Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Lane pain

Three weeks ago I revealed here that Vanessa had selflessly signed me up for my first (and last) triathlon.

I also pledged to get some swimming practice in fairly swiftly as the last time I attempted more than two lengths without stopping was 26 years ago.

Well, prior to this morning, I hadn't managed to fulfil my pledge.  There were all sorts of reasons for this.

For example, where were my swimming shorts?  And being the owner of three pairs, which ones would I wear when I eventually found them?  

I bought some swimming goggles a little while ago.  (I'd ordered Vanessa some new trainers for her birthday by mail order.  But I had to spend another £5 for free delivery - so, knowing I was doing the triathlon, blew £6 on a pair of goggles).   However, where were they?  And would I have to adjust them once they were located?  That would take time too.

And crucially, I don't really like getting into swimming pools - it's the water that puts me off.  How cold would it really be?  Best not to bother.

But then last night, realising that there were just two and a half weeks to go, I suddenly panicked and phoned the local pool to see when the next "lane session" was due.

To my horror, it was between 7 and 9 this morning - and at 8.10am, in I plopped.

I'll give you the good news first.  My task on race day is to swim for 400 metres.  And today I managed 1000 metres, across two stints. So I was pleased with that.

The less good news is that it was torture and I looked utterly ridiculous.

I'd not seen a "lane session" before never mind taken part in one.  What I found when I got there was three separate lanes marked "slow, medium and fast."  And occupying each lane, divided equally, was one third of the cast of Cocoon.

(I even managed to take a picture).

And every one of them was a better swimmer than me.

Alongside my weak stamina and my slow speed, my steering also isn't very good. And so the only way I was able to get from one end to the other was to do my version of the breast stroke.  The Barry Stroke, if you will.

It involves lots of frantic splashing, endless blowing and not much in the way of forward propulsion.  Hogging the middle lane, I was overtaken by all and sundry - many tutting as they glided past, their butterfly wings and bald heads cutting through the water.

It was truly disheartening.  My only hope of retribution is if I meet one or two of them competing at the triathlon, when I will then either jog them into a hedge or knock them off their antique bikes.  But, to do either, I'll have to complete the swimming leg first.

I'm due back in Aireborough pool again on Friday morning.  In the slow lane this time.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016


Every so often when your kids are growing up, one of them will do or say something which reminds you that they won't be so young and "innocent" for long.

I had one such moment last night when I rushed home with some cut price sleeping attire for him and her.

Charlotte was delighted with her Shopkins nightie, which pleased me greatly.

But Jamie was a touch more standoffish about his Batman pyjamas, complete with Bat Cape.

He wasn't rude, to be fair.  He just seemed a little underwhelmed.

"Do you not like them?" I whimpered.

"Well, yeah," he replied, looking a touch awkward.

"Do you not like the cape?" I ploughed on, with a dollop of desperation.

"Well, the thing is Daddy," he said, "it's not really me."

"Why not?!" I pleaded to know.

"Because I'm almost eight."

And I'm old enough to be Robin's dad.          

Sunday, 20 March 2016

True colours

I've missed quite a lot of Aireborough Lions Under 8s tag rugby this year, but thankfully I was able to make the Sandal Festival today when it was well-deserved medals all round.

And other than Jamie's three tries, there was one particular highlight for me.

Above you can see a Roundhegians player in a yellow bib with a number 15 on his back.  That's our bib.  He was wearing it because they were a jersey short so he had been wearing a maroon skin skirt.  But because Aireborough were also wearing maroon, something had to be done before their game against our boys could begin.    

The referee said so in the player' huddle, but one of the Roundhegians was confused.

"Why can he not just wear his own shirt?" he gently enquired.

"Because it's the same colour as the other team's," the ref replied.

Our opponent thought about this for a second, before firing back: "But we know who he is!"

That's why getting up early on a Sunday morning tends to be worthwhile.

Friday, 18 March 2016

He's just a big baby

I always admire a man who can walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

But I have particular respect for a man who is prepared to walk the walk through the streets of Guiseley dressed as a big baby.

Meet Jamie and Charlotte's headteacher, Mr Madeley.

I like Mr Madeley.  He's fun (although I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of him).  He's one of those people who leads from the front and, from all I've seen, wouldn't ask anyone to do something he wouldn't do himself.  

And it's become clear that he is also prepared to do things that few others would even consider.

Which brings me to today and the St Oswald's Primary School sponsored walk in aid of Sport Relief and the LGI Neonatal Unit.

Each class is due to walk three miles around town, except for Charlotte's lazy year who have to complete just a mile.

There are 364 children at the school so Mr Madeley set the fundraising target at a modest £1 for every pupil.

And if the £364 target was met, he would complete the sponsored walk dressed as a big baby.  (Feel free to read that sentence again).

A letter sent home earlier in the week indicated that the tight-arsed folk of Yorkshire hadn't quite stumped up enough for Mr Madeley to fulfil his surreal pledge, but there must have been a late and very welcome surge.

Because this was the unforgettable sight which greeted parents and children at the school gates this morning.

It's a long time since I've seen so many smiling faces in one concentrated area.  Indeed, some normally grim-faced mums and dads walked past who I didn't know had teeth until today.

Good old Rupert.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Madferit in Macosquin

Last summer I had a lot of fun doing the PR for and then attending the inaugural Big Marquee Weekend music festival.

It was held in the village of Macosquin where I spent the first 10 years of my life and went to primary school.  The brains behind it were my oldest friend Drew Hutchinson (aka DJ Steady) and his close pals Robert Todd, Elizabeth Todd and Hughie Hamilton from Mary Pat's Bar.

It was a brave venture.  The purpose-built marquee - erected in the car park - cost a few bob to hire.   And so did the acts because they were top quality.

Given the collective efforts that went into putting it together,  the event deserved to be a resounding success. But few people could have predicted just how good it actually was.

There wasn't a low point across all three days.  But, for me, the performance of Ireland's leading Oasis tribute band, Roll With It, stood out above all others.

I was fortunate enough to see the real Oasis play live three times in their heyday, including once in front of 90,000 fans at the old Wembley Stadium.  But, quite honestly, I enjoyed Roll With It every bit as much.

This was a part of their set from that now famous night in Macosquin.  Feel free to be as impressed as I was (and also Vanessa who you might spot dancing around like a loon).

And, if you don't already know, I have some very exciting news to share with you.

Yes, Big Marquee Weekend II is happening and is now only weeks away.  The May Day Bank Holiday weekend to be precise, from Friday 29 April until Sunday 1 May.

As last year, there will be a different theme each day.

Scotland's number one DJ Mallorca Lee will headline a top notch dance night on the Friday, also featuring Craig Dalzell, Tizer and Booshanty.

And singer-songwriter Lee Matthews - with eight Irish download chart toppers to his name - will bring a Sunday afternoon and evening of country music to a toe-tapping crescendo, with support from Ben Currie and JD Country.

But it'll be on the Saturday when my personal excitement inevitably reaches embarrassingly high levels as Macosquin becomes 'Madchester' for the day.

Because alongside local band Cellar Door, Roll With It will be making their triumphant return to the Big Marquee.

And joining them at the top of the bill will be none other than the original Stone Roses tribute band, Resurrection.  Travelling across from Glasgow as part of their UK tour, they have been described by legendary Stone Roses bassist Mani as "the best Roses tribute around." Not a bad endorsement, for those who know about these things.

Tickets for Big Marquee Weekend II go on sale at 9am this Friday from Mary Pat’s Bar, Card Land in Coleraine, Lou’s Boutique in Ballymoney, Jingles of Portrush or by calling Tel: 028 7034 4659.

If you're anywhere near the Causeway Coast in the run-up to the May Day Bank Holiday, get yourself along. 

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Beer goggles off, swimming goggles on

If you've read this drivel over an extended period of time - particularly back in the days when I used to update it with a bit more frequency - you'll know that I've not been averse to the odd physical challenge.

London Marathon?  Check (almost killed me).

Four Great North Runs? Done (last one almost killed me).

Leeds and Bradford Half-Marathons? Yes to both (didn't die in either).

Other than my first Great North Run - which was only an excuse for a night out in my old Newcastle student stomping ground - all of the other ventures were motivated by a desire to raise a bit of charity cash.

But, as I wrote here, my last Great North Run 18 months ago proved to me that enough was enough. It was time to act my age, drink more beer and eat more fried chicken.  And I've proudly stuck to my new regime. My inner fat man has never been happier.

That was until Vanessa entered me for my first triathlon.  Yup, you read that correctly.

Yes, dear friends, yours truly is down to "compete" at the 2106 Skipton Triathlon.   And it's happening in just five and a half weeks.

Before then I have to prepare myself to swim 10 miles, run 1,000 miles and cycle to Mars and back.  Or that's kind of how it feels to me.

Back on Earth, it's more like swim 400 metres, cycle 12 miles and run 5km.  But still.

As cold reality dawns, I have several key concerns.

Somewhat crucially, I'm not fit.   Indeed, my only form of meaningful exercise over recent months has been attending spin classes twice a week with a load of other big girls.

Second, I haven't ridden a bike on the road for more than two miles since 2005.

Third, I haven't run more than a mile on the road since last summer.

And fourthly - by far my greatest worry - I haven't swum more than 50 metres in a single stint since I left school in 1990.      

All of the above would suggest that I'm not going to win this year's Skipton Triathlon, and I'm reconciled to that.  What I'm less comfortable with is the prospect of sinking and being rescued by a lifeguard on stage one of my challenge.  

In a desperate attempt to avoid such an outcome, I'm hoping to go for a little splash in the gym pool next week.  Or maybe the week after.  Anyway, I'll keep you informed.

And, by the way, I'm doing this for "fun" not charity - so your pennies are safe.