Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It's gone all floppy

A few weeks ago I reported on how Sparky Ma's little cactus in a Mexican-themed earthenware pot had mutated and was on the verge of taking over the kitchen, and then, quite possibly, the world. In contrast, mine was a happy and healthy if somewhat unremarkable six inches fully erect. The cactus, I mean. Filth.

What a difference a few weeks can make, though, because while mine looked like this just at the beginning of the month…

Happy cactus

… it subsequently went like this…

Sad cactus

…And now looks like this:

Dead cactus

For some reason this last pic reminds me of the slightly squished tail of a squirrel who had an unfortunate altercation with a fast moving car. Oh, and while I'd love to claim that the steady onset of darkness in each successive photos was a subconscious attempt to portray the end of this little cactus' life, it actually had more to do with the fact that I took the last picture later in the evening and there's no flash on my iPhone.

In contrast, one of my other little cacti has actually begun going mad-bonkers crazy and growing new, um, arm-things all over the place. Between that one's sudden growth spurt and this one's sudden demise it's been a bit like the horticultural equivalent of The Picture of Dorian Gray

What have we learnt here then? Well, not to take pictures of cacti, to be honest. It seems they have the same sort of 'it's stealing our soul!' reaction as the first dumb people who were captured on film. So, while I'd love to show you the one that's been growing like crazy, I daren't for fear I'd get home from work one day to find it's thrown itself out the window or something.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The results are in… **now with sexy update!**

…And despite my fears about this year's Richmond 10k, I, RACE NUMBER 150, GOT A NEW PERSONAL BEST: 51 minutes, six seconds!

Not only was it a new PB (as we call it in the biz), but it absolutely annihilated my previous PB from last year's run by a whole two minutes, 30 seconds!

Yo, checkout my Nike+ graph, bitches.

What does this tell you? Honestly, I don't really know, so I'm going to hazard a guess that the fact that the curve is swinging upwards means that not only was I relatively consistent in my performance, but I was actually getting faster as the run went on. Chances are if this had been a marathon I would've ultimately attained such a high speed that the Earth would've started spinning backwards like in Superman: The Movie.

Let's look at a hastily revised version of the graph from my last post.

BAM! That's how I roll. And all this with barely any prep work; next year I might not bother doing any - chances are I'd win. It's strange; the older I get, the faster I appear to run. At this rate I'm going to be the speediest pensioner in the world (which could prove rather useful when racing all the other OAPs to the Post Office to collect my pension).

Do you want some more facts? Tough, you're getting them anyway (last year's numbers are in red):

• 10k (10.08k)
• 51:06 (53:36)
• Average pace 5:06 min per km (5:18)
• 684 calories (695)

Hmmm … I'm somewhat disturbed that I busted loose less calories. Either it's a discrepancy in my Nike+ data, or I wasn't burning off last night's chicken 'n chips quite as efficiently.

Truth be told, I probably would've just nudged UNDER the 51 minute mark if it hadn't been for my conscience; coming up on the 8km mark a woman in front of me stacked it massively. For zero point six eight seconds I considered leaping over her and carrying on, but because I'm a nice fella I did stop to check she was OK. A marshall was nearby and also came running over, so in hindsight she actually stacked it in quite a good place because they only really put marshalls at junctions to make sure you don't make a wrong turn. Anyway, she was fine and soon started off again. Fortunately the incident gave me a good opportunity to get in front of her (I'd been pacing behind her for about 10 minutes) in the run-up to the finish line.

Some bullet pointed facts? I'm tired and can't be bothered to write a cohesive piece.

• Accepted a cup of water off a small boy at the halfway mark but slightly misjudged where my hand was and ended up pouring most of it over his arm. This made me laugh, but I am grateful to the small boy for his efforts. BTW, he was helping out at a water station and wasn't just some random small boy holding out a cup of water. That would've been weird.
• Got massively cut-up by some lumbering beast of a man who bore an uncanny resemblance to Bernard Bresslaw. He literally ran alongside me then stepped into my path. I was NOT happy. Got my revenge later, though, when I did the same to him (maybe not quite so aggressively though) and topped it off with a jaunty smile. You never have a top hat and cane to hand when you need them, do you?
• Overtook a midget.
• Was going to accuse the midget of cheating when I spotted it further ahead about 10 minutes after I'd overtaken it. Turns out it was a different midget. What's with all the midgets?
• The new route was … OK. Not sure if I preferred it to the old one or not. Maybe I'm just being nostalgic? Annoyingly this new course still featured two laps of one section, which is just horrifically demoralising when you realise you've been there before and remember how far you've got left to go.
• Hydrated with coconut water (people at my yoga place swear by it) before starting. At about 8:55 I suddenly realised I desperately needed a wee. The toilets were a good five minute walk away, and the race started at 9:00. Considered finding a tree, but there weren't any that didn't have any runners doing elaborate stretches against them. I thus ran the whole 10k with a full bladder, which might explain why I ran it so quickly.
• There was a kid at the start line with one of those annoying vuvuzela things that everyone is using at the World Cup. After about 30 seconds I was tempted to either a) shove it down her throat, or b) insert her little white terrier in the end of it. I was pleased to see at the finish line that her dad had confiscated it.

All in all, then I'm feeling quite chuffed about the whole thing. The only downside was that for the first time I ran the race without my regular wingman (wingwoman?) Sweatband, who couldn't make it this year.

I think she was intimidated by my awesome skillz.

Oh, and then there was the fact that unlike previous years, there were no medals for the runners. Instead we all got mugs with a Mars bar and a banana stuck in the top. At first I was all, like, WTF? But then I realised that a mug is actually far more useful to me than a medal which, while admittedly impressive and shiny, does just get shoved in a drawer afterward.

The Mars bar has been taken care of. God knows what I'm going to do with a bloody banana though.

I think that's about it - apart from the traditional sexily-dishevelled post-race picture of course.


OK, so official times are out based on the time recorded by the chip we had to attach to our shoes (not a potato chip), and it turns out I was faster than my Nike+ data led me to believe!

*drum roll*

New official time of … 50:57 - nine seconds faster than I thought! I WAS ON FIRE!! (Not literally)

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Two posts in two days? I am spoiling you.

SO. I'm running the Richmond 10k (the artist formerly known as the Dysart Dash) tomorrow. Actually, I should be finishing in almost exactly 12 hours. It's crept up on me a bit - well, a lot to be honest; so much so, in fact, that I've not harped on about it at all so far, in distinct contrast to previous years where I've procrastinated endlessly in the run-up to the, well, run.

This'll be the fifth time I've done the run (even though it's got a new name and follows a new course, so technically it's a completely different thing), and although I'm not suffering from the lingering after effects of a whiplash injury like I was last year, I've not really done *that* many practise runs until just the last couple of weeks. I am, thus, feeling horrifically a little bit unprepared.

Apart from the 2007 run, I've been a smidgeon faster each successive year. Look - I've prepared a graph to prove it:

In the time it took to draw this I could've done a fairly decent practise run.

I'd like to continue this trend, if only because I don't want to be a sweaty, staggering mess trundling across the finish line long after everyone else has packed up and gone home.


(Catch up on previous year's runs here, here, here, and here, if you're interested).

Friday, June 18, 2010

Where's Sparky?

I went to see Local Natives play at the Shepherds Bush Empire on Tuesday. Awesome gig by the way, and as if you needed proof I took a little video of their song Airplanes.

See: awesome. What - did you think I'd lie to you?

Anyway, as the gig was drawing to a close one of the band members took a photo of the crowd, and lo and behold it subsequently popped up on their tumblr page.

Which gave me an idea.

I nabbed a copy of the pic, fiddled around with it a bit in photoshop (they'd applied a funny filter to it to make it look a bit vintage, y'see) and … here it is:

My challenge to you, then, is to click on the above pic to embiggen it, and then see if you can find me Where's Wally-stylee. Closest guess gets a round of applause; furthest away gets ridiculed mercilessly.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Two minutes of your life you'll never get back

After four years of blogging it's come to this. Inexplicable Device demanded it, so here it is:

*hears sound of barrel being scraped*

A kettle boiling.

Oh the excitement.

Normal service will resume once we've all regained consciousness.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Woe is me

A few months back we had a visitor at work, a little old guy who came in for a meeting. About halfway through his time in the office my boss came in, strolled up to him, and said "hi, how are you?"

The little old guy then proceeded to ramble on in considerable detail about everything that was ailing him.

After about a minute my boss cut him off mid-sentence with the unforgettable line "oh well, could be worse. At least you're not dead, eh?" before strolling off to his desk.

About an hour later, shortly after the little old guy had left, my boss came over to me. "Bloody hell," he said. "I was only being polite. I didn't want to know his entire fucking life story."

The gist of this, then, is that while we all have the odd problem or two in our lives, essentially if you're still breathing something's going right for you, right?

I say this because quite frankly I don't know what deity I've upset, but I think I've done *something* wrong because ... Well, it seems like an awful lot is going wrong for me at the moment.

It all began last week with the chipped windscreen and the screwed tyre (literally). The tyre was, of course, sorted at great expense, while the chip in my windscreen was all set to be repaired on Tuesday by a man in a van who would come by Sparky Towers sometime between 8-11 in the morning. That being the case I arranged to work from home and was up bright and early.

The first sign that the day wasn't exactly going to go to plan came when I flicked the kettle on, flicked my computer on, and then stood there in startled silence as all the power went out. I went to my circuit box, flicked the breakers back on, then began to deduce what had been responsible for the outage. I did this by realising, after about two minutes, that while the light on the kettle was on, it wasn't actually boiling.


Being a boy, I tapped it a couple of times, flicked the switch a few more times, then swore at it. No tea for me. I'm not a happy bunny if I don't get my early morning tea.

A short time later the windscreen repair man phoned to say that as it was raining - something that was readily apparent to me by the fact I could both see it and hear it - he might have to cancel the appointment and reschedule for another day. He promised to call me back in half an hour to let me know what he thought. Ten minutes after speaking to him the rain stopped, and the sun came out. Good times.

Unfortunately, by about one o'clock, the windscreen repair man hadn't called back, so I had to call his office to find out what the hell was going on. I had, after all, expected him sometime between 8-11, and had planned to go into work after he'd been. He eventually called me back at about half one and promised to be with me by half two.

At quarter to three the heavens opened again - quite literally as he drove down the road. "I can't do it in this weather," he moaned, before pulling out his phone and booking me in for another appointment on Friday.

"Do you not carry a little gazebo you could erect over the windscreen?" I pleaded. "Is that not too much to ask?"

In the hope that the rain might pass quickly, I began making small talk, trying anything to keep him from leaving. If I'd had a working kettle I would've made him a cup of tea. DAMN YOU, KETTLE!

Anyway, he left. Two minutes later it stopped raining. I sighed, and went to the local Tesco to buy a new kettle, where I swiftly discovered that most new kettles are either cheap looking white plastic things or vile reflective monstrosities. I bought my last one, a rounded matt-effect grey kettle, based on the fact that it looked like something used in the captain's dining room on Star Trek: Enterprise. The only one I was particularly nutty for here was a titanium effect one, but it cost 40 quid (rather more than I wanted to pay given the recent unexpected expenses I've had). Anyway/fortunately, it was out of stock.

I eventually plumped for a black one that looks a bit like Darth Vader's helmet and lights up like Voyager's war core when it's boiling water, so at least there's some kettle/Star Trek continuity there. Incidentally, the box says it's 'contemporary black,' which quite frankly is ridiculous. Black is black as far as I'm concerned. If you have light black it's just dark grey, surely? Go figure.

So with exploding kettle replaced in my affections by warp core kettle, and my anger against windscreen repair man's lack of gazebo subsiding somewhat, I came to realise that yes, essentially things could be worse. I could be a little old man with nothing better to do than list his grievances to a complete stranger in front of an office full of complete strangers.

The thing is ... bearing in mind the last two Tuesdays have each resulted in *nightmares* I'm actually beginning to dread next week.

If anyone wants me on the 15th, no doubt I'll be cowering behind a door leant up against the wall, checking to see if my home insurance covers me for Sparky Towers being annihilated by falling meteorites.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Size isn't everything, right?

As many of you know, I'm a big fan of small cacti in Mexican-themed earthenware pots (you weren't aware of this? Good grief, do catch up here, here, and here). A couple of years ago, in the wake of *sniff* the tragic passing of one of my beloved cacti, Sparky Ma took pity and bought me a replacement. She also bought one for herself, despite not really liking cacti (I think she was won over by the Mexican-themed earthenware pot - I mean, who wouldn't be?).

While I lavish mine with love and affection, Sparky Ma just leaves hers plonked on top of the microwave. That being the case, I can only assume that while mine looks like this:

Hers looks like this as the result of some ungodly mutation caused by ambient background radiation:

Either that or she's got the damn thing on steroids. How do you urine test a cactus?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The good and the bad of the holiday

My original intention this year was to be sensible and spread my 20 days holiday throughout the year with one week off in each quarter. Sensible and very grown-up, I think you'll agree.

Unfortunately the best laid plans of mice and men…

So here we are just sneaking into June and I've FINALLY got some time off. Much-needed time off, it must be said. Monday was a bank holiday, so *technically* holiday time didn't start until Tuesday. Needless to say I was well excited at the prospect of scampering around and doing my own thing.

I awoke early on Tuesday so I could head over to a yoga class taught by one of my favourite teachers. It was raining, but I could cope with it, or so I thought. In future I shall remember to pay closer attention to such signs.

Approximately seven minutes into my drive to yoga I was cut up by a Nissan Serena of all things on a dual carriageway, and about a second after that there was a loud cracking sound and a rather beguiling star-shaped pattern appeared on my windscreen. I have never seen a stone actually chip a windscreen like that; I thought that was the sort of old wives tale that Autoglass repairmen told naughty drivers to make sure they didn't misbehave.

Huffing, I nevertheless pressed on.

Yoga was excellent, thanks for asking.

I later called Autoglass to arrange for a man in a van to come out and repair the chip (going by their "is it larger or smaller than a two-pound coin?" line of questioning apparently it is repairable). Unfortunately the closest available time they can come out to do it is next Tuesday. At one point the guy accidentally said the "8th of August" at which point I almost had an aneurysm.

Shortly after that I popped off to get my haircut. It looks lovely, thanks for asking (initially it was a bit anime-style, but today it's more Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds; I can live with either look, quite frankly).

After arriving home again I decided to call Sparky Ma about something or other; I can't remember what, but knowing me it probably had something to do with having seen an adorable looking cat. So I'm standing by my car chatting aways when ohmygodwhatthehellisthat!?

Turns out it was a big eff-off screw embedded in my front tyre. By this point I just wanted to go inside, sit on the sofa and power through about 18 episodes of Gilmore Girls, but the slightly more rational part of my brain (yes, it does exist) suggested that I probably ought to go and get it seen to.

Yes, probably best.

So I jump back in Clubbie and head off to the tyre place. Now, Clubbie has a tyre pressure warning system that tells me when it's got a puncture, and that wasn't registering anything so I began thinking that maybe the screw had missed the delicate inner workings of the tyre (I'm not totally sure what's inside a tyre other than air, but I'm sure they must have something delicate like ovaries or a spleen) and it might just be repairable with a … I don't know, puncture repair kit?

The lovely people at the tyre place whipped Clubbie in very quickly and I went and sat in a waiting room with lots of other bored men watching a program about big and powerful machines presented by James May on Dave. Well, I pretended to watch it; mostly I was surreptitiously tweeting about a middle-aged couple who I suspected were on the verge of heading to the toilets for some risky and quite frankly icky tyre shop toilet sex.

After about 10 minutes someone called out "Gentleman with the Clubman!" I then proceeded to sit there looking around for a couple of seconds before literally saying "Oh that's me!" and jumping up to head over to the front desk.

"Yes, there was a big screw stuck in your tyre, but it wasn't leaking," the man said to me.

"Oh good!" I replied.

"And then we pulled it out and it started leaking quite badly."


And that's basically how I ended up spending a rather unexpected £156 on a new tyre (yes I know that's a lot of money for a tyre; they're runflats - the cost is outweighed somewhat by the fact that I can keep driving on it while it's flat, waving regally like the Queen at those unfortunate peasants sitting by the side of the road changing their own tyres).

An hour later I retreated a little light-headedly (and somewhat drained financially) to Sparky Ma and Pa's for a rejuvenating cup of tea, and from there home, where I basically barricaded myself inside with my iPad and a Gilmore Girls boxset.


Aside from the financial aspect, sucky Tuesday was offset by awesome Wednesday, a day on which the sun was shining gloriously and Sparky Ma and I hit Kingston for a day out shopping. I can't say I spent too much money, but a lovely time was had - and I was a little tempted by some rather unusual items.

Gross enough that I was seriously tempted. Although the salty chocolate strays dangerously close to South Park territory.

£5.25p for a bag of 10 glow sticks. Seriously tempting, my friends.

Soap Nuts or Dolly Washer Balls? Sometimes you're just spoilt for choice.

Surely it would just be easier to put on some lippy and flutter your eyelids, but the question still remains: why on Earth would you want to attract wasps?

Oh, of course. Silly me.

And to top it off, as a result of the latest post from everyone's least favourite witch, I sought out the new Star Trek novel Unspoken Truth to indeed confirm that I make an appearance on page 309 as a Vulcan high priestess.

I'm a pointy-eared priestess!


That's not to say that there wasn't a mild bit of Grrrrr-ing on Wednesday, however. Upon returning home from Kingston, I glanced down at my new tyre. When I bought Clubbie one of the smaller details that I was particularly proud of was the fact that it had really quite nice shiny valve caps on the tyres. Turns out that when they changed the tyre on Tuesday, though, they threw the proverbial baby out with the bath water by junking the shiny valve cap with the old tyre and replacing it with a cheap black plastic one that quite frankly was the sort of thing I'd expect to find on a Perodua Nippa.

I sighed upon making this discovery. But then DECIDED TO GET PROACTIVE.

I phoned the tyre place, and basically said "find my shiny valve cap. Now."

They had a look, but understandably they'd accumulated quite a mountain of busted tyres since the previous day so it was a bit like finding a needle in a haystack, although without the actual 'finding' bit.

On the plus side, they invited me down and replaced all four valve caps with brand new uber-shiny ones FREE OF CHARGE.

And that, dear reader, is the happy ending to this post.