Monday 31 December 2007

Embarrassing Parents

I have to be careful from now on in about how I refer to the papergirl, as Daughter has just become one. Today is her first day. Not only is she doing a morning round but also an evening one. L helps her today but I feel this could be a very stressful few days for all concerned, until she gets the hang of it.

I rest the old legs and take the car into work today.

The afternoon is nail bitingly exciting as L and I bat emails backwards and forwards awaiting news of how Daughters evening paper round went. The suspense almost kills both of us.

I get home and take Doggo on the pond run. It’s traumatic because some people simply cannot tell the time and have started letting off their New Year fireworks six hours early. Either than or they’re all celebrating New Year in India.

I'm never sure how to take New Years Eve. Like office Christmas parties, it's a time when people who don't usually get out much, go out and let themselves go. For those of us who like to enjoy ourselves all year round, the night is always a bit of a let down. Usually because if you do go out, you're expected to hand over wads of cash for the dubious privilege of it being New Year.

We do go out, but for a quiet family Chinese meal with my parents. The place and the meal are both very good. We're not rushed and it's all very good value. We get home, some time after eleven, and settle down to celebrate the New Year again with Jools. Where his guests are pretending its New Year although they probably filmed the programme in July. Jools is clearly looking a bit hot under the collar as Kylie Minogue sprawls slinkily over his piano in a skin-tight gold dress as they perform a slowed down version of her oldie 'I Should Be So Lucky'.

Someone fetch the oxygen for Mr Holland.

We even crack open a bottle of Champagne and we don't even like Champagne, well it was a gift.

It's all too much for Son who declares he's going to bed. Which is odd, because he's up until 2am most nights, yet he turns in on New Years Eve before midnight or perhaps he's just being smart and refusing to be exploited by the 'occasion'.

Earlier L had offered Son a party at our house which was very brave of her. She told him we'd leave them be and go out clubbing while it’s on. He seemed horrified at that and said he’d have to make up some other cover story because he’d be too embarrassed to tell his friends that we’d gone clubbing.

Oh dear, what it is to be embarrassing parents. All his friends' parents must be like my forty-something friends. People who have interpreted their thirties and beyond as a time to 'settle down' and turn their backs on everything fun and exciting. Oh well.

A Happy New Year to everybody, in particularly the girl in boots who started my new year off with a bang at 2am.

Sunday 30 December 2007

A Quiet Day Ruined By A Football Match

After a very pleasant and fulfilling lie in, I have to head off to the match.

Derby score an early goal, albeit against the run of play and then get a penalty. Steve Howard steps up to make it 2-0 and misses. Blackburn go straight down the other end and equalise. Three minutes later they get a second and it’s pretty much game over then. I retreat home to L’s speciality sausage and beans, and an AF night.

Doggo looks awful, totally knackered despite the fact he’s done nothing today at all.

Today newspaper praises my generation, Generation X as they call it, people born between 1965 and 1985, for being the most faithful of partners. It then goes on to say this is because this generation make the least industrious lovers and consequently have significantly fewer partners than the generations that came before or after them. Men from that era say the pursuit is just too stressful and overrated. They’d rather have a beer with their mates than swing from the rafters. I don’t think so!

Those comments came from Channel 4 presenter Justin Lee Collins. As Daughter would say ‘loser’, or is that just what he tells his wife...

A quiet day ruined by a football match and some dodgy journalism.

My Favourite Gigs Of The Year 2007

This is the second of my short series of special blogs summing up my year. This time I give you the best gigs I've been to this year.

This is my top 10:-

10. Hard-Fi, Nottingham Arena, Thursday 13th December

My number 10 was nearly OMD for doing half a gig of terrific oldies but in the end I had to side with the newcomers. Again this was half of a good gig but I wasn't expecting to be impressed and at times they were really rather good, for the Arena that's about as good as you're gonna get.

Read My Review

9. Pigeon Detectives, Rock City, Tuesday 6th November

Musically it could have been better but for sheer entertainment, Matt the Mouth was a one-man cabaret.

Read My Review

8. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Rock City, Saturday 21st July

One of my favourite bands. They can do no wrong really. This wasn't their best gig but it wasn't at all bad. It was also Daughter's debut at Rock City.

Read My Review

7. Icicle Works, Rescue Rooms, Wednesday 5th December

Ian McNabb is a true old school rocker and on this night he proved it, and we both got deafened.

Read My Review

6. Modest Mouse, Rock City, Monday 28th May

Another conversion courtesy of L. Johnny Marr stole the headlines but without him they would still have been great. Well worth hurtling up the M1 from the victorious play off final for.

Read My Review

5. Forward Russia, Juncktion 7, Friday 12th January

It took a lot of Leffe to get L there and we spent the night crushed up against the bar, sipping a solitary freebie JD. Yes in many ways this was a throw back to my student days of poverty, when bands regularly played venues far too small for them and to hell with Health and Safety. Now bands play venues far too big for them, so when they come back they'll probably play to around 500 people rattling around in the Arena. I hope not but please next time somewhere where I can breathe.

Read My Review

4. Hold Steady, Rescue Rooms, Friday 31st August

The Hold Steady really rocked a packed Rescue Rooms. I'm not sure who enjoyed it more the crowd or the band.

Read My Review

3. Brakes + Absentee, Rescue Rooms, Thursday 1st March

These two played to a small select crowd at the Rescue Rooms. It was like having them in your front room. Both were excellent, the Brakes especially so.

Read My Review

2. Maximo Park, Rock City, Wednesday 25th April

Low expectations from listening to their new album made the fact that this was one hell of a gig all the more surprising. Another band that seem to really enjoy being up there playing.

Read My Review

1. Bloc Party, Rock City, Sunday 11th February

The perfect gig. Loud and lively. They seemed to play their new album in sequence and at the same time inter splice the old stuff. Superb.

Read My Review

Saturday 29 December 2007

What Fun

L is too stressed for anything this morning. Is this because she’s doing a ‘non-competitive’ run today or is it because she’s on the run with a stressful Dog or is it because she’s got to drive there because I intend to go on my bike or perhaps it’s because I’m biking there or all of the above. Women are such a complex tapestry.

I bike for the fourth day in a row, what is surprisingly only 20 miles to Whatstandwell, up hill, most of the way, into a head wind, through Ilkeston and Heanor, ugh. What fun. Well actually yes, I enjoyed it. 1 hour 18 minutes. Good I think. Well I’m impressed.

Then I do the run attached to Doggo, 8 miles via 3 pubs. Mostly Greene King infected ones. I risk an Abbott. A below par one. I can confirm that Nottingham's least favourite brewer Greene King have reduced the ABV of Rocking Rudolph to 4.5%. Honestly, what is the point? Is it just because some sad souls have requested they bring it back and truck it up to Nottingham. Bet they think, if we trash it, they won't ask again. Job done.

I have a Sam Smiths in the only non Greene King pub. I go for OJ when faced with Suffolk Kimberley Bitter or Suffolk Olde Trip. The run, though, is excellent.

We get home for bacon sandwiches. We find out that Daughter is again going out on the razz, sleeping over somewhere. Son is out gaming, or something. Doggo is knackered and asleep. The front room is free. Bonus and stress free.

Later we head out into town. The XXXB is on this time but the Hook Norton Twelve Days 5.5% at Broadway, that we sussed out last night, is off the moment I order it. Then L snaffles the last Leffe Brune. Nottingham EPA here I come.

We again do a curry at the same place as last week. Again good, with a Cobra.

Friday 28 December 2007

There Is A Way To Be Good Again

I'm in work today and it's incredibly windy as I bike in. It's not actually a head wind or a tail wind but more of a sideways wind. Terrifyingly exciting, sort of. L is at home and obviously isn't worried about me, or asleep, because it's nearly ten thirty when she checks I'm still alive.

There are just five of us in the office and no sandwich vans to feed us. Some kind soul fetches me a wrap from Sainsbury's.

After work I bike to the pool for another swim. L tells me to cycle slowly. Unfortunately that’s out of my hands, it depends which way the wind is blowing. It's also started raining, so I try my new waterproofs out for the first time.

At the pool, I share a lane with an aggressive looking female. Ok, well it was L. She probably didn't like sharing the lane with an aggressive looking male.

The pool was busier today, mainly kids though. L reckons people give up exercise for Christmas like they give up chocolate for Lent, she might be right.

In the evening we go to Broadway to see a film that L has been really looking forward to. She's already read the book. The film is Kite Runner and is the story of two boys being brought up in pre-Soviet Afghanistan. Amir is of a well off family, while Hassan is the Hazara son of Amir father's servant. They become best friends and the boys fly kites together in the skies over Kabul, competing against other kites and 'cutting' them down.

Hassan will do anything to protect Amir but when Hassan is raped by other older boys, Amir is unable to reciprocate and protect him. This results in Amir thinking he has committed what his father refers to as the greatest and only crime, theft. Hassan has had his innocence stolen from him. Amir now knows he must let his friend go and manufactures a situation over a 'stolen' watch.

After seeing the boys on screen for so long, it is quite a shock when the story moves to America, as Amir and his father flee the new Communist regime. There he grows up and gets married.

Then years later he gets a call, to return home to Kabul where he has to risk his own life to find Hassan's son after Hassan himself is murdered by the newly installed Taliban. Afghanistan was first shown as a beautiful country but it is now depicted as bereft of colour, all the trees cut down by the Russians, and buildings demolished during fighting with the Taliban. A country where adulterers are now stoned in the soccer stadiums by the Taliban, who have even banned kite flying. Amongst all this he seems to find himself, rescues Hassan's son and takes him back to America.

The film was compelling and the cast were excellent, in particular the children who played Amir and Hassan, but I would have liked to have gained more insight into Afghan culture, the political situation, and life under the Russians and the Taliban. It is much less graphic than it could have been. Both with the war and in the way the crucial scene involving Hassan's rape was depicted, which just didn't come across strongly enough. There is only a small amount of violence actually shown in the film but I think more would have added to the effect. The 12A certificate was perhaps too restrictive.

Also the escape from Afghanistan was extremely implausible and descended into a typical Americanised shoot up/car chase. Apparently, according to L, this was not true to the book. For me it distracted from what was a very good film and a moving story about where 'There is a way to be good again.'

Thursday 27 December 2007

The Midlands

We do a five mile Xmas Walk over in Derby today, crossing numbers off a bingo card as we go. If you cross all your numbers off you win a prize. I never do. The walk is the one event, apart from skiing, that gets all of us together at the same time. I'm not quite sure why this is the case but I'm not complaining. Daughter is a winner this year; naturally I'm not. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Afterwards I have a couple of pints, Pedigree and Rosey Nosey in the pub. I’m humming tracks from Aha Shake Heartbreak by the Kings Of Leon, I think it's something to do with Son’s impressive long hair and goatee beard look.

I top my cholesterol up with steak and stilton but then I try and work off it all off by cycling home, having left my bike over in Derby yesterday.

Back home we take advantage of the fact that the council have opened the leisure centres this year. I swim and L does the gym. There are five or so of us in the pool, nice and quiet and no psychos. The council will probably say it wasn’t worth opening but I’ve seen nights this quiet on a normal week.

In the evening we watch some TV. More Judi Dench in Mrs Henderson Presents and we finish the eggnog for another year. There's just two glasses each left.

The movie concerns the founding of the Windmill Theatre by Mrs Henderson played by Judi Dench. She hires Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) to run it. They put on a non-stop revue and it is very successful until other theatres start to copy them and steal their trade.

They then make a big decision to have naked girls in the show. The Lord Chamberlain only reluctantly agrees if the girls do not move, like a nude art portrait. Even so the Lord Chamberlain was worried about the girls 'foliage' or as he preferred to call the disputed area 'the midlands'.

'Oh dear, you men do get into such a state about the midlands, don't you?' Mrs Henderson tells him.

This new format and the fact that World War Two closed all the other theatres, the Windmill was below ground level and therefore practically bomb proof, saved the theatre.

Quite a good movie.

I snuggle up with the midlands in bed.

Wednesday 26 December 2007

All Four Paws Spinning

I'm back in training in a quite big way today. I bike over to the Boxing Day run on Darley Park, then do the three mile run attached to Doggo. He's really up for it and I don't hold him back much at the start, which is what I did last year. We do nought to sixty in milliseconds, with all four paws spinning, and storm round to a dog assisted 28th place which is about 20 places up on last year. Our time was 20 minutes something; I will be more precise when I've read the manual for the sports watch that L got me for Christmas, at the moment I don't know how to retrieve the split times. L runs too, a return to competition for her, of sorts.

I have a pint in the pub afterwards, with my father, who gets lost and turns up late for the event, as he is prone to doing. It’s a dilemma to decide which Greene King wrecked beer to have. Do I go for the former Nottinghamshire brew now trucked up from Suffolk or the watered down version of a former Oxfordshire brew now trucked up from Suffolk. I go for the later, the low alcohol version of Speckled Hen. Surprisingly it tastes good.

Then I continue my Irish Duathlon (Bike-Run-Bike) by cycling to my parents house from where we go to the match, this time by car. Derby do incredibly well to hold Liverpool, the first half is a bit like the Alamo, but we are only one down at half-time. Then we have a real go at them in the second half and equalise. Jay McEveley’s strike being all the sweeter because he is an Evertonian. Unfortunately we go down to ten men for the last fifteen minutes after a injury to Robert Earnshaw, who we can't replace because we’ve already used all our subs. Then we concede another last minute goal and lose 2-1.

In the evening my parents come over to us, and our goose’s goose is finally cooked.

My Favourite Albums Of The Year 2007

This is the first of a short series of special blogs summing up my year. Firstly I give you the music that moved me this year.

This is my top 10:-

10. Ten New Messages - The Rakes

This, their second album, was panned when it came out so it took me ages to get around to buying it but when I finally did, I loved it. Ok it's very light and very safe but I like it, so there.

9. Shotters Nation - Babyshambles

More drugged up ramblings from Mr Doherty, probably more art than music but still very good.

8. Our Earthly Pleasures - Maximo Park

Another second album, clearly not as good as their debut and at first I dismissed it but having seen them live it took on a whole new life.

7. Favourite Worst Nightmare - Arctic Monkeys

Another band on their second album, this was received to critical acclaim and rightly so.

6. A Weekend In The City - Bloc Party

Yep, yet another band on their 'difficult' second album. It's also sometimes a difficult record to listen to but this one stands up as an album in its own right whereas 'Silent Alarm' was more of a collection of tracks. Where, direction wise, they go next though, I'm not sure.

5. Narcissus Road - The Hours

I love a good lyric and this is lyrically great. Musically it's not bad either. 'I love you more than my adidas trainers'. Absolutely.

4. Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever - The Cribs

No one likes the Cribs. I don't think most people even know they exist but they keep getting better and this, their third album, is just brilliant.

3. An End Has A Start - Editors

This, like The Rakes, is another album that no one liked, saying it was far too miserable for its own good. Well I like miserable but I actually find this quite uplifting, in a down sort of way. Brilliant, in my opinion.

2. Boys And Girls In America - The Hold Steady

This actually came out in late 2006 but NME have it in their best of this year, so I thought I would too. A discovery on Jools and it's actually one L bought but it's brilliant from beginning to end. Another LP with great lyrics. They're also superb live.

1. Because Of The Times - Kings Of Leon

If the Editors are classed as too miserable then what does that make The Kings Of Leon? Now they really are a miserable bunch, even more so because they keep coming to Nottingham and playing the miserable Arena. This brilliantly moody album sums them up totally. My best of the year.

Tuesday 25 December 2007

The Goose's Goose Remains Uncooked

Christmas Day, just the three of us. The best present is already unwrapped beside me. Time to spread a little Christmas cheer.

After opening our other presents, we take Doggo on the park and then on to the pub for a couple of hangover looseners, also known as Nottingham Legend.

Our Stilton pate proves to be excellent, as it the egg nog. It’s already proving to be quite an alcoholic day.

Christmas, they say, is not a time for change. So it's the same old turkey for most people, for the sake of (dubious) tradition. We do at least try and be different and I do find turkey very boring. So we tend to go for goose or sometimes duck but this year our goose's goose remains uncooked because after the kids deserted us for Christmas we decided to save him/her for when they are back on Boxing Day. A brief reprieve I know. Instead we have Sea Bass, a hurried replacement and very nice it is too.

Afterwards I suppose everyone will be settling in front of the same old TV as usual. Our only concession to Christmas Day TV this year is Robbie The Reindeer and possibly Keira Knightly's finest moment, although we do watch Scrooge that we taped last night.

The Christmas number one comes from those 'good' people at the X Factor. It is easily the worst record of the year, as is the tradition.

It’s very festive in our front room with the Christmas Tree and it’s lights, along with the candles we lit for our romantic Sea Bass feast. The dog is knackered, for some unknown reason, and stuck to the floor by his tongue. L is in her skirt and black tights again, looking very unwrapable. Daughter wouldn't approve but what the hell, she's not here.

Monday 24 December 2007

Christmas Spirit

L will put a different spin on this but I got jumped at 5am. There's barely enough time for her to get back to sleep before she has to get up to do Son's papers. She’s worn me out and I leave her to it but when she gets back I give the paper girl a taste of her own medicine.

Mid morning, we take Doggo around the pond for a run and then go off to fetch our Christmas Goose.

Back home our production line produces stilton & port pate, eggnog with whisky and rum in it, pigs in blankets, as well as stuffing for the bird. The goose that is.

We kick the Christmas spirit off with a glass of wine and then walk to Beeston. There's a rather nice 6%er from Mallard and the Fullers London Porter 5.7% is on again. So it's an excellent night. My limit is four pints but it’s stretched to four and a half.

We head home to wait for Santa.