Monthly Archives: April 2012


I’ve had a few exciting adventures lately – well, not that exciting – but fun.  The first was courtesy of a gift from Cat, which involved the both of us trekking to Tewkesbury for an overnight stay before getting up to head to Croft Farm to do some Husky Mushing with the awesome Arctic Quest.  Being very much a dog person it was brilliant to become a temporary member of Vickie and Chantelle’s pack of mostly-Huskies.

Returning to base after the middle run - with rain and hail starting to fall

After an initial meet-and-greet with their six dogs, in hierarchy order so as not to trigger any power struggles within the group, we got to grips with the rig with just two dogs hooked up.  They’re really well trained – but do need to know they can’t ‘take the piss’ so you need to encourage them to spur them on, but they take it pretty steady on the first run, then back again – it was quite exhilarating despite the leisurely pace.  As the heavens opened we retreated for surprisingly tasty boil-in-the-bag food that had been cooking over the campfire.

The Huskies in the hail, from left to right we have Nakuk, Koda, Minx, Willow and Mckinnley - alpha female Dashka had sensibly retired to the van at this point!

A brief respite in the blustery conditions allowed us to take to the ‘main run’ – a practice run this time with three dogs down two sides of a field and back.  Much faster and much more fun.  As the heavens opened again we went into ‘time trial’ mode – Cat with three dogs, fatter me with four – we went for a lap of the field in spite of their being ‘something dead’ on the third straight.  Both of us managed to mush our way round in a time that Vickie possibly charitably described as ‘outstanding’ – 1:40 something for Cat, 1:30 something for me (with the extra dog).

It was apparently their first instance of completing the timed lap in fairly substantial hail though, so if you liken it to Top Gear it was very much a ‘wet lap’ that we did, we have also been party to what Vickie coined ‘Extreme Mushing’ – awesome!

Such a great experience – I’d really recommend it, one of those “Aah, if I didn’t have bills to pay, wouldn’t that be a great way to live?” moments.  You should definitely book on to the experience.  Just learning about the different roles and personalities of the pack were great, and how to deal with those different types of dog as you were spurring them on to run for you.  Plus McKinnley and Nanuk were amongst the cutest hounds I’ve encountered (they all were, in fairness!), and I’m lucky to have experienced many of those over the last few years!

The other ‘adventure’ or perhaps more simply just a reminisce.  As part of project ‘be less of a fatty’ I decided to go for a run after work, this is quite an alien concept to me, but given the recent success in losing some weight through utilising apps and suchlike, I wondered if a run-tracking app might motivate me.  Being a short-burst-football type of person finding a sustained running pace was tricky, then I got a bit distracted when tackling what I’d figured out to be a scenic spot for a run because it was also an old childhood haunt.

The long abandoned Mapperley Railway Tunnel which is oddly still accessible (although from childhood memory is backfilled a mile or two from the opening)

So rather than dutifully running around the nature reserve a trigger from the past found me scrabbling around looking for the old railway cutting that would lead to the Mapperley Railway tunnel.  As you can see from the snap, it wasn’t ideal conditions underfoot but it was amusing to find it, the last time I was there – probably some twenty or more years ago – it seemed so much bigger!  I resisted the urge to go exploring inside, it doesn’t look in great condition!  This seeking rather ruined my running time on the app!

Heading back a slightly different route it was amazing to note how much of the old Gedling Colliery site has been cleared (unless I bimbled past it oblivious!) – my memories of the area were very much a recently vacated industrial area, it’s now very much reclaimed by nature, which is nice, lots of rabbits and birds clearly feel comfortable enough to have settled only to be disturbed by the occasional ‘runner’ and some dog walkers.  The old rubbish tip was the last thing I encountered, now cleared but for the odd discarded tyre.  Strange how things can be so familiar, but so different!

Either way, spending all last week seriously cutting down my calorie intake has seen me shift around half a stone if the ropey scales in our bathroom are to be believed.  Tonight’s run-combined-with-walk-and-explore should have shifted nearly 500 calories, which is more than I had for lunch.  Going ‘off route’ and doing a lot of wandering around and doubling-back has rather confused the Nike+ app I was using, although it’s done a pretty good job of keeping track of my movements.

If I am to take up running more often though I’m going to have to get better at pacing myself, I was tiring ever so quickly!  Still, back onto the familiar territory of football tomorrow, I know where I am with football, even if it’s still a struggle having had a lot less fuel than I’m used to!

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She thought I was an eagle, but I was just a crow..

The Jon Amor Blues Group

Being ten-thumbed and tone-deaf has made me – in my head – elevate talented musicians to an almost super-human level.  I excitedly installed GarageBand on my iPad and still couldn’t create anything even half-tangibly considerable as music – I’m just not wired up right for it.  Which is sad, because I do love music.  I went to see some music last night, in a room upstairs in Spanky Van Dykes – along with a disappointingly small number of other people.

I suppose it’s difficult to compete when there’s the lure of Steps playing the Arena on the same evening.

Anyway, I was there to see the Jon Amor Blues Group – Jon Amor is a friend of one of my friends, and he’s oft eulogised about them, so once they were playing in Nottingham it was a done deal.  He can make some staggeringly amazing noises with a guitar without crossing over into becoming over-indulgent, coupled with some great songs – my favourite, childishly, was ‘She Thought I was an Eagle’ – mainly because the continuation of the lyrics revealed he was actually a crow, and it tickled me (it was also a great song!)

Despite the undoubted technical skill from all four band members, there was a lovely fluidity of what they were doing too – they occasionally didn’t pause between songs, seamlessly moving from one to another as one, and d’you know what?  They looked like they were enjoying themselves too – in spite what must have been a disappointing turn out for the gig.  After the performance Jon said he’d been suffering with a cold – it certainly didn’t show.

So an hour and a half of this was bargain enough for a mere fiver entry fee – well the support act was really good too.  Also a blues-infused ensemble – the four-piece Nat Martin Band.  A mix of covers and original material (as not exactly a blues aficionado I wouldn’t have recognised the covers anyway!), there’s a heady mix of blues, funk and jazz influences and a real mix of paces.  And more outstanding guitar-work.

The introduction of a guest female vocalist for a couple of tracks (who was also awesome) gave a nice contrast too – criminally I’ve forgotten her name.

All in all, a top evening’s entertainment – I wish it were not on a school night so I could’ve indulged in a few beers, and a few more people might have made the effort to have come along to see some really talented folks putting on a great show.  Just think, you could’ve paid ten times the price to see less than a hundredth of the talent in the Arena.  If you spot either band on tour in your area then you should most definitely check them out!

Both also have albums available through their sites – the Jon Amor Blues Group here, and the Nat Martin Band here  (and indeed, through the ubiquitous iTunes).  You could do a lot worse than to check them out!

I couldn’t find a video from last night on YouTube yet (there were a few recordings going on), so here’s one from a different gig, of a song called The Underdogs:

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I’ve become somewhat addicted to the Draw Something app on my iPhone and iPad (also available on lesser operating systems, apparently).  It’s kind of like Pictionary, you draw something to represent a word, your opponent guesses and you both get virtual coins when guessed correctly, then it’s your opponents turn to guess – repeat ad nauseum.

Of course, generally clues can be executed with efficient and deft skill using stick-men, arrows or even half-cheating and using verbal clues by writing (some people unfeasibly actually write the word out, frustratingly!), but occasionally my inner scribbler gets a bit carried away and completely over-engineers the drawing for the lucky (or probably bored opponent who has to sit and watch it be drawn in real time!).

It’s a really fun game, it will link in with your Facebook account to find you people to play against who you know, you could opt for random games within the app or find people by their username.  I would definitely recommend it if you have a creative yen – although I’ve ended up with so many games on the go I’ve had to delete the app from my phone and stick to iPad playing otherwise I’d be sat playing it at work and probably get sacked!

Also, a stylus is a big help if you do want to indulge in more complicated drawings.  Below are a few random examples of drawings that I’ve either been pleased with or have amused me on a more childish level.

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With my parents well underway with the plotting of their house move in a couple of months there’s been stuff up for grabs – not least their old dining table, which Cat and I have duly claimed.  The table we had was okay, but I struggled to fit my legs under it, being freakishly tall.  When I say it was my folks’ old dining table, that’s only telling a part of the story.

I couldn’t say for certain who it originally belonged to – but certainly earlier in its life it resided in Wood Farm, a farm still there nestled between Calverton and Woodborough in Nottinghamshire.  It belonged to my Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother who owned said farm.  After this point I’m not sure of its whereabouts – I do remember my Great Grandmother, just.  She was living in an old folks home in Arnold, perhaps the table lived there with her too?  I think she had a house in Arnold before that too.

Whatever familial movements the table made, it ended up with my parents – I first remember it in their current house, not the one before it on Kent Road in Mapperley – but maybe it was there.  Either way, it’s one upon which I’ve eaten countless meals, glued together Airfix models, worked on my radio controlled car, done homework, drawn cartoons for Rich’s fanzine or for fun, painted.

I even compelled my Mum to get it French polished by the dad of a girl I fancied at school (fortunately he did a great job! – not that it did me any favours in the way I’d hoped!).

So it’s quite nice that it’s now replaced our old table – it’s funny how you can feel oddly attached to what is basically a few bits of oak put together into a piece of furniture.  It’s a very nice piece of furniture though, and it’s been there sitting idly by whilst lots of things have come to pass not just in my lifetime but beforehand throughout my maternal line, which is quite nice to think about really.

To lighten the mood there’s a greasy-haired younger tracksuit-wearing me busily doing some homework upon the very table over on the right!

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