Monday, December 15, 2008

CYCLING: Bike Club - the first rule? (hic!)

Great news.
The local authority seems to have cross party support for putting cycle paths on the prom.
Finer detail is sketchy. And war has broken out in the local newspaper's letters page.
But it signals an attitude shift which could be very important to the future of the area where I live, I'll predict.

People might even think the town is a friendly, welcoming place.

And at the very least, parked cars blindly backing out into a petrified family of peddlers, forced onto the seafront road (the clear and present danger) may soon be a thing of a murky and distant past.

Thus ends the news.


Possibly more important:
Bike Club was this weekend officially born.

(Suggestions for the first rule of Bike Club are welcome.)

Its three members learned they are stupid enough to cycle in truly horrendous conditions if there is the promise of ale or wine at the other end.
This they know because it happened twice in three days which makes chance a less likely culprit.

Friday - newly official Bike Club night.
I learned you can download most bike maintenance information via the web - even while really quite drunk.
And Daniel learned not to put his finger between the cog and the derailleur if I am nearby and really quite drunk.

We then sat and Neil told us often how he'd just doubled his money on ebay with the Scott he was gleefully cleaning and preening for collection.

I put my bike on the new stand, forgot why and then Neil lifted it out because I was drunk and knocking things over.

We ate snaks (sausages, olives and chocolate brownies so plentiful we couldn't possibly hope to work them off if we spent the whole month on the saddle) and took the piss out of each other a lot.
It was absolutely fucking great.

Sunday, Bike Club outing day
Friston wanted us elsewhere almost as much as the weather and my hockey tired thighs.
But we are now officially paid up adventurers and must earn the respect we crave as such.
Proudly we ploughed up and down boggy tracks where gravity was no help in either direction - finding pleasure in small pockets and pain in prominence.

Squeaks reminded me about the oil I'd forgotten to apply on Friday night.

We bitched light heartedly - assuring ourselves often how easy this would be come the summer thanks to our dedication.

Neil, atop the wife's ill-equipped machine, fell at the third attempt. Upset we both missed it he re-enacted the event on a muddy track with surprising vigour and quite a thud.

Meanwhile Dan looked like he could go all day.
I felt the opposite - tried not to want to go home, but was delirious when we got there.
Don't tell the others... I may get kicked out.

The first rule of Bike Club: Drink less before and more after?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

CYCLING: Tinkering and tyrants continued

We've brought a bike stand.
To save money and be more self contained during future trips three of us decided it's time, at the tender age of thirtysomething, to get some bike knowledge. We all chipped in.

I drank wine and got in Neil's light as he tinkered on Friday evening.
He fixed his gears and breaks and I can't say I know why.

I ate Chinese food and drank port as he used his new knowledge and a few You Tube how to videos to adjust my gears too. They're smooth as a James Bond pick up line now. It's a mystery.

I learned that as long as Neil comes on future trips I will be fine.



New to us sections of Friston forest opened out in front of Dan and I, each promising adventure and challenges unknown.

Once you're fit enough this is the unique freedom to mountain bike cyclist.
The day's destiny is unhindered by logic or habit or hill. If you reach a dead end you turn around. If you don't, you keep going, wide-eyed - riding at your limit.

The next path could bring jumps, glorious tree-weaving single track, frightening downhill or wide open leafy paths where speed has no master. Or it could be a boggy disaster like the one we took.

Ten painful minutes later I was pulling a gloopy mixture of mud and leaves from between the back wheel and frame. It had glued the wheel fast. My feet were in deep puddles.

Friston was in no mood for the fun we had planned it seemed.

I caught Dan up and we left her behind, headed across the angry road into a field towards the Cuckmere cleaning our tyres on reliable medow grass.
We have a right to roam, Dan said.
Fence. Barbed Wire. Another field. Another fence. Bugger this. Back across the road to our mistress.
She was more welcoming this time, and as the path dropped towards Exceat our wheels picked up speed enough to fan leafs in their hundreds into a rusty confetti.
We yelped.
We whooped.
There was no danger - no need for concentration. It's at times like this that you must make the sounds of gleeful boyhood. It's part of the reason you're here. So we did.

Forest drained we weaved further along into a fabulous path, more narrow and dusted with inviting obstacles which we hopped over or zipped around. The bare trees seemed to step aside graciously. Our hosts also welcomed in all the afternoon's half-light to see us happily through their home.
We caught our breath and thanked them with smiles.

Soon we were in the valley, splashing through more puddles. West Dean offered us the admiration of a small boy and an aggressive hill, but soon we bumped out onto the Road to Littlington where a pacey ale in the Pub's garden spurred us up and over the rut of the Downs and into Wilmington for our meeting with the Clobbys.

Monday, December 01, 2008

CYCLING: Tartan tyrants of Wilmington

You should try pushing the thing…, puffed David Dimbleby who was propelling a kart up the muddy Folkington track we were sliding down.
…It’s harder for the person at the back.

Peter Sissons. Did you see? Did you SEE? I whispered excitedly.
See who? I was too busy looking at the kid in the go-kart, said Daniel.
That looked like fun.

The track was a mistake.
If I was a cynical man I would blame the old couple dressed prematurely for Christmas day in all over green and red tartan and tweed.
They had seemed nice.
If they were senior members of the anti cycle lobby – Clobbys for future reference –, as we later suspected, they hid it well.
When we asked for a way from Wilmington to Wannock without risking our necks on the neighboring main road they’d hardly paused before suggesting we peddled back up the hill and hang a left.
There’s a track along to Folkington, then go down the lane, take a right and then there’s another across to the back of Polegate, they instructed.
They even smiled.
Mind you, it’s completely unwalkable, let along peddleable, they said to themselves with a wicked grin - but not until we were well on out of earshot.

The thing about riding in the mud is that when the time comes it’s too boggy to ride, walking conditions are a thing of the even more distant past. Then you have to push the bike too.
They knew this, we agreed, up to our ankles.

Earlier we’d left cold Old Town and peddled a little too enthusiastically onto the Downs on the Seaford road.
Luckily, made lonesome by the weather, she welcomed us with a backdraft as we neared the top and saved our legs a little for the hack ahead.

Daniel was gleeful atop his shining new silver steed.
I was jealous and failing to hide it.

We’d planned a vague loop through East Dean, along the top edge of Friston Forest, along to Littlington. Pint, Chips, around to the Long Man at Wilmington and, well, home the safest way we could find.
We shot along the side of golf holes against the tide of drives and onto a valley cut which whizzed us between fields of shivering sheep to East Dean. Cars suddenly buzzed over our conversation and we turned off to take a back path up the steep side of a village made ghostly by Sunday and season.

Out we popped puffing plumes of hot lung air. And across the tarmac stream of growling metal once more. Kind walkers, Clobby Resistance Fighters, held the gate open for us and then our smiles of thanks widened as we saw what waited.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chase the couscous

If there is anything more irritating than dropping uncooked couscous on the floor I am yet to discover it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

CYCLING: Highwaymen and hijackers with hounds

Bottom of Firle Beacon

I should go up onto the ridge from here, said a dog walker to Dan.
The wind is south westerly and blowing a goodun up on top, you'll find it easier this way...

What terrible advice, we decided, and went the other.

Our starting point, Alfriston, oozes snobbery, and we figured later (peddling with the wind at our backs along the ridge), the dog walker had been out to get us.
Her malice was aimed at making us un take up cycling, we thought. Get off the paths... embrace dog walking and very bad advice giving instead.

Dan has to write about the South Downs... so, whatever the weather, we agreed in a warm Counting House pub on Friday, to head out two mornings' later to cycle a stretch of the South Down's Way.
Whatever the weather?, Dan said.
Fair outlooks are for the weak, we are MEN, I replied, standing up to shut the door some smoker had left open.
My word, that breeze has a nip.

The Old Coach Road to Lewes from Alfriston, with it's chalky, horse-worn shingle and lengthy sections of exposed, almost desolate track, conjures up visions in the mind-wandering cyclist nothing short of musket wielding highwaymen. You can feel yourself tracing the steps of children's TV-informed history.
Dan was on the same thread, and we discussed whether today's coastal muggers and thieves, becapped and driven by blind addiction, will be remembered with similar romance.

He took pictures for the piece and as we paused we wondered at the misty morning squall hugging our route, and the bursts of cold sunlight keeping it at bay. Green became its own rainbow and as the wind blew heavy clouds, their shadows changed everything before our eyes.

It's Firle, I tell you. It is. This is the road. We have to go up there.

The French cycle a lot, as we know.
The English less so.
I decided (and then thought I'd test the theory on Neil) that this was because we built roads straight up hills, lazily, and our neighbours chose the steady meandering route, making the pursuit more accessible and popular.
Neil looked doubtful.
I have no idea if there's an ounce of anything other than horse shit in this, but if the road to Firle Beacon is to be used as a measure I may have a defence.

At the top and the wind blew us so bitterly in the direction of our car the sweat instantly turned us to shivers.
The ridge along this stretch of South Downs offers very little. Unless you like a view. For those tiny few it is a baron paradise, with unobscured sights of distant silver sea and Weald in 360 degree widescreen, surround sound, supervision. It's almost too much.

Dan, who has been away for a while, did not try to hide his feelings.
They were expressed with untamed exclamation.

Two disobedient, cow-curious dogs, a brief and mutually unsatisfactory bike exchange and reunion, the easiest hills we've ever cycled up (thanks to the south westerly) and a hilariously steep track back down into Alfriston (where, break-locked, we skidded helplessly and in borderline hysterics to the bottom), and we found ourselves in the pub with an hour to spare for the Harvey's and cheese and onion crisps.

The dog walker looked surprised to see us.

Monday, November 03, 2008


While I was in a coma my wife divorced me and took the money for the jump, said Eddie Kidd… I think.
He’s not in a good way these days – wheelchair bound and punch drunk.
His eyes still shine like motorbike lights though, I can confirm.

I live in a council house in Seaford, I’ve lost all my money.
How about an interview?, I said.
How much?, he said.
We don’t usually pa…
Buy me lunch, he said, smiling through a stare.
And a glass of wine.

Deal, I said.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dare devil Daryl

Eddie Kid, he's a handsome fella, said Daryl, the only fishmonger I've ever truly loved... known, even.
He eats in my cafe on a Friday, comes in with his girl and carer. They live in Seaford.
One reads off the menu while Eddie sits in his wheelchair.

People stop to ask, Are you Eddie Kidd, all the time. People recognise him. He's a bit fucked. But he's still a great looking bloke. I'm not gay, but he sure is still a looker. His eyes dazzle.

We're moving along to the bigger unit at the end of the Enterprise Centre, Daryl, whose eyes really do dazzle, updated me.
It's got space for sofas where we can give people olives and tables big enough for paella dishes.
What's the point of paella without the dishes landing on your table?
We'll have a platter counter too, where folks can pick and mix oysters and prawns and all that stuff.
It'll be grand, but we're quite scared. We've gone from that little counter, and two dishes a day, to that.

It's daring. Eddie would approve, I should have said.

Monday, October 27, 2008

CYCLING: The upside down sun season

Friston was a carpet of yellow leaves, the colour of over ripe Bartlett pears.
Where a few weeks ago they'd kept the light out now they lay bright on the forest floor, transforming the dreary autumn afternoon.
It was as if, to spite the clouds, the sun had decided to come from the other direction.

This fallen flora both dazzled and destabilized us as we free wheeled along what was possibly a cycle track - reliable mud path completely covered with greasy day-glow camouflage.
It was treacherous and we Wuuwd often as we wobbled.
Worse, some hungry reptilian ridge-back tree roots were hiding amongst it all, joined by stumps, rocks and other gang members, all anticipating a rare winter biker supper.

Further on the heavens opened in annoyance with the upside down sun and we sought shelter from the fire roads in parts of the forest yet to lose their canopy.

I think I'll have a little sit down, said Neil, who was on his bike for the first time since the birth of two children (his).
That last climb has taken it out of me. I might puke.

We repeated the loop, skipping the worst of the leafy luge form first time round.
Instead a great piece of downhill footpath I'd yet ridden. We picked up so much speed the milky tea-coloured water fairly drenched our undercarriages, some grimy cha flicking into our eyes too.

I was not prepared for this and got stung once or twice.
Neil lacked not just glasses and lungs, but shoes, trousers, lid, gloves and, if there is anything else, that as well.
He slowed to see why I'd halted and as I found a tiny piece of unmuddy cloth to wipe the corner of my eye, he put a foot down, slid on his inappropriate footwear, and heaped on the floor, laughing his happy arse off.

We wanted more, more, more but our wrinkled skin said it was time to return to adulthood.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Destination mare

Maybe I shouldn't have laughed at Laura's misfortune. But today was a day of direction underachievement all around.

Drunken public transport 'freestyling', as Anna called it, saw her hopelessly lost in late night London. She was eventually, via a distressed Bristol-locked boyfriend and the Met Police, recovered. But the tale of her boozy misadventure (a wrong train and an impressive THREE progressively more wrong busses) was good enough for Anna to wake me into a ferocious hangover at an upsetting eight am.

My sister was animated and we laughed hard and long.

In Tonbridge High Street at five thirty one, my hands clamped together in heartfelt prayer and my eyes pleading with the unwavering and unimpressed (but well fed) manageress of Carphone Warehouse, the tables had turned.

I’d run between two open phone shops which didn’t sell what I needed – and now I’m at the one that does and it’s JUST shut? NO.

I’m cashing up, we’re closed, she gestured.

I showed her my lifeless phone, mouthed ‘CHAR-GER’ and continued to beg... For nothing.

I turned around and in dejection put my hands on my hips. I waited for a few seconds, hoping she’d thaw and let me in, before walking off to find a phonebox, my last hope, without a clue how I would use it to solve the problem.

Earlier I left Anna snoozing on her sofa in good time to reach Chris - a dear friend, over from his home in Hong Kong for a rare visit.

I caught the train to Clapham and back past Balham to Hayward’s Heath to collect the car. I punched the postcode into the sat nav and picked the top of the two displayed options.

Off we go. Lots of time. Good planning Adam.

I’m going to be early so I text Chris – he says it’s fine and they’re looking forward to seeing me. Then the phone beeps to warn me it’s going to run out of battery soon. Shit, no charger. No problem, I’m on my way – I know where I’m going and I don’t really need it.

I get to the place as directed...

This isn’t right, I think. Plainly not right.

I check the sat nav and realise it’s actually at the nearest place it could find to the postcode. I turn to the phone. Phew, it’s alive. Chris has text me the road name and number too. In it goes, and up pops a new destination which appears to be a match – 15 minutes away. Phone off to save battery – error. I’ll be a bit late, but not by a lot.

I arrive in Tonbridge nearly half an hour later thanks to some Friday rush hour traffic and begin to engage seriously with the doubts that have been in my head for the last bit of the journey.

This isn’t right. It’s a council estate. Tom, Chris’ brother, is well off.
(Later I’ll realise Hopgarden Road isn’t in the same place as Hopgarden Lane...)
I’ll check the phone. On... On?... Cummon. ON!

Late, lost and phone alone.

Back in Tonbridge the first phone box was occupied by a foreign woman early into a broken discussion over a bill.

The second box was empty. Bitter about its unpopularity it swallowed a pound in paltry exchange for letting me know Dad’s was empty but the answer phone was on.
I drove home... to plug my mobile in and call Chris and explain why I wasn’t there.

After the fruitless Tonbridge High St plus phonebox foray I’m spent. Tired, seriously hung over, miles and miles from home, unpopular and unable to apologise to anyone for at least another hour... I give up and re-enter the rush hour traffic, homeward bound.
A fucking mare.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fire and water

The sun dipped so low tonight it set clouds alight over the downs. There was fire in the sky and it blinded those heading west.

Earlier, driving through Battle, after a largely pointless trip to Hastings, it had cast a sepia shroud over the landscape - turned the whole thing into a photograph which must have been developed in the late 70s.

Car sun visors were pushed down and postures straightened to narrow the field of view to only a few feet of road. Shadows stretched back the full distances between vehicles while the autumn rays exposed grubby windows.
As we passed Powder Mill Hotel the car at the distant front of our partially sighted procession could take no more shame and sprayed herself. Unruly sparks of fine sunlit water flew silently up and onto the next car which was forced to do the same.
Further along it reached me and we joined in, pleased not to be overlooked. The car behind did too but after that I do not know. Maybe it goes on still.

James Yuill accompanied it all loudly on my stereo only though, and just I saw everything happen in perfect time.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

CYCLING: Sun chasing

In Old Town any autumn sun is obscured mid afternoon, much earlier than the rest of our region. The Downs imposes this regime with a shadow, like a curfew.
But dictators must be stood up to.
Challenge his vastness and you'll peddle out onto the golf course into a sunset over the Seven Sisters with which it's best not to tax yourself for comparison.

I kept my coat on all the way for the first time since spring - and peddled quite hard.
Despite longer than a week off the saddle and two poor run outs with the stick the legs didn't let me down.

A pretty girl with a tiny dog, a cyclist obeying hill passing etiquette (exactly) where the OAP's of a week back had not, a quick breather - a moment for wide-eyed admiration - before rocketing down into Willingdon and pounding the Drive back to the start, just as car headlights began to blink on.

A sunny ride thieved from dusk's grip. Grand.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Adam & Raisa

Picture: Raisa Bergman, By Adam Monaghan.

Adam and Raisa are emigrating, heartlessly.
We're going to Finland to live in a forest, said Adam with a glint.
I don't know the language, I haven't got a job - here, have some of my photos which I'm not taking and while you're all over let us take you out for dinner.
You can see they felt guilty for leaving us.

While we ate, and before the 14-strong crowd knew we were not paying, we talked about ourselves and our lives, in our sections of the long table. It was nice to be out.
Then, in the pub, all wealthier than we'd expected, the talk was of our soon-to-be-far-away friends, prompted by gesture and generosity.

I think we all thought: Wow, that was nice. What a thing to do. Adam giving his art away, the pair of them taking us to a restaurant. They must like us. I like them. Oh, my!, they're going - these people I like.

Later I talked to Adam.
Adam doesn't drink often, but he should, he's a wonderful, beaming, drunk. We sipped ale and talked about his plans for the first book of his photos and how he feels detached from parenthood and commitment.
Raisa knows, he said. She gets irritable if she's near kids for long, so it suits us. Who knows what will happen? And that's fine by me.

Later still I talked to Raisa.
I don't know if she drinks often, but she's an glorious and emotional drunk.
You're lazy Adam, we haven't seen you a lot and now we're going. But I forgive you. I wish my friends in Finland didn't all have bloody kids, she said. They don't go out now, they're all boring. I wish I was staying here.

She didn't mean it. But we surely did.

Head East and towards dawn, friends.
Where the sun rises you will welcome be.
And we will cherish your thoughts for us with memories and vivid images.
Until you again we do see.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fix me

Dan was mortified.
It wasn't his fault either. But all night he asked me how my leg was.
I wanted to say, Fine fella... I managed, Sore and bruised. I could have said, Fucked, my friend.
Here I sit, a glass of wonderful whisky to my side (the last from what turned out to be an annoyingly small bottle), ice pack trapped against my swelling shin muscles by smelly socks, thinking, frankly, that Saturday's game would be in recoverable reach if I was not fucking 33.
Oh ice, work your magic. Substitute on and score a goal against youth.
I mean. I know our relationship has been sparse. You've waited, of course, I know, for me to accept many an silent offer of gentle revival from sores which I saw fitter to lazily decline. I know I only come knocking in desperation. But, cummon. I think this may finally be the start of a something meaningful.. I'm a man. I take time to see the grass isn't greener although it always appears so. I've grown. I can see your worth, despite your frosty exterior. Mend me.

Mend me quickly.

Monday, September 29, 2008

CYCLING: Jitter bugs and bells

Af’noon, said the brightly-dressed old man at the arrow of an OAP peloton, zipping by.
I couldn’t reply – I could barely breath.
‘Noon…‘Noon…Af’noon, said the others apart from the two ladies at the back who were engulfed in bumpy, chalk-track chat; jitter-chat.
How rude, I said to Sam.
I mean, we’re killing ourselves cycling up this hill and they’re free-wheeling down… and WE had to move over.
Sam was forced off her bike while they charged past us – I can only guess oblivious of their rule-breaking. I pushed up through the long Downland grass, gob open, partly in amazement, mostly in pant.

The last day, surely, of what might be called summer and we are not being let down – not at least by good old Downs.
The wind is on its tea break and, thanks to a low autumn sun, haze grains the landscape's yellows and greens into a dreamy blur; so beautiful.

We take a track down a limb to East Dean, where a massive car races out of a massive house and releases a massive amount of Co2 into our path, angrily.
Garrrrhhhh, WHAT do you think you’re doing in the countryside?, it snarles through a grill the size of a double barbecue.
We go the other way and join Paul at the Bells.
Two of the girls nearby where we sit are reward enough, but we eat too.
And then bye to Paul and off and along and down into Polegate.
And bye to Sam and Nearly home, just the up hill bit to go, but I’m feeling strong and a little buzzy from that half of Harvey’s… so I’ll fly up it… and oh, arse, puncture.
Broken glass on a Sunday in Hampden Park?, I hear you say… imagine!
But it’s true.

Three re-pumps and ten times more effort than was really wanted later and I collapse dripping on the sofa and watch the sunlight slowly disappear from the lounge window. I wonder when you’ll be back and on such form?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Lucky fish

I bought a lottery ticket today - the first for 10 years.
There's a chance, perhaps quite slight, that I could win £100m.

They can't have a roll over so the money has to go tonight, said Kate.
If no one wins it'll be shared out.

She touched a nerve.
The whole office brought tickets and discussed briefly what we would do with the winnings over a fish lunch from Taylor's.
Then our own thoughts (silent pleas for relief from individual moneymares) took over and the conversation bled into worried silence.

Dave and Kate bought pork scratchings from the pick and mix to take our minds off it, and we walked back to work.

I've purchased a raffle ticket to win a house with its own lake and hut for fishing, said Dave as we wandered.
It was £25. The house is worth £1m. I'll take half for a quick sale if I win.

1 in 40,000 chance we worked out as we made our way up The Goffs, where the cash could be exchanged for several broad townhouses.

Better than the lottery, we agreed.
But still, not great.

Bankers should be left to rot in their own financial sewage, Paul said as we ate rare burgers in the Dolphin later. He was animated. I was out of my depth and getting board of endless money speak.

The gloom is everywhere. Stifling.
I'm waiting for it to swallow the business while preying it might turn instead to a glorious Arctic dawn.

If I win £100m we may just survive.


She was nice and I feel guilty.

I am young and you are old, but I don't mind, she said.
Nice men are rare.
Can we meet soon, I think it went well, don't you?

Behind the irritating short-text was a nervous and attractive young woman - 23. But she'd been through a bit, and was wiser than non parents would expect.

I am nearly 24. Do you like children? I would want more. Eventually.

How sweet.
Now when she texts it doesn't annoy me.

We'll meet again and see.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Blnd Dte

The texts haven't been great.
I've made badly received, borderline bizarre, jokes which seem hilarious until the second after I've pressed send.
Meantime she's been practising infuriating short-text, which, unlike precious shorthand, doesn't need learning and serves no purpose other than to make oneself seem young and lazy.

Because of this I remain (irritatingly - especially to myself) judgemental and pessimistic.

We gave up texting very quickly.
We haven't met; there doesn't seem any point in trying further until we have - until there is or isn't cause to.
The Blind date is in one and a half hours.
In the Lamb. I have Nick to blame.

Nick said She's pretty and has big boobs. Oh, and a daughter. And she's really nice and she doesn't know anything about you, oh but the wife did say you were handsome or something in a text the other day. Good luck. Har Har.

I'll let you know.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Autumn's grudge

The nights are suddenly darker and the breeze is whipping up leafy tornadoes about the pedestrian's feet. The seasons are in flux.
It's a nice time of year, but it does rather fill you with loss too. Not for the heat, clearly, after this summer. But for the light.
Evening rides have to be rushed if you want to head off the roads, as is the sane cyclist's desire.
And even then you'll be battling the workaholic wind, which is making its autumnal killing from overtime.
The bike stands wanting, sometimes panting. Groomed and prepped. Losing patience - while I wait for a window.

Elements aside, Dan and I plan an October excursion, a mini bike trek - which will be a first real opportunity to test out my associated writing. Excitement is growing in me with the idea. Only laziness, money and responsibility is stopping it becoming quite epic.
But, at least some adventure awaits.

Hockey began with a cup drubbing of Horsham.
I felt annoyingly unfit in the flash heat of summer's last breath, but we were considerably less unfit than the opposition.
Three goals in the first thirty five minutes turned to 12 by the end as our off-season training hinted at some reward.
Horsham were a good bunch. No animosity in the thrashing - which isn't easy when combined with sunshine and vocal support for the winning side from home fans.
I netted four; two good, one tap in, one theft which upset its betrothed Dave, rather.
We overcame the affair's bitterness after several late evening ales at the Dolphin... where the landlord owns a Whippet.

I said sorry for pinching his goal.
He said I was quicker and he was more upset with not being, and he knows he should lighten up. I said I know it's hard. We got over our differences as good friends do and Dave and I have learned to slowly.

Once we argued and I didn't speak to him for a year. He started it, I turned it into something ugly and bitter.

Eventually I learned not to hold grudges (one of life's little-known yet valuable lessons), but not, sadly, for another 15 years.
With Dave I'd have enjoyed at least one more year's friendship if I'd known.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Whiskey. Or, Whisky.
I do hate the stuff.
Recently someone paid me in it for some work and I thanked them without meaning it.
On the label it said things like 'years old' and 'malt' and '18' and 'single' and a other words only Highlanders can or want to pronounce.
It made me think of all the things I like which could have been brought with the money it probably cost.
I'm a single man.
I run out of things.
Usually food, sometimes alcohol.
And on one such desperate occasion, tonight, I opened the bottle.
I'd also run out of things to put with it and I was needy, so I challenged it head on.

I'll tell you what, someone could make some money out of this stuff.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Silver medal

I've kept a tab open on my browser all week...

I'll scoff superiorly at the superstitious and religious alike, meanwhile I can find comfort in well arranged pixels. Such daftness.

As it turns out the hollowness of this hypnotic source of solace was exposed as the scam it is when John called first thing to say the job belonged to someone else.

Everything was not, after all, alright.

I'd beaten Fraser and Rupert and Gary and one other whose name escapes me... but not, it seems, the next day's solitary candidate. I'd come second... and as such was sentenced to wait all week for the bad news... just in case superman turned it down.

The tab remains open, top left, as I fumble to give its promise meaning in a new context.

Fantasies of the financial and professional must be forgotten, reality faced, new hope - a more humble future - salvaged from the selfconciousness of failure and its ugly truths.

I sound miserable because I am.
But it will pass.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

CYCLING: Autumn sun

If ever you think, as one is prone to, that there really is no point in going out tonight because the Downs will not give you what you need, you are wrong.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

CYCLING: Pump chump

I went to buy some bike oil.
A father and son came into the shop, the young boy pushing his bike.
The father asked to borrow a pump for his lad's bike.
The owner refused.
I didn't buy anything there.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


A young contributor to the magazine died last weekend, I've just found out.
He fell.

David illustrated for us. He had a unique and confident style, full of character.
I never met him, which I regret.
His Facebook page has become a unsentimental but touching condolence book full of comments from friends. And another from Mum and Dad.
I thanked him for his drawings.

You can see, in his 'feed' where he made changes to his profile in the days before he died. A digital record of a life about to end. A trace, still, of a boy just mortal.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Waiting sickness

I got out, said Fraser.
Wire journalists die early. They all do. They retire and die a couple of years later. I know two who I will name for you now. There you go.
Fraser was hugely charismatic and would have been my choice if I was on the panel.
But he didn't want a full time job.

Gary was big and Welsh and probably played rugby on Sundays before singing.
He was aloof, but lightened up.
He was well prepared.
He was older.
I think it went well he said.
You've been in there and awful long time we said.
I talk a lot.

I'm being made redundant from the Telegraph in eleven days said Rupert who was extremely nice and extremely softly spoken.
I've worked at the Argus too but I hated it. I shouldn't have left the Telegraph the first time. They have antlers on the wall in the Telegraph office, do you know?

I was last into the interview.
I was too nervous and I've been thinking of all the things I should have said since.
I should have practised more.
If I get it it will be because they know me.
I know I can do it. And I know I'm amongst the best options for them. I just don't think I deserved it on the day. And the longer the wait the more I am convinced of it.

If I got it it would change my life.
I can't stand the wait.
I can't write and I can't think.
I feel sick.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Shadows and showers

I haven't been on the bike for a week or more.
The breaks are iffy and the weather is more so.
The wind howls and the rain crash lands and it feels like Autumn is a month early.
We played hockey last night on a pitch with terrible flood lights.
Wind and rain and near darkness - it was eerie.
Other players; faceless shapes. The ball irrelevant to me and my useless twilight eyesight.
Younger ghosts swept past with something like a ball on the end of something like a stick.
And that one there looked a bit like Danny.
But now he's just a blob again - a puff of shadow racing fearless into the gloom.
I'm shattered Steve, get me off will you?
These shadows... I'm chasing them, and they probably don't have the thing either.
Ooo, there it is. Pass it, pass it, YES!
All right, I did see that one.
Now can I come off?

Why does sweat smell more now I'm 33?
Oh age.

Desire, I want not.
But, truly, what else have I got?
Eyes which can't see. Bodily pungency.
And shins which hurt quite a lot.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

bleep test

Up to 13.3 on the test Thursday. Previously 12.4 was best...
14 is the target... pre season.
Feeling inspired.
And tired.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Death of a boy

A boy died in Hastings.
He was beaten and killed because of his colour and heritage.
His life ended brutally by English men. I am so ashamed.
The pain of his parents can have no comparison.
Far away and helpless - their lad murdered in pointless, blind, foreign hate.
The sadness of this is sickly and still soaking in.
It makes you ask big questions of society and humanity.
And it makes you realise answers are not enough.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

CYCLING: Friston Forest

Roots jutted up like reptilian back bones, those of underground creatures which had heard the commotion and surfaced to try and upend a few cyclists for supper.
Catch one on a camber and you were done for.
Put your foot down and they would have it off at the ankle.

But we zipped passed with luck our friend and skill our scrawny servant. And down we sped.

Then there were stumps, where rats of unusual size had gnawed down trees and masked what was left in mud and leaves to make it impossible to see and deathly to collide with.
And our front wheels wobbled through with dexterity while back wheels popped as each caught their points under our weight. But they did not puncture.

We saw some reptiles who had come up on the flat - how silly.
So we rode hard at them and used their bodies to launch ourselves high. Lift the front, jump as the back hits and fly. I'm a boy again. I'm a boy.

Mid air and helpless we realised the forest's trick - our landing also mined with more roots and stumps - shaped like sinister faces it seemed - although it was over in a flash as we peddled on once more victorious.

Then splash, then yuck, then swooping turns so fast and true perhaps nothing could stop you. Then scrape and Weww, as a peddle caught a passing tree. Then steady there fella, you don't bounce like you used to. Then bravado again as single track widened and the mud drained and the camber was left behind with the hungry creatures and there is only you and the wind and the woosh of it all.

A clearing. A skid and survivors' smiles all around.
Scratches and stings bring not pain, but memory and pride, and a feeling I can only think is to be alive.

James the giant

I ran chest first into James’ head.
James has a normal head but it’s on top of a large body and it was all leaning towards me at the time. The body and head came off better and he got the ball too.
A mean man would have enjoyed the experience. A satisfactory tackle and completely fair upending of the opponent; a legal winding. Good stuff. Stuff you.
He isn’t, so I can’t complain; which is annoying because I’d like to.
It feels as if someone is sitting on my ribs with no plans to move. I hope they don’t snore.

The pain. Oh my.
You should have seen this guy.
He was massive you know, a brute.
And he stopped me shoot, to boot.
Left me dented where I lie.
(Then helped me up).


You don’t realise it until it happens but sooner or later, if you want to be heard on matters that interest you, you really will have to join a committee.

It will go something like this:

Initially the formality will strike you dumb and scared.
You will wonder what is happening and more importantly why it is happening so slowly.
Soon you will like it, because when you speak everyone listens.. mainly.
Then you will start to talk more and realise why things move slowly.
A little further along and you’ll be completely at the system’s mercy… promising involuntarily to fulfil more tasks than one could complete, even if bereft of friends, family, job or pets. This will mean you have more to say at the meetings. This means people will shut up and listen to you for longer.
This will feel unbelievable good. Better than life or sex by a very long way.

(The rest happens over around 50 years.)
Then you will become secretary. The hapless slave to the Chairman.
Then you will become chairman. The all powerful dictator.
Then you will become treasurer. The more all powerful banker.
Then you will become president. The responsibiltyless figurehead who does not go to meetings but has been doing it so long he/she (mostly he) expects anyone he meets to shut up and listen to him when he’s talking. You will be hated.
Then you will die.

Tonight I joined a new one without any idea I was doing it.
I have no idea how to escape.
I promised to help.
I’m in a lot of trouble.

Harry the Stick

Ben and Becky, after their first disagreement over timekeeping with the lad, had a boy called Harry who will be a Houdini with a hockey stick… mark my words.
A few days later Britain beat Pakistan at the same sport in the Olympics. It’s fate I tell you.
They then lost to Holland… but only by one.
All the same, and his future sporting career aside, the boy has a glint no less mischievous than you’d expect from two such fine and life-loving parents.
And, my word, I’m an uncle.

Harry would not hurry.
Harry said to wait.
Fun and adventure was out there
He suspected
‘Mum, wait up, don’t dilate.’
‘I’m having my moment.
‘My time on the way.
‘That second just before
‘When you can’t want for more
‘And all that’s good and for sure still awaits.’


Pass the fucking ball, pass.
Pass it you twat. Pass.
I’m here.
I’ve run really hard.
Pass it you retard.
Fuck you then.

You scored.
Well done.
You scored.
The glory is all yours.
The team, over here, that’s us.
We don’t care.
But you scored.
Well done.
You scored.

Paw mum

There is nothing like earning a view.

It’s something you know as a cyclist or walker, or runner or someone whose car broke down half way up but carried on anyway. It’s repayment for your efforts.
Drive up and you think, Blimey, that is lovely, isn’t it.
Walk up and you think, Blimey, that was worth it, that’s all mine.

Mum and I went and earned a view the other day.

I couldn’t have children, but the Lord blessed me with four Grayhounds said the wild-eyed, round faced lady in pink, on our way back down.
They’re not Whippets then, I said.
Don’t be afraid, it’s only barking because it’s blind and can’t see you. They’re such lovely dogs. Thank the Lord.
What can you say to that?
Have a nice walk.

You shouldn’t get a Whippet because you’re too busy and it’s cruel and you’re probably like your father, and they’re a lot of responsibility for a long time you know and you might be one of those owners who lets their dog jump up because they think everyone likes dogs and I don’t at all, that’s the thing that really annoys me about dogs and owners, and what if the girl of your dreams doesn’t like dogs.

That’s karma I said as we laughed after turning a corner to find three more Greyhounds and a terrier which jumped on mum and put paw marks on her new M&S.
Are they Whippets?
DON’T DO THAT YOU NAUGHTY DOG no, Whippets are smaller.

There were a lot of big Whippets about.

Go home song

Be gone, instructs the song.
What a wrong song
It says gentleman please, that’s time
It says, sir, how did you get in?.. for you it was time in 1999
Your clubbing days are over
You’ve had a hefty innings
(Please don’t come back, we’ve told the doormen)
A man of your age – it really isn’t fitting.

Sea we saw

Tonight the sea had an audience and it was keen to show off.

We arrived and were lost for comparisons at its hues and beauty.
When it’s like this one must stare. One mustn’t blink. One really shouldn’t move in case it gets stage fright.
If you break your gaze you will look back and it will be gone.
So I didn’t.
No camera could have recorded this.. least of all the one on my phone. But I took a picture or two all the same.

In return skaters silently slalommed the elderly who were let down by faulty reactions in expressing their crossness. The dusk swallowed them quickly anyhow, so it did not matter.

The bongos of Latin students made our stony shore their home and were accompanied by spontaneous song. Passing English people wrestled in their heads and asked themselves why they would never join in.

The big brass band taught the bongos a lesson and the English people were pleased of the distraction. Then the fireworks banged before we clapped and liked being English again.

And we all turned to see if the sea appreciated the efforts but its curtain had long since come down.

Name and defame

Found by Caroline… cracker

CYCLING: Up the Butt

You make a deal with Butts Brow on the way to it from Jevington.
You wave a white flag, so it can see you coming from a distance - taking the long steady climb up its thigh.
Or you creep along its valley and peddle in pain up its crack, for the element of surprise.
But sometimes it feels you coming and farts wind to make the climb up nigh on impossible.
Then you have to walk which it likes because it tickles.


Go to the man selling fish in the Enterprise Centre.
He cooks one dish a day and if you offer him five pounds he’ll probably give you some.
If you’re lucky the shop won’t be busy and you can enjoy his company too - for which he does not charge.
But you probably won’t be.
Today he wasn’t selling fish lunches. And it was still busy.

Bring the noise - letter to the paper

There was a letter in the Herald recently – complaining about the Counting House’s three-day July music festival. It wanted, seemingly, an end to ‘noise’. It wanted the government to crack down. It wanted peace. It wanted quite. In short it wanted, like a headteacher at exam time… SILENCE! This is not a letter about this particular event – smashing though it was for so many reasons – it’s about something else.
Society is diseased not by noise, but by busybodies thinking they have the right to stop it. They don’t.
They have rights, like we all do, to a reasonable amount of night-time peace and quiet. They have robust rights.
If only they knew how tough this country and this town’s licensing regulations are.
Noise of some sort; expression; fun, is very nearly mummified in red tape.
I can promise you that.
The very letter of the law, and perhaps some which aren’t actually there, are applied in Eastbourne to those pushing for bespoke or new events.
Put very simply and not too loudly, to legitimately perform, to stage, to celebrate and to have fun with other people – even just for two and a half days – requires religious dedication and still often fails.
Police, Fire, Health and Safety, Licensing… the cotton wool of our culture can be turned to glue at the whim of some senior (or well connected) soul should they see fit, quicker than the flick of an amp switch.

No. You, my friend, are protected.
What is far less protected is the right of expression, the right of dance, the right of song and the right of mutual enjoyment of these things…
It’s hindered every inch of the way, statutorily vilified and victimised – lumped clumsily into the same convenient group as antisocial behaviour and probably graffiti – although not, interestingly, as church bells, fireworks and fighter-jet engines.
However, to many, joining friends to watch an artist perform their noise is life affirming – and is a right which we must fight to protect if our culture is not to become diluted and unattached from its people.
Life is already restricted. Money is stupidly tight.
What can we do? There is only so much time for fornication. Sometimes you need to forget, to laugh and to clap your hands together involuntarily – sometimes you need to see someone perform, or do it yourself, to remind you of this unique human quality. Sometimes a little noise is a very good thing

Moj travel facts

Jo said Tunisia is a cheap and nice place to visit as long as you don’t mind fat naked English women and unruly kids.

Game up

As is often the case, the only person who knows if he cheated is him.
We suspected. Susie thought she saw it but can’t be sure. And since we all wanted it to be true it might have been harder not to see it.
Like the testosterone-pumped Sargent of a front line battalion he led the charge.
Face strained with determination and, or at least he thought, the tremendous expectations of others - his team, his company. And it was close.
Just a few runs and an over in which to get.
So perhaps he did move the wicket.
Perhaps he did unfairly run me out.
And perhaps I definitely did momentarily act almost exactly like a prat.
But we lost. And really, painfully, he was better.

Biz and wind

Today I helped those distressed by business and its unrelenting pressures.
There’s a lot of it about - like wind, clouds, foreign students and the spaces where bank products used to be.
I liked it because I can relate.
I liked it because I was able to help.
I forgot about my own for a while.
So they helped me too.

CYCLING: The giant who lives next door

The horrid hill outside my house resists cyclists grumpily.
When it’s had a bad week it crossly rolls wind down its incline like barrels.
It’s especially put out by riders on a Sunday around dinner time, when it prefers not to be bothered. Perhaps it’s trying to nap.
But I beat it :)

Bar man's misery

‘How are you?!’ I said, quite cheerfully.
‘Shit,’ said the tender of an empty bar.
His ex girlfriend had cleaned out his bank account.
There was no hiding his misery.
It dripped into our drinks and some of it stuck to the rim of my cocktail.
Some of it had walked upstairs and played havoc with the atmosphere near our table.
We left it behind and laughed to wash it away.
But it was in our system and later is made us argue.

We won’t go back there.