Tuesday, 27 May 2008


It was the Edinburgh marathon this weekend, and I'm delighted and proud to report that:

1. Fisher completed her first ever marathon in the fantastic time of 4hrs 53mins. I didn't get to see her finish, but I biked to the midway point and saw her several times on the way round, always looking relaxed and cheerful. Am dead chuffed for her.
2. Spartan finished in 3.23 - a brilliant and impressive effort, especially considering the wind was gusting pretty hard. He, too, looked relaxed and cheerful afterwards, although he claims he was utterly exhausted at the end and had a wee sleep in the car for a bit.
3. Wheeler and Phid finished the entire course, despite both being struck down with gastro-enteritis, and a nasty cold and tummy bug respectively. This is awe inspiring stuff. If I'm unwell I curl up in a ball and snarl at all those who dare to disturb me - much like Bridie on her bean bag. The thought of running a marathon when ill, just because I said I would, is an example of the sort of strength of will that beggars belief. Am humbled, and therefore quite annoyed.

Spectating was rather fun. First of all I cheered with Blarney, Koi, Janus and Badger at the 9 mile point, almost having my ear drums burst by Blarney's whistle-mania. I attempted to tell them all the 'no-nos' that had been instilled in my by Spartan, Fisher and Phid, but for some reason they were quite annoyed with me for telling them what not to shout. I only started vetoing them because at least 2 women gave Blarney looks that would have shrivelled a lesser woman when she assured them they were 'making it look easy.' As one of them had lines of pain etched around her mouth and was clearly not having an easy time, perhaps she thought Blar was taking the piss? Anyway, eventually I conceded that having the decency to show up as a supporter pretty much gave you the right to shout whatever the hell you liked, and climbed back in my box, concentrating on giving out the goodies in my bag instead of issuing spectating instructions.

Ah, the goodies in my bag. I started out giving out wine gums, which were accepted rather reluctantly - namely because when I saw some of the runners 5 miles later on I noticed they were still trying to pick wine gum out of their teeth. However, once the wine gums were gone, I stuck some jelly babies on my plate and was nearly trampled to death by the stampede. High sugar, easy to eat and digest - clearly a marathon favourite.

Once we'd seen all our pals at the 9 mile mark, I jumped on my bike and pedalled off to the 14 mile mark. I hoped to see Spartan on his way back, but despite seeing the first elite runners and then staying at 14 miles until after Wheeler and Phid passed, I managed to miss him. I therefore gave away his Galaxy bar and the 3 cadbury's animal bars I was hoarding to needy runners. On cycling past Wheeler and Phid I asked if they needed anything and Wheeler took an oat cake - but Phid was looking a bit worse for wear, clearly in need of cuddles, so I cycled quickly away in case she saw I'd noticed. In my defence, Wheeler was doing a fine job of cuddling her anyway, and if I'd leapt off my bike, dived into an onslaught of marathon runners and embraced her in a bolstering fashion it not only would have been extremely disruptive, but would have alarmed us both and done nothing for the state of either of our stomachs.

I found my spot at the 14 mile point, where there were no other spectators, and promptly gave away the remaining food I had in my bag - all except the Jacob's Cream Crackers. I'd given one to Fisher and then eaten one myself and been horrified to find my mouth all but glued together by its dryness. Most of the runners were extremely polite and thankful for the food, but one American fellow grabbed at a handful of Rowntrees fruit sweeties and scattered a great quantity on the floor - this despite the fact I was clearly holding sweets out for people in order to prevent that from happening. A whole bunch of sweets that could have been enjoyed by other runners, wasted! He deserved to be loudly called a twat - even if he was 14 miles into a 26.2 mile race. There's no need to be selfish, or rude, no matter how tired you are.

Once I'd given away all my food, I pedalled into the nearby village and bought a whole bunch of other stuff, moved to pity by all the starving athletes. I bought 3 packets of fruit sweets - softer than wine gums - 3 packets of Jaffa Cakes (as eaten by Rio Ferdinand in the middle of a Man U match when he ran out of energy), and some oat cakes. These all disppeared in record time, and I realised I'd forgotten to hold anything back for Wheeler and Phid. When Wheeler turned up, the first thing he said was:

"Give me all your food!"

I gave him a cream cracker, then pegged it back to the shop and bought more Jaffa Cakes
and 2 bottles of Lucozade sport. Getting back on my bike, I then completely lost Wheeler and Phid, whose walking pace turned out to be faster than I'd anticipated. I biked almost all the way back to where I started, then a long way forward, then figured I must have missed them and almost all the way back again. Discovering I hadn't missed them, I discovered them miles down the road, well past the watering station where they give out free Lucozade, thus rendering my bought bottles redundant (although not, actually, as it turned out I was parched and glugged the lemon one myself).

I finished the day riding alongside Wheeler and Phid, almost being responsible for a major falling out. Wheeler ran ahead to go to the loo, and when Phid drew level with the loo she instructed me to wait for him and tell him she'd walked on. I waited outside the gents for a good 5 minutes. 3 guys went in and came out. I asked the last one if there was anyone else in there and he looked somewhat startled (why is this deeply unattractive woman hanging around outside the men's toilet?) and, possibly in a display of brotherhood, assured me the place was empty. I presumed I must have missed Wheeler and that he'd headed after Phid. I cycled off, only to catch up with Phid (eventually - I swear, every time I turned my back she'd sprint off at top speed just to confuse me) and find no Wheeler either on the way or with her. So back I pedalled, slightly alarmed now. A paramedic was parked outside the loos, and for a horrified moment I thought they'd gone in and found him passed out in a puddle of his own poop. Luckily, I found him standing looking forlorn outside. When I said Phid had walked on, he wailed:

"Charming! I stop at every single loo with her on the way round - I stop once and she fucks off!"

He then set off at a very impressive run and we caught up with her at the 25 mile marker. Only 1.2 miles to go! They ran with the sort of loose-limbed agility I attempt on mile 2 of my pathetic 5 k runs and usually fail to achieve owing to the creaking of my knee caps (which, in case your interested, are sesamoid bones. Thanks massage course. I'll take that useless information to my grave).

"Only 5 furlongs to go!" I cried, as the signs at Musselburgh Race Course hove into view.

"How far is 5 furlongs?" Phid asked, reasonable.

"Er ..." I hedged, wisely refraining from saying a medieval acre's length as it would no doubt have led to one of Phid's best 'I'll ignore that' looks, which always cause a couple of degrees drop in temperature. I then realised you could see the next furlong marker about 200m away, and pointed it out. "It's that far."

Phid gave me one of her best 'I'll ignore that' looks ...

"Well done, well done," I bleated, as they arrived at the race course entrance and I was funnelled away, "nearly there. I'll see you at the finish!"

And off they went together, crossing the line - it turns out - at exactly the same time. Hurrah! A triumph of partnership. It fair brings a tear to the eye ... or it would do, if I were the sort of wet fart that cried like a baby over sporting achievements.


Having left them to the final furlong of cheers and glory, I wheeled my bike through the spectators' entrance, horrified at how stiff and tired I felt, and was accosted by a merry, chirpy Spartan. I'd already heard about his amazing achievement, and embraced him like a brother (although not really my brother, as we're not so much an embracing family). Together we met up with the staunch supporters - Blarney, Koi, Janus and Badger, all of whom had stayed til the end. Fisher was also there, face all smiles and joyful blue eyes, so I jumped on her and whooped in her ear, regardless of aching muscles. I didn't care about hers, either.

After meeting back up with the finished Wheeler and Phid, Fisher and I gave them a lift back to their flat and hoped to see them in the King's Wark later. We then went to Blarney and Spartan's flat, made use of their bathroom, and chilled out until it was time for supper. This was a pleasant affair with lots of Wheeler's mates, who were pleasant despite one of them calling Cocker Spaniel's 'camp' and clearly turning her nose up at them. She also dissed poodles, so she's lucky she's still alive. Still, she then extolled the virtues of golden retrievers as 'non-needy dogs' so it turned out she was just ignorant. She was nice enough apart from that.

Poor Phid was not feeling well at all. She managed to eat her starter, but the main course of venison was too much for her. This turned out to be good news for the pooches, though, as she sent a little napkin of venison to them (with the biggest bit, of course, for Baffie). In fact, Baffie sniffed the meat as if to say:

"What ... what's this? Can it be ...?" and then wolfed it, nearly taking my fingers with it, saying: "it is! It is! I can't believe my luck! Must ... eat ... faster ..."

Bridie, on the other hand, opened her maw and breathed in the meat.

We had to leave pre pudding, which was a shame, but it was getting late and we had to get back to Fife. I was - and still am - deeply puzzled as to how badly my legs ached from the cycling. I didn't go all that far - I'd say 14 miles at the absolute maximum - and there was a lot of standing still and supporting in between cycling. I suppose the only answer is that I was out and about, either cycling or standing, for a good 5 and a half hours - but honestly! could it be that leg-aching?

So that was the marathon experience. Today I decided I had to do some real exercise and went for a 5k up Quarry Road. Did it it 35.39 which is, as usual, pretty crap - but at least I went. I've put on 2 lbs since the Janus bet - but now Fisher and I have another one on! Whomsoever should lose the least weight by the nedding has to do ALL THE COOKING for 2 MONTHS!!

I'm doomed.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Back to the Gym

Today, Fisher introduced me to the happy, happy joy that is The Yasso. For those who don't know what a Yasso is (a little piece of oblivion I will never get back), it involves running fast for 2 laps of a running machine's lap cycle, then allowing yourself a little breather before doing it again. And again. And, it turns out, again. 2 laps is half a mile, and I started off at a pace of 10mph. Yes, that's 10mph.

That lasted for approximately 20 seconds, until I dropped down to a more sensible but still vile pace, around the 9mph mark. This lasted about a minute, until I dropped down again, and finished my first half mile in around 3.45. This, according to Fisher, was a little too fast. So I tackled the second set of laps at around the 8.5mph mark, dropping down as I grew increasingly boggle-eyed. The last two sets were more around the 7.5 mark, then the 6.5 mark - but the slowest I did a set of laps was 4.19, so I was quite pleased. I don't know whether I should be, and frankly, I don't care - I was utterly pooped, but felt like I'd had a very good 20 minute workout, covering 2 miles. Then, as we only had 5 minutes left post semi-recovery, I did a round of weights, each just one set of 12 reps:

Lat pull down on 35kg
Biceps curls on 30kg
Stomach cruncher on 10 (50kg?)
Horizontal leg lift on 120kg
Triceps toner on 15kg (I was dead, by this point)

Then we went home and Fisher cooked us lovely pasta. Earlier today we had a tremendous café experience with Blarney, who was in Dundee for a meeting, involving a cooked Scottish breakfast, 3 cappucinos, a slice of chocolate cake, and a good old yammer lasting about an hour and a half. I was supposed to go into M&S and get a bra measured afterwards, but I couldn't be buggered. I was pretty tired, despite doing nothing yesterday except going to Edinburgh and watching the Champions' League final with Arrow, Spartan and Protagoras, who fell asleep just before the penalty shoot out. It was much fun, involving much beer and some delicious chicken pasta cooked by Spar, who is a fine chef (good job, or the SparBlar family would swiftly starve to death - or at least develop both rickets and beriberi from Blarney's Chinese takeaway diet).

Needless to say, I have done no work in ages, so tomorrow is definitely dedicated to my massage course. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to provide the promised home baking for the marathon runners, but I'll see what I can do. Where does time go? How the fuck did I get to be 31? Surely I was 17 only yesterday?

Brrrrhhhhhh! Perish the thought.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Brithdays are Like Buses ...

... you wait ages, then several come along at once and at the last minute you realise you haven't got a ticket, you have no idea which way the bus is going, or where to get off, and the price of public transport has just rendered you a stinking, rag-bedecked beggar. On the other hand - top deck of a double decker is definitely the most fun way to travel.

Analogy having limped to a close - there's so much to report, beginning with the fact that this incredibly fun, furious weekend has rendered me a couple of pounds heavier, a good deal poorer, and much happier than I've been in a long time. I'm now on a health kick, a money-saving kick, a book-cracking kick, and a money earning kick. The latter will prove something of a challenge, but no matter! Where there's a will and all that jazz.

The weekend started with picking Koios up from the Gyle where she works - a task that proved somewhat harder than I imagined as I got hopelessly lost around parts of Edinburgh I never knew existed, and hope never to see again. It's where poor people live! Shocking. Anyway, I picked her up with only a modicum of confusion (She: "where are you?" Me: "outside, by the creche." She: "There is no creche." Me: "Er ... but I'm outside one." She: "Then you're in the wrong place. I'm by the Aegon building." Me: (thinks) "Oh great, how the hell am I supposed to know which one is the Aegon building?" Drives 2 metres, sees massive building with even more massive AEGON sign on it, feels a turnip) and we headed off to her first port of call. The whole evening was a surprise. She's been so busy and tired of late that it seemed cruel to make her organise her own birthday as well, so everything was organised without her.

First we went to a cocktail bar in the Grassmarket, called Dragonfly, which is my new favourite place in Edinburgh - especially at 4.30 in the afternoon. It was very sparsely peopled, we'd booked a big table, and a bunch of people showed up to drink her health. The cocktails were lovely (barring one of Koios's which tasted like baked beans), although I had only one as I was driving. I'd told everyone we'd be there from 4.30 til 6.30, but we stayed until around 7. This was fortunate, as Chopper and Pilfer decided to turn up at 6.45, for some reason. I suppose it is difficult to read an email that clearly states the time and place of your celebration. I must remember to call them individually next time, and ensure they've read and understood each piece of information. Or, alternatively, just let them turn up late everywhere and miss out.

So drinks were lots of fun. We then bundles Koi into Helga and off we went for part 2 of her surprise. She had no idea where we were going, and when we turned up at Cargo - a local bar - she said:

"Oo, Cargo," in a voice that clearly said I'm trying to sound enthusiastic, but this is about as far up my alley as you could force Westminster Abbey.

After parking the car, we led her outside and I stopped and said:

"You're going to need these." I then handed her a plastic pirate's cutlass, a pirate's headband, a massive plastic gold earring and an eye patch.

"So that's why you got me drunk straight away," she squeaked, thinking we were about to lead her into Cargo dressed as Crap-tain Jack. But we are not so cruel. Instead, we led her to the barge we'd rented on which we were to have a cosy, private meal and a wee cruise up and down the Union Canal. With the sun coming out after a terrible, rainy day, it was absolutely perfect. The food was fine, the wine rough but plentiful, and the cruise a delight. I really hope Koi enjoyed it as much as I did. I'm now inspired to buy a barge and take Cheese Board & Boys and dogs on long voyages around the canals of Europe, stopping at little villages only to stock up on wine, cheese and local delicacies and to soak up local colour. How immensely bohemian and brilliant would that be? We could even live on the barge and earn a living, er, whittling. I'm not sure I know what whittling is, but it sounds like something people who live on a barge do to earn a living. We'd probably trade our whittles for vittles. Maybe we'd fight crime at night.


Anyhoo ... after supper Fisher, Pro and I checked on the pooches in Helga while the others checked out whether Cargo was worth a drink. Phid then phoned Fisher and told her that they'd popped into Cargo and found it full of young people being noisy and playing their music, so they'd opted for the nearby Embargo where a few gaggles of thirty-somethings were sitting round braying into their pinot noirs. We soon joined them and did some braying of our own.

Midnight saw the end for us all. In our defence, Koi had been at work that day, and so had Pro, Fisher and Phid. Fisher also woke me at 7.15, so I was pretty pie eyed myself and very glad to head bedward.

We were staying at Blarney & Spartan's flat, where the dogs are totally chilled and very easy to settle. B&S hadn't been able to join us as they had a wedding - but as the next day was filled with further birthday surprises, we didn't feel too bad they couldn't come.

Let me, for those reading who don't know, explain the set up of Sunday.

Blarney's 30th birthday took place a week or so ago, and she went to New York with Spar for a celebration. Very lovely, but it meant we couldn't celebrate with her. Unfortunately, with Koi's birthday and a whole bunch of other stuff planned for May weekends, there just wasn't a free date on which we could celebrate. So we decided that we'd secretly turn over the Sunday of Koi's weekend to Blarney, while pretending we were actually going to Glasgow to the Museum of Transport for a special treat for nerdy Koios. This bald faced nonsense Blarney swallowed - albeit in horrified disbelief - and the plan was put into action.

For her birthday present I'd promised Blar a shopping spree, so we went into Glasgow early on Sunday morning and roamed the shops. She bought a Dolce & Gabbana jacket which looks utterly gorgeous on her, and a dress from Cruise she may or may not wear at the nedding this July. We went into my spiritual home of Ralph Lauren, but apart from a polo shirt and a stripey top that was just too big on her and therefore not particularly flattering, there was nothing that suited.

Eventually, while we were searching out shoes, I scurried us into phase 2 of the 'surprise Blarney' plan. I said Fisher and Spar had found us a pub to have lunch in, and hurried her to the Butterfly and Pig. I'd forgotten how far up Bath Street it is, though, and became infuriated because I couldn't find it, and because Fisher and Spar both failed to answer their mobiles despite repeated calls. You'd think that they'd have them right by them, especially when they realised we were late, but noooo. After asking a nice woman cleaning the outside of her pub windows we found the place, and Blarney scuttled in ...

... to be greeted with party poppers, cries and cheers as the whole Cheese Board and boys (minus Badger, who couldn't make it) welcomed her to her birthday lunch.

We were planning on dragging out the Museum of Transport bluff until after lunch, when we'd get in the car and go to phase 3, and only reveal that she was off the hook when we arrived at phase 3 - but I guess Koios got bored, or wanted a bit of revelatory action, because she put Blarney out of her misery and assured her we were NOT going to have a personal, guided tour of the Museum of Transport, or a half hour talk on the 250 model ships depicting Glasgow river transport throughout the ages. She was most relieved.

Lunch was lovely, and the pub made Blar a cake which was consumed with gusto. Stuffed to the gunnels, we exited and entered into phase 3. Shoving Spar and Blar into Helga (again) we set off for Pollok Park where we were to meet up again and have Blarney's traditional rounders and Scattegories, which usually take place in Inverleith Park and we thought would be fun to transport across the country. Unfortunately, owing to Fisher deciding we were going to navigate our way to Kelvingrove Park rather than Pollok, we found ourselves having a wee jaunt on the M8, then struggling through traffic before eventually pulling up in the correct location.

We found ourselves a nice, open bit of space, and while the girlies gossipped, Pro, Wheeler and I started whacking the rounders ball at each other. Then I took a football out of Spar's bag and we started kicking it about - and, to my astonishment, everyone else gamely joined in. We divided into 2 teams, had jumpers for goalposts, and indulged in a good old, traditional British past time. It was hilarious. The girls were girlie, the boys were blokey, and I tried to act like a grown woman indulging in proper sport, only to dive at Pro's feet in an attempt to save the ball and land heavily on my knee. Trouble is, the last time I did something like that I was 14 and I bounced. At 31, it was rather more a crunch than a bounce, and I squealed like a pink-bedecked princess. None of the other girlie girls fell over, or made a fuss. In fact, they got well stuck in - as bruises from an enthusiastically tackling Janus prove. It was great! At one point, Fisher attempted to pick Phidippida up and hurl her out of the way of the football, only to discover that a) Phid is not so easily picked up or flung, and b) Phid was actually on her team.

Secretly, I have a suspicion that with a bit of practice the real stars of footie could be Fisher and - get this - Koios! Yes indeed. She showed admirable positional sense off the ball, and had by far the most shots on goal. She's definitely a glory hunter, having no defensive interests whatsoever, and so makes a naturally deadly striker. A little composure in front of goal and she'd have been spanking us all.

In fact, everyone impressed me deeply. I thought there'd be a lot of swiping at the ball, missing and falling over, but to my regret everyone turned out to have better foot-eye coordination than expected.

We played for ages - or at least until the gang had to catch the 7 o'clock train back to Edinburgh. And thus we entered into phase 4 of Blar's surprise birthday plan! Bidding the Cheese Board and boys a fond farewell, we bundled Spar and Blar back into Helga (yet again) and pretended to head for home. We got onto the main slip road out of Glasgow, which was fine as it was heading in the right direction for both Edinburgh and phase 4 - but then I got off at junction 18 rather than 19. This, though, proved to be a blessing in disguise, as my curses lulled Blar into a false sense of my idiocy. I said:

"Look, if I just get onto the Great Western Road we'll be fine," knowing that Blar wouldn't have any idea that the Great Western Road leads nowhere near Edinburgh. So Spar and I were able to seek out the GWR openly, while Spar and Fisher yammered in the back about the Fife Show. Of course, after a good 2o minutes of pootling about inner Glasgow many people would have started to get suspicious. Not Blar. And, after darting down a tiny cul de sac, almost anyone with a left hemisphere of the brain would start to twig that we weren't going to Edinburgh. Not Blar. In fact, only when we had practically drawn up outside the location of phase 4 did Blar spot a massive green sign and say, in astonishment:

"Hotel du Vin!"

She then twigged that we hadn't just stumbled upon it by sheer chance. Her eyes went round as saucers, her hands flew to her mouth.

"You didn't think it was over, did you?" I grinned, unbearably smug and happy at causing Blar such thrills. "Now you get to have a lovely, luxurious bath and a nap before supper and a night of pampered luxury!"

Many squeals of joy greeted this statement, so in we went to check in and have our free dram of whisky beside the roaring fire.

I don't know what it is, but almost the second you step into Hotel du Vin your muscles start to unwind. We sipped out whisky, were brought bits of paper to sign, and had our bags carried up to our room by the friendly young assistant who showed us our rooms. We made plans to meet in the bar at 8.15 - and then Fisher and I went to the hotel's laughable gym for 20 minutes of hard slog in a desperate bid to make room for supper.

We bathed, dressed, and met Spar and Blar in the bar. Blarney'd had to rely on Spartan providing her appropriate clothes, so she was a bit disappointed to be wearing jeans - but when Fisher gave her the beautiful necklace she'd made her, her outfit was quite transformed. And who cared what she was wearing, anyway? She looked relaxed, happy and enchanted with her day - which was the whole point.

Supper was, as usual, divine. We finished with drinks in the whisky room, and then retired to our lovely, crisply starched sheets on wonderfully comfortable beds. I fell asleep in about 10 seconds, and it only remained for Fisher to be woken at 4am by a crying Baffie (who was sooo cooold next to the open window) while I, for a change, slept right through. It's usually me with the maternal instinct, but this time I was too exhausted from spent adrenaline. It's surprisingly stressful organising stuff. I mean, not that I noticed at the time - it was hugely fun - but there's a bit of anxiety over the fact you may utterly screw up celebrations for your nearest and dearest by choosing something they actually dislike intensely. So it was a big relief to know it had all gone smoothly and that if they did hate anything they did an excellent job of disguising it.

Next day I managed to actually have breakfast for the first time ever at HdV - and full Scottish at that. Delicious. I love poached eggs. The rest of them had continental, which made me feel like a bit of a biffa, but the damage had already been done, to be fair.

Leaving HdV is always a bit of a wrench - but it turned out that there was a phase 5 to Blar's birthday! The sun was shining, the day was perfect, and Spar suggested to Blar that they go and play tennis in the park. Immediately jealous, I pretty much angled for an invite, which was forthcoming - so back in Edinburgh we headed to Inverleith Park with a picnic and tennis raquets. I then officiously coached Spar and Blar, using the lessons I'd gleaned from Hop and curbing any desire to add my own utterly erroneous wisdom to the heap. Blar turns out to have definite natural flair, and when Spar cuts down on his unforced errors he's going to have me on the rails in no time. After having a knock with both of them, then leaving Spar and Blar to have a knock for a bit, I then played a set with Spar - which wasn't nearly as simple as I'd hoped it would be. He gave me a good run around, and with Hop's advice on backhands ringing in his ears he played some excellent shots.

We then gorged ourselves on tasty picnic, using Spar and Blar's posh picnic set and swigging Pimm's from handy cans. We even had a game of Scattegories! It wasn't until the sun was dipping and the clock was threatening 6 that I regretfully pointed out we had a home to go to. So, after packing up the car and giving our pals a lift home, we bade them fond farewells and set off back to Fife.

Alas, perfection was marred by the Forth Road Bridge being shut and us getting stuck in traffic for an hour and a half - but nothing, no nothing, could spoil the delights of the weekend. The weather, the good humour of all involved, the footie, the barge - everything was a real treat. I loved every second. Hurrah for birthdays, I say.

Only, let's not have another one for a while, please ...

Friday, 16 May 2008

Oooooops ...

Ok, I haven't been on the scales for ages out of fear. I"m being truly dreadful. It hasn't helped that it's that time of the month where chocolate becomes an absolute essential, and nor did it help last night that we went out to celebrate Lubentina's new job. Lastly, it hasn't helped that I've had a rotten cold for the last week or so, meaning every bit of exercise I've done has made me feel much worse, just as I was starting to feel better. It's one of those colds that's a head cold, but is accompanied by a nasty cough, so breathing feels like gasping through 40 packets of fags.

Enough self pity! I ran my first 7 miles last week, which was fine, if dull as ditchwater. I ran to St Andrews, and the bicycle path along the A91 just goes on forever! My proverbial hat is doffed, once again, to all those who can run any real distance at all. It's so boring! I think what I really need to do is kick a ball in front of me all the way - give myself a point to all the running.

I had my massage course at the weekend, and was feeling so ropey I couldn't bear to leave the house on Friday night, so I stayed home and left at 7am the next morning. This gave me 2 hours to get to Peebles. Naturally, it took me an hour and a half. Naturally, I then discovered the course starts at 9.30, not 9, so I was a full hour too early and could have had more time in bed. That always pisses me off.

We started off with a massage test (list 8 psychological, 8 physical and 8 physiological effects of massage. What are the uses, effects and contra indications of effleurage, petrissage, and tapotement?) which was fine. We also had a practical, where we gave someone a leg massage while she assessed us - which was also fine, although I did squeal like a big girl when it came to my turn to be massaged. My legs were quite sore after the 7 miles.

That evening I stayed in the Tontine Hotel, and had supper with one of the other girls on the course. It was great to be able to wake up at 9 the next morning, and just roll down the stairs. Or at least, it would have been, had I not woken at 6.30 again and not been able to get back to sleep. I went over my anatomy and physiology test, had a lovely long bath ... and ended up only just making it to the course in time!

The A&P test was also fine, although I made a couple of stupid mistakes. My head was full of cotton wool and I had a temperature and a headache - so once the test was done I slipped out and stuffed myself full of ibuprofen and got a cup of coffee. Instant improvement! Then the instructor came through and told me that, if I had a temperature, I couldn't be massaged - so the rest of the day was spent on my feet giving, and never receiving, massages. Boooo ...

On the plus side, we finished at 4.30, leaving plenty of time for me to drive to Edinburgh, go to a shop and buy some clothes, then head off with Wheeler and Phid to see The Waifs play. I got to John Lewis at 5.30, and the sign in the carpark clearly said it closed at 6.30, so I head plenty of time to choose an outfit, allowing me to go out to a concert in something other than the skanky massage uniform I'd been wearing all weekend.

Unfortunately, the sign lied and I only had half an hour - but I bought some nice trousers, a top and some cute shoes, and was all set. Then, as I was driving to Leith, Phid called. The concert, which I'd thought would start around 7.30, didn't start until 8 - which was fine, except I wasn't aware there'd be a warm up act for an hour, and then the Waifs would play for 2 hours after that. There was no earthly way I felt up to leaving Edinburgh at 11.30 after the long weekend I'd had, so I gave the concert a miss and headed home where Fisher had supper waiting and I could go to bed at 10.30.

There's not much else to report. I haven't been for a run since the 7 miler, but I did cycle to Cupar on Wednesday, then played 45 minutes of crap doubles, then attempted to cycle home again. Luckily, Fisher was in the Cupar gym and drove home in Keith, meaning she could pick me up on the way. It turns out, Balmullo to Cupar is the downhill bit. Cupar to Balmullo is almost entirely uphill, with only a few short downs which mean nothing when the wind is blowing in your face. I was utterly destroyed after just under 4 miles, and very, very glad to jump into Keith. Still, not a bad workout.

Alas, with all the eating and the time of the month, I've put on 2 pounds. This means I really, really have to get back to being sensible - and with the weekend festivities coming up I really don't think I'll manage. Booo.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

A Man Can Diet but Once ...

Well, the official, competitive diet is over. I lost 8lbs 6oz, which I have now put straight back on owing to a 3 day eating-out binge.

Well, not quite - but I'm pretty sure some damage has been done. I'm back on the wagon again now, and with a week devoted solely to learning lots about bones and muscles in time for my test at the weekend, I'm not going to have much time for stuffing my face.

Such a lot to report! And so much fun ...

Most importantly there was Phid's birthday party on Saturday night. It started with me going to give her a massage at 9am so she could have well relaxed muscles for the 22 mile race she was doing that morning. Lunacy. I turned up and Wheeler let me in. My first sight was of Phid's sister's buttocks as she was fast asleep on a mattress on the floor, so that was a jolt to the system. Phid was in the bathroom, and when she emerged she looked at me with something akin to irritation and said:

"What are you doing here?"

"Er ... thought I'd give you a massage," I offered feebly, realising it did all seem rather odd.

"How nice," she responded, in the same tone of voice I use to say "how utterly uninspiring and slightly peculiar."

Nevertheless, I gave her my finest leg massage (trying not to chant 'effleurage, petrissage, tapotement, friction' as I went along) and she accepted it without further comment.

Naturally, my real purpose at their flat at such an ungodly hour was not to give Phid a massage - although I did think she might find it helpful - but to pick up the key to her country cottage from Wheeler. This I needed in order to peg it up to Dollar, meet Fisher, and fill her country cottage with all the gifts I'd been accumulating for the last 2 weeks (something I found so hugely entertaining it was rather disappointing to stop).

So, after completing the massage and bidding her good luck with the race, I snaffled the key from Wheeler and raced off to meet Fisher. Starving after eating a bare bite of pasta for my supper, I had to go to a café in Dollar and buy some takeaway toast and coffee, but I was still there in time. Fisher had arrived before me, with dogs in tow, and had already unloaded Keith the Drover. We had a lovely time laying everything out and labelling them, then jumped into Helga the VW and rocketed back to Edinburgh in time to pick Koios and Janus up and drive to North Berwick where the race finished.

On our way to NB we overtook the runners, and saw Phid toiling bravely in mid-pack. We shot ahead of her, parked beside a handy pavement, wound down the windows and gave good voice. As she passed she gave us the slightest nod of acknowledgement, utterly unfazed to see us. We all wondered just what it would take to cause her any degree of astonishment. If she decided to run across Australia and we left 6 weeks earlier in order to hide behind a strategic dune in a vast erg, we'd leap out with hoarse cries of encouragement, lips parched and skin blackened, only to have her give the same slightly weary nod. She might - just might - stretch to:

"What are you doing here?"

Anyway, we gave her a cheer, then zoomed into NB and parked at the finish line. There we waited, while the dogs crapped all over the street in the most inconvenient fashion, until Phid hoved into view. This time we figured that, if she wasn't going to be impressed with our devotion, we'd just humiliate her as much as possible, so we burst into a rousing and totally tuneless rendition of "Happy Birthday" which was taken up by several random bystanders. Hurrah. Oh - did I mention we also had balloons, lovingly bought and blown up by Koios?

And we wonder why she didn't look all that pleased to see us ...

Actually - lest I make her out to be a completely ungrateful turd of a person - she thanked us very prettily. It's just she's so phlegmatic when running. I believe I've mentioned her 'game face' before. It's very impressive.

Anyway, once she'd finished, and once Baffie had dragged me 300 metres down the road, following the smell of her (hell - even I could smell her) and greeted her with slavish devotion (Baffie, that is. My greeting was rather more restrained), we jumped back in the car and headed back into Edinburgh. We went into town to do some last minute shopping for costume bits and pieces, had lunch at Maison Bleu (prawn & chorizo salad), then did necessary things with supermarkets and dogs. By the time we got back to Koi's flat it was 6pm, leaving barely enough time to shower, suck back a brew, take a few deep breaths, and then get ready for the part-ay.

It was a Wild West theme. Now, I've got a habit of dressing up in the most unflattering costumes when it comes to fancy dress, so this time I was determined to make myself look passable (no mean feat). I thought of going as a tavern courtesan, a barmaid, a ravishing Indian princess ... but then an idea hit me, and I simply couldn't shake the charm of it.

So I went as a horse.

Hey ho. Or should that be neigh-ho?

Still, I tried my best to be a sexy horse, with back-combed hair, cute cardboard ears, and knee-high boots over brown cords (for some reason. They were supposed to be hoof-like, but were actually just an exercise in vanity). I was going to put black socks on my hands with silver horse-shoes attached to the bottom, but I couldn't be arsed to make the horseshoes and then forgot the socks - which was probably just as well.

We took a cab into Leith, and arrived at Bar Deisel to be greeted by Janus, who'd done a rip-roaring job of decorating the place with Wanted posters, complete with embarrassing childhood photos of Phid. Koi and I made quite an entrance, with Koi jumping on my back and 'riding' me inside. God, we're so hilarious ...

And so the drinking began. Now, I'm not a big drinker. I generally don't drink at all, unless in company - so 4 pints was pretty guaranteed to set me off ... and set me off it did. I started talking at 8.30 pm and didn't stop for breath until I was in bed, reading Four-Four-Two, with my eyes drunkenly closing at 2am. During the course of all this incessant chatter I did manage to meet quite a few nice people I'd not met before (Seshat Talks To Strangers Shock), as well as invite someone to the party without consulting Phid. Oops. Still, it was an old pal from uni, so I figured she'd be welcome. She's now a Doctor, working in Reekie, and hasn't changed a bit - except, joy of joys, to have discovered her taste buds at last. In uni she'd just eat bowls of fuel, but now, apparantly, she's learned the error of her ways.

The night was a blast, culminating in me giggling non-stop for 5 minutes as I listened to Wheeler try and speak. The trouble was we were both so drunk that a) I'd lost my powers of comprehension and b) he'd lost his powers of erudition. I'm pretty sure he was trying to tell me something about a garden bench he'd bought and that he liked the garden bench I'd bought them, but I kept getting confused about which bench he was referring to.

At the end of the night we walked the 1 - 2 miles home to Koi's flat, which knackered my booted feet (ah, vanity) but probably staved off a worse hangover than the one I awoke with at 7.45am. God I hate being drunk. There's that hideous moment where you're sitting on the bed thinking how much you don't want to go to sleep because you know that when you wake up you're going to feel like crap on a stick. Well, sleep came, and so did the crap on a stick - but luckily, after going back to sleep for another few hours, then waking, having a shower and a litre of water, I was relatively human.

Sunday was the Cheeseboard treat. We took her to a secret location, stripped her naked and drove off ...

Not really. We took her to a secret location that turned out to be Dalhousie Castle, gave her a lovely lunch in their Orangery, then had a long afternoon in the spa, with 2 treatments - a shoulder and back massage, and a sea-salt scrub. I have to say, I'm not really a spa girl - although I do like the sauna and the hydropool and stuff. The massages are all very well, but I find I tense up a bit (there's a STRANGER and she's TOUCHING me) and they're generally a bit ineffectual. The sea-salt scrub was very nice smelling and left my skin as smooth as silk, but it hurt like hell on my back. Nevertheless, Phid seemed to enjoy it all, which was the point.

It was very relaxing, though, and at 6 we departed, heading back to Edinburgh and the 'surprise' supper at Iglu on Jamaica Street. There was a moment of stress when the waitress said she'd not received email confirmation of the party, which I definitely sent (I have the evidence in my email sent box) - but it didn't matter, as she'd kept the table for us anyway.

Supper was lovely - lots of cheery banter with Cheeseboard and boys, and gift exchange. Koi gave Phid a beautiful 18th century map of Scotland in a frame. It was funny because when she said what she'd got, I distinctly remembered suggesting it to her. She looked a little puzzled when I mentioned it - and then I remembered I'd not suggested it to her at all, but had the conversation while wandering around an antique shop looking for pressies for Phid with Fisher. I thought it would be a lovely thing to buy her - but, luckily, none of the maps I saw had Clackmannanshire on them, so I let it pass. None of them were nearly as nice as the one Koi bought, either - but it's funny we both thought of it, completely separate to one another.

I suppose, considering how well we all know each other, it's not so suprising after all.

After supper, the weekend of festivities was over and we bade each other farewell. Back to Fife went Fisher and I, growing more and more heavy-lidded as we grew closer to home, and it was all we could do to unpack the dogs and fall into bed. So much fun! And so much alcohol to process! I could have slept for a week.

But, instead, the next day we had Ceegar and Meeper to meet for supper, while Fisher had to get a long run (22 miles) under her belt. I decided to accompany her on my bike, which was all very well but at the 14 mile mark I got myself a puncture and had to leave her to it. It looked like I was in for a long walk home - and then I remembered there's a cycle shop in Leuchars. I threw myself on their mercy (I had no money on me) and they kindly sorted me out, allowing me to peg it off to Tentsmuir and meet Fisher, allowing us to finish the run-ride together. We then, later, discovered that Ceegar and Meeper couldn't make it after all - but we had to go into Edinburgh that evening as we had a house in the Borders to look at on Tuesday, and staying the night midway down seemed like a good idea.

We threw ourselves on the hospitality of Spartan and Blarney, taking Chinese food with us to scarf in their living room, and then fell gladly into bed.

Off to the Borders we went and looked at the house. Lovely. Old, falling apart, but very much my ideal country house - except for the location. I simply can't get enthusiastic about the Borders. They're too generic. They could be anywhere in Britain. I want mountains, not hills, and lochs - not nearby reservoirs. And, it turns out, I really am a Scot. I want to be in Scotland.
It's my home. So the search continues.

Last but not least, we had to go and pick Keith up from Phid's cottage - so took them out to The Unicorn in Kincardine for supper. Poor Phid wasn't feeling very well, so couldn't do any justice to her food, but Wheeler and I were very happy tucking into a vast Chateubriand - and the puddings were marvellous. I had a Brownie with white chocolate ice cream. Mmmmm .... pecans. Mmmmm .... white chocolate ice cream. Mmmmm .... gooey chocolate centre. Mmmmm .... I'm not getting on the scales for a full week after the last 3 days.

And that brings me just about up to date with my activities. Exercise wise I've done the 22 mile bike ride, and also a 700m swim yesterday (I can't believe how few calories you're supposed to burn doing front crawl. Surely something so knackering should burn MORE than breast stroke? But according to many knowledgeable looking websites, that's simply not the case. Pah) but I've, obviously, been extremely crap with food. Back on the wagon now, though.