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I am not brilliant but I run to try and keep in shape. I try to do 5Km three times a week. No more. I am not interested in doing marathons or even half marathons. I don’t have the time or the interest.

 I had been quite looking forward to this evening’s run after work
as the day started sunny and I was at my desk all day. As the day wore on the
sunshine dulled and the stress of work started to pull on me I felt less and
less like running and more like napping but come six o’clock I got changed and
forced myself out.

I was not in the best frame of mind. I was still dealing with things in my head as I locked the door and headed down the hill. I was sure that my mind would clear as I hit the canal path. I am so lucky to live close to a canal basin and the canal path soon gets me clear of the town.

Obstacle 1 hit when I came up over the first canal bridge; a pack of excitable cubs were coming the opposite way, being shepherded along by their keepers. All the adults had their eyes down herding the kids and the kids were looking everywhere, everywhere but ahead and at me. I had to be as nimble as a gazelle as I leapt and swerved through the little green clad chappies. I left them behind and headed on.

Just over a kilometre in and I passed a small group of teens when one of the boys decided he would look big and clever to the girls by jumping towards me whilst shouting. I ignored him. I kept on. For some reason it was a hard run tonight and my legs were already aching. 

At the 2Km mark I met 2 geese. They were on the path and spitting. I side stepped them and jogged on to the turnaround point. This meant I had to encounter them again in a few minutes and they were no happier when I did.

It was as I turned around and started back that I realised I had lost my door key. Yes. I had locked the house and now I didn’t have a key. By this time I had decided that if I encountered the annoying teen he may well be going for a swim. It was one of those days.

I ran back, retracing my steps, looking for my key. No joy. I live in the middle of a terrace but the backs look onto fields. I keep a spare key hidden in my back garden, in a bird box (not after this I don’t obviously). 

I walked back down to where I could enter the fields to the back of the house. That meant climbing a barbed wire fence and getting stung by nettles.

BULLS

The back field is home to bulls so I had to be brave and shoo them away, run up the field and then climb the barbed wire fence around my garden. I felt momentarily relieved when I was in my garden. Only momentarily as I then noticed my birdhouse was gone. 
 
PANIC!

Luckily I found it between the garden fences. It must have blown down in the winter. I picked it up, opened it and took out my key. Now I am not daft. I don’t keep my backdoor key in the back garden. No that would be too easy. It is my front door key. So, in order to get home and finish my run:

Barbed wire fence!
Bulls!
Barbed wire fence!
Nettles!

Down the field.
Up the hill and in the front door.
Collapse.

What a crap run.


 
 
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I was a smoker.

I loved typing that as it has a very definite historical feel to it. I have given up before, many times, but this time it feels different. This time it feels like something in my past.

On July 13th 2012 I flew to Japan and I had set my sights on that being the day I gave up for good. Japan has some crazy laws on smoking like the fact that you can't smoke out in the street but you can smoke in bars and restaurants. It makes no sense but it gave me another reason not to have a habit. An eleven hour flight at the start of the holiday is also a good reason to be craving free.

I had been on the drug Champix to help me stop. Not easy as the tablets made me feel really sick and this was my third time around with them having used them twice before and managed to go for six months both times before cracking. Something just feels so different this time. I don't look at people smoking and wish for a fag. I look at people smoking and remember that I used to do that, not in a smug way but certainly with an amount of personal pleasure. Yes, I had a few cigs at the Christmas party but the next day it just felt normal not to smoke.

What I have noticed about giving up smoking are the other changes it brings about. When I am in work mode I wear suit jackets and there are plenty of pockets for things like cigs and lighters. Outside work I would always wear cargo pants or para-pants, pants with side pockets so I had somewhere for my fags (left side pocket) and lighter (right side pocket). These are a thing of the past.

I used to be fairly paranoid about smelling of smoke. I always carry little sample bottles of aftershave with me, one in every jacket, to cover the whiff. Then there would be chewing gum. I could always be relied upon to have chewing gum (another reason for wanting more pockets). Cigarette lighters, I would never be cought without one so Let's not forget the breath spray. I would always have one in the car, one in my bag and probably one in a pockets somewhere. I still carry the aftershave but I haven't bought breath spray or chewing gum in ages.

Behaviours change too. No more standing outside places. No more taking a fag break. I used to find myself on the way to a meeting and, even though I might have just had a fag, if I had five minutes to spare I would have another just to stock up as it may be several hours before I get another. I used to strike up as soon as I got in the car and sitting in traffic jams on the M62 could have given me cancer. I would chain smoke through the boredom.

I no longer go in to newsagents to buy fags. When I did I would often pick up a weekly lottery ticket as well. I don't go in so I don't buy a ticket which means that I have no chance of ever winning the lottery. Stopping smoking may well have cost me a fortune!


To be honest I have a little app on my phone and it knows the date I stopped smoking and how many I smoked on average every day and this little app has calculated that as of today, 210 days free, I have saved £1,100.
And that is bloody marvellous!

 
 
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Recently someone made a comment to me about my blog. This person basically said that I didn't write very often and didn't keep it up to date. I don't think this was positive criticism.

Now, I just need to say this is my blog and it works like this. I write in it when I want to. This is not a chore, it's not a university assignment or a piece of work. This blog is something I do when the fancy takes me and when I feel I have the time to say something.

This blog has no other agenda than to let me babble on about stuff I want to babble about every once in a while. It's not a newspaper column that you come and read once a week. I am not contractually obliged to turn in 500 words on a given subject every Monday. If that's what you want to do then I am happy for you. Me, I'll tap the keys when the fancy takes me as it is doing right now. The simple act of being annoyed with my critic has ironically given me the desire and the subject to write a blog. Life is like that.

So, sometimes I write stuff and sometimes I don't. I maybe watching TV, reading a book, playing a game, working, shopping on ebay or even yodelling but whatever I am doing I am doing it for me.

Thank

 
 
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Recently BBC 6 Music had a "Wear Your Old Band T-shirt To Work Day" and it got me thinking.

T-shirts. I love them. I have loads and I hang them in colour order in my wardrobe. I have had hundreds in my lifetime and, regretfully, I have thrown many away (or given them to charity shops). I am fussy about t-shirts. I think t-shirts should say something about you. They should say who you like, what you like and what you are like.

When Steve Lamacq recently held another "Wear Your Old Band T-shirt To Work Day" I was so happy to dig out a 1991 James T-shirt, wear it, take a photo and pop it on Twitter. I was unbelievably chuffed to find that I was the main picture on the BBC 6 gallery for several hours that day.

I am very selective about my shirts. They are about me. They may reflect films, bands, TV, artwork, science, comics, cartoons or whatever but most of all they reflect me.

But this passion for tees does manifest some negativity I am afraid. Hollister and Superdry t-shirt wearers really annoy me.  It's not just those 2 brands, there are other similar ones. They just have the brand name printed on them in one place or another and sometimes a pretend design number. Seriously, what do these items of clothing say about you apart from "I am a hollow shell for you to hang your brand on"? What is it that people see in these bland, bland, bland rags?

Others that piss me right off are ones you get in all the high street fashion chains that bear the logo of a made up club or organisation. They say things like "Florida Shark Fishing Club '83", "Memphis Jake's Blues Bar" and "Alaskan Sea Plane Repair Shop". What can I say? Utter bollocks. You shouldn't be allowed to wear shirts with place names on if you haven't been there or if the shirts haven't been brought from that place for you.

Then there are the ones that printed to look like they are old and faded. You must have seen them, old band names, album covers and TV shows. If you didn't first hear Dark Side Of The Moon on vinyl should you be allowed to wear the t-shirt? No!

There is no way to wrap this up nicely. I am a t-shirt snob and if you are happy to wear a Superdry, Hollister or similar tee then expect my disdain.

 
 
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I went to the cinema this morning, or as we used to call it “the pictures”. I love going to the pictures on a Sunday morning. On Sunday mornings you get to experience cinema the way it should be. There are usually not many people in and sometimes there is no one else. Those that come don’t seem to have a need for popcorn and buckets of ice. Well, it’s Sunday and they have probably had a full English or at least a bacon butty. No talking. No phones. Just me in the middle of the theatre. Bliss.

 
I do love going to the pictures. I watch stuff at home but no matter how big your flat screen nothing beats going to the cinema. There is something magical about going to the cinema or, at least, there should be. Long gone are the days of projectionists and cinema staff who work there because of their love of film. Now it’s all multiplex chains and staff on minimum wage and minimum interest. Even so, once in your seat the cinema should be magic. Back in the 50s there were cinemas everywhere in the country, in villages and in
towns, thousands of them. They were dream palaces, places of escape. Those built  in the early part of the 1900s were architecturally beautiful too (Don’t get me started about the Bradford Odeon. That would be a whole series of blogs) to reflect the idea that inside you really could live your dreams.

When the “Coming Soon” section rolls you decide which films you want to see but, more importantly, which you would want to see at the pictures. Rom-coms and courtroom dramas are fine but I can watch those at home. There are some films that you just have to see on the big screen. That’s what  they were made for. Keep your 52” plasma and your Blu-Ray. Some films just need that huge screen and that rumbling sound that you feel in your chest. 

When I am sitting there and the music swells I can feel hundreds of cinema memories rise up in me like a wave. It’s like they are all connected and want this new experience to be part of that collective swell of memory. We all remember movies but it’s more than that, it’s memories of being at the cinema.

One of my earliest cinema memories was of going to see Bambi. I must only have been about 4 and don’t recall much of the film but I do remember the strange feeling of emerging from the dark of a long since demolished picture house, blinking into a sunny afternoon in Bradford town centre. I remember vividly being taken, one wet Welsh holiday, to see Zulu. I would have been 5 or 6 at the most. I remember the feeling as the Zulu warriors lined the hills above Rourke’s Drift and began beating their shields with their spears. The size and sound of that moment left a lasting impression.

I became a regular and avid cinema goer and have many great memories. I saw Jaws three times in one week. I saw Star Wars at the Bradford Odeon who made it a spectacle buy providing a pre-film lightshow (this was amazing after having queued around the block). I recall clearly the time we walked 4 abreast along the pavement to get to the end of the long queue for Ghostbusters and how I managed to walk groin first into some barriers along the kerbside much to the enjoyment of the queue. I remember the thrill of seeing my first AA  movie (you had to be 14 to get in), The Incredible Melting Man. Not a  spectacular film but a good memory. My first X rated movie was The Brood which was a fairly rubbish schlocky horror film about "psychoplasmics" but the memory of actually getting in the cinema to see it remains a strong one.

I recall stealing my eldest niece when she was just a little girl because my friends and I wanted to see Jungle Book. This was in the days before Disney released everything on video and we were under the impression that you needed a child in order to be admitted to see a children's movie.

This weekend I managed to squeeze in 2 cinema visits. I saw Sightseers yesterday, a very black comedy about caravaning serial killers and then today I saw Rise of the Guardians, a kids, animated Christmas movie featuring Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny. Two more different films you could not imagine but the feeling of being completely immersed in a story, being so mesmerised that the numbness of your bum cheeks isn't an issue, that's what going to the cinema is all about for me.

So, I love going to the cinema. There are some films that you just have to see in the way they were intended and there are films that I have seen at the cinema that I would not have seen to the end if I had been watching them at home. The Dark Knight Rises is one such film. I probably wouldn't have made it much beyond halfway had I watched it at home but in the cinema I watched it to the end out of respect for fellow cinema goers. In a way I was lucky as the last 10 minutes were the best bit of the whole film.

People have big TVs and home cinema kits but for me it just doesn't do the job. For me it has to be the cinema for some films. I'll keep playing the lottery because if I won my dream would be to buy an old cinema and restore it to the way it should have been kept.

I know it's comfy watching at home but don't let cinemas die. Nothing beats seeing a great movie in a good cinema.

 
 
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For me Christmas started today. I went to the cinema and saw this animated 'kids' film and  I loved it. The graphics are great and the story is simple, original and fast paced.
Peter Ramsey directs it like a ride at a Disney park with occasional breaks to pull your heartstrings or force a tear or two from the corner of your eyes.

The central character is Jack Frost, draw like a cool indie-kid in tight trousers and a hoodie with winning frostie white hair. He is surfs the skys and draws delicate frost patterns across his world. he gets to team up with The Guardians: Santa, the Sandman, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.

All of the main characters are wonderful and I almost want to believe in the Tooth Fairy again just because they are so delightful. Father Christmas, or North as he is known, has to be my favourite. He is a big chap but not in the jolly, fat man mode. He is a big Russian bloke with tattooed forearms and even wears rings on his thumbs.

Jude Law voices the Pitch, the boogieman. I am not normally a fan of JL but his voice was perfect here and the character of Pitch oozed with dark melodrama. Hugh Jackman too makes the Easter Bunny into something new and very unexpected.

The graphics are simply beautiful. I saw it in 2D as I really dislike 3D and it makes my head hurt but I am sure that if you are fan of 3D (and there must be someone out there that likes it, surely) then I think that the action scenes will be absolutely amazing.

The comparisons are bound to be made between this and Avengers Assemble and although this is a so-called kids film, the Guardians could stand toe to toe with the Avengers and hold their own.

It's a Christmas movie and a bloody good one.

 
 
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If you like your comedy dark then you will love this film. I had heard Alice Lowe's Wunderland radio series and I was mesmerised by it's strange, dark faery world. As one of the co-writers of this film she gives vent to her dark side again but this time in the world of caravan holidays.

There are large dollops of humour in the drabness and mundanity of the lives portrayed here. The script is superb and its delivery is spot on. The violence, when it comes it, is extreme and gory.

There is something in the Midlands accent that fits the whole thing so swell. “He's ruined the tram museum for me now” is one of many lines that will soon become quotable and twisted to be used in homage to the film 

There is not much that you can say without giving too much away. I loved it from start to finish and I could watch it again today.

There are some things that can be knitted that never should be knitted.

 
 
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Working on the road means that sometimes I flip closed my laptop, flick on the TV and flop onto the hotel bed hoping for something to watch that will help me switch off and unwind. Invariably, as I flick through the channels I see a whole host of reality shows like Road Wars, Night Cops, Come Dine with Me etc. Many a justified criticism has been levelled at shows like these for dumbing down, for playing to the lowest common denominator (tired account managers) and for being a cheap form of entertainment.  

This may be true but what I became aware of and what I want to complain about is the fact that I am being ripped off. Programmes like these steal my viewing time. 
 
Here is what I mean. Such programmes are often scheduled for an hour but if you take into account that there are adverts leading to the start and again at the end then the show in the middle only lasts 56 minutes. There will also be approximately 3 ad breaks in an hour's show too each taking about 3 and a half  minutes.
 
Actual viewing time is also shortened by the start titles and the end credits. Remember that these programmes are made for people with very short attention spans and have to have sections entitled "Coming Up...", "Still to Come..." and "Previously on..." before and sometimes after every ad break. If the programme contains particularly exciting action you will get some slow motion replays too

After all this fluff and filler there is not much actual programme left. Let's break it down:

Intro Titles 1 minute
Credits 3 minutes
Ad Break 3.5minutes (and there are 3 of them)
"Coming up" 45 seconds at the start of the show and 45 seconds before and after each ad break.
 Let's say 2 and a half minutes of gratuatous slow motion replays per show.

Check my maths but I make that about 23 minutes of filler from a show that is supposed to be an hour but is only 56 minutes long. 

So, from an hour’s viewing I only end up with about 33 minutes of genuine footage to unwind to. The rest of the time I just shout at the TV for ripping me off!


 
 
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I haven't had time to write at all this week with one thing and another so I decided it was time to pull out something that I wrote down a while ago for my employer's blog so unless you saw it there it will all be fresh and new. It recalls the time I had to attend a police line up. Whenever I think about what happened I get a big stupid smile on my face.

Several years ago, late one night, I saw a woman crouched by a neighbours car, scratching a rude word down the side with a knife. I called out and she did a runner.

I left a note for my neighbour and this lead to a visit from the police the next day. A couple of weeks later I got a call asking if I could attend a line-up to identify the vandal.

I was kept waiting an age when I got to Bradford’s central police station but the reason became clear when the officer in charge came and apologised for the delay. 

The woman in question had been detained in the cells for another offence.  It turns out that whilst locked up she had got into a fight with another inmate who had head-butted her and cut her nose.  Not only that, but to avoid identification she had shaved off her hair.

This gave the police a problem because, I believe, all the people in the line-up have to have a similar appearance and she wouldn’t stand much of a chance if she was the only person there with a sticking plaster across her nose and a bald head.


The officer in charge explained that the delay had been unfortunate but necessary and that I would understand when I entered the room to see the line-up.  He was smiling to the point of laughter as he opened the door and advised me to walk slowly passed the glass, behind which were about 10 women.

To the left of me was a large glass partition and standing about 3 feet apart were a row of women, all of whom had a plaster on their nose and a black woolly hat pulled down on their head to hide their hair. This is one of the most bizarre sights I have ever seen. The great British coppers had sent someone out to buy a box of plasters and dozen woolly hats to maintain a sense of justice.

And, just for the record, I did pick her out and  I could have done so even if she wasn’t the only one with 2 black eyes


 
 
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Maybe it’s time that the inability to remember how places relate
to one another on a map was classified as a disability. I freely admit that I am useless at world geography and even on a more local scale I cannot pretend, that when people refer to things like “The M4 Corridor”, I have the a clue what it is, let alone where it is.

It’s always been this way. As I kid I remember being so pleased
that I lived near 2 airports, Yeadon and Leeds/Bradford. How was I to know that Leeds/Bradford Airport was actually in a place called Yeadon and they were one and the same?  
 
I can stare at a map and see where things sit but it doesn’t gel in my memory and dissolves away. Now some people might think that this would be a drawback given that my job requires me to drive all around the UK. It’s not. This is all thanks to technology. I have Google maps for planning and a Garmin Sat Nav for getting me there (Other Sat Navs are available but this one has been worth its weight in gold to me so it can have some free publicity).

I have been scorned for my lack of geographical knowledge but I can’t help it, it’s just a blind spot. I can ride a bike, manipulate a spreadsheet, put up shelves, fix plumbing and loads of other useful things but I can’t get my head around the physical location of places.

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I put it down to the 70s and, more precisely, to Public Information Films of the 70s. There is a huge chunk of my long term memory that is now unusable. It’s full of detailed information that was on TV during my youth. I am aware of The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water. I always Think Once, Think Twice, Think Bike. I know how to use a pelican crossing, call the coastguard (Cooee Petunia!) and dry my brakes after driving through a ford. I  could sing you songs about not parking on county roads (“Don’t go parking in that passing place, somebody needs that yard of space”) or about how to overtake when on a motorbike (“Lay back and ride wide) but I can’t tell you how to get from Nottingham to London.

Often when I am on my travels people make the mistake... No, let me correct that... Men ask me how I got here or which way I am headed next. They spill out numbers of roads or names of places. “Did you come through...”,“Did you come down the...”Usually I don’t have a clue and, to be frank, I don’t really care.  As a friend said to me recently it doesn’t matter as long I can get there and know what to do when you are there.

All I need is a postcode that I can punch in to my Sat Nav and then I follow a little line on the screen. It hasn’t failed me yet, so as long as we don’t get sun flares that kill the reception I will remain happily  ignorant as I drive around the country. Oh, and don’t forget, “Clunk Click, Every Trip”.