“Independence day! It’s fucking independence day!” I’m sure he actually did a little jump of joy as he repeated himself, adding “We get our fucking country back.”
There’s a burning inside my head. It’s not tears, they’ve been and gone. I can feel the heat in my face, there’s something thundering around my body, my heart won’t settle, somehow frozen, yet burning, burning. I think it’s rage. Rage. I’ll call it rage, I’ve never had such a barrage of heat and shuddering fury. And it’s pure instinct, I have no control over this.
I finally find my voice, “Did you vote?”
“Never do mate, they’re all fucking corrupt.” My workmate is so animated.
“But, you’re passionately celebrating the result?”
“Fucking am, why aren’t you fucking happy? No more immigrants clogging up our fucking NHS and stuff.”
“I’m not sure that’s what the referendum was about but……”
A month earlier, I’m in a chip shop. With my father. We’ve ordered four pieces of cod, two large chips, mushy peas and curry sauce. “So, will you be voting to leave?” He surprises me with the question. Whilst I’m pretty sure he’s goading me, I offer a mumbled, non-committal reply.
“That Boris Johnson is such a man of the people” he says, “I can’t see them losing.”
I just wanted to cry.
When is blogger not a blogger? A runner not a runner? A writer not a writer?
I’ve been soul searching about questions of my ‘identity’ for the last few weeks. With the positivity I’ve been encouraged to nurture I’ve concluded that, as long as I’m returning to any of these, that’s enough to still ‘be’.
I’m still a blogger (phew, I hear you all gasp). There’s always something in my head which will end up in the blog sooner or later.
If I’m blogger, I’m writing, no? That makes me still a writer then. BUT there is sooooo much more to me as a writer now. Since becoming a member of Writers’ HQ I feel I have started to belong.
Whilst, as yet, I haven’t bitten off huge chunks of their plethora of course material, I have been breaking crumbs off the corners and nibbling on them.
I’ve particularly enjoyed the short fiction exercises, blogs and course content. Many an idea has become the start of something tangible – a challenge, a character, a scene, a quandary – I’m in the habit of scribbling all these thoughts and ideas into either my trusty notebook or a clever app thingy whenever they materialise.
So, at some point in the future, you can look forward to tense friendships lived in a dream state through old postcards, eyes with tiny but endlessly deep black pupils, lucky Blu Tak, an unlikely apocalypse and much much more.
The novel is still flickering too (one of the short stories is rapidly becoming ‘long’ too) and I’m still tinkering, reassured by professionals of this craft the first draft is ‘supposed to be shite’.
So, yup, whilst I’m not doing much in the way of ACTUAL WRITING, I am very much still a feckin’ writer.
Well, 4 weeks today we’re planning a boat trip from Mevagissey to Fowey. I’ll either be celebrating having completed The Plague the previous day, nursing battered legs and eating ALL the food…. Or I’ll be recounting heroic tales of how and why I didn’t complete the whole 100km. One. Hundred. Kilometres.
Nicky, and blog regular Martin are both doing the 50km again and another friend, Jan, doing the 11 mile version. This will be my 3rd visit, and Nicky’s 4th, to this, my favourite EVER event. Read about how much I enjoyed it last year HERE (and also about how Nicky was ‘retiring’ from ultra marathons!)
I’ve managed some running lately, hitting the trails for a few 3,4 even 5 hour runs these last few weeks, squeezing in other runs where I can.
I promise you (and myself) this: with everything I’ve got I’ll be on that start line at 5 minutes past midnight as Friday becomes Saturday (12th August), hopefully skipping through the finish line sometime later on Saturday afternoon.
Right now, as I sit in the garden writing this, the reason I might just make it (to the start AND finish lines) is lying on the rug next to me ploughing through a Charlie Resnick thriller, commenting on how novels written of their era can become dated – 2018 thrillers don’t tend to feature cassette tapes or searches for telephone boxes.
My beautiful wife, Nicky, and I embarked on 20 mile training jaunts around the tracks, lanes and trails of South Devon this morning. This afternoon we are treating ourselves to rummaging through The Observer, racing through the afore mentioned Resnick thriller (by John Harvey), dipping in and out of The People (a Seline Todd political history) and DOING SOME ACTUAL WRITING!
Nicky (how, just HOW did I get to be this lucky, every single day I wake up to find out my heart has won the lottery!), my soul mate, my team mate, my lover, my best friend and my constant inspiration, has quietly, determinedly, carefully and lovingly nursed my tired body and soul through this last month to get us to right here. Right now.
Identity? Well, the most wonderful role I’ve ever had in my life is being one half of the magic that is ‘US’. Everything else only works BECAUSE of that.
In an attempt to be relentlessly positive, this blog post comes to you without any ‘there’s no time’ or ‘I’m too tired’
My two favourite hobbies. The one I tend to do alone and the one I sometimes do alone but MUCH prefer it if my beautiful wife is doing it with me.
“Of what do you witter now?” I hear you cry…..
Writing, of course, and running, naturally. Although keen observers have rarely described me as running ‘naturally’!
Anyway, it turns out you can’t just pitch up with your pen or your trainers and instantly be a published author or complete a marathon.
You’ve got to write.
You’ve got to run.
Luckily for me I REALLY enjoy running and I REALLY enjoy writing.
It all depends what I want my hobbies to give me back.
I could run like Forrest Gump (and there’s plenty who’d suggest I already do!) and still never become an ‘elite’ athlete but I will always get so much pleasure from each and every step.
Writing, on the other hand, well, there might just be a chance of writing becoming a double edged sword, slicing backwards and forwards through the fatigue of life. Yes, with some focus and commitment, writing might just open a few doors.
So what does a man who is regularly barely able to drag his aching feet high enough to stand on the bulging demands and pressures on his time trying to squeeze them into the available hours do?
Signs up for a Creative Writing course. Naturally…….
But you are a motor mechanics garage, I mean, you have ramps and spanners and overalls and things. AND you did the MOT test. AND you did the last MOT test. Interestingly, even though the car has barely moved between the two tests, it has failed on DIFFERENT ITEMS. None of which, apparently, are within your remit to repair. For money. I mean, if, for example, you asked me to fit a patio, you’d be surprised if I said “Yes, I can see you need some hard-core compacting, a blinding of sand, some paving slabs and a mix or two of mortar. That’ll be £50 please, give me a ring when you’ve laid it and if it still isn’t laid probably, I’ll have another look at it and that’ll be another £50 please. And you still won’t have a patio. Because, and let’s see if we can define our roles here, I’M A BUILDER AND YOU’RE A CAR MECHANIC!!!”
I thought giving the business to a local independent outfit, in the village where I am, amongst other things, laying a patio (that’s what I do, you see), I could avoid missing time off work and if the car had any apparently minor faults, I would give them the trade and employ them to carry out the repairs.
I’ve been told I’ve got to let it go now…….. AND burrreeeeeeve….
So that’s something I’m not loving this week.
Something I am into this week? How about the fantastic blog by speedy Welsh runner Russell Bentley. Check it out HERE. Russell is a super quick runner with a great story and a fantastic writer to boot. We’re very similar – we’re both builders, we both own SH!TE cars, we both write and keep blogs and we both love a bit of running……. Ok his best marathon time is an hour quicker than mine and he is a mere child by comparison. Finishing 2nd in The Chester Half a week after running 2.29 in The London Marathon, he is a proper old school gutsy performer.
And my own running, well, really happy and enjoying lacing up the pumps. I cajoled my aching, aging limbs (the sand barrowing has taken its toll this week, along with the usual erratic sleep patterns!) from the warm snuggly duvet den and headed off to try and squeeze in our ‘go to’ 10 mile route in before work.
I decided to try and average about 8 minutes per mile and set my watch to just show me average pace and time. I do find that when I set off intending to run at a ‘tempo’ I need to put a bit more effort in to start with to get my heart and lungs working and then they are less likely to object to the effort level as the run goes on.
A bit like in last week’s Parkrun (Blog HERE), I was surprised as I admired the reflection my gangly, random running gait in the shiny windows of the newly converted Tesco Express and then glanced at my watch, to discover I was averaging 7m15s per mile, and I know this is about a mile into the run.
“I wonder how long I can keep this up?” my sleepy brain asked, sending a challenge to my creaking joints. About 9 miles was the rather surprising reply. And I did. Easing off for the last mile but still returning home in time to steal a kiss from my beautiful lady wife before she headed out for her day of adventure. Yup. Winning this morning.
So our weekend is looking lovely and full, we’ve both put our names down to volunteer at Parkrun on Saturday morning. Then at tea time on Saturday we’re off to have a crack at the Pennywell Pursuit 10k. Hoping for a longish trail run on Sunday and I also need to try and mend the NEW faults for my jalopy’s latest attempt at getting an M. O. feckin’ T.
Oh, and I’ll tell you what else Nicky and I did this week. We went to a running group. I know!! With other people and everything! We’re becoming quite the gregarious social animals…..
There’s a new 24 hour gym opening soon, literally down the road from us. Whilst we’re not really ‘gym’ people, they have started a running group. So we jogged down there on Monday after work and enjoyed a really good session incorporating a warm up, some drills and core work, some short fast efforts, some easy running and longer efforts. A bit of stretching too. Trainer, Lewis, has gathered a lovely friendly and varied group together and made the hour work for everyone and it felt lovely and inclusive. If anyone is local to us and wants to try it out it’s free – check out their Facebook stuff HERE.
We’re planning an epic Bank Holiday walk on Monday so will probably miss next week’s running group and will try and hobble there the following week. We’re doing the RACE THE TIDE the previous day (Nicky doing the 16 mile ‘half’ whilst I attempt the 29 mile ‘marathon’). We did the half last year and had a fabulous time – read all about it HERE.
All You Have To Do Is Dream sang Bob Dylan. Well, who’s to say he’s wrong. He sang quite a lot of words, and still does. Were you to compile every single lyric, poem or prose by the great folk poet, you’d have quite a tome.
I’ve been busy making some decisions to help me focus on those dreams which, ultimately, are the dreams which matter. Trying to avoid completely ‘outcome focussed’ goals.
I guess we all crave more leisure time, and maybe we can all be guilty of measuring the success of how we spend our time by the ‘outcomes’.
A bit of self-critical analysis has me thinking I’ve been a bit guilty of this in my writing. I mean, it’s absolutely lovely when readers engage with my wittering, and I really enjoy the process of creating content which might just give someone else pleasure.
BUT, I’ve found I’ve been putting myself under pressure to write a couple of regular articles for online publications, to deadlines. I fully appreciate that all budding writers start out as ‘amateurs’ and have to find the time to write around the real world of their ccommitments. BUT (again, starting a sentence with ‘BUT’! Lazy writing…) when we’re all so time poor, let’s focus on the things which give us most pleasure.
As regular blog readers will know I’m in the embryonic stages of writing a book (working title Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners) and I’m thoroughly enjoying the process of researching my characters’ backgrounds and letting them reveal themselves to me. The plot thickness each day, I let the story meander around my head when I’m digging a hole at work, or plodding along the coast path.
The beauty of the book writing is that I am under no pressure to produce an ‘outcome’ in a specific time frame and so if I can write a bit, I will, if not then I won’t. And nobody will be any the wiser. Except a couple of people have said ‘So when are we going to see this book?’!
By coincidence, Nicky and I both came to similar conclusions about our training on Sunday morning. I set off for a long run as Nicky set off for her bike ride and we arrived home within a few minutes of each other three and a half hours later. We’d both made our routes up as we went along, concluding that, despite us both having ‘goal’ events we should definitely be making sure we enjoy every minute of our exercising. Check out my run HERE and Nicky’s ride HERE
Some views from my run…
The previous day, after a sleep deprived and extremely tiring and challenging week, we forfeited our endurance plans in exchange for coffee and a lie-in and jogged to our local Parkrun at the Torbay Velopark. It turns out, with a bit of rest and recovery, we’re both fitter and faster than we give ourselves credit for.
Nicky ran a Parkrun PB whilst I set off in pursuit of some fellow 50something chaps who are always around to share a run and a joke (and they normally whop me!). I astounded myself by running faster than for a year or more and snuck in front of all of them for a 1st Vet 50 finish. Rather chuffed I don’t mind admitting. Neil, (a very old friend) in particular, and I have shared plenty of bragging rights over the years and I have no doubt he’ll be claiming them back at the first opportunity!
So, like my running, my writing will be more about enjoying what I can do, when I can do it. Maybe, just maybe, like with my running, there’ll be the occasional ‘success’ in writing too. Whatever that looks like. But the true measure of success will be….. well, like this blog post, something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed doing.
Bob Dylan loves his writing, amongst a thousand prophetic and poetic quotes he says….
“Take care of all of your memories, you can’t relive them”
At every junction I selected a direction on Sunday’s run and hummed “Don’t think twice, it’s alright”.
Well now, brace yourselves for me waxing lyrical about my beautiful lady wife. She does get awfully embarrassed but she is my absolute world and I see no reason not to SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS!!!
Nicky gained her Social Work degree and additional postgraduate qualifications relatively late in life, whilst working and bringing up her two lovely daughters. The reward for one of her incredible achievements was a graduation celebration where the enigmatic Mr Akabusi was the guest of honour.
So, a former international athlete, with a fabulous fun attitude to his sport, who has gone on to a lifetime of celebrity and motivational appearances, he is a very active and popular individual and his latest shenanigans can be discovered HERE.
It was a lovely moment when Nicky revealed her Akabusi experience, as he has a special place in my heart. Firstly, as we were growing up in a house of sports fanatics, his athletic prowess and raucous laugh brought many a joyous moment to our world.
His book, On Track, was being devoured by my sister as her illnesses were intensifying towards the end of her life. Unfortunately, she became too ill to finish the book herself. On the night she died, which is 9 years ago on Monday, aged a mere 44, I sat with the book at her bedside as she gently slept a heavy final sleep. I read aloud to her for an hour or two in the hope she was, somewhere inside, enjoying the words of one of her favourite athletes as her breathing slowed.
Reading a little more about Kris in preparation for this blog post he says he is often asked why he openly talks about death and loss so regularly, despite him being an upbeat motivational character. He replied, simply, that it constantly reminds him that every day of our lives is precious and to be lived to the absolute maximum. Also that we should surround ourselves with the people we love and care about, that we trust and with whom we share beliefs and goals. And that we should avoid spending time in situations that suck the life, the emotional energy, the FUN, out of us. I couldn’t agree more….
That he openly talks about oft avoided subjects is so refreshing. When Karen was so very ill (and she lived for over 6 years with her various cancers), people started to avoid those of us who were close to her, the word ‘cancer’ becoming a cancer itself, as if simply using the word would curse us. It wasn’t a secret, Karen had cancer. And it was shit. really shit.
As regular readers know, we live and care for Frank, my father-in-law. He has dementia, his diagnosis is a ‘non-specific Alzheimer’s’ I believe. It is also shit. It also has a depressing prognosis and can completely consume us on occasions. We are starting to find that there’s a little bit of a wide berth being given to us (and not just because of all the hot cross buns we’re eating!) as we try and check ourselves into not having every conversation ending up being about Frank and his bizarre diet, lack of understanding of time or that milk has now become ‘that white stuff’.
Anyway, on the 9th anniversary of Karen’s death, I just wanted to pay tribute to her and the life she had, I owe a lot to her memory and my biggest regret of losing her is that she never got to see me with Nicky. She never saw me REALLY happy and she would be chuffed to know that I truly have found my wonderful soul mate, someone with whom to share the lifetime of love I’ve been saving up.
That a lovely link between these amazing women has been made through Kris Akabusi still makes me smile every time I think about it
I still miss my sister, Karen, she was the life and soul and has left us with so many wonderful, energetic memories. And so, every moment with Nicky, we try and enjoy and treasure the time we have, and intend to keep planning those adventures and challenges and celebrate this life we’ve been given.
So I’d better get my arse out of the door tomorrow morning for that long run and, in the motivational words of my amazing lady wife… “MAN THE **** UP”
I’m self employed. Saying that, I’ve mostly worked for the same small firm for the last two years. I did go out on loan for a while (see THIS BLOG), but even that was for a friend of my current boss. Though I’m self employed, said boss still texted me to check I was OK with travelling to and from the customers’ house on both SNOWMAGGEDON days this week.
“It’s OK,” I cheerfully responded, “I’ll run home”. Secretly hoping for a white deluge, I stuffed a load of running gear in a rucksack and drove the 6 miles to work. Rather disappointingly, on Wednesday, the threatened snow barely materialised and the trusty Micra scuttled me safely home.
And then scuttled me back to work Thursday morning. The difference being, the snow actually came on Thursday. And didn’t it.
Another text from my boss, basically saying have a half day, “It’s OK, I’ll run home.” I reassured. Then the call from Nicky came. She was more insistent now that the weather had deteriorated sufficiently for her office to close early. For those who are new to the blog… WELCOME!!…. Nicky is my wife, my inspiration, my heartthrob, my passion, my reason, my life. Feel free to read back through the blog for more, suitably gushy, posts about how I treasure every moment of our lives together and the incredible adventures she dreams up for us.
I am learning to understand when “I think you should leave now” means “You ARE leaving now.” Not to worry about the chances of the Micra getting home in one piece, I reported…. “I’ll run home!”.
So, as Nicky left her office a couple of miles from home, I washed up my decorating gear (by the way, once this project is finished I’ll be striking out on my own, so if you’re local and have property repairs or renovations needed…. get in touch) and donned several layers of running attire.
“When you said ‘it’s ok, I’ll run home’, we thought you were joking!” exclaimed the customer as a thick veil of snow started to hide the rather tatty Micra from the beaky eyes of their neighbours.
An hour and a half later, I met Nicky sat in stranded traffic at the bottom of our road! Torbay ground to a halt as the heaviest snow I can remember combined with a ferocious easterly storm to close roads and challenge the authorities and emergency services.
For me, though, what a treat, running 6 miles on crisp fresh snow on the country lanes. T’was quite beautiful.
I’m always jealous of those people with their ideal jobs, showers at work, gym on site. So many magazine articles suggest ‘squeezing a run in at lunch time’ for those of us with time-poor lives. Not much use for us hairy-arsed builders. Unless we want to stink all afternoon. The same goes for running to work – I’d have to carry so much (I have an ENORMOUS lunch box – come on now, no sniggering at the back!) and would be rather sweaty and smelly.
That leaves running home as the only possibility. The challenge here being, again, carrying my work clothes and paraphernalia and, of course, then not having my car to get to work in the morning. For a long time I cycled to work trying desperately not to be a sweaty mess on arrival and weighed down by so much STUFF.
So, with work related runs not really an option for me, yesterday was a real treat. Emerging from the silent, bright white lanes into the ring road on the outskirts of Paignton, I saw the full extent of the travel chaos. I helped a couple of motorists battling the challenging conditions up the first hill before zigzagging my way home via more unused tracks and lanes.
Since the advent of cameras on mobile phones and the instant world of information we now live in, we are all ‘on the spot’ journalists to our little world.
Nicky, Charlie (the intrepid Border Terrier) and I ventured out into the snow last night for a great fun walk, and to record Paignton in the snow – not something we see very often. We avoided the beach area, Storm Emma was throwing crazy waves up and over the prom.
We should all consider those less able to cope than us, the frail, the elderly and keep an eye out for our neighbours. I have to say, it’s been heart warming to see the army of 4X4 vehicle owners and those with spare rooms near hospitals, some pubs, shops and cafes, all start to offer their generous and selfless support once the extent of the extreme weather became apparent. Getting people safe and warm and where they need to be was the mission and so many joined the cause.
In a world where nobody has any time for anyone, there has been a real sense of community around here, and I for one think that is a fine thing.
Saying that, Nicky and I are grandparents ourselves, but nobody had traipsed across the snow currently covering our garden to ask us if we need any bread or milk….
So, this morning a lovely run of nearly 7 miles with Nicky and Charlie (see HERE) was slightly hampered by a lot of the snow being too deep for Charlie’s little pins! He’s collapsed on the sofa now and avoiding eye contact! But how beautifully the forces of nature had prepared the countryside for us today us today.
So another week of limited running has bizarrely been rescued by the very weather which has hindered people getting out at all.
Nicky’s troublesome calf seems to be giving cause for very tentative optimism and our entries into the 2 Oceans Marathon have finally been confirmed. Little by little……..
Hoping for two long outings over the weekend, watch this space……