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.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

He's Not There

I don’t wake up with a Santa but something better dressed, in a vest. Later we run around the pond and park with Doggo. L does the whole distance; she may regret this later.

I forget that Derby are playing as we have an obscure 2pm kick off. I turn the radio on to find that Derby are winning 2-1 at Newcastle. It doesn't last and we concede a late equaliser but things do seem to be looking up slightly.

We drop the kids off in Derby because they are away for a whole three days over Xmas. How will we amuse ourselves? L is kitted out in a skirt again, which helps me think of a few ideas.

After we've disposed of the kids, we do some Santa-ing ourselves and drop some presents off. In the evening we head off to Broadway again.

One way of making a biography different is to never mention the name of the subject. Another way I suppose is to cast six different people in the lead role. This is what Todd Haynes does with tonight's film 'I’m Not There', a portrait of sorts of Bob Dylan. This was a hard review to write because I am not a Bob Dylan expert, I'm not even a fan, but here goes.

Some of names of the leads come from the inspirations in Dylan's life, so we get the poet Arthur Rimbaud (Ben Whishaw) who links the film. We get the young 'black' folk singer Woody Guthrie (Marcus Carl Franklin) indicating his early life where Dylan went around claiming to be different people, from different places and invented friendships.

Then we get his early folk career, Jack Rollins (Christian Bale), when Dylan first made his name and also became political. Julianne Moore plays Alice, who is possibly Joan Baez. Dylan though wants to move on, his band plays at a New England Jazz Festival and machine guns the audience. So Jack disappears and in his place we get Robbie Clark (Heath Ledger), Clark is an actor who played him in a film. He is the more homely face of Dylan and marries Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), aka Sara Dylan. When their turbulent marriage ends, we get the divorce settlement being mirrored with the signing of the Vietnam ceasefire.

Meanwhile Dylan the artist, re-emerges as Jude Quinn (Cate Blanchett) but his audience feels betrayed as he shifts his sound from folk to rock. This Dylan goes on to be even more famous but continues to be misunderstood, particularly by the British TV journalist Mr. Jones which evolves into a particularly brilliant scene.

Later Dylan is reborn as Pastor John and is now signing gospel.

Finally we get him as a recluse; Billy The Kid (Richard Gere) in a Western Town called Riddle, a nod to his 1973 album (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid). The threatened destruction of the town causes him to meet his public again.

It's a surreal film, disjointed at times but towards the end, all the different characters begin to come together. There's some top acting and throughout the music is excellent, mainly Dylan originals but also including some covers by the likes of Iggy Pop and Sonic Youth.

The films called 'I'm Not There' and he isn't. The film itself is a jigsaw where the pieces never quite fit together but this I suppose was Dylan's life. It would be out of character for Dylan to let anyone try and define his life, so he hasn't.

L thought it portrayed Dylan in a bad light but I think it depends on your opinion of him in the first place. I started indifferent and came out the cinema still feeling indifferent but I thoroughly enjoyed the two and quarter hours in between. I assume his life was just this mishmash of lies, childishness, and arrogance, alongside his undoubted musical genius. The more I think about this film and the more I read up on it, the clever I think it was.

At the start and end there are images of Dylan 'dying' and scenes of his motorcycle accident in 1966 yet he is still very much alive, and still performing. Perhaps it is saying he would rather have died, which would have embellished the mystery of the man even more.

An AF night and Spam curry to round it off.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Last Minute Charlie-ing

L helps Son with the papers and then we run last minute Charlie (Son) over to Derby to deliver his presents to his Grandparents who are going away at 10am. Obviously he does his wrapping in the car or rather he doesn't because this makes him feel carsick and L has to take over. We hope this has nothing to do with the fact that he was apparently on the lager at a house party last night.

Eventually get back home in time for a spot of 'roasting' before I head off into town to do my own last minute Charlie-ing and finish my Christmas shopping. The queues in Jessops are that long that they are handing chocolates out in the queue. An attractive but very dim salesgirl helps me choose some shiny black tights for L. Then I meet up with L herself and purchase a skirt for her, which she's had her eye on.

L and Daughter head off to see a film, something surreal involving a donkey. I go home and take Doggo on the park, followed by a mega wrapping session.

In the evening, L puts on her new outfit and I take my girl in boots into town. We mix it with plenty of girls in Santa dresses. The cold weather ensures that there are plenty of, what I believe they in the trade call, 'chapel hat pegs' on show.

I enjoy a XXXB at the Keans Head, which then runs out. So I switch to St Austell Tribute, which also runs out. So we move on. The Cock n Hoop is shut for a ‘roasting’ party, probably.

Talking of which, there's a rumour going round that Manchester United's Argentine Carlos Tevez, who's English is a bit patchy, was caught pre-heating the hotel ovens to gas mark six. Apparently someone stopped him in time but Tevez was delighted to learn the true definition of the term 'roasting'.

We end up at Broadway, where the Old Hooky is so good I have to have two. Then we try a new Indian, for us, on Mansfield Road. Where we have a brill Curry and a half of Cobra. It's all rounded off with a port at home. Another boozy night.

Friday, 21 December 2007

No Lap Dancers, No Hand Picked Models And No One Gets A Roasting

5.50am alarm again! Yep it’s another run with L and Doggo. My legs still ache from last night and they are even stiffer afterwards. A week off biking and my body starts to fall apart.

I take the bus into work. It's a good job I’m early because the bus is too, I only just caught it. It's half-empty today, half the world is clearly already on holiday. I take a good look at the bus driver wondering whether he was one of the naked drivers on the new Trent Barton 2008 calendar. Nope, too slim.

The latest research says that humour comes from the male hormone testosterone, which explains why women often don't see the funny side. Like the chap on the bus today who was moaning to his mate that his new girlfriend had dumped him because he accidentally sent her a 'sordid' text message that was meant for his 'more broadminded' ex. Apparently their names start with the same letter, so it was an easy mistake to make. 'Its not as if we'd been up anything' he told his mate, 'we were just exploring the possibility'.

We have a 'dress down' day today as it’s the last day and it's also free of charge, no raising money for 'charity' here. According to the internal email, we are encouraged to wear 'jeans etc, or stockings/suspenders, whatever takes your fancy'. Unfortunately no one, male of female, takes them up on that option.

Lots of other companies near us are not in today, the Xmas holiday just gets longer. I doubted the sandwich van would show up but it did. Someone ordered chip butties downstairs, loads for everyone; this really is a bad food week.

After work I head back to colleagues house. Where he has an impressive wooden floor that is full of possibilities, which he obviously hasn’t seen because his equally excellent rug is far too small. We share a beer and a small snifter of whisky.

The party is typical works party fodder, although there are no lap dancers, no hand picked models and no one gets a roasting, well not that I notice. For entertainment we get the Blues Brothers poorer relations, who's highlight is when they perform Rawhide on a blow up horse, Manchester United this isn’t. We share our party with more overweight teachers, some trendy graphic designers and a bunch of builders who look like the Mafia, complete with their trophy wives.

Stella is there and so is my old mate Boddington. I avoid both and stick to wine. I’m good, I only have around three glasses, partly because the good wine runs out. The food is surprisingly good for a Xmas do. The party is due to end at 1am but I hope to be long gone before then. The hotel where the party is, has a golf course and L is going to meet me by the putting green later. How romantic. Daughter and L, are at the cinema watching schoolgirls (St. Trinians) and are going to pick me up on their way home. Hopefully the film will give L some ideas for a new outfit.

I get rescued and we head home for a sherry. Doggo is pleased to see us, even Son has abandoned him tonight and gone out 'partying'.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

You Know You Shouldn't But Sometimes You Just Have To

Last night L texted me to say that she needed a 6.30 run, meaning that she wished me to accompany her. Not a problem, it will be a pleasure. That is until I realise that she means 6.30am not 6.30pm. This is how I end up being awoken by my alarm at 5.50am. Hard work getting up but it is pleasant when we get out there.

The reason for the early run is because L needs to be at work early and leaves me to deal with 'family life' as she calls it. Doggo despite his run is being annoying with his fluffy ball. Daughter has gone back to sleep, and I almost have to resort to the crowbar out to get her up. Everything is soon sorted though, Daughter off to school, Doggo out the lounge and away from the temptation of the settee. So I lock up and go to work, in the car again, because I’m on the pub run. Son is just arriving back from his paper round as I leave, so Doggo won't have long to wait to get on the settee.

L emails me about the Fife Diet, where a family are trying to survive on food local to Fife. L de-compensates for her manic day by having a mince pie, so I hope it was local. I do my de-compensating at the pub with some cottage pie and a local beer, Flowerpot own brew 3.9%, can’t get more local that that, brewed ten feet away.

On my way home I do a quick nip to the shops to get some presents or at least I try to make it quick. They say that the internet is killing the high street shops, correction, high street shops are killing themselves and driving people to the internet, not the other way around. I go in Argos, possibly the worst shop ever but very convenient. If Argos was food, it would be a microwave meal, you know you shouldn't but sometimes you just have to. I have pre-ordered something but still have to queue for ages because they are shockingly understaffed. They have a solitary person on the tills and a mile long queue. The collection point is worse; they have no one there, unless you count the teenager chatting to his mate. Meanwhile behind him, carnage is occurring as packages appear on the conveyor belt from the storeroom and just sit there piling up, naturally he is oblivious to this and to the ever increasing queue of irate customers, of which I am one.

Toys R Us are better, but only slightly, as they manage to open two checkouts and there you only have to queue once but it still takes ages.

Later my opponent 'drags what is left of himself' down for a game of squash. He reckons his body has given up for the year or does he mean that he's given up on it. That certainly appears to the case as he falls apart after I win a close first game. I go on to take the match 3-0. I'm close to taking the fourth when he wakes up and fights back. He wins the next three to level the score but I win the final game to win not only the match but the war 4-3.

In the pub, they have two Nottingham Brewery beers on the bar, as they always do, but I go for Bateman's, Lincolnshire is pretty local.

I get home where L has left me far too much bread and pasta but I eat it all the same, with a glass of red to wash it down and a little help from Doggo. There's cheese on top of the bread and he's rather partial to that. I need the carbohydrates as L is up for an early night.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Night With The Hoods

I get a text from L asking how my head is. Fine of course. I even got a lie in because our meeting wasn't until 10am.

After a big breakfast, a big lunch and a long meeting we finally get away around 3.30. When I get back in Nottingham I drive straight to the Guides Christmas play which Daughter has banned both L and me from going to. As teenagers surely know when their parent bans them from doing something it makes them all the more likely to do it. So hence, here we are at the play. I've also been threaten with death if I blog about it, so here goes.

It’s a impressive turn out, close to a sell out I would say, so it was lucky that L got there early to get tickets.

It goes well. Mostly they remember their lines this year. The production is, I think, called 'The Four Riding Hoods'. That is red, blue, green and yellow. Enough said.

The all female cast also isn't quite as sulky as last year and Daughter gets a lead part. She brings a touch of sarcasm to her role as one of the ‘Hoods’. The wolf fails to maul any of the children but still steals the show.

I leave the production almost as soon as it ends and head back home to get Doggo, so that we can do our final training session of the year. It’s also the last with this particular trainer. His contract hasn’t been renewed for next year and you thought it was only football managers who had it tough. I nearly miss the start as the previous group only had two people in, they were so exhausted that they finished early and so we get to start early. Good session though. Paw perfect, if slow.

Having corrupted myself on it last night last night, I can't resist taking a whisky to bed. So does L. Isle Of Jura again.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Faggots And Sluts

There's too much going on to enable me to cycle at all this week, for a start I'm off to Sewage Central again tonight. So it's a good job I did four cycles last week. At least going to work in the car, gets me a lie-in and a bit of 'sport'.

The whole country appears to be enraged that Radio 1, the supposed station of the young, has censored 'Fairytale of New York' by removing the words 'faggot' and 'slut' from it. They are the only station who have, even Radio 2 are playing it uncut. The odd thing is, that when the record was originally released twenty years ago it was the word 'arse' that caused offence and they had to omit that when they played it live on Top Of The Pops but in those days 'faggot' and 'slut' were considered fine. What a progressive society we have.

Now if they wanted to remove any words from the song it should have been the whole of Ronan Keating's cover version of it, now that really was offensive. For anyone like me, who's really into their music, nothing riles you more than a bad cover version. Usually an excuse for laziness, in this lazy age of ours, they show a complete lack of imagination, talent, and inspiration but then they're just after your money. They usually don't even admit that the songs a cover, so anyone who was born after the original was out thinks it's original.

Later in the day Radio 1 back down and reinstate the original version. They probably set Shane MacGowan on them.

One I get home, I eat and kick the dog at the same time. So if L decides to take him out on a run he should be fairly edgeless. I contemplate collecting L from the gym in the car, just so that I can see her before our long and painful period apart but in the end she get home in plenty of time.

She straight away prostrates herself on the bed. I can't argue with that. She obviously doesn't intend me to feel the need to stray any further than Stella tonight.

We have a good drive down to Maidstone, that is until we are within a mile or so from the hotel. Just as we can smell the beer we hit a queue on the M20. They have closed two junctions for no apparent reason. Scandalous.

After a half-an-hour delay we get there and I head straight off to meet Stella in the bar. We settle in to watch the drunken teachers stagger out of their Christmas party that's going on next door. I avoid Stella and hit the Boddingtons again and also have a rather large Isle Of Jura. Very nice.

My MD hasn’t eaten but there's no food in the bar, not even crisps or peanuts. So the hotel orders us a takeaway pizza which we eat in reception. Cool, or not.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Party Season

L has her Christmas party at lunchtime and indulges in the Bucks Fizz and cheese. She also causes an upset by posing as someone else's daughter, accidentally, which didn't go down well. It's occupational hazard of looking so young and gorgeous. I'm more surprised she admitted to the ‘cheese’ word and she didn’t even bring any home for Doggo and me.

In the evening it's Doggo's Christmas party, where we do really well at all the party games and he wins yet another toy. He seems to have had loads of presents and it's not even Christmas yet.

Afterwards we go collect L and Daughter who have been skating with L's sister and her kids. Daughter, the former 'shortie' of our family, now turns out to be the tallest of the five of them, oh and how smug is she about it. Of course the tall one of our clan, Son, stayed at home, with a pizza, except I forgot to tell him there was one.

A word on Bleak House that we finished watching last night. L kind of talked me into this one but I'm glad she did. I generally don't watch much TV these days as most of it is pretty second rate, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover that the BBC can still produce something as good as this.

The plot is far too labyrinthine to go fully into but it all revolves around the never-ending court case of Jarndyce versus Jarndyce. Many people are set to benefit from the case if it is ever resolved but even before it is, it impacts on all the characters in the story.

The production captures the gloom and squalor of the period convincingly and the casting is excellent. In particular Charles Dance as the scary lawyer Tulkinghorn and Gillian Anderson as the fragile Lady Dedlock but all the cast are excellent.

At first I though it was odd doing it in thirty-minute slots but in the end this works well as each episode leaves you wanting more. In fact I was sad to see it end.

I'm still bemused by the ending though, just how did Lady Deadlock kill herself in the graveyard? Did she drown herself in the rain?

Well done the BBC, now 'Shake me up Judy'

Sunday, 16 December 2007

My Day Of Culture

We have a quiet lie-in because there is a sleepover in progress above us. Mind you they are making so much noise that they could drown out anything.

Later I take Doggo on the park again and then I meet L and Daughter at the Cinema.

I've been tempted by the good reviews of what really isn't my type of film and we go see 'Enchanted'. At least it can't possibly be as bad as the 'Golden Compass'. Made by Disney studios, the film starts in animated form, that is proper animated not CGI, in 'Andalasia' where Giselle (Amy Adams) is desperate to be rescued by her Prince Charming. The animated sequence goes on a bit but eventually Edward (James Marsden) duly turns up and saves her from a troll and consequently they are set to be married. But Edward's wicked stepmother (Susan Sarandon) does not approve and throws Giselle into a portal that leads to hell.

Hell turns out to be New York, where she climbs out of a manhole cover in full princess regalia. A pessimistic divorce lawyer (Patrick Dempsey) gives her a room for the night where she makes herself clothes out of his curtains. While he introduces her to the 'real' world, he is intrigued by Giselle's attitude towards love and her belief in living 'Happily After Ever', usually in a huge castle, which contradicts his own real life experiences and the modern day notion of getting to know someone first.

When he walks in on her taking a shower and subsequently ends up in an embarrassing clinch on top of her, with her in just a towel, just as his fiancée walks in. He finds himself resolutely dumped. Giselle helps him out by sending round a few doves and flowers, which works a treat and his fiancée forgives him for having a half-naked girl in his apartment because she trusts him. I shall remember that one. Women are strange.

Her prince follows her down to 'hell'. Where he stabs a bus after mistaking it for a monster then gets run over by cyclists in the park. I can sympathise with the cyclists, bloody pedestrians.

As Giselle enjoys the New York experience she realises that her Prince Charming is not the right man for her and instead falls for her lawyer. Of course, it all ends happily ever after, albeit after an overblown scene with a dragon. Giselle is put in to a deep sleep only to be rescue by her lawyer's 'True Loves Kiss' and they all lived happily ever after...

HELLO? This rat you've just run off with has just dumped his long-term fiancée for you, a girl who he's only known for a day or two and who crawled out of a sewer. Love lasts forever? Clearly it doesn't. His ex gets the booby prize of the dopey Prince Edward.

I went into Enchanted not expecting too much and therefore was not disappointed. It was actually better than I had expected, although very cheesy and full of clichés. Timothy Spall does a good turn as the henchman Nathaniel, and an animated chipmunk called Pip puts in a star performance. Another fluffy bunny of a movie.

It's cold when we come out. Well that's the excuse for downing a bottle of mulled wine between us. I cook curry and then we watch our second film of the day, on DVD this time.

Based on Zoe Heller's novel 'Notes On A Scandal' is the tale of two seemingly sophisticated women who's lives become entwined but then dramatically unravel, proving themselves to be anything but sophisticated.

Judi Dench plays Barbara Covett (note the name), who is a well respected schoolmarm but also a lonely spinster. Cate Blanchett plays Sheba Hart, the raw new totty in the art room. Sheba proves herself not to just be inexperienced as a teacher but also in life. She is a teacher, a wife, and a mother, who is out of her depth in all three and for someone her age, thirty-something, she is astonishingly naïve. She is just begging for someone to take her under their wing. Barbara is eager to oblige and quickly moves into the flighty newcomers life.

Dench voice-overs the film as her character scribbles in her diary, adds gold stars, and makes bitter observations about the world. The film moves at a fast pace and doesn't keep you hanging around while it builds the scene. Sheba starts giving a young pupil after school art tuition but he quickly makes it obvious to her that he can think of better things to do with her after hours. Her attempts to repel him are not convincing and he senses that Ms Hart could be putty in his hands. Of this, he is not wrong.

She seems cast under his spell, caught like a rabbit-in-the-headlights and falls for the youthful passion that he dangles before her. Although even he must have been surprised at just how free and easy she is. So they embark on a tawdry and adulterous affair, generally carried out down by the railway line. Yes I know, here we go again, another film about married women who can’t keep their loins in check.

When they upgrade from the railway line to the art room, Barbara stumbles upon what's going down, but promises not to tell for the sake of all, as long as she ends the relationship. Sheba though is weak and fails to give up her toy boy. She finds herself addicted and simply can't stop herself digging a deeper hole to throw herself in to.

Meanwhile Barbara installs herself as a regular feature in Sheba's life and family, who consist of her much older husband, played by the excellent Bill Nighy, who left his wife and children for the younger Sheba and her two children who are of similar ages to her lover, a son with Down's syndrome and a daughter with her own love troubles.

Barbara herself has skeletons in the closet and they slowly come out to play. We come to understand that Barbara has designs on Sheba, after another teacher spurned her and fled her job the previous year. Both characters at times get your sympathy but equally you start to feel pissed off with them but before you get too one-way or the other, something else happens and the story moves on.

When Sheba is torn impossibly between her family and her friendship with Barbara, she chooses her family. So Barbara betrays her secret to the school and everything in Sheba's life falls spectacularly apart as the police and the media get involved.

It's a gripping, intelligent film with a raw nastiness to it and which has so many layers to it. You simply hang on every scene and every word. It's a film about predatory behaviour but who exactly is preying upon whom. It's short but packs more into it’s running time than most films of twice the length. Excellent script by Patrick Marber of Closer fame. Another great English film with superb performances all round.

Our cultural day is still not over was we round up Bleak House by watching the final three episodes.

34 units

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Fabricate The Past?

I'm just getting up after an action packed lie-in when the phone goes and I receive another cancellation concerning tonight's 'old school pals' night out. It seemed a good idea at the time and something everybody wanted to do but when it comes down to it they can't be bothered. Oh well.

I take Doggo for a good kicking on the park and then I head over to Derby for the latest slaughter to be inflicted on the Rams. Only 1-0 this time and to a wonder goal but it was another 'must win' game that we never looked like winning. It was, I must admit, a better performance but the probability of scoring a goal always looked very remote.

L's been at Beauty and The Beast, a foreign version, that apparently was a real hoot and would have been well worth blogging, had I been there. Daughter was there, embarrassing L, with two of her mates who are sleeping over. I escape to my reunion. On the way out Daughter advises that I fabricate a fabulous past to vow them with. I might have to, no one will believe the reality.

The night goes well, there are only five of us but it is still a good night. The Old Cottage beer is good. I was right. No one believes I'm stupid enough to cycle to work, do triathlons and spend all day doing nothing at dog shows. Perhaps I should have took Daughters advice and told them I was a brain surgeon or something.

Friday, 14 December 2007


2 degrees this morning. Tropical. There's a slight breeze which makes me realise why it's been such a good week on the bike. Until today there's been no wind at all.

The same woman in her Ford Ka who unsuccessfully tried to assassinate me before tries to do it again, with exactly the same manoeuvre as before, pulling out of Station Road in Borrowash, followed by an immediate right into Victoria Avenue.

Despite her efforts I make it to work unscathed, so that's four days in a row, which will be ‘hard to beat’ to coin a phrase from last night. Feeling well smug.

L's 'working' from home today and tries to out smug me by running, doing the papers and then going to yoga. She comes back from yoga with a new skirt. Very clever and very naughty, although I will look forward to seeing her in and out of it.

We're told that the government wants to address obesity and excessive car use but it has been announced that the secretary of state for media, culture, and sport has cut off funding for recreational cycling because they've decided it doesn't count as a sport any more, whereas swimming, sailing, and horse riding do. More sensible logic from the powers that be.

Daughter looked at bit rough this morning after the gig and late night homework session. L escorted her partway to school and says she got accused of doing do so just to make sure Daughter didn't fall asleep on the way. That's what mothers are for. Hope she's got some crap lessons she can snooze through today. Things won't get any easier she's got a gang of girls round from a 'sleep' over on Saturday. Luckily I'm off out.

In the evening we amble up to Beeston. The Fullers London Porter is very good but the Grantham Stout is better.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Hard To Beat

Heroic am I. I cycle three days in a row for the first time and feel well smug about it. It's the warmest morning of the week so far, a sweltering zero degrees, yet once outside this doesn't appear the case as the side roads are white over. I hope L hasn't noticed, don't want her worrying. The main roads are fine though. I also do quite a quick time, carrying much less weight this morning.

I get an email from L, she has noticed the slippery roads.

Glencoe Ski centre goes into liquidation, again.

I get home. L and Daughter are in town shopping and I will meet them there later. I take Doggo for a run. It's quite icy, not good cycling weather... mind you steering a bike is a doddle compared to steering a collie.

As we head back towards home we run into a posse of Santa's aboard the Lions Club sleigh, which is belting out 'Santa Baby' by that woman who sounds like Marilyn Monroe but isn't. Somehow we seem to run into that sleigh every year. Doggo gives it a very wide berth.

I have a quick snack and then I head into town. Doggo is eating his tea as I go out the front door. He looks totally stunned, as I never usually walk out on him while he's eating. He looks choked, also literally.

Last week it was the northern grit of the Icicle Works, this week it's the southern softies Hard Fi, plus it's the Ice Arena, so expectations are low. We arrive to catch the last few songs of Tavistock quintet, The Rumble Strips. L describes them as having a touch of Dexys about them, which is a good analogy. They are good and quite inventive which may reflect badly on tonight's main act.

Then the Surrey boys take the stage and launch into 'Middle Eastern Holiday' or rather three quarters of the band do because the bass guitar isn't working. Now, is it the professional thing to carry on regardless or stop, get the bass sorted and start all over again? They carry on, I think to the slight annoyance of Kai, the bass player. So we get a rather subdued version of one of their punchier tracks. I don't remember anyone sound checking the equipment before they came on, tut tut, shoot the road crew. I can't quite believe it when they opt to play a second track still without any bass guitar. Are they on a deadline or something? Kai is now miming, as technicians run around madly, swapping guitars, changing cables, prodding buttons, twiddling knobs, flicking switches, anything they can think of short of kicking the amplifier. Kai though, I think, is seriously considering it.

Then 20 seconds before the end of the track I think someone realises that they forgot to plug the amp in and the bass guitar bursts into life. Just in time for 'Tied Up Too Tight' their debut single from 2005 which sounds good and gets the crowd going. They follow this with one of their better new tracks 'Can't Get Along', and by now the place is really rocking. They maintain this momentum for a while by playing a mix of old and new but then they lose it when they play a sequence of mediocre tracks from their slightly lightweight new album.

It's at this point that I start looking around at tonight's audience. The first thing that is obvious is that the Arena is probably only half full, which begs the question why are they playing here. My mate the other night reckoned it was because vocalist Richard Archer is a 'bit of a knob' with too big an opinion of himself. On tonight's evidence that's a bit harsh, he's hardly any match for Matt the Mouth from the Pigeon Detectives.

The audience is a real mix of ages and not the predominately younger crowd that I had expected. The youngsters do entertain us though, during the dull moments. A lad in a stripy jumper has to repeatedly try to fight off the ardent attention of his embarrassing drunk girlfriend. He indulges her just enough, so as not to compromise his chances of getting his leg over later, before peeling her off him and pushing her away. Every time he does this she runs off to put her arm around someone else or in one case climb on to their shoulders. She's evidently trying to make him jealous but he doesn’t look bothered, in any case she keeps boomeranging back.

Back on stage, 'Cash Machine' sounds disappointingly flat and is also upstaged by the big screen at the back of the stage. Archer could have been stood there singing naked and no one would have noticed because everyone is too busy being entertained by the screen.

Drunk girl is back again, swinging her arms around Stripy, we all duck as arcs of lager fly from the glass in her hand. Thankfully it'll soon be empty. Although I find myself wishing she'd drink it rather than spill it then she might fall over and we'll all get some peace.

The band play a B-side 'You And Me' and Archer plays a burst of The Special's 'Ghost Town' on a Melodica, proving his talents, he also plays guitar and his voice tonight is faultless.

They all have to do it don't they? On 'We Need Love' they change the words to say 'Nottingham', luckily it is easily transposed with 'Birmingham'. It would have been interesting to see how they got on in Margate the other night.

Some silly sod has fetched Drunk girl a fresh pint of lager and we all get ready to duck again. Stripy's had enough, he slopes off, and when he doesn't return after a couple of songs she goes off to find him. We all relax.

They finish with the oddly popular 'Suburban Knights' and 'Hard To Beat' which also sounds below par. I shall give them the benefit of the doubt and blame the Arena. Luckily we are close to the front and probably get the best of the sound because again there are insufficient speakers for those at the back to get much clarity.

As Archer is singing 'Stand up, knock me right off my feet, hard to beat' a well timed bottle comes sailing towards his head and tries to do just that. Archer pulls off a ducking manoeuvre that he ought to share with Ricky Hatton. The lyrics are so appropriate 'Goodness, no, I've never known a night like this' but I wonder if he's tempted to change the next line and sing 'Can't believe it, I'm so hard to hit'.

Drunk girl has found Stripy and they are back in front of us for the encores. Archer returns alone with an acoustic guitar and plays the first verse of 'The King' alone. The rest of the band gradually drift back and join in as the song goes along. It is one of the best moments of the night. Then they close with two oldies, first the title track from 'Stars of CCTV, then Archer asks 'What goes down in Nottingham on a Thursday night?' That's a bit personal; perhaps he's read Stripy's thoughts. I think 'who falls down' might be more appropriate in Nottingham. Archer is trying to get a lead in to 'Living For The Weekend' but it's a bit convoluted. The track itself does come over well.

In the end I am pleasantly surprised. They're an entertaining band; they just need more decent material. For a band who were once labelled as the modern day Clash they've lost their way a touch. ‘Stars Of CCTV’ was half a good album with some excellent moments, most of which were played tonight, unfortunately it had an equal number of less inspired ones. Their new album ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’ is more of the same, or rather less, because they've built on the uninspired half, which hints at a dearth of new ideas. Next time, they 'Better Do Better'.

We walk back to the car and see Stripy and drunk girl go into a bar to top up her alcohol levels. He won't be getting much out of her tonight.

When we get home, Daughter still has an essay to write for tomorrow, so we leave her to it. I take L to bed, its only 11.30, hard to beat, eh Stripy?

Wednesday, 12 December 2007


-2 degrees, so I go for the booties option, with thermal socks and my feet are much warmer. The roads seemed to have been gritted this morning, whereas they weren’t yesterday. The council must have been able to drag someone out of bed to do it. Coffee break was good, much warmer, thanks to L warming my flask. I'm back on my old route today, I can't be bothered to battle the railway crossing.

L asks how the oats are. Regrettably unsown, furrows remain unploughed or is she on about the porridge. I'm still full of pizza, so I opt for a very milky version this morning. L says we need to book an early night. She can consider herself booked.

Connect2 wins the £50M lottery funding. It's a start.

L cooks early and we eat before dog training and before she collects Daughter from Guides. I threaten to lock her in the bedroom tonight and she's obviously taking my threat seriously.

Training goes well but I also find out that the AGM last week was a total waste of time, as the committee have now overruled a lot of what was agreed there. Mind you it's good news because membership renewals are down, so next year we will get trained nights for free whereas currently they are £3 and the AGM had voted to increase them to £3.50!

The rest of the evening and the lock in, goes very well, very gentle. I like gentle.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

A Chill Wind Under The Tail

-1 degrees this morning and very frosty outside. The cold makes Doggo frisky and he's out in the garden with his football long before 7am. All it takes is a bit of a chill wind under his tail and he's anybody's. It's a shame for him that no one wants to go out there and join him. The cold has a similar effect on me, I'm feeling just a playful, but there's no time.

I try my new route again and soon regret it when I have a very long wait at the railway crossing. The roads are not really icy. There's the odd puddle that looks a bit glassy but I kept well away from them. It is very nippy though and I'm very glad I put two pairs of trousers on. It's my feet that suffer and when I'm thawing out at work, I'm tempted to put my feet in my porridge.

L always wants a dog for Xmas. One year it was a shiatsu, another year a whippet, this year it's Brian. Don't ask. She's addicted to the website of a local rescue centre. Unfortunately it's a non-starter because they won’t let us have a rescue dog because we work. This is a bit of a generalisation because I don't think Doggo minds that we work, in fact I think sometimes he wishes we worked more. He seems to find our lifestyle a bit too much for him. Xmas is going to totally wipe him out because we're off work for almost a whole week.

On my way home I almost run into the blonde on the carbon bike as she emerges from a side road in Risley. Thankfully I didn't, I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I'd scratched the bike.

I get home and take Doggo for a run. We do a loop through Wollaton and then onto the tennis centre to meet L, who's doing pilates and gym there. We get joined by an ownerless lurcher, which just won't go away; despite the fact that Doggo does his best to see it off. The creature is just too stupid to look bothered. Doggo is desperate for me to let him off the lead so that he can have a real go and I do sympathise but I'm sure they'd both end up scrapping in the road. Which is so Nottingham but no.

Eventually we get rid of the lurcher and push on to meet L. She's already told me that she'll be waiting for me, muffin in hand and that she expects me to be chivalrous and to take care of it for her. Talk about an incentive. I wonder if she's being deliberately suggestive?

We are little late, thanks to the lurcher, but not much. The muffin is huge and has been given to her by someone at work but she daren't eat it. Probably in case it compromises her weighing contest at work. Underhand tactics by the opposition I think. Luckily muffin eating is my speciality. If I'm allowed to say that? Although I only have about half of it because I'm out for a pizza tonight.

I am accompanied on my night out by a mate of mine, and a couple of Stella's. At £2.95 per half pint bottle, or an obscene £6 a pint, reassuringly expensive or not. Langtry's is much better. They have Broadside, Otter Ale, and Salem Porter on, among others. Wow. I opt for a couple of porters 4.7%. Very very nice.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Watering Down The Beer?

Voting closes today for the Peoples 50 Million Lottery. As a cyclist I've been supporting Sustrans Connect2 bid, the project to reconnect communities severed by major roads, railways, and rivers by building bridges, tunnels, and extending paths. A worthy project because it is so difficult these days to cross major roads without risking being run down, or making huge detours. If it wins, 79 locations across the UK will benefit.

Of course the problems that Sustrans wants to fix have all been created by national and local governments. So it really should be their responsibility to put right these wrongs that they and their planners created in the first place. In any case the benefits to health, transport, and local people would be huge. So our Government should have looked at this silly lottery competition and been so embarrassed by it that they should have promptly apologised and coughed up the £50M that Sustrans want, although in reality they probably need much more than this. The whole contest could then have been called off because the other three worthy (but not as worthy) causes do not need anything like as much money and they could all have achieved their main aims by splitting the prize between them.

John Carroll gym has been burgled but thankfully they have left the important stuff and just taken the TVs. Working out suddenly got even better.

L sets me a challenge to get hold of some cranky music by a Filipino singer called Cynthia Alexander. Blimey. Talk about a challenge and I really hate to admit that it's a challenge that I failed. She doesn’t even appear to have a UK record label, not that I can track down anyway. I won’t sleep tonight now.

Get home and Daughter is making the Christmas puddings, together with a lot of mess but it's not as bad as usual, she slipping. All the same, Doggo and I escape and go over to class in Derby. L is also out in Derby running, eating, and drinking.

When I pick L up afterwards, she tells me that Nottingham's least favourite brewer Greene King have resurrected Hardy's And Hanson's Rocking Rudolph but it appears that, as is their way, they may have watered it down to 4.5%. I'll have to check this out for myself before I 'go off on one', so watch this space, but it wouldn't surprise me at all. They're already destroyed Ruddles County and Old Speckled Hen by watering them down to a much lower stretch, essentially removing what made them great beers.

Still time at home for an episode of Bleak House.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

I set the alarm for 4am, to catch Ricky Hatton's fight on the radio. Yep, I've been caught up in the hype. However they must have borrowed the organising committee from a dog show because they are running an hour late, so I roll over and go back to sleep. The next time I awake and switch the radio on, I'm just in time to hear him lose in the tenth round. Oh well.

We get an uninterrupted lie-in this morning, well apart from my brother ringing and someone banging on the door trying to get sponsored for a swim. So correction it was VERY interrupted.

A quick 'power' shower which conjures up thoughts of... never mind. Then L goes off to the gym and I take Doggo on the park. After which we meet up at Sainsbury's.

In the evening we go for our weekly film. You can tell it's getting near XXXXXmas as there's not a lot on, so we see the Golden Compass. I'm really not sure I can bear (that's almost a pun by the way) to review this. I did see a review on the internet entitled the 'Golden Turd' and nearly just put up a link to that but here goes...

The story surrounds a very uncharismatic young girl called Lyra, not Lycra as I first thought, who is given a golden compass to help her find a kidnapped friend. This leads to her ending up in an airship with Nicole Kidman, which is traumatic enough for starters, but Kidman is a weirdo who hates it when girls wear their handbags in the house? Then we get 'introduced; to loads of other characters, who mutter about 'dust' and 'intercision' without really convincing even themselves that they know what they're taking about. The only cool bit is that all the characters have daemons, which are animals that are attached to them which represent their souls. These daemons are CGI generated cats, birds, dogs or even tigers. Kidman gets a monkey, enough said. Is it only me that thinks CGI is now so last century? Let's get back to real animals, much cuter.

The funniest bit of the film was when a dog daemon fell off a rooftop but no one else laughed. Although plenty of people laughed at other random points and I couldn't really see why, or was it just because of the bad acting or senseless plot.

Daniel Craig turns up, does a touch of James Bond, for all of about ten minutes, and then disappears again. He isn't the only one; several characters turn up, do a one scene, and vanish. This, unfortunately, isn't true of Kidman, who receives far too much screen time.

Then suddenly they're all tramping off to North Pole because the compass tells them to, to look for the ring, or is that another story? The movie also borrows all the bad bits from Harry Potter, Narnia etc too. There our heroine befriends a giant polar bear, who I think is drunk. I'm trying to get to sleep at this point but for some reason it's not working, it was probably the armoured polar beer fight that disturbed me.

The film is adapted from the Phillip Pullman novel, which I haven't read but seemingly most people who have are appalled at the butchering of the book, apparently the film even ends four chapters back from the end of the book. It was also supposed to be story for teenagers but it appears to have been blatantly dumbed down and aimed at younger kids, which even insults their intelligence. The books have been criticized for being a bit controversial on some religious topics but that must have been dropped from the film or else I dozed through that bit.

Overall a confusing, poorly acted, badly directed mish-mash of a film. Apparently two sequels are due. Oh dear.

With being at the cinema we miss this year's Sports Personality of the Year award. Which is no hardship as everyone know the way to win it is firstly to have no personality and secondly to have totally failed in your sport, although coming second is a very good way to get the sympathy vote. So it's not surprising that the England Rugby team get the team prize for coming second in the World Cup. Quite how the GB cycling team failed to win it after taking seven golds, two silvers and two bronzes at the World Championships I have no idea.

Lewis Hamilton is hot favourite for the main award, naturally for coming second in the F1 Championship but everyone is truly shocked when a true winner wins it. Joe Calzaghe, the world super-middleweight champion and undefeated in 44 fights, takes the award. His father and trainer, was named Coach of the Year.

Lewis Hamilton came second. Ha. Poetic justice.

30 units this week.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Power Showers

Doggo and I are off to Vegas today, well Dog Vegas, near glitzy Grantham but its close. We don't have to be there early so I get chance to fraternise with a half awake L first.

When we get to the show it's a bit annoying because to save money they've not sent the entry details out in the post. Which is fine but we turn up and find out we don't have an event for at least two hours, so this mornings fraternisation could have been much longer. All the more annoying because it's bitterly cold and L will still be tucked up all warm in bed, perfect for warming my hands on. Of course all they have to do is put the class running order up on the internet the night before but that would be far too obvious.

So I have two hours to read the paper from cover to cover and find out interesting stuff like... women have finally come around to the opinion that men have held since the beginning of time. Namely that it is highly desirable to have a big chest, if you're a girl that is. The article comes up with the analogy that a girl with anything less than a D cup is like a house for sale without a power shower. Not impossible to shift, but these days most punters, who expect all mod cons with their investment, are going to want one.

Finally we get to compete and get totally blown away on an easy jumping course that is too fast for Doggo, although we go clear, twice. You get two goes at the same course here.

Our second event, on a tougher agility course, goes better. After the first run we are second, although it's a small field of 23. At this point I realise that the 'two run' system doesn't really suit us because the fastest dog in our class, the one who won the jumping, had faults in their first run. Of course they go clear with their second run and into the lead. So I push Doggo harder in our second run and we do go faster but miss a 'contact' and so end up third. Now if it was the two runs added together rather than the faster of the two, then that would really suit us.

Shocking news in the football. Derby score a goal and of all places, at Old Trafford. So one record we won't be breaking just yet is Crystal Palace's record of nine games without a goal. Obviously we still lose and it's galling to see everyone's un-favourite Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo dive to get a penalty when his side are already 3-1 up. What is the guy on? Mind you, its good fantasy league points for me.

To end the day we get one attempt at the 'fun' course called 'Tunnel Happy' or 'unhappy' as everyone christens it. It has six tunnels and is mind bogglingly difficult to remember. We nearly get there but make one mistake towards the end. Even so we still end up fifth, even with five faults.

So two rosettes, which isn't a bad day's work. There's also a bonus because our agility was designated as a 'Vegas' class and we get prize money, of wait for it... £4. Not to be sneezed at, as it's our first ever prize money. So I have beer money tonight, it's just a shame it's a DFN (dog free night) or else Doggo could have treated himself to a bag of scratchings.

Instead we rub it in by booking a meal at Scruffys, that's the one in town that's still scruffy and not the pink one on Derby Road. First we pop in the Dragon and try the Broadside 4.7%. Then we go to the Keans Head again where the RCH Steam 4.7% is ok but the XXXB 4.8% is excellent. Have to have a second one of that.

So to Scruffys, which thankfully is as good as the old one once was. The Leffe Brune isn't on draft but at least they have it in bottles. The bar staff are pleasantly attractive and come fully equipped with power showers but are as moody as you would expect. Luckily, I have the fully equipped and un-moody (at least not tonight) L to protect me from them. We have a very pleasant and romantic meal. I have to keep mentioning the 'R' word; you never know when you might need to cash in those brownie points.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Tips For Poor Students

It's a difficult ride in this morning, very windy and seemingly against me all the way. It took ages to get to work which meant when I arrived I was well down the porridge queue. It's a bit like a scene from Oliver Twist in our office as the cyclists jostle for position with the gym bunnies to warm our gruel up in the microwave.

Derby Playhouse is back open, so someone's seen sense there.

It appears that the reputation of male driving instructors hasn't improved from what it was twenty years ago when I learnt to drive. One of their number has just been jailed for hiding a carrot in his trousers and using it to demonstrate his appreciation to female pupils who execute their manoeuvres to perfection. Well, I suppose twenty years ago they wouldn’t have felt the need to use a carrot, so things have improved a little. One thing it seems that hasn't changed is if you're female, and you're prepared to pull over into a lay-by, you can still get your tuition for free. Which although obviously not to everyone's liking, is handy if you're a poor student.

The wind doesn't seem to be as bad when I come to ride home or maybe it's just because it is now with me. I'm also very very pleased that I'm not in the car because Pride Park is more gridlocked than usual, the A52 is also static, and it's not until I am through Spondon that I can actually stop weaving between cars and actually get some momentum going. I don't notice the wind at all, that is until I have to do a left turn in Nottingham, when I almost get lifted off the ground. So the wind must have been with me after all, it's just a shame about all the hassle with the traffic, because that has surely cost me a wind assisted PB.

L says my blog the other day was very romantic but she assumes my motives are because I'm after my usual post-cycle warm down. I do look forward to my warm downs but tonight I have to swim first.

L is just leaving the gym as I arrive at the pool. She puts me on psycho alert, apparently she seen quite a few in the pool. Luckily by the time I get in its quite quiet, or perhaps I've scared them off... Nah. It gets better and after about five minutes I get a lane to myself. This enables me to practice my breathing on both sides without having to race anyone. I think I'm getting quite good at this now although I still feel inferior to L because she managed 32 lengths non-stop earlier whereas I have to keep stopping for a breather.

Back home, L takes a bit of persuading to help with my warm down, so my blog couldn't have been that romantic, but she cracks in the end.

We wander with Doggo up to the Plough. Legend 4.0% and two Supremes 5.2%.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Being Chivalrous

I have to bike today despite the fact that's its squash because I haven't done any cycling so far this week. If I can do today and tomorrow then that will salvage the week. For December it isn't remotely cold, not even by L's standards and I get very hot feet in my waterproof bootees.

When I get to work there is an email from my opponent saying he's ill, so no squash. So it was a good call to cycle. I would have been well pissed off if I'd taken the bus and then found out he wasn't playing. Wish I’d brought my swimming stuff now because I also need to do a swim.

L is late emailing me; she says she forgot to check that I'm still alive. Hmmm, fancy forgetting about me. L reckons she's still deaf from the gig last night. I've not exactly got full hearing either.

Pub today, thankfully it's not my turn to drive because there isn't really room for us both on my bike. Steak pie and almost AF... but not quite. Hopefully low alcohol enough not to cause any wobbles on the way home.

Needn't have worried about having a drink, the rain on the way home is very sobering. As its still raining when I get home, I chivalrously collect L from work, which means the rain promptly stops. We decide to take Doggo for a run, which naturally kicks the rain off again.

Back home and dried off for a second time, L cooks a decent chilli and then she has an early night while I update this blog which has slipped well behind schedule. I manage to slot L in later on but although it's after her watershed, I don't think she notices.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

What Happens To Punks When They Get Old?

I wake up in the hotel with a double bed to myself. Sadly no L but also no collie either, which means I can stretch out a bit.

Our meeting and presentation goes well. Although we don't quite know how to take the Customer Liaison Manager who loves the system so much he tells everyone how much it is turning him on, graphically. I felt sorry for the two women in the meeting but they were obviously well used to it.

At 11am they thoughtfully arrange a fire drill. Everyone has to evacuate to the car park where it is bucketing it down with the rain. All the fire doors are locked so we can't even get our coats. Fire doors might stop a fire but I'm not sure they need to lock them; fire isn't that clever. All it's going to do is stop people escaping. I manage to shelter somewhere but my colleague is not so lucky and is declared the winner of the impromptu wet work shirt competition.

Its 6.30 when I get back home and I get a text from L saying she'll meet me between 7.30-7.45, which gives me enough time to entertain Doggo. Then I get another text saying 'see you at 7', so I rush down to her, only to notice when I get there, that the 7pm text pre-dates the 7.30 one. It's just that I didn't receive them in that order. Good old modern technology.

I have a Landlord in Cast then we head to the Rescue Rooms because tonight it's the Icicle Works. Our ticket numbers are 41 and 42, so we're expecting a nice cosy gig and we're not disappointed. L has said all along that she's aiming for the front row and she gets it. I warn her about crowd surfing, for a start she’ll make Daughter jealous but also there aren’t really enough people to surf along, it could be painful.

The support band are called Amsterdam but we only catch their last song, so it's difficult to comment but word has it they could be the next big thing. Although they would say that wouldn't they.

After being solo for something like 15 years, last year Ian McNabb surprised everybody by resurrecting the 'The Icicle Works' for a series of gigs. They obviously enjoyed it because they are back again this year. As it turns out though this isn't the original band, only Ian McNabb survives of the original line-up, although bass player Roy Corkill joined around 1990. Tonight he is joined by former Dodgy drummer Matthew Priest and keyboard player Richard Naiff, who apparently is fresh from touring with the Waterboys. He's quite a character is Richard, I can honestly say I've never seen anyone enjoy playing keyboards as much as he seemed to.

The first time I saw the Icicle Works back in the eighties, a friend had to talk me into going but I was impressed because they were a great live band and I subsequently went to see them several more times until they split up in the early nineties.

They start tonight with the 'When It All Comes Down', released when the band were at the height of their fame and it still sounds great. I think L immediately regrets being on the front row. You can't fault the view but they have the sound turned up very loud for such a small venue and every time Matthew Priest hits his bass drum the resulting throb and whoosh of air from the speaker parts the hair of the front three rows.

McNabb plays pretty much a 'favourites' set with the notable exception of 'Birds Fly' which is not played tonight but 'Evangeline', 'What She Did To My Mind', 'Seven Horses', 'Up Here In The North Of England' etc all are, along with some of the more sickly later stuff. McNabb also throws in one of this own solo tracks, which shows that he remains a very talented musician, although he still seems irked that people don't buy his solo albums but I think he's past caring now.

As we reach the end of the main set, I become aware of a chap with a Mohican dancing manically next to me. So if you ever wondered what happens to punks when they get too old to pogo to 'Pretty Vacant', well they go see Ian McNabb and freak out to 'Understanding Jane' instead. As for what happens to groupies when they get old, well I'm afraid they all get fat, hog the front row and step on my toes. Ouch.

The set list, which we can see from where we are, only lists one song as an encore, that being 'Hollow Horse' but after an enormously long time off stage they return to play three slightly more obscure album tracks instead. Presumably they needed the long break to discuss what they were going to play.

The crowd cheer them back for a second encore, quickly this time, to play the previously planned 'Hollow Horse'. One criticism of McNabb, and he is well know for this, is that there were too many karaoke moments tonight. On several songs McNabb stepped back from his mic during the chorus and cupped his ear encouraging the crowd to take over. Which they do but as it isn't a huge audience this isn't terribly effective. As he does this on 'Hollow Horse' I realise that this song isn't terribly easy to sing along to anyway, particularly when unaided by the vocalist. I hate it when bands do this sort of thing. It's one thing the audience joining in with the songs but it's another thing entirely if the singer takes a break and leaves them to it. We have, after all, paid our money to hear him sing.

They return for a third time to close with 'Love Is A Wonderful Colour', their one and only big hit. This is all very eighties, these days the trend is for no encores or grudgingly just the one. No one plays two these days, let alone three. I wondered if they might keep coming back on stage even if we all went home because it is clear that McNabb and his band are clearly having fun.

Top gig.