Monday, 22 December 2008

Home #7

Duffy's a bit odd, isn't she? I've just found myself watching her doing a BBC session in somewhere called St Lukes. It looks like an old church, now that she mentioned the name of the place. she's wearing what appears to be an empty teabag with suitable holes cut out of it for her arms and legs. And her head, of course. She doesn't seem to have a philtrum, like Julia Roberts, and is about as Welsh as it may be possible to be. 

All of this renders her disarmingly natural, unexpectedly so from my jaundiced perspective. I was expecting someone a lot more showy. Even her dancing, to use entirely the wrong word, is charmingly clunky, which is rich coming from me. All in all I've rapidly started to become quite fond of her, in a relieved sort of way. She seems far too real to be successful in this day and age.

Unfortunately she sings like she's recently had a tracheotomy at the Helium Clinic. It's weird, because on the radio, I'm thinking of the song 'Warwick Avenue', her voice is much more sultry and husky. Like a 7 year old doing Lauren Bacall or Lee Marvin, maybe. A smoker's voice. I suppose if Penelope Pitstop smoked.. oh, I'll shut up about her now. Just felt compelled to mention it.

Talking of smoking - and I'll take a bow now for that effortless segue, if you don't mind - I've not precisely succeeded in my proposed quittage, I'm sorry to say. It's very hard, after all, and made harder when you're up till 7am every day in a Danish heavy-drinking milieu, but that's not a very good excuse, because there are no very good excuses.

So I'm a bit disappointed in myself. This is nothing new. 

However, time is wearing on - as usual - and, while it's still on my side, it's tapping its fingers on its coffee table and glancing at the clock. Why it would glance at the clock, except for the purposes of a rubbish metaphor, I don't know. It's 12.15 am, is my excuse.

So. Tomorrow I'm off to the running-shoe-shop. Then to the gym. I have to get back on track, as it were. I don't feel like I've ever been on the track in the first place, but I know I have felt that way only recently, and 'on track' is defined by feeling a certain way, so I'm sure I'll remember what I'm missing, and therefore be reassured by the missing of it. (This is a clumsy way of saying that I'll realise what progress I've made, however scant the progress may be, once I get back into the regime).

Christmas shopping. Oh dear. That'll have to be shoehorned into tomorrow somehow. I'm tempted to tell all of my potential giftees that my gift to them this year is my solemn pledge to do the best I can over the coming months to succeed next May and trust in their selfless, wise and thankful approbation, but I don't think I'll get away with it. Anyway, you can't wrap stuff like that up. You can wrap failure up, of course, in fact that's all you can do with it, but what kind of present is that?

It'll be fine. Small beans in the terrific chile of life. 

Right, Duffy's finished, I'm off to watch Survivors.

(PS: thanks for the comments. It's easy to say that feedback like that really means a lot to me when I'm writing this nonsense, but it's true. It's nice to know that it's not just me ranting into nowhere. Merry christmas to you, I really hope it's just one of many, many good ones to come :o)

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Knees, part ohnonotthatagain.

I just posted that last one, hippily titled In A Danish Room (you're lucky - I was almost going to title it Thoughts From A Room Far Away), and I remembered something not particularly apropos the tone of it.

I went to the physiotherapist last week about my knees. It's not the first time I've stood in front of a lady wearing nothing but my pants (and hopefully not the last, ho ho), but it's still a slightly surreal experience, especially when you suddenly remember that the last time you took a stone to that bit of dry skin on your toe was, well, too long ago. But I'm very glad I went.

Evidently my knees themselves are fine. She didn't find any problems with the bones etc, and reckoned all the niggles and stuff will pretty much disappear with some focussed excercise and manipulation of the muscles around them and up to the lumbar area of my back. One leg, she deduced, is quite a bit stronger that the other - quite a popular condition resulting mainly from a slightly lop-sided gait - and I should concentrate on that while I'm excercising. Up to now I've been concentrating on not falling over or otherwise making a fool out of myself, but I'll give it a try.

So that's good, though it does make it harder to appeal for sympathy now. I've gone from "Considering how knackered my knees are from an old horrific accident while I was only a kid, it's really a very brave thing I'm doing, honest", to "Well yeah, my legs are mostly weak from inaction and wine-fuelled atrophy, but it still hurts...". Soon it'll be "Yes, my knees are fine, I have no reason to complain... alright I've stopped complaining... no, I know it's not really that big a deal... ok, I'll just shut up and get on with it, then."

Every cloud, eh? 

In a Danish room.

I'm in Aarhus. It's freezing outside and all is grey, which is what you'd expect in the North during December. 

Right this minute I'm in a bed normally reserved for the 7 year old son of an englishman who's found himself here indefinitely. His son stays on weekends so I've got the room till tomorrow afternoon. The fellow's name is Marcus and I'm very grateful to him. The alternatives are pretty awful.

I'm feeling a little down. This Tuesday gone Ollie's family and closest others organised a do at the Salomon's hall in TW to launch his last album, and I couldn't go 'cos I'm here. If I'd thought sensibly about it, though, I could have had words with the pub and got someone else to cover Tuesday night. I should have been there, if only for my own benefit. Mark and Martin did a couple of songs with Miranda, Ollie's sister, (possibly with Paul also - no-one's told me anything about it so I'm not sure), and I'd have liked to have been part of that, too. I think they were Ollie's songs.

I'm wondering how it went. Louise described some of it, said it was nice and a bit emotional. It all seems a long way away from here, though it's not as far as you might think.

(That just reminded me of something that's been puzzling me for years. Many people, over the time that I've been coming out to Aarhus, seem to be under the impression that this town, even the whole country, is in Holland. I've lost count of the times, not that I ever actually started to count them, that a perfectly familiar person has inquired 'how it went in Holland' when I return 
from Denmark. I often reply that we had this conversation last time and I haven't been to Holland in 15 years, but they'll still ask me again the next time. I guess the word 'Aarhus' sounds a bit Dutch, if you squint at it, but still..)

I haven't known a lot of dead people, I think. It's all relative, of course, and I suppose, when I think about it properly, there have been quite a few people that I've known have passed away. Neil Fuller, the Moonshots' old benefactor, was killed while out on his motorbike, back in another life, as was Ed from Newbury not much later - both lights blown for no tangible reason. Pattie from Newbury, too, though she saw it coming and fought it for years. More come to mind.

Yes, it takes little time to realise that the list of the missing is longer than at first glance, and a bit startling in a way. Maybe it's a character quirk, or maybe it's normal, but I feel a bit weird when I remember some of these people, almost guilty that I haven't said this or that name in who knows how long, or pictured a face or recounted a feat or a shared situation. Almost as if I've forgotten them.

Then again, you can't go round with all these people on the mind constantly, of course. You have to keep on and none of this will brush your teeth or buy your wine. But sometimes it persists. Sometimes it's so unnatural to think that someone's gone that you just kind of ignore the fact and look forward to the next time you're going to see them, though you have to forever put off actually pencilling it into your diary.

So, I find it easier to think of Ollie as simply not being around at the moment. I don't really think that, of course, this isn't a delusion. If you smack your head on a door frame or whatever, you may violently focus your attention on something else to try and ease the pain - to ignore it or hide it, obscure it behind something regular and less painful - it's a bit like that. Because if you keep stopping to think about it you'll do nothing but cry all day and then the memory becomes poisonous and the opposite of good for you. This works for a bit. When it starts to fail and the anger and grief start to swell again I find that banging my head hard against a couple of bottles of wine helps - though perhaps 'helps' isn't really the right word.

Anyway, I mustn't keep going on about this. It's still not really all that I feel on the subject, not even close, but I'm aware I could start boring you, if I haven't already.

So, running.

Not a lot going on there, I'm afraid. I mean - I'm training, doing my excercises, apparently getting my cardio-vascular up to snuff and all that. There's just nothing of any real interest to say about it.


I think if any time is the right time for a shower, it's now.

Sunday, 30 November 2008


I'm now a member of the gym. Fitness club, should I say. L and I went there today and I managed to get a pretty excellent deal out of the fella on the commission. Actually, he really did me a pretty huge favour - instead of £46 a month I'm paying just over £100 for five months, to be reviewed in May. I'm pretty pleased with myself for getting him down to that. It was handy having Louise there, too.

Anyway, I was reminded yet again how much I need this. I ran about 3k again, averaging about 6 miles an hour and, though I could have carried on, I was getting pretty shagged out. About the half-way mark I started seeing ripples and bobbles in the air around me so I walked for a minute, and then the chest pain kicked in again. Damn cigarettes... and the mysterious strained tendon or muscle or whatever it is. I should be seeing the physiotherapist soon, so hopefully that will cease to be so much of a problem.

While I was running I suddenly got quite a vivid image of Ollie, sat at his keyboard, grinning at me. It made me feel sad, it's still hard to think of him as gone for good, but in a strange way it kind of encouraged me. I can't really explain it, but I don't think I need to. You know what I mean. It kept me going, even over such a paltry distance - eventually the 3k thing will be easy and I'll be needing his encouragement after 5, 10, 20k. I don't think I'm ready yet to listen to his album while I'm running, I can barely sit all the way through it under any other circumstances,  but it's important to remember why I started this in the first place, and I don't want to let his memory down. It's all a bit melodramatic, I suppose, but I told you months ago that I might get like that, so there.

So tomorrow I'll be down there again, hopefully I can book an appointment with Scott, the marathon-man, and he can tell me how best to approach this silliness. Apparently he's about the same size as a cricket stump. Good running physique and all that. And then the pool and the steam room and the sauna etc. I'm already looking forward to it. Who'd have thought, eh?

Plus, my knees are fine.

The only slight down side is the fallout from this rank protein drink I bought while we were drawing up the contract. Seems it not only goes right through you but it brings half your intestines with it. I just tried to fart and narrowly avoided something quite horrible. So I shall take my leave now and see what transpires. Wish me luck.

Friday, 28 November 2008

The gym.

Good news. I got the results back from the doctor about my chest x-ray. There seem to be no problems with it. Big relief, that. I'm quite happy now.

Actually, I'm even happier than that. I've got a bit of a hormone buzz going on, though it's abating. I'm not sure which hormone it is. It's the one you get from exercise. I've not long got back from the gym, or fitness club or whatever it's called. And I'm hooked.

This is going to sound a bit trivial to a lot of people, or it would if a lot of people read it, but at the risk of sounding like a bit of an O'Hara I'm going to go on anyway. I've never been the keep-fit type. I always figured my 'job' of playing gigs, with the isometric exertion it entails, was keeping me fit-ish anyway. So I never really felt overly unfit. But I'm obviously not in the right kind and quality of shape to be doing any meaningful distance using my legs, as I've described on here before and I've been quite violently reminded of today.

Louise got me in on a one day pass thing, and I was immediately surprised at the size of the place. It's just a little bigger than I thought, which is daft because I was there at the start, trying to get people to join the club about 10 years ago, with 9-fingered Gary. (I sometimes wonder where he is now. Well, I wondered just then. I can't actually remember the last time it crossed my mind.)

The pool and sauna and steam room caught my interest, if only because the pool itself is not as small as I imagined, so you can have a perfectly worthwhile swim in it. I thought it would be one of those puddles you get in places where you don't really expect a pool to be, like a hotel or a fish and chip shop. And the steam room - I'd never actually been in one before. When I was in Doha about 15 years ago there was an old style sauna in the hotel, one of those ones where, just as you're on the verge of passing out, some evil bastard pops in and pours water on the coals and all the oxygen gets sucked out of the room and you're left breathing neat boiling water and the only thing that stops you from really passing out is the unachievable desire to punch whoever just did that up the throat. All you can do, though, is to flop like a knackered slinky down to the door, try fruitlessly to pull it open for a while till some other masochist helpfully enters, allowing you to pin-wheel loosely out into full view of everyone in and around the pool, gravely shake your head, gesture back towards the door in the manner of someone with roughage issues leaving an airplane toilet in front of a large queue, and flounce back to your locker, in tears.

Of course, you're advised to, in the absence of a dip-pool, take an excruciatingly cold shower, trying not to scream, and pat yourself dry, so as not to do something or other to your pores, before you get dressed and go and do something far less deranged. Which I did, and it was by far the most surprising experience in my life thus far.

At the 'club', though, you're presented with a much less vicious option. You can just get back in the pool. It's not the warmest pool in the world, but you're far less likely to blow your heart up or endure a brief but debilitating hallucination as a result of teleporting, naked, from Death Valley to the North Pole in under a second. It's actually very pleasant, and you feel a bit like James Bond, without the pain.

Before that, though, I did a bit of running on a treadmill. There's about 20 of them there and, apart from a woman who looked about 5 stone in weight but sounded like a horse going mental in a wardrobe, I was the only one running. I didn't feel completely safe as there were a few people hanging around slightly suspiciously, with little to occupy their minds other than some tv footage of Leona Lewis stroking her own face, in close up, and the imminent spectacle of me pressing the wrong button at 10 miles an hour and impaling myself on a volume control.

To start off, I selected some program or other that was supposed to be somewhat realistic in that it threw random inclines and changes in speed at me, like what you'd get if you were running around outside. I quickly aborted this, though, because I quickly began feeling a bit panicky about being at the mercy of something that, for all I knew, wanted not to help me but to hurt me. Just before I hit the off button the machine had started to incline bafflingly sharply, which I took to show that my suspicions had been correct. What kind of marathon has segments where you have to run up a really tall ladder?

Anyway, once I got it doing what I wanted it to do, I then set about trying to figure out the controls and readouts and stuff. They were so simple a four year old child could have sussed them instantly, but I didn't have a four year old child with me and couldn't make head or tail of them. 

Eventually it transpired that I was running in kilometres per hour rather than miles, which was a bit crushing, and that I was burning a bunch of calories. As no-one has any idea what a calorie is I didn't really pay much attention to this, which I'm hoping isn't deeply unwise. I'll probably wake up one day in January, connected to a drip, with some doctor telling me how lucky I am to be alive, considering I've only got 12 calories left in me.

I was having trouble converting kilometres to miles, what with a spaced-out assumption that, as 2.54 centimetres make an inch, therefore 2.54 kilometres make a mile, and so starting getting most discouraged. After a while I remembered it's something like one k to .6 of a mile and immediately felt much better. So I ran for 20 minutes and covered 3 km, which is close enough to 2 miles for me, making my average the magic 10-minute mile.

Of course, my exhilaration over this was tempered by the threat of sudden-onset decrepitude and feeling like I was breathing through a strange new hole in the top of my chest, but it's a start. Again. It won't take long for the pain to diminish and strike less early. All is cool.

So I'm definitely joining the gym. Anywhere that has a pool, steam room, sauna, treadmill etc for a pound a day can't really be sniffed at, especially in my case as I absolutely need it and I absolutely can't afford anything more.

Now tonight I'm playing in a place near Eastbourne. Brilliant. If I don't get stopped by the police for driving a car that sounds like a cross between Brian Blessed stubbing his toe in a huge tin stadium and God farting, I'll be overjoyed.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

My knee, continued

So anyway, the upshot of it is that I'm now pretty concerned about my left knee. If it keeps doing this I'm going to find it pretty hard to train usefully - once a week isn't going to cut it. I'm going to try one of those bandage type things and see if that makes a difference. No idea where you get one though.

Another reason why I want to train harder is this: it makes me want to smoke less. As in the actual desire for a cigarette diminishes after I've been out on a run. Partly this is common sense in that the two don't go together and it's logical and rational to ease off on the thing that makes breathing more difficult at 7 or 8 miles an hour. More pleasingly, though, the buzz I get after a strenuous run, and all running is strenuous at the moment, takes the cigarette's place. I don't get the craving so much.

Add the rational to the physical and hey presto, I don't smoke. I want to give up now more than ever, and I need something to take its place. It's the perfect solution. So all I've got to do is keep it up. Easy peasy.

I think I might go out for a run tonight. I'm worried I might put myself out of action again, but I can't hang around and wait for it to get better - how would I know anyway?

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

My knee

I can't say I've been particularly fervid recently, when it comes to this blog. Various things cropped up and made it all a little harder than really-bloody-easy to actually do any training, which led to not actually doing any training, which in turn led to me feeling a little bit guilty and and clenched therefore not knowing what to write. 

I can only type the word 'soon' so many times before it becomes unattractive and offensive.

My daughter came to stay for a while, which made it hard for me to train (don't ask why, please), then Louise and I went to Greece for a week, which made it impossible. Then I had the absolute definition of man-flu for a week - hard to train, again. Basically, nearly a month had passed.

So last Wednesday I went out for a run with Suzy, who's a bit of a dab hand at using her feet, and did pretty well. Ran for about 3 miles, perhaps a bit less, with very few breathers, and belted the last bit home as if I was in Stockholm and after 26 miles I was still Roger Bannister. This last bit nearly killed me, but after a hot then freezing shower I felt brilliant and would have gone back out again, if you see what I mean.

Then my knee seized up. Really seized up. By the time I went to bed I could barely bend it, and Thursday night I woke up and found I was actually crying with the pain. I ended up on diazepam, codeine and ibuprofen for 72 hours - it finally felt a bit better on Saturday night. 

This has happened before and I blame it on the fall I had when I was a kid. I dropped 40-odd feet from a tree (not literally, of course - what would a 12 year old be doing up a tree with a load of feet?) - breaking a couple of bones in my back on the way down thanks to a sturdier branch than the one I'd been holding onto, then hitting the ground in such a way that I broke all sorts of other bones and tore all sorts of tendons and stuff, notably my left leg. Even more notably and more specifically my left knee. 


Thursday, 16 October 2008

Two miles.

I ran round Dunorlan lake four times yesterday. It being .55 miles in circumference and the fact that I walked a little bit of it (which I'm relieved is the correct thing to do at this stage in training) makes it about 2 miles of running. And I was having trouble.

Several times I thought I was just going to fall over and become useless, even in the first 1/2 mile. It really was a tough run. Only 2 miles, too. Quite depressing. It's not like I thought, after doing the 4 miles the other night, that from now on it just going to get easier, but I didn't think it was going to get twice as hard 2 days later.

Poppy, the dog, seemed bewildered at first, what with all the running and no sticks, and then overcame this and spent the rest of the time fannying about in the lake and annoying the ducks. One little corner of the water was covered in leaves and every time we went past it she appeared to think it was another bit of ground and tried to walk on it. The fourth time she evidently had wised up to this mirage and adopted a new technique to deal with it.

Taking it at speed obviously wasn't a good idea but she's a dog, and a really stupid one, to be honest. She disappeared below the water for a second and came up looking even more bewildered than before, this time 15 feet out into the lake. Normally I would have laughed and pointed but I was trying to get in the zone, for crying out loud. I ended up having to pull her out by the scruff and fruitlessly berating her for a few seconds, knowing if we did another circuit of the lake and came back past this spot she'd do something equally as stupid anyway.

I then carried on jogging, squirted some Lucozade directly into my eye because I wasn't concentrating and presently decided to give up, as much for Poppy's sake as my own. I did my stretches, feeling conspicuously rubbish at them, and struggled back up the hill to the car.

On the way back I spotted the joggers with prams group up by the steps being led through some stretches of their own and thought about interfering and asking the group leader to brush me up how exactly they should be done. Pretty swiftly I binned that idea due to looking like I was on the run from the police and having a dog you could wash a car with at my side. I swear she waits till she's certain maximum damage will be done before she does the really big shake and upsets everyone around her. So I carried on disconsolately, all the while just wanting to lie down.

For some reason I'd had a shower before I left an hour earlier so, as I had to have another one to get rid of the smell of sweat from something I'd drunk about 3 months previously (it's all coming out now..), I spent the next 15 minutes trying to dry myself with the corners of various wet towels that were lying around the place, then moaned to myself for the rest of the day about how this is all going to end in disaster.

I feel a bit better about it today but still the doubts linger. I know it's only been a week since I started, but it's all a bit discouraging. I'm told it will get better - have to believe that - but I worry how long it'll take.

Maybe I'm being daft. Maybe I'm trying to rush it, which would be a first for me when it comes to anything energetic other than arguing about ghosts, gods and Colin Fry. Just take (every other) day at a time.

Aside from all that, had a really great gig last night down the Grey Lady. Apart from vocally we were on pretty top form, and the audience had a good night. So yesterday wasn't all bad, I guess.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Four miles.

That's how far I ran tonight. The woman who we used to live upstairs from came round and we jogged up to Tesco and back.

This isn't strictly true. Halfway back she trod on something unfortunate and fell, spraining her ankle nastily. Got Louise to come out and take her back. Quite a nasty fall, actually, and I feel quite sorry for her. She'll not be using that leg much for the next week or so. Harumph, on her behalf.

Nonetheless, yes - 4 miles. Little bits of walking for about 30 seconds or so 3 times. Little bit of stretching up at Tesco, just where all the chavs could see us looking all poncey. Altogether, taking the hiatuses (should that be hiati?) into account, this was done in 35 minutes, or thereabouts. which means an average of 8.5 miles an hour, and I'm quite pleased with that.

I'm not getting too carried away, though. When I got back I looked like I'd been stood on my head for a week as 80% of my blood was in my face. Also, I'd started to hallucinate that, amongst other, odder things, I could speak french fluently and my middle name was Charles. I did my stretches, felt a little better then had a shower. It was easily the best shower I've had all year. Well, alone anyway.

Now I feel very tired and my legs are complaining, along with the bit of my sternum that before had the pinsharp nag in it which now feels a tad more extensive and deep.

So tomorrow I shall be resting. It's weird - I feel completely whacked out and it's obvious why but I still want to go for a run at the earliest opportunity. There really is something else about it, something I don't get from any other activity. Maybe it's simply a sense of achievement and it'll wear off once it gets easier and therefore less of one. Perhaps, but I hope not. I feel like I've won a little bet with myself and the world and it's a nice feeling.

But I'll have to wait till Wednesday. People who know a lot more about this lark than I do have made it very clear that this is the best course of action.

4 miles, though, eh? This time next month I'll either be running the same distance in less time and still bouncing at the end of it or I'll be in hospital. Now though, outrageously, it's time for bed.


Should I get one? I dunno. Seems like a really good idea, looking at it from one angle - then from another it seems like a potential big waste of money. Naturally, as with every other aspect of this marathon thing, there's all sorts of advice out there, and most of it conflicting.

If money was no object then I wouldn't even be asking this question, of course. I would then be asking 46 other questions including; how fast should the top speed be; do I need one that inclines at the press of a button; or connects to the internet (yes, apparently some do, though I haven't seen any that come with a webcam yet); or talks to me in a lady's voice or a bloke's; or is endorsed by Roger Black (who I thought was a rower until a couple of days ago and so couldn't understand why he had his name on all these running accessories); or that has a dvd slot and a screen so I can watch inspirational films while I'm struggling to breathe and focus and stuff?

I'm guessing I want one that has a motor, but there's plenty out there that don't and, if they exist, surely that means they serve a purpose and maybe that purpose is similar to mine. So is the motor just there for lazy people? That can't be right. After all the motor drives the ribbon around and if you're lazy and you don't run you'll fall off. So I'll get one with a motor. If I get one at all.

The one with the monitor on it for watching films and things naturally appeals to me. If there was some way I could set it so that the screen only worked while the running bit was actually being used then I'd have to train if I wanted to watch stuff. Or go back upstairs and sit on the sofa. I'm assuming, though, that there are plenty of training dvds out there - or there maybe some 'point-of-view' videos proper athletes have made by strapping a camera to their head and running around various locations around the world. I bet there's one of the London marathon.

Probably don't want to be going there yet though. The idea of abruptly collapsing three miles into a virtual marathon.. well, you'd feel a bit pathetic, wouldn't you? At least if that happened in a proper marathon you wouldn't suddenly carom backwards into the spare room wall or break your jaw on a little cup holder or dvd controls.

There's one on the internet I found that made quite a virtue of it's 'mp3/ipod connection'. You mean like a shelf to put it on? It's probably 30 quid dearer for having somewhere set aside for your ipod. On the face of it this seems a bit rubbish, but I haven't really thought about it. I'll probably see the wisdom of it when I buy a cheaper version and immediately drop my mp3 player in front of me and stamp it to pieces.

Also, how noisy are they? Any that I've tried out sound like a knackered old lift in the sort of ripe smelling car park you find in southern seaside towns when they start up but, once properly turning over, don't seem too loud at all. Critically, however, I've not actually got on one while it was running for fear of making a spectacle of myself in the shop. "Oh, that's miles an hour, you say? Sorry about all the excercise bikes. No, I'll be fine, thanks."

I could procrastinate for ages. I'm really good at that. But it's quite a big thing - lots of angles involved. Aside from those already mentioned there's the whole "Yeah, but it's not the same as running on pavements!" argument. True, I'm not as likely to get run over or noticed by and laughed at by people I know - and as long as the heater's on I'm probably not going to get frostbite or some other gloomily debilitating condition. But of course there's evidently a lot to favour getting out and running in the cold, fresh air.

Actually, inside my garage - which is where it would have to go - is about as close to cold, fresh air as you can get without actually being outside, but without the benefits of actually being outside. But then again... Oh, I don't know. It's costly, possibly noisy, certainly a little bit lazy and a little bit ersatz, but also very handy and convenient. I wouldn't be able to say to myself that I'll give it a miss tonight cos of the weather, for a start.

Plus, it's a really big toy! And I love toys. Going out and blowing 500 quid on something that may end being entirely useless for my purposes is sometimes exactly what needs to be done. So I think that's what I'll do.

Anyway, in the absence of a nice, handy, multimedia running machine in my garage I have committed to going for a run with Nicky (I think that's how it's spelt.. might have to edit later) at 6.30 round Dunorlan lake tonight. Will have the dog with me and Louise is going to come up on her bike. Now I'm starting to get a bit stressed about whether I should eat something first. Maybe some raw eggs? Someone once told me that 4 raw eggs must be a good idea because they saw Rocky eating them from a glass in the film and look what happened to him! I said "Yeah, he got the living &*%^ kicked out of him and ended the film even less able to speak sensibly than before."

They countered "For crying out loud, it's only a film." which I was going to say must surely bring into question their earlier assertion about the eggs but instead just made me suddenly depressed and irritated so I started talking to someone else.

Perhaps I'll have a little bit of toast and cheese and marmite. God knows if that's a good thing to eat just before a strenuous (for me) 3 or 4 mile run, but I think that's all we've got.

Lastly, talking of food, the lady with the blog about food and running that I was talking about responded to my email. Actually, I don't think I've mentioned sending her an email but anyway. I've asked her if I can link to her website so I'll wait to hear back from her. Sure it shouldn't be a problem.

Now I'm off for toast and stuff.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Cumin, I've been expecting you.

As I did say I'd report back about the meal, I will.

It was delicious. Although I knobbed up the amounts because the recipe is for 4 and I had to make it for 1 - and I have no ability when it comes to adapting stuff like that - thus lending it a peculiar one-off quality that even I would find hard to recreate, it was still delicious.

It's possible someone once said that the mark of a great recipe is its stoicism in the face of complete mishandling and hopeless application. If they did then I hope I never get trapped in a lift with them, the wordy git/s.

I've got that pin sharp pain in my chest again. Not sure why because apart from faffing around in the kitchen rustling up a distant facsimile of the recipe mentioned above (and described in more detail below) I haven't done anything. Pretty soon I'll have decided on at least four possible causes, all of them fatal, and my days will be numbered. Then it will go away and I'll forget all about it.

Tomorrow I'm going to go up to the lake and try it out, perimeter-wise. Right now I'm going to watch Jonathan Ross. He's a hoot, he is.

Sponsor me, would you?

Be the first, and make it big. :o)


I've never used it knowingly in a recipe before. I'm sure it's been present in loads of stuff that I've eaten over the years but in my kitchen it's always ended up at the back of the cupboard, unwanted and unhappy. Same with some dried chives that I'm sure are actually little bits of blotting paper.

I'm not sure why I've been so dismissive of cumin. And it really doesn't matter. Thing is, I've just made a salsa with plenty of cumin in it, and it's delicious. I wouldn't, as I say, have thought of using it before but now I'm hooked. Kind of.

Anyway, the reason I've suddenly discovered this brand new spice is a website-cum-blog (that doesn't quite sound right, does it?) I happened upon while looking for information on what kind of diet I should be following during my training. I can't link to it just yet because I want to get the permission first, but it's by a woman who writes a lot about running - as well doing quite a bit of it too - and who also happens to be rather an excellent cook. And the best part about this dual expertise is that she's come up with a whole load of recipes that are evidently super-good for you but also, and it seems rarely, the sort of things that you actually would quite like to eat.

I never thought such a thing was possible! Not that I really thought that hard about it before. I've been under the apprehension that most wholesome recipes, or at least ones designed with particular fitness regimes in mind were a bit mundane and dull. If you look around you'll find that most of them really are. But the one I'm cooking tonight is corking, and most of the others on her blog and website seem of similar allure. At least to me and my tastes. I've never really been one to munch on lentils in the afternoon or get excited about flageolet beans and cranberry canapes for a monk-ish supper.

So I'm happy about that.

Now I'm going to finish making this particular meal (seared tuna steak with cranberry! cous-cous and a salsa involving the cumin along with mint, coriander, lemon, more coriander, tomatoes and olive oil) and I'll tell you all about it when it's done.

That's really something to look forward too, isn't it?

I don't ache! Crikey.

I was mucking about. I'm aware it's not going be anything like cake, or any portion of it. I just feel a little less overwhelmed by the novel idea of achieving something this physical. I hope this isn't arrogance masquerading as confidence.

Oddly enough I feel like I want to go out for a run again today. Not because the run last night was particularly exhilarating, it wasn't, but because I can see how it can become that way, and in not too long a time at all. It's like the first time you smoke a cigarette. After you've finished pinwheeling around trying to grab hold of something, then maybe retched something vital-looking up and gulped it back down again, perhaps even going so far as to actually admit to the 'pal' who gave you the cigarette in the first place that there's no way you're ever going to do that again cos that was disgusting!, you very speedily broker a short-term contract between your common-sense and your need to be cool that allows a couple more goes at it, to see if it gets any better. This contract is stretched out a little, then discarded altogether when you catch yourself in a shop window and you're about as sexy as you can be, especially when it comes out of your nose.

Yeah, it's exactly like that. well, you know what I mean.

There's an urge to beat the little no-nos that your body kept putting in your way, like the way the legs started feeling like soggy cotton wool after only 3 minutes of hitting your stride, or the pin sharp pain at the middle of the sternum that suddenly arrived about half way in and then never went away. I know that everyone gets these and other niggling pains and problems in the beginning and I know they will fade away the fitter I get. But I also know that trying too hard, attempting to overcome them too soon can have somewhat disastrous effects - or at least that's what everyone tells me.

Which is irritating, because I'm impatient. I want to be up at Dunorlan lake, for instance, able to lap it 6 times - 3 and a bit miles - without stopping or slowing down, maybe listening to something like Bizet or one of the Strausses (not the one who did all the polkas; I'd hate for someone to find me inert by the side of the path, pop my earphones out to try and raise me and then when I do come round they're trying to stop sniggering and dancing like a really effete Captain Scarlet), or even Wagner, if I was feeling violent.

Then again, the other side of me is perfectly willing to do sod all today. If there's one thing I'm really very good at, it's that.

But that's no good anymore. I've glimpsed the perfectly attainable version of myself feeling fit and happier for it, and though that sounds ridiculous after only one evening jog.. well, it is ridiculous, I suppose. Melodramatic, again. Maybe the sort of thing I should keep to myself.

However I look at it, I'm encouraged that I feel this way about it. Rather than wanting to shirk it, I actively want to do more of it. This must be a good thing. Maybe the thing about it that feels wrong is going on about it, so I'll stop that now.

I'll let you know if it changes though. Discouragement is the most hurtful of things, but one of the few that you can eradicate entirely on your own. Maybe writing it down here will help.

Right now, though, I'm feeling like this is perfectly possible, and even that I may end up being quite good at it. I hope so.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Running Club

Humpty Dumpty, eh? Did you know the rhyme was originally a riddle? Are you interested? A humpty-dumpty was slang at the time for a clumsy, maladroit person. But if such a person was to fall off a wall he probably wouldn't be so hard to put back together again as it is in the rhyme, unless it's a riddle. Do you care? I don't, to be honest. I just brought it up because I've long had suspicions about the involvement of all the king's horses in the attempt to save the poor fellow.

For one thing, they don't have opposable thumbs. This in itself isn't, I suppose, such a big thing as most, if not all of the king's men probably did have them, and at least one of theses blokes was likely to be a surgeon. Or at least very dextrous and confident in critical moments.

But what skills could a horse bring to such a situation? Whether HD is a person or an egg, which it turns out is the answer to the riddle (those 18th century riddlers were a riot, weren't they? Proper head-scratchers they came up with, too), it seems a little daft to rely in any way on horses to be helpful in his/its recovery.

I care even less, now that I've thought about it a bit more. Also, it's reminded me of my disappointment when I found out, after all these years searching (somewhat lacklustredly, I admit) for the answer to the big question, that - of all things - the hokey cokey turns out to be what it's all about. And it's not even mentioned in the bible. At least, not directly. It's alluded to in the bit where Jeremiah viciously takes the piss out of an albino for not being able to do the 'mash potato' without frowning, I think.

This has nothing, of course, to with my training for the marathon. But it is helping me put off writing about my first running club experience tonight.

Not that it was rubbish, nor great. It was just a little disappointing. The woman who runs it, Sarah, said a couple of things that stuck, and gave me hope. She obviously knows a fairly scary amount about the whole running thing, and has a very matter-of-fact and quietly amusing way of putting stuff. But necessarily this stuff - the ins and outs of getting fit for running like someone who's not totally out of his depth and on the verge of conclusive embarassment and shame by dying after 6 miles of flapping like a terrified swan - must be shared amongst others, the rest of the people attending the running club.

And I will not accept anything less than complete and exclusive attention.

Hmm. Might have to set my sights a bit lower. If I could afford it I would massage my insecurities and lack of ability and understanding of the necessary discipline by procuring a PERSONAL TRAINER. Someone with the patience, for an agreed fee, of a saint, probably.

Still, 3 miles eh? I could hear Vangelis humming along as I pounded down the high street, desperately hoping nobody I know spotted me. I reckon this marathon lark has been blown out of some proportion.

It's gonna be a piece of cake. Yes indeed.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

I haven't given up yet.

I've just been a bit incommunicado. 

Will be less so very soon, once I have a decent chair to sit on.

Friday, 26 September 2008


Well, it's Friday now, and I'm back home feeling absolutely knackered. Poor me. Nice to be home though, and typing this on a 'keyboard of reasonable size' rather than the netbook I've been using the past 3 weeks. Nothing of any great interest has happened over the last few days except getting in touch with the Hospice in the Weald and talking to the lovely Lorraine there about the whole absurdity of this undertaking, and going for an eye test.

And now I'm wearing glasses. Weird, really. One day it's 39 years of nothing on my nose except intermittent shades, and now I've got the rest of my life with a prescription. Not a particularly vicious one, but illuminating enough to know that it's a permanent thing.

I went to Boots, had some odd bloke do some tests, and 3 hours and £115 later I'm gadding around town in specs. I think they suit me (I spent 4 weeks this afternoon trying on and wincing at every pair in the shop and ended up with what I hope were the pair that least made me look like a wide-faced moose), and they make a fairly startling difference to what I'm seeing. Anything over 6 feet away now has a woozy clarity to it - amazing to think I've been looking at such blurred edges for so long and never really noticing it.

I've been doing a lot of that thing you do when you try someone else's glasses on, lifting them up and down and going "Oooh..", though in this case it's not leaving me feeling both sorry for the poor sod who's stuck with the visual acuity of a chair and a little closer to losing my balance and throwing up. It's hard to explain so, though I'm fascinated by the whole thing (how do glasses work, really, when 1: they're just bits of glass plopped in front our your eyes and 2; the person that created your particular set only had 25 minutes and your fairly uncertain and non-commital speculation as to what was blurrier and how many dots you could make out? Imagine the opthalmic mis-calculations that have arisen when people have turned up for the test after a bottle of wine or two. "Can you actually see the letters at all, Mr Pilf? Or, the wall? Please, don't smoke.")

It's pretty eye-opening, anyway.

Also, I meant to mention on Monday, I finally caught up with my friend from the North, Julie. Which was excellent. As I was kind of in the area we were going to try and meet up on Saturday night and go out for few, but the schedule complained so it was just a few drinks on the coast at lunchtime, but great nonetheless. Funny how people change and yet stay the same. In some cases this is encouraging and cool, and this was one of those cases. There's very few people who were not only there, back in the days of the Moonshots and all that, but also still in touch, so there were things and gigs and evenings to reminisce very happily about. One day I'll write a book about it all, and one of the very first drafts will be headed up Saltburn way (I can never remember the name of the actual town where she lives.) So hello Julie, if you are indeed Unruly, and tell Jessica I think she's a little corker. It's about time Tunbridge Wells beckoned again, I reckon. And hello Rob, too.. you were right about the oil, and a possible crisis was averted. Ta.

So, I spoke to Lorraine at the Hospice, and she's going to sort out sponsorship forms and, if I heard right, a running shirt and stuff. As she was one of the few people that didn't have to phone me back after they'd recovered when I told them of my plans, I am grateful to her for that, too. Martin, my friend and the bass player in my band and also, more pertinently, one of the main people behind Gazastock, which has done, over the years, much good in fundraising for this patently great cause [this is a gross understatement : in 8 years they have raised over £100,000, which is a staggering amount for something so local and so short-in-the-tooth, and which started so small - big chops to them, folks], went along to the Hospice last week with other members of the group who organize the whole Gazastock event to (amongst other things) formally hand over the proceeds from this year's event. And have a look around, at their kind invitation. He told me over the phone that he found the whole experience very moving and positive - given the nature of the job they do and the way it may be perceived by idle spectators. To put it succinctly, they do a lot more than provide simple comfort for the last little while of someone's time on earth.

All this, anyway, is making me more determined to sort this marathon thing out and do it right and NOT FAIL. If Ollie were here he'd be giggling by now, and by tomorrow evening at the latest he would have phoned me up, called me a nutter, laughed both of us silly about it and told me "Go for it, sunshine" repeatedly. Which I'm going to do. Not with a glass of white wine in my hand, unfortunately, cos that would be quite a hard thing to do - but I will definitely have one handy for afterwards.

You must, I hope, excuse me for getting all dramatic about it. I don't mean to make it sound like something extraordinary, or like I think that's what it is. Tens of thousands of people do the marathons of the world - hundreds of thousands of people - and I'd imagine a significant percentage of them do it for similar reasons. This particular set of reasons hardly deserves to stand out from all of them. But for me its the only set of reasons I've got and I'm keen on stating them as dramatically as possible, though stating them to who, I don't know. Just - if I can run the damn thing and raise some money for the Hospice I'll have achieved 3 things that appeal to me a great deal.

One, something completely unlikely, for me, and something to have worked hard for and completed. That's got to be worth something, I think. I really don't know because I don't feel I've done that yet.

Two, to raise a sum of money that I can put in someone's hands and they can use it for a specific and extremely worthwhile purpose, and for good.

Three, a tip of the hat to a lovely and cherished memory of a man, sorely missed.

So, sod it, the next post is going to be even more melodramatic and full of bathos. You might want to give it a couple of days.


Sunday, 21 September 2008

That's Scotland out of the way, then.

Been a bit fervid with my supermarket espionage today. Visited 13 stores altogether, I think, and I'm knackered. 

I'm somewhere in Lanarkshire, a place called the Abington Hotel, which is ok. Apparently I'm going to get a call from reception... which I've just got... and now I'm back from dinner. A steak from 'just up the road', I was told. I'm going to go and have a look at the cows just up the road in the morning and check they're not all sitting round a pool, eating McDonalds and knocking back biffa-bins of Tennants. It wasn't a very nice steak. It was riddled with fat and seemed to be up for a fight.

Anyway- this morning I mentioned the view from my hotel room in Dunbar. Here it is. Quite nice, as I said, though the picture as always does it little justice.

(Christ. I've just spent 20 minutes all over google trying to figure out a way to hyperlink some text from this blog to a jpeg - which I achieved through much frowning and grumbling. Now it turns out there's a link button on the page I'm typing, which of course there would be. So I'm stupid, then.)

Here, on the other hand, is the view from the beach back to my room. If you squint you can see a lamp-post in the middle of the frame.. my room is just under the bulb. The window's open to hopefully rid the room of stale smoke. (The picture is quite low-res, as most of these will be, because I'm on a remote internet connection and uploads take months.)

And here is the thing that I thought was a bloody great bit of too-early-in-the-morning wood, ho ho, but turned out to be a step that a Scottish mason was finishing off for the house next door. When I asked if I could photograph it, which in a lot of places would have charcoaled the words 'Be careful, I'm a little odd' on my forehead, he was chuffed to bits and brushed all the dust off before stepping about as far out of frame as the location would allow, so as not to clutter my vision (of what was, obviously, something he was pleasantly surprised and pleased had been recognised for the rather satisfying to the eye and heart piece of simple art that he knew it to be, but had learnt was rarely noticed by the rest of humanity.)

People in Dunbar, it would appear, are really very nice indeed. I only met, what, 6 of them? but that's enough for me make a solid impression these days. 

Here's something that vexes me. Satnavs. I don't know if they all do it, but the one I've got at the moment is beginning to upset me a little. Everytime I'm getting close to wherever it is I'm going it suddenly starts acting like the gayest barber in the world and wants to show me every angle possible of the last few hundred yards before my destination. 

If you can imagine the gayest barber in the world, and you've just presented him with a request for the sort of haircut he rarely encounters but which excites him tremendously because this kind of challenge is why he became a hairdresser in the first place - that's how my satnav reacts to the imminent resolution of our journey. "Is this the right angle, or would you rather something more oblique? How about seeing the approach from 30 miles above sea-level? No? Well, how's this? Virtually sub-atomic not for you? A little too close. Ok. We could always go for a mirror-image, or perhaps a kind of split-personality feel, you know, Amish one side and Brian May the other?" And then it tells me I need to do a u-turn. Today this was on a one-way street. I need to do a return, I ejaculated, and typed in the nearest branch of Halfords.

None of this, I am aware, has the remotest connection with the marathon. But I can't think of anything to say about that.

Dunbar morning.

I was woken this morning by some scottish, I'm guessing, workmen circular-sawing something or other at 7.30, which is a little odd as it's Sunday and I was under the impression that all Scottish workmen - in fact all Scottish people - were disabled by Saturday night until at least the afternoon, hoyling like wee bairns.

Oh well, I thought, I might as well lie here cursing for a while. I spent the next 2 hours cursing and continually being jerked out of extremely weak dozing by my phone alarm because I got the snooze and the stop buttons mixed up.

Eventually, when arose and looked out of the window I saw the prettiest sight I've witnessed for a long while. When I can get round to it I'll put a photo up so you can see what I mean. I'm looking at it now, and it's gorgeous.

I'm about 200 yards from the sea, with a couple of very cool-looking houses in between, and over there, I suppose, is Denmark. In fact, if I could throw a stone hard enough I could knock a window out at the Sherlock from here. That isn't strictly true, of course, but I don't want to get bogged down so..

It looks like the tide is out (you can tell I'm no mariner) and the gulls are fannying around on the rocks and every now and then abruptly spannering off inland a little bit before, this bit I'm guessing because they're quite hard to tell apart, coming back disappointed and fannying around again on the rocks.

Which is what I'm going to do now.

Just a quick one.

I didn't go to bed when I said I might, but you may not have been able to tell because the timestamps on my posts suggest that I'm in California, or somewhere similiarly removed. Until I figure out the mechanics of this blogsite and how to adjust them sensibly please ignore the tine signatures, or whatever they're called.


Saturday, 20 September 2008

Now I'm in Scotland.

It's the 20th of September, 2008, I'm in a hotel room in Dunbar, Scotland, I've just had a pretty decent meal downstairs and I'm thinking I might be ludicrous and go to bed quite soon. This is ludicrous because it's only 9.45.

The window's open because I'm smoking, in direct contravention of the law, apparently, and the room is being quietly annexed by various and numerous flying things and this is making me a bit nervous. The last time I left the window open in an insect-heavy environment I was bitten to all get out and spent a week or so feeling very, very sorry for myself. Still, this dicing with pain attitude seems to be improving the flavour of the cigarettes so.. The little bastards can have a go if they want.

This marathon, then.

I can't really think of much to say about it just now, except that I was a little disappointed to find that it comprises of two virtually identical laps. IE you run 13 miles and then run the same 13 miles again. This in itself is not much of a problem - it's not as if I'm concerned about the aesthetics of the course or chafing at the laziness of the Swedes for just rustling up a half-marathon and doubling it. The problem I can forsee, pessimistically, is running 13 miles then having the whole environment screaming at me for the next 13 "You're still nowhere near the end!" "You've only just got to half way!!" "Now you're coming up to that bit that nearly killed you 3 hours ago. You know.. the really STEEP bit. You're not gonna make it, loser!"

I regularly play gigs in Aarhus, Denmark, and they consist of, at the weekends, 4 or 5 hour sets starting at midnight and going on till, you'll never guess, 4 or 5am. Sometimes, around 2am, I get hit by this crippling ennui because I know I still have 2 or 3 more hours to go before I can get to bed, and those 2 or 3 hours are going to be EXACTLY like the preceding ones. This, even on a good night sometimes.

I'm not sure that this a valid concern, or that it's not just me bollocking on about something that most people would just take in their stride, as it were, but it's nagging at me.

Now, though, I'm suddenly bored talking about that.

As it will be my 40th birthday on the very same day, it looks like a bunch of friends and possibly family will be coming out to Stockholm with me. Some will want to come to cheer me on, I hope, and some will want to come to witness the highly amusing possibility (right at this moment it seems more like a certainty) that I'll collapse after about 500 yards and they'll all be getting pissed that night in a bar sympathetically close to the hospital, toasting my stone's-throw recovery and chuckling over the footage on their mobiles.

At least, it being Stockholm, they'll be chortling and getting hammered very expensively, which will cheer me up no end. 

Well, I think it's time to see what's on telly. Tomorrow is Sunday, and I'll be in Edinburgh, sniffing around the water in Morrisons. Exciting, eh?

The Stockholm marathon.

I'm doing the Stockholm marathon next year, on my 40th birthday.

Mad, eh?

This is what 
says about it:

"Stockholm is an unusual marathon. It challenges your preconceptions both of Scandinavia and of marathon running. It starts at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon in early June, when the weather is warm and balmy and the city is full of loud, boisterous crowds. By the standards of London or New York, it's a small race, but it doesn't lack atmosphere - with healthy crowds throughout much of the two-lap, city-centre course. The race is designed to highlight the city's wonderful location on the shores of the Baltic, and to demonstrate the friendliness and efficiency of the Swedes. It's not a particularly fast race, but Stockholm in June is a big consolation.

The course: Two almost-identical loops, starting outside the 1912 Olympic Stadium and finishing on the track inside. There are large, flat sections of the course but enough undulations, particularly on the loop around Djurgarden and the various bridges, to break your rhythm.
Highs: Finishing on the track inside the 1912 Olympic Stadium. 

Lows: Passing the kilometre markers on the first lap, knowing you have to run 21km before you see them again.

Watch out for: The crossing of the Vesterbron at 35km. The bridge is only a 90ft climb, but it feels worse the second time around. 

Size: 12,000+ 
Month: June"

If you've never heard of the Stockholm marathon before, don't frown about it. I hadn't either. To be honest I wouldn't even be doing this if it weren't for the fact that it takes place on my 40th birthday. 

I would, however be doing a marathon somewhere or other at some point soon. For a few reasons.

At the end of March a dear friend of mine was killed in a hit and run (though the driver did come clean, he did the right thing in the end), at the age of 42. His name was Ollie Nicholls and he was simply one of the best men I've ever met.

He was the keyboard player in Sevenscore, my band, and he was an extremely gifted songwriter, performer and producer in his own right.

Most importantly, he was my friend, and losing him was hard to bear.

In the days that followed his death, aside from fruitlessly kicking the crap out of a shoestand and yelling insults and threats to the darkness that took him so soon, I vowed, if that's not too poncey a word, that I would do something to remember him by, even if only, solely, for my benefit.

So I had the idea of running the London marathon - figuring if Ollie could run 13 miles every morning despite, at least in my witness, some impressive assaults on innumerable (I never counted, but you don't when you think there'll be more than enough time to reciprocate) bottles of white wine the night before, then I must be able to pull out just one ludicrous bit of jogging (and then go up the Nash and get utterly spannered, of course).

Of course, if Ollie were still around he could probably set me straight on that. I'm sure he'd be very gentle about it, but would nevertheless leave me a little more educated in the whole running thing and less inclined to take it lightly.

But Ollie is not still around. I have to make up the stuff he might say and probably get it wrong.

Anyway, here's the plan...

As I write this there's just a little over 252 days to go to the big run, and I figure it might help me rationalise the whole daft enterprise to chronicle it all 'online' (apostrophes courtesy of my dad). So that's what I'm going to try to do. This, for crying out loud, is my blog. My marathon blog. My wittering on about bugger-all blog.

You mustn't expect much from it, though, at least not for a while. I've generously, I think, allowed myself till the 13th of January before I have to start (risk?) training, though I'm sure I could spratch a little longer if circumstances got in the way.

Right, it's late and I'm tired. I'm not going to bother with reading and attenuating what I just wrote. I'm going to bed. In Ripon, of all places.

Come back soon.