Tuesday, 7 July 2015

heaven knows I've tried....

The current season at choir is celebrating the first five years and is a "best of" selection of the most popular songs from every season to date, voted for by the members.  That's fifteen songs in total, which is great, but is also fully five more than we would usually cover in a single season.

That's a lot to get through when you only really have a couple of hours a week together to work with.  Of course, because it's a "best of" season, many people in the choir have done some or all of these songs before, so it's probably not that big a deal.  I only joined last season, so of those fifteen songs, I only really know one.  The rest have been a bit of a ride, with less time spent on each song and some barely being covered at all.  Not to mention what you miss when you can't attend a session.

I won't lie: it's been a bit of a struggle.

It's a bit like exams.  When the whole season stretched out in front of me, there didn't seem to be any great urgency, and I didn't spend a whole lot of time listening to the MP3s of my part and trying to get the words down off by heart.  Then, suddenly, before I really knew what was happening, I was back from Glastonbury (whoops, there's one session gone) and realising that I only had a couple of weeks before our end of season concert and that I didn't know many of the songs half as well as perhaps I should.

You're allowed your books at most of the concerts, but in my experience, it's much better to be able to put them aside and to focus your full attention on the musical director, because he works so hard to cue us in and make sure we're singing at the right speed and volumes and things like that.  If you're not watching him, you may be sure of all the words and most of the notes (if you can read music), but you miss so much else.

With the final concerts looming, I put in some focused effort over the last week and have really tried to listen to these damn songs as much as I can.  I might have guessed that a Phantom of the Opera medley might be wordy, but who knew that "Lean on Me" had so many damn words? Or that there are so many subtleties of volume in singing "World in Union"?  And don't get me started on the ridiculous changes of pace in "The World That We Created".  I'm struggling with the absurdly pompous lyrics as it is.

Still, at least we can all agree that the "Frozen Heart" / "Let it Go" medley is going to bring the house down, right?  My colleagues are going to make a night of it and come to watch me perform next week, and they've asked if it's okay to sing along.  Help yourselves.....

I've downloaded a few albums since getting back from Glastonbury: the new Everything Everything and Django Django; I've bought some Frank Turner and I need to be paying more attention to the Sufjan Stevens and Blur and Muse albums too.  I also need to get my teeth into the compilation CD that Ali and Lilly were kind enough to send me months ago.... but no, for the next few weeks, until I get through all the performances, I'll be mostly listening to those damn MP3s of the bass part of these damn songs.

Still, looking on the brightside, the songs we're covering in the winter season have been announced: as well as including "White Winter Hymnal", we'll also be singing "A Wombling Christmas".  How could anyone resist that?

Monday, 6 July 2015


You'll probably remember that I wear an ankle cuff when I run to try and prevent my ankle dropping.  This is mostly to stop me from scuffing my foot when I get tired, which has the immediate effect of sometimes making me fall spectacularly over, but has a rather more insidious knock-on effect on my foot, knees and hips.

On the whole it works pretty well, but I have had to make a few adjustments.

As you can see, underneath the ankle brace itself, I wear two separate sweatbands.  There's a two-fold reason for this.  The cuff itself acts as an anchor for an elastic strap which stretches down and attaches to a hook that I insert underneath the laces in my running shoe.  The stretched elastic flexes as I flex my ankle as I run, but it provides an extra spring to help the ankle fully flex back in my stride, rather than hanging back and dragging on the floor.  As I discovered in marathon training, this transfers force into my ankle and shin, and after long runs, I often end up with a big, swollen bruise.  I combat this by wearing a sweatband on the affected area.  It seems to work,

The second sweatband forms a more obvious purpose, and it's one that I discovered I needed the hard way:

As I run, the ankle cuff chafes.  Because I'm a runner, and because runners learn to ignore pain, this meant that I was often making bloody great big holes in my leg.  I now have a selection of interesting scars around my left ankle, but I also now wear a second sweatband to try and prevent from getting any more.

Does the whole damn contraption work?  Yeah, I reckon.  I've been falling over a lot less, anyway.


I went out for a ten mile run yesterday.  It was pretty hot, but for the first 4 miles, I was holding a pretty reasonable pace..... and then my body blew up, and I started getting slower and slower as fatigue gripped me across the shoulders and my body screamed at me to stop running.  I completed the full ten miles, obviously.  It wasn't much fun, and I slept most of the afternoon and had an early night, but I finished the run.  This evening's 7 miler was a little easier.

Grittily determined  / stubborn past the point of stupidity.... I'll let you decide.  Probably both.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

everything louder than everything else....

So, I've had a few days back in the real world and a little bit of time to reflect on last week at Glastonbury.  I could probably go on about this for hours, but I'll settle instead for picking out a few obvious highlights:

The Dalai Lama – there were rumours that he was going to appear, but – for obvious reasons – no clear timetable. We were sitting around the tipi on Sunday morning when I got a push message from the Glastonbury app saying that he would be appearing in the King’s Meadow at 10:45. Could we be bothered to get up and out and across to the next field in the next twenty minutes? For the Dalai Lama? Yeah, go on then. He was great. It turns out that, as well as being the leader-in-exile of Tibet, he’s also pleasingly human and has a wonderful, earthy chuckle. He likes nine hours sleep and gets up at 3am to meditate for 5 hours. What does he meditate about? Oh, all sorts of things… although he did confess that he had a bit of a problem with his mind wandering. You and me both, old son! He’s 80 years old this week too, so we sang him Happy Birthday. He turned up again later on, during Patti Smith’s (brilliant) set on the Pyramid that afternoon. I think seeing Patti Smith conduct the crowd in a mass singalong of Happy Birthday as the Dalai Lama blew out the candles and cut his birthday cake onstage might be the most Glastonbury moment ever.

Lionel Richie – As soon as it was announced that he was performing (and he was the first act to confirm), I knew that I was going to be there. There were probably 120,000 people crammed into the Pyramid arena – easily the biggest single crowd of the festival – to watch the great man work his magic. It’s not just that he has the songs (“Easy”, “Hello”, “Brick House”, “Say You, Say Me”, “Dancing on the Ceiling” etc. etc), it’s the lifetime of stagecraft. We were putty in his hands. There were lots of Lionel t-shirts and flags in the crowd, and I saw when I looked at iTunes when I got home that he’s also a trending search on iTunes too. Sounds like everyone’s happy. He was brilliant. A proper legend.

Cider Bus Thursday – It’s becoming a welcome tradition that I meet up with a couple of old school friends at the cider bus on Thursday afternoon. I’ve known both of them for at least thirty years now, and it’s brilliant to catch up. One of them I see all the time, but the other I see much less frequently and we’ve got so much shared history that it’s great to drink atomically strong Somerset cider and to shoot the breeze. James had a very different festival to me: he’s a journalist and is able to blag his way to various after-shows. He’s got pictures with Florence off of the Machine and Mark Ronson. All well and good, but he didn’t get a picture with Lekiddo, the lord of the lobsters, did he?

Lekiddo, the Lord of the Lobsters – The early-adopters in my gang were all over this last year, so I was a little late coming to the party…. But oh my goodness. He’s almost impossible to describe: something like a children’s entertainer, only not really for children and with some insanely catchy songs with accompanying dance moves. I saw him up at the Rabbit Hole on Thursday evening, and there were about twenty people in the crowd dressed up as lobsters. He’s utterly irresistible. The Guardian were there that night too, and they gave him a five star review. He plays all over the festival, and we saw him again on Saturday at the Summerhouse stage. Brilliant all over again. Do yourself a favour and join the pinchy pinchy kiss kiss people.

Billy Bragg - an annual appointment for me, but an especially good moment this year was when Billy paused in the middle of his Friday night headline slot at the Leftfield tent to talk about the SCOTUS decision on gay marriage in the USA. We’re a right-on kind of a crowd, so of course we cheered that to the rafters. Billy then played “Sexuality” and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. I spent a little bit more time at the Leftfield this year. No Tony Benn, sadly…. But I did see a couple of the daily “radical roundups”, the second of which saw Billy doing a Q&A session with Frank Turner, with them performing songs together. I was vaguely familiar with Frank Turner, but he was great fun… a real highlight was when he and Bragg got up and played “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” together. Superb. Of all the artists I saw at the festival, it's Frank Turner's albums that I've downloaded when I got home.

Oli’s Halloumi Cones – You don’t normally associate the immediate side of the main stage with quality catering. Even at Glastonbury, where the food is generally excellent, this is the territory of the brown vans selling dubious burgers. Not so much, any more. These Halloumi cones are pretty famous, and I had one for breakfast on Saturday morning after watching the Unthanks (I was stood right behind Mark Radcliffe in the crowd, and he talked pretty much all the way though!). Ah. Breakfast of champions: deep-fried cheese with some delightfully minty salad. I could practically feel the health going in. Shout out too for the Jerk Chicken, rice and peas I had by the Leftfield and the proper beef stew with dumplings that I had down by John Peel. Mmmmm. Only one pie this year, mind you. Must try harder next time.

Geoff – I had quite a few random messages on twitter after the marathon (the MS Trust mentioned me on their feed). One was from a guy called Geoff who also ran as part of the MS team at the London marathon.  It was a nice message, but I didn't reply.  It turns out that Geoff is a superintendent of police in Avon and Somerset and that he was going to be the man in charge of police on the ground at the festival.  What's more, he was really keen to meet up.  You know you're getting old when you're friendly with a senior police officer, eh?  We met up on Saturday evening outside the Beat Hotel after Pharrell and as we were walking down to the John Peel.  Geoff was in full uniform and I was wearing a pink tutu and a zebra hat.  It was Geoff that insisted on the selfie!  He told us that the festival has changed enormously over the years, and back in the bad old days before the fence, there were large areas of the site where they didn't dare send a uniformed officer.  These days, it's a much friendlier place.  The only place they don't send uniformed officers is the stone circle, but there are officers there and they wouldn't hesitate to send in the uniforms if necessary.  He told us that it's a very popular assignment with the police cadets, but they have to be counted both in and out of the site to make sure they haven't lost anybody.  He's a great guy and it was really interesting to meet him and to get a bit of insight into how the festival works.

Tipi – It's not really glamping: all you get is the tipi and a groundsheet and you share the space with five other people.... but the tipi was great.  Part of it was the simple joy of not having to lug a tent into the site or to worry about having herds of people tramping all over your guy ropes and kicking you in the head as they stumbled in the dark.  It was surprisingly roomy and comfortable too, with plenty of room for all of us and our luggage.  We were in a fenced off area, carefully guarded by security (after a spate of robberies a couple of years ago), and sometimes it felt like we were exhibits in a zoo as people walked past outside the fence on the way to the Park or to the Green Fields.  We had some composting toilets (the nicest kind on the site), a shower lorry, a cafe and a camp fire.  It was nice.  I was slightly surprised by the age of our fellow residents.  It's not cheap or easy to rent one of these babies, but everyone seemed surprisingly young.  They also seemed really happy to queue and were most often to be found standing in a huge queue for the showers or for the cafe... both of which baffled me somewhat, because there are plenty of other food outlets a mere stone's throw away in the Park and the showers would be pretty much empty later on in the day... but each to their own, eh?  Live and let live and all that.  The bottom line of the experience is that I would definitely do it again and it made a really pleasant change to be based up at that end of the site in such a nice space.  It didn't leak when it rained and I could stand up inside.  What more could you want?

Suede – The only other time that I have seen Suede live was in 1993 when they headlined the Other Stage at Glastonbury, shortly before the release of their much-hyped debut album.  That's half a lifetime ago, and both of us have seen a lot of water pass under the bridge since then.  Kanye was playing the Pyramid at the same time, but the protests about his booking have baffled me: if you don't want to watch him, there are hundreds of other things to do.  For me, the choice was easy: Suede on the John Peel stage.  To cut a long story short, they were brilliant and by some distance the best band that I saw over the weekend.  They played a mix of the old and new, and they just sounded brilliant.  Boy, have they got some tunes and they've held up really, really well over the years. Brett Anderson looks ridiculously good and seemed determined to throw himself around with the commitment of a much younger man.  If I'm a wiser man now than I was back in 1993, then Suede are also a better band now than they were then.

Alt-J / Everything Everything / Motorhead / Patti Smith / Hot Chip / The Unthanks / The Charlatans / La Roux - a shout-out to some of the other bands that I saw, all of whom I enjoyed greatly. As always with this festival, it wasn't until I got home that I really had a look at the programme and realised how, even though I've been to thirteen of these things now, I still haven't nailed it.  One of these years, if I'm lucky enough to get tickets again, I really should just sack off the main stages and spend my time wandering around taking in the fringes of the festival.  The music is great, and it was good this year to be away from the main stage so much (I didn't see a single Pyramid headliner.  I think I saw them all last year)... but there's still so much to do and so much more to see.  No one can do it all, but I'm not done with this place quite yet.

I wrote an article last year for the MS Trust about attending the Glastonbury Festival with MS.  My conclusion was that you have to be careful to make sure you rest enough and drink enough water, but that this was true for everyone and not just for people with MS.  After all, I said, I might have MS but I do the festival far better now than I did when I first attended in 1993.

I hope I can say the same thing in another 22 years.

Good times.  The best of times.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

land of confusion....

Some of the younger members of my team had a board game night yesterday. They came into the office clutching bags filled with games like “Settlers of Catan”, “Dead of Winter” and “Would I Lie to You?” ready for the evening ahead of them (doesn’t anybody play “The Game of Life” anymore?).

Inevitably, they ended up playing “Cards Against Humanity”

They came back into the office this morning telling stories of their night. Amongst the guests were a bunch of guys who are on the graduate training scheme. It seems that Cards Against Humanity is a bit of a struggle for your average 23 year-old graduate: apparently one of the other players had absolutely no idea what “Auschwitz” might be, didn’t know what “dysentery” was (or how to pronounce it) and was also stumped by the word “solace”

Now, I know that this game isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, and you need to be a little careful who you play with in case anyone is easily offended (although, in my experience, the person you think would like the game the least is often the one who runs away with it)…. But you’d expect most reasonably intelligent people to at least be able to understand all of the words, wouldn’t you?

Apparently not.

How is it possible to come all the way through our higher education system without even a passing knowledge of the most infamous concentration camp of them all? Isn’t that exactly the kind of stuff we should be teaching our children? Aren't we supposed to be never forgetting that sort of thing? What exactly are we teaching them? Don’t they have any intellectual curiosity, damnit?

This, remember, is the carefully selected talent that will one day be running the business and perhaps the world.

We’re doomed. No really: we’re doomed.

Children are the future, my arse.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

see me right...

I'll probably have more to say on this subject on another day.... for now, suffice it to say that I love my friends and I love this festival....

Thanks for everything, Glastonbury 2015.  Another corker.  Same time next year?

Friday, 19 June 2015

you should have known by now you were on my list...

I head off down to Glastonbury on Tuesday next week.  Luckily, I’ve just seen a list of handy festival gadgets for the festival that included (amongst many other marvellous things) an inflatable tent (a mere £368.98).  Luckily, the same list also included a Swiss Army Knife…. Presumably in case you should happen upon one of those inflatable tents.

 This is my twelfth Glastonbury.  I think. I make a mess of this calculation every year. It’s 1993 plus every one since 2002. *checks*. Ah apparently it’s number 13.

Anyway, with the benefit of all those years of hard-earned experience, here are a few things I've learned.  I make no claims that this list is exhaustive or even useful, but they're things that popped into my head as I contemplated that inflatable tent (which, to make matters worse, apparently weighs a ton too).

The tips:

1) Wet wipes. This should be the second item on your list after ticket.

2) Take a goon bag of red wine, but don’t save it all up and then find you have seven of the damn things to drink on Sunday between you. A red wine hangover on Monday is not really something you should aspire to (although, to be fair, there was one year that was so wet on Sunday night that the red wine buzz was the only thing that made it bearable. I have only the vaguest memories of standing at a stage way out by the East Gates watching Bill Bailey as it lashed it down. I don’t remember a word of his set, but I do remember falling out with my wife on the way back to the tent. Good times).

3) Bring booze by all means, but don’t be ridiculous about it. You would not believe how many slabs of shit lager or cider people bring in. I understand, but all those cans are left lying about and frankly, who wants to drink warm strongbow when you can get a delicious Burrow Hill cider at the cider bus? I’ll probably bring in some spiced rum, the wine and a few cans of beer for the first day. Are you really going to sit around your tent drinking all day? Can’t you do that at home?  For goodness sake, if you must do that, at least pick up a green bag and recycle your cans.  I sound about 104, don't I?

4) Don’t worry about the weather forecast: there’s not a damn thing you can do to influence it and they’ll all probably be wrong anyway. TOP TIP: if it rains at any point in the next week, the site will be a quagmire even if the festival itself is pretty dry. Muddy festivals are different, but you’ll have just as much fun. Experience tells me that the typical weather for England at the end of June is the sort that requires you to wear a raincoat AND put sun cream on your nose. It’s all good. Hot festivals can be horrible too. 2010 was merciless as there’s just no shade anywhere on the site and you can’t hide in your tent

5) Take your boots. Whatever the forecast. The worst thing that can happen is you don’t need them, but you do not want to be one of those people who are caught out when it suddenly and unexpectedly gets muddy and you only have tiny little trainers or crocs or something. Ditto a decent raincoat and hat.

6) It gets cold at night. Take a properly warm layer. I take a down jacket. It packs small and is toasty. Makes a good pillow, if nothing else.

7) Glastonbury is vast and it can take ages to get anywhere. Bring sensible shoes. Related to this, wellies are actually really uncomfortable to wear all day and you will sweat so much you will get wet socks. I wear steel toe-capped rigger boots. They’re tax free, plenty waterproof enough and a LOT more comfortable and easy to kick on and off. I wear them on dry years too, to be honest.

8) Try not to bring too much. You’ll probably have to walk a long way from car to camp, and if you have too much stuff, that journey can be hellish. If you’re going to bring a trolley, make sure it’s a sturdy one and forget about bringing a wheelie bag. This is a farm, after all, and on a wet year, the path into the site is a graveyard of inadequate trollies and bags.  I actually find I need fewer clothes in a wet year as I tend to wear the same dirty set. My basic fashion rule is that everything should be practical but that you should aim to not dress entirely in forest casual greens and browns. Also, don’t bring anything valuable and carry your money around with you. I’ve heard that people will even nick your trousers out of your tent for your wallet when you’re in there and asleep. Just be careful. If you haven’t got anything worth taking, then you haven’t really got anything to worry about.

9) Don’t plan to charge your phone or take cash out on the site. It’s just avoidable queuing. Switching off data and Bluetooth and switching off completely at night will see even an iPhone last a surprising amount of time. I bring a battery pack thing that’s good for 4 or 5 full charges too, but maybe just wean yourself off facebook for a few days.  I know, right?  Imagine!

10) It might sound ridiculously middle class, but we take a stove and a hob top espresso maker. Coffee is essential but expensive and you’ll have to queue. This is just easier, and it's at your tent. And you can take tea bags and stuff for a mid-afternoon brew up.

11) Don’t build a ridiculous schedule of bands and expect to be able to see them all. Make a couple of key strategic decisions and work the rest around that. Prepare to be flexible. In my experience, the best festival experiences happen away from the main stage

12) Don’t get angry about the lineup. If you don’t like Kanye, don’t watch him. There’s plenty of other stuff to do.

13) Don’t get really, really smashed. It’s horrible. Also, you don’t want to wake up in a blazing hot tent at 5am with the mother of all hangovers and only red wine to slake your thirst.

14) The earliest license on site is the organic fruit wine tent in the green fields. Good times.

15) Don’t bring food. The sheer breadth of choices onsite is astonishing. Even if you’re skint. I took a loaf of bread in 1993 as well as some tins of beans. Even as a skint student, I didn’t touch them.

16) Talk to people you don’t know. There are some brilliant people at this festival and most people are pretty chilled and happy. There are some dicks too, but they are quite easy to spot and avoid (don’t remind me of the time that Oasis headlined. Ugh)

17) Don’t be scared of the toilets. Talk of immodium is just silly. They’re really not that bad (and the long drops are actually the best option). Don’t be one of those people who pulls a face as they walk out of their cubicle…. Your shit doesn’t smell of roses, so get over yourselves. Although, you know, don’t look down.

18) Don’t stand at the taps trying to wash your hair. It’s selfish and water gets everywhere. If you must shower, go and queue at the greenpeace ones in the green fields. Failing that, just have a whore’s bath with wet wipes. Even you can manage a few days without a shower. We all stink. If you get really clean, that just makes you realise quite how much the rest of us smell.

19) Don’t be a dick. Be considerate to everyone else and to the farm itself. Love the farm, leave no trace…. That means don’t piss in the hedges and try and put your rubbish in the bins. They give you black and green rubbish bags as you go into the site. Use them around your campsite. It’s really not hard.

20) Enjoy yourself. The weather might be awful, but if you approach everything with a sense of humour and a smile, you’ll have a lot more fun.

Tip 19 is probably the most important one, to be honest. Don’t be a dick. That’s the prime directive.

We're in a tipi this year, although apparently I'm the only one out of the six of us that doesn't snore.  Well, it's a 24 hour festival and I usually take ear plugs anyway, plus I went to a boarding school, and no one in the world can possibly snore like Patrick Lo.  I'm old enough that I do like my beauty sleep whilst the youngsters party.

See you in a field.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

here comes the summer...

I take no pleasure in saying this, but the average British person has simply got no idea how to dress. Look around you, and wherever you are, I’m sure you’ll know it to be the truth: we just don’t seem to know what’s appropriate and neither do we seem to know what makes us look good. How else would you explain Frankenshoes, those appalling platformed high heels? I don’t think there’s a person on the Earth – supermodels included - who is able to wear them and to look graceful rather than like a bunch-backed clumping elephant.

Summer is a particularly bleak time. The first sign of the sun and the average British person breaks out their summer gear, pretty much whatever the actual temperature outside. I was in town the other week, and although it was sunny, it was pretty chilly and I was glad of my coat. Everyone else was apparently happy to slop about in short, t-shirt and flip-flops (the men brazenly displaying their horrible feet to the world). We also seem determined to dress to emphasise our negative points. I wonder if some of these people actually looked in a mirror before deciding to buy something, never mind before wearing it out in public. Don’t these people have friends in their lives? Friends don’t let friends wear jeggings stretched to the point of transparency out in public. Not even in Primark.

The office environment can be confusing too. My company instituted a “business casual” policy about ten years ago, with the only stipulation that you shouldn’t wear football shirts or crop tops (although the unspoken rules were many).  They haven’t subsequently revised the policy, but we have slowly drifted back towards suits through a process of gradual peer pressure. I tend to wear smart trousers and an open-collared shirt, and to be honest it’s a lot easier than worrying about which colour of chinos would be deemed the most smart casual. Not everyone thinks the same way, and you see some remarkable outfits in the workplace… many in conjunction with expansive tattooing. Now, I have tattoos. I don’t have a problem with tattoos…. But why would you get a fist-sized golden snitch tattooed on your breastbone and then wear a scooped t-shirt to work?

My current bug bear is the metrosexual male, many now sadly also blended with hipster, resulting in an eye-watering blend of beard, sharpened eyebrows, v-necked t-shirts, tattoo sleeves and tan brogues. There’s a guy who sits round the corner from me - a perfectly normal looking bloke: not skinny, not especially fat (if a bit fleshy)… but he likes to wear trousers that are styled slightly too short (deliberately, I think) with brown, Native American-style moccasins and no socks. I think he works in HR, so maybe that explains it.

Mind you, there’s another guy who stamps about near where I live with a beard, fedora and manbag, stamping about wearing a huge pair of builder boots when he doesn’t look like he could lift a bag of feathers, never mind a bag of sand.

Oh wait. That’s me.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

after all, he's just a man...

One of my old running buddies asked me today if I had an opinion on the existence of women only races. This is “Race for Life” season, and the Embankment on the river Trent was covered with wave after wave of ladies dressed in pink last weekend, running 5km to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Alongside their running numbers, many wear hand-written signs detailing who they are running for; some with pictures; many no longer with us.

It’s quite an emotional event, and it always seems like a glorious celebration to me. I have a friend who runs it every year, she trains for a few weeks before the event and worries about whether she’s going to be able to make it and then proudly takes selfies, all red-faced at the finish. She tries to shrug it off and tells me that she’s not a real runner, but I always tell her that she’s just the same as me: runners run. If you run, you are a runner. It’s that simple.  Don't let anyone try and tell you that it isn't.

Does it bother me that I’m excluded from races like this? Not really. You know the kind of person who complains on International Women’s Day that there isn’t an International Men’s Day? Why would I want to be that guy? Why would anyone want to be that guy?   If it bothers you that much, please feel free to set up your own, male only event.  Besides, the other 364 days of the year and most of the human existence has been one long international men's day, hasn't it? Really?

So no, I’m not threatened by a women only race or opposed to the idea of it. Why would I be?  Some of the strongest people I know happen to be women (some of the quickest runners too, for what that's worth).  Sheesh.  Haven't people got more important things to be worrying about?

As it happens, my nephew and niece have just taken part in the schools version of race for life (which is open to both boys and girls).  My 8 year old niece managed a full 5km and her little brother something less than that.  My dad sent me pictures of the cards they pinned to their t-shirts.  To say he was touched is something of an understatement:


Adorable, no?

If you're interested, here's the Cancer Research position on why Race for Life remains a women only event:

"When we launched Race for Life in 1994 it was unique due to the fact that it was a women only event and this aspect has really shaped how the series has grown from strength to strength each year. The atmosphere on the day of Race for Life events has a strong sense of sisterhood, uniting all women with a common goal, to raise funds to beat cancer. We regularly review our events to make them the best they can be and four years ago we seriously looked at whether we should let men enter Race for Life. However, our research showed that Race for Life’s success is due to its appeal to women as a women-only event and to allow men to enter could bring in less income for the charity’s life saving work. We cannot risk this vital source of income to cancer research. We hope you understand that this decision has been made in the best interests of the cause."

A women only race? Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

make me wanna scream....

Maybe it’s because I’m not a parent, maybe it’s because I’m a miserable bastard…. But I find that the noise of a crying baby cuts right through me. I look around, and pretty much everybody else seems to be looking over at the wailing infant with happy, indulgent smiles, but for me it’s like fingernails down a blackboard. Only much, much more grating.

Am I weird? Am I perhaps missing some important nurturing part of my genetic makeup?

Or maybe – just maybe - it’s bang out of order to bring your screaming child into an open-plan office environment and then sit around chatting with your mates for nearly an hour.

Yeah. I reckon it’s that.

Take it away and don’t bring it back until it has learnt how to keep its unhappiness at being in that building locked away inside.

 We all feel like that, but the rest of us have learned to internalise our pain and to suffer more quietly.

Monday, 15 June 2015

It's a love story, baby....

Today, someone in all seriousness explained to me why the project to merge two teams together was called “Project Windsor”. Apparently it’s because the love of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson was so great that they were able to overcome all obstacles and opposition that was preventing them from being together, and this project was just like that. Well, what the person actually said to me was something like:

“I’ve just been in this incredibly boring meeting where some bloke explained how the project to bring our teams together was called Windsor because of the love of two people or something. I’ve no idea what he was talking about”
“Windsor? You mean Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson? The Duke and Duchess of Windsor”
“Yeah. That was them”
“And he was using them as a good example of love conquering all?”
“I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. Don’t most people think they were pretty unpleasant people and Nazi sympathisers?”

Seems a bit of a strange example to me. Of all the star-crossed lovers you could have picked through all of history and literature, and you chose those two?  I suppose at least one person in the world has seen that apparently godawful Madonna film about them then, eh?

People are weird. I bet he’s probably seen that Diana film too.  Hell, even "Wessex" would probably be a better choice: the untold love story of Edward and Sophie.  No?  You're not buying that?  It would make an amazing film.  Especially that bit where he tells his dad he's leaving the marines to set up a theatrical production company.

(My wife - who is kind of a big deal and knows this sort of stuff - tells me that project names should be picked at random from the dictionary and have absolutely nothing to do with the thing you’re working on, no matter how obliquely. For that reason, I’m code-naming this post “Project Insulsity”)