Sunday, 4 July 2010

Recipe for feeling like shit on a Sunday

There are many closely guarded recipes for feeling rough on a Sunday, but this is one I recently tried and I think it works really well.

On Saturday morning saunter along to the gym for, let's say, 11am. Whilst here make sure you do a long, hard session of kettlebell working out (if you don't know a kettlebell, imagine a cannon ball with a handle so it looks like a 24kg handbag). Continue until you have thoroughly exercised all your major muscle groups. I find it helps to throw a few wide arm pull-ups and dips plus a few crunches into the mix to really isolate those hard to reach lats, triceps and abs. Next go home covered in sweat and crap from the rubberised coating on the kettlebells in all the areas they have come into contact with. Oh, and you should also find a few newly developing bruises on the forearms from the bells as you practice a few sets of snatching.

Shower and nip out to Go Outdoors at Horbury Bridge to look for stuff for your impending holiday. Come home to eat the remains of last night's pizza (reheated) and to watch Argentina being destroyed by a ruthless, free-flowing Germany team in a World Cup quarter final. It helps if you happen to enjoy a couple of Czech beers at this point. I'm quite fan of Pilsner Urquell

Change again before heading out to the table you had booked at Bistro 42 in Horbury village where it's best to enjoy a couple of beers and a glass of red wine with your rather excellent meal of clams in white wine, tomato and chorizo followed by a steak which is cooked (using the term loosely) to the intstructions of "just wipe its arse and walk it onto the plate" Enjoy another beer while watching the end of the Paraguay v Spain quarter final before wandering down to the Shepherd's Arms for a few more beers. Follow this up with a further foray into the best that Horbury has to offer at the Kings Arms where you further marinate your digesting steak in several more pints of beer plus a couple of gin and tonics. Throw in a couple of karaoke standards and stay out until 2am. Return home and go to sleep.

Enjoy the rough feeling with a toasted muffin on Sunday morning when it all comes flooding back to make you feel like you have been in a drinking competition with with Oliver Reid, Judy Finnegan and Bacchus himself whilst simultaneously fighting with Mike Tyson and Queen Boadicea when she was having a particularly bad spell of PMT

Friday, 11 June 2010

So it begins. World Cup at last

World Cup Musings

Three days in and we've not seen many victories, including England. All that antication and we get a goalkeeping error which could cause trouble further on in the tournament. It's a bit of a shame that the Americans don't have the Greeks in the same group because they seem to be having a lot of trouble with grease at the moment, especially on the Gulf coastline. There've been no real moments of brilliance either so far, the only real highlight to my mind being the first goal for South Africa in the opening game.

So your mind wanders to other things, like fashion. Adidas seem to be winning the strip stakes, but Nike seem to be leading in the boots department with about 50% of players sporting their latest dayglo orange models which clash with team colours more frequently than anti-government protesters and the army in Bangkok. A lot of people have a problem with Nike, but I think they are to be commended for creating jobs for 8 year olds all over the developing world who would otherwise have to go to school or play in the streets getting up to all sorts of mischief.

Vuvuzelas are causing a lot of noise, and a lot of people are complaining about them. I think they are ace, if for no other reason than their name sounds like a gynaecological complaint and the fact that they scare the shit out of anyone with a fear of wasps who happens to be in earshot.

I'm sick of the sight of James "I'm morbidly obese. How hilarious is that?!!!!!" Corden on World Cup associated stuff. I do wish he'd just fuck off and diet. The song he's done with Dizzee Rascal is just dire. A truly great football song is this piece of sublime Afropop:

I can guarantee you will be having this tune rattling around in your head for days now. It was certainly part of the sounds of my summer of 1990

We watched the England game at the Shepherd's Arms, Horbury which was pretty rammed, but we had a decent place to see the screen. This is the oldst pub in the area apparently, but more importantly they now do decent beer. My current poison of choice being the Theakston's Black Bull. And at half time they brought out pies and sausage rolls. Snacks made from mechanically-recovered meat, it's what the Empire was built on

That husky feeling

It was the second week of strongman training yesterday. This was the toughest session I have done in a very long time. It was fantastic, and consisted of more farmer's walks, carrying a sandbag and pushing and pulling a weighted sledge which really takes it out of you. I definitely hope I don't get reincarnated as a husky

We now have our new telly set up, 37in of LCD HD gorgeousness. Well, it will be once we get an HD box, but even on nomal old LD it's a fantastic picture, and the football never looked so good. Connected up to the stereo it's like there are a dozen vuvuzelas being played in your own front room. Unfortunately, the first thing we happened to have on the screen was the opening night of Big Brother. Fortunately this was only temporary as it happened to be what was on the cable box as I set it up. This will be the only mention of this vehicle for publicity-hungry non-entities unless one of the inmates is killed by a large chunk of blue ice from a passing 747. It's unlikely, I know, but we live in hope. We need to get rid of our old one, so we'll give it away as it's got a lot of life left in it and it's a decent telly

The countdown is going for next weekend. We go to London Thursday night, have a day in town on Friday and watch England v Algeria at Jane's parents that night. Saturday we head off to Wembley to see Green Day. Oh yes. It promises to be an epic weekend

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Lorks-a-Lordy it's summer already!

Yet another posting in my rather sporadic blog. Last time I did one of these it was February and the ground was covered in snow. It's now June and warm. Summer's hit quickly and will disappear next week according to the forecast.

The football season is over, Newcastle were promoted as champions. We were there at the home game where the trophy was presented. Below is the team doing their lap of victory around St James's

Blackpool, the town I grew up in, are promoted which almost thrilled me as much as Newcastle getting back into the Premiership. I've done a weekend of aerobic in Blackpool itself at the International Fitness Showcase back in March. Here is me with one of the presenters, Kanae Takashiga from Japan. This was after a class of striptease dance, when it was "sexy time" as she said. Who was I to argue given that, by the end of the class, I was the only heterosexual male there and surrounded by lithe women gyrating sensuously?

I surprised Jane taking her to see James in Sheffield and we've had a couple of other weekends away. Below are a couple of pics from the concert, they started with an acoustic version of Sit Down which had Tim Booth and the guitarist on the upper tier of the intimate Sheffield Academy which was the first shot below.

We've also seen a fair bit of comedy (including Lucy Porter, Jason Manford and the brilliant John Bishop). I've also had a trip with work to Glasgow.

Now it's all about the World Cup, Green Day at Wembley Stadium (two weeks) and our holiday in August which I'm gearing up for in the gym.

World Cup
It all starts next week, England's first game a week today. You can't move for St George's cross flags, in windows and flapping from cars. Mostly cars made in Germany, Japan, Korea, Italy, Spain etc etc. Not forgetting the flags themselves made in Taiwan or some other far eastern manufacturing base. Couple this to the fact that they look utterly crap and add to the fuel consumtion, why bother? Yes, it's good to be proud of being English, but not the expense of looking like you're riding in some ambassadorial car for JJB or Sports Direct. Don't get me wrong, I'll be wearing my England shirt when the games are on, I'll be wearing England training tops in the gym, I may even put up a St Georg'e flag in the window, but car flags are pointless, especially when they have ENGLAND written across the red stripe, in case you forget where you're from.

Then there is the Official England sponsors. Carlsberg, the official beer for England, a Czech-style pilsner brewed by a massive Danish-owned conglomerate. It's as English as Hans Christian fucking Anderson, not forgetting the fact that the Vikings, a lot of whom came from what is modern-day Denmark, were also one of the last foreign forces to invade the British Isles (coming over, shagging anything that moves, but enough about John Terry). Mars bars, American owned, relying on a corpulent John Barnes reprising his rap from World in Motion, but now with three lions on his Mars meaning he can't go wrong not on his shirt (unless he is a messy eater). Looking at the size of him, he does look like he has eaten three fully-grown lions with his Mars quite a few times in the recent past. Also, I'm not sue I want my footbal team, who I expect to be highly trained athletes, chomping down on Mars during training, particulalry if any have a dairy intolerance or diabetes.
At least the Official Supermarket is English being Tescos, but what exactly does it mean that it's the "official Supermarket"?

"Fabio, we've run out of milk. I'm just nipping on a plane back to Heathrow to get a couple of pints"
"Mamma Mia, Wayne, get us a crate of Carlsberg and a family pack of Mars Bars while you're there. Oh, and if I give you my card, can you get me £50 out of my Nationwide current account? Grazie"

A quick look at the FA website shows you that the team is also sponsored by Nivea for the metrosexuals on the squad (owned by the GERMAN cosmetics company Beiersdorf), M&S (as well as Tesco's? obviously a play for the middle-class supporter), Japanese Toshiba and Fiat, amongst others.

So, rant over. Don't hate the playas, don't hate the game, hate the Association. OK, looking at the squad, it's probably not hard to hate a few of the playas as well. The fact is it's about getting behind our bunch of rich philanderes who hold the hopes of millions in their hands, while we also revel in the pageantry of an international tournament and watch some true artistry that shows why football is called the Beautiful Game.

Woodie the Strongman

Back in the real world, this morning I did a session of Strongman Training, thanks to my mate, and Boxercise teacher, John Heaton (he's also a champion body builder and does personal training, so have a look at his site if you want more information on what he offers, he knows what he's talking about). Now, little, old, 60kg, 5ft 3in me doesn't really do weight-lifting type stuff in the gym, being pretty addicted to aerobics and other similar rhythmic, gyratory exercise activities. However, I've decided I need a new challenge, especially in time for the holiday in about 10 weeks. So as John advertised the Strongman training on his facebook page I decided to give it a go. Picture the scene. We had John, big, body-builder, plus four other guys who were keen weightlifters, and me (see above). Then it transpires this wasn't to be your normal weights workout. First of all it was outside, and secondly it was distinctly low-tech.

We were lifting beer barrels above our head (empty in my case, the barrel, not my head), the farmer's walk (essentially walking with two very heavy weights like suitcases) and flipping a huge great tractor tyre (rusitic ale, farmers and tractors, anyone else get a bit of a rural vibe to this?). The barrel I could manage without too much trouble, but the farmer's wieghts were, on each frame, 2x20kg discs, 2x2.5 kg discs and 2x1.25 kg discs, with the frame weighing about 12kg. This puts the weight of each about the same as what I weigh, and you were supposed to carry two. It weren't gonna happen for me. I could just about dead lift them both, but there was no chance of walking anywhere with them. This could actually be a good defence if I ended up being accused of murdering someone who weighs twice as much as me and were carried away in a suitcase. "Wasn't me, officer. I could lift them, but not carry them" So I had to wuss out and get 2 more with 20kg on each (total weight of each about 32kg, more than half my body weight, meaning I was carrying one of me plus a few decent-sized steaks). I could do these, just about. Tyre flipping was also beyond me, though with a little help to get it off the ground I could get it over. There is my challenge: to flip the tyre unaided (and if that doesn't sound like a euphemism, I don't know what does) All in all, a great workout which I ended with a 15 minute run on the treadmill. Happy days, though I may not be able to walk tomorrow.

So after all that macho exercise I need to get the BBQ out and cook some slabs of solid herbivore and drink beer.

Monday, 22 February 2010

2010 and all that

Another sporadic entry to my blog

2.5 months later, not much else has changed. I'm now officially no longer armchair football supporter now I've been to St James's Park to see the lads play. We both went in December to watch Newcastle beat Watford 2-0, then I was up there again this Saturday gone to see a 3-0 demolition of Preston North End, which had added flavour from the fact that I grew up in the town of their local rivals, Blackpool. We are off again in less than two weeks for the home leg against Barnsley. It's an addiction. Not to mention the fact that it is where I'm from, albeit from a long time ago. It's strange, but I do get a thrill seeing the river in Newcastle when I arrive, and it's great to hear people talking with a Geordie accent. It just makes me want to eat Greggs pies and Dickson's saveloys followed by bouts heavy drinking. You can't do anything about your genes

OK, I may be from the NE, but I'm totally pised off with this cold weather we've had for the last three months. The picture below is the view from my living room window yesterday, 21st February. I did kind of like power-walking home from work in the snow, which partly made up for not being able to go to the gym, but it's stopped being fun now. We'd better have a good summer to make up for this.

On the subject of summer, we have now got our big holiday booked for August. This time we are off to peninsular Malaysia and Cambodia. That will guarantee us some decent hot weather. This means starting the whole preparation, looking out for stuff to buy (I really facy a decent new camera, enough banal shite for now. Hopefully I can make entried more frequent and snappy. It's a busy few weeks coming up. Next weekend I'm over in Liverpool going round some of my old haunts with a couple of mates, so more heavy drinking and junk food. The week after is the Toon again, three weeks after that is the International Fitness Showcase at Blackpool for a full weekend of aerobics interspersed by what will probably be some moderate drinking. Maybe I should do an alcohol forecast. The Whether forecast (whether I'm going to be pissed or not). As Nietzsche said "if it doesn't kill you it only makes you stronger". That is unless you have an irritable bowel in which case if it doesn't kill you it will give you intermittent diarrhoea and constipation, especially if it's a doner kebab

Friday, 4 December 2009

Lille Meet Again (late entry!)

Day three was fairly low-key. Having enjoyed the art gallery the previous day, there wasn’t a great deal to do other than wander about the town. So we did. It is a rather pretty town, especially in the sunshine we enjoyed. We stopped at a self service cafe for a coffee and afterwards wandered further towards the train station where we ended up at a place that brews its own beer, the 3 Brasseurs. The beer here was excellent, and we also stopped for food which was also good. I plumped for the sausages with sauerkraut, which sounds German, but given we were in N France, not too far from Belgium wasn’t too out of character for the region. We enjoyed a few drinks here, which was even better since the place had free wi-fi so I could blog to my heart’s content.
We headed back home for a refresher, then went out again to enjoy our last night en Lille. We tried another bar we hadn’t been in called Drugstore which had a very retro 70s feel from the primary coloured dots as decoration to the Bullitt poster on the wall. They had strange seating as well, like the sort of thing you get in cinemas which fold up when you stand. Quirky, and yet pile-achingly uncomfortable. Dinner was had in a great little Moroccan restaurant, the name of which escapes me as I write this entry. The food was pretty good. I had a meatball tagine which came in a pot which was almost white hote. They were in a rich tomato sauce. Jane had an olive lemon chicken tagine which had in it probably more than a full jar’s worth of the little green buggers. Wine was a bit meh, but drinkable. We came out of there and went into a couple more bars, firstly in the place we had first had a drink after we arrived, Vice Versa. This had THE best lighting effects I’ve ever seen. They had a couple of lasers red and green which were scattered and produced a fantastic speckled effect across the room, lots of bright points of light moving all over the place like phosphorescent ants. Truly amazing and actually quite hypnotic. I was enjoying the Belgian beer, Jane was on the caiparinhas. WE went to yet another bar in the little sector of the city, again the name of which escapes me. We continue more of the same Belgian beer versus caiparinhas. Thie cocktails were memorable for having glowsticks in them which was a nice touch. Then it was off to bed the more drinks, the merrier.
Next morning we were up for our last French breakfast, walked to the station and caught the Eurostar back to Blighty. Of this there isn’t a great deal to report, apart from the fact that they do insist on you being there ages in advance for some reason. Border crossings, what can you do?
Kings Cross was unremarkable, as was our trip home from there. Then I had the joy of a dental visit when I got home, forcing me to miss my usual Tuesday aerobics.

So Lille was a pleasant enough place, though not the sort of place we'd be in a hurry to get back to as there is so much more of the world to see.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Lille and present danger

Day 2

Up moderately early we headed out for a general wander in the direction of the art gallery, supposedly second only to the Louvre in France for its collection.
The place is pretty impressive, on a wide boulevard with magnificent grand buildings like the Prefecture to admire en route. The museum itself is housed in a pretty impressive building and certainly doesn’t look out of place in the area. The main entrance is in front of a heavy red velvet curtain, strangely enough. Trust the French to make coming into their art gallery like entering a brothel. Entrance is a massive chamber with not much in it apart from a couple of desks. We paid our entrance fee, but there was no English guides or leaflets to tell you anything about the place or its works. Not very tourist friendly. Heading into the collection, which wasn’ t too clearly indicated, since it transpired that we had started at the wrong end, we did see some fantastic pieces including works by Manet, Seurrat, Rubens, Velazquez and Hals. The best pieces (IMHO) were a couple of Goyas and a Bosch. Thing is, none of the pieces had English captions, the lighting was dreadful and they were hung in a fairly haphazard fashion with some near eye-level, then others hung above this. Overall, as a collection it is world class, but the organisation was very poor. On ground level they also have a fair collection of sculpture, and interestingly, in the basement they have a collection of relief maps of the towns in the area from the 17th century which give historical perspective of the region Unfortunately they were behind glass so I wasn't able recreate Godzilla Attacks Belgium

Following our sojourn about the exhibits, we went back into Lille town to wander about a bit before heading towards the cathedral by way of the Grand Place. Here we located another good area for somewhere to eat and drink. We settled on a place called Le Part d'Anges to stop for a drink, but decided to eat as well with a selection of charcuterie and cheeses which were delicious, accompanied by some rather good red wines. Considering the size of our breakfast, we ate an enormous amount. Worst thing of all, however was that later on that day we were both seriously thirsty due to the massive salt content of this plate. It was a price worth paying though.

That evening we headed back to the same area for some drinks, though it is weird how quiet the streets of Lille are on a Sunday. Some of the bars we had drunk in the previous day were shut as well. It was like going back to the 1980s in the UK before the licensing laws were relaxed. I had drank some lovely Chimay on tap, (8%, not really what you might call a session ale), before we ended up in a restaurant recommended in guidebooks. Here they had a lot of tarts. I mean quiche type of things, obviously, not loose women. These were rather good, where I had a bacon, mushroom and spinach one and a basil and tomato one. The thing was I actually wanted a fairly light meal, but they didn’t do this in a Sunday believe it or not! They were sold as set meals and they had a one course, two course, three course, where you selected any tart sweet or savoury) as a single course. For some reason you aren’t allowed to eat lighlt of a Sunday as the single course one was not available on the Sabbath. Why? Jane had the local speciality of steak in red wine which was supposed to be medium, but was definitely well done, in much the same way that you need material to resole your shoes as well done. These came with wine so they were a good deal, although the tarts may have been responsible for me suffering some urgent trips to le toilettes when we got back to the room (not “eye of a needle” per se, but more fairly coarse colander certainly) .

We made it to yet another bar for a few drinks afterwards, a place we had enjoyed a drink at after we had arrived called L’Illustration which was open late. They were certainly still serving when we left as it approached 1am. It had a typically Gallic feel, with the barman actually enjoying a fag outside when we came in and was there for a good few minutes while customers were waiting for a bevie. Vive la France
I was on more of the same, Belgian beer, sticking to the wonderful Leffe once again. Then it was time for bed. Funny how the town was pretty dead on a Sunday, yet you can still get a drink at 1am, unlike Britain mostly. The hotel was trussed up like Fort Knox we discovered. THe heavy metal gates were shut and we had to buzz to get in, when the guy on the desk needed to know our room and our names before he'd let us in. What was he ex[ecting in this quiet town at that time of night?

Monday, 26 October 2009

Lille, Mighty Real

We’ve been in Lille now for just under a full day. We’ve encountered a new time zone that was then changed back to BST thanks to daylight saving, so we haven’t lost any time at all in the overall melee of temporal jiggery-pokery. We will, however, get an hour back when we return to Blighty.

Eurostar is a great way to travel. Train from Wakefield to London, walk over to St Pancras and pick up the sexy, high-speed train to France and you’re there in about 5 hours all-in. We arrive at a dull and vaguely drizzly Lille at about 3pm local time and walked to our hotel. We arrived and checked in to a very attractive former convent with a glass covered cloister where their restaurant was situated, then went to our well maintained, reasonably sized room complete with plasma TV. It's called Couvent des Minimes, and I was disappointed not to find the place teeming with Vern Troyer clones. Well, at least until I discovered that Minimes is French for junior and also referes to some Caatholic sect and didn't actually mean the Austin Powers character. At £65 a night including breakfast this is actually quite a bargain, it being 4*, apparently. Saying that, star ratings refer to the facilities in each room , including a Corby trouser press which is something I hardly imagine anyone actually using so it’s a bit redundant. The minibar is a bit crap too: no beer, but soft drinks that the hotel want €4 for. Yes, just shy of £4 for a can of Coke. Now that is taking the piss. I’d expect to pay less than that for the non-capitalised version of coke, its Columbian namesake.

We headed out to the local area to sample a couple of bars which were quite good, very French, and I sampled a couple of Bieres Belgique: Leffe and Tripel Karmeliet. I’ve had both in bottles at home, though the latter I remember tasting a whole lot better when it came from Morrisons, as the draught version here tasted a little like dishwater.

We returned to the hotel to freshen up before heading out for dinner. We made it to a restaurant near the main square called Flore. Starters were fantastic. We both had paté, though Jane’s was a coarse, rustic variety, while mine was a duck foie gras. I know foie gras is cruel, but to be honest, if I thought my liver would taste that good once it exploded through over-eating I would certainly consider it a worthy career choice. Main courses were a little disappointing. Jane’s carbonnade flandre was a little odd-flavoured, and my rump steak was tough, though wasn’t overdone. Chips weren’t up to much either, being of the frozen variety.

We headed to a student area which was a little disappointing being full of Irish and Scottish themed pubs. Really naff looking ones at that. We did settle on a place called Bar Atomic which had some nice atmosphere and was playing some great rock music. Again I had more Belgian beer, finishing on a Kwak, which was good, but I was disappointed not to receive in a yard of ale style glass in a wooden holder. We then took a fairly circuitous route home but got there in the end before getting to bed.