Northern Soul

Now for one of my occasional posts that isn’t about weight loss or exercise. This time the subject is, as written above, Northern Soul.

For those of you who don’t know, Northern Soul is a genre of soul music which was grew from the nightclubs of Northern Britain in the 1960s. The music played in these clubs was often obscure soul tracks from America. Many of these songs weren’t a success originally, and lots of what was being played in Northern Britain, was very different to the style of music being played further south. Towns like Wigan and Blackpool along with Manchester helped popularise the genre.

The words above are my own personal summary of what I understand to be Northern Soul. Apologies for any inaccuracies or huge misunderstandings of the field!

But, anyway, the reason for this blog is quite simple – a friend asked me for a list of my top ten Northern Soul songs for his upcoming 30th Birthday party.

I love a challenge likle this, but challenge is the word! To choose ten songs from such a rich seam of music would surely prove difficult?

It did!

However, I gave it my best shot, and the list below are what represent my current top ten (strictly speaking it’s 11, as I’ve added a song since I gave him the top ten!).

The list is in no particular order:

Al Wilson – The Snake
Gloria Jones – Tainted Love (all time greatest Northern Soul song, in my book!)
R. Dean Taylor – There’s a Ghost in My House
The Impressions – Can’t Satisfy
Frank Wilson – Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)
Dobie Gray – Out on the Floor
Tony Clarke – Landslide
Tammi Terrell – Two can have a Party
Gil Scott Heron – The Bottle
Nolan Porter – If I Could Only Be Sure
Jr. Walker and the All Stars – I Ain’t Going Nowhere

As a treat, I’ve made a Spotify version of the playlist for your listening delight too.

I also added some soul (ish) other tracks that I knew we’d like:

Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up
The Islay Brothers – This Ole Heart of Mine
Jackie Wilson – Higher and Higher 
Dusty Springfield – Son of a Preacher Man 
So what do you think of my Northern Soul choices? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks must also go to Molly Grace Lynch for her suggestions for the list. She clearly knows her Northern Soul.

Hello? Anybody there

Latest loss: 0.5lb. Total loss to date: 12lb

Hello everyone. Sorry, I have been incredibly lame in posting. I am sure you all thought I’d given up and abandoned the blog/weight loss. Well I’m pleased to say this isn’t the case, although I didn’t weigh in this week.
The loss above, of half a pound, was actually from Thursday 23 February. It wasn’t as high as I had hoped but I had been out the weekend before and had a few pints, so can’t really complain! In fact, the group leader from my slimming group was there so I couldn’t even deny it even if I wanted to!
I was away the weekend after this weigh in (i.e. last weekend) in York, and that definitely wasn’t a slimming excursion.
I won’t go into all the details, but so I remember exactly what the weekend was like in the future, I’ll list a little of my sinning here:
Pork pies (note the ‘s’, it wasn’t a single pie), crisps, KFC, real ale-a-plenty, cheese, and so on! 
But I always knew it wasn’t going to be a healthy weekend, so I’m not too worried about that in itself.
I have also been away for part of this week (hence no weigh in), but I will be back at group this week. 
I also got my new bike last week and have now got out for a few rides, which I will blog about separately.
However, with the excesses of last weekend, and not being perfect since then, I do need to have a few good days now to try and make a loss possible. If I am honest, I expect that I will have put on weight when I do get to weigh in, but if I work hard this week and stick to being healthy then hopefully I can minimise this.
The positive though is that I am doing more exercise, and more variety, and that is definitely improving my fitness.
Thanks everyone for your comments too, they really do give me encouragement.
The only man in the room.

A new first

A couple of posts back, I mentioned my run from hell. If you remember back, it seemed to be the piece of exercise where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

Thankfully I’ve ran a couple of times since then and have even started to enjoy these runs.

In fact, I completed a new first yesterday – I went out for a run with a running club!

Over the last few weeks I have been trying to run more, but for a variety of reasons have only managed to get out once a week on a Sunday. Whilst I enjoy these runs, I do think that once a week is too infrequent to  really get into the swing of it and also improve my running/fitness.

This is why I decided to take the plunge and head out with the running club last night. Once I took the decision the nerves really did take hold. I had a sick feeling in my stomach yesterday every time I remembered I would be going out!

My worry was simply that I might embarrass myself. I often run with friends, and they know my capabilities and I know theirs. But this was a group of strangers (except for one person) whom I knew nothing about, and who knew nothing about me. What would happen if they were much quicker? What about if they thought I was the slowest of all the runners that had ever joined them? What about if they were so fast that I actually got lost and would have to skulk home on my own?

All very real worries before I set off.

But I needn’t have worried. This particular club and this particular run were friendly and un-daunting. The group runs at its own pace and reconvene at set points. I was pleased to see from the start that I wasn’t the slowest and for much of the run was in the middle of the group.

I also didn’t struggle with the three hills on the route, nor with the wind biting at me. In fact it was only really on the penultimate leg that I felt tired (the final leg never counts as by this stage I tend to speed up to have a flying finish/reach the end quicker).

So that was my first time at running club, but it definitely won’t be my last. I hope to get out with the group regularly, which should mean that I get faster or can run longer – or both. I’ll let you know!

The only man in the room.

My guest blog: toes in the water

In the last week, much has been written about #localgov use of social media. Some people say we’re focussing too much of our time or resources on it, whereas others think we’re behind the curve.
In this blog post, I look at how Copeland Borough Council, a small Cumbrian district authority, has used social media to improve our communications and engagement work.
Here at Copeland we discussed using social media for quite some time before we started using it. Many people, including me, were nervous about taking the plunge.
We were nervous for a number of reasons – firstly we worried about controlling our message and people criticising us, secondly we were worried about the amount of our small communications team’s time it would take up, and thirdly we were worried that we wouldn’t know what we were doing!
However, after much soul searching and discussion of policies and protocols, we finally started using Twitter, and then Facebook, a little over 12 months ago.
I’m pleased to report that our experience has been entirely positive. That doesn’t mean that all the tweets that we have received have been positive, but the engagement that has followed, certainly has been.
The great thing about using social media is that there are few rules, people try things and mistakes are made. But that’s all part of the experience. The important thing is not to worry about these, but to learn from them for your future postings.
After a few weeks of using Twitter it quickly became clear that worrying about controlling your message is an irrelevance. Quite simply, it’s not why these networks exist and nor is it how people should use them.
Of course we tweet about the things we want to let me know and want to talk about, but people respond with whatever they want to – and so they should.  When we first started tweeting, we did it too infrequently, checked for messages sporadically and essentially, weren’t really there.
Now we see social media as another weapon in our communications arsenal (thanks to @danslee for the analogy!). That is to say that we don’t use social media instead of other communications tools, but as well as. Similarly, like press releases, web chats, posters and other tools, we don’t see social media as one homogenous whole – so we use Facebook in a different way to Twitter, and so on.
One little example is that when we issued our recycling and refuse calendars this year, we included our Facebook and Twitter links along with our website address, because we knew we’d be able to update people on changes to collections in winter most quickly using social media.
The huge benefit that social media gives our communications is that you can get almost instantaneous feedback. This means we can use feedback to shape our communications and engagement work.
The thing that excites me most about social media, and especially social media usage, is that it is developing all the time. As I said earlier, we do make mistakes, but we also get some things right and are able to share this across the sector with ease.
We know that we’re not perfect – but we’re good listeners and we’re willing to learn. And the best way of proving this is by directing you to our Twitter profile or our Facebook account. There you can see our work in progress – every single tweet of it.
Ian Curwen is communications manager at Copeland Borough Council in West Cumbria. Ian is also on Twitter, though his posts also cover music, food, Leeds United and weight loss.
Copeland are on twitter here and on facebook here

That’s more like it

This week’s weight loss (phew): 4lb. Total loss: 11.5lb

Well after last week’s disappointment, I was pleased to find I had achieved a decent loss this week. My aim for the week was always to lose what I had put on and then a little bit more, but after a gain, I was nervous about whether this was realistic or not.

I did try pretty hard last week. For a start, I drank very little at the weekend (you will find I rarely say ‘I drank no alcohol’). But rather than quite a few pints of real ale, I just had a couple of glasses of wine over the weekend.

I also tried to stick to my diet much more rigidly, and by and large, succeeded. The food secrets of my success last week were salmon (with salad) and lots of melon.

On the diet I am doing, both of these are foods that help you lose weight quickly. I don’t quite know the science, but it’s to do with the fact you feel full when eating them but they’re not too full of calories (I think!). A huge pile of salad leaves with some tomato, carrot, cucumber, and cabbage definitely does that.

As mentioned, I also made sure to do lots of exercise, which included a long run, spinning, a gym session and three swims – in fact at each time I swam, I increased the number of lengths I did.

I was lucky last week in that I was able to commit to a fair amount of exercise because I was in the office a lot of the time – and I was able to use my lunchtimes, as well as the evenings, for exercise.

Sadly this week isn’t quite the same – I have meetings on three of the five lunchtimes. But despite this, I still plan to do a fair bit of exercise when I can.

In fact, I hope to get my new bike on Thursday, so I may even cycle to work on Friday if I am feeling brave and the weather isn’t too horrendous! I’ve got my fluorescent yellow high-vis jacket so will look suitably impressive/stupid, if I do manage to do it!

I’ve also done some good exercise to start me off this week including some more swimming and a decent run on Sunday. The run was hard, but it was much better than the one I posted about and I did manage to up my speed from previous efforts. Still a bit to go to get up to my fastest times of last year though.

Sorry it has been a while since I posted (and a few days since I weighed in). I have been in and out a bit since then. I’ll make sure to post quicker next week.

On a totally different subject, i guest blogged for the fabulous guys at Comms2point0 this week. I’ll post this here shortly. I know a few people who come here work in local government, so it will be relevent to some of you. To those of you who don’t, have a read anyway and let me know your thoughts!


The only man in the room

Run from hell

I was going to tie this post in to my last blog post, but it wasn’t really connected, and I thought it’d sit better on its own.

I’ve only ran four times this year so far. I want to run a lot more. I need to run a lot more if I am to hit my target of running a half marathon.

The first three runs were all ok. In fact, I really enjoyed the third run, which was my longest and fastest of the year and included some sprints that I also enjoyed. That’s saying something for me, because often hate sprints and resent anyone not letting me plod on at my own pace!

However, run four – last night’s run – was awful.

I think we all have times where the exercise we’re doing doesn’t go to plan, and last night’s run was definitely that occasion for me.

I won’t go into all the details, but every that could go wrong seemed to. This included needing the toilet from about two minutes after we set off, a stitch I couldn’t shake, uncomfortable kit, a sore foot.

The purpose of this post is simply to remind me, and others, that you do have times like this and the important thing is to laugh them off, learn from the mistakes (so go to the toilet, wear the right kit, do your warm ups etc) and next time I moan about a run, I can think back to ‘the one that I blogged about’, because that one was seriously pants!

So I’ll be back out running tomorrow and the next day too and they can’t possibly be as bad as last night’s was!

The only man in the room.


This week’s gain: 2.5lb. Total loss to date: 7.5lb.

Well I think I jinxed it last week when I said I didn’t want to be writing about a gain too soon! Perhaps not, but I can think of a few other reasons why I didn’t do too well this week:

These include the fact that I wasn’t able to do too much exercise, and was busy when I would have done both of the runs I had planned that week. I also had meetings over most of my lunch hours at work so wasn’t able to get to the gym then either.

On top of that because I was so busy, I didn’t have time to prepare healthy food as I would have liked.

However, these are all excuses. They’re all true enough, but they are excuses. I could have gone to the gym/ran at any number of other times, not just when I had arranged to, and I should have prepared my food in advance.

The real reason I put on weight this week was because I didn’t really follow the diet – certainly not for enough of the week.

I sometimes don’t know how I will do of a week until I get to group. I felt like that this week. Although just before I weighed in, someone asked me how I had done. I hoped that I had lost, but I did say that I wouldn’t be surprised if I had put on, after the week I’d had – so I can hardly complain or claim it was unexpected!

For reasons of openness, and to inspire myself to do better this week, I’ll list the bad things I somehow managed to consume this week:

a bacon sandwich, wantons and chicken curry from the Chinese takeaway, about eight pints of real ale, a couple of bags of crisps, a Thai meal out, ice cream. There is probably more on top of that too!

When I list it like that, it’s no real surprise I put weight on. Especially when I didn’t do enough exercise.

So the challenge this week is to do better. That’s no surprise really! Ideally, I’d like to lose the 2.5lb I’ve put on and a pound or two for good measure.

Well I’m not drinking much this weekend, and certainly have no plans for takeaway or for pints of real ale tonight. It’s a healthy, homemade, Chicken Biriyani for tea tonight.

I’ve also managed a run since my weigh in and plan to run tomorrow and Monday too.

The one good thing is that because I am doing this blog, and because it and you are motivating me, I want to make up for my gain this week as soon as possible.

At other times, I might have been disheartened and had another bad week. That isn’t the plan for this week.

Will let you know how I get on.

The only man in the room.

This week’s loss

This week’s loss: 3lb. Total loss: 10lb.

Hopefully I won’t have to title a blog ‘this week’s gain’ anytime soon!

Sorry for the delay in posting this week’s update. No real reason other than having a manic evening after I got weighed on Thursday and then forgetting.

So I was pleased to have a bigger loss this week, and hopefully that’ll inspire me for a decent one this week too – although I have had a quite enjoyable, and not totally healthy, weekend. I do find at times that I’m doing my own version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – I stick to my weight loss regime during the week, but transform into an unhealthy boy the second the weekend hits. I guess that just means I need to try harder this week.

I ran twice last week. I’d like to make it at least three times if I can, and I’d like to be a bit quicker when I’m out running too. I’ve also ordered myself a new bike, which I should get in a couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to getting out on it. I want to do the Coast to Coast bike ride at some point, but it’s certainly not an immediate aim. Not least because I’ll need to get used to wearing the cycling lycra shorts first!

One of the first things I was worried about when I started doing more exercise was that people would look at me and laugh – after all I look pretty hot and sweaty, and more like Bambi on ice than anything else. But I soon realised that a) people don’t care, b) I don’t care even if they do and c) I feel pretty self-righteous about the fact I’m out doing exercise anyway. Cycling shorts might stretch that a little bit mind! I apologise in advance to anyone who sees me!

Will blog again later in the week, but before I go, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for the positive comments on the blog. I do appreciate them, and they do motivate me.

The only man in the room.


A few years ago, I took a bus into town to work. I was carrying a bag with me as I was going to visit a friend after work.

I got off the bus and walked towards work when I realised I no longer had my bag with me, and the bus had already moved on. Queue panic and beads of sweat (more on those to come). My only option was to run after the bus and catch it at the next stop – before it left Whitehaven.

I ran/jogged/walked with pace and managed to catch the bus up at the next stop. However I wasn’t able to speak at this point, and had many more beads of sweat about my person! I can only imagine what the sight of me trying to chase the bus looked like! It was a this point that I really realised that I needed to do more exercise. Strictly speaking, I needed to do some exercise.

Last year I completed a ten mile run and I’ve also done about half a dozen other races. So it’s fair to say that I’ve came quite some distance. Literally, in fact – according to the app on my phone (Runkeeper, for those who are interested) I ran over 120 miles last year. That’s just the runs I logged, too.

An important part of my initial weight loss journey was definitely exercise. In fact, I think part of the reason I put on a bit of weight at Christmas was because for the first time, I wasn’t doing much exercise at all.

So as well as healthy eating, I try to do four or five exercise sessions a week. I also try to vary what I do. From a position four years ago where I did no exercise, I now swim, go to the gym, run, go spinning and go to circuits on a regular basis.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I do sometimes cheat and don’t quite stick to my diet plan. I don’t mind that so much when I am doing lots of exercise.

In the last week I’ve restarted running, having had a few weeks off. I have ran a 6.5 and 4.5 mile run this week. The first was hard, as was the second, but I really enjoyed both. My goal for the next few weeks is to continue the running and try to quicken my pace.

I’d like to go one further than last year’s 10 mile race and compete a half marathon. I feel confident that if I put the effort in, I could do it.

And that’s some step up from trying to catch the bus!

Will feed back on weight loss tomorrow. I’m struggling to get to a group, but will weigh myself somewhere if I don’t make it.

The only man in the room.

This week

Loss this week: 1lb. Total loss: 7lb (half a stone).

So not as big a loss this week. Obviously I would have liked a bigger loss, but I’m not actually disappointed with losing just a pound.
In the past when I have been to class and weighed in, and only lost a pound or so, I have got disheartened – assuming I should have lost more – despite the fact I probably shouldn’t have.
In the past, when I have weighed in and only lost a pound, my reaction has tended towards disappointment, or possibly even annoyance or anger.
But now I just remember the fact that if I lost ‘just’ a pound every week for a year then that’d be the best part of four stone. Which would be amazing!
However, the main reason I am not disappointed is that I went to Leeds at the weekend for a party for my 30th. I had a great night with lots of my friends, and with about ten pints of calorific real ale! The food wasn’t perfectly healthy either – thought it was perfectly delicious.
On top of that, I have been in day long meetings both today and yesterday, where biscuits and buffet were the order of the day. As I’ve mentioned earlier, and I will elaborate on at a later date, I don’t do brilliantly with buffets! 
So considering all of the above, I don’t think I’ve done too bad to have recorded a loss! I suspect the first week I stay the same/gain weight will be less positive mind.
The plan for the next seven days is to do a bit better and keep up the exercise, so that I can hopefully lose a bit more weight next week. Fingers crossed!
Onwards and upwards.
The only man in the room.