Monday, 14 August 2017

I dwarf the rooftops; I hunchback the moon; stars dance at my feet...

I am, by now, such a hopeless blogger that I actually wrote this last week and never got around to posting it over the weekend.  Well, if you'll pardon the (almost) unprecedented folly of talking about earworms of the week on a Monday.... here they are!

Earworms of the (last?) Week

"Dude (Looks Like A Lady)" - Aerosmith

I don’t seem to do this very often any more…. earworms specifically, but actually blogging in general. Back in the day, time was that you would get 4 or 5 fairly meaty posts from me every week. Now you’re lucky to get one of me banging on about running. Sorry about that (not sorry). Why not start this week’s earworms with a song from a band that I loved dearly when I was a teenager. There was a long period in 1987/88 when I listened to Aerosmith and Guns N’Roses to the exclusion of almost everything else. I’m talking literally months when the only things I played were “Appetite for Destruction”, “Pump” or “Permanent Vacation”. That Guns n’Roses record sounds pretty much as fresh and exciting today as it did back then, but I haven’t listened to either of those Aerosmith records for a whole now and I wonder how they’d hold up. This was the song that introduced me to the band, and from here onto those two albums and then an almost disbelieving journey back through their magnificent back catalogue, with albums like “Toys in the Attic” and “Rocks”. it somehow seemed impossible to believe that this band had already had a massively successful career and that this was very much a second-flush at (what everyone assumed would be) the back end of their career. They are also, of course, linked to Guns n’Roses by the cover of “Mama Kin” on the “Lies” album. This song till sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? As Bastion said on YouTube 7 months ago, "I'm trying to find a deeper meaning but its genuinely just Steve being surprised that a dude looks like a lady". Truth.
Songs about asteroids and ridiculous, overly-produced love songs were still in the band’s future at this point, and this leering little beauty is how I would probably choose to remember them. Dammit. It’s too late. Now I’m earworming that bloody song too.

"Rasputin" - Boney M

It is one of my favourite discoveries of all time to learn that almost every Austrian of my acquaintance of a certain age can all do “(Rock Me) Amadeus” off by heart and will just instinctively start rapping along with Falco as soon as the song comes on. My wife is currently trying to learn it, but I find it hard to get past the fact that he seems to call someone a “mango cu*t” in the second verse. Anyway. One of my friends surprised and delighted me the other day by turning out to know all of the words to this song. I was equally delighted when the 24 year old in my team had never heard of this song and I was able to persuade him to give it a listen immediately on Spotify. He was suitably impressed. Oh those Russians.

"My Lovely Horse" - Ted and Dougal

Where are you going with your fetlocks blowing in the…..wind? I'd tell you why I'm earworming this song, but like the worst kind of tease, I'm simply going to have to tell you that I've signed a non-disclosure agreement and I can't.  For real.

"If You Leave Me Now" – Chicago

Cheese. Pure and simple. Ooooo, ooooo, no.... Weapons grade earworm.

"Autumn Almanack" - Kinks
"Harvest Moon" - Neil Young

As I got on my bike at 7 this morning (Friday, for those keeping score on this somewhat chronologically confused post) to ride to work, although I was delighted that it wasn’t raining and that I was going to cycle to work in the morning sunshine… there was a distinct tinge of Autumn in the chilly air and condensation on all the cars. It’s 10th August: I’m not sure I’m entirely ready for it to be autumn quite yet. The seasonally appropriate earworms are fine, however… just to be clear.

"Gonna Fly Now" (theme from Rocky) - Bill Conti

Because training montages should be a thing in real life. The long, slow build of marathon training would be a whole lot more enjoyable if it could be experienced in a 3 minute highlight reel with some inspirational music. Can we make that happen?  Who doesn't need a montage?

The hour's approaching, to give it your best
And you've got to reach your prime.
That’s when you need to put yourself to the test
And show us a passage of time
We're going to need a montage (montage)
Ooh it takes a montage (montage)
Show a lot of things happening at once,
Remind everyone of what’s going on (what’s going on)
And with every shot, show a little improvement
To show it all would take to long
That’s called a montage (montage)

"Barbie Girl" – Aqua

Someone at work mentioned that plastic was fantastic, and that was it: we were all doomed to this for the rest of the day. Brilliant song though, eh? Dr. Jones was another little cracker too. Don’t knock a good pop song.

"Marz" - John Grant
"The Amorous Humphrey Plugg" - Scott Walker

The Scott Walker prom the other day was a real delight. Walker is a real touchstone artist in my music collection, introduced to me in my first year at university by an impossibly old seeing mature student called Mark (he was about 25!) and I will forever be in his debt for introducing me to this and to a host of other musicians who have massively enriched my life. I was a little bit worried by Jarvis Cocker’s somewhat wobbly start and worried if any of them could really hold a candle to the unalloyed majesty of Scott Walker’s baritone… but in the end, they all did really well and inhabited these wonderful songs with their own personalities. John Grant’s voice is probably the closest to Walker’s, and he did a cracking version of “The Seventh Seal”, which was the first Walker song that I really loved. In an interview that he did with Jarvis the Sunday before the prom, when he was asked how he adjusted moving to a rainy London from sun-drenched California, Walker answered that he was always a huge fan of European cinema and always saw himself ending up here somehow. Is there a more Scott Walker song than one that takes its inspiration from an Ingmar Bergman film about a knight playing chess with Death? Listening to Grant singing these songs sent me scurrying back to listen to my John Grant albums, and “Marz” is just a wonderful song. When asked by Cocker how he felt about the prom (which he actually attended), Walker simply said that he wanted the artists to not be afraid to add their own interpretations because he wasn’t interested in karaoke. Mostly, I think he would have been pleased. I was especially taken with Susanne Sundfør, who obviously added something different to the songs by dint of being a woman, and did a great job with this song. But just listen to the lyrics to “The Amorous Humphrey Plugg”. Wonderful. If you haven’t taken the trouble to listen to those first four, self-titled albums by Scott Walker… please, do yourself a favour. Absolutely splendid.

Will that do you for now? I’ve barely mentioned running, and as I’ve got marathon training looming on the horizon again and will be pumping for sponsorship (I’m selling bobble hats this year), then make the most of me talking about something different for once.

Have good weekends, y’all. I’ll be running.


Well, it's Monday now and I did run.  I also wrote a Harry Potter themed run report for parkrun, and you might want to head over there to give that a read too.  I might not be blogging with any real enthusiasm around here any more, but I can't seem to shake the urge to write.

Monday, 7 August 2017

we built this city on rock and roll...

I don't know what's more troubling: that I find myself completely ignorant of almost all contemporary music, or the fact that I don't seem to actually care all that much and don't have the least desire to rectify the issue.

Perhaps this is a symptom of my age (although I know a few people my age or older who have not lost their musical curiosity), but I seem content to listen to the bands that I've always listened to.  If I purchase some new music, it's likely to be by someone who already has a place in my record collection.  I suppose it could be worse: I did go through that cliche phase last year where I was re-buying on vinyl records that I already own in at least one other format... but I seem to have moved past that now.

Ed Sheeran is a case in point: I know it's fashionable amongst music fans of a certain ilk to dislike him.  Well, he's successful, isn't he... and if there's one thing that a music snob can't abide, it's mainstream success.  I didn't much care for his cameo in Game of Thrones because it seemed a bit forced, but I can't summon up the energy to dislike him because I simply don't know any of his music and can't be bothered to find out.  I have a vague assumption that I won't like him, but this is based on nothing more than a vague dislike of the very green tattoo sleeve he has on one arm (and I *like* tattoos) and on a fifteen second burst of "Galway Girl" that seemed a bit Riverdance to me.

It's all the more ironic then that I seem to have quite happily switched the way I consume music away from physical formats and even away from MP3s towards streaming on Amazon Music.  Never before have I had so much music at my fingertips; there's something ridiculous like 40 million songs available and the only limit to my listening pleasure is my imagination.

...and there's the problem.

If I keep asking Alexa to play me Toto's "Africa" whenever I'm in my kitchen, then I'm never going to hear anything new, am I?  There are dozens of curated playlists available and all I have to do to hear something new that might rock my world is to have a go, skipping past anything that doesn't take my fancy.  And have I done it? No.  To be honest, I'm just as likely to ask Alexa to play BBC Radio 5 as to listen to some music.. so I haven't even really had the time to listen to the new album by Lorde or the Fleet Foxes.

This will not stand.  I don't want to become that guy, do I? You know, the one who simply refuses to believe that any new music by a new artist could be as interesting as the old classics and therefore isn't worth the effort (unless it's already too late for me on that score).

Must. Try. Harder.

...Not least because the new season at choir starts in a month, and from then until Christmas it will likely be rehearsal tracks all the way. I think we're doing some Starship!

Thursday, 3 August 2017

too old for Hamlet, too young for Lear....

Worst. Boyband. Ever

One of my oldest friends was over from Canada last week, so we headed down to Oxford to meet up with all the old gang in the pub for a reunion lunch. This kind of occasion has changed substantially now: in the old days we would basically just drink, talk about going to the Zodiac and then fall asleep on the sofa in front of a classic movie from the 1980s, most likely starring either Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd or some combination of the three. Nowadays, there isn’t even any talk of the Zodiac (which doesn’t even exist any more) and the drinking is somewhat moderated by the presence of several delightful children of varying ages.

What remains true is that it’s nice to see everyone. There were about 20 of us this time around, and it was really nice to catch up with people who, I realise more with every passing year, are the best kind of people. Most I've known for twenty years, and one or two I've known for thirty years or more.  Man and Boy.

One thing that caught me a little off-guard this time around was that a number of people looked me up and down and asked me if I had grown. I’m 43 years old now. Surely, if anything, I’m likely to be getting shorter as the ravages of time increasingly make their presence felt and I’m beaten down a little more every day by the ongoing trials of life. Maybe the bar I was leaning on was slightly uphill of everyone else; perhaps the trainers I was wearing had a stacked heel; maybe the skinny black t-shirt and drainpipe jeans I was wearing had a slimming effect that just made me look a little taller than normal; maybe my monastic adherence to a life of self-inflicted hardships really has made me taller…. who can say? Perhaps they’ve all shrunk?

Well, it was nice to see them all anyway, the silly sods.. and I'll be doing it all again when my very oldest friend (on the left of that picture. We met in about 1983, we think) gets married in September.

Not to be morbid, but before too much longer we’ll be doing this sort of thing at funerals, and that won’t be quite as much fun, will it?

Had we but world enough, and time....

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

you're slip slidin' away...

At around 1am on Saturday morning, I found myself running around a wooded, hilly trail course in the Derbyshire countryside.  It was pouring with rain and had been for the best part of 12 hours, so the course was a treacherous swamp, with mud burying the many tree roots and stumps that lined the path.  This was my third lap of the 10km course, and I'd had maybe about half an hour of sleep since the night before.  As I ran, I realised that my world had completely collapsed into the narrow beam my head torch was casting around my feet; everything else but what I could see in that little cone of light disappeared.  I was cold, wet and very tired. My balance isn't great, so I was also a little terrified that I was going to take a tumble at almost any moment.

And then it hit me.  I had the dawning realisation that I was actually really enjoying myself.  The conditions might have been awful and the very idea of trying to run under those sort of circumstances might seem utterly ridiculous.... but I felt utterly exhilarated.  Tell me: when do you normally get to experience something like this?

That was Thunder Run 2017.

Since my diagnosis with MS, I've run further and faster than I ever would have thought possible.  I've found a wonderful running community, run loads of races and even completed a couple of marathons, with a couple more on the horizon.  Nothing is quite like a 24 hour relay race.  Thunder Run is pretty simple really: in teams from 1-8 people, you simply have to get as many laps of the 10km course done as you can in the 24 hours between midday on Saturday and midday on Sunday.

Last year, I managed 4 laps (and a parkrun) in sunny, dry conditions in a team of seven.  It was tough, but it was huge fun camping with my running buddies and to do something so completely new to me.  This year, I was in a smaller team of 5 people and the weather quickly meant that every lap was maybe 10 of the longest kilometres I have ever run.  I thought before we started that I was likely to have to do 5 laps, and prepared accordingly by not pushing myself out to parkrun before we started.  As it turned out, although I had the time to get 5 laps done, my body just said no and I decided that discretion was the wiser course.  Oddly, I actually felt stronger on my fourth lap this year than I did last year, with my legs in much better shape, but the overall fatigue - a combination of the conditions and the lack of sleep - meant that I was much more tired overall and decided there would be nothing gained by flogging myself around again.

It's an amazing experience; not just the running but to spend that time in camp, laughing with your friends and sharing in the most extraordinary camaraderie between runners on the course (in particular, the awe and respect reserved for the crazy fools who attempt to complete 24 hours on the course solo).

It was bloody hard work this year in the relentless rain and sucking quagmire conditions... but just look at that smile on my wife's face in photos taken on her first lap and on her last lap (her fourth).  Doesn't that tell you everything you need to know?

My MS has affected me in lots of ways physically, but it has also unlocked a determination that I didn't know that I had and - in some ways - has enriched my life immeasurably by pushing me out of the door to discover a world I barely knew existed.

Here's to 2018.

How did you spend your weekend?

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

come on! UGH! COME ON!

Somewhat unexpectedly, I've been very much enjoying running in the Summer League races.  As the name implies, this is a series of races that take place on Wednesday nights across June, July and August around Nottinghamshire.  They're free to run: all you need is your running club vest.  The prospect of running a 5 mile race with some of the fastest runners in the county sounds awful, doesn't it? I trundle around in something like 40-minutes, but the winners are more than ten minutes faster than that.  But running clubs have changed massively, and now the field includes runners who are finishing a good half hour behind me too and I'm comfortably above halfway.  I have a little voice that whispers to me all the time that I'm not a fast enough runner to be a member of a proper running club... but I've decided to not let that voice stop me doing something that I enjoy.

Anyway.  Last week's run was up at Worksop College and the course was in Sherwood Forest.  It was a lovely setting and a gorgeous, sunny evening.  For all that I think that I've been getting slower and slower over the last few months, when I put my mind to it, I'm actually running pretty much as fast as I ever have, and my average pace over this course was something around 7:50 miles sustained over 5 miles.  I'm not going to win, but it's nice to open up the throttle and see that there's still something there.

As you would expect, you end up running with people who are around and about the same pace, and there are always a few people who you seem to be in-and-around for the whole race; sometimes pulling ahead and sometimes falling behind.  In this race, I quickly became aware that I was running with a woman who was a grunter.  I'm a relatively silent runner, but everyone is different... C. runs with a very definite double-huff for every step she takes as she controls her breathing to try and keep the asthma at bay. Whatever works, right?  This lady was making an extraordinary noise, grunting and shouting at herself:"Ugh.  Ugh. Come on!  Ugh.  COME ON!" Each to their own, but this was mildly distracting.  Still, she was running at the same pace as me, so who am I to criticise?

At about the 4 mile mark, the course turned for home up a hill along a narrow, bracken-lined path.  I don't really like hurting myself when running.  I think the way to really get faster is to be prepared push yourself into the red; to bury yourself and to manage the discomfort.  I don't like to do that, and I often find myself crossing the finish line with a little bit left in the tank.  At this particular 4 mile mark, I caught myself holding back and thought that, for once in my life and safe in the knowledge that there was less than a mile to go, I would push a bit harder.  I quickly caught up with this woman as she grunted her way up the hill, still shouting encouragement to herself.  As I passed her, for what I assumed would be the very last time, I turned to her and said:
"Well done.  Keep going."
Pretty standard stuff.  Us runners are pretty encouraging, in the main.  Or so you would think.  Far from being encouraged, this woman turned to me and said in a distinctly sharp tone of voice:
"I prefer to talk to myself"
I was so surprised, it took a moment to register that yes, she had in fact just said that to me.. and by then I was powering ahead, leaving this miserable cow in my dust.

Charming though, right?  Although, whenever I tell this story to other runners, they seem to all know exactly who I mean.  What a way to find local celebrity. 

I bet she's fun at parties. 

Not that runners go to many parties.

...and if they do, they're not drinking much because they have a long run in the morning.

But, yeah, some runners are fun at parties.  


Friday, 7 July 2017

cry me a river...

I've changed.

Time was that I thought I didn't know how to cry. It wasn't that I considered myself especially tough, and I've certainly never been a man's's just that years passed and there we no tears.  It's as if I had forgotten how.  Which is a little ironic, given that as a child, I could barely stop crying.


It seems that I now cry at the drop of a hat.  Seriously, any old shit on the television and I'm misting up like a champion.  Heart-wrenching news stories are a given, but how about a little duckling in peril on Springwatch? Sure, why not?

I was watching a documentary on the All Black rugby team the other day: Beneath the Black.  There's a segment in it where legendary All Black captain, Sean Fitzpatrick goes to visit the grave of the first All Black captain in a Flanders cemetery, where he was buried after sacrificing his life in the First World War.  It's clearly a big moment for Fitzpatrick, meeting one of his predecessors, but as he approaches the grave, we can see that someone has left a rugby ball there.  Fitzpatrick picks it up, and we can see what is written on it: "New Zealand remembers".  I was moved, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

What I do find slightly strange, however, is the fact that I found myself relaying this story to my osteopath and found myself choking up all over again, with the emotion clearly audible in my voice.

This seems to be happening to me more and more.

It's not that I'm embarrassed about it, it's just that I attended boarding schools from the age of 7 and I have 35 years of experience of repressing my feelings and of not showing any genuine emotion to even the people that I love the most.  I'm not saying that these sudden bursts of emotional incontinence are unwelcome, exactly... it's just that they're somewhat unexpected.

Monday, 3 July 2017

fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way...

I've been expecting an appointment through from one of the many consultants that I see.  I had a consultation in December and was told to expect a follow-up in six months.  Although I've been anxious to chase this appointment through, I've been as patient as I possibly can be, hoping that my name will pop up on their system in due course and that appointment will come through and everything will be tickety-boo.

I nearly called to chase them at the end of May, but counted the months back carefully on my fingers and realised that I needed to give them more time, even though I knew it was probably going to take a while between chase and appointment.  So I waited.  I was hoping there would be something on my doormat when we got back from the USA last week... but there was nothing.

So, today I called them.

"Oh yes.  You're on our system. Well, as you're on the phone now, I'll check to see what's available.  How about the 4th July.... oh!  That's tomorrow! No? Well I have an appointment on Saturday and then nothing until November."

So.... I suppose the positive to take from this is that I have the appointment I've been waiting for later on this week, which is good.  On the other hand, I can't help but think about what would have happened if I hadn't made that call this afternoon.  Presumably, that appointment on Saturday would never have come my way, and I could feasibly have been waiting until November for my follow-up.  That seems ridiculous.

Look.  I love the NHS.  My father dedicated most of his working life as a doctor to it and I've experienced up-close just how amazing it is.  Since my diagnosis with MS, I've received literally hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of care; the drugs I inject every week are worth hundreds of pounds each time, never mind all the scans and consultations and diagnostics and things.  The quality of care has been excellent and unquestioning.  I've never paid a penny directly for any of it.  That's an amazing thing and something to be celebrated and cherished.

But this episode with my appointment just seems a bit....haphazard.

Monday, 19 June 2017

data date...

Kraftwerk 3-D @ Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham - 18th June 2017

Why on earth would you want to see Kraftwerk live? Surely all they do is stand behind their computers and press play as you then lap-up an entirely pre-recorded show.  There's only one of the original band left anyway, so what's the point.   Right?

Wrong.  Completely wrong.

On a stiflingly hot evening, the air-conditioned luxury of the interior of the Royal Concert Hall was privileged to witness a remarkable show by a remarkable band.

It wasn't a particularly promising start, to be honest: queuing up politely outside the venue as we waited to get through a security check and to pick up our distinctly old-school 3-D glasses.  I felt as though perhaps I was here to watch Jaws 3-D ("the third dimension is terror!") rather than one of the most influential bands ever.  They threatened that they would be starting at 19:45 promptly too, but presumably were forced to delay because much of their audience had not yet made it into the venue.

We were so close to the stage that I was also a touch worried that we might not be in the best possible position to enjoy the 3-D effects... but actually I needn't have worried and was able to enjoy both my up-close view of Ralf Hutter and the splendid effects played on the huge screen behind the band.  As you would expect, the visuals were distinctly old-school, with a touch of the ZX Spectrum about them, but they were cunningly deployed and staggeringly effective: at one point, the aerial on the front of an orbiting satellite coming straight out of the screen had loads of people around me ducking out of the way.  We were also able to enjoy the sight of a UFO buzzing past the Council House on Old Market Square before landing right outside the Concert Hall.  

I joked before going in that we would probably have to get beered-up and then chuck lager around bellowing along to Man-Machine... and indeed, I think it's fair to say that the average age of the audience was well above 40. But, then again, the band was formed in 1969, and since when have the kids been reliable arbiters of good taste? It wasn't so very long ago that I walked past a crowd of youth queuing up outside of Rock City whilst I joined an audience of a similar vintage to watch Brian Wilson performing Pet Sounds. (Although, to be fair, ticket prices for both of those gigs is probably beyond the budget of most students, even if they would have stronger bladders that would have meant less standing up and down as people shuffled out during Kraftwerk's set for a quick pee).

One thing that strikes you immediately about watching Krafwerk live, once you've got over the 3-D effects, is quite how much they are actually playing this stuff.  I know that sounds obvious, but you can't see what they've got on their podiums as they stand their in their identical jumpsuits.  I'd imagined that it would probably just be laptops or something, but clearly each of those four guys up there has a keyboard as well, and they're clearly physically really involved in what they're playing, as they inter-weave their music together to create the most wonderful harmonies, with Hutter adding vocals over the top.  The tunes are mostly familiar, of course, not least because I've got most of the records, but because they have also been sampled many, many times over and are very distinctive cultural markers.  The band themselves are mostly impassive, but you do get some foot-tapping and Hutter himself flashes the occasional half-smile as they expertly mesh this music together.

My highlights are predictable: Computer World, Computer Love, The Man-Machine, The Model, Radioactivity (actually the first Kraftwerk album I owned, picked up on an Our Price bargain bin without a cover for the grand price of £1 - it was chilling then and it's even more chilling now as Fukishimi is added to the list of nuclear disasters) and a splendid run of songs from Tour de France.  For the Encore, the band are actually replaced by robots for The Robots (do you see what they did there?) before the band return for their final blast, each taking a solo turn before departing, Hutter departign the stage with a smile and an "auf wiedersehen", leaving us to stagger back out into the clammy night to catch our breath.

An amazing gig.  The word 'legendary' is thrown around far too much, but I think it's fair to say that, when it comes to Kraftwerk, it's entirely justified.  Lots of people have tried to copy them, but no one has come close. I'm not going to Glastonbury this year, but at least I've seen one amazing gig this summer.

Verdict: 9 / 10

Computer World
It's More Fun to Compute / Home Computer
Computer Love
The Man-Machine
The Model
Neon Lights
Intermission / News
Geiger Counter / Radioactivity
Electric Café
Tour De France / Prologue / Etape 1 / Chrono / Etape 2
Trans Europe Express / Metal on Metal / Abzug
Encore 1:
The Robots
Encore 2:
Aéro Dynamik
Planet of Visions
Boing Boom Tschak / Techno Pop / Musique Non Stop

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

you call this bacon?

I really enjoy being part of a choir.

Even if I didn’t work towards any performances in front of an actual audience, I still think it would be worthwhile. There’s something pure and therapeutic about just singing for a couple of hours a week, and there’s something wonderful about a choir of human voices coming together in harmony.

…I just wish that some of our songs were a bit better. Or perhaps by “better”, I really mean “a bit cooler”. Don’t get me wrong though: it’s definitely not that I’m too-cool-for-school, and there are very few songs in our repertoire that I actively dislike. In fact, some of the ones that I thought I liked the least have often turned out to be the ones that I have enjoyed singing the most…. it’s just that there’s something downright WRONG about being caught in the office quietly singing "Little Town (Belle's Song)" from the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack to myself as I sit at my desk. I’ve never even seen the Disney animation and I’ve certainly not seen the recent adaptation starring Emma Watson, and yet this has been my number one earworm for several weeks now. My wife actually walked into the kitchen this weekend to find me singing this song along with Alexa as I was cooking.
“Er, What’s this?”
It’s Emma Watson singing on the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack
“Why on earth are you playing this?”
“Because choir”
“Ah. I see” [shakes head sadly and walks off]

You know what, I actually quite like it, too.

For the record though, “Wind Beneath My Wings” is not a beautiful, uplifting song… it’s a dirge and a #humblebrag. I have my limits.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

cool water...

I was running intervals this evening, so throughout my day at work, I kept meaning to go and buy a bottle of water to take with me... but I kept forgetting and I was busy so never seemed to quite get around to it.  When I finally remembered at around 1645, I was mildly irritated to discover that all of our catering outlets had shut.  This was irritating because they say they're all open until 5pm, but that seems to be based upon my foolish belief that the opening hours reflect when a customer can shop rather than the moment when the staff leave and pull down the shutters.

Not to be deterred, I set out to have a look at the various vending machines we have around the place. Hmm.  Unless I wanted a can of Coke, it looked like I was out of luck.

Oh... hang on a minute.  This machine has cartons of apple juice.  That'll do.  I scramble around for the loose change and the machine slowly dispenses me a carton.  I open the drawer and discover that the bloody thing doesn't have a straw.

Never mind.

I'll buy another one.  I'll drink that much anyway and I can just use the one straw on both cartons.  I put in my remaining change, but for some reason the machine won't dispense me another carton.  I seem to be 15p short and it won't take coppers and that's all the change I've got left.  I try and refund the money and now it won't come out of the machine at all.  OK.  Whatever.  I dash upstairs to borrow 20p and run come back to the machine only to find it has now swallowed my money (or someone has nipped in and used up my credit in the time I've been away).

Deep breath.

I take some money out of the cash machine round the corner and use the nearby change machine to turn a £10 note into ten £1 coins.  I now have a bulging wallet, but the funds needed to buy another carton of juice.

There are no further vending machine related incidents to report, so I head back to my desk with two cartons of juice, one straw and a funny story to tell my neighbour.

"Oh.  You need a bottle of water?  Well I've got one from my meal deal that you can have if you want.  It was free"

....... sigh.

I took my apple juice and IT WAS DELICIOUS.

I only needed one carton.