Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Trouble With Trump

An American friend asked me the other day what I thought of Donald Trump. My first response could have been just to text back and say "He's a fucking idiot". The rise of Trump, and of the right wing in politics across across the West though seems to demand some more careful and nuanced thinking.

My first thought about Trump is that, I sincerely hope, such a character could not exist within British politics. Some of Nigel Farage's more boorish comments do come a close second. The quite appalling sexual comments Trump has made as part of his seemingly inbuilt misogynism would surely have made him a target for all strands of the media and public opinion here would not countenance such an uncouth and vulgar figure for Prime Minister.

What worries me more about Trump and his supporters is that he is tapping into a strand of isolationism and fear which exists in America. There has always been a core of people who believe that big government is against them, that it is responsible for making the US a worse place, that it is responsible for everything from job losses and high levels of taxation to the killing of Kennedy and 9/11. Trump is currently feeding on the worse sorts of conspiracy theories with his constant rhetoric about voting fraud.

This tweet is entirely typical of Trump's narrative, if he loses it won't be because people didn't want him and voted for the other candidate, it will be because the polls were rigged and the media is against him. The real danger here is that people will believe what he says, if people come to believe that voting in one of the world's largest democracies is somehow manipulated then they will become disenfranchised, disillusioned with the political process. Disempowerment and feelings of powerlessness lead to stagnation in politics and the endless continuation of the status quo as people stop voting because they think their vote does not matter, and it helps to make possible the very real danger that people will to extremism and violence.

Trump has also followed a line of racial division, blaming many of America's problems on Latino, specifically Mexican immigrants. This divide and conquer strategy is one we can see across the West at this time and whether the engendered hatred may be an accidental result of policies, in the case of UKIP and Farge perhaps, or is part and parcel of the policies themselves, as with the right wing ideologies of Greece's Golden Dawn and French National Front leader Marine le Pen, it is a dangerous and ugly development. This thought process is typical of the right wing, to simplify what are incredibly complex and interconnected arguments around immigration, employment, taxation and benefits into one ideology simple enough to understand they blame immigrants. It's easy to pin many of your problems on people within your society who look or act differently, Dylann Roof certainly thought so when he walked into a Charlestown church and opened fire on the congregation.

I'm not drawing a straight line between certain political figures and terrorism, and yet, when the landscape of political and social debate changes and open criticism of one group is allowed simply on the basis of that group seeming different from the majority then it legitimises open hatred and poisons rational debate. Groups proscribed against in this way are always among the weakest in society, the Mexicans and Muslims whom Trump rails against are sometimes illegal immigrants, sometimes not, many of them live towards the margins, doing low paid or temporary work. These people often don't have any political voice of their own, it's hard for them to be heard in the large scale media, they may already feel marginalised in society and these feelings will be compounded by people at the very top of the political spectrum railing against them. Want to breed more extremism ? Make people feel threatened, make them economically unstable, divide society against them.

Trump's behaviour towards Clinton and other politicians is deplorable. At his best he is rude and condescending, at his worst he is given to flights of fancy where he treats facts as a malleable substance and presents lies, rumour and possibilities as cast iron truths. He says things in every public debate which would be unconscionable in European circles.

I think the overwhelming feeling from Europe is that Trump is terrible choice propelled forward by huge money and the very worst kind of personal ambition. The speeches he has given about Russia and about the future structure of NATO run counter to everything that NATO has stood for, and against, since its inception, Trump seems to think that NATO can be used as an extension of US military might to which other nations will pay into and not have control over. Madness.

There is a groundswell of support for Trump over here, and if you want to see it expressed most clearly just delve into the web pages and forums of the right wing hate groups, they adore Trump, they think he's speaking the truth on immigration, they hate people who are different from them.

Respected political commentator Jeremy Paxman summed up the European position to Trump this week when he said on the Today programme "I am a European, I cannot imagine anyone voting for Trump in their right mind".

Saturday, October 08, 2016

The Chain Tsunami

Staffing in Harrogate at the moment has become a real problem. As the new Everyman redevelopment has opened with its slew of chain restaurants, and the major redevelopments down Parliament Street begin to open in stages it has become apparent that we have too many food and drink outlets seeking staff from the same pool of people.

We've had tremendous difficulty in recruiting at the moment, and from speaking to other managers and business owners in town, I know of at least two kitchens which are closed at the moment as they have had their chef's poached by one of the chains.

Two well known Harrogate restaurants have closed this year with Dave Burns, the owner of Bed, placing the blame squarely on the competition provided by the new openings. Tom Van Zeller closed his eponymous restaurant earlier in the year also blaming increased competition.

I'm not against increased competition, but it does sadden me that people get excited over the opening of a fairly dull mass market brand like 5 Guys with its wildly overpriced burger offerings, but won't go out and support independant business where the profits are more likely to be farmed back into the community. I know that I work for a large chain so I'm sort of skating on thin ice here, but in my defence on the catering side we're a chain of 26 catering outlets, all of which are situated within parent stores.

If you do fancy popping out for a good drinking / dining experience in a non-chain setting, here's a few suggestions...

Sweet Basil Valley, York and Yeadon, fantastic Thai and Chinese food, do try the Spicy Squid.

No.11 Somerset House, Harrogate, partner to the Black Hat in Ilkley, this property has seen a string of openings and closures in the last 3 years, but Somerset House look lovely and I do hope it succeeds. Good selection of ales, wines and gin, and a nice looking menu of updated British classics.

The Little Ale House, Harrogate, a charming micrpub.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Update - Mostly Running

I keep thinking that I should get back to blogging more, and then things happen and I don't, as always though, Yorkshiresoul isn't quite dead.

I've continued running all through the year, it may be that as with many things this was a bit of a fad at first - I'll freely admit I'm a bit obsessive about new things, perhaps a bit of compulsive disorder combined with my innate geekiness going on, but, running takes so much more effort, and I seem to be getting so much more back from it that I hope it is going to be a long term thing for me.

I have discovered some level of competitiveness within me that I previously didn't know I had. I've always been happy to mostly coast along with things, to take part and have a laugh rather than try to excel and win, but with running something inside me wakes up and wants to do better, to go further, and faster.

Harewood 10k Dash

When I started running again this year following the stroke I found it incredibly hard. The initial carpark action session was fun, and as it didn't involve any great distance or hills I thought I was doing quite well. The first Out And Back run to Rawdon Crematorium disabused of that. I ran out ok on the downhill sections but coming back I was in trouble, breathless, tired, falling off the back of the peloton in a sleet filled January night. The one thing that made the run alright for me, and which convinced me to come back to the Airecentre Pacers the next week was a club member called Emma. Emma isn't a Run Leader, she isn't a  Blue Bib helper, but she is entirely typical of what I've come to see in this club. Emma was friendly and helpful, she'd seen me in trouble and came back to talk to me. I couldn't even properly talk back, the uphills had taken all my breath so that I could only grunt answers back to her.

After running the Out And Back I went running with the Sunday crew, and there I got into a different running ethos, for while Monday and Wednesday club runs were mostly timed to an hour, or a set distance, Sundays were just about the freedom of running, the beauty of the Yorkshire landscape and the chance to really stretch your legs. Rhona, Ash and Margaret began to teach me that Strava marked distance isn't everything, and that often you can run much further than you think you can when you're not app watching. When I'd improved a little Tony helped me even more, because I think you get better faster by chasing at the back of a fast group than you do from leading a slower group. I don't mean any disrespect to any of my Pacer family reading this. Everybody goes out and does the best they can, but chasing the runners who are faster than you is going to make you one of the faster runners. I once chased Tony down a two mile downhill stretch, and every time I got close enough so that Tony could hear me behind him he put on another burst of pace. Tony is 12 years older than me, he's not a lifetime runner, he's been running for around 8 years, he's an absolute inspiration.

I joined the '12 In 12' group withing the Pacers, the idea being to run, at least, one timed race per month throughout the year, I have run 13 races so far with the Vale of York Half Marathon being the longest, and the John Carrr 5k series being my fastest.

John Carr Series

A couple of months ago the opportunity came to give a little back to the club in the form of becoming a Blue Bib helper. I jumped at the chance to join Rachel, Amanda, Joe, Tess, Jane and all the other leaders who have helped me out so much. To help pass on the ethos of never leaving a runner on their own, getting people fitter and faster, and encouraging people to race. I'm not the best of the Blues, I can't remember all of the routes, I forget half of the stretching routines, but even if I'm running at the front, (assuming Matt, Andy (G or B), Cathy, Rebecca, Nick, Simon N and a host of other faster / better runners are not at the front) then I will loop back for you. I love this bit of the club, looping and helping, it's the ethos of the club in a nutshell.

Prosecco and Pork Pies at the Solstice Saunter

The club's magnificent 'all for one' ethos was really nailed in two recent events. In the Vale of York Half Marathon Layla fell off the pace. We've all done it in races, something pulls and pains, a tear or a twist and we're switched from running to hobbling in an instant. Those #OrangeArmy girls, Sue, Bernie and Natalie, noticed that their compatriot was in trouble and incredibly, in the latter stages of a 13 mile race, looped back to pick up their friend. During the Kielder Marathon Nick fell and twisted his ankle, he hobbled on for a while in freezing conditions, and though details are a bit sketchy here as Tess is such a humble bloke, I gather Tess fairly rescued Nick and got him to a marshall point. It's great that in this club we have runners who can do pound out marathons (and more) like Carole, Sarah, Jane and Nick J, but but when those same runners are willing to sacrifice their own time and finish to help a friend in need, that's when you know you've joined something greater than the sum of its parts.

Airecentre Pacers, Yorkshire's Friendliest Running Club.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Where Now Is The Passion For Brexit ?

The ongoing fallout from the Brexit vote has produced a number of interesting outcomes, and the ongoing effect on the democratic process is one of them.

In the normal state of UK politics, when a vote has been called and made, and pledges have been put into the public sphere, there follows a set of checks and balances with an official opposition to ensure rigorous adherence to promises. We have seen recently how a government which has tried to impose things which were not manifesto promises, the imposition of Academy status on all schools, was met by a tide of protest. In the case of Brexit, things seem very different, indeed we seem to have entered an age in which the winners, not the losers, want to abandon political precedent.

If you came to my restaurant because I had advertised "Britain's Biggest Lobster - £20" but then sold you a single langoustine for the same money you would have every right to complain, and your complaint could be supported by law. If you make a promise to send £350m a week to the NHS, and then renege on that promise as soon as the vote is counted, what happens ? We are living in an age when lying to the electorate has fewer consequences than the false advertising of a fish special.

There have been accusations that the Brexit side never expected to win and that they had no strategy whatsoever for the actual Brexit if they did, and the rapidity with which many of the Leave camp leaders have fled the political scene following the vote seems to add credence to this notion. An ennui has set in with Leave supporters, they don't want to hear the howls of outrage from the 48%, and they don't seem to care that the cause they supported so passionately has withered away. The alternative is more disturbing, that many Leave voters did not believe the claims of the Brexit camp, that they accepted the possibilities of economic decline but voted Leave anyway in a warm surge of fuzzy nationalism.

Other people have voted Leave for entirely different reasons. If you live on some council estates in, for example, South Wales, and you haven't got a job by age 20, then the chances are you might never have a job for the rest of your adult life. Some communities devastated by the loss of the mines, steelworks and shipyards have not recovered economically 30 years after the main employers collapsed. If you've lived for years on benefits and austerity and no hope and David Cameron says the EU brings wealth and job security then you had every right to cast your ballot the other way because at least the other side promised a change of some sort when the status quo had brought your family nothing for generations. Perhaps these voters didn't expect to win, and didn't expect a win would bring them change anyway, after all, they've voted so often and received nothing in return.

For the rest of the 52% though, what is going on ? You were promised a new golden age, you were promised a well of funding for the NHS, a dramatic slowdown in immigration, and end to faceless bureaucracy and a booming economy. Leave leaders have first backtracked on their commitments, and then departed the political scene as if recognising that the Leave win is a poison chalice with the power to taint and harm all whom it touches. This perhaps is the nub of the matter, if things do not go according to Brexit promises over the coming years then the blame for each and every economic and social failing is going to be laid at the Leave door. Brexit and its leaders will become a scapegoat, imagined or real, for every political problem and fiscal woe. In this Theresa May is probably in the strongest position to benefit politically if she becomes the next PM. As a Remain campaigner, however fainthearted, May will not be tainted by a failing economy, her defence will always be that she believed we took the wrong decision, but that she is working hard to make the best of a bad lot.

The Leave website was purged of speech transcripts and promise documents days after the vote, highly prominent members of the Leave campaign have admitted that promises made were either unrealistic, or just would not happen. Leave voters, are you not outraged ? Many economic indicators predict that the UK economy will slow down, or perhaps slide into recession, you were promised better times. Leave voters, are you not outraged ? You were promised a crackdown on immigration, but Leave leaders have publicly admitted that the actual triggering of Article 50 may cause the largest surge in immigration the UK has seen in its involvement with the EU. Leave voters, are you not outraged ?

Or are you apathetic, not bothered, unwilling to use the fire and passion you burned with those few weeks ago to pressure your leaders into holding true to their promises. You surely didn't vote Leave just so you could hold your Union Jack a little higher and wave it a little more vigorously, you didn't embark on this project only expecting a bit of nationalistic pride in return, because I took a wallet brimming with nationalistic pride to the bank yesterday to pay my mortgage, but they said that I'd have to pay just like I did last month, in cold hard cash.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The John Carr Series

Being new to world of competitive racing I’m only just getting used to the social politics of the starting line, so for those of you who haven’t entered a race yet, here’s how it works.
Towards the rear of the huddle of runners the starting line is pretty much like club runs, it’s chatty and social, you are free to express feelings of nervousness and to comment on how fit, and fast, all the other runners look.

In the middle of the peloton things begin to change. You become aware of other runners appraising you, and then they edge past you with an “Excuse me” which holds distinct undertones of “I cannot help but notice that you are considerably older / fatter / more bandy legged than I, and therefore I need to start in front of you lest your shambling gait and ungainly manner impedes me in my quest for a PB.”

Down at the actual front line it’s just chaos. People are actually jostling for position, jostling I tell you! On a Wednesday night in Apperley Bridge ! Honestly folks, if we allow this sort of thing to continue then it’ll spread to Sainsbury’s deli counter queue and there will be hummus in the aisles.
The other thing that happens at all races is the pre-race announcement. Tradition here is that you shouldn’t be able to hear a word, no matter if the starting marshal is warning you of a bear pit on the first corner, the standard race announcement always sounds like an angry bee trapped in a metal dustbin half a mile away. Saltaire Striders haven’t got the hang of this, I could hear every word perfectly.

3-2-1 we’re off, briefly, there’s a few seconds of runner concertina as we sprint into the backs of the runners in front, who have en masse adopted the starting line pose of left arm raised, right hand on left wrist to activate their Garmin as they cross the line. Runners who haven’t managed to hit ‘start run’ on Strava will later be seen openly weeping as they approach the finish line.

(Photo - Rachael Smith)

5k is tough, I have no idea how to pace this, there isn’t enough time to settle into a jog, it just feels like sprinting all the way.  There are some small hills, enough to make your thighs burn, and then before the halfway you can see the really fast people flying past on the homeward half.  Legs burning, lungs bursting, I’m ready to chuck it in and just jog to the finish when we hit Orange Corner, a wall of Pacer shirts, a friendly cacophony fills the air, can I run this hard to the finish line, with that support, too right I can.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Anatomy Of A Half-Marathon

I popped out on Friday 4th to do a spot of running, I had in mind I'd do roughly a six mile loop into Guiseley, and then perhaps press on for a second six mile loop down into Otley if I was feeling good. The weather was cool but sunny with a very light breeze, pretty much perfect weather for running.

Miles 1-3) I'm feeling really good this morning, running at a couple of seconds under 9 minutes a mile which is a good pace for me and easily a minute faster than when I picked up running again in January. Probably because I'm wearing a hip belt for my water bottle (I hate carrying stuff in my hands shwn running), I need a pee, now I need a pee all I can think about is needing a pee.

Mile 3.5) Pop into the leisure centre for bio-break. As always the amount of pee expelled, about an eggcup full, is out of all proportion to the amount of relief gained.

Mile 6) I'm feeling really good, still under 9 mins which is probably too fast but it's hard to slow down when you're running so well. I'm back at Menston so yes, I'm going to push on for the half marathon. Ahead of me I've got at least two miles downhill into Otley and then some flat miles along to Burley. I'm running with my earphones in and a steady diet of Ramones - Wildhearts - Massive Wagons - Megadeth to keep me going, I don't mind shorter solo runs without music, but on longer treks I get fed up of the sound of my trainers slapping the pavement.

Mile 8) Still running well, but I'm so hot, there's little beads of sweat bouncing off me with every pace. Worst bit of the run so far was when I stopped at the Ilkley Road / Otley Bypass roundabout waiting for traffic, my legs felt a little heavy after I'd waited for a couple of minutes and when I tried to pick up the pace again it's feeling a little more laboured.

Mile 10) Ok, I'm feeling a little tired now. It is quite a warm morning and the water in my bottle has warmed up nicely and is doing little to refresh me. Thankful for a handy bush on the bypass to Burley for another bio-break, not so thankful for the short stretch without pavement, busses and trucks are big scary things up close.  There's a little uphill section on old Otley Road and I've really slowed down. All the way round I've been telling myself how good I'm feeling, but now I'm not, I seem to have switched from positive self motivation to grim determination in about half a mile.

Mile 11) Along the flattish bit out from Burley back towards Menston. The flat miles at the start of the run felt great, I felt light and bouncy, each step was easy and thoughtless. Now I feel leaden, heavy and strained, every footstep slaps down hard and jars my frame. And the uphill bit is still to come.

Mile 12) Uphill. Up Bradford Road. This is awful. What on earth posessed me to do this ? I'm tired, soaked with sweat from head to toe, my legs are aching, thighs are starting to burn, there's a niggle in my left calf which wasn't bothering me on the flat but which is spiking now with each step. Thud

Mile 13) I made it up the hill, lumbered around Menston Park and now I'm moving along Main Street in an ungainly, elephantine manner. I'm hating having to cross roads as the six inch drop off each pavement edge is hideous and my legs are so stiff now I'm scared I might stumble ovet the pavement on the other side.

Mile 13.1) I'm home, and I should be elated, but my brain has fried from the heat and exercise and somehow I've convinced myself that the half marathon distance is about 13.5 miles. For a moment I consider giving up, but then with a quite remarkable outburst of swearing I set off again, moving with wooden legs towards Bleach Mills, turn around, swear some more, get home again, 13.7 miles, and that's me knackered.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Two To Go

I sent TMA05 in for marking late last night, and for the first time in 5 years of university work I deliberately padded the essay to get it completed. Not that my padding was off topic, I added in a quote from Professor Nick Groom about the Goth band Fields Of The Nephilim and then responded to the quote. So it was on topic for the essay question but not in a manner that is going to get me any points.

If I wasn't still on the cusp of being able to achieve a 1st I don't think I'd be panicking so much. The awful score I received for my EMA on the previous religions module left my overall score just short of a 1st, but with the outside possibility of still getting there. Perhapos a lower score earlier in the course would have just left me in solid 2.1 territory and that would have been an end to the sleepless nights and endless stress.

I don't think TMA05 is going to get me over the 85% grade, and as it carries 25% of the total score for the module that's probably the end of that. Perhaps I can just relax a little now and coast over the line. Perhaps sometime soon I can return to reading books for fun, or not spending every single day off perched in front of the computor writing bloody essays.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Harewood Age UK 10k Dash

A misty morning gave way to uncomfortably hot, for the plump runner anyway, sunshine halfway around. It's not as hilly as Huddersfield they said, but nevertheless that hill after 5k seemed endless.

This race had a much bigger field than Huddersfield, around 2,000 runners against 570, so there was quite a wait to get over the start line, let's be thankful for chip timing. We'd warmed up first to some of the most awful music known to humankind, the sort of high tempo dance shite I'd normally run away from, then turned around to find that our place at the front of the warm-up had secured us last place in the starting line, bugger.

Three and a half tiresome minutes went by as we watched the elite runners bounding away from us, we shuffled slowly to the line and then finally got to do a bit of actual running. The route took us on a nice circuit of the Harewood estate, but I've got to admit that although lots of the club runners had said it's a nice route with lovely views, the traffic was heavy and most of the run was spent ensuring I didn't fall over someone else's feet.

I managed 54.11, a new personal best and two and half minutes faster than my last outing. The Airecentre Pacers were well represented with around a dozen of the Orange Army participating. We achieved a slew of PB's from the team, special mention to my near neighbour and running buddy Emma who had targeted a sub hour 10k and smashed it by two and a half minutes.

My sister in law Carole, her sister Lisa, and a group of friends also did the race, all achieving great times.

When I'd told my team at work that I'd joined a running club, one of the lads said "Who wants to run with a load of sweaty old blokes ?". Take a look at the pictures, they have to run with a sweaty old bloke, but I don't!

I'm not quite sure how the age grading figures work, but I got an age grading of 55.8% this time out, an improvement of almost 3% against Huddersfield. You can find various race time and grading calculators on this link.

I haven't got a race for April lined up yet, better get my skates / running shoes on.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

What I Know About Running

1) I have to walk a bit, or a lot, am I still a runner ? Hell yes. When I first took to running a few years back I couldn't get to a half mile without thinking I was going to die. If you have run some, half, or most of your route, then you're a runner.

2) Some people can keep up a stream of consciuosness style of chat while running uphill. Usually I can either run, or chat. I'm not being anti-social, it just makes me get more out of breath.

3) Do you need loads of expensive kit ? Er, no and yes. I've found that investing in some good running trainers does make a difference, and having a skin-tight compression top and leggings stops my nipple ends from chafing off and other bits from flailing around uncomfortably. Something reflective for night-time runs is probably also a good idea. Also, I've come across some lycra leggings that would be the envy of any 80's cock rock / hair metal band, so obviously I've bought two pairs.

4) Body size isn't a good guide to running speed or stamina. You see some lithe and limber young folk who look at first glance as if they could run marathons for fun, and yet they're out of breath and struggling before the first half mile. That big lad at the Huddersfiled 10k who looked like he'd locked himself in the Pukka Pie factory for the winter, well he fairly trundled up the hills and thundered back down the slopes leaving slimmer, fitter looking runners trailing in his wake.

5) I have no idea about proper nutrition for racing, and I'm pretty happy just muddling along as I am. So it's crumpets for breakfast before tommorow's race, and then pretty much whatever I fancy for dinner afterwards, including a pint or two, or wine if I fancy. Obviously my approach to food and booze isn't perfect, that's why I'm overweight and might have been part of the reason for my stroke. But energy gels sound disgusting, bananas are foul and as for going down the road of elite athletes like Teresa McWalters, well just end me now, spirulina powder and flax seed isn't food. Steak is food, roast pork and all the trimmings is food, a nice Mediterranean meze with some garlic prawns, olives, bread and chorizo is food. And beer and wine are food, I know I'm not allowed so much these days, but beer is still wonderful.

6) It dies get easier, and then you can run a bit further and faster to compensate for it feeling easier.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

The End Is Nigh....

Of my degree course that is, and it's been a fair old slog. I started my degree back in 2011 with a 15 taster module on the arts, a module which I later discounted for scoring purposes so in reality it just gave me 3 months of extra work and essays.

Now 5 years on I can almost see the finish line, I've two TMAs and the last ever EMA to do, and barring major mishaps I'll be able to wear a silly hat and cloak and receive a piece of rolled up paper with a ribbon round it. Woo and yay.

At the mid-point of my studies I was seriously considering taking a second degree in Cultural & Heritage Studies with Leeds University, but the changes in funding brought about the Tories and their spineless Liberal pals put an end to that thought, and to be honest, I feel like I'm running out of steam a bit as I near the end. 5 years of sacrificing days off and evenings to study has been a long time, I'd like some of my free time back, I'd like to take up hiking again, and perhaps going to the cinema, or spend more time with my wife, you know, just normal stuff.

The TMA we're currently slogging towards is a comparison piece taking the text of a music review and a text of our own choosing and looking for literary creativeness and worth in the two. The final EMA is a very similar project, except for that we have to choose both texts with one being ordinary / everyday and the other literary. I'm currently analysing Marillion's Grendel every which way to seek out evidence of creativity and worth, I hope I don't end up hating something I love.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Huddersfield 10k

Huddersfield 10k Start (Pic - Meg Jarvis)

I'm not sure if I could have picked a tougher track for my first ever 10k road race. The race began wil with a long and gentle uphill section and then a rather steeper hill which had me puffing and blowing early on in the race.

As we reached the bottom of that hill some helpful marshall said "Don't worry, only the two big hills to go.

He wasn't kidding. Fellow runners from the Pacers had told me to enjoy the views and enjoy my run, but to be honest I was head down ploughing away, just trying to keep some sort of running cadence going on the uphill sections, then swearing internally as the equally steep downhill slopes shook my knees to bits. I find downhill slopes much worse than uphill ones.

One really nice moment came via some good thinking at my running club. We seem to be the only club to have our names printed on our club shirts, so as I toiled up to the top of the first big hill people were calling encouragement to me by name. Spectators were sparse around the route, but it's amazing how even a smattering of applause can steel your determination to keep moving.

Still, it was a nice morning, cold, still and sunny in patches. The organisation was terrific, the only change I'd make would be to have more regular kilometre markers on the route so that first-timers could better judge where they were. £10 to enter a professionally organised run and you get a free t-shirt to boot.

Almost at the finish (Pic - Meg Jarvis)

The winner, Tristan Learoyd, who apparently flew round on a jetpack or stepped through a time portal, reached the finish line in a fleet footed 34.27. I thundered over the line, overheated, sweaty and knackered in 56.42.

I was placed 376 out of 572, and down at the lower end of my age category, I'm a 45+ Veteran apparently. Age grading result of 53%.

I was the only Airecentre Pacer to enter this race, so no OrangeArmy photoshoot at the end. Some of the club were running the rather more strenuous half marathon at Harewood House which is the venue for my next competitive run when they host a 10k in 2 weeks time. Let's hope for fewer hills and a better PB.

I think joining a running club has helped me to improve my level of fitness more rapidly than if I'd just been training on my own, and running in a group doesn't mean you get held back if you're of a faster pace. The club practice looping so the front runners to a checkpoint loop back to the rear of the group, faster runners get to do more distance and the rest of the group never get left behind, it's a nice system.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Pre-Race Nerves

I'm running my first ever 10k road race today in Huddersfield. I'm a little nervous and excited at the same time, Meg has sent me back upstairs so I'm not pacing the house. We did 10 miles on Wednesday night with the running Club, the wonderfully friendly Airecentre Pacers, so I don't think this distance will be a problem. I've been warned that there are some hills to negotiate though, but that said, you can't really go running at all in this part of the world without encountering a few hills.

I'll be proudly wearing my neon orange Pacers t-shirt, I know, I know, I don't ever usually do anything on a team basis or willingly wear the a uniform that other people are wearing, but you have to break your own rules once in a while.

(Pic - Amanda Connolly)

This was the Sunday Breakfast run last week, 9 miles over Otley Chevin which would have been really pleasant except for the howling gale which greeted us as we left the woods. I'm probably to blame to Wednesday night's 10 miles as I'd mentioned on Facebook that a 10 miler would be good, I'd said that before spending all day on my feet at the cafe of course. It was cold, but that's fine as I overheat after a mile or so, then it started snowing, and I have to admit that the last couple of miles weren't really much fun at all. I kept falling off the back of the peloton as we heading back uphill to Guiseley, although the club practice 'looping' so the faster runners keep returning to the rear to pick up the fat old lads. Tony and Muhammad seemed to have enough energy to do another 10 miles.

This morning some of the club are running the Harewood Half Marathon, just a bit far for me right now, especially as I think it's a trail run. I'll be at Harewood in two weeks for the 10k.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Wasted Time by Burning Lady

Good stuff from a decent French punk outfit.

That's A Salami ?

My Amazon shopping adventure isn't going well, I know that sausages can come in all shapes and sizes, but I'm pretty sure that's a poncho.

Pricing Structure

So, why would anyone buy the top product ?

Keep On Running

Well the blog's not dead, although there's hardly been a breath of life in it for almost two years and I have no idea if anyone will even read this, does anyone read blogs anymore ? I'm happy to write for my own amusement anyway.

The last time I wrote about health and exercise I'd managed to lose 4 stone and had run a half marathon. At the time I said "Becoming big is just something that creeps up on you gradually." And it does. At some point after that achievement my regular running dropped away, I stopped watching what I ate and the weight crept back on. At the end of 2015 I'd gone back up to 15 stone, still a stone a half short of my heaviest, I was drinking pretty much every night, eating what I wanted, taking no exercise and them boom, at the start of December I had a stroke.

I thought I had food poisoning, I was up half the night with violent vomiting and diarrhea and I felt awful. In the morning it dawned on me that my left arm wasn't working at all properly, I couldn't pick up a glass or fasten my shirt buttons. I called the doctor and got Dad to drive me across, a few basic tests later and I was in the back of a 999 ambulance on the way to Bradford Royal Infirmary.

I seem to be halfway between stroke and TIA, the effects lasted more than day which my doctor tells me is the diagnosis for a stroke, but the effects had gone within about three days leaving me feeling just as I did before the event.

I've had a ton of health advice, all of which I'm trying to follow, lose some weight, cut down on fatty and rich foods, cut down on alcohol, eat oily fish at least twice a week, eat 5 A Day, get more exercise, don't forget to take my morning stash of tablets.

I've really cut down on my drinking. My habit had become to open a bottle of beer and drink that while I was cooking dinner, then have at least two half a bottle of wine with dinner, and then a whisky after that if I fancied, and if we went out I'd have a whole bottle of wine to myself. I like wine and beer, they taste great, and wine with dinner just seems normal and civilised to me, but if the Doc says to cut down then I will. I'm trying to stay somewhere close to the recommended 14 units per week. 

I'm back to running again, I have even gone so far as to join a running club, the Airecentre Pacers, aka #OrangeArmy, although Dutch football fans might have first dibs on that. From struggling to do 3 miles at New Year, I'm now breezing through regular 6-7 mile runs and trying to get back to half marathon levels of fitness.  The running club is good fun, they seem like nice folk and running in groups both keeps you going and fires up that bit of competitiveness in me, I definately run harder when I'm running 'against' others.

I've lost a stone, again, and I'm back down to 14 stone, so still some work to do there, but at least it's coming off. 

When I was in hospital it seemed I'd had the luckiest of escapes. I'd had a stroke but comparing my situation to that of others on the ward I wasn't in a bad state. There were blokes whose strokes were life changing events, brain bleeds that left people unable to walk or communicate, left them locked within themselves unable to function without help. Me, I'd had a bad night, had a hilariously wobbly arm, got a months' driving band and the everything went back to normal. But I don't fancy another one, you can bet that a second event wouldn't be quite so harm free as the first, so diet, exercise and moderation it is.

Me and Dad would toast ourselves with "Everything in moderation, especially moderation" and we still will, but now I'll have to raise a glass of lemonade for half the week.

Ilkley Real Food Market

"Ilkley is going to host a speciality fine food market on the first Sunday of every month.
The first Real Food Ilkley Market will be held on South Hawksworth Street from 10.30am to 3pm on 6 March.

(pic from Bradfordmarkets.com)

Stalls range from handmade Yorkshire artisan cheeses, chutneys from Ilkley and fruit liqueurs from Addingham to authentic Indian sauces from Leeds and award-winning gluten-free cakes from Burley-in-Wharfedale."

Full article on Stray.fm

When playing a game really means something.

"It's a scary one when your mortgage is due to come on the first of the month and you're playing in a game where you might not have a job the week after," said Wakefield captain Danny Kirmond when speaking about the play-off game against Bradford Bulls.

This rather neatly sums up one of the major differences between football and rugby league, there are very few wealthy players in league, none at all who compare financially with the big earners in football, and also none at all who fake injury or try to get opposing players sent off.

Roll on the new Super League season.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Music of 2015 - Artists

All stats from Last.fm

Scrobbles     42,045
Scrobbles per day (average)     114
Artists 3394

1              Muse    821
2              Smoke Fairies    537

Smoke Fairies

3              Chumbawamba 420
4              The Young'Uns 358
5              Under A Banner 353
6              The Unthanks 325
7              Saxon    316
8              Souad Massi       306
9              Rancid   295
10           The Asteroids Galaxy Tour  294

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour

11           She Keeps Bees                281
12           The Pretty Reckless  264
13           Alpha Blondy 263
14           Megadeth           261
15           Motörhead         255
16           Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox    255
17           Pink Floyd           247
18           Katie Herzig        237
19           Coheed and Cambria      235
20           Tiken Jah Fakoly  221

21           Kongos                   217
22           The Beatles  216
23           Ramones   213
24           The Wildhearts                  213
25           Khaled 212
26           Magnum   209
27           Thrice    202
28           The Frowning Clouds      202
29           Manu Chao         198
30           Led Zeppelin      194
31           King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard    193
32           The Cranberries    190
33           Rasputina     187
34           The Decemberists     187
35           Rebirth Brass Band          179
36           Achanak     179
37           The King Blues   178
38           Turbonegro        176
39           Rage Against the Machine    174
40           Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds   174
41           Howard Shore   173
42           Marillion              172
43           Oysterband        172
44           AC/DC     169
45           Simon & Garfunkel    167
46           Soul Rebels Brass Band   167
47           Billie Holiday       164
48           Siouxsie and the Banshees    160
49           Jack Off Jill          158
50           Staff Benda Bilili   158

Staff Benda Bilili

51           Fake Club     158
52           Metallica   155
53           Marilyn Manson    152
54           Massive Wagons    152
55           Lindsey Stirling 150
56           Status Quo          146
57           Placebo    143
58           The Rolling Stones    142
59           Black Moth         141
60           Das Pack    136
61           Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends   136
62           Dropkick Murphys  132
63           Toseland    132
64           Lily Allen   129
65           Mastodon    128
66           Monster Magnet    127
67           Lacuna Coil          127
68           Veronica Falls    127
69           Toots and The Maytals 126
70           The Divine Comedy         125        
71          The Dirty Dozen Brass Band          125
72           Halestorm           124
73           Charm City Devils             124
74           The Clash             123
75           Nature Sounds 121
76           Lucky Dube         119
77           Judas Priest        118
78           Blues Pills    118
79           Devo     116
80           Michael Monroe              116
81           The Offspring    115
82           Johnny Cash       115
83           Lindisfarne          115
84           Skånska Mord   115
85           The Civil Wars    113
86           Green Day          112
87           Airbourne           112
88           Sauti Sol               112
89           Blackwolf             110
90           Professor Elemental       109
91           Black Spiders      108
92           Madness             108
93           UFO       107
94           The Vincent Black Shadow 107
95           The Proclaimers    104
96           Somi      103
97           Enter Shikari       102
98           Rush      101
99           Tracer   101
100         Sidilarsen  100