still don’t believe you, I assume they think you’ve spend your holiday hiding from the cold indoors, on a sunbed.

I think the deer on the park have missed MD. Apparently they were waiting for him today. He's their morning entertainment.

L sends me for Kohlrabi. In Chaddesden, I ask you. I nearly bring her Pak Choi, as it sounds almost as impressive but it’s not quite the same thing. Kohlrabi is a German Turnip by the way not a Jewish Religious Leader.

Sainsbury’s is actually more hopeless than usual. In the week we’ve been away they’ve built an extension over the recycling area. It's amazing how fast contractors can work when a private company is paying. If the council had commissioned that, it would have took two years to get that far.

Inside, half the shop was shut including most of the freezer space. So chicken is on our menu at home this week but not lamb, beef or pork.

Dog class tonight for the first time in three weeks, due to injuries and holidays. Can MD remember what to do? Well, he remembers how to bark at least.

(Monday 19th March)

Sunday 18 March 2012

Only One Of Us...

We’re in Liverpool today for the Liverpool Half Marathon.

That is when we find the start down at the ‘Waterfront’ which could have done with a few race specific signposts. Both L and I have numbers for the race but only one of us is running it. Woe is me.

I think I may have liked it. It looked very congested at the start in the Albert Dock and the finish was a bit iffy through an industrial estate but L said the rest was ok and pretty flat.

There was a good turnout with 6,300 finishers and they even wheeled in Kriss Akabusi to get the event under way.

The boys and I have a nice wander down the last mile of the course and the organisers are even good enough to let me have a t-shirt. We don’t see the barefoot runners but apparently there was blood everywhere. Ewww.

L doesn’t have the best of days and comes in complaining she’s been using the wrong muscles for the last week skiing. Which makes we wonder how I’d have got on had I had two legs to run on.

We drop in at my folks' place on the way home, to share holiday snaps and the like.

Then its home for a double session of 1970’s Top Of The Pops. Just to convince Daughter that life is better in Sheffield. Only kidding but it must have worked, she’s off back there tomorrow. We love her really.

(Sunday 18th March)

Saturday 17 March 2012

Lovely, Apparently

The dogs are home, pleased to see us and soon over their ordeal. Daughter is home too, pleased to see us too (any chance of some money?), and soon over her ordeal of returning to Nottingham.

The boys make a re-acquaintance with the park and in the evening we make a re-acquaintance with the cinema. Although not Broadway. Thanks to the Times, 2 for 1 tickets for Cineworld.

‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ is not really my sort of film, it even has a terrible title, but here I am anyway... on a 2-for-1. It is based on the novel ‘These Foolish Things’ by Deborah Moggach, which is a much better title in my opinion.

We are introduced to the seven main characters, a motley crew, all of a certain age, who have all fallen for the so good it can’t be true advertisement for the ‘Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ encouraging them to outsource their retirement to Jaipur, India.

After an arduous journey, they finally arrive and can congratulate young entrepreneur Sonny (Dev Patel) on how nicely he Photoshop-ed the advert. He has an admirable ambition to run the hotel ‘for the elderly and the beautiful’, all he lacks is the money to do so.

The guests settle in, dust off the furniture, crush the cockroaches and tuck into their traditional British roast of... goat curry.

The cast is impressive. There’s Celia Imrie as the much married Madge who’s had enough of babysitting duties back home. Ronald Pickup plays the ageing womaniser Norman while Maggie Smith plays Muriel who hates all things foreign but accepts hip surgery in India. Tom Wilkinson plays Graham, a judge who walks away from his career to return to his boyhood India and to track down a former gay lover.

Naturally we have Judi Dench, she plays Evelyn who has been impoverished by the death of her debt ridden husband and Bill Nighy who is Douglas, one half of a couple, the Astley’s, who have been bankrupted by their daughter (we know their pain). Penelope Wilton play his miserable wife Jean. Jean hates India whereas it Douglas feel liberated. You hope that eventually he’ll be liberated from her too and so it proves. She is the only one who fails to let go the past and to embrace the future. Travel is of course supposed to broaden the mind, well some minds anyway.

As a backdrop, India itself steals the show. There’s also a nice side story as Sonny tries to woo his call centre sweetheart Sunaina (Tena Desae).

As a film it’s not too taxing, well not taxing at all really. As charming as it’s predictable, with many of the jokes as old as the cast. It’s a fluffy dog story without the fluffy dog. Come to think of it, why isn’t there a dog? Fluffy or otherwise. Why didn’t one of the characters have a four legged friend? Major oversight.

It’s not a word I'd ever use to describe a film but L described the film as ‘lovely’. So there you go. Lovely. Apparently.

(Saturday 17th March)

Friday 16 March 2012

Holiday Report

So a week ago we landed at Zurich airport and then crossed over from Switzerland into the Principality of Liechtenstein, all sixty odd square miles of it. We pass through the capital Vaduz and up a big hill (mountain) to Malbun, their only ski resort.

We check in and walk around the village, which takes about two minutes. As we dawdle a bit to extend it, a chap drags us into his restaurant and tells us what we're having for dinner. Which is ok, expensive but ok. I think everything going to be expensive.

Then we head back to our hotel where there is a rock concert tonight. The band are a covers band but also very good. We treat ourselves to a bottle of wine. How much did you say? As I said, I think everything going to be expensive.

In the morning, I put on a calf support, compression socks and then ski socks over the top. Amazingly I can still get my boot on over all that. Then we ski down to the lift, which goes ok. So I buy a lift pass to go back up. They only have four lifts here but that’s probably enough for someone with a dodgy leg.

Skiing with a torn calf is ok actually. It hurts but not that much. Probably because all the strapping has cut the blood supply off. I have one fall but it was actually easier to fall than to jolt the leg trying to stay upright. At which point we decide it’s time for a medicinal lunch. A beer and some soup later, we head out onto the slopes again and ski until lifts close.

In the evening we think we've ordered the same wine but almost end up with something 50% more expensive than the one we couldn’t afford but had anyway last night.

On Sunday, having skied out Liechtenstein in a day we move on to Switzerland and the ski area around Lenzerheide. L feels ill after king prawns for breakfast but whose fault is that? King prawns for breakfast? I ask you. Good job the breakfast was all inclusive.

It’s a misty day today and as we go up for the final run of the day, up the longest drag lift in history which disappears into the fog and keeps going and going. At the top you can barely see your boots and we inch our way down following the piste markers. Survival skiing. Finally we’re below the cloud level and can finally see to ski the rest of the way. After all that we’re still sadly not the last car in car park. Which is always a cherished honour.

We check-in to our new hotel in a place called Churwalden. Our room is massive and includes bunks for the kids and a sofa for the dogs. Only problem is we’ve put them all in kennels, well, Sheffield and Leamington Spa as well as kennels.

The hotel restaurant and bar is closed tonight, so we got out and paint the village a light shade of red. We have fruit tea in the room, which is a mixed blessing and a collect of plug sockets that all seem to be different. I end up having a shave lying on the floor using the only socket any of my collection of adapters will fit.

As a cost saving measure we load up on breakfast and skip lunch, so that we can afford the wine at night. Although the lunches do tend to start getting more alcoholic. Its Amoretto coffees on Monday but we're on to a small bottle of wine for two by Wednesday. At the end of the day ski patrol follow us down, probably not impressed by our antics in the mist yesterday or perhaps just coming to breathalyse us.

The leg is holding up very well, although I have gone through an entire packet of both Ibuprofen and Paracetamol. The alcohol has been a big help too, as well the TLC and attention of a good woman, shorn of morning dog walking duties and evening spreadsheet ticking.

On day one in Switzerland, we had to have our photos taken for our ski passes but these don’t actually appear on the passes. I assumed they’d instead been stored on a computer somewhere and I had a vague idea that our photos would be appearing on the lift operative’s screen each time we scanned in to go up a lift. This theory proved correct but it takes them until day three to tell us we have our passes mixed up and we have been cross dressing all week.

On Tuesday we cross to the dark side, the other side of the valley, which harbours the icy, evil blacks and the Silvano Beltrametti world cup piste.

Which means it’s a two Jagertee sort of day plus a beer and for L a Mohl, which we think is cider. Later I keep an eye on the text updates as Derby beat Forest with a 95th minute goal whilst on TV in all the local bars its Bayern Munich v FC Basle. Which Basle lose 7-0 despite winning the first leg. The locals won't like that much. Basle were awful though. Where did they get that goalie?

Did I mention that it’s not cheap here? And I’m on first name terms with the cash machine. Swiss cash machines only seem to dispense notes in ones. Whatever you want to withdraw, you get a solitary note to that value. You ask for 100SF and you get a nice crisp 100SF note, that’s about £70 by the way. Imagine the furore in the UK if notes of that value were routinely floating around. No one blinks an eye here of course but then 100SF is simply the price of a moderately decadent night out for two.

One thing we notice on the slopes, is that it’s no longer just kids who wear ski helmets. Almost everyone has one here, which is as odd as it’s worrying. Persoanlly I think it’s more of a fashion thing but L gets in on the act, buys one and joins the in crowd.

Two nights before we’re due to come home we trip over a restaurant attached to our hotel that we didn't know was there. How convenient.

Far too soon, or perhaps not, as I think we’re both knackered it’s time to fly back and see how the dog’s holiday went.

(Friday 16th March)

Friday 9 March 2012

A Game Of Two Doors

We sleep well. It must have been the Hobgoblin. Then we’re up at 6.30 and off to the airport. The car park won't recognise my booking but it's soon sorted. Check-in goes smoothly too, which is a rarity. The security queue doesn’t and takes ages.

The security checks are an entertaining game of two doors. The ‘right’ door opens for me. The left one, which is the wrong one, opens for L and she has to dance in front of a shape painted on the wall and take her shoes off. I'm sure they're just having a laugh at her expense.

The flight is a little late but the pilot makes up time. Hitting the ground way too fast in my uninformed opinion. Car hire goes smoothly despite being served by a lass with a 'I am new' name badge stuck to her chest. That’s kind of cruel but at least she gives me a Golf. A proper one. Not an estate, not an automatic, not even a diesel. I never ever get the car I ask for.

It even has a key rather than a lump of plastic to start it. I still can't start it though and it angrily flashes something in German at me via the dashboard. Ah, hang on a sec, I remember now. De-clutch before you turn the key. Vroom. Off we go. To Liechtenstein and then Switzerland.

(Friday 9th March)

Thursday 8 March 2012

Delaying The Inevitable

L goes into holiday mode, switching off her works email and going on to hotmail instead.

I’m finishing at lunchtime, so that I can dispatch the dogs to their holiday lodgings. Amazingly my wiggle parcel arrives before I finish, perfect timing. This is my parcel of calf supports and surgical stockings. Well sort of. L asks if they’re poncy? A bit. The socks come up well over the knee. I feel they should be worn with a short skirt, if only I had the legs. So yes, very poncy.

I had intended to spend the afternoon with the dogs but as I can’t limp as far as the park, so I chuck a ball in the garden instead. MD is so crap at this though and I quickly realise that I’m just delaying the inevitable. Delaying the grisly job that I have to do. So I bundle the boys into the back of the car, they come very willingly, and I drive them off to their fate. The Premier Pets Hotel. Which is an oxymoron of the highest order.

I accompany them as the kennel maid shows them to their quarters for the next week or so. We all take a good look around the accommodation and then, sort of satisfied, we all head for the exits. At which point I have to push them back inside and explain that two of us are staying here for a while. What? Us? Yep.

I beat a quick retreat, collect L from work and then we leave town before somebody finds out what we’ve done. I’ve booked a late deal at the Manchester Airport Hotel. £29 for a double, well worth it to avoid sleeping in a dog free house.

The hotel is sort of seedy, like these places often are, filled with a transient population of travellers and business folk. In fact it’s just like being away on business except I'm with L. Bonus. And they have Hobgoblin on the bar. Double bonus. These places never have Hobgoblin on the bar. Four pints and seedy fish and chips. Just the job.

(Thursday 8th March)

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Plenty Of Skateboards

As my socks haven’t been dispatched as quickly from Wiggle as I had hoped, I pop into Intersport which is part of the Soccerdome on Pride Park. Rather surprisingly they don’t have a great selection of socks and no supports. They do have quite a good selection of skateboards though.

Another washing machine has packed up. It is worth trying to get it fixed or do we just buy a new one? We seem to be having one every couple of years at the moment but it seems cheaper than getting them repaired.

There’s a chap at work who’s copied our university UK tour with his Daughter. Only he’s extended it and taken in even more universities, starting even before she drew up her short list. He’s covered pretty much the length of England and Wales, using up most of his holiday and huge amounts of petrol in the process.

After all this, his Daughter has decided to stay local. Bless her. Personally, I’d kill her or send her a bill.

Another night in, as I skip dog class again in the interests of a quick(er) recovery. Instead I book a Manchester hotel for the night before we fly as prices are tumbling, as it’s now last minute. Now all I’ve got to do is break it to the dogs that they’re not coming with us.

(Wednesday 7th March)

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Practice Makes Perfect

The traffic is particularly bad this week as I’m in the car.

My hobble is improving slowly. Practice makes perfect. I’ve been looking at compression socks and calf supports on Wiggle. They might help with the skiing but also it might be worth using them for running to avoid a repeat injury, that is if L can cope with the embarrassment of me in them.

She says black ones look a bit pretentious yet sort of cute but the white ones are a definite no no. White socks are for schoolgirls apparently. No comment. I best order some black ones then.

Just outside work, some men come along and fix a hole in the road that no one knew was there but they leave the huge chasm that is at some point going to cause a serious incident. We watch them prodding, poking and even putting their feet through the abyss in disbelief before fixing the other ‘hole’. Of course they will only fix what they were told to fix. The chasm probably isn’t even on their schedule until 2014.

L heads off for a cut & colour. So I’m hoping to pull a redhead tonight.

I limp to Sainsbury’s. I need some birthday cards, Swiss Francs and Bonios. Life’s essentials.

There's a match tonight, Derby v Blackpool. Where I’m under strict instructions to not aggravate the injury. No standing up suddenly and cheering every goal that they score. I think I should be safe, I'm not expecting any goals.

Bugger. Surprisingly Derby score twice and win 2-1, accompanied by some gentle celebrating.

I come home to a violethead, if there is such a word. Very sassy.

(Tuesday 6th March)

Monday 5 March 2012

Woe Is Me

I make it into work by car without my leg seizing and leaving me stranded on the A52. Then I book a physio appointment for 4pm, so that I can get the bad news confirmed.

So no running for three weeks, no racing for at least four. When I asked whether there was any chance of a half marathon after four weeks the physio looked at her feet and shook her head. Which may have been a ‘no’.

When I mentioned skiing she went sort of pale but conceded it could be possible with care, the right amount of alcohol and perhaps a little stupidity. So at least that was promising.

She recommended lots of gym work and swimming but I reckon L must have rang ahead to tell her to say that. It’s the sort of thing L would say.

The results for Sunday’s race are up. There were 2736 finishes in the half and one man limping across the line, as well as 460 in the 10k. So not a bad turnout considering the conditions.

I skip dog class, so that ruins MD’s night, as I sit with a ice pack on my leg instead, enviously watching Ski Sunday. Woe is me.

(Monday 5th March)

Sunday 4 March 2012

Hobble With The Herd

I won't forget Milton Keynes Festival Of Running in a hurry. For starters it was a miserable day, raining and cold. The event was well organised, although with a rather small and soulless event village at the Xscape Centre.

We walk the dogs around for a bit but then as the weather gets even worse we shelter in the car until start time when we will 'Run with the herd', which is the race slogan. A reference to the legendary concrete cows of MK I assume. The race starts off on coned off sections of the main roads, which are dull and narrow but flat. Congestion is quite bad due to the narrowness and this gets worse when we catch the 10k runners who started twenty minutes ahead of us. A bigger time gap is required here.

They divert off our route at around five miles, so from there I could get some space and get a good pace going. So far so good and I’m on a 1:38 pace, which would be very pleasing for this stage of the season. Water is in bottles, which is good but often left unopened which my, by now, cold fingers struggle to deal with.

Then things go spectacularly wrong. My calf becomes quite tight, probably due to the lack of warming up and perhaps I should have stopped to stretch it. Then though it clearly tears and that is quite simply race over. Only problem being that I’m over six miles into a half marathon, e.g. around half way and therefore pretty much equidistant from the start and the finish.

A marshal confirms there are no short cuts and no prospect of transport back to the finish, so it’s basically time to walk to the finish. At least I’ll get my medal I suppose. Problem is I’m now really starting to feel the cold and have to jog sections to keep warm. I hobble along with the herd, more than likely doing further damage to the leg.

So a nice mixture of pain, disappointment and annoyance as I get overtaken by a lot of people I didn’t want to be overtaken by. Then it started to snow. Not the best of days.

I have to say everybody, both supporters and runners, are very encouraging when they see me walking and struggling but it wasn’t really what I wanted. Somehow I still manage to come in a little ahead of L due to my good start and she still does a good time.

She finds me hiding in the car, trying to get dry and warm which I’d just about managed. So at least I can help her do the same.

It all means for me that the Liverpool Half won’t happen, nor Stafford and probably not Reading. Woe is me. It’s a good job I don’t have a voracious spreadsheet to feed. The biggest problem is that somehow I have to attempt to ski next week.

L drives us home, where we decide to skip our usual Sunday film and limp down to one of our locals to get drunk instead.

We’ve been avoiding the Wheelhouse since it was refurbished and rebranded as a ‘Hungry Horse’. Which isn’t a name that even whispers the word ‘quality’ to you. It sort of bellows the opposite. The menu has indeed been dumbed down and it was hardly high brow before. It actually seems to have been copied wholesale from Wetherspoons and they have no Sunday lunches at all but at least the Abbot Ale is on.

(Sunday 4th March)

Saturday 3 March 2012

Hearty Lunches

Another lazy Saturday. I’ll miss these when the dog show season starts.

The boys have a hearty late lunch after I finally get up and take them on the park. Doggo has a proverbial feast, as we now top his dog food with bran as well as his joint treatment. We have a hearty late lunch ourselves which begs the question when are we going to carbo load for tomorrow’s race.

It will have to be after tonight’s film ‘Moneyball’.

In 2001 the Oakland A’s baseball team lost to the New York Yankees in the divisional playoffs. This wasn’t surprising considering the payroll of the Yankees was triple that of the A’s. It’s a situation that isn’t going to change either and the A’s are set to lose three of their star players to teams who can afford to pay more for their services.

The general manager of the A’s, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), and his scouts start debating who they can recruit to replace them.

Beane is not impressed with any of the options and realises that in order to compete, they need to totally re-think the way they recruit players. Then, by chance, he stumbles across Pete Brand (Jonah Hill), an economics graduate working for another team who believes he has a better system. A system purely based on statistics. A system that didn’t care if a player was too old, spent all his time in strip clubs or if his girlfriend wasn’t photogenic enough, provided he got the runs.

Beane recruits Brand to be his assistant and then much to the annoyance of his scouts, they go about recruiting new players based on data not scouting, even the ones who frequent strip clubs and have ugly girlfriends.

Another person who was unimpressed by this was Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) the team's head coach and he refuses to pick the players that Beane and Brand have bought for him. When the club embark on a disastrous start to the season, everyone blames Beane’s purchases but the two of them refuse to be diverted from their strategy. Instead Beane sells a couple of the players the coach is picking to force his hand. I don't quite understand why he didn't just fire his coach but selling the players has the correct effect and the team embark on an all-time major league record of 20 consecutive wins.

They top their division and again reach the playoffs, only to lose at the same stage again. The point though has been made and Beane is headhunted by another team, although ultimately he decides to stay in Oakland.

It’s an interesting film and a true story. I love all the statistical stuff, but it does uses jargon that only baseball fans would comprehend, so an understanding of the game would be useful. I feel a lot of the actual results were glossed over but as this is all factual, if you’re in America you probably know the details of what happened.

Pitt is good and I'm a bit of a Pitt convert over the last few years. Although I can't see anything in this that warranted his Oscar nomination but he is as good in this as has been in most of his recent work. Recommended.

(Saturday 3rd March)

Friday 2 March 2012


I’m on the bike again today, as it results in less coughing than running.

L regales me of a tale of a poor young girl she passed this morning who was being made to run up the evil steps near L’s work, do six star jumps, then run down the steps and lift weights at the bottom. Whilst her personal trainer stood nearby drinking a Costa Coffee. This reminds me, I really must get on with becoming a personal trainer. It sounds such fun, especially if young girls are prepared to pay handsomely to be tortured. It must pay handsomely, if he can afford Costa.

L isn’t initially keen on tonight’s gig, which she’s going to with her brother. Unfortunately I’m washing my hair, so I can’t take her place. Rammstein don't even sing in English but apparently they do go all out with their stage show.

L, as it happens, has a whale of a time despite the singed eyebrows. There are a lot of pyrotechnics including guitars, keyboards, microphones and possibly Zimmer frames on fire. The keyboard player used a Zimmer frame mounted keyboard at one point, that was when he wasn't on his treadmill or in a saucepan. This review is secondhand by the way, but I think it's generally accurate.

I may have quite liked the crowd surfing in a rubber dingy bit, that sounded quite cool but I’m not quite so sure about some of the other stunts. Such as the lead singer putting on a dress and walking his band mates around on lead nor the gay sex scene but I guess it would all have made a good blog.

I stay in, dog sit and have my own pyrotechnics as L insists I build a funeral pyre for some rather threadbare handkerchiefs that have been called up as reinforcements following my recent bout of whatever it was. It’s sad, some do have sentimental value, but I do concede that a few perhaps need retiring. I organise a short ceremony.

(Friday 2nd March)

Thursday 1 March 2012

All Arty

I walk the dogs this morning. Which is always a pleasure and they were saintly, well almost. I have my instructions. Check Doggo’s... ahemm... before I pick it up and to put cream on his dodgy knees. Damn I forgot about the cream until we got back and as for the other, you don’t want to know.

While I’m out with the boys L heads off for an extended gym session. She’s probably expecting queues at the exercise bikes after the Horizon programme the other night but at least nobody will be on them for long. Three minutes. Although you feel the leisure centres may need to employ someone to lift their customers off the bikes after the intensity of their twenty second bursts.

Colcannon tonight. That’s food, I think. Apparently it’s an arty sort of mash to go with our liver and bacon. I love it when L goes all arty on me. I wonder if she’ll serve it wearing one those arty waitress outfits. Probably not.

Another committee meeting tonight, which goes surprisingly well. No one gets killed or even lightly knifed in the back. Perhaps we’re learning how to get on.

(Thursday 1st March)