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

Saturday, 30 June 2012


Today the race they call the Barrathon.

A 13.1 mile tour of the island that takes you clockwise right around the main and only road. It starts and finishes from Castlebay School where they have the flags out, literally.

Castlebay so named because somebody has submerged a castle in the middle of the bay.

The day starts drizzly but fines up sometime around the start of the race, I’m so ‘focused’ aka terrified that I don’t actually notice the precise moment that this happens. Terrified perhaps because everyone is taking about the hill they call Heaval, which appears to be some Gaelic misspelling of the coming together of the words ‘hell’ and ‘evil’. We have been warned.

‘Just like Leek then?’ L quips ‘but with a few downhills by the sound of it’. She really didn’t like Leek.

To make matters worse I’m still trying to fight off a touch of cold that I’ve brought on holiday with me and I’m feeling well bunged up, which could make panting in exhaustion difficult.

True to expectations the race is very lumpy although it actually starts downhill but that’s just a ruse because we’re soon going uphill. Then down, then up, then down, then up, it’s like a tarmac rollercoaster and there’s no way to get off. They’re not big hills but the sheer lack of flat gradually wears you down.

At around 10.5 miles we start the climb up Heaval, a climb apparently described as a bit like pushing a wardrobe uphill. Unfortunately I have forgotten to empty my wardrobe before I started pushing it and my demons quickly come tumbling out of it, falling on top of me. I’m also hyperventilating; my touch of cold is getting touchier. So I walk up part of the Evil-hell but believe me it’s almost as quick as running up and I still overtake people. Finally after about a mile of climbing, the ‘hill’ tops out at around 340ft and then it’s downhill to the finish, Wa-hey, or so we thought.

There’s a final short sharp kick uphill just before the finish and on the top of this unwelcome distraction a morbid crowd has gathered simply to laugh at these mad people.

Finally it’s over. 1:45 isn’t good but in the circumstances, not too bad either. I retrieve the dogs from the car and we sit somewhere, I can’t stand, to wait for L.

Post race they serve us with an amazing buffet, which consists of everything you could possibly imagine except for the one thing I’m really gagging for right now. A humble cup of strong tea. Shouldn’t really complain, they have bottles of Hebridean at the bar. No draught obviously.

In the evening there’s a Ceilidh, that's a knees up I believe but my knees won’t do 'up' tonight and we ought to spend time with the dogs anyway so we skip it.

(Saturday 30th June)

Friday, 29 June 2012

A Business Opportunity

Friday morning dawns a shade of grey and wet as we pack up but then fines up once we’re done. Is the weather picking on us?

We again get the ferry over to Lochmaddy on North Uist only this time we drive down through all the connected islands:- Benbecula, South Uist and onto to Eriskay to catch the short half hour ferry onto Barra, for which we have the dogs up on deck, which perhaps wasn’t the best of ideas.

We camp at a place called Borve, our base for three nights, right next to the Isle of Barra beach hotel, the most westerly hotel and pub in Great Britain but with no beer.

The bar does have Hebridean Ales in bottles but nowhere do we find these beers on draught.

In fact it’s very hard to find anything on draught in the Hebrides. It’s not an area that seems to do the traditional pub. Perhaps this is a business opportunity.

We have imported a bottle of Scottish Single Malt back to Scotland just in case of such a situation.

(Friday 29th June)

Thursday, 28 June 2012

50 Shades Of Rain

It’s another long drive up to the Isle of Skye this morning. Twelve hours in the car, which calls for a pretty hefty audiobook.

L suggests ‘50 Shades of Grey’. Tut tut. Women and their porn, sorry I mean erotica, or do I mean romance? Let’s just hope we can keep the car on the road in our excitement.

One thing that might quell any such excitement is the 50 shades of rain that welcomes us to Skye as we attempt to put the tent up. It soon abates and we hit the Isle of Skye ales in the Bakur Bar again. I just hope this isn’t the sort of weather we’re going to get all week.

(Thursday 28th June)

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Preventative Measures

We’re off to Western Isles tomorrow so I hope the car passes its MOT today. Kind of essential really.

The car passes with flying colours yet still I am charged hundreds of pounds in ‘preventative measures’ to avert a major mechanical breakdown such as a new Cambelt because Vauxhall insist you change these things. One begins to wonder whether a major mechanical breakdown may be cheaper.

After stocking up on a few food items for the trip, I head off straight from work to Birmingham where the Editors have announced their only UK date of this year. Well that was until they announced another one, the day before. Already I feel a little bit cheated.

I really ought to be at home packing, as isn’t that what you’re supposed to do before a holiday. I’ve never been much into packing; some people can takes weeks over it. L has already announced her packing as complete. Three books, a few toiletries, a t-shirt with Nottingham on it and several woollies. No short skirt this time? I shall be following a similar strategy, although without the short skirt and also without the books. We travel light but I must remember to chuck in a bag of dog food and the tent.

It’s my first time at the HMV Institute in Birmingham. I like it. It’s a nice tight little venue which looks like an ornate old theatre but was actually built as a Methodist congregational chapel. Sort of appropriate for the locals who have come to worship Tom Smith and co.

First though, a couple of support bands and it’s good to see that the Editors have kept these local.

Swim Deep apparently make ‘sun kissed noise’, so their Facebook says. Well perhaps grunge kissed and as if to emphasise the point the singer is in his Nirvana t-shirt. Meanwhile the bass player appears to have pyjama bottoms on. Must be students.

They make a nice racquet though, although perhaps too much keyboard, at one point I thought they’d got Jean Michel Jarre there on the ivories. The overall effect is not unlike early Editors at times. So on safe ground then and oh he can spit wine upwards over himself. Yeah, must be students.

What can you tell from a band’s t-shirts? Well now we have support band number two and a Sonic Youth number adorns their bass player. This is Victories at Sea, who open with some frenetic drumming and a mostly instrumental number which is actually pretty epic. Then the bass player goes on the keyboards, then the drummer goes on keyboards and in his place we get a drum machine, then the drum machine goes on keyboards... only kidding. In between the musical chairs they make almost gothic soundscapes but their songs have a bit of everything, which means they sound like everybody and yet nobody.

Sadly they did slide a bit into the ordinary after a very promising start but certainly a band to watch out for. Not only that but they were handing out 200 free CDs at the end with unique Polaroids on each. Nice lads all round. Sadly such was the scrum for these that I didn't get one.

As tonight's gig was primarily marketed to the fan base I was sort of expecting something a bit different from the Editors but that’s not really what we get. True we get four new tracks but two of those ‘The Sting’ and ‘Two Hearted Spider’, part of the encore here, have been around for a year or more. The other two ‘Sugar’ and ‘Nothing’ bookend the set.

‘Sugar’ is a dramatic and an intimate way to start with Tom Smith at the piano delivering a brooding song that shows that whatever is new about the Editors it will still include a good dose of darkness. The piano continues with the unmistakable introduction to 'Racing Rats'.

This starts a bit of a crowd pleasing run through of the hits, which as part of the point of these gigs is to warm up for a couple of foreign festival dates is understandable but I expected a bit more tonight.

New guitarist syndrome I guess. The old chestnut of musical differences has seen off former lead guitarist, keyboardist, eye candy (so I’m told) and possible driving force Chris Urbanowicz. How important he was to them will, I guess, become clearer in time. One compliment paid to him tonight is that it takes not one but two people to replace him. Tonight the Editors are a five piece.

Perhaps I’m being a bit over critical about the set. We do get the not often played ‘Fall’ which is massive. Beautiful. ‘You Are Fading’ goes down a storm and a new version of ‘The Weight Of The World’ equally so, literally sending shivers down your spine. Otherwise it’s a set a bit short on surprises for saying it was a homecoming one off. Well, two off and the main set is exactly the same both nights.

There are also new versions of some songs, perhaps out of necessity. ‘All Sparks’ for one has been given a right spanking. In fact Tom introduces it as a ‘new song with an outrageous bass solo from Russell’. Hmmm, not sure what I think to that, so moving on quickly to the always outrageous ‘Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool’.

Performance wise you can’t fault them and they are clearly loving it, we get repeated thumbs up from the band, which is better than a thumbs down obviously but I do wish they’d shift Tom’s piano to the side and some of their other mountain of kit while they’re at it. There’s a drummer in there somewhere fighting to get out.

They leave us with nothing, the previously mentioned ‘Nothing’, the most immediately impressive of the new ones. Then as they leave the stage we discover that none of them can manage to flick a guitar pick as far as the front row. Lightweights. The bouncers have to scrape them up off the floor and hand them out.

The encore starts quietly as Tom returns alone for his Twilight moment and ‘No Sound But The Wind’. Then ‘In This Light...’ builds things up further before ‘Munich’ blows everyone away, only for the newbie ‘Two Hearted Spider’ to make things feel perhaps a bit overblown.

But then as the closing and reworked ‘Papillon’ demonstrates, the Editors are still very good, still have their great energy but yet they’re now sort of different. Time will tell if this is progress.

(Wednesday 27th June)

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Homeless From Saturday

Today's bike to work was very good but very unfamiliar without the rain.

L has tasked herself with fixing the guttering at home, supposedly man’s work I guess but she’s a game lass. Now there’s a gap in the deluge she has chance but first she has to clean out the three inches of mud in there. How can mud climb up on to the roof and into the guttering... one of life’s mysteries.

Then it starts raining.

L has entered the Holme Pierrepont 10k tonight, which is the first part of the Grand Prix series that we usually do but we’re away for the other three races.

Now she no longer sounds as keen as when she entered. Just a training run, I tell her, as I watch from the sidelines having wimped out myself.

Then, in what is an exceptionally busy week, we hotfoot it over to Leamington to collects Son’s stuff. He’s homeless from Saturday. At least we’ll have a dog sitter for the Olympics.

(Tuesday 26th June)

Monday, 25 June 2012

A Large Whip

Two things ache this morning. My head after one too many beers last night while watching the football and my legs after two trips over the Humber Bridge. The former soon abates, the later stays with me all day.

In the evening L is in Derby presenting her Dad with a giant walnut whip for Father's Day.

While I’m in the same sort of area for dog training. As I arrive ten minutes late, the only two people to turn up are leaving, thinking it was cancelled. I persuade them to stay but with only three of us, it's an intense but exhausting session for all, including Doggo who gets a few runs during the ever increasing breaks MD has to take to get his breath back.

(Monday 25th June)

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Crossing The Humber

Today we head up to the Hull area for an intriguing half marathon, well at least I thought so, but not one for the bridge-phobics because the Humber Bridge Half Marathon crosses the bridge twice.

L is not usually one for bridges, so she might have to shut her eyes, but then that could have nasty side effects. Although I think they have barriers... I hope they have barriers and hopefully no crosswinds.

Last year they had a few problems with the weather, it was extremely hot and a poor chap died as a result. This has meant an earlier 9am start this year to avoid the heat of the day but heat shouldn’t be a problem this time, as we have rain on tap.

Car parking is good, if a little muddy and right across from the start. Although toilet facilities seem limited, there are plenty of bushes.

The start is rather dramatic. First we have a period of silence for the unfortunate chap from last year, this quickly turns into applause and then while this is going on the gun and klaxon signal the race start.

First a two mile loop around the local area of Hessle, which strings the field out a little before the first crossing of the bridge, for which they have closed a lane to traffic. Although it’s still a bit narrow and it’s a choice between tripping over feet or the cones at the edge of the course.

It’s a long bridge, almost 1.4 miles in length, so you get plenty of time to ‘enjoy’ the experience. Waiting at the other end is an inordinately long slip road, about a mile long, that seems to edge uphill forever. Once that is out of the way the course takes a largely flat route around the area of Barton Upon Humber.

The early rain had eased to drizzle by start time and then soon after stopped completely, creating near perfect race conditions. I was having a good run and by nine miles I was two minutes up on my Benbecula time meaning going under 1:40 was a real possibility.

That was when they threw a nasty little hill at us and then when that was out of the way we ran into a headwind on the return bridge crossing, using the footpath rather than the main carriageway this time. All of which mean I came in at just over 1:41.

Water was mostly in cups, which meant I ended up wearing more than I drank, although there was one bottle stop and they had a sponge stop too. I love a good sponge. I carried it all the way to the finish and then brought is home as a souvenir.

In the evening it’s the England v Italy match, which we watch on the big screen in the Ropewalk. Even L, although admittedly I didn’t give her much choice. She probably wished she’d brought her knitting.

This was after we'd had a Sunday Roast in the Borlase, which empties soon afterwards and is closed by 10pm, as everyone else finds somewhere showing the match.

Well I was impressed. Finally we have a manager who can see we’re not as good as these foreigners at this tippy-tappy stuff, otherwise known as passing to players in the same colour shirt, and we never will be. What we can do well though is bloody minded defending and you won’t see a better example of it all tournament. Oddly the TV only concerns itself with stats such as possession and shots on target, totally ignoring the art of defending.

Now if only we’d have had a goal poacher in the mould of a Shearer or a Lineker, we’d have nicked that game.

(Sunday 24th June)

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Pretty Pretty

It's the almost excitingly named 'Dogs Unleashed' at Bakewell today. Including all manner of doggy sports:- Terrier racing, Flyball, Gundog scurry and of course agility.

Sadly most of the showground is underwater. So I can’t really see the general public turning up but turn up they do, in wellies. Although it's not actually that muddy, bizarrely enough, just submerged.

Also unbeknown to me, the start has also been put back an hour until 9.30. So I could have had an extra hour in bed, had I read my show info.

I have decide that the problem with MD, well one of them, is that I have been pushing him too hard to get this illusive win to take us up to Grade 4. Instead of winning we're simply collecting faults. So today I take it steady on our first run.

The result. A clear round and second place. Yay, so not a bad start.

Meanwhile L’s credit card is up in Sheffield helping Daughter celebrate her birthday, which is on Monday. L goes along to keep it company.

MD has a good second run but we went really wide on one turn. So I pushed hard to make up time but MD had a better ploy, missing out a jump, which didn’t go down well with the judge. 5 faults. Yet the time would have been fast enough for third, even with going back to get the missed jump. So shouldn’t have pushed.

In Sheffield L is buying porn erotica for Daughter. Not that book? Yes that book. The 50 Shades thing. Never one to miss out on such hype/controversy/porn erotica, we shall cast our ear over the audio version on the way to Scotland next week. Should make the journey wizz by.

MD's last run is tricky than it first looked and MD misses his weave entry, as do many other dogs and then I forget the twiddly bit in the middle, so we pick up an elimination.

Then Doggo gets 6th in the Veterans to round things off.

We pick L up from the train station. Then stay in to prepare for tomorrows half marathon. Spain v France is on the TV. Spain are pretty pretty but pretty pretty dull. They won’t let France have the ball but don’t create more than about three chances themselves all game. Very selfish of them. I think their chances of retaining this trophy are overrated but what do I know.

(Saturday 23rd June)

Friday, 22 June 2012


I predict that the moment I am half a kilometre down the road on my bike, the rain will start. Correct.

Seems it’s wet in Cumbria too, the Great North Swim at Windermere is postponed due to too much water and high winds. That event is jinxed.

A night in with L and the football. Where Germany v Greece turns out to be one of the most exciting games of the tournament so far.

(Friday 22nd June)

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Deer Psychology

We have the plumber in this morning, fitting new bath taps and new trim. He's also on hand to offer his views to L on deer psychology... the ones on Wollaton Park are all psychos, but we already knew that. MD knows that and has been trying to out-psycho them for the last few years.

All of which has made one difficult decision easy, we're having venison for Christmas lunch this year. We know the one we want, his card is marked. MD and I will sort it, in the dead of night.

I’m not sure tennis is going to happen but my opponent is convinced that the rain will cease at 6pm. I'm not so sure...

BBC forecast says

"The more persistent rain will clear north by this afternoon, a few brighter intervals possible but with further heavy, slow-moving, thundery downpours likely.

Further rain across the region this evening and overnight, perhaps heavy and thundery at times.

There are no squash courts free, so we don't have that as a backup option. If it is on, I can see I’m going to be busy with the court squeegee.

They look at us oddly, again, when we book in but we do actually get a full match in with only a brief shower. We even get a few extra games in as we wait for L to finish her ‘pump’.

Then it’s a pint in a rather crowded White Hart where the pool match seems to have pulled a bigger crowd than Cristiano Ronaldo's one man show against the Czech Republic.

(Thursday 21st June)

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A Pleasant Dry Evening

Daughter continues her walking adventure with the Ramblers today or the Grannies as we call them, she is the youngest by 30+ years. Age wise that is.

I hope they are gentle with her. Old people are very fast walkers.

Random updates are pinged our way by text. She’s actually up at Bolsterstone again. Funny how things work out.

She seems to enjoy it and finds out all about the war. They’ve even asked her back. Kilimanjaro next.

I head into Derby after work to meet up with my old school colleague. There’s usually three of us but the other chap’s at the cricket. He had expected to be with us, as naturally we all assumed the cricket would be rained off but oddly, it’s a pleasant dry evening.

(Wednesday 20th June)

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Give It A Miss

Running home from work clearly worked so well for England on Friday, that I do it again today, only in the dry.

This time I get home precisely an hour earlier than on Friday. I didn’t run any faster, it’s just that buses turned up when they were supposed to and didn’t get diverted by fallen trees.

England squeeze through by playing an English sort of game. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that we have an English manager getting the team to play in an English sort of way, rather than a foreign manager trying to get us to be Spain. Not rocket science.

I feel we should be eating something Ukrainian as we watch this but I’ve no idea what they eat in the Ukraine. Apart from Chicken Kiev I suppose... which apparently was Marks and Spencer's first every ready meal back in 1976...

A quick google reveals a typical Ukrainian diet consists of a lot of bread, dumplings and cabbage. Think we’ll give it a miss.

(Tuesday 19th June)

Monday, 18 June 2012

Not A Jolly

I travel down to Maidstone for work today. L describes this as a ‘jolly’. It was originally touted as being an overnighter but in the end, it turns out to be a day trip e.g. three hours plus to drive down, three hour meeting, three hours back. So not very jolly at all, and we’re there to talk sewage. Even less jolly. Plus I’ll probably miss dog class.

In fact the journey down is more horrific than we thought, involving a bail out from the static M1 to the static A14. Then to top it all, when we get there, they serve us KFC for lunch.

Apparently the country as whole eats too much of the likes of KFC, whereas you would have thought the most effective way of keeping people out of KFC would be to give them one to eat, as it was truly disgusting but clearly, for reasons I don't understand, this doesn't appear to a deterrent.

The trip back is a lot quicker and I’m back in time to make dog class, just about but L suggests I bunk off and is very persuasive. I didn’t fancy another hour or so on the roads anyway.

Of course there’s also football to watch. The tournament has been good so far but the main thing that has spoilt it for me is the lack of national kits. The whole of Spain turned up tonight in their traditional red, whilst the team themselves ran out in pale blue for no apparent reason.

I don’t think I’ve yet to a game where both teams have been both wearing the right kit.

England are one of the worst for this. They’ve not only left their blue shorts at home, forcing them to play in all white but also their entire red/white second kit. Sack the kit man.

(Monday 18th June)

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Child Related Shocks

There are only so many child related shocks one can take in a year. One of them is talking of opening a savings account... while the other has taken up walking. Perhaps the enforced hard labour that we subjected them to as children has paid off after all and one day we’ll be embarrassing them as we bump into them at a Lakeland watering hole after a day out on the fells...

Today Daughter invites us up to walk with her. She has planned a hike from Bolsterstone on to the edge of the Peak District nor far from Sheffield. We assume that our attendance isn’t required too early, what with student sleep patterns, so we have a leisurely morning at home before heading up after lunch.

The dogs are confused because I commit the cardinal sin of feeding them before they’ve been out. This immediately makes Doggo suspicious; whereas I’m sure MD thinks it’s simply a bonus meal.

They willingly leap into the car as we head up to Bolsterstone via Daughter’s Sheffield lodgings and a trip to a walking shop to get her some boots. This just gets weirder and weirder.

The walk is an 11km circular affair to Midhopestones and back. Although we don’t actually get to Midhopestones because a group of cows form a road block and make us take a short cut. This should have made the route shorter but L’s Garmin records nearly 12km, so somebody’s measurements somewhere are clearly amiss.

The dogs enjoy themselves, particularly MD who decides to chase a bird that low flies above him, whilst chatting to him in a mocking tone. He takes the bait and, with the red mist fully descended, chases it around several fields before thankfully giving up when a wall and a stream block his path.

I manage to grab him, now mud splattered and soaking wet, just as the bird comes back for another go at him.

Walk finished we leave the boys to dry off in the car and take sustenance at the Castle Inn.

Food wise both my menu choices - starter and main course are off. So it continues... this vendetta.

(Sunday 17th June)

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Bad Call

A bit of trek today up to Arley Hall, Northwich for this weekend’s dog show entertainment. It’s very muddy underfoot but at least it’s not raining. Getting on the paddy field that doubles as the car park was a bit of an event, as I’m sure getting off it again will be.

Meanwhile L stays local and does one of the many Wollaton Park 10k’s, in one hour and two tenths of a second. Oh dear, how frustrating. She’s not happy.

We’re not happy either. In his first run MD has pole 16 of 19 down. He also broke his ‘wait’ but somehow we got away with that and made it around to the fourth last. So not bad really but not good enough.

His second run however, a qualifier, was just embarrassing. He should apologise to Doggo as that was the main reason we chose this dog show, where there is no Veterans class for Doggo as opposed to another show elsewhere where there would have been. Our third run is less embarrassing but still not worth mentioning. Time to take our training back to the basics I think.

We’re all done before lunch. So we head home whilst there’s still some grass on the car park.

We drop in on my folks, as its Father’s Day tomorrow and also to get my Dad to wear the boys out, so that L and I can go out on the town tonight while they sleep.

We go to the Ropewalk for tea, where my meal choice is off and so too by association is L’s, as she picks the same as me. Bad call. They twice try to serve me the wrong beer and on the second occasion succeed, so it’s a rare bad night in there. We move across the road to the Borlase and the Everard’s Original.

We’re well settled until the barman tells us the gas has gone. On a handpull? Really? I think he just wanted to go home early. So back across the road to the Hand & Heart for one for the road.

(Saturday 16th June)

Friday, 15 June 2012

Meteorological Russian Roulette

Today L works from home, shutting herself away from the phones, with the intention of cracking on with her work and of course kicking footballs...

Actually she has a plan to avoid this by taking the boys on a really long walk first. I hope she knows what she’s doing because you change their morning routine at your peril. Any variation in route is invariably met with a quiet rebellion from Doggo. A sit down protest and 'that look' he does when you veer from the usual. While MD always has his eye on the clock, counting down the seconds to breakfast time, which he thinks is always overdue. He’s a bit of a diva when he’s hungry. That new Snickers advert is so him.

L contemplates feeding them first but then MD would just want his breakfast, again, when they got back. Can of worms.

At the moment tonight’s run isn’t looking too much fun. We’ve had some pretty torrential rain today between the sun showers. It’s sun one moment, heavy rain the next, then back to sun. It’s meteorological Russian roulette.

At 5pm, we appear to be between thunderstorms, so there’s no excuse really for not going for it. The dry spell lasts for about 45 minutes and then the rain gets progressively harder. Still I manage my target of eight miles and then shelter in the bus stop when the worst of the thunder and lightning arrives.

It’s debatable whether any bus will have me but there isn’t any arriving anyway. I wait 30 minutes for the ‘every 10 minutes’ bus by which time my calves are getting well cramped with all the hanging around in the wet.

When a bus does arrive, it takes an age to get home. Derby Road has been blocked by a fallen tree and a diversion is in place. This and the resulting gridlock, explains the lack of buses.

I get home to find that luckily the start to the England v Sweden match has also been delayed, seems they’ve had rain too, so I actually still get to see the whole thing.

It’s not a bad match, but it’s so like watching a typical game in the Championship, say Burnley against Watford. I like it, probably because it seems so reassuringly familiar. Then I’m off the sofa as Watford take the lead.

Burnley valiantly fight back and score twice to go in front but Watford aren't finished. They come from behind to secure a famous victory and a fighting chance of a quarter final against one of the Premier League sides, Manchester City or Chelsea or maybe Spain.

(Friday 15th June)

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Good For A Laugh And A Headache

I had to run for the bus this morning and the legs didn’t like that one bit. Clearly not used to two days in a row cycling. It has been a long time.

A day off today though and tonight the entertainment of a committee meeting which is always good for a laugh and a headache. Particularly when it’s a really long one, like it is tonight.

L's been for a run though and then settles in to, and I quote, 'eat something incredibly fattening with a glass of wine on the side'. Not sure that was in the training plan.

(Thursday 14th June)

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Party Trick

The Queen is in Nottingham today. Which is nice, although she’s spending most of the day in Basford I believe. I think she needs to have a word with her travel consultant.

I cycle again and even go to the pool for a swim. I’m not very excited by the prospect but need to get my one a month in to get my cash back.

L is pumping iron again tonight. After she’s done a run. Then she’ll be asleep in her tea. MD and I have dog class. Then he’ll be asleep, not in his tea but after he's eaten it.

Doggo will just tag along I guess and perfect his new party trick. He’s developed a way of scratching and licking the same leg at the same time. It’s just like that trick of rubbing your stomach and patting you head at the same time, it’s not supposed to be possible. The things you can perfect when you spend so much time boot sitting waiting for your owners.

(Wednesday 13th June)

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

In Need Of Better Kit

It’s the middle of June, nine days from midsummer’s day and it’s positively chilly on the bike this morning. I employ arm warmers and make a mental note to put the fingerless gloves back in the drawer as my fingers are positively freezing.

Meanwhile, L reads the clock wrong, gets up too early and manages a massive 50 lengths in the pool. Just shows what you can do.

In the news, wind extinguishes the Olympic flame on the Hebrides... not surprised but it didn’t blow our camping stove out, so they obviously need better kit.

Tonight, as the weather looks like it’s going to be dry, although not exactly sunny, we try and book tennis. That is if I can get anyone to answer the phone at the tennis centre. Which I can’t.

So we simply turn up and attempt to play. This confuses them a bit. Partly because they have a tennis tournament on... the Aegon Trophy I think, no that was last week, this week’s it’s the Aegon Challenge. Not to be confused with the Aegon Classic that’s going on in Birmingham and in London or the Aegon International that's coming up in Eastbourne. Don’t you love ‘brand’ awareness, making you aware of the brand but totally unaware of what is actually going on. We used to have the Nottingham Open, that we understood.

Anyhow, that’s all on the grass, so we should be able to get a hard court but apparently these have all been booked for practice by the players, who haven’t turned up... Hope they’ve paid. They make us pay for non attendance.

We get a court and it’s relatively pleasant, for saying its tennis. I’m not a huge fan, not since they made the courts smaller or so it appears since my childhood. 6-4 6-2. I think. I ran out of legs a bit in second set, what with the cycling today.

(Tuesday 12th June)

Monday, 11 June 2012

Revengeful Mood

England have their first game of Euro 2012 tonight. Not that I’m going to get to watch it. There’s dog training tonight and I have a dog that really does need training. I’ve also managed to get a rare late appointment at the dentist. Funny that, you usually have to book weeks in advance to get an evening appointment, anyone would think there’s a match on or something.

Then, rather frustratingly, the managing director at work announces that he’s going home at four to watch the football, so if anyone else wants to leave early too they can. It’s good to have a boss who’s into these things. Cue mad scramble for the doors, including even non-football fans that see a golden opportunity when it’s offered to them.

Damn, I should have booked the dentist for earlier. I seriously consider ringing up to try to blag an earlier appointment.

L says I should be concerned because the dentist is Irish and they got a thrashing by Croatia last night didn’t they. Hope he’s not in a revengeful mood.

In the end it’s so quiet; I’m in and out in five minutes and soon off to dog class with Roy’s boys on the radio.

1-1. Not a bad result.

(Monday 11th June)

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Uphill All The Way

So the Two Castles Run, which has an appealing bio, as it starts in Warwick Castle and finishes in Kenilworth Castle. Meaning it’s an A to B, which I like, and there aren’t too many of them about.

However I was already getting second thoughts about this race when emails started arriving every day, and I mean every day, for about the last three weeks. Many of them referring to the whopping eight pages of race instructions. This is for a mere 10k run, it’s not a Ironman. It’s been a real case of too much information.

The most worrying of which has been repeated dire predictions about the lack of car parking around Warwick Castle (and associated expensive) and a repeated insistence that we be in the Castle grounds for 7.50am. This for a race that already starts too early (for me) at 9am. Hmmm.

So we leave well early, only to find that parking is a doddle. We park in the street by the entrance to Warwick Castle for free.

Spectators are banned from the grounds of Warwick Castle, presumably in case they get to see something historic for free. This is a shame as it would have added to the atmosphere but may also have added to the toilet queues. The toilets were a bit of a cock-up to say the least. I think there were actually enough of them, they were just very badly signposted which meant long queues at the most obvious ones and a lot of people, included women, taking unplanned tours of the immaculately turned out Castle gardens.

The start was on a narrow driveway but congestion wasn’t too much of an issue, despite an entry of 3300. Only as usual, many slower runners starting too close to the front.

There was plenty of water, not that I’d usually partake on a 10k but I did here as it was quite hot. Well I tried to, the first plastic cup I grabbed, exploded in my hand, which is one reason why water in bottles is a better option. Then on the final drinks stop I attempted to grab the fourth cup from the end of the line, only to see another runner grab that one and then others grab the other three. So none there either but almost entirely my own fault that time.

The marshalling was good and I though the route was fairly pleasant, although L disagreed. The first and last few miles were nice, only the middle bit through a few housing estates bored me.

I hadn’t researched the route and perhaps I should have done, as it was pretty much uphill all the way. It’s always a risk that the finish may be higher than the start with an A to B. I don’t think they’ve ever ran it in reverse but it would be a nice idea to have it alternating. The uphillness perhaps partly explains my slow time of almost 46 minutes, only partly.

For our trouble we got an ok t-shirt and a medal, which will be boxed as I’m not into medals and a pile of leaflets in the goodie bag. Not a chocolate bar or anything to eat in sight, which is a bit stingy.

There was an excellent baggage service that whisked your kit to the finish and buses laid on to get you back to Warwick. Although we did question the route the bus took to get us back, it took ages, we could almost have ran back quicker. We also had no idea where it dropped us, as we don’t know Warwick, but we found our way back to the car eventually.

We pop into Leamington on the way home, briefly see Son and collect a large amount of money he’s been laundering for us (sort of) in exchange for some biscuits. I’m quite appalled that Santander charged him a tenner for the honour of issuing him a cheque. I know Spain is on the brink but that’s a disgrace. I’d have threatened to close my account on the spot and got it waived but you can’t expect students to be that savvy. He should have asked for it in cash instead, just to piss them off.

Back home, we head into town. Have a swift one on the roof terrace of the ‘Organ Grinder’, which is only delaying the inevitable which is a visit to the Peacock for the Old Peculiar and then onto the Noor for a curry.

(Sunday 10th June)

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Venue Of Choice

Another weekend, another dog show, another day at Catton Park. Seemingly the venue of choice for most local dog clubs these days.

MD produces his usual single error in each of his first two runs. A pole down in the first one, an inexplicable weave problem in the second. I blame him but naturally he blames me, as a consequence we’re soon both back in the car sulking.

My father turns up to offer moral support and L texts to say ‘warm up over, you stop messing around now’.

Reinvigorated and high on caffeine (well I am) we have another go and a clear round is produced. Only just though. MD really really didn’t want to go into the tunnel and I had to practically go in it with him to get him there. Then miles out of position, I had to run around the back of said tunnel, wasting precious seconds, to find MD waiting for me at the other end, enquiring whether the big wooden thing in front of him (the next obstacle) is where he's suppose to go next. Yes.

We come third, 1.5 seconds behind the winner. If only...

The next course, in the same ring, has the same finish, so to avoid the same problem I swap sides at the previous obstacle so that I can more easily direct him into the tunnel, with my foot if necessary. The only problem is the previous obstacle is the weaves and MD decides he doesn’t like me changes sides whilst he’s weaving and stops half way. So back to the car we go for another sulk.

We have one more run, which didn’t go terribly well either and then Doggo gets his run around the veterans. Which is a rather straight and boring affair. Some judges think older dogs need straight and boring but these tend to make for fast courses. I think most older dogs prefer something that needs more thought, rather than speed which they no longer have in abundance. We come 5th. Not bad but outside the rosettes.

We stay in tonight as we have a ridiculously early start tomorrow. They want us in Warwick for the Two Castles race by 7.50am and it’s only a 10k. Being AF also won’t do L any harm as she says she still feels odd after her blood donoring. Not as bad as I would have felt, it would have taken me weeks to get over handing over a pint or so. She’ll have more blood back in her system to soak up the beer by tomorrow.

(Saturday 9th June)

Friday, 8 June 2012

Life Without Nipples

I’m not looking forward to my run tonight. Last week L was rescuing me because of the heat, this week it could be because of the rain.

My fears aren’t quite realised. The run isn’t too bad, at least it stays dry and I finish the Jo Nesbo book about the snowman and the man with no nipples. It’s because of some disease or something. I can’t imagine life without nipples.

After doing the usual 8 miles or so I get the bus the rest of the way. It’s my first trip on the R4 since it’s become the ‘i4’. The name change is seemingly only so that they can have lots of puns written up up on the side of it. Such as ‘I am the bus for you’ etc.

The much heralded new buses are actually much the same as the old ones, just with reupholstered seats. They still have those silly sideways seats where every time the bus goes around a corner you end up on somebody else’s lap. Yes I know they’re for pushchairs and wheelchairs but surely there’s a better way. I'm surprised they pass Health and Safety laws.

L walks the boys down to meet me because she says the boys are getting lazy and fat. I don’t think either of them has a problem with that but it’s for their own good.

Tonight, a night in with the first night of Euro 2012, TOTP and Punk Britannia. Punk Britannia is an interesting new three part series on punk rock. It doesn’t really reveal anything new but there’s some interesting interviews with the old punks themselves.

I've been trying to work out what the Euro 2012 logo is. Looks a bit like a cabbage to me.

(Friday 8th June)

Thursday, 7 June 2012


L now has a Kindle, a birthday present from her boss. Now she can potentially read her books in three formats at the same time. Written word, ebook and audio...

The weather is too foul for tennis, so it’s squash again. Then after a swift pint I have to dash off to rescue L because she can’t be trusted to stagger home on her own. I drive off to meet her checking the ditches on the way.

Tonight the vampires have her for a spot of bloodletting, I means blood donoring, at the kid’s old school of all places. The last time I picked somebody up from there was Daughter with her GCSE results.

L’s promised to text me if she faints. Can a fainted person text? I’m really not sure why she puts herself through all this.

(Thursday 7th June)

Wednesday, 6 June 2012


Back to work today, which isn’t too bad I suppose, what with it only being a three day week.

Meanwhile L lines up what if probably the first of many salads for the post-holiday detox.

I cycle in to work, in what isn’t bad weather but the journey home could be completely different. L, after getting wet twice, once intentionally in the pool, once unintentionally on her bike, asks me to let her know which bus shelter I want collecting from.

As it happens the rain abates, the weather fines up and the sun comes out for 5pm home time. I even put my shades on, and then have to take them off again when I can no longer see through the spray. So it was a bit of a ‘damp’ cycle home after all but soon I’m home with a four-legged towel drying each leg. Odd characters these dogs.

I offer Doggo, who hates the rain and particularly the thunder, to stay at home whilst I take MD to training but he won’t have any of it and braves the elements for a bit of boot sitting.

MD obviously feels it’s good to be back at training and puts his life, soul and larynx into it.

(Wednesday 6th June)

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

It Didn't Rain On Our Parade

The sunshine has remained with us for the whole long weekend and it’s only as we head back into England that it starts raining again. I understand back home the weather rained on everyone's Jubilee parade, so clearly we picked the right destination.

It’s been a rather long trip up from Nottingham to Benbecula for the one race... 1100 miles... but we weren't disappointed. It's a good job we enjoyed it because we're back on the islands in a month’s time to compete the Heb3 challenge.

We've have a rather dark, morbid, slightly chilling thing with us in the car all the time. Jo Nesbo. Well one of his book’s ‘The Snowman’ which we’ve had on audiobook. We’ve not quite finished it, so we’ll end up doing so this week separately.

Back home, I think we should round things off with a takeaway curry.

(Tuesday 5th June)

Monday, 4 June 2012

Lying In Wait

Something which seemed to have been missing all trip finally caught up with us today, our friends the midges. They were lying in wait for us when we pulled into Red Squirrel campsite at Glencoe.

They were also waiting for us outside the Clachaig Inn, where thankfully after only a short time outside we managed to get a table indoors. For some reason they seem to be finding L more tasty than me. Which is something I totally understand but this isn’t usually the case.

After a few whiskeys and a few pints we even partake in the quiz, coming 8th out of 18 I think, which was stunningly well. Thankfully L knew most of her Mr Men.

(Monday 4th June)

Sunday, 3 June 2012

A Piper On The Bridge

We get the ferry back to Skye from Lochmaddy this morning.

With the dogs again booted but unfortunately the full Scottish Breakfast not served after 11am.

Then we drive across the island to revisit the very scenic campsite at Sligachan. We were here eleven years ago with the kids. I think we spent three days here and I don’t recall it ever stopping raining. Apparently the campsite is overlooked by the Cuillins but we never saw them.

Today though the weather is perfect with clear skies. Oh, those Cuillins.

Something else that has sprung up since we last visited is the Cuillin Brewery which opened in 2004. It is with their beers, the 4.7% malty Pinnacle (in praise of the inaccessible rock that is around here somewhere) and the 4.3% stout Black Face (in praise of the sheep...), that we toast the remains of the day. They even let us inside with the dogs.

It’s also a rather nice touch that they have a piper on the bridge serenading us.

(Sunday 3rd June)

Saturday, 2 June 2012

No Hopping Involved

Benbecula is the next island to North Uist but is actually connected via a causeway. As is South Uist. Then there are the islands of Berneray (linked by causeway to North Uist) and Eriskay (linked to South Uist), so you can island hop across five islands without even, well, hopping. In fact there are more smaller linked islands, which we’ll have to research further on our next trip.

So we ‘hop’ on to Benbecula this morning and to a place called Liniclate where a compact field of 77 runners is assembling for the race. It’s sunny again but it’s also windy, something which is probably an ever present factor on these islands. It is noticed that they leave putting up the start/finish signs and the mile markers until as late as possible. Probably, lest they blow away.

Then at about 11am our debut in the 23rd running of the Western Isles Half Marathon series gets under way.

The course is mildy undulating with that strong Hebridean breeze to keep you alert. The mostly straight roads mean that you can at least you can see who you’re stalking.

It’s actually a surprisingly quick course, perhaps because despite the frequent head winds, once it gets behind you, you can really start to fly.

I team up, accidently, with another chap, who puts me to shame because he's far older than me but we pull each other along for most of the way. That is until two miles from the finish when I spot a Wrekin Road Runner, a fellow Sassenach who's come as far as we have. The urge to beat him spurs me onto a good finish.

My time of just over 1 hour 40 minutes is excellent, my best for some time but I worry about a suspiciously quick last mile of 6:30. Not something I thought I was capable of, in fact something I’m sure I’m not capable of after 12 miles, so perhaps I took a wrong turn somewhere and accidentally cheated.

Then there’s a free swim for all runners but neither of us partake. It would be a bad tactical move anyway as this would give others a head start on the huge post race buffet. From which the best cakes seem to get picked over very quickly. I did wonder why some folk started with the cakes and then worked their way back to the sandwiches and soup.

Afterwards we return to the only pub on North Uist, Westford Inn. If there is one on Benbecula we didn’t find it.

The Red Cuillin turns Black midway through the evening and with the Blaven now having fully ‘turned’, well, gone off, it’s the Black Cuillin that we take back to the tent tonight.

(Saturday 2nd June)

Friday, 1 June 2012

The Mother Of All Traffic Jams

We pack up camp and get the early-ish morning ferry (9:40am) over to Lochmaddy on North Uist.

The ferry journey takes an hour and forty-five minutes, for which we leave the boys in the car. MD in his box on the backseat probably asleep and oblivious to everything that's not going on. Doggo meanwhile in the boot being as watchful as ever, surrounded by the other vehicles on the car deck, assuming most likely that he is stuck in the mother of all traffic jams. Meanwhile we’re tucking into the good value full Scottish breakfast that is served on board.

Then we’re rolling off the ferry and driving across North Uist which looks simply stunning in the sunshine. The terrain here is rather Icelandic, rocky but very flat with lots of little ‘tarns’ (to steal a Lake District description) everywhere. In fact more of the land is probably water than land, if you know what I mean.

There are a few villages but mostly the houses seem to be scattered around almost at random.

We pitch the tent at Moorcroft Holidays campsite, which had almost hotel quality facilities, a kitchen and flat grassy ground that our tent pegs instantly fell in love with.

What roads there are, about two, are mostly dead straight and single track, where the rule seems to be either to drive as fast as you can or to quickly dive out of the way in one of the passing places.

It was along one of these roads that we found the Westford Inn, the only pub on North Uist. They served a decent pint of Isle Of Skye’s Red Cuillin and also the stronger Blaven from the same brewery. The Blaven is ‘on the turn’ but L likes them like that, so we take a ‘take out’ back to the tent.

(Friday 1st June)