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

Monday, 30 September 2019


Everybody seems high as a kite after yesterday. Well. L, her sister and Daughter anyway. Although Daughter didn’t even do it... I’m not quite so high but then I’m the only one who failed to hit their target!

L says she’s enthused.

Shall I enter us for Peterborough?’ I ask.

Oh, yes please. 

She’s enthused.

Unfortunately Clowne Half Marathon has sold out, so I can’t get myself a new hoodie. It’s entirely my fault for delaying putting our entries in. So I enter us in the Great Langdale Pud Run as compensation.

Worksop Half Marathon is also nearly full. Either people are working off their Christmas excesses before they've had them or else they're all training in the futile hope that they've got a place in London.

Shall I enter us for Worksop?’ I ask.

Oh, yes please. 

She’s enthused. I never thought anyone would be keen about Worksop.

She also suggests the Watford Half Marathon to her sister, who is super-super-enthused and will have entered by the time I've picked up L's email about it.

(Monday 30th September)

Sunday, 29 September 2019

A Chilled Glass Of Pinot

Today I do my 8th Nottingham Robin Hood Half Marathon, L is doing it too. I’m not sure how many times that is now for her but it’s way more than eight. It’s L’s sister’s second time and we meet her at Nottingham University before getting the tram to the start which involves changing lines at the railway station. Oh, and it’s raining.

Thankfully the weather does improve and the rain largely holds off for the race but soaks us afterwards.

This year the course has been tweaked slightly and the start moved further back but I’m not too sure what this is to accommodate. I line up in the ‘red’ zone as usual, hoping for something around about 1:45. My fastest Nottingham Half was my first one back in 2010 when I ran 1:36:22. This is actually also my overall half marathon PB that I have little or no chance of getting near these days.

I fix my eye on the 1:45 pacer and then off we go. Unfortunately he turns out to be a nutter, setting out way too fast over the hilly first few miles. On my reckoning he is up on his pace by a couple of minutes after three miles when he should probably be slightly down at this point and intending to make it up on the flatter parts of the course.

At the first drinks station somebody hands me a bottle of water and I’m like ‘YES, it’s in  a bottle’. It is so good to finally see the back of the dreaded water pouches.

Despite the breakneck pace set by my pacer I just about cling onto his shirt tails until I start to lose touch as he fleetfootedly, and inexplicably, skips through the congestion caused by the narrow sections in Wollaton Park. It's as if he’s trying to lose his flock. Perhaps he is.

Coming out of Wollaton Park I see Daughter at the 7 mile point and inflict a sweaty hug on her before renewing my pursuit of my pacer before finally giving up the chase a few miles further down the road.

As we get to the last mile the excellent Race Angels, provided by Notts Womens Runners, are on hand to help you get through that final mile but they seem to show no inclination in helping an old man break 1:45. I gather I am not their target audience.

Rumours of them handing out chilled glasses of Pinot as part of the service also appear not to be true. Which is a shame, as it would be one up on the Great North Run Beer Stop.

Then I’m at the 13 mile marker and into the last few hundred metres which is on the grass and was a bit like cross-country running. I slither across the line in 1:47:14. It would have been oh so different if I'd had that Pinot.

Sadly after two years of handing out t-shirt to all finishers the organisers have again reverted to not having one which is very poor. The post-race snacks, in common with other big races, were also very poor.

What is good at Nottingham are the massages. Once again Sheffield Hallam University provide a girl for each leg (or a guy if you prefer). Great North Run take note of that and also that they have a least double the number of massage tables you did for a field about an eighth of the size.

In the evening we go for a night in the Crafty Crow, where we haven’t been for quite a while, but they have no dark cask ales but plenty of Pinot. So we adjourn to the Borlase.

(Sunday 29th September)

Saturday, 28 September 2019

World’s Worst Shopper

We parkrun at Alvaston and then I drop L at Pilates while I head off to the match via my parents’ place for lunch.

L then heads into town looking for trousers. She is the world’s worst shopper disproving the theory that this is a skill the all women as inbuilt. Unless you count books, she’s rather good at buying books. Anyhow the entire fruits of her shopping trip is that she ‘has onions’. Onions were not her priority.

Meanwhile Daughter has a job interview at Radio Nottingham, if they are looking for someone who can talk the they need look no further.

In the evening we go to Broadway to see the Goldfinch which is adapted from Donna Tartt’s prize-winning novel.

As a thirteen-year-old boy, Theo (Oakes Fegley) and his mother visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to see an exhibition of Dutch masterpieces. There, while he is busy ogling a pretty red-headed girl, a bomb explodes killing his mother and several others while injuring the red-headed girl.

In the rubble Theo encounters the uncle of the girl who gives him a ring before dying. Theo then takes a painting, Carel Fabritius' The Goldfinch, which has miraculously survived the blast as he escapes. He then carries the painting with him throughout his life.

With his father absent, Theo moves in with a school friend, Andy Barbour (Ryan Foust), and his wealthy family where he grows close to the mother Samantha (Nicole Kidman). Meanwhile the ring leads him to the antiques business of James ‘Hobie’ Hobart (Jeffrey Wright), the partner of the man who died in the museum, and reunites him with the red-headed girl, Pippa (Aimee Laurence), who is convalescing with him. Theo will carry his unrequited love for Pippa throughout his life.

Out of the blue Theo’s father Larry (Luke Wilson) shows up with his girlfriend Xandra (Sarah Paulson) they uproot Theo to take him to live with them on the outskirts of Las Vegas, in a housing development that’s seems to be slowly disappearing into the Nevada desert. It is here that he meets a Ukrainian wild child called Boris (Finn Wolfhard), who calls him Potter (as in Harry) and who seems to have a bottle of vodka permanently glued to his hand. The two boys spend their days drinking alcohol and taking drugs.

When Theo's father gets drunk and dies in a car crash, he decides to return to New York but Boris won’t come with him. He is taken in by Hobie who teaches him the antiques trade and eventually Theo (now played by Ansel Elgort) becomes a partner in the business but gets in trouble for selling fake antiques. One such punter accuses him of stealing the Goldfinch and using it in a drugs deal. Which isn’t possible as Theo has the painting in his possession but hadn’t looked at it in years...

Then he runs into Boris (now Aneurin Barnard) again, now largely a gangster, and he reveals that he borrowed The Goldfinch from Theo when they were in Nevada and has since used it as collateral in some deals.

He also runs into the Barbours again (it’s a small world), bumping into Andy’s brother Platt (Luke Kleintank), who is now not quite the ******** he was back in the day and who breaks the sad news that Andy is no longer alive. Theo becomes engaged to the daughter Kitsey (Willa Fitzgerald) although Kitsey already has a long time boyfriend she intends to keep seeing but Theo is a better ‘face’ for the family. While Theo, of course, is still obsessed with Pippa (now Ashleigh Cummings), who has moved to London with her boyfriend to escape him or rather escape ‘their history’. FFS embrace it girl.

When Boris appears at Theo's engagement party (to the girl he doesn’t love who doesn’t love him and who isn’t Pippa anyway) with a plan to retrieve The Goldfinch they both jump on a plane to Amsterdam where Boris’s heavies attempt to steal the painting back. The plan goes awry and in the resulting melee, Theo kills one of the men that attacks them and an injured Boris disappears again leaving Theo alone in his hotel room contemplating suicide. 

Deep breath.

Yes it’s a complex film and one that seemed to trip over its own feet at almost every opportunity but I liked it. I liked the complexity of it all even if it didn’t make sense at times. It also seemed to runs out of steam resulting in an ending where Boris basically turns up to say ‘all sorted now’ leaving Theo embarking on a lengthy reflection that he only took the painting as a memento of his mother while the audience are muttering ‘what the hell happened there’.

Apparently the book is complex too and audiences these days are rarely trusted to work out things for themselves, so we should be grateful here for being given the chance in what is a good film but not an outstanding one.

(Saturday 28th September)

Friday, 27 September 2019

Retirement Postponed

Oddly watching me run around a wet miserable Rutland Water on Sunday has got L enthused. She revokes her Half Marathon retirement and declares that she will join me in a few half marathons, while setting a new retirement date of 20th April 2020 e.g. after Brighton Marathon. She sounds a bit like the Government moving retirement dates.

It’s forecast to be wet all this week and it doesn’t look likely that I’ll get a bike ride in, so on Tuesday I resort to taking my gym kit to work with me and I do a brief Wattbike session after work. L runs from home, in the rain.

I go to the gym a day too early because Wednesday is National Fitness Day and I don’t do any fitness on National Fitness Day unless you count dog training.

In fact it’s worse than that because Wednesday is pub lunch day and they’ve finally got their pizza oven fixed. So it’s also 2-for-1 pizza day.

Derby County get embroiled in a drink drive saga involving two of their players and a third, club captain Richard Keogh, ends up as collateral damage and is out for the season.

Meanwhile the rest of the country is watching Lady Hale's Spider. 

On Friday L heads over to Leamington to see Son. The train goes via Derby, so she scrounges a lift back from Derby with me. Although she has to meet me at Halfords who have the dog car which is having its wobbly steering fixed.

(Friday 27th September)

Sunday, 22 September 2019

The Two Collies Factor


Today I run the Rutland Half Marathon which is an event I’ve wanted to do for the last few years although I’m not sure why... as I’ve ran around Rutland Water several times before in various Duathlons and Triathlons. It has had great reviews and most of them describe it as really scenic. Basically there’s a lot of water and a lot of grass...  and today’s there’s lot of rain as well. In fact it’s difficult to get to register before the race as everyone is sheltering in the registration tent.

Sensible L doesn’t fancy it. ‘That sounds nice’ she says, clearly not meaning it, followed by ‘I'll hold your coat’ and the two collies of course but she doesn’t mention that bit.

The race starts from the Sykes Lane entrance and the Half Marathon distance that I’m doing is basically two out and backs, one in one direction and then one in the opposite direction after passing back through the start/finish. There’s also a Marathon, with a longer second loop, and a Team Marathon which is a relay along a 1/4 marathon section of the course.

The rain does actually stop for the run and the novelty today is it isn’t windy. I don’t think I’ve ever ran here when it hasn’t been windy. So not too bad conditions really.
I am wearing my new GP watch and have it set to kilometres which isn’t a great idea when the course is marked in miles. That’s a bit of a schoolboy error.

My time of 01:50:53 isn’t great. There are however the most amazing cakes at the finish including about fifty different varieties for Swiss Roll.

After the event L has changed her mind. Now she does fancy it, it’s probably the Swiss Rolls that have swung it. Either that or it’s her FOMO kicking in or perhaps just the two collies factor kicking in.

(Sunday 22nd September)

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Vodka But Not Essential, Obviously

L seems to be getting her running mojo back or is that her running FOMO. The first email of the day from her says ‘Ok, do it, put me out of my misery, can you send me the Parkrun discount code for Robin Hood Half Marathon?’. I hadn't even asked the question.

The £10 Parkrun discount code she refers to is rather annoying as they waited until I’d already entered and then sent it me the next day.

The second email of the day from L is her shopping list for my trip to Sainsbury’s later. Just what do you do when someone sends you a shopping list and at the bottom it says 'Vodka - but not essential, obviously'.

With no sign of my normal outdoor dog training getting going again due to the far from great weather we're having I go to my club’s session instead which has been moved to a Monday this week.

Tuesday is bike day, which was very pleasant, but I have to power it home as I have a committee meeting to make in the evening. There is no tennis on Thursday as my opponent is 'away' on staycation meaning he's at home. He does things like that.

L says we will decide Saturday’s parkrun destination over the gallon of vodka she’s been building up to while warming our hands over a burning effigy of an Apple Mac. Hopefully not mine. She appears to have had a frustrating boss + computer related day. A lethal combination. She also appears to have spotted the ‘not essential’ vodka.

She also has Pilates booked on Saturday morning but she’s willing to cancel that if we're going somewhere wild and exciting. We go to Colwick, so I guess she’ll do Pilates as well. She
was contemplating Bestwood (e.g wild but not exciting) but once I mentioned that I’d like to run then that was changed to somewhere I’m less likely to get injured. Although, sadly, I can get injured anywhere.

Daughter meanwhile is doing one of those mud runs, Wild Warrior at Brailsford.

Afterwards I take the boys round to see my Dad as it’s his birthday. It’s an odd sort of a birthday treat but he is fond of them.

In the evening L and a friend of hers head up to Sheffield for a Matt Haig gig, he’s a author. Leaving the boys and I to make our own entertainment. I would have tagged along if I could have done a session in the Sheffield Tap but I have a half marathon on Sunday.

(Saturday 21st September)

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Less Brilliant Every Year

On Sunday L, Daughter and myself are in Mansfield for the sixth running of the Mansfield 10k on its surprisingly hilly and rather loopy course. I did it two years ago and L was for some reason jealous of me, so here we are.

We had talked about supporting the Stephen Price Memorial 10k in my home village of Aston on Trent particularly as the previous Aston 10k race was scrapped due to dwindling interest. Price was a runner, and a very good one, who tragically died in his 30s last year. However clearly they don’t need our support as the race is full, which is good to see.

So here we are in glorious Mansfield, a place which is certainly in need of a lick of paint or two. So it's probably good that an event like this is pulling some trade into the town.

I don’t have great memories of the actual race two years and this year’s isn’t that memorable either as my 48.27 is two and a half minutes slower than two years ago. L says it’s brilliant, just obviously less brilliant than two years ago. I get less brilliant every year.

(Sunday 15th September)

Saturday, 14 September 2019

What Price A Valet

We’re back at work on Tuesday and L is straight back into training doing loops of Forest Rec with Daughter. I put my feet up at home in between chucking balls for the boys.

L is down in London for work on Wednesday and I’m back at dog training after Monday’s was called off due to a lack of customers. Thursday, I’m back on the bike and then playing tennis in the evening.

Meanwhile my pass for the Pride Park bridge through the railway station finally runs out. It’s the end of an era. That grotty bit of card must be 10 years old.

On Friday I take the new car in for a valet to get all the grass, sand and dog hairs out of it that we acquired on holiday in Scotland. I've never been for a valet before and go to a shady place on Traffic Street, next to the petrol station that’s next to the pub where I once met a very nice girl who let me grope her chest in the pub's car park. Ah, the memories. It only cost me £12. That's for the valet, which was excellent. The girl's more expensive but still with me and also excellent.

Then I’m at the match, as we have a Friday night game at home to Cardiff.

On Saturday I’m at Southam Agility Show in Onley but only because our club had offered to help out and I’ve volunteered to do my club-ly duty. With MD now retired and the Lad still doing baby courses I enter them both in the same ‘Anysize’ class. This is the first time I’ve had two dogs in the same class since Doggo was 10 and MD was a mere youngster of 3. MD lost that one to the old master and he lost this one to the young pretender as the Lad puts in a pretty decent clear round while MD picks up faults.

Back home L did parkrun at Clifton where someone broke their ankle last week, which is always a worry of mine there, and she’s been to Pilates where my masseur is apparently asking about me. I’m sure my calves will soon be asking about him. 

(Saturday 14th September)

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Queuing For England

Saturday sees up heading up to Newcastle for the Great North Run. We go by train and via Sheffield, just in case someone obsessed wants to take in a Parkrun but, on this occasion, we don’t. 

We have moved from last year’s hotel after they ratcheted the price up. We stay in Motel One which is right near our usual post-race Sunday Roast venue the Pleased To Meet You.

Motel One is nice, offers free bottled water to ‘members’ (I only joined to book it this once) and an electronic aquarium on the TV, like some sort of 90’s screen saver.

Having checked in we head off to find the Pasta Party, having finally got the hang of the fact that this is now in Gateshead or rather it was. It isn’t this year apparently. The Great North City Games which are the mainly track based athletics events they usually have the day before the Great North Run have been moved to Stockton. Oh. Although we didn’t initially realise this when we got to Gateshead because they still have the big screen showing live coverage of it. While the Junior races are still there but the Pasta Party and the Expo seemed to have been vaporised. Unless that motley collection of tents is the Expo. They certainly don’t have any hoodies this year. This doesn’t bode well as the race approaches its 40th birthday next year.

In the evening, finding somewhere to eat is difficult, for some reason everywhere is busy. In the end we eat at the Banyan bar which is full inside but they let us eat outside. That is until another staff member turns up to tell us that we can’t eat outside... once we’re finished eating. Then we pop into the delightfully and prophetically named D.E.A.D. for a pre-race beer. D.E.A.D. stands for Drop Everything And Drink.

Sunday is the race itself and we follow the throngs to the start where we join first the loo queue and then the start queue. Some poor folk probably won’t have even have cross the start line by the time Mr Farah is taking the tape at the finish. I line up next to a chap who ran 1:27 last year and is hoping to improve on that this time. One of us is in the wrong start zone.

As I have mentioned in previous years, it’s a pretty dull course so I mix things up this year by staying on the right hand side of the start which means you go over the first flyover rather than under it. So daring.

Then it’s the one exciting bit, over the Tyne Bridge but for some reason my timing is out and the Red Arrows are not overhead this year. Then I settle in for the grimness, get in a steady pace and high five as much of the crowd as possible to relieve the boredom until the next highlight at 10.5 miles where the beer stop is.

I am aiming for a time of around 1:45 but have completely failed to locate the 1:45 pacer either at the start or since. Then he comes past me at 12 miles. Are pacers supposed to sprint finish? I get a shift one and ‘un-lap’ myself finishing in 1:45:50.

Overall I am pleased with that. It’s a PB at my third attempt here. In previous years I’ve arrived pre-injured and have done a 1:48 and a 1:51.

Then it’s time for some more queuing. First I spend almost as long in the massage queue as I did running the race, all for what wasn’t even a great massage. Then I join the beer queue only to find that L has now finished her race and made the beer tent before me despite starting ages after me. We split three pints between us before heading off to join the bus queue as we attempt to escape South Shields.

Our evening meal and post-race drinks is again in the Pleased To Meet You and for breakfast the next morning we again frequent the Cathedral cafe.

Before the race L said this was definitely her last Great North Run but... she seems to have really enjoyed this one. We also have one more year of our three year ‘membership’ and next year is the race’s 40th Anniversary. I rebook the hotel for next year. 

(Sunday 8th September)

Friday, 6 September 2019

Spooks On Moon

Today I risk the bike. It was bloody windy but still good fun. L goes to PT which is far more of a torture session than riding in the wind. Unfortunately her personal trainer will soon be departing her gym but he does leave her with a training programme for three sessions a week. 

In the evening I get to see a band for the first time just as they are splitting up. The Spook School were formed in 2010 but after nine years and three albums this is sadly their farewell tour.

I am told that they are pure entertainment live, so it makes you wonder what’s took me so long to get to see them. Tonight they live up to their entertainment billing by launching their set by launching themselves into space. Well, they come on stage wearing matching astronaut outfits and cardboard boxes on their heads for helmets to the strains of Babylon Zoo’s ‘Spaceman’. It is an curious entrance indeed but an entertaining one.

The four piece from Glasgow then launch into ‘Still Alive’ a massive anthem from their third album ‘Could It Be Different?’ which is the first of many great singalong moments tonight. It also signals the disrobing of drummer Niall McCamley from his spacesuit. Attire that clearly isn’t suitable for drummers.

‘Still Alive’ takes sharp aim at bigotry which is an issue The Spook School have close to their hearts. After trying to tell people through their music, but largely failing, their guitarist Nye Todd came out as transgender a few years ago and started to transition.

Since then the band who include Nye’s brother Adam, also a guitarist, have gained a lot of credit for tackling gender fluidity and standing up for a non-binary lifestyle. Yet musically, despite three highly impressive albums, they have never really broken through.

Even so the decision to call it a day was a surprise. With the Spook School being seen as an ‘issues’ band perhaps that has all weighed too heavily on them. Talented musicians that they are, it will be interesting to see what they all do now.

Right now though, they are going out with a bang. The band sound fantastic, ripping through a set that is a celebration of the past nine years and their three albums. Nye’s transition has certainly changed the level of his voice to what it was on the band’s early material and that is very noticeable tonight but it adds rather than subtracts from their performance.

They mix up their up-tempo singalong numbers with slower moments. The wistful plea of ‘Keep In Touch’, their final single, is immensely fittingly tonight. Bassist Anna Cory contributes haunting backing vocals to the song that gives it an extra level of sadness. While Cory also takes lead vocals on several tracks including the excellent ‘Less Than Perfect’.

At other times they do not take themselves seriously at all, or rather McCamley doesn’t. The drummer delivers a jokey monologue between every song. This is clearly part of what they are but the rest of the band do seem to carry a look of ‘having heard it all before’ on their faces. He seems to be advertising himself post Spook School to any bands who might be looking for a drummer. If not, a career in stand-up comedy clearly beckons.

The band wind the set up with ‘Try to Be Hopeful’ before they put their cardboard helmets back on and leave the stage, destined for the moon.

They return for an encore, on the moon, and a lively cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Go Your Own Way’. Then close the night with ‘I Want To Kiss You’ and with that the final Spook School gig in Nottingham is at end. They have one more show to do in home town Glasgow tomorrow. Then the Spooks are gone, possibly for ever.

(Friday 6th September)