Friday, 28 August 2015

That's What Radio 4 Is For

Just heard it, today's apothegm.
Think like an engineer - in theory there is no difference between theory and practice; in practice there is.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

46 Days And The Contrary Law Of Expanding Returns

Contrary to my carefully cultivated image as a champagne-swilling parvenu, I do love a good bargain. So today has been a good day.

tres satisfactoire
I cycled (without puncture - Heaven be praised) for ninety minutes this morning, even seeking out the hilly bits to push myself that little bit more. Tres satisfactoire. Then I took the old garden furniture to the recycling shop - it feels that much more satisfactory than consigning usable items to the ignominy of landfill. Tres satisfactoire. Then I bought some sweet potatoes because tonight I am essaying sweet potato fries. Hopefully tres satisfactoire. Then I visited Majestic Wine. I love Majestic - lots to choose from, enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff, what's not to love. It's bin-end time at the moment and if you're thinking of going to Mere Green to scoop up the bargain Undurraga or ludicrously (£3.66 per bottle) cheap Pied Tanque Blanc, forget it. The OG/BFP has bought the lot. Tres, tres satisfactoire. And just to cap it all, because I had taken all the stock they even sent me on my way with the three-quarter full bottle from the tasting counter. Tres, tres, tres satisfactoire.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

47 Days And The Law Of Diminishing Returns

Pol Roger is priced at about five times the cost of Undurraga. Is the champagne therefore four times better than its imitator? I seriously doubt it but I know which I prefer - when funds permit.

My Precious Jag cost me about half of what I might have shelled out for what one might deem an equivalent Aston Martin. Is the Aston therefore twice as good as the PJ? I seriously doubt it, but that would probably not have stopped me paying it had the resources been available.

The Fat Duck is an utterly brilliant experience. Is it therefore, say, twenty times as good as a decent pub meal? I seriously doubt it, but I'd recommend it to anyone.

When I run I feel outrageously virtuous, particularly when I clock over into recently unexplored territory - witness my ludicrous self-esteem when I managed eighty minutes on Monday. The trouble is that to achieve that elusive 'runner's high' you have to keep adding on minutes and/or distance. So this morning I ran for an hour and yet that gave me nowhere near the satisfaction that it did when I breached the hour only last week in Anglesey.

This dear reader is the Law of Diminishing Returns in operation. 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Good Man, Bad Man And Shades Of Grey Between

Usain Bolt is one of the greatest athletes of all time, a fact he hammered home with victory in the 100m final at the World Athletics Championships in Bejing on Sunday. He narrowly defeated the much villified 'two time drug cheat' Justin Gatlin to seeming universal approval. Some have gone so far as to say that Bolt thereby saved the soul of his sport. But let us unpack this a little.

Firstly I do have to admit that my own affections lay with Bolt but the easy Good/Bad dichotomy strikes me as an over-simplification. Taken to a libertarian extreme, why should we even be concerned what athletes choose to put in their bodies to enhance performance? Let the chemists loose on the whole lot of them and see who comes out best? On balance, no. Impressionable and ambitious athletes should not be put in harm's way by their support teams. However what is the argument for intervention if the drugs are without adverse side-effect? Some sort of notion of athletic purity? And what about the moralising implicit in the anti-doping efforts - why are recreational drugs without performance-enhancing benefits on the prohibited lists?

The unforgiven
Bolt is a media natural - an insouciant showman who revels in the limelight and manages to avoid the fast-twitch chippiness that is the mark of many sprinters. If ever a man was relaxed in his skin it is Usain Bolt. Gatlin seems an uneasy character, a deep insecurity betrayed by the affected pre-race posturing. His first ban was for ampheltamine use, apparently courtesy of drugs prescribed from youth for his ADHD. This we may forgive. The second ban was for steroid use. He claims that a masseur used a steroid based cream without his knowledge. The masseur denies that he ever did so. Whatever the truth, has Gatlin perhaps served his time?

The forgiven
The American attitude to this issue is interesting, particularly as manifested in their behemoth professional team sports, American football and baseball. If you fancy a bit of googling, try searching 'A-Rod drugs ban' to get the low-down on the making, unmaking and remaking of a baseball hero. Alex Rodriguez is plying his eye-wateringly lucrative trade once again for the New York Yankees and this after a punishment far less onerous than that endured by Gatlin. Shades of grey. (As I write 'shades of grey' I wonder if we will ever be able to rescue that useful phrase from the clutches of soft-pornographic innuendo.)    

Monday, 24 August 2015

49 Days. Another Film

I ran for an hour and twenty minutes at lunchtime. So I am back at the point of endurance I had reached before the calf strain the best part of two months ago. This is not going to be easy. Stating the bleeding obvious.

I've been distracted by rather too much food and drink since getting back from Anglesey and have briefly neglected the blog because it felt like my stomach would not let me get close enough to the keyboard. There is one remnant of that Welsh sojourn which I should record and that is the film that I watched on my last night there. I had somehow managed to put off seeing Amadeus for thirty years. I had even bought the Director's Cut DVD a decade ago so my intentions were good. I have no idea quite why the time had never been right to open the case. Film lasts too long? An ingrained suspicion of films that scoop lots of Oscars? I only need to say Titanic to explain this latter prejudice. Well anyway I got around to it on Thursday evening and the conclusion - very,very good. Tom Hulce as Mozart is even better than he is in the seminal National Lampoon's Animal House and anybody who knows me will know that I will fight the man who disputes that movie's place in the pantheon. Misogyny and puerility do have their place after all. Back to Amadeus - this is a film which belies its theatrical roots and expands onto the big screen as a compelling study of the troublesome nature of genius. 9/10 and one that will cause me to revise that list of my top fifty films, when I can find it again.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

52 Days - Legs Like Concrete

Still in Anglesey where I got a bit of that business plan written yesterday so feeling fairly righteous. On which subject (righteousness) I hauled myself out for another run this morning. It is fairly hilly around here and yesterday's effort had left my legs very heavy, such that today was a trial from the outset. I turned left out of the drive and left again to climb up to the main road and was hit by a strong headwind. I contemplated giving up altogether but settled for turning round and starting on a downward path. Of course you have to trudge up at a later stage but the decision at least kept me going. It was one of those efforts where you never feel good. I can judge my state of mind by how often I look at my watch in search of reassurance that I have been at it for an acceptable stretch. Today I lasted eight minutes before the first depressing look. Bad. On I plodded and was rather chuffed with myself to manage an hour's honest but slow toil. Utterly knackered and thighs like lumps of concrete but I am about to reward myself with a lunchtime beer. Diet of champions.

I think I may be repeating myself in reviewing the film I watched last night but it was a nice treat to see it again and as somebody sort of said (Shaw? Wilde? It's usually one of them) I like quoting myself, I find it adds weight to my argument. Len Deighton is a writer I admire and The Ipcress File was the first of his novels to be filmed. It was a sort of down at heel response to the Bond films and its idiosyncratic style has been thought off-putting by some, but it has the considerable heft of Michael Caine to carry it and I give it 7/10. Sunday papers used to give DVD's as free gifts and my copy of The Ipcress File came via that route. The disc is a double feature, the other part being Brief Encounter - I think you have to say that represents bloody good value for the money we didn't pay for it.  

Next? A cheese sandwich and an afternoon of business planning. Possibly another beer.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

53 Days And Now It's Not Raining

I set foot outside to run and as if by divine ordinance the rain stopped. This of course was a blasphemous thought and so a subsequent ordinance made it rain again as I was running. The final ordinance now means that it is sunny and my air is suffused with the odour of damp kit hanging to dry. If I venture to hang the kit outside it will inevitably rain. Still I plodded four and a half miles around the mean streets of Benllech. The BFP Show is still just about on the road.

A news story hit me this morning as being particularly poignant and emblematic of the evil that is abroad - see Palmyra Slaying. It is hardly novel but it bears repetition - these people need to be stopped. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. I think I'd better stop before I go on to sound any more Blairite. I've got a business plan to write. Watch out world OG is on the move. 

53 Days And It's Raining

In Anglesey and sitting in my running kit watching the rain pour down. Should I go for that run in the rain or should I wait in the hope that it will recede? I know the correct answer - get out there and train, you may have to run the event in these conditions, but then again do I really want the smell of damp kit around the place? My oh my, life is full of decisions.

I've made up my mind - I'm going to have another cup of coffee (legal stimulant) in the hope that it abates. A hope that looks forlorn because it has got heavier even as I have written this.

By the way I don't wear my Oakleys when I run here. I can't trust myself not to lose them. Instead I wear their predecessors (imitation Oakleys) which have been relegated to country estate duty along with my old trainers.Not so much go-faster gear as go-slighty-slower kit.

Bloody hell it's now absolutely lashing down. That coffee better last a long time.

It's also blowing a gale.

Sod it, I'm going for it.

Monday, 17 August 2015

55 Days And Counting - BFP Pisses Fatness Test

My announcement of a return to running was premature. I had forgotten that we were to be weekending in sunny Pocklington in honour of ULB's forthcoming notable birthday. And a jolly good time was had by all, not least at Judson's wine bar and restaurant where we dined on Saturday. Very good food - I can vouch personally for the pork loin and thanks to RB I can also confirm that the vegetarian option was excellent. Judson's. RB and I stayed up to gone three in the morning talking obvious good sense, he fuelled by gin and I by wines various.

So it was mid-morning Monday when Big Fat Pig donned the lycra, put on the Oakleys and ventured forth. Gingerly. He survived and was sensible enough to limit himself to thirty-two minutes and iced the offending muscle as a precaution afterwards. He did the icing whilst watching the highlights of Saturday's RWC warm-up international between England and France. England may have won but there was something rather forbidding about seeing England taken apart at the scrummage.

Cheers, first of the day
BFP has been a good boy today. He has cut the lawn, taken a parcel for collection (on behalf of the Groupie), ferried rubbish to the dump, mopped two floors and now he is cooking the Groupie's tea. He even managed to avoid the temptation to start drinking before Groupie returned from her hard labour. The first glass is now to hand. Goldwater Sauvignon Blanc. Yum yum.

Friday, 14 August 2015

58 Days To Shape Up

It was back on the mountain bike today - in the tipping rain which made the obligatory Oakleys a little silly but I've got 'em so I wear 'em. Besides it is a scientific fact that they make you go faster. I ended with thighs screaming at me and sunglasses specked with road dirt. If all goes well I am aiming to run for the first time in almost three weeks tomorrow morning. Watch this space.

What else? Well I have been doing a lot of thinking about my future and therefore immersing myself in the labyrinth that is the professional regulation of solicitors. All I want is to be able to do a little bit of work for selected commercial clients. Such small ambition seems to be frowned upon. Again, watch this space.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

59 Days To Shape Up - An Uncomfortable Yet Comforting Ride

I laughed in the face of ill-fortune and took the Precious Bike out for a spin this morning. Drumroll - no punctures. The discomfort I refer to in the title was from the decrepit state of the roads juddering up through the highly inflated tyres via the frame. Result - sore derriere. The comforting effect comes from the knowledge/hope that I am free of the bane of constant deflation. And I'll tell you this - that final hill is several degrees easier on the Precious. For tomorrow's ride I am going to revert to the mountain bike and get that righteous burn in the thighs.

Here's something I didn't think I'd be saying - I heard that Andy Burnham/Scott Tracy dealing sensibly and illuminatingly with questions on Radio 4 at lunchtime. Instinctively I am not a fan of the franchise being extended to 16 year olds but I have to grant that there is an appeal to Burnham's soundbite "If you're old enough to be exploited by Sports Direct on a zero hours contract then you're old enough to vote." This is that rarity - a crafted soundbite that actually prefaces a serious debate.

Ed explains the voting system
I have avoided any lengthy pondering of the Labour leadership election, comparing interest in the event  to an intrusion into private grief. However it is now getting very arresting. Only now is it becoming clear to the dozy apparatchiks that they have somnambulated themselves into an existential fight for the life of the party as an electable proposition. All of this comes as a parting gift from the disastrous Ed Miliband whose legacy fittingly includes, or possibly comprises nothing other than, the plain daft voting system. So we now have the other candidates piqued into action by the prospect of actually losing to Jeremy Corbyn - a figure notably antediluvian in his policies and his friendships, Hamas, the IRA etc etc. Corbyn is a reminder of the student left of my youth, the sort who would miss an exam rather than miss the chance to throw eggs at Margaret Thatcher. I didn't make that up by the way, it actually happened with one bizarrely admirable loon of my acquaintance. Golden days.  

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

62 Days To Shape Up

Sixty-two days as of yesterday, that is how long we have until the Royal Parks Half Marathon. That is how long Big Fat Pig has to get himself into some sort of shape. Things had been going passably well until les grandes vacances took us westward, whereat BFP ate way too much and then came home to re-injure the wretched calf muscle. So BFP took to the Precious Bike (I think it is a proper noun so we will dignify it with commencing capitals) and promptly won the world puncture championships. So BFP brought the old, nay very old, mountain bike out of retirement and, touch wood, that is going quite well thank you. Indeed things are looking up generally. The wonders of chiropractic science (or is it an art) have been exercised upon me twice in the last two weeks and the pains I brought back as extra baggage from Vancouver have dissipated. And better yet, the bike doctor has diagnosed a bad case of under-inflation as the cause of the punctures. Thus the Precious is back in the garage and raring to go and BFP has a lovely new stand pump so that he can accurately measure inflation. BFP is also toying with a return to running. Baby steps only. For now swimming is off the agenda because the school holidays make the baths tiresome.

Equipment sorted
I pushed myself quite hard on the mountain bike yesterday following the measured route that I used to use on the Precious. I'm about 25% slower on the mountain bike and the final hill is definitely more of an achievement on the heavier machine, but I managed to propel myself all the way up it both yesterday and today and even managed a ninety second improvement over yesterday's time. I actually feel a lot fitter already, but bloody hungry mind - and I could kill for a glass of red wine. No pain, no gain, Pig.  

Monday, 10 August 2015

… Are Brilliant Mark XIX

Cycling. Most particularly without the constant fear of puncture. The old mountain bike may weigh half a ton but it feels bomb-proof compared to the precious, which latter has gone for residential therapy to my favourite bike doctor, John Bedford at Park Cycles.

Soft herring roes - I am only allowed to prepare this economical treat when Sharon is out, on account of the smell. She doesn't know what she's missing. £1.35 a tin in Sainsbury's. Bloody bargain.

Winning the Ashes. Don't let the naysayers convince you that somehow England's unexpected victory is massively less noteworthy than that of predecessors from some supposed golden age. Four weeks ago most sane commentators gave England no chance. What we have witnessed is the mental disintegration of a brittle Australian side and, moreover, that disintegration achieved without recourse to the coarseness ("sledging") excused as professionalism that Steve Waugh (an estimable cricketer just below the peak of greatness) used to encourage. Mind you we needn't be too prissy about Waugh because he has had numerous poor English imitators.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Days Of Wonder

OG forced to withdraw
 previous comments
I have spent today pootling around getting one of the cars (Rachel's precious Fifi, not the precious Jag) fixed and all the time keeping an ear to the radio or an eye on the television.  Australia 60 all out (yes that is correct, 60 all out) and, as I type, England already a good deal more than one hundred ahead. Stuart Broad (and yes I hold my hands up I did in the past call him a show pony) took 8 for 15. Bloody brilliant. It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming, cricket's coming home.

I've bored you all to death about American standards of service so it is only right that I should shout just as loud when the British get it right.

The today that was has become today's yesterday. By which I mean that I was disturbed at the end of the last paragraph and that it is now the morning after the night before as I resume. And by now England are 250+ ahead but losing wickets all of a clatter this morning. Surely we cannot snatch defeat from the jaws of this victory.

Back to that question of service and, not for the first time I have to commend National Tyre Service at Mere Green who sorted out the exhaust on Fifi. A very loud mention also for the staff at Cambaz the Turkish grill in Sutton Coldfield. We dined there for the first time on Tuesday and if we had encountered it in Oregon I would most likely have raved about it so  will do the same here. Top grade chicken in particular, enjoyed by both OG and the Groupie. Cambaz

I took the precious bike out for a spin this morning and managed about two hundred yards before another sodding puncture. Precious though it may be I am temporarily retiring the machine and will get it booked in for a service and hopefully a diagnosis of the cause. Instead I hauled my ancient mountain bike (vintage 1997) out from the back of the garage and did my old timed loop which I used to do as part of my training pre ownership of the precious. According to the watch (which doesn't lie) I am about 15% less fit than I was in those good old days. The factor I try to ignore is that I am also a meaningful amount older. Eheu tempus fugit.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Hiding In Plain Sight

Those keys (see yesterday's extended whinge) were on the work surface in the kitchen and therefore visible from the very table at which I sit to blog. The burning question is - who put them there? As Shaggy would have it, it wasn't me.

I've been out on the precious bike this morning with decent results. I wasn't on the road for too long but at least I avoided yet another puncture, something about which the sorry state of our roads has made me paranoid. Am I carrying too much weight (don't answer that) or, more plausibly, am I the sad victim of a conspiracy between the Highways Agency and the manufacturers of cycle inner tubes? I think we should be told.

I've just heard a replay on Radio 4 of the moment when Ed Balls' defeat at the polls was announced. May the road rise with you in a similar manner.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Oh Woe Is Me

One of those frustrating days today. I went out for a run and at pretty much the same point into the run (indeed on the same stretch of road) as when last out, the calf started to tighten up. I walked in but I could really do without this interruption to training that had hitherto gone pretty well.

One man went to mow
Anyway I wasn't going to let this setback get in the way of wheeling out the precious petrol mower and re-striping the lawn. But what did get in the way was the absence of the keys to open the door from garage to back garden. Since I am the only one who uses that door I am reluctantly coming to the conclusion that I must have lost them, but I will not completely abandon the search for somebody else to blame. Not just yet.

Uttering foul imprecations (etymological note to self: is there any other sort of imprecation) I had to move the precious bike, manoeuvre the precious mower around the precious Jag and then drag the precious mower through the gravel on the drive before negotiating the side entrance to the garden. Then it bloody well rained. Then it bloody well stopped and I was able to mow the lawn. Altogether a bit of a fag but the results are quite pleasing.

I had decided that yesterday's mot du jour was to be 'cant' but in the end I rejected it because, on more measured analysis, the specimens that were exciting my ire probably lacked the full blast of hypocrisy. I've been seeking an alternative but I'm afraid I've come up with nothing better than 'drivel'. The first instance was the plain blather of our esteemed Minister for Housing, one Brandon Lewis. It gives me no pleasure to report that this man holds a degree from King's. Still he was not the worst (or indeed most important) culprit in the news because St Barack of Obama was at it again yesterday. With his best "Trust me I'm a lawyer" face on he announced that something must be done about global warming and that it needs to be done - by somebody else. Now I think about it, Obama probably got closer to cant than poor old Brandon Lewis whose major offence was to have drawn the short straw of defending the government's symbolic and meaningless legislation to make private landlords do the job of the Home Office.

If you know where those keys are could you let me know soonest. I can't go through this rigmarole every time I want to mow the lawn.

Ooh, if you want some good news - I played golf again last Friday (I had the course to myself at Baron Hill) and played the best I can remember for years. I believe I have detected a pattern to this - I play strongly every decade.