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

Thursday 31 May 2012

A Plan Comes To Fruition

Let me tell you about the Heb3 Challenge. Which is to complete at least three of the five Western Isles Half Marathons - Stornoway, Benbecula, Skye, Barra or Harris in any one year. Apparently this is the longest running series of half marathons in Scotland and probably the most ridiculous for someone from the centre of England to attempt. So, here we go.

The first challenge was to get an entry into the hugely popular Barra race, which we managed, despite it selling out in 40 minutes. The second challenge is the 530 miles from Nottingham to Uig on the Isle of Skye, from where we will catch a ferry. Which will have to do twice. We couldn’t make Stornoway which was last week, so will return at the end of June to take in Barra and Harris. We could have done Skye of course but that would have been far too easy.

For all this we will get a t-shirt, complete with the Heb3 logo. We like little things like that. If we could have done all five, and this would have been a near impossibility in travel, cost and holiday allowances they would have overprinted our t-shirts with 'rinn mise na coig' on the back. Which I thought was Gaelic for ‘smart arse’ but apparently just means ‘I did the five’.

As we’re heading up the M6 on route to Scotland we stop off in Stoke to catch the Olympic Torch relay which kicks off from Hanley at 7am this morning in the hands of Tony Pulis, the Stoke City manager.

We drive in along the Cobridge Road to catch it on Waterloo Road and get stopped by the police, who have turned all the traffic lights to red to let the entourage through. Hey presto front row seats.

Sadly it’s only the sponsor’s vehicles and once they’ve come through we have to run back to our abandoned car as the lights go green again. Hurriedly we park up somewhere in time to see, rather appropriately, running legend ‘Blind’ Dave Heeley and his dog Seamus handover the flame to another runner, whose name we don't know.

Dave Heeley was the first blind man to run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents and last year he ran 10 marathons in 10 days for Macmillan Cancer Support.

So far, at least our first plan has come to fruition.

Then it’s back to what turns out to be 12 hour drive, if you include the few stops we had, doing one hour stints each. The early part of which is in on-off rain, until we got into Scotland where it quickly started to fine up.

Arriving in Uig we are understandably both starving and gagging for a drink. Up on the hill the Ferry Inn looks the most promising. Looks can be deceptive. We’ve come all this way to find that the local pub does not serve the Isle of Skye ales that are brewed 200 yards away and the only real ale, from Greene King of all places, has come further than we have.

If this wasn’t bad enough, the miserable landlord mutters something about new Scottish licensing laws not permitting food to be served outside on insurance grounds, which sounds like b******** to me, and we can’t take the dogs inside despite the fact that his totally customer free bar is a rather spartan wooden floored affair and therefore very appropriate for dogs. He clearly has no wish for us to buy four rounds of drinks and two two-course meals off him? Estimated cost... upwards of £60... Fair enough.

We depart, as we don’t wish to selfishly put the dogs back in the car that they’ve just spent around 12 hours in just so that we can eat. The Bakur Bar on the pier comes to the rescue.

They don’t allow dogs in either but they are more than happy to serve us food, ale from the Isle of Skye brewery and even whiskey, outside.

(Thursday 31st May)

Wednesday 30 May 2012

A Messy Compromise

I take the bike to work today, which upsets our dogs whom I pass on the way.

The cycling is I suppose last minute panic training for this weekend’s half marathon. L's training is perhaps a bit more structured as she’s entered the Beeston 5 Mile race tonight.

She heads there straight from work, whilst I bike home, scoop the dogs into the car and head over to support. My excuse is that these five milers are a little too fast for me these days, my mind wants to go faster than my legs do, which usually results in a messy compromise. So I’ll watch.

L seems to have no such problems with a PB for the year.

(Wednesday 30th May)

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Heroic Failure

L heads over to Leamington today to see her ‘baby boy’ on the occasion of his 21st birthday. She has to change trains in Derby, so I leave the car at work so that she can get off there on the way back, pick up the car and then, in her words, ‘rescue me from myself’. I’m running home. At least it'll save me upsetting some poor bus driver who doesn’t want some sweaty bloke on his bus.

The long drawn out Olympic ticket saga continues afresh today as road cycling tickets go on sale. Twice I request a ticket for the Time Trial Finish and twice, after ten minutes or so, the search comes back telling me its reserved tickets for me. Each time I select my credit card, type in the security code, tick the T&C box and pressed 'proceed' only to get told ‘ha ha fooled you, we haven’t really reserved any tickets for you’.

By the third search they'd all gone, of course. So I’m not very happy at all but this is what the Olympic spirit is all about, great success (rare ones) and heroic failure.

Apparently Mrs Bradley Wiggins had the same problems as me, so I’m in good company. Whilst a spokeswoman for the London 2012 organising committee brushed off yet another ticket debacle as ‘sheer volume of demand’ that caused people with tickets reserved to be returned to the back of a 20 minute queue, only to find that once they again reached the front the cupboard was bare.

At least it’s not quite so hot today when I start running but still I leave off the lycra that I usually wear under my shorts. Big mistake. I now have sore thighs where they rubbed together.

I had jokingly suggested to L that she checks the gutters as she drives along. Then I see her driving quite slowly past me in Borrowash, probably doing just that. Although if she really did want to ‘rescue me from myself’ she shouldn’t have stopped then and not at our prearranged meeting point four miles down the road.

We have arranged to meet in Wetherspoons car park in Stapleford, which sounds quite covert, or if they haven’t got a car park, in one of the dodgy side streets. Although she actually parks at Lidl, which is perhaps the same thing.

She’s had quite a day in Leamington. Son has not only confessed that he needs some smart clothes, and should trust a mother’s judgement in these matters but has said he wants to join a gym and get fit. Whatever is the world coming to?

(Tuesday 29th May)

Monday 28 May 2012

A Desperate Bonio Shortage

As we’re off to Scotland on Thursday there’s no great pressing need to do any shopping today, apart from the fact that there’s a desperate Bonio shortage in our household. I have suspicions that someone has been helping themselves but can’t prove it.

L bemoans being at after such a good weekend. She’s only there two days this week. There’s no pleasing some people. She’s off again tomorrow, visiting Son in Leamington.

In the evening I drop L off, because she’s running, on the way to dog training where I thoroughly expect to be training on yesterday’s team course which was set by our trainer, but we’re not. Probably thankfully, as we made such a mess of it.

(Monday 28th May)

Sunday 27 May 2012

Some Tribute

L has booked a coach to take her up to Sheffield this morning for 5:20am! The Sheffield Half Marathon starts at 9am and the first train does run until 9.30 on a Sunday. As I have the car, an eye wateringly early coach appears to be the only option. I valiantly get up early to take her to the coach station.

The boys and I briefly return to bed before we get up again, to head to day two of the Nottingham dog show.

Today will be harder than yesterday, it seems hotter and we have the Crufts team event as well. Not that either of the dogs look up to it. Not sure what Doggo’s excuse is, he only had one run yesterday.

Up in Sheffield, people are slipping into their furry teddy bear outfits... they must be mad, in this heat. Poor old MD can’t take his furry outfit off.

The team course is a right stinker and set by one of my trainers. I'll have words later. As I have been in charge of picking our four teams, it is rather pleasing to see our A team come 4th. Which at least means I’ve picked the right team as the A team. Our other three teams don’t do as well but have a ball which was the general idea. MD had lots of faults but as I said it was a tough course, even the winners had 10 faults.

L has done the deed in Sheffield, recorded a good time despite the heat and is now sipping Chardonnay by the fountains. Meanwhile we’re having more weaves problems but it is hot. Too hot for both of us. I return him to the nice cool car to chill for a bit.

It does the trick and on the next run, MD gets his weaves right but has a pole down. Apparently that got us a rosette for 24th. Better than nothing and not bad I suppose out of 250. Doggo is again clear in his vets but again outside the placings. Then we head home via the coach station to collect L.

In the evening I'm down at the Rescue Rooms to see Peter Hook and his band The Light. First though are a band that Hook himself signed to Hacienda Records, Salford’s Humanizer. They combine two musical forces of the Manchester music scene, dance and indie into songs that are complex, ambitious animals. Lots of bass and heavy guitars but at the heart the pulsing technology of a dance beat. It's something that's been done a lot recently but somehow after a slightly indifferent start Humanizer quickly grow on me. Clearly they have something the others don't. Well worth a listen and listen I will.

Peter Hook and the Light take the stage to the Pogues’ ‘Dirty Old Town’. Whether this is a statement of sorts on the mud being flung from both sides after his acrimonious split from New Order, I don’t know but I thought I’d start the rumour anyway.

Post split, Hook decided to revisit the work of their former incarnation, Joy Division, and with his band he’s been playing both of the JD's famous albums 'Unknown Pleasures’ and ‘Closer’ in their entirety, as well as more recently the cobbled together compilation 'Still’.

None of which went down particularly well with those remaining in New Order. In fact Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris viewed it as something akin to sacrilege. Hook’s actually gone further and been reinventing some of the songs with X Factor’s Rowetta on vocals. For which, Sumner and Morris might have a point.

There’s no Rowetta tonight however, which is fine because I’d rather hear what Hooky himself can do with the material. Tonight its 1979’s 'Unknown Pleasures’, which is fairly obvious from the fact that we have the album cover as both the backdrop behind the drum kit and on Hooky’s t-shirt. Actually it's good to get the first album first although I prefer 'Closer', which will hopefully come to Nottingham another day.

They don’t start with 'Unknown Pleasures’ though. First up is ‘Exercise One’ a track recorded during sessions for the album but not included on it. Then follows ‘No Love Lost’ and ‘Leaders Of Men’ from their debut EP ‘An Ideal for Living’ from 1978, the rest of which surfaces later. Then it’s ‘Glass’ and the splendid ‘Digital’ from their label’s ‘A Factory Sample’ also from back in ’78.

It seems we’re getting almost a chronological history lesson here as they then, five songs in, launch into the full album set.

The crowd are already impressed, have gone pretty much ape for every song so far and continue to do so all night. A factor in this is probably that the majority of the audience tonight, me included, will never have heard the bulk of this material live before. This, I guess, is why we're here and why I think Sumner and Morris are wrong. There never will be a tour by a fully reformed Joy Division because there can't be. I think Hooky understands this. It would be nice if the others were on board but they’re not and tonight it doesn’t seem to matter because what we get is simply terrific.

Hook and his band deliver a respectful and faithful reproduction of every Joy Division song they take on, not just recreating them but giving them an awesome power than you simply cannot get just from the records. The Light have a terrific guitarist in Nat Watson, an amazing drummer in Paul Kehoe and then of course there’s Hook’s bass, although he shares bass duties tonight with son Jack, who is no shirk himself. There’s also a keyboardist in Andy Poole and you can’t fault the passion that any of them put into it. Making the songs seem rather fresh and modern, not at all dated.

Vocally, things are different of course. Hook isn’t Ian Curtis and probably doesn’t want to be. Yet his vocals seem to fit the material almost as well. It helps that his singing has improved immeasurably since the days of Revenge and Monaco.

Meanwhile the whole thing is conducted amongst one of the best and most enthusiastic atmospheres I’ve seen at a gig for some time. At times, it's actually quite moving.

There are so many highlights but the trio of tracks that form the midpoint of the album - ‘New Dawn Fades’, ‘She's Lost Control’ and ‘Shadowplay’ are particularly outstanding. Not just because during ‘She’s Lost Control’ Hook appears to wave at me, even if it does turn out that I'm stood next to his Mrs.

Then after what seems like no time at all, an immensely powerful ‘Interzone’ segues in to the dark ‘I Remember Nothing’, which closes the album and the set.

The band return for an encore, some of which is drawn from ‘Closer’. ‘Isolation’ and ‘Twenty Four Hours’ are sandwiched between ‘Dead Souls’ and an amazing performance of ‘Ceremony’ before they leave the stage again.

Is that it? No. The band return a second time to treat us to the rest of ‘An Ideal for Living’ in the shape of ‘Warsaw’ and ‘Failures’ but still they’re not finished as they complete the second of two four track encores.

Which isn’t bad coming from a band, in both Joy Division and New Order forms, that have been notorious in the past for not doing them. I've never seen New Order do an encore. Although I see their current line up are doing them these days and also doing the odd Joy Division track as well. Wasn’t that supposed to be sacrilege? Lol.

As The Light get around to probably Joy Division's most famous numbers ‘Transmission’ and of course ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ you almost want to burst in to tears in gratitude. Then when it really is the end, Hooky sheds his t-shirt and throws it triumphantly into the crowd. Job done. Point made.

You could call The Light a tribute band, and maybe we should, but OMG it was some tribute.

I meet L afterwards in the Ropewalk, which is open until 12.30am even on a Sunday but closes early tonight because the students have deserted it at the moment. I guess they're at home revising or writing those final assignments. It’s a shame because the Nutbrook More is rather nice and I only get chance for two, even then I had to promise that the second would be a swift one.

Saturday 26 May 2012

Punching Above Our Weight

It's Nottingham Dog Show this weekend in Newark and we’re there both days. The sun is really strong but thankfully there's a cooling breeze. Though I still feel the sunburn could be quite bad tonight...

MD starts off with a pretty good run. He gets his tunnels, his contacts, clears all his jumps and then comes out his weaves. There’s always something.

All his courses this weekend are for Grades 3-5 and as he’s a 3, we’re going to be attempting to punch above our weight all weekend. Whereas when shows put on Grade 1-3 courses we really should be looking for the win, here it’s more about getting round.

His next course is a particularly tough one but we make a really good fist of it. He just knocked one pole or else we'd have been clear. When I look at the times, I see that rather annoyingly the leader is two whole seconds slower than us but of course, they didn’t have a pole down.

We’re back to messing up the weaves in his last run but then good old reliable Doggo goes clear in the vets, although finishes outside the rosettes. At least we got to see Pudsey, jumping not dancing on this occasion.

I text L to enquire if we’re allowed home yet. She's glossing, as in skirting boards and stuff. Apparently they’ll be a roll of clingfilm by the door... hairs are not welcome and anything with four paws might have to suitably wrapped if it wants a roof over its head tonight. Well, I think she just means the dogs.

Having circumnavigated the house rules we have a night in with ‘the Hump’. E.g. Eurovision.

It wasn't good. Engelbert was only kept off the bottom by Norway and finished hundreds of points behind the winners, Sweden, and the Russian grannies. It's a European disappoint of the like we won't see again until, well next month, when England take to the pitch.

(Saturday 26th May)

Friday 25 May 2012

Too Hot For That Sort Of Thing

I decide against another hot run and get the bike out instead. Interestingly so does L. She has got the Great Notts Bike Ride to train for.

Thankfully nobody tries to race me, it’s much too hot for that sort of thing but I always get sucked in.

I had to reblog this

Won’t work though.

Thanks to 'the diary of an urban cyclist' from whence it was taken.

We opt for a laid back night in with David Soul and Showaddywaddy. A chilled night in, as in chilled white wine or red even.

(Friday 25th May)

Thursday 24 May 2012

A Stint In The Sauna

Rather bizarrely I have a slight hangover this morning which is odd considering I had only 4%ers, whereas on Saturday I had nothing under 5%, several 8%’s, a much larger quantity and was absolutely fine.

L cancels her pump class tonight in order to run and doesn’t get put up against the wall and shot as squash players do if they attempt to cancel with less than 24 hours notice. Of course they aren’t trying to phase out swimming like they are with squash. A process that will be complete when the two remaining centres with courts in Nottingham are demolished (at Beechdale) and sold off (at Portland).

On the plus side Beechdale’s replacement pool is going to be a full Olympic jobbie. About time, and it looks like they’ll do it before Derby as well, putting probably a big question mark against their plans. They best get on with that velodrome now. Quick.

It may possibly be a ‘best of one’ game of squash tonight, before we collapse from the heat. My opponent even wears shorts, so it must be hot. I’m not sure what the temperature threshold is for such exhibitionism but clearly we’ve breached it.

I enjoy a rare win, in what turns out to be a best of three, 2-1. It was 'warming' up in the 4th as well, 13-13, when we had to call a halt due to someone else wanting a stint in the sauna.

He blames the on court temperature or it might have just been the trauma of the shorts but there’s nothing like a heat assisted defeat to bring on a change of sport. Needless to say, as of our next game, it's now the tennis season.

(Thursday 24th May)

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Kick Off... Throw Off... Bully Off...

I saw this on the ever unreliable BBC. Beijing has set a rule that public toilets should contain no more than two flies at a time. It is not clear how the flies will be punished if more than two of them enter at the same time.

I tell L to start brushing up on her handball. In this morning’s latest Olympic ticket scramble I add another ticket to our Olympic portfolio and book the entertainment for the Saturday evening when we’re down there for the Pentathlon. Not just any old handball but the bronze medal match no less. I could have got the gold medal match but as Team GB won’t be in either, I thought I’d go for the early evening game so we get to spend our one night in London out on the tiles. This game is a 5pm kick off... throw off... bully off... whatever it is. Must google. At least we’re in the Olympic park this time.

There actually now appears to be plenty of tickets, just not for the highest profile sports. Which makes you think the initial hysteria created by the original ballot system was manufactured and as it turns out totally unnecessary. They could have just balloted half a dozen sports.

I don't know if they intend to reopen their resale system or not but I'm guessing a lot of people will have tickets from that original ballot that they've now improved up on and hence will be leaving an empty seat somewhere if they can't get rid.

My receipt says I’ve been charged £6 for ‘fulfilment’. Wonder if that means they’re chucking in beer and a massage.

I spend the evening out in Derby bragging about my handball tickets to a couple of friends over a few beers. Naturally they think their badminton and volleyball tickets are superior. They may have a point of course, my knowledge of handball is a little sparse, as the moment.

(Wednesday 23rd May)

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Enjoy It While It Lasts

The sun is out and consequently the summer dresses are out. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Some may have though that summer was those ten days back in March but no, it’s popped back with a vengeance but presumably not for long. Bizarrely they’re still skiing on the slopes in Scotland.

For some reason I decide a ten mile run would be a nice idea tonight. I quickly realise what a bad idea this is as I do a loop around Pride Park before heading towards home. It’s bloody hot and I have to roll down my girlie long socks, to stop my calves exploding.

Meanwhile L is rather unhelpfully talking about stopping off at the university lake to buy an ice cream on her way home from pump class. Which is weightlifting to music I believe, which I would find distracting but each to their own.

I have a few walks during my 'run' but eventually stagger my way to 15k which isn’t too far off ten miles. I’m past counting. Every so often everyone suffers from ‘horrible run syndrome’. I think this is mine and at least it means that perhaps I've got the horrible one out of the way. They do say that the hard days are what make the easy days easy. We’ll see.

(Tuesday 22nd May)

Monday 21 May 2012

That Is So Not Fair

Apparently there an incredibly cute Schnauzer Shitzoo (or is it Shih Tzu?) cross that has a massive crush on MD. Oh dear. Girls always do go for the wrong guys don’t they? MD though doesn't even bark at her, so perhaps he’s fond of her too.

Both L and I have been asked to do the latest Biobank health survey. Mine came this morning, so they want to know what I ate and drank yesterday. Sunday. L’s came yesterday, so they want to know what she ate and drank on Saturday... howls of ‘that is so not fair!’ from over yonder. I’ll be standing over her as she puts down the several 8%ers in Brew Dog, the Old Peculiar and the curry...

I watch a bit of the Olympic torch relay on the internet, immediately wondering why they’re all doing it in white pyjamas.

On the way to dog class, our first on a Monday for ages, I chuck L out at a roundabout and she runs to Mickleover plugged into her audiobook, learning about the Japanese vs Dutch trade embargo... she has weird tastes. I’ve started a new Michael Robotham, about the same psychologist my last one was about. I might run to that tomorrow but I think music might make me go a bit quicker.

(Monday 21st May)

Sunday 20 May 2012

Two Halves A Month

We had hoped to be competing in the ‘Classic Barrow 10’ this morning as Barrow Runners tried to revive this once popular road race. Unfortunately they failed to resurrect it, meeting a wall of safety regulations and expensive road closures that have presumably been tightened since they last ran the race in 2006. Which is a shame.

My thoughts had briefly turned to the Eyam Half Marathon. L has frequently talked of how horrific it was when she did it many years ago but has constantly refused to consider doing it again. Suggesting I’d have to get her very very drunk for her to even consider it. So I tried that but even that didn’t work. She simply reiterated that she’s sticking to two halves a month and by that she didn’t mean she’s cutting her alcohol down.

It’s all very intriguing. Can a race really be that bad? I was very tempted to find out but in the end decided I simply wasn’t fit enough yet, post injury. Next year...

Instead we visit the gym, even me. Which is conveniently situated at the tennis centre and I had promised myself a spot of tennis.

L’s concern about the girl’s skirts is misplaced. Some would say short, others would say ultra lightweight and streamlined, I imagine something with such a low drag coefficient is essential for good tennis.

(Sunday 20th May)

Saturday 19 May 2012

In At The Deep End

L is up before me this morning and I’ve got an early start for a dog show. What’s even odder is she’s wheeling her bike out of the garage. Then she’s swimming 41 lengths before breakfast and heading in for a Saturday shift at work. Hang on, 41 lengths... She says she got in at the deep end by mistake. How do you... never mind. It’s a council leisure centre, anything is possible.

At the dog show MD is weaving well, jumping well, getting all his contacts... it’s just the bloody tunnels. Arghhhh. L says I should buy one. I will. Tonight.

Having done a bit of work, L is now at the tennis centre, at the gym but also watching the tennis. It’s the Junior County Cup and L’s sister’s lad is in one of the teams. She embarrasses him, which is good. It’s all our jobs to embarrass our teenagers and it’s so easily done.

She tells me of the jolly short skirts and the jolly cold weather, concerned the girls will catch their deaths. Spoken like a true mother. Suddenly I have the feeling I’m in the wrong place today. That said the tournament is on again tomorrow. I quite fancy a day at the tennis.

Only one clear from five runs today, our best is a 12th, but I’m pleased with MD. He’s ran really well. What he did well, he did very well. We just need to cut out the mistakes and sort those bloody tunnels out.

We hang on for Doggo’s Vets run before we can go home. The poor old man is up last. He’s lying in 6th when we decide to leave with a few dogs left to run as the rosettes only go down to 4th.

In the evening we head out for another stab at the Brew Dog Emporium. Again nice beers only once they’ve warmed up and gone flat! After a few, well three halves of 8%ers! We move on to the Peacock where the beer comes pre-warmed and pre-flat. I’ve not been in here for years but a few months ago I heard they’d had Old Peculiar on the bar. So I thought it was worth checking to see if that was just a one off or not.

It turns out that it wasn't a once off, there it was and in very good form too. At least we get to drop down to something with a lower alcohol content. Just the 5.7% then. Funnily enough the Cobra in the Noor Jahan curry house later is the weakest drink of the night, a mere 5%. Good job we have a quiet day tomorrow, tennis apart.

(Saturday 19th May)

Friday 18 May 2012

Not The Place To Go Looking For It

I run home again tonight, stretching it out to nearly 16km. All good training for the world famous Benbecula Half Marathon that we have coming up. If anyone hasn't entered, I’d get in soon if you want to be assured of a place. We’ve just had our numbers through. I’m number 15, L is 14... so it's popular. Perhaps we just entered early. At least I could finish top 20.

L is running home too or ‘bloody running’ as she calls it. She loves it really.

Later we resurrect the TOTP night, which has now been joined by ‘Sounds of the 70’s’ both of which clearly demonstrate that if you wanted decent music in 1977, these were not the places to go looking for it.

(Friday 18th May)

Thursday 17 May 2012

Spinning The Roulette Wheel

So Olympic tickets... here we go again. Let’s spin the roulette wheel.

First up an all events Modern Pentathlon ticket and in less than three minutes Ticketmaster told me I was having a laugh. So no change there then. I spin the wheel again.

I take a punt on the Brownlee boys and the Triathlon. Ticketmaster fell off its chair at this point, ROFL-ing for all it was worth, but only after making me wait 7... no 8... no 9... no 10 minutes... no 11... it just kept going up and up like something you bought from Microsoft. I remove my fist from my PC screen and spin the roulette wheel again.

I go for the lesser Modern Pentathlon option, a ticket for just the Greenwich Park events - the riding, running and shooting. Ticketmaster said 'yeah no problem'. Now it really was taking the piss.

I kept looking at the screen which was now saying ‘you have 1 minute 10 seconds to accept these tickets’... no ‘1 minute 5 seconds’ ... ‘1 minute’... hang on just one minute... I mean 50 seconds... I mean 45 seconds... this countdown is going down not up, that can’t be right. It’s also not long enough to decide whether I’m being defrauded or not.

Sod it. Buy buy buy. It’s only money and it’s the London Olympics. We all love the London Olympics.

So yes we have tickets. I still can’t get anywhere near the Olympic Park but it’s a start.

Buoyed by this success, I wonder what the hotel prices are like. The media have led us to believe that the only way to stay in London during the games is to pay someone a grand or so to sleep in their garage on the edge of the M25 and then walk in to London because all the public transport will have ground to a halt.

So I’m rather surprised to pay £85 for a double room with an ensuite bathroom and full English breakfast just over a mile from Greenwich Park. As I say, we all love the London Olympics. I really don’t know what everyone is complaining about.

Talking of London, L is there today for work. Good choice Dear, there’s a train strike on but then again isn’t there always. Does anyone know what they’re striking for? Thought not. They’re probably all sat in front of their PC trying to get Olympic tickets. Ha. Tough. I’ve got them.

Anyway, she has to get a taxi from Nottingham to Long Eaton, then get a train to Tamworth and then to London... coming back is via Tamworth, Derby and then by bus to Nottingham. Which is sort of annoying, sort of hilarious and just makes you really really hope that they don’t get given whatever they're demanding.

I take the boys to squash, well they wait in the car and then I wave to them as I go to the pub for a pint of ‘Traditional’. That’s what it was called and that’s what it was. Very nice, none of this ‘blonde’ stuff. Then I make it up to the boys by chucking balls on Embankment.

After her traumatic day, L texts to say she’s just got off the bus and will meet me in bed with a bottle of wine. Ok boys, that’s it, game's over.

(Thursday 17th May)

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Powder Dry, Bone Dry

L reckons that we should both be getting up and getting fit rather than getting amorous in bed. I disagree, plenty of muscles group that can be worked on here and all at seven calories per minute (so they say). Then because I’m on the bike today, I have to get a real shift on to get to work on time because I’m running late which does my legs loads of good, I hope.

As I’m on the bike, dodging potholes, I best mention the recent University of Nottingham study which reckons they can improve average life of a pothole repair from four years to fifteen. Hang on a sec. Four years! Who are they kidding. Four months more like. The ones I cycle over are re-repaired every year and even that isn’t often enough.

I have another look at the Olympic tickets website. There seems to be availability for a lot of things at the moment, apart from athletics and cycling of course. One wonders why all these tickets weren’t on sale in the first place... plus they’re limiting people to one set of tickets each now, which would have been a good idea in the first place. I’m keeping my powder dry (it's bone dry) for an assault on the modern pentathlon and the triathlon, which are added tomorrow. I just hope that everyone else isn’t planning the same.

After work, I pedal to the pool for a swim. L says she's rather jealous but she wouldn't be if she saw the queue, which is out of the door. It's an almost exclusively female queue so I assume they're all going to be booking into bodypump, zumba, pilates, chairobics or whatever the current fashion is but no, they all pass through saying ‘swim please’. So OMG it's going to be busy. If it had been all been men I'd have been running in the opposite direction because it would have been competitive hell at the top end of the pool. I know it's going to be busy but at least it’ll be scenic.

Actually it’s hell. Twenty-eight swimmers across five lanes, the sixth lane is shut for a lesson and there are eight in the fun pool. These morning swimmer like L get it so easy. I make it a quick one.

(Wednesday 16th May)

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Fish Out Of Water

I arrive at work surprised to be alive and I’ve not even been near my bike. This morning’s bus driver was a complete maniac, he clipped the kerb at least three times.

L is a bit like a fish out of water at the moment, a girl without a challenge. Unsurprisingly she sees the answer as being in the water and is training for a long distance swim, preferably a 5k. Not that we have one booked yet and her golden rule is that it’s got to have an event t-shirt.

Actually I've got one of those already and I didn't even get my feet wet. Conveniently when the Great North Swim was cancelled in 2010, L let me have one of the t-shirts they gave her. I wear it with pride.

L takes in a pump class after work, which I think involves weights not bike tyres, although the workout is probably similar. It's all to strengthen those swimming arms. So I’ll be having to lift her pints for her come the weekend.

I run part of the way home. 14k. Not bad.

(Tuesday 15th May)

Monday 14 May 2012

A Very Big Sofa

Apparently LOCOG or whatever they call themselves have found some spare tickets down the back of the Olympic sofa. About 900,000 of them. It’s a very big sofa. So this morning I make use of my exclusive ‘presale’ window. How this be a presale when it’s after the original ballot and after the secondary sales window earlier this year... I have no idea but never mind.

It is with a heavy heart, e.g. huge expectations of failure (again), that I log on to my exclusive window, just me and approximately one million others.

I’m after track cycling, which everybody is after of course, just because they once saw Sir Chris or Vicky P in Lyrca and thought I’ll have ticket for some of that, so naturally I am correct in assuming it will be another unsuccessful attempt.

It’s also another battle with the unfathomable Ticketmaster. I promise I’ll never ever slag off SeeTickets again. I avoid Ticketmaster like the plague for gig tickets for the same reason that it’s a disaster for Olympics tickets. First there’s their obsession with ‘captcha’ and it always takes me three attempts to solve the puzzle, which in Olympic ticket buying terms is valuable seconds lost.

Then there’s their annoying way of being incapable of updating availability in real time, sometimes you suspect with Ticketmaster even in the same week is beyond them. So you pick your event, your price range and how many you want and press the button marked ‘beg’. It tells you to go for a long slow walk around the block while it consults the tea leaves in the bottom of the Ticketmaster mug before coming and saying ‘nope, not go any of those’. It doesn’t say ‘we haven’t got 4 but you can have 2’, or ‘we haven’t got any at £20 but we have some at £40’. It doesn’t even say ‘we haven’t got any tickets at all for that event you moron, what are you even trying for?’

Well I’m trying because your website says you have availability in ALL price categories, so I sort of assumed you had availability in all price categories. No? Well perhaps you did last Friday but clearly you haven’t bothered to update it since. So I change my criteria and try again, in an attempt to unlock the perfect combination that might yield me a back row restricted view seat in the velodrome behind a bunch of Moldovans who probably got theirs for nothing because no one’s heard of the Olympics in Moldova.

Each time you have to manually empty your shopping basket because it won’t let you put a second set in there until you take out the ones they haven’t got. You’d think it would do this for you. More valuable seconds lost.

Eventually with Ticketmaster still showing full availability in all categories I give and go check the comments on the BBC website to try to find someone who’s more miserable than me. Only to come up against some smartarse saying how easy it all was. Crowing about how they bagged front rows seats and a night out with Jess Varnish, all in under 30 seconds and still had change from ten grand. We all love the London Olympics.

Plan FF is Thursday and a punt on either Triathlon or Modern Pentathlon tickets. Don’t hold your breath.

I wonder if that Nottingham lad who was trying to give away the £1,000 romantic holiday for two to Malta after his girlfriend dumped him thought about swapping it for Olympic tickets. Perhaps he’s already got Olympic tickets. Perhaps when they split she got the Olympic tickets and he got Malta. No wonder he doesn’t fancy going any more.

The afternoon’s entertainment is Daughter dashing (well sort of) around Sheffield, trying to find a Co-Op bank, trying to extract enough money from them to pay her rent and then taking it to her landlords office by 5pm, having not started until about 2.30. All the time I’m assisting her by text. It reminds me mightily of Treasure Hunt with Anneka Rice back in 80’s for some reason, only without the helicopter.

I was beginning to wonder if she’d get there before 5pm but she did, with time to spare in the end. So at least that challenge went to plan.

No dog class, I take the boys on the park instead.

(Monday 14th May)

Sunday 13 May 2012

And Then There Were Two

And then there were two, only two teams left who can still win it.

I’m taking about our Fantasy Football league of course. I actually topped the league when our regular season finished a fortnight ago and the top four went into play offs. Now I’ve won my semi-final and I’m one step away from winning the double. No problem.

I'll have to keep my eye on the scores because I’m at a dog show today over in Birmingham. Where I arrive late and don’t get chance to walk two of MD’s three courses. Doggo has to watch today because there’s nothing here for veterans.

Bizarrely by 10:45 we’re all done and dusted. All three runs done and all pretty much rubbish. I suppose I might eat my lunch before I leave for home. I text L to tell her, who says she’s still in bed. Slacker. I’m jealous.

In the end, I stay a bit longer. My father has come with me and he's enjoying the day out even if it’s not gone terribly well for us. He’s also videoed everything, unfortunately. Why does he not come when we do well?

Actually, once I view them, perhaps we didn’t do too badly after all. Just not well enough. Next week’s another week.

Our first run was alright. A bit of hesitation on the tunnel but then we had a pole down as I attempted to get MD to do a tight turn despite not being in the right position. The second run would have been alright as well, if my dog didn’t have some sort of tunnel phobia and there were five of them on this course. In fact neither of the two dogs have ever been keen on tunnels, so it must be me. Most people’s dogs are tunnel mad and they can’t kept them out of the things, which presents its own set of problems. The good bits on those courses were actually rather good indeed.

Yes, the third run wasn’t great. For a start MD started before I was ready, then in a attempt to redeem himself he ducked under the tunnel, which just got us faults. So we had words. It didn’t get much better after that.

We depart, I drop my father off, then grab a lump of beef on the way home, so that L and I can have a late Sunday roast.

As for that double? It's mine. We uncork, sorry I mean unscrew, the Blue Nun in celebration. We're in a bit of a retro-wine phase. It'll pass.

(Sunday 13th May)

Saturday 12 May 2012

A Small Park Session

L and Daughter have had a day of Dirty Dancing booked forever. I think it may have been 2010 when they booked it, they certainly thought it was for May 2011 and were quite surprised when they found out the tickets were actually for 2012. I can’t believe that these things can be booked so far in advance. If that was around here the theatre would have shutdown in the intervening period.

The theatre they’re going to is actually in Milton Keynes, now that’s dedication to the DD cause for you but it’s also convenient for L’s sister, who they’re meeting there.

So it’s an early-ish alarm call this morning, which naturally mortifies Daughter. Actually it's... err 9am. Horrific no? Daughter has stayed down here all week after dog sitting especially for this but the problem now is how to extract her from her bed after her night out last night. I suppose she can always sleep in the car or through the show if it’s not any good.

I laze in bed a bit longer, walk the boys, train MD, write the dog club’s next newsletter and have a generally chilled time. Although not as chilled as some other because I’m the only one awake here. Both dogs are collapsed in a heap in the hall. MD has totally missed his bed. All this after a small park session.

When they return later, Daughter heads straight back to Student Utopia (Sheffield), while L and I head into boring old Nottingham. We eat and drink in the Hand & Heart and then have a few more in the Ropewalk.

(Saturday 12th May)

Friday 11 May 2012

Taking The Plunge

It’s the Notts 10 race this evening, otherwise known as a forgettable number of loops around Holme Pierrepont rowing strip. It always feels like about five laps but is really only two. L has already entered and now having survived Helsinki I decide to take the plunge as well.

The Notts 10 has traditionally been ran on a Friday evening but last year it moved to a Sunday because of the lack of evening light and increasingly rigorous Health & Safety regulations. E.g. they were worried that someone would still be out there come dusk and would take the plunge more literally, into the rowing strip.

So I’m not sure why it’s back on a Friday this year but I’m glad it is. We had planned to bus/run/walk there and then pub crawl our way back home but those Health & Safety regulations seem to have bit back because they have now moved the start time from 7:30 to 6:55. Now I can’t really see how I can get there early enough to register without driving, so the car it is.

This is a sort of a bonus for the boys who now get to come with us, if only to loiter in the car park. We park at the back of the car park so as not to have the boys disturbed. It’s nicely away from the course and away from most other people, so that they won’t be tempted to bark/howl etc.

This is not a popular decision with one of only two other cars at the back of the car park. The guy in the passenger seat scowls at me, as does the girl who is sat on his lap. Sorry guys, don’t stop on our account. The boys will avert their gaze.

In his email the organiser promised us light nights, good weather and that the T shirts will not be orange like last year. Personally I quite liked last year’s T-shirt but they’ve moved the start to guarantee the light and the weather is good, if a little windy.

L meanwhile has promised me plenty of Finnish style blonde ponytails but without the multiple layers of clothing they sported in Helsinki. She’s right, everybody is wearing less than your average Fin, and it looks like there may even be the odd off-the-shoulder running vest. If only I can keep up with them.

I can’t. They all leave me for dead at the start as I stick to a steady but sensible pace.

The run goes ok actually and I gradually get in to it. I manage to run in a nice sized group for the first six miles but they all gradually drop off the pace. So I must have been doing alright. Then half way around the lake, on the second lap, I make my apologies to the only chap still with me as I up my pace a little. He grumbles something which could have been an obscenity, an apology or just pain, perhaps all three.

The problem then is that I end up on my own, all lonely, as I can’t seem to catch up anyone ahead. Then at 7.5 miles I’m caught by a panting blonde, which is always nice. That is until they dump you, which is exactly what I expect this one to do and sail off into the distance. She doesn’t though. In fact she seems thankful that she’d caught me. She should have said, if I’d know I’d have stopped and waited for her.

Her presence spurs me and is particularly welcome, as she arrived just as I was beginning to flag. We catch people up and scythe through the field together, sort of. The only downside is she wants to chat. I can’t do that. I can’t talk and run. So she talks, I nod. Then at 9.5 miles, she dumps me and sails off into the distance. I feel so used.

Still I need to thank her, my time of 1:14 is only a minute off last year, so that’s very pleasing considering my injury problems. L is quick as well and runs 1:37, a PB.

We head back to the car and the boys. The first car has now gone but has been replaced by another, it’s two occupants locked together at the mouth. It’s disappointing when they opt to move their car across to the other side of the car park, clearly worried we’re going to upstage them.

We head home instead, where we order a takeout curry, which comes all the way from Beeston because our local is offering a 90 minute wait for delivery. It’s good but not as good as our usual.

(Friday 11th May)

Thursday 10 May 2012

Pastures New

An interesting T-shirt.

Can I sue?

With The Globe closed we head to exciting pastures new for our post squash match drink. Well, we cross the road to the Trent Navigation on Meadow Lane. Which is also the home of the Navigation Brewery, so we won’t need to go far to complain if the beer’s not up to scratch. They have a rather nice stout, so I’m happy. Even opponent has a beer, so it must be good. No complaints. The food looks decent here too.

(Thursday 10th May)

Wednesday 9 May 2012

These Things Happen

As it was so warm yesterday and it’s much the same today, I get the cycling shorts out of the wardrobe for the first time this year. Big mistake. My humble apologies to everybody who got caught up in the downpour that started around 2.30pm and continued until way past the time I got home after a very soggy ride home from work.

Inexplicably L changes her mind about going to the gym straight from work and opts to come home for a run instead. In this rain? Really?

We go off to dog class. Only MD is training but Doggo comes along for the ride as usual, although I can’t see him even wanting a sniff around the car park in this weather. He proves me wrong and takes an age about it.

For once (and I hope this is treatable) I’ve taken a (slight) interest in Britain’s Got Talent. Only via YouTube mind. This is purely because of the girl with the dancing dog, who is also someone who we see around the agility circuit. It has to be said they’re very good and they look to have the whole thing in the bag, unless the dog lets her down in the final. These things happen, don’t they MD?

(Wednesday 9th May)

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Now There's A Challenge

One of the longest celebrations in history ends today as L’s birthday finally arrives. The big question on everybody’s lips is whether can Son muster a card for this big occasion, preferably one with his own fair handwriting on it (e.g. not computer generated), all the way from Leamington Spa, on time and complete with the correct postage. Now there's a challenge. Which he actually delivers on, with only a slight (-ly heavy) prod from me.

L resists the temptation to walk to work backwards, despite being told that doing so burns more calories. ‘Retro walking’ as it’s known, is supposed to require extra concentration and coordination, which I don’t doubt but the fact that this burns many more calories... I do doubt.

I cycle to work, forwards. I thought that was the best way and possibly the safest. It didn't even rain on me. In fact the morning is quite warm and I feel as overdressed as a runner from Helsinki.

L’s birthday, being a significant one, makes her a bit morose and she ponders whether the reason she got a lane to herself at the pool was because it was the over 50s one... but it doesn’t stop her picking up a leaflet to see what other age related delights she’s entitled to.

For instance she could take up Chairobics if she so wished. Chairobics... Whatever next. I’m so jealous, all these perks she’s being offered. Although she'd probably get a better workout knitting.

They do have bowls on offer and I’ve always fancied taking up bowls, once I’m too decrepit to pick up a squash racquet. Not that bowls is an easy option. If my squash opponent and I took it up, it could turn nasty. I’d be coming home with larger ball imprints on my back than I do now at squash.

One problem is that all of these activities are on offer only during the daytime, so not only do you need to be over 50 but you need to be retired as well and only council employees can afford to retire that early.

Back home I trim MD’s tail and the odd patch of grass with the lawnmower. L has the delights of her book club on her birthday.

(Tuesday 8th May)

Monday 7 May 2012

Under Fire

It’s a Bank Holiday today and chance to get our breath back after Helsinki.

I take the boys on Wollaton Park where some May Day fair is taking place. This includes some sort of battle re-enactment complete with cannons, which issue forth some rather loud explosions. Blanks I hope but all the same Doggo is not well pleased. A warning sign on the gates along the lines of ‘beware loud explosions might cause your dog to bolt at short notice’ might have been in order. MD however, doesn’t seem to notice anything unusual and gets rather annoyed about the break in our ball games as I attempt to cover Doggo’s eyes and ears, whilst shuffling him gently towards the exit gate.

In the evening we go out to celebrate L’s birthday which is tomorrow. We head into town without a precise plan. We have a pleasant drink in the Ropewalk and then another in the Major Oak. Daughter says she’ll come down and join us when we’ve stopped doing normal things, by which I think she means drinking in bars, as opposed to park benches or somebody’s bedsit. Clearly we are well out of touch.

We are certainly well out of touch about which is the best Thai restaurant in Nottingham. We had decided to go for a romantic meal for three at the Pretty Orchid which always was the best Thai restaurant in Nottingham and has been over the years one of my favourite places to attempt to impress and/or woo many a gullible young lady into a shallow relationship with me (pre-L of course), usually without success.

Seemingly it’s not the best Thai restaurant in Nottingham any more. It’s shutdown and boarded up. Damn and how sad.

Instead we stick with the Thai theme and go to the terribly named ‘Thailand No 1’. The place used to be called ‘Siam Thani’ but its new names makes you think it’s going to be to Thai food what Nandos is to chicken but actually it’s really nice. The food is great and they have the posh-est looking menu and napkins, I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t too pricey either, despite having the Sheffield branch with us.

A taxi back bumps up the cost but by now it’s chucking it down with rain and the buses are running to a Sunday timetable plus obviously we have an eighteen year old with us, and they need a lie down every 100m, so walking isn’t an option either.

(Monday 7th May)

Sunday 6 May 2012

A Quick Head And Paw Count

It’s our final day today in Helsinki and we start the day off with another huge breakfast.

Then we brave the confusing tram system to take a trip down to the main harbour.

It was even more confusing getting back because we couldn’t find the same numbered tram that we came on, going in either direction. Until we discovered that the tram changes its number midway through its journey, so the tram we arrived on was not the one we left on. If you see what I mean.

Then it’s time to head back up to the airport and return to the UK.

We arrive home to find that the dog sitter has managed to stay sane through her ordeal and, after performing a quick head and paw count, discover that we still have two dogs and yes, Doggo hasn’t chewed off one of his legs yet.

So all’s good.

(Sunday 6th May)

Saturday 5 May 2012

Overdress In Finland Unless Your Name Is Paavo

First up today, a hugely impressive breakfast at the hotel and I mean hugely. It was huge. We stocked up on it in such style (both days) that we didn’t eat out in a restaurant all weekend, snacking on bar snacks instead in whatever bar we landed in. A nice restaurant would have been nice but pre and post-race hydration was more important here.

Breakfast was served until a remarkably languid 11am but we were out long before then. After yesterday’s public transport debacle (all of our own making), we were expecting another one of similar proportions. So we took no chances, took the Metro to the railway station and then walked the mile up the main street to the Olympic Stadium. Which proved a good way to see the sights. Consequently we were there with hours to spare.

A whole host of sports venues were built in Helsinki for the 1940 Olympic Games, which never happened. Something to do with a World War. Instead Helsinki got to host the games in 1952. As far as I can tell all these venues have been preserved and are still in use today. Work has had to be done on them but care seems to have been taken to keep the original look of the buildings rather than to completely modernise them. In the UK of course we'd have simply demolished them before spending years looking at a derelict site amid political wrangling and escalating costs before we finally built something ‘modern’.

We kill several hours at the race expo, the coffee shop and with a walk around the area, taking in the national football stadium and the Olympic swimming pool which are all part of the same complex. Outside the complex are statutes of Finnish athletes Paavo Nurmi and Lasse Viren.

Poor Paavo, like most male statues in Helsinki, he is naked. All the female statutes we see are clothed, which is a bit of a departure from the norm. Lasse kept his kit on though, whether this means he’s less or more revered than Paavo I’m not sure.

The race itself starts at 3pm and I’m in the first ‘white’ group, entered when I had two good legs to run on, whilst L is in the third ‘yellow’ group which starts at 3.20. There are six starts in all, all at ten minutes intervals.

The first thing to say is the locals like to seriously overdress for their running. They are all wearing so many layers. Ok, the day started overcast but it's not particularly cool and now the sun is starting to breakthrough, so it could really warm up later. I’d hate to think what they wear if they go out running in February when the temperature rarely gets above -5. Today the temperature is best described as ‘typically British’.

In the face of all this layering up, L wavers and puts on long sleeves. Probably thinking they know something we don't but I'm sure she’ll regret it later.

The race route takes us around two lakes close to the city centre before heading north, taking in another lake and some parkland. It's run almost totally on cinder paths, which doesn’t suit me and I long for a stretch of tarmac but I don’t get it. The route is also more undulating that you would expect.

As I predicted it's also now quite warm, not that the Fins seem to notice. A few strip off a layer or so but not many, most just sweat it out. Seriously sweat it out. Perhaps it’s some mass communal weight loss strategy.

Local Scandinavian genes kindly produce blondes aplenty, of both sexes, and an abundance of Finnish pony tails, again of both sexes. It's all a bit wasted though without the off-the-shoulder running vests we get in the UK. Buried under all the fleeces, jackets, hats and gloves the effect is lost. I'll just have wile away my time looking at the cultural aspects of Helsinki instead.

The drinks stops are good with water and Gatorade. Although always in cups, which means I have to stop each time or else I’d have ended up wearing all of it.

The locals are out in reasonable force to watch but I wouldn’t call it ‘support’. They simply stand and stare, either fascinated or appalled, I can’t quite decide which. Very few deign to clap or cheer as people would back home, even in Nottingham, and I assume those that do here must be fellow foreigners.

I complete the course in a respectable time of 1:45. I'm pleased with that, beating the 1:48 from my last race at Worcester was my aim. I managed a steady five minute km pace all the way around, which is something to now build on.

With L starting twenty minutes behind me I have plenty of time now to go fetch the dogs out of the car... ah, knew we’d forgot something. Instead there's plenty of freebies to pick up, which will do for lunch. Then I look around for a post-race massage, surely the University of Helsinki’s physio department have their best young talent doing the honours? Or at least a posse of big blond Nordic men who will attempt to snap your leg off. I don't see any, well not until later by which time my legs have already set.

L comes in wearing just her running vest with her long sleeve top knotted around her waist, having had to strip behind a portaloo midrace. What did I say...

Back at the hotel I present L with a special t-shirt I had made to mark the occasion of her completely her 500 mile challenge.

Pub choice tonight depended on the state of my calves. If the news is bad then it’s a few drinks in the Ice Bar (a tourist bar completely made of ice would you believe), where at least I would have the perfect excuse for sitting with my calves on blocks of ice they call tables whilst L arranges to MediVac me home.

As the calves are good, we head to Kaisla instead, This is another beer house that boasts even more beers that Bruuveri did last night. It’s a massive bar with a huge range but one that provides even less information as regards beer styles and strength. So after a few ‘wrong’ choices but some decent bar snacks, we head back to Bruuveri.

It’s whilst we’re at Bruuveri that we get talking to one of the locals who tells us how reserved all the Finnish people are, apart from him that is and introduces us to the local Finnish firewater at only 6 euros a shot...

When we stagger out later, it is to find that the Metro has shut on us, so we get a taxi back to the hotel. The walk back, although only half a mile or so, could well have been extended by several miles in the wrong direction, if our past navigation failures are anything to go by.

(Saturday 5th May)

Friday 4 May 2012

Navigating Helsinki

We have an 8.30 flight from Manchester this morning. As it’s a work day and traffic might be bad, we leave early and get there in plenty of time for a hearty (if pricey) breakfast at somewhere called Giraffe. We leave the boy’s breakfasts in the hands of the dog sitter.

Everything at Manchester airport goes swimmingly, no sign of any Heathrow sized queues here and I even booked the multi story next to the terminal, so we can just walk in. For some odd reason it was £10 cheaper than the car park we had last time, from where we had to get a bus. Clearly booking car parks at airports is now as much of a lottery as actually booking the flights already is.

We consider doing hand luggage only but with the prospect of having security taking our toothpaste outside for a controlled explosion, we decide to go with hold baggage instead.

L has a new suitcase, on wheels. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as practically every pavement in Helsinki was cobbled. It must have been almost like cycling Paris - Roubaix.

Cobbles were actually the least of our problems. All the signs in Helsinki were in two languages - Finnish (obviously) and Swedish. Neither of any use to us. Our map of Helsingfors (to speak a bit of Swedish) seemed to be in a mix of the two, neither of which appeared to be what they put on the front of the trams.

Once we work out that the tram and the Metro are not the same thing, it gets a lot easier. Our hotel is by a Metro stop, as is the central railway station where the airport bus dropped us. Unfortunately it takes us about an hour to work this out but eventually we get to our hotel, a Holiday Inn. Which is just like every other Holiday Inn I’ve stayed in, which is to say it was perfectly fine and comfy.

Helsinki itself is less modern than I expected and very eastern European in its look. This is less surprising when you look at its history and discover that for just over a hundred years up to 1917 it was an autonomous part of the USSR and the majority of the buildings put up in that period were modelled on St. Petersburg. Apparently these neoclassical buildings were often used in Cold War era films depicting the Soviet Union because actually filming there wasn’t allowed. Before that it was a part of Sweden for eight centuries, explaining the Swedish signs I guess.

Once we get the hang of it, we discover the travel system is great. It encompasses trams, the Metro, a few ferries and the buses including the one that brought us the 18km from the airport. Everything is covered by an all day travel pass, of which we buy a three day one, not realising that three days in Helsinki is a precise 72 hour period and not as it would be in the UK, three calendar days. So we buy a day too many but never mind.

Actually, I lied, we never do actually get the hang of the travel system, and it constantly throws up something to surprise us.

We do find a very nice bar though, just one stop up the Metro from out hotel. Bruuveri is a Finnish beer house that sells around 15 beers on draught. Regrettably not hand pulled but at least we can avoid fizzy Euro Lager. Some of these beers are from their own brewery but it’s not easy to tell which ones these are. So I try as many as possible but get rather fond of the 7.5% Baltic Porter, which sounds like a local beer to me. Probably fonder than is good for me with a race tomorrow, although with the race start not until 3pm, we have a little hangover leeway if required.

The atmosphere in Bruuveri is quite lively too, due to two large screens showing the World Ice Hockey Championships which are going on simultaneously in Helsinki and Stockholm. Finland are the defending champions. The roar in the pub signifies they have won their first match. Cheers.

(Friday 4th May)

Thursday 3 May 2012

Fair’s Fair

There’s a train strike today, on the day Daughter heads down from Sheffield to dog sit for the weekend but she’s such an expert on the trains now, I’m sure she’ll take it in her stride.

I type up some 'guidelines' to guide her through her weekend task. To feed and water them obviously, with a Bonio for dessert which MD will demand loudly if she forgets. Then there’s the exercise regime, kicking footballs in the garden and throwing squeaky toys is expected. I stress that there's to be no bottling out by stuffing their toys behind the curtains, in cupboards or under the settee etc, when they’re being incessantly annoying.

She'll also be required to shout at Doggo every time he scratches and to make sure something is in front of the door to the spare room, which doesn't shut properly or else he'll get himself locked in there and will try to dig himself out. it's a simple job really.

Meanwhile Nottingham votes whether to have a mayor. I’ve voted yes because the city council want us all to vote no. It’s the least I could do, they always do the opposite when I want them to do something. Fair’s fair.

I spend my lunchtime hydrating in the pub. I’m ready for anything now except squash.

After squash, it’s last orders in our usual post-match watering hole. The Globe closes on Sunday. Apparently it’s all due to a rent increase from the owners, so the current landlord is bailing out. It’s possible someone else may take it on but for now we’ll need to find a new venue.

(Thursday 3rd May)

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Olympic Selection

I look very dapper this morning in my new Stella McCartney outfit.

Yes, all that hard work has finally paid off and I’ve been given my Olympic colours. Unfortunately not by the Team GB selection panel but by L, for my birthday. She’s a star.

It’s a pleasant ride in as well. For once, it’s not raining.

Talking of kits. PE kits weren't like this in my day.

Sadly. It’s not hard to see why according to the BBC, more boys than girls are taking part in PE if they dress the girls like that. I can imagine the lads are queuing round the block.

L's in charge of tonight's menu. Apparently it’ll be wine, trickled over a huge slab of cake, which will have chunks of Dairy Milk stuffed into it. Cool. I wonder if that’s with or without ice cream.

It sounds like she’s had a good day.

(Wednesday 2nd May)

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Expensive Junk Mail

Birthday wishes arrive from Son at 01.50 hours this morning. Had he managed it 110 minutes earlier he’d only have been three days late rather than four but I’m touched anyway. These well organised students are our future you know...

It’s as bad as the postal service. They put a card through the door saying that I owe them 36p plus a £1 admin charge because somebody else hasn’t put the correct postage on. Wouldn't it have been easier and more cost effective to have delivered the item instead?

As I do not know what the item is I could be paying £1.36 for a piece of junk mail, so they can keep it. I’m miffed though because every single week we redeliver several items on the Royal Mail's behalf that are put through our door when they should have gone to neighbouring streets, next door or even other properties on our street. We’ve never charged them for this service but I’m going to from now on. £1 admin charge per item should do it.

I bike to work, arriving slightly damp but I didn’t think it was too windy until I got off my bike at work and got practically blown off my feet. It must blown me here but then it’s always windy on Pride Park.

L texts to see if I’ve survived the roads and then when I don’t reply sends another one ten minutes later, fearing the worst, a puncture. Ten minutes wasn’t much of a window, it’s a good job that I can bang out a text quicker than a teenager.

I take in a swim on the way home, which is sort of pleasant, as is taking the boys on the park.

(Tuesday 1st May)