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Frankie Say

Thursday May 12th, I took control. Having made incredibly dire food choices the day previously I suddenly realised that the near perpetual crappy feeling is directly (without being a Doctor m’kay?) related to the inconsistency of the quality of food I am eating. It’s a real non-working hybrid of good eating mixed with utterly shit choices. It ain’t big and it most certainly ain’t clever! So, I am reminded of the immortal words of Frankie Goes to Hollywood:

“Frankie say, no more!”

…and that is exactly my mantra from here-on-in. I lost 3 stone 2 years ago, I’ve put it back on, that’s utterly stupid, crazy and downright foolish. I’m not getting any younger, and the latter year suite of diseases is well and truly within my grasp – and I am helping them! Diabetes is really not something I wish to experience, ever, not to mention the more life threatening chart toppers Cancer, Heart Disease and if research materials I’ve been reading are remotely correct Dementia (Alzheimers) are all ‘preventable’ to a certain extent by the things we eat and the lifestyles we lead.

“Frankie say, no more!”

Damned straight he says ‘no more’, what the unholy fuck was I thinking? I got myself into a beautiful position to go on and drop down into the ‘safe’ BMI (I know, don’t read into it too much, but it’s still a measure however loose that I don’t want telling me I’m obese!). So, I am on that journey again, with a big degree of annoyance but a larger degree of optimism, pride and determination.

Since the 11th, otherwise known as ‘Being a Complete Wanker Wednesday’, I have eaten clean, exercised a fair degree too, but the key thing is the clean eating. I’ve still had days where I have leeway for a beer or two, and I have them – you bet! I am sure there will be the exceptional days where the counting goes through the roof, but the key thing is to return to the clean the following day and to continue it onwards and forever.

It’s not a temporary thing… it’s not something to dip in and out of… it’s a lifestyle change, but one that isn’t going to depress you, or charge you for each weigh-in session, or restrict you entirely from the things you love to eat or make you count points of any description – okay you’re counting calories, but that’s the real deal!

Yes, it’s time to man up and jump on board the good ship Healthy, next stop personal bests in Triathlons, climbing hills on a bike with relative ease and maybe even actually enjoying running rather than detesting it.

“Frankie say, no more!”

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Blackwater Echoes

So I’m back playing guitar again, and then some! It all came about with my best buddy Tony getting unceremoniously dumped from the covers band he was in. I jokingly (half anyway) said that if he was getting anything else together to give me a shout. Not many days later he announced that he had drawn together the semblance of a new band. He has drafted Mark Harding (long-time friend of ours) on lead guitar – a rather splendid wielder of the axe is has to be said and Matt Waller, the bassist from his ‘Red White and Bluesy’ blues band days – a top notch wielder of the bass. The final piece of the jigsaw for him was therefore to have myself in as rhythm guitar and backing vocals. Rather flattered to be part of such a grooving set of musicians to be honest, but I love a challenge.

It became clear that the challenge was definitely on since the chosen genre for the band is Rock and Metal covers. There is no hiding on this one, no getting away with not practising – this stuff needs work and refinement to get right and sound tight as a nun’s chuff. So many MSN conversations later the first rehearsal was planned. I think we all had a nagging thought at the back of our minds as to whether it would work or not, but we needn’t have feared anything – we all got on like a house on fire and the bonus being that the initial songs we set ourselves to learn we pretty much nailed there and then. It’s at this point I think we all realised this was going to be lots of fun, damned tight and sounding awesome.

…a band name was plucked out of digital air via MSN and so Blackwater Echoes were born. Quite a clever little name and VERY metal. 🙂

Roll forward a couple more instrumental practices and the thoughts now turned to getting a singer on board. Tony advertised and soon enough we had Gavin on board; when we first met him we can be forgiven for thinking how the hell is this guy going to go from singing Muse through to singing Audioslave. It was always going to be a tall order and an ask to have such a person. Ermm, we found him! Holy mother of God this guy can sing, from the falsetto of Muse through to the lung busting of the likes of Audioslave and Metallica. He can pretty much nail anything – and he is a pretty handy drummer too as it happens!

We had our first band meeting last week to discuss the current songs and to throw a load into the mix for us to learn in 2 songs per fortnight chunks. There is a wide variety in there, and a lot of technically challenging songs too. They are all songs that people will mostly know, but we have tried to steer clear of the cheese and the obvious – sometimes (Enter Sandman) you can’t avoid it. There are songs in amongst it all that I have always wanted to play and now we are in a cohesive and like-minded unit.

I think another month and we’ll be gig ready, and as soon as this becomes set in stone we will advise via the Facebook page. Very exciting, very cool, very LOUD .. but not TOO loud. :O)

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Safari Sagoodie!

Well so far I have stayed true to my word and am in full flow with my training regime. I realised this is even more important considering that even despite me not signing up for as many events this year, I still have Blenheim, Gosfield and Dunmow Triathlons, a Duathlon and two 10k runs to get through! That’s not withstanding any ad-hocs that I will no doubt be sucked into! So, I only have one rest day a week (Thursday) with Sunday being my ‘Any’ exercise day – I spent an hour running round a football pitch with the kids, so I’m chalking that one up! I am loving my swimming right now, and went Friday & Monday night with the club – my front crawl feels strong, and technique getting better each time. I need to get some open water swims in prior to Blenheim in early June, it really is a completely different experience to the pool!

I even hauled my carcass out for a run on Saturday afternoon, intending to do 5k but falling short by 1km – it felt awful, even getting shin splints, and just further reaffirms my hatred for the discipline! The irony of Royksopp’s ‘Alpha Male’ coming on random play really didn’t help either… Tonight I am hoping for enough daylight to take my bike out its first spin since the October Born2Tri Duathlon and will be the first time with my new clips, cleats and shoes. Failing that it’s on the turbo boredom, irrespective I’m doing it!

My goal is to be as fit as I can possibly be for the events, but also beyond, not going to look back again and ensure I keep the weight off, stay fighting fit and be able to run around after the two little wee scamps!!

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Where’s My Mojo?

Anyone? I lost it some time ago and I’ve not been able to find it… I don’t even know where I was when I lost it, or who I was with, or what time it was, or if I was drunk or sober. Gone! Vamoosed! Vanished! Outta here! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I come here today to admit and accept that all that hard work losing weight and getting fighting fit has ultimately been trashed by stupidity and apathy. My hope is that in writing this, seeing it in the cold glare of plain text that it will surface the desire, the want, the need and the passion that got me where I was previously.

So, where did it all go wrong? For starters, taking part in my last event for the year was followed by….. nothingness. No training, not even lunchtime walks (quite frankly these are one of the main reasons for the weightloss), just procrastination. What ails me? I have a loving and caring wife, I have two absolutely incredible children, I have a good and prosperous career choice .. hell, I’m even back playing in a band again doing the stuff I love (rock and metal). So, it isn’t like I am unhappy with my lot and completely riddled with energy sapping misery. What is it then that is holding me back, making me not give a flying feck when I drink to excess or waste the good work I’ve done calorie wise during the day with some silly evening eating. Well, the latter right there is a reason for weight gain, of course – I am just not counterbalancing that with anything that will burn calories.

It’s a simple equation and premise – Eat a set amount of calories a day and move your fat ass more. I was never religious about the calorie consumption per day, just made sure I hit there or thereabouts. I always counterbalanced my day with some form of exercise, whether it was taking the stairs all day instead of the lift, the aforementioned lunch walks or simply standing in meetings rather than sitting if there was nothing else going on. Anything over and above that was obviously a bonus! The thing that maddens me the most is that I got myself very VERY fit with a non-regimented weekly set of exercise ideals, trying to at least Swim, Run and Cycle once in any given week. It worked, well.

I don’t even have any injury excuses or blockers that would prevent me from doing any of it. I have an old bike permanently set up on a turbo trainer – I can cycle WHENEVER I like. The club run swim sessions each and every Monday night for the princely sum of £3 for just an hour of my time – time VERY well spent. And running… I simply need to put on one of my plethora of running tops, shorts and get my slack butt out there.

..but do I? Do I f**k!

So, Keith, and I know you will re-read this post the often vain person that you secretly are – please take a good long look at yourself. Happy? Like what you see? Nope, didn’t think so. Sort it the F@@K out you crazy foo!

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Gosfield Sprint Triathlon 2015

The club I am in Born2Tri host a Sprint and Olympic distance Triathlon at Gosfield lake each year, and this time I decided to sign up for it. I know I am biased, but what a fantastically organised local triathlon this is, and Gosfield Lake is the perfect central point for it. Everyone got a free Born2Tri t-shirt, which I was somewhat grateful for as the decision for the race was mandatory NON-wetsuit! Who knew the UK could boast such weather! It was to be my first 2015 Tri in glorious sunshine too!!! Anyway, this meant I only had my trisuit for the race numbers since I foolishly left my race belt at home. I had the bright idea to use the shirt literally 1 minute before transition closed, meaning that I rushed safety pinning the numbers to the front and back – something I’d find out was to my detriment for T1! At this stage the sun was out, but black clouds were looming!!!

Anyway, I had a nice swim despite reservations about not having the buoyancy of the wetsuit to aid me. Wasn’t breaking any records, but felt good and technique came into play nicely, although the black clouds that had loomed were now letting loose their contents! I lost my timing chip somewhere near the start I reckon as it was hanging at my transition point so my timings are somewhat difficult to gauge – especially when you consider how long I was in T1 due to a safety pin epic fail. Yes, yours truly had safety pinned the back on the shirt to the front, and with trembly post swim hands and a light head I was finding it all too difficult to remedy! Coach Pete thankfully saw my ineptness and came to the rescue (thanks again fella!) and after what must’ve been 10 minutes I was on my way again!

The cycle route pretty much followed the exact route I devised as my training laps for when I used to live in Bocking, so it was all familiar territory which allowed for me to up my pace somewhat despite the rubbish weather. I went for clip shoes this time round and was grateful for the extra purchase and power this gave on the incline out of Sible Hedingham. The ride definitely felt good and I made some good time up catching up some of the previous wave competitors and a couple in my own wave. I knew this would be short-lived once I got on Shank’s Pony but hey allow me those little pointless victories if you will.

So, into T2 and discovering (by way of change) soaking wet trainers for the 5km run – this is a single circuit across fields and dirt tracks, with the rain this made things rather muddy and puddle strewn. The run felt great however, still at the pace of a pack mule, but kept it steady throughout and knew I would post a time more a-kin to where I was last year. The support from the marshals was excellent too, giving you that extra lift when you need it most. Great race, even though again it was a very wet affair. My kingdom for dry Tri!

Overall – 01:52:31 : Timing chip lost in swim, so individual times not available.

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Blenheim Palace Sprint Triathlon 2015

Blenheim Palace is a great setting for a Triathlon and since it is close to very good friends of ours it makes for a fantastic long weekend full of pre-race carbs and post-race alcohol! Last year I experienced my first puncture in a Triathlon on the 2nd lap, but this year was trouble free…. apart from yet MORE rain!

At least this year the weather was consistent at Blenheim, ie it rained throughout, whereas last year it rained during initial setting up of transition and the swim section, brightening up to a scorching day for the bike and run. Not this time, my 2nd Tri this year and 2nd sopping wet experience! At least, unlike Hyde Park, I had plenty of time to prepare, warm up, feast on jelly babies etc… and made for a much more pleasant swim which felt a lot more controlled and my technique although still not fantastic was a league ahead of Hyde Park’s feeble effort! I was even keeping pace with a couple of the guys that were doing it with us.

By the time I hit T1 I realised that yet again I was going to be cycling and running in soaking wet trainers, I vowed that next time I would have my clip shoes and just accept the additional time it takes in transition! Anyway, the bike leg takes you through the beautiful grounds of the palace, and a nice half mile incline which by the 3rd lap had gotten very old! But hey, no punctures!! Result! Once again due the rain a much more measured approach was required, and again I witnessed a couple of bone crunching stacks where riders just weren’t respecting the conditions. I made it safely around the three laps despite a close call with one of previously mentioned riders who thought it wise to breeze past me on a bend, almost totally wiping me out in the process!

A swift T2 and onto the run section which despite being a plodsome affair I at least managed to get around it without stopping, as like the ride there’s a nice incline to navigate with a sergeant major type on the brow barking at you just to really add to the fun! Highlight for me was my daughter Lucy shouting ‘Daddy, why are you going so slow’, although I didn’t hear it at the time being told afterwards near choked me with laughter. At least this time I knew I couldn’t finish any slower than last year as I completed that one in around 02:50 due to the puncture and not being able to inflate the replacement tube (turned out to be the tiniest of kinks!).

Final result Swim 00:20:42 Bike 00:50:46 Run 00:42:59 – Overall 02:03:08

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Vitality Hyde Park Triathlon 2015

I am somewhat guilty (again) of not updating my blog, and every time I think ‘oh yeah, I’ll keep this updated’, I end up coming back in a few months and thinking ‘I really should keep this updated.’ So, anyway, I thought I’d make this update Triathlon centric, having done three now in the last two months, and I will provide a brief account of all three for you (yes, you, the avid reader) so that you can share in the delights of my completely irrational passion for all things Triathlon. Still got you…? Good, then I’ll begin with Hyde Park 2015:

So, my ‘race season’ kicked off on Sunday May 31st – it was due to be the 30th but Arsenal decided to get through to the FA Cup final AGAIN and played this on the Saturday. A very kind lady at ITU central (or some subsidiary of) moved me to the Sunday, which obviously and unintentionally was going to steal the limelight from the Brownlees in the Elite race later in the day. Sorry chaps! I think I knew this one was going to be a disaster right from the moment I had to make an emergency comfort stop near Paddington for both myself and my daughter, already running late but when the moment strikes, nothing can be done. Finally get to Park Lane Q-Park and had to run with the bike to get to transition, even then I only had literally ten minutes to prepare my transition area, get my wetsuit on an leg it the 400m odd distance to the swim start. I arrived just as my wave were about to head for the pontoon…! So, no warm up, no chillaxing in transition and preparing myself, nope, just straight into it.

The swim was pretty hopeless; in my flustered state all technique went out of the window and it was all I could do to make it to the first buoy, feeling like I was swimming in treacle rather than the delightful Serpentine! Half way around and the skies opened, and as I rounded the last buoy my thoughts moved to the soaking wet trainers waiting for me in transition. I decided to go for a one pair of shoes strategy meaning, which works okay on the SPD pedals on the bike, but with slick tyres it meant a very cautious three laps. My caution was well advised as I saw three different people monumentally stack it on corners they were taking too fast, all three got back on safely, but still, it would’ve hurt! I could feel my trainers squelching on each rotation and was really REALLY looking forward to running 5km in them!

And so to the 5km run, I hate running… did I mention that? No, well I do, I HATE it, but it’s part of the overall charm of Triathlon and I am getting better at it meaning it is slowly becoming something I don’t dread anymore! I got shin splints in lap 1, which seemed to take forever to subside, and not sure if it’s the cold and wet causing it or not. Finally I got a bit of adrenaline on lap 2 and upped the pace slightly to the finish. Final result Swim 00:20:31 Bike 00:48:27 Run 00:34:20 – Overall 01:52:17… Slower by 7 minutes to last year, but considering the conditions I’m pretty chuffed with that.

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Our Amazing Daughter

My daughter amazes me, regularly, and for a variety of different things and reasons. To list them here would be an exhausting and probably very boring experience for you the avid reader of my seldom read blogtypething. My son amazes me too of course, for equally varying reasons, but listen, this post is not about him it’s about Lucy. My beautiful girl, she starts school in September and along with it the inevitable and unintentional refinement of her personality as she gets to know new friends, their parents and of course sussing out which teachers to be afraid of and to befriend!

Anyway, for the last two days we all headed into London to do the Shaun the Sheep trails, which (if you have no idea what I’m talking about) is basically a load of porcelain (I think) statues in the shape of Shaun with various different artwork daubing them. If you know about the Cow Parade where (again, I think) it all started, you’ll know what this is about. It’s essentially a great way to get out and around London (or wherever) and see the sights from a walker’s perspective. My less than entirely accurate Samsung steps app tells me that over both the days I have clocked up around 46000 steps, which amounts to about 4000 calories burnt in a generic sense. Great stuff! However, things get more impressive when you consider that Lucy only moaned about the feet twice in the entire two days and other than a couple of trips in the buggy on the 2nd day, walked the entire lot with us. I reckon she would be doing two steps to our one, something I hadn’t factored in which means an astonishing circa 90000 steps for her wee little legs.

I thought she would sleep like a log in the car home, but no, she was still going jabbering about the last two days and what she’s going to do next and why aren’t we going to London again tomorrow?! Needless to say though, she didn’t want a story before bed, nor did she want her obligatory glass of milk – just a kiss and a cuddle from both Mummy and Daddy was enough for her sleepy head.

The two days can be summarised quite nicely by the picture below. Kids, they are amazing, keep reminding yourself of that even if you don’t need to. :o) x

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RIP Edgar Froese 1944-2015

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Another music hero of mine pops off to the great bandstand in the sky. His music had an immense impact on me both as a founder member of Tangerine Dream and as a solo artist. Many music memories and I think I need Stuntman and Epsilon on my S4 by way of tribute.

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The Endless is Nigh

endlessriverHaving not updated this blog for a very long while it was going to take a momentous occasion to spark enough enthusiasm to do so. One thing that is likely to pique the dulled interests of this forty something is anything at all Pink Floyd related. It is fair to say that they are pretty much my most favourite band of all time (thank you Leigh for introducing me to ‘Wish You Were Here’ and weaning me off Electro) – pretty much every album they have done has something in it that I hold dear, even the pretty dreadful Piper and Saucerful albums have sparks of what was to come in them. When asked for my favourite PF album it is always difficult to answer straight away but usually will be Wish You Were Here, but that’s really the nucleus of their music – it is very much a mood thing, and all of their albums have a different yet connected feel to them. The stupendous musical voyage that is ‘Echoes’ from Meddle – the crashing final rhythm on ‘Sheep’ from Animals – the beautiful synth work on ‘Shine On’ from WYWH right up the later works where Gilmour’s solo work on ‘Poles Apart’ and ‘Lost for Words’ truly cause lumps in the throat.

It’s with complete sheep-like devotion that I pre-ordered “The Endless River” the deluxe edition of course, knowing full well that this is very likely (confirmed as ‘definite’) going to be the last time I feel the excitement of new works from my favourite old crusty musicians. I have to admit though, hearing the premise behind the album aroused a little of my famed cynicism – I mean, a wholly instrumental album of various music sketches from around the Division Bell era didn’t on paper sound all that attractive… and smacked of needing to milk that little bit more cash from us gullible punters before zimmer-frames become a requirement more than a piece of concept art!

A very nice presentation set complete with the obligatory pointless postcard type inserts and usual nonsensical photography, only, even this is a little tame to what we would expect. Anyhow, it’s the music right? The normal album comes with 18 tracks to delight the lug holes, but when you consider that a lot of these are under 2 minutes in length one already starts to feel a little cheated. Plump for the deluxe version and you get a further 3 audio tracks and 6 videos (not viewed at time of writing).

Things start of promisingly enough with the tranquil ‘Things Left Unsaid’ featuring that very odd guitar sound that Gilmour seems to now love and overuse. However, hearing Wright’s keyboard parts posthumously definitely sets the hairs on the back of one’s neck on end. Trademark barrel organs roll in ‘It’s What We Do’ that feels like a traditional early Floyd song and it’s this kind of sound I was hoping would drift throughout the album. This then falls into ‘Ebb and Flow’ which is far too sparse in content to be memorable and then onto ‘Sum’ which sounds far too much like it was written with lyrics in mind and comes across as a karaoke track as a consequence – probably not the intention! ‘Skins’ feels like it is harping on back to the really early days but never really quite succeeds in being anything other than filler and although ‘Unsung’ that follows this improves on it, it too just feels too much like filler for the sake of it.

‘Anisina’ is where the album finally gets some traction, a melancholy rich sounding track with lovely if a little brief solo work from Gilmour. The sax work on this one however leaves a little to be desired; I get the need to keep with the heritage, but at least make it sound like the Saxophonist hasn’t just dropped in from above and bluffed his way through the song. ‘The Lost Art of Conversation’ follows the same vein as ‘Skins’ and ‘Unsung’ in not actually going anywhere and feeling like it serves any purpose. ‘On Noodle Street’ is a nice jazzy style track that I would’ve liked to have been developed more, but once again is over all too quickly without truly stamping itself on the album. ‘Night Light’ once again is 1:42 of delightful sweeping keyboards and guitar spots that ultimately don’t delight in the slightest.

We then move onto ‘Allons-y’ parts 1 and 2 with ‘Autumn ’68’ sandwiched in-between. The former has a Run Like Hellesque feel to it and is much more what we are looking for from these guys. ‘Autumn ’68’ then, and despite being only 1:35 in length is my favourite track on the album – the church organ is so beautiful mixed with subtle bottle-necked guitar and synth overtones – why couldn’t this be a longer track, or the album contain more of this kind of quality? I have repeated and repeated this track, it gets me where all good music should right in the gut, heart and mind. Talkin’ Hawkin’ I’m guessing is either a continuation of ‘Keep Talking’ from the Division Bell or an alternative that was never used. It stands up as a nice track on the album, but oddly I feel the track title itself spoils things here!

So to the last four tracks on the normal edition album beginning with ‘Calling’ then merging into ‘Eyes to Pearls’ and then onto ‘Surfacing’. These three tracks feel like they should be one since they have a similar epic feel to them so much in evidence in earlier works like Shine On You Crazy Diamond. Together they work nicely and bring the album to a much needed decent close, but then… ‘Louder Than Words’ happens. Things start nicely enough, but what follows is a song that so badly sounds like the lyrics have been struggled with both in terms of content and fitting into the song. The music itself is classic Floyd, even down to the backing vocals, but I can honestly say the much publicised only vocalised song on the album is a crushing disappointment – it almost feels like the lovely guitar solo shouldn’t be allowed to sit alongside the drab and tired sounding song that it sits in.

The deluxe edition has ‘TBS9’, ‘TBS14’ and ‘Nervana’ which I was hoping would provide the musical drug for my addiction. In some respects and parts they do, but they feel exactly as they are – tacked on tracks that don’t really fit and are too raw in sound to be pleasurable. I also have to say that ‘Nervana’ sounds like a cross between a MIDI demo track and Mike Oldfield on a bad day – not good in the slightest.

If this is to be the last outing for the good ship Pink Floyd then it’s a crying shame, it serves one of its purposes to some degree in being a fitting tribute to Rick Wright and all that he done for the band – well documented that his part in it all is heavily underplayed as admitted by both Mason and Gilmour. Murmurs from certain corners that a tour may well happen abound, and I will gladly pay a shed-load of camels to go and see them once, twice and maybe more times, after all, live is where Pink Floyd are truly at their very best and who knows some of those distinctly average tracks might turn out to be complete and utter ear candy in a live play scenario. As it is though ‘The Endless River’ just doesn’t feel anywhere near like a cohesive album, however much I love, adore and respect this band. It’s not the swan song we wanted Charlie.

4/10

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