Thursday, 29 January 2015

Stuart Marconi

So last Friday on the train into Manchester I ended up sitting across the aisle from Stuart Maconie, or Stuart Marconi as Mrs M insists on calling him, principally because she loves seeing me roll my eyes despairingly. I seriously contemplated asking him for a selfie for about 10 minutes, until I remembered I was a grown-up man, and not a 16 year old of either gender. Anyway, should you be interested, he was very nicely dressed, he's surprisingly svelte below the neck, and he's got a white iPhone 6. 

But the point of mentioning that was that thinking about him now reminded me of the band Pop Will Eat Itself for some reason. Remember them? Probably not if you're under 40. Maybe I was reminded of their name because I did an Audax last Sunday, and it felt a bit I was contributing to cycling doing itself harm. Now, I'll make no bones about it, I'm the guiltiest of guilty parties here - I only did the damn ride to get a 200km Paris-Brest-Paris qualifier under my belt. I hadn't ridden my bike since last September, and I won't riding it again for some time to come, what with me being entered in the Cambridge Marathon in 5 weeks time. I was riding purely to qualify for another event, not because I really wanted to be there.

If it's any consolation to those of purer cycling credentials than me, I had a miserable time. First off, I'd forgotten what a sodding faff it is to ride a pre-set route during the winter. Overshoes, Garmin, front lights, back lights, computer, food, drink, blah blah....I made the fatal mistake of not writing down everything I needed, which meant I started with no food, no neckwarmer and a bad attitude. The morning in the sunshine was vaguely pleasant, but two punctures in the early afternoon began to sap my spirit. Add in the recurring problem of losing much of my vision on a long ride in coolish weather, a misbehaving derailleur (my fault), and a sense of overwhelming boredom, and, well I've had better days. And on Monday I paid the price of riding 200km with no riding preparation - the groinal channels either side of my Gentleman's Area were redder than a sunburned Arthur Scargill.

But to get back to the main point - there were loads of Audaxers there. Loads of 'em. Some were quite interesting, two in particular - they were doing the ride on Ellipti-trainer type bikes. Weird looking things, and the bikes weren't much different. But there were also many who just weren't in the spirit of things; not only did they not have beards nor sandals nor a tricycle, but they were riding carbon bikes with neither mudguards nor mapholders nor a gargantuan saddlebag. Hell, three years ago they'd probably have been on a golf course. There can be no greater expression of disgust on my part.

So I'm off back to the world of running for a while, but it might be time to start a counter-revolution - time to dust off that mountain bike do you reckon?......

Friday, 2 January 2015

10 Things That Mystify Me

When I'm out running or cycling I generally feel full of vitality, energy and fitness - certainly more than when I was a fat 30 year old with three small children and no opportunity to exercise.  I look in the mirror and I see an early middle-aged looking man; plenty of random hairs sprouting from ears, nose and increasingly (and strangely) temples, all of which have to be removed weekly, but not too many wrinkles by-and-large. (My favourite wrinkles story concerns Mick Jagger and George Melly, who I met once.  Apparently George commented to Mick that he was looking old, and had plenty of wrinkles to prove it. Jagger replied "they're just laughter lines"; Melly's retort was "nothing's that funny Mick"). I wear skinny jeans and listen to BBC 6 Music, and occasionally Radio 1. In other words, whilst I may be 48, I don't feel completely out of touch. But then I see stuff that I don't understand, mystifies me indeed, and in most cases I can only attribute it to the fact I'm becoming an Old Duffer.

Here are 10 of those things.
  1. Quite a lot of TV adverts:  I frequently, having watched an advert, have to turn to Mrs Monmarduman to ask her what the heck it was they were actually promoting. God knows what 80 year olds think is going on, though to be fair many of them are probably more on the ball then me. My hypothesis though is that if I don't know what's being sold the ad can't be that effective. However, the products are usually games for Xbox, PS2, that kind of thing, products for women (hair colourants and the like), or payday loan companies. I then realise that I'm not in the target audience for any of these things, so maybe the ad's actually ok
  2. Why people feel the need to walk down the street sipping from a plastic cup of coffee only marginally smaller than a bucket:  Now, I love coffee; it's one of life's, and morning's, great joys - much more interesting than tea, warming in winter, and a mild stimulant. I drink it most days. But bleak will be the day when my dependency on it is so strong, or my time management is so poor, that I have to drink it in the street (not carrying it; that's ok, it's the drinking bit).  It makes the people who do it just look like upmarket hot beverage junkie; don't do it!
  3. Trolls and the people who react to them: we all know Katie Hopkins (to choose a recent example) is a deranged publicity seeker, so why give her the proverbial oxygen of publicity by creating a fuss about it? Attention is what people like her and the even more destructive, foul-mouthed trolls crave. Don't give it them. Block them or ignore them, but don't react to them
  4. People who email or phone to complain about things on TV: you know the sort - "Dear BBC, I was outraged the other day when Charlie Newsreader was wearing his poppy at an angle of 42 degrees instead of the properly respectful 45 degrees. I shan't be paying my licence fee as a result". Who has the time or motivation to do that?
  5. Why people hero-worship Ed Sheeran: it is, I grant you, refreshing and unusual to see a ginger thriving in his/her chosen field (and I say that as the parent of 1.5 ginger offspring), and his rendition of Stevie Wonder's Master Blaster on the Hootenanny the other night was masterful, the adulation seems to go way, way beyond the quality of his songs. Am I missing something?
  6. Why anyone gives Russell Brand the time of day: jeepers, I'm not even going to explain this one. He's not making any valid political points, he's just a career-savvy opportunist
  7. Over-cheerful TV presenters, and I'm not talking about those who present children's TV; they're allowed to be wacky and cheerful. No, the particular offenders I'm referring tend to be either weather people, or presenters of magazine programmes like Countryfile. I don't know whether they think waving their hands around, or walking round a field and pretending to meet interviewees there creates some sort of 'personality' (which of course is one of the building blocks to the modern Cult of Celebrity), but it really annoys me. It's not how normal people who aren't Americans behave. Calm down, and just either tell me whether it's going to rain, or introduce the next item in a calm and considered manner.  That's my 3rd TV-related entry; you can tell it's winter and I've not worked for the last month
  8. New Year's Eve celebrations: this naturally is a seasonal entry, but yesterday's headlines included "Six Stabbed At The Belfry", "35 Trampled To Death in Shanghai", and "Man Murdered With Axe In Pub Brawl Near Plymouth". We also went out on New Year's Eve, and I drove the few miles home, my desire to drink being heavily outweighed by the downsides of having to locate and pay for a taxi home. In that time I saw three people prone on the pavement, one of whom had required the attention of the constabulary. I don't understand why celebrating things, and NY Eve in particular, seems to involve so much misery. Then again, I suspect some of those who bedded down on the pavement at 1 am yesterday told their mates later that they'd had a fabulous New Year
  9. Wearing your jeans so low your pants are on show: oh I know all the explanations of where this came from and why Da Youth do it, but still - it's really impractical and uncomfortable. You could say the same about women wearing high-heeled shoes I suppose, but at least there's an aesthetic pleasure with that, whereas low slung jeans and exposed boxer shorts have all the appeal of a week-old turkey
  10. Criticism of Wetherspoon pubs: maybe we're lucky in Macclesfield, or maybe I just don't go in on Friday and Saturday nights, but I don't understand why Wetherspoons have acquired a reputation for being haunts of the less-refined members of society. I use our local one regularly, and it's a pleasure - an extensive menu and well-cooked food, a wide range of beers, wines and harmless old men in corners, free wifi, and as I discovered today, unlimited coffee for £1.15. What's not to love?  Unnecessary snobbery, that's what.
Right, that's it. My next post is already written - it's very long, very personal and quite heavy. I need to look at it again to make sure I'm happy it being at t'interweb, but if I am, brace yourselves.
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