Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Plus One's

New Years Eve and Virgin finally deliver my guaranteed delivery before Christmas wines. Their second promise had been to get it to me before New Year. I’m a little disappointed that they have, as it takes the sting out of the complaint that I was planning to send to them.

The wine arrives just in time for tonight's teenagers rave up at our house. I decide to leave the wine at work until after New Year!

During lunch we try and do our usual Thursday pub lunch, particularly as all the sandwich vans have deserted us but the kitchen staff at the pub have deserted us as well; at least they have rolls and liquid sustenance. Will be glad when things get back to normal.

Work at least show a bit of New Year spirit and let us leave at 4pm.

L and I head out early to celebrate the end of 2009. L walks the dogs to the Rodney pub, whilst I park up at out next destination the Hemlock Stone and then walk up to meet her. We have a few pints in there, both disappointing, Tiger & Directors, which reminds us why we don’t drink there anymore.

Then we head down the road to the Hemlock, shove the dogs in the car and wait for my parents. Here the Directors is better and the wine good too. The meal we have is Thai and impressive also. The pub is good too, practically jumping in here and it would have been an ok place to spend the whole evening. They have a live band on and they’re not bad at all. The place is rammed by the time we leave around 10.30.

We leave so that we can walk the dogs home where we need to check on the merriment that is occurring there. Doggo seems to know something is cracking off on his patch and he sets a furious pace home. He’s right; something is cracking off and the party is in full swing. We have put a load of stuff in the spare room for safe keeping, so that it doesn’t get broken. Unfortunately the party seems to have already over-spilled into there.

Apparently we have around 37 teenage revellers, where as usually Son invites around 15. Apparently everyone has been encouraged to bring a friend. When one girl embraces me and slurs that she’s a ‘plus one’, I’m not at first sure what she means but if she wants to hug me, then that’s fine. Turns out she means she’s one of the friend of’s. She can come again. Come midnight there’s a lot of embracing going on, even of ‘us parents’ and as a lot of it’s by teenage girls, they can all come again.

The amount of alcohol being consumed makes L and I look at our evening consumption in a better light. Then at 1pm, with things still in full swing we hit the sack, only for one of the girls to follows us into the bedroom! I wonder if she’s looking for somewhere to kip, I’m happy for her to curl up at the bottom of the bed if she wants but L might not approve. She says she’s just looking for someone and soon departs. We sleep but are awoken around 4am when it is clear the party is still going on. It goes quiet eventually but only until the cooking of breakfast commences at around 8am.

Favourite Gigs Of 2009

Second part of my review of the year, my favourite ten gigs of the past year.

It was so difficult this year to pick just ten!

So honourable mentions to the following who didn't make it:- In particularly Doves at Coventry Kasbah, it was good to have them back; The Joy Formidable at Derby Royal, always excellent and getting better all the time; That Petrol Emotion back after 15 years away and still sounding good at the Rescue Rooms and even to Marilyn Manson who impressed me recently at the Nottingham Arena.

Also regrettably no place in my ten for Bloc Party, The Voluntary Butler Scheme, Brakes, Art Brut, The Hours, The Rakes, Official Secrets Act and everyone we saw at the Leeds Festival or on the Shockwaves NME Tour.


10. The Editors, Sheffield Academy, Thursday 22nd October

Finally after years of trying I get to see Editors and they're oddly flat or was it the crowd... I'll soon find out at Lincoln in March.

Read My Review

9. The Gaslight Anthem, Rock City, Tuesday 3rd March

A high energy performance from a band who show that they're a lot more than just Springteen wannabes.

Read My Review

8. The Horrors, Rescue Rooms, Thursday 3rd December

Yes believe the hype, reinvention of the year.

Read My Review

7. Gary Numan, Rock City, Wednesday 2nd December

The Pleasure Principal in its entirety is a pure pleasure and old man Gary gatecrashes my top ten.

Read My Review

6. Red Light Company, Bodega Social, Monday 16th March

Pulsating drums, meaty riffs and plenty of terrific songs, full of irresistible hooks, one of the best new bands of the year.

Read My Review

5. Handsome Furs, Brainwash Festival, Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, Saturday 31st October

We trekked all the way up to Leeds for a late night performance by these guys, in front of a rapidly thinning crowd, a closed bar and the venue's cleaning staff but it was well worth the effort.

Read My Review

4. The View, Rescue Rooms, Saturday 24th January

Astedwae ittlae ejaysdae, the View manage to complete their set and show that when they're not wasted that there are very few better live bands.

Read My Review

3. Maximo Park, Rock City, Wednesday 20th May

The albums are probably getting duller but live they just seem to get better and better.

Read My Review

2. Frank Turner, Rock City, Sunday 18th October

Who'd have thought that one of the most mental gigs at Rock City this year would belong to Frank Turner but it did. Vive La Frank.

Read My Review

1. Frightened Rabbit, The Musician, Leicester, Sunday 29th March

Frightened Rabbit are ace anyway but acoustically unplugged, as they were in Leicester, just took everything to an even higher level. So gig of the year.

Read My Review

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mental March

I get up this morning with the intention of running to work. Well... actually I don’t get up and in fact oversleep. It’s also so damn wet, so a run doesn’t particularly appeal. I get the bus in, in kit, with the intention of running home instead. As we’re just got skeleton staff in over this Christmas/New Year period everyone is treating these three days as dress down days, so I spend the day in running gear. I hope no one minds.

After work, I go off on my run because with what I’ve christened ‘Mental March’ coming up, I really have to get my finger out. ‘Mental March’ includes the 100 mile Cheshire Cat cycle ride, the 16 mile Nottingham to Derby Kilomathon run and the Sticky Toffee 18k trail run in Cumbria. L’s even proposing we front load a half marathon on to that lot, as we currently have week one in March free!

The weather is quite bright as I set off, if bright is the right word. It is after all dark. I head off from Pride Park towards Chaddesden. Running into a head wind, but then there always seems to be head wind on Pride Park, no matter which direction you go in. Once at the main road, I check the times of the R4 bus and aim to stay ahead of it, stopping to catch it just before it passes me. The electronic signs say I have a ten minute head start, so I run off towards Spondon. The bus takes a detour through the back streets there which buys me a bit more time. Eventually I make it to the edge of Borrowash, where I check the timetable and see the bus was due one minute ago. I decide that it’s best not to push on to the next stop and a few minutes later the bus appears. 6.5km covered so far.

I have a rest on the bus and get off in Stapleford, from where I run the remaining 10k home. I must say it went really well, at a really good pace as well, it was even enjoyable. So nearly 17km of running, with a bus break in the middle. The Kilomathon is 26km, so this is a quite a good start. I will hopefully increase my distance by 2km each week.

Favourite Films Of 2009

First part of my review of the year, my favourite ten films of the past year.

10. Marley And Me (April)

I hate films about dogs, they're all designed to make grown men cry and this was no exception.

Read My Review

9. Fish Tank (September)

Excellent gritty drama set on an Essex housing estate.

Read My Review

8. A Serious Man (December)

Shock horror. The Coen's only at number 8. Well I'm still not sure I understood this film at all, but I'm sure it must have been good.

Read My Review

7. The Damned United (March)

An inaccurate history lesson but still probably the best film about football ever made.

Read My Review

6. The Reader (January)

Not as good as it should have been and Kate Winslet isn't as as good as she thinks she is but still a intriguing tale.

Read My Review

5. OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (January)

This James Bond parody was one of many films that I was dragged to this year. Loved it.

Read My Review

4. Slumdog Millionaire (January)

Feel good movie of the year apparently, bloody depressing if you ask me.

Read My Review

3. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (February)

Brad Pitt again impresses as he lives life in reverse but still experiences all life's usual ups and downs.

Read My Review

2. Let The Right One In (April)

A great film that leaves you both repulsed and fascinated at the same time.

Read My Review

1. Inglorius Basterds (August)

Tarantino does the war, as only Tarantino can.

Read My Review

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

They Have No Idea Where It Is

Back at work today. There's four of us in the office but unfortunately the customers are back as well and the phone is white hot.

I ring Virgin, who inform me they have no idea where my wine is. At least they’re honest. They refund the delivery charge, which is big of them and promise delivery before New Year. Where have I heard this before?

According to the Telegraph, we could all soon be celebrating the festive season jollied up on synthetic alcohol, developed from chemicals closely related to Valium. Just like real alcohol, it’s suppose to help you have a good time, yet no matter how much you’d drink you won't get beyond a state of mild inebriation. Then at the end of the evening, it can be reversed with an antidote, leaving you immediately sober and capable of driving home.

Doesn’t sound that much fun to me. The substance is also apparently be tasteless and colourless, so would have to be flavoured. So heaven for the alcopops industry then. Don’t we already have this substance? Isn’t it called vodka? Just without the antidote.

If this is an idea to save us for boozed up city centres, I think someone’s missing the point. Alcohol is supposed to be all about the taste. If they convinced everyone of that fact, then there wouldn’t be a problem. This idea just seems to be going in the opposite direction.

We fit in a game of squash and I feel that I put 100% into it, so no injury worries any more, I think. I even win a game. My opponent tells me, that in fact, I’ve won nine whole games this year. He’s won sixty eight. So closer than I thought.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Millennium Doesn't Run On

This morning L has entered us into a race, presumably I agreed to it. It’s at Caythorpe and is called the ‘Millennium Runs On’. It’s the 11th running of the race; it was conceived in 1999 prior to all that millennium madness.

The event is so popular that we have to park in the next village, Lowdham. It’s also very cold, the temperature is below freezing and we slip and slide down the side roads to the start. Could be interesting...

Someone in sprinkling sand on the start line, not sure that’s going to make much difference. Jostling for position is going to be very exciting right from the start, if you nudge someone out of the way they could go sliding off into the nearest hedge.

In the end they make a last minute decision and an announcement comes that this year the millennium won't run on. Cancelled on safety grounds. It’s a courageous decision from the organisers but it was just too icy to run safety. Yes, people run at their own risk but it would make a mockery of the ‘race’. It would become a case of who had the most guts/stupidity to push the pace. Might have been ok in the middle of the field but the front runners would surely have pushed each other until someone fell.

So we line up to collect our t-shirts for a race we haven’t run. I note some people do still jog around the course but that’s very different to racing. Perhaps if they’d been able to hang on for an hour or so it might have been runnable, as by the time we leave after a few coffees, the ice is clearly melting away. The most annoying thing about it all is that we cut our drinking short last night.

Instead I get home and head out on a long bike ride. L practically pushes me out of the door, as if she’s after a nice quite hot bath with her new book, some Christmas cake and the bottle of Baileys we got for Christmas.

I pedal for 65km (40 miles) in around two and a half hours, so not bad. Speedo says I achieved a maximum speed of 153kph (95 mph)! Which I’m sure wasn’t right, just hope it was right about the distance. It’s only 3 degrees but the weather was fairly sunny, although it went cold when the light went.

There weren’t many other options exercise wise because the leisure centres have pinched an extra bank holiday. Today is a bank holiday for those of us who didn’t get Boxing Day off because it fell on a Saturday. Our leisure centres took both, very sneaky, so nine bank holidays for them not the usual eight.

In the evening Derby produce a thriller for once. No really, it was a nail biter resulting in a rather beautiful 0-0 draw up at Newcastle. Of course, some people would say there’s no such thing.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Beyond The White Picket Fence

The day of the usual Christmas walk with my folks. L opts out, citing food overload (we always eat out afterwards) and a craving for the gym. I take Doggo and MD, managing to palm them off on other people for most of morning. Yet again I fail to win a prize with the bingo card thing they do at the walk. Something like thirty years I’ve been doing this walk and how many times have I won something... about three times I reckon. Suppose I shouldn’t push my luck, what with the spot prize yesterday.

In the evening I go to Broadway with L, although it is with trepidation as to what she will choose for us to see... As it happens, I get to choose and then kind of wish I hadn’t.

I choose a film called ‘Humpday’ which is about a guy called Ben (Mark Duplass), who has settled down into what he describes as the ‘white picket fence’ lifestyle of marriage with his attractive young wife Anna (Alycia Delmore). Perhaps the only ingredient they are missing is a child but they’re working on that.

What they probably didn’t need was for Ben’s old college buddy Andrew (Joshua Leonard) to show up, out of the blue, on their doorstep in the middle of the night. Andrew has been away travelling, he sees himself as a bit of a ‘Kerouac’, and consequently it's been a long time since they’ve seen each other. They immediately drop back into a ‘two lads together’ type situation.

The following night, Andrew ends up at a party thrown by a girl he just happened to meet and he invites Ben over to join him. After drinking too much alcohol and smoking too much dope, they end up agreeing to make a short film for ‘HumpFest’, the local amateur pornography festival. Their idea is to produce something truly unique, a film of two straight guys having gay sex and they propose to star in it themselves. The idea being that it would not be gay, it would be beyond gay and it would not porn, it would be art...

Ben gets home to find that his night has gotten in the way of the baby making process much to Anna’s frustration. His next problem is how he’s going to square his new acting career with her. This is the best part of the film, as Ben spectacularly fails to tell Anna his plans and then Andrew spills the beans because he assumes Ben has told her. Problem is from here, the film goes downhill.

In the cold light of day, both Andrew and Ben regret what they have agreed to but neither will back down. Both feel they have something to prove. Ben that he’s not as ‘white picket fence’ as Andrew thinks he is and Andrew that perhaps he’s no ‘Kerouac’.

The ‘porn shoot’ in a hotel room is long and drawn out, we spend half an hour or so with the guys in that room, when a few minutes would have done because in the end, they don’t go through with it. They quickly realise their idea is going nowhere, the audience has already realised this fact but the director just didn’t seem to want to give it up and milked it for all it was worth. You end up just willing it all to end, in fact I nodded off towards the end and L had to nudge me awake.

The film comes to a believable conclusion but takes an inordinate amount of time getting there. It’s also immensely unsatisfying when it ends there. I for one would have liked to have seen Anna’s reaction to what they did or rather didn’t do, and would she have believed them?

We head off for a debrief over a few beers and we again support Scruffys, this time for their live music night, which is well busy. Regrettably we leave several beers too early because we have a race tomorrow.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Without The Aid Of Ice Axe And Crampons

The annual Boxing Day run at the Furnace is in doubt because of the icy weather. A serious worry for Doggo who is going for five in a row. At registration they are handing out little slips of paper telling you to run at your own risk, they’ve never done that before... I attempt a warm-up with both Doggo and MD, as I’m considering running attached to both of them, L sensibly doesn’t fancy hooking up to either of them.

After skidding along the ice a few times, I reassess my plans and decide to ‘boot’ (as in the car boot) the unpredictable MD, who seems incapable of maintaining a straight line. At least I think I know what Doggo is going to do, most of the time. I feel sorry for MD, he needs to do more of this running lark but the recent bad weather has prevented me practising with him.

In the end they change the course to avoid the worst patches of ice. Our run goes well, although we had to walk a few bits where it was treacherous. Other runners, the ones not tethered to dogs, managed to gracefully slide across, but I didn’t risk it. Then at the finish I ended up on the left hand side of the finish, with the finish line up an icy slope to my right. A slope that I just couldn’t scale without an ice axe and crampons, and Doggo was no help. I wanted him to pull me up it at an angle, but only his ‘forward’ gear was working.

Eventually we got there and as we cross the line, we are the first dog and handler home again. Someone hands us a bottle of wine. Finally, after five long years I get a spot prize. Ok so it’s only a bottle of Liebfraumilch but it’ll do.

We are 31st and it could have been a lot higher, perhaps 10 places or so, due to the walking we had to do.

In the afternoon, as is tradition, Derby lose their Boxing Day fixture. This year, with apparent ease, to Blackpool. It’s an awful performance but defeat perhaps has more to do with the fact that they are simply outclassed by a far superior Blackpool side.

I pop into work, just to see if Mr Branson has decided to deliver but no he hasn’t. He’s keeping his wine to himself. So we’ve still not got much in for my parents who come over this evening to help us devour the leg of lamb. We all have a good go at it, all the while under the disapproving gaze of the dogs, who are relieved that there is enough left to top up their own bowls with.

Friday, December 25, 2009

What I’ve Always Wanted

After a festive lie in, I unwrap L first and then my presents. Santa brings, what I’ve always wanted, a heart rate monitor. It is actually. A bit sad perhaps but good for my training and to check I’m still alive whilst doing it. I also get lots of books for Christmas this year. Are people trying to tell me something?

We tinsel up the dogs and take them for a run on the park before a liquid lunch down the Plough. Where they tell us it was the place to be last night. It was packed out apparently, whilst we rattled around an empty town centre.

The weather is cold and icy, with a few patches of snow still around, quite festive actually. There are flakes of snow falling elsewhere, close to us at Watnall, where the weather centre declares it officially a White Christmas.

Then its home to see what swordfish is like as Christmas dinner, pretty good as it turns out. Our only concession to Christmas TV is James May and his model railway. Not sure that really counts as a Christmas programme anyway.

It’s a cosy day just the two of us and the dogs. We fall into bed really early, full of eggnog, beer and fine wine.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Whatever Happened To Christmas Eve?

I have to work until lunchtime today where I’m also waiting for the ‘not looking good’ guaranteed delivery before Christmas from Virgin wines. I ring Mr Branson and they tell me it’s on its way but their tracking system is down so they can’t tell me where exactly it’s on its way to. Basically, they have no idea where it is.

Later we run the kids over to Derby to spend Xmas with their father and drop into work to pick up the wine... which has surely been delivered by now. Nope.

In the evening, we head into Nottingham to celebrate Christmas Eve, always one of my favourite nights of the year. We pop into Scruffys for something to eat and have a cracking meal. They have a new chef, well worth checking out, and a couple of Rosy Noseys. Then we decide to move on and tour the pubs. Big mistake.

So to the Ropewalk, nope shut, Hand and Heart? Shut. What’s going on? We walk through town. The Gatehouse? Shut. Broadway? Shut. Blimey. Loads of other pubs... shut. Langtry’s isn’t but we don’t linger because the Keans Head will be open surely... it is, and it’s busy. Relief. Then as we attempt to get served, they tell us, sorry we stopped serving at 9pm. What? They’re closing now. No! On go on then as it’s only five past, have a pint. Meanwhile other people are flooding in, relived to find somewhere open and they all get turned away. This is so weird.

We move on again. Cock and Hoop, shut. We try the Pitcher and Piano, open but ugh. The Bell looks open but let’s check out Wetherspoon’s Roebuck, must be... it is and staying open until late. We have a couple of Mickelemas’s, then move to the Bell… which is now shut. We really should have stayed at Scruffys, top place, the new owners are trying to build it up, they’re open and we deserted them. We pass the closed Hand and Heart again and notice that next door the Hawksley is open. We go in, it’s our first time in there but beggars can’t be choosers. It actually not bad, although a bit of a price shock after the cheapness of Wetherspoons.

Whatever happened to Christmas Eve? True, we haven’t actually been into town on Christmas Eve for a few years, probably five or six years, and perhaps last time we did it wasn’t what it used to be. Though, before that, back in late 80’s and throughout the 90’s we toured the pubs and usually hit Rock City afterwards. It was quite a night out and probably the biggest night of the year bar New Years Eve. So what’s gone wrong?

With buses and everything stopping around 8pm, people can’t get I suppose. Though it seems odd to me that private bus companies don’t want to run buses on Xmas Eve, they’d make a killing, except it would take years now to build town up again.

Then again, perhaps its best that this is the one night of the year that town is not in vogue. Because it seems tonight is the one night that your local can guarantee to be rammed and apparently they all were again this year. Those pubs do need all the help they can get these days.