On 29th August the night finally arrived... it was the Boro Boys charity darts event, and I was due to face England international and BDO ranked world number 4 Glen Durrant in front of a sizeable gathering at Thornaby’s Sports and Leisure Centre.
Over the weeks, I had done a fair bit of practice in front of a crowd of none in our garage, and without any pressure I’d done reasonably well: a good few 180s and several games of 501 in fifteen darts – and less on one or two occasions. Give me an audience however, and the fish would be swimming in an altogether different kettle.
Elaine and I had opted for the VIP tickets, which meant we could get a free glass of something fizzy, a few nibbles from the buffet and seats that were too close to the stage for comfort... my comfort in particular.
In addition to Glen, The players on view were Middlesbrough-born Colin Osborne (PDC ranked 41), former PDC under 21 world champion James Hubbard, Welsh international Jim Williams, “Rapid” Ricky Evans (PDC ranked 54) who throws as quickly as his nickname would suggest, and the “mystery guest”, who turned out to be the former world no.1 and three-time world championship runner-up “One Dart” Peter Manley.
The second half of the evening would be devoted to these six men, but the first part of the evening offered chances for some local players to have a game of 701 against one of the stars. There were a few moments that really stood out for me: Ricky Evans hitting three bulls to check out on 150, and Peter Manley needing 40, and living up to his nickname by planting the first dart in double top – despite a poster of Peter completely covering the board. Both finishes showed wonderful skill and provided great entertainment.
Some of the youngsters who got up on stage were excellent. The first lad – I think he was called Josh – should have really beaten James Hubbard, having hit consecutive scores of 140 and 135, and a couple of other players showed the level of talent there is within the area. Really impressive.
Obviously there had to be a bit of a dip in the performances, and that duly came when it was my turn in the spotlight. I’d spent a bit of time on the practice boards (as well as having a quick chat with Peter Manley, who seemed a decent bloke) and I was still scoring well – albeit in patches.
I was given a lovely introduction, but I was quaking inside as I climbed the stairs onto the stage to the strains of Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top (I could have sworn I’d asked for I Missed Again by Phil Collins). Elaine’s final words were: “Don’t trip over the oche!”, and I’m pleased to report that my footing was secure throughout...
The game got underway and after three darts each, I was actually in front; but the situation changed very quickly as Glen hit a string of good scores. The MC must hast have been getting fed up of starting every sentence with the words “one hundred and...” after Glen had thrown (I know I was!!!), but the test for me wasn’t in trying to compete, it was simply to stand up in front of all those people, with the memories of all the times darts hadn’t even left my hand, and actually play a reasonable game of darts.
And I think I did that.
My highest score was 95. That was three more than I managed against Deta Hedman, so if I keep up that level of improvement by my reckoning, in twenty-nine games time, my opponent is likely to be in very real trouble!
After closing out on double four, Glen then took the microphone and said some very kind words about me and my charity challenge, before making a generous – and humbling - donation, as well as giving me a set of his darts; hopefully they come with a guarantee that they will fly as straight for me they did for him!
Glen has been so helpful from the day I first contacted him, all the way through to the moment I stepped off the very hot stage and sat back down next to Elaine. He probably has a reasonable idea how tough a challenge this was for me, but he genuinely believed I could do it... and I am more grateful for his encouragement and support than I can properly convey with these words.
I would also thank Claire, who must have put so much time and effort into organising the evening, and just for the record, I will definitely come along to next year’s event – as a spectator!
Well, there’s no turning back now...
Tonight I will step up onto a brightly lit stage in front of maybe a couple of hundred strangers and try to propel three pieces of pointed tungsten into a board situated just under eight feet in front of me.
For any decent or enthusiastic darts player, this would be a brilliant opportunity... especially given the fact that my opponent is Glen Durrant, a genuinely world class talent. But for someone whose confidence has been shredded by dartitis, this is about as big as challenges get.
However it wasn’t just on the oche that I struggled with my nerves. I suffered similar problems on the cricket field, and nearly gave up the game I love on three separate occasions because of the bowling equivalent of dartitis: “the yips”.
The first time was during a trial for the North of England back in 1982, alongside future test star Devon Malcolm – and yes he was bloody quick. The situation repeated itself in 1994 and 1997, each time I was unable to release the ball properly, and it would either land halfway down the pitch, or assume the trajectory of a hand grenade.
I wanted to give up... but I didn’t. I got help, went back to basics, bowled and bowled and bowled at a single stump, or a target on a practice wicket and eventually got back out onto the field to give it another go.
There were plenty of times during my cricketing days that things went right, and a few when I bowled really well - I took over 1,000 senior wickets so I wasn’t totally without ability - but every single game I played, there were always those nagging doubts.
Where would the first ball land? Would it land at all?
Nearly twenty years ago, I played in a national club knockout semi-final at Chorley, just one win away from a dream trip to Lord’s (pictorial proof below). I don’t mind admitting I was genuinely scared as I ran up to bowl my first ball in front of what was reportedly a four-figure crowd. Being nervous is fine, but I was way beyond that, and what should have been a fantastic occasion was almost an ordeal, which is a shame. In the event I actually bowled okay... not as well as I could, but nowhere near as bad as I feared I would, and despite the fact that I wasn’t good enough to have any positive influence on the outcome of the game, I’m still proud that I tried my best and actually got through my spell.
The “real” winners in sport simply don’t have that attitude though. They are able to control their nerves to the extent that they can produce their absolute best when it really matters, be that on a cricket field, in front of that dartboard, or wherever. You can’t help but admire anyone who has that strength of character and determination to succeed, but for me tonight is not about beating an opponent (although I’m hugely competitive by nature... believe it or not!); it’s about proving something to myself.
I suffer from an irrational fear, the effects of which most people probably wouldn’t have experienced, or fully understand, but one that I simply have to face. The easiest thing in the world would have been to refuse Glen’s offer to play him. No one else would know; no one else would care... but I care, and that’s why I’m challenging myself to face my lifelong fear of failure, and if... no when that first dart lands in the board, the eventual result of the game will be irrelevant, because I will already have won.
Wish me luck!
Well seeing as everybody else has had a go at reviewing the Doctor Who debut of Peter Capaldi, it would seem a shame for me to miss out.
Opening stories for a new incumbent are always difficult to gauge. The viewer is arguably more concerned with engagement and character introduction, rather than a particularly impressive story – and that is probably just as well, because Deep Breath is a fairly weak offering.
I accept that I’m old fashioned insofar as I like a story to be just that... a beginning, a middle and an end. The programme has become obsessed with interwoven plot lines that can be tenuous and confusing. Add to that the regular nods to past episodes and you reach a point where you can be all-too-easily distracted from the basic enjoyment of the on-screen spectacle.
We get the: “Well here we go again!” as said by the Brigadier in Planet of the Spiders, as well as the: “You’ve redecorated... I don’t like it!” line that’s now been used to within an inch of its life. The third Doctor made specific mention of his new eyebrows etc. You spot one link, so you instinctively start looking for more... was the “Promised Land” the same set used for the garden in The Girl Who Waited for example?
On the downside, the clockwork/mechanical beings have been done before, and holding your breath is simply a variation on not blinking.
In addition, I really do not see the need for what I believe is known as the Paternoster Gang. Strax is clearly there purely for comic asides, but whilst correcting himself after blurting out some proposed Sontaran killing method is funny enough the first time, and calling Clara “boy” is probably good for a couple of laughs, the humour wears off pretty quickly. And, just to keep it short and sweet, Vastra and Jenny are totally unnecessary.
As far back from the mid-60s, we’ve seen how hard it is to write for multiple companions or associates. Attention is naturally deflected away from the action, or the characters that really matter. The good thing (and saving grace) as far as Deep Breath is concerned is that Capaldi and Jenna Coleman are magnificent.
Regeneration sparks extreme and irrational Time Lord behaviour, and no more than the roughest guide of future development. But there was enough in Capaldi’s performance to suggest that storylines notwithstanding, the role of the Doctor is going to be in pretty safe hands.
I’m not too sure about the focus on the accent. David Tennant’s natural accent is Scottish, which he very capably changed for his portrayal. So why is being Scottish suddenly so important now, when not being Scottish was seemingly so necessary a few years ago?
I have no problem with any accent, natural or otherwise, so long as it suits the role and sounds convincing (ie not The Tomb of the Cybermen...), but there is guaranteed irritation ahead, due to the fact that Capaldi sounds way too similar to that most annoying Dragon, Duncan Bannatyne.
For the record, I will never watch another episode if the Doctor ever says: “I offered you a quarter of a million for a forty percent stake in Skaro. Any less and I can’t see how I’m going to make any money. I’m not prepared to negotiate so, for that reason, I’m out... Davros...”
Right from the gratuitous dinosaur through to Missy (the obvious plot link that will doubtless keep everyone guessing as the months progress), the story didn’t work for me. What worked however was the superb interaction between Clara and the Doctor. Clara was allowed to shine, and the new Doctor was afforded enough time for an encouraging combination of strength and vulnerability (viz after Matt Smith’s telephone conversation) to be revealed.
The stories can only get better, but character-wise, it could be a really strong season.
For the story... 4/10. For the performances of Capaldi and Coleman 9/10.
Yesterday’s task was one of the last ones to be included in the list, and the 33rd to be completed—to visit the Hall of Residence room where I lived between October 1982 and June 1983.
Now the University of Northumbria, it was just plain old Newcastle upon Tyne Polytechnic back then, and “home” was room no.9 in the Monkchester East Hall on the Coach Lane campus, situated a few miles (or a few Metro stops) away from the city centre.
Although I was only there for those nine short months—an insignificant period given my age—my time at Coach Lane had a lasting impact on me.
I was an immature and naive eighteen year old, who wasn’t really prepared for student life; and it took me several weeks to settle into my new surroundings, and begin to properly integrate. I had never had to fend for myself, and I soon learned that I was as bad at cooking and washing as I was at managing money. Obviously the main reason I was there was to study, and I’ll never fully understand why the course I chose comprised French, German, Politics and Economics. I was a reasonably good linguist, but had very little interest in Politics, and absolutely none at all in Economics. I had zero ability in the latter as well, so as far as first year exams were concerned, the writing was on the proverbial wall from an early stage in proceedings.
(As it turned out, the Economics paper was the only one out of twelve that I failed—although I failed it by a distance; and with that I was forced to bid farewell to further education.)
From an emotional perspective, it was certainly an intense time. Being on my own in a relatively small room, with just my collection of tapes and vinyl 45s for company, offered far too much time for reflection and introspection, and there were periods when I felt incredibly low—and lonely. That said, company was never far away and over time, I made some good mates, most notably my Rush and Toto-playing neighbour Stephen.
I did have a couple of close friendships, both of which were important to me. One was destined to end in tears (all of which were mine) as the girl concerned already had—and ultimately kept—a boyfriend. The other was with Ruth, with whom I got on really well. We went out, she dumped me, but I’m not bitter... in fact our paths crossed a couple of years ago (via a Valentine’s Day blog of all things) and it’s genuinely lovely to be back in touch.
My overriding feeling about that year away is that it’s something of an unfinished chapter in my life. I realise that sounds strange given that I’m going back more than three decades, and it’s also really hard to try and explain, but some of the memories (both good and bad) that I have are still incredibly strong, and somehow become more vivid around this time of year.
Perhaps I have never fully come to terms with the abiding sense of failing, I honestly don’t know, but those months at Coach Lane had a such a profound effect on me that parts of the campus (as I remembered them) form the setting for my recently finished debut novel; so, much as I visited my first home in the ultimately unfulfilled hope of getting a sense of the past, I wanted to see my old room to give me some sort of “closure”—if that’s the right word.
Apologies if all that makes little or no sense....
Anyway, back to yesterday morning, and it was pretty miserable when I arrived, to be met by the Project Officer Gary Wilson. He explained that all the old buildings on the far side of the campus that had formerly been Halls of Residence now lay empty, in varying states of (dis)repair, waiting to be sold off as a housing development.
Until very recently, I had no photographs at all from my year at Coach Lane (the albums sadly ended up being dispatched the same way as all my old newspaper cuttings: still not happy but there’s nothing I can do). On approaching Monkchester East Hall, the grass and hedges may have been slightly overgrown, but outwardly the building looked exactly the same as I remembered it.
Gary unlocked the outer door and there, on the left as I faced along the short corridor, was room no.9.
In reality, all I was about to do was enter an empty room, but it was the weirdest feeling....
It seemed small; the cupboard, shelving and sink (aka unofficial toilet) were probably just as they’d been back in 1982, and in my mind, the bed (complete with green blanket), table, chair and rug all reappeared. The side wall was once again decorated with old York City football programmes... and another punk single (purchased from my overdraft) span on the turntable, just waiting for the needle to be lowered.
Surreal... but briefly wonderful.
The shared toilet and bathroom were still directly opposite my room, with bedrooms rooms once occupied by Brian, Stephen and Paul leading to the kitchen... food lockers empty, but ready to be padlocked, if only I’d brought some cheddar spread with me.
I had my camera with me, so at least I won’t have to rely on my memory for my final ever visit to my old student accommodation. If I’m honest (and without wanting to be unnecessarily over-dramatic), it might take some time to completely get my head around what today meant, but for now, I’m just happy that I was allowed to return, and spend just a few minutes in a place that holds so many memories.
On 18th August 1977, two men were arrested at a routine roadblock near Grahamstown in South Africa, and the events that followed would make headlines right around the world.
The detainees were Peter Jones and Steven Bantu “Steve” Biko; the latter having been involved in the foundation of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) through the creation of the South African Student organisation (SASO) in 1969. The movement heightened awareness of, and resistance to apartheid—the process of post-War racial segregation and discrimination. Steve Biko was a charismatic leader and speaker, and his involvement with BCM and profile across South Africa resulted in a government order, forbidding Biko to leave the area around his home in King William’s Town.
The arrest (under the 1967 Terrorism Act) came outside that restricted zone. The pair were taken to the nearby police station where Biko revealed his name to officers; Jones having refused to identify his associate, as he was only too aware of the consequences. The brutal reputation of the security police at the time was well known, as was the state’s apparent ability to cover-up the torture of political prisoners.
Subsequently interrogated at the police headquarters in Port Elizabeth for alleged involvement in the distribution of “subversive” material, Jones would not be released for nearly eighteen months, having suffered numerous beatings and solitary confinement.
It seems almost ironic to say that Jones was “lucky”, but the fact is that at least he survived.
Biko was kept naked and manacled for almost three weeks before being transferred to Port Elizabeth. Rumours had reached the security police that Biko has been treated with some element of respect by officers in his home town, and that on one occasion he had actually punched a senior officer whilst in detention. On arrival therefore, Biko was duly forced to remain standing, and was forcibly hauled back to his feet when he sat down.
Despite trying to defend himself, officers then punched Biko, hit him with a hosepipe and ran him into a wall. Biko collapsed—possibly as a result of a brain haemorrhage—yet officers kept him upright, shacked to a security gate, and did not call for medical assistance for another twenty-four hours.
During that time, the interrogation continued, despite Biko now speaking with a pronounced slur. A doctor named Lang belatedly examined Biko, but recorded no external injuries, despite the obvious wounds that had been inflicted to his face, and badly swollen hands and feet. A subsequent lumbar puncture revealed blood-stained cerebrospinal fluid, indicating likely neurological damage. The “official” report claimed the test was normal.
Lang’s senior colleague, one Dr. Tucker wanted Biko to be taken to hospital, but yielded to police pressure. Eventually, the decision was made to take Biko to hospital—in Pretoria, a small matter of several hundred miles away. Chained to the floor of a Landrover, and unconscious, Biko was driven the twelve hours to the South African capital, where he passed away the following day: “A miserable and lonely death on a mat on a stone floor in a prison cell.”
The minister of justice and the police, Jimmy Kruger, initially issued a statement that Biko had died from a hunger strike, withdrawing his explanation after the post mortem offered evidence that Biko had sustained serious head injuries. Describing the death of Steve Biko during a National Party Congress address, Kruger proclaimed: “I am not saddened by Biko’s death, and I am not mad. His death leaves me cold.”
News of Biko’s passing, and Kruger’s remarks reverberated around the world.
Deaths in detention in South Africa had happened before. Most were passed off as suicides, accidental injuries or natural causes, but such was Steve Biko’s profile that his tragic demise was never going to be simply brushed under the carpet...
However, with interrogation legally carried out behind closed doors, the police were always likely to get state protection during any investigation, and despite there being plenty of international pressure to determine the true causes of Steve Biko’s death, all the complicit officers and doctors escaped conviction during the 1977 enquiry.
Many years later, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimated that between 1960 and 1990, 80,000 people were held under legislation that allowed indefinite detention. Of those, seventy-three were believed to have died in custody, with the commission uncovering systematic torture and abuse that was conveniently overlooked as an “official practice”.
I wouldn’t profess to understand the full extent and consequences of apartheid, and I appreciate that twenty-first century South Africa is far removed from the country that existed towards just a few short decades ago , but today I pay my own small tribute to the bravery of Steve Biko, and to the other seventy-two courageous black South African’s whose arrest would lead to much more than the loss of their liberty.
It was an iconic Cold War image... a soldier, face partially obscured, taking a leap that was as short in distance as it was remarkable in global impact.
The date was 15th August 1961, just two days after building work on the Berlin Wall had started, and the young uniformed East German border guard who had taken the decision to literally jump to freedom over coils of barbed wire was nineteen year-old Conrad Schumann: “My nerves were at breaking point. I was very afraid. I took off, jumped, and into the car... in three, four seconds it was all over.”
To the West, the teenager was an instant hero; to those on the East German side of the barricade, a traitor.
The catalyst for his decision had reportedly been the sight of a fleeing child being dragged back from the West, but whether or not his leap was the act of a hero or a desperate man, Schumann was unprepared for the glare of the media spotlight. Eventually he did settle down to married life and a steady job on a car production line, but for a while after his defection, he had suffered from depression, and his closest friend had been the bottle.
It probably didn’t help that his perceived heroism was rewarded by interrogation from officials desperate for information the youngster didn’t have. And by not changing his name or hiding his whereabouts, he became a target for the East German secret police, who dictated letters “written” by Schumann’s family telling him to come home... that everything would be fine. He very nearly made what would have been the fatal error of returning, but was persuaded otherwise by a West Berlin police officer.
Schumann was described as a quiet, retiring man by those who knew him. The only clues to his fame were that iconic picture hanging on his living room wall, and a photograph alongside US President Ronald Reagan. He seems to have lived comfortably, without being wealthy – he made no money at all from the picture that captured his moment and place in history.
In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and Schumann was able to see his family for the first time in nearly three decades. Although he was well received by many, there were still plenty who refused to speak to him. East Germany no longer existed, but once a traitor...
Schumann was again swept along by the media circus, regularly posing for pictures, signing copies of the 1961 photo, or meeting tourists during guest appearances at the Checkpoint Charlie museum; but all that came to an abrupt end in June 1998. After an apparent argument at his family home, Schumann walked out, and was found by his wife several hours later... hanging from a tree.
There was no suicide note. No explanation. But perhaps this was one more act of desperation from a man who never quite came to terms with the fact that his whole life was ultimately and tragically defined by a single press of a camera shutter.
Conrad Schumann 1942-1998
Last night saw the completion of the thirty-second of my forty challenges when I played my first ever game of netball... well, when I say “played”... I was on the court.
The ladies of Grangetown Netball Club were kind enough to invite me down to take part in a game towards the end of one of their training sessions. The senior side plays in National Premier League 2 and they are ranked within the top twenty clubs across the country: very much the deep end then!
But to say I was totally unprepared would be slightly unfair. I’d lost a stone in weight during the preceding fortnight, I’ve been pedalling around forty miles a week on the exercise bike... and I’d watched loads of netball at the Commonwealth Games.
What could possibly go wrong?!
Apart from the fact that years of cricket and badminton have left my hips in a pretty poor state. I knew that I’d be struggling to walk the following morning, but hoped the old limbs would keep me upright for just one more sporting challenge.
I met with Sarah and Claire on the balcony at the Youth & Community Centre about an hour before the moment of truth. As I watched the girls being put through their paces, I must admit the nerves kicked in, and I started to question the wisdom of including this challenge in the list. There’s a whole world of difference between young and athletic, and old and immobile – notwithstanding the fact that they were all excellent netball players... and I’d er... watched the Commonwealth Games.
I spent a few minutes warming up in the corridor outside the sports hall. One thing I’ve learned from all these challenges is how to smile for a photo. So I gave the security camera one of my best grins every time I skipped past; I might even have waved at one point. Well it just seemed the polite thing to do...
Some of the girls knew I was coming, but I accept it must have been a fairly incongruous sight as I entered the main hall. I had a few practice shots at a basketball hoop at the side of the hall, before being handed the goal shooter bib; I strolled onto the court, the whistle went and just like that, we were underway.
I had to check the colour of my bib (blue) because I honestly wasn’t sure who was on my side! I wasn’t expecting to have too much trouble catching the ball, but getting in a position where it could be thrown to me was a different matter altogether. I was being “marked” by a young lady called Amy, who had this annoying habit of getting in the way of the ball and me. It certainly didn’t seem very sporting!
All I can remember when I first received the ball was someone saying “shoot!” from the sidelines. I didn’t that time, but the attempts I had during the first half all missed. Most were close – one agonisingly so – but one shot missed by a margin that was big enough for it to be more accurately described as a “pass”.
My throat had dried up completely, but I was really enjoying myself; and even though I knew I was totally out of my depth, it was still fantastic to get that briefest flicker of memory of how it used to feel to play a competitive team sport.
A couple more shooting chances came my way in the second half and finally the moment arrived, as I actually managed to project the ball into and through the hoop, rather than at it. I’d like to think the crowd went wild...
One more shrill blast on the whistle and it was all over. At the end of the session, the girls all posed for the obligatory photo. It was the easiest “spot the odd one out” competition in history! Everyone was so friendly and supportive, and I have to say I had the best time... I’ve been so lucky to have met some great people and taken on so many varied challenges over these past few months, but this has to be one of the absolute highlights.
I need to say a massive thank you to Geraldine for allowing me to come along, and to Sarah for the photos and mentions on the club’s website; but I really should thank everyone who was there last night for helping to make it such a memorable evening.
I’m saving the best news until last... and announcing my retirement with immediate effect!!!
If you want to find out more about my challenges, or help me raise funds for the mental health charity Mind, here is a link to my JustGiving page. Any support at all makes a difference. Thanks again!
This morning I was reminded in the worst way possible about why I’ve devoted 2014 to raising awareness of, and funds for the mental health charity Mind.
The news of Robin Williams’ apparent suicide has come as a real shock, and the tributes that have followed are proof of the affection and respect there was for the man and his work.
Robin Williams suffered from depression.
He was talented, hugely successful, with a loving wife and all the trappings of fame and fortune. Yet he still suffered from depression.
Way back when, Robin Williams was an unknown street entertainer, juggling and telling jokes for whatever change passers-by gave him. He was spotted by the producer of Happy Days, who secured him a one-off appearance as Mork... and the rest as they say...
Obviously the journey from the sidewalks of Los Angeles to movie star comes with a media-fuelled interest in the man behind the performer that can easily escalate into an intrusion. I heard that he would always sidestep questions about his mental health, or launch into a rambling monologue to deflect attention away from the most difficult of subjects, but despite clearly being a troubled man, his passing in such circumstances is still desperately sad.
By 8:30am I had received a phone call from BBC Radio Tees inviting me to take part in a discussion prompted by Williams’ passing. Obviously I was pleased to be asked and happy to be involved, but it’s a slight shame that it takes the death of a “star” for the topic of mental health to become “news”.
However the truth is that for every well-known sufferer, there are any number of ordinary folk struggling to cope with some aspect of their life... or life itself. It’s an often unseen struggle, the most extreme consequences of which will be highlighted on many a front page tomorrow morning, but if there’s a battle to be fought, then it doesn’t have to be fought alone.
There is so much help, advice and treatment available to support anyone suffering from any form of mental illness. The first step is almost certainly the hardest, but if there is a realisation and an element of acceptance that things aren’t right, then finding the courage to talk, or ask for help is that first step.
I would never underestimate just how hard it is to open up to anyone about issues that seem overwhelming, controlling and debilitating. It took me several months before I first spoke to a doctor about my own situation. Close friends and family knew something was wrong, but it wasn’t until I finally accepted that I could not cope that I sought help. I sat down in the chair and before I could say a word I simply broke down. All the anxieties and difficulties that I’d tried so hard to deal with simply poured out, almost uncontrollably; and whilst that might sound embarrassing, it was also the point at which a corner was turned...
Ten years on and I am so much stronger. I am so lucky to be loved by my truly amazing wife Elaine, as well as my wonderful family; and supported by some genuine and inspiring friends. I suppose through my blogs, many know more about me that they would necessarily reveal about themselves, but whilst being open might be enough to make some click the “x” in the corner of the screen, it might just make one person carry on reading because they see something that they recognise in themselves....
Don’t be afraid. It’s okay to ask for help.
It was absolutely throwing it down last night, I’d not had the best of days and just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I decided that was the time to face challenge no.39: appearing topless on my lovely friend Louise Gallagher’s Facebook timeline.
I should point out that at no stage did Louise ask me to do this, and she probably now wishes she’d begged me not to, but this challenge was included because at the turn of the year, I’d seen that she had posted a couple of pictures of men to whom the following adjectives could be described: young, fit, handsome, tanned, ripped... amongst others. I am none of the above. In fact the only one I’ve ever been is “young”—and we’re talking a bloody long time ago—so offering my portly torso for ridicule was never the best idea... but the cause is more important than my feelings.
Actually it’s not, but it sounds good...
So armed with my trusty camera, and minus the twelve pounds I’d lost over the past week and a bit, it was time to look hunky...
For those of a nervous disposition, you should probably stop reading round about now, because there’s a photo coming. Obviously I’d like to say that the picture posted on Louise’s timeline was the first one I took; just point, press and job done.
I would be lying.
I wasn’t counting (actually I’d lost count), but the selfie that went public was probably like the two hundred-and-somethingth. One or two weren’t too bad, but the majority were awful, and it says a lot when the second best shot was one when I pressed the shutter by accident when fiddling with the settings on the back of the camera: it was of the fireplace...
Anyway, somewhere around nine o’clock, I posted the photo. All pretty embarrassing really, but I suppose it was my fault for including the challenge in the first place. Louise left a couple of lovely messages, which meant a lot, and unless Saga get in touch asking me to be Mr June in their 2015 calendar, that is officially the beginning and end of my career as a topless model.
Massive sighs of relief all round!
It’s been a lovely day today... well, weather-wise. Clear skies and a slight chill in the air when I set off just before 6am, and window-wide-open warm on the way back. As often happens when I’ve been at work, I did a bit of pondering as I chugged down the A19. Sometimes, I ponder important things... sometimes they’re slightly more trivial. Whichever one this is, you can judge for yourself: if you could only play five songs for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Obviously you can play them over and over again, Five tunes and that’s it would be a bit harsh.
But how would you decide?
I guess most people have one or two “favourite” songs that would be easy choices. But as for the rest; do you choose songs by your favourite band(s), songs that have some personal meaning, loud, soft, upbeat, or gentle ballads? You only get five remember...
By the time I’d reached Easington Services, I’d narrowed it down to seventy-three, but by the time I’d manoeuvred nicely onto the A66, I had four definites and one dice roll to sort out number five.
I’ll do the four in alphabetical order of band name, along with a brief reason why the song is included:
Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke? – The Alarm
A band that has been with me from my teens right through to... er... now! A million and one memories are associated with The Alarm—good and not so good—and there’s no way they wouldn’t have featured. This song takes me back to ’84, when I had hair, hopes and dreams...
Someone’s Gonna Die – Blitz
It’s not so much the title, or the words, but the raw power of the music. Aged seventeen, this track from the brilliant EP All Out Attack made me feel alive, and helped give me the strength to be myself.
Enough – The Karma Heart
Fantastic north-east band whose lead singer, Jen, has one of the most amazing voices you could wish to hear. Great track, and I can certainly identify with the lyrics...
Born Yesterday – Killing for Company
These five guys mean a lot to me: I’ve had some memorable times, and met some great people because of Killing for Company. They had to be on the list; it was just a case of which song to pick...
The coveted fifth spot is a toss up... actually it’s not because there are three songs... so really, it’s between Can’t Wait by Sugar Stems, My Empty Head by The Flatmates and Up the Down Escalator by The Chameleons.
Amid increasing tension, I will roll the dice. The first song is 1 and 2; the second is 3 and 4, and if I roll a 5 or a 6, the third song gets onto the list.
It’s a 4... The Flatmates!
In fairness, it might only be a temporary selection, because one of my 40Fifty Challenges is to record a song. Not too sure when and where yet (and I doubt the software has been invented yet that can make my voice sound tuneful), but hopefully I’ll be able to get something arranged soon, and however it turns out, that no.5 slot will be waiting!
By the way... feel free to add your “top five” in the comments. Don’t get many replies these days, so come one, come all...