Monday, 24 April 2017

our work is never over...

Today marks the start of MS Awareness Week.



The MS Trust has an ambition to make sure that everyone with multiple sclerosis in the UK has access to an MS nurse.  As they explain on their website:

"MS specialist nurses are vital for people living with MS. They can help them adjust to diagnosis, consider complicated treatment options, manage a wide range of symptoms and learn to live well with an unpredictable, often debilitating, lifelong condition.

"Without MS nurses, people with MS may have to manage difficult symptoms alone. They may also have to rely on expensive emergency care when their symptoms get worse.

"MS Trust research into nursing levels across the UK has found around two-thirds of the 108,000 people with MS in the UK live in areas where there aren’t enough MS nurses."

I'm lucky enough to have access to MS nurses in Nottingham. In fact, these nurses have provided me with more care and attention than the neurologists that I see. It was an MS nurse who taught me how to inject; it was an MS nurse who provided me with access to physiotherapy and orthotics to help me keep running; it was an MS nurse who provided me with the letter that enabled me to convince a doctor in Australia to pass me fit to dive in a dive medical in Cairns (he wasn't sure, but Maxine telling him that everything would be fine made all the difference.  I sent her a postcard from the Great Barrier Reef that she still mentions from time to time).  Above all, it's the MS nurses who are my first phonecall if anything happens and who provide my access to the NHS.  They're wonderful, and I was shocked when I heard that my younger brother didn't have access to an MS nurse where he used to live in Northamptonshire and was instead forced to deal directly with drugs company funded nurses.

That's not cool.

The MS Trust is a brilliant charity, and providing everyone with MS in the UK access to an MS nurse is a fantastic ambition... more than that, it's an ambition that I'm keen to support.

So....

Exactly 365 days ago, C. and I ran the London Marathon for the second time to raise money for the MS Trust. Between the marathon in 2015 and the one last year, we raised something in excess of £20,000. That's not too shabby and helps a very worthwhile charity make a real difference to the lives of people with MS.

We've had a year off fundraising and off marathons this year, and I've had a few problems with my legs that have affected my running and the way I feel about my running.  But you know what? I want a target and I want to make a difference... so we're going to run the London marathon again in 2018 (if the MS Trust will have us, obviously.  Even if we get in on the ballot, we'll still be fundraising).

I ran 2015 side-by-side with my wife, but crossed the finish line knowing that I wanted to run it on my own.  I ran 40 minutes faster in 2016, but I've got very little desire to push my body that hard this time around.  Things have changed physically for me, and I want to take on this challenge to prove to myself one more time that I've got the mental strength to complete another marathon.... running again with my wife, if she'll put up with me.  I only have to look around the waiting room at an MS clinic to know how lucky I am. My legs might be a bit weird at the moment, but I'm running a half marathon this coming weekend and I know I still have a lot to be thankful for.  I want to use some of that to try and raise some money that will really make a difference to the lives of people diagnosed with this horrible bloody condition.


I think this one might be emotional.

#strongerthanMS #364daystogo

Thursday, 20 April 2017

you can find me in the club...


Yesterday, I made my debut for an actual athletics club; I wore my club colours and I took part in the first summer league race of the season… a 5.2 mile race down back roads, paths and fields around a lovely stately home at Hexgreave Hall. That sounds much more hardcore than it actually was: although the person who won crossed the line in something under twenty-five minutes and you needed to be a member of a running club to take part, the person who finished last probably took something in excess of sixty minutes. The guys and girls in my club are generally all whippets who leave me in their dust, so I was initially a bit reluctant to put myself in a position where I might be exposed as a laggard.. but then it was pointed out to me that a blind lady from our parkrun would be taking part representing a club called the Woodthorpe Huffers and Puffers, so I felt a little bit like I’d run out of excuses and put my name down.

I completed the course in a time of a little over 41 minutes. It’s quite mixed terrain, with some quite bumpy bits on grass that compelled me to slow down a bit rather than risk falling over (which I nearly did a couple of times), but on the whole I was quite pleased. In position 280, I was comfortably the last male member of my team to finish, but was probably barely halfway down the whole field. More importantly, the whole atmosphere was lovely and supportive and my team made me feel welcome and valued. And of course, because they almost all finished before me, they all clapped and cheered me in, which was nice.


As I mentioned the other day, I’ve been making excuses about my running because I feel like I should explain why I’m not going faster. I resisted the urge yesterday and I even cautiously allowed myself to be slightly pleased. I ran the Notts 5 mile race over the last two years. This is a flat, fast course on the roads by the river Trent, not the slightly longer, mixed terrain route with a few hills at Hexgreave yesterday. In 2016, I ran a fairly comfortable 43 minutes and in 2015, I ran a much harder feeling 38 minutes that is likely my PB for the distance. I crossed the line yesterday feeling that I had a little more to give with a time of around 41 minutes and a pace of about 8:04 minutes per mile. I’ve not been that fast for a while, and I don’t think that’s a million miles away from what I would consider to be my fastest. Frankly, anything approaching an average pace of less than 8 minutes/mile is as fast as I’ve ever been over any distance.

Maybe the time has come to stop being so hard on myself and to just enjoy myself a bit more. I’m not doing so bad, really.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

you see, it's hard to explain...

I've caught myself making excuses.

I pride myself on having a zero tolerance policy with myself about my running: pretty much however I'm feeling and whatever the weather is doing, come hell or high water, I will drag my sorry arse out and get the miles in.

That's still true, but I've noticed that I've started trying to explain to people why I'm not running as fast as I think I could.  Here are the names of a few of my more recent runs in Strava:

"4 miles.  Gentle sundowner after a long day - balance seems a bit off at the moment"
"4.3 miles.  White gate with RR - legs felt absolutely rubbish but pleased with the pace overall"
"4.5 miles.  Around the river with RR - watching my footing!"
"4 miles.  Heavily strapped up wobble around the river"
"3.2 miles.  Another tumble, I'm afraid. All okay, but I didn't even fell that one happening"
"4 miles.  Gordon road with RR. Dead legs, but dare I say it...otherwise okay!"
"4.3 miles. RR with Wiggles.  Absolutely gubbed today - few days off needed, I think"

...you get the general idea.  Perhaps I'm simply documenting how I feel, but I reckon I can spot an excuse when I see one.

I've had a few more problems recently, but I don't like this urge to explain myself.  Multiple sclerosis is a condition that is often invisible to other people (although, now I've started getting my legs out and wearing shorts in the nicer weather, more observant people can see the disparity in the musculature on my legs).... but ultimately very few people indeed care how fast I run.  In fact, probably no one but me.  And I'm not sure I care all that much myself, but I seem to care what other people think. People are nice and they're often very supportive, but I honestly don't think they care what my average pace is.  Not really.

I suppose it's because I know that I'm getting slower and finding running more of a struggle physically at the moment; I know that I'm still faster than lots of people, but I can feel the decline and I can also see other people around me getting faster.  It's not that I'm jealous - I'm genuinely happy for them because they're my friends and I know how hard they have been working to get themselves into the sort of shape where they are smashing all their PBs and running some amazing times.  Good for them.  It's inspiring.  To be honest, I've never even really been the kind of runner who gets much of a kick out of PBs or running in competitive races, but I do like the running community I've discovered and I seem to care what they might think. I clearly feel that I need to explain to anyone who will listen why I'm not getting faster too.  It's not an attractive trait.  

Besides, I'm emotionally stunted and secretive and I like to keep this sort of thing to myself.

I don't like that my condition is affecting my running and that this is slowly working its way into my head too, undermining my confidence in my running.  I like even less that I'm becoming the kind of person who uses that as an excuse.  Maybe not to myself, but definitely to other people.

It's a slippery slope.  I've run nearly 80 miles in the last four weeks... I don't think I really need to explain myself to anyone.

Monday, 10 April 2017

belligerent ghouls...

There was an article in the Guardian this weekend about the dark underside to books about boarding schools; how for every jolly Hogwarts story, there are many that display a somewhat seamier underbelly than even the one imagined by JK Rowling (and given that she imagined a basilisk slithering around the school in the Chamber of Secrets, that's really saying something).

"Savage discipline, along with sexual confusion and formalised bullying, are so common in the schooldays memoirs of the British elite in the 19th and 20th centuries that you have to conclude that parents wanted and paid for their children to experience these things. To most of the class that used them, the private schools were factories that would reliably produce men and women who would run Britain, its politics, business and culture. Boarding school was a proven good investment. So thousands of men and women who had suffered awfully, by their own admission, sent their children off for just the same."

Well, steady on.

My dad was the first member of his family to go to University, studying medicine in London with a set of grades at A-Level that wouldn't get him anywhere near further education these days.  He worked hard and, together with my mum, thought that the best gift that they could give their children was to send them to boarding school.  So, at the age of 7 years old, I effectively left home.

The schools I went to for the next 11 years were some way removed from the kind of places that people now pay upwards of £35,000 a year.  Nowadays, it's all co-education (girls!), study-bedrooms and academic achievement.  Not in my day.  These schools were at the sharp-end of a few decades of under-investment, and the cracks were beginning to show.  I was a scholar, my parents receiving a discount on my bill because of my academic performance... something which also earned me the tremendous distinction of having my name in capital letters in the school directory.  Sadly, academic achievement counted for little and pretty much doomed you to a life with a diminished social status in a school where your prowess at sport was everything.  I had to work very hard indeed to get my social status back to a comfortable zero, which is about as good as it ever got for me.  Actually, that's about as good as it's EVER been.

Was I bullied?  A bit, although physical bullying was very rare and the the kind of fagging that you might have read about in Tom Brown's Schooldays was long dead.  Was there even a hint of sexual abuse from either teacher or other pupils?  None that I heard and certainly none that I experienced.

Did I suffer long-lasting emotional damage that has affected my ability to form close relationships or to express my feelings?  Absolutely.  Although the bullying aspect of the article didn't chime with me at all, there was one bit that really did:

EM Forster delivered the harshest of all one-liners about the products of the British public school. They go out into the world, he wrote in 1927, “with well-developed bodies, fairly developed minds and undeveloped hearts”. 

Undeveloped hearts.  There it is. That's the (a-ha!) heart of the matter.

I get on well with my family, but we aren't close by any stretch of the imagination.  My wife mentioned to me at the weekend that she really needed to talk to her mum because they hadn't spoken since Wednesday.  I haven't spoken to mine since Mother's Day and I haven't spoken to either of my brothers for a few months.  No one is ignoring anyone: this is just perfectly normal in my family.  I don't blame anyone, but I'm fairly sure that this is the result of my schooling.  I can't imagine how difficult it must have been for my mother in particular to send me away when I was seven years old, but she did it with the best of intentions.  My mother would probably take this as the most damning criticism of all, but I'd certainly never send any child of mine into this environment.

They say that Eton taught us nothing,” crowed the first world war general Sir Herbert Plumer at a dinner of the school’s old boys’ society in 1916. “But I must say they taught it very well.”

The funny thing is that I never at any point even really felt homesick.

Isn't that sad?

Thursday, 6 April 2017

angel is a centrefold...

As well as my legs feeling a bit weird over the last few weeks, I had a late night yesterday and as a consequence was absolutely shattered all day today.  I injected on Tuesday night as normal and Wednesday morning was one of those days where I woke up feeling as though a giant invisible hand was pushing me back into the mattress.  The day was a bit of a struggle, but because I'm stubborn, I attended the first of the season's interval sessions at the Embankment that evening.  I didn't feel great then and the late night just finished me off.  I didn't even really do anything too exciting and actually ended the evening at about 1am sitting on my kitchen floor trying to work out why my newly installed bicycle tyre looked wonky.... but it's been a long week and I paid the price for my exertions today.

Rock and roll, eh?

As you know, running is the one thing that really makes me feel like I'm sticking two fingers up to my MS.  I may not be moving as far or as fast as I would like, but the very fact that I'm moving at all makes me feel better about myself.  I was planning on attending tonight's interval session at the track run by that athletics club I joined a couple of months ago.  I always feel a little bit out of my depth and like an imposter, but I'm also usually very glad that I went (once the session is over, of course!)

This evening, I reluctantly decided that I should probably give it a miss.  I like to think that I can push through fatigue most of the time, but I've been head-swimmingly, bone-achingly tired all day and just didn't think it was a good idea... especially since my fall the other day.

Naturally, my masochistic streak now means that I just feel lazy and weak for not going. My urge to punish myself is strong indeed.

Still, to cheer me up, I received a leaflet through the post today from the MS Trust.


I've always felt as though I had unexplored potential as a page three pinup and, at last, my dream has become a reality!


(...and please also note my wife's backside making a guest appearance stage left)

I'm fairly sure that this will soon be a collector's item, so my advice would be to grab hold of a copy as soon as you can. Available in all good hospitals and MS Clinics across the land.

If you feel that the value of this publication could be greatly enhanced by a signature, then I will be more than happy to oblige. If you ask her nicely, my wife might also scrawl her name across her delightfully betutu-d derrière for you too.

And she might sign the picture too.

Monday, 3 April 2017

we can to move on up...

I'm worried about my legs.

It's not usually my policy to moan about my health here, but I'm concerned that the recent problems I've been having with my legs might be something that I'm just going to have to learn to live with. This is my ability to run we're talking about here, people.  CODE RED!

I've whinged about this already (here, here and here), so I'll try not to go on about it too much.  The thing is.... I feel like I've been lucky with my MS so far.  Sure, I've got some challenges... but in spite of all that, I've been able to keep up with my running.  More than that: since I was diagnosed in 2009, I've joined a running club and actually massively increased my mileage.  Not only have I made lots of friends doing this, but although it might sound ridiculous, I don't think I would even have thought of running a marathon before my diagnosis, never mind running two and raising £22,000 for the MS Trust.  

MS has taken some things from me, but I honestly think that it has made me a better, kinder person; it's also revealed my stubborn, determined side.  I'm less angry at the world now than I used to be, but I'm also merciless with myself and refuse to make any excuses for not getting out for a run, no matter how I'm feeling and no matter what the weather might be doing.

Much of my sense of self is bound up in my running.  I might have an incurable neurological condition, but as long as I've been able to run, I've been able to feel like I have some control.  No one needs to tell me what MS could do to me... trust me: I know.  I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.  There's no point worrying about things you can't control.

...or so I thought.

Now, suddenly my legs feel stiff and weird and I'm worried about falling over when I run.  How quickly things change.  Look on my works ye mighty and despair!  I've scuffed the foot on my weaker left side for a few years now, and falling over when running isn't a new thing... but I don't even remember tripping when I went down the other day; I was just upright one moment and then on the floor the next.  I don't like the fact that I can't explain what happened as a simple trip.  It's knocked my confidence and the fact that I just don't feel steady on my legs every time I run really isn't helping. As I was sitting wearing shorts as my scabs dried the other night, I noticed that my thighs are now visibly different in size.  I measured them: my left quad is now 5cm smaller around than my right.  It's noticeably weaker too.  This isn't a surprise to me, but it is visible proof of the damage that MS is doing to my body.

Am I going to stop running?  No, of course I'm not.

Am I worried about what's happening to me?  Yes.  I am.  I'm worried that I'm just going to get slower and slower and that one of the things that is most important to me will slowly be taken away from me.  I'd also be lying if I didn't tell you that I'm finding it a little frustrating that many of my friends are getting faster - through their own hard work and talent, I have to say - and I just seem to be running through treacle and getting slower.

But.... but... but.... why the self-pity?  Am I not still running?  What right do I have to be moaning?

I ran a little over 4 miles tonight at a shade over 8.33 minutes per mile.  My legs felt wobbly and pretty rubbish throughout, but that's a perfectly acceptable pace and was much faster than I'd assumed I was moving.  This comes on top of six miles on Sunday and 3 miles on Saturday.  That's more than thirteen miles in the last three days.  And a couple of weeks ago I completed a half marathon.

Maybe I should be focusing on what I can do rather than what I can't.

I didn't used to be this stoical either, you know.  That's another thing I probably owe to MS.

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”

etc.

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.

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