Take The Weather With You

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Just remembered why I go abroad for vacations. This is the week I just had here in Britain on a ‘stay-cation’. Pictures up soon of the misadventure but feel free to guess where we went in the meanwhile.

Posted in Oh God Why?, Things That Shit Me, Travel, UK Life | Leave a comment

Gig Report: Nicole Atkins

Rainy miserable nights up north suck. No two ways about it. It gets dark up here by 4pm in winter and leaving the house seems like a major effort. There’s rarely much that entices you out during these months. Unless of course you’re in striking distance to Manchester which any half decent act will add to their tour schedule if they break the forcefield of the M25.

And so it was that on a gloomy wet Thursday evening with no inclination to get public transport that I found myself driving to the Northern Quarter. New Jersey songstress Nicole Atkins was playing a traditional type pub called Gullivers and I wasn’t going to miss it, despite The Husband being detained in London. Fortunately, (and this was unexpected) there is a decent and cheap car park directly opposite the pub. I feel like luck is on my side. I might even get a decent view of the gig (rare, given I’m fantastically average in height).

You may or may not remember, I wrote about her albums back in 2011, so trust me, I’ve been waiting a while.

Diet coke (I’m driving, remember) in hand and I climb some narrow stairs to the venue. It’s a smallish room and it’s not even close to being packed, though this is the break between the support and Nicole herself, people are clearly replenishing beverages. There’s even a spot up the front to the side unoccupied. This is like finding a spare seat on a packed tube that curiously nobody sees. Result!

Ms Atkins entered the room from behind us (there was no other actual way in) and begins her set standing in the middle of the crowd performing Neptune City. It feels intimate and unpretentious. She moves then to the stage and performs her set with gusto though it’s red hot on stage and she’s noticeably uncomfortable. Some creepy older guy at the front offers her a tissue. If there hadn’t been a hundred witnesses, I’d have wondered whether it was intended to be soaked with chloroform later. Nicole is terrifyingly great. Her back catalogue fairly represented; the songs reminding me of late nights and bad life choices I made in my earlier years with people I shouldn’t have slept with. It’s that kind of dark, sexy, blood and bruised heart feeling. The room gets hotter. She pushes through and delivers a perfect set that included Vultures, Maybe Tonight, a stunning rendition of The Tower and ends with her (as she started) in the middle of the room doing a version of The Big O’s ‘Crying‘.

Anyway, here’s the pictures from the gig to show the awesomeness of Nicole Atkins…
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See? I really did get a spot up the front!

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How she is not more famous I will never know. Far more artists have made it further with so much less talent. Secretly I’m pleased that it means I can still see her up close and personal. But still.

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Posted in Music, UK Life | Leave a comment

Wirral Half Marathon

Half Marathon number 8. To be fair, I didn’t intend on running this one. I was having anniversary drinks with The Husband and was three sheets to the wind when I got the email offering me a race bib for a half the following day. Which I then celebrated by downing three cocktails.

Time to sober up and carb load, which I did before falling asleep on the sofa, waking up a few hours later in a panic that I had missed the race. Thankfully it was still 10pm the night before and I had time. I had a fucking hangover, but I had time.

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Next morning, I got up to a crisp cold day (2-3 degrees, perfect) and perused the selection of running shoes. I’ve had issues lately with a pair of adidas giving me shocking blisters. Rather than binning them, they find their way deeper into the shoe-mountain in back room to be recalled for dog-walking duties.

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The race went surprisingly well. Like, personal best time of 1:47:20. And fifth in my category (out of 80).

Cheers to that.

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Just Duathlon It

This fitness malarky continues. Why I signed up for a duathlon I still don’t know. I think I figured that I like both cycling and running and that combining the two would therefore be a good idea. I also like both anchovies and ice cream, so I should have known the theory wasn’t water-tight. Oh well.

Anyway, I had ambitions that The Husband would join me. Given he’s a bit faster on the bike but a tad slower on foot, it seemed like a fair fight. But alas, he didn’t sign up and I drove to Oulton Park Raceway on my own and parked up. It was then that I realised just how far I was out of my league. I collected my race bib amid whippet-shaped figures sporting triathlon club tops. I wheeled my bike into pit lane where the transition area was set up and hoped that I was not outing myself as a total rookie.
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Who am I kidding? I was surrounded by Planet-X, S-Works and other high end bikes that require mortgages and have those cool wheels that make an awesome whoosh noise when they fly past me. My Boardman roadie was like bringing a sandwich to a banquet. Fortunately there were one or two that mirrored my own pedestrian-grade status.
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Hey, at least I didn’t bring a hybrid bike. That’s one step from putting a basket on the front, right? (I’m laughing, but I’m pretty certain this guy lapped me.)

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So then I tried to look cool while the race briefing was given. We were advised that drafting was forbidden. I stifled a snort. Yeah, drafting? Me? I’ll be lucky to keep up with anyone on this, let alone draft. Look carefully, I’m in the shot. It’s here that I’ve just found out this is a British Championship qualifying event. *gulp*

We’re herded to the starting grid where faster runners are encouraged to move to the front. This is basically everyone except me and a couple of ladies twice my age. I stand at the back like a parent waiting to wave her kids off on a school trip. Except without the teary eyes. Okay, fine. With teary eyes. And then we started. Within a hundred metres the leaders were half a mile in front. But I didn’t let it deter me. I focused on the job at hand. Specifically ‘transition’. This is an element (the bit where you change from run to bike and back again) that people actually train for on its own. I’ve suddenly realised that not only have I never done a transition, I’ve never even seen one done. So I ran and made a list of things I needed to do. Helmet first. Change shoes. Swing my race number round to the back. Grab the bike. Don’t get on til the mounting area. Try not to giggle that it’s called a mounting area. Join the track and try not to get mown down by the champions already on their third lap.

I was focussing so hard on everything that I needed to do that I was back to the pit lane and on my bike before I realised. And magically I had everything on in the right order. Result! Cycling felt dramatically easier than running. So that’s nice. 5 laps later (and presumably while the prize-giving ceremony was taking place) I roll into pit lane for the second transition. Now, while going from running to cycling felt fine, it most certainly does not feel so ace going the other way. Sweet merlin’s beard! I was going to struggle. Who the fuck put lead in my legs? And then something happened. I imagined myself crossing the line in last place. And as much as I tried to pretend that ‘it’s okay, someone has to’, I suddenly realised that I didn’t want it to be me. Desperately didn’t want it to be me. So I fucking legged it.

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And because I knew that I wasn’t last and because I wasn’t fooling anyone that I was a contender, I did what I always do when crossing the finishing line. I leaped in the most ridiculous ‘give me some frigging chips now’ way. I could hear people laughing, and I didn’t give a shit.

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And the most surprising thing (aside from not coming last) is that actually, I did rather well. For me, anyway. Sure, I came 13th out of 18 in my category. But I ran two nearly-5km sections at 7:30/mile pace, the second one being unfathomably faster than the first.

Would I do another one? Yeah, maybe. I might want to practice that transition things again and not run in bike shorts, but sure, why not?

Posted in Cheshire Life, Fitness, Oh God Why?, UK Life | Leave a comment

Where’s Vegemite?

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Alright eagle-eyed readers… where am I now? (Well, not right now, I’m sat on my sofa.)

Anyway, any guesses?

Posted in UK Life, Where's Vegemite | 2 Comments

I’ve Got The Runs

Some people cross a finish line with grace and style to the triumphant emotions of Chariots of Fire. They stagger emotionally over the timing mats gasping for water.

I am not that person.

I run at full tilt screaming WHERE’S THE FUCKING CHIPS!?!?
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Yep, I’m running again. A lot. Rather than focus on what my body cannot do, I’m concentrating on what it can. And it can run. In fact it can run a half marathon every weekend. So I took it to Wales, because that’s where the best runs are. This is week five last weekend.
IMG_3001.JPG We drove through places I attempted to pronounce but sounded more like I was trying to whistle with a mouth full of marshmallows.
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For stalkers out there who will google the race to see my time, I’ll save you the trouble. I finished in 1:49:03.

Posted in Fitness, Oh God Why?, Wales | 10 Comments

Pro Bono?

*tap tap*

Is still still on?

Sorry, it’s been blog-lite lately around here. And I have a lot to blog about, I really do. I just don’t know where to start, so I do what I do best and neglect to blog about any of it. No matter, I’ll jump back in with some current affairs, of the iTwat kind.

Checked your iTunes lately? Magically a U2 album has appeared free of charge on my iPhone along with every other iTunes account in the world last week and presumably yours if you have one. Uh, thanks,.. I guess. It’s the musical equivalent of bread that’s been placed on my table at a restaurant that I haven’t ordered and don’t really want but will pick at then hate myself because although I’m told it’s ‘complimentary’ I know that I’ll end up paying for it one way or another. I could delete it, sure. But it doesn’t take up too much room and I’ll probably give it a listen out of interest in much the same way that I eat airline food. I’m not hungry for it, just vaguely curious.

iPhone 6 has also come out and apple addicts are getting moist over a device that is behind the curve but somehow want to spunk their cash on because OMFG it’s Apple! It’s available in different colours! I say this while owning two iPhones, Apple Airport, Apple TV, a Shuffle, an iPad and tapping away on a MacBook. You can double most of that list to include The Husband’s devices. Total hypocrite, I know. I will have to draw the line at the Apple Watch though. Probably. I mean, I don’t *think* I need one, do I? Oh fine, I’ll take a look when it comes out. It comes in yellow, right?

iHate myself.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Support JLS

Not many people know this (presumably because they were a bit shit) but JLS were a boy band in the UK. They touched the lives of dozens of teenage girls when they became famous in 2008 through The Simon Cowell Foundation of Average But Kind of Catchy Music, the X Factor.

Sadly, in 2013 JLS split up. No one really knows why and as yet there hasn’t been a cure. JLS CDs sit gathering dust in bargain bins all over the country in epidemic proportions. It’s time to take action.

Thankfully, a viral internet campaign has started in which you dump a bucket of ice water on your head and nominate three people that you think should listen to their music.

JLS

Support JLS!

Posted in Community Service Announcement, Music, random shit | Leave a comment

Cheshire, on a plate.

I’m often asked where I live in the UK. Recently the frequency of this question has grown exponentially as I’m in a new job. The question fills the awkward silence created by people running late to meetings or the glacial speed of the water cooler filling my drink bottle. You know it’s coming from the classic lead-in chit-chat: does it take you long to get in? Not too bad, thanks, I say, praying that’s the end of the matter. It never is. And then it comes straight out: so where are you based? Ugh.

Since the office is up this way, it’s no longer sufficient to say ‘up north’. So I say Cheshire. It’s a risky game. Generally, the less you like that person, the greater the chance they live in your village and the smaller that village is. So, like I said, I say Cheshire and vaguely reference which junction of the M6 if pushed.

The reaction is usually a variation on the same theme. ‘Oh very nice’ is what I hear most. Which is a polite way of saying ‘oh god, you’re a twat aren’t you?’.
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I blame Damien for that. He thinks parking fines are ‘tips’.

Viva la Cheshire.

Posted in Cheshire Life, Funny Shit, random shit, Shit People Do | 6 Comments

Friends Don’t Let Friends Dye Alone

In my continued quest to find out what British people get up to on weekends, I accepted an invitation to a Colour Run at Cholmondeley Castle today. It’s got running, it’s got a castle, I’m bound to love it, right? Well, kind of.

I got up early this morning with little sleep and a bit of a hangover (not smart, I know, but it was only a 5km distance and not timed) then drove to a location only GPS can help you find on the basis that many of the small roads in Britain lack adequate signage. Which is fine if you like driving around swearing at both yourself and the limited mobile coverage outside a major city. Fucking annoying otherwise. Especially with a hangover.

Eventually I found the place.
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For a second I thought I’d turned up on the wrong day. Perhaps the abysmal weather (15 degrees, moderate winds and rain in the middle of summer) kept people away. Perhaps there are fewer people prepared to part with £30 for this than I thought.

So, what’s a ‘colour run’ all about then?

Essentially, you run/walk a very easy 5km route which passes through ‘colour stations’ where you get pelted with handfuls of powdery cornstarch dye by volunteers. Run or Dye gives you a bag of dye to get the colour started early and of course, you can buy more dye if you truly want to piss your cash up the wall. No need though, the colour stations will coat you in the stuff if you ask them nicely or aren’t quick on your feet.

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Your goody bag also has a couple of ‘tattoos’ which, when you put on the inside of your wrist and take a picture shows just how much an innocent part of your body can look like an old man’s willy. Sigh.

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Anyway, plenty of people turned up for this. Because that’s what British people do. A little rain and low temperatures don’t put these people off – they battle through it. Stiff upper lip and all that. That or they are determined to get some value for the £30 they have shelled out to get covered in colourful crap in a field. Whatever.

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The real fun of course is hanging out with your mates and trying to work out which one of you had the ridiculous idea to do this in the first place.

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And that’s a Colour Run. If you want to get a fake tan as realistic as anything you’ll find in Essex, give it a shot. Frankly for the money, I think a mud run is more entertaining, a better workout and better value , but that’s me.

Posted in Fitness, Friends, Oh God Why?, Shit People Do, This Expat Life, UK Life, Weird shit | 10 Comments

Where’s Vegemite?

I had to steal an image off the web for this one, which is why it looks a shitload better than it does in real life. The fact I didn’t have access to my iPhone is a clue.
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Guesses in the comments. No Googling. (I’m looking at you, TNA.)

Posted in UK Life, Where's Vegemite | 14 Comments

I’ve Got Red On Me

A couple of months ago, I dragged Red (see Maaates) to the taping of the worst show on television. Drinking a moscow mule in the bar afterwards, I gave her permission to book us on to anything she fancied. I’m a good sport.

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Scratch that. I’m a really good sport.

Red signed us up to a obstacle/race/game called “2.8hours later” where we had to attend Zombie School (about as official as the Ponds Institute) and we honed our skills in the ways of the undead. We then spent an evening freaking paying punters in the mean streets of Manchester in various fancy dress.

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Red was dressed as a doctor and infected people in an old infirmary.

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I wandered the backstreets with a hoard of zombies where we effectively frightened one Scottish woman out of the game; last I saw she was crouched behind a van shouting “I cannae go onnnn!!”. Another guy freaked out while running and was taken away in an ambulance. Wimp.

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It’s just make up, honest. Out of context, it’s even more terrifying as I discovered on my way home when I stopped at a convenience store for a bottle of water (making zombie noises messes with your throat in a big way.) Had totally forgotten I was still in costume until I saw the worried faces staring at me.

Anyway, it’s my turn. Any suggestions for what to drag Red on? I need to top this.

Posted in Friends, Oh God Why?, random shit, Shit People Do | 11 Comments

Spin Cycle

Blog lite mode lately, sorry to all both my readers. Here’s what I’ve been up to.
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Lately we’ve had a bit of this…

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Which means I’ve been putting these on a bit.

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And having a go at things like this. Unsuccessfully, I might add.

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But that’s okay, because I get to eat lots of this.

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And I get to hang out with this guy.

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I’ve got all the gear, and no idea.

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But I’m loving exploring more of Cheshire.

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Gorgeous, huh?

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And my friends who stopped by recently are very supportive, of course. (That’s Skippy and Bruce, those Aussies we met in Iceland. You remember them, right?)

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In fact, I’ve found lots of people who like cycling around here. It’s the new golf, apparently. But more inclusive of women. And more lycra.

Anyway, that’s what I’m doing: cycling my way around sunny Cheshire and beyond!

Posted in Fitness, Friends, UK Life | 4 Comments

Just Duathlon It

I’m going to be honest for a second. I’ve gotten so wrapped up in cycling that I have not run much. Or at all. Like when a girl dives head first (some times quite literally) into a relationship, I abandoned my old friend running. I feel shit about that. I’ve become the female equivalent of a MAMIL (Middle Aged Man In Lycra). I’m currently watching about six bikes on eBay. None of which I will actually buy, given I have two in the stable already.

So, what happened? I got the fear. I gave running a break after the disastrous half marathon in Chester. I say disastrous, but I still ran it in under 2 hours. But still. I rested my knees (which are fine by the way) and focused on cycling. I began to wonder whether I would ever return to running. I even questioned whether I should. I can cover way more ground on a bike and it feels, well, easier. I can rest while doing it and no one is any the wiser. Not like running; take a ‘break’ during running and you instantly feel like people are mocking you for walking, even when there is no one around. To date, the only race I have walked at all is the Chester Half, after 12 miles when the sun was beating down on me and I’d run a total of 40 miles that week (plus an ill-advised 22 mile ride the day before). Unfortunately my ‘walk of shame’ was in front of a crowd who could see my name on my bib and called it out. Sure, they were probably encouraging me, but it didn’t feel that way at the time. I’d hit a rock bottom in a race and though I didn’t have a single familiar face in the crowd, it felt more personal than ever. I was inches from a DNF. (Must remember to donate heavily to St John Ambulance).

I’ve done a couple of obstacles races in between then and now and while it brought some confidence back, I countered that with the fact that obstacle races do give you plenty of time to recover so I wasn’t really running.

So I kept cycling.

Until this week. I bit the bullet. It’s time to get over Chester. I tentatively went out for a 2 mile jog with no expectations, which turned into a 4 mile run and some decent pace (8:15min/mile). Not uber-fast, but not shabby. I will put it down to the cycling that has retained some dormant fitness in the legs. And then I did something that I may later regret.

I signed up for a duathlon and a half marathon.

I’ll be ‘competing’ in the Oulton Park Duathlon (transition is in the pit lane which is pretty awesome) and the Lake Vyrnwy Half, reputed to be one of the most scenic half marathons in the UK. If this goes well, I might even do the Conwy Half.

Hold me.

Posted in Fitness, Oh God Why?, Shit People Do, Weight Loss | Leave a comment

Royal Tease

There’s a show on TV at the moment. I can’t help but be a bit disturbed by it, which is saying something because I watch some seriously messed up shit.

It’s called ‘I Wanna Marry Harry’. The premise of the show is that a Prince Harry lookalike auditions a dozen American girls to be his girlfriend, making them believe he is Prince Harry – it is not so subtlely suggested at first but the lovelies are then blatantly told he’s Harry. The girls stay in a massive country estate for the duration of the filming (where ‘Prince Harry’ seems to have a lot of free time and no public engagements) while he wines and dines them in turn to get to know them. Occasionally a security alert or paparazzi scuffle is staged to reinforce the ruse. Each week one girl is promoted to the Crown Suite – a bedroom that the ‘prince’ makes visits to. At the end of the season for the big reveal, when he has selected his intellectually-impaired ditz, he discloses that he is just a fake ginger guy from the Home Counties to see whether she really liked him for who he is. Sounds innocent enough if you can suspend your disbelief that anyone would actually think that this is how the real Prince Harry would select a life partner.

In reality, it’s a show where a regular guy knowingly dupes a giggling impressionable daisy-duke-wearing bunch of good looking young American girls to compete for time alone with him, where (at least this is what they aired on TV) he kisses and fondles them, sometimes on a bed, sometimes in public places. He pretty much gets off with all of the willing girls who become increasingly obsessed with doing anything to win his affections. I’m certain that none of them would have given the otherwise nice fella the time of day if he’d been presented as a broke-but-pleasant environmental consultant.

I know, you’d have to have failed a basic IQ test to be on the show, but still, it prays on a certain vulnerable type of person, and it’s this that bothers me. For a start, they really believe he is royalty and really want to please him because of his status and (to no small degree) what this could mean for them. Each week another girl is cast aside in floods of tears, made to feel a utterly worthless (their words, not mine) because she has failed to turn him on. Remember, this of course is done under the palatable guise of him trying to find someone that will love him for who he really is, and not the opportunity to stick his tongue down their throats. Right. Based on the dream of the life he could offer them, they will do literally anything (muck out shit in a stable, run through mud, jiggle their bits seductively in a ‘talent competition’ for his amusement) to be with him. It’s a bitch-slap in the face for modern feminism. But it’s okay because they are all over 18. It’s amazing the difference a few years can make, even if the person is just as naive or vulnerable.

Maybe I’m watching far too much TV at the moment, but it all sounds a bit familiar.

I’m making a point here. Can yew tell what it is?

Posted in Oh God Why?, Shit People Do, The Royals, Things That Shit Me | 6 Comments