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.