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

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Toilet Roll Challenge

Everybody seems to have been doing a ‘Toilet Roll’ challenge during Lockdown. This is where someone snips together videos of a group of you chucking a toilet roll to each other (if you can get hold of one) from your bolt holes. My dog club does one and it's great fun to film our segment and the finished product is indeed hilarious.

My run with the Lad is a little longer tonight and takes us one minute over Gove time (allegedly one hour).

I reach 1999 with my Tour de France reruns which is of course the start of the Armstrong years. The main thing I forgot about 1999 was that the organisers initially banned serial doper Richard Virenque from the race but were forced to accept him after being overruled by the UCI, the Cycling authorities.

They said charges against him had not been proven because his case hadn’t gone to court yet. This is despite the fact that the rest of his previous team, Festina, had already admitted to drug use going back years.

Virenque went on to win the Polka Dot jersey again in 1999, for the 5th time, before coming 3rd the following year before his case finally came to court a few months later where confessed to years of doping. He was banned for just nine months, returning to the Tour in 2002 before winning the jersey again in 2003 and 2004.

If the world wasn’t even looking at the obviously guilty (and they weren't) then it’s perhaps not surprising that Armstrong and others got such a free pass.

(Sunday 26th April)

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Who You Think I Am

Tonight I book ‘Who You Think I Am’ through Curzon Home Cinema. It’s a subtitled French film, adapted from the novel by Camille Laurens, and for the first time I’m seeing our TV as perhaps too small e.g. I’m struggling to read the subtitles on it.

Claire Millaud (Juliette Binoche) is a divorcee with two children, who teaches literature and we see her analysing ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ with her class. She is seeing a therapist Dr Catherine Bormans (Nicole Garcia) whom she tells that she feels invisible to society now that she is in her fifties but this is a little misleading.

Despite claiming to be ‘invisible to society’ Claire is in a sexual relationship with a much younger man, Ludo (Guillaume Gouix). Yes he is basically using her for sex and doesn’t want to get romantically involved with her but it’s hardly being ‘invisible’. Clearly he finds her desirable and it’s hard to imagine Binoche herself struggling on this front. However, that’s perhaps not the point. Claire clearly has issues, hence the therapist.

One evening Ludo starts ghosting her, leaving his flatmate Alex (François Civil) to field
her phone calls. Her response to being so unceremoniously dumped is to create a fake online profile as a 24-year-old fashion intern called Clara, complete with stolen profile pictures and to then sends a friend request to Alex with a view to stalking Ludo. Pictures that later turn out to be of her niece, whom her husband left her for.

When Alex starts communicating with her, she becomes more and more obsessed with him and he with the image she portrays of herself. Soon they are texting and talking on the phone but for obvious reasons she refuses to meet him.

Their online relationship throws up a rather large plot flaw. That neither of them proposes to turn their cameras on when they chat or, hey, maybe download Zoom. To be fair they probably hadn't heard of Zoom when they filmed this, as hardly anyone had until a few weeks ago.

As Alex grows every insistent on meeting, Claire decides to call off the relationship rather than risk him being disappointed with her middle-aged self but then who’s to say that if they had met who’s to say she wouldn’t have pulled another young boy. Which is where the film goes in an imagined alternative finale which is submitted to her therapist as a manuscript.

In this the real Claire meets Alex post-Clara and they have a full blown relationship. Claire however still doubt herself even in her own fantasy and revives the Clara persona to test his live for her. This has tragic results, that ends up which Claire in an institution for mental disorders and I haven’t even mentioned what supposedly happened to the real Alex after Clara dumped him.

It’s an intriguing film that may or may not be having an almighty dig at social media and the alternative images of themselves that almost everyone creates online but Claire, I’m sure you realise that being young is wasted on the young. With hindsight and experience us oldies are just so much better at it.

(Saturday 25th April)

Friday, 24 April 2020

Something For The Weekend

In Sainsburys this week, while bread is now plentiful they still have no pitta. Well they haven’t now after I had the last pack of white ones but it’s the first pack of pitta I’ve seen since the Covid-19 crisis started.

I can’t say I’m impressed with the Government’s handling of it all. For a start, their ‘Daily Death’ figure is a sham because this figure is newly reported deaths whenever they occurred. They do issue a spreadsheet with the figures detailing exactly when the deaths occurred and some of these are from over a month ago.

It seems to me the Government has taken advantage of this delay in reporting to keep the daily figure low initially, thereby avoiding hitting the feared 1000 a day, but are now slotting in the deaths that it ‘missed’ now that we’re passed the theoretical peak (which was as long ago as the 8th April) or perhaps I’m just a sceptic.

I get an email from Trent Barton saying that they are starting to increase their bus services again with a view to getting back to normal. Even though the Government insist there is no plan to phase out the lockdown and Trent Barton currently have very few customers. Something is clearly afoot.

Meanwhile Germany has banned all events before the end of August and any events of more than 5000 people before end of October, hence the Berlin Marathon is off. As Germany have far fewer cases than here, something similar is going to be coming our way but no one seems willing to admit it.

Not that the French seem any different. They seem to be certain that the Tour de France will go ahead from 29th August. Seems unlikely to me.

We have a new quiz on Tuesday from Beer Bods, who I get some of my beer from. Technically it is the best quiz so far as they have an online entry sheet that is slick and easy to use. Although I don’t like the fact that there is a time limit on answering and the longer you take the less points you get for a correct answer. Also the presenters, in common will all quiz hosts, talk too much.

On Thursday I head over to Asda in West Bridgford to shop for my parents. Social Distancing has yet to catch on in West Bridgford and it is the easily the unhealthiest environment I’ve been in for some time and that probably includes before lockdown. My Dad’s bank card is declined at the till meaning he will again want to pay me in cash. Cash isn’t much good to me as I’ve stopped using it and I can’t see me using any this side of Christmas, if ever.

There is also a new quiz from The Times. It is the most ambitious one yet but unfortunately the technology doesn’t work and loads of people (including us) complain of not being able to submit our answers. The first round is also incredibly niche, being about The Times itself, but it does get better. Unfortunately the host, Matt Chorley whose Red Box column I enjoy, sets a new world record for inane chatter by a quiz host.

On Friday, the weekend arrives in the shape of two kegs from the Magpie Brewery, purchased by L for my Birthday. I start on the Cherry Raven and we order out from Anoki who unfortunately, and to the dogs’ disgust, forget the poppadums. 

(Friday 24th April)

Sunday, 19 April 2020

1998 Tour de France

It’s really interesting to re-watch the coverage from twelve years ago to see how the Channel 4 commentary team (who held the TV rights then) dealt with the drug scandal that engulfed the 1998 Tour de France. With great indifference is the answer. If they and others in the media had taken it a bit more seriously at the time maybe the following decade or so may have panned out differently.

Long before the Tour started trouble was brewing. In March, a TVM team vehicle had been seized by French customs and found to be containing vials of the drug EPO. While Christophe Moreau of Festina failed a drugs test for anabolic steroids at the Dauphiné immediately before the Tour but bizarrely was still allowed to start the race.

Then three days before the start of the Tour itself, a staff member of the same Festina team was arrested at the French border with EPO in his car. The race started in Dublin that year and nothing more happened until the race hit French soil for stage 3. Meanwhile Chris Boardman again won the prologue.

On arrival in France, the management of Festina were arrested and four days later they admitted to doping resulting in them being thrown out of the race. The French police weren’t done though and as they continued to look for evidence against other teams, the majority of the peloton staged a sit down protest before the start of stage 12 and then again midway through stage 17 causing that stage to be annulled.

After the stage five teams walked out of the race in protest at the police raiding the TVM Team’s hotel or perhaps they were just trying to evade arrest as the police took Rodolfo Massi, who was wearing the Polka Dot jersey, in to custody causing him to miss the next stage. Meanwhile the remaining riders of the TVM team took the opportunity to quit the race on Swiss soil and so avoiding facing the French police when the race returned to France the next day.

In the end only half the field finished the race with Marco Pantani winning and Jan Ullrich second, as both managed to avoid getting arrested. Ironically only two teams - Ullrich’s Telekom and US Postal who were about to be fronted by Lance Armstrong, ended the Tour with a full complement of riders. Both teams were pioneers of doping.

Ironically, as many riders later admitted that the investigation had caused them to dispose of their doping products either before the race started or soon afterwards, it may well have been the cleanest Tour for some years and certainly cleaner than the next ten or so. 

(Sunday 19th April)

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Smell The Fresh Coffee

One thing I’ve discovered in Lockdown is that I actually much prefer working from home to going into work. For a start you end up with a longer day when the commute takes less than a minute rather than an hour each way and I actually feel I’m getting more work done.

We’re missing going out in the evenings but some of our favourite pubs and some of our favourite restaurants\takeaways are delivering. Some takeaways have been closed but are now back open and we return to the Park Tandoori this week.

There are some advantages to no longer having a social life. I'm cooking every night (bar takeaway night) which means I can buy more fresh ingredients as things don't go off. I'm also really enjoying experimenting with my cooking and I’m also doing a pot of fresh coffee every day because I’ve got time to do so.

Meanwhile I’m playing more music which is actually costing me a fortune because I’m not only buying new music but also buying digital versions of stuff I’d previously only got on vinyl.

On the film front I watch The Secretary which is a 'classic' of sorts from 2002 and is about a young woman Lee (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who is into self-mutilation and has only recently been released from a mental institution. She gets a job as secretary to the original Mr Grey (James Spader). He’s a lawyer who is demanding in many ways and their relationship takes a sadomasochistic turn but after a while it becomes unclear who is the demanding one.

My TV consumption has rather worryingly gone up during Lockdown. This is partly due to L and I getting slightly addicted to reruns of ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ on the Sony Channel and we also watched Quiz, the series about Charles Ingram’s Millionaire ‘win’.

At least with all that and the various other quizzes we’re doing we may come out of lockdown more intelligent. We’re still enjoying Jay’s Quiz on a Thursday but his ‘Celebrity’ one at the weekend was a bit of a let-down.

Then there’s my Tour de France reruns. 1997 was fairly straightforward. Chris Boardman won the Prologue while Jan Ullrich won the whole thing by a massive nine minutes. 1997 was the calm before the storm of the 1998 Tour although the cycling authorities had already, sort of, admitted they had a drugs problem with EPO use by introducing a test for a rider's Hematocrit level because riders were starting to drop dead because their blood was like treacle.

No rider was allowed to race with a red blood cell count of over 50% and this rule probably explained why Bjarne Riss failed to defend his title in 1997 as he was rumoured to be mad enough to ride at levels well in excess of this when he won the previous year.

There was, at this point, no test for EPO so there was little else the cycling authorities could do but in 1998 the French Police were about to take matters into their own hands.

(Saturday 18th April)

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Perfect Candidate

On Sunday we watch the film ‘Perfect Candidate’ on the Modern Films website with a commission going to Broadway Cinema. It was a pain to stream though but we finally got it working from my Macbook to our Roku box.

Maryam (Mila al-Zahrani) is a young doctor in a Saudi Arabian hospital. We see her struggling to treat a man who has an arm injury because he refuses to be examined by a woman and he demands a male doctor, even though she is the most qualified medic available.

She is also concerned about the state of the road that leads down to the hospital but nobody in authority is interested in getting it fixed.

Maryam lives at home with her sisters, Selma (Dae al-Hilali) and Sara (Nora al-Awadh), and her father Abdulaziz (Khalid Abdulraheem). He is a respected musician who is struggling to get over the death of his wife and goes on tour with his band to take his mind off her.

While he is away, Maryam tries to take advantage by flying to a medical conference in Dubai where she hopes to put herself forward for a better job. However when she gets to the airport she is refused permission to fly because her father has failed to renew her travel permit and without his permission, she can’t fly.

She tries to see an official, who also happens to be her cousin, to get this rectified but she can’t even get an appointment with him. His secretary tells her he’s only seeing those who are signing up to be candidates to be a local councillor. So in order to see him, she signs up as a candidate herself. However, even when she sees him he still won’t budge on her permit.

Having signed up as candidate she decides to go ahead with it and armed with a googled checklist of how to win an election, she launches her campaign despite having no chance because she is female. 

We then get a lesson on political life in Saudi, particularly if you’re a woman, where the gender divide denies women a voice. Yet Maryam manages to get her political speech heard because she doesn’t focus on women’s rights like they all expected her to and instead turns her attention to the damaged road outside her hospital. This doesn’t improve her chances of winning but she does at least win that argument and the road is fixed.

(Sunday 12th April)

Friday, 10 April 2020

So This Is Easter

So this is Easter and we get two days off work... although it’s getting progressively more difficult to tell what day of the week it actually is.

The Easter Bank Holiday is of course a weekend when not leaving the house is usually the norm anyway because it typically rains throughout. Obviously this year the weather is well nice but we have to make do with the garden.

Supermarkets meanwhile had been limiting panic buyers to only three Easter eggs per person per trip. Three? Really? So I’m under the limit when I buy one for my parents and one for L.

The Friday Take Away again comes from Anoki and there is again a Parkrun quiz on Saturday morning.

On Easter Monday there will be the opportunity to do the iconic National Three Peaks Challenge from home by climbing and descending a total of 3406m, which is the combined height of Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scafell Pike, on your own stairs.

Work had been tentatively organising the real thing at the end of July, which is now looking very unlikely to happen. So this might be an ideal replacement... but I think not. 

(Friday 10th April)

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Isolation Is Getting Expensive

Sainsbury’s still doesn’t have any brown rice but at least I got some Arborio. That's risotto rice for the unposh. I also managed to get something called ‘chicken’, not seen any of that for ages. In some ways it’s a shame as I was quite getting into duck. So I buy some of that too. Isolation is getting so expensive.

Still no naan bread, tinned tomatoes, Leffe, marmalade or pitta. What is with people and pitta? I do get some eggs (wow) and Bonios!

On Wednesday I do a virtual cook with Daughter which seems to go well, at least she seems pleased. We do a virtual Massaman.

On Thursday I do a trip to Asda to shop for my parents. In complete contrast to Sainsbury’s which has a strict one person per shop policy and keeps the number inside the store very low, Asda is a free for all. They do make you queue up outside two metres apart but once they let you inside it’s like the mass start of an open water triathlon with everyone elbowing you out of the way to get to the tomatoes. With narrower isles than Sainsbury’s and whole families shopping together (i.e. little social distancing) Asda feels total unhealthy. I’m glad to escape as soon as I can.

As I leave the store a young couple are effectively blocking the exit by not leaving two metres either side of them. Thankfully as I reach them, they finally move on, the girl giving the lad a peck on the cheek before they part in different directions with a shout of 'see you soon'. So it didn't look like they were a household.

Exercise-wise, I have settled into a routine of running three times a week with the Lad usually something between 8k and 10k. We run mainly around Wollaton Park but with a road section first to add on a bit of distance and because the park is so busy.

There is definitely a lot of new runners around, I can tell this because most of them don’t acknowledge you. Usually most runners will give you a wave or a smile although I suppose they could just all be terrified of catching something. Personally I wear gloves while running on the park to open the gates as this is possibly the only means of infection there, that is assuming you keep two metres away from everyone while running.

(Thursday 9th April)

Sunday, 5 April 2020


With Broadway shut we aren't getting our usual fix of films but in an attempt to try and keep them in business we renew our membership anyway. In return they continue to send us their weekly emails with links to the films that they would have been showing, so that we can stream them along with discounts off the various streaming sites.

The first one we watch is Vivarium.

Gemma (Imogen Poots) and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) are a young couple desperate to get on the housing ladder. They wander into an estate agency staffed by Martin (Jonathan Aris), who looks like he’s just come straight off the set of Book Of Mormon.

Even though it isn’t at all what they are looking for, he persuades them to visit a new housing development called Yonder. Yonder is Suburbia on speed with its rows of identical houses with their identical white picket fences and identical manicured lawns.

They are shown around No 9 which is like a show house with everything ready for a couple to move in and complete with a spare bedroom ready for child number one.

When Martin simply disappears, Gemma and Tom can’t wait to make a run for it but they discover that escape is not possible. Every road leads back to No 9 and after driving around until it gets dark, they run out of petrol right outside No 9.

The next day, Tom climbs on to the roof where he sees nothing but more identical houses, so they decide to follow the sun to find a way out. They walk across identical garden after identical garden, always climbing over the identical fences using identical white plastic chairs. When they finally find a house with some lights on, it’s No 9. 

They discover that a box is left outside the house every day containing food and other provisions. The same food and provisions, day after day. Then one day the box has a baby inside it with a note saying, 'Raise the child and be released'.

If you assume that by merely having entertained the ‘dream’ of suburban living ‘sold’ by the estate agent and subsequently found themselves trapped in it then the last thing they should now do is to agree to raise the child. After all, why would you move to suburbia in the first place if the next step wasn’t to have a child to occupy that spare bedroom?

Out of compassion (I guess) they accept the child, thereby trapping themselves more deeply because having the child piles further demands on them. The way Tom and Gemma deal with those demands is by reverting to stereotypical gender roles.

Gemma cares for the ‘Omen’ child or at least tries to reason with it, as it grows at the rate of a dog and screams at the top of his lungs until it gets what it wants. While Tom digs because it makes him feel like he's doing something, and that is what men do.

As the child grows up into a Martin clone it all ends rather brutally as, with their roles affectively fulfilled, they are 'released' but not before we get an insight into other couples doing exactly the same thing in exactly the same trapped environment.

I thought it was a fascinating film, in the vein of the Twilight Zone or Black Mirror. A film about the treadmill of life, that life itself is a trap.

Where many films these days are remakes or sequels any film that dares to be different should be applauded. Vivarium gets a standing ovation from me.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

The New Routine

My company furloughs five members of staff. Personally, I wouldn’t mind doing nothing for 80% and then perhaps volunteering to do something useful. Instead they’ve asked me to work for 90% of my salary plus using my own electricity, printer ink, paper and paying for a memory upgrade for my computer to get it up to scratch but... happy to do so.

The Lad is getting the hang of our new routine, hereby to be known as ‘his’ routine. Which includes his breakfast at 7am prompt and his tea at 6pm prompt. He’s not being terribly flexible about this I must say.

On Monday we hold the Dog Club’s Committee Meeting as a Facebook Group Video call, which seems to go well.

Our hoodies from Ashby arrive and although L says she won’t wear hers for a race she hasn’t done, I love mine. As well as the hoodies, they have returned £10 each to us. I was minded to let them keep the money until they said that after they’d paid all their bills they’ll donate any remaining funds to charity. Personally, I’d rather they pay all their bills and then give me the rest back or keep it themselves to ensure we have a race next year.

Food sales are up 20% since lockdown but alcohol sales are up by 22%. This probably isn’t too surprising as none of us are eating and drinking out.

The problem with drinking is that being locked down is rather like being in a holiday cottage albeit with your own back garden. So we’ve started out drinking as we would on holiday e.g. every day. That’s probably not advisable long term but having a drink has sort of become a crucial end-of-the-work-day marking point.

On the food front people stockpiling the cheap stuff has driven us up market e.g. I couldn’t get any chicken, so I bought duck. I couldn’t get any beef mince, so I had to buy fillet steak. That said I couldn’t get brown rice and had to slum it with white. Does Duck even go with white rice?

Still no eggs nor pitta bread.  

Thursday is the second NHS clap but we miss Jay’s quiz and watch it on Friday instead as the Parkrun quiz moves back to Saturday.

Friday is our ‘keep the economy going' day but to our horror we find both the Park Tandoori and the Savera now shut. In fact the options to get a curry delivered are very slim. One name does stand out and that’s Anoki who are offering 20% off and free delivery. Better than that our order arrives with complementary poppadums and a pickle tray. Such acts of kindness will not be forgotten once the world is back spinning.

(Saturday 4th April)