Sunday, 28 October 2007

This is completely doing my head in. I see the dancer as clockwise. I REALLY need to be able to flip it over. Any tips from those who can do it are gratefully accepted.

And now, I return to work, leaving distractions alone.

Honest.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

what are the odds...

I went to the post office on the main road this morning to pick up a parcel that had been taken there during the week when D and I were at work.

While I was there (D had left early for work) the postman tried to deliver another parcel that was too big for the letterbox. That one has gone back to the depot that's exactly half way to the coast from here. Exactly the opposite direction from work. So I have to either be really early up one morning this week (and still be late into work), or pick it up next Saturday morning when there are constant huge queues.

Aaaaaaargh. Stupid parcels. I don't even know what the blasted thing is.

Still. After that, I went into town to meet up with a couple of people from my course. We had coffee (well, I had tea) at Starbucks. I was amazed how quiet town is at 10.30 on a Saturday morning. I'm never in town that early normally on a Saturday.

It was nice to meet up with them, realise that everyone really is going through the same traumas. I saw people last week at the day school, but that was really heavy so we didn't get much of a chance to chat. It was nice to just sit and chat about it as we watched the world go by.

weird

I turn around twice and haven't posted for a few days. Dammit. I'd got myself into a bit of a flow there....

My first deadline for my course is next Friday. Less than a week. Scary. I got the first bit done OK but the rest is being quite difficult. I really have to get it done this weekend so I have time to revise it later in the week. It's a crazy-hectic week though... going out for tea, an overnight at Samaritans, Sky being installed (just the really cheap package and only for the broadband, really! - oh and the £30 installation fee is being offset by getting £60 cashback from rpoints.com), the Turkish baths Thursday, and a rock night Friday. Saturday I'm at
Samaritans again, then have two different parties to go to afterwards.

So it may be a little quiet around here for the next week or so.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

darkness #2

I left work late today. It was 6.20pm when I got off the bus, and it was mostly dark.

I hate this.

But I'll shut up about it soon.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

in the style of facebook

B is very upset because she's lost her CD that has the 1812 overture and Night on a Bare Mountain on it and she really wants to listen to them.

darkness

It's unashamedly dark, now, when I wake up. I've not wanted to admit it before, but I can't get away from it now. I hate waking up and thinking it's the middle of the night - only for my alarm to go off two minutes later.

It's especially confusing when some days, the weather is beautifully warm during the day. On Saturday, the sun was glorious. The weather this year has been insane.

I don't like the darkness of winter. I can deal with the cold, the rain, the snow. But the blackness that seems to pervade everything is horrible. I don't officially suffer from SAD, but I think most people get it to some mild degree, and I'm one.

I haven't been out running more than once since the GNR. I don't think that helps much, either. My body is missing it, but my brain doesn't have the strength. I know it will help, though. Maybe tonight.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Morning detour

We turn to go down the slip road from the roundabout, but there is a problem. The traffic is backed up all the way to the dual carriageway. At first I think it's just the morning rush hour, worse than usual, but we don't seem to be getting any closer even with the cars ahead of us giving up and turning round. Then I spot the blue flashing lights. Two, three police cars. A fire engine. Two ambulances.

A car crash, and the whole road is blocked.

Noone seems to have taken charge yet; noone is here stopping the traffic from coming down the slip road, although most of the cars have turned round. The bus driver waits til they have gone, swings round, before reversing. Into the barriers behind.
There's a nasty crunch. I'm sitting on the back seat; it's a little scary. I look round to my left, and see a policeman wearing high viz vest walking up the slip road towards us as the bus swings around and hits the roadabout once more.

He doesn't do what I expect though and cut down to the parallel road. He takes the dual carriageway going the opposite direction, out towards the coast. Fair enough, I think; he can go out to the next exit and get back onto the main road into town. But I've forgotten - and I suspect the driver has, too - that there are no places to get onto the dual carriageway from this direction until you're halfway out to the coast.

Finally we're going the right direction into town. When we finally reach the point where the crash happened, I look out. A man, strapped onto a stretcher, being lifted into one of two ambulances. One car; no sign of another car or victim. It's hard to know whether anyone else was involved, what has happened.

When I get off the bus, I look back to see if there is any sign of damage where the bus hit the railings. Nothing. Just a small white mark in the paintwork.

I left home in time to get to work for 8.55. It would have been the first time I'd been in before 9.15 that week. In the end, I didn't arrive til 9.20am.

I check the local news sites when I get home that night. Nothing. It's like the accident didn't happen.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Further thoughts on a great night

When Interpol cancelled, Editors was like a consolation prize. Something that would be good, but not as good as Interpol would be.

Now, though. We have the Cure to look forward to, and the memory of an unbelievably good Editors gig. Interpol, great though they are, are going to have to pull off something fantastic to impress me.

I have to say, though, All Sparks was a bit disappointing. D pointed out that I've never been totally convinced by the song, but there are other songs that I wasn't overly keen on that were suddenly taken to a new level when heard live. I've been singing some of them today. All Sparks though followed the new single,
Banging Heads, and I think the problem was that that track was so fast and heavy and utterly great that All Sparks really suffered following directly after it. It seemed slow and plodding, and I think it would have been better placed somewhere else on the playlist.

I'm sure they water down the lager in the Academy. It didn't taste as strong as it should've, and I was stone cold sober when we got home. Even though I'm a lightweight and can't take my beer (cheap date!!). Even the lemonade tasted weak.

The woman sitting in the row in front of me drove me mad with waving arms and clapping over her head. If she'd done it more constantly I would have actually asked her not to (or at least to have kept her arms relatively still so I didn't have to constantly move to get a good view of the stage), but she stopped and started, so I didn't.

Still, though, at least she was enjoying herself. The woman sitting next to me had no interest in being there at all. She didn't move, speak or crack a smile all night. The guy she was with loved it, though. I would rather have gone on my own than know whoever I was there with was hating it so much.

As we climbed down the stairs to leave the venue, an Interpol song was playing over the loudspeakers, which
seemed a little tactless given the Interpol gig circumstances....

Still on a music high.

Review from the Chronicle. Not the greatest review in the world.

This is better, and includes a few moments I wish I hadn't missed. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

I didn't think they'd be that good

I mean, they're a good band and everything, so I didn't expect a bad night from Editors. I just didn't expect them to be utterly fantastic. And one of the best bands I have ever seen in my life. I mean, it wasn't even the first time I saw them live. They supported Franz Ferdinand when we saw them... Christ, must be almost two years ago now. Scary.

The music stayed with D after that gig, and we got the album in the sales of Christmas 05, but I've never really chosen to listen to them much myself. But when I saw they were playing, I knew D would want to go, and I booked us tickets. I think I did offer for him to take his uncle (who heavily influenced his taste in music when he was growing up), but he decided to take me instead.

I've been listening a bit more to the second album, An End has a Start - mainly because of the first single, Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors. But I still wasn't all that bothered about going.

Till we were there, and they came out onto the stage.

I have never seen a band with so much energy. Tom Smith could not keep still for a nanosecond. It was like the music could not be contained in his body, amazing to watch. Ed Lay kicked the complete crap out of his drumkit. I mean, normally I'm all about the bassists in bands (... I can't explain that) but here, it was all singer and drummer. Chris and Russell were fab too, don't get me wrong, but they were calmer.

The air cracked with the electricity flooding all round the place. The pure white strobe for Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors? Perfection. Utter perfection.

I love music. I can't imagine living without the shivers that certain chord combinations send down my whole back, centrered round my spine. You could tell that this band are the same.

I don't care how good the next single is, its B side utterly, totally, absolutely kicks its arse. I don't even know what it's called, but I need to own it, soon. (Wikipedia tells me it's called Banging Heads. I need it. It made me mosh, for the first time in years.)

If I was Edith Bowman, I would be paranoid about Tom. I think he's having an affair with his keyboard. He climbed all over it, leapt off... he owned the whole stage.

D summed it up when he said they sounded fresh. Like it was the first night they'd played, not the 18th night since the tour started with only a handful of nights off since. And they were so appreciative of the energy in the place.

I've never been to a gig with so much spontaneous clapping.

I'm kinda hoarse, and my hands are sore.

Worth. Every. Penny.

Anyone who doesn't like Editors needs to explain themselves in the comments. Like, right now.

I'll be mostly

Using the tickets on the bottom tonight. The Interpol gig has been rescheduled for 4th December.

Excited.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

driving in the dark

At first, it's the quiet that hits you. You don't notice the dark as much stood under a street lamp with the lights from a row of cottages lessening the gloom. But in the car, engine running, the quiet melts away and as the lights disappear behind you, you start to realise just how dark it is out here, not even starlight to brighten the gloom. The clouds that will bring rain later have already blocked out the moon.

The only light in front of us is from the headlights. Looking in the rear view mirror is like looking into a black hole. The only thing out there to see is the glow of the brake lights reflected on the white lines behind me when I slow down to turn a corner.

Belsay is sudden fluorescent yellow in the night, the glow of headlights reflected back at me by a sudden profusion of signs, so many that the only one I take in is the 30mph speed limit.

Back onto the dark road after the village. In the occasional break in the hedgerow Newcastle is a dull pink-orange glow. The hedges are hypnotic in their regularity, the white line the only brightness.

Blue flashing lights come over the top of a crest of a hill, sudden, pulsing from side to side and flickering. I slow as they head towards me and as they pass the light, too bright, burns onto my retina, causes a stab of pain in the front of my head. A few minutes later another passes; this time I pick out the word AMBULANCE picked out of the white light on top of the cab. I wonder how far they have come, how far they have still to go. What has happened. Whether the casualties will live or die.

Newcastle is more defined in front of me now; I can pick out individual street lights. It's like driving towards the glow of a fire, smoky orange taking over the sky in front, while behind me is still black.

We hit Ponteland and then the airport is upon us, brightly lit, vibrant. The speedometer pushes 70 as we hit dual carriageway before I slow down for the roundabout, taking the car out of gear and coasting up to the red light (there's nothing around), decelerating smoothly. I look at the speedo and realise we're still doing 30 and brake. 'After you've been driving at 70, 30 really is a crawl,' I say, and my voice is a shock. Neither of us have spoken in miles.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

what better thing to do January 1st...

Than get up and go do a 10k run at 11am.

*makes mental note to enter after pay day*

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Oh, Christ

I just signed up for National Novel Writing Month. On top of:
a) a full time job
b) Samaritans shifts that I'm pretty damned behind with this year
c) Christmas fast approaching (73 days, people)
d) and, and this is the kicker, a 60-point course in Creative Writing with the Open University. That I'm supposed to spend 16 hours a week on, at least. And when I did the 8 hours a week precursor I did more like 16 hours a week. So that adds up to pretty much two full time jobs. Plus, y'know, sleeping, and eating, and seeing D, and oh my GOD what am I thinking.

I have to learn to think these things through.

Still, I suppose I don't get publically shamed in the local media if I fail, eh?

Friday, 12 October 2007

the bad, the good

I was out running just before. A guy in a high viz jacket walked towards me; I went to catch his eye as I passed him (I find that most people are much more sociable to runners round here than follow pedestrians so I usually make eye contact and sometimes say hi) only to realise that he was staring in the general direction of my chest and smirking. Ew.

I wear a very supportive sp0rts br@, so it's not like they were bouncing or anything. Just Ew.

The better: in the next 6 months D and I are going to see the Editors, Interpol and the Cure. As he just pointed out, it's going to be a depressing winter.....!

(a short post today. i thought i'd give you a chance to catch up after all the long posts. i'm nothing if not considerate towards my readers, eh?!)

Thursday, 11 October 2007

journey home

The journey home started badly, at a junction where there are three lanes of traffic headed towards you. One carves off before it reaches you; the middle one heads south down the A19 to the outer ring road; the last effectively does a U turn towards the Inner Ring Road. I mistakenly took the middle lane first, but quickly realised my mistake and turned round, picked up the correct lane. But as I drove I started to wonder if I'd come the right way. I passed the station and the road was less familiar; still the same York Inner Ringroad but it somehow felt wrong. It took to the point I turned off the Inner Ringroad to work out why; namely that I'd gone the opposite way round than the way I used to go. I'd often driven to the station and that was where my instincts had taken me because at the place I'd picked up the inner ring road you could easily go either way. It wasn't wrong; it was just different, but unnerving.

The place names on the A19 home are fascinating, exotic. Raskelf, Birdforth, Borrowby, Helperby, Thormanby. Osmotherly. I have no idea where they come from but they sound Scandinavian to me and I imagined tribes of Vikings sitting round by campfires, undisturbed for centuries. They kept me interested as the stress of the last few weeks started to hit me. I had to stop for a can of Red Bull to keep me awake, which I'd never tried before. It would have been more sensible for D to drive, but he's not insured on that car, unfortunately. The caffeine worked though and I managed to drive safely, although I conked out after we got home.

Next: driving home in the dark. A trip to Hexham.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Watching York life

I used to live in York. It seems like it was only a couple of years ago, but I was amazed to count up when I was there that it's over 5 years now since I left. Five years? Time really does fly.

It hasn't really changed, though. The road systems are still the same. Most of the shops are still the same, in the same locations. It was almost as though time had stood still. It kind of does, in York.

We were there to meet up with my mum and dad. They're on holiday now, so we've borrowed dad's car; they drove to York and we got the train down to pick it up and have lunch with them. We stayed in the Quality Hotel. When I lived in York, we used to walk into town down Piccadilly, saw the hotel being built. I don't think I ever expected then that I would ever stay there. At the time, I had enough friends in York that I thought someone would always had a spare bed. But one by one they've moved away. This was our second stay at the Quality. Expensive, but worth it.

At D's request, we went to Toto's for tea. I'd taken him there once before, for his birthday; he'd enjoyed it. It's just outside the city walls, near where I used to live. It was great food, but two expensive starters and D choosing steak meant that it wasn't cheap even during happy hour. I smiled and gave them my credit card, thanking God my pay went up with my new job.

Afterwards we had a drink at the Victoria. It wasn't the closest pub to my old flat, but it was the one I used to frequent the most often. We had a couple of drinks in there before popping in to the York Beer Shop.

I used to live on the same road as the Beer shop and popped in there regularly for cigarettes, tortilla chips and whatever else I couldn't wait til the next day for. Half the time I wouldn't even stop to put on my shoes if it was dry outside. I even phoned the police the night it was ram-raided; the bang woke me up before the burglar alarm kicked in, but they'd got away before I realised what was going on. All they took was cigarettes, I think; I was horrified for the owners.

The beer and cheese counters were the same; the only difference was in the snacks on the counter, and that was neither here nor there. I chose a couple of bottles of stout to take home; I don't drink it often, but I enjoy it for a change every now and again.

Before going back to the hotel we popped in for a quick drink to the Postern Gate, a Wetherspoons pub opposite the Quality. It had opened before I left York but I'd never got around to going in. I like Wetherspoons pubs; when I go out for tea with my friends we almost always meet up at the Union Rooms. This was no exception, nothing special but nice enough to have a quick drink in.

Sunday was sunny and unseasonably warm. We had a delicious cooked breakfast back at the Postern Gate
(much cheaper than the Quality and just as nice) while dissecting articles from the Sunday Times.

We wandered into York centre, popping in and out of shops, before making our way to the Yorkshire Wheel. We'd passed it many times before on train journeys and I'd always wanted to go on it but we'd never found the time. The first rotation I found utterly terrifying, largely because we stopped right at the top of the rotation to let on more people. I never used to be scared of heights, but I am more and more these days. I don't think it helps that the land round York is incredibly flat - the only other tall thing on the horizon was the Minster, so you feel incredibly vulnerable at the top. But once I'd got used to it I enjoyed it a little more. It was too misty to see much, unfortunately, but I'm glad I did it.

I miss York. I never really settled there when I lived there, but it's still familiar. Almost somewhere I belong, but not quite. But I want to visit again soon.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

PSA

The Great North Run entry is now, finally, finished. Sorry for the delay in writing it; I've just been drained of all energy. It's started to come back now, even though I woke up in the middle of the night last night to throw up. I never expected that. I would guess that the chocolate stout on top of all the other crap I ate yesterday disagreed with me.

Still to come: our overnight trip to York, and the drive back from D's mum's house tonight. I like being on leave, although I wish it was for longer....

sounds, sights, sensations

From the minute I got out of the taxi to make my way to the Central Motorway, to the start of the race, the sound of helicopters overhead was the only constant. I kept looking up, keeping bearings on where they were.

I hadn't planned on getting a taxi; I'd left in time to get the bus into town, but it didn't show up. Twenty minutes later, ten minutes before the next one was due, I cracked and called a taxi. It showed up two minutes later and took me into town in half the time the bus would've. The later bus probably would still have left me enough time, but I just wanted to be there already. I couldn't stand the wait any longer.

I stopped into a coffee place to go to the loo on the way. I'd been drinking little and often, the way you're supposed to to keep yourself hydrated before a race. All very well but that mixed with the nerves left with me with a constant need to pee.

I made it to the Central Motorway for about 10.30am. The elite women had left half an hour before; they would be six miles in by that point, but I wasn't due to be crossing the line til 11.36am, nearly an hour after the race started. I couldn't stand to have to wait around for hours beforehand, so I got there later. As I walked down the sliproad to make my way back to my starting point, I noticed Sir Bobby Robson standing on a stage between the two carriageways and realised that this was it, the starting line of the race. Just a few minutes to go before the elite men and the masses started. I waited to see him fire the pistol. I was standing level with him as he did it. It was amazing.

I walked up the hard shoulder, further and further. I was nearly at the Cowgate junction by the time I found the entrance to my pen. It meant I had a mile or thereabouts to cover before the start of the race. A mile I'd already covered to join the pen. A half marathon is bad enough, but I think in total I covered about 16, even 17 miles that day. It's a long, long way.

I wasn't even over the start line when the Red Arrows did their fly past. I'd wondered what the sudden rumble of sound was and suddenly they appeared, were out of sight almost as quickly. In the event, it was 11.08am by my watch when I crossed the line. Paula Radcliffe and her nemesis Kara Goucher had already finished before I started.

Running over the Tyne Bridge was amazing. There aren't words. It's such an icon of Newcastle... to run over it in the blazing October sunshine (far hotter than it should ever have been) was more of a buzz than I can explain. From there to the roundabout where you turn left to Felling; at that roundabout one of the official bands was playing 'The Blaydon Races', the unofficial anthem of the North East. Another amazing moment in a day of amazing moments.

It was very hot out there. I didn't discover my sunburned shoulders til bedtime that day. I kept my fluid uptake before and during the race, but didn't really keep it up well enough afterwards. Bad B.

There were... lots of spectators around at the beginning of the race and on the Tyne Bridge. (Hundreds? I'm terribly at judging numbers like that.) The numbers tailed off a little going into Gateshead, but as the race went on into more residential areas the crowds really picked up again. Some of them must have been out there for hours, cheering everyone on. One man stood on top of a bus shelter with a hosepipe, spraying those who wanted cooling down. People stood out there with orange sections, cups of water, cups of juice. Biscuits, ice pops. And all that in addition to the official water stations. In all, hundreds and hundreds of people must have been involved in supporting runners on the day, to say nothing of all those working behind the scenes. Don't get me wrong; I realise it's a business and the Great Run people will get paid, but not all of them. One lady interviewed in the Chronicle had spent £75 of her own money on refreshments for us. People in the North East really love supporting their sportspeople.

I ran a good proportion of the beginning of the race, but as time went on and the weather got hotter and my legs got more exhausted, I ran less and walked more.
The Red Arrows started their display at 1.20pm. I was somewhere around mile 9 or 10, and they were just what I needed. Something to focus on other than how on earth I was going to keep going, how much my left leg had started to hurt (it was fine by the end of Monday), what on earth had possessed me to put myself through this torment, this abuse of my own body. They made me smile again, while looking at my watch, debating with myself whether I'd really be able to complete the race in less than 3 hours. I thought so, but I wasn't sure whether I'd still be able to keep pushing myself that far, that long.

As I reached the sea front I heard helicopters again, saw them hovering over the finish, a constant sound once more. But that just made me realise how close I was to the end, and I knew I had to run as much as I could of the last mile. I started as I passed the 12m sign, only to decide to conserve my energy. That last 1.1m is a killer, I'd heard. After what seemed like forever, I passed the 800m to go sign, started running, slowly, painfully. But then I saw how far away the 400m sign was I stopped, walked again til I reached that sign. And then I ran again. And I didn't stop til I crossed that line, ready to drop, but triumphant.

(I have seen my photos on marathon-photos.com. You can see in my face just what a struggle it was.)

I kept walking, knowing that it was still going to be a long time before I could stop moving. The pain on my face must have been evident to the marshall, because he said 'you can smile now, you did it!' as I walked past. And I smiled.

I managed to take my own timing chip off (there had been a note in the magazine to say there would be people to help if you weren't able to do it yourself), put it in the bag. Hobble to the stand for my goodie bag, medal and t shirt. Keep going til I'd found the loos (yet again) and made my way to the charity tent where my parents and D were waiting, prouder than I've ever seen them. (Possibly even on my wedding day. I mean, all I did then was stand up and pledge to spend my life with D. Amazing, but hardly a test of my physical ability.)
I texted friends and family; everyone was impressed. (Coming in under 3hours helps; that seems to be the cut off point for what people think of your achievement.)

I changed, drank, ate. Then had some chips. They were loaded with salt and the tastiest chips I've ever had, from outside a South Shields pub. We made it back to my dad's car and back home. I watched the coverage from that morning that D had taped for me, then switched over and saw the highlights on BBC 2. And D spotted me, waiting to cross the start line. God knows how he could see me; I'd had no idea I was there until he pointed me out on the screen.

The front of the Evening Chronicle the next day had a picture of the Red Arrows flying past hundreds of runners on the Tyne Bridge. I bought it, thinking 'I was there. I did it'.

Would I do it again?

If I can get my own place, rather than having to run for a charity?

You betcha.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Honestly, I'll be back soon. I'm just exhausted right now. It's all I can do to get to work and back.