Music was my first love

Things have been pretty quiet round here of late, I think I’m lucky if I’ve managed one post in the past month. I blame the Olympics… well, that and training for a 10k that’s now only two weeks away – eek!

So as an attempt at getting back in the habit I’m shamelessly stealing borrowing an idea from Last Year’s Girl, and joining in with the Guardian’s Six Songs of Me project. The idea is as follows: they give you six prompts, you pick a song for each one. How could I resist?

You can see my picks here, and if you’re a Spotify user you can listen to them too. If you want to know why I picked the songs I did, read on…

The first song you ever bought
Los Lobos – La Bamba
I didn’t like much “modern” music when I was young, preferring to explore my dad’s record collection. At age 11 I finally caught up with the 80s and bought my first record… a cover of a song from the 50s! True story: I’d have taped this off the radio, except they always cut off the guitar bit at the end, which irritated me beyond belief.

The song that gets you dancing
Stevie Wonder – Superstition
In the mid to late 90s I spent a lot of time in Fury Murray’s. And if this didn’t get played at least once, it wasn’t a good night out!

The song that takes you back to your childhood
Elvis Presley – Blue Suede Shoes
A highlight of my dad’s aforementioned record collection, I think this was probably the first song I knew all the words to. Even though I had no idea what “drink my liquor from an old fruit jar” actually meant.

Your perfect love song
Beach Boys – God Only Knows
Paul McCartney once described this as the most beautiful song he’d ever heard, and who am I to disagree? I remember playing this to Gem one night, saying it was from me to her. I think the opening line, “I may not always love you”, threw her a bit, but she soon got the real message, and I think she had shed a tear or two by the end.

The song you’ll have played at your funeral
Pearl Jam – Yellow Ledbetter
No-one really knows what this song is really about, so mumbled are the lyrics. And that includes Pearl Jam themselves! But it’s their most consistent set closer, which seems apt, and it’s got a fantastic Mike McCready outro to boot. Perfect.

Encore – one more song that made you you
Manic Street Preachers – Faster
I think I’ve seen the Manics more than any other band, so they had to figure here somewhere. It was a toss up between this and La Tristesse Durera, but I was listening to The Holy Bible when I filled the thing in.

So that’s the six songs of me – what are yours?

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Let us haste to Kelvingrove, bonnie lassie-oh

Heather spinning fishOne of Heather’s favourite places in the world is Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, something which suits Gem and I, because we both love it too, although for very different reasons: the paintings do it for me, Gem loves the social history exhibits, and Heather is all about the animals – especially the bees. Megan’s still a bit young to appreciate all of that, but the last time she was over she had a great time trying to run away; it really DOES have something for everyone!

Yesterday I took Heather over to see the museum’s latest exhibition, 500 Years of Italian Art. I’ve been planning to go since it opened in April, but it’s taken me until now – one week before it ends – to actually get over. I’m glad I did though, and I’m glad I risked taking Heather with me (something I thought long and hard about) because I think she enjoyed it too.

I’ll be honest, though, it was a challenge trying to engage her. Our Heather is never one to stand still at the best of times, and yesterday was no exception. Rather than looking at things, she was always wanting to move on, presumably so we could get to the bits she likes, something I’d promised her if she was a good girl.

Heather the knightA lot of things did hold her interest though. There was a large bowl that Heather insisted would have been used for serving porridge. She also liked the brass horse, the suits of armour, and the section showing some of the tools and other things that would have been used to produce the paintings.

As for the paintings, it was very hit and miss. What I found worked a treat was asking her questions about them. Why did she think the woman was sad? How many angels could she count? Could she see a horse in the picture? Those and many other questions caused her to pause for a moment, and the look on her wee face as she studied the paintings was as priceless as the paintings themselves. Even when she said she didn’t like a picture, we were able to have a conversation about why (eg one picture was scary because of all the shadows).

I think her favourite part of the Italian Art exhibition must have been the shop though – I think she tried on every bracelet in there, and even convinced me to try on one or two!

A giraffe and a spitfireAfter that we paid a visit to Sir Roger the elephant and his friends. We learned that the baby elephant is called Kelvin, and spent some time with the bees. Heather is also a big fan of the interactive displays, which allowed her to listen to the tale of the last great auk in Scotland, and to create a home for a red squirrel. All good fun.

Our last port of call was the mini-museum, where Heather had a great time trying on different shoes and masks. Before we knew it, it was time to go home for dinner, a journey which began with a mad dash through the rain back to the car. Heather told me that was her favourite bit of the day, but all the way home she kept changing her mind. Proof, if it were needed, that a great time was had by all.


This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

I’m a road runner baby

Road Runner - meep meep!This year has been all about the health and the fitness in our household, appropriate in an Olympic year, non? I’ve written before about The Diet, and I’m pleased to say that my journey there is almost complete – just a couple of pounds to go and I’ll be a happy man. (Note: I could maybe be tempted to go further, but people are starting to tell me I’m looking a bit thin, so I’m going to draw a line. For now, at least…)

As well as being more careful about what we eat, both me and Gem have got off the couch and started exercising on a regular basis, something neither of us have done for aaaaaages.

Back in January, we started out on Wii Fit, which was a fantastic starting point – nice, easy, gentle exercise to start using muscles that haven’t been used in a very long time. Focusing on the aerobic exercises, it wasn’t long before we could see a difference, on the scales, on the measuring tape, and, perhaps more importantly, in how out of breath and sweaty we were at the end of a workout.

One of the great things about Wii Fit is that the more you use it the more exercises and levels you unlock – something that keeps you coming back for more. To an extent, it also stops you trying to do too much too soon, something that’s liable to result in an injury and put you off entirely.

We both knew, though, that Wii Fit wasn’t going to be the be all and end all of our new lifestyle, and that sooner or later we’d more on to other things. We’ve now replaced Wii Fit with Zumba Fitness 2 two times a week, and are working our way through the various levels that offers. Again, it’s a really nice feeling when you start to find the routines less taxing than when you started, and can start to add in more challenging ones. Still plenty of mileage left there.

I’ve also started running, and am pleased to say that I’ve just signed up for my first ever 10k race, at this year’s Great Scottish Run. Half a lifetime ago, when I was young and took my fitness for granted, I ran the GSR half marathon, and maybe one day I’ll manage that again, but one step at a time, right? Let’s see how I get on with the 10k first.

Currently I’m running two or three times a week, and trying to add distance each week. At the moment, the furthest I’ve run is 6.4km, which is almost two thirds of the distance I’m aiming to cover in 4 weeks time. I’m slightly ahead of the training schedule I devised for myself though, so I’m confident I’ll be able to complete the race and get my first (well second, if you count the one from 18 years ago) medal.

After that, who knows? I’m getting a real buzz out of running at the moment, and I hope that doesn’t disappear once the challenge of completing the race has gone and I’ve got nothing to aim for. I don’t think it will, but if it does, there are plenty of other races out there to be entered, right?

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!