Don’t Let The Bed Blogs Bite

I lie there in waiting

Alert on your stairs

A vast black body

Antennae with hairs

To the naked eye

I may well be dead

But I’m patiently sat

‘Til it’s your time for bed

Then as you approach

And squint in the light

I’ll flutter one wing

To give you a fright

Then I’m still once again

Like a miniature bat

As you lean in to look

“What the fuck is that?”

A creature of darkness

An insect-shaped goth

A prince of the night time

I’m the world’s biggest moth

black_moth_2.05.14_2

I patiently wait

While you search for a book

Take your best shot, pal

I don’t give a fuck

You think you’ve surprised me

Caught me unawares

As the book crashes down

There’s a smudge on the stairs

I lay flat and look squashed

It’s part of my game

While you get a tissue

To gather my frame

You carry me off

Throw my ‘corpse’ in the bin

But as I land in your trash

I stifle a grin

As the lid closes down

I crawl, like a sloth

To wait for my moment

I’m the world’s biggest moth

black-witch-moth

The very next day

The bin opens once more

You’ve forgotten me now

Think your house is secure

With that first crack of light

I dart through the space

And the next thing you know

I’m there IN YOUR FACE

I flutter; you splutter

You shout, yelp and swear

Your mind wanders back

To that stain on the stair

You thought I was dead

You fell for my trick

Now you’re waving your arms

And you look like a dick

You grab for a weapon

Locate a dishcloth

But when you turn back I’ve gone

I’m the world’s biggest moth

images

I flew near the window

Of that you are certain

But where am I now?

Is that me on the curtain?

I’m the master of stealth

The king of disguise

My huge body vanished

In front of your eyes.

I smile to myself

As you strike what you think

Is me near the window

While I’m sat by the sink

You swing, and you swear

Then you sigh and give up

As I skip cross your bowl

Wipe my arse on your cup

My gigantic frame

Like a winged behemoth

I don’t give a shit

I’m the world’s biggest moth

You head to the lounge

Plunge the room into dark

While I busy myself

By leaving my mark

It’s fun flying round

But my ultimate goal

Is to scare you again

Near the washing up bowl

I rest on the edge

Give myself time to think

But then lose my footing

And fall in the sink

I flap, start to panic

Must escape, but then…. Fuck

I’m too far from the side

I can’t swim, and I’m stuck

I’m trapped in the water

Surrounded by froth

Could this be the end

Of the world’s biggest moth?

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When you wake the next morning

And go to your sink

To fill up the kettle

And make your first drink

Your tired eyes glance down

Can’t believe what they see

In among all the bubbles

That right pal, it’s me.

The master of evasion

Has finally been found

Because I got over cocky

And ended up drowned

So, as you scoop me out

Dump me back in the bin

That’s it: ‘Game Over’

I lose and you win

The dinosaurs, the dodo

The woolly mammoth

I too am no more

The world’s biggest moth

download (1)

Alone in the darkness

My last resting place

Never again

Will I fly at your face…

… but as the bin closed

Did you see my wing twitch?

I was really dead, right?

 

Sleep well, bitch.

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Barclays Blog Plc

Dear Barclays Bank,

(Before I begin, I must advise you that this letter is being recorded for training and quality control purposes, not to mention forming the basis of a blog entry on Friday 5th October 2018.)

A few months ago, I received a couple of cheques. Admittedly they are only for £20 each, so not the largest sums in the world, but it is still money that would be more helpful to me if it were sat in my account, rather than on two pieces of paper in my wallet.

Unfortunately, having already closed the Barclays next door to my office a few years ago, in July you decided that the Sandbach branch was also surplus to requirements, so now that has gone too. I believe the rationale was along the lines of nobody wanting to meet instantly with a representative from their bank anymore, when modern technology affords us all the luxury of being connected to someone in a foreign country, who has a poor grasp of English, within a couple of hours.

Anyway, your decision to close all of those nasty, cumbersome branches, now means I cannot get to my nearest one (which I believe to be somewhere in Wiltshire) during their opening hours of 11am – 2pm on every third Tuesday of the month, so I have encountered some difficulty paying the two cheques into my account. Call me petty, but I resent wasting a day of my (limited) annual leave, purely to do some personal banking.

“Never mind,” your online support muppet cheerily said when I first raised this problem back in July (and I must stress here, ‘muppet’ is a label I have given her, but feel free to begin using it in a more formal capacity if you wish, to address anyone in your employ who clearly failed their McDonald’s entrance exam), “did you know you can actually pay cheques in to your account at any local Post Office?” (she said this with such enthusiasm, she was clearly expecting me to whoop with joy at the news, so I can only assume she was under the misapprehension that everyone in England lives either inside, above, or next to a Post Office).

I responded to her e-mail to explain that, whilst this may well have been a feasible option (I didn’t want to admit there is a Post Office two minutes from my office), I would presumably require some form of ‘paying-in book’ to accompany said cheques, and the only one in my possession pre-dated Barclays other genius decision to change all their sort codes last year. As such, it is very much invalid (much like her suggestion).

Undeterred, ‘Sally No Stars’ responded once more, (feel free to give her a name badge to this effect), confirming that she had ordered some new paying-in slips for me, and they would arrive in ‘five working days’. That was approximately six weeks ago.

When they didn’t arrive within the time frame she promised (I actually allowed three weeks to be on the safe side), and I inquired as to their whereabouts, I received an apology and assurance that a second batch would be sent immediately. That was the end of August.

Left with no choice other than to complain, I then received a phone call a few days later from someone with slightly more about her (she might even have her first star, but only in something menial like ‘answering the phone’ or ‘photocopying’), who again apologised for her predecessor’s stupidity, since it seemed neither batch of paying-in slips had ever been ordered.

She reassured me that she was now placing the relevant order; but went on to explain that, in the amount of time which had passed since I first contacted your company, technology had actually advanced to the point where I could now pay my cheques in via your mobile banking app. All I had to do was take a simple photograph of the front and back of each, and that would be good enough for you to credit my account accordingly (presumably this giant technological leap for mankind was funded by all the branch closures, or have you already set those millions aside for your exorbitant Christmas bonuses?).

This all sounded wonderful, of course, but having spent several hours taking so many photographs of these fucking cheques that their image is now permanently etched onto my retinas, it seems whatever I do the app refuses to accept that what I am uploading is indeed a photograph of a bona fide cheque.

If the app would tell me precisely WHY it doubts the authenticity of my photos, I might be able to rectify the situation, but all I get is an error code, followed by some rather patronising advice to make sure:

  1. ‘There is sufficient lighting’ – ah, see, there I was taking the photograph under my coat, down a manhole, in the middle of the Mersey fucking tunnel. Except, having now taken the image in brighter and brighter environments – until I eventually ended up in our back garden, on a sunny day, using the flash on my phone and a desk lamp for good measure – I have concluded that the only level of brightness you will find acceptable, is if I am stood on the surface of the bastarding sun at the time;
  2. ‘The handwriting is clear’ – I assume, by this, you don’t mean the handwriting of the person who sent the cheques, as surely even you understand that I have no control over that whatsoever?;
  3. ‘All four corners of the cheque are included’ – silly me, since I thought I could take four images of the various quarters of the cheque, then jumble them up to make a nice little jigsaw puzzle for Sally No Stars to have a crack at. Admittedly, four-piece jigsaws are usually aimed at toddlers, but perhaps she can ask a colleague for help?

Anyway, the bottom line is, the photographs I have taken (or at least image #62 onwards), could not be clearer if you were looking at the actual cheques themselves, so I have arrived at the conclusion that, either (a) your mobile banking app is a crock of shit that doesn’t work; or (b) this is all a little game you have devised to send your customers slowly insane.

Now, I strongly suspect it is the former, but just in case it is the latter, and you like annoying little games, I have devised one of my own. Since you won’t accept any of the images I have taken of my actual cheques, and I assure you they are both perfectly legitimate, there follows a series of cheque-related images (or things that sound a bit like cheque, as I disappointingly ran out of ideas rather quickly) for you to decipher instead.

The answers are below, so don’t cheat, ok?

download (5)

1.

255px-Flag_of_the_Czech_Republic.svg

2.

download (1)

3.

download

4.

484227672-612x612

5.

325px-Chequers2

6.

download (3)

7.

Chick 2 days old, isolated on white

8.

chicoWEB

9.

220px-Chuck_Norris_May_2015

10.

Chuckie

11.

download (2)

12.

 

Answers:

  1. Czech Republic
  2. Czech Flag
  3. Chequered Flag
  4. Petr Cech
  5. A ‘check’ mark
  6. Chequers
  7. A cheek
  8. A chick
  9. Chico
  10. Chuck Norris
  11. ‘Chuckie’ from Rugrats
  12. Chiquitos (that one was obvious, but I was clutching at straws by this point)

Anyway, don’t worry about responding to this letter, as I doubt you’ll be able to help me – unless you fancy sending a member of your staff to my house to collect the cheques personally? Even if they travel from wherever your call centre is based, the chances are they’d arrive long before I manage to pay anything in to my account.

Thanks for nothing, Barclays, stick it up your arse.

Kindest Regards

***

Addendum – Thursday 4th October 2018

Success!

After nearly three months, two phone calls, seven e-mails, over one hundred photographs, fourteen headaches, an hour spent searching Google Images (for my own amusement, admittedly), and three visits to the Post Office (on the first two visits, the queue of pensioners – at lunchtime – was out of the fucking door), I have FINALLY paid my cheques in – with the new paying-in book and envelopes you eventually sent, I hasten to add, and not via the utterly useless ‘photo’ option on your mobile banking app.

Ok, I’ve probably spent more than the £40 in premium rate phone calls to your company, and I now have to sift through my phone to delete all 119 images of the cheques (you better hope, for your sake, I don’t develop a Repetitive Strain Injury in my thumb), but we got there in the end, eh?

Purely out of curiosity, I decided to work out what else could have been achieved in the three months it took me to pay a couple of simple cheques into my account with you, and here are my ten favourites:

  1. One-third of a human pregnancy;
  2. An entire dog or cat pregnancy;
  3. Three (consecutive) gerbil pregnancies;
  4. Two Falklands wars;
  5. The reign of King Edward V;
  6. Half a game of Monopoly;
  7. Walking from Land’s End to John o’ Groats…. and back;
  8. One series of X-Factor;
  9. Three football World Cups;
  10. A quarter of a game of cricket.

Oh, and just so you know, the next time my account goes overdrawn, and you try to charge me for the privilege, I’ll be requiring a photograph of my overdraft as proof. Only, the photograph must be taken at 3,000 feet, whilst in a hot air balloon, on a slightly overcast day, using a camera from 1973, by a woman named Susan.

It will then take me approximately three months to respond to you.

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The Last BlogScout

A couple of weeks ago, I went camping with Ollie.

Ok, it wasn’t proper camping, and it was only one night, but bearing in mind I am to nature what Stevie Wonder is to clay pigeon shooting, I was still well outside my comfort zone. In fact, there was no comfort in this particular zone whatsoever.

A few months back, the PTA at Ollie’s school announced they would be hosting a ‘Camp Out’ on the school field, and it would be an opportunity for parents and children to sleep in tents, whilst enjoying a BBQ, live music, and all the other delights which camping has to offer (although, at present, those delights elude me).

Stupidly, I made the mistake of asking Ollie whether he was keen, and naturally he thought it was a fantastic idea. I only had myself to blame, as I should know by now that there is very little Ollie will not try at least once – apart from vegetables.

So, even though we owned no camping equipment whatsoever (the last time I slept in a tent was the Leeds Festival in 2000, and the fact I haven’t since – despite the intervening eighteen years – gives you some idea of how ‘fun’ I find sleeping outdoors), I was now committed.

Having carried out some research, and armed with a discount code from Mountain Warehouse, a few weeks ago I purchased a three-man tent, two sleeping bags, a double airbed (with pump), and travel pillows.

My main reason for investing in a three man tent, even though it would only be myself and Ollie sleeping in it, was so I would have extra room (at 6’3”, I need all the space I can get). What I didn’t foresee, was my wife suggesting I can now take both boys camping at some point, but I can assure you that there is a far greater chance of Satan building a snowman.

Anyway, as the event drew near, it became obvious that the weather wasn’t going to be great – and even though some people believe rain adds to the ‘charm’ of camping, I am not one of those people. Look, some people believe in clairvoyants, the healing powers of little crystals, and that the earth is flat – so clearly some people are morons.

Still, having forked out a tidy sum – despite the discount – I wasn’t going to let rain spoil our plans, and even though I am more Paddington Bear than Bear Grylls, I was determined to put my differences with camping aside, for the sake of my rather excited son.

I did, however, begin to worry that I would be the only Dad who struggled erecting his tent, and that other men might judge me. I am sure this was nothing more than paranoia on my part, and they would be more likely to judge me for sniggering every time someone said ‘erect’; but I have always been sensitive about what people think of me, and the fact I am the antithesis of a manly-man often plays on my mind.

I therefore chose to partially erect *snigger* the tent in our living room beforehand, as a trial run. I wasn’t planning on hammering tent pegs into the carpet, obviously, but if I could at least form an idea of how the damn thing assembled, I might minimise the risk of being UselessDad™ throughout the main event.

Except, not only was the tent far too big for the area between our sofas (which really irritated me, as I pride myself on having excellent special awareness; some say it is my best – or only – quality), but I chose the very moment my wife was trying to get Isaac asleep to attempt my erection *still sniggering*, and made too much noise in the process.

After more than half an hour of struggling with a piece of canvas so vast, I had started to wonder whether Mountain Warehouse had sent me a fucking parachute by mistake, I gave up, and reassured myself that I had at least gained an impression of what was required.

However, as is so often the case in these situations, folding the tent back up into the bag from whence it came was damn-near impossible; and even though I had predicted this might be an issue (so I had memorised precisely how it unraveled in the first place),  simply reversing the process did not produce the results I was after. The fucking thing had seemingly doubled in size as soon as it was exposed to air.

I don’t know whether Mountain Warehouse had vacuum-packed my tent, or flattened it with an industrial machine of some description (perhaps a steam roller), but there was not a chance I was going to be able to fold everything back into the same size.

A woman in this situation will patiently unravel the tent again, before methodically repeating the process of re-folding the components over and over, until she has satisfactorily replicated the original factory environment. She will then delicately return the tent to its bag, zip it shut with a triumphant smile, and go about her business.

A manly-man, on the other hand, will bear-hug the tent until all the air has escaped, and it has been adequately squashed back into a package small enough to force into the bag. He will then use his manly arms to yank the zip closed.

Me? I unfolded and refolded the tent at least a dozen times, becoming redder and angrier with every attempt, whilst uttering words no inanimate object should ever be subjected to. Let’s just say, ‘camping’, ‘children’ and ‘countryside’ aren’t the only C-words my tent has encountered.

I did eventually get everything back into the bag, but not without a great deal of effort, some burst blood vessels, more terrible language, and the fear I may have broken something (aside from myself) in the process. Still, everything was packed away – albeit into a bag now straining at the zip – and I resigned myself to ‘winging it’ on the day.

Due to the fact the ‘Camp Out’ started at 4pm (once the main school rush had dispersed), and because I didn’t want to be putting my tent up after everyone else – when they would have nothing better to do than laugh at my inadequacies – I booked the afternoon off work and collected Ollie early.

Whilst we were still one of the last to arrive, I was relieved to discover most had already pitched their tents and were congregating on the playground, rather than pulling up chairs to witness my abject failure as a father.

This was for the best, because when it came to unpacking our tent again (I say ‘unpacking’, but as soon as I forced the zip open, it more or less erupted out, like a volcano of blue canvas), and I had a bit more room to study the components, the assembly was not as I had imagined.

Thankfully, some children were playing football on the other side of the school field, so I sent Ollie to join them, while I commenced shouting and swearing at the tent once more. I was extremely careful not to utter any Grade-A expletives this time, but I did lose it at one point, and hiss through gritted teeth:

“Look, I’m going to insert my pole A into your bracket B in a minute, you piece of shit.”

I’m not proud of it, but I was under pressure to complete – and maintain – my erection in a suitably fast time (if I had a pound…), and the stress got the better of me.

Thankfully, in a moment of clarity, everything suddenly clicked – both metaphorically and, in terms of bracket B (as well as my hip), literally – and by the time Ollie wandered back to see how I was getting on, my massive heap of canvas now slightly resembled a tent. Kiss my arse, Ray Mears.

Utilising Ollie in very much a ‘hold this here, and don’t let go or I’ll scream’ capacity, I managed to secure the tent pegs and complete the remainder of our flimsy shelter for the evening without too much fuss.

20180914_182100.jpg

The inner-tent then attached with comparative ease, and despite the pump for our air bed making an embarrassingly high-pitched wheezing sound (which could have easily been mistaken for my christening the tent with an elderly asthmatic prostitute), before long we were fully erect and good to go (sorry, I can’t help it).

Ollie appeared delighted, and even congratulated me with “Well done, Daddy, you can have a nap now” (I need to stop going for a nap every time I achieve something useful around the house), but I decided to celebrate my success with a can of beer instead.

Fortunately, we finished putting the tent up just in time, as the Heavens opened shortly afterwards, which – rather than shelter with me – was Ollie’s signal to go back to playing football.

As the rain got heavier, I tried to shout for him to come back; but he either couldn’t hear me, or had engaged his selective deafness, because he didn’t so much as glance in my direction. Conscious that he only had one change of clothes, which were supposed to be for the following day, I reluctantly left the sanctuary of our tent to drag him back inside.

Whilst he initially refused, once I had carefully explained the situation using words like ‘soaked’, ‘pneumonia’ and ‘bollocking’, he eventually returned to dry out. The fact I was now drenched as well did nothing for my mood, and the final straw was when he stumbled into the tent, kicked my freshly opened can of beer over, and soaked our ‘porch’. Fortunately, the can stayed out of the sleeping quarters, and missed soaking our bags, which was the only thing that saved Ollie from being launched over the nearest hedge.

I have to say, however, once my rage subsided, the remainder of the evening went really well, and the PTA did an amazing job – with a BBQ, music, marshmallows, and games for the kids (including a treasure hunt around the playground).

Ok, I got barely two hours sleep – thanks in no small part to the fact I had purchased a sleeping bag ever-so-slightly too short, and because Ollie somehow managed to sleep like a starfish (despite being in a bag of his own), which resulted in me spending most of the night with his knee embedded in my lower spine – but our first ever camping trip, and my first night in a tent for eighteen years, was a relative success.

I should be ready to do it all again in, oh, another eighteen years or so….

Thanks for reading x

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Run FatBlog Run (Sandbach)

run-fatboy-run
Last Sunday morning, I ran the Sandbach 10k for the second time, despite saying at the finish line last year that I would never run another 10k in my life.

Of course, since then I have decided to run ten such races this year, all in aid of my chosen charity (Kidscan), and Sandbach was number seven on the list. The finish line is therefore very much in sight.

Technically, this was supposed to be race number eight, but ever since I had to walk part of the Tatton 10k in May, I have been kicking myself (not literally), because the challenge was to actually run ten races. To me, walking during one of them – even if only for a few minutes – felt like cheating.

So, even though I had the valid excuse of being scared shitless that I would end up in hospital again if I pushed too hard (and, if you don’t know what I mean by that, have a read here: https://middlerageddad.com/2018/04/13/run-fatblog-run-whitchurch/), and despite the fact my wife asked me not to, I have re-entered the Tatton 10k for next month in order to make amends.

As it happens – and rather fortuitously – Tatton is the only event that I can do again (because it is held monthly, whereas the rest of my races are annual); and since the friend who was due to run it with me originally had to pull out due to injury, but has been able to transfer his place, I have an added incentive to try again. Let’s just hope I can run it all (and finish under fifty minutes) this time, otherwise I’ll be tempted to take part in November (and, if necessary, December), until I get it right.

Anyway, last weekend was all about my home town of Sandbach, which is where my hatred of 10k races began last September. Whilst I still despise running, and feel sick in the days leading up to a race, I wasn’t as apprehensive of this particular event for two main reasons:

  1. I have run it before, so I knew the route, and that I was capable of completing it;
  2. For the first time on this challenge (after my mate had to drop out of the Tatton 10k in May) I had a running buddy, as my brother was taking part to support me.

Initially, when he first entered the Sandbach 10k a few months ago, my brother made his intentions very clear – he wanted to beat me. And, after only a month or so of training, having not really run long distances before, it looked very much like he would, as he was completing a few miles at a decent pace. However, when he didn’t run at all in the three months leading up to last Sunday, and confessed his plan was to simply ‘wing it’, I did begin to worry for him slightly.

Then, when the race instructions arrived last week, informing us that the timing chips would be fastened to our laces (rather than our running numbers), his plan apparently changed from finishing faster than me, to simply staying close enough to be able to remove his shoe and launch it past me at the finish line.

Anyway, without further ado, here are my scores:

Time: 48:45 (which, if we ignore Whitchurch – where I ran too fast and collapsed – is a PB)

Position: 90th (out of 368)

Cost: £16.00 – which is not only one of the cheapest events, but very good value bearing in mind what we got for our money.

Course: I don’t know whether it’s because some of the courses since last year’s Sandbach 10k have been horrible, or that my memory has softened over time, but I genuinely remembered the Sandbach route being relatively flat – apart from the railway bridge you encounter twice:

ScreenHunter_04 Sep. 12 22.13

It’s steeper than it looks

Unfortunately, I was mistaken, because whilst there weren’t too many steep climbs, the course was far more ‘undulating’ (which is seemingly 10k speak for ‘fucking hilly’) than I remembered.

Having said that, the route was all on decent roads (apart from the few potholes the organisers had thoughtfully stuck traffic cones in to warn us); the countryside scenery was pleasant (if a little dull, and, at one point, smelling of shit – which I assure you was the farm we were passing at the time, and not me); and it was a relatively straight-forward circuit..

Each kilometre was clearly marked, there were marshals at key points (although I could have done without every child being offered an annoying cow bell to ring as we went past), and the final straight offered a nice little sprint finish for those with any energy left – 8/10

Weather: Fortunately, the rain which had been forecast for most of the morning (and which was certainly coming down while we registered), stopped just as we headed to the start line, and the entire race – for us at least – was in sunshine. Ok, it was a little windy (again, not me), but otherwise the weather was spot on – 9/10

Organisation: There was no fancy pre-race instruction pack this time, but the e-mail which came through last week contained all of the information we required, and crucially made no reference to banning headphones (which, had the organisers done so, may very well have seen my brother drop out in protest).

Registration on the day was well organised, if a little cramped – which unfortunately led to me losing my timing chip with about ten minutes to go (many naughty words followed, but we located it just in time).

The results were also a little late being posted online, so even though the organisation was generally very good, I’ll mark Sandbach down a little for that (whilst giving an extra point for allowing us to wear headphones) – 8/10

Official Photos: The race photos were again courtesy of Bryan Dale, whose website I am fast becoming familiar with, but unfortunately ‘fast’ doesn’t describe the uploading of them, as they didn’t start appearing until yesterday. Still, they were entirely free to download and keep, without any irritating copyright watermarks printed across them, so I can’t complain. Here are the ones I appeared in:

8/10

I’ll also give credit to my good lady wife, for snapping the following additions (including capturing my sprint finish past three runners just before the line):

Medal: A little plain, and I am (probably irrationally) irked by the splitting of ‘Sandbach’ as though it is two separate words – however it is solid, good quality, and a nice little addition to my ever-growing collection – 7/10

39026898_681819275516391_5155702600661729280_n

(This is the organisers photo, I don’t have five medals)

Goody-bag: I’m torn here, because normally when there is a good quality running shirt for all finishers, the goody bag is always minimal (or, in some cases – Birchwood, for example – non-existent).

I should, therefore, be grateful that we were at least given a carrier bag of ‘treats’, but because these were supplied by the two main sponsors, who happened to be a salt company (bag of salt), and bakery (loaf of bread), they weren’t exactly what I fancied having just run six-and-a-bit miles. Salty sandwich, anyone?

In fairness, we also got a chocolate bar, which I would normally be delighted with, but it was a Bounty (and, as everyone knows, Bounty is at the lower end of the chocolate league, along with Lion bars and Double Deckers). I mean, full marks for the gesture, Sandbach, but next year might I suggest sponsorship from a local brewery and chip shop?

Anyway, the shirt – whilst the same colour as the Alderley Edge one – is very nice indeed (despite splitting Sandbach into two words again) – 7/10

Post-race refreshment: This comprised the customary bottle of water, and a banana (which I gave to my niece, as I don’t like bananas). Ok, I could have made myself a salty banana sandwich (which sounds like a euphemism for something kinky), but in the end I decided not to bother – 6/10

Summary:

Course: 8/10

Weather: 9/10

Organisation: 8/10

Photos: 8/10

Medal: 7/10

Goody-bag: 7/10

Refreshments: 6/10

All of which means, we have a new leader:

Sandbach                            53/70                     (76%)

Colshaw Hall                      52/70                     (74%)

Alderley Edge                     51/70                     (73%)

Birchwood                          49/70                     (70%)

Whitchurch:                       49/70                     (70%)

Tatton Park:                        47/70                     (67%)

Oulton Park:                       46/70                     (66%)

Poynton:                              39/70                     (56%)

Sandbach is now my favourite 10k so far (although I use the term ‘favourite’ loosely, since I detest all running), and bearing in mind I only have Tatton – which I have already completed once – Arley Hall and Wilmslow remaining, this score will take some beating.

If you have read and enjoyed this entry, and would care to sponsor me, here is a link to my Just Giving page:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/greg10x10k

(Yes, Isaac is dressed as Santa)

Finally, since I suspect many won’t bother reading this entry to the end (if at all), and as a reward for those who have persevered, I’ll let you into a little (embarrassing) secret….

Once I got home following the run, I went for a shower, and decided to test the fancy ‘post-exercise muscle-cooling’ shower gel that my wife bought for me recently. Without going into too much detail (although I fear I may), by the time I realised the true strength of the gel, I had already applied copious amounts to my body – including my ‘gentleman’s region’.

I regretted my decision almost immediately, as my reaction quickly progressed from ‘Ooh, that’s a bit tingly’, to ‘Jesus Christ, that’s cold’, and finally ‘WHAT IN THE NAME OF HOLY FUCK IS HAPPENING TO MY GENITALS?!’ in a matter of seconds.

For want of a better description, it was like someone had cryogenically (or cryogenitally) frozen my penis from the inside out. It wasn’t painful, as such, but I did fear that the effects may be permanent, and I would be pissing icicles for the rest of my living days. Honestly, it was like I was sporting a Mr Freeze Ice Pop down there.

Fortunately, after a great deal of scrubbing, normal service has been resumed.

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And, on that bombshell….

Thanks for reading x

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Always The Underblogs

Last weekend, I became a Footy Dad.

By that, I mean I became one of those fathers who spends his Saturday/Sunday mornings in all kinds of weather (and it was most certainly raining at the time), watching his child play for a local football team.

I’m not entirely sure whether ‘Footy Dad’ is the correct term, as I’ve only been to one match so far, and none of the other parents have explained what we should refer to ourselves as yet (I felt silly asking, and it didn’t seem important at the time); but I suppose the best way to explain it is this: I became the male British equivalent of a ‘Soccer Mom’ – only ‘Footy Dad’ sounds less sexy.

Anyway, if we thought Isaac’s first day at school could have gone better, that was nothing compared to poor Ollie’s debut in the Mid-Cheshire Youth Football League (although at least Ollie didn’t cling to me and refuse to go onto the pitch).

Ollie only joined the Sandbach United Under-9’s ‘Kites’ team a couple of weeks ago, and had been to just two training sessions prior to the start of the season (the latter of which was only the night before).

As such, he didn’t really know most of his teammates before the first match on Saturday, and – more importantly – the manager wasn’t sure where best to play him. Ollie is adamant he is a striker, but what nine-year-old doesn’t think they should be the one scoring all the goals? It’s extremely rare to find a young aspiring footballer who is desperate to play at left-back.

Thankfully, the training session a few weeks ago, and then the ‘pre-season friendly’ last Friday night, had both seemed to go relatively well, so the manager was optimistic of at least giving The Kites’ first competitive opponents a decent test.  Unfortunately, however, this optimism was short-lived.

When we arrived, there was a bit of time before kick-off for me to take some pictures of Ollie in his new kit – which, whilst the Kites’ away strip this season (the home kit hasn’t arrived yet, apparently), is still alarmingly reminiscent of Burnley’s colours, and to a Stockport County fan this is horrifying (long story short: they cheated at Wembley in 1994, were promoted at County’s expense, and I haven’t forgiven them since). Still, despite the disgusting colour scheme, Ollie looked very grown up and smart, and I managed a few photos dotted around what is a very impressive set up at Sandbach United.

As the 10.30am kick-off time arrived, Ollie and the rest of his new team mates were called over by the manager, who quickly ran through their starting formation – and even though I was some distance away by the side of the pitch, it was quickly apparent that Ollie would be starting as a lone striker up front. I was now beaming with pride, and just praying he could score at least one goal.

The fact that Ollie didn’t know the names of his teammates turned out not to be a problem, because it transpired almost all of the squad were called either Lucas or Jacob; so, by shouting one of those names, he at least stood a good chance of attracting someone’s attention.

The referee then indicated that one boy from each team should come over to determine who would kick off, and Ollie (being the nearest Kites player to the centre spot) readily volunteered.

To my amusement, kick-off was not decided by the usual coin toss (as is customary), but instead by an impromptu game of ‘rock, paper, scissors’. I assume this is standard throughout the league, rather than at the whim of this referee in particular; but should tomorrow’s kick-off be determined by a quick ‘thumb war’, or even ‘musical statues’, I will be just as equally delighted.

Continuing my proud father moment, Ollie’s rock destroyed his opponent’s puny scissors, and it was all I could do to restrain myself at the side of the pitch. I had to remind myself that, much as I was desperate to yell “Ha! In your face, dickhead!” at the opposing player, he was only eight years old, and presumably one or more of his legal guardians would be nearby.

Ollie then kicked off (rather prematurely, in all honesty, as the referee had not yet blown his whistle – but seeing as we later went to watch Stockport County that afternoon, and even they managed to screw up kick off, I subsequently apologised to Ollie for laughing at his eagerness).

Almost immediately, it became clear that Ollie’s team were likely to be outclassed, as their opponents passed the ball around well, and won every tackle. Unsurprisingly, therefore, it wasn’t long before they went ahead. Ollie, meanwhile, looked utterly lost up front, but equally didn’t get involved enough to try and win the ball. I pointed this out to one of the mums who we know, but we both agreed that it was their first match, and Ollie was just settling in.

Unfortunately, not all of the adults on the touchline were as patient/considerate as us, and one grandfather in particular (I assume he was a grandfather, as he looked to be of retirement age, but he also appeared to be from one of those families where even the middle-aged members are on borrowed time) became very vocal towards the players, singling Ollie out in particular:

“Who’s that kid there? He’s just standing there doing nothing!”

I wanted to respond with: “That’s actually my son. He’s eight years old, this is his first match, and, in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s pissing it down. How about you cut him some fucking slack, you horrible, odious, mouth-breathing swamp donkey?”; but, as ever in this sort of situation, I had to quickly assess my chances of ending up in hospital, and decided that this chap – whilst potentially elderly – probably didn’t lose all his teeth eating toffees.

Even though I later regretted not defending my son, I made a mental note to instead blog about this piece of shit the following Friday (today) and wish upon him a plague of every venereal disease known to man (plus, if possible, some not yet known to man). The fact that his penis was almost certainly black and shrivelled already, made little difference to me, and I was comforted by my mental act of revenge.

I then became slightly side-tracked, by trying to remember how to spell gonorrhoea (even now, having spell-checked it, that still doesn’t look right to me), and by the time I regained my focus on the match, Ollie’s team were 4-0 down.

Now, if I thought the unusual kick-off routine was a bit different, another rule I was unaware of until last weekend was that, should a team find themselves 4-0 down, they are allowed to bring an extra player onto the pitch. So, just when I thought Ollie may be substituted for someone better, his team ended up with an extra man on the field.

Unfortunately, this made no difference whatsoever, as they just as quickly found themselves 8-0 down, meaning their only remaining player could also enter the pitch. To further compound the problem, their opponents were now able to rotate their players to give some of them a rest, whereas The Kites had to keep all of their players on until the end of the match (or at least until they reduced the goal deficit, but this seemed unlikely). Unsurprisingly, they quickly became knackered – and soaked.

This didn’t help the mood of the group next to me, and one father in particular who – whilst at least directing vitriol towards his own son rather than mine – took matters a little too far (following a badly timed slide tackle) by shouting ‘Stay on your fucking feet!’. Classy.

Anyway, much as I would love for this story to end in triumph, with Ollie’s team overcoming adversity to snatch victory with the last kick of the game (preferably with Ollie scoring the winner, so that I could run the length of the pitch waving my shirt around my head); sadly it was not to be, and I lost count of the score when it got to 15-0.

I was, however, immensely proud of Ollie – and the rest of his team for that matter – since at no point did his head drop, and more importantly, he didn’t cry (which, if I’m honest, I fully expected him to).

In fact, he seems relatively upbeat about tomorrow’s match (God love his optimism) and has spent the last few days working out ‘tactics’ on FIFA 18. Unfortunately, this has involved him playing as Burnley (so that the kit looks realistic), but at least he has changed all the players’ names to match those of his teammates.

“Lucas, passes to Lucas, back to Jacob, who picks out Lucas, Jacob shoots….”

See, don’t they look similar?

Wish us luck for tomorrow, and thanks for reading x

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Blog Boy School

On Tuesday, Isaac started primary school – and, as expected, it could have gone better.

Don’t get me wrong, it could have easily gone much worse (this is Isaac); but compared to some of the little angels at the school gate, who behaved impeccably for their parents – practically skipping into the reception classroom – ours still claimed a podium finish in the ‘sulky little twat’ event.

Admittedly, it’s not like his refusal to accept school came as a shock, since there were plenty of warnings:

  1. He was the same when he went to pre-school (and even, on a few occasions, at nursery – which he loved);
  2. Ollie was the same, when he started reception four years ago. In fact, he not only screamed when my wife dropped him off each morning, he refused to take part in P.E. for months (even, on one occasion, running away and hiding under a desk in an empty classroom). To this day, he still refuses to take his socks off when doing any kind of sport, lest his classmates catch a glimpse of his perfectly ordinary feet;
  3. I was also the same at his age, when I went to primary school (a point my mother has raised on more than one occasion since Tuesday); and, until DNA tests prove otherwise, I assume that Isaac’s genetic make-up is roughly 50% mine.

So, on the basis the male side of our family is comprised solely of wimps, who don’t deal well with change, we really had no reason to believe Isaac would take the transition into primary school education with anything other than a massive fucking tantrum.

Still, ridiculous as it may sound, my wife and I still clung on to the slight possibility he might just ‘pull it out of the bag’ at the last minute.  Of course, the only thing he actually pulled out of the bag at the last minute was his P.E. kit, which was then launched across the room with a banshee-like scream, but this was the least of our worries.

You see, all parents have concerns before their child starts school; but whereas some might panic that their son or daughter will struggle to make friends, or may even get bullied, my three main worries were as follows:

1. Toiletting

The stubborn little bastard won’t go to the toilet. At all.

It’s not that he doesn’t need to go, more that he cannot bare the thought of anyone knowing he is having a wee (including, sometimes, his own parents). He would far sooner give himself stomach ache (and Christ knows what other medical issues), by storing it up all day until home time, than just go to the toilet like any normal child would.

Thankfully, my wife also appears to be part-camel, and he has inherited his strong bladder from her (another Daddy-DNA bullet dodged, since I have the bladder of a particularly-incontinent tea-drinking pensioner), so at least there is only a limited risk of wetting himself.

2. Writing

He writes backwards. This is entirely because he is left-handed, and it is apparently quite normal with left-handed children, but his letters are sometimes so obscure, I did have a niggling concern that his teachers might assume he is a Russian spy;

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That’s his name at the top

3. His hair

I wrote in a recent blog entry about his long hair (https://middlerageddad.com/2018/06/01/blogs-and-girls/), and how much he adores it, but he has recently started worrying about being picked on because of it – and even, the day before starting school, confessed that he was scared the other children might think he is a girl.

Aside from this breaking my heart a little, it also gave me the rather unnatural concern that he may try to prove he is a boy by getting his willy out for all to see. It was a fleeting worry – since he won’t even announce going to the toilet in front of others – but it was a worry nonetheless.

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I also have the rather selfish concern that, for three days a week, I will be doing the morning school run, and I was meant to spend the summer practising doing pony-tails, pig-tails, French plaits etc., but time ran away with me.

What I had not anticipated for his first day, was that it would take nearly an hour of screaming and kicking to even get his underpants on (I should stress that the screaming and kicking was all him), and at one point the thrashing became so violent, I contemplated phoning our local priest.

In the end, my wife patiently went through every pair he owns (and he seemingly has hundreds), in an attempt to calm him down, and somehow succeeded just in time for us to leave the house.

Ok, he refused to wear the school jumper, and would only put on the embroidered polo-shirt if he was allowed to wear a dinosaur t-shirt underneath (which was, incidentally, highly visible), but we chose to pick our battles, and the very fact we got him out of the door with any clothes on at all was frankly a miracle. We even managed a couple of obligatory ‘first day’ photos in the garden, which up until this year have only featured Ollie.

When we got to the playground, I have to admit I could see why it might be daunting for Isaac – or any child – to enter that environment for the first time.

The intake at our school is sixty children, and all of them had at least one, if not both parents with them for their first day; so there were upwards of two-hundred bodies swarming around the classroom door (and that’s not including the children and parents of the neighbouring classrooms, which comprise the ‘Infants’ half of the school).

To pass the time before the bell (and subsequent scene I was expecting Isaac to make), I looked around at all the other parents, to see if I could determine which had experienced the ‘first day’ before with older siblings, and which were newbies. The difference was very obvious.

For example, the newbies often looked more nervous than their children, and some were already emotional at the thought of their little baby going off on their own. Many were uttering the usual phrases, like ‘where has the time gone?’ and ‘it’ll seem so quiet at home now’, between tearful sniffs (hey, I’m not judging, I cried like a little girl at Long Lost Family the other week).

In contrast, the seasoned parents like us (and we only have two kids; some of these idiots with three or more really need to show some self-control), had adopted the same universal expression – which was a mixture of sympathy for the newbies (‘I remember when we were like that’) and sheer fucking glee that the latest/last of our offspring was finally someone else’s responsibility for a large chunk of each weekday.

The difference between the two types of parent was even more obvious when the bell finally went, and the reception teachers came out to collect their new recruits for the academic year.

All the newbie parents squeezed their little darlings tightly one final time, wished them a wonderful first day, and sobbed as they watched them disappear through the door. They then hung around outside, hoping to catch a glimpse of their son or daughter smiling and having fun already, as a form of comfort for their childless journey home.

Some even made a point of talking to the teachers, to try and cram all of their child’s little foibles into one barrage of verbal diarrhoea – as if the teachers haven’t already dealt with every kind of weird child many times before (apart from, perhaps, Isaac). It was as though these parents simply couldn’t bear to leave the playground.

Then, there was the rest of us. The battle-hardened parents with older siblings, who had given up caring some time ago. As one, we simply ushered (in some cases, pushed) our kids towards the teachers, offered a half-hearted ‘you’ll be fine’; ‘have fun’; or ‘don’t fuck this up’ (to our children, not the teachers); then turned and ran with unbridled joy and freedom.

None of us looked back, and we certainly didn’t hang around (in case our particular child did try to escape). Most importantly, we didn’t even make eye-contact with any of the teachers, let alone talk to one of them, in case it slowed down our escape.

Even if we had spoken, it would only have been along the lines of:

“He’s your responsibility now, so you fucking deal with him! You’re only in teaching for the holidays anyway, admit it, so you’re going to damn well earn them this year. Try not to let him break you by 3.15pm on the first day!”

(Then turn and run away, cackling gleefully).

In our case, Isaac immediately clung to us when he noticed other children going through the gate, and had to be physically detached by his favourite teaching assistant from pre-school, who we shall call Mr Shaw (because, well, that’s his name). I doubt Mr Shaw will ever read this, but we owe him our thanks; because he came over, gave Isaac a hug, and then quickly carried him through the gate before he had chance to react.

Thankfully, it transpires the limited amount of concern we had dedicated to Isaac’s first day (compared to when Ollie started, and I couldn’t concentrate at work through worry), was completely unwarranted; because – by all accounts – it had gone about as well as we could have hoped.

As I said at the outset, it was by no means perfect, because he apparently hardly spoke all day, and didn’t seem to make any new friends; but at least we didn’t get a phone call around lunch time asking us to collect him and never bring him back.

When it comes to school collection time, particularly in those first few weeks, you dread being the parent who the teachers come over to for a ‘chat’; because as soon as that happens you know it’s your child who has created an issue. It’s like a walk of shame, only it’s the teacher doing the walking.

In contrast, there is no greater feeling of relief, than when the teacher heads towards you, only to detour or walk past at the last minute. It’s the playground equivalent of your airport transfer bus arriving at a shitty hotel when abroad, then discovering it’s for someone else.

Isaac even seemed relatively enthusiastic about returning the next day (which was something of a relief, because I was due to do the school run on my own) – that is, so long as he could have new shoes for the second day (and every subsequent day thereafter).

See, I told you he’s odd.

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Run FatBlog Run (Birchwood)

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Last Sunday, I completed the seventh race of my 10 x 10k challenge for 2018, at Birchwood, near Warrington (a place so nondescript, the BBC weather app doesn’t even acknowledge its existence – presumably because it is overshadowed by that monstrous IKEA down the road, which is seemingly so vast, it is now twinned with Luxembourg).

I feel I don’t need to repeat my utter hatred of running, as I have publicised this more than enough already, but suffice to say I approach each new 10k with the same feeling – one of dread. My siblings and I have coined this sensation ‘swimming lesson belly’, because when we were kids we all hating swimming lessons, and suffered that same sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs as the weekly lesson approached. To this day, I still can’t watch ‘Garfield’ without getting that same knot in my gut (it was always on BBC1, just before we had to leave our house for the local swimming baths).

Fortunately, the (slightly irrational) apprehension I suffer in the days prior to each race is easing slightly, which I assume is partly due to the fact I have now successfully completed a number of events without major incident (if we conveniently ignore the one race where there was an incident), and partly because the end is almost in sight.

That said, because I completed last Sunday’s Birchwood 10k in under fifty minutes (which is an unofficial target I have set myself, after the far more important task of actually running all ten races, I have decided to re-enter the Tatton Park 10k in October, because it is the only race so far where I had to stop and walk for a bit, and which consequently resulted in a slower than fifty minutes finish.

At the time, I cut myself some slack, as it was the first event following the Whitchurch 10k (and my confidence was somewhat knocked), but now the dust has settled, I can’t help thinking it might be the only race of the ten which lets me down, and I’d hate to pass up the opportunity to rectify that. Besides, it’s the only race I can re-run (as the majority are annual), and I currently have a little gap in October which it will slot into nicely. My wife isn’t chuffed with the idea, but it’s something I feel I need to do.

So, ultimately, the Birchwood 10k is actually now relegated to event number six, rather than event number seven, but wherever it sits in the grand scheme of this challenge, it couldn’t have gone much better.

Ok, the weather wasn’t ideal, as this was the first race where I have been rained on (heavily), but it turns out rain – despite the nuisance factor of wearing glasses – is ultimately preferable to the stifling heat I completed the Alderley Edge 10k in last month (which may well be the only time ‘Alderley Edge’ and ‘stifling heat’ have been used in the same sentence).

Overall, the Birchwood 10k was a well-organised, friendly event, with runners (and pacers) offering regular encouragement to one another, and it’s amazing how helpful that can be – particularly when this was one of those events where the wearing of headphones was unfortunately banned (albeit poorly enforced).

I even made a friend prior to the race starting (‘oooh, running fwend’), when an older chap and his wife noticed my bespoke Kidscan shirt, and commented that he too was running ten 10k races this year for his chosen charity (Alder Hey Children’s Hospital); so we shared our progress, and wished each other luck in our respective challenges. I especially liked him, because he had the decency to finish behind me by a few minutes (I do hate it when runners several years my senior make me look rubbish).

Anyway, without further ado, here are my scores for the Birchwood 10k:

Time: 49:13 (which, aside from the rather anomalous Whitchurch race, was just two seconds off my PB)

Position: 329th out of 957, which means I have just missed out on my final semi-official target of finishing in the top-third of each race (but, frankly, I’m not that bothered anymore).

Cost: £18.00 – which is pretty much average, although there was an unexpected – and rather randomly calculated – £2.08 ‘processing fee’, making this one of the more expensive races, unfortunately.

Course: A bit of a mixed bag, really. We started outside a shopping centre, ran along some roads – which were only partially closed to traffic – covered a couple of miles of parks and cycle-paths, when headed back onto the roads – including crossing the M6 twice (don’t worry, there was a bridge, they aren’t that fucking stupid) – before finishing on the other side of the same shopping centre.

A very windy route, which you could easily get lost on if it weren’t for the excellent marshaling (and sheer number of runners around you), but it was almost entirely tarmac and, aside from the three times we had to cross roads over bridges, it was relatively flat. Overall, it could have been much worse – 8/10

Weather: Had the rain stopped fifteen minutes earlier than it did (or not turned up at all), the weather would have been pretty much perfect, but by the time it dried up I was already soaked. Still, the temperature was ideal, and apart from some muddy spots, once the rained ceased I could have no complaints – 8/10

Organisation: Ok, the pre-race pack which was posted out to us may not have been as polished and glossy as the Alderley Edge publication a couple of months ago, but it still contained every piece of information I needed, not to mention the rather unwelcome news that – due to the route not being completely road-closed – headphones were banned, and anyone seen wearing them would be disqualified. As usual, it turned out a number of people ignored this rule, and seemingly got away with it, but I wasn’t willing to take the risk 8/10

Official Photos: Unlike every other event I have taken part in so far, this one boasted not just one but two official photographers. Unfortunately, both want to charge me to show you the snaps I feature in, and one of them almost missed me completely, in that he only captured the left side of my body – and none of my (admittedly no doubt red and panting) face.

In fairness, this was probably because my sprint finish was faster than anything he has ever witnessed, but I still don’t want to pay over a tenner for a glossy picture of the poor bastard I was zooming past on the final straight; as his particular moment of glory was overshadowed by my left elbow and a bit of side-boob.

The other photographer did manage to take one snap of me, but I again look like shit, and even though his prices were more reasonable, I still object to paying for a photo of me looking dreadful just so I can explain my point to you, dear reader 6/10

Medal: Solid, metal, an unusual shape, and bright green – which means it certainly stands out among my collection. We also have three of them as a family, since a kindly old chap decided he didn’t need medals at his age, and gave the two he had (I presume the other was from a friend) to our boys. I tried to disguise my disappointment at the fact they had received the same medal I had worked bloody hard for, despite only spending an hour in the warm in Costa, but fear I didn’t hide it too well – 8/10

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Goody-bag: There wasn’t one, but in its place we received a rather fetching – and good quality – running shirt (my fourth of this challenge), in bright green to match the medal.

Rather annoyingly, however, not only did the children who ran the 2k fun run earlier in the morning actually receive a goody-bag (look, I’m not suggesting I desperately wanted a yo-yo and some bubbles, but the crisps and chocolate would have gone down nicely), but yet again my kids were the recipients of some left-over bags, so now they had medals and treats, for achieving the grand total of fuck all. In the warm.

Still, at least the little scroungers didn’t get a t-shirt, and it is really nice – 7/10

 

Post-race refreshment: We got a bottle of water as we finished and…. that was it. Not even a flapjack. Oh dear, Birchwood, and it was going so well. I have, however, decided not to mark them too harshly, on account of the fact I have usually felt too sick to eat the flapjack or jelly babies offered at previous events anyway – 4/10

Summary:

Course: 8/10

Weather: 8/10

Organisation: 8/10

Photos: 6/10

Medal: 8/10

Goody-bag: 7/10

Refreshments: 4/10

Giving Birchwood a total score of 49/70 (or 70%) – placing it joint third with Whitchurch on my leaderboard:

Colshaw Hall                      52/70                     (74%)

Alderley Edge                    51/70                     (73%)

Birchwood                          49/70                     (70%)

Whitchurch                        49/70                     (70%)

Tatton Park                        47/70                     (67%)

Oulton Park                       46/70                     (66%)

Poynton                               39/70                     (56%)

I am still amazed that the Whitchurch event is doing so well, as I have nothing but horrible memories of what happened at the end – and in the days afterwards – but the scores don’t lie.

For my next race, I’m coming home – in more ways than one. Not only is the Sandbach 10k walkable for me (and, by that, I mean I can walk to get there, rather than walk the course), but it’s the first 10k I ever did last September, and I now appreciate how flat the course is. Plus, my brother and some friends are joining me for this one, so it isn’t filling me with the usual dread (or swimming lesson belly) which most of the others have.

As ever, if any of you fancy sacrificing the cost of just one drink from this weekend, and chucking it towards a charity working really hard to combat childhood cancer, then here’s the link:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/greg10x10k

Thanks for reading x

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