SUP Boarding – North Third Reservoir (Iain)

At the weekend, I went Stand Up Paddle Boarding at North Third reservoir near Stirling . The reservoir is strangely named as I can find no record of a North First or North Second reservoir. Maybe this one was third time lucky after the other two failed.

The reservoir is a great spot for swimming, paddle boarding and walking. The reservoir has high cliffs on one side, which form a dramatic backdrop. The surrounding area is forested with bike and walking trails. It’s a nature lovers paradise but it’s also a paradise for lovers of a different kind…

My favorite bit of the story is his very British excuse – “I can’t possibly be having sex with men. My wife made me sandwiches!”

I don’t think I helped the reservoir’s reputation. A van of men pulled up at the car park just after I’d got changed. The looked at me like I was a weirdo. I can’t think why…

Dressed like the Gimp from Pulp Fiction!

If you look closely at the start of this video you’ll notice a bridge across a river.

I decided to stand on the bridge to get a photo. Unfortunately the entrance to the bridge was blocked off. There was a sign on it that read “Condemned – do not cross.” I thought about it for a second and then decided to ignore it. Whats the worst that could happen?

The bridge had slats missing so I had to be careful as I walked across to not fall through the gaps. I reached the half way point successfully. I took a photo, turned around and took a step forward. I’d forgotten to look where I was going. My foot landed in one of the gaps in the bridge and my leg fell through it!

I took a hefty knock to my thigh but as I fell I did have the wherewithall to place my camera down gently on a slat rather than see it fall into the river. I was impressed with my quick thinking to save the expensive item but annoyed by how stupid I’d been!

As I lay on the bridge with one leg stuck through it all I could think about was the bridge scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

I managed to get back to my feet and thankfully was able to get out on the board. The only thing hurt was my pride. I managed to SUP round one of the reservoir’s islands and I’d highly recommend it as a SUP’ing spot. Just remember to bring sandwiches.

Screen Free Saturday (Iain)

During January I read eleven books.

The Voyeur’s Motel by Gay Talese
Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold by Stephen Fry
Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton
Battle Scars: A Story of War and All That Follows by Jason Fox
How to Be a Footballer by Peter Crouch
The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken by The Secret Barrister
Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict
The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee by Paul D. Gibson
A Boy in the Water: A Memoir by Tom Gregory
Delete This at Your Peril: The Bob Servant Emails by Bob Servant, Neil Forsyth
Bob Servant: Hero of Dundee by Bob Servant, Neil Forsyth

During February I read

Nowt. Not even a single word in a book.

What was the difference between January and February? In January I had hardly any access to the internet or to a television. During February I had unfettered access to the internet and television. I checked my internet usage using my iPhone’s screentime app.

18hr a week – that is time I could be reading a book….probably two books!

So, from last week I instigated #ScreenFreeSaturday and #SlightlyLessScreenTimeSundayToFriday. I need to work on the slogan for the second one!

The rules are simple. On a Saturday:

  1. No TV
  2. A phones is allowed but not for web browsing or social media.
  3. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are allowed

On the rest of the week during the hours 8pm to 7am

  1. TV is allowed
  2. A phones is allowed but not for web browsing or social media.
  3. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are allowed.

It could be argued that WhatsApp and Messenger should be blocked too but I class them as tools of communication in the same way as a phone call or a text message should be allowed. Blocking communication from friends and family is not the point of the exercise. It’s blocking mindless consumption of information i.e. status updates, tweets etc

I’ve been doing it for a week and I’ve already finished reading a book! I’ve watched TV and concentrated on the show instead of having one eye on TV and one eye on twitter. I’ve also had to face the truth – sometimes its good to have screen-time!

In that regard, I caved in on #ScreenFreeSaturday and used a screen. I wanted to watch telly in the evening. I’d done a race, it was a long day of driving and I just wanted to switch my brain off.

I’ve had a long relationship with TV so its hard to break it off!

Saturday is a day I normally watch a film or something on the telly in the evening so it was hard to go cold turkey. So instead I did #ScreenFreeSunday which was still hard but I managed it!

I think I’ll aim to do Saturday eventually but for the moment I’ll break myself in gently by doing Sundays.

Glentress Trail Half Marathon (Iain)

I studied maths at University. I didn’t want to, but I had no choice – it was a compulsory part of my computing degree.  

I remember one exam where I completed all the questions and included all my working out. I was confident I had done well. The paper was marked and returned to me. On the front page it said “0/30 – this shows no knowledge of math’s whatsoever!”

The man who measures the Glentress Trail half marathon must be as good at maths as I am because, although it’s called a half marathon, it’s not half. Its half-ish and comes in short at 12.5 miles. Thankfully it quality over quantity because it is a beautiful route.

I’m not the only person who thinks it’s beautiful. As I got to the top of a hill a man behind me (who had a very loud voice) said/shouted:

“THIS IS BEAUTIFUL!”

Yes, it is. Thanks for pointing it out. Then 10 seconds later…

 “WHAT A VIEW”

Thanks again. I definitely would not have noticed unless you had said something. Then ten seconds later…

“STUNNING!”

It still is. it hasn’t changed since 10 seconds ago! Then 10 seconds later…

“AMAZING!!”

Please be quiet! Then 10 seconds later…

“GLORIOUS!”

Did someone buy him a thesaurus for Christmas!

Then 10 seconds later….SILENCE. Thankfully, he must have run out of words. His thesaurus must be the abridged version. I took in the view and enjoyed the peace and quiet until he boomed  ”THIS IS BEAUTIFUL!” Then 10 seconds later….”WHAT A VIEW!” He must have been stuck on a loop.

At this point I slowed down and let him run on ahead as I couldn’t bear listening to him holler for the whole race about how beautiful the course was.

I wonder how his wife puts up with it: she must serve him diner and then he’ll start going “THIS IS DELICOUS….TASTY….MMMM MMMM MMMM…SCRUMMY…DELICIOUS…”

I do have a couple of complaints about the race. A lack of toilets despite the marked increase in the number of competitors since last year. There has been no increase in the number of toilets. There are two at the car park and two near the start. I saw a queue of 15 people still waiting to use the loo just five minutes before the race was due to start.

Secondly, don’t have the registeration for the 10K and the half marathon inside a busy café. It always causes a big queue of people who are confused about whether they are queuing for a race or to buy a scone.

The race itself is excellent. The weather was a very unseasonable 15C. It was so hot that I spotted one man running the course “taps aff.” Its not often you see a half naked man on a mountain in Scotland in February. Even rarer to see a man “taps aff” who’s not carrying a can of beer!

Don;t be fooled by the weather – this is Scottish seasons.

I was happy with my race. I was quicker than last year and felt good and fit all the way round.

The Chase (Part 3) (Iain)

The wardrobe department choose my shirt! Thats my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

“Do you want to know who you will be facing today?”

The Chase has five chasers. I didn’t mind who we got as long as it wasn’t Mark “The Beast” Labbett as he rarely lost.  

We all looked towards the chasers empty seat. The lights dimmed. A silhouette appeared and then sat down. The lights come back on and it was….THE BEAST.  

BUGGER!

Bradley Walsh turned towards my team and said “Maggie, are you ready to face the Beast?”

At this point all I could think was that Maggie will be eaten alive! Bye Maggie it has been nice knowing you. Imagine coming all this way and going out in the first 5 minutes of the show. She was certain to get a  “Maggie – for you the chase is over” from Bradley Walsh.

Maggie went up and stormed the quick quiz round. She was amazing! In the one on one round The Beast offers her £26K to take a step closer to him.

We all advise her not to take it. Don’t take on the Beast!

She ignores all of us and goes for the money. She’d definitely a goner now! She wins easily. I was wrong…again. Maybe we have a chance after all.

The chairs are not very comfy and the back of the desk is all wires and cheap plastic buttons.

I was up next. I did well in the quick quiz. I got the first question correct and that settled my nerves. I managed to get £6K. My only goal for the day was to get to the final chase.

I move onto the one on one round. The Beast offers me money to move close but there was no chance I was going to take it.

It felt like The Beast was higher up than it looks on the telly.

The first question was something to do with the English civil war. I’m Scottish. I don’t know anything about the civil war! I’m screwed. The beast will definitely know the answer. I take a guess. The answer is revealed and by some fluke I get it correct! A lucky start.

The second question is equally obscure. Something about county sizes in the USA. I have to guess again. So does the Beast. We both get it wrong. When this gets shown on TV this question is edited out. They must have decided it added nothing to the show to see two people get the same answer wrong when we both at this point had nothing to play for.

The next question “What is the name of the sitcom that stars Brendon O’Carroll as an Irish Mother?”

I choose “Mrs. Brown’s Boys”

He looks at me and says, “Are you confident with your answer?”

Yes – I was 100% confident in my answer. I also remembered that my mum had watched the show once but absolutely hated it. She couldn’t understand why it was so popular. So I replied to Bradley

“Yes – it’s my mum’s favourite show. She watches it all the time.”

I looked forward to seeing my mum’s face when she watched the show.  This relaxed me and I get the next few questions correct. Eventually, it came down to one last question. If I got it correct I was through. If I got it wrong then I’m out.

It’s about the biggest selling song of 2015. One option is Happiness by Pharrell Williams; another option is Let It Go from Frozen.

I choose Pharell because I have a keen interest in music and I was positive I’d read an article which had said it was the biggest selling song of 2015. Bradley Walsh asks if I’m sure? I say yes. He asks if I’m really sure? I now start to doubt myself. Are you really, really sure? Does he know something I don’t? I’m really quite doubtful now but I stick with my answer.

I’m correct!

Bradley admits he was sure it was Frozen and was sure I was going to be wrong. The Beast congratulates me and admits he thought it was Frozen too.

 Ellen is next. She doesn’t do well and is easily beaten.

Lewis is up next. He seems very nervous. He gets a couple of easy questions wrong in the quiz. He is loses to The Beast. He was easily the best quizzer of the three of us when we practiced beforehand. It shows how nerves can make even the best perform poorly.

The money was mostly Maggi’s.

Onto the last round. I’m not confident about winning but I think if we can score high teens then we might stand a chance.

The round starts. The questions come quickly. Maggie buzzes everything. I can barely get an answer in. if she doesn’t know a question she buzzes to say pass before I can answer. It was very annoying but we score a respectable 17. I think we could have scored more if she had taken a second to let me answer but we may have scored less. I’ll never know!

The Beast starts well but then he gets a question wrong. We get it correct. We push him back one. Then he gets another wrong and another. Eventually we push him back 5 times!

Unfortunately, it is not enough. He scores 18 with one second to go! I admit as I watched the clock tick down I was starting to think about what I would spend the winnings on.

Afterwards I sit on a train heading home from the studio. A couple are opposite me. They are holding a small trophy. I ask what it is. It’s a Pointless trophy. They’d won it that day. They ask if I’d come from the Studio. I tell them I was on The Chase. They ask If I’d won. I say no but I do have a signed pic of The Beast.

The Chase – Part 2 (Iain)

Showbiz is fame and glamour. That what I thought until I found myself auditioning for The Chase in the nondescript hotel function room of an even more nondescript hotel. The sort of hotel even cockroaches would think twice about staying in.

The audition involved a mock quiz and a short interview. I think the casting agents were looking for contestants who could explain their answers clearly. I assume this because I got all the answers wrong but I think I did a good job explaining my reasoning.

I was warned afterwards that I was not guaranteed a place on the show because they cast more people than they require but, if they did want to use me, they’d be in touch. It was the old showbiz phrase “don’t call us, we’ll call you!” After six months of not hearing from them, I was pleased and surprised when I received a call to appear on the show.

I was hoping they’d fly me down from Glasgow for the filming. Preferably a showbiz private jet. They offered me a return ticket on the train…2nd class only! Oh, the glamour of showbiz.

The Chase is filmed at Elstree Studios near London. Elstree is where the Star Wars films were made. I hoped I’d see Darth Vadar at the studio but unfortunately not. The Star Wars part of the studio has been knocked down and is now Tesco supermarket. They should call it C3P-TESCO.

The production crew put me up a hotel next to the studio. I thought I might spot some showbiz stars. Maybe Jennifer Aniston would be filming a new movie and need to stay close to set. If she was filming then she must have stipulated in her contract, “don’t put me up in that dump of a hotel next to the studio” – as I didn’t spot her at the breakfast bar ordering a full English.

After breakfast at my hotel I was chauffer driven to the studio. I was hoping for a stretch limo. I got a banged up old Ford Mondeo.

At the studio I was introduced to my fellow contestants. We did a warm up quiz to break the ice. Afterwards my impression was:

Magi – an unemployed middle aged woman. She was told by the producer that she shouldn’t say on the show she was unemployed. Supposedly TV viewers don’t like unemployed people winning money. She was told to say she was a volunteer. She was very slow at answering and seemed a bit mad. I thought she would be out in round 1.

Ellen – a mother of two. She seemed very pleasant. I suspected she also wouldn’t last long on the show as she had got a lot of answers wrong in the quiz.

Lewis – he was a big fan of the show. He knew a lot about Bradley Walsh and would say things like “Bradley will like it when I mention Watford FC as that’s his team too” I was worried he was a Bradley Walsh stalker and that he might have a big Bradley tattoo on his chest with “I love you Bradster” written underneath it. He was amazing at the quiz and I thought he was a definite to get through to the final chase.

Before the show recording started we were lead to or own personal changing rooms. I’ve seen cleaner’s cupboards that are more glamorous.

The producer told us we wouldn’t meet either the Chaser or Bradley Wash before filming began. So that a) we would act naturally surprised when the chaser appeared and b) Bradley preferred to do the show “cold” so that his reactions would be natural too.

As we queued outside the door to the studio there was another queue across from us waiting to get in a different door. I asked them what they were queuing for – “Pointless,” said one. Yes most queuing is pointless!

It turned out that the two biggest quiz shows on daytime TV are filmed next door to each other. Oh, the glamour!

[To be continued]

Pointless. I’ve never understood the appeal of this show!

The Chase – Part 1 (Iain)

Is it better to know a lot about a little or to know a little about a lot?

I know a little about a lot. Which is useful at my work as people can ask me about anything and I’ll have a vague knowledge about it.

The downside of this skill is that ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.’ It mean other people (and myself) think I know more than I actually do!

It could also be argued that knowing a lot about a little is not a particularly useful skill. Imagine Liam Neeson in the film Taken if he only had a little knowledge.

“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom I can tell you I have money, but what I do have are a very wide range of limited skills. Vague Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you…as I’ll probably make a mistake when applying them due to my lack of attention to detail and because I’ve mis-remembered how to use them.”


But there is one place where my skill set does prove useful. One place where my skills truly shine. One place where I am a skills king among- unskilled mortals – a pub quiz.

If you want to know who the musician was behind the hit song “wombling free” by The Wombles was then I’m your pub quiz man. [Its Mike Batt]

If you want to know what is the capital of Kazakhstan? Then I’m your pub quiz man. [It’s Astana]

If you want to know what that pimple is at the end of your thingy then….I’m definitely not your man. Go and see a doctor!

I never thought my general knowledge would amount to much until I saw a program on ITV called “The Chase”

If you are not aware of the show then The Chase is a three round general knowledge quiz hosted by Bradley Walsh for four contestants.

In round one, each contestant answers as many general knowledge questions as possible in 60 seconds. Each answer is worth £1k to the team’s prize fund.

In round two, a contestant faces a quiz expert called the “chaser.” They play on a virtual ladder. A contestant starts 5 spots from the end of the ladder, which has a cash prize, while the chaser starts 8 spots from the end. Each player simultaneously and secretly answers a trivia question.

Each correct answer brings a contestant closer to the end. However, each correct answer for the chaser brings the chaser closer to the contestant. If the chaser catches the contestant before the contestant reaches the end, then the contestant loses and the game ends.

In the final round, the contestants who successfully managed to complete round two have two minutes to answer as many general knowledge questions as possible. The chaser then does the same. If the contestants have a higher score than the chaser they keep the prize fund. If the chaser wins, the contestants go home with nothing.

As soon as I saw it I thought to myself – this is a show I can do because the questions don’t require any specific knowledge, it only requires knowing a little about allot.

Which is why I found myself here….

[To be continued]

The Chase

Kirkintilloch 12.5K (Iain)

When you run, do you stare at other runner’s bums?

It’s quite hard not to stare at arses, unless you have a perfect upright running style. I run slightly stooped forward in a way which naturally brings my gaze to tush level.

I thought about this when I saw a photo of myself from the race.

I don’t know who the man in the white t-shirt is but I ran with him for about 15 minutes. I hadn’t seen his face until now. He was slightly quicker than me so I spent all that time just a couple of meters behind him in a perfect eye to posterior running form.

I was with him for a quarter of the race but, if I was asked to pick him out of a police line up, then I’d have to ask him to turn around. It’s only his bahookie that I’d recognize. I suspect my butt to face ratio in a race is at least nine butts for every one face I see.

Kirkintiloch is the perfect place to discuss derriere’s because the town is known as the Canal capital of Scotland. Why does that make it a bun friendly town? Because people paint over the C in canal…


Kirkintilloch 12.5k is an “undulating” course – 12 hills in 12 KM. I prefer to call it a course with 12 downhills in 12 KM’s. That sounds less fearsome. Similarly, Mount Everest sounds better when described as a long walk down.

It was a the fourth time I’ve raced it and this year I got a course PB. I was ill on Friday so I’m not sure if the PB is due to fitness or the amount of drugs I consumed on the Saturday to get better.

I suspect it was the weather that really helped. Every other year has seen ice on the course. This year there was none. I could finally run the downhills without the fear of slipping and falling over.

One of the 12 downhill sections. I’m going so fast the horses couldn’t keep up!

Foxtrail Harvest Moon Half Marathon (Iain)

The FoxTrail winter series is a running series based in and near Dunbar in East Lothian. The six race series ranges in distance from 5K to half marathon distance.

I love East Lothian for the sandy beaches, the beautiful weather (it’s always sunny when I visit) and the nachos. Yes – I said nachos. The Old Course pub in Gullane http://www.oldclubhouse.com/ does the best nachos in Scotland and believe me I’ve eaten a lot of nachos in Scotland…which may explain my deteriorating athletic performances in recent years.

I’d promised Nic I’d try to be vegetarian this year. I’d managed all of January but, as soon as I got to the clubhouse, I forgot all about it and I ordered chicken nachos. it was only once I’d finished eating them that I realized what I’d done! It was very tasty though….

Definitely not vegetarian

Andrew was supposed to be doing the race but he pulled out on Friday night. He said he’d been looking at the course and noticed their was a river crossing. The temperature was due to be 1C. He claimed that “a river crossing at that temperature is dangerous. I’m not doing it!”

I’ll let you judge the river crossing for yourself (see the video below) before you make a judgement on what a big scaredy cat Andrew is. I’ve seen jellyfish with more backbone than Andrew!

The start of the race was near a field of animals that looked like this

Is it a llama or an alpaca

Which led to two runners having an argument on the starting line:

Runner 1 – It was a llama
Runner 2 – It was an alpaca!
Runner 1 – No! It was a llama!!
Runner 2 – Look mate! If there’s one thing I know, it’s alpacas. It’s a fucking alpaca!
Runner 1 – Fuck off! It’s a llama. You’re talking out your arse.
Runner 2 – Stick the llama up your arse!!

It was an alpaca. I know this because I googled it after the race. I now know more about llamas and alpaca’s than I ever wanted to know. Did you know
llamas are vegetarians ? Although I bet they’d make an exception if they saw how good my chicken nachos were.

The race itself was a good mix of trail, farmland and beach. The weather was cold which meant there was no mud and the tracks were all easily runnable. I felt good at the end of the race and I was happy I hadn’t lost much fitness after my long Indian vacation.

On the way home I reflected on the day. One question kept coming to me – I wonder if llama nachos would be tasty?

Running a Mumbai 5K (Iain)

I sometimes go to the cinema by myself because Nic thinks my film choices sound awful. For example she said no to Bumblebee – a film about a Volkswagen beetle that becomes a robot. How could that possibly sound awful???

When I go, I often get asked by the cashier – “do you want another ticket for after this one?”

NO! I might be in the cinema by myself but don’t rub it in by assuming I couldn’t possibly have friends or plans for after.

Worryingly I’ve asked other people who go the cinema by themselves whether this has every happened to them. They said no it has never happened to them. I’m not sure what this says about me….

My love of film goes back many years. At school I was part of a group that ran a weekly cinema for younger kids, I’ve read every book going on film theory and I’ve even made my own film!

The film was for a project called the 48 Film festival. I had to put together a film in 48 hrs based on a premise, name, plot and genre given to me at the start of the first hour. I had to create a film about a cleaner caller Norman which features a ring in a documentary format. It was screened at the Glasgow Film Theatre.

You can see it here:

I think the lead actor has allot of talent! 😉

Considering other teams had multiple people, professional actors/makeup/directors etc then I’m quite proud of what we achieved with little to no talent.

Due to my love of film I was excited to run in Mumbai – the home of Bollywood movies. I thought I’d have to go on a tour to see a film but when I arrived at my hotel there was a film being shot straight outside it.

I asked at the hotel desk what was happening and they explained that the rest of the city has Victorian-Gothic architecture but where I was staying is an old purpose-built district called Ballard Estate. Its predominant architectural style is English Edwardian.

This style makes it perfect for Bollywood films as directors can film in the streets and pretend the film character are in London/Paris/New York. It really does feel like those places.

A Bollywood star or just someone with allot of photographer friends.

The estate was great for running. Big boulevards that were virtually car free. Excellent pavements and it was very easy to navigate. I it was great to finish my Indian running jaunts with an easy run

Ease of Running score – 10/10

Sights: 8/10 (Great architecture and nice tree lined streets)

Running a Kerela 5K (Iain)

My surname is Todd. Which meant I was very excited when I saw this shop.

I thought he would have food specifically aimed at people called Todd but the shopkeeper didn’t have any biscuits or sweets. I don’t think he’s full aware of his target markets needs.

What he actually sells is a Palm wine. An alcoholic beverage created from the sap of various species of palm tree. It is known by various names in different parts of the world. In Kerela its called a Toddy.

The shop keeper got very excited when I told him I was called Todd. He got very, very excited. So excited that I started to wonder whether his shop sold palm wine or whether it actually sold Todd’s and he was excited by how much he could sell me for!

I left his shop very quickly and headed on my way to where I was staying – Kochin.

Kiochin by Indian standards is a relatively quiet laid-back city. It very easy to run in as the roads are quiet and the pavements are good. It is hot (35C) so the best time to run is before breakfast when the Sun is rising.

I enjoyed the run as Kochin has an annual art festival which lets artists paint murals on walls in the town. This meant the run was very similar to a Glasgow style mural run.

Ease of Running score – 10/10

Sights: 7/10 (Lots of murals)

One of the many murals.