Watching Stuff 2019 (Andrew)

20 years ago I finished a film script. It was a fantasy film with a quest, a battle, a king, a tyrant and a comedy dwarf. It was, I thought, quite good. It had a cracking start but I gave to confess to you now that it was one that I’d ‘borrowed’ from my favourite fantasy novel. But that was okay. Because no one else knew about this book. No one had taken it out from the library. No one knew it’s name whenever I mentioned it. It was ripe for stealing. So, I did. And, earlier this year, I found the script again, I read it and I realise that I have to say I’m sorry to… George R R Martin and that I didn’t mean to steal the opening of Game of Thrones from you! Please don’t sue me!

Anyway, 20 years later, my favourite book when I was at university became the biggest TV show in the world. And this year it came to an end. A story that started when I was 20, finished when I was 42 and it was… alright.

It wasn’t the worst ending in the world, it wasn’t the best (That would be Leftovers). It was… alright.

But what could cap 22 years of living with a story? It would be like ending Coronation Street or trying to tie together The Simpsons in one episode. Some things become too big to ever end. Instead, I celebrate the small achievements. The one liners. Every scene at The Wall. The dead rising for the first time. The fate of the Ice King. Tyrion’s trial. And drinking in Winterfell the night before the final battle.

(And the less said about Jon Wood – because that’s what his acting was made from – the better!)

So, while it doesn’t make my TV list of the year, it’s only because I’m judging this series and not every series. While this series was good. A couple of episodes were great but it’s not made the best of the year because the best programme on TV was ‘Documentary Now’ a programme presented by Helen Mirren that featured a 1970s documentary about a flop Broadway musical that didn’t exist either as a documentary or a musical. But once you watch it you will believe that somewhere there is a musical called ‘Co-Op’ that closed after one night. And you’ll fall in love with Documentary Now.

Good evening, I’m Helen Mirren and you’re watching Documentary Now.

Three series, all on Amazon Prime, and all introduced by Helen Mirren as she presents a different classic documentary every episode. Except they’re all made up. From the Hollywood rise to power bio-pic to fictional band’s reminiscing over classic albums or investigative journalist’s repeatedly dying while tracking drug lords in Mexico. Each episode is perfectly made and completely untrue – except for the story of ‘Co-op’ the musical, which definitely did happen, even though it didn’t. That’s how good Documentary Now is – it’ll make you think you watched something that actually happened, even though you know it didn’t.


Arctic has Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen try to escape a plane crash in the Arctic. Despite very few words, despite most of the few words being in Norwegian, you always know exactly what he’s thinking and what he’s doing and what a good man would do when in an impossible situation. A cracking film about a Norwegian hero not called Thor.


Hearts Beat Loud is a small film with big songs about a man who tries to form a band with his daughter before she leaves to go to college.


The return of The Lonely Island with The Bash Brothers Experience.


Upgrade is just fun. One man, paralysed, gets a new body – and eventually starts fighting… himself. A high concept sci-fi cross between Evil Dead 2, Robocop and Her.




The Good Place.


Alan Partridge

The Americans – final season – finale got it exactly right

Avengers: Endgame


Detective Pickachu

Leave No Trace

Real Kashmir FC

Watchmen – which could have been number one, particular for the Hooded Justice episode, but I’ve not seen it all yet.

Getting Changed When Outdoor Swimming (Andrew)

Some times great ideas are not so great when someone else spots the obvious flaw in them. I remember watching an episode of Dragons Den where an inventor claimed to have developed a brand new spout for bottles that always guaranteed a smooth flow when pouring. (Not something I’d ever thought needed a solution but try pouring a large 2 litre bottle of milk quickly and you’ll see the milk comes out in ‘spurts’). The inventor spent five minutes telling the Dragons about the benefits of his invention and how an investment of £100k for 10% of the company was the best investment they would ever make. This optimism lasted only until one of the Dragons explained to him that if you just turn a bottle on its side then any liquid will flow smoothly anyway, without any invention needed, due to the greater air space created in the bottle. The inventor looked devastated and needless to say he didn’t get any investment that day…

I had a similar moment this year when I thought I’d invented the ideal solution for changing clothes when swimming outdoors.

Indoor swimmers don’t have this problem. They go to warm comfortable swimming pools with warm comfortable changing rooms. You can strip safe in the knowledge that (a) you won’t have a cold wind blowing up the north west passage; and (b) you will have a locked door between you and any unfortunate accidental nude incidents involving an outraged mother and the swimming pool manager.

Outdoor swimmers don’t have the same facilities. There’s no changing room at Loch Lomond. No locker for your clothes next to Troon Beach. Instead, you have to improvise – and most of the time that involves your car.

For some people getting naked in the back of a car is natural. But I don’t want to dwell on what you get up to in discreet car park on a Friday night, instead, I want to ask what you do on a Sunday morning when you’re parked beside a busy road and want to get changed into rubber. How do you get naked without breaking the Highway Code by flashing without using your indicators?

You can get changed in the back seat. This is one method I’ve tried which I can recommend as long as you’re prepared to lay down some basic covers because, and there’s no other way to say this, if you’re going to get changed in the back seat then you’re going to be rubbing your posterior on your rear leather interior. You might want a towel.

Instead, you might want to get changed outside your car. But then you run the risk of (a) hypothermia and, you’re a man, (b) shrinkage so that if you do share your budgie with a passing motorist, they won’t, as J-Lo so succinctly put it, be impressed by the rocks that you’ve got.

That’s why I thought I’d come up with a full proof alternative that combined the best parts of changing indoors and outdoors. My way involved opening both the front and rear doors and then getting changed in the middle between them. Genius, I thought. The front door acts as a wall to protect from the wind and any rain. The rear door acts as wall to protect your modesty. You can keep your clothes in the car to keep them dry if it’s raining – and it was all working absolutely perfectly until Iain said:

“You do know I can see your ass through the windows!”

Damn, windows in car doors!!!!

So, now, I recommend one way to get changed above all others. Buy a DryRobe and get changed under it.

A DryRobe is basically a large towel with a hood and two sleeves. It fits over your body and covers you from head to feet with enough material to host a marquee for 50 wedding guests. It’s as close as you can get to wearing a tent without actually wearing a tent.

I love it. And so do passing motorists who no longer have to avert their eyes.

So, if you’re looking for perfect gift for Christmas for the outdoor swimmer in your life (or, frankly, any relative who says they love dogging but doesn’t appear to own a pet) then you can buy them the perfect gift here: DryRobe

Politics 2019 (Andrew)


Boris’s Brexit: basically, when you think about it, Boris’s Brexit is all about the UK’s right to choose whether we want our kids to stitch footballs for peanuts in sweatshops in Kent.

While the EU want footballs made by trained adults – damn the EU and their regulations! – Boris believes small nimble fingers will build a better Britain.

And who’s to say he’s wrong?


Maybe child labour is the future? You don’t have to pay anyone under 18 a minimum wage. Kids are cheap. So, we’ll all benefit from reduced costs. Also, kids don’t drive so we’ll have less cars on the road as more of the workforce use public transport. It would be an environmental disaster not to employ children. It’s the green choice. Extinction Rebellion would support it. No need to picket a runway to save the planet when you can support 10 year old children working the assembly line for a brand new Nissan Leaf electric car in Sunderland.

Now, some people may say that Boris has no intention of cornering the global market in furry yellow Mouldmasters footballs. He’s only cosying up to the Hard Brexiteers to get their votes until he’s secured a new five year term. But the haters only say that because they lack VISION – also a common problem of anyone who’s tried heading a rock hard Mouldmaster. However, Boris has proved the doubters wrong before, when everyone thought he would not get the EU to sign a new deal, and he can prove them wrong again! Back Boris!

But won’t parliament stop Boris if he tries to restore good old fashioned child slavery just like we had when Queen Victoria was on the throne? Won’t they talk about universal human rights and the need for children to have a childhood instead of a steady 9 to 9 job (with 30 minutes break for lunch, unpaid)?

Why, yes. Yes, they will, unless we all vote Tory. That’s why I’m suggesting that everyone across the entire country votes Tory so that there is not a single opposition MP in the House of Commons!

Give me Boris a free reign. No excuses. Let him do anything he wants for five years. And then let’s see how Great Britain will be! 

(And, even better, we’ve all ready got a head start on restoring Britain’s competitive edge on the world stage as Boris has loads of kids)

So, choose Boris’s Brexit! Think of your children and the glorious future that awaits them! You know it makes sense! Back Boris bairns! Vote Tory and, just like Boris, bonk for Britain!

Celtman Nutrition Plan (Andrew)

I was running through Cooper Park in Elgin this week when I passed the library and a bunch of teenagers hanging out on it’s steps. Which was good to see. Teenagers hanging out at the library. They must be the cool kids, I thought. Probably exchanging thoughts on whether the Blagh Book by Nigel Tomms really does challenge the stifling formality of language by writing a one million word long sentence where every second word has been replaced by the word “Blah” or whether it challenges anyone not to laugh at such pretentious twaddle as books are meant to, as a minimum, be, you know, read and understood.

And then one boy turned to the other and said: “Gonna give us a poond”.

“Wha fir?” said the other.

“It’s a poond an eccie and ahm gonna get wasted!”

Which made me think. How can an eccie, which I assume is an ecstasy tablet, not being up with the old drug lingo, be a pound? How can it be cheaper than a legal drug like alcohol or cigarette? Has the market fallen out of eccies. Is there a big warehouse with a secret stash of unsold tablets somewhere in the Moray countryside where the local drug dealer has no choice but to have a fire sale before the spring/summer eccies arrive?

Or was the kid being conned? Was someone selling Smarties and pretending they will get you high?

Or are drugs just really cheap?

They don’t tell you that in school.

“Don’t take drugs!” Says the teacher.

“Why not!” We say.

“They’re too cheap! Save up and get a proper drink like a Buckfast – like a real man!”

When I got back, I Googled “How much do drugs cost” and I was surprised to learn how cheap heroin is too. It’s only £10 for the average bag while cocaine is £30 – £40 per gram.

Based on those prices, I would be daft not to inject myself intravenously.

Then I Googled the price of new energy gels as I’d run out. And as I’ve written before – see here – I need a new supplier.

And, having checked the price of energy gels and energy bars and comparing them against the latest street prices I can confirm that I will be running Celtman on a nutrition plan of one ecstasy every hour and a shot of heroin at the end of each stage. It’s the economic choice. I’d be daft not to save money by buying my ‘nutrition’ on the black market. Triathlons can be expensive, but not if you shop around.

But, before I buy more drugs than Boots the Chemists, first I asked the Glasgow Triathlon Club Facebook forum this week for recommendations for a thick gel to replace my Zipvits and have been recommended gels by Torq. I’ve ordered a box of mixed gels – but if they don’t work out I may need to join the cool kid gang and visit the library…

Music 2019 (Andrew)

There was no escaping one song this year – Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’. It sold 10 million copies in the US and it stayed in the top 40 in the UK for so long the Home Office threatened to deport it.

With its chorus of “take my horse to the old town road!” most folk assumed the song was inspired by country music. Which it was – but that country was England! I’ve discovered, by checking Google Maps, that Old Town Road is not in Utah but Stoke-on-Trent, just round the corner from Premier Electrical Wholesales and a ceramic tile pottery. It’s as authentically western as John Wayne’s name.

If you want proper country music there was only one place to take your horse – and that place was Nashville. And there was no better country song, and, in fact, no better song this year, than Luke Bryan’s ‘Knockin’ Boots’.

Most people would say it’s awful. That it makes ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ a contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. But they would be wrong. It’s BRILLIANT.

Listen to that guitar solo, the way it’s a NUDGE NUDGE WINK WINK SAY NO MORE of the fretboard.

Listen to the lyrics. It’s not just a list of cliches that rhyme. It’s more complicated than that. It’s a list of cliches that rhyme that tells a story of a night: a night that begins with getting across town to meet someone; taking her out to get some drinks, then moving to the dance floor, followed by calling her a cab, then starting getting friendly in a backseat, before, eventually, she’s won over by Luke Bryan’s charming ways or suggestive guitar licks or, possibly, rhohypnol and they’re soon ‘knockin boots’! It’s a tale as old as time. If that time was before the #metoo movement rightly suggested getting her drunk was not the height of seduction. But that doesn’t stop this being my song of the year. Even if it doesn’t mention Stoke.


Miley Cyrus – Party Up The Street

For when you can’t afford the taxi to the party at Luke Bryan’s house.

Grimes – We Appreciate Power

Best lead single with the word ‘Power’ in the title since Kanye West’s Power. Hopefully this doesn’t mean that Grimes will follow Kanye into the light and become Sister Grimes the nun in 10 years time.

DC Fontaines – Big

One of my favourite albums of the year. I think they’re gonna be… big! (Did you see what I did there?)

The Slow Show – Eye to Eye

From my favourite album of the year.

Honeyblood – A Kiss From The Devil

Best Scottish album. I’m pretty sure there’s a hint of Gary Glitter’s Rock & Roll Part 1 to this one. You can definitely imagine the Joker dancing on the New York stairs to this song.

Foals – In Degrees

Would have been best album of the year if they’d released one ‘best of’ album instead of splitting it into two parts.

Fat White Family – Feet

A Spotify discovery, which is getting rarer as my wife shares my account and listens to One Direction and The Greatest Showman and my new discovery’s tend to be Louis Tomlinson singing Les Miserable.

Blake Shelton – God’s Country

Someone’s been listening very closely to Bon Jovi’s Young Guns 2 soundtrack.

Miley Cyrus – The Most

Final song on her album. Final song on this list. If you get the chance, watch her Glastonbury set. But not in front of your granny, unless your granny was a trooper and swears just like one.

Training for Celtman: November 2019 (Andrew)

I have slept in a living room, a cleaner’s cupboard and what felt like a supermarket skip. Racing around the country is expensive and one of the skills all triathletes need is the ability to find the cheapest and closest accommodation to the start line as possible.

On Skye we stayed in a hotel room whose window opened into a skip. Which was handy, as the room didn’t have a bin. Or much in the way of sheets, paint, any wifi or hope of better days. Every hour someone would throw a glass in the skip. Every hour. All night.

In Dunkeld, I thought I’d found a bargain before the Etape Caledonia. £35 a night for a double room. The room was new. Recently renovated and had a smell which could only be described as Eau Du Crime Scene Clean Up Crew. My eyes started watering as soon as we opened the door. The smell of bleach was so strong, my teeth turned white. The room was so new I’m sure it was still a cleaners cupboard that morning.

As for sleeping in a living room. That doesn’t sound too harsh until you read this – Norseman – and you spend three days with the equivalent of a torch shining in your face while you try and sleep.

But not this time. This time we’re staying at the Torridon Inn, a luxury hotel only a few minutes from the finish line.

After years of slumming I want something to look forward to at the end of the race.

Not that there’s that much choice for Celtman. The Applecross penisula is isolated and there’s not a lot of accommodation. To make it harder, the penisula forms part of the North Coast 500 tourist trail so any accommodation is already hard to find with tourists booking for their own tour of the Highlands.

So, no sooner were places confirmed than Iain scoured AirBnB and hotel websites for places to stay because there’s no point having a place if you don’t actually have a place to stay too. And not, thankfully, anywhere that will involve a rubbish dump, the eternal sun or more chemicals than the Rolling Stones dressing room.

Goals for December:

  • Training will officially start in January. December will be about getting into a routine of doing ‘something’ most days of the week but without any pressure to do anything in particular. It’ll just be about getting used to a routine.
  • Work out training plan
  • See if I can try and be a bit more scientific and check stats like heart rate, functional training power, watts and a whole host of other words I don’t know the meaning of yet.

Jimmy Irvine 10K 2019 (Andrew)

There are three starts to a race. The first start is when you start running. For most of us this will be a few metres before the start line as we don’t start at the start as we don’t want to mix it with the top club runners looking to win races. The second start is when you start your watch so you can keep track of how far you’ve run and how long you’ve been running. This second start will be as close as possible to the third start – the point we cross the start mat and hear the beep of timing chips.

Three starts. Three times we control exactly when we start a race as we decide when to start running, when to press start, when to cross the mat, yet still I like to hear the sound of a starting gun, klaxon or just a loud whistle. There is something ‘official’ about having a starting signal that Garmins and beeps cannot replicate. Even better, the start should be marked with an official starter, and in most years, for the Jimmy Irvine 10K it’s been Jimmy Irvine himself. You can read about it here (including more about Jimmy Irvine). This year, he wasn’t here in person, but he was here in portrait as the finisher’s t-shirt had a picture of him and his wife on the start line at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow.

The race has taken a number of different routes around Bellahouston Park however, this year, it stayed the same as last, which I originally thought was great as it features two laps and three visits to the same downhill section. As the race starts on a hill you run downhill for most of the first kilometre. You then repeat it again at the end of the first lap and again at the end of the second. Two laps, three downhill sections. 

However, when I say I “originally thought it was great”, I have now changed my mind. Last week, Iain and I ran around Edinburgh, taking in a number of hills including Blackford and Arthur’s Seats. After checking Strava, I notice something curious. The highest heart rate was recorded at the bottom of hills, and not the top. With the peak rate being recorded at the bottom of Arthur’s Seat after running down from the summit. 

King of Edinburgh

I’d always thought that running uphill was harder. It certainly feels like it. But, the scientific evidence – and what is more scientific than a record on Strava! – shows that running downhill was much, much harder.

So, when I originally thought I was going to write about how the Jimmy Irvine 10K is a nice route as it’s more downhill, than up. I’m now here to warn you that the Jimmy Irivine 10K is a hard race because it’s mostly downhill! Avoid, do something easier like the Ben Nevis Hill Race or the Mt Everest Marathon. Anything except run downhill!

Saying that, I might just be annoyed because I missed out on breaking 45 minutes by 8 seconds. It was still the fastest I’ve run a 10k in a few years but, still, even with three starts, I couldn’t find one that would take my time below 45 minutes…

I blame Iain. He ran off to fast and I decided not to keep up as I wanted to warm up a bit first. Then, to make matters worse, he ran the rest of the race too fast as well! What a cheat! I bet he even ran the downhill sections. I didn’t. I walked them* – you can’t be too careful you know!

So, while there was three starts, there was only one way to finish: second place to Iain again.

*This might be a lie to avoid saying I couldn’t catch up with him even when I was trying to sprint. 

Dreaming of Celtman 2020 (Andrew)

IronMan UK was my one and only long distance triathlon. Never again I said. That was it. One go. Done it. Never need to do it again.

Except for Norseman.

And possibly Challenge Roth.

But the chances of getting in were so slim that IronMan UK was, I thought, the only time I’d ever swim 3.9km again, probably the only time I’d ever cycle more than 100 miles and definitely the only time I’d run a marathon as I don’t like running long distances. 

Oh, and except for Celtman too. 

Apart from those three races, I was never going to voluntarily spend an entire day racing again!

But what were the chances of getting into Norseman? Challenge Roth or Celtman? People try for years and don’t get into any of them. I applied, still with no expectation of getting in, and, straight away, I’ve got a place in Norseman.

A couple of years later and I manage to get a place in Challenge Roth too.

And now I have a place in Celtman.

I don’t know whether God likes a laugh, but he certainly enjoys a good ironic chuckle. 

While Norseman was fantastic. I’ve written about it on the blog and you can find out all about it. Roth too. And they were both ‘special’ and they have given me some great memories (along with a deep, deep fear of losing my watch while swimming – read about it here and, four months later, I’m still mentally scarred by it!), it’s Celtman which means the most to me because it was Celtman that got me interested in triathlons.

I never watched triathlons on telly. I’d never heard of IronMan or knew anything about the World Championships in Hawaii. I knew triathlons existed, I’d even tried to the New Year’s Triathlon in Edinburgh but I was like a dog playing football. It might know to chase a ball but that’s all it has in common with a footballer. I knew you needed to swim, bike and run but I didn’t know it was better to swim freestyle, that a mountain bike is not the professional triathlete’s first choice or that the run is something you race, not walk in to finish. 

Celtman changed that. I was watching the Adventure Show on BBC Scotland. Every month it reports from different events across Scotland. In 2011, it reported back from the first Celtman extreme triathlon. 3.4km swim on the west coast of Scotland, a 120 mile cycle round the Applecross penisula and then a marathon up a Munro and finish in Torridon. 

“That’s impossible,” I said, “how do they do that?” 

Every year since I’ve watched the Adventure Show and thought I would love to take part but secretly I knew that I wasn’t good enough. I don’t want to swim through jellyfish in freezing cold water. I’ve never cycled 120 miles. I’ve never run a marathon up a mountain. That’s what other people do.

But as I started to train for races in middle distance, then long distance, then Norseman and Roth, I started to think this year that maybe, with a bit more effort, I could be ready for Celtman. Because I don’t want to just complete it. I want to stand at the top of the mountain and be one of the few competitors who complete the whole course. In order to do that you need to be halfway through the run eleven hours after starting. Which means I’ll have around 8 hours to complete 120 miles on the bike, knowing that my swim time is the one thing I won’t be able to change no matter how hard I train. 

And, to make this Celtman, even better, unlike Norseman and Roth, Iain will be racing too, which will be a good incentive for both training and on the day itself. Though it has spoiled my support runner plans as he was going to run the final half with me!

Now that I’ve secured a spot I keep thinking of the first edition. I think how impossible it seemed and I think how possible it now is. I can’t wait to take part!

Book review: The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee (Andrew)

When is a sports book not a sports book? There is a pattern to sporting biographies. A couple of chapters on childhood. A spark or twist that sets the athlete on their sporting journey. Then a forensic minute by minute breakdown of their greatest achievement before either a hopeful look to the future for more medals/trophies  (current athletes) or a final “what a career I had!” for those who’ve retired. 

Most sports books are predictable and only really of interest to people who really love the sport that’s been written about. No one will pick up Geraint Thomas’s tour diary who doesn’t already know they want to read about how he decided on his gear selection for every stage of the Tour De France.

The Lost Soul of Eamonn Magee is different, at least for most of it. Eamonn Magee was a Northern Irish boxer who was brought up in one of the harshest areas of Belfast during the Troubles. His biography is as much a story of what it was like to live beside nationalists and unionists and see a community defined by both. It’s also a story of a man who started drinking at nine years old and made a life of alcohol, drugs, violence, prison and chasing women – and, when his trainers could control him, boxing too.

The first half of the book is gripping. It explores what it was like for an angry alcoholic petty criminal to grow up in Belfast in the 80s and 90s. It shows the impact that the IRA could have and how one word from one well connected member could mean fleeing your home that night to live in London for a year. It sets Eamon’s life in context and it tries to explain how one boxer came to represent Northern Ireland for a brief few years as someone who could wear the Irish tricolour but still be loved by unionist fans.

And then, in the last third of the book, it begins a detailed round by round summary of Eamonn’s career. Which if boxing is your thing then I’m sure it’s great. But, as I don’t know my uppercut from a supercut, and couldn’t tell you if the author was describing a boxing match or a barbers, this section was a bit of a slog.

However, the rest of the book is recommended and provides a glimpse defined by trouble and Troubles.

You can buy the book here: Amazon

Book Review: There is No Map In Hell (Andrew)

In 2009, adventurer Ben Fogle and former Olympic rower James Cracknell raced across Antarctica to the South Pole. The BBC documentary ‘On Thin Ice’ showed them recruiting a third team member, Dr Ed Coats, to complete their team. But if you read their book, also called ‘On Thin Ice’ you’d only find Fogle and Cracknell’s story. Dr Ed is nowhere to be found!

While the documentary shows he wasn’t lost in the Antartic, that he was as much part of the team as the others, the book focuses on the ‘stars’ – and loses something from it.

Big adventures are rarely achieved alone. Ed Stafford, the first man to walk the length of the Amazon, and a man who can claim to have achieved it alone, makes very clear in his book that he couldn’t have done it without the help of a guide who joined him shortly after starting. And he spends just as long talking about their friendship as he does about his own achievement.

That’s why I think I found The Mountains Are Calling a struggle. It was all about the runner, all about ‘me’. And also why I found There Is No Map In Hell a far better book.

Steve Birkenshaw is a fell runner. He holds the record for completing the Wainwrights – a run across all 100+ Lake District mountain fells. This book charts his race with a brief background on his running career before a detailed review of his record breaking run.

Unlike other books he also has other people involved write about what they saw or what they did to help. By adding the perspectives of his wife, support crew, nurse (for some graphic description of his feet!) and support runners he’s able to show the such records are not achieved alone and that they couldn’t be achieved without teamwork. And, while he might be running, he could only run because of what other people were doing for him – whether running with him, guiding him when his mind couldn’t grasp where he was going, to preparing support stops, logistics, food or just being there to urge him on.

You can buy it here: Amazon.