A blast from the past

As a youngster and before I went off to become a scientist (for a while) I occupied my time doing more art-y things.

Now, putting the record straight, I was not very good at ‘art’ as in the drawing/painting exercise. In fact I would suggest I was much worse than ‘not very good’. If I sketched something, identifying the original source could be a question on University Challenge or a question on the Cryptography Entrance Exam.

Nor was I any good at acting. Unless being a rigid ‘extra’ far in the background and out of shot counts. I do remember a primary school play where I was pretending to be such a part (or I might have been in the ‘orchestra’ (some recorders stuck at the side)) where the acting was typical for the age-group but someone got their lines muddled up and we jumped from act 1 to act 3 roughly reducing the entire performance by half.

At least it saved the poor parents’ suffering by reducing the contact time of this infliction.

No, my foray into the arts world was purely musical. Playing the piano from about the age of 6 and picking up a mish-mash of other instruments along the way.

However, my friend David and I discovered the joys of playing with video cameras and over time recorded a number of concerts, and holiday footages, using an Amiga computer to help edit it all down.

Now, in 1992, the world of digital recording was not in existence, at least not in the consumer market. Forget about iPad Airs and iPhone 6s, Apple were still in their pre-Steve Jobs revival phase, seemingly trying to make themselves as obsolete as they could, until their former leader rejoined and turned the company into what we see in 2015.  No the consumer experience involved  2 VHS recorders recording from one to the other before using the Amiga to add some titles and credits and make 48 hours of holiday footage into 90 seconds which were actually watchable.

In between ‘shifts’ of editing, we also played rather a lot of computerised pinball. It might have been Pinball Dreamz or something like that. It occupied a lot of our time when most of the other youths of a similar age were out playing football, discovering the opposite sex and drinking white lightening.

Ah, the days of our youth.

After a productive (pun intended?) couple of years I went off to do science things at one university and David took his interest in the production of video/radio to another university. This was a course in contrast to the proliferation of ‘media studies’ type courses springing up everywhere so kids could leave home for 3 years and study the watching of TV programmes……

That was extra-curricular for both of us, not the main event!

Roll on 23 years. David has a family. I have a cat. David still does media-related things. I change career on a regular basis, none of which is science related. iPhones and iPads seem to be given to children moments after leaving the womb and with our mobile phones, everyone is a photo journalist, recording what’s going on around them and then usually posting it on Facebook or YouTube for other friends to ‘like’.

Anyone under the age of 30 now and currently reading this has probably ‘googled’ “VHS” to find out what it stands for.

And in fact, this is the crux of the matter. David recently rediscovered some of the old VHS tapes whilst visiting family and dropped me a line to share a couple of gems with me.

The first, a cartoon computer animation based on a creature I spent most of my maths lessons drawing; usually ending in the creature’s demise. Called a Quadpotential, I have no idea no idea what I was thinking. But that’s not the point, just enjoy some slap-stick monster mashing!


Bield Videos 1992 presents Revenge of the Quadpotentials.

Now whilst this was all very silly, it was also where David was learning how to do animations and the jeopardy the Quads found themselves in lent themselves nicely for this project.

The second video is longer, running for about 15 minutes.

We were approached by our old secondary school to produce a promotional video for them. We were both 17 and had no media training, but were up for the challenge. Looking back at the final product, I’m honestly chuffed at what we achieved. Quite how we did it I’ve long since forgotten, although I remember the ‘hand-painting’ part in the creche as if it were yesterday. A comedy moment.

So, get a brew, click the link and find out why our old comprehensive school was so successful.


Bield Videos 1992 presents “Brine Leas School: A Full Day; A Full Life

I wonder if they’ve ever updated the video………….

These were the gems along with which were some other bits. To quote David: There’s also some appalling ‘arseing around’ during filming of NAF at Brine Leas, I think YouTube doesn’t need to see that ever …

I quite agree!

Bikes, Legs and……. Bluetooth??

Well it’s been a mostly relaxed week, at least compared to those preceding it. And with fair weather, the possibility of getting out into the open and doing a little bit of exercise has been available too.

So during this week I’ve been out on the bike a couple of times as well as managing two short runs.

As it stands, the running is much slower than it was before, but the fact it doesn’t hurt whilst I’m doing it is something I’ll take over the speed any day. Of course I’m hopeful the pace will start to come back in the same way that it’s taken three outings before I have been able to run more than a couple of miles without getting out of breath. Something which was an unwelcome surprise last Sunday when I discovered my lungs had packed themselves off for their own Easter break, without either telling or inviting the rest of me!

And as a special treat, mostly due to the decent weather, both road and trail shoes were treated to a break away themselves – to the washing machine. So now they are clean and drying out ready for their next adventure. With the positive side effect that my shoe-rack now smells a lot better than it did before!

Freshly laundered running shoes
Freshly laundered running shoes

Last year, and again whilst I was unable to run, I started taking the road cycling a little more seriously. I’d discovered distance-cycling during the 13 Challenge by making the Manchester to Blackpool journey and realised that I needed to be a lot fitter if I was going to take on any route that was anything other than flat. My trip with bike to Snowdonia was memorable and the plans are afoot to repeat the experience in 2015. Same 47 mile route – I’m not close to being able to manage the 78 miler, let alone anything further. So it’s been pleasant getting out on the wheels to travel somewhere other than to work. And even moreso when the weather is fine.

The ‘Very’ saga of last week has also finally come to a welcome finale, with said faulty tablet safely back at their warehouse and the money safely back in my bank account. And whilst I’m a computer-screen gadget shorter than before, I have purchased a cheap and excellent bluetooth keyboard which means I can reasonably touchtype on the old netbook without having to shout at the incorporated keyboard for only registering  1 button out of every 3 or so. Which when I’m trying to update the blog is just a tad annoying. So far, it’s £22 well spent. And a lot cheaper than most of the alternatives and other flashy gadgets which I seemed to be drooling over whilst the saga of returning the duff tablet was ongoing.

Yes it appeared I had some form of gadget deficit syndrome. But the keyboard is a nice and, for a change, cheap alternative. It also means I can type text messages into my phone without the auto-correct (also known as make it up as it goes along) function kicking in to write me the message I wasn’t writing.

If you are in the market for a bluetooth keyboard, have a look at this ianker one – I’m suitably impressed :-)

Running, Faulty Tablets, and Creme Eggs

It’s Easter, The time of the year where it is acceptable to like fluffy bunny rabbits as well as fluffy kittens.

And chocolate. Lots of it. In egg shapes. Bar shapes. Any shape really, providing it’s chocolate.

All of this would not be a problem were I training on a regular basis, however with the lack of running recently I fear I’m adopting a similar shape to an egg. And I probably contain just as much chocolate.

On a positive note, I did get out for a run this afternoon. Admittedly it was a short one – only 8 miles long – and looking at the stats it was my second-slowest 8-miler ever. But that was in part due to my sense of direction letting me down on several occasions, fighting with a gate which I couldn’t secure, the fact it was warm and the fact I’ve eaten my body-weight in Creme Eggs this week.

To be fair, it wasn’t the best of runs. The achies in my left side were still definitely present although nowhere close to the intensity that they were when I was at Wrexham. I was also discovering how difficult it is to try to consciously change the way one runs. I know from the video footage at RunExpo that my right leg has a tendency to fly off to the side, but doing something about it appears to be more difficult than I’d have anticipated.

Getting home and showered I then did a pile of core-strengthening exercises which I am hoping will help make the relevant corrections. The physio has suggested that once it is all bedded in, I’ll probably be quicker. But I may just need to shed a few pounds of chocolate eggs first…….

I needed the run today. Yesterday was one of those very frustrating days. I had ordered a spangly new tablet computer in the week but on receipt the screen had a number of dead pixels and so it needed to be returned. Very, in all the helpfulness gave me a 12 hour slot when the courier may attend, so Saturday was spent stuck at home. To be fair, it forced me to tackle a few of the chores; washing and ironing was done, plants potted up, house hoovered from top to bottom, and when by 4pm the courier still hadn’t shown up, I re-sealed the bath.

Needless to say, by 7pm and the end of the 12 hour slot, it was a no show and a sharp email was sent to Very, who had, throughout the day when I had called them, been Very Useless at being any help whatsoever.

Their resolution came in an email this morning. The courier would come sometime on Tuesday……

I’m always conscious that the people on the customer service line are in an awkward position, often being unable to do anything to resolve a situation but still in the firing line from unhappy customers. However I made my frustration about the matter clear before they explained there was a drop-off service available, which, had they told me about in the first place, would have meant the whole debacle could have been avoided in the first place. Said offending item was dropped-off shortly afterwards and I didn’t drop-kick the tablet towards their depot in Oldham despite suggesting that was how i felt about the situation.

Which left me rather bemused when at 3pm the courier turned up to collect the parcel. Rest assured, no violence was used against him, despite him being entirely  oblivious to the fact he was 24 hours late and didn’t seem to comprehend that this might happen to be a tad annoying.

A round trip with wonky feet

The last few days have been hard work to say the least.

Thursday started with the physio finding new muscles in my back that could cause pain when pressed. I do wonder why I keep going back! But I’m sure the fact it hurts means it must be doing some good.

Either way, it was clear that racing tomorrow was not going to happen. Whilst I can now walk with some level of competence, anything more than that causes the left side to shout up and remind me that actually it would prefer if I didn’t do that.

It has been a useful exercise in that I think we’re gradually getting to the crux of what has been the issue as the physio noted that my right side, the non-injured option, doesn’t seem to pull its weight around me, leaving the left side to do it. But more on that later.

Friday was a difficult day as it involved a 310 mile round trip to Cambridgeshire for my Father-in-Law’s funeral. Partly due to my coping mechanism and ultimately partly due to a heavy cold which I’d picked up a few days earlier it made sense not to hang around for any longer than necessary.

The drive across was uneventful, save for getting glimpses of the partial solar eclipse as I waited at the numerous roadworks as I crossed the peak district and with all the hold-ups added on, it actually took nigh on 3.5 hours to make the journey. I’ve done it in significantly less time in the past, usually late at night when the motorway is quiet. And not being dug up.

We seem to have had more than our fair share of family get-togethers for auspicious circumstances in recent years. Whilst the crematorium service was family only, it would appear the whole village turned out for the church service afterwards. I don’t think they could have shoe-horned in another person had they tried; there were extra chairs brought in, the vestry and choir stalls was full of congregation. It was a very good, and personal service and a lovely send off for him.

I’d kept myself together for most of the proceedings save for a couple of monstrous sneezes in between services but after the church event I slipped off into the graveyard to visit Mark’s grave and have a talk to him. At this point emotion did get the better of me. But if I can’t grieve there, where can I grieve?

The wake was a well behaved affair and I left early evening to retrace the drive back home, sneezing for about half of it as the cold settled in for the evening. With bonus mouth ulcers just to make the point.

Three weeks ago, when I was in Anglesey, I got a complimentary ticket for RunEXPO at EventCity in Manchester and so I thought I’d visit that today and see what it was all about. Well actually RunEXPO seemed to take up the smallest part of the floor, probably because you don’t really need any equipment to do it. BikeEXPO had expensive bikes as far as they eye could see and some of them slotted nicely into cars…..

A bike rack which comes with a handy car attachment
A bike rack which comes with a handy car attachment

I spent most of my time in these two areas as the swimming side of things I’ve done very little in recent years which has the knock-on effect of not having done a tri-athlon (although I do keep talking about having a go at a sprint tri one of these days).

Other than collecting a variety of gels and other supplements, two of the stands were of particular interest, looking at the physical act of running from a physio point of view. One was set up with a camera to record one’s running style and this possibly has identified the underlying issue to my recent injury. Whilst my right arm and leg leg move roughly as they should, it would appear that I cast my right leg out to the side and don’t extend with my left arm. We did a few tests which actually mirrored my recent physio visit anyway which confirmed that my left side is carrying me when I’m running. Quite a surprise given that it’s the side with the injury yet I’m still relying on it to pull the right side through.

The physio centres use this as a taster so you go back and have a full analysis and build up a training plan to correct the style. It’s quite expensive, although compared to several sessions with a physio anyway, it’s probably cost-effective if it reduces the risk of further injury. In the meantime, I do need to think a little more about running style – which is difficult because when I’m running the last thing I’m actually thinking about is where my legs are – that’s all been working fine (or so I thought) from about the age of 3+ years (I was a late walker).

However, just because I’ve been doing something for the best part of 4 decades doesn’t mean to say I’m doing it right……..

A foot in the right direction

Well the leg does seem to be improving. It is hurting in different ways now, which I will take as a small positive.

Needless to say, I’m still doing my stair-shuffle, much to the amusement of colleagues as I slowly ascend stairs. It will be nice to have all legs back present and correct. In the meantime, I just have to savour each stair as I reach it with both feet!

Of course, Wilmslow is out for this weekend. Even though most of the pain seems to be out of the way now, I’m conscious that I was in a similar position before the last race, and we know how that ended. So instead I’m going to visit and event called runexpo over the weekend – it would appear to be some form of exhibition by a large variety of sports firms covering running, biking, swimming and a combination of the above. Unless Triexpo is something about ‘giving it a go’……

I wouldn’t normally attend such an event, but given I got a free ticket from entering the Anglesey race, it would be rude not to have a lot around and see what I can learn.

In the meantime I’ve reverted to type and created another list. This time it’s the race results from all the races I’ve competed in. Which isn’t actually that many although it does stretch back to 2006 (admittedly there’s about a 4 year gap in there somewhere). I’m pleased to have found most of the races I remember as well with only two exceptions; one where the results seem to be nowhere on the internet (Accrington 10k 2006) and one where I ended up running in another person’s place (Manchester 10k 2008), but I’m not 100% sure what they were called so had to go with a name that sounded vaguely familiar.

Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things.

Like a Dalek. But without the power to exterminate!

It’s been almost a week since Wrexham. And a week without any meaningful exercise. Which is boggling for me at the moment.

To be fair, I tried to start the week as normal being out and about as I would be usually. But it began to get embarrassing when every person I met started the conversation with a tilted head and a quizzical expression and the same words “what’s wrong with your leg?

I had realised it was being dragged from building to car, and car to building and it wasn’t a pretty sight. But I’m a creature of habit. However by Wednesday the leg was trying to find opportunities not to follow. Which for a bipedal mammal can only really lead to falling over and further embarrassment.

And stairs are a true nemesis.

Whilst one can go up stairs in a seated position in the comfort of one’s own home, it’s seen as a bit weird in a busy office. And might just cause anyone in the health and safety department to cry a little bit.

Having had a few days resting the leg, plus another round with physio Andy, I’m getting to be more competent at flat surfaces. Which would be great if I lived in a world without stairs.

I feel a bit like a 1980s generation Dalek, but without a long pointy nose thing that can fire lasers.

The physio opinion is that the glute muscle has taken a battering and may be sprained. Other muscles may be damaged or torn but nothing too massive. The bruising which seemed to be coming up never seemed to get too much worse. He was talking weeks rather than months before I’m running again. So I’m cautiously optimistic, even if it still takes me about five times as long to climb a set of stairs.

Despite this and the rest of the horror of the previous week I seem to be in reasonable spirits at the moment. If I’m honest, I think that week was so bad that my mind shut down from it – I don’t think any of the reality has hit me. Except for the sore leg.

The forthcoming funeral means a trip to Cambridge, the first visit since last summer, and certainly for a far less pleasant event. Whether the reality of that will be the point when my brain reconnects with my emotions remains to be seen. I think it’s going to be tough but we will get through it together.


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