Thursday, December 06, 2012

Jools Holland - Sheffield City Hall

Last night we went to the Sheffield City Hall to see Jools Holland. This is the third or fourth time we've seen him so he must be doing something right.

Normally we go for a few pints before the concert and then head straight in but this time we decided to go for the hospitality option. Essentially you go a couple of hours early and have a meal. They also provide drinks at the interval.

We also dragged another couple along with us this year in the form of Ruth and Richard. We like going out with them because they are good fun and like a drink. :-)

So, I left work at 4pm, went to Yates's where I met the others. It was nice going to the pub straight from work and meeting the wife. We don't do it enough!

We went to the City Hall at 17:30 and had to queue behind all the old people who were also opting for hospitality. This was not a good sign. Firstly we had to wait to be taken to the dining room in a lift. No stairs option. I guess they don't want to risk broken hips!! Once we were at the table we were offered drinks and soon realised that the advertised 'half bottle of wine or 2 bottled beers each' was just a ploy to avoid getting piss-heads in, and that you can essentially drink what you like. Result! :-) Victoria and Ruth tucked into the red wine while Richard and I enjoyed a selection of beers. So far so good!

Then came the food!

The starter was a little uninspiring but not too bad. Goat's cheese tartlet with onion marmalade or something. Nice but nothing special. The main course was just strange. It was chicken with a red pepper sauce and a chorizo risotto. The sauce tasted to me more like a tomato sauce and the whole dish was just a bit wrong. It was also under seasoned I'm guessing to appeal to the the older diner. The dessert was OK but a but sickly. All in all we were not impressed with the food. Good job there was plenty of booze and the company was good.

After the meal we went into the auditorium for the main event. Jools Holland. He was as ever superb. His band was amazing and they all got to do a solo at some point in the performance. Seriously, if you like good music, even if you don't think Jools Holland would appeal to you, go and see him if you have the chance. He and his orchestra are amazing.

We all really enjoyed the night even though the food was below par. Good music and good company is obviously enough even with dodgy grub. We will probably go again next year but maybe we will eat elsewhere first.

Friday, June 29, 2012

West Midlands Palace to Palace - 20th May 2012

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had a 45 mile charity bike ride lined up for the 20th May. This was for the Prince's Trust and was called the Palace to Palace ride.

Essentially you start at Warwick Castle, cycle in a big loop for 45 miles and end up back at Warwick Castle, all for charity. Who could say no!!

I'm a big fan of being prepared for such things which is why I had been doing 40 mile rides around Derbyshire for weeks before the main event. The terrain near Warwick Castle looked rather flat compared to the Peak District so I should be fine.

The company I work for laid on a coach and bike transport so that all the riders from Sheffield could get down to Warwick on time, but this meant we had to meet at the office at 05:20am. An early start but what a fun ride into town with no traffic, only having to avoid the odd hardcore drunk that was still out and about from the previous evening.

We crammed the 16 bikes into the trailer that measured 8ft x 6ft x 4ft (literally crammed) and set off for Warwick. The coach was rather subdued, probably due to the early start. I took the opportunity to quaff a bottle of Beet It! Concentrated beetroot juice that my brother promised me would increase my riding ability.

Once we arrived the bikes were reverse jig-sawed out of the trailer and various bits reattached. Brakes tested and tyre pressures checked and we were ready to go.

This is the first cycling event I have entered. I normally ride alone and the largest group I have ridden in is a massive 3! Well, if you can count McStreet as being in the group as he was so slow. ;-) Cycling with 700 other riders was going to be different to say the least, even if we were on staggered starts.

We were all released in batches of 30 or so. Gman, Chappers and a few others were in the group ahead which nicely presented a target. Most of the others from SDL were in my group, including Russ and Rich from Sheffield IT. There was a countdown and we were off.

Russ, Rich and I started at an excellent pace, breaking away from the rest of the group and forming our own mini peloton. We cracked on at about 20mph for the first 15 miles or so and then Russ started to pull away. He was like man possessed!!

Although Russ was ahead I still kept in touch with him and I settled in and started to really enjoy the ride. The countryside was stunning, the roads were pretty smooth, at least compared to Sheffield roads, and the route was what I would describe as rather flat, although others who had not been training in Derbyshire disagreed.

As I rode through the rather nice countryside I begin to notice the completely inappropriate bikes some people were riding. First of all, just before we set off, Gman had to apply an emergency splosh of oil to Chappers bike as it was so dirty and rusty that there were practically sparks flying out of the back as he rode along. This was not the only case of a badly maintained bike. There were some real old clunkers that made a terrible noise as they were ridden. I got the feeling that people didn't take a 45 mile bike ride as seriously as they should. The clunkers were not the only issues with bikes though. There were a lot of people riding full suspension mountain bikes. I don't even mean full carbon ultra light ones either I mean £79.99 from Halfords! The effort to drag these bikes round the route must have been immense!!!! Full respect to the riders if they finished on one of those!

Anyway, back to the ride.

There I was riding along at a fair old pace and really enjoying myself when Alison (one of our group) rode past me using her aero bars. Now Alison is not your normal rider. She's super fit and does things like swim to the Isle of Man to go to the festival instead of catching a ferry like most people, and cycles hundreds of miles at a much faster pace than I could ever manage. She's obviously made of Sheffield steel!! However, I knew that she had been cycling round France the week before and had covered hundreds of miles already so was probably slightly tired. Now's my chance I thought!

Alison was not riding much faster than I was so I upped my pace, the plan being to overtake her even if only briefly. I pulled out to the right to make my glorious move, got halfway past her when she swerved right and knocked us both off at about 22mph.

OUCH!!!! That really hurt!!!

What actually happened was that there was a water stop on the right that she wanted to turn into it and didn't know I was there. The stop was not well signposted and I didn't have a clue that it was there or I would obviously not even think of overtaking at that point. I felt a right plum I can tell you!

I seemed to end up with my bike lying on top of me. Not sure how that happened but it saved the frame from getting scratched too badly (silver linings?). My rear brake was knocked against my rear wheel and my bartape on my nice new six week old bike was scraped all over the road but apart from that the bike was fine.

I however came of a bit worse. My knee was badly grazed and cut, my elbow was bruised and grazed and I had somehow managed to punch myself in the face when I landed and so was sporting a lovely black eye. Not a good look.

Luckily the people at the water station patched Alison and I up and fixed our bikes and we were off again. It took a while to get going as we had cooled down but after about 15 minutes I was back in the game.

The rest of the ride was rather uneventful which was a good thing. By the end my back was aching and my newly bandaged knee was beginning to set solid, kept loose only by my constant pedaling, but apart from that I felt good.

As I arrived back at Warwick Castle I was guided through the carpark and onto a finishing straight with people applauding and cheering which made me smile. Once over the finish line I was given my medal and sent off to the food tents for my free lunch. I met up with the others in my group who had already finished due to not having take a tumble and listened to the rumours of my accident that had Chinese whispered their way from me falling off to me being carried off in an ambulance!

This was a great ride.Apart from the crash that is. I managed to keep to an average of 15.5 mph which meant I finished in under 3 hours which I was very pleased about, and to top it all off we got a medal at the end.

Well done to everyone who finished. Many of the riders were totally unprepared and therefore had to dig deep to complete the course, and some knew how hard it was going to be and knew that they were under-prepared but turned up on the day and got to the end. Nice one!!

There is another Palace 2 Palace in October. This one is in the center of London and goes from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle. I'm going to be signing up for that one too. Who's with me?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cycling

A few years ago I started running as a way of getting fitter. I really got into it and was enjoying it when I suddenly started getting blurred vision and crippling headaches after a run. As my regular reader will remember, I went to the doctor who then referred me to the hospital which turned out to me the scariest day of my life!

Anyway, after discovering that I had a tendency for exercise induced migraines I decided that a new sport was required. One that did not trigger my new found disability.

Last April the company I work for launched a Cycle 2 Work scheme and I decided to give it a try. I would get a bike and cycle to work each day.

I signed up and discovered that I had to get a bike from Halfords which didn't please me initially. I saw Halfords as the PC world of cycling. Over priced crap sold my idiots with no product knowledge. I have to say however that I was completely wrong, and although I think their branches vary in staff quality, the Queens Road branch in Sheffield has been utterly brilliant.

So, after speaking to the nice folks in Halfords I decide on a Boardman Hybrid Comp. It looked cool and was (apparently) exactly what I needed. I also got kitted out with a helmet, jacket, lights etc.

I collected the bike a few days later and was very excited. However, I had not ridden a bike since, er, I can't actually remember. I must have been about 15 or something. When I first went for a little ride I discovered that it was true that you never forget how to ride a bike once you learn but it is also something that is not as easy as it used to be when you were a kid. I was feeling more than a little wobbly and at first I was having difficulties telling my brain to turn the handlebars to go round a corner when I was doing anything more than 10mph!

The other thing was quite how difficult it is when you start. I thought that as I have been running and my legs are strong I'd be fine but I was wrong. How did I know there was another set of muscles in your legs that are used when riding a bike that had hitherto been left dormant!

Still, with a little practice the wobbles vanished and my legs got stronger. Riding in heavy traffic was not as scary as I thought it would be either. You just have to be constantly alert, and I have been riding to work since last April.

So its been just over a year since I started cycling. Am I enjoying it? Do I get the headaches?

Well the headaches have mostly gone. I still get the odd one and a bit of blurred vision but they are so few and far between that it's not an issue, and I've  mostly learned to spot when one is about to occur and to slow right down.

Apart from that my cycling has gone from strength to strength. I ride to work in all weathers apart when there is ice about due to me falling off last December on black ice which REALLY hurt! I also go out at weekends and do 30 or 40 miles around Derbyshire and I have even started following all forms of cycling on the TV so I have discovered a fantastic new sport to watch too which is great!

In short I am totally hooked! I love it!

A couple of weeks ago I received this years Cycle 2 Work scheme email from work and decided that a road bike was in order. My hybrid is brilliant for getting to work and back but I wanted something a bit more sporty for the weekends. Luckily the Cycle 2 Work scheme put an upper price limit of £1000 on what you can buy or I would probably be riding something similar to Mark Cavendish knowing myself as I do. This allowed me to buy this bad boy! I shopped around and decided to go for another Boardman. The spec was excellent for the price and as I said earlier, Halfords on Queens Road Sheffield were brilliant at fixing any issues I've had for 12 months so I was happy to buy from them again.

When I collected my new bike it was unfortunately snowing (in April!) so I couldn't ride it for a few days. When I did manage to take it for a spin round the block it brought back memories of a year ago. The riding position and the dimensions of the bike are so different to my hybrid that I felt wobbly and weak again! It didn't take long to get used to the new bike though and I am so pleased with it. It's so much lighter, stiffer and faster than the hybrid. Amazing!!!

So that's how I got into cycling. I have a 45 mile charity ride coming up in May which will be fun. Feel free to sponsor me here. I'll be the one beating the riders from our Maidenhead office. :-)

Also, being a geek, there had to be some sort if IT angle. I've tracked all my riding with an app on my phone called Runkeeper. You can see the results here. I'm swapping over to using Garmin Connect though so Runkeeper won't be updated for much longer.

You can also see some lovely photos of my new bike here. Isn't it nice. :-)

Finally, I can't recommend you give cycling a go highly enough. It's great whether you go once a week for a gentle ride in the park or every day to commute. It's great fun and great exercise.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Driving Experience - Staffordshire Activity Centre - 8th February 2012

My step father, David, is a very generous man. This generosity lead him to kindly purchase a driving experience for himself, my brother and I when he saw a good offer on Groupon.

The offer said that we had the choice of driving two out of three cars, the three cars being a Ferrari F360, and Audi R8 and a Porsche 911. Obviously 911's are plebs cars so we all chose the Ferrari and the Audi and the event was booked for February 8th.

My brother picked us up in his nice shiny new Porsche Cayenne which was nice, and meant we flew over to the Staffordshire Activity Centre in comfort and in no time at all.

When we arrived we registered and had a coffee while watching the cars and waiting for out turn.

There were quite a few nice motors there. A Ferrari F360 Coupe and an F360 Spider. An Audi R8, a Lamborghini Gallardo, an Aston Martin DB9, a Mitsubishi Evo, a Subaro Impreza Turbo and a Lotus Exige that was being used to take people for a ride round the circuit driven by an instructor.

We waited for about 30 minutes before it was our turn in the Ferrari F360 Spider.
The Ferrari was the car we were all looking forward to driving the most, but what struck us all as we climbed in was just how dated it looked inside. Still, it's a Ferrari so who cares. :-)


Problem number 2 was that the brake and the accelerator were VERY close together and there was so little room for my right foot that I was having to press the accelerator with the side of my foot to stop me pressing the brake as well.


Not to worry though. Off we went. The instructor and I onto the track.


I was worried that the instructor would be telling us to be careful but no. His constant shouts of "Don't change up yet" and "You're braking too early" were encouraging you to go faster each lap. This added up to a great deal of fun on the 6 laps of the track in the Ferrari.


Apart from the pedal issue the car was amazing. So fast and responsive. Sticking to the road like it was on rails. In a word stunning. My brother and David both thought the same.


Next was the Audi R8. I didn't think it would be anywhere near as much fun as the Ferrari to be honest but as soon as I sat inside and saw the modern interior and the far superior driving position and pedal arrangement I started to change my mind.


Setting off with a different instructor who thankfully still yelled go faster encouragement at me, I was immediately at home in the Audi, much more so than the Ferrari. This meant that I could enjoy the car straight away and therefore have more fun.


The Audi was also stunning, although in a different, more accessible way than the Ferrari, and once again I had 6 laps of great fun. At the end of it we all agreed that the R8 was better to drive and given the choice would be the car we all went for were we 'in the market' so to speak. A conclusion none of us were expecting.


Once we had all driven the Audi our driving experience was over and it was time to head back towards Sheffield, stopping at Rowleys for a spot of lunch.


What a great day out. Cheers Dave. :-)


Pictures are available here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Amelia's 4th Birthday

Amelia was 4 on the 27th January, which means that this post is following my recent trend of being a couple of weeks late. :-)


We can't believe Amelia is 4 already. In what seems like no time at all has gone from this to this. What a little cutie!

Amelia got the usual haul of pink plastic crap as presents but she seemed happy which is the main thing. She then had a party a few days later at the The Play Arena, one of those horrible places where kids can run around and play on huge padded climbing frames and slides and parents sit drinking coffee praying for an end to the pain. Once again, Amelia and all her little friends enjoyed it in spite of the incredible noise.

Happy birthday Amelia you sweet little monkey!

Pictures are available here.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Christmas and New Year 2011

OK, so it was a month ago, but I'm a busy man and I've only just had time to upload the photo's of Christmas day I took!

This Christmas we did exactly the same as we did last year. There was just the four of us and we stayed at home. Perfect!

The kids were extremely excited on Christmas eve as you can imagine, but they still went to sleep very quickly and didn't wake up too early. About 6am I seem to remember which is good enough!

We got up and opened our pressies. The kids got the usual impressive haul. Victoria got me a Kindle which was a very pleasent surprise as we had agreed to not bother buying for each other. Good job I had ignored her as well. :-)

After we had opened our presents we got dressed, the kids played and Victoria prepared lunch with her usual military precision. The preperation as usual included a gap at about 12:30 during which we could all take a trip to the Castle.

Lunch was fantastic. The turkey was cooked using the 'Nigella' method of brining it for 24 hours and then only cooking it for 2.5 hours. Perfectly cooked and very moist and tender. It was accompanied by the usual selection of veg and side dishes, all very tasty and also perfectly cooked.

After lunch the kids decided we needed to watch the Spongebob Movie we had bought them. We were not too keen to be honest but we are all Spongebob fans so we put it on anyway. Strangely enough it was the perfect Christmas afternoon movie. Funny, exciting and most importantly happy. It even had a cameo from David Hasselhoff! Recommended!

After that the kids went to bed and we stayed up and watched Doctor Who.

All in all a great Christmas day.

Boxing day we were VERY lazy. We just watched TV in our pyjamas and ate leftovers. We didn't even get dressed. How decadent. :-)

New Years eve we stayed in as we always have since having kids. Some friends came round with their kids and while they played we all drank beers and wine and chatted the evening away. A very nice way to spend New Years Eve.

So, a good Christmas all round for the Briddons. Pictures can be found here.

Happy (belated) new year every one.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Itchy Chins

Myself and some work collegues are taking the popular concept of Movember and extending it through to Janu-Hairy. This actually means that we are not shaving for the whole of January while at the same time asking people to sponsor us in aid of Prostate cancer.

Today is the 11th of January and I have an extremely itchy chin. I also only have £45 worth of sponsorship and I want to raise at least £200 for going through this living hell!

Seriously, not shaving is driving me mad. It's actually more difficult than I thought it would be so I deserve your donations!

You can donate by clicking the link below :

http://www.justgiving.com/Christian-Briddon

Go on!! You know you want to!! :-)

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