Thursday, 16 July 2015


A blue possibility
Beyond the dog's life,
Skimming to a charmed destiny
The dog could not imagine.

This light led where dogs can't go:
A realm of the river's shine and flicker,
Surfaces, depths, cool and nourishing.
His tongue told him so.

He could not voice the word freedom,
Being but a dog,
Yet glimpsed it
Speeding blue
On the water
In the air that day.

He did what dogs do:
Went on with his doggy life,
Cocked his leg against a tree.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015


The hares have had the growth hormones.

I mistook one, running in the lane, for a dog.

I mistook two in a field for deer.

I don't think it's my eyesight.

Monday, 13 July 2015

A SHORT HISTORY OF.................................................................... BICYCLES -1.

My sister had a purple and pink one, with white tyres. Mine was blue. Contrasting blue mudguards. We wobbled together around the perimeter of Eaton Park. I remember both our infant legs whirling the tremendously low gear, at an unfeasible rate, to create almost no progress. My parents strolled behind, admiring. My sister showed more talent than I did.

Those machines were tiny things in comparison to the curved tube Vindec which was my true boyhood bike. Nobody else had one. And that was not a good thing. Oh, how many taunts I had to bear about the curved top tube. How pathetic were the wide white saddle, the gold anodised mudguards, the chain guard and the straight handlebars. The bike was neither one thing nor another, and therefore absolutely uncool. It was an outcast amongst bikes. It had nothing of the cocky elan of the Choppers, even if their owners did rather often flip their inherently unstable bikes up, and fall on their arses. Equally it could not come anywhere close to the Carlton and Sun racers, that the really classy kids had. For God's sake, it didn't even have gears, and this was a time when the number of gears on your bike was a rough proxy for the measure of your manhood. Even the puniest kid around, who played the violin, and ground away on his granddad's old black sit up and beg, with an iron bath of a chain cover, and the weight of an ocean liner, had the kudos of a Sturmey Archer three speed.

The Vindec had as its destiny only one possible route, short of wanton destruction. Modification. I became a bike tinkerer. The mudguards went. The saddle went, replaced by a Brooks narrow leather job. The padded pedals went - superceded by evil rat traps. The chain guard went. The flat bars got changed to Maes pattern drops, finished off with masking tape. The bike started to look like it was meant for business, albeit designed by a committee of blind, aesthetically impoverished halfwits. I wanted a racer, and unable to have one, the Vindec would have to have the Overfinch treatment.

You cannot make a silk purse from a sow's ear. The Vindec was simply hopeless, and the realisation was all the starker when I joined a cycling club. Eventually, even my parents, blinded by eccentricity and extreme poverty, could no longer hold back the inevitable. The new horse in the stable was a Puch, an obscure (and I guess cheap), Austrian brand, but, joy of joys, with derailleurs . A full five gears, which I would count over and over and over again, with deep satisfaction. The Puch was not up to the job either, but it was a start, and I happily struggled to hang on to the peloton of a club run, whilst, when I was so knackered I could not even manage a bit of toast at the tea stop, kindly hands would be placed in the centre of my back to keep me hanging in there. Even now it brings a lump to my throat to remember the gentle words of encouragement, and the club cyclist who always just happened to be going "right past my door" and would see me safely all the way back home in a dangerous state of exhaustion.

Whereas the Vindec was utterly useless, the Puch was overweight and underpowered. I used to dream at nights of bikes that were like the other club members' - 531 tubing, and perfectly geared and greased transmissions. Genuine lightweights, from an exotic world of craftsmen frame builders, whose brand was carried on the down tubes of the frames they made. Every town had its builder. Harry Quinn in Liverpool. Mercian in Derby. Bob Jackson in Leeds. Geoff Butler in Croydon. Ours was Les Bryant - a softly spoken man who rarely ventured even into the ground floor of his shop from the frame building workshop in the basement. The shop was supervised by his brisk and business like wife, who would occasionally summon him with a cry of "Les - ley...." There she transacted tubular tyres, wool mix jerseys and shorts and embrocation, the smell of which takes me instantly back to 1970's time trialling.

It was on the start of a club ten mile time trial that the limitations of the Puch were bluntly indicated. "Bloody hell," said the club marshal pushing me off, "ride this thing around and you'll have muscles like a blacksmith." Even now, the musculature of my legs owes a lot to this early resistance training. The starter was not alone in noticing. Another club member noticed. "Come and have a look at this" he said, taking a polished lightweight out of his van, a Jacques Anquetil, all chrome and Reynolds tubing, with inch thin tubular - shod sprint wheels.

"Lovely," I drooled.

"About your size..."

"Yes - I'd love one."

"See if she fits you."

I get on. "Perfect."

"Give her a ride up the road - remember she's fixed wheel."

I didn't ride up the road, I flew, on tyres as hard as boards, and a frame light, whippy and fantastically responsive.

"What do you think?"


"Well you'd better give her a go in the time trial then...."


"Go on boy."

That evening as I built speed away from the starter, I very nearly lifted the thing off the ground it was so light. I caught a rival schoolboy cyclist who was renowned for having all the right gear for three minutes, before the turn. The ride improved my best by about 20%.

"What did you make of her?"

I know not what words came. Too good, Too fantastic. Beyond words.

"Well, you'd better have her then."


Does sportsmanship, support exist like this in sport now? I don't know. I hope so.

I do know that I cannot bring this scene to mind without my eyes filling, as they did then.

Saturday, 11 July 2015


They call it a merger but it takes a time to suss who is the winner and who the loser. It isn't always the sharp suits who look like winners that are. Sometimes a shambolic wart nosed bloke, who had an idea, and saw it through, chumbawumba style, walks off with the real win. Money isn't everything. Many a deal is better ended with dignity than profit. Or is that loser talk?

The grey suits made no deal of their coming. You hardly knew when they weren't inside the precinct; they just got there.

The forces of light?
The forces of darkness?

Who won?

Friday, 10 July 2015


One benefit of a zen practice is that traffic jams don't exist. You are simply where you are. Where you are meant to be, or want to be, is irrelevant. On the hottest July day on record, in a jam which resulted in a journey from Birmingham to York taking six hours, this can be a stern test. But it is possible to relax into it, and the doors of perception then open, as they always will with a concentration on the present moment.

There is a great moment in the film of the Way of the Peaceful Warrior, where Socrates, played by Nick Nolte, takes his student on a walk. They sweat for several hours up a hill, till they reach a view of the familiar - the town where they live.

"There. There you are. Look at that," says Nolte.

 "What? That view? You've brought me all this way to see that view? I've seen it a thousand times. It's where I live for God's sake."

"No," says Nolte, "not the view. This stone here......."

He looks down. The student is dumbfounded by his stupidity.

So with the traffic jam.

At the side of the road, in defiance of traffic fumes, are ox eye daisies, foxgloves, wild cherry, blackberry, wild rose, wonderful ash and sycamore, and, high above, audible even in the traffic, a lark.

There. If only you have eyes to see.

Saturday, 4 July 2015


When some well meaning HR professional asks me if I am accredited as a coach, it is with some difficulty that I swallow my instinctive answer which goes along the lines of, "do you want a smack in the mouth, idiot?"

Other questions come to mind.

"Are you?"
"Is your CEO?"
"Are any of your Directors?"
"Is your best friend?"
"What of your lover, are they accredited?"
"Your parents?"

Accreditation is a notional affront to individuality, a self referential attempt to commoditize, and the worst of HR's tendency to dehumanize. HR - the term itself robs dignity from the polyglot of unique individuals it describes, and hints at the real power assumption; you, you unique people, are resources which belong to us - HR, behaving in this way, has an equivalence to slave driving. But, in doing so, it is blind to its own thuggery and its own diminishment, its own confirmation as slave itself rather than master. For its positioning is not the plantation owner - few HR professionals get to this status - but the gang master, inventing new forms of degradation, to keep slaves in order, for the ultimate profit of others.

If you are an HR professional who in any way bucks this system, and happens to believe that people really ARE key to an organization's future, here is why you should exercise caution in choosing to work with accredited coaches.

A coach ought to believe in the release of the unique individual as a means of maximising that person's contribution, as well as the recognition and reward they should expect in reciprocation. How, then, could a coach themselves submit to "method"? Surely that would strike at the roots of such a belief? Moreover, if you are buying method in your coaches through an accredited approach, as an organization, aren't you buying the opposite of the innovative urge you actually want and need? Aren't you buying predictability - sameness with your competitors? Aren't you buying the very thing you don't want your people to be? Indeed, aren't you buying something that may look clean and respectable, but is in fact, robotic?

Questions to ponder. Even if slavery was its heritage, can HR survive promoting control in a 21st century creative and knowledge based economy?

What you accredit, you control.

But you kill it too.

Friday, 3 July 2015