Sunday, 30 September 2007

No Horses Head In My Bed Yet

We have a leisurely start to the day for saying it's a dog show day. Which gives us enough time for one course from last night's menu of lust, lunacy, and murder.

We leave at 10am. The show is near Lincoln and we drop L and Daughter off there. They're going shopping. A girl thing.

The show goes well. A much better all round performance from Doggo. We record three clear rounds out of three. All too slow to get a rosette but rosettes are only given out to the top 10 and as they are all grade 5 only events, so it's not surprising we don't get one. We've only graced the top 10 in grade 5 on 4 occasions this season. It's tough at the top, as they say.

We put in a creditable performance at Clever Dogs, which is combined Agility and Flyball. It’s probably the Clever Dogs that stuffs our rosette chances because we do this before our last two agility runs. We have several practice sessions on the Flyball part, four I think. Then we do the whole course, quite quickly in 25 seconds, but then they tell us that was just a practice as well and now we have three timed runs to do. Doggo, who is already looking creased, does the first one, again in 25 seconds, before deciding that enough is enough and goes off to hide behind my parents.

I manage to talk him into one last attempt and he does me proud. 23 seconds. So we decide not to take up our option of a third run, well Doggo decides. Anyhow it’s the best time out of three that counts and I couldn't see us improving on that. Hopefully it might get us into next August's final but we'll see.

My father has now moved onto Harry Potter book two. The infection is spreading.

The Sunday papers are full of Anelka's lucky deflected equaliser and not Derby's far superior goal but that's the media for you.

Back home I cook up mince and pasta for tea and enjoy a tinny of Wadsworth 4X. It's actually rather nice. Oh dear, does this mean I'm becoming one of the Government's notorious binge drinkers? I dilute it with two glasses of red wine.

Daughter (hello there, I need as many readers as I can get) discovers my blog, on a tip off from L. Surprisingly she takes it rather well. At least I don't think I'll be coming home to a horses head in my bed. Daughter won't understand that statement; we've not taken her to see the Godfather yet. The downside, I think it's a downside, is that she now thinks I'm a sex maniac. Although L reassures her by saying that all men are. Funny thing is we keep seeing all these plays and films where the women are the ones doing all misbehaving and bed hopping. Hmmm. Also Daughter herself is reading that diary by the self-confessed sex obsessed mad woman. Hmmm.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Lust, Lunacy, and Murder

Get home from Bingham quite early. L and Doggo are still in bed. So I join them. So I kind of get a lie-in. L is cold, so I warm her up, twice.

When I get up for the second time I take Doggo and L for a run. L again opts for a shorter route. Doggo sticks to me like glue once L has split off from us. His confrontation with that dog the other day does seem to have shaken him up. We manage to avoid having any confrontations.

Then off to the match. Derby v Bolton. Everyone seems to be looking forward to it. Another near sell out crowd due. I think a lot of people are still in shock from us winning a game. What will the reaction be if we win another one? They'll be breaking out the open top bus and the commemorative mugs.

In the end we draw 1-1. The continued absence of record signing Robert Earnshaw is starting to annoy a lot of people. Steve Howard has now played all eight games and hasn’t scored but still Earnshaw doesn't even get to lift his bottom off the substitutes bench.

I spend half-time discussing Quidditch with my Dad. He's just read the first Harry Potter book. Harry is infiltrating us everywhere. I shall not succumb.

L and Daughter are at yet another film. A Gerard Depardieu, this time. At Nottingham's micro small 21 seat Screen Room which L describes as 'cute'. At least I think it's the cinema she's on about.

When I get back from the match it's a bit of a rush to get into town for tonight's spot of culture and our second play of the week. Whereas Tuesday's play promised to be 'Uplifting' and didn't deliver. Tonight's play 'The Changeling' promises us lust, lunacy, and murder. Which sounds all together more promising and totally my bag. Although once the play starts it is quickly difficult to see where the lunacy ends and the lust starts. As for the murder, there's plenty of that.

'The Changeling' is described as a dark Jacobean tragedy. Written in 1621, it comes from the same period as Shakespeare and has much in common with his work. A young woman called Joanna wants to marry Alsemero but the one thing that stands between her and her man is the bridegroom arranged for her by her father. She asks her deformed manservant De Flores, who she dislikes immensely, to dispose of him for her. Because he is obsessed with her, he agrees. She tries to pay him in gold, but he has another form of payment in mind. At first she cannot guess what his price is but soon she realises that the only payment that he will accept is Joanna herself. At first she is totally repulsed by this thought but once he has had his way with her and beaten her intended husband to her virginity, she realises that, in common with most women, a bit of depravity floats her boat, and quickly she can't get enough of it. So here we go again, yet another wayward, if not quite married, woman.

During the interval, we have a bit of a debate over the play and sort out a few things we don't understand between ourselves while enjoying our respective tipples of Burton Ale and Leffe. One of the things that confuses us is that a lot of the play takes place in a lunatic asylum. Although the set, laid out like an ancient stone asylum building, is excellent.

Unfortunately as soon as the second half starts, I get even more confused. Joanna appears to go ahead with her marriage to Alsemero, who appears to be something of an amateur medic and has a load of potions in his wardrobe. As you do. She discovers a potion called 'M', which when taken by a virgin, causes her mouth to gape, sneeze uncontrollably and then laugh hysterically. This presents a bit of a wedding night problem for her, that is solved by Joanna substituting her maid in her place in the marital bed but we didn't realise this at the time. If they’d made these things clearer we might have understood it better.

Also apparently the title of the play comes from a sub-plot in which another servant, Tony, pretends to be a lunatic in order to infiltrate first the asylum and then hopefully the wife of the chap who runs the asylum.

The play is quite psychological, with its portrayal of a woman who will stop at nothing to get her way and in the process is driven to dangerous lengths but that's women for you. Sex after all is a phenomenal force that causes chaos with everyone's lives.

At the end, after their affair is discovered, Joanna and De Flores, overtaken by the aforementioned trio of lust, lunacy, and murder, finally end up stabbing each other to death during a one final torrid shag.

When I read up on the play after the fact, it looks a cracking plot, if only we could have followed it fully at the time. It all seemed rather muddled. It was still good though, a full-blooded production you might say. The casting is good, Joanna is young and attractive, De Flores, older and deformed. They do say opposites attract. Imagine how good it would have been had we understood it all. Perhaps I should become a theatre director myself.

Up to the Ropewalk for a couple of pints of their guest ale from Mauldon. Home for a very late Spam curry.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Officially Old

I'm in the car today so that I can give Doggo a good kicking tonight, with his football that is. We won't get many more opportunities post work. The nights are getting darker and consequently the council are rapidly reeling in the closing times to try and maintain that sixty-minute buffer between locking the gates and darkness. I hope he appreciates me giving up my cycling for him; then again I'm on a guilt trip for stopping out tonight and abandoning him. Of course I feel just as guilty about L, so I lavish some attention on her this morning. I hope she appreciated it. I did.

Son's on an INSET day today. Already. He’s only just started at college. Honestly he’s never there. They're supposed to be preparing them for life, getting them used to doing a full days work etc. Oh. Perhaps they have a point, who bothers to do a full days work these days, sometimes I get the impression it's only L and me who do.

L says she feels spaced out this morning and blames this on the fact that getting up is bad for her. At least she's not blaming my activities this morning.

I receive a 'so long and thanks for all the sinks' message from my squash opponent. He's signing off today from his job at the kitchen factory. Back to being a part-time contractor. Yep looks like I was right. It is only L and me who do a full days work these days.

Someone has read my 'Frustrated Florists' post and put some adverts for florists onto this blog. The cheek of it.

Daughter is reading a book called 'My Big Fat Teenage Diary'. A woman called Rae Earl has published her real-life diary from 1989, when she was 17, fatter than her friend who was 'up the duff' and obsessed with sex and 80s pop. It sounds great. I shall read it next, right after I finish Graeme Obree's book. So about 2011 then.

If she can make money from her old diaries then I must go through the loft and find my old teenage diaries. I feel a publishing contract coming on.

I get home and take Doggo for his promised session on the park. L and Daughter are at the cinema again. Something called Mr Woodcock this time.

Then I head off to Bingham for our occasional ex-students night out. L tells me to keep away from anyone talking about money, how times have changed; she used to warn me to keep away from other women.

It's actually quite a night, a six pinter. Although one of the pubs tried to charge me £8.90 for three pints. Then they realised they'd charged us for Guinness. I'm glad I don't drink Guinness. It should have been £7.80, so that's alright then. Everyone else seems to get a round for less than £7.

Some good beers. Shepherd Neame Late Red x 2, RCH Cream, Landlord, Black Sheep x 2.

We discuss our respective hobbies, which appear to be:- dog agility, jam making and watching 'Heroes'. As you can see, we are now officially old. I don't mention triathlon; I think I bored them to death with that one last time.

We must be drunk because the chap whose house we were staying out cooks us up some Kofta kebabs, well he defrosts them from his freezer. It's appreciated but they taste as bad as they look. Quite why he had them in his freezer in the first place, I'm not sure.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Fruity, Dodgy, And Not Terribly Nice

Another novelty today. I'm back on the bus. The old legs are a bit tired as I amble to the bus stop. Perhaps I overdid it a bit with my 'brick wall' session yesterday. The Red Arrow is packed; perhaps everyone else is as fed up with the traffic as I am. Regrettably no juicy Tarantino style gossip to report.

I had an email from Wiggle last night saying my cycling tights were on their way. They arrive by 9am as usual. They look very sexy in their packet but probably won’t look quite so good on me. L says to let her be the judge of that. Not sure they'll be much use in pulling L; they look that tight fitting it will take a good half-an-hour to get out of them or a penknife.

L's feeling smug because she's been for a lunchtime swim. I was right; she is trying to out do me.

Squash tonight. My opponent says he's tired, overweight, unfit, and has ordered his invalid badge but he's looking forward to it. His enthusiasm is so inspiring. Not sure if we get a price reduction with a disabled pass or not. Perhaps I'll ask. Well at least his black eye from our last game has faded. He says he intends to get his retaliation in first this week and has been sharpening the edges of his racquet. That will probably worry the walls of the court more than me.

L runs with Doggo on park. They're both a bit shaken up after he gets attacked by a bulldog. He's not having a terribly good week.

I play really well at squash but still lose the first five games! Although they’re all close. He seems to raise his game this week. I lose 6-1 in the end. Back to the drawing board.

In the pub I have a beer by one of my favourite breweries, Cottage. It has a picture of a rough looking girlie on the pump clip and is called Breast Bitter. It's fruity, dodgy, and not terribly nice. I wonder if this is deliberate. I have one and a half. The extra half because my opponent donated half of his to me.

L does an excellent Salmon Curry; she's a top cook at the moment. Then we take a glass of red wine to bed.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Intimidating? Moi?

A throw back to the old days and an impromptu cycling warm up. When I get on the bike I realise that I should have warmed up for longer, it's so cold. L is concerned that my hands might freeze to the handlebars. I survive the cold and the traffic, just. Someone tried to wipe me out at the road works. They certainly didn’t make any allowance for the fact that I’m braking on only one brake pad. Although one is better than none at all. I suppose. I also pumped my tyres up this morning. Much faster.

I shall bore you with some cycling news from the World Championships in Stuttgart. The depth in the British team gets ever more impressive. With Nicole Cooke injured her replacement, former triathlete, Emma Pooley, who's already finished third behind Cooke in the women’s Tour de France this year, took an impressive eighth place, just 92 seconds slower than the winner Hanka Kupfernagel. Very sensible of her to give up triathlon.

Back on the bike for the ride home. It's still very windy, I almost took off when I went out at lunch for a sandwich. L recommends that I catch the bus home. She does worry. These things are sent to test us. She says someone will have to peg me down. That sounds fun.

Bike straight to the pool. Fairly busy but it's not too bad in lane two. Just me and one other chap, who I soon dispose of. There's three aggressive looking women in lane one, so I keep well out of their way.

On my way home I pass L going the other way, she on her way to yoga. She says I look very intimidating. Intimidating? Moi? I think she's just after my lycra. When I get home there's chilli on the stove waiting for me. She's a star.

I equip Doggo with his winter lights and take him for a run around the pond; we end up at Guides to walk Daughter home. Doggo is very disobedient on the way home and when I let him off for his usual sniffing session he waltzes across the road to see another dog and nearly gets wiped out by car.

We're both tried so we go to bed early but luckily we're not too tired.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

I Love An Unhappy Ending

L's back to the 'Good Morning - certainly not' style greetings. The un-culled one is causing her problems again. A golfer tried but failed to keep Bambi from them.

I survived the bike in, just. Very windy and the elements had fetched lots of branches down off the trees but the only thing that got in my way were car drivers. I didn’t have to climb over any fallen trees but I almost had to climb over a woman in a white Corsa. She was so far over the give-way line at the roundabout that it seemed that almost my only option but in the end I waited in the middle of the road, risking the Stuntman Mike's of the world, until she moved. Obviously she thought it was all my fault.

Daughter wants to go see Hard-Fi. I'm not keen but L seems willing to go. The other problem is, it's at the hellhole that is the Ice Arena. Suppose I have to go really, open mind theory and all that and they were quite good once. L tries to walk to the Arena to get tickets but aborts when she gets drenched in a hailstorm. Strange. Divine intervention perhaps. It's sunny here in Derby.

Bike home, still no hail, I'm almost disappointed.

At home I multi-task, by trying to read emails, exercise Doggo in the garden and change my brake pads on my bike, all at the same time. Naturally none of my tools fit the odd shaped screw they've used to secure the pads. I manage to change one of the four but I'm unable to get the screws out of the other three. So now I have one new pad and three old ones.

Then the three of us, Daughter as well, head off to see a (cough) musical, The Hired Man at the Djanogly Theatre, which is at the University's Lakeside centre. I purchased the tickets on line only this afternoon. I'm impressed that not only is there no charge for paying by credit card but also there's no admin fee either. Our seats are rather good too, on row C, which is bizarrely the front row.

We soon find out why they have no need to charge any extra fees when we find how eye wateringly expensive the wine is. Although L seems to get a cut-price deal when she goes to the bar. I would have accused her of fluttering her eyelashes to get a reduction but it was a girlie who served her.

The Hired Man is performed by New Perspectives, who are a local theatre company. It is based on a novel written by Melvyn Bragg. It was written as a tribute to his grandfather, a farm labourer, and keen amateur musician. The play opens with a layer of mist covering the stage, suggesting a Cumbrian Fell. For practical reasons I guess they had to omit the Lakeland rain. The setting is Cumbria because that is where Bragg was born. The time period is around the turn of the last century, period costumes are provided by Nottingham's Lace Market Theatre.

The story revolves around hiring fairs, where farm workers used to seek work on the land. It focuses on a young married couple and their family, as they struggle to make a living. The husband, John Tallentire, finds that he is unable to make a decent wage from farm work and eventually ends up working down the coalmines instead. His wife, Emily, who is yet another wayward married woman, indulges in a bit on the side with his employer's son, Jackson.

The tale encompasses, among other things, the start of the union movement and the First World War. The simple set is resourcefully reused to also suggest mineshafts and the battlefields of the Great War.

Musical accompaniment is nicely minimalist, usually just a piano but sometimes accompanied by trumpet and violin. I like a musical that isn't all signing, I find that having no dialogue can make the story hard to follow, as this play mixes both dialogue and songs, it is perfect. A sign of a good musical is if you come away humming the tunes. So I suppose this one works. The songs are good and often livelier than the tale because if you like an uplifting, feel-good drama then you'll be very disappointed with this play. It's a rather bleak affair about the couple's dashed hopes, with a fair amount of death thrown in. Emily gets a right rough deal. Their son dies in the war, along with her bit on the side. At which point she seems to declare her love for John. Which is a bit rich, now that her preferred shag in dead. Then she herself dies. The daughter finds her dead mother, and John comes home to find his wife dead. Oddly at this point he decides to go back to working on the land. Bit late mate. I think several members of the audience, L included, were welling up at this point. I love an unhappy ending.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Hapless Journalism

In the car today, so a fairly leisurely start to the day and time for a swift one before I get up.

It soon gets stressful in the car though. The travel bulletin on local radio reports that there's a car broken down on the A52 and that the queues are back as far as Spondon. I should have been suspicious at that point because the queues are usually back as far as Spondon on a good day. The bulletin is of little use anyway because without knowing exactly where the hold-up was, it's difficult to know how best to take evasive action.

Radio Derby despatch a reporter to the scene and ten minutes later he says live on air that he is on the bridge over the A52 and the traffic is moving freely so the broken down car must have been moved. This is at precisely the same moment that I grind to a halt in a queue just past the M1 junction, six miles out of Derby.

Five minutes later a correction is issued, the chap is now standing in the right place, he can see the broken down car and tells us that the queue is now back to the motorway. Yes, I know, thanks for that. Hapless journalism. Late to work.

In the evening, Doggo has his fourth agility day in a row. I know he needs a break but unfortunately it's paid for in advance and it's expensive, so we're going. He does very well although he does look understandably tired after his weekend. Right at the end of the session, he stops half way through the weaves and looks at me. As if saying 'do I have to?'.

We meet L out of yoga, to save her the perils of the drunks on Radford Road. This is her second activity of the evening; she and Daughter have already done circuits at Harvey Hadden gym. She'll soon be fitter than me, I best get that bike out tomorrow.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Excellent Decapitations

Day Three. Windy again. Small dogs once more struggle to attempt their contacts without a safety harness. One of the score tents gets blown away and a portable toilet collapses with a 'large' agility person inside. A rescue mission has to be mounted.

Performance wise, we're not getting any better. Nothing in our first two runs. One mess up each. I misjudge the tightness of one of the turns on the jumping course. A hazard of rushing walking the course and not studying it well enough because I was working on rings and needed elsewhere. I even fell over trying to pull him back over a jump at an impossible angle.

Then on the agility course he clips the pole after the A frame, on a straight section. I'm not sure why we keep having poles down this weekend.

So just one last run to try and get a rosette. The course worried me because the weaves were on the right and so it proved, he came out before the end but on the 9th, rather than his usual 10th one. Just to be different. To be fair, he looks tired out, which can't help.

The show finishes on time which means I manage to get home reasonably early for some more catching up of lost time with L.

Then it's our regular, occasional, Sunday evening meal and a movie at Broadway. I even go veggie but not AF. The chick pea tajine is excellent and goes down well with an Elsie Mo 4.7% and an England Expects from Batemans 4.0%

Tonight's film is Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino's answer to 1970's B-movies. Filmed in a grainy 70's style with poorly cut reels, screen flicker, scratches and burns but with mobile phones and mp3 players thrown in just to confuse. Then halfway through he gives up on this style and goes all black and white, then finally into glorious colour, where we stay all the way to the finale.

The film is about a psychopath called Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) who enjoys killing women but his weapon of choice is his virtually indestructible 'death proof' stunt car. There isn't really any story as such and what there is isn't very original and has stolen ideas from all sorts of places but that's our Quentin.

The film consists of two pretty random scenes. The first is of a group of girls in a bar who are talking tedious girl talk about boyfriends and making out. Tarantino himself plays the barman in the bar. The girls may be good looking but listening to them is like sitting near a group of teenage girls using their mobiles on the Red Arrow to Derby. I suppose it's a typical Tarantino scene that has nothing much to do with anything. The problem is, the talk goes on way too long. If he was trying to build up tension then it doesn't quite work. It made me not want to sympathise with the characters but then perhaps that was the idea.

Did he decide to make a Tarantino movie with girls instead of guys. Hence we get the usual long dialogues but with girls talking girl topics rather than guys talking guy stuff. Is he sending up men or women here?

Perhaps all the talk pissed Stuntman Mike off too, because after he befriends them, he decides to kill them. We get a great crash scene and some excellent decapitations. They are replayed, Ian McEwen style, from the perspective of each of the girls as they meet their gory end.

Then we get the second random scene. Another group of tedious girls who seem to re-enact the opening diner scene from Reservoir Dogs. A girl version that is. Again the talking goes on a bit. These girls like cars and get hold of one on a test drive. One of them, dressed in a cheerleaders outfit, stays behind as collateral with the dodgy looking chap who is selling the car.

Whereas the first group were completely passive and were an easy target, Mike has bitten off more than he could chew with this lot. They are much tougher and fight back when he attacks them. We get a good car chase, if somewhat repetitive, with stuntwoman Zoe Bell looking great writhing around on the bonnet. In the end the girls win out and do Mike over but I'm a bit disappointed she didn't put that pole to better use. Whereas you feel kind of appalled by the first slaughter, you really feel quite elated by the second.

It's the kind of movie you either love or hate but then you either, get Quentin or you don't or you just watch the movie. I thought Death Proof was pure unadulterated fun. Loud, silly, quite artistic, and brutally violent. It put a smile on my face. The whole movie goes nowhere, brilliantly. Very Tarantino. Russell is excellent as the utterly deranged Stuntman Mike and the soundtrack too is a well worth a listen.

Apparently Death Proof was originally released as a 75-minute short film in the States as part of a 70's style double bill with fake trailers in between. If that version involved less dialogue then that might cure the faults in this film.

However I'd like to know what happened when the girls took what was left of the car back and what happened to the girl in the cheerleader outfit.

35 units this week. Dog shows, what can I say.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Pegging Down Dogs

Day Two. No wind on the hillside today. No pegging down of dogs or equipment required.

After our disasters of yesterday we do the Adams Derby first to practice our contacts before we let everyone down in the team run. Contacts perfect in that and clear on the jumping part. We are two seconds off the winner which isn't bad but not good enough for a rosette.

Feeling very sexually frustrated and I text L to tell her so. I've been unable to get at her since Monday for various reasons. She seems worried that I'm surrounded by women at the dog show. Women, yes but not that kind of women. She says they'll be a babe attached to a collie somewhere. She can't be serious, not babes by the normal definition. My babe's at home, or rather she's not, she tells me she's at the cinema watching a gay romance.

We are one of the last to do the team run and no team has yet put all four dogs round clear. So we more or less just have to walk the dogs round to win, as long as we are clear and inside the time limit. Our first dog goes clear, despite being interfered with by a loose dog from another ring. Doggo and I run second. Relief as we go clear too. Unfortunately our third dog is eliminated.

Then they tell us we have to re-run, partly because of the interference but mainly because our third dog didn't go across the final hurdle that stops the timing gear. That's a bit unfair, on other teams, surely it's our own fault that we didn't jump the final hurdle. If you were having a bad run, you could do that deliberately just to get a re-run.

On the re-run, out first dog gets five faults, which puts the pressure on us because it's no longer a case of just being clear, we need speed too. In trying to get a bit of pace out of Doggo, it all goes pear shaped and we are eliminated. Our other two dogs don't fare much better.

We have two more runs. We do an excellent run on the jumping course until he jumps straight though the third-to-last pole. He never really took off. It was a shame because we'd done all the tricky bits. Our time would have been good enough to get us something.

Then on an agility course that has walls, brush jumps, tyres and all sorts of weird stuff. He refuses to jump the gate jump, probably because he's such a wimp, he's used to be lifted over these things when we're out walking. So no rosettes again but still generally pleased with Doggo's performance.

Derby lose in style again, letting in five at Arsenal. I'm not sure if that is an encouraging sign or not. It's less than we let in at Liverpool and I don’t think we’ll be the last team to be mauled there this season. The papers though, will make a meal of it but they don't know Derby. It's less than a year since we let in five at Colchester and six at Coventry but that didn't make the national press. Heavy defeats at Liverpool and Arsenal don’t even come close in the embarrassment stakes. Anyway enough of these meaningless games, we’ve got a proper match up against Bolton to win next week.

Leeds win again. Please stop it; it's getting boring now.

England's women's team concede three second half goals in their quarter-final against the USA and go out of the World Cup.

Tim Henman retires in style, winning the Davis Cup doubles with Jamie Murray to give Great Britain a 3-0 win over Croatia. A bit lucky really as for a variety of reason none of Croatia's top three players played in the match.

I manage to escape early from the dog show and rush home. I have some vital business to take care of, with L, and for once the time to do the job properly.

Once that matter has been well and truly taken care of, we head into town for a few beers, leaving Doggo at home to rest. He doesn't look too disappointed at being dumped. We go in the Napier for the first time in ages, Ringwood Bitter. Then move across the road to the Poacher, where we kind of get stuck, three pints of excellent XXXB is the reason.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Somewhere On A Hillside

First day of three at my own club's dog show. Originally scheduled for July, it has been twice moved and postponed. Now it takes place somewhere on a hillside near Melton Mowbray. It's actually a disused airfield but it's so exposed and windy that the jumps won't stay up and small dogs are routinely blown off the dog walk. We have to peg everything into the ground.

The start is also delayed start, due to the nearest A road being blocked by car accident. Someone trying to overtake a dog person's caravan I believe.

We have just two runs today. Doggo misses his last weave pole in jumping and then misses all his contacts on the agility course. He even fell off the dog walk. I'm sure he'll blame the wind; I think he just wasn't looking where he was going. He's a bit over excited. Better luck tomorrow.

The show has five competition rings today and eight for tomorrow and it takes an age setting them all up because we're a bit short staffed with it being a workday. Although a surprisingly high number of kids seems to have got the day off school 'sick'. Even one of the teachers turns up, which makes it difficult to criticise the kids.

Traffic is horrendous on the way home.

L points out that Doggo will skip his contacts again tomorrow if he's not taken to the pub tonight. I know how he feels. I need to be taken to the pub too. So we take him to the Plough. A pint of Legend and two and half of Supreme, and scratchings for Doggo. Excellent recovery strategy.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

No Regrets

Traffic awful. It's that time of year when everybody seems to be on the road, in a car, so the last place you want to be is in a car too or perhaps on a bike. No, it's definitely better by bike, unfortunately today is a car day for me. Although biking would have been hard today, my legs are very stiff, must be my age.

Jose has left Chelsea. Well thank God for that. Apparently there is no truth in the rumour that he will make a shock move to Derby. I'm afraid the position of tea boy has been filled.

My turn to drive to the pub. Hence the car today. The steak & kidney pie is good. The Salamander Caterwaul is ok but it tastes of ginger cat and I'm not sure whether that's deliberate or not.

I get home and take Doggo on the park with his new ball, which he thoroughly enjoys. Then L and I head off to the cinema. I have a pint of Hemlock bitter in the bar.

Tonight's cultural experience is La vie en rose, which is about the life of Edith Piaf. Now I know very little about Piaf and I thought this film would be an excellent way of finding out about her and her life. Big mistake. The film does not deal with her life story in the form of a proper biography with a beginning and an end. In fact it starts with her final days, when she looked like a 70-year old woman, despite only being 47. Then the film shifts back and forth in time. Yep, it's another of my favourite backwards films. Except it's not even as simple as that. The film jumps haphazardly through her life, from childhood to adulthood to the end of her life, continually, back and forth. People appear and disappear from the film with very little explanation.

Perhaps this is deliberate, because Piaf was a woman of such high emotions and had such dramatic upheavals in her life. Perhaps her life receives the framework it deserves but for someone like me, who knew little about her, this lack of continuity just leaves me very confused and doesn't give me any clear sense of the shape of the life.

What I do discover is that she was abandoned by her mother, raised by a surrogate mother in a brothel, goes blind for a while, then is taken away from her surrogate mother to live with her father, who works in the circus and then she becomes a street singer. Then a cabaret owner discovers her and whisks her off the street and onto the stage. She is accused of murder but is eventually discovered by a composer and a radio impresario. By then she's already a heavy drinker and struggles with a drug addiction, although there are no specifics of this.

There is little mention of her successful career. The film focuses mainly on her tragedies, of which there are many. There are very few high points and happy moments in the film. Surely at some stage she must have been famous, healthy, and happy all at the same time?

Instead tragedy follows her around. Her love affair with a French boxing champion ends when he dies in a plane crash while heading to see her. On that night, we see him enter her bedroom and she prepares him coffee but we are given to understand that this is a figment of her imagination.

Also I'm not expert but I understand key points like her participation in WWII resistance activities were omitted, as well as her marriage late in life to a Greek singer twenty years her junior, who appears to give her a child.

At the end, a composer plays a new song for her, "Je ne regrette rien". This strikes a chord with her and inspires her to go ahead with a concert at the Paris Olympia, despite the fact that she has to be led to the stage, because she can hardly walk.

It's a good film, I think, but I'm afraid because of being unable to get fully involved in the film; I feel none of the emotion that I'm told this film would make me feel. You have to be a fan to get full benefit. By the end, I couldn't tell if she was in Paris, New York, on her deathbed or getting ready for her last concert.

I have 'no regrets' about seeing this film, but it was hard work.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Frustrated Florists

At long last this week I get a chance to cycle in. It's bloody windy but that's the least of my problems as there are two attempts on my life this morning.

First, a woman in a florists van turns right across me in the centre of Borrowash. Well at least I suppose the roadside floral tribute could have been quickly in place. Luckily I saw her coming and slammed on the anchors. She has the nerve to give me a really dirty look as if it was my fault. Excuse me, I think the right of way was mine. She obviously didn't get a shag last night.

Then a few miles down the road a chap turns left across me at the Raynesway Island. He wasn't indicating left obviously but I could tell by the way he was inching that way and the fact he was steering the car with one finger what he was going to do. So I avoided him too.

My good friend Tim Don hasn't been so lucky; he's come off his bike. It wasn't sexually frustrated florists that were his problem but the fallen bike of a fellow competitor in the Beijing Triathlon World Cup race. After a decent swim, he was fetched off his bike when he hit someone else's fallen bike. He's broken an elbow, which puts a serious dent in his hopes of qualifying for the 2008 Olympics in, of course, Beijing. He's not yet achieved the qualifying standard and because he's not going to be able to train for around six weeks while the bone heals that only leaves him with one last chance to do so at next May's Madrid World Cup.

The other way to look at it, I suppose, is that there's a vacancy on the team. So I best get to that training.

The ever-impressive Wiggle have gone and done it again. They deliver by 9am on the day after I got the email saying my order was on the way. Unfortunately I already knew that my new winter cycling tights wouldn't be in it, they'll take a few days longer to be in stock. Not that I need them yet, well not for cycling anyway. However, early indications are that they might be even more of a vote winner with L than my lycra shorts. Sorry hurry up Wiggle. Not that they would have been much use tonight anyway as she's having to work late.

I bike home in a light drizzle, which makes me put my jacket on, which of course makes the rain stop and just makes me quickly get too hot and I have to stop and take it off again.

I get held up on the cycle path behind a teenager on a MTB. His bike is making an awful noise every time he slows down. Then I realise that he’s not using his brakes and instead he's putting his foot on his rear tyre to stop himself. There doesn’t appear to be anything obviously wrong with his brakes, in fact they look brand new, probably never used, probably doesn't realise he has brakes or maybe he's just deluded himself into thinking it makes him look cool. Looking down at his feet, his right shoe is totally shagged; the sole is hanging off, presumably from its use as a braking device. I bet his mother’s really happy about that.

I cycle to the pool, where it's very quiet and full of slowies. There's a group of three girls in the next lane, who appear to be trying to swim lengths backwards, that is feet first. It involves an awful lot of splashing and hence loads of waves, so its good open water practice for me, should I ever need any. By about 6.45 a few of the usual psychos start to turn up. A good time to get out.

L has emailed her research findings on Bubbles massage parlour to me. So this is what she gets up to at work. Very dubious looking place and some incredibly rough women. I think I'll stick to sports massages.

Doggo and me got to training. Which goes well, he does everything that's asked of him, just a bit too slowly.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Mrs Keane and The Gamekeeper

I have booked Doggo an appointment at the vets tonight, for his annual confrontation with the needle and also to have a look at his eye, which has been a bit runny of late. So I hope he appreciates it, because I'm missing out on cycling today so I can get home early enough to take him.

As it turns out it would have been almost quicker to cycle as the traffic is so bad that it takes over an hour to get home from work. I bundle Doggo into the car and head for the vets, where L is waiting for us. L normally avoids the vets and I think this is the first time she's been since he was a really small pup. So she has little idea of the embarrassing charade that is Doggo at the vets. He's absolutely petrified of the place and starts shaking in fear the moment we're in the door. I think this stems from when they micro-chipped him because that was a really big nasty injection. When the vet comes to collect us, Doggo is hiding under my chair trying to blend into the floor tiles. Such is his determination to stay put that when I try and drag him out by his lead we take the chair with us. It's a good job L is there to remove the chair off his back. It is perhaps surprising that the vets surgery has such a slippery floor because the dogs have trouble gripping it but then again, if it was carpeted Doggo would have found it much easier to resist us. As it is we just slide him across the floor tiles.

In the end it goes quite well apart from the hassle of trying to persuade Doggo to get on the weighing scales, in the end I have to lift him. He copes with the injection admirably, his eye is on the mend and I manage to persuade him not to bite the vet, in fact he even takes a treat off him.

I have time to fit in a bit of training and take our embarrassing dog on park for a run, L joins us. Her injury seems to be getting better, she describes the pain now as a pleasant 'getting fitter' sort of ache. Hope it is improving and it's not just the pain from her gashed knees that's taking her mind off it. We do a long loop around the lake and even though we're on the park past closing time, it's still really busy. L takes a shorter route. We try and catch up with her but fail miserably. In all, a good session, I'm not as unfit as I thought.

I have a quick snack of cheese on toast and then I walk into town. I'm at the Rescue Rooms again tonight exercising my 'open mind theory'. That is, do not dismiss something you know little about. Even so, I have to keep reminding myself that it's not the dreaded Keane that I'm about to see but a band from Bournemouth called Air Traffic. My friend thinks that they're rather good. Based on the few tracks I've heard, I'm not totally convinced but of course they may be a totally different animal live.

I miss the first support band, who were on at a ridiculously early 7.15 but I catch the second half of the set by the second support band. They are from Dundee and are called The Law. Now I recall that in the early nineties Paul Rodgers of Free/Bad Company and Kenney Jones of Small Faces/The Who formed a super group called the Law and had loads of 'famous' guest musicians playing with them. I'm not sure the Scottish Law know this but their logo is stunningly similar.

New Law

Old Law

They sound like they want to sound like the View or perhaps they just want to sound more drunk than the View. Either way we'll move swiftly on.

My friend introduces me to a couple of his mates and one of them even buys me a Newcastle Brown. The conversation turns perversely from music to marathons, one of them did the Robin Hood Half at the weekend. Just as we're getting round to triathlons and I'm recommending bikes to him, the band come on and spoil it.

Hang on a second, this isn't Keane, this is an indie band, two guitars, bass and drums. Standard indie fodder but still not bad. Mrs Keane has obviously run off with the Gamekeeper and their affair has spawned a love child that is called Air Traffic (I really must stop these Lady Chatterley references).

Then after just one track front man Chris Wall spoils it by putting down his guitar and instead sitting at a side-facing keyboard. Oh my God, it's Coldplay.

After one keyboard driven anthem we get another and another and another, all with soaring choruses. Although at times the rest of the band seem to be playing a different tune. It's like Chris Martin backed by the Fratellis.

To be fair, Wall's vocals are strong and when the keyboard / indie guitar combo works, it works well, such as on 'Just Abuse Me' but after a while, the songs start to sound rather similar or like Travis or Snow Patrol or... well you get the gist. The other problem is that with him sitting down you can't see him. It might look good on Jools Holland but it doesn't work in a nightclub. You need to stand up mate. That is if you want to be a proper front man. Play your keyboard eighties tea tray style or get someone else to do the tinkly bits.

I start looking round at the crowd, a mix of couples who are probably my age but look a lot older, all nodding along in time, with a few twenty something's, drinking at the bar, thrown in to bring the average age down.

Thankfully every so often, Wall does stand up and when he does he picks up his guitar and lifts the pace with a indie dance floor filler such as the lurid and catchy 'Charlotte'. It shows a more daring side that seems to drag the attention of the twenty something's away from the bar, but just as the crowd gets going it's time for more keyboard. He is good with his keyboard and he's determined to make sure we know it but there really is far too much of it. Especially because a lot of the tracks really don't need it. They're simply trying to do too much, be too complex. There's a good tune in there fighting to get out but they're smothering it. At one stage the rest of the band start beating out the rhythm on three separate drums, that works, but it's a fleeting moment.

The crowd is also very quiet, the Rescue Rooms is about half full, and when he announces that they are recording a live version of their new single 'No More Running Away' at every tour date, he also has to appeal to the audience to make some noise. Which sums it up really.

It was a good evening because Air Traffic are pleasant, if a little annoying, a band looking for an identity but looking in the wrong place. Chris Wall will probably be huge when he goes solo and records an album of power ballads. Then his backing band can really get down to some serious Chelsea Daggering.

I get home and come face to face with a massive spider in the bathroom. Really massive. I don't think I've ever seen one this big, must have been a foot long. I rush into the bedroom to tell L but she's pretending to be asleep. I heroically deal with it, Doggo looks impressed but my beloved sleeps on, blissfully unaware of what I've saved her from.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Never Mind Michael, Just Think Of The Money

For some reason my legs feel dead this morning. Despite the fact that I've done very little training over the weekend. I'm in the car today, so I have time to indulge with the battered one but it’s a struggle to make it a quickie. Luckily, despite the lack of skin on her knees, she helps me out.

As I drive into work, there's a huge hold up on the A52. The cause is the Selly Oak charity cycle ride and its support team. Are they sane? Sponsored death on the A52, very daring.

On the radio, Andy Whittaker tells us how good his Radio Nottingham cheerleaders were. He's doesn't make it clear whether he's referring to the shortness of their skirts or how well they shook their pompoms but I certainly don't remember seeing them. Perhaps they just put on a private performance for him.

Oddly for England our best sport seems to be football at the moment, certainly not cricket, or rugby. England's Women reached the World Cup quarter-finals after comfortably beating Argentina 6-1. It's odd to see an Argentinian side so poor at football. A cracking own goal and two penalties contributed to England's total.

There's another big game tonight of course, for us minnows in the big piranha lake that is Premiership Football. I’m quite looking forward to it. I’ve watched that Michael Owen chap on TV twice this week. God he’s useless, he’ll never score against our defence. I’m hoping for an inspired Billy style 1-0. Hopefully we'll put in a performance so dour that the TV cameras will never darken our doors again and hence force us to play on a Monday night. Mind you I'm packing my fantasy team with Newcastle players just in case I’m wrong.

At the match I'm pleasantly surprised to find out that I'm not wrong. Derby do win 1-0 but it isn't particularly dour. Well apart from the sulking quartet that is Newcastle's midfield, Messrs Smith, Butt, Milner and Geremi. Alan Smith for one seems to spend the entire game with his hands in his imaginary pockets until at one stage he wakes up, kicks a few people, gets booked, has an argument with the referee before getting back to some more top quality slouching and sulking. Sheer class. Then there's Nicky Butt but don't get me started...

In all, a stirring team performance all round from Derby and a spectacular wonder goal from new signing Kenny Miller wins the game. It's also nice to see you picking our best defender from last season again Billy, welcome back Dean Leacock, no idea why he left you out.

Never mind Michael, just think of the money.

We pop into the Harrington for a pint afterwards and find that they've had a beer festival over the weekend and have quite a few leftovers. Parish from Borough on the Hill, very nice and Thornbridge Lord Marples.

L's been on the park with Doggo and claims that her friend, the psycho deer, the one whom she claims that if it were human it would swim over you in the pool and elbow you in the face, is still around, having escaped the cull.

This brings me nicely to the fact that I've had an email from the Ticknall Triathlon people trying to entice me to partake in their event. 6k road run, 30k hilly bike, 4.5k off road run. Sounds absolutely vile. How could I possibly refuse such an unattractive offer?

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Waiting For The Fairy

We get up early to do Son's papers. L comes out of the paper shop with a huge pile of them. Frightening. Doggo helps/hinders us.

Then we do a short run around the park before finding a good position to watch the Robin Hood Marathon. Oops sorry, I should have called it the newly named Robin Hood Festival of Running. Which to me doesn't sound anywhere near as impressive.

L falls over during our run and gashes both her legs in spectacular style.

As we watch the race I try and spot some of my old foes in the race but only see a couple, not ones worth spitting at. Naturally some people are dressed up in comical clothing, including the obligatory chap dressed up as a fairy. As we watch we stumble across Andy Whittaker, the Radio Derby DJ who defected to Radio Nottingham, who's running an official cheering point. He's waving a microphone around, I bet he's probably already launched himself on the poor chap dressed up as a fairy.

Nathaniel Williams, 23, of Loughborough, who was running his first ever marathon, wins in two hours, 29 minutes. Not bad mate but if you want a few tips just get in touch.

Go home to watch the BBC's highlights of last weeks Tour Of Britain. Lots of idiots guides, background information and scenery shots. It's debatable whether this lighthearted approach will have gripped the casual viewer who may have stumbled across the coverage when they actually flicking channels looking for a celebrity cooking programme. However I'm sure it had cycling fans like me clawing the carpet in frustration, not to mention struggling to stay awake at certain points. The BBC will no doubt cut back even more on their coverage next year due to the poor viewing figures, saying cycling just doesn't pull in the punters when really it’s their coverage that's so appalling. They've obviously never watched the excellent coverage of the Tour De France that has been done so well by ITV/C4 over that last 20 years.

2.30 and I finally get my now battered girl back into the bedroom. She won't be doing anything on her knees that's for sure.

In the evening the kids return and I cook up a rather good lamb curry.

22 units for the week. Which I think is rather good.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Dodgy Referee

We're getting a bit laid back with the dog shows. I'm supposed to be there to 'walk' a course at 8.30 but with our first run not scheduled until around 10.30. I opt for an extra hour in bed. Doggo seems totally fine with this and even may have coped with a further hour or two.

When we get there, we needn't have bothered. Doggo is faulted for the first time ever in his agility career for missing an 'up' contact. I give the judge my best glare, trying to convey to him that I think he's clearly mad. My Dad has videoed the run and on first viewing it looks like yes, the judge is mad, we certainly got the contact. I will need to view it back home, full size on the PC, to be sure but at the moment, I'm pretty annoyed, and the judge is off my Christmas card list. I suppose we all get the odd dodgy referee sometime.

Our second run is a grade 1-7 combined set ridiculously at grade 1 level but then all 1-7's are ridiculous, you just can't set a course for such a wide range of abilities. This course is so easy I expect a grade 7 to fly round it in around 10 seconds, in the end someone does it in 21. We take 24 which is closer than I though we'd get. We get a rosette for 16th out of 205. So we're pretty pleased.

I try and keep Doggo fresh by putting him in the car a bit and keeping him away from the other competing dogs that he's always so keen to bark at. This is because our final event is Grade 5 jumping and is what we really came here for. Driving 70 miles each way for one run, that's agility for you. It looks quite testing but doesn't cause people as many problems as I thought it would. The fastest time so far is 20 seconds. I reckon we're going to need to be in the 21's to get a rosette. We go for it big style and of the three tricky turns on the course we deal with two of them in style. Good tight turns. On the third however, I try and turn Doggo a touch too early and he just stops. Don't know how he managed to stop so quickly but he does. We get five faults but apart from that is was an encouraging run.

Head home and for the first time in decades both kids are at their fathers. L's been alone in the house for most of the day with another man, Harry. I feel I should show Harry who's boss and as the kids aren't here, I could have my way with her in any part of the house I fancied but in the end I opt for the good old bedroom.

Then we head out to the Johnson Arms again, in the vane hope that Old Peculiar might still be on. It isn't. The Loxley ale is very cloudy but oddly nice. The Adnams and Tiger are, well, just Adnams and Tiger.

Friday, 14 September 2007

'Morning' Person

I scrape myself out of bed for my third cycle of the week which is good. What's not so good is that I have to restrain myself as regards jumping L. Her chest is calling to me in now uncertain terms by doing its monthly swelling up trick. Although L doesn't seem to approve of its wayward behaviour, I think it's a very clever ploy of natures. It's clearly trying to pull the men and it certainly works a treat on me. Unfortunately I don't have the time to give it the attention it so clearly deserves and cycle to work as well. Somehow I think I've made the wrong call but there's always tonight and the now traditional Friday night lycra removal.

Apparently a broken down lorry has blocked the A52 and consequently the traffic on my route is even more horrendous than earlier in the week, as presumably people divert to avoid it. Huge lorries everywhere. I spend loads of time on the pavements again.

L's emails continue the theme of the week 'Good Morning - most definitely not' (Tuesday), 'Good Morning - I suppose' (Wednesday) and
'Good Morning - sort of' (today). You perhaps get the gist that she's not really a morning person. Well at least she's managing the greeting even if she has to quantify it. Perhaps if I'd done the deed this morning, I might have got a different subject on the email.

I don't think her hangover is helping her mood. I feel fine but then I didn't have Leffe. Its dangerous stuff that Leffe. Mind you, I think cycling cures all excesses. The worry of death takes your mind of virtually everything else.

I cycle home via my Kegworth route and curse myself for not noting down the Sutton Bonington Duathlon route so that I could have checked it out. Get home and L has readied some muffins with cheese and sausage on top. That sets me up nicely for some lycra stripping and indulging in what I missed out on this morning.

We contemplate running to the Victoria but in the end we walk. I have only three pints, which is good, a stout and two Lees Bitters.

My good friends at Leeds United win their sixth game in a row and move into positive points for the first time. They even temporarily move out of the relegation zone. Amusingly they put those other good friends of mine Forest in it instead.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

More Than My Jobs Worth

I take a day off work today to marshal at the Tour Of Britain. I don't get a lie-in though; I still have to get up at the usual time to drive up to Rotherham. I get the job of keeping the public and the riders/officials apart, so I get to check out all the competitors and more importantly their bikes at close quarters.

Jane Tomlinson's family lead the field away on the rolling start. The entire stage through Yorkshire has been dedicated to her.

Duty done I head off along the M18 to catch the riders at a Sprint the other side of Doncaster. They fly through the Sprint, at a frightening pace, ten minutes ahead of schedule.

There's a total cock up later on in the stage as the race is neutralised for 21 miles after the North Yorkshire Highways Authority refused to give the event permission to race on its roads. The riders were stopped for five minutes and then escorted by the police before racing restarted when they left the Authority's area.

Apparently 41 of the 42 highways authorities that they applied to for permission to race gave it but North Yorkshire said the application was received four days late. Councils eh? You want to run an international cycling event? Sorry mate, that's more than my jobs worth.

Spain's Adrian Palomares won the stage after he and two companions got away on the Cow and Calf climb just outside Bradford. He also took the overall lead by a solitary second.

Back home I had intended to cut the lawn and hence exercise Doggo at the same time but I'm so creased. Surprisingly our part-time A level student is home already and it's only half past one. Good job they keep making those exams easier. I have a bowl of soup and stretch out on the settee to listen to the Cricket. England look like they've totally stuffed it up and are going to lose to Zimbabwe but in the end they pull through and canter home by 50 runs.

I go upstairs collecting rubbish and ask Son if he has anything he wishes to throw away. He gives me an empty box of chocolates. Just as I'm about to thrown it in the recycling I realise that it's not actually empty. 'Oh I've left the ones I don't like' he tells me. Some people!

Daughter gets home from school and is well pissed off that everyone is back before her.

I do a short loop through the part with Doggo, walking that is, and then head off into town to meet L from work. Three pints of Legend, then we stagger home. L whips up a spam curry, which is excellent. We go to bed and have Son's discarded chocolates as a nightcap. Sadly I'm too tired to properly thank L for the curry.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

A Most Convenient Fire

I cycle again today and the traffic is possibly even more horrible than yesterday. I spend a lot of time on the pavement.

L is distressed to find that, at the pool, her doors are still on. So it must have been a man whose complaint did the trick. Either that or a male customer had just had enough and took them off himself.

I light the blue touch paper and recommended Atonement to a friend of mine. He's even more of a Knightly/McAvoy/Chick-flick hater than me. He quickly spots a plot flaw. Keira couldn’t have drowned because she’s so wooden she’d have floated away to safety. Ha ha. I like that.

In response, L says men have no sense of melodrama. Not sure what her point is. I agree it was melodramatic but unnecessarily so. If a woman had written the ending, Keira would have swam to safety, rushed to the Dunkirk, where she would have administered a successful blood transfusion to her man, and then married him in a huge church wedding. Then in part two she would run off and had a passionate affair with the gamekeeper.

The mystery of our ever-increasing broadband bill seems to have been solved. Son has been streaming episodes of South Park. So that would explain why the internet regularly slows to a crawl in the evenings. I was almost right when I suggested he might be downloading porn.

I cycle home through Bramcote, partly so that I can come through Farndon Green. This is so I can check out our Medical Centre that has been damaged by a suspicious fire. The centre was due to close in a few weeks anyway as they are moving to a new building. So what great timing. Looks to me like if they flatten the fire damaged annex at the back and turn that into a garden, then as the main bit hasn't been touched by the fire, it will sell as a house, and they'll probably still have change from the insurance money. How fortunate for them.

I skip the pool and take Doggo out instead. I haven't got time to do both due to the ever-decreasing park hours. We do a loop and end up back at the house only for Daughter to tell us that L has set off in pursuit of us. So much to Doggo's shock we go out again to find L. I can see he doesn't want to go out again but he just can't let me go on my own, it's a collie companionship thing. I bump into L just as she's detouring to go look at the fire damage.

After we've eaten, we have another early-ish night. So enough time for a quickie but L is too tired to fight back.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

'Blown The Bloody Doors Off'

I try and slide nonchalantly out of bed this morning so that L doesn't get to see whether I'm limping or not. As it happens the old calf seems to be behaving itself but there's only one way to find out for sure and that's to give it a good hammering on the way to work.

It's a touch cold this morning, a mere seven degrees it says on the thermometer and L says I should wear long trousers to keep my muscles warm. Says she, the injured one, who's about to depart with Doggo for their morning constitutional, in her shorts. When I express my disapproval, she covers up, grudgingly. When they finally depart, I hang back so that I don't upset Doggo by overtaking them. I don't think they see me, skulking behind the parked cars on my bike.

Ride in goes well, although the traffic is very busy and they've scraped all the road surface away in Borrowash. There's another new kid on the block, another girl, very cheery. She positively sings 'Good Morning' as I hurtle past. I have to do a double take, can't be a girl, I didn't think girls did mornings.

One black spot was a really small woman in a huge old Mercedes. She was so small, at first I didn't think there was anyone in the car, and then I saw her peering through the steering wheel. Having spotted her, I just knew she was going to try and wipe me out. True to form she had a go, I took evasive action.

L asks about my injury and I tell her that my ankle survived my bike. She pulls me up on this; I was struggling with a bad calf earlier. I obviously hadn't mentioned that my calf/ankle/thigh had all become one throbbing mass.

Second day back and L is already fishing Son's college pass out of the washing machine.

More tips on how to pull the women. Win a cycle ran. Russia's Nikolai Trusov looks very pleased with himself, as he wins the Tour of Britain stage into Taunton and take the yellow jersey from Mark Cavendish.

Top Britain is now Daniel Lloyd in 8th place 18 seconds off the lead. Lloyd recently placed a close second to David Millar in the National Championships. A quite remarkable comeback after shattering his pelvis the previous season.

I cycle to the swimming pool. The traffic is still vile and I bottle out of both the Crown Island and Radford Boulevard traffic lights. I arrive at the pool just as L and surprisingly Daughter are leaving. It's very busy in the pool; both lanes have about five people in each. I pick the fast lane, mainly because there are two people snogging in the other lane. Obviously this is allowed but you try swimming the wrong way even if you're the only one in the lane and the attendant is likely to pull a gun on you.

I'm quite pleased to see that it clears pretty quickly once I get in. That is apart from one girl who seems to be trying not to get her hair wet. Her chin is always up which means that her legs kick downwards, so she's effectively trying to swim upwards and consequently getting nowhere. I have to overtake her every third length which is a pain. Then another girl who is almost as slow joins us. I spend most of the time swimming on the wrong side of the lane and start to fear the attendant's bullet.

Then two men join us, semi-psychos, and all hell breaks loose. There are now arms, legs and other body parts all over the lane as the three of us swim round, under or over the girls while trying to avoid each other. The attendant clearly doesn't know who to aim at first.

Eventually enough of this stress, I get out and go home.

Interestingly in the changing rooms, someone's had an 'Italian Job' moment and to quote Michael Caine 'blown the bloody doors off' the showers. About time too. This is progress, now no one can shut themselves away in the shower for half an hour and it means we all get a shower today.

I get home and L is out running with Doggo, I go for a short run to try and find them but without success. L does have some eccentric routes, so it's difficult to second-guess her.

We watch the last part of Anna Karenina. L promises me that it doesn't have a happy ending and it doesn't. Anna commits suicide by throwing herself onto the train tracks. Problem is by then I'm glad to see the back of her. I really don't get it. She gives up everything, her marriage, her child, her social life etc to be with her lover and then because she thinks she's going to lose him too she commits suicide. Women eh?

I intend to debate this point with L but when she slips into bed all naked and shaggable, I forget all about it.

Monday, 10 September 2007


Doggo gets to spend his first day alone in the house since May as Son starts college for real today. He impressively gets his paper round done early and he's out the house by eight. L says Daughter also sailed off like a sweetie, nice and early. So something must be up, perhaps she even likes some of her teachers this year.

I go into town at lunchtime, to have the old 'barnet' trimmed, among other things. Then without warning one of those pouting young lasses who prowl the street of Derby, in their low cut, figure-hugging tops looking for clients, deliberately cuts across my path trying to get my attention. It's just like the old days. I never thought I would but I've missed this. By being marooned on Pride Park I've actually missed the Chuggers, the charity muggers, pedalling their emotional prostitution. Not the dreadlocked men of course but the girls, it's just not the same without them. Understandably my avoidance strategy is a little rusty. Everyone else around me is pretending to send a text message, turning their ipod volume up or simply just pretending they don’t exist.

I know she's only after my credit card, not that there's anything unusual about women after credit cards. So before she can mention wildlife, rain forests, cancer or starving children. I'm off. So that's her commission stuffed.

L's been having emails from a girl with the surname of Lardbottom. The mind boggles. Would love to know what she looks like. L says she should have changed her name by deed poll. Of course, blinded by true love, she might have married into it, after falling for the irresistibly delicious Mr Lardbottom.

Britain's Mark Cavendish extends his lead in the Tour of Britain by winning the stage into Southampton.

We don't have a good night at dog class or rather I don't, Doggo has a whale of a time as usual. My flick-flacks aren't very good; this is a technical term, slaloms to you. I must stop waving both arms in the air at the same time.

L's at yoga, so we drive to John Carroll to meet her but somehow miss her. She's nearly home by the time I find her.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

'Go On Then Robbie'

Wake up and amazingly no hangover. However the effects on my ankle also seem to have worn off, I can feel it throbbing. So I heroically decide not to do any of the three 10k's that are on today. The fact that none of them are offering a t-shirt also has a bearing on my decision. Not even the Wymeswold Waddle and Duck Races have one. Now that could have been some t-shirt, probably un-wearable but still some t-shirt.

Also the fact that I've scratched the run from my schedule means we don't have to get up until around midday, leaving plenty of time for a couple of rounds of indulgence with L.

Then L wants to run so I join her for a bit of a hobble around the park. With both L and I now injured and Doggo looking like life's just too much for him, we must look a right threesome.

Back home, we have lunch and breakfast rolled into one and read the papers, the wrong one. That's thanks to L for getting the Telegraph by mistake and for the Co-op for accepting a Times voucher for it.

Watch a bit of cycling on TV, not the Tour Of Britain obviously, where Mark Cavendish wins the prologue but World Championship Mountain biking from Aonach Mor where we do actually win a gold medal.

In the evening we do another cinema/meal combo at Broadway together with a pint of Harvest Pale and a Mocha coffee, that, as it the trend, isn't hot enough. Daughter joins us and L is on edge all night as she's not officially old enough for the 15 certificate. Tonight it's Atonement.

Before we went L told me of her dilemma, whether to read the bloody book first or not because generally life's too short to read Ian McEwan. Personally after hearing what L has said about the ones she has read and after having seen Enduring Love, I have no plans to read any of them but will happily see the films.

In this case, DO NOT under any circumstances read the book first because it will totally ruin the film for you. You really do not want to know how it finishes in advance.

I had my reservations about going because of the casting of Keira Knightly and James McAvoy. Surely so much wet in one place will cause us all to drown under the sentimentality of the generic costume-drama formula. I was wrong; I should have had more faith in Mr McEwan and the director Joe Wright.

The McEvanisms are great, scenes are replayed from different perspectives, there's a touch of running the film backwards, and then huge time jumps forwards, even perhaps a touch of sideways. You'll either love it or hate it; strangely I kept up and loved it.

The first hour is brilliant. 13-year-old Briony Tallis misunderstands what she sees from her bedroom window when she sees her sister Cecilia (Knightly) dive into a fountain, a very deep one, as their housekeeper's son Robbie (McAvoy) watches.

Then when Robbie writes a letter to Cecilia, he gives it Briony to give to her sister but he gives her the wrong draft. Briony reads the rather 'direct' letter before delivering it.

Here we get a tip on how to pick up women. There's a key word in this letter and the film dramatically repeats it several times, letter by letter, just in case you missed it or in case anyone has covertly snuck their 14-year-old Daughter in to see the film. It's wonderfully shocking because the film had been so prim and proper up to that point.

However it seems that with our Keira the direct approach works best and Robbie must have been glad he didn't send her the intended traditional softly softly romantic letter after all. I was just disappointed that when she led him into the library and leant back against the desk she didn't just lie back and say 'go on then Robbie'. Actions speak louder than words and all that but sadly no. Mind you before you could say 'kiss my ...' he had her climbing the bookcase in ecstasy. I am taking notes. Worryingly Daughter probably was too. Unfortunately Briony witnesses this rather strange love scene, which confirms her belief that her sister is the victim of a mad sexual predator.

Keira reckons she may become famous for the earlier fountain scene where you can see her bush through her wet clothes. Strangely this is noticeable when viewed from the sister's window but not when the scene is repeated close-up. Lost your bottle eh Mr Wright? Anyhow Keira is wrong; the scene she will be famous for is the one where the housekeeper's son did it with conviction in the library.

Then when Briony's friend and cousin, Lola is attacked and presumably raped, as a childish act of revenge, she lies to the police and wrongly accuses Robbie. The police believe her, and Robbie is imprisoned and thus separated from Cecilia.

After such a whirlwind of a start, the film then falls a bit flat. We move on four years and Robbie is in the army to attain early release from prison. He pines to get back to Cecilia, who is now working as a nurse in London. Meanwhile Briony, who has now realised her mistake, is trying to atone for it.

Some of the scenes in France and particularly at Dunkirk (shot in Redcar), are overlong and did not appear to add much to the film. It would have been better to have spent more time wallowing in Briony's guilt and on the relationship between Robbie and Cecilia and how this affected the family etc but I don't know if the book deals with this or not.

It picks up again towards the end. Robbie confronts Briony about what she's done, his anger causes her to cower in the corner, terrified he will strike her. I almost stand up and for the second time I want Keira to say to McAvoy 'Go on then Robbie', lets see you put her through that window but sadly no he doesn't.

At the end Vanessa Redgrave appears as an elderly Briony and tidies up all the loose ends. Not. Instead she delivers an unexpected twist that had all the girls in the audience reaching for the Kleenex and all the boys muttering 'Cool' under their breath. It's all so Ian McEwan. Ultimately she finds a way of telling a second lie to try and atone for the first, if only in her own mind.

Overall, a mostly riveting film full of young British talent with a very clever story. Even old Keira Flat Chest was not as wooden as usual and didn't do anything wrong but then all she had to do was smoke, look wistful and shag McAvoy. Not terribly taxing and her accent seemed all Middlesex girl pretending to be an American actress playing an English girl.

McAvoy was actually rather good, although he did seem to leave his accent somewhere in the French countryside. Although for me he'll never top being strung up by his nipples in The Last King Of Scotland. His finest moment.

The star though was Saoirse Ronan who was outstanding as the young Briony.

I don't like a happy ending and this one spoilt the film a touch for me. Having them frolicking by their dream cottage that they never shared in real life was over the top. As were scenes like seeing Cecilia floating artistically beneath the underground.

The film will surely pick up Oscar nominations:- best film, director Joe Wright, actor (James McAvoy), supporting actress (Saoirse Ronan), editing, cinematography, the haunting score, which reverberates throughout the film with the rhythmic tapping of typewriter keys... blimey they might even give Keira a mention.

Obviously Knightly/McAvoy fans will like this film no matter what. For everyone else it'll depends on whether you 'get' Ian McEwan or not. I rather liked it. What's next Ian?

We wind down with a Whiskey at home because L is celebrating only 11 units this week. Hmmm. I manage 36.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

A Night On The Medicinal

I head off up to Wigan for a dog show today. A cracking first run sees us set the fastest time. We are an early starter so we don't expect to remain top of the pile and we don't. However we are pleased with a creditable 6th place.

On a tricky second course, I concentrate that hard on getting the first and last parts of the course right that I cock up the easy bit in the middle and send Doggo the wrong way over a jump. Sorry mate.

Our final run is ok, we're clear but very slow, 6 seconds off the pace rather than the 1.5 we were earlier in the day. I think I let him have too much of a whale of a time barking, snarling, and the like all day. I think he's barked himself out. Must rethink my tactics and perhaps keep him away from the other dogs a bit more. We must also build on our strengths and practice tighter turns round the hurdles. I tell Doggo he has homework, he looks nonplussed.

When we get home, L is a bit miffed I'm late because we had to wait for the presentation of our 6th place. So we don't make the cinema. It turns out rather well for me though as we go over to Lenton and the Johnson Arms where I see Old Peculiar on a Nottingham bar for the first time in around 10 years and what's more it's in terrific shape. I could have stayed there all night. Although hardly anyone is drinking it, which is bizarre and the pub should be promoting it. If they'd took out a full page ad in the local paper people would have come from miles around to sample it, such is the novelty value of it’s appearance in these parts.

Having already opened with the more refreshing Cumberland, I then concentrate on the Old Peculiar. As I'm ordering a third one, it does occur to me that perhaps this isn't such a good idea, as I'm still contemplating a 10k race tomorrow but then again it's very medicinal. It successfully dulls the pain in my ankle but I still might need it in my drinks bottle in order to get me round the course. Also my body is going to take some serious re-hydrating in the morning.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Well Worth A Tenner

I have to be at work early today as three of us are spending the day at a Medical Waste Treatment Plant near Wrexham. These are not pleasant places. All squishy yellow bags of hacked off body parts, unwanted appendixes and goes knows what. All being cooked by an incinerator or in this case left to rot in their yard, in the sun. The smell is... well, you can probably imagine.

When we finally escape from our meeting, early afternoon, having been treated to just the one measly cup of coffee, it was good to see that we end up in a pub. As expected they have lots of good traditional Welsh beer, not. However the Yorkshire Black Sheep is very good. As expected they have loads of wholesome, healthy food, not. The Club baguette, white bread naturally, is nice but fried to within an inch of its life.

Unfortunately we are back at work by 4pm, so I get to spend an hour at work too, although not much gets done.

Then it's home to L and the chance to satisfy an urge or two. Afterwards I slip my girl a tenner, which I hope she doesn’t take the wrong way. It's just to save her from having to go to the bank before we hit the pub. She says she’ll pay me back tomorrow, I assume she means the money, but I’ll take whatever comes.

At the Victoria, we have some excellent beers from Funfair and Wentworth.

The kids are yet again not at their Father's. L has texted him to remind him of their existence but he says it up to them whether they come over or not. Nothing like making them feel wanted. They both decide to stay at home.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

As Unfit As An England Footballer

I seem to have picked up an injury to my calf which is from either my cycling or my swimming. So naturally I'll have to blame the swimming. Cycling is good for you. I get L to massage the misbehaving calf; it is really tight. Unfortunately that's all the massage I have time for.

I take the bus into work. Not much gossip. There were two chaps discussing their holidays. One had a fortnight somewhere in the UK in a cottage and put his dog in kennels for the first week but then had him in the cottage for the second week. An odd way of going about things.

The walk from the bus stop must have done my calf some good because it is ok by the time I get to work.

L says that Doggo seemed to smell me in the air when they walked around part of my route to the bus stop. She says it was quite bizarre standing there with a dog standing on his hind legs having a sniff. I knew I should have put on more deodorant this morning.

Daughter has got her first DT lesson of the new school year. So we'll find out whether she's been sent from Cooking to Graphics or vice versa. It says cookery on her timetable but we've been told for months that she didn't get a place on the cookery course. Obviously 6 weeks holiday isn't enough time for them to sort it out. Mind you they promised to get back to us two weeks before the end of last term. We're still waiting. They’ll still be telling her it’s a mistake when she’s sat in the GCSE cookery exam after two years of Graphics lesson.

Its squash tonight and I feel about as unfit as an England footballer. Gerrard has a broken toe but he intends to have an injection in it, so that he can play for England on Saturday. I take a more traditional approach and go for an injection of cottage pie and beer at lunchtime. Just to get me through the pain barrier you understand. Perhaps the England football team should try it. After all, all these modern methods don't seem to be working.

In the pub, it’s Amber Stout again, very nice. Worryingly they’re training new kitchen staff. We feel that the current Chef could soon be gone. So who know what the future of lunchtimes will bring.

L says that I shouldn’t be playing squash at all tonight, I should be resting instead. I shall, right after my game, I’ll stretch out on the bed and she can do her research. She been asked by the girls at work to undertake some interesting research work about ‘massage parlours’. I’m more than willing to offer myself up in the interest of research.

Squash is a bit of a humdinger. He wins one, I win one, he wins one, I win one, he wins one, I win one. So it ends up 3-3. Disappointingly I lose out in the five that count (when he’s counting) 3-2.

L and Daughter go to see Run Fat Boy Run. Quite a pair of culture vultures, aren’t they? After a pint in the pub, Doggo and I pick them up when it finishes. We take a glass of red to bed.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

In The Pink

Today's ride in certainly wasn't stormin'. I felt held back by the weight of last night's stodgy pizza.

Daughter's back at school today. She's promised me faithfully that she'll try not upset her form teacher on his first day back, suppose tomorrows another day. Anyway she's going to be too busy trying to hide her, not quite legitimate, shoes from him. She's even gone in new trousers rather than the antique pair with the purple wool repair job that she's so fond of but again there's always tomorrow.

Cycle to the pool and meet L in there, who's already done a gym workout. For once I share a lane with her. She looks pretty fearsome in her goggles and with a look of sheer concentration on her face. The blancmange pink swimsuit, her description, does slightly dilute the effect.

Afterwards I take Doggo on the park only to find they're now shutting the gates from 7pm onwards. So we have to walk a very long way round to get on. We're not the only ones; the place is packed. You would have thought as the place has been shut all morning all week because of the deer shoot that they'd have extended the hours in the evening to make up for it. What's even more bizarre is that there's a function on in the hall, so the car park is full of cars for that and therefore they have to leave the main gate open to let those out. So it was pretty pointless shutting the other gates.

L is pretty lively at bedtime, and I've not got my badger skin on, or my rough and ready gamekeeper attire. So it must be the legendary lycra effect. Terrific post watershed workout.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

I Am Not Worthy

L wakes up wondering where her knickers have gone. I don't have time to explain, I'm on the bike today.

The truce is over; war has resumed. The schools are back and the Mums with their Jeeps and Chelsea Tractors are once more on the road ferrying their little dears to school, sweeping all before them including the humble cyclist. So I'm extra cautious today, also because yesterday L told me about an incident she saw where a car almost wiped a jogger out because one driver stopped to let the jogger and a cyclist cross the road but didn't tell the motorists in the other lane. I hate is when people let me in for exactly that reason, other drivers don’t realise what’s happening and can attempt to wipe you out.

Our boiler, that is less than two years old, has packed up. I telephone the manufacturer, Glowworm, on an 0870 number. After 30 minutes at 8p a minute and 5 minutes at 50p per minute to their technical line, they quote me £210 to fix it. So I tell then where to go and ring someone else instead.

I cycle home and run into a professional looking chap from Long Eaton Velo Club. I see him coming out of a side street, and then seconds later I see his shadow looming behind me. I'm not going to play 'silly' games with him, so I start to free-wheel, so that he has to pass me. Tactics. He falls into the trap and comes past me. You see once he's in front he then has to make sure he stays there. I stick with him for a while but bloody hell he's quick. Then he jumps the lights. Cunning swine but also a soon to be dead swine if he keeps that up. At which point I get bored and drop back or perhaps I just can't keep up with him. Anyhow he has a positive effect on my pace. Despite the fact that I extend my route by a kilometre or so around Bramcote, I still do it in my usual time.

In the evening, I go out for a few beers with a friend who is desperately running out of excuses to not let him girlfriend move in. I can sympathise but I feel he's fighting a losing battle; these things are inevitable. Luckily I had no such dilemma about letting L move in (Pheew, think I dug my way out of that one). I offer him a few tips but I don't think I'm much help. So instead I tell him to think of the sex on tap. We feast on unhealthy pizza and have two bottle of Stella, a Titanic that I'm sure got mixed up with the Spitfire and an Everards Tiger.

Finally today, I feel that I should pay tribute to Jane Tomlinson who died last night at the age of 43, following a seven-year battle with cancer. I sometimes call myself an athlete, as do many sports people, probably even some footballers think of themselves as athletes but not many of these have run three London Marathons, the Great North Run, completed a Half Ironman triathlon, a full Ironman triathlon (that’s a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile cycle ride and a 26 mile marathon), cycled the 1,060 miles from John O'Groats to Land's End stopping en route to receive chemotherapy, cycled from Rome to Leeds and the 3,700 miles across the United States, from San Francisco to New York City, a total of 63 days on the bike.

A CV of achievements that I can only dream about. Even though her cancer was incurable, she refused to give in. No sitting in front of the TV watching Big Brother and feeling sorry for herself. That wasn't her style. She has shown us that such amazing feats are possible, even when you are as ill as she was. She was an example to us all, fit or otherwise. Some athlete. I am not worthy.