Monday, March 14, 2011

Mmm... nice

It is my duty as a good and supportive husband to break the prolonged silence that has fallen over my blog.

The reason being to bring to your attention my lovely wife, Mel's, blog page about her relishes, pickles, chutneys and preserves. They are proving to be very popular with everyone who tries them. 

Now chutney isn't my thing so I don't indulge in that, but the sweet chilli jam is good. The main reason that I don't try more of them is that in our house there are lots of jars of stuff for our consumption, but nothing is labeled. Mel knows what everything is, but I don't have a clue, and I don't want to take a chance and end up with a rather strange combination.

But I implore you to seek out a way of getting your tongue round a sample of the goods, I'm certain that you will be hungry for more. 

Click on the link in the title to get to her page. The blog looks good, but that's cos I designed it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Let's go to work

This week I have been really suffering with a bad cold.

I had hoped to get out and do exercise during the week but that has not been on the cards at all.

It started off on Monday morning as a sore throat which wasn't too bad, I hoped it wouldn't come to much. Same thing on Tuesday but also with a cough and a bit of a drippy nose. By Tuesday night I was starting to feel pretty rotten. All day Wednesday and Thursday I was hot then cold, nose running like a tap, achey muscles and generally feeling pretty rank.

But I've still been going to work. I'm right in the middle of my busiest time of the year and can't afford to not be there. I have staff who would be able to do bits of my job but there are other bits that only I am up to speed on and I wouldn't want anyone else making a mess of.

If it had been almost any other week that I was ill I would take the time off but this week I just couldn't be away if it could be helped.

I don't mind though, I don't really like phoning in sick, my attendance record is pretty spotless. 3 days off in the 29 months I've been in the job which was when I sprained my ankle and couldn't walk.

I wish other people had the same attitude though. Too many people phone in sick at the drop of a hat and try and milk it for everything it's worth. And I'm sure a lot of it isn't as bad as is made out. Back pain, depression, stress, anxiety and other 'illnesses' are very hard to prove or disprove. Anyone can pipe up, "Ooh, I'm depressed, and I have a sore back, which is making me anxious". Not a lot we can do as long as their doctor buys their story and that's the last we see of them for a couple of months. Meanwhile the few left at work have to carry the can for the rest of them.

Once one person goes off sick it's like a domino effect, everyone feels they have the right to a few days off work, a few days extra holiday.

I'm not saying that anyone who is genuinely ill should struggle in to work, but a bit more responsibility would go a long way. The prevailing attitude that sick days are there to be used is a bit past it.

I'd rather go to work when I'm feeling ropey, it's rubbish at the best of times anyway. I'd rather save days off for when I'm feeling good and can go and do stuff.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hit the road

At last the snow and ice melted enough for me to get out for my first run of the year yesterday.

I could probably have got out a little before now but I really didn't fancy slipping and sliding, risking injury and freezing my nuts off so waited until I was sure that almost all the ice had melted. Also, I hate running when it is so cold that every time you breath in it freezes your airways and eventually can give you a right sore throat.

I had tried between Christmas and new year to get out for a run and I had turned back after about a mile as it was too dangerous and felt like I was giving myself a throat infection.

According to my training records this was my first decent run since I did 6 miles on December 15th. I had played a couple of hours of football since new year so I wasn't expecting to be totally out of shape but I hadn't exactly been watching what I was eating over the holidays and have put on a few pounds.

I decided on my route; a 7 mile loop that starts downhill for half a mile then is flat for the next 2 and a half. After that it climbs steadily for about a mile and a half before another gradual downhill section and a slight uphill section to finish.

Mel was going to come along and ride beside me on her bike, as she wouldn't be able to do the 7 mile route with her having hardly ran since doing the half marathon in October and her slowly expanding baby bump.

The plan was just to take it easy and see how it goes. If I could stick to 9 minute miles that would be a fine starting point to build from.

The first big race I am planning to do this year is at the end of May, running as part of a relay team in the Edinburgh Marathon. I'll be doing an 8 mile leg and want to try and do it in under an hour.

I started off nice and easy and was running pretty freely and feeling quite good. After a couple of miles I felt nicely into my stride and was concentrating on maintaining good form.

Since I had a few injuries a couple of years ago I developed a habit of sort of swinging my left leg round to the front rather than pulling it straight through. I didn't notice how much I did it until I saw a photo of me running and then spotted my reflection in a bus shelter one day. It wastes energy and it really doesn't look cool.

I had a new selection of sounds on the iPod which kept me plodding along quite nicely. And I was wearing the headband and gloves that Mel got me for Christmas so I had warm ears and hands but a nice cool head.

I was sticking roughly to the 9 minute miles and was feeling good except for the blister I could feel beginning. That's what happens when I don't get out often enough, my feet get soft and can't take it.

I picked the pace up a little for the last couple of miles but I didn't have a whole lot left in the tank. I ended up finishing in just over an hour, so was running 8 minute 45 second miles. Not too bad for the first decent run in a month.

I have four months to get that down to 7 and a half minutes per mile. Better get busy on a proper training schedule to increase my speed.

Slightly stiff legs today even though I had a good stretch after I finished and a bit tight across the shoulders, but that will pass soon enough. Think I'll try and get out again on Wednesday, build it up slowly.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Headspin review of the year

Coming to the end of a difficult but ultimately successful year for Headspin it is a traditional time to look back and take stock of what has happened over the past twelve months.

The year started, as most years do, with the Headspin New Year party. As usual it was a packed out night which finished with the crowd still asking for more. Then Headspin's 11th Birthday party was another busy night, as most of our birthday bashes are. A few old faces come out the woodwork and we get  a chance to play some of the big tunes from years gone by.

Next up was DJ Format who has visited us around this time for a couple of years now, but he still seems to be a very popular attraction as the audience turned up in numbers and loved the seriously funky sounds he was spinning. A few residents nights followed in the spring which were good nights and we were still getting decent numbers and putting on good parties. Meanwhile we were trying to book suitable guests for future months, which was proving difficult.

We had Krash Slaughta, who can always be relied upon to put on a good show, make a return appearance in May, followed by a run of four residents nights over the summer. Difficult times for all clubs with students being away and the festival crowd notoriously fickle about club nights. We got through that though and had some great nights amongst a couple of slightly disappointing ones.

In October some of our hard work looking for good guests paid off when we had Ashley Beedle come and play. A cracking night was had and he played some of the sweetest funky, disco tunes we've heard. A full house and an amazing night for Headspin's Horrible Halloween party. The place was jumping and the atmosphere was superb. A bit of a change the following month when Jon Carter came to town. A guest we were excited about and thought would be great put on a good show, but the crowd was slightly disappointing.

If we have learned one thing this year it is that it is impossible to predict how busy a night will be. Sometimes when we have thought we might be quiet we have been busy, and when we have thought we would busy we have been a bit quieter. But that's what keeps it interesting.

The year ends with something of a change for Headspin. For the first time in 10 years, Headspin will not be bringing in the new year at the Bongo Club and will instead be having a Boxing Day blow-out. Giving the Headspin faithful an opportunity to blow away the Christmas cobwebs with a good old boogie to some proper funk, disco, electro and house music. The Headspin residents will all be in attendance, wearing their new chrimbo socks and jumpers, showing that we are the most fun family you can be with at any time of year.

A change in the plans for Headspin this coming year. We have decided to mainly concentrate on residents nights, with the occasional high quality guest to keep things interesting for everyone. This starts in January when Headspin reaches the ripe old age of twelve years old. The Headspin residents will be spinning the tunes the crowd love to hear. People tell us they prefer residents nights, especially for the birthday party. We don't want to disappoint our loyal clientele.

Check out the new flyer design for Boxing Day through to February, the first since Elph stopped doing the design. I think it's turned out quite nice but would love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Next Level Design

In my professional life, away from running, marathons, clubs, music and any of the stuff I generally write about on this blog, I am a desktop publisher.

What I really would rather be is a graphic designer. That is to say, I would rather be employed as a graphic designer than as a desktop publisher, even though they are both pretty closely related things.

I see the graphic designer as having a more creative role than the DTP person who often will concentrate on laying out documents to fit a corporate style, rather than coming up with imaginative ideas for branding, corporate identities, logos, adverts and the like.

I do a little bit of freelance graphic design on the side which keeps my hand in the more creative side of things that I don't get so much of an opportunity to do at work. I've never really pushed it that much as most of the time I have worked a full-time job and have lots of other things going on.

Often the work I do isn't payng work. I'll help a friend out with some business cards or some promotional flyers to advertise an event of some kind.

So I do that as a favour, because I enjoy it, and they are trying to get a business off the ground or are trying to keep costs to a minimum. But the good will I receive doesn't help pay the bills or put food on the table.

So, in an effort to push for a few more paying gigs I have decided to put my portfolio online. As such, I have set up another blog where over the next couple of weeks I will be putting up a selection of my work from over the years.

Please stop by and check out the Next Level Design blog, and if you have a need for any design work, bear me in mind. Although I'm hopefully going to cut back on the free stuff and increase the paying stuff, I'm sure you'll find my rates very reasonable.

Any comments more than welcome. I'm always interested to hear what people do and don't like as it's a very subjective and personal thing.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Marathon muppet

Apologies to anyone who reads this for not keeping you up to date with the events of the past month or so, I know you will have been on the edge of your seat, anxiously waiting to hear how the Aviemore half marathon went.

Well, it went OK. I finished it, and I did so in under my target time of 2 hours

I should be really happy with my time of 1 hour 52 minutes and 10 seconds, but I really struggled for the majority of the race, and the last three miles were a nightmare.

It was a bright but chilly morning. Before the race I was feeling good, quite excited and eager to get going.

Here's the intrepid (1/2) marathon runners, Mel, me and Laura, before we started.

My lack of experience showed and I let the adrenalin and excitement of the event get to me.

We lined up at the start next to our predicted finishing time, so I positioned myself at the 2 hour marker. When the gun went off, we were a fair bit back from the start so couldn't go anywhere until the people in front of us got going, even then it was a walk to start with. As we crossed the start line we could break into a jog, then as the field started spreading out a little we could start running properly.

Now, I had positioned myself at the 2 hour mark, and this is my first half marathon, so I assume that the other people starting at the 2 hour mark probably know what they are doing. So we all start running at roughly the same speed. I'm thinking 'OK, this is the speed we need to go at to finish in 2 hours'.

I know, because I've worked it out, that to finish in 2 hours I have to do a mile every 9 minutes or faster. At the first mile marker I look at my watch and see that only 7 and a half minutes has gone. Oops! better slow down a touch. But it's hard to do that. It's hard to remember that you're not racing against these other people that are doing the same route; you are only running against yourself.

At two miles, only 15 and a half minutes has gone, still too fast, but I'm feeling alright, maybe I can keep up this pace, and I've already got 2 and a half minutes in the bank should I need a break.

I keep going and hit the 3 mile marker after 23 and three quarter minutes, so the third mile took me 8 and a quarter.

The first of three hydration stations was at 3 and a half miles. My plan was to use these as rest points; to walk for 30 seconds or so while taking on some fluids. The truth is that by this stage I was already starting to feel the pace and was glad of a rest.

During training I had started develop a pain in my hip which would come on after a while when running. I had felt the discomfort almost immediately after starting but
I had already had a couple of ibuprofen and was hoping it wouldn't come to much. At this first water stop I swallowed another couple of tablets because I knew I was in for some serious pain.

I kicked off again and was making good time when I passed Pablo, waiting to see us all. That gave me a bit of a boost and kept me going for a while but I was only four miles in and the only thing I could think about was trying to work out what percentage of the way through it I was.

I really did feel like chucking it before I was a third of the way through.

I eventually had to stop to stretch at about 5 miles, then pushed on again. At 6 miles my time was 48 and a half minutes, so my second 3 miles was only one minute slower than the first 3. That means I have 5 and a half minutes in the bank, I think to myself.

The next few miles I just bashed on, stopping occasionally to walk and have a bit of a stretch. The hip was bothering me but I was mainly just tired. The scenery was wonderful, round the banks of the beautiful Loch Morlich and through the Rothiemurchus Forest, but I had no time or energy to appreciate it at all. The sun came out and it was just annoying and hot and in my eyes.

At 9 miles I had taken one hour 13 and a half minutes, so my pace was pretty steady. If I could keep this up I would get a good time, but I was really starting to struggle. I had passed the second water point a while ago and was just holding out for the next one to appear as I rounded a bend.

I was on the long, slightly downhill stretch from the forest towards Aviemore itself. It was like I was going backwards the rate at which people were overtaking me. I even had to stop for a pee in the trees, but I was actually glad of another reason to stop for a while.

Next I started getting cramp in my calf muscle, having to walk for about 30 seconds every two or three minutes. All I wanted was for a drink and someone to tell me it's OK to stop. When it started raining I was glad. I opened up my mouth and tried to catch drops as I ran along.

The other runners were great. They would see my hobbling along, clutching my hip or rubbing at my calf and give words of encouragement. "It's not far now", and "Keep going, almost there" helped, for about 20 seconds then I lost the momentum again.

I made it to 12 miles, there was a water station, I only had one mile to go, I was on the outskirts of Aviemore. I was going to make it.

After all the pain and sweat and near tears I was going to get to the finish line. I had to make a big final push to make sure I beat the 2 hours.

The previous day we had taken a walk down the last half mile or so of the route so we would know where we were as we approached the finish. I crossed the bridge, went through the tunnel under the railway line, up the slope and onto the main road.

Summoning all my reserves of energy I lengthened my stride and picked up the pace once again. It actually felt better to be running a bit more freely, but there's no way I could have done that for much longer.

As I crossed the line I was overjoyed to see that I had smashed the 2 hour mark, 1.52:10, and was delighted to see my mate Richy in the crowd, but I was well and truly broken.

I collected my medal and goodie bag and then sat down in the first spot I could find. I think I must have looked a bit ill as people were giving me strange looks. I caught Richy's eye and just shook my head at him; never again.

Amazing how quickly you feel better though. After munching the banana and drinking the juice from my goodie bag I was able to walk again. I went to get my outer kit on then went to speak to Richy who told me Mel had just come in, just outside 2 hours, an excellent time.

I went and hugged Mel and then found Pablo as we waited for Laura who wasn't too far behind. I'm so proud of us all, if you don't mind me saying, I think we all did amazingly well.

After the race we went for lunch and a beer in Aviemore then headed back to Grantown where we were staying and had a very quiet evening including an Indian takeaway. The main challenge for the next couple of days was trying to walk, but that soon passed.

Now I'm thinking, I could definitely beat 1.45 next year....

ps Managed to raise over 200 quid for charity while doing this, so thanks to anyone who sponsored me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Free Parking!

Quick update on the parking ticket story.

Got a letter from the council saying "Parking at double yellow lines is not permitted. Even if only part of a vehicle is parked at a double yellow line it is still liable to be issued with a parking ticket."

At this stage I thought it was going to tell me to pay up or else and was wondering if the early payment discount was out of time.

But the letter goes on to say "We can however appreciate that the vehicle was not causing an inconvenience or obstruction to other road users and in view of this the parking ticket will be cancelled on this occasion."

Get in. Make that one nil for common sense.