30 November 2011

elliptical cross trainer

My running injury fails to heal - stinging pain on the outside of my left foot. I don't want the pounds to pile on so I am visiting the free local gym two or three times a week for a vigorous cardio workout on the elliptical cross trainer. I'm hoping this will keep me in decent shape to resume running in the spring, or whenever this injury eventually heals.

Forty minutes at level five burns nearly six hundred calories, the equivalent of a five mile run but without the sights and distractions of road running it's easy to get bored. There is no TV screen. This is a free facility after all. To pass the time I analise the display on the elliptical, using the 'cadence', 'calories burned' and 'time remaining' figures to confirm my effort is on track. Sometimes I pedal/ski for minutes with my eyes shut.

Almost inevitably, people-watching takes over. I start noting the time as someone on the running track passes. I look again as they complete another lap and check their lap time. This varies wildly according to the individual. Serious runners clock the lap at under forty seconds while the less energetic struggle to break the minute. Curiously there are some who adopt a gait where both feet stay on the ground at all times and shuffle round barely above walking pace in seventy seconds. (For the record my usual pace is forty two seconds per lap.)

Now I turn my attention to the rider of the exercise bike to my left, a middle-aged woman sporting a neat shampoo and set. She is turning the pedals at a crawl and studying a paperback propped so that it obscures the display panel and all its vital information.

To my right a twenty something guy in a short sleeve t-shirt is lifting a chunky black dumbbell. His bicep looks like a coconut wedged under his skin and his neck muscles strain like cords. He grunts with each effort.

I turn back to my digital display. 'Time remaining' is six minutes on this, my second twenty minute stint. My heart rate is high at one hundred and fifty-six beats per minute and I'm slick with sweat. I love the feeling of my pores leaking away all the toxins. My thigh muscles are firing hard.

When the machine beeps I dismount and wipe down the surfaces. I might not be doing this again until January but I'll try and squeeze in one more visit before we leave for England on Monday.

Cases are packed, itinerary printed, passports stowed and to-do lists are shrinking. Bartons, you are cleared for take off...

06 November 2011

the geese

We were invited to a small private gig arranged by Brian Metzger on Saturday night at the Farm Centre on University Avenue. The Geese, a collective of musicians now based in Vancouver, were in the midst of a lengthy Trans-Canada tour promoting their debut album and kindly agreed to play privately for us in Charlottetown in return for donations to our local food bank.

The venue was a meeting room, perhaps three times the size of a large living room, with about fifty seats arranged theatre style. On arrival Michelle made her way to the front row in four strides and plonked down in the centre. Oh well, up close and personal it is then! I wasn’t sure what to expect, having sampled just a couple of clips on YouTube but hey, this is live music and up stepped four men with beards and a girl with goose wings!

Brief introductions over, they launched into their opening track. We were almost indecently close and could easily have tripped over a beard or two but proximity quickly felt natural and we were soon engrossed in an evening of fascinating entertainment from five accomplished songwriters, musicians and singers.

I like to categorise music (well, truthfully that extends to most things) and pigeonhole bands in a specific genre. I have entries in categories from ‘Americana’ to ‘Roots Rock’ via ‘Britpop’ Blues Rock’, ‘Prog Rock’, ‘Hot Rod Revival’ and a smattering of ‘Cowpunk’! It has been gnawing away at me for some time that the Canadian arm of my collection has been shamefully lacking in ‘West Coast Danger Folk’ so during the rather civilised intermission, I put that right and picked up the band's eponymous, self-released debut album.

Stylishly the Geese swapped instruments, slipping effortlessly from guitar to drums to bass and back as they performed their eclectic repertoire. Country-tinged rock gave way to folk and quirky indie rock with each band member quite at ease stepping up to explain the stories behind their songs, laughing at a broken guitar string and inquiring if the sound needed tweaking at all. They seemed like a group of friends we’d invited round for a knees-up yet their professionalism shone through.

In true rock ‘n roll style with much clapping and foot stamping we persuaded them to stay for an encore, the rousing tribute to their former home Province, ‘New Brunswickers’. I even had the chance to thank them in person when I chatted to a couple of the band afterwards, friendly, relaxed people who had put heart and soul into their performance for our small gathering.

Alphabetical order by band is the only valid way to sort a collection but it often throws up curious juxtapositions. The Geese are now nestling on my shelves somewhat uneasily between Gay Dad and Geldof, Bob!