Monday, 6 June 2011

Back in training

Usually I come back off holiday refreshed and raring to go but unfortunately my break was quite a test as the boys did not sleep well during our stay in Richmond/Twickenham. I think Sara and I averaged about four and a half hours sleep a night.

I had committed myself to not going running and concentrating on looking after my boys and my nieces despite being near the beautiful Marble Hill Park, so I had not been running for almost two weeks.
I was really looking forward to the gym today and doing a 10km session on the treadmill but yesterday I stood on a shard of glass at the Riverside Festival in Leicester, which went through my trainer and punctured my foot.
I scrapped my gym plans and it felt pretty sore walking to work today.
I'm not going to run tomorrow, I might make it out for a road run on Thursday. It is all hugely frustrating.
Before my holiday I achieved a PB for 5km of just under 24 minutes. I now feel less confident about doing it again soon.
I have read conflicting reports of how quickly we lose fitness, but I'm guessing with a sore foot and at least 16 days without training it's going to take a while to get back to where I was.
I'm really finding running a psychological test as well as a physical one. To that end I'm really surprised how much the activity has got its hooks in me.
Last week I decided to blog more, mainly about my progress so I could keep a diary, and follow a running challenge between now and my next holiday in eight weeks time, in order to improve my speed and lose some more weight.
It hasn't started well, but on the plus side, things can only get better!

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Twins update

It's been more than a year since I last blogged. This is largely because life with twins doesn't slow down.
The challenges change and I'd be the first to admit life with two boys aged nearly two years old is far more interesting and rewarding than life was at the start when the main aim was to keep them clean, fed and alive.
I wrote an article for the Leicester Mercury - - about my first year as a dad, choosing to look at the big numbers involved rather than a wistful look back.
It's almost a year since I wrote that article and life hasn't been as simple as taking last year's numbers and doubling them. Some things have gone - babygros and formula milk - and some new things have been introduced like wellies and a child-proofed house.
The boys are now walking, saying their first words, eating us out of house and home and sleeping in little beds and no longer in cots.
This development has proved to be a huge transition and, at the start, quite stressful as two little boys run riot around their bedroom, enjoying a new found freedom.
Things are settling down with that now thankfully.
During the day we are are having to find more and more activities to keep them occupied too, often heading to Leicester's play parks and watching them tackle the slide and giving them a push on the swings.
It may sound like hard work but it's far better than being stranded at home with them all day, so we are making the most of the good weather and getting out.
The rewards during this time have been seeing their confidence grow as they walk and climb, hearing their new words, which seem to come daily, and seeing the interaction between the two brothers.
Socially, Sara and I feel able to go out together a little more, and in the next couple of weeks I'm heading to Berlin again to watch my beloved Hertha play - the third time since the boys were born so I can't complain. I've even escaped to watch Leicester City a couple of times but yet to make it back to Sincil Bank to cheer on the Imps.
So the twins update as they approach their second birthday is that they are still hard work but life is suddenly very rewarding.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Hope Dies Last

BEFORE Christmas Hertha Berlin looked dead and buried. Now, three
games into the second half of the season we have closed the gap on our
nearest rivals to six points. Can it be done? Can we escape? I want to
believe that it can be done – but people keep telling me that hope
dies last – especially other Herthaner.
Still you cannot fault the positive approach of the team since
January. Friedhelm Funkel clearly has a tactic to play attacking
football to get us out of trouble. It is going to be a tough battle, but despite not scoring goals in the last two games, we have still
picked up points. If we keep going at this rate, we will be alright. I
have mentioned before: Five points every three games until end of
season = 35 points = survival. Easy!
I found the first half of the season,
the worst feeling I have known in football. Week after week of losses,
bad news coming out of the club – managers leaving, players arguing
publicly, etc.
But since the restart of the season I have found Hertha’s
transformation quite exciting. It is good to see us playing with two
strikers - Gekas and Ramos. Both players look a threat and I am sure
there is more to come from them. Arne Friedrich seems more focused and
determined and the team as a whole seems to be playing with more
We go to Bremen on Friday which, everyone knows, will be a tough task.
But I feel confident that we could at least get a point, which would
be another step in the right direction. We must be patient. Each time
we look at the Bundesliga table, it still looks like a long hard
fight. Every point we get is slowly helping us close the gap on the
others. Keep the Faith!
Before the Hoffenheim game on February 26, a group of international
Hertha BSc fans are meeting at Hanne's Bar in Joachimstrasse, Berlin
at 13.00. Germany, England and Sweden are represented so far.
I will travel from Leicester to cheer on the
Thomas Bjelvenmark and two others, members of the Swedish fan club, and
friends of Hertha Unser fan club, will travel from Uppsala, Sweden.
Thomas said: "I've newly fall in love with the club our relationship
have only been for a little more then a year. When I saw Hertha for
the first time (Hertha-Frankfurt in january 2009), it was the first
time I've experianced true love too football, I've seen soccer many
times too, but Swedish soccer sucks. When I stepped foot on
Olympiastadion for the first time and felt its atmosphere I fell in
love, I've never felt that commitment that Hertha Supporters do for
there team before. I've never got goosebumps when other soccer teams
fans sing. But now I know why people all over the world loves this
True love indeed!
Others will follow shortly – please come along, say hello and show
your support for the Old Lady in these difficult times!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Misty water-coloured memories of the way we were...

It is all over. And this time I know it is for real. My love affair with Sheffield Wednesday - which was already strained at the start of this year, has come to an end.
I was wondering how I should break the news. I did consider taking Brian Laws out to dinner and explaining that it's not him, it's me.

Most people cannot understand why I am walking away from the team which I have followed so closely since 1992.

I dont want to get in to the murky details of why I cannot continue my romance with the Owls other than to say I feel very let down by someone very close to me who has done little to improve the situation (well... absolutely nothing, well... the situation is now worse).

As our one common interest is SWFC, I have now decided that I would rather watch Shepshed Dynamo from now on than suffer the indignity of standing in Hillsborough feeling uncomfortable. Incidently Shepshed won 3:2 today away at Osset Albion.
Several of my friends and colleagues have said I should not ditch the Wednesday over this, but they do not know the fine details and I am a man of principle. I ditched my interest in the club a few weeks ago and I am not missing them or looking out for their results.
I would, at this point like to express my sincerest thanks to John Sheridan, the Waddler, Thirsty Hirsty, Paulo Di Canio, Benito Carbone, Kevin Pressman, Chris Woods, Super Guy Whittingham, Alexandersson, Brighty, Pembo, Des, tricky Trev, Pervy Pleat, Big Ron, Paul Sturrock, Brian Laws and the Barmy Army for an amazing time. However, its time to move on.
My two boys are five months old next week, I will be happy to take them to see their home town club, Leicester City, when they are old enough.

When Sheffield Wednesday visit the Walkers Stadium on December 12, I wont be there. In fact I'm planning my trip to Market Drayton Town to watch Shepshed Dynamo away.

I will be continuing my support of Hertha Berlin, who are rooted at the bottom of the Bundeliga at the moment. Hopefully things will look better when I get to the Olympiastadion again after Christmas.
If I was a clever, witty writer I would need to end this with a cliche about romance like love is blind, Sheffield Wednesday was an eye-opener or something deep like: “Relationships are like glass. Sometimes it is better to leave them broken than try to hurt yourself putting it back together.”
However I like this one:
"It's better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." At Sheffield Wednesday I loved and lost most weeks.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Standing out in the Universe

Thought I had better return to the blogging scene after a six week absence which has seen many changes on Planet Statto.

Firstly, I have dropped the words Sheffield and Wednesday from my list of interests. I dont want a debate about it other than to conclude I do not miss them.

Secondly, my twins are sleeping for four hours or more at a time so I no longer resemble Lurch from the Addams Family and when you talk to me know I am awake enough to grasp what you are saying.

And finally, maybe less importantly, but interestingly, my last blog about Northern Soul was an internet success - boosting my total number of readers of this blog from about 100 to er... 11,900.

The news has not gone unnoticed at Mercury Towers and today the deputy features editor suggested the idea about writing about Northern Soul be expanded to become a series of articles for the Leicester Chronicle covering other music trends and cults which were adopted in Leicestershire (along with everywhere else of course) to include The Hell's Angels, Skinheads, Teddy Boys, Punks, Mods and New Romantics and any others we stumble across in the next six months.

Being a clean living Modernist I don't know how the rockers and bikers in the Hell's Angels will take to my probing questions but I am looking forward to talking to them.
We have decided to begin the series with a look back at Leicester's Hell's Angels in December, so I'm starting my research now. The only leads I have at the moment are: that there is a bikers' pub somewhere in Coalville and that a couple of Hell's Angels were interviewed by the Leicester Mercury in 1969.

In that particlular article, reporter Pete Barraclough spoke to Al Hitchcock, leader of The Ratae Hell's Angels and his second-in-command 'Randy' Rastus. I have just got to track these guys down and will be working hard to do so in the next few weeks.

Last time I posted I received a flood of help from the Northern Soul scene, so I am hoping for another positive response from the Hell's Angels for what I am sure will be a fascinating lookback at this biker cult. In fact, their motto could be used by journalists: "When we do right, no one remembers. When we do wrong, no one forgets".

If anyone has any Leicestershire memories of the groups and gangs I have mentioned please drop me a line, I would love to hear your stories...

Friday, 7 August 2009

Leicester, I know you got soul

It was the music scene which emerged from Mod and just refuses to die. Northern Soul -even its name is cool. And this week I have learned that I'm living in a city and county that took the music to its hearts. OK, Manchester had the Twisted Wheel, Wigan had the Casino and Stoke boasted The Torch. But Leicester, and Leicestershire also had a major scene going on.
Currently I am reading Paolo Hewitt's book: The Soul Stylists. The work details the early days of Mod, or Modernism as it was known, from the Soho jazz scene in 1950s and brings things right up to date, explaining how music has led fashion and vice-versa.
Northern Soul, bluntly, is black american soul music with a heavy beat and bassline and a fast tempo. Tamla Motown and Atlantic Records were famous labels linked to the scene.
The section of Hewitt's book about Northern Soul reveals some memories from Leicester people who were there when the whole scene took off. It revealed that Leicestershire was a hotbed of Northern Soul activity in the 60s and 70s. A club called the Lantern in Market Harborough was hugely popular, but there were other big clubs and events here too. There is a Youtube clip of a dance at the Nottingham Oddfellows working men's club in Leicester City Centre. The footage is grainy but the atmosphere and dancing shines through.

I have arrived at this point in musical education via my well-known Mod obsession, which all started by chance really. It was 1988, and it began when I saw Quadrophenia for the first time.

Initially, I wasn't that impressed by the music, but the film shook me to the core. The scooters, the clothes, the love interests and the behaviour of the youths in the story all had a profound effect on me. For a while I thought I was the lead character, after all, I thought I shared most his problems.
I was living in a student house at the time aged 18. The weekend after I saw the film I went home and nicked my dad's green parka, and spent flamin' ages trying to pick off cement from the sleeves to make it presentable (my dad is a builder). Mum lent me £19 for a Ben Sherman shirt (which I think I still owe her, sorry mum) and that was it. I had started my journey into Modernism.
Soon after I bought my first Small Faces tape - from Poundstretcher in Lincoln. I had never heard of them but the cassette had a target on it. On the strength of the symbol I had bought a life-changing piece of music - even if it was a greatest hits compilation. I think it was on sale in Poundstretcher because the track listing was incorrect. It said the complete collection but appeared to have a track missing!
I took a part time job in a perfume factory. The staff there rolled their eyes when I tried to ask them about The Small Faces and their songs.
I will never feel like a proper Mod because I was not born in the late 50s/early 60s nor spent my youth enjoying amphetamine-fuelled all-night dancing at Jazz clubs. However, the fashion and music has had a deep effect on my life, and following the mod ideal is a way of life. Since following the music I have discovered bands like the Who, Small Faces, Paul Weller, PP Arnold etc, etc
Now I am learning more and more about soul and the Northern Soul scene. I went to two allnighters last year - including one in a former Stasi boat house in East Berlin. The dancefloor had a river running through it (It is called kiki blofeld's in Kreuzberg - look it up!).
Northern Soul is an amazing sound that I could never get bored of hearing. Now I want to find out more about the scene on my doorstep, its history and its future. If you read this and have memories of the glory days of Northern Soul in Leicestershire please contact me - I'm hoping to write something about its history for the Leicester Mercury's Chronicle series in the near future.
Also I'd like to mention this. I know nothing about it but I'd like to let people know it is on:

Location:The Venue
Time:9:00PM Friday, September 4th

Monday, 29 June 2009

A bit of everything...

This week I have learned lots of things. Babies can wee powerfully, psychics cannot predict the deaths of their friends, and Bruce Springsteen is, apparently, a top bloke.

Currently I am changing nappies at a rate of a minimum of about 6 x 2 a day and I am starting to question my previous musings about disposable nappies and the environment. We are filling our new, larger city council wheelie bin at a faster rate than I ever imagined. Maybe when I get this parenting lark under control we will sit down at look at some greener options as currently, my carbon footprint is resembling that left by a man wearing clown's shoes climbing out of an aeroplane on his way to buy a burning oil field.

Being on paternity leave has made me watch news a little less as I try to concentrate on fatherhood. But the Jacko stuff was largely unavoidable. My boss twittered his blog of how the Leicester Mercury had changed up a front page which made me a little jealous that I was not at work. Also if anyone ever asks where I was when I heard MJ had died, I will be able to say with some confidence that I was elbow deep in dirty nappies as I tried to get G. and J. to sleep. I heard the news (unconfirmed reports) on Radio 5 Live. They managed to get hold of Uri Geller, who was "shocked" at his friend's death. Surprised he did not see it coming, but hey.

As I now never go out I watched most of Glastonbury on BBC3/BBC2. The clips in between the music of the other events taking place at the festival are very annoying. It means less live performances aired by musicians. I'm all for arts and theatre but some of the things I saw were ridiculous, largely organised by rich white kids sporting dreadlocks holding dogs on string.

Musically, I have always disliked Bruce Springsteen. His sound is too dirty/rocky/white American for my Mod ideals, however I thought his performance was fantastic. He did two and a half hours of engaging music, prancing around like a teenager, belying his 60 years and grinning like a bloke who had swallowed a coat hanger. Earlier he had joined newcomers and Bruce soundalikes The Gaslight Anthem on stage, playing with excitement and vigour. I twittered this as the moment of the festival so far (as a TV viewer at least) to #Glastonbury - which got quite a positive reaction.

Neil Young, Tom Jones, Status Quo and Madness all did great performances too and there were some great new acts. Leicester's own Kasabian were great and Tom wore a jacket with strawberries on given to him by Steve Marriott's daughter. Presumably it used to belong to the Small Faces icon.

Finally, today there has been plenty of TV news coverage about the weather, it's hot. This country cannot cope with anything other than lukewarm. Snow = standstill. Rain = events cancelled. Heat = Armageddon or death to the elderly and melting roads. For a nation so obsessed with the weather, you would have thought that we would appreciate it more. Even the new roof being used for the first time at Wimbledon drew an Ooooh! from the crowd. Could rant further, but I've just been told that there is another nappy that needs changing...