Sunday, 27 July 2014


When cycling goes big, it leaves me cold. The Tour de France in Yorkshire. Not interested. Too many crowds. Likewise York's new cycling circuit. Just too many people.
But there are parts of the sport which still appeal, still carry on in an utterly amateurish way, unattended by all except a hardcore of participants and followers. Twelve hour time trials, for example. It turns out that the roads around us are a regular course for these events. Regular, as in once a year. Today was that day. I enjoyed the coloured vests, the empty jawed scowls of the exhausted riders coming towards the end of their allotted time, the sometimes painfully slow progress at the end of such a marathon.

I passed the spectacle feeling lifted by its obscure, un commercial appeal.

Then I came upon the man under the tree. He was away from the main course, and laid out full length in the grass under a tree. He was clearly a participant - number 68, in fact. There was no one around and at first I drove right by. Then something made me stop and reverse the car.

"Are you all right?" I called.

"Er, not too bad..." a shaky voice. "Just needed a bit of shade under this tree." Slightly slurred words.

I was grateful he was alive, but this looked like a case of what cyclists call "the bonk" or "the knock". The running equivalent is the wall in marathons.

"Do you need anything? Food? Drink? Do you want me to call someone?"

"Bit thirsty. Couldn't eat anything. Think I'd be sick."

"Would some apple juice do you?"

"Yes please."

He drank nearly a litre, which I'd filled into his bottle.

Some colour returned to his face.

"Did you do the twelve hour?" I asked.

"No. Just the hundred. Was just making my way back to race HQ. Felt a bit rotten."

"OK now?"

"Yes. Bless you."

He meant it.

Saturday, 19 July 2014


  • Let.
  • Eschew expertise. Know nothing.
  • Throw all status away. It is weight which will sink you.
  • Doing nothing is best; doing least is better; active is worst.
  • No investment in content.
  • Your compass points to output, subject to the magnetic variation of the group's changes.
  • As one finger on a tiller will keep a boat to its course, so minimal steering.
  • Off course may be on course. How do you know?
  • You are not the guide. There is no map. Ask the group for directions.
  • Time is a prejudice. Things take as long as they do.
  • See each participant as you would a loved one.
  • Capture exact words - the language has value.
  • Calm. You are not responsible.
  • Trust your physical senses.
  • Hear more by being quiet inside.
  • Help by not helping.

Thursday, 17 July 2014


Everyone is my teacher.

Saturday, 5 July 2014


Last night it rained hard till about 0400, breaking the night's high pressure and bringing welcome cool.

This morning the lanes were washed clean and, all along the rutted edges of the tarmac, small birds were bathing, knowing that the water, fresh fallen was clean and clear. It is hard not to imagine that their excited behaviour equalled delight.

I constantly find myself wondering about bird intelligence, and revising my view, upwards.

Friday, 4 July 2014


When we were kids, my sister and I used to speak to each other in a private language. I believe this is not so uncommon. We also developed codes, and nicknames to describe the people, things and places around us. This habit's stuck. At home, mufflahs, wiffas, dogwiffas, snaggers, woofers, The Ladies - all have meanings of their own. A Scottish friend of mine has what he calls his Fallydoon gear. That's his term for getting dressed up to go out - the implication being that a state of inebriation can be expected where stability is compromised.

At School and University, my nicknaming became more extensive, crueller and more personal. If Impetigo Harry is reading this, he will testify to its communality too.

I'm glad to say that Cylesta is beginning to acquire her own language, in addition to the (to the landlubber) mysterious nautical differences between sheets and halyards, fore and aft, coming up and bearing away and so on. To these, we add The Palace (the forepeak), The Kilps (the helmsman's boxes), The Coffin (the starboard quarter berth), the Nono (the heads) and The Flag (which - sort of - is a flag).

These mean that she is not a thing, but a vessel of meaning, as well as of mariners.

Things are going the right way.

Thursday, 3 July 2014


My son wants a new hat. A red one.

Most people would think of going down the shops and buying one.

But the one he wants can't be bought. It must be earned, by gruelling physical training, long yomps with pack and rifle, a few miles with a telephone pole to be carried by you and a team, a similar challenge with a cast iron stretcher, a minute or so's milling, and finally a few jumps from an aircraft.

What do I think?

There's a challenge to be the best you can be. I get that. Great camaraderie, tick. Proving to yourself you can do something exceptional. I get that too.

But then there's the commitment. No matter how tough he proves himself, he isn't tougher than an IED or a sniper's bullet. I'm proud of him as he is. Coming back from active service in a box or a wheelchair certainly won't make me prouder.

On a more thoughtful level, though, to whom is he proving himself? I don't think he needs to be anything other than he is, and revelling in the exact shaped whole in the Universe made ready for him, and peacefully and effortlessly occupying that space seems to me - admittedly an ageing softie - the very point of life.

Will he go for it? We'll see.
Will my words make any difference? We'll see.
Will he benefit from it? We'll see.
Will he think any better of himself after it? We'll see.
Will anyone else think better of him? We'll see.
Will I? We'll see.
Will it make him a better man? We'll see.


Mini Madam has made me an acrostic, and I am very touched:

Fascinated by boats and the horizon
Absolute best Dad in the Universe
Tasty meals and lovely puddings
Having you for a Dad is amazing
Every time you cuddle me I feel safe
Rips and jumpers don't bother you.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


  • A long chat with a dear friend about weariness - how being surrounded by psycho drama and the sheer weight, sometimes, of living, has brought it on. I feel great sympathy. Perhaps high pressure days exacerbate this sort of feeling. I later get a lovely email saying how the conversation has had a cheering, lightening effect.
  • It isn't raining. Or is it? Its such a faint fall of moisture that when I think I hear it in silent moments I can't be sure. So I go for mini strolls and am even more unsure. It's moisture, hanging rather than falling. Very dark clouds, shedding only the faintest of loads. Reminds me of Dartmoor.
  • On my constitutional, the road is shimmering blue. The heat haze reminds me of childhood. Then, tarmac melted under bicycle tyres, the tread popping and cracking as the wheels threw off the tar.
  • Work today is thinking. A sustained imaginative effort needed. Visualising an event through, like a film you haven't yet seen.
  • I'm accustomed to blackbirds being the last song of the day, but it's pigeons tonight.
  • A single dog has barked all day. Maddened by the pressure?
  • It needs to rain.
  • It's a long time since a book captivated me as much as Robert Harris' latest. I finish it today, having devoured it from the first page. I don't normally do novels. I tire of most after less than a chapter.
  • And I get approached for a professional writing gig. Very flattering, but we'll have to see where it leads, if anywhere.


Mainly I see my job as a parent as not to intervene.

Kids fall out and scrap. Do nothing and they invariably sort it out themselves. I'd draw the line at impending physical injury, but it amazes me just what a low threshold for intervention other parents have.

Likewise, responsibility for things like learning, homework (why do we have it anyway?), organising kit for school, decisions, choices et cetera. Leave it to the kid, and you will be surprised at what they can handle.

To me, this approach most breeds not only independence, but skills, and dignity. I hope that, in the main, my kids have felt from me a supporting hand on their shoulder, rather than a directive pointing finger.

Is it just laziness on my part? I confess that the rights and wrongs of playground disagreements leave me less than enthralled. But there is another awareness at play too. It is that so often, through my life, where I have met people with mental health issues, the aberrant thought processes stem from the effects of a controlling parent's voice, often keenly felt even from a distance of many years away. A source of deep, primal pain. I include myself in the victims of this.

When I see high levels of parental control taking place, I find myself wondering whose needs are being met. The child's? Or the parent's?

When I do intervene, I invariably regret it.