Christmas Day Swim (Andrew)

Whoops!

This book was bought as a Secret Santa gift for a colleague moving to Elgin. As normal for Secret Santa, the draw was random and every gift was meant to be sent anonymously. It 100% should not be in Stornoway. And it 200% should not have been opened by my brother. It was 1010% meant to be a thoughtful gift to a colleague moving to a new town. Instead, my colleague must have Iain’s gift and I made a mistake when wrapping presents: bringing this book home to be opened by Iain and sending Iain’s gift via Secret Santa marked only with the message: “From Santa, you’ll need this in the new year!”

And now, for the past few days he must have been wondering why on earth an anonymous stranger has sent him a book called “So you want to be a gold digger?”.

(Iain was getting a gold prospecting lesson from the Wanlockhead Lead Mining Museum, but without context, my colleague is probably going to think someone’s rumpled why he married a rich widow).

I may have some apologising to do when I get back to work…

After that mistake on Christmas morning there was only one thing to do. After the traditional Christmas Day run, I had to drown myself in the North Atlantic. Unluckily the water was so cold I didn’t fancy putting my head under the waves and will still need to apologise in the new year.

Best TV shows 2019 (Iain)

I’m only scared of two things in life.

One of those things is a quite rational fear of flying. If God wanted humans to fly he’d have given us wings and installed a parachute in our ass.

The other is an irrational fear. I’m scared of Neflix!

The fear begins as soon as I launch the app. What will I watch? Is there a new “MUST WATCH!” film or a series that everyone is describing as “YOUR NEW BINGE OBSESSION”

I start to sweat as I scroll through the menu. I haven’t seen Peaky Blinders. Maybe I should watch it but then I notice there is five series of bad hair and flat caps. How will I find the time to watch it? I can maybe commit to a couple of episodes a week but five series will take me months!

Maybe I should watch Line of Duty instead. Everyone at work is talking about it. Oh no! That has multiple series too Which show should I choose? What if I choose wrong?

I’m already stressed and I haven’t even looked at the film options.

The pressure of making a decision is too much for me. I switch off Netflix.

Therefore my best TV shows of the year are all on terrestrial TV.

Best Channel 4 Series – Who Dares Wins

A team of ex SAS soldiers test members of the public to see if any of them can pass the SAS selection process. In previous series they had only tested men but this year they tested women for the first time.

Best BBC show – Sink Or Skim

A one off show about the competitive world of stone skimming. It seems like the plot of a Will Ferrell sports movie. An aging champion who smokes and drinks has to face a young upstart who has trained all year for his one chance to take the crown.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0004jr

Best ITV show – Ant and Dec DNA Journey

This sounds like a rip off of the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? but as it was being made Ant crashed his car and gave up TV for a year. The end result is a fun romp through their history whilst trying to reconnect to see if they can carry on as they were before the incident.

Its a surprisingly genuine show. The warmth and love they have for each other really shines through.

All I Want For Christmas Is Strava King of the Mountain (Andrew)

The Christmas number one is the most coveted chart position every year. Everyone wants to know who will be number one on Christmas Day. This year, in America, the Christmas number one battle saw Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You finally reach the summit 25 years after it was first released. (It had previously stalled at number two).

But, over on this side of the Atlantic, the UK celebrated as another person reached the summit in first place many years after first trying to get there.

Yes, forget about the pop charts, and check out the Strava charts as I finally, finally, finally conquered the War Memorial segment on Strava to become the fastest person in the world to climb Stornoway’s highest spot. You can read about my challenge here.

It almost didn’t happen. First, when Iain checked the Top 10 it turned out that another competitor had secretly conquered the top spot just three weeks before. No longer was Florent Schaal my nemesis – read about our imagined rivalry here – nor was Iain – read about his cheating ways here – instead a new man, Michael, had sneaked in under the radar and stolen the top spot. I needed to not only run faster than Florent, but also Iain and now, Michael.

I was planning to attempt a run on Boxing Day but, when we went out yesterday morning, Iain wanted to give it a go. I wasn’t up for it. I felt tired and was only wanting an easy run around the Castle Grounds. But, after he said to give it a go, I thought it would be good practice for the ‘real’ attempt later in the week.

There was no wind, so I thought this run would be slower. How was I meant to run fast if I didn’t have a helping push? So, I tried running fast, but not necessarily as fast as I could. This was just a practice anyway.

I didn’t even check the time when I got home. I thought there was no point as it would only show how much faster I would need to go.

But, when I did, all I can say is…

HAIL TO THE KING, BABY!

Books 2019 (Andrew)

This year I read two books again and again. At least three times straight all the way through and probably six or seven times by the time I read and re-read individual chapters. But, despite reading them repeatedly, I can’t list them among my favourite books of the year because, well… I wrote them.

In 2016 I co-wrote a Scottish legal textbook. This year the publisher asked for an English version and a second edition of the Scottish book.

From December 2018 to July 2019 I had to update and rewrite the first book to, first, remove all Scottish references and then include all English laws and regulations. And then, after finishing the English edition, converting it all back for Scotland.

I thought it would be easier than writing the book from scratch but it turned out to be much harder. It’s easy to juggle one ball when all you have to do is throw a ball from hand to hand. Now imagine juggling the same ball while trying to put your trousers on. That’s the same as writing a second edition. You try and keep the first but at the same time you’re trying to do something entirely different without embarrassing yourself.

So, for eight months I mostly read my own book. Even on long flights I would re-read chapters. So, my list of favourite books is mostly based on what I’ve read in the last few months and, in the case of my recommended read, one I read two weeks ago: Ronan Farrow’s ‘Catch & Release’.

Catch & Release is the story behind his research and eventual article about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, which led to the #metoo movement. It’s a gripping and disquieting story of what power and money can do to people – and how both can be used to intimidate and manipulate politics, the press and the people around you.

Or, if you want something less cheerier to read, but equally brilliant, then I reccomend A Boy In The Water which I reviewed here.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Me – Elton John

I’m not a fan. Not my generation. But this is a cracking read about what happens when you become more famous than Elvis and what do you do when you can do anything you want.

Wild & Crazy Guys – Nick de Semlyen

The story of the biggest and best 80s American comedians (and Chevy Chase).

Ultraluminous – Katharine Faw

A Chuck Palahhuik novel if written by a woman. A nameless narrator, a hooker, drugs, a gun and sentences which are almost slogans.

Whatever random Jack Reacher I read on a plane

Couldn’t tell you it’s name but any novel which has Jack go to London and be told that he can’t bring a dangerous weapon only to reply with something like “You’ll have to ban me then because I’m a dangerous weapon!” is up there with the best of not just this year, but the decade. Cheese on toast on cheesy toast fantastic! Also I gave Jack Reacher a plug in Commercial Awareness for Lawyers. Now, if Lee Child is reading this, if you could return the favour and give Commercial Awareness for Lawyers a plug in the next Jack Reacher… 🙂

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.

BEST FILM ABOUT A NORSEMAN NOT IN THE AVENGERS

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.

BEST FILM ABOUT A DAD NOT CALLED TONY STARK

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.

BEST TEAM UP NOT INVOLVING SUPERHEROS

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

BEST FILM ABOUT A MAN MADE OF IRON WHO’S NOT IRON MAN

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.

BEST FILM

Joker.

BEST COMEDY THAT’S NOT THAT FUNNY (EXCEPT JASON) BUT JUST REALLY NICE

The Good Place.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Alan Partridge

The Americans – final season – finale got it exactly right

Avengers: Endgame

Barry

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.

Films of the Year 2019 (Iain)

This year one cinema trend dominated the box office. It started with Avengers: Endgame and other films swiftly copied it.

2019 was the year of the colon mark

  • Terminator: Dark Fate
  • Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
  • Alita: Battle Angel
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

The colon proved useful became it indicated a film was utter tosh!

Terminator: Dark Fate was so bad Arnie grew a beard to disguise the fact he was in it.

He doesn’t look like a killing machine. He looks like a science teacher who’s counting down the days until retirement because the kids are bullying him about his inability to use a computer.

Hobbs and Shaw is should have been called the Fast and Furious presents: Top Bantz and Mega LOLs. Two hours of the Rock and the Stathe shouting “YOUR’RE GAY”! “YOU’RE GAYER” at each other in the misguided belief accusing a man of being gay is the funniest thing in the world. I kept hoping they would both just kiss and admit they had feelings for each other. Brokeback Mountain with explosions would have been an infinitely better film.

Alita: Battle Angel is what happens when you let a video game cut scene last two hours rather than two minutes. I kept hoping an option would appear allowing me to skip the scene and get straight to the game.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse gave me a headache. It is beautifully shot to look like a comic book. The action look like its taking place on comic book paper but if I wanted to read a comic I’d have stayed at home and read a comic! Its a movie so shoot the action like its a movie.

Martin Scorsese recently criticised Marvel, calling the studio’s movies “theme parks” rather than cinema. If films are theme parks then all those films would be Disneyland in comparison to one absolute monstrosity of a film – 6 Underground!

The only theme park comparable to 6 Underground would be Blobbyland

Look! A walking cock with some kids and Mr Blobby. How did this get made???

I watched 6 Underground so you don’t have to. The story was barely coherent. When asked about one important plot point a charter replied “you don’t need to know that” because even the screenwriters couldn’t bother working it out!

It looked like it had been edited together by someone with no concept of plot, story or pacing. It was casually offensive to woman, foreigners and my intelligence. The film might not have had a colon in it but that just means they have room for a sequel. Please God no.

So that was the worst of the year. How about the best.

Wild Rose is a sweet film about a Glaswegian woman with an attitude problem, is there any other kind of Glaswegian woman? Its about her struggle to break into Country and Western singing. Its full of great performance and good music.

Joker has a superb performance from Jaquain Phoenix and unlike the Marvel films it tries to do something interesting with a comic book character.

Hustlers is the true story of New York strippers robbing men. It stars J Lo and it is not the exploitative film the tag line would lead you to believe. It is beautifully shot and directed by a first time female director. A man would have made it very differently.

Once upon a time in Hollywood. If a colon is a sign a film is terrible then Leonardo DiCaprio is a sign a film is worth watching. He never gives a bad performance and this is one of his best.

But the best film I saw this year disproves everything I’ve said about colons. My film of the year is O.J: Made in America

It came out in 2015 but I only saw it this year. Its is a biography of disgraced athlete O.J Simpson. It covers the issue of race in american society, the role of sport, the rise of celebratory culture and the failure of the US legal system. Its full of fascinating interviews and history. The highest compliment I can give it is that even with a 7hr 42 minute run time it felt too short.

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

Top of the Pops 2019 (Iain)

On August 16th 2007 Kanye West performed at my birthday party.

Some people will claim it was because he was on tour and he just happened to be performing on the day of my birthday but I like to think he was there for me… even though he forgot to sing me “Happy Birthday”

There was no support band. A true star/ego like Kanye doesn’t share the stage with anyone.

I waited patiently for the show to start. It didn’t start at 2000, it didn’t start at 2100, it didn’t look like it wasn’t going to start at all but then without any warning Kanye walked on stage.

He looked at the crowd. He did not say anything. He waited for a second and then the music began. He performed for an hour non stop. Hit after hit. No break between songs. Each song flowed into the next. Then the music stopped. He said nothing. He walked off stage.

He came, he rapped, he left.

It is one the best (and shortest) concerts I have ever seen. He was in his prime. He was cocky and charismatic. He was a pop star and a musical force. He was the best in the world and he knew it.

In the years since then he has gone a bit mental – he married a Kardashian, he supported Donald Trump, he recorded, released and scrapped numerous albums. He even wrote an opera.

“As an act of authentically mind-blowing pop-star folly, of a kind we rarely see nowadays it exceeded all expectations…. If it didn’t work in artistic terms, as a bulwark against the argument that pop music is devoid of character and spectacle and crazed, foolhardy ambition, it worked perfectly. “

Guardian

He is the most interesting pop star in the world. His musical ambition and creative genius means I will listen to anything he does even if it’s not always great.

His new album sounded like a folly. An album dedicated to his love of God (and himself). It should be terrible but it isn’t. Give it a try.

My number one song of the year is “On God” because a) it has a great melody and b) it’s a reminder of just how good Kanye can be.

As he says during the song:

I’ve been tellin’ y’all since ’05
I’m the greatest artist restin’ or alive

Honorable mentions this year go to:

The Chemical Brothers – No Geography. It is the perfect length to listen to whilst running https://twinbikerun.com/2019/11/04/third-best-on-strava-iain/ as it was the same length as the course record. I knew if I got to the end of the course before the song finished then I’d beaten the record.

Bombay Bicycle CLub – Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing but you.) A perfect indie pop song.

Blossoms – Your Girlfriend. Best video of the year.

And lastly Charli XCX who made the best pop album of the year. This being the highlight.

Politics 2019 (Andrew)

ELECTION 2019: A MODEST PROPOSAL

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?

(Everyone)

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!