Gig Review: Andy Taylor at the 100 Club, 27th November 2019

It’s been a while since I did a gig review… mainly for obvious reasons! I do have a couple of outstanding events to review from the pre-pandemic world, though, so I’ll get those posted while I’m waiting for life to return to the point where I can go to gigs again.

I reviewed this gig for Daily Duranie at the time (though the page is down at the moment as the Daily Duranie folks are currently in the process of sorting out their archives), so I won’t repeat myself too much, but it was a wonderful show. Some background context: my lifelong ’80s pop obsession narrowed to a Duran Duran sub-obsession in early 2017, but for various reasons the band (who since 2006 have been the classic lineup sans Andy Taylor) have not played any public gigs in the UK during that time, and so I have still not seen them in concert (or been able to cross them off my Band Aid baby bucket list as a result!). I was meant to see them twice in 2020… but then life stopped, as we all know. I now have tickets to see them twice in 2021, but we’ll just have to wait and see if that can happen. I’m not very optimistic, sadly; I expect it will probably be 2022, along with all the other 2020 gigs for which I’m still holding tickets.

However, I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the Andy Taylor gig in London in November 2019! Andy was scheduled to release a new album in 2020 (now scheduled for summer 2021 apparently), and this gig at the 100 Club was the first chance to hear some of the new material (along with favourites from 1987’s Thunder and the occasional crowd-pleasing Duran track!). Andy is also a touring member of Reef, and so Reef singer Gary Stringer was on hand to help with vocal duties.

Andy Taylor at the 100 Club, November 2019
My usual standard of gig photography, I’m afraid! Perhaps it will improve post-pandemic…

It was great to be able to get down to London for this (and meet up with other Duranies for the first time). I was so excited to do it all again in Cullercoats in May 2020… but that is another gig that has yet to see the light of day. Whenever it eventually happens, I’ll be there – Cullercoats is Andy’s hometown, so it should be a fantastic atmosphere, and it’s just a short trip on the Metro for me here in Newcastle. A bit easier than travelling to London!

Updated Band Aid baby bucket list progress: song artists 7/37 (18.9%); message artists 2/7 (28.6%); total artists 9/44 (20.5%).

Booze Alternative: Destination 1850 Virgin Apple Mojito

Towards the end of 2019, when Geth and I were doing a lot of travelling in order to attend gigs in other cities, I developed a taste for mocktails. The fact that I have been unable to continue sampling them is probably one of the pandemic’s ‘silver linings’, as while extremely delicious they are not particularly diet-friendly and I don’t need any extra temptations in that area right now!

The first one I tried was a Virgin Apple Mojito at Destination 1850, which at the time was a brand-new venue located within the concourse of Newcastle Central train station. Like everywhere else, it’s currently closed due to the lockdown, but it was a very nice stop-off when travelling by train, so I hope it’s able to reopen when things are back to normal!

Destination 1850 Virgin Apple Mojito
Destination 1850 Virgin Apple Mojito.

This drink tasted absolutely divine – I have a very sweet tooth and love sugary-tasting drinks as a treat – and so it was not the first mocktail of that particular weekend! More to follow next time.

24 things I learnt from training for my ‘mile an hour for 24 hours’ challenge

A version of this post first appeared on Fetch Everyone on 27th September 2020.

When the London Marathon went virtual last year and I decided to combine it with the ‘mile an hour for 24 hours’ challenge, I thought that it would be fairly straightforward – just go out every hour and run, right? Still, I knew that I should probably practise doing that for a few hours a day, and I’m glad I did, because it turned out to be *slightly* more complex than I expected. A few things I learnt from my 24-hour challenge training…

Virtual London Marathon day

1. I realised I wouldn’t be able to eat proper meals for the entirety of the 24-hour challenge, because eating an actual proper meal less than an hour before running was resulting in a horrible stitch while I was out on the run. As such, I ended up grazing on small snacks for the entire day instead, and it was a bit of a balancing act making sure that I was (a) eating enough, (b) not getting a stitch or making myself feel sick, and (c) making sure also to eat stuff that was healthy and not just pure sugar!

2. Related to (1), it turned out that there was an exact correct number of mini rolls to eat in between 1.2-mile laps. That number was 2, or sometimes 3 if it was later in the day.

3. The neighbours all thought I was mad, having observed me running up and down the street several times a day, and I’m not sure my breathless explanations did much to mitigate this. The situation did not improve much on the actual day, when I went out 24 times in total, starting from midnight.

4. The running itself was not the challenging part, although my legs did complain a little when I insisted on going out for multiple runs just a couple of days after the Virtual GNR. The recovery in between laps seemed to be long enough that I could keep going out again without getting fatigued. This was definitely more of a mental challenge than a physical one – and a week before the event, the doubts that crept in about my ability to complete the challenge were absolutely nothing to do with not being able to run it. Physically, I felt like I could run a mile every hour forever (well, not really, but you know what I mean). It was more about being nervous that I wouldn’t have the mental endurance to keep going out again and again and again.

5. However, while the 45-ish minute period during which I sat down between laps may have been long enough for recovery, it certainly didn’t feel long enough for anything else! I couldn’t really get into some work or a book or a videogame, or do anything other than a bit of Facebook browsing – because the next thing I knew, I needed to go out for another run. Most of the people doing this challenge on YouTube used the time in between runs to get stuff done off their to-do list, and I take my hat off to them, because I wasn’t able to manage anything else on the day besides running, refuelling, and trying not to fall asleep!

6. During the training, I felt incredibly embarrassed and guilty about spamming my followers on Strava with up to six running activities in the space of a few hours. I didn’t, in the end, do an apology post for the 24 separate activities that clogged up their feeds on the day of the challenge – but I seriously considered it!

7. I still can’t decide whether I actually ran a marathon or not. Initially I was of the opinion that ‘no, it doesn’t count, I’m not running it all at once’, despite the fact that I was going to be in the results and get my medal and t-shirt and everything… but in the run-up to the event, (a) the London Marathon social media channels were very encouraging of people splitting the distance into multiple runs and (b) I discovered through my training and the actual challenge that going out for 24 runs in a day is its own type of tough, so maybe I should bestow the title of ‘marathon’ upon it after all. I don’t consider it a PB, though, even though my total moving time was a lot less than the last time I ran a marathon!

8. Running in the middle of the night was an interesting new experience, and I was relieved that, on challenge day, nobody along the route got suspicious for some random reason and called the authorities about the madwoman running past their house once an hour in the dead of night (see also (3)). I’ll actually did a few practice midnight runs in the last week before the challenge in order to scope this out…

9. Sleep deprivation was also an interesting obstacle. I planned to spend a couple of days in the run-up turning night into day so that I could sleep most of Saturday in preparation for starting at midnight… but this didn’t work out, and so I ended up staying awake for about forty-two hours with no sleep breaks. Strangely, the adrenaline prevented me from getting sleepy!

10. Somehow, despite running it exactly 64 times in training for the challenge, I wasn’t sick of my 1.2-mile route by challenge day. However, after running it another 24 times on the day itself, I couldn’t really face the same route for my recovery run the day after!

11. I had to do some strict laundry scheduling in the last few days pre-challenge, as I discovered that hanging around between runs in the same kit feels grim as hell and so I needed to change clothes after every few laps in order to feel marginally less grim (even my between-run trackies needed refreshing every once in a while). This was also necessary due to the fact that, as it transpires, even the most comfortable of sports bras starts to chafe if you hang around sweating in it for too long.

12. Stretching after every single lap was boring and possibly unnecessary, but I continued to do it anyway because I had remained uninjured during training and didn’t want to do anything to jeopardise that.

13. Multiple run practice was the only reason that I actually managed to keep up with the Fetch Everyone ‘Run The Sum’ game (where you run the sum of the date in kilometres every day, e.g. on the 17th you run 1+7: eight kilometres) in September. I certainly don’t think I could have managed it on just one run per day!

14. Related to (9), I had to try to learn how to drink coffee in between laps without feeling ill, because I thought that Pepsi Max alone probably wouldn’t cut it for caffeine on the day. As it transpired, neither agreed with me on the day and so I didn’t consume very much caffeine at all!

15. Next door’s cat has all sorts of hangout spots for different times of the day that I would never have known about if I hadn’t been out doing multiple run practice at all hours. Cats are fascinating.

16. Geth, it turned out, thoroughly liked the idea of ‘crewing’ for me during the challenge, which was something he’d picked up from watching hundreds of YouTube videos about ultrarunners doing impossibly long races. He thus ended up accompanying me during middle-of-the-night runs, helping to record video for my running vlog, and generally not sleeping as much as he would normally have done on a weekend. Reciprocity demanded that I go out to meet him at various points on his October long runs with fresh supplies of water and gels, which was quite nice (and a good excuse for a walk in those slightly less locked down times!).

17. In the 10-15 minutes before my next lap was due to start, I found myself at a loose end, impatient to go, and was often tempted to start the lap early. Related to (5), the 45-minute downtime was a really awkward length. However, as set out in the terms of my challenge when I first announced it, the plan was to go out every hour on the hour, and I was determined to stick to that… even if I would probably have been done with the marathon a lot quicker if I’d kept shaving 10 minutes or so off the rest period!

18. It felt a bit awkward running past the same council workers doing the roadworks every hour on the hour. I also observed more than I ever expected to observe in terms of the progress of said roadworks.

19. While I was regularly doing non-multiple-run-practice days up until the Virtual GNR a few weeks before Virtual London, the period in between was really dedicated to training for this challenge and so I found I was starting to miss both (a) running for longer than 1.2 miles at a time and (b) running on other routes. I planned to do a lot of exploring and venturing out to new places once the challenge was over! (This didn’t transpire as I was a bit burnt out.)

20. I was having some serious issues around my shoe rotation. I run every day (I started my run streak on 1st January 2020), have three pairs of running shoes currently in use, and never wear the same pair two days in a row due to all the standard shoe rotation arguments about shoe foam needing more than 48 hours to decompress and thus live its best life. However, does all of this go out the window if running multiple times per day? Should I have been rotating my shoes from lap to lap? Was I interrupting the foam decompression process by pulling on the same ones again 45 minutes after I took them off? So many questions.

21. Much to my surprise, in training, my laps sped up throughout the day. I tended to start off with a nice gentle lap that worked out any stiffness from overnight, and it seemed to get faster naturally from there. This trend did not continue on the day of the challenge; on the whole, I was fairly steady. It didn’t really matter to me, though, as I was just happy to finish each hourly mile.

22. ‘Needing’ to make my own goody bag to open at the end of the challenge (due to London Marathon not sending the medal and t-shirt until after the fact) was a really, really good excuse to buy new running gear. Not that I ever seem to need one.

23. I’ve never had a problem with arithmetic, but for some reason, when it came to the number of laps I’d done so far in a day, I could barely count to three. I kept finding myself arriving home thinking, ‘So, I’ve got two laps to go… is that right? Have I really done three laps already? It doesn’t feel like I’ve done three…’ I don’t know what I’d have done if I didn’t have my Garmin to keep count for me. This was even more ‘interesting’ on the day when I needed to keep track of 24 laps while sleep-deprived!

24. As fun, intense, and different as this challenge was, I have really, really missed real races over the last year, and I can’t wait to be on a proper start line again – not least the proper start line of the proper London Marathon in October 2021. Things are looking a bit bleak and endless at the moment, so I just have to keep crossing my fingers that we will be able to race again by then!

A little more comfortable

As part of the big year of home improvement, I’m gradually adding stuff to help make the space easier and more comfortable for day-to-day living. The coffee table in the centre of our living room had been feeling a bit claustrophobic and precarious, as it was too close to the sofa (meaning I had to squeeze in and out of my favourite spot all the time) and really cluttered on top due to my need to have a cushion on it during the day (I like to put my feet up!). I’ve never kicked any of my drinks over yet, but it was only a matter of time. As such, I bought this useful side table last week.

Side table

The soft storage basket in the base provides a space for all my gaming handhelds, and keeping drinks on the top next to me means that they are now at much less risk of being knocked over! This is important given the quantity of electronics I keep and use in the space.

I’ve also been enjoying having all our bread products tucked away out of sight in our new bread bin.

Bread bin

I found it a bit difficult to open at first, but it turns out the trick is not to close it too tightly.

In non-shiny news, I’ve had a fairly busy week. Not too much day job work, but I did have a lot of admin and accounting to do in preparation for submitting my tax return, which was as boring as you might expect! I’ve also been continuing with the TOMM cleaning method, which is still taking me about an hour a day while I get into the swing of it.

From Sunday onwards I was able to go outside to run, which I was really appreciating… and then on Wednesday night it snowed heavily again so I was back indoors on the treadmill yesterday morning! Thankfully it had mostly melted by today so I was back out on the roads again. Hopefully there won’t be any more snow over the weekend as I’ve got lots of outdoor running plans.

I’m still playing ukulele as part of the Zoom group on Wednesday evenings, and I’m still getting as much videogaming in as I possibly can, and… that’s about it. I expect life will continue in this vein for some time, at least until the current lockdown restrictions start to ease off again.

This week’s earworm playlists:

Saturday

The Marcels – ‘Blue Moon’
Ben E King – ‘Stand By Me’
John Barrowman – ‘Anything Goes’

Sunday

Yoko Shimomura – ‘Radiant Historia’
Cast of Oliver! – ‘Food, Glorious Food’
Duran Duran – ‘Friends Of Mine’

Monday

Noriyuki Iwadare – ‘Turnabout Sisters’
The Weeknd – ‘Blinding Lights’
Julian Nott – ‘Wallace And Gromit Main Theme’
Arrow – ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’

And a bonus track Geth was humming that day:

The Lancashire Hotpots – ‘The Technical Support Song’

Tuesday

Men Without Hats – ‘Safety Dance’
Glenn Miller – ‘In The Mood’
Audrey Hepburn – ‘Moon River’
3 Daft Monkeys – ‘Paranoid Big Brother’

Wednesday

Oasis – ‘Songbird’
Duran Duran – ‘Friends Of Mine’
The Strokes – ‘Last Nite’
The Chemical Brothers – ‘Galvanise’

Thursday

Bob Marley & The Wailers – ‘Three Little Birds’
Katy Perry – ‘Firework’
Duran Duran – ‘The Edge Of America’
Revo – ‘Fighting To The End’
Duran Duran – ‘Tel Aviv’
Belinda Carlisle – ‘Circle In The Sand
Duran Duran – ‘Anyone Out There’

Friday

Nintendo 3DS eShop – ‘Main Theme’
Landscape – ‘Einstein A Go Go’
Traditional – ‘America The Beautiful’
Pointer Sisters – ‘Automatic’
Audrey Hepburn – ‘Moon River’

Phone Box Thursday: The Wrong Phone Box #2: Doctor Who, ‘The War Machines’ (1966)

This is the first of three classic phone boxes from the 1966 Doctor Who serial ‘The War Machines’. This was the first serial that was set entirely on contemporary Earth (and in Doctor Who, particularly in the classic series, ‘contemporary Earth’ means ‘contemporary London’). As such, there are lots of scenes shot outdoors on London streets, meaning it was inevitable that we would bump into the odd non-police telephone box along the way.

The first example in the serial, however, was not found on the streets – it appears in studio footage (filmed either at Ealing Studios or Riverside Studios according to Doctor Who Locations) and was thus presumably a prop.

When the characters first emerge from the swinging ‘Inferno’ nightclub, their attention is caught by some strange happenings at the entrance of a nearby warehouse. My attention, meanwhile, was caught by the phone box that appears tucked under the arch next to the warehouse. How very handy for the warehouse employees!

Doctor Who 'The War Machines'
Some very suspicious-looking characters next to this phone box!
Doctor Who 'The War Machines'
One of the suspicious-looking men uses the phone box at one point.
Doctor Who 'The War Machines'
It’s very efficient use of the space under this arch.

Next week we’ll have a look at one of the ‘real’ phone boxes that features in the location filming for this story.

Blurry Gig Photo: Strictly Come Dancing: The Live Tour, 24th January 2017

A new series today where I share some of my blurriest – and yet nicest in some ways – gig photos! Back in the old days when we could still go to gigs and shows, I would always take pictures as a memento, even at times when I wasn’t blogging. Gigs always feel like a one-off special moment that you can never have again, and so I always try to capture the magic. I’m not a great photographer and so am rarely successful, but my attempts usually end up fairly colourful.

Strictly: The Live Tour 2017

I don’t even remember who the couple in the photo were; I would have to check the programme. One of my main memories of the show is that the costumes appeared so much more sparkly in real life than they do on TV, but again this aspect doesn’t show up in any of my photos or videos – cameras don’t do sparkle.

A trip to a music concert next time. I miss gigs.

2019 Pizzas #25: Balti Masters Vegetarian Pizza

It’s great to be back logging 2019 pizzas… in 2021 😒

Those of you who’ve been paying attention will notice that I have skipped over #23 and #24. This was because they were both café pizzas that I forgot to take pictures of. I hoped to be able to return to said cafés and order the pizzas again in order to rectify this (despite one of the cafés being in London and the fact that I don’t remember its name… I’m ever optimistic!) but then PANDEMIC, and I’ve no idea when I’m going to be able to eat out in cafés again or even if the cafés in question have survived this horrible period, so it’s time I moved on. After all, I’ve got two whole new food series to post about for 2020 and 2021, and it’d be nice if I could be up to date with those by the end of this year. Maybe one day I’ll be able to log those missing pizzas.

Anyway, here’s a nice takeaway pizza that I discovered in November 2019.

Balti Masters pizza
I’m so hungry just looking at this!

Geth’s family were visiting, and we needed a nice easy takeaway meal with lots of options, so we went for Balti Masters, which offers various Indian food, kebabs, pizzas and other things. I had the vegetarian pizza, and it was really filling with a lovely sauce – really good quality, which you don’t always get with multi-food-type takeaway places.

We ended up ordering from there a few times in 2020 too, as it’s a good go-to when Geth fancies an Indian takeaway.

Race Review: Virtual Great North Run 2020

Finally getting round to reviewing a virtual race from last September – one of the highlights of my running season in 2020!

I keep referring to this race officially – in Strava logs and the like – as ‘Virtual Great North Run 2020’, as it keeps things neat. However, I fervently hope that there will only ever be one ‘Virtual Great North Run’, that the race can go back to normal(ish) in 2021, and that appending the ‘2020’ will forever be unnecessary!

GNR 2019
A picture from happier times, in South Shields after the Great North Run in 2019.

For most of 2020, despite the fact that in-person races had to cease along with everything else when we went into lockdown in March, I avoided virtual races. Virtual races have been a thing since long before the pandemic – the idea is that you pay the ‘race entry’ fee, run the distance wherever you like, send in your Strava log or similar as proof, and receive a medal in the post for your medal hanger/kitchen drawer/wherever you keep your medals. I’ve never been keen on the idea, because in normal circumstances I don’t see the point. If I’m paying a race entry fee, I want the experience of a real race – the crowds, the adrenaline, the excitement, the music, the fact that I automatically go faster when running with other people, the cheering spectators, the sights along the route, the atmosphere of the finish line… I could go on and on. I really, really miss real races 🙁

For some people, though, virtual races are ideal. There are people who can’t attend races on Sunday mornings due to other commitments, or who don’t like being in crowds – so it’s great that virtual races exist and can cater to these people. I’m just not the target audience, in normal circumstances.

However, we are far from normal circumstances.

The big coronavirus-related anxiety for me over the summer was the question of whether the rescheduled October date for the London Marathon would be going ahead. In a nutshell, as I already blogged lots and lots about this at the time: they took ages to announce; they eventually announced it was going virtual for 2020; I was able to defer my ‘real London Marathon’ place to 2021; I also accepted the invitation to run the virtual race in 2020 as I wanted to do it as a ‘mile(ish) every hour for 24 hours’ challenge. Sorted. I had signed up for my very first virtual race.

Virtual GNR bib
There was the option to print out your own race number. Now framed with all my others!

The Great North Run had cancelled their in-person race and announced they were going virtual for 2020 quite some time before the London announcement. When this announcement was first made (in June, I think?), I didn’t expect to do the virtual. Every cancelled race I had originally been signed up for in 2020 had invited me to do a virtual version in exchange for a race entry fee, and I hadn’t taken any of them up on the offer – because, as explained above, I don’t normally see the point in virtual races.

However, after signing up for the Virtual London Marathon, I felt that it would be a good idea to commit myself to a half marathon length run, as it would be good training – even though I knew I would be running the marathon in a different way that wouldn’t require quite as much all-in-one-go endurance. I had kept meaning to run half marathon length runs over the summer, but none of them had ever transpired due to lack of motivation, so I decided to sign up to the Virtual GNR in order to make sure that I actually did it.

The other reason was that the excitement of planning my 24-hour challenge had made me realise how much I was missing races. A virtual race, while still a glorified training run in my world, would at least help to give some structure to my running over the next couple of months.

GNR t-shirts
T-shirts from previous Great North Weekends (2015-2019). I did the 5k the first year we lived in Newcastle, and have done the full GNR every year since.

A few days after signing up, I happened to bump (not literally, I am a good social distancer) into a running friend while out on my Sunday long run, and as a result was invited to join the informal Sunday GNR training runs that were being organised by members of the local social run group. I’d attended a couple of the group’s formal runs around late February, just before everything shut down, but hadn’t realised that there were still some informally-organised socially distanced runs going on. (They’ve had to stop again since the lockdowns have become stricter over the autumn and winter, sadly!)

Virtual GNR outfit
All set for the Virtual GNR. Club vest and special Lucy Locket Loves GNR leggings on!

I enjoyed the Sunday training runs, which were at a pace that was a bit faster than my usual solo bumbling, but manageable for me, and decided to run the actual race with the group as well. It was a great atmosphere at our ‘starting area’, with perhaps fifteen or twenty people from the group all running in a socially distanced way (this was before even the ‘rule of six’ came in, let alone the return to full lockdown… so much has changed again in the last few months!).

Chalk start line
Start line marked in chalk on the pavement!

The group’s starting pace on the day was a little fast for me, it turned out. The first 5k of the race was the fastest I’d run since before parkrun shut down, and the first 10k of the race was a lifetime 10k PB for me of 1:03:30. This is really promising in terms of my aim to manage a sub-hour 10k in 2021… but was absolutely not something I should have been doing in the first half of a half marathon! I was focusing too much on keeping up with the group rather than running at my own pace – and, as I did know the route, I should maybe have told them to go ahead and fallen back to a more comfortable pace for me.

As a result, I burnt out and fell apart a bit in the second half of the race. The rest of the group gradually disappeared, and at about ten or eleven miles in I told group leader Alan (who was lovely and kept waiting for me) that he could go ahead and I’d finish a bit later. The last couple of miles were pretty difficult and slow and I kept taking walk breaks, which I hadn’t needed to do in a half marathon for some time. Geth came to meet me at about twelve and a half miles, and I just about managed to run-walk to the end of the planned route. My official time as measured by the GNR app was 2:25:29 – only a couple of minutes slower than my PB from the Inverness half in the different world that was early March, so I had to take that as a victory given everything that had happened in 2020! I stopped my watch at about 2 hours 29 minutes once it said I’d done the full half marathon distance, and I think I ran over the planned route finishing line at about 2 hours 32 minutes. All of those times were faster than any other half I’ve done apart from Inverness, so in terms of finish time, I can’t complain.

Virtual GNR t-shirt
The Virtual GNR t-shirt is one of the nicest yet.

I was a little disappointed with myself about the pacing as I like to finish strong in races, but to some extent it was out of my control. I originally planned to do another half marathon distance run before the end of the year, just to see what I could do when completely in charge of my own pacing, but I ended up needing a couple of months to recover from my 24-hour challenge/Virtual London Marathon. I need to build up again over the first few months of 2021.

Virtual GNR medal
Nice heavy medal for the effort too!

Besides, I’ll also be focusing on 10k training for the next couple of months, with the aim of being ready to get that sub-hour result later this year. It doesn’t look likely that I’ll be doing any real races any time soon… but it turns out a virtual race isn’t the end of the world, so I’ve signed up to do a virtual 10k later in January.

I still can’t wait to get back to real races!