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

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Bridge Out

Sunday was MD’s 11th Birthday but everybody forgot. So we celebrate it a day late. The Lad celebrates by raiding L’s bag again and taking an apple up the garden for a post-breakfast snack. She does give him the opportunities but she says she’s putting an onion in there tomorrow.

When I cycle to work on Tuesday and arrive at the Meadow Lane Bridge over the A52 Chaddesden to Pride Park, I find it closed. Apparently the whole thing is about to be demolished and there will be no bridge at all until spring next year when they open a new one. Thanks for the notice...

Of course at the original presentation for the road improvements we were told the new bridge would go up before the old bridge was demolished. The date for the installation of that bridge was January this year but that lapsed when work on the entire project was halted in September.

Now they have found another £25 million down the back of a sofa somewhere the project is back on and the bridge design seems to be completely different to what was originally planned.

I am directed further down the A52 to a bridge at Highfield Lane that I didn’t even know existed. The only problem is the footpath to it isn’t really bike friendly so I need to find out how to get to it by road.

On my way home I get completely lost when I try to find a way back to the main road from it.

(Tuesday 30th April)

Sunday, 28 April 2019

The Longhorn

Today L and I both do the Longhorn Half Marathon at Thoresby Park. L signed up for this a while ago figuring that while the 10k would have been sensible, an off-road half marathon sounded too good to miss. Which is the opposite of the logic I would have used. Now she is a reluctant participant but one with a masterplan - ‘How to Finish a Half Marathon Without Training For It’. Sorted.

We leave the dogs at home and take the new car, travelling in style. It’s a late start for our race, 11:50, so I take them for a park session first. There are actually various distances I could have done with the Lad but decide to go it alone.

I shouldn’t really be doing this at all, as my calf isn’t up to it but if I’m going to do justice to my birthday present (Windermere Marathon) then I need the training run even if I have to crawl the second lap. Yes, the half marathon is two laps.

There is also a 5k, a full marathon and a 60k Ultra for the excessively stupid. Maybe next year.

I strap everything up and take it very easy, making sure I don’t toe strike to preserve my bad calf. I'm even chilled enough to partake of the odd chunk of cake at the feed stations.

There are plenty of Nordic Walkers which set me off thinking whether those poles they use would help take the stress off my calves. Is Nordic Running also a thing?

The route, through Sherwood Forest and allegedly over old military roads (they’re all forest tracks to me) was nice, if you like that sort of thing. I prefer city centres myself. The terrain is not too leg braking but might have been had I been strapped to a dog.

The mile marking is a tad bizarre. Miles 1 to 6 are marked out but what this all means when you start lap two I have no idea, given a lap is 6.55 miles. That said, from what I call tell, I’m almost but not quite on Marathon pace and I finish in 2:04, which isn’t a total disaster. I did try and lift the pace towards the end which didn’t help my calves, which had until that point held up well.

I am handed my ‘bespoke’ race finishers medal which is allegedly one of the big selling point of the race. That is, if you’re into your bling which I’m not but at least I will save mine. L will most likely bin hers straight away. There’s no t-shirt included but there are some to buy.

Then I wait for L who pronounces herself pleased with her efforts which included a bit of run-walk to get herself through it.

Then it’s home to cheer up the dogs and have a ‘debrief’ before heading out for a few beers. We drink in the Hockley Rebel and the Lord Roberts before going for a meal at Bar Iberico. This is the bar version of their restaurant which does open on a Sunday. The food is very good as is the sherry we have for dessert.

(Sunday 28th April )

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Yes Another One

Today it’s my birthday, yes another one.

During the brief spell when I thought I’d recovered from my post-Manchester injury worries, I foolishly asked for a race entry as a present from L. So Windermere Marathon here I come, on one leg, in just three weeks’ time.

Therefore my tight calves and I sit out parkrun as L and Daughter do Bestwood, saving the pain for tomorrow’s Longhorn.

Derby move into the final play off place by defeating nearest rivals Bristol City 2-0 in Bristol. They now just need to hold onto it through the final two games.

In the evening we go to Broadway.

Red Joan is a wartime spy drama directed by Trevor Nunn based on, but in the end baring little relation to, the story of Melita Norwood who was unmasked as a former Soviet spy in 1999.

Joan Stanley (Judi Dench) is living in quiet retirement in English suburbia and tending her garden when the police roll up to accuse her of treason. Her friends, neighbours and even her own son Nick (Ben Miles), a successful lawyer, have absolutely no idea about her dubious past. Nick thought she’d been a librarian. 

Dench plays her role admirably, as ever, but her Joan doesn't feature hugely and it is the younger version of Joan (Sophie Cookson) whose job it is to flesh out the story. This is done via flashbacks, as the older Joan digs reluctantly into her memory banks while under police interrogation.

Joan was an impressionable undergraduate at Cambridge University in the late 1930s when her conversion to the Communist cause began when an intruder appears at the window of her student flat one evening. This is Sonya (Tereza Srbova), a young lass of eastern European background who has a bus load of dodgy communist friends in tow, for whom Stalin’s reign of terror never happened.

Among these is Leo (Tom Hughes) to whom Joan is immediately attracted. He likes her too, in the sense that she’s malleable both to his point of view and to his designs on her body. Predictably Leo turns out to be a shifty, cold lover and it never really dawns on Joan that he’ll never love her as much as he loves Stalin.

After leaving University, Joan gets a job on a top secret research project developing the atom bomb. Initially she is just a secretary but her expertise in physics means her input and influence gradually increases aided by her creepy (and married) boss Max (Stephen Campbell Moore) who has the hots for her. 

Sadly the film, while well-made, lacks any real excitement or tension. Even a potentially exciting trip across the ocean to Canada under heavy military escort is underplayed but at least offers the chance for her to accede to an affair with Max, although it would appear a largely passionless one. 

The advantage of being a mere girl in 1930s\40s means that no believes she could even be involved on the atom bomb project let alone slipping nuclear secrets to the Soviets on the sly. So Max gets the blame when they suspect someone is in bed with the enemy. While Joan justifications for her behaviour ring very hollow and it is not at all clear that she believes in them herself.

Overall it is an ok film but it felt like a huge missed opportunity. It’s another of those films where the post-film googling is better than the film itself.

Friday, 26 April 2019

A New Set Of Wheels

We don’t have a Sunday run over Easter and for the first time that I can recall there in no Easter Monday 10k on Wollaton Park. They are being very coy as to why not.

After a draw at Birmingham on Good Friday, Derby beat Queens Park Rangers 2-0 to keep them in the Play Off hunt. The match is preceded by a big explosion and a fire in Derby coming from one of the industrial units. In the evening, Daughter comes over for a dog run. Having survived Saturday's parkrun, I join them and manage not to re-injure anything.

Over the Bank Holiday weekend I have taken the plunge and have put down a deposit on a new car, a 2017 VW Golf. I go see it on Tuesday and afterwards L asks me how it was. Quite good, it’s now sat in the car park at work.

Motorpoint, from where I bought that car, had tried everything they could to sell me add-ons such as a super valeting, a super waxing and numerous super expensive extra insurances but I'd declined the lot. Although they tell me that their standard valeting charge is unavoidable. You are not allowed to drive away a dirty car. Then bizarrely after all that pressure selling they chuck in the Vehicle Excise Duty for free. We will be keeping the old Astra as a dog-mobile.

Also on Tuesday, L has her final PT session saying that her young boy’s obsession with heavy weights is doing her back in. Hopefully she'll find some more appropriate ones as she’s been wanting to do this sort of thing for years.

Wednesday is dogging and Thursday is tennis for L but there’s still no sign of any tennis or squash for me. So I attempt a small run after work, not all the way home or anything like that, but my calf goes almost straight away and I abort.

Friday is my only bike day of the week which is very pleasant in the morning but the weather insists on livening it up for the ride home.

(Friday 26th April)

Saturday, 20 April 2019

The Brutal Double-Handed Backhand

Good Friday brings a tennis match between L and me where I have to deal with her brutal double-handed backhand, which is deadly when it goes in. I scrape through in two sets.

On Saturday we do Shipley parkrun but arrive just as they are starting and have to play catch up. The catching up bit wasn’t such a problem but overtaking once you’d caught up was, particularly if you’re attached to a dog. Even more so if you’re attached to a dog who is used to coming 4th here. He didn’t seem at all happy with 53rd.

In the evening we are at Broadway to see the film 'Wild Rose'.

Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) is a single mum from Glasgow out of jail on licence, hiding her electronic tag beneath her cowgirl boots and with the slogan ‘three chords and the truth’, the definition of country music, tattooed on her arm.

She announces she is back by dragging her sometime boyfriend out of the bath and taking him to the park for sex before going to see her mother and then finally her kids. She doesn’t see herself as parent, certainly not a responsible one. She sees herself as a Country singer foremost with a fervent desire to reach the Country capital of Nashville, Tennessee although the court imposed 7pm curfew severely restricts her gigging opportunities.

Her mother, Marion (Julie Walters), meanwhile just wants her wayward daughter to settle down and take care of her kids. She is persuaded to take a job as a cleaner for the extremely well-off Susannah (Sophie Okonedo) who catches Rose singing and further fuels her fantasies by arranging a meeting with Radio 1 legend Whispering Bob Harris (playing himself).

Susannah then sets up Rose and her backing band, whom she seems to have wrapped around her little finger as they turn up whenever she needs them, with a gig to fund her trip to Nashville. The problem is that Rose hasn’t come clean about her criminal record or told her employer she has children. Susannah’s husband has already seen through her and it all soon comes crashing down.

When she finally makes it to Nashville it with money from her mother’s life savings which she donates to her. However Nashville turns out to be not all that it's cracked up to be and cures Rose of her that particular itch leading the film to its inevitable happy ending.

Unfortunately, the plot has far too many illogical 'why' moments. Why did she do that? Why didn't she do this? Situations that surely the clearly intelligent Rose, and for that matter Susannah, would have thought through much better. That said the film is very enjoyable, well delivered and very well sung.

Unbelievably this is only the multitalented Buckley’s second film. She was excellent in last year's ‘Beast’ and also starred in the BBC's ‘War and Peace’, after originally making her name on the BBC’s ‘I’d Do Anything’. Here she shows not only what a great actress she is but also what a fantastic singer she is. Her kids are excellent too, particularly her daughter who is totally deadpan throughout.

(Saturday 20th April)

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Always A Pleasant Surprise

There is a girl sat in my car when I get to it after work on Monday, always a pleasant surprise, and a studious one with a book too. Not that we’re on snogging terms because she says she’s ill.

After giving L a lift home the boys and I go training, which has been moved from Tuesday this week.

L doesn’t improve on Tuesday and cancels her PT but we do manage a family walk on the park. If the opportunity presents itself, we can all chase the deer together.

With my lovely Iphone SE refusing to charge I take it into the O2 shop who are incredibly unsympathetic and accuse me of deliberately breaking it. They offer to send it away for analysis for a fee and depending on the findings will then fix it for an even bigger fee. To show they are not totally unsympathetic they offer to see if they have an old Nokia at the bottom of a drawer somewhere to lend me. Alternatively they can sell me a new phone.

Forced over a barrel, I buy an Iphone 6s, the most pocket friendly model that Apple still do. It’s flimsy and cheap looking unlike my SE.

On Wednesday I’m out with my old school chums. We have a few beers in the Alexandra and the Brunswick as usual but the Brunswick turn us down for food. Their one chef can’t cope with the number of orders. They have been pedalling this excuse for about five years now and it’s why we stopped going for lunch there. You’d think they’d get them a helper; they’d certainly make the money back. We have a very average meal at Antibos instead.

Afterwards I miss the Red Arrow and have to slow bus it back on the i4.

On Thursday, I manage to cycle while L’s health is described as ‘alright’ which means, of course, that things are pretty bad although she does still manage her tennis.

(Thursday 18th April)

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Run In The Woods

On Saturday L and Daughter do Colwick Parkrun and then run home via the cafĂ©. I don’t run which means the Lad is initially distraught because that means he can’t run either but then Daughter offers to run with him.

He is elated and MD is elated to get the morning off but after warming up with him, she hands him back and takes MD instead. Both dogs look crestfallen but MD puts a brave face on it. He loves his running really.

In the afternoon I watch Derby maintain their Play Off push by putting four past Bolton then I pick L up from the hospital.

On Sunday, with me out of action, L gets to fill her boots with an off-road 10k called Run In The Woods at Bourne in Lincolnshire . I would have thrown my hands up in horror had I feel fit enough to run it.

It doesn’t actually look too bad, it seemed to be mostly on firm tracks but it was still better to be a spectator. There was a coffee stall and bacon rolls. Although I think the Lad would rather have ran but probably just because I wouldn’t share my roll with him. 

(Sunday 14th April)

Friday, 12 April 2019

Destroying The Evidence

Everyone keeps asking L if I’m pleased with my marathon time and she doesn't quite know what to say. Anyone who’s actually seen me doesn’t have to ask...

Actually I’m not that disappointed and the calf does feel a bit better this morning, I’m even considering running home. Only kidding... I have a committee meeting to go to.

The week starts calmly on Dog TV, after a hard weekend the Lad doesn’t even need to get the tea towels out. Until Tuesday that is, when he is seen having a right old time with what appears to be a pair of knickers on his head. Looks like L’s left the wash basket out. There could be quite a collection in the hall by the end of the day.

Manchester Marathon email me. Not to ask how I am, oh no, but to tell me that entries are now open for next year.

L’s boss gives her a Cadbury's Creme Egg. I’m told to confiscate it and destroy the evidence. I do as instructed.

She also tells me that she’s been getting emails threatening to send photos of her ‘doing things’ to all her friends and ruin her social life. So it’s not just me who’s been caught by our non-existent webcam then.

By Wednesday, I feel my calf is ‘recovered’ enough to bike to work. Admittedly it wasn’t totally pleasant going uphill or walking over the bridge at the Wyvern but all that was minor compared to hopping round a marathon. I even manage dog training in the evening.

On Thursday, L is given another Cream Egg and I offer to again eat it for her if she foam rolls my calf. She agrees but then falls asleep before I can get my evening roll. She does apologise in the morning and says I need a livelier woman but I don’t think that was a serious offer.

I bike again on Friday while L comes home with yet another Cream Egg, saying she didn’t want to offend her boss by saying no. I again have to intervene.

Her Dad has now been discharged from the main hospital and has been moved to the Community Hospital. We go over to see him. 

(Friday 12th April)

Sunday, 7 April 2019

The One Legged Marathon Race

Today is the day. The Manchester Marathon. We had looked at staying over in Manchester but as we’re taking the boys with us the logistics were difficult, so it’s a stupid o’clock start instead as we drive over.

We have pre-booked parking in Manchester United’s official car park which you would think would make things easier and probably does, once we’d found it. A lot of the roads were closed, as you would expect, but more with roadworks than the race I think and the signage was confusing. There was lots of signs for car parks without telling you which one was which but we got there in the end after several U-turns.

From there we can walk to the Race Village which is at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground and then on to the start. Just as I’m warning up Daughter joins us, so now my full support crew has been assembled and I head to my start pen.

Normally in a half marathon I would get a start pen pretty close to the front of the field but here I am over halfway back in start 5 (I think). Clearly this is now serious. Each start is set off five minutes apart, consequently it takes me nearly 20 minutes to get to the start line.

When I do get there we are held on the line for a few minutes and I’m on the front row, like an elite! It also meant I have a completely open road in front of me which I squander by heading over to high five the dogs and of course L and Daughter.

I have been training for this for months and the aim is not only to beat my only previous marathon time of 4:02:27 at Birmingham in 2017 where in blew up in the last few miles but to go under four hours. My schedule is to run 3:55.

Manchester not only has a 4:00 pacer but a 3:59 and 3:58 pacer to split up what is a popular target time. So I start with the 3:58, planning to start at that pace and then edge it faster after the first 10k. The thing is I struggle to stay with her, she’s too slow! Four hour pace is 9:09 and I run 8:50 for the first two miles and I’m getting a crick in my neck looking backwards to see where she is.

The route starts with a mini loop around Trafford which then takes you back close to the start where I get chance to see my awesome support team again about three miles in. I had hoped they might then be able to get the tram further down the course but, as everyone else had the same idea, sadly that didn’t happen. Meanwhile I head off through Timperley and towards Sale.

As I knew I probably wouldn’t see them again and hadn’t left any gels with L as I did last time, I had instead loaded up my triathlon number belt with them. I hadn't tried this in training and this is probably why it was an unmitigated failure. The High 5 gels I use are too narrow to fit snugly in the slots in the belt and I soon lost several of them. That’s one lesson to learn for next time.

Unfortunately not long after I’d passed my support crew I felt my calf start to tighten. This is an old problem of mine that I haven’t suffered with throughout all my months of training and now it has come back to haunt me on race day. In truth, I had had the odd twinge in the last week but I’d shrugged it off. I stop and stretch; it eases a bit but not much. The too slow 3:58 pacer passes me and I'm sure she was laughing as she did so. 

I hobble off in pursuit but soon stop again and do more stretches, then I sit down remove the calf support off my good leg and put it on top of the one already on my the bad one. I theory offering twice the support. The 3:59 pacer passes me.

Mile 5 takes me all of 10:36 and I consider giving up. Can I run another 21 miles with only working leg? Probably...

So I tough it out. I manage to keep off my toes and heel strike every step of the way to minimise calf movement. I settle into full on fast hobble mode aka a pace of about 09:25. The 4:00 pacer passes me.

Oh well, at least I can admire the view. Erm, perhaps not. The course takes us through a lot of residential areas and it isn’t one for the sightseer. They rather cheekily announced before today that next year’s route will include the city centre and more of the city’s landmarks. Just to rub it in. However, the crowds are large, vocal and brandishing gifts of jelly babies and the like

A large proportion of the course, about 4 miles worth, takes place in Altrincham which is actually quite nice. I go through halfway in 02:02:40 which isn’t that bad but obviously I’m not going to break four hours.

Then we leave Altrincham and head back to Sale with only ten miles to go. Only 10 miles... hobble hobble.

They say the first half of a marathon is about patience and the second half is about determination. In my case the first half was about preservation but now the determination kicks in and you know what? I do it. 

Obviously 4:06:48 wasn’t what I was looking for but it’s quite an impressive time for someone with one leg. 9:28 per mile. I was 6,728th out of 13,654 finishers.

The race medal is ok and the t-shirt very nice, black and wearable. I now have two marathons under my belt, I just hope my calf will allow me a third.

A Nottingham one would be nice. Manchester reckon this year’s race boosted their local economy by about £6.8M, attracting thousands of visitors, 75% of whom were from outside the north-west of England. Next year, with the race taking in the city centre as well, they expect it to provide an even bigger economic boost. Nottingham get on it.

Sadly, we don’t help boost Manchester’s economy in the evening as we have to head home and we go out in Nottingham instead. We have some decent beer but our second time in the Marrakesh Moroccan restaurant is a disappointment.

(Sunday 7th April)

Friday, 5 April 2019

Mastering Calmness

On Wednesday L gives me a lift to work in the car as she heads over to the hospital. Then I get the bus home.

In the evening I take the boys training. The Lad is so very keen as regards his training but has yet to get anywhere close to mastering the calmness he needs to master it.

On Thursday he uses a tea towel (or rather several tea towels) to work out his stress levels. I notice there is quite a collection of them in the hall when I look in on Dog TV. By which point he’s having a nap. No wonder, if he’s been that busy.

Thursday is still my run night despite this Sunday being Marathon day. I run to Sandiacre, a distance of about 13k before getting the bus home. L says I should be taking it easy. I thought I was.

Friday is ‘Walk To Work Day’ but I don’t participate. The 15 miles would have mean leaving home about 3:30am and anyway I ran most of it last night.

In the evening we both visit L’s Dad in hospital.

(Friday 5th April)

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Escape Artist

The legs can’t be too bad after Sunday’s five and a bit laps of Bedford Autodrome as I manage a dog jog on Monday with L and Daughter. Given a brief run of freedom off the lead, the Lad tries to scale the six foot high wall out of the park in pursuit of a squirrel. It was nearly a disastrous moment with the main road the other side of it but thankfully he fails to defy gravity.

He is becoming, rather worryingly, quite an escape artist. On Tuesday morning he escapes through the fence on the park, has a quick swim in the lake there before reappearing. 

In the evening, I'm at Rock City to see The Zutons.  

I miss the first band Queenzee but do catch The Fernweh. They are a sort of folk come 60s\70s psychedelic rock band. It seems more of a jam session than a concert amid which you get the feeling that the guitarist is dying to burst into a rendition of 'Purple Haze' but daren’t. They are curiously pleasant but they don’t really hold the crowd’s attention.

How do you cause an argument on the Zutons comeback tour where they are playing their debut album ‘Who Killed...... The Zutons?’ in full. This was the album which was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2004 but lost out to Franz Ferdinand. You do so by telling the fan next to you that you think their second album ‘Tired of Hanging Around’ was nuch better. Oops.

Tonight, eleven years after their third and final album and, aside from a one-off tribute gig in 2016, nine years since playing live I am ticking another band off my ‘must see’ list. 

The band take the stage and open with ‘Zuton Fever’ off ‘Who Killed...... The Zutons?’, of course.

Personally I’m not a great fan of ‘album in full’ shows so they get great kudos for (a) omitting a track - oddly ‘Nightmare Part II’ (b) not playing it in order and (c) inserting throughout tracks from that superior (ha ha) second album. So, yes, it's a great show.

Despite being a six-piece, your attention is clearly drawn to the three with the big hair at the front of the stage. After an exhausting opening four tracks ending with a delightful ‘Valerie’ both lead singer Dave McCabe and saxophonist Abi Harding take time out to adjust their hair. Dave half-heartedly tries and fails to keep his out of his eyes, Abi simply takes an age putting hers up. Guitarist Boyan Chowdhury just doesn’t care.

While it’s McCabe who does the audience interaction in his thick Scouse drawl, it is Harding who does the dancing. Is now the time to mention her leather trousers which that could be classed as a sexist remark but then had any of the guys been wearing the like I’d certainly have mentioned it too. Also, how can she dance in those heels? And no, none of the guys are wearing heels or even making a half decent fist of dancing.

While the album tracks are well received it is the singles that standout. The more fast paced ones like ‘Pressure Point’ and ‘Don’t Ever Think (Too Much)’ ramp up the crowd but it is perhaps the more nuanced ‘Remember Me’ and ‘Confusion’ that steal the show.

The set finishes with a rather sweet communal rendition of ‘Moons and Horror Shows’ at the front of the stage before the band return for an encore of ‘Hello Conscience’ and then close of course, with the stop-start melodies of ‘You Will You Won't’.