The secret to enjoying a game of Golf.

The Heydon Grange Golf club breathed a sigh of relief as the Griffith motorcade of sensible family cars rolled out of the car park late last Saturday afternoon in a cloud of fine orange dust drawing to a close the 2014 Griffith Golf Tourney.

Every year for about a decade or so my brothers and I have played a round of golf together.  In principle, it’s a family bonding exercise; we grew up together, schooled together, then raised families and explored diverse careers across three counties of southern England.  In practice however it’s a display of some of the worst golf by some of the most shameless cheats you’re ever likely to see followed by arguments and beer.

Now that our kids are old enough to play, we made up a team of seven. Well, six actually with one walker (me) as I was relieved of my clubs from my garage two years back by a thief and spent the insurance money on a flatscreen TV.  Last year I hired clubs for my annual game but this year none were available so I walked.  Determined not to let a small matter like not having any golf clubs spoil my day, I took my GoPro along to generally put people off and in doing so capture the missed putts, bunker fluffs and shocking drives for posterity.

While I set out frustrated at not being able to play, I returned to the clubhouse in high spirits after a good walk unencumbered by a golf bag, bronzed by the bright sun and invigorated by lots of fresh air.  The others meanwhile were hot, lank and belligerent after a ragged game of zigzags across the flinty fairways, alternating as they had for four hours between tall pampas and murky ponds.

This, it transpired, brought about an epiphany.  If you really want to have a good day out on a golf course just leave your clubs at home.

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Open letter to pigeons.

Hey Guys

Since so many of you have descended on my garden lately I thought it was about time to have a few words.

Look, I like having wildlife around the place; I actively encourage butterflies on my Ceonothus and on my Buddleia. I am happy to have bees living in my front porch and bats in my loft.  I even spend time ushering daddy long-legs through open windows recognising that with a 2-day life-cycle you need all the freedom you can get.

But these species are respectful of the environment in which they live. The butterfly population in my garden is thriving and a joy to behold.  Pollination is hard and essential work; bees are nature’s key workers.  And bats, the twilight cruisers, are a pleasure to watch and catch lots of midges with no more than the odd “click”.

I am genuinely flattered that the pigeon community feels at home here but I’m going to have to lay down a few ground rules:

  1. Birdfood is for all birds not just pigeons believe it or not. The bird table is a community resource and scaring the bejesus out of robins is unkind.
  2. Chimneys don’t get a lot of use in the summer but that doesn’t mean they should become congregational venues and an open toilet when not in use.
  3. Observe weekends.  I’m not happy about choral practice from 6am on Saturdays.
  4. Learn a new song.  “Coo” will not win you an Ivor Novello award. Coo is a noise not a song anyway and don’t think that “Coo-Coo” is any better.
  5. Have sex by all means but try to be discrete. Use a stable surface not the gutter outside my bedroom window. Take a rest from time to time; you’ll enjoy it more.

birdscarerYou’ve not had great press in the past; I get that.  “Skyrats” seems like a harsh and inaccurate nickname since you have only two legs and no tail. But your hygiene is poor, your contribution to the community is non-existent and you’re an anti-social bunch at the best of times. You may be smart enough to have learned that the bang of the bird-scarer in the fields nearby is not a gun but just the release of compressed air but don’t relax too soon. There will come a time when something a little more military will go bang in my garden unless we see some changes in your behaviour.

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Endure24 2014; It rained, we ran alot, ate meatballs.

Firstly a short apology to my regulars for such a long radio silence. I blog when I feel like it not against a specific timetable which would make it a chore more than a pleasure. Anyway, Endure24 on 28/29th June was a blog-worthy event and I filmed it too so I thought I’d post the video and add a note…

This is my 5th year of attending a summer 24-hour trail-running relay event – The Thunder Run (2010/’11) and Endure24 (2012/’13 and now ’14). I find them irresistible and I’ve filmed the last two.  It’s a 24hr, non-stop, 5-mile, wooded trail relay around the Wasing Estate near Aldermaston and we attended with a team of 7 including this year my unfeasibly fit son Charlie, two of his mates and former Thunder team-mates JohnFol and the eager whippet, Nollie (32 minutes for 5 miles??!!!).

There’s something unique about running with a pack of runners of assorted paces at odd times of the day and night.  Some walk through the night others smash out single loops but all have a great time and there’s a Glasto spirit what with tents, kids, dogs and kitchen sinks.  All that exercise needs fuel and the 24hr food tent took same abuse. I’d like to have known how many meatballs and flapjacks were consumed. Most of them by Charlie and his mates.

Despite some massive thunderstorms which merely added to the fun, our team put in a total of 155 miles in 24 hours (as the senior team member I only put in 3 loops, Charlie managed 5) putting us 29th out of 132 teams in our category. Not half bad.

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2014 Endure 24 Course Preview

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Everybody’s changing but I feel just the same.

Sometimes, as I get older I can discern a modest slackening of will.  But it is modest and I pretend not to notice the extra minute that crept onto my 10k time and I’m happy to allow myself a week off running; again…

Nobody I know.

In fact I don’t mind getting older.  It’s my birthday soon and at 56 I reckon 6 years of running has afforded me a better figure and stronger legs than would have been the case had I remained the couch potato I was becoming at 49.  Running won’t make me immortal but I enjoy the feeling of immortality that comes with matching my 22-year-old son mile for mile across the Chilterns.

But if you think you’re still as young and fit as you were ten years ago try meeting up with some folks you haven’t seen for ten years and check them out.  Some are richer, some are poorer, some have remarried and some are now single.  But, by golly, they’ve all grown older.  They’ve mysteriously adopted a decade of wear and tear that of course you won’t have noticed in yourself.

People I don’t know in bad clothes dancing badly.

And so it was that this weekend 200 souls gathered in a village hall in Devon to celebrate another soul’s 50th birthday. There, life-long friends dad-danced to a reggae band and drank to excess.  And as the smell of hog-roast hung in the air like yesterday’s pants, we laughed about the old days and lied to each other about how little we had aged.

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Don’t ever stop loving.

I’ve been writing this blog for a few years now and it struck me I haven’t ever written about love, sex or marriage.  Time to set that right.

02-girl_boy_holding_hands_love_romance_girl_boy_couple_hd_wallpaper_picturesI’d make a pretty poor agony aunt but I was inspired this week when Lovefilm sent me “Don’t Look Down”, an Argentinian film by Elisio Subiela.  It’s about Eloy, a sleepwalking, life-size pasty advert with a penchant for stilt-walking and his enamorata Elvira, stage designer, beguiler and tantric sex expert.  I kid you not.

Actually it’s a touching and well-coloured, boy-becomes-man story and entertaining too albeit a bit softcore in an Emanuelle kind of way at times.

The point is, relationships are complicated things.  Long-standing relationships bear scars and short-lived ones can bite deep.  Fundamentals like manners, courtesy, generosity and humour will always have a place but there is no ready formula for success nor is there an easy cure for failure; what might work today may not work tomorrow and vice versa.  This makes short term results unpredictable and long-term planning nigh on impossible.

Meanwhile, life changes us from young to old but not necessarily from foolish to wise. And as our Pasty boy discovers, sometimes all that stands between you and paradise is coincidence as he sleepwalks into his new lover’s bed and discovers the world of pleasures she brings him.

Love is not biology, it’s chemistry and as all chemists know that’s a subject which requires protective goggles and a sturdy white coat.

She leaves him in the end and he mourns her temporarily but, thoroughly qualified, he then gets on with the business of sharing his newly honed skills with a queue of waiting “chicas”.

Director Subiela’s final message is poignant and memorable: “In life you will always be saying goodbye – don’t let that stop you from loving.”.

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Why we must never take running for granted

This week I was asked to make a short film (to follow) for a Charity that helps severely disabled kids improve their movement.  I don’t think you can prepare for a shoot like this.

The Move Partnership finds ways to integrate education, health and social care to give the kids the best possible chance of gaining some physical independence.  Lakeside School provides the teachers, helpers, kitchens, classrooms and physios to make it all happen.

move still 1Move still 3 Move still 11 Move still 9Getting a pass to film in a school of this kind is not for the fainthearted.  Let me explain.  How many times do you ever say “thank you” for being able to stand up, walk, or just raise a cup or a spoon to your lips?  Walking into this school with a camera slung over your shoulder looking for subjects, angles and light sources stopped me in my tracks.  And I admit it pushed a tear out of my eye.  It reminded me that no, I never did say thank you for these simple things like taking a pee unaided, rustling up a mac and cheese or putting my own jeans on.

As a runner, albeit a pretty modest one, strenuous effort is about getting sub 50m for a 10k, doing a one-minute plank or plugging on through driving rain to get home from a long Sunday jog.  For these guys, strenuous effort is what puts one foot in front of the other. Titanic concentration is what’s needed to get a single word out.  For a lifetime…

And yet there in it all, among the calipers and the walking frames, amidst the volunteer helpers and the physios were kids with smiles on their faces.  Progress for these guys is about not going backwards.  Staying out of the wheelchairs.  This is thanks in no small part to schools like Lakeside and from donations from people like you to charities like The Move Partnership.  Do give this some thought.

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