Monday, 27 March 2017

in the desert you can remember your name...

My wife left home on Friday to work the weekend before her big conference this week.  Since she's been away, as well as work as normal on Friday, I've guided my friend Terry around parkrun and then took him to catch up with friends in the cafe for a bacon cob and a cup of tear. I've attended a three hour rehearsal for this week's end of season concert with Choir and had a quick pint with a friend before coming home to fix a(nother) puncture on my bike - that's three in four days now.  I've also completed a few domestic errands, topped up my wife's supply of artisanal fruit beer (she's very particular) and done the weekly shop.  I've even been out running twice and managed not to fall over.

I've also watched thirteen straight episodes of Breaking Bad season 5.

That's perfectly normal, right?

What's probably not normal is that I'm not going to watch the remaining three episodes in the season before going to bed tonight.  Given the way the episode I've just watched finished, that's pretty remarkable.

You've seen this already, right?  You know this is good and that I should have watched it years ago.... well, better late than never.

Friday, 24 March 2017

wanna hear you echo...

The internet is an echo chamber.

I realise I’m not saying anything new here, but it seems that pretty much everything I read now has people commenting underneath it, slinging alternative viewpoints at each other, with neither one listening to the other. I’ve just been reading an article on the bicycle helmets and whether or not they make a cyclist safer. It’s an interesting, balanced article presenting evidence on both sides of the debate. The comments are predictable.

“It’s safer”
“No it isn’t”
“Shut up”
“No, you shut up”


No one is listening to anyone (and, in some cases, aren’t even bothering to read the article they’re commenting on).

I’m as guilty of this as anyone, and I’m seldom able to walk past something on Facebook when I think I can try and talk some sense into someone using a carefully thought-out, nuanced argument. It never works. Brexit was a bit of an eye-opener when the passion of the debate revealed that my comfortable, self-selecting bubble of like-minded liberals was punctured by some friends who actually believed that leaving the EU would be a good thing. They were wrong, of course, and I tried to talk some sense into them and to question the basis of their beliefs… but I was wasting my breath. Did I listen to any of their arguments? Well, of course not. They didn’t make any sense to me, so why should I? …oh. That’s the problem in a nutshell, isn’t it?

I was listening to an MP talking on the radio yesterday in the aftermath of the attacks on Westminster. He was saying that people seem to forget that MPs from all the different parties may have diametrically opposed views politically, but they spend a lot of time together and often form friendships across party lines. Mhairi Black has spoken about how her Westminster “boyfriend” is the somewhat unlikely figure of Jacob Rees-Mogg. Those guys in my feed who supported Brexit? They're not idiots and they're still my friends.... they just hold a different view to me.

I'm just tired of all the bullshit and all the arguing and all the negative energy.  I can't keep living like this.

Whether we’re thinking about Trump or Brexit or ISIS or even cycle helmets, it’s helpful to remember, as the murdered MP Jo Cox pointed out, we have far more in common than divides us. Before you despair entirely at the state of the world, or before you roll up your sleeves to wade into a pointless online battle with an anonymous adversary, just remember that. Most people are, I think, basically decent… whatever the internet may lead you to believe.

Not very insightful and definitely a touch sanctimonious, but there you are.  Be the change you want to see in the world, and all that.

Besides, this post gives me an excuse to link to this, undeniably one of the best clips on the whole of the internet.  No arguments: R. Kelly explains Echo.

Monday, 20 March 2017

I keep on fallin'...

MS is a sneaky condition.

Yesterday, I was running a half marathon and generally feeling on top of the world; today I set out to run a quick 5km with my running club to loosen up my surprisingly-stiff muscles and I took a bit of a tumble.

It was the Reading half marathon yesterday and I ran round in support of my friend Karen.  We've been blog buddies for a while now, so it was a pleasure to run round the course with her.  I ran this as a warm-up race for London marathon in 2015, and C. and I managed 2:06.... it was my slowest half marathon ever, but it was also the one that I have enjoyed the most.  Yesterday, we managed around 2:45 and I think I enjoyed it even more (I had a beer at the drinks station outside the pub at about 8.5 miles, for starters...).  Clearly, I am capable of running much faster than that, but I was happy to do everything I could to support my friend around the course as she raised good money for the MS Trust.  Karen found it tough going after around eight miles, but she showed some real guts in getting the job done without a word of complaint and I'm full of admiration.

It was a good day; much more tiring than I was expecting, but it was a really good day.

And then I fell over.

I'd been tired and stiff most of the day, but I was determined to get out for a run tonight, even if it was only for a slow 5km.  Normally, when I fall (and it happens to me more than I'd like), it's because I drop the foot on my weaker left side and start to scuff and trip. This time, I had no warning at all and just went straight down on my left side like I'd been shot. Tired muscles from yesterday, I suppose.

There's no real harm done beyond a scuff on my knee, some bruises on my wrists and knuckles (I like to think my cat-like reflexes ensure I do a mean ninja roll as I hit the ground, which would perhaps explain the red, angry looking marks on my left shoulder)... but I really hate being reminded that I'm not bulletproof and that this condition is slowly taking a toll on my body and on my running.

I'm not stopping running, obviously... I ran a half marathon yesterday, did I mention? I probably just need to be a bit more careful and take things a bit easier (stop laughing at the back!)  I've also got a pair of insoles and an ankle cuff that are designed to try and stop me dropping my left side as I run, but I left them both at home today.  I suppose using them when I run would be a reasonably good starting point, eh?

As I stood in the shower and noticed the marks on my left shoulder, it dawned on me how hard I must have hit the ground and actually how lucky I was to have got away so lightly.  Ask me how I feel tomorrow morning, but given that one of my running friends fell over last year during a race and broke his elbow and another fell over the other week and lost one of her front teeth as she face-planted onto the road, I've been pretty lucky.

Thanks goodness for sapphire crystal Garmin screens too, eh?

I'm also very grateful to all the wonderful members of Rebel Runners who showed me so much concern this evening and offered me (and my bike) lifts home and things. It's a lovely running community and it was joining them in 2011/12 that completely changed my running life, so I already owe them loads.  Thanks guys.  It's very much appreciated.

Honestly.  Good job it's nearly summer...those leggings are ruined!

Friday, 17 March 2017

settling like crows...

Elbow @ de Montfort Hall, 16th March 2017

You have to wonder why some people bother going to gigs at all.

I realise that not everyone wants to stand watching a band in rapt silence as they perform, applauding politely at the end of each song. Some people like to sing along; some like to air guitar; others like to gaze lovingly into their partners eyes…. They might be your favourite act in the whole world or you might just be there because a mate had a spare ticket and you reckoned you had nothing better to do. You get all sorts of people at a gig with all sorts of different levels of interest in the bands performing. And yes: some people will have a bit of a chat with their mates or mess about with their phones. It’s all good.

…there are some basic rules though, aren’t there? I’m a firm believer that the only thing you really need to remember as you bumble your way through life is to try not to be too much of a dick. If we all lived with that simple guideline in mind, then I reckon the world would be a much nicer place. As far as a gig goes, this means that you might like to give a moment’s thought to the people around you and to think that they might actually quite like to enjoy watching the band play and not to listen to you chatting to your mates, raising your voice so that they can hear you when the band start playing; this means that perhaps you shouldn’t stand with your phone up, flash on, trying to film you and your mates sending a message to a friend… it’s not hard, is it?

Clearly, because we’re English, nobody does the sensible thing of asking them nicely to shut up. Instead, we all just stood there glaring at them. As the show wore on, a space started to form around them as people just started to move away from them. But why should I move? I have a right to be here and to try and enjoy the band, don’t I? At one point, someone clearly told a steward about them, but after watching them for a song – during which they were relatively well behaved, naturally – she quickly disappeared.

They’d clearly been drinking, although they weren’t paralytic by any stretch of the imagination, they were just utterly oblivious to anyone else around them. I think they would have actually been pretty annoying if you happened to be in the same pub as them, never mind a gig.

I just don’t get it. Why would you pay £30 a head to attend a concert when the music is clearly an inconvenience to your night out with your mates?

Up until the moment these bozos caught my attention when the house lights went down and the band came onstage, I’d been quite enjoying my evening: Elbow are a really good band that I have seen many times before, and de Montfort Hall is a pretty nice venue… infinitely better than the Arena the band played the last time they were in Nottingham. In fact, the last time I was at this venue, it was to watch the same band perform a sold-out gig that took place just after their Mercury Prize win in 2008 and turned into a huge celebration. I felt at the time that this might be my last chance to see them before their audience began to change as a result of the success. Perhaps this was a bit snobby of me, but I certainly enjoyed walking into the venue last night and having the all-too-rare sensation of being one of the younger members of the audience. I spent a fair bit of time marvelling at quite how many people were wearing primary coloured anoraks. There were lots of beards too, not that there’s anything wrong with that (and I was wearing my tan brogues, so far be it from me to criticise).

I tried not to let the idiots ruin my night, but about three-quarters of the way through their set, I realised that I should really just move. So I did. Because I’m tall, I made my way from where I was standing to the very back of the hall. Just as I was settling down to enjoy the rest of the show, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked behind me and saw a late middle-aged couple slouching on the wall behind me. Not directly behind me, but to one side. The woman glared at me and gestured angrily, the guy just said “We’ve been here all show”. I stared at them. I’m sensitive to standing in people’s way, but equally, if you set yourself up right at the back, leaning on a wall, don’t be surprised if your view is slightly obscured. Feel fucking free to let me stand behind you or perhaps think about buying a ticket for the seated area next time.

I moved, obviously. I understand, but equally I was really angry at the entitlement radiating of these people. You can ask me to move, but you don’t have to be a dick about it. The gig was dead for me. Even the sight of the same guy doing the most amazingly awkward, stiff dad dancing and out-of-time clapping with his arse sticking out to “One Day Like This” didn’t cheer me up very much.

Were Elbow any good? They sounded all right. The new stuff sounds good, although I think they paced their set very badly, and they played a range of other stuff from across their whole career. Lovely Guy was lovely, naturally.  I’ve been lucky enough to see them many times, often at Rock City in the week before they release a new album, and also at Glastonbury…which is in many ways their natural home. I’ve seen them better, but they were fine. Let’s leave it at that, eh? It wasn’t the band’s fault that gig twats ruined my night, but ruin it they did.

Luckily, we had a great sing-song in the car on the way home to my choir backing tracks, which cheered me up immeasurably.

L'enfer, c'est les autres.

VERDICT: 6/10 for the band, 2/10 for the overall experience.

Gentle Storm
The Bones of You
Fly Boy Blue / Lunette
All Disco
New York Morning
Scattered Black and Whites
Little Fictions
My Sad Captains
The Birds
Magnificent (She Says)
One Day Like This
Lippy Kids
Grounds for Divorce

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash...

We had a royal visit at work today.  For those of us trying to get some work done, it was a massive pain in the arse, to be honest.  There were Special Branch policemen all over the place and various parts of the building were completely off-limits for several hours.  Not to mention, of course, that lots of people in the building took the opportunity of the visit and the speeches by the various dignitaries to waste as much time as possible. There's a certain kind of person, I find, who derives an enormous amount of self-importance from the simple proximity to a VIP, even if they're only giving them coffee and holding their coat.  There were lots of those people around too.  We also had a memo sent round explaining what the protocol was if we should happen to meet the royal visitor.  Apparently it's Ma'am to rhyme with "ham" and not Ma'am to rhyme with "palm", if you were wondering.

I was particularly inconvenienced because the visit coincided exactly with the time slot given to me for the delivery of my Avonex.  Every month, I have the prescription for my weekly injections delivered to me in the office.  Usually, this works pretty smoothly and I have a good relationship with reception and they're happy to make an exception their usual rules about signing for packages and take my meds in until I can get down to pick them up.  They also know the drill about not accepting a new sharps bin (they try and give me a new one every month, when actually one will last me a couple of years) and they also pretty good about not taking the vast outer packaging with chill packs and at making sure the drugs get into the fridge too.

The royal visit kiboshed all this quite nicely, and I had to fight my way through a massive crowd of gawkers trying to catch sight of the royal party parking up and walking into the building to get across to a side exit to meet up with the courier (who was struggling to be let onto the site by security at the gates) and to sign for me drugs.

Sadly, the courier was super-helpful and persistent, so this whole process didn't take anywhere near long enough to stop me catching the speeches on my way back across the building to my desk.

I'm not a royalist, as you can probably tell.  I will however concede that the purpose of the visit was a good one: my company has helped to put together some wash bags that are given to women who have been raped and have been through the further indignity of a medical examination by police doctors looking for genetic evidence... it's an initiative that is patronised by this particular royal, hence her presence.  For some reason, I was taken aback by quite how posh she sounded when she spoke.  In fact, she had a surprisingly deep voice and sounded a bit like Tim Nice-But-Dim with a heavy cold.

Later, as I was in the changing rooms getting ready for the cycle home, we cyclists naturally chatted over the events of the day:

"Well that was fun, wasn't it?"
"Splendid, although they could have sent a better royal"
"What, you mean like Prince Philip?"
"Well, you have to admit, he would have been more entertaining because you couldn't ever really be sure what would come out of his mouth"
"Whilst representing a charity for rape victims?  What's the worst thing that could happen?"
"Hmm. Maybe that's why they didn't send him"
"Well, it could have been worse. This one was at least a little further up the pecking order than Sophie Wessex"
"Joey Essex...?"

Joey Essex?  Now you're talking.  His speech would probably have been more memorable than the one the Duchess of Cornwall managed (which was fine and vastly more comprehensible than the utterly impenetrable speech of one of the other VIPs).

The building also smelt of wet paint all day.  It's easy to believe that most of the royal family think that this is how the whole world smells.

What a weird job that is. What a weird life that is.

Monday, 13 March 2017

a fortress, steep and mighty...

When I first started work, I thought that I was going to be managing director; I thought that it was only a matter of time... ten years at the outside.  I also thought that I liked working autonomously and that I didn't really enjoy being part of a team where it meant I would be dependent upon the work of other people in order to succeed.  For a long time, I worked in a role where I was basically responsible for my own output, and that suited me just fine.

As I grew older, I realised that I didn't actually want to be managing director...not that it was likely to happen. I also realised that, far from being an island, the main reason I went to work at all was because of the people. I'm an introvert by nature in the sense that I derive energy from within myself and find prolonged contact with other people draining, so this realisation sort of took me by surprise.

Not coincidentally, I've also been a lot happier at work since I've had a team to manage.  You can blag your way through a lot of things at work, but people management should not be one of those things; it's the one thing that you shouldn't shortcut and I spend a lot of time trying to make sure that I'm doing the right things by my team.  I've won awards at work, but I think the single thing that makes me proudest is that my team scored me 100% in all the line manager questions in our last company-wide colleague temperature check survey.

I like to think my team like and respect me.

Today I received concrete proof: they gave me this as a birthday present:

I can only imagine that this little beauty must be a bestseller amongst Wolves fans and that literally hundreds can be seen on the home fans every match at Molineux. You'll notice that, I might just turned another year older, but apparently I'm not too old to pull this little beauty out if it's (Spider-Man) wrapping paper and put it straight on in the middle of the open plan office...

I'd wear it skiing, but I already wear a helmet when I'm skiing so it wouldn't really work.

They also gave me a luminously lime green Wolves 3rd strip and some beer.

I'm telling you, those guys are the best team anyone could possibly hope for.  I'm a lucky boss.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

slow steady....

[sad face]


So my body is finally dropping me a hint so unsubtle that even I can't fail to notice.

I've been feeling a bit under the weather.  Time was that I would go from year-to-year with barely so much as a sniffle.  I used to think that this was down to my general levels of fitness and my superhuman intake of fruit and veg.... it turns out that it was more likely due to my overactive immune system.  Now that I inject immuno-suppressants every week, my resistance to colds has predictably been somewhat less impressive.  I still don't get all that many, but every couple of years I now seem to get a stinker that I can't shake.  I was pole-axed through November/December and some of January by a cold so persistent that I actually managed to crack a rib with coughing and wasn't really able to run properly for more than a month.  The rib has barely healed, and already I seem to be on the edges of another cold... the scratchy throat, the catarrh, the ominous burning feeling at the top of your lungs.... uh oh.

Coupled with this (and perhaps not unrelated) are the problems I've started having with my legs: the stiffness in my muscles that sees me staggering around like an old man in the morning and that seems to have taken some of the spring out of my muscles when I'm running.

I've been going to interval sessions at the track to try and shake my training up a bit and to accustom my heart, my lungs and my muscle to running a bit faster.  I'm one of the slowest people there, but it's been good to push my comfort zones and to work myself hard.  I idly dread the sessions all day, but feel great at the end... so I've kept going.

I ran 11.5 miles on Sunday.  I've got a half marathon coming up in a couple of weeks, and although I'll be running with a friend who is looking at running about 2.5 hours, I want to make sure that my body knows what's coming.  The hip on my weaker side gave me some bother in the last couple of miles, and I wasn't as fast as I'd like to be, but I was faster than the last time I ran that route, and it was all good.

Then I went to run 4.5 miles on Monday and just found that the well was dry and that I was totally gubbed.  I ran the same route in the first week of March and I was 8 minutes faster.... in practical terms, that means that I was a mile behind where I was merely three weeks ago.  My legs felt dead, my feet were completely numb and I just had nothing at all in the tank.

I felt terrible.

Alright! Alright!  Enough already!  I can take a hint!

I'm giving myself the rest of the week off (not including my cycle commute to work, of course... I don't count that as exercise any more).  I already feel bad about missing the track session tomorrow night, but I"m off skiing next week and I don't want to make myself any worse.

The last 12 months have shown me how strong my body is (London Marathon, Thunder Run 24 hours, 1200+ miles in the year), but also how fragile.

[/sad face]

Monday, 27 February 2017

will you call my name?

 I filled out a survey at running club this evening.  I wouldn't normally consider this worth mentioning, except that I found this one intriguing.  There was only one question:

"What did you have for breakfast this morning?"

I can't even remember who was collecting the information, or why they wanted it, but I was fascinated by the simplicity of the whole thing.  One question only....but what a question!  So many possibilities for the most important meal of the day!

Of course, this being a running club, on a Monday night the answers were all fairly drab and worthy: a smoothie, fruit, shredded wheat, soaked oats... that kind of thing.

If the question had asked me what I had for my breakfast on Sunday, the answer would have been a single, small and slightly disappointing banana followed by an 11.5 mile run and then two bacon cobs with an assortment of mushrooms and a whole black pudding.

But they didn't ask me about Sunday's breakfast, they asked about Monday.

I had several choices this morning.  I had three delicious fruit teacakes; I had a whole sourdough banana bread loaf; I had about a third of a leftover date and walnut loaf*; I also have some more disappointing bananas and some sad looking easy-peelers.

But no.  For my Monday breakfast, I toasted myself two clementine flavoured hot cross buns**.


Even better.....I have two left of those left for breakfast tomorrow too!  I KNOW!  WINNING!

What's your breakfast of choice?***

* what can I can I tell you? I guess I just get through a lot of bread.  I'm an athlete, you know. 

** For an atheist, I eat an awful lot of religious-themed bread.  Although, in my defence, I eat it all-year-round and don't see it as a food purely for the Easter period. That makes all the difference, right?

*** I know that comments aren't really a thing anymore, but let's give it a go, eh?

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

don't stop 'til you get enough...

The mind is a powerful thing.  In the summer of 2005, a numb right hand was the first symptom of what was ultimately diagnosed as multiple sclerosis.  That was worrying enough, but that sensation of numbness quickly began to spread across my body, creeping down through my legs all the way to the soles of my feet (it turned out to all be caused by a lesion on the spinal cord in my neck, hence the widespread impact throughout my body).

I didn't run then anywhere near as much as I run now, but I still did the odd half marathon and liked to go out a few times a week.  Think for a moment what it's like trying to run on legs where the muscles suddenly feel numb and when you can't feel the ground beneath the soles of your feet.  It was so weird that I actually thought for a while that I might have to stop running altogether.  What would happen if I mis-stepped and fell over? The loss of sensations in your muscles that you would normally take entirely for granted made me suddenly feel very unsure of myself.

I was afraid.

But I kept running.  It ultimately took me four years to reach a diagnosis of MS, but through that time I just kept running, slowly at first but then faster and faster. It's amazing how quickly your brain begins to adjust to a new normal, and before long, I was running further and faster than ever before.  In fact, I think the diagnosis actually made me more determined than ever not to give up: I seriously doubt that the pre-diagnosis me would ever have even considered joining a running club and taking part in a marathon.

I know this.  I also know that I'm a fairly determined, stubborn old bastard, and I like to think that, should my symptoms worsen and I am unable to continue with my running, I will find something else to keep myself active.

But I still find myself worrying about the way my legs currently feel like they belong to someone else, possibly to someone who has been dead for several months? There's a new stiffness in my legs now that sees me staggering around like an old man first thing in the morning and after I've been sat down for a while.  I can feel it when I'm running, and I can feel myself becoming more cautious and slowing myself down.  Are these new symptoms? Is this temporary, or will I feel like this forever now? Perhaps this is the beginning of the end? Perhaps I should start to be more careful?

My rational brain tells me that I should keep going: my brain will adjust to a new normal soon enough, just as it did before.  It might take a while, and perhaps I'll have to slow down for a bit and maybe I won't ever manage to be as fast as I'd like to be.... but I can surely keep running.  I know all this.... but I'm still afraid; I'm afraid of the symptoms I feel and of what they might mean.

But you know what? Whilst all this has been going on in my head, I also went and joined that Athletics Club where I've been doing track interval training on Thursday nights.  They're a really friendly bunch and have made me feel very welcome over the last few weeks... I doubt myself every week, and I spend most Thursdays in a state of mild dread about the evening training session ahead because I can't quite shake off the feeling that I don't belong and that I'm nowhere near a good enough runner to be even thinking about training on the same track as these thoroughbreds.  I know rationally that no one cares about how fast I run and that they're simply delighted to have me on board and want me to be as good a runner as I can be... and I enjoy the sessions (once we're finished, anyway - it hurts!) All the same, the demons in my head keep whispering these negative thoughts, doubling down with the way my legs feel and trying to convince me to take the easy way out and to give up.

I felt that fear and I decided to join anyway. I feel the fear before every track session, but I go anyway.  Not only am I going to keep running, but I'm going to keep trying to push myself to be as good a runner as my body and - perhaps more importantly - my mind will let me be.

[partially inspired by this article on running demons]

Thursday, 16 February 2017

rock and roll star...

I stumbled across an interesting article today: “Why British Men Never Got Over Oasis”.

What? Well, okay…. let’s give the man a listen before we dismiss him.

Oasis weren’t just the biggest band in the world – they encapsulated British masculinity like no one before or since. And us men were never the same again.”

Um. Speak for yourself, mate. It’s hard to know where to start with that statement, really. Oasis were many things, but original isn’t one of them; there’s pretty much nothing original about Oasis. Even the fraternal fighting was nothing new to anyone who knows anything about the Kinks. Like most guys my age, I’ve got the first three Oasis records. I quite liked them and they were undeniably a phenomenon, but they weren’t ever in my all-time top ten. I’m not even sure that they would even make a top ten of their contemporaries: I still listen to the likes of Blur and Ash and the Auteurs and I haven’t listened to an Oasis album in full for years. Hell, I haven’t listened to “Be Here Now” since 1997. I watched Wales v England at the weekend, and during the National Anthems, I marvelled at how grown men could get tearful at something as arbitrary as this; that their sense of personal identity was so bound up with their nationality. Like many people before me, I went through a phase where the music of The Smiths and the lyrics of Morrissey just seemed to speak to me in a way that no one else ever had… but Oasis definitely weren’t in that league, and why on earth would you tie your masculinity up with any band, never mind that band?

He’s just getting started.

Between 1994-97, and further still, Oasis took it up a notch. During this heady era when the British zeitgeist was riding high on all things laddism, Britpop, and football coming home – they embodied what it meant to be a man. Oasis weren’t just the sound of a cultural moment, they led the cultural moment. It was the age of bolshie, sweary, boozed-up men, and the true personification of mid-Nineties manliness, they swaggered around like they owned the place, kitted out in football shirts and indie clobber, giving it the big I am.

Let’s be clear: Oasis have never embodied to me what it meant to be a man. I’ll go further: men who behave like this strike me as mindless gibbons. When they headlined Glastonbury in 2004, even though the tickets must have been sold months before the announcement, on the day they were playing, suddenly the bars were full of people wearing bucket hats and chucking beer around. What the hell? Radiohead and R.E.M. headlined the same year. Where the hell did those idiots go when they were playing? If Liam Gallagher is your idea masculinity perfected, then what the hell must you make of Thom Yorke and Michael Stipe?

Listening to them now - and you'll remember most of the words - they’re like a jolt of pure nostalgia. It must have been bloody magic at Knebworth, to be one of those quarter of a million voices singing along. And I’m not the only one who wishes they’d been there. One in 20 Brits applied for tickets – a testament to Oasis’ cultural impact at the time."

I was at Knebworth, as it happens, and what I remember most clearly (apart from sitting for several hours in the middle of the night in a traffic jam around Stevenage) was 125,000 people bellowing along drunkenly, completely un-ironically to the chorus of “A Design for Life” as Manic Street Preachers played. I think most people were happier when Cast were playing, to be honest. Ocean Colour Scene played on the bill the day before, which pretty much sums it up. I was there, and it was ridiculous, but…. nah.

Be Here Now…has stood the test of time to rank alongside Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?

No, it really hasn’t. It’s a horrible record, full of songs that aren’t good enough and are too long and over-produced. I bought it on the day of release and I’ve only been able to listen to it about three times. I’m certainly not about to listen to it again now. The album – five star reviews all round and a gazillion sales – didn’t mark the end of an era just because the Spice Girls came along, it marked the end of an era because it was shit.

no band has managed to capture that sense of masculinity so perfectly since.

Why would this even be a good thing? You only need to go to a Kasabian gig to see drunk people throwing £7 pints of beer over the front row. They’re pretty much the same people, aren’t they? (and, if anything, Kasabian are a much more inventive band than Oasis ever were). Maybe they’re a bit younger than the sad 45-year old dads who went to Heaton Park in their bucket hats to watch the Stone Roses the other year, but very much from the same lineage.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s just nostalgia. Maybe the flouncy dancing and self-important warbling of Chris Martin is the look and sound of modern masculinity, and I’m just too much of a curmudgeon to feel it. But it seems to me like ever since Oasis, there’s been something missing between men and rock music. “

You know what? It’s actually almost sweet reading this. This guy is clearly a bit young to remember Oasis in their Imperial phase, and it’s almost touching to read how much they moved him. He’s clearly wrong to generalise about what does and doesn’t define masculinity, but at least he’s allowed music to move him… and you can’t fault him for that, even if the band he’s chosen to be moved by is completely baffling.


sidebar: check out this list of the ten best Britpop songs in the Guardian the other day.  Luke Haines will doubtless be furious that he's been included... and the arguments about the choices are still raging in the comments section. Two Pulp songs? No Supergrass? What the hell? etc. I saw Pulp, Radiohead and Manic Street Preachers playing mid-afternoon slots at the 1994 Reading Festival (shortly before hopping across to the Melody Maker tent to watch Jeff Buckley by mistake when I was waiting to watch Gene).  We were fully a year away from the release of "A Different Class" and Britpop wasn't yet a thing.  The Manics were releasing The Holy Bible the following Monday, and I have to tell you, that although it's the least "Britpop" album you could possibly imagine, that's the record from that era that really stays with me.