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

Monday 30 April 2012

Stand Up And Gorp

There was no waking any of the triumvirate that I share a bedroom with this morning and this was a weekend without activity. No runs, no dogs shows.

L tells me of her visit today to Bravissimo, the stand up and gorp bra shop, where they assess their customer’s measurements by simply looking. The mind boggles. I wonder if they just line up all their customers and do them all at once. Perhaps not. There are no job vacancies by the way.

In the evening, L is out running in Ockbrook whereas the boys and I are dog training. Not that we have a trainer and only four people turn up. Apparently there’s some mildly important match on TV tonight. So it’s a cosy and frantic session. Both boys get a spin and crawl back to the car, so job done on the exercise side at least.

(Monday 30th April)

Sunday 29 April 2012

Time To Brush Up On The Norwegian

Today I don’t have a race to run or a dog show to go to. OMG. What to do? Nothing. Well nothing that involves getting out of bed before lunchtime.

After a park session we head to Broadway, where we eat out for the third time in three days. So decadent.

Before we eat we take in another film and it’s my choice. I'll take L's Salmon and raise her one 'Headhunters', 1-0 to me I think, or to give it its original title - ‘Hodejegerne’. Yep it’s time to brush up on my Norwegian. Again.

It’s ostensibly a thriller based on a Jo Nesbø book produced by those Yellow Bird folk, the Dragon Tattoo people. Usually the book is a lot better than the film of the book. All I can say is; it must be some book.

Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) works as a corporate headhunter but his job clearly doesn’t pay well enough to keep his woman (Synnøve Macody Lund) in the style she's become accustomed to. For which he has our sympathy.

He’s worried she’ll leave him because he's short with an inferiority complex whereas she's tall, blonde and beautiful. Perhaps he has a point. So to make her ends meet, he has a side job as an art thief.

Also on the side, he has mistress Lotte (Julie Ølgaard), which doesn’t really make sense. Why resort to crime to keep the woman of your dreams and then have a mistress... but then little is simple in Headhunters.

He uses his job to ascertain whether potential job recruits own any decent works of art, whether they live alone, have a dog etc... then he burgles them, replacing their paintings with fakes. He is aided and abetted by Ove (Eivind Sander), a security expert with a taste for Russian prostitutes.

When Roger is introduced to Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a man who has allegedly an original Rubens hanging in his grandmother’s apartment, suddenly he has the ‘big one’, the one that will finance his trophy wife for good but this time he steals from the wrong guy. Greve turns out to be a psychopath, things get rapidly out of control from there on in and Roger finds out what it is to be headhunted himself.

He ends up fearing for his life but at first, he doesn't really know why. As the bodies mount up, he doesn't know whom he can trust and whom he can't. Nor can we.

The film is clever in that you start by seeing Roger one way but pretty soon your perception of him changes. Roger goes through a lot, a hell of a lot and ends up doing things he wouldn't ordinarily dream of doing, just to stay alive.

The film is full of surprises and at times leads us on a right merry dance. You think one thing but then you think something else. You start rooting for one guy and then end up rooting for another. It’s all done at great pace and with a rather dark, macabre sense of humour bubbling along just under the surface, including a rather shameless rehash of a scene from Slumdog Millionaire.

It would be impossible to spoil much more of the plot for you because there's so much of it and it gets increasingly more complex as the film goes on but it always remains plausible, just about. Just don’t dare blink.

See this before a Hollywood remake appears. Apparently Mark Wahlberg already has his hands on the script. Why bother? There’s no way on earth Hollywood could better this.

Saturday 28 April 2012

Something Fishy

It’s all a bit of a rush job this morning as TV have, in their wisdom, moved all the final matches of the Championship season to 12.30 kicks offs when surely nobody will be watching. It makes me feel we’ve sort of been scraped under the carpet so that no one’s sees us.

That said the final weeks of this football season is a total mess. The Championship finishes today but the two divisions below do not finish until next week and the Premier League until the week after. Then the FA Final is going to be next Saturday before the Premier League ends but presumably because there’s normal League One and Two games going on it’s a 5.15 kick off. So again hardly anyone will be watching. Sprinkled randomly throughout these last few weeks will be playoff games, on any day I assume provided it’s not a weekend.

I manage a quick park session with the boys, before hurtling over to Derby for the match. At least I’m home in reasonable time and we decide to take in an early film.

L has read the book of and therefore desperately wants to see ‘Salmon Fishing In The Yemen’, I tag along, although I’m sure it’s just a RomCom in an ill-fitting disguise.

Ewan McGregor is Fred Jones, speaking for once in his native Scottish. Fred is a fisheries expert working for the government or the Environment Agency or something like that. Fred is told of an Arab sheikh who has more money than sense and wants to do that thing in the title. So I can’t complain the plot isn’t straightforward.

Once Fred has picked himself up off the floor from laughing at the prospect of taking salmon from cold rainy Scotland to the deserts of Yemen, he is told it is going to happen anyway. The government requires a feel good story to distract the gullible public from the bloodshed that is occurring in Afghanistan. Fred is sent off pronto to see the sheik’s representative, the impressively named Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt). Ah ha, at this point flashing lights and sirens go off as the ill-fitting disguise is cast aside revealing the irresistible shag interest.

Fred is so dull though, very well acted dull by McGregor as it happens, you'd think he was into fishing, oh he is. Whereas Ms Something-Somewhat can out of nowhere summon up an impressive knowledge of Mandarin Chinese. Why is she interested? Who knows, ask the fish.

So we have two ill matched people, who are thrust together by circumstance. They will naturally start off at odds but will gradually become fond of each other, then they’ll overcome some last minute crisis before living happily ever after amongst the fish. So, the usual then.

There’s a slight complication that Fred is married and Harriet has a soldier boyfriend (Tom Mison) of a mere three weeks. These though are circumstances that can easily be circumnavigated. Rest assured it's written large across the screen that Fred is not happily married and that Harriet's squeeze is going to die in action in Afghanistan.

Although he doesn't actually die, in a slight plot twist, he is the one person who not only survives an otherwise fatally unsuccessful military operation but is totally unscathed by it. The government whisk him out to Yemen immediately in a blatant PR stunt that no one seems to see through.

Yemen is but the backdrop, the back story of why the Yemenese people so want to sabotage this project is untold. Yet, despite the employment of top Chinese engineers from the Yangtze River dam, sabotage it they do.

That the film has its humorous moments is down to the deadpanning of McGregor but also to the excellent role of Kristin Scott Thomas who plays the Prime Minister’s pushy press officer, who chats with her boss on Instant Messenger. She gets practically all the best lines.

Apparently in the book practically everyone ends up dead or miserable, whereas this has a more predictable upbeat ending. Neither seems an ideal conclusion.

It’s the most undemanding film I’ve seen in some time but it’s harmless enough. A bit like fishing really.

Afterwards we retire next door to BrewDog’s new Nottingham venture, which is a pleasantly attired place. BrewDog is a craft brewer, which means they brew real ale but serve it like lager, which I think is a bit lazy. This means everything is gassy and over cold. The beers improve immensely if you give those two properties chance to wear off. It also means, as with lager, things improve markedly with strength and BrewDog have some seriously strong beers, some at 10%+. They have done real ale in the past but now they prefer to do it this way, for now, their publicity seeking approach seems to change pretty regularly.

The place serves nothing but beer, which is a bold move. Forcing some people out of their comfort zone I’m sure. Pleasant place, ok beers. I’m sure we’ll return but no rush.

Then we try somewhere else new, the Malaysian restaurant Nada Budaya that is in the same building. We get in without booking and are pleasantly impressed with the food, only the waitress who annoyingly keeps topping our wine distracts from a pleasant experience. This is something that happened a lot in Switzerland, very annoying, particularly if you’re keeping a close check on what you drink because you’re driving, which thankfully neither of us are tonight.

We break the walk home by stopping for a night cap in the Ropewalk.

(Saturday 28th April)

Friday 27 April 2012

Unconditional Offer

Today is my birthday and L says we can do whatever I like tonight. I like unconditional offers like that.

We ought to go out but it seems unfair on the boys, who have been home alone all day. If the rain ever stops we could splosh our way up to Beeston.

The rain actually eases as the day goes on and I manage to run 10k or so after work. It was perhaps not the best of ideas, my calves, both of them, were still a bit tender from Wednesday's effort. Now afterwards one of them is really tight. Oh dear.

Perhaps a walk up to Beeston will ease it. It doesn’t, although the ale and the Indian Mixed Grill certainly help.

(Friday 27th April)

Thursday 26 April 2012

So Proud

I get an interesting email from Daughter this morning. She says she’s used the exact words 'the heating does not need to be on, if you're cold put on a jumper' to her housemates. She thinks she’s turning into me. I’m so proud. Though such frugality was not apparent the last time I looked at her bank balance.

The Rainbow 4 bus is to become the i4. ‘i’ for what? FFS.

Have they achieved a sponsorship deal with a certain computer company who is fond of putting ‘i’ on the front of everything? I doubt it.

People do like their re-brands but it's a bus. People don't get on a bus because of what it's called. People get on a bus because it goes where they want to go, when they want to go and is preferably comfortable and reasonably priced.

Well, I hope they keep the number ‘4’ as prominent as it is now because the only problem with the rebrand of the old 'Rainbow 5', now known as the ‘Indigo’, was that they removed the '5' off the front of it. Now, in the dark it is almost impossible to tell the ‘Indigo’ apart from all the other buses with ‘Nottingham’ on the front until it practically runs you over. Hopefully they won’t make the same mistake again... but I’m not confident.

I have a committee meeting of the dog club tonight, where I get a few more things passed and a few more ideas planted. The quiet revolution continues.

(Thursday 26th April)

Wednesday 25 April 2012


I think we're all thoroughly sick of this drought now, so go away and stop raining please. We now have flood warnings in the supposedly barren south-west.

To top it off I was too sluggish leaving home and missed the bus, which was then slow as it had to weave around the flooded areas of the A52. Late for work. To top that off I have my running kit with me, so that I can run in the blessed wet stuff later. Joy.

The weather does tease me a touch, fining up nicely during the afternoon before going deathly black overhead just before home time.

At least L’s had a good day at work ‘I can't decide whether to throw myself out of the window or go to the gym’. The latter may be more beneficial to her health.

I run quite a long way, three blocks (in the 'trade' they call them bricks) of three miles, so nine in all, if my maths is correct. I get the bus the last few miles, although at first I don’t think the driver is going to let me on. He gives me the sort of disgusted look that anyone would give a damp bedraggled person who is about to make their bus seats very wet. I give him a look that tries to say ‘I’ll stand up if you wish’. The nice man lets me on.

(Wednesday 25th April )

Tuesday 24 April 2012

For Sale Signs, Traffic Cones And Advertising Hoardings

Unlike our teenagers, in Queensland, Australia they don’t bring home For Sale signs, traffic cones and advertising hoardings (I speak from recent experience), they bring home penguins. Oh hang on, they were Welsh.

Squash tonight, for a change on a Tuesday but without replicating last week’s late shift. The result isn’t any better though.

For some reason the pub’s TVs are all blacked out. Have they not paid their Sky subscription? So the place is really quiet, nicely quiet as it happens, as everyone goes elsewhere to watch those little old underdogs Chelsea take on and beat Barcelona. Didn’t they do well once they got rid of that John Terry guy!

(Tuesday 24th April)

Monday 23 April 2012


My calves ache this morning because I have micro tears, according to Runner’s World. That’s tears (rips) not tears (wet things). Perhaps if they get any more painful I’ll have both.

L spends the afternoon working from home, trying to keep the boys awake so that we can return to Sheffield again tonight with a clearer conscience.

It must be about time for another Feeder gig and they duly oblige with another four date preview of their new album 'Generation Freakshow' which is released today. The ‘main’ tour to promote the album isn't happening until November which seems a very odd marketing tactic and makes it all the more important to be here tonight in Sheffield.

Support comes from Manchester's Daystar, an unashamed indie rock five-piece for which you could name check almost any Manchester legend as an influence and not be far wrong. I mull over several, Stone Roses, The Smiths, Oasis before settling on The Charlatans, who aren’t actually from Manchester...

Lead singer, Simon Monaghan, certainly has a bit of Oasis or more precisely Liam Gallagher about him and a distinctive voice, relayed via a 1950’s microphone. I’m never completely convinced about his vocals during their thirty minute set, when it’s good it’s good but it seems to suit some tracks better than others. I am convinced by their lead guitarist, who is excellent and overall the whole band put in an assured performance.

They say and do all the right things, as support bands are supposed to. I think it must be compulsory to complement the main band's soundcheck, so I’m not sure we can read much in to their prediction that we’re in for treat when Feeder hit the stage. We knew that anyway.

Grant Nicholas, Taka Hirose and co open with ‘Tiny Minds’ which before the gig I’d got in my head as being dropped to make way for the superior newbie ‘Headstrong’ but ‘Tiny Minds’ was actually excellent tonight as the set opener. Still no ‘Headstrong’ though.

While the new album is clearly ‘lighter’ than their last, it doesn’t sound it live as ‘Oh My’ tumbles across the stage towards us.

Next up, it is a pleasure to welcome back ‘White Lines’, as this is my favourite Renegades era track and it is the first of three from that album tonight. ‘Sunrise’ meanwhile is definitely lighter and a throwback to more poppier days.

I hadn’t really noticed but the guitar intros to ‘Borders’ and ‘Buck Rogers’ are actually quite similar. Grant seems to play on this tonight, whether this is totally deliberate I’m not sure. It is ‘Borders’ that follows though. It has become quite a gig favourite and would certainly had been a big hit had it been released by the band during their prime.

‘Hey Johnny’ is the most blatant tribute to Jon Lee yet and Grant seems to put extra feeling into delivering this one. It is followed rather appropriately by the more subtle ‘Just The Way I'm Feeling’ during which, bizarrely, a fight breaks out on the floor.

Once order is restored we get a bit of a surprise. It’s always nice to get surprises in a band’s setlist but Feeder aren’t normally big on this in theirs. ‘Down To The River’ wasn’t really what I had in mind but I certainly didn’t see its inclusion coming.

This slower moment gives me chance to look around. The demographic at a Feeder gig has changed over the last few years. The couples who saw some of their power rock ballads as ‘their song’ have been replaced by more of the ‘old guard’, grizzled Feeder veterans like me, but also a considerable dose of younger blood who seem more animated by the newer rockier stuff than the old classics. All thanks to the rock-focused exuberance of ‘Renegades' I assume.

Feeder actually seem to be on 'repeat'. If 'Renegades' was them rediscovering their 'Polythene' roots now they've pretty much recorded a similar album to its follow up 'Yesterday Went Too Soon'. No bad thing.

At this point the Nirvana-esque ‘Idaho’ riffs into view, signifying on its own a timely throwback to the early days. It opens a repeat of that impressively heavy closing threesome from February, followed as it is by ‘Insomnia’ and the terrific title track to ‘Generation Freakshow’

That’s only thirteen songs in the set, so that surely leaves four ‘must plays’ in the encore. The crowd await their return, now bored with incessantly chanting ‘Feeder Feeder’ they revert to locality with ‘Yorkshire Yorkshire’.

‘Children of the Sun’ is ‘must play’ because it’s to be the next single and is released next week. It opened the set back in February but tonight it opens the encore with Grant again on the acoustic. It’s a pleasant track let down by what I think is a cringeworthy title. It tries perhaps over hard to be the next Feeder anthem. Personally I don't think we need another Feeder anthem but many will disagree.

Grant then asks for requests, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do that before. I think he was expecting a deluge of shouts for ‘Buck Rogers’ but I didn’t actually hear anyone call for it, although surely someone somewhere did. There was an impressive selection of requests offered but the loudest shouts were predictably for ‘Just A Day’ but close second was ‘Sweet 16’ but he played Buck anyway. Which naturally went down a storm but somehow I don’t think the world would have ended if he’d played something else. ‘High’, also on the ‘must play’ list, wasn’t played and the world is still spinning. Then to finish, it’s time to break a few ribs with the closing ‘Just A Day’.

Overall I really like the balance of the sets at the moment. Three tonight from Renegades, eight from Generation Freakshow and again much less reliance on the ‘old favourites’. I’m thinking Grant is getting the confidence to play simply what he wants to play rather than what he thinks he should play.

Later I blow up a photo I took of the set list but couldn’t make out clearly enough on my camera at the time. ‘Shade’ was down as an option to finish the set and an additional song was scheduled in the encore, one of the options was ‘Yesterday Went Too Soon’. If I’d got those two I’d be taking the day off work today to recover.

Unfortunately the band came on late and came up against a 10.30 curfew, so they probably ran out of time. Anybody at the other gigs this week could be in for a real nice bonus.

Afterwards we bump into some friends and adjourn to Sheffield Tap for a beer, in my case something dark, smoked and porterish from Thornbridge. Daughter joins us. We keep it brief, conscience is calling.

(Monday 23rd April)

Sunday 22 April 2012

It’s Enough To Make You Dizzy

While the whole country’s eyes were on that marathon thing in London, we’re in Sheffield for the much more modest Lord Mayor’s 10k, which is part of the Sheffield Festival of Athletics. It’s presumably all with the Lord Mayor’s blessing, as he’s there.

The event starts and finishes at the impressive Don Valley Stadium, actually inside the stadium unlike Sixways last week. It’s a nice touch to run on the track inside the stadium but I quickly grow a bit sick of the sight of it, as we start in it, finish in it, return to do a lap of the track (twice) and run around the top of it (three times). It’s enough to make you dizzy.

In between the route takes us around the pathways that surround the stadium and a lot of cones. The three lap course is ideal for spectators who could put their feet up in the covered grandstand and heckle you in comfort, no less than seven times. I really should have brought my father. Being under cover was useful as the weather was mixed.

The Festival of Athletics was going on as we lapped the stadium for the umpteenth time and you could watch the pole-vaulters trying to harm themselves. The rest of the course had one sharp incline, done three times naturally but other than that it was exceedingly flat by Yorkshire standards but very twisty. That’s not my sort of course but that probably wasn’t the reason why I was so slow, over 46 minutes. That’s lack of training. I did a bit extra as well, as I went the wrong way and had to be shouted back.

I wasn’t convinced about the course measurement, something not helped by the lack of km markers. I only saw 1, 4, 6 and 8 and as I had three laps to look for the rest of them, I’m pretty sure they weren’t there. It also took an age, well five and half minutes, to reach the first one, which means to me that it was in the wrong place. The markers all had ‘Varsity 10k’ on them, a different race held a month ago and my initial assumption was that they were reusing these but now, post-event, I’m thinking perhaps they had just been left up by accident. Apparently that race started in a completely different place, so it was all very confusing.

At the end I’m handed a nice Festival t-shirt, aside from being green, handed out by the Lord Mayor himself. I didn’t think the race was that inspiring and L enjoyed it more than me but then she’ll do anything for a green t-shirt.

This now leaves L with just 2.3 miles to run to complete her 500 mile target. Which is an absolute doddle with two weeks left to go, except that I’m forcing her to board a plane to Finland in order to complete it. I’m cruel like that.

Having finished the race, L gives Daughter a wakeup call and we head over to visit the den of student depravity that they call home and to take her to lunch. We find a nice little pub, in the shadow of Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane ground, which serves a decent beer and Sunday lunch for a fiver. The ground is also Daughter's current place of employment, she worked there as a food runner at their match last week. Well, probably more of a food brisk walker, then again, she's a student, so delete the brisk.

Sheffield United are currently 2nd in the league, so on course to go up automatically. So we’re all hoping for a few defeats so that they end up 3rd, in the playoffs and having to play an extra game, all so that Daughter gets an extra shift.

Back home, after a bit of R&R we head down to the Ropewalk for a couple of strong dark ones - a Bramble Stout and a Porter.

(Sunday 22nd April)

Saturday 21 April 2012

Fashionably Late

I lay in bed, deciding to arrive fashionably late at Lincoln and ad-lib our first course without pre-walking it.

When I arrive an hour late, it is to discover that they have delayed the start by about an hour due to a recent cloud burst. The good news is that I get to walk my first course after all, the bad news is that we now have nothing to do until lunchtime. I should have stayed in bed for another hour.

Perhaps it was a good job we got to walk that course after all. We bag 5th place in what is a qualifier, meaning we're into the final in September, although I’ll wait for written confirmation before I brag too much. We win some dog food and also create a clash with our proposed runs in either the Nottingham or Bristol halfs on the same weekend.

L is out on her bike, a real one. My phone rings and it's L. Oh no, puncture I think. There’s no one there, it’s just one of those heavy breathing calls. I assume she’s pedalling and has called me by accident. At least there's no puncture.

Just after lunch it starts hailing. Doggo is up next but suddenly isn’t looking so keen. Nor am I. Some of the hailstones are as large as marbles, then the thunder and lightning starts.

It subsides and Doggo negotiates an icy course to go clear. No rosette this week though. 17th.

By now it’s a mud bath around car park and a mini Glastonbury around the walkways but the competition rings remain in good condition. MD completes his day with a scrappy clear - 21st, an even scrappier 5 faults and then a complete mess up of a good last run. Which I'll accept was all my fault.

We head home covered in mud but clutching our prized rosette and dog food.

(Saturday 21st April)

Friday 20 April 2012

Being Fluid

The legs are tired this morning; it must have been a harder squash game than I thought.

I'm hoping for a night out tonight but plans are fluid, as in flexible, not as in just fluids. Although I do have the inaugural Wollaton Beer Festival on my agenda but also as the weather isn’t quite so wet today, hopefully I’ll get the boys on the park first.

Then when I get home L is doing that lying on the bed looking seductive thing again. Best laid fluid plans and all that. The boys still get on the park and then we amble down to the Beer Festival at the cricket club. Bargain drinks at £2 a pint. Some decent stuff, a few 5%ers, Sarah Hughes Ruby, Burton Bridge Stout. Not enough seats though but that’s common for beer festivals. L isn’t too impressed and there’s nothing that sensational so we finish off in the Admiral Rodney where the Broadside tastes a little yeasty, perhaps not quite ready, but still very morish.

(Friday 20th April)

Thursday 19 April 2012

Den Of Iniquity

While L’s workplace is clearly a den of iniquity as she ponders which end of the king size bar of Galaxy to start at, ours is a palace to good health as someone carries a huge tray of mixed fruit in to our office. Pineapple, melon, strawberries and grapes, all naked e.g. not in muffins. We’ve had visitors but they never eat the healthy stuff. I bet they scoffed all the sausage rolls or took them home for their dogs.

I get home from work and contemplate if there’s a park sized weather window before squash. Nope. We manage a bit of training in the rain instead. This drought is dreadful.

Squash has been scheduled for the late shift of 8.15. Not that that's particularly late. We used to play 5-a-sides that kicked off at 10pm but my opponent will probably arrive tonight in his slippers.

0-5 but kind of close. He crawls through the last game and I’m supposed to be the injured one. He's even allowed out late for a drink.

(Thursday 19th April)

Wednesday 18 April 2012

In For The Long Haul

L saves me this morning by making me late enough to miss the bus and therefore I don't get soaked in another of those drought inducing thunderstorms but I'm still in plenty of time to drive. In theory. The traffic is horrendous. I can’t even get on the A52 at Bramcote. Diverted through Stapleford nothing is moving there either, so I end up doing a u-turn and going through Ilkeston. I’m sure it’s only this bad when I elect to drive.

At least I’ve chucked some kit in the car and I head to John Carroll Leisure Centre after work. Although I’m not a great fan of the gym.

They only have two bikes in their gym and one of them has a sign on it, saying out of order. They do have two other bikes but they don’t have their pedals in the right place, they’re a bit like those pedal go-carts that some folk had as a kid but which seemed far too much effort to be of any use.

On the one unbroken (almost) proper bike is a chap in a woolly hat who seems to be in for the long haul. Thirty minutes later he’s still there. Which is perfectly fine. I wanted at least thirty minutes myself. It’s not really worth putting your leg over for less.

Unfortunately this leaves me with the dreadmill for company, which wasn’t what I had planned at all and this keeps cutting out every ten minutes telling me my session has ended, which obviously it hasn’t because I’m still here and having to restart it all over again. Stupid thing. After the thing cuts out for a third time I give up and go for a swim. I’m not a great fan of the gym.

I’m also not a great fan of the pool. I get into lowly lane four because it looks quietest. In it are just two other people and they aren’t doing much swimming. I assume they know each other because they stop for a grope and a snog after every length, not that they do many. This is good actually as it means they don’t get in my way.

Sadly after a while they get out, presumably to continue their performance elsewhere, and three lads replace them. The lads dawdle in the shallow end making it very difficult for me to actually touch the side to turn. They don’t show much sign of doing any swimming, perhaps as they’re teenagers they’ve forgotten how or simply CBA. I conclude they’re probably just ‘hanging out’, trying to look cool, trying to pull the chicks etc. In which case they’re wasting their time, she’s just pulled and got out. When one of them does finally remember how to swim, I duck out of the way of his flailing arms and decide it’s time to call it a day. I must have done at least thirty lengths anyway.

I get home in time to take the boys out but it’s still too wet to walk or train the dogs, so we'll just have to chuck hot dogs instead.

(Wednesday 18th April)

Tuesday 17 April 2012


Just as the warning comes out that the current ‘drought’ could last until Christmas it starts chucking it down. At least I got the grass seed down. We have a hosepipe ban of course but then I thought the one they announced ten years or so ago was still in force. It never seems to make the news when they cancel it, if they ever do. If they’re short of water they ought to come to our garden, it never dries out and we have the pawprints to prove it.

Despite still feeling very stiff I attempt a run. One is often required to ease such aches. I follow orders and take it easy. The first mile to the bus is terrible and it doesn't get any more palatable as I hobble home from Stapleford. It felt like 10 miles but was probably only 200 yards. Thankfully the GPS thinks it was somewhere in the middle.

Back home I set up a few jumps in the garden and train MD in the rain.

(Tuesday 17th April)

Monday 16 April 2012


I hobble into work and crawl up the stairs. Both my calves ache, which is possibly a good sign. Two calves aching rather than just my damaged one could, I suppose, mean that I’m now injured in both legs or it could just be that it’s been a while since I did such a long race on zero training. Well, unless you count the 4Paws run, I've not ran at all since Reading a fortnight ago.

Apparently a dog that was at the same agility show as me on Good Friday has contracted parvovirus. It’s a highly contagious disease but is covered by a dog’s annual vaccination, so the boys should be fine. Scratching isn’t a symptom. The Kennel Club has a rule that states that any dogs who may have come into contact with an infectious disease cannot compete for 21 days. So that would rule the boys out of competing this weekend.

It’s the word ‘may’ that is contentious. There were probably around a thousand dogs at that show and the infected one was a puppy who stayed away from the competition areas. In the absence of a more definitive definition from the powers that be a lynchmob is forming to await anyone who was at that show and who attempts to attend another one within 21 days.

L won't be happy if we have to stay at home, as she plans to be glossing the bedroom. One hair on that and we’ll all be in the doghouse.

I decide that in the interests of global peace in the dog world it is best not to attend training tonight. Instead as it’s been dry all day with rain forecast for tomorrow, I cut the grass and sow some grass seed. Hopefully this is perfect timing. Then I collect L from her rave up this evening, something called ‘Dreamboats & Petticoats’. I didn’t get past the title but I’m sure it was very good.

(Monday 16th April)

Sunday 15 April 2012

Complex Mathematics

This was the first running of the Worcester Half and Full Marathon, so a few minor teething problems can be forgiven but as it was put on by an experienced ‘events’ company, Threshold, I’m not sure why they fell down on as many things as they did. Right from the off directions to the venue were a bit basic for a non local. There weren’t any. Just a venue, with a post code I suppose, but not even a sign from the nearby motorway.

The promised the 'small' parking charge turned out to be a hefty £3. Small = 50p. This caused a major tailback that backed up all the way down the dual carriageway as everyone had a whip-round in their pockets to find the cash. If you are going to charge for parking then either add it to the entry fee or at least disclose the amount to us in advance.

We were early enough to avoid the worst of the queue and could take advantage of the facilities at the Sixways Rugby Stadium. It was nice to have proper facilities as opposed to the usual portaloos.

The result of parking debacle was a delayed start by 15 minutes and a problem trying to keep warm. The start was on a very narrow country lane that presented little in the way of warming-up opportunities, nor vantage points for spectators but my father hadn’t made it to this one.

Once we started the route turned out to be pleasant enough. Scenic countryside with a few playful hills. In fact they took us up one almost straight from the start, which was a nice touch. At least, as I know we do this bit again in reverse, the finish will be down it. We were soon past the 13 mile point... Blimey that was a short run, about 12 minutes, a PB and a world record or is that sign just for the full marathon? Yes, some 200 folks are going to go around this course twice.

The route took us through villages and past local pubs, where there were plenty of spectators cheering everyone on but none of them were offering beer. Only sports drink in cups as well as water in bottles. Although I would have liked water before 4.5 miles and on the information sheet four drinks stations were promised but only three were delivered.

The weather was good, it started out chilly but soon warmed up. Well I warmed up, I’m not sure L did but then she’s a girl.

Although billed as the 'Worcester' half, we didn’t appear to go anywhere near the place. Perhaps in future it would be nice to take in some of it, if that’s possible and perhaps a stadium finish? As a first attempt though, it wasn't bad, a good turnout and a nice friendly feel.

They told us before we started that the 11 and 24 mile markers had been stolen, what they didn't mention was that miles 6, 7, 8 and 9 had gone AWOL too, along with the associated marathon distances. The organisers seem to think this was a ‘targeted removal’ rather than a prank, perhaps by the impatient driver who tried to mow half the field down. The roads weren't closed to traffic but most drivers were patient and considerate, some weren’t but that’s normal.

I was aiming for steady-ish but not too steady 8 minute miles, the lack of mile markers stuffed this as I continually tried to average my time out over more and more miles until my head exploded at the complexity of the maths of it all.

I also got blocked by a car on the downhill finish that I was so looking forward to it. Then it was a surprise to be diverted down the canal towpath at the end, which was a bit narrow, making overtaking difficult as people lifted their pace towards the finish. At least I didn't wobble into the canal.

The 26 mile marker also seemed well adrift from where it should have been, good job it didn't apply to me but it should have indicated .2 to go. Although us ‘halves’ had to do an annoying final loop around a cone, it still seemed well out of place.

Oddly there was no clock at finish line but my time of 1:49 isn’t bad considering, although I had targeted a 1:48. I’m handed a rather nice T- shirt. Yay, in cotton, so I can go out to the pub in it tonight. I’m a bit sick of technical t-shirts. They even seem to have enough in smaller sizes, which is a first because although I pick up a ‘small’ for L and she picks up a ‘medium’ for me there are still plenty of ‘smalls’ left.

The massages are outside and the two masseurs look a bit evil, so I skip that and rescue the dogs from the car instead. We wait for L, who does another decent time. Not as quick as Reading but this was a lot hillier and we did both run yesterday.

In the evening we do a mini pub tour on the ‘wrong’ side of town:- Vat and Fiddle, Canalhouse and the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem ending up at the Laguna Tandoori for a well earned curry. A very good night.

(Sunday 15th April)

Saturday 14 April 2012

Unsettling The Opposition

It’s the fourth running of the Paws 10k at Cotgrave Country Park this morning and, for the first time in those four years, those with paws are allowed to run. How could I deny MD this opportunity? I couldn’t. I’m sure Doggo would have liked to have done it too but sorry mate, this is MD’s gig.

The main Paws event - the 10k, starring L, is off at 10am, so she could have had a lie-in this morning if MD and I weren’t doing the 4Paws 5k at 9am of course. Sorry.

My calf is definitely much improved but being dragged around 5k by the manic MD will certainly be the acid test. If the injury can survive that, then tomorrow’s Worcester Half Marathon is a mere formality.

First though, the pre-race warm up.

There are around a dozen of us and they set everyone off at five second intervals, meaning some mathematics will be required in adjusting the finish times. I’m a little disappointed not to get a mass start, as they are always fun but perhaps they are just being annoyingly sensible. Perhaps they’ve just taken note of MD.

He is a tad excited at the start, well I interpret his noisiness as excitement, it could have simply been annoyance at his Saturday morning lie-in going astray. Perhaps he’s just trying to unsettle the opposition. It works, everyone seems to be backing away from us, moving us nearer to the front.

Then we’re away. I try to hold him back, for his sake and for the sake of my dodgy calf but it’s no good, he won’t be constrained and I decide to go with the flow, his flow.

I have my best, newest, most cushioned, most expensive running shoes on as I know the Paws 10k is always on solid grit tracks. They omit to tell us that the 4Paws run isn’t, it’s across muddy grassland instead, so I wish I’d gone for some older footwear. It’s also not terribly well marked or marshalled. We gain a place as one of the ‘professionals’ an aggressively attired Cani-X refugee appears from behind a bush, seemingly having gone the wrong way. At least at the finish, that’s what she claimed she was doing behind the bush.

The race does seem to be a bit of an afterthought, or forethought as we’re before the main race, and I didn’t think the organisers took it terribly seriously. Not like MD, he’s deadly serious.

We cross the line in fourth, I think, where we are congratulated by a six foot tall fluffy dog, which MD eyes suspiciously but keeps his cool. Our position is adjusted down to fifth when the start times are checked. I’ll need to double check that on the official results, if there are any. I have my doubts. As I say, I didn’t think the organisers took it terribly seriously.

Having apparently sabotaged L and Doggo’s run at Catton last year, they get their own back as Doggo supports us over the last fifty metres or so causing MD to run this last stretch backwards, barking his regards to Doggo. That probably cost us fourth, which still wouldn’t have been good enough for a podium place but it's good enough for a bag full of dog treats.

After all that excitement, there’s not really much point putting on the main race as anything else is going to be an anticlimax but they do anyway.

L claims to be saving herself for Worcester but clocks just over an hour on a course that to me (last year) didn’t seem quick despite its relative flatness.

I head off to the match which is a must win affair for both Middlesbrough and Derby if either are serious about landing a playoff berth. I get the impression they are and we aren’t. At least nobody at the club has ever seriously mentioned the playoffs this season. Boro win 1-0.

A night in, Worcester tomorrow.

(Saturday 14th April)

Friday 13 April 2012

A Statistic To Improve

It’s Friday the 13th, so I best not bike today either and anyway I’m meeting L and some friends straight from work in Nottingham.

If I drive I could probably be there for about 5.45 but then I can’t drink. If I bus, then I’ll be at the mercy of Trent Barton and it could be anytime between six and midnight when I get there. I risk the bus. The roads are still quiet, so it shouldn't be too bad. Although quiet roads are a mixed blessing, sometimes I can catch the 5.20 bus when its late but even that requires a sprint from work. Quiet roads will probably just mean it’ll be on time or early.

As it turns out, I manage to hotfoot it from work and leap onto the 5.20 just as they’re closing the doors. We meet in the Gooseberry Bush, which is packed, so obviously everybody likes a post work drink. We reckon it’s only about our third time ever. We must improve that statistic. The nice Milestone ale called Sup-porter, which is obviously nice and dark, gets my support.

We linger for a while after our friends have gone despite the fact we’re racing the next day. It's only Paws, L says. So it doesn’t sound like she’s taking it seriously but then she isn’t running with MD, like I am. Still, we’re not out late. We’re home to my team mate and Doggo for around 8.30.

(Friday 13th April)

Thursday 12 April 2012

Still A Victory In My Book

I need to be a squash for 6.45, so I best not bike as with my luck I’ll get another puncture. I don’t take the bus either as last week it was so late, I only just made it in time. So car it is. Now they’ll be hold up on the roads of course.

L swims but only 26 lengths. 26! I’m surprised she can live with herself, swimming such an unrounded number.

Daughter needs a black polo shirt for work, so I send her to the fashion disaster area that is SportsDirect. She’ll die going in there.

After my pub lunch I’m all fired up for squash and on time, thanks to it being the school holidays and there being little on the roads except cyclists repairing punctures.

L is home just after me and is dawdling about going out for a training run. I push her out of the door despite her trying, and succeeding, to look alluring on the bed, thinking it'll get her out of her run. I refuse to be more than a little distracted as I have a squash match to lose.

I play an excellent squash match, even if I do say so myself. I lead 1-0 and then 2-1, although it finishes 2-2, which is still a victory in my book. My opponent was well fed up, particularly when I served overarm, tennis style. Well, you have to try and vary it when you’re in my position, losing every week. I played lots of sidewall shots as well, which he says aren’t proper squash shots, well not the way I do them.

Then after a quick pint, its home to see if L still wants to distract me. She’s had a ‘crap run’ she says, so we console each other, with wine, and forget to eat.

(Thursday 12th April)

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Don't Ask How We Are

Don't ask how we are’. Ah. I won’t then but L tells me anyway. This morning they were ‘escorted’ off the park by a pack of six deer, or the ‘bloody things’ as she calls them. Ah. An eventful morning for them then.

As is mine. I get a puncture; well I suppose it was about due. Of course I should have hushed this up and I certainly shouldn’t have told L. Not just as I’ve had her bike serviced and she’s preparing to relaunch her cycling career. The very thought of a puncture sends shivers down her spine. She'd rather be attacked by a heard of female deer.

I have my swimming stuff with me but the thing is I’m expecting another puncture on the way home because I rushed the tube change and when I do that I usually end up trapping the inner tube and yep... damn. I fix it again, take my time this time, do a better job, make it home but skip the swim.

There’s not really time now, not with dog class, where MD is brilliant. If only he could do that at shows.

(Wednesday 11th April)

Tuesday 10 April 2012


A busy lunch time collecting L’s bike and doing some shopping. It’s amazing how much bike servicing now resembles car servicing. They always find something extra, you really ought to have this done... and there isn’t even an MOT test for bikes.

Then I have a pleasant evening throwing a ball in the mud for the mudballs, giving MD the chance to top up the dirt that is still encrusted in him from yesterday. Doggo seems to manage to indiscreetly dispose of his somewhere, on our bed usually, but MD likes to hang on to his despite the fierce brushing I give him tonight.

L’s at book club this evening, where I don’t think many of them were keen on the last book they were set to read. As punishment they get sent home with a right tomb of a novel, that will keep L quiet for weeks.

(Tuesday 10th April)

Monday 9 April 2012


Today I’m in the glamorous surroundings of a field in Solihull and its raining. In fact it drizzles for most of the day and for the rest of the time we get proper, full on, rain. Consequently it’s a very muddy field. I could have returned to help the club out in Shrewsbury today but it’s about half the distance to here. It’s amazing how many others from the club have pulled the same trick, basically skiving.

Our first run is Doggo in the Vets. He goes clear and gets a rosette for third. MD meanwhile demolishes the first jump of his first course but then does a perfect run for the rest of it. His time would have put him third and considering he hit that jump rather hard, disrupting his stride, he may well have made up the second or so he was behind and won it. Ho hum.

After that poles go down everywhere, MD doesn’t run well in the wet. Just like one of my old cars. So no clears. We stay for our last run, even though with it being for Grades 1-5, we stand little chance of success. By this point most sensible folk have gone home, having had enough of the mud. As we watch the competition I realise that we haven’t seen anybody go clear on it yet, with the difficult first section catching everybody out. So I try a different tactic that works a dream on the difficult start. Then it all goes pear-shaped as I traumatise MD by trying to change sides in front of him. We head home in disgrace.

L’s had a better day than us, 58.03 for her 10k on what is a far from fast course around the undulating grounds of Wayne Manor (formerly known as Wollaton Hall). The girl done well and is edging ever closer to the magic 500 miles.

She heads over to her parents’ from where I collect her later, after a stop off at my parents’ so that the dogs can spread their mud over their kitchen. My folks don't seem to mind and the boys even pick up some roast beef for their tea. I get a biscuit.

(Monday 9th April)

Sunday 8 April 2012

Pushy Parent

Unlike Christmas, Easter sort of just appears almost out of nowhere. Christmas is a tidal wave that gathers momentum from the summer until it has engulfed everything in its path and brings the country to a standstill. Easter meanwhile, just happens. Crème eggs and hot cross buns are a 365 days a year thing anyway but they're easy to ignore because every aisle isn't draped in tinsel. Easter just happens, we get on with it and we get over it. I quite like Easter.

You can even get a table to eat out, so after a lazy morning:- coffee in bed etc, park, Chris Hoy, we head over to Leamington for lunch with Son and his squeeze. We even potentially land him a job interview at the pub we have lunch in. How good is that? All thanks to L being a pushy parent, Son would probably never have got around to applying for the job, even though were in the place at the time with a board outside saying 'job available here now'.

Back to Hoy, he wins the Keirin by squeezing through a gap that even the minuscule Laura Trott may have not have got through. Perhaps she’s been giving him lessons. Also on the final day there’s silver for Wendy Houvenaghel in the individual pursuit, silver for Ben Swift (again) and Geraint Thomas in the Madison and bronze for Jess Varnish in the 500 but still we’re slightly eclipsed by Australia.

(Sunday 8th April)

Saturday 7 April 2012


Today I can be studently with L and lounge in bed. Meanwhile our Sheffield student has to go to work, ha ha, and much to her disgust, dressed in black.

Well actually, I get up at 10am and lounge studently in front of the live cycling. Omnium Gold for Laura Trott. Medals too for Jason Kenny and Chris Hoy in the Sprint but neither of them gold. Kenny’s beating of Hoy in the semi-finals looked decisive enough to me to deny Hoy getting the Olympics gig in the sprint but then what do I know. Then it was that man Ben Swift again with a hard-earned silver in the Points race.

Eventually I take the boys on the park and then head off to the match, which is a very typical end of season style 0-0 draw. Then I head straight up to Sheffield by train. It’s only 30 minutes by train from Derby, which is a lot quicker than driving. Yet the train takes almost an hour from Nottingham.

I meet L outside Sheffield station, where she is sat with Daughter’s huge bag, full mainly of books, wrapped around the middle with packing tape. Running repairs have clearly been required. Somehow L has managed to get it from home onto the train.

We embark on a joint baggage pull and wheel it the half a mile or so to Daughter’s flat. It doesn’t quite make it, one of the wheels collapses before we get there, but we drag it against its will the rest of the way.

Daughter has, by the time we get there, crawled home from work. Not that it's far, it’s only really across the road from her. She's had the ‘day from hell’. Apparently they’ve had her scrubbing walls. Ah good, I’ve always been in favour of hard labour for teenagers. She glosses over the good bits of her day. Bar work, waitressing etc.

As she sits in front of her TV, half asleep, in her PJs. Well actually L’s PJs, clearly recently half-hinched from home. It doesn’t look like she’ll be moving anywhere any time soon. What happened to her night out on the town with us?

So we set out on our Sheffield pub crawl without her. First stop the Devonshire Cat, which is very good. Plenty of real ales, their own extensive foreign beer menu and some decent food.

We could have stayed all night but we move on to nearby Henrys. The name didn't really inspire and despite a promising range of ale, we’re not that impressed with the place. Next, the Old House, which is a very nice place with again a good mix of British and Foreign beers. They refuse to serve L a Westmalle Belgian ale in anything but its correct glass, so we wait whilst they fetch fresh glassware from the storeroom. Nice touch. The wrong glass syndrome is something that does annoy us a lot in Nottingham.

Finally we move closer to the station to ensure we don’t miss our train home. There’s no chance of that with the Sheffield Tap being on the actual platform. It’s effectively a remote Brewery Tap for the Thornbridge Brewery. Enough said. Oddly L doesn’t have Jaipur but there are plenty of other beers of theirs (and from other breweries) to choose from.

(Saturday 7th April)

Friday 6 April 2012

Not Quite Rocket Enough

I get up early and scrape the ice off the car before heading to Shrewsbury. I leave L in bed, where I understand she stays for some considerable time. Which is very studently of her and very wise.

I’m at a dog show of course and once the ice has melted off the equipment we get our first run. I’m only half joking. It’s pretty cold here.

That first run is a clear round for the Pocket Rocket but just not quite rocket enough. He comes fifth, which is promising but it could all be downhill from here. Yep. We can’t buy a clear round after that although Doggo is eighth in Veterans but MD’s fifth is the only rosette of the day.

The club are running a ring here and I’m managing it. We are given a ridiculous amount of dogs to get through and consequently I’m here from 8am until 6.30pm. A very long day. At least I get a decent lunch, including apple crumble, which is one of the compensations of ring managing. So all is not lost. The downside is being home for about 8.30. I tell L to chill the wine, the beer, the brandy, everything.

She's been painting in the bedroom whilst we’ve been out. It looks good but means the dogs, most likely Doggo, could end up stuck to the wall by the morning if they’re not careful. It might stop him scratching though; an uninterrupted sleep would be nice.

Another good day at the cycling. Victoria Pendleton has a very flaky psychological state at the best of times so when she crashed, hitting the track hard, in her sprint semi-final against her nemesis Anna Meares, you feared the worst.

You didn’t expect Vic to pick herself up, defeat Meares and then clinch the gold as well. Superb stuff.

(Friday 6th April)

Thursday 5 April 2012

Not A Job To Be Taken Lightly

Daughter’s visit home proves to be a brief one. This morning she’s on the train heading back to Sheffield for a job interview at Bramhall Lane football ground. Although I understand manager Danny Wilson’s job isn’t in jeopardy.

What this? Ah, she’s left us her suitcase to take up on Saturday. That’s nice of her. Looks like our ‘possible’ trip up at the weekend has become more definite.

I didn’t even get chance to brief her on the complex matter of dog feeding... It’s not a job to be taken on lightly. Munchies for Doggo, muesli for MD with a little water, not milk. Old git sprinkles for Doggo’s joints and bran sprinkles for both of them. Then there’s the biscuit for dessert. Forget that and MD will wear out the kitchen tiles with his pacing.

Daughter is soon texting me bank questions... so I assume she’s filling in a form, which sounds promising. Yep, she’s got the job. Starts Saturday, at home to Bournemouth.

Squash tonight, form the first time for ages. It goes ok, I don’t have any adverse reactions, injury wise. Score wise, not so ok.

More success at the cycling, another gold for GB with the women Team Pursuit trio breaking the world record twice on their way to gold.

(Thursday 5th April)

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Easier Than Getting Olympic Tickets

I abandon the idea of biking today due to the heavy rain, the gales and the increasing occurrence of snow showers. There are light coverings in various places around here but some cars are driving around with a couple of inches on them. Up in Scotland Cairngorm and Lecht have reopened for skiing.

Once the snow passes over our back garden begins to resemble a lake, albeit a very muddy one. It all brings back ‘fond’ memories me of the Milton Keynes Half Marathon. Thankfully we have a nice cosy barn in which to shelter for our dog training tonight. Hmmm. I’ll pack an extra jumper.

Instead of biking, I take L’s bike in for a service.

It’s the first day of the Track Cycling World Championships today from Melbourne, Australia. As usual the BBC coverage is mixed. Excellent live coverage on the red button and over the internet but rubbish highlights.

There's a sort of unexpected but brilliant Team Pursuit gold for the men, I really didn’t think we’d beat the Aussies but they did, twice. They qualified fastest and then went on to break the world record against them in the final.

Even more unexpected was the Scratch Race gold for Ben Swift. A man left out of the Pursuit Team getting his just rewards.

Disappointment in the Team Sprints though. The women, who broke the World Record a month a go, came in fourth but the men looked promising with a German, the repatriated Philip Hindes, on the first leg despite getting disqualified.

I propose to L that we head to Minsk next year, as they’ve just awarded the 2013 Championships to Belarus. Belarus is Europe’s last remaining dictatorship, so it could be an interesting trip, if we can get a Visa. Still, it’s got to be easier than getting Olympic tickets.

(Wednesday 4th April)

Tuesday 3 April 2012

Being Nosey

Doggo goes out for walk in his orange sock and seems to cope ok. Secretly we think he's rather proud of it. Although it’s now a slightly soggy, muddy, orange sock but even so MD will still want one the same.

I’m on the bus because after work I meet up with my old school friend for a few beers and on his insistence a curry. Not that I protested much.

We swap medical problems. I feel rather outdone with just my gammy leg compared with his portfolio but I’m not jealous.

Aren’t mobile phones great for being nosey, which is why I never ring anyone on mine in public. My journey home is livened up by overhearing the amusing saga of two teenagers being grounded via mobile for being late home. Good old parents. All due to the excessive punctuality of the Red Arrow. They were on time for the previous bus but the Red Arrow left early (as it often does) and they had to wait an hour for the next one. Good old Red Arrow, we’ve all been there.

The dogs welcome me at the door as I get home, pleased to see my pockets stuffed with left over naan bread but I’m sure they would have greeted me anyway.

(Tuesday 3rd April)

Monday 2 April 2012

Self-Harming Dog

My leg is a bit stiff after yesterday’s little excursion around Reading but generally ok. So I guess it can be classed as a success. It’s interesting to see some of the media reports of the event and some wildly exaggerated participation figures. Some reports say 20,000. Sloppy research. The results clearly state just over 13,000 finishers and I’m sure 7,000 didn’t drop out.

At work my boss has gone part-time at very short notice, he only told us on Thursday. This means a load more work comes my way... nice. Soon our whole company will be on a reduced week.

Doggo has been self-harming, chewing the fur off his elbow. I think it’s his way of dealing with a touch of arthritis. The solution is he now has a nice orange sock covering it, taped at the top and bottom with surgical tape. It'll give him something new to chew on if nothing else.

Dog class and there’s no slowing MD down tonight. He’s also rather accurate as well as fast. All very promising for the new season which starts on Friday. All he needs is a decent handler. I was awful tonight.

(Monday 2nd April)

Sunday 1 April 2012

Life At The Back

So it’s 5am, its -2 degrees, its April Fools’ Day and we’re driving two and half hours down to Reading, gammy leg and all, with our return journey entirely dependent on people having left enough fuel in the pumps to get us home. You couldn’t make it up.

We leave the dogs behind. Daughter is home and can do the squeaky hot dog throwing, during the two hour window that these students can manage to stay awake.

The weather is soon warming up as wander across the gravelly car park that doubles as the race village, please tarmac it, and head to the start. By 10am, it's really quite pleasant. Sunny but still cool. In short, perfect race conditions, for anyone who’s fit enough to take advantage of them. E.g. not me.

I have a red number and a guaranteed spot in the front 10% of the race, just behind the Kenyans but I'm not there. Instead I'm stood next to a sign the says ‘2 hours’. Which is roughly where all the duck costumes, the tutus, those dressed up as pieces of fruit and others who are not taking it quite so seriously hang out. Well apart from the bananas, the bananas are always up front. Of course, there’s L too. Pretending not to take it seriously and publicly happy with anything under three hours but actually set to be gutted if she doesn’t break 2:15.

Sally Gunnell, Natasha Danvers and Reading FC chairman Sir John Madejski start the race but the Reading chairman is the only one of the three who joins in with the race. Danvers has an Olympics on her mind but Gunnell’s excuse of being ‘retired’ must have seemed a bit hollow as she watched the 70 year old Madejski disappear down the road.

Fair play to the football club who fielded quite a team including manager Brian McDermott and their furry mascot Kingsley the Lion. The lion kept out of my way, which was wise of him.

Back here in 2 hour land nothing actually happens when the race ‘starts’. I’m used to skipping across the line about 20 seconds or so after said Kenyans but not today, not back here. Somebody needs to devise some entertainment for these people while they wait for that start line to come into view.

It seems like an eternity but is actually ‘only’ 13 minutes before our race is finally underway and we can start the process of weaving around those who have started in too advanced a position for their ability. This is worse for us 2 hour-ers because back here so many people run two or three abreast chatting, creating a much wider road block, oblivious to the swearing of those behind them. Try that up front and somebody would have cracked you over the head with a bottle of Lucozade Sport or worse, poured the toxic liquid all over you. ‘Sorry mate, my hand slipped’. Seen it done.

Nor do we get people dropping bottles in the middle of the road. Tut tut. Nor do we get camel’s overtaking us... Oh, the shame. I reassure myself. It’s just a training run, stay cool. Don’t look at L grinning at you.

In a way I’m actually enjoying the leisurely pace. Although at 9:30 per mile, I’m currently towing L, who is behind me, ahead of her schedule and we stay at a solid 10:00 minute mile pace or less for the first six miles.

The crowds are out in force throughout Reading. In places where the route wasn’t barriered off they were encroaching on the route, narrowing the road, Tour de France style. Which was rather thrilling. Unfortunately in the centre of the town, shoppers took advantage of this by rushing across in gaps that weren’t there, causing some nasty moments and a few collisions. So barriers are required there, in places where watching isn’t going to be the primary activity and where ‘normal life’ hasn’t ceased. If you can call shopping normal life that is.

Meanwhile I’m still having a bit of camel trouble. The damn thing passes me three times, so I can only assume it does so, and then hides for a bit so that it can embarrass me all over again. Not funny. It’s given the chap next to me the hump or so he says. He makes not comment when the Gingerbread men come past us. I too am lost for words.

It’s enough to drive you to drink, so fortuitously at around seven and a half miles I’m hoping to get one. It was somewhere around here last year, just around a left hand bend. I move over to the left to make sure I don’t miss it. Yep, there it is. A pub dispensing its beer in little plastic cups so that you can top up your carbohydrates and anaesthetise your gammy leg, if you have one, all in one go. How thoughtful. I grab one and stop briefly to drink it.

I’m surprised to see L follow me and grab one too. Ever the professional though, she won’t stop to drink it and ends up giving half to me. Not a problem.

The leg is coping ok, although I do slow to walk on a steep but short incline in the city centre, causing L to suspect the leg has gone again but I’m just been cautious.

After 8 miles, L encourages me to push on ahead, if I so wish. I decide to test the leg out a bit and go off in search of Gingerbread men and that bloody camel, which is presumably hiding somewhere. No sign. Instead I come across a caterpillar powered by several army blokes, all in full army kit. Kudos for that. I reel them in, and then I put Scooby Doo to the sword before stalking Elvis all the way along the dual carriage way that makes up mile eleven. Still no sign of the damn camel.

The ‘pushing on’ does bring a few twinges to the leg, so it’s only a very gentle push on taking me back to around 9:30 pace at best. Well short of what I’d do if I was 100%.

Then after the out and back last mile in front of the Madjeski Stadium, it’s into the stadium itself for the finish. Which didn’t seem quite as impressive as last year. I’m sure last year they had people sat opposite the entrance, so that a wall of faces and sound hit you when you hobbled in. Rather than to the side and behind, as today. Never mind, it’s still good.

2:09 is my slowest half marathon ever but it was still an enjoyable run. L is a mere four minutes behind me.

I have a few gripes about the post-finish which was in too much of a confined area and water should have been handed out first not last. No t-shirt of course. Which is always a major downer; I’m not one for medals. A great goodie bag though, rammed full of both useful and useless things.

All in all, a grand day out again. One that I might have to pencil in the diary to repeat again, due to not being able to give this one my full attention.

We have a picnic in the car park as we await the gridlock to ease before embarking on the long journey home where the dogs await a rather delayed park session. A park session that we manage to ensure ends up in the Admiral Rodney pub.

The race results show that even if I’d been fit I couldn’t have kept pace with the likes of Kipyego, Chemugo and Martelletti who led the field home. Nor for that matter the first fruit home, a banana of course, in 1:22.

John Madejski did an impressive 02:29 beating his manager Brian McDermott's 02:37. We must have passed both of them. Their chip and gun times are so similar, that they obviously both started at the front.

Of course the bad news is that a chap collapsed and died at the finishing line, which puts everything into perspective.

(Sunday 1st April)