Roller Coasters (Andrew)

I hate heights.

I got vertigo watching my telly during the film The Aeronaughts just because it had 90 minutes of ballooning. I’d hate to get in an actual balloon when even Eddie Redmayne in a basket in a studio surrounded by CGI makes me dizzier than water down a drain. But my wife loves rollercoasters, so I love (hate) rollercoasters and have to join her when we get the chance to have a go on one. It’s not fun and I blame the minister who married us. While he asked if I would take her in sickness or in heath he never once mentioned taking her in a basket in mid-air or, worse, a loop de loop at 90 miles an hour. If he had, I would definitely have said “no” and called off the wedding.

So, in order to try and overcome my fear I watched “Engineer Explains Every Roller Coaster For Every Thrill” and I now know the difference between a coaster, an ultra coaster, a mousetrap and, most importantly, the site of every major roller coaster in the world so I can make sure we never go on holiday anywhere near them. Perfect.

The Sound of Football: Annan Athletic (Andrew)

Every fortnight we cover the best and worst football songs from every club in the UK from our book ‘The Sound Of Football: Every Club, Every Song’. You can buy it here

Annan Athletic

Nickname: Galabankies

Ground: Galabank

Stadium Capacity: 2,514

Song: Gallows Bank

Some songs celebrate success like ‘The Best’ by Glasgow Rangers; some songs celebrate glorious failure like ‘Blue Moon’ by Manchester City, but there’s only one song that warns fans about the danger of supporting their club – and that’s ‘Gallows Bank’ by Annan Athletic.

Annan is an unusual town. It lies on the border of Scotland and England and has changed sides more frequently than a pancake. During the Roman invasion of Britain, the Romans established large camps and fortifications in Annandale as a base before venturing further north. In Jacobean times, the town of Annan was fought over by noblemen in Scotland and England as the borderline become a fluid concept enforced by the lord or baron with the strongest army. In modern times, after forming in 1942, Annan Athletic has jumped between Scottish and English football.

For most of its life, Annan Athletic has been a non-league side. It started in the Dumfries and District Youth Welfare League, a league set up by local businessmen to provide games during the second world war. In 1952 the club successfully applied to take part in the Carlisle and District League by the Cumberland Football Association. This lasted until 1976, when the club decided it had better long-term prospects if it played in Scotland rather than England.

Annan started in the South of Scotland league and won every competition. It then showed the same level of ruthlessness that saw the club leave England – it moved to play in the East of Scotland league as the standard of teams was higher. This ambition continued through the 80s and 90s, and by 2000 the club was applying to play in the Scottish football league when expansion meant two new clubs could join. It was unsuccessful, but, in 2007, after Gretna was liquidated, another space opened up, and Annan became the latest member of the Scottish football league.

Annan has yet to clinch promotion from League Two. Still, given the ambition it has shown in the last 50 years, it probably won’t be long before it wins the Scottish Premier League and then successfully apply to move back to England win the Premiership title too.

Despite its growing reputation, Annan’s official song ‘Gallows Bank’ is the dark tale of a fan waiting to be hanged just because he was wearing an Annan top.

I am an Annan Athletic Fan,

They say this day that I must hang,

For I wear the black and gold,

And the secret I have told,

I am an Annan Athletic Fan.

So when you hang me, hang me high,

That I might see before I die,

Those Annandale Hills and that famous Solway Turf

And I see again the Hogle Brae.


(Source: unknown)

Buy the Sound of Football from Amazon.

Did Not Finish – DNF book – Available now

DNF – Did Not Finish is available to order now…

Is is our story of 20 years swimming, biking and running. Every one of our results tells a story, even the races we did not finish.

It is a story about finding the joy in racing whether you come first or last.

It contains stories such as ….

Triathletes are modest about their ability but ultra competitive. Which can make training sessions tricky.

I discovered this at a swim session when a coach asked: “I’d like you all to swim eight lengths of the pool at 70% race pace. I’ll time you. Who wants to go first?”

No one volunteered to go first.

“Come on! Who’s fastest?”

Everyone looked at each other in the same way a lift of strangers look at each other after one person has farted. Who was it?

I looked at the man next to me. He was solid muscle. His back had the classic v-profile of an Olympic swimmer. He wore tiny Speedos that were so small and revealing they looked like they’d been tattooed to his crotch. His swim goggles cost more than my last car.

“Hurry up! Someone has to go first!”

The only time I’d been mistaken for a swimmer was when a hairdresser said to me, “Are you a swimmer?” I beamed with pride and replied “yes,” thinking it was because of my swimmer’s physique – but my pride was quickly punctured when the hairdresser said, “I thought so – I examined your hair. It is in terrible condition. It is dry from chlorine.”

I looked at the olympian. It wasn’t that he was in a different league to me: we weren’t even playing the same sport. He said, “you first, mate.”

I replied, “No thanks. You should go first. You look like a fast competitive swimmer.”

He thought about it and said, “no – I think you are quicker.”

So, I went first. I had a five-second head start. Then, on the sixth second, he caught up.

I went as fast as I could, but he kept having to stop to wait for me.

After we’d finished eight laps, the coach said, “are you all happy with your times?”

The man who couldn’t have been more like a fish even if he’d had gills said, “I could have gone faster, but I got held up”.

I looked around and saw everyone else. It was like the scene at the start of Saving Private Ryan. Bodies were strewn in the water. People were screaming in agony. One man looked like he’d swum himself into a heart attack.

The coach asked, “Was that 70% effort?” No-one replied. They were all completely knackered.

Glentress Winter Trail Half Marathon

My first attempt at this event did not go well. You can read about it here

My last attempt at the race was better…

I haven’t done much training since completing Dramathon but I was confident the little I had done would get me through the race.

Its a long drive to Glentress from my house. Its even longer when Andrew phones the night before the race and asks for a lift from his house. I had to set off 40 minutes earlier than planned so I had time to pick him up.

He claimed he knew the fastest way there but his “shortcut” took us all the way south until we saw a sign saying “Welcome to England” and then all the way back north again.

We took my way back and saved about 40 minutes driving!

Annoyingly, despite signing up for the race in August, there was no record of my entry. I had to quickly find proof on my phone before I was able to start. Which would have been fine if I hadn’t left my phone in the car, a mile away from registration. I had to quickly run back and get the info.

The race was enjoyable. The weather was damp but it was warm enough to run in shorts and t-shirts. The first six miles is mostly up hill. There was some congestion on the climbs but it wasn’t as bad as the last time I did it.

Towards the end I bumped into a fellow glasgow triathlon club member. I said “Only one hill to go – the wee climb at the finish” She replied – “They aren’t doing that this year. The finish has been moved”

I’m glad she mentioned it as I’d have gone the wrong way at the finish if I had not known.

The new finish was flat across a field. Which wasn’t as interesting as the old finish. The last wee climb made the finish line feel sweeter but I’m guessing they aren’t allowed to use the road at the finish line so they had to move it.

A fun day out. Check out the February edition –

and check out for post race food. Delicious baking and sweets.

Film Friday – Will Smith

Can Will Smith lose 20lbs in 20 weeks? It’s an interesting challenge but not one that is at all relatable because Will Smith is not an ordinary man, or a professional athlete, he is a SUPERSTAR.

And being a superstar means that this challenge comes with a massive ‘but’. Does anyone other than Chris Pratt, Chris Evans or Chris Pine or any other modern action star not called Chris have access to a home gym, swimming pools, trainers and personal psychiatrist to help them achieve their weight loss goal?

I’d have like to see a video where Will Smith joins his local weight watchers and has to make to do with a DVD of Davina McCall for inspiration.

But… if you ignore the fact he is a superstar and everything about this has been through his PR team, it’s quite enjoyable because, well, it’s Will Smith and he’s a superstar for a reason. He knows how to entertain.

Outdoor Swim Review – Findhorn Bay

I’d planned to swim on Findhorn Beach, but six foot high rollers and a dozen birdwatchers changed my mind. While the fierce waves gave me second thoughts about venturing out into the water, the thought that risking swimming in those conditions would be captured by a dozen twitchers with foot-long zoom lenses ready to take a photo of my imminent demise was more than I could take.

Not that the birdwatchers were that interested in being there. When I saw them gather, I asked one of them. “Are you here to see anything in particular?”

He just shrugged and said “just some boring migrating birds.”

I wasn’t sure whether to be impressed by his disdain for his own hobby or to be saddened by the fact he was standing on a beach in November and didn’t even want to be there.

I did want to be there though having spent the day driving north from Glasgow and looking forward to a quick swim at the end of my journey. After going to the beach, I decided to drive to the south bank of Findhorn instead and swim in the sheltered bay beside the town. I wondered if it would be too public a spot for swimming. I was parking on the ‘Main Street’ and would be changing in front of people’s homes.

I shouldn’t have worried. While I was parking two others arrived to swim too and, when I went down to the water, another was already swimming. I shouldn’t have been worried about whether to swim. Instead I should have been worried about finding a space to swim.

Ease of Access: Park on the left hand side as near as you can to the Kimberley Inn.

Water quality: Shallow at the edge of the bay in high tide. Clear water and very calm even when the beach itself is not.

Swim Quality: Very good. Just watch out for trailing ropes between the shore and boats in the bay.

Other People: You’re swimming right beside a street with homes and two bars so expect company.

Would I go back: Yes. It wouldn’t be my first choice for a long swim but it was great for a short safe swim.

Did Not Finish – DNF book – Available now

DNF – Did Not Finish is available to order now…

Is is our story of 20 years swimming, biking and running. Every one of our results tells a story, even the races we did not finish.

It is a story about finding the joy in racing whether you come first or last.

It contains stories such as ….

I learnt to swim in the 1980s. My dad taught me using the “do not drown” approach.

He made me stand two metres from a pool wall. I then tried to swim to the wall. If I did not drown, he would increase my swim to three metres from the wall, and then four metres etc.

My fear of drowning meant I quickly learnt to swim. Unfortunately, my Dad only knew the breaststroke so that was all I learnt. He did not see the point in freestyle swimming. His view was “Why do you want to stick your head under the water? There is nothing to see there except people’s feet.”

My school attempted to teach me other strokes but I was not very good at them. I hated the weekly swimming lesson at our local leisure centre. I found the smell of chlorine in the pool overbearing.

I have subsequently discovered chlorine has no smell. The smell in the pool was from chloramines, which build up in pool water when the water is not properly clean. A smelly pool is an unclean pool.

If I had known that, I would have hated swimming even more than I did. 

A common sight, in a leisure centre, during this time period was a footbath in the changing rooms. A sign above it would read, “Always dip your feet into the foot-bath before entering the swimming pool.” Supposedly the foot-bath contained chemicals that prevented foot infections like verrucas.

Modern leisure centres do not have footbaths. Therefore, have we discovered a cure for verruca’s? No – we haven’t. What we have found is the cause of verruca’s. It was the foot-bath!

Leisure centres did not clean the foot baths often enough. It was basically a seething cesspit of fungal infection. I got a foot wart. Andrew got a verruca. Everyone in my school class got something. It’s no wonder that I didn’t swim again after leaving school for university as my abiding memory of learning to swim is a verruca, a dirty pool and almost drowning.

Did Not Finish – DNF book – Available now

DNF – Did Not Finish is available to order now…

Is is our story of 20 years swimming, biking and running. Every one of our results tells a story, even the races we did not finish.

It contains stories such as ….

I always remember the day a yogurt landed on my head.

It was November 1995. I was running along a street in Edinburgh.

I was listening to my Sony mini-disc player. That was state of the art back then. I didn’t have a mobile phone. If I’d wanted to make a call, I’d have carried 10 pence and popped into a telephone box. Now I carry a phone larger than my mini-disc player and my 10p piece combined, and we call this progress?

But, before I could question the benefits of technological evolution and even before I could say: “Is that a Muller yogurt falling from the sky?”, a Muller yogurt had fallen from the sky. It landed on my head leaving a trail of goo across my forehead.

I looked upwards. A man was laughing from a third-floor window. He was holding a spoon. It did not require Poirot to work out he was the prime suspect. As much as I was shocked to have been ‘Muller’d’, I was impressed with his aim. I’m sure I would miss If I tried to throw a non-aerodynamic yoghurt pot at someone from a height of 30 foot.

Thankfully, this incident did not put my off running. Although it did put me off Muller yogurt.

Another time, whilst running, I passed two schoolgirls eating chips. One of them shouted “OH MY GOD! I’m going to marry you!”. Which was a nice offer, but I don’t think she was serious. She didn’t even go down on one knee, she was too busy eating a chip.

Which brings me to the most shocking attack on me. I once got hit by a fish supper. It was whilst I was waiting at a traffic junction. As a car passed me, a fish and chip supper were thrown out of the passenger side window. A passenger shouted “Ha! Ha!” and the car drove off.

Is it a crime to throw a fish and chip supper at a stranger? Yes – probably. But I would argue the biggest crime is to throw a fish and chips supper away without eating all the chips. This was in Scotland. You don’t throw away chips in Scotland, you propose with them.