Having spent most of the past two years undertaking numerous and varied challenges on behalf of the charity Mind and the Time to Change programme, I was planning a much quieter year in 2016… plenty of writing, trying to get fit and losing a bit of weight etc… but there is still a desire to push myself, to experience or achieve something new; and to continue raising awareness of mental health issues.
To that end, I am setting myself the goal of recording a single during 2016.
On the basis that I haven’t played a musical instrument since I was eleven (Grade 3 Trumpet—with a “merit” no less), I will provide what I can only loosely describe as vocals. I would then need someone to sing with me (then at least the song will be 50% in tune), a guitarist (or two), bass player and drummer—otherwise known as a band I guess!—who would be prepared to participate, a song (I grew up in the punk/new wave era, but I like lots of music), a bit of time to rehearse and a however long it takes in a recording studio (which I’ll happily pay for)… and hopefully, if modern technology can work a miracle with my voice, there will be a finished article that prove just what can be achieved by a willingness to ask for help, and a determination to succeed—two things that are so important in dealing with any form of mental illness.
Irrespective of the fifty-four tasks that I have already completed, much of the recent inspiration to start another project has come from an old friend Ian Jones, a former team mate of mine at Chester le Street Cricket Club, who not only trained for, competed in, but actually won a charity bout in the boxing ring earlier this month. As someone who sparred for just three minutes against unbeaten light-welterweight Josh Leather back in 2014, and was hit (fairly repeatedly) in the face by punches I never even saw, I have so much admiration for what Ian has achieved—congratulations mate. Tough guy with a big heart.
So many people have done such great things for charity during 2015—Andy Kelly and Jeannette Carroll immediately spring to mind for their amazing “journeys” (arghhh, I hate that word so much!)—that it just wouldn’t feel right not to get involved again next year.
I’ll hopefully get fit enough to attempt something a bit more physical in the summer, but for now if you live in the north east and you play in a band, or know someone who does (please share like you’ve never shared before), or you think you might be able to help in any way at all, I’d really love to hear from you.
I will not be able to do this without the help of others, but if that help is forthcoming, there will be updates, blogs and eventually an end product that might not get to no.1 in the charts (although top ten would be nice), but will serve as a permanent reminder of the reason why I started these challenges in the first place….
Finally, in wishing a happy and healthy New Year to anyone who has taken the time to read any/some/all of my blogs during 2015, I want to send my very best wishes to my good friend Glen Durrant who will be aiming to become the BDO World Darts Champion at Lakeside over the next couple of weeks.
Over the past two years, Glen has inspired and encouraged me, and taken me from someone affected by almost uncontrollable nerves to someone capable of hitting back-to-back 180s in a leg against the current world no.1 earlier this week… still lost though!! So thank you Glen… good luck… and just for the record, if you do lift the trophy on January 10, I will be holding you solely responsible for my subsequent failure to complete “Dry January”!
The BDO World Dart Championships get underway at Lakeside on 2nd January 2016; and there is a very real possibility that the trophy could be coming back to the north east.
The top seed is the Middlesbrough-born and bred current world no.1 Glen Durrant, and “Duzza” goes into the tournament as the deserved favourite following a string of hugely impressive performances, particularly during the latter part of the year.
Glen bowed out of the last January’s World Championships at the semi-final stage, after losing an epic match to the eventual runner-up Martin Adams. It was a remarkable game of darts… totally compelling viewing, which culminated in a defeat that could have broken a lesser man, but which has arguably inspired the 45 year-old’s subsequent surge to the top of the BDO rankings.
Victory in the Isle of Man Classic in March was followed by successes in the Denmark Open, Welsh Open and England Classic, before Glen’s major breakthrough at the Winmau World Masters trophy in October. He was in imperious form throughout the tournament and backed up that title with another important win, this time at the Finder Masters in Holland.
Oh and just for good measure, he was also a member of the England team that travelled to Turkey in October and returned with the WDF World Cup….
Obviously there are no guarantees in a sport where winning and losing can be determined by the narrowest of margins, but Glen will travel down to Surrey safe in the knowledge that he is playing superbly, and he is very much the man to beat.
From a personal point of view, I’ve been lucky to get to know Glen over the past couple of years, and he is an unfailingly supportive and generous man. I contacted him just after the 2014 World Championships to ask if he would consider helping out with one of my “charity challenges”. I had no right to expect a reply, but Glen not only took the time to meet (and beat) me; he offered me the opportunity to confront my genuine fear of playing darts in public, by getting up on stage and facing him in front of a room full of people.
The issues I have with nerves and confidence are deep-rooted (to the extent that I had not played in a pub or club for twenty-five years), but Glen was never short of a piece of advice or a word of encouragement, and come that August night I think I gave Glen a half-decent game. That said it wasn’t about competing with, let alone beating Glen. My “victory” was guaranteed when the first dart left my hand and hit the big twenty… but everything I achieved (if that’s the right word) that evening was down to one man: Glen Durrant.
During 2015, I have played darts five times… once against Glen and once each against the current World Champion (Scott Mitchell), a dual former World Champion (Ted Hankey) and a three-time runner-up (Tony O’Shea). I lost all those games—three by a considerable margin—but against “Scotty Dog” Mitchell I proved to myself (and hopefully to Glen as well) that I can play darts, as I matched the World Champion throughout a leg of 701, hitting 140 on the way, and actually having a shot at 85 to win the match.
Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that one “game” is unaccounted for. Actually the fifth outing was a twelve-hour solo charity darts marathon in May. Glen was scheduled to play in the Welsh Open the following day (which he duly won, becoming world no.1 in the process), yet typically of the man, he came still along to support the event—although rather craftily he waited until I’d been throwing for five hours before turning up and handing out a darting lesson!
I must admit I’ve been very disappointed with how I’ve performed in the last three “exhibitions”. I play fine when I’m practising at home… but finishing games in 15 darts or less (including one 11-darter during the summer) means nothing when you go to pieces as soon as MC Gok says “Game on”.
I’ve met some really good people through attending these events, and I wish I could show them that there is a decent player somewhere inside me; but most of all I need to repay Glen for everything he has done for me over the past two years. The best way to do that is to get up on stage and play like I can at home—just typing the words is daunting, but one thing is for sure, I’m not going to give up.
First of all though, it’s the “big one “ at Lakeside. I’ll be glued to my television (obviously not literally…), cheering for “Duzza”: a fine player, a top bloke… and hopefully the next World Champion.
Good luck mate… and thank you.