Monthly Archives: January 2012

A New World Order of Thomas

Just 9km today. I had to drop the car off at the garage for repairs. I need to run back there tomorrow, so if I do that and add my 16km loop later that night I should have 350km done for January (the original target was somewhere between 300 and 350). Then, Feburary the 1st, I swear I’m going to not-run so hard it’s going to make my chest burn.

I had a good idea today (relatively speaking).

I don’t know if you (dear reader) frequent any forums/online communities. If you do then you may be familiar with “reputation” systems. These can work in different ways, but most allow individual posts to be “pozzed” or “negged” depending on the content. Particular posts then end up with a numeric value, either positive (if lots of people like them) or negative (if lots of people hate them). Usually each user then has an aggregated “score” attached to them, which is the total of the negative and positive responses to what they’ve written. Most forums that implement this system (usually anonymously) usually end up with a lot of noise complaining about it. For example – perceived vendettas against particular members or the fact that people just poz or neg a post rather than constructing an argument to rebut/agree with it. Generally speaking though, it’s a decent system that works well.

What stuck me was how brilliant it would be if this concept could be integrated into real life. In fact, I’m going to reveal a system here today that could well revolutionise business. Lets call it The Thomas System (TTS). TTS requires only two things. A pile of green Post-It notes and a pile of red Post-It notes. In a TTSised office all personnel are issued with sufficient stocks of the green Post-Its and red Post-Its. What happens next is simple – whenever anyone says anything other workers are encouraged to tag that person with a green or red sticker depending on whether they think the contribution that person has made is worthwhile. Green for “I like your style“, red for “it is only the social framework in which we live that is stopping me from punching you in the face“.

Now, sit back and think about this for a while. This is a system that essentially allows any newcomer to an office-space to instantly determine who the useful people are and who are the arseholes. Even if we allow the stickers to be reset daily, any management staff should fairly quickly be able to determine who the most productive and liked members of staff are at a glance. Meetings become easy to facilitate – want your meeting to be productive? Set a minimum green sticky count for all attendees. There are so many benefits to the system I feel like sticking green Post-It notes all over myself to be honest.

In fact, why stop just at the office? The TTS system could be rolled out in society generally. Post-It notes might be impractical – so how about each person could have a large LCD display with their personal reputation number on it? Maybe grafted to their forehead. Using simple contactless technology and smartphones every person in Thomasland could instantly poz or neg another individual. Person barges past you in the supermarket? Neg. Person agrees that onions on pizza are bad? Poz. Imagine how easy it would be to spot whether a politician is worth listening to or not. Imagine how this could revolutionise dating. A society based on each person having a massive, visible, reputation number would be a utopian society filled with love and happiness…. wouldn’t it?

Probably not, but it’s worth a shot. So next week, at work, speak to your team leader and agree to have one day where you trial my new system, and report back here. If you’re already a team leader/manager, then implement it ASAP, preferably without consulting the staff as they’ll only raise silly objections.

If you’re willing to have a large LCD display grafted onto your head then e-mail me.

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A quicke 2

16km!

2 days to go. If I can run 32km over the two days I’ll have done 350km for the month.

I still don’t have any words.

Sorry, more tomorrow.

A quickie

20k today. Finished at 1am. Tired.

No more words.

Penitence and dodos

Well, a bit of an embarrasing day for team runthomasrun today.

I was out building a gate when my wifepartnerfriend came out to bring me a cup of coffee. She said she’d been reading the blog but she’d felt awkward laughing “because of the picture”. Because of the picture I thought? Odd? “What’s wrong with the picture?” I asked, and she told me that she thought it was in poor taste to use a picture of a handicapped man. WHAT? I thought back to last night, and the quick skip through Goole Image Search trying to find “a person with tray of cakes”. I’d been so excited to actually find one, I just uploaded it without really thinking. I just thought it was a guy with some strange looking cakes. As the cold icy chill of realisation began to hit, I realised I needed to get inside ASAP and do something about it. I sprinted to the computer and swapped it, but felt rather guilty all day.

So sorry if you were mortally offended by my man with a tray of cakes. I still contend that just in passing it just looked like a guy with some cakes, but I should probably pay more attention.

It reminded me of my other, major, published faux pas. This story is a bit rambling, but bear with it.

I’ve never been one for clubs and societies. I remember my mum and dad trying to convince me for months that I should go to Cubs. Personally, I felt there was plenty of time in my life when I could dress up in a uniform and be told what to do by a potential child molester, so I wasn’t particularly keen. In the end we reached a compromise and I agreed to go to Swimming Club – which was great as most of the time I was in the water and don’t have to interact with anyone else. (Can you tell I’m an only child? I keep it so well hidden!) Apart from a bit of swimming and being forced at gunpoint to play in a local brass band I pretty much avoided clubs through school. I figured I’d carry this through further education too.

Anyway, when I arrived at university there was the ubiquitous Fresher’s Fair where all the different organisations in the university pimped their clubs and societies. I wandered round for a while and couldn’t face any of them. Well, all but one. I joined, on a whim, the club that wrote the student newspaper. I was a science student reading (it’s so poncey to say “reading” I love it) Biology – a degree I chose because it contained hardly any maths, but wasn’t an arts degree – and as the only non History of Art/English/Journalism student in the club I was handed fairly strange assignments. I have only vague memories of my first few articles, but I think did a few album reviews and tried my hand at a popular science column. So while Prof. Brian Cox was arsing about in D:REAM I was already making a difference to the public perception of science.

The newspaper had a wide distribution, I’m guessing thousands of copies. It was free, so hardly a job writing for Vogue, but there was a certain prestige attached to appearing in it. Now, when I was at university the Internet was in its infancy and when writing anything you couldn’t just hop on to Wikipedia to double check facts and figures. It was late, and I was writing an article on something or other. For some reason I saw fit to write the sentence “… the dodo may have been fat, hopeless and stupid, but at least it could fly!” That’s right. My brain told me dodos could fly. Possibly the world’s second most famous flightless bird (behind the ostrich).

A bird famous for becoming extinct mainly because it couldn’t fly.

So, very pleased with myself I sent my smug, oh-so-clever article to the editor for review. Either she didn’t proof read it, or she hated me. The dodo line was still there, and to top it all A LARGE PICTURE OF A DODO had been added to the article. A gigantic picture of a dodo, sitting on a rock, looking like flying was the furthest thing from its mind.

The article went to print.

My first inkling that something was wrong was when people all started squawking and flapping their arms at me when I entered my university halls common room the day the latest issue of the newspaper came out. Over the course of a week the newspaper received 50 or 60 e-mails and letters pointing out the error, and the following issue dedicated a large part of the letters page to my humiliation. It was even mentioned on the student radio station, not just once, but forming the backbone of a running joke that lasted about a week. The fact I was a biology student didn’t help. Poor flightless bird identification might be expected of a mathematician or a physicist, but a biologist?

I was so humiliated by the article I never wrote for the student newspaper again. I couldn’t face going back to the club. I just packed it in, nursed my wounds and prayed that I’d never again cock-up a written article due to incompetence and poor proof-reading.

17 years later, here we are.

I never learn….

Anyway, only managed 5km today, but it was a perky one. Tried ramping up the speed near the end, and it felt pretty good. There’ll be some strong challenges over the weekend, so I’m going to try to put in a pair of 16k’s back to back just to be sure I don’t get gazumped at the final hurdle….

Clunky Cakey

Running. Another 10km. Still in eighth. Two people starting to breathe down my neck. Desperate to reach the end now.

Not much of note happened today.

I did finally book the car in to have an annoying clunk looked at. We’ve already spent about 500 euros at one garage to eliminate the clunk and after fitting new shock absorbers, exhaust lugs and tightening various bits of the car’s underside it still clunks. It’s the sort of clunk the carefree part of your brain says “oh, it’s only a clunk, I’m sure it’s nothing” and the rational part goes “THE BOTTOM OF THE CAR IS GOING TO FALL OFF AND YOU’RE GOING TO DIE”.

The clunking, to date, has been just the perfect amplitude to sit neatly between my two brain halves – noisy enough to worry about, but not noisy enough to do anything about. The impetus to visit a garage was finally there when we realised our badly adjusted headlights were not only blinding oncoming traffic but probably passing aircraft too. In fact, when I saw that ferry had crashed in Italy because the captain started steering all over the place I felt a twinge of guilt we might have had something to do with it.

I was quite proud that I managed to talk to a dungaree wearing French mechanic in detail about our car problems this morning. As a man there’s always a fear when talking to a “trade” that you’re going to come off as a bit of a tit. Most men overcompensate for this by suddenly becoming a cockney wideboy “yeah, it’s makin’ a noise, but I like stripped the accumulator off the bezelflaps, and had a poke abaaahht mate, but I don’t have the time really, too busy shaggin’ me missus and going to the dogs innit’?” but most trade people can spot this posturing a mile off. I was fortunate I didn’t have to go through this male-on-male ritual, because I kept forgetting the French words for shock absorbers and headlights and just sort of ended up pointed at things and whining “it’s not working, fix iiiit“. Since moving to France I have become slightly more mechanically minded, but I’m battling against genetics and a middle class upbringing which has left me lacking the confidence to get really stuck in on an engine or a car in general. Dad – thanks for the appreciation of modern jazz, but WHAT THE HELL DOES A ALTERNATOR DO?

Our car is awful, mind you. It’s a Korean MPV which they don’t sell in the UK. It rolls and wallows on its suspension like a birthing humpback whale. It is uncomfortable to drive, it only has 5 gears (so sounds like a drag racer when you push it to motorway speeds) and it has the fuel economy of a combine harvester. We tend to call it “The Souris” (The Mouse) because everything inside the car is so badly put together whenever the car jiggles it sounds like there’s a flock of mice having an orgy in the footwells. It’s also my fault we bought it. We’d spent ages looking for a French car, and after so many bitter, bitter disappointments I just snapped and decided to get it. Remember when your mum took you round shoe shops when you were little and her patience finally evaporated after entering the eighth shop? Remember when she’d shout “WE’RE BUYING THIS PAIR OF SHOES. I DON’T CARE IF THEY FIT OR IF YOU BLOODY LIKE THEM OR NOT”? Yeah, I’d reached that stage. Car fatigue.

After yesterday’s mini-rant about positive people I realised I’d forgot to mention their number one irritating trait.

Bringing cakes into an office to share around.

 

Oh!

I used to ask a related question when I was interviewing people (“do you bring cakes into the office for your fellow co-workers to enjoy?“) and if anyone answered yes then things went like Hans Gruber’s death scene in Die Hard (youtube it). You should never, ever, bring cakes into an office. There’s no excuse for it. If your pessimistic co-workers wanted a cake, they’d have got a cake. Bringing a cake into an office for someone else is like a cry for help. It’s needy. It’s clingy. It’s expressing a desperate desire to be loved. It’s not spreading positivity, it spreads resentment. It says “I’ve got the salary/time to waste on buying cakes for you people, LOVE ME, LOVE ME”. It really makes me angry. When people used to bring cakes into my office I’d barge to the front then deliberately, and very slowly, lick each cake and put them back on the tray. It’s the only way to teach positive people their behaviour is unacceptable.

Thinking about it, I might have a “things I hate about positive people” paragraph every day on the blog.

Tomorrow – the evil bastards who arrange office birthday cards.

God vs. Dawkins, Optimism vs. Pessimism, Sheep vs. Elbow

You know when you’re making a new enclosure for some sheep and one of the ungrateful bastards head-butts you in the elbow when you’re kneeling down and fixing the last bit of fencing?

Well, if you don’t know how this (admittedly niche) event feels, then believe me it feels rather painful. Normally I’m pretty adept at avoiding the sheep, but I got complacent as he was the other side of a fence. A wire mesh fence doesn’t really absorb a sheep collision though – so lesson learned. Thankfully, while I also have a knackered back I don’t think it’ll stop me running, as long as I keep it bent (the arm obv.) What a January this has been. I swear to God it would be quicker to list the parts of my body that are still working 100% rather than the faulty bits. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a bad run of luck. I’m starting to think I’m developing Münchhausen Syndrome and I’m subconsciously hurting myself to get attention. So keep reading the blog, otherwise god knows what’s going to happen.

Talking of Janathon (another 10k today) I think I’m going to have to accept that 8th place may be my finishing position in the leaderboard. There are a couple of strong challengers from behind, but the leading pack is starting to draw away from me, and I’m not sure I’ve got the willpower to close them down. I think I’ve got just enough willpower to stay ahead of the people behind. So I’m exhibiting a sort of average amount of willpower overall.

What has bugged me slightly today is my lack of talent. Now I’ll clarify this slightly – I’m not saying there aren’t things I’m fairly good at, and there are plenty I’m awful at, but what really annoys me is the way I haven’t been given a prestigious talent. For example, I can just about play the guitar, but why am I not gifted at playing the guitar? I can run, but I’m not a gifted runner. Why? I’m fairly intelligent, but not especially so. WHY? It seems unfair that some people are gifted exceptional talents and I’m not. How unfair that someone genuinely gifted can wake up and go “oh, I’ll just write a sonata before breakfast” or something while I just wander about bleary eyed, scratching my crotch and trying to find a bowl for my Wheetos. It’s not fair is it?

It can’t be graft that cuts down this advantage, as I’ve met plenty of people who have worked really hard at improving a skill and are still utterly crap at whatever it is they’ve chosen to do. Some people are just born gifted. I’ll give you another example. I’m crap at maths. Not so crap that people would point and laugh at me in the street because I was trying to eat a calculator, but bad enough that anything involving algebra brings me out in a cold sweat. I can’t do it. But I toiled and toiled and managed to get a B in GSCE maths. A joke, of course. I could as much describe a quadratic equation to you now as I could go surfboarding on a cheesecake. That’s GCSEs for you. But even so I toiled and learned by rote and managed to scrape through. But there were people in that class who were “gifted” at mathematics. For whom a quadratic equation was as complicated as a performing a bowel movement. How must it feel to wander into a classroom and feel the thrill that you’re going to understand it all because you’re a smartarse? Brilliant, that’s how.

So, so unfair.

I don’t have a single natural talent like this. It’s hard not to be bitter. I’d take anything. Incredible, uncanny ability to name a cheese by smell alone? Photographic memory for telephone area codes in the Sudan? I’d take anything. But I was given NOTHING. I don’t care whether you believe in genetics or religion, I’ve been screwed over by Dawkins or God. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe every person has a prestigious talent, they just need to uncover it somehow. Maybe one day I’ll pick up a vaulting pole and find I’m Olympic standard. But I don’t buy it. I just think some people are damn lucky and I’m irritated about it.

Another thing that irritated me recently was a couple of other Janathon blogs talking about how certain people exude positive energy and others are black holes of depression and despair. There was some guff about how certain people are victims because of their lack of an optimistic world view and others are victors. Or something. I’m paraphrasing. I can’t remember. As someone not disposed to be cheery and who has a firmly pessimistic view of life I wanted to stand up for the under-appreciated negative thinkers out there.  It’s all very well thinking positive, but if you think positive you can’t help but get kicked in the teeth. Nearly every overly positive person I’ve ever met in my life has had a remarkably low threshold for getting weepy, teary and depressed.

If you go through life pushing yourself to be better and trying to bring joy to those around you, inevitably you’re going to fail. That’s because people like me exist, and when we see cheery people like you coming our way we get annoyed and mark you out as someone who needs their day ruining. As pessimists we are flexible and willing to become even more miserable just to stop the optimists spoiling our world with their rainbows, flowers and dancing unicorns. Pessimism is just common sense, because ultimately the ratio of good people to arsebags on this planet is astronomically big. A healthy defence of expecting the worst and preparing for it is the only way to proceed.

If you accept the world is fundamentally terrible and full of terrible people then it actually becomes a lot more enjoyable living in it.

I say victims of the world unite! Negative thinkers, to arms! Pessimists, take aim!

We march at dawn!

Nah, can’t be bothered.

Punching Zeus in the face, a new carpet and a plea to stop the onions

Another 10km.

Lets discuss something a little leftfield.

There’s a popular videogame series called God of War. In this series you play a character called Kratos, an antihero who exists in the world of Greek Mythology (and I’m not talking about their structured European debt repayment plan…. oh ho! political humour!). Summarising the plot – essentially a few quite bad things happen to Kratos, then some more bad things happen, then he basically murders his own wife and child by accident, then a few more bad things happen and then he goes on a murderous killing spree where he finishes off pretty much every mythical creature and greek god you can think of, usually in very creative and violent ways. There are no periods of light relief in the God of War games – Kratos is angry pretty much all the way through. He occasionally has sex in the games, but it’s normally angry sex. Considering each game lasts about 15-20 hours and there are 5 of them, that’s hell of a lot of anger and to be honest I find the games to be fatiguing and rather depressing. You might be asking how this relates to Janathon (I am as well…) but I think it illustrates the importance of tonality in life. Light and shade. What Janathon has taught me is 23 consecutive days of running isn’t all that fun. Like Kratos, I’m existing in a world where there is no light to counteract the shade. I enjoy running, but doing it every day has started to wear a bit thin. I’m not angry enough yet to punch a greek god in the face, but I’m getting there.

Still, not long to go now.

On the theme of anger, I tell you what’s got me REALLY angry today. I read the lottery win story of the latest pair of wet blankets (see above) who won 41 million quid on the euro lottery. Apart from the guy having the worst double chin I’ve ever seen on a thin person (and punching above his weight with his wife, he probably has a GREAT SENSE OF HUMOUR) it was the fact that when presented with the money their ambition stretched to buying a new carpet. I’m sorry, but stories like this make my blood boil. People who say (and read this in a thick Yorkshire accent) “Aye, we’ve won 80 million on ‘tut lottery, but I’ll be going back to me job at the bog roll factory tomorrow, and we’ll be stayin’ in our terraced ‘ouse” or similar should have the money forcibly taken off them. Then burnt in front of their eyes.

If someone asked me what I was going to do with 41 million quid and the best I could come up with was “a new carpet” I’d be ashamed of myself. ASHAMED.

What an utter, tragic, lack of imagination. Why play the lottery if the extent of your dreams ends at the purchase of a new carpet? By the time the journalists reached me I’d be sprawled on the bonnet of a Ferrari, drunk, covered in chocolate sauce, half-naked, arranging a hitman to take out the editor of the Daily Mail. A bloody carpet? Sweet jesus. My partner (she has asked me to confirm that while I use the terms girlfriend/wife/partner/other-half interchangeably she is only one person, and I’m not sleeping with half of the local village) has always been a bit in the carpet-camp, though I’m sure if we actually won 41 million quid she’d think of something better than flooring to spend it on.

Now, to be fair, Mr Chins does mention the fact he wants to buy a box at Old Trafford to watch Man U play. That sounds a bit more reasonable right? NO. This is just a dull male version of a new carpet. Utter imagination failure. Buy a box so you can watch some football? BORING. Come on. 41 million. Buy a bloody lower division football team and manage it. Start your own football team. Pay to have your own blimp hovering over Old Trafford. A BLIMP MADE OF GOLD. ANYTHING. Come on, 41 million quid and this is the best you can do? So dull. You should be able to indicate when you purchase your lottery tickets whether or not you have an imagination, and if not you should have to relinquish at least 50% of your winnings to me. Like the People’s Lottery, only the “People” means ME.

I know people deliver the “carpet” line because they feel guilty. Too guilty to admit that what they really want to do is run around to their neighbours and scream “I don’t have to live next to you bastards any more, I’m rich, rich RIIIIIICH! Wha’ha ha ha ha ha!” But it doesn’t fool anyone. It’s the sort of twee, annoying thing people think other people want to hear. Well, I don’t want to hear it. I want you to tell me when you’re buying your private jet and moving to Dubai. When you’re going into work and finally head-butting that work colleague who’s made your life a misery for 8 years. When you’re going to buy a suit made out of mermaid hair just because you bloody can.

Deep breath.

I really don’t know why it irritated me so much in this case. It might be his chin. I’m not sure. After how much those bad ears annoyed me on Sherlock the other night I think I’m developing a phobia of proportionally challenged faces.

I don’t want to keep going for another 87 paragraphs, but here’s a list of 5 more things people do that annoy me:

1) People who stop and talk in the aisle in supermarkets when the shop is really busy. An obvious one to start, but quite frankly this drives me insane, especially when the person tuts and sighs when you ask them to move. I swear the next time this happens I’m just going to plough through the roadblock like an episode of Police Camera Action.

2) People who only eat half an Easter Egg and save the rest until the next day. Or indeed the sort of person who opens a Selection Box at Christmas and only eats one bar of chocolate in it, per day, so that it lasts about a month. I classify people who do this as mentally abnormal, and if I was in a position of power anyone demonstrating this behaviour would be forced to undergo electro-shock therapy until it was rectified. If you have chocolate the only thing that should stop you from eating it is a legitimate medical condition or the fact you’re too nauseous to continue stuffing it in your mouth.

3) People who put chocolate in the fridge. Utterly wrong. If you do this you should be ashamed of yourself. As ashamed as if you’d wanted to buy a carpet after winning 41 million quid.

4) People who put onions on pizza. I know a lot of people do this, but it doesn’t make it right. Onions are fine in many things, but they shouldn’t go on pizzas. A pizza is essentially a slab to deliver as much meat and cheese into your mouth per bite as possible. Vegetables get in the way of this, onions doubly so. They also taste nasty. A hot onion lying in tomato sauce and covered with cheese is a nasty onion. You might think you like onions on your pizza, but I implore you to really think about whether you do. Once you’ve realised you don’t like onions on your pizza then stop immediately, and then try to convert your friends. Assuming exponential growth I’m hoping for an onion free pizza society by 2018.

5) People (men) who tuck their top (be it shirt or T-shirt) into their trousers in a non-work situation. I don’t care how good you think your body is, you look like a twat. No item of clothing should ever be tucked into your trousers at any time, unless you’re in a suit.

I could go on, but if you do any of the above 5 things then we’re not going to be friends. In fact, we’ll be quite the opposite. My wife-partner-girlfriend used to do three of them, but I think I’ve cured her of two, and I’m still working on the onions.

Until tomorrow!

A mystery dress, chocolate fingers, electro-testicles and aerodynamic nipple clamps

10.5km running today and 6.5km on the bike.

Worryingly I’ve noticed that this blog has had a couple of hits from people searching for “athletic diets”. As I am a strong believer in the use of chocolate finger and potato chip supplements for improving athletic ability I can only hope they now have a solid nutritional basis to improve their sports performance.

The BIG NEWS today is that the Good Shorts have been consigned to the dustbin of history. There’s a maxim I use when assessing running clothing: “when your shorts have a bigger hole in the groin area than the two leg holes combined, it’s time to throw those shorts away“. Feel free to write that down.

Sad face. We’ve been though a lot those shorts and I.

I went into a large French sports shop and had a really difficult time selecting a pair of new shorts from the extensive choice of 2 sorts of shorts in 1 colour that they were offering (sigh). In the end I settled for a pair in that crunchy synthetic material that generates static electricity when you rub your genitals on it (after 15km of hard running you can shoot electro-bolts from your testicles) and a pair in soft pyjama style material that have a strange cut. I’m not an expert on female fashion, but you know those skirts that hug the waist and arse and then flare out at a 45 degree angle shortly afterwards? (What are they called?) Well these shorts are sort of like that in each leg. Flared shorts if you like. Looks a bit odd, but I’m sure it’s performance related. I imagine they make you run faster because they make you look like an utter tit and you want to get your run finished as soon as possible. That’s probably it.

I wanted to speak a little bit today about bikes. I had a few other topics as possible blog posts today – like my aching back, or how a six year old can dislike macaroni cheese so much he covers himself and me with projectile vomit just to prove a point, or even how in a French supermarket you have to stand in a queue for 30 minutes because there are multiple tills open for people with under 10 items; the disabled; self-scanners and the elderly but ONLY ONE FOR EVERYONE ELSE.

No, today we’re going to speak about bikes and why I’m not a big fan of cycling.

I do a lot of cycling, for sure, but I see it as a very utilitarian pursuit. I like to use it as a means from getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible. I have always been a road cyclist. I don’t see the attraction of mountain biking. When I’m performing any sporting activity I like to be in a zen state of relaxation. Hairing down a mountainside avoiding dead badgers, tree stumps and other mountain bikers doesn’t really fit in with that concept. This is the same reason I don’t like running off-road – I don’t want to concentrate on where I’m putting my feet, just on moving them backwards and forwards as fast as I can. Plus, and I accept this might be a bit of a wild generalisation but most mountain bikers and trail runners take their respective sports a bit seriously for my liking.

You know, not the sort of guys who’d allow their shorts to have excessive genital ventilation. That sort of guy.

Anyway, I’ve done more than my fair share of cycling over the years, and I’ve always been perceived as a keen cyclist. In my teens I did a paper round that involved getting up before school; cycling for miles; picking up a very heavy bag of newspapers; cycling miles back again; stuffing the newspapers through tiny letterboxes of a series of houses with nearly identical welsh names (Llanlloollod, Lllaaannllloolllooochlllod, Llanllococococlod etc…); getting drenched and every seven days getting paid a quite frankly insulting £12.

OK, so you’d get a few tips at Christmas (not many though – there are some tight bastards in Aberystwyth) but by and large it was the most ridiculous effort/wage ratio you could imagine and rather than teaching me the value of hard graft and applying myself (as I think my father intended it to) it just made me increasingly bitter, sarcastic and convinced I’d need to cheat to get ahead in the world.

I vaguely remember the law has changed so you can’t force a child to work 20 hours a week for £12; carry a 10kg bag of newspapers and also get them to do this in the dark without a helmet or luminous clothing. That’s Europe for you, always meddling in British affairs. If you can’t force a teenager’s shoulder joint out of its socket and send him out on busy roads without a helmet then what’s the world coming to? Political correctness gone mad. I blame the asylum seekers.

So my early association with cycling was to see the bike as some sort of bringer of misery and despair. I didn’t cycle a lot at university, and when I started again it was to commute into Edinburgh for work. I sort of enjoyed it, though the local drug addicts often laid railway sleepers around blind bends on the cycle paths and I once genuinely punctured my tyre on a discarded heroin needle. And that’s Edinburgh! Makes you wonder what commuting into Glasgow would be like – perhaps you have to avoid people carrying rocket launchers?

For my early commuting years I rode a very small red racing bike I’d bought from a catalogue, and while I liked it one day a car reversed into it in a car park (while I was on the bike) and finished it off (the bike, not me), so I bought a proper bike, my lovely, reliable Giant OCR2, that I’ve ridden for about 8 years. I was told in the bike shop that my little red racing bike had been a heap of junk and completely the wrong size for me, so it was probably a good thing it got run over by a BMW.

A couple of years ago in a sort of existential mid-life crisis I decided to cycle from Edinburgh (where I used to live) to Le Mans (where I now live). It took a few days, and it was quite enjoyable, but once again I’m not sure the actual process of cycling was very fun. Training for it was also deathly dull – you need to cycle a bloody long way every week to train to cycle a bloody long way. There is an undeniable satisfaction in racking up mile after mile and the nice thing about cycling is the distance you can cover in a day – 100+ miles will take you through loads of towns and through different types of scenery, but it’s quite boring actually doing it and it makes your bum sore.

There’s a joke in there somewhere.

That said, I was quite proud of how I converted the Giant (a road bike) into a touring bike. Even though it had none of the right lugs and fittings, I managed to bang on a pannier rack and rig it out for long distance cycling. It’s served me admirably in this task. I also fitted it with clip on pedals, but that was about it. I’m not one to really lavish care and attention on the bike, so it doesn’t ever really get oiled, or washed, but it’s not had any major problems so I think we understand one another. It’s cheap, and it gets the job done.

What I think irritates me most about cycling is how it’s the worst, worst sport for people thinking they can buy their way to improved performance. Even running is pretty bad for this with people spending a fortune on sweat wicking trainers and aerodynamic nipple clamps, but cycling is an order of magnitude worse. You only have to cycle around any moderately busy country lane on a Sunday to watch a series of 50 something men, with paunches, riding £4000 carbon fibre bikes, and sipping their branded energy drinks. The problem is a carbon seatpost might give you a fractional advantage in a Tour de France time trial when the difference between you and your steroid enhanced opponents is tiny, but it’s going to do absolutely bugger all for most people. I take great delight in sailing past the lycra-d brigade on my trusty warhorse, just to make a point, but it’s irritating all the same.

So that’s why I just cycle in a utilitarian sense these days – my history of pain and misery and a great deal of irritation (which is coincidentally how most people describe me as well). I don’t ever really cycle for fun. So it’s a good job I discovered running really, otherwise I’d still be searching for sporting pleasure after all these years.

Until tomorrow!

Sheep tossing

Bosh!

Bit more like it. 15km today, at a decent clip. 5.20m/km, which isn’t very fast, but felt easy, which is encouraging. Next week I think I’ll try a proper fast run.

This morning I felt a bit like the Millennium Falcon – in a surprising turn of events I managed to put my back out again by adding my lower back to my upper back and was in absolute agony. This was alongside about 150 other bodily complaints and aches. Decided to take the kids to the “local” leisure centre (20km away, nothing is local in France), as the worst thing you can do with a bad back is give in to it and lie on a bed all day. It basically worked. After 3 hours haring round in a pool and playing a round of tenpin bowling I think my back just shrugged and said “I give up you obstinate bastard” and everything felt a lot better. Still feel like the Kessell run in 1.5 parsecs might be pushing it, but at least I’m in orbit. Don’t want to bore you with health complaints though, nothing worse than someone yabbering on about how ill they are all the time.

We have a small problem at the moment as one of our sheep is in love with one of the goats. It’s a real Romeo and Juliet romance (Romeo and Eweliet?) and Mr BD our ram has taken to jumping out of his pen to go and spread the love with his lady goat friend. Star crossed lovers. Not sure whether a goat and a sheep can actually mate, I suspect not, but it doesn’t seem to be bothering him. What this means is periodically grabbing a horny sheep and putting him back in his pen. I’m sure this did for my back as I elect to lift him over the fence and back in, rather than drag him round to his gate where it becomes a struggle to stop the other sheep escaping.

For upper body strength and toning I can recommend frequently lifting a smelly, horny sheep over a 5 foot high fence. I was thinking of releasing a series of workout DVDs. I bet they’d sell in Wales.

I also watched the last Sherlock, and I have to say it was quite good. Glaring plot holes for sure, but the acting was reasonable and there wasn’t a guy with distractingly large ears in it, so that was a bonus. The funny thing is, I quite like Sherlock but can’t STAND Doctor Who, which is essentially done by the same bloke/team. I really detest wobbly British sci-fi where people all shout, grin and dash around cardboard sets aimlessly fighting tinfoil and cardboard box monsters and no matter how you try to disguise it, the new Doctor Who is just as bad as the old Doctor Who. Sci-fi should be like the Battlestar Galactica reboot (Series 1 to 4, not 5). Sensible, high budget, lots of people looking earnest and shouting at one another and CGI that doesn’t look like it was done on an Amiga.

Which takes us full circle back to the Millenium Falcon again, and my old, crumbling body. I really do feel old at the moment. I know I’m in my mid thirties, and no doubt when I go back and read this blog when I’m 80 and eating jelly through a straw I’ll shake my fist furiously at the screen (or virtual cortical implant, or whatever), but age really does seem to have crept up on me in the last 4 or 5 years. Sigh.

Still, as long as I can still drag myself out for a run now and again…

Sigh

Nothing to report today. Dragged myself at a half run/half walking pace for just over 5km. Knee hurts, bum hurts, head hurts.

Deep breath. Will refocus for tomorrow.