Questionable Decisions.

A few things either aren’t going to plan or are taking too long, at the moment.

I got that sax the had been “recently serviced” from Wales,and I’ve had to immediately put it in for a £350 complete overhaul. Not only the expense, but because of the Covid backlog he said it would be 3 to 4 weeks. It’s been a fortnight and I’m sick of waiting. I was reminded of Professor Henry Higgins’ observation on the Welsh (from Pygmalion/ My Fair Lady)

Another poor decision was booking a week off work. I thought as Wendy was off I might as well take some of the holidays I’ve accrued and we could have some time together. Then, at the last minute I thought we could book a mini break. Ha! I’d booked the Bank Holiday Monday off and then the kids were off on holidays. The UK is on the international Lepers List so everyone has to holiday over here. Everywhere wanted stupid money and the motorways are clogged. Idiot. Ah well, we did a lot of local day trips, Arley Hall and that deer place and such.

I got some gardening inspiration from Arley. I’ve never like rhododendrons, big, ugly, waxy leaved bushes with blousey purple flowers. We went about a week or so after the prime display, I’m guessing, but every bush was festooned with flowers. And they were all in the shade of the trees. Ah, the penny drops! Then we saw some azaleas. Smaller leaves, smaller bush, masses of flower sized flowers, still in the shade, and massively scented. Perfect for the shady spot at the top of the garden.

They didn’t sell them at the garden shop at Arley so I had to track them down and order off the internet. They like ericaceous soil so I’ve prepared a hole, now waiting impatiently, again.

Also waiting on my hostas. I bought a batch of 10 roots, supposed to be of named varieties. they grow fairly large so I’m going to have to rearrange the ones I want to keep when I know which is which. But so far the foliage looks pretty much the same. Either solid green, or a contrasting edge. No sign of the two for which I bought the collection. Hurry up! I want to get everything dug into it’s final position.

Something else is Boris. I was looking down the garden a few days ago when I saw something moving about. It was a dirty great rat! I wasn’t bothered, just a big mouse with bad PR as far as I was concerned. Then Wendy saw me watching it and freaked out. She was convinced it was going to scale the wall, leap in through the open window and scurry across her face while she slept, just for spite. I tried to talk her down, but she was adamant they are evil vermin. I looked them up and apparently they carry diseases, some of which are lethal to humans. Oh, fair enough. Obviously I called him Boris. I did what it said on Gardener’s World, boarded up the under shed access and removed the water bowl I leave out for the birds and such. He didn’t take the hint as I saw him the next day.

For Wendy’s peace of mind and the common good, it’s bye bye Boris.

I got a natty air rifle and practiced my marksmanship.

Then got a flashback to ‘Nam (you weren’t there, man!)

And what do you know? I’ve not seen hide nor hair of Boris since! Typical! I’ve told Wendy to make a sound like a wounded carrot to lure him in, but nada. Ah well, Wendy’s calmed down, and if he returns it will go poorly for him. And, I forgot to say, the air rifle is the cheapest one I could find that was full power. The fact that it looks cool is a bonus. Times have changed, when I was a kid you could buy an air rifle from a catalogue, carry it around on your back, shoot your friends, and no questions were asked. Now you have to buy it in person, with ID, (in Scotland you need a firearms certificate!) and if you take it down the canal, for instance, it’s “armed trespass” and you can get five years, same as with a real firearm. I’m not sure if it’s an over-reaction to the terrorist threat or they are just legislating against me and my childhood mates.

The other thing that is not going well is my training. Because my foot still reacts badly to prolonged use I’ve not been able to do any sustained endurance training. My 24 hour race is in less than a month. I did another 33 mile run yesterday, trying a few new things. I set out to do a 12 hour session. I thought I’d see how far I could get. The idea was to do the 9 minutes run, 1 minute walk, until I could no longer sustain it, then lower the ratio until I was just power walking. I came into the house for a pit stop at 33 miles and my foot was misery. I can’t train to get the fitness for the big race, so I’m basically going as I am. It seemed like I would be suffering and causing damage for no good reason, I might as well save it for the day. On the bright side, I managed to sleep with it and today it seems fairly useable. Surprised at both.

Get that out of the way on the 3rd- 4th of July, then I’ve only got two marathons and a half (fun run, yay!) until the end of the season. Then I’m going to see the physio and I’ll be resting my foot completely for as long as it takes. They say up to 9 months. Even if it’s a year, it’s got to be done if I want to achieve my goals.

That is when the sax will really come in. I’m going to need to do something or I’ll go mad.

In positive news, Wendy’s been really chipper this week. She says she’s less stressed when I’m around, but hopefully she can carry on with it when I go back to work. Also she got her insurance renewal letter. I was expecting it to go to over a grand, but, even taking account of the bump, it’s only gone up by £50. If you stay with the same insurer the quote goes up by at least that much without a bump. That is an excellent result.

I’ve been trying to up my money the last few weeks, now Wendy is going on to half pay. I didn’t know if this job, being agency, would be any good if I wanted to make serious money. The first week I got 5 shifts, I’ve just had 6 days paid holiday, and next week I’ve got all 6 days (so far). If that’s an indication, I am never leaving this job. 5 and 6 shifts, at £18 per hour, known start and finish time, and on my doorstep. I can’t see me beating that.

Something weird has been happening lately on the motorbike front. They say that my condition gets less the older you get. One of the symptoms is reckless thrill seeking, oblivious to the danger. Just recently I’ve started thinking “If this goes wrong I’m going to die. Or get seriously smashed up… and I don’t want to.”

That’s new and horrible. Previously I’ve gone in knowing I either live or die and I’ve been OK with either. It’s a total buzzkill. I’m actually getting scared. I don’t care for it. Wendy reckons I’m probably at the level of a normal reckless teenager now. It sucks.

I have even been entertaining thoughts of getting a midlife (late, I know) crisis car instead. My last couple of long rides have felt like work. Looking far into the distance, tracking every other vehicle, leaving safe braking distances, etc. There’s no fun in that. And if I’m getting too old and scared to enjoy the adrenaline parts…

I’m not rushing into any decisions. I don’t need motor transport for work so a bike I don’t use is no different than a car I don’t use. It’s just weird that I should even contemplate the possibility.

Forgot to say, Wendy, Lisa and I are all jabbed up, with zero side effects from the second jab. And improved wifi. So it’s all good.

Anyway, a few pics and I’m done.

The other Boris the Rat tried to distract from his spin doctor revealing that he let tens of thousands of people die unnecessarily by quickly getting married. Again. His fourth time. In a Catholic church, which needs special dispensation from the Pope. And apparently, if Bozo has returned to Catholicism he is banned from office under some old law.

An astounding bit of wood carving

An impressive painting

A great shot

And random stuff.

Right, out of here.



Positive Day.

It’s been a good day so I might as well record it.

The last time I was on Trainer Road, (2 days ago) I was hanging on by my fingernails. At the end of each section I was out of air, my legs were slowing, I was standing in places just to keep the pedals turning. It was horrendous. I thought I’d lost all my fitness.

Today I did a 1 hour 15 minute session, containing four 9 minute blocks under/over maximum. You start at 95% of FTP (maximum sustainable power) then ramp up for a minute to 110%, take a minute to ramp down, and repeat. The evil genius of under/overs is as soon as you go ‘over’ you are loading your legs up with lactic acid, then you slowly ramp down to under. Then you have a minute (still at 95% of max) to clear the burn before doing it again. It’s tough going.

Today I just did it. I knew I was going to. There was no question of quitting. It was painful and hard, but manageable. Then I went out for a run straight after. (Two disciplines together is called a brick session.) The thing with bricks is your legs are already shot and it’s misery to get them started again. Not so today. I felt fresh as a daisy for the first 3 miles. I decided to do 10 miles.

Also today I was testing fitting a battery pack thing to my running watch to recharge on the hoof, for my upcoming 24 hour race. So I got to 5 miles, after letting the battery run down recording the bike and the run, then stopped and tested it out. It took me a minute or so to figure out the best way of doing it, but it worked a treat. Charged it up and didn’t interfere with the data recording. That was a good win.

Then I started running back. Because I hadn’t paused it the watch was saying I was on for a 14 minute mile. I’d been doing easy, just under 9 m/m’s. Not having that! I legged it for the mile and got it back to a sub 10 m/m. My maths isn’t good enough to work out what speed I’d been doing, even if I could have measured the stop time precisely, so I carried on into the next mile at the same pace to see what I’d been doing. 7.25! On a brick run! It started slipping into 7.30 so I upped the pace, 7.20. Hang on, could I go sub 7? I nearly killed myself, but yes, 6.57! I will well take that, on a brick! I paid for it a bit on the last two miles, but still kept it under 9m/m’s.

That was the best bit of training I’ve done in ages. I was dead chuffed with pulling a sub 7 out of the middle of a brick session.

Other good news; last night I was looking into my 24 hour race and found a list of the entrants. I wasn’t on it. What? I dug out the email about my deferral from last year. Apparently they were supposed to send me a link so I could re-enter. Either I hadn’t received it, or it had gone to spam and been deleted. Then I noticed “last date for deferral entrants, 15th of May”. What?! Gutted. I’d already sent them an email before I spotted that. I had a bad night with my brain going over it, but when I woke this morning they’d already got back to me. They’ve put me back in. Brilliant.

I’ve been trying to get more shifts from work. Today I got a call, would I like to work Sunday? (I’d marked today and Sunday as available). Excellent. That’s my first week trying for 5 or 6 shifts and I’ve got 5. That’s promising.

Also my sax mute arrived today and it looks like decent kit. I won’t get my sax back for another 3 weeks or so, so I don’t know how quiet it will be. Fingers crossed.

And the cheap Chinese wooden barrel for my clarinet arrived today. It was a smidge too small so I had to sand the inner face, but I got it fitting, and to my surprise, I think it does actually deepen the tone. I’ve found a clarinet teacher who does online courses. I’ve not signed up, but she had a lot of promo videos. One of them was discussing upgrades. I’ve taken her advice and bought a different design of ligature (the thing that hold the reed to the mouthpiece) and a wooden barrel, and I have to admit she’s totally right. I thought it would be too fine a distinction for a rubbish amateur to notice, but it is a clear improvement. And, I know this is going to sound pathetic, I managed to read my first line while counting time today! I am really struggling. as soon as I go 1,2,3, 1,2,3, I lose track of the notes or my tongueing or fingering, or try and say one, two, three as I’m blowing. My first line. It’s a start.

Here’s the new barrel (bulging bit) and me having a go at time keeping.

Good days. More of them, please.


The Sound Of Inevitability.

I’ve been bashing away at my clarinet and quite enjoying it.

I made it Covid friendly, in case I need in real life lessons.

It has a nice sound and you need to hold good embouchure and remember proper fingering. So all good practice. But obviously what I really want is a sax. I’ve been trying to force myself to learn time. How hard can it be? 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, or 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4? So, so hard. My brain refuses to multitask. I can either read the notes, count the time, or do the tonguing. As soon as do one I lose the other two. But I am persevering with a bloody minded determination. When it finally clicks I’ll have this cracked.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the second hand sites for Bauhaus Walstein sax’s. They are a Chinese copy of a much better brand and they punch well above their weight and price tag. The thing with the Bauhaus has always been quality control. You just don’t know if you’re going to get one like I had, which was superb, or a Friday afternoon job from a different factory, but still with the Bauhaus name. There have been several (ranging from £375 to £575) listed but none were quite right for me. For about £800 I could get a nearly new, bottom of the range, student Yamaha sax, but then you are looking at upgrading at some point. And to be honest, the reviews haven’t been that great. Which is something of a shock, as Yamaha is a benchmark.

Then I came across an odd one on Gumtree. A Grassi alto sax. I’m not sure why I paid it any attention at first because I’d never heard of them. I did some research. They were an Italian brand, some say this particular model was the best they did, and on a sax forum someone was asking whether to get a decent model, second hand Yamaha or the Grassi, and it was a landslide for the Grassi. I looked some more and apparently it’s “based” (cloned shamelessly) on a top of the range Selmer saxophone. Those go for about £6,000. This particular one was listed for £450! I looked on eBay and there are three of them listed, the cheapest is £1,200.


It’s nearly my birthday so I treated myself.

Don’t I deserve love?

And saxophones?

Obviously it was for sale in the back end of beyond. At the bottom of the Brecon Beacons, South Wales. I’d just fitted a new back tyre (which you are supposed to run in for 100 miles before you start throwing the bike about as the oil has to scrub off the tyre) so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and ride down there.

3½ hours down there, got my sax, 3½ hours back. 380 miles round trip. And off course, as soon as I hit Wales it started chucking it down. I’m glad it didn’t rain before as I’m not sure I’d have kept the bike upright, it was squirming around in the dry on straights. Too much power for an oily tyre. The thing is I had to have the new tyre. The old tyre had loads of tread, it looked almost new, but it had a slow puncture. I think that was what was causing half of the handling issues. I was thinking about trying to mend it, but the liquid patches stuff said don’t do it. The final straw was when I realised it was the wrong size! Well, duh! There’s my handling problem! I’ve not taken it for a run in the dry since I scrubbed it in, but I’m hoping that’s my bike sorted. Certainly looks the business!

Darkest Wales!

I digress. Saxy goodness! The geezer said he’d been playing it professionally until a medical condition, and that it had just been serviced. Given everything I’d read I was willing to take a chance. It’s a professional level sax, with a gorgeous sound. Buy one, have it spruced up, and that will do for the rest of my life, however good I might get.

It’s 41 years old so it’s a bit worn, but that’s fine.

I got it home and knocked out a few notes from the bottom keys, it sounded amazing! My memory is terrible, but from what I recall it sounded better than my Bauhaus tenor, or the brand new Yamaha alto I bought. As I moved up the keys I was having trouble getting any notes. I had a closer look and one of the pads was loose. Basically just placed in the cup, not attached.

I took it in to the nearest decent sax shop (Dawsons in Warrington has closed down, Wendy says) which was Curly Woodwind in Liverpool. Which is where I got my first sax, the Bauhaus, as it happens.

“Recently serviced” HAH!

The guy said it was a decent sax, with a lovely sound when set up right, and rated by those in the know, but this one had ancient pads. As he was handling it the loose pad fell out. He said that really it needs a total re-pad. The pads are the things that seal the air holes on the sax when the flaps shut. Just to state the obvious.

The orange thing, arrowed.

A set of pads alone is £120- £160, he said, but to get at them you have to strip all the key mechanism. So it’s a complete overhaul. Everything stripped, cleaned, polished, new pads fitted, oiled and rebuilt. Basically when I get it back it will be playing as good as new.



He said he could do a cheap patch job, stick the pad back in, seat everything again, but it would just be a botch. I think he was suggesting an option if I was just trying to sell it on. If I want to keep it, and play it, it needs the pads.

It will still be a lot cheaper than the others on eBay, and all the sax I’ll ever need, but it’s suddenly a lot dearer than I thought.

The other thing I’ve recently discovered on the sax front, is the Sax Mute One. Some Russian guy has invented basically a soundproof box with hand holes in the side. The sax rests on a stand, which supports the case, the mouthpiece sticks out the top, and you put your hands in the sides.

If it is as effective as it looks, I could actually get decent. Previously I was embarrassed by my crapness, and very conscious of making the neighbours sit through constant repetition of my loud, rubbish play. According to the blurb, and some guy’s blog (which is where I found out about it) it reduces the noise to telly/ office levels.

I don’t know if this has been doctored for sales purposes, but according to the video it sounds quieter than his speaking voice.

If you watch it for a minute from about 2 minutes 50, it seems amazing.

More money.

But once I’m set up that is basically it. The sax will always be better than I am and I’m thinking this could be the thing to save my sanity when I rest my foot for possibly a year after the last race of the season.

Talking of money, we had a bit of a scare when it looked like Wendy’s works weren’t paying her. It was just a glitch with bank, the money went in and all was well, but it was a wake up call. I’ve been being lazy, to be honest. If work have only booked me in for 4 shifts, I didn’t want them ‘phoning me on the morning of the fifth and calling me in on zero notice. Now I’ve changed my mind. I’m trying to get a regular 5 shifts/ 6 shifts. I’ll see how this job pans out if you are trying to be money grabbing. So far I’ve been happy on less shifts, it’s still well enough money to keep us ticking over, but from next month Wendy is on half pay. If I’m buying (and re-padding, grrrrr!) sax-s it’s time to stop being lazy. I’ve not been booked in for tomorrow but I’ve put myself as available on the app (agencies have really changed!) so I’ve put my uniform out, and I’ll leave my ‘phone volume on for calls. If they call, I’m on it. If I could get 5 shifts one week 6 the next (the legal maximum) at this job we’d be minted. I also recognise that I crave newness constantly, which often manifests as shopping. This will be a good opportunity to get a grip of that.

The only other big thing of late is I was thinking about the Endure24 race I’ve got in about 5 weeks. Because of my stupid foot I’ve not been able to put in any long endurance runs. I still didn’t even have a strategy for the race. Run until stop then run/ walk? Run/ walk from the start? If so what ratio? No idea. I asked the ultra runners on twitter but didn’t get any sort of answer. Then I found a definitive answer.

I don’t know if it the right answer, but it’s an answer so I’m going with it. I set out to test it out. As it was my first go, and I’ve not been working on my fitness and certainly not my endurance, I was testing the water as I went. At first I was running all apart from uphills, then after about 15 miles or so, I was running 9 minutes, walking 1. As you get tired that is a really great strategy, you don’t have to think of how far it is to go, you just have to run 9 minutes and then rest again. I let the distance and discomfort overwhelm me, to be honest, so cut it short to a 50K (32 miles) but for my first go, I’ll take it. On the day I won’t have anything else to do for 24 hours, so I’m hoping I can go a lot further. I actually took a 20 minute pit stop, (grabbed some grub, had a shower and changed) at 20 miles thinking I was going a lot longer. So it’s not a bad time, considering.

If my foot and mojo hold out I have some slight hope of doing the benchmark 100 miles. We’ll see.

Wendy’s still not right, but still bravely facing her fears. The doctor won’t up her dose until the last increase has had weeks and weeks to kick in.

Oddly, I had an episode. I’ve been getting very anxious at work, almost panicky at the slightest thing, then I was sat at home and work rang me and my anxiety just shot off the scale. I spent the whole evening stressed and looking at my ‘phone, expecting them to call me back. The next day I was fine and I’ve remained so, but that was a nasty reminder of how awful being it is to be like that. You sort of know it was terrible, but not really. Then it hits and OHNONONONONO! Anyway, don’t want any more of that thank you very much.

On to some levity.

Dino has been good.

Oddly some other dino stuff

Some random stuff

Awesome reenactment

Someone went into a sweary rant about the great Covid hoax.

And doggo related content.

Poor doggo!

And my favourite, cracks me up every time