Saturday, 22 December 2012

So this is Christmas...?

I spent yesterday lunchtime battling the rabid throngs of Christmas shoppers through the centre of Cardiff, wishing I'd not strayed from my office desk. I don't mind so much those with an honest sense of purpose and determination to acquire that last scrap of yuletide tat; it's the amblers and drifters that send me over the edge.

The following groups should be banned from leaving the house throughout December; they should certainly be barred from straying anywhere near urban areas:
Those that refuse to look where they're going, preferring instead to stare over their shoulders or down at their feet, thereby forcing all they meet to make way for them.

Those smug and happy-clappy couples, holding hands and gazing into each others eyes as they float slowly by on a cloud of love, instilling hatred in all that have to negotiate their way around them.

Those cheery inconsiderate bastards that stop for a chat, all stupid smiles and loud knitwear, blocking the pavement and forcing everyone else into the road.

Those duplicitous hard-faced fucksters in their threadbare leggings with battering ram pushchairs laden with shopping and no kid in sight.

Those potbellied porkers that can't resist the Christmas market hog roast, ambling about with their greasy chinned slack-jawed mastication, blocking everyone with their gout ridden gait.

Anyone under the age of 25 with their gurning and acned faces; totally devoid of humour and spacial awareness.

Anyone over the age of 60, muffled in sensible winter-wear and wrapped in a cloud of senile confusion; too infirm to walk more than 3 steps before tottering to the left or stumbling to the right.

Oh... and anyone else who gets in my way!

Now that's out of my system... A very merry Christmas and a happy new year to you all!

I'll leave you with one of the best Christmas ads ever...



1 Year Ago:Shibboleth...

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A long weekend...

With both Friday and Monday off work, last weekend was a lovely and relaxing one spent mooching in and around Manchester with Howard. I managed to squeeze in several long runs along the Rochdale Canal and around Milnrow, we camped it up on Canal St, we saw some theatre and enjoyed a lengthy walk on Sunday around the local network of reservoirs.

Following a long run along the Canal and back into Milnrow, Friday was a lazy day spent reading, drinking and eating. I've not read any fiction in a while so how wonderful to get lost in Robert Harris' book, Fatherland. It's totally compelling. The evening dissolved into lots of wine, a lovely risotto and some plums stewed in sherry with cinnamon. Who'd have thought that sitting on my arse all day could be such fun? Heaven.

Saturday was spent in Manchester itself. After a scamper past the Christmas Market tat, a quick lunch and a detour to Harvey Nichols, where we drowned each other in Terre d'Hermès, we made our way to Canal St for a drink or two (well, maybe three or four). The evening was spent watching Dickie Beau's one man show, Blackouts: Twilight of the Idols. We really didn't know what to expect but I'm so pleased we saw it. Time Out described it as, "the drag show at the end of the world". It was funny and moving and absolutely gorgeous; well worth a trip to the end of the world and certainly worth the cock stride to the Contact Theatre down Oxford Road.

After a substantial breakfast on Sunday, we headed East out of Milnrow, under the M62 and toward the string of reservoirs in the hills. The weather was clear, the skies were blue and we weren't the only ones enjoying the unseasonably good weather.

Despite being reasonably fit, after Sunday's walk I had legs like whips. You certainly use different muscles on a 4 hr walk in the hills than you do when running, cycling or swimming. Negotiating stairs on Monday morning was a painful and dangerous activity.

Monday was a mirror to Friday; after an early morning run, I spent most of the day in a chilled state of relaxation; reading, drinking and eating. In the late afternoon we set off into Manchester, for me to get my train home to Welsh Wales. We stopped for a drink or three on Canal St to toast a splendid weekend.

I'll leave you with this performance by Dickie Beau that I found on You Tube. Go see him if you get the chance.



1 Year Ago:My inner demon...

Monday, 15 October 2012

A Berlin Diary...

+ Thursday 4th October
I arrive at Schönefeld Airport, southeast of the city, in the late afternoon amid darkening skies. After a 25 minute train journey through Ostbahnhof, Alexanderplatz and Friedrichstraße stations, I eventually arrive at the Hauptbahnhof. This is Berlin's main railway station and is known locally as the glass cathedral. Leaving the station in heavy rain and high winds, I can't help but think that were this the UK, they'd have issued a severe weather warning and cancelled the trains. This being Germany, everything runs smoothly and on time.

I walk the 5 minute journey across the bridge over the canal and down Invalidenstraße to the Adina Hotel. Thanks to an email from Howard pointing out that I turn 50 during my stay, I've been upgraded... Yay! After unpacking, I trace my planned running route for the week. I shelter from the drizzle to enjoy a lovely pasta dish (with much red wine) at Roma, a basic Italian restaurant on Friedrichstraße before retracing my steps to the hotel and retiring to bed.

+ Friday 5th October
My early morning run down through the Tiergarten and back up through the Brandenburg Gate, past the Reichstag and over the Spree is, quite literally, breathtaking. After a wonderful breakfast, the morning consists of a visit to the house in Schöneberg where Christopher Isherwood rented a room and wrote his Berlin novels. This I follow by a skip past Neues Ufer, the gay bar Bowie and Iggy Pop once hung out at.

The afternoon sees me visit every Zara outlet in Berlin in search of a check shirt that I first saw in Cardiff. My quest isn't a complete waste of time: I see Pariser Platz, Potsdamer Platz, Leipziger Platz, Alexanderplatz and everything in between. I think I even pass Marlene Dietrich Platz at one point (but maybe I'm dreaming). I'm thrilled and excited to discover that Alexanderplatz has a branch of C&A (this takes me back...).

That night I eat in Pas´Qua, a tiny basement Italian on Auguststraße. Lovely food and, again, too much red wine. As I totter up the road, I pass an upmarket fancy-dress shop called Maskworld on Oranienburger Straße. I leave 5 minutes later with a ginger afro on which I've just spent €45. The hidden costs of drinking!

+ Saturday 6th October
A very early run, accompanied (part way) by a fox along the Spree embankment, is followed by my first of 3 visits over the coming week to the Reichstag (don't ask). The weather is awful and so views from the dome are non existent, however, you cannot fail to be impressed by the building itself. This, in turn, I follow with a brisk but damp walk to Berliner Dom, taking in Gendarmenmarkt (very neoclassical) and Bebelplatz (very wrapped in scaffolding) along the way. Berliner Dom is a very big church and, other than that, I can't find much else to recommend it.

Next, a visit to the Museum of Photography: If you like huge prints of 70s style glamour shots of nude women, this place is heaven. I don't and it isn't. This is followed by a visit to the Contemporary Art Museum, housed at Hamburger Bahnhof (some impressive Warholes and a couple of Lichtensteins keep me happy). In the evening to the Berliner Philharmonie for a wonderful performance of Wagner and Beethoven by the Berliner Philharmoniker led by Bernard Haitink. I float on air all the way back to my hotel.

+ Sunday 7th October
After an early run and a long lazy breakfast, a morning walk to the house Bertolt Brecht and Helen Weigel shared on Chauseestraße. Today Howard joins me in Berlin. At midday I meet him at the Hauptbahnhof and then to Hackesche Höfe for brunch together. This is followed by a leisurely stroll through the Tiergarten, past the embassies, the Sony Centre, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism, the Führerbunker (site of Hitler's bunker), the Brandenburg Gate and, finally, my 2nd visit to the Reichstag - very atmospheric in the failing light. The evening sees us eat at the basic Italian, Roma, I'd visited on my first night in Berlin.

+ Monday 8th October
A quick run and breakfast is followed by a trip to Alexanderplatz for a visit to the beautiful Fernsehturm. Great views but I'm more impressed with the 1960s GDR decor inside. Next a train to the East Side Gallery then back to Alexanderplatz for the DDR Museum and a chance to sit in a Trabant - very cramped. From here, a train to the Olympiastadion - undoubtedly a beautiful building; epic, simple, strong and impressive but ultimately, I can't help but feel, rather sinister.

In the evening we eat in Kellerrestaurant im Brechthaus; it occupies the cellar of the house Bertolt Brecht and Helene Weigel shared and which I visited the day before. Lots of photos of Brecht and some wonderful food, made all the better by the friendly staff and the fact that they cook vegetarian dishes especially for me because they have little vegetarian choice on the menu.

+ Tuesday 9th October
Today I am 50. I never thought I'd live so long! This thought occupies me as I run around the Reichstag. A shower, a long breakfast and some card opening and gift unwrapping before we head out to the Pergamon Museum. This museum is seriously impressive with its Pergamon Gate, Market Gate of Miletus and Ishtar Gate - all massive in size; they really take your breath away.

We then hot-foot it to the Neues Museum in search of the bust of Nefertiti, followed by a quick visit to the Alte Nationalgalerie. In the afternoon we trek out to the Schwules (Gay) Museum but it's closed - out and proud 7 days a week apart from Tuesdays when it's a bit closeted! Still, a pleasant walk and a welcome relief from the objet d'art. Back at the hotel for a quick dip and sauna before getting a taxi to Alpenstuek, a restaurant on Gartenstraße. A lovely evening thanks to Howard. Happy birthday to me!

+ Wednesday 10th October
After whipping around the Reichstag on my run, we head out to the excellent Bauhaus Archive. This is followed by a marathon trek around the Gemäldegalerie's 900 paintings. Ordered chronologically, the Medieval religious art is wonderful but as we progress into later eras, I have to admit, I become blind to these masterpieces. By the time I get to Rubens I give up. Gluttons for punishment, we press on to the Neue Nationalgalerie, which by this point, quite frankly, we couldn't care less about. In the afternoon we visit the Jewish Museum, which is excellent and, at times, quite moving. It's worth a visit, not only for the contents but also the architecture of the building.

In the evening we make our way to Potsdammerplatz for the opening ceremony of the Festival of Lights. It's lovely to stand in the crowd and enjoy the spectacle. We take in some of the monuments and buildings bathed in various lighting effects as we make our way from Potsdammerplatz to Pariserplatz and onwards to Friedrichstraße and eventually Pas´Qua, the tiny basement Italian on Auguststraße that I'd eaten in on Friday. We are rewarded with good food and some unexpected entertainment, as the kitchen staff argue quite audibly.

+ Thursday 11th October
After my run, we decide to pop into the Bode Museum, as we have some spare time in the morning. The building is more impressive than the art it contains. We then visit the Reichstag (my 3rd and final visit) for a guided tour, which is fascinating. The dome is closed for cleaning but we've already been there (twice!). In the afternoon we visit the Berlinische Galerie, which I've been looking forward to seeing, with its late 19th and 20th Century collection of art. Difficult and sometime bleak pieces covering some troubled times for this city.

After a shower back at the hotel we make our way to Tipi am Kranzleramt in the Tiergarten for a cabaret dinner and a show by the excellent Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Very funny and entertaining. To bed, happy and a little bit drunk.

+ Friday 12th October
My last run around the Reichstag. The weather is beautiful. After a relaxed breakfast, we pack and check out. We spend the morning strolling through the Tiergarten and then along the Spree in the cold and clear sunshine. By lunchtime we're back at the hotel to pick up our bags before heading off out to Schönefeld Airport.

Our flights are about an hour apart: me to Bristol then Howard to Liverpool. I leave Berlin not just a year older but having somehow slipped past a half century on this earth. It has been a lovely holiday - a time to relax, unwind and ponder what this new chapter of my life will bring. During my daily runs around the Reichstag, I have thought long about concentrating on becoming a more responsible and mature person; a thought, I'm happy to say, I have whole-heartedly rejected.

1 Year Ago:A strange day...

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Tempus fugit...

Time flies, or more accurately, time flees. And doesn't it just! It slides through our fingers with a slipperiness and speed that surprises. Along with forgetfulness, nasal hair, length of tooth and baldness, the speed at which time passes also increases with age.

This year has flown by; as soon as Easter was over it felt like we were tipped into the pomp and circumstance of a damp Diamond Jubilee, which segued into the Olympics and then the Paralympics, all played out to a soundtrack of moans about the weather. The union flags have now faded to a motion blur on my retina as retailers, unable to contain themselves, prematurely ejaculate their silver and gold gaudy Christmas sparkle into a landscape where the leaves have yet to turn brown.

It's been 22 days since my last post but it doesn't feel that long; it feels like I wrote it some time last week but, if I think about it, I know that isn't true. In some ways, it was easier to write a post every night. Having set myself the challenge last year to write a post each and every day, I had no other option so I just got on with it. Now I dither... a lot. Mind you, I quite like dithering. Many see it as a negative trait but I see it as a luxury. When life is lived at full tilt and where the breakneck pace at which most things are undertaken is seen as a mark of success in itself, there's little room for dither.

I want to put the brakes on. I want to slow things down. I sometimes feel like I'm on a train that whistles through a station that isn't one of the scheduled stops whilst I try in vain to read the platform signs to figure out the name of the town we're hurtling through. I want to be able to read the signs. I want to enjoy the journey. I'm prone to rushing; I've done it all my life. I'm good in a crisis. I'm learning to think and then force myself to slow down and, when I do, I enjoy it so much.

In a week's time I shall be 50. I never thought I'd live this long. Live fast, die young is the phrase that springs to mind - I'm still waiting. I certainly don't feel how I imagined I'd feel at 50: settled, responsible, confident. No, inside there's an immature 13 year old bursting to get out. I'm not sure where the last 37 years have gone. I seem to remember it was 1975; I lay back on the lounge floor, my Diamond Dogs LP was playing at full blast and just for a moment I closed my eyes... Next thing, it's 2012 and I'm pushing 50.

1 Year Ago:Heterosexuals say the funniest things...

Monday, 10 September 2012

What's OCD in German...?

I'm not the neatest person ever to walk this earth but I like order and I like to plan things. I think this is something that has developed as I've got older. I don't like surprises. I like to know what's coming and I take great comfort from sticking to a schedule; it makes me feel secure. Some might say I take this to the point of obsession.

Take holidays, for instance. Many of you will know that I like to plan my runs using Google Earth. And my forthcoming trip to Berlin has not escaped this treatment. I've managed to plan one run which takes me along the Spree and past the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate and I'm already looking at alternative routes, should that one prove a little busy. Another thing I like to do before a holiday is plan my schedule of things I'd like to see.

At the moment, I'm planning my Berlin schedule; flicking through my guidebook, scouring the internet and talking to friends who have already visited. Below is an aspirational list of things that I'd like to see in Berlin and I've already started to shoehorn this schedule into the eight days that I'm there.

I have a spreadsheet called Berlin Itinerary with every day split into 3 periods: morning, afternoon and evening. Each day I open my spreadsheet and shuffle the items below to try and get a more efficient fit. Could this be OCD or what?

If there's anything I've missed that you think I really should see, let me know and I'll try squeeze it in. Here's the list so far...
Olympic Stadium
Le Corbusier House
Schloss Charlottenberg
Bahnhof Zoo
Museum of Photography
Story of Berlin
Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche
KaDeWe
Tiergarten
Tiergartenstrasse
Neues Ufer
Bauhaus Museum
Berliner Philhamoniker – Eroica
Berliner Dom
Pergamon Museum
Alte Nationalgalerie
Altes Museum
DDR Museum
Alexander Platz
Fernsehturm
Real Berlin Experience
Eastside Gallery
Friedrichshain
Schloss Sanssouci
Sanssouci Picture Gallery
Orangerie
Neues Palais
Chinesisches Haus
Schloss Charlottenhof
Neue Nationalgalerie
Festival of Lights – Opening Ceremony
Festival of Lights – Lightship Tour
Reichstag
Pariser Platz
Brandenburg Gate
Unter Den Linden
Haus am Checkpoint Charlie Museum
Bebelplatz
Gendarmenmarkt
Jüdischen Museum
Berlinische Galerie
Führerbunker
Stasi Exhibition
Gay Memorial
Holocaust Memorial

1 Year Ago:Nevermind being Googled, I've been Street Viewed...

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Don't Rain On My Parade (III)...

And so, after a rather damp Bristol Pride and a less than sunny Manchester Pride, Yahweh saw fit to bless Cardiff Mardi Gras with wall to wall sunshine on Saturday. Surely, if God agreed with Cardinal O'Brien, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, that gay marriage is a grotesque subversion, he wouldn't have given us such a glorious day.

Maybe, instead, he chose to punish us in other ways; by ensuring that the the bar prices at the Mardi Gras were sky high whilst the quality of entertainment was abysmally low. I could've endured the worthy speeches had they been punctuated by something interesting to keep me occupied in between. However, some children dancing and someone from S Club 7 lip-synching and dancing rather badly just wasn't enough to keep me going. Indeed, the only thing that did sustain me was the excellent company.

In the end, despite the prohibitive prices, the alcohol won out. I was, by late afternoon, wide-eyed and legless. The promise of Heather Small topping the bill was, I have to say, a stretch too far. I had to be assisted off the field and, in an attempt to revive me, taken for something to eat at a restaurant in the town centre where I accidentally set fire to my napkin (or so I'm told).

I look forward to a better Mardi Gras in Cardiff next year where fast track queues for ticket holders move quicker than the queues for non-ticket holders, where there's a better show of entertainment throughout the day, where alcohol is priced fairly and there's more of a choice, where the food is a little more varied than chips with everything and where I'm not getting collared every 30 seconds by someone wanting me to complete a bloody survey. Having had my bitch, I must say that I'm pleased it happened and I'm glad I went. We all had a lot of fun.

1 Year Ago:A period of re-adjustment...

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Don't Rain On My Parade (II)...

Despite some initially pessimistic weather forecasts, Manchester Pride 2012 wasn't quite the wash out we were led to believe it would be. Saturday's Parade down Deansgate was bathed by blue skies to start with but got a little greyer by the time it reached the Village. There were stretches of sunshine that saw everyone spill out onto Canal Street and sudden showers that saw everyone run for cover again. Indeed, the same on/off weather persisted through much of Saturday, Sunday and well into Monday. I'm pleased to say that everyone's spirits weren't dampened by these occasional showers.

I guess many of us take Pride events for granted nowadays. Time was when they were more of a political rally than the carnival that we see today. I for one am pleased that they have become more of a fun event rather than the heavily policed, grim marches they once were. Now the police march with us. The theme this year was ‘Queer’d Science’, in honour of the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing, who was appallingly treated by the authorities over his homosexuality. How times change.

I was so pleased to see so many families out enjoying Manchester Pride over the weekend; there were so many kids at the event in the afternoon. And I was also pleased to see some pretty big companies, proud to sponsor Manchester Pride; companies such as easyJet, RBS Group, The Co-operative and Selfridges. It's a sign of acceptance; it's a sign of the times.

How disheartening then to wake on Sunday morning to the news that Cardinal O'Brien was to lead the Scottish Catholic Church in reading out a letter in each of the Church's parishes in Scotland criticising the Scottish government for plans to introduce gay marriage. How out of touch can these people get?

You may remember that Cardinal O'Brien called plans for gay marriage a "grotesque subversion" back in March. Having been part of Manchester Pride this weekend and seeing all the smiles and laughter and fun, I believe that the only grotesque subversion is the Scottish Catholic Church and Cardinal O'Brien.

After a damp Bristol Pride and the patchy weather that beset Manchester, let's hope that God sees fit to bathe Cardiff Mardi Gras this coming weekend in glorious sunshine. I'd pray for such weather, if I believed there was even the smallest outside chance that he existed.

1 Year Ago:A little too highbrow...

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Where in the world...?

I don't find it easy choosing holiday destinations. I don't mean those sun & sand holidays where one beach is much like another; they're easy to choose. No, I mean the city break type holiday where I try to go to somewhere that interests me, somewhere with plenty of exploring potential; somewhere that can keep me curious for at least a week.

In recent years I've been to New York, Rome, Lisbon, Madrid and Istanbul. As you might expect from that list, all of them held my attention for the entire stay and some I'd be more than happy to return to for further exploration. Usually, by early Spring, a city will suggest itself and after a little fact finding I'll book a flight and hotel. This year nothing has suggested itself.

I think the reason is because this year's holiday coincides with my 50th birthday and I've been under some pressure (all self generated) to find somewhere special. So in addition to satisfying all the usual criteria, this year's destination has to be somewhere worthy of a landmark birthday, somewhere that I can look back on fondly in my (anec)dotage.

Should I opt for a beach holiday and just let this landmark slip by in a haze of suntan spray and alcohol? Should I settle for a city that I've been to before? At least that way I know what to expect and where exactly I should spend my actual 50th? Should I choose one of those destinations that are sometimes referred to as the holiday of a lifetime? Tokyo, San Fransisco and Buenos Aires are three that have offered themselves up as contenders to bankrupt me as I slide into my sixth decade.

Last weekend I finally booked somewhere. This place has always been on the list but I've never quite managed to visit. Strange really why it didn't occur to me earlier in the year but within minutes of thinking about it, I'd checked out a few recommendations on Trip Advisor, booked the hotel and was researching flights from the UK.

This city has been fixed in my imagination since my teenage reading of Christopher Isherwood's early novels. A growing awareness of gay history and the liberal outlook of the Weimar Republic further rooted it in my mind. So where have I chosen to pass my half century? Berlin, of course, and I'm so excited!

1 Year Ago:Infected...

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Cycling matters...

Us cyclists are a funny lot; we love to point at motorists and accuse them of driving without due care and attention and then off we go and break the rules ourselves. We jump lights, ignore one way streets, cycle on pavements and we approach signalling as an optional extra (if the mood takes us). Of course, I'm not talking about every cyclist and the majority of them that break the rules don't do it all the time.

I have to admit, I sometimes break the rules myself but, along with all rule breakers, I'd argue that  there are very good reasons for doing so. Honest! My ride to work every morning takes me up a broad pavemented avenue in Cardiff called Lloyd George (Boy George, as I call it) Avenue. A cycle lane runs adjacent to to this broad pavement and yet I always cycle on the pavement. Why? Because the cycle lane is punctuated with barriers at every junction whereas the pavement is not. Also, the cycle lane is frequently blocked by kids playing and parked cars. Excusable? Probably not.

My journey also takes me through two pedestrianised areas in the town centre: The Hayes and Queen Street. You're allowed to cycle through The Hayes but you are not allowed to cycle through Queen Street, despite the fact that one segues into the other and with no clear and obvious signage. It's confusing. The police in one area of Cardiff have decided to target pavement cyclists, taking a zero tolerance approach with those caught, by issuing them with fixed penalty notices. I guess that murders and burglaries aren't quite as profitable. Who says that crime doesn't pay!

And talking about profit, some of you may remember my complaint to Cardff Bus in May. Well after much prompting and further complaints about their lack of response, they eventually got back to me over two months later. This tardiness by them gave me ample opportunity to fizz, fester and frustrate; the result of which is I have cancelled my £50 a month season ticket and opted to cycle to work instead - whatever the weather. I've fitted my bike with mudguards and bought myself a waterproof cycling jacket and trousers and still had change out of £50. Next month I move into profit!

Last Saturday I cycled the Taff Trail from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff with my friend Howard. The weather was beautiful, the views stunning and I almost reached a state of cycling Nirvana... Until I hit Pontypridd, where the trail runs out along with any signage to guide you to where to pick it up again. What a shining example of shitsville this place is. It's confusing, it's dangerous and it's enough to make you jump lights, ignore one way streets, cycle on pavements and approach signalling as an optional extra. Really!

1 Year Ago:The ladies who lunch...

Monday, 6 August 2012

Personal Olympics...

I must admit that in the run up to the Olympics I wasn't that enthused. You can guarantee turning me off completely when you wheel out the patriotic card; that forced, gung-ho, get behind London 2012 hype that was (and still is) everywhere. The Diamond Jubilee was the warm up act to the Olympics and they seem to have segued from one into the other with no pause for breath.

I'm sure that if you live in London and you're lucky enough to have a few tickets to a couple of Olympic events, it's a different story. I'm sure that if you've never had that uneasy feeling when people start chanting and waving union flags, you're wondering what the hell I'm complaining about. I'm sure that if you don't have that queasy reaction to all the sponsorship rules about what can and cannot be worn and eaten, you're at a loss to explain what I'm yapping on about.

So I'll stop yapping on and cut to the chase (long story short); contrary to every expectation I had of myself, I have spent the last few days in a highly emotional state, yelling at the TV, gesticulating wildly to thin air and sobbing like a baby at the highs and lows of these Olympics:
All the hairs stood up on my neck as a crowd gathered around a large public screen in Cardiff and cheered Bradley Wiggins on to win the Men's Time Trial.
My sadness at watching Rebecca Adlington put on an unnecessary brave face after winning a bronze in the Women's 800m Freestyle.
My elation at catching quite by accident our lads win the Men's Four on Saturday morning.
The deserved win for Jessica Ennis in the Women's Heptathalon as I punched the air and yelped.
My elation and pride as the the tears rolled down my face watching Mo Farah take the Men's 10,000m
And finally (my favorite image so far), the fuzzy warm glow I felt watching Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking win the Women's Lightweight Double Sculls.
Surely, the look on Katherine Copeland's shocked face sums up what's great about these games. It's not about sponsorship or patriotism or being there in London waving a flag; it's about the personal stories that lie behind the results.

The joy and the heartache that is so often evidently on display is very moving at times. This demands that you engage with these athletes and these Olympics on a personal level. And that is something I'm more than happy to do.

1 Year Ago:Coming to my senses...

Run 06/08/2012 17:11
Distance5:01 kmTime26:51
Pace5:23 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Sunny.

Run 03/07/2012 17:25
Distance5:01 kmTime29:17
Pace5:51 min/kmCadence80 spm
Comments: Raining.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Meretricious (and a happy new year)...

Sad news today to hear that Gore Vidal is dead. He was a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, Princess Margaret, Tennesse Williams and Leonard Bernstein. He was close to John F Kennedy and confident of Jackie Kennedy. With his quick wit and brutal frankness, he often seemed the only voice of reason and critical thought to emanate from the US.

Vidal was an author, playwright, essayist, screenwriter and political activist. He wrote plays that were Broadway hits (The Best Man and Visit to a Small Planet), historical novels (Burr, 1876 and Lincoln), political essays (Armageddon? and United States: Essays 1952–1992) and film screenplays (Ben-Hur and the original draft for Caligula). His autobiography, Palimpsest is well worth digging out.

He was known for his acerbic tongue and lightning wit. Asked whether his first romantic encounter was homosexual or heterosexual, Vidal replied that he had been "too polite to ask". The BBC have put together a list of quotes to mark his death. They all display the man's sharp sense of humour.

My favorite quote is not included in the BBC's list. It goes something like:
The British writer Richard Adams, appearing alongside Vidal on That Was The Week That Was, called his work "meretricious" "Pardon?" said Vidal. "Meretricious" repeated Adams. In a split second Vidal was back at him, "Meretricious to you," he smiled, "and a happy new year."
You can find out more about Gore Vidal here.

1 Year Ago:Where's the justice...?

Run 01/08/2012 17:29
Distance5:01 kmTime29:00
Pace5:47 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Heavy downpours.

Run 30/07/2012 17:38
Distance5:01 kmTime30:15
Pace6:02 min/kmCadence79 spm
Comments: Grey.

Run 27/07/2012 16:57
Distance5:06 kmTime30:13
Pace5:59 min/kmCadence79 spm
Comments: Sunny and hot.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Twitticisms II...

Many of you will have read my occasional posts here and there about the things that make me laugh on Twitter. Twitter seems to lend itself to a certain kind of humour. No shaggy dog stories here because you're limited to 140 characters; you have to be concise with any humour and, if you're going to tickle my funny bone, the pithier the better.

And so without further procrastination:
Give a man a job and you have an employee, but teach him to shift blame and you have a manager!
@Llanigan

Two old woman meet for coffee, first lady says "did you come on the bus?" other replies "yes, but i made it look like an asthma attack".
@whyfi

"Jeremy Kyle is like a 21st century Dr Dolittle"... Brilliant quote!! Haha
@phillavelle

I got my dad a wooden leg for Christmas. It wasn't his main present though. Just a stocking filler.
@strutcakes

People who use predictive text are aunts.
@GCostin

Dull, plain looking woman on #superscrimpers tells me to freeze something called "left over wine" No I don't have a clue either.
@chris_burton_

Women say childbirth is the most painful thing... obviously they have never stepped on a Lego.
@jeddyamazing

Grammar. The difference between knowing your shit and knowing you're shit!
@ceri_dee

Just about to Felch my first creme egg of the year.
@Mumraa

I dont think I could ever stab someone, let's be honest I can barely get a straw into a capris sun.
@jameswalker1979

Found out last night that I'm both gay and dyslexic. I'm still in daniel.
@Pundamentalism

As we left hospital once again, we wondered whether to change the safe word from llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
@50ShedsofGrey
You can, of course, see all this and more first hand by joining the other tweeps on Twitter.

1 Year Ago:Spontaneity...

Run 25/07/2012 19:40
Distance5:01 kmTime28:24
Pace5:40 min/kmCadence80 spm
Comments: Sunny and hot.

Run 23/07/2012 17:09
Distance5:02 kmTime28:06
Pace5:36 min/kmCadence79 spm
Comments: Sunny and hot.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Briefs...

Hailing from Brisbane, Briefs are a boylesque troupe of Australian beefcake, wrapped up in glitter, feathers and fluff; they are currently appearing at Cardiff's Blysh Festival hosted at the WMC.

Their performance is a remarkable mix of foul mouthed cabaret with an added splash of circus and a generous orgasmic squirt of camp. Muscles are flexed, eyelashes are batted, buttocks are clenched and tongues are firmly placed in cheeks. I guarantee that you've never seen anything like it!

I've been to a number of Blysh Festival performances over the past few years and I've seen a number of cabaret acts. I've never been disappointed but Briefs' performance last night moved things to a new high. They have certainly raised the bar.

I, along with everyone else at last night's performance, laughed like a drain from beginning to end; marveling at these boys' athleticism and irreverent wit whilst ogling their beefcake, buffed up bodies.

If you like a bit of camp, if you enjoy cabaret, if you've got a sense of humour or even if, at some basic level, you consider yourself to be alive; beg, steal or borrow to get a ticket to see this life affirming spectacle. They've got one final performance in Cardiff tonight before continuing with their UK tour.

Go and see them; you won't be disappointed. Promise.

1 Year Ago:Elaine Carmody fights for your rights...

Run 20/07/2012 17:14
Distance5:16 kmTime29:35
Pace5:44 min/kmCadence80 spm
Comments: Sunny.

Run 18/07/2012 17:19
Distance5.02 kmTime27:33
Pace5:29 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Sunny.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Don't Rain On My Parade...

Despite some initially optimistic weather forecasts, despite keeping my fingers, legs, eyes and everything else crossed and despite daily libations to the pantheon of gay gods, Bristol Pride 2012 was more than a teensy bit damp. Admittedly, the sun did put his hat on for an hour or so mid-afternoon but it was, for the most part, a rather moist and sodden affair.

Having said that, it was enormous fun. And the fun started before the parade got underway, with Bristol's first openly gay Lord Mayor posing for the cameras at the head of the parade. With his whistle in his mouth, a rainbow flag in his hand and the beginnings of some killer moves; the press lapped it up. The rain eased off for the start of the parade as we turned out of Berkeley Square and headed down Park Street. Spectators hung out of top floor flats cheering us on as we wended our way toward College Green; this ragbag mix of militant lefties, newly out twinks and seasoned old drag queens.

The heavy police presence, both at the march and especially at Temple Meads station made sense when we found out that the English Defence League were also marching through Bristol, as were anti fascist organisations. The Pride march was unaffected by the EDL's presence in the city and organisers claimed that it was one of the biggest pride marches for the city.

My friend Howard and I had traveled over together from Cardiff and met up with some other friends in Bristol. We were later joined by another friend, Darren, and an obliging Brasilian guy took the shot of us above. It really was a delightful day which was not marred by any showers that occasionally drifted through or any clouds that might have obscured the sun (we've gotten used to that this Summer, haven't we?).

You can see images of Bristol Pride here at BBC News and here at This is Bristol. Whilst we were there we had our photo taken a number of times and I found this black and white one whilst looking for pictures of the event on Google on Sunday morning (I'm the slaphead on the right). If Arena was still in business, this would be a poster!

And given this post's title, it seems only fitting to leave you with this...

1 Year Ago:It's just not cricket...

Run 16/07/2012 18:22
Distance5:30 kmTime30:26
Pace5:44 min/kmCadence80 spm
Comments: Showers.

Run 12/07/2012 17:18
Distance5:13 kmTime29:52
Pace5:50 min/kmCadence80 spm
Comments: Showers.

Monday, 9 July 2012

København...

This weekend has seen me overcome with a wave of nostalgia for Copenhagen. You see, I've been watching the original Danish version of The Killing (Forbrydelsen, "The Crime"). Those of you who have watched it will know that it's a slow burning crime thriller set in the Danish capital, Copenhagen.

I visited Copenhagen frequently between 1997 and 2007 and grew quite fond of the town. I say town because it doesn't feel like a city, not when you're on foot. Once in the centre, you can easily walk to most places. A lot of the architecture is beautiful and old. However, you regularly stumble upon new, functional architecture that has a beauty too. It's this mix that makes it a magical place (if only the critics of London's Shard would understand this). In my mind Copenhagen is a city of two halves.

There's the vibrant colours of places like Nyhavn, the tourist harbour area with its brightly coloured house fronts; its busy cafes and bars overlooking the canal. Copenhagen is dotted with such areas; they bustle with a vibrant warmth and friendliness. And then there's it's skyline, punctured by the copper-green spires of countless churches. In the summer, this makes Copenhagen one of the prettiest capitals I've ever been to.

Then there's the darker side to this city. I don't mean sinister; just darker, colder and greyer in feel as well as colour. And indeed, it is this dark quality that The Killing exploits; set during the month of November, there's a damp and gloomy quality to series. It's quite evocative, with many of the scenes being set at night. This darker aspect of Copenhagen lends itself quite well to this drama.

These darker quarters of the city seem drained of colour, almost monochrome. No gayly painted frontages here - just grey and angular. And this has a beauty too. No-one quite does grey and angular like the Danes. Pictured above is the Royal Library, nicknamed the Black Diamond because of its striking marble and glass exterior. It's used as a location in the series and it's an exquisitely beautiful building.

If you've not seen The Killing, give it a try; the cast and atmosphere are great. I could say the same about Copenhagen itself; why not give it a try; the cast and atmosphere are great!

1 Year Ago:Land of my fathers. And mothers...

Run 09/07/2012 17:50
Distance5:02 kmTime28:17
Pace5:38 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Sunshine but windy.

Run 06/07/2012 16:37
Distance5:18 kmTime28:57
Pace5:36 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Showers.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The National Three Peaks Challenge...

The National Three Peaks Challenge is an event that comprises of climbing the highest mountains of Scotland, England and Wales. The three peaks are:
Ben Nevis (1,344m), Scotland
Scafell Pike (978m), England
Snowdon (1,085m), Wales
The total walking distance is approximately 44km, along with driving 744km between the peaks. And, to succeed at this challenge, it has to be completed within 24 hours. It's tough.

Starting at approximately 4pm at the foot of Ben Nevis this Friday (July 6th), some friends of mine will attempt to do just that. They've been training for over 6 months with early starts every weekend to practice climbing different mountains in South Wales and further afield. During this time, they have, between them, climbed innumerable peaks and walked one helluva distance - I've seen the blisters and limps.

They haven't been helped by this year's unseasonable Spring and non-existent Summer and some have had to drop out through injury. It's not been easy. However, a core of 11 remaining team members are now set to attempt the Three Peaks Challenge this coming weekend and, judging by every forecast I've seen, it doesn't look as if they can count on the weather being on their side.

Undoubtedly, they all have their different personal reasons for doing this but the one reason that binds them all is to raise money for Cancer Research Wales. So far, they've raised over £6,000 between them. If you'd like to cheer them on and encourage them, what better way than to make a donation? I'm sure the knowledge that donations are still coming in will spur them on during the more difficult moments that they'll undoubtedly face during this challenge.

To make a donation, visit the team page at Just Giving, The PBS Peakers, where you can pick a team member to donate to or select PBS Team Page to donate to the whole team.

1 Year Ago:Such a drag...

Run 03/07/2012 18:05
Distance5:03 kmTime29:19
Pace5:50 min/kmCadence80 spm
Comments: Heavy showers.

Run 02/07/2012 17:18
Distance5.01 kmTime29:34
Pace5:54 min/kmCadence79 spm
Comments: Heavy rain.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Is Tom Cruise gay...?

Does anyone care...? Passing a newsagent's on my run yesterday afternoon, I couldn't help but notice how many front pages had Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes splashed all over them, following news on Friday that they are to divorce. With the current crisis besetting the Euro and the news that Barclays manipulated the Libor (and with other major banks under investigation for their part in it), you'd think we'd have something else to talk about. So, in answer to "Does anyone care...?", it seems that people care a great deal about Tom Cruise, his life and his loves.

Following the news of their break up on Friday, Twitter was awash with jokes about Tom finally getting rid of his beard (I should explain that a beard is a term for the pretend female partner a closeted gay man uses to conceal his true sexual orientation - a disguise, if you will). News like this is a goldmine for anyone who fancies themselves as a bit of a wit and Twitter, with its 140 character limit, is the ideal method of delivery for the pithy retort. The beard joke was retweeted until it was threadbare, along with numerous other twitticisms about Tom Cruise and Scientology, Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Tom Cruise's height and, of course, questions about Tom Cruise's sexuality.

Indeed, questions (and inevitably jokes) about Tom Cruise's sexuality have existed for years; they have rumbled on ever since he first entered the public eye in the early 80s. One rumour concerned an alleged homosexual affair he had during the filming of Eyes Wide Shut, the Stanley Kubrick film he made with his then wife, Nicole Kidman. When his attorney got news that letters supporting this affair were to be used in Andrew Morton's biography of Tom Cruise, warnings of legal action were issued. Indeed, his attorney's sledge hammer to crack a nut approach to quash such rumours (and also the reporting of those rumours) has, according to many, wedded the words Tom Cruise to the word gay in the public's mind.

The other word wedded to Tom Cruise is, of course, Scientology. Most of you will be aware that Tom Cruise is a prominent member of the Church of Scientology. Other celebrity members include, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Lisa Marie Presley, Isaac Hayes and Chick Corea. Scientology is a religion that was started in 1953 by science fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard and his wife. Tom Cruise was introduced to Scientology in 1990 by his first wife, Mimi Rogers. Since then he has campaigned for it to be recognised as a religion in Europe. Scientology's opposition to mainstream psychiatry was highlighted when Tom Cruise said, "I think psychiatry should be outlawed". He later went on to criticise actress Brook Shields for using anti-depressants, asserting that there is no such thing as a chemical imbalance and that psychiatry is a form of pseudoscience.

Scientology teaches that people are immortal spiritual beings who have forgotten their true nature. Hubbard's views on homosexuality were that it is an aberration and that homosexuals are dangerous to society. In its early history, the Church of Scientology claims to have cured a number of ailments, including "overt homosexuality" by the application of Dianetics - a "science of the mind" that Hubbard invented and is practiced by followers of Scientology (Cruise claims it cured his dyslexia). Has the Church of Scientology changed its stance on homosexuality in recent years? They claim not to dictate sexual preferences but the San Diego branch of the church recently supported Proposition 8, a movement to ban gay marriage in California. If Tom Cruise were gay, he would find himself at odds with a number of his fellow Scientologists.

And it's not just his pronouncements on Scientology that have attracted controversy. Perhaps the most memorable interview Tom Cruise has ever done was the Oprah interview in 2005 where he demonstrated, through some pretty extraordinary behavior, his purported love for Katie Holmes. As many have observed, his actions during the interview, such as dropping to one knee, punching the air and jumping up and down on the sofa, made him look rather foolish. In acting terms, it's a performance that's more pantomime than Method Acting; it's the performance of a desperate man - a man desperate to dispell any rumours that he might be gay? The phrase that springs to mind is, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks". Here it is again for those of you with strong stomachs.

So, is Tom Cruise gay? I certainly hope not!

1 Year Ago:Best run of the week...

Run 30/06/2012 13:03
Distance5:06 kmTime28:24
Pace5:37 min/kmCadence81 spm
Comments: Sunny but blustery.

Run 29/06/2012 17:39
Distance5.30 kmTime31:39
Pace5:58 min/kmCadence80 spm
Comments: Sunny.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Happy Birthday...

A year ago today I wrote the first post for this blog, with a challenge to myself to write an entry every day for six months. Six months came and went and I now find myself, 366 posts later, writing the 367th on the blog's first birthday.

Whether it's my birthday or Christmas day,  whether I'm on holiday, hungover or ill, I've managed to keep it going; I haven't missed a day. Writing a post every day has been fun sometimes, frustrating sometimes but interesting always. I guess when I started, I realised that this would be the case. There are days when this blog virtually writes itself and other days when I sit and stare at the screen for hours on end with not a thought in my head.

I'd be the first to admit that some posts are better written and more entertaining than others. I guess this is understandable when you sit down every night, often, with little idea of what you're going to write about. There are so many elements that need to come together and in the right mix. Often a good idea for a post is badly executed and sometimes a not so good idea is lifted by good writing. And, as an exercise about having to write something every day, I've gained quite a lot of insight about me and my approach to writing.

So what does the future hold for The Scarperer? Well, I won't be blogging every day; in its second year, I'd like to write because I want to rather than because I have to write. I want to understand how that changes what I write and how I approach things. I've also been thinking of introducing some audio blogs. Finally, every post will be accompanied by a link, 1 Year Ago, pointing to the post written (you guessed it) 1 year ago. And so, without further ado...

1 Year Ago:Nothing but an orthotic wearing, high arched, under pronator...

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Taste the difference...

After my swim tonight I called in at Morrisons on my bike ride home. I usually go to Asda but it's further away and given that it was a bit drizzly and... blah... blah... blah... Anyway, I dropped in at Morrisons for a change.

Coasting up and down the aisles and singing along to the piped music, "...Babooshka, Babooshka, Babooshka-ya-ya. All yours, Babooshka, Babooshka, Babooshka-ya-ya..." my head was turned once, twice and once again. The eye-candy at Morrisons in Cardiff Bay is certainly attention grabbing. I don't think I've ever scored so high playing Hotty or Notty.

I couldn't help but compare it to my usual Asda experience, which, let's face it, is a little chavvy. It's not a great range on offer and the quality can be questionable - unless you happen to have a fetish for scrawny scally lads or big women in leggings. I'm pleased to say that neither appeals to me.

It was at that point that I heard my name being called. I stopped ogling and singing along to Kate Bush and turned to see a friend from work, Leah. I hope she didn't spot me totty watching...?

Monday, 25 June 2012

My life as a dog...

The one negative aspect of a great weekend is adjusting to Monday and everything it brings. A bright weekend can cast a long shadow over the working week. Usually, I'm quite good at this readjustment; only last week I returned from Gran Canaria on the Saturday and was back in work on Monday harbouring little reluctance or reticence.

Today was totally different; I just yearned for the easy and relaxed time I'd enjoyed over the weekend. I wanted to sit in bars and cafes and not at my desk or in meetings. The day dragged as did my feet and made everything seem like a challenge; simply going for a wee felt like one of the labours of Hercules. Today was certainly a dog of a day.

Glad when home time came, I cycled back to the Bay and bought a bottle of red on the way - I felt I'd earned it. I'd almost talked myself out of going for a run and into just opening the wine. However, something in me forced me out of the door and I set off in my usual direction - over the bridge toward the Sports Village. The weather was lovely and I soon developed a spring in my step. The corners of my mouth began to curl upward.

Passing Cardiff International Pool, instead of following it round as I usually do and onwards back to the Bay, I suddenly crossed the road and started running in the direction of Pont Y Werin over the River Ely. I surprised myself with this sudden change in direction. I'm not sure what possessed me. Before I knew it I was heading for the barrage, committing myself to a longer run than I'd planned. By now though, I was grinning.

I read in an old running magazine the other day that you should run like a dog; sprint, smile, trot, pant, change direction, get wet, don't get too hung up and enjoy it. It's excellent advice as it's very easy to become too serious about running, what with all the clothing, equipment and accessories. It's very easy to lose sight of what a fun, free and exhilarating activity it can and should be.

My run around the barrage tonight was amazing, made all the more so by it not being planned. The sun was shining and it really felt good to be alive. I felt like the dog described in the running magazine as I darted about, panting and enjoying myself. It was a wonderful reminder of why I run and what a simple pleasure it is in itself. It really is a dog's life...

Today's run at 17:25
Distance7.50 kmTime45:19
Pace6:03 min/kmCadence82 spm
Comments: Sunny.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Humbling...

There is something magical about seeing an original piece of art, especially a famous piece such as the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris or Guernica at the Reina Sofia in Madrid. I can't help but get excited because I'm only inches away from something so special and, in the case of the Mona Lisa and Guernica, created by talents of monumental proportions.

Of course we all have our favorite artists and works of art. For me, Hieronymus Bosch is one such artist and to stand in the same room at the Prado in Madrid as one of his most famous pieces, The Garden of Earthly Delights, was an exhilarating moment. Other moments of the same caliber were seeing Jan van Eyk's Arnolfini Portrait and the Wilton Diptych, both at the National Gallery in London. The list goes on.

And to that list I can now add the da Vinci anatomical drawings, having seen them at the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace yesterday. Their intricacy and detail lend them a beauty and intrigue you can only marvel at. Just to be in the same room as something created by a genius of Leonardo da Vinci's proportions is humbling.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Tigers on Vaseline...

I traveled to London after work yesterday evening to meet my friend Howard from Manchester. After some food, a bit of gay bar hopping around Old Compton St and Brewer St and a not too late night, we were up and mooching about the capital by late morning today.

Our first stop was The Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace for the Leonardo da Vinci Anatomist exhibition. It's the largest exhibition ever put together of his anatomical drawings and notes; a simple but well laid out exhibition. My lasting impression was the inquisitiveness of this man and his capacity for attention to detail. Incredible and very beautiful.

A quick flit around the Buckingham Palace gift shop, negotiating the Union Flag tea towels, Diamond Jubilee embroidered cushions, royal themed crockery, Betty Windsor calendars and some tempting t shirts with "Princess" written in diamanté across them left us both feeling satiated with royalty to the brink of nausea; enough to turn anyone republican.

This was followed by a saunter through Soho and a beer and veggie burger lunch at Byron. Whilst eating lunch, I managed to track down the whereabouts of Heddon St on my phone. This is the location of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album cover shot and is not the easiest street to find in London. Search for it on Maps on the iPhone and you are simply directed to Regent St. However, a bit of detective work revealed its exact location.

A quick mince down Brewer St and then across Regent St saw me standing in Heddon St, exactly where Mr Stardust himself stood some 40 years ago and a bewildered Howard forced to take photos of me doing so. It's certainly changed in that time, dotted with its cafes, bars and quick eateries. Judging by the photo, I don't think I'd cut it as a messianic, alien rock star.

We retraced our steps back along Brewer St to a bar that Howard knew called The Yard; on two floors with a little courtyard, we sat outside enjoying a couple of beers and watching the gay boys come and go. The perfect end to a lovely day out together.

As I write this, I'm sat on the train back to Cardiff. Opposite me are two Christians. I know this because they both have their New Testaments close at hand. They eye me with suspicion, as if I had 666 tattooed across my forehead. Perhaps they can smell that I'm a non believer? Well, I am wearing L'Atheist, eau de toilette pour homme by Lenthéric.

He is fat and much younger than her. He wears a red hoodie with "Playboy Mansion" emblazoned across the front with a photo of some scantily clad female to accompany it. He stares blankly; his mouth hangs open, the cavity filled by his swollen tongue. I catch him looking at me and his eyes flick to staring out the window again.

She is tiny, delicate and is pale to the point of translucence. I can see the veins in her marshmallow skin. She fingers a copy of "The Lady" as she slowly tries to eat an M&S salad, leaf by leaf, with a plastic spoon. Watching this is frustrating beyond belief. Were she a child and I her parent, I'd have to slap her and tell her to stop playing with her food.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Judy, Judy, Judy...

Forty three years ago today Judy Garland died. It was 1969 and her 5th husband, Mickey Deans (whom she'd only married in March of that year), discovered her body in her rented apartment in Chelsea, London.

The cause of death was an overdose of barbituates and debate rages as to whether this overdose was accidental or intentional. Her Wizard of Oz co-star Ray Bolger commented at her funeral, "She just plain wore out."

Garland had always had a large gay following and that increased following her death. It is said that the increased emotion around grieving for her was partly responsible for the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village, New York City in the early hours of June 29th (her funeral took place June 28th). The Stonewall Riots are cited as the birth place of the modern gay movement, "when the drag queens and faggots fought back" against the police raids.

Everybody has their favorite Judy film. For many it will be The Wizard of Oz, for others it will be Meet Me in St Louis. For me it has to be A Star is Born. Her performance of The Man that Got Away is perfection.

But not quite as good as mine...

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Everything and nothing...

Last night's post about my new hair trimmer attracted a comment from a friend of mine, "What's that got to do with running, swimming or biking ...not to be pinikity...?" To which I replied, "Everything and nothing..."

I guess he was referring to the sentence below the blog's title, "A blog about running, swimming and cycling and the things I think about whilst I'm running, swimming and cycling..." And, of course, you may well be thinking the same thing.

I wasn't being facetious in my reply; yesterday's post had everything to do with last night's swim (whilst swimming I was thinking about whether the reviews I'd read about the trimmer were accurate and I'd bought a crock of shite) and yesterday's post had nothing to with last night's swim (it bore no material difference to the swim itself).

Indeed, the majority of my posts are not about running, swimming or cycling but every one of them has been thought about whilst performing one of those activities. The mind (or should I say, "My mind...") really does go to some strange place during exercise. I'm sure there are many who will testify to this. It's as if my mind escapes to a sphere of its own while my body gets on with its exercise.

When I first started this blog, I tried to obviously tie each post to an activity. I'd start posts with sentences like, "While out running tonight..." and then introduce the theme of the post. I'm more relaxed about it now but with that relaxation, I guess, it isn't necessarily obvious where that theme came from. Anyway, I hope that sort of explains it.

Switching subjects somewhat; you'll be pleased to hear that my Garmin sports watch seems to have finished its hissy fit and is behaving itself again, as evidenced by the inclusion again of the running record below.
Today's run at 17:19
Distance6.13 kmTime38:59
Pace6:21 min/kmCadence80 spm
Comments: Raining.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The return of Ming the Merciless...

My hair clippers broke a couple of weeks ago; well, actually, they still work but the comb guard keeps falling off. And a loose comb guard is not very useful if you're looking for an even and uniform finish.

Since they broke I've been using my stubble trimmer to shave my head. This works fine but takes forever. It's a bit fiddly to get right and I'm never convinced that there isn't some tuft I've missed lurking somewhere around the back.

Yesterday, I bought a new head trimmer for the bargain price of £20. As an afterthought, I then had a look online for user reviews (backwards, I know) and dug up these reviews on Amazon's site. Most of them, it seems, are not exactly complimentary. So it was, with some anxiety and fearing the worst, that I attempted to shave my head tonight.

As indeed some of the reviews on the Amazon site suggest, the comb guard is useless and, even at the lowest setting, the trimmer did not touch one follicle on my head. I threw caution to the wind, dispensed with the comb guards and just applied the trimmer to my head for a grade 0 cut.

I have to admit that, with its rotary cutting action, it shaved my head (a wee bit shorter than I'd normally go) in no time at all. Admittedly, the trimmer comes with a little accessory trimmer of its own to edge and finish but I don't think it's very flexible. I evened things off using my stubble trimmer and the whole operation took next to no time and produced a uniform and pleasing finish.

The verdict? If you want a quick and even closely shaved head and you have a stubble trimmer of your own that you can use to edge and finish off, then this unit is useful and worth consideration. If you're looking to buy a trimmer to cut anything above grade 0 and you don't have a stubble trimmer to fall back on, then I'd avoid this; it doesn't do what the manufacturers claim it does.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Victor Spinetti...

Victor Spinetti died yesterday. He was a Welsh actor, writer, director and raconteur. He found fame with Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop and in the films he made with the Beatles. He performed for the RSC, in the West End and on Broadway and was a talented mimic.

I was lucky enough to meet him a few times during my time as an actor. He always told a good story:
Victor was working on a play in Paris and his mother and sister were visiting from Cwm. Rehearsals were running late and so he rang up his good friend Marlene Dietrich to ask if she would entertain them at his hotel until such time as he could get there.

After rehearsals had finished and he dashed across town in a cab, he walked into the lobby of his hotel to find his mother and sister sat in the bar with Dietrich. They were dressed identically in homemade dresses, the material having been bought in Pontypool market and there they were; giving Marlene Dietrich beauty and fashion tips.
He had hundreds of funny anecdotes, many of which found their way into his books and into his one man shows. Here's the BBC News obituary. Here's the Guardian's obituary.

R.I.P. Victor Spinetti 1929 - 2012

Monday, 18 June 2012

Get a Garmin...

Tonight's run was a bit of a lardy legged affair. I think I'm feeling a little under the weather; I began to get a sore throat on the last day of my holiday. It has stayed with me ever since and been joined by a headache, spotty skin, cold sore, upset stomach and aching joints. All of them quite mild but fatiguing all the same. Perhaps tonight's run was a mistake?

You may be wondering what happened to the running while I was away. After all, there have been no mentions of any runs and no green inked summaries at the bottom of any post since before I left for my holiday over a week ago. Indeed, it seems absent from the agenda.

I can assure you I did go running every day whilst on holiday; even after 6pm in the evening, the heat was killing and the sweat just poured off me. I would stagger the last kilometer and then dive into the coolness of the hotel pool. Tonight's run, while being a doddle compared to those Canarian runs in 30C or more, was still a bit of a tough slog but that, as I say, I put down to my state of health.

The reason there is no green inked summary at the bottom of each post is because my Garmin Forerunner 610 running watch decided to act up and, instead, play silly buggers with me. It would discharge rather than charge, then it couldn't connect to my foot pod and then it couldn't locate any satellites - a bit useless for a GPS running watch, really?

Again, on tonight's run, it wouldn't connect with my foot pod and did not stop when I pressed the stop button at the end of my run. A teensy bit useless. Get a Garmin - my arse!