All posts by Andy Todd

31 Day Stretching Challenge – Day 8 (Andrew)

I don’t know what I’ve just watched.

In my search for the videos to follow along to on YouTube I’ve encountered all sorts of videos. Some are presented by lithe models, others by buff men, some use a garden, others a house which is lit as well as any studio. These videos can be professional, amateur or, well, whatever the heck ‘Bob & Brad’ are doing. I have no words to describe their video. I think I will leave it one YouTube commentator who said:

“I don’t know how two guys can be so helpful, so funny, and so boring, all at once… but I like it.”

And if that comment doesn’t help you then at least watch the first 20 seconds as Bob & Brad have their own theme song. It’s quite something.

For something more traditional, and nice and local (at least for me as a fellow Glaswegian) then I can recommend ‘Yoga With Mark’:

31 Day Stretching Challenge – Day 6 (Andrew)

Six days of stretching and I still don’t know if I’m doing it right. Stretching should be easy, right? It’s just reaching with attitude. Or relaxing on purpose. I can reach. I can relax. So, why can’t I stretch?

I think part of the problem is that I find it difficult to work out what I’m doing. The instructions on the video will say “left” and I think “right”. If the instructor says raise leg leg, I’m raising my right. I don’t think I’m an idiot, so we can rule out a lack of any ability to follow basic instructions. Instead I think it’s the way most videos are filmed. When someone says “left” and are facing the camera, they raise their arm on the right hand side of the screen. Now some people may say that “yes, Andrew, you are an idiot as they are clearly raising their left arm” but, for me, it throws me off everytime. There should be an option, like computer games, to reverse the controls. Two videos. One where the instructor says “left” and the other where they say “right” even though they’re doing the same move.

Equally, if we’re talking about making the perfect introductory YouTube video for stretching, why are they all made by people who are really, really bendy? I don’t look like they do. I can’t lower my head beneath my foot while extending my arms above my head while balanced only a single buttock. But they can. And they do. I want to see someone struggle to bend. I want to see me on my screen. So, instead of ‘Yoga with Adrienne’ what about ‘Yoga with Adrienne and Andrew’? I could stand beside her and when she moves smoothly through more bends than a slinky, I struggle to pat my head while rubbing my belly.

And, if any YouTubers are reading this, just think about how much money you would make as you could release three videos instead of one? One left, one righty, one with a numpty. Same moves, three videos. Easy.

Next up on my thirty day of stretching I’m going to try a fitness app.

And, on day six, am I feeling any different? Possibly. Maybe. Still too early to tell. I want to reduce tightness in my right hip and I think it has improved. But after only few days it’s too early to tell.

Day 6 Videos

31 Day Stretching Challenge – Day 1 (Andrew)

Last year I challenged myself to complete 31 days of exercise. You can read about it here. At the end I offered the following tips:

You need a plan

AND

You need to think about it before you start.

So, this year, I haven’t prepared a plan and I haven’t given this any thought as I start a new 31 day challenge to stretch every day of January.

This year, to try and change my attitude to exercise, I’m going to try and learn more about stretching, Yoga and taking care of my body.

I’ve never stretched before exercised, just as I don’t snack before having a meal or wash before having a bath. I’ve always thought stretching and warming up was something you did by doing the very thing you’re warming up for. If you want to warm up for a run – run the first mile. Easy.

But, having finished the year with various niggles, pains and stiff muscles, I thought it would be more challenging to try and stretch than to try and repeat last year’s challenge. Let’s try something new instead.

So, yesterday I started by… not reading my tips from last year. Instead I picked two videos at random from YouTube which were picked purely on a “20 mins stretching” search “morning stretching” and then picking videos by two men rather than two women, which isn’t sexist. Or maybe it is. My sole thought was “men stretch differently from woman because male and female bodys are different”. By the end of the month, I’ll work out if this is true or whether I have just been an idiot.

To continue my lack of preparation, I didn’t use a mat or even change in shorts and t-shirt. I used the carpet, I took off my trousers (as even I knew that you can’t stretch in jeans) and followed the videos. Was it graceful? No! Was it decent? Possibly not either! Did it work? Well, I do feel slightly less stiff than before I started. Whether that’s physical or the placebo of thinking I’m better because I’ve done something and if I’ve done ‘something’ then I must feel better. I don’t know. But I’ve got 30 days to find out. (And to find proper clothes).

Day 1 Videos

Music 2022 (Andrew)

In previous years I’ve picked some of my favourite songs. This year I’ve decided to pick albums, playlists and artists as I think that’s a better reflection of how I actually listen to music.

Playlist – Phonk on Spotify

If I was to ever hijack a car and joyride around Moscow while being chased by the police then I’d definitely play ‘Phonk’ – a sub-genre of Russian dance music.

Album – The Blue Hour by Suede

I loved Dog Man Star, it’s one of my favourite ever albums. But, this might be better. Released a few years ago but I only listened to it this year because… well… who listens to new music by Britpop era band? A new Shed Seven album? No thanks! But, this and Suede’s new album ‘Autofiction’ are simply great albums. And this in particular could be their best.

Album – Skinty Fia by Fontaines DC

Speaking of the 90s, one of the great bands that nobody bought was Dublin’s ‘Whipping Boy’. Their album ‘Heartburn’ is also one of my favourites. And, if they were still around today, I could image them making Skinty Fia.

Artist – Taylor Swift

I love you, Taylor!

Honourable mentions: Yard Act, Gretel Hanlyn, Clipping, Confidence Man and LYR.

And, ’cause I can’t resist a track of the year (or two):

TV 2002 (Andrew)

My TV conked out this year and I had to buy a new one. I decided to buy a 4K telly because, well, all TVs seemed to be 4K these days. But what I didn’t know is that along with being 4K it also came with an upscaling software that ruined everything I tried to watch. Every image was too sharp, every programme was too colourful, and even the most expensive special effect looked cheap. I had fallen victim to ‘motion smoothing’ and all you need to know about it can be explained by Mr Tom Cruise himself:

So after switching off every setting these are the programmes I enjoyed this year:

Dexter: New Blood

I loved Dexter. While season 4 was clearly the best, there was still a lot to love in the later years except… for the last episode. Which I never watched. Something happens in the penultimate episode which was so dumb and out of character that I couldn’t bear to watch the final episode. I knew the creators had botched the ending the way a chef botches a pan of soup by adding concrete cement to the pan. You don’t need to taste the final bowl to know to avoid it.

So, my hope with the new series was that it would have a proper ending. And it did. Along with a griping story and a fantastic performance from Michael C Hall. This was a pleasant surprise, a warming treat like getting a bowl of soup (without cement) on a cold winter’s day.

Better Call Saul

I never liked Breaking Bad. But I loved Better Call Saul. But that might just be because I’m a lawyer and I’ve never seen a realistic episode about corporate due diligence until Better Call Saul spent an episode in a basement looking through brown boxes. It may not have been crystal meth but, for me, this was equally as addictive. Next week, will he register a disposition in the Registers of Scotland? Tune in and find out!

The Rehearsal

Is this a show about trying to feel real emotions featuring real people with real decisions and real dilemmas? Or a manipulative exploitative work of fiction filled with actors? And did it matter if what you saw was fake when the whole point of the programme was to fake real encounters? Or was it all real? If Madam Tussaud’s was a television programme, then this would be it. Except some of the waxworks would turn out to be real.

Midnight Mass

Do you like horror? Do you like people talking for hours and hours and hours and hours and hour and hours? Then this is for you. A horror where people talk for hours and hours and hours and hours – until they die. Sombre, gruesome fun.

For All Mankind – season 1

The race for space but Russia wins. Every episode then looks at the consequences of it as it jumps forward months and years. Simply, the best programme I saw all year.

Older stuff: watching 30 Rock again and finally watching early seasons of Justified and onto season 3 and the best dialogue in television.

Raylan: I got mad ninja skills buddy.
Tim: Yeah, you know karate?
Raylan: And two other Japanese words.

Films 2022 (Andrew)

Did we really need two films about Pinoccio this year? Or two films in 1998 about a giant meteor heading to Earth in Deep Impact and Armageddon? Or any of the other ‘twin films’ released each year where almost identical films are released at the same time, which happens more often than you might think?

Check out twin films for more examples, though some of the connections are very tenuous. Juno and Knocked Up are considered ‘twin films’ just because they both feature a pregnancy. However, if that’s the low standard required for a ‘twin film’ then I’ll submit two of my favourite films of the year: RRR and Everything Everywhere All At Once.

RRR is an Indian historical epic with the most OTT action sequences since John Woo said “we need more slow mo, and doves, and fire, and guns, and doves, and a baby, and guns, and don’t forget the doves!”.

In RRR, when one of the quietest scenes features a man throwing a tiger like a javelin, then you get a sense of how wild it can be. Throw a tiger like a javelin? That’s nothing! How about one man riding on the back of another man, while both of them fight of the entire British army while also throwing two tigers like javelins? RRR is ridiculously entertaining.

Everything Everywhere All At Once is all OTT but in a very different way. It throws ideas on screen, features scenes of rocks talking to one another, it jumps between different worlds and it tries to tell a story that violence and action are not the answer, while at the same time featuring a martial arts sequence with a fanny pack and a trophy placed in a plce where no trophy should ever go.

Yet, despite being nothing alike, both films are ‘twin films’ because both films feature a climax of the main character running along while riding on the shoulders of another character, which is enough for me to declare them ‘twin films’. Or twinbikerun films…

Other favourites :

Another Round – Charming Danish film about a group of friends who decide that life would be better if they were just a little bit drunk all day.

Fresh, Top Gun:Maverick and The Outfit – Three films that all had one thing in common: a proper satisfying plot no matter how outlandish the films became.

Cyrano – The best looking film this year. Every shot is stunning.

Pig – That’ll do, Nicolas Cage, that’ll do.

X – The best horror movie of the year. A satisfying old school cabin in the woods, let’s kill the characters off one by one, type horror.

The Batman – another film with not just a satisfying plot but a vital scene where Batman, after filming in Glasgow, could quite clearly be seen to drive down from the Necropolis, reach the junction beside the Royal Infirmary and be forced to decide if he was joining the M8 motorway or heading to town for his shopping. I can’t wait for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, which also filmed in Glasgow, and which, from the trailer, looks like Indy will be riding a horse straight into the Greggs The Bakers on George Square.

Books 2022 (Andrew)

After I spent most of last year reading and re-reading my own books – more here – I thought I’d better read books by other people this year!

I also wanted to read more and I set myself the goal of reading a book every two weeks.

A good goal, I thought – but then JK Rowling released all 1000 plus pages of the Ink Black Heart and I could only have read it in two weeks if I’d taken a fortnight off and gone without sleep. However, on average, I met my goal as I also read a few books which were considerably shorter, including:

The Employees

136 pages of an HR report of employee interviews from a spaceship returning after *something* happens on an alien planet. A very unique way of telling what could have been a standard sci-fi tale.

Biographies

I enjoyed Brett Anderson’s Afternoons With The Blinds Drawn and Jarvis Cocker’s Good Pop, Bad Pop. One was filled with Britpop parties and heroin, the other working as a fishmonger in Sheffield. Both showed how singularly focussed you need to be to become a pop star. And how you really don’t want to take heroin. Or gut a fish.

I hated Liz Truss: Out of The Blue. if you want a trawl through 10 years of newspaper articles about Liz Truss, charting her career as an MP and minister, this is the book for you. If you want any insight, this book has been published too soon.

Classics

I’ve never read Frankenstein or Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde. I decided to read both to find out what actually happens in them. And the answer was nothing that matches any of the many TV or film versions I’ve seen of both. Frankenstein in particular was nothing like the story I thought it would be. No lightening bolts, no Igor, no flaming torches. No musical numbers. It turned out my idea of Frankenstein was almost exclusively based on the move ‘Young Frankenstein’. The book is not a Mel Brooks film.

Page turners

Emma Haughton’s ‘The Dark’ about a murder in the Arctic, is a cracking schlocky locked room mystery; Abigail Dean’s ‘Girl A’ is a gripping why done it; Janice Hallett’s ‘The Appeal’ is hugely enjoyable, but my favourite was Joseph Knox’s ‘True Crime Story’. A girl disappears in Manchester, and Joseph Knox tells the ‘true story’ of what happened, how he got involved and why it has nothing to do with him (or does it?).

The Sound of Football: Cheltenham Town (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

Cheltenham Town

Nickname: The Robins

Ground: The Abbey Business Stadium

Stadium Capacity: 7,133

Song: No official song

Cheltenham doesn’t have an official song, but if it wants a suitably heroic anthem, we can suggest it should call on a local hero and former Olympian, Eddie’ The Eagle’ Edwards.

According to the Olympic spirit:  “the important thing is not to win, but to take part“. One man embodies that spirit more than any other British athlete: Cheltenham’s Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards.

Eddie was the first competitor to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping, a fantastic achievement when Cheltenham had neither snow nor hills to practice on.

His sporting ambition was also handicapped by a lack of funding, which prevented him from travelling abroad to train, and by his need to wear glasses, as he was near-sighted.

Glasses are a disadvantage in ski jumping – when Eddie jumped, his glasses would fog up. At the Calgary Olympics, he finished last, but the public took him to their hearts, and he became famous as a plucky underdog. At the closing ceremony, the president of the Organising Committee said:

At these Games, some competitors have won gold, some have broken records, and some of you have even soared like an eagle.

Unfortunately, other competitors didn’t have the Olympic spirit and complained that Eddie had made a mockery of their sport. They demanded the rules be changed to stop underdogs from competing. The International Olympic Committee created ‘the Eddie the Eagle Rule’, which requires Olympic hopefuls to compete in international events and place in the top 30 per cent or the top 50 competitors.

Eddie never competed in another Olympics. However, his skill in falling from a great height proved helpful when he went on to win the ITV celebrity diving show, Splash in 2013.

Cheltenham Town was founded in 1892. It spent the first three decades in local football, where it celebrated several championships and cup wins. Since moving to the football league, its trophy cabinet has been as bare as Eddie’s.

Eddie is not just a great faller; he’s also made several hit records. He recorded a song in Finnish entitled ‘Mun nimeni on Eetu’ (‘My name is Eetu’) even though he does not speak Finnish. Eddie’s less-than-perfect pronunciation added to its appeal. Later, he recorded another Finnish-language song: ‘Eddien Siivellä’ (‘On Eddie’s Wing’). Music doesn’t have an ‘Eddie The Eagle’ rule, but if it did…

Instead of a song, Cheltenham fans have several memorable chants, and perhaps one of them explains why they don’t have a song. If you visit the Abbey Business Stadium, you’ll hear fans sing:

We can’t read, and we can’t write, but that don’t really matter

We all come from Cheltenham-shire and we can drive a tractor

Ooh arr, ooh arr, ooh arr, ooh arr, ooh arr!

(Source: terrace chant)

Perhaps, when fans can’t read or write, it’s too much to expect a song from them too.

Buy the Sound of Football from Amazon.