Bloggy Hell

A couple of weeks ago, I took part in my usual Parkrun event in Congleton, and I would like to share with you what happened.

For those unaware, Parkrun is a charity which organises 5k running events all over the world every Saturday. From humble beginnings in 2004, there are now nearly five hundred events around Britain, a similar number elsewhere across the globe, and more than four million runners registered worldwide.

If you are getting somewhat weary of me writing about running, then fear not – this entry is less about running, and more about one man’s struggle against adversity, the elements, his own ineptitude, and an elderly man in a red bandana.

In truth, I am very, very proud of myself for even going to Parkrun the Saturday before last, because – those of you in the North of England may recall – the weather was apocalyptically bad. When I woke up around 7:00am, and cast a cautious glimpse through the curtains, the scene which greeted me was not dissimilar to something from The Day After Tomorrow.

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Sandbach – 25/11/2017

The conditions, together with my crippling indecisiveness, caused me to change my mind at least ten times about whether I was going or not.

Whilst weighing up my decision, I reminded myself that I always feel a sense of achievement when I’ve finished, and I certainly need to keep my competitive running going, if I hope to complete the 10 x 10k challenge I’ve set myself for 2018. Plus, I still need to shed some paunch, so a failure to go to Parkrun, would mean a longer run the following day to compensate.

On the other hand, I had to consider my health, because I needed to spend three nights in Newcastle for a trial the following week, and didn’t want to jeopardise that by making myself unwell running in Arctic conditions. In fact, the more I glanced out of our living room window, the more it dawned on me that there was every chance this Parkrun could fucking kill me.

Such is my inability to make decisions, I got into my running gear and as far as the front door, before a blast of icy air caught me right up the shorts, and I sheepishly headed back upstairs to my family. I couldn’t bear the thought of our boys growing up without a father. I had to stay at home for them.

Of course, my wife then gave her very finest ‘it’s up to you, dear, whatever you think is best, no one is making you go’ performance, which might as well have been ‘get out there, and stop whining like a bitch’, so my final decision to remain home was immediately reversed, and I found myself leaping from the house to the safety of our car (a distance of roughly six feet), then sitting on the drive and wondering what the hell I was doing.

The short drive from Sandbach to Congleton was horrendous, with rain and sleet lashing against the windscreen (so much so, I had to increase the wipers from ‘constant’ to ‘fuckinell’), and there were cars passing me with an inch of snow covering them.

Even once I had parked up at Astbury Mere in Congleton, it took every ounce of my strength to not turn around again and go home. As I put my running shoes on, and opened the car door, I seriously questioned my sanity.

I was apparently not alone, because once I had jogged the half lap around the lake to the start line (partly to warm up, but also because my indecisiveness had made me a little late), the general conversation was that this was all a terrible idea. Not one person was looking forward to running – even though, by this point, the sleet had mercifully stopped.

My mood was not improved by the fact my arch nemesis, ‘Bandana Man’ (not to be mistaken with 1980’s cartoon, Banana Man), then arrived, looking all smug and confident. For the record, not only is he probably a nice guy – we’ve never actually spoken – but I have no reason for disliking him, other than the fact he constantly finishes just ahead of me (which is not really a reason to treat someone as your mortal enemy). Still, he was grinning, and in that weather no sane person should have been grinning, so for once my hatred was justified. Plus, he always wears a bandana, for fuck’s sake.

Following the usual introduction from the ‘Race Director’ – which involves a description of the route for any first-timers (‘three laps around the lake, keep the water on your left…’), a round of applause for the volunteer marshals, and an instruction to let faster runners overtake – we were counted down from 3, 2…. and, at that precise moment, what I can only describe as ‘end of the world hailstones’ began striking us with a vengeance…..1.

I have never had so little motivation to run in my life, except for perhaps the half lap around the lake back to my lovely warm car so I could drive home.

My mood was not improved when, shortly after setting off, one of my fellow runners refused to keep to the left (despite the firm instructions less than a minute earlier), and because there was no space to her right, I was forced to undertake – straight through a huge puddle, which completely submerged my left foot.

The remaining two-and-three-quarter laps were spent with my face being lashed by freezing rain, while my foot squelched, and my chest pounded as I struggled to breathe the icy morning air.  Such was my agony and misery, the only way I could get through the final lap was to count my own breathing as a distraction.

When I finished, I stopped my trusty Casio, and was pretty delighted that I had achieved my second fastest Parkrun ever, despite the terrible weather conditions, and the fact I had consumed an entire bottle of red wine the night before.

My glory was, however, fleeting.

Firstly, having passed through the finish, I immediately headed for my usual wooden post, which I like to lean/collapse on, as I try not to vomit or cough up a lung. Essentially, it keeps me upright just long enough to compose myself, thereby avoiding an embarrassing fall into a bush.

Except, on this occasion, some utter bastard had beaten me to it, and because I needed to lean on something quickly (before I fell down), I made a snap decision and clung to a nearby bin instead. It wasn’t until, a few seconds later, when I noticed a few runners looking at me, and the sudden stench of dog shit burning my nostrils, that I realised I was hugging no ordinary bin.

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Sadly, my embarrassment didn’t end there.

If you have never taken part in (or attended) Parkrun before, let me explain how the timing works. Everyone sets off together, and once you have finished the 5k, you collect a small plastic tag with your position and a barcode on.

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You then take this, along with your own personal barcode (which is sent to you when you first register), to one of the volunteers behind the finish line, who scans them both to register your time.

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NB: This is an example I found online. I do not run under an Indian pseudonym

Until two weeks ago, it had never dawned on me that a paper barcode would not mix particularly well with rain, but as I prized myself away from the dog bin, and put my hand into my soaking shorts (it was raining heavily, remember, I hadn’t pissed myself), I slowly pulled out clumps of murky pulp, and realised I had been rather foolish.

To make matters worse, I did this in front of one of the volunteers, who looked at me and said “I don’t think I can scan that.”

Gee, ya fucking think?!

Utterly despondent, I squelched over to the Race Director to explain what had happened, and he unhelpfully suggested I should have laminated it. In response, I wanted to explain that I had contemplated doing this when I first registered with Parkrun, but thought it was better to simply print lots of copies, and then replace them when they became worn; naively forgetting – to my embarrassment – that rain would completely destroy them within minutes.

Sadly, in my exhausted state, all I could manage was a pitiful wail, like a wounded animal (I’d intended to at least say ‘I know’, or ‘I will’, but even that proved too articulate for my current oxygen levels). Afterwards, I wished I’d quipped something vitriolic, like ‘go laminate yourself’, but you always think of these things when it’s too late, don’t you?

I did, however, manage to explain – via a mixture of grunts and hand signals – that I had a spare barcode in the car, and would go fetch it. So, having squelched the half-lap back to my car, collected a replacement barcode, and returned to hand it to the Race Director so he could record my time, I finally headed home.

I have never longed for a hot shower so much in my life, and as I stood there, the water slowly reviving me, I couldn’t help but notice that my body was ruined. My legs and feet were dark brown, yet the rest of me was ghostly white. It was like I was a character from that board game, Misfits, and had been created my mixing the legs of 1980’s Michael Jackson, with the torso and head of 1990’s Michael Jackson.

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That is, all except for my belly, which was inexplicably red raw. As I stared down, all I could think of was the scene towards the end of E.T., where everyone thinks the little fella has sadly passed away, and then his stomach starts to glow with life.

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And, speaking of little fellas, as I stared at my belly, something infinitely more worrying struck me. Such was the impact of the freezing weather on my body, my penis had gone from an ‘outy’ to an ‘inny’.

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Fear not, ladies, normal service has since very much resumed.

And, with that…..

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Argos Catablog

This week’s entry is all about Christmas.

Now, I imagine most of you will have reacted to that opening line in one of two ways. Firstly, there will be those reading this, who – in the words of Roy Wood and Wizzard – wish it could be Christmas every day, and the 25th December cannot come fast enough.

To compensate for this, you begin preparing for Christmas at some point in early June, because it’s never too early to start planning. You reacted to that opening line with a warm glow inside, and a broad smile on your face. By this stage of the year, with December just around the corner, you can barely contain your excitement.

The second group, on the other hand, will have reacted with sheer repulsion at the mere mention of Christmas just yet. Those people who refuse to even acknowledge that Christmas exists until the 1st December each year, and if they happen to spot a mince pie on a supermarket shelf, or hear Shakin Stevens’ Merry Christmas Everyone (undoubtedly the finest of all the Christmas songs, by some margin) being played while they peruse the freezer section, they will go fucking mental. Not only that, they will make damn sure every customer within hearing range will know of their displeasure at being subjected to ‘Christmas stuff’ so early in the year.

I am somewhere in between those two camps. On the one hand, I love Christmas, and it is without doubt my favourite time of year; but by the same token, I also love Easter, yet I don’t feel the need to start stockpiling masses of chocolate in late January. I’m all for sensible planning, but there comes a point where it starts to get a bit silly. I do not necessarily subscribe to the idea Christmas should be banned until the start of December, but I do object to the sight of baubles and tinsel, when it’s still warm enough to wear shorts outside.

I know this is largely the fault of the retailers, who will start to quietly infiltrate their stock with mince pies and decorations before the August Bank Holiday weekend is out of the way, but is there really any need? If we all took a stand, together, and refused to purchase anything Christmas-related until say, after Bonfire Night, they’d soon stop it.

Sadly, my wife is very firmly in the ‘Christmas cannot come early enough’ category. This is partly because she loves nothing more than buying and wrapping presents for everyone, but mostly because she is a secondary school teacher, and Christmas means getting away from the repugnant little shits that she teaches for two whole weeks.

Unfortunately, this also means that she begins planning for Christmas as soon as she goes back to school in September (as a coping strategy, I suspect). It gives her something to aim towards, to keep her sane. As a result, she will begin buying gifts ‘to put away’ – mostly for our two boys – at the start of each academic year. This is fine at first, but the more she buys, the harder it becomes to hide the growing mountain of gifts from prying little eyes.

Admittedly, our boys are largely unaware of anything they cannot eat or destroy, so we tend to get away with hiding presents in plain sight (in fact, Ollie is generally so oblivious to what is going on around him, that we could probably store presents under his bed), but by this time of the year, we are always faced with a problem.

You see, such is my wife’s obsession with both shopping and Christmas, that she starts buying gifts at the end of summer, but doesn’t then stop until mid-December. Now, I wouldn’t mind so much if she just did all the shopping early, then ceased spending come Halloween, but the speed at which she purchases Christmas presents never falters for the final four months of the year.

The result of this, is that by mid-November, when we have our annual ‘let’s get everything out in the living room, to see what we’ve bought, and who we still need gifts for’ evening (which she enjoys far more than I do), we could honestly build an extension onto the rear of the house with all the boxes we appear to have amassed.

No word of a lie, we got the boys’ presents laid out on the carpet last week, and it looked like someone had ram-raided Argos, filled a van, and then dumped the loot between our two sofas.

A girl plays on an artwork made of unwanted toys at the solo exhibition of Japanese artist Hiroshi Fuji, in Tokyo

Actual footage

I suppose I shouldn’t complain, as she loves Christmas shopping so much, that she takes control of buying not only the boys’ presents, but also both our families’ gifts, and those for all our friends too. In fact, the only person I have to buy for, is her – and I swear that, even then, she will send subliminal messages to me when she knows I’m not listening, so that I later think I’ve had a great idea for what to get her, and it was her suggestion all along. Oh well, at least she gets what she wants this way.

The problem I foresee this year, however, is that neither of our boys is behaving particularly well at present, so unless there is a dramatic improvement over the next month, we may have to hold some of the gifts back for their birthdays (which are three days apart in May), as I don’t want them thinking bad behaviour goes unpunished.

Sure, we still have the option of Father Christmas ‘swapping’ some of their presents for potatoes (our usual threat each year, although coal works just as well if you prefer), but such is their current level of naughtiness, I fear sticking to that threat would see them with no presents whatsoever, and more spuds than McCain (the frozen food manufacturer, not the US Senator – although he does look a bit like a potato).

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Mr Potato

This year, Ollie has decided he doesn’t want his usual long list of toys from the Argos catalogue, and claims he will be happy with just a Barcelona kit, and some massive Lego ‘Scooby Doo Mansion’ he has set his sights on. In some ways, I’m pleased he now acknowledges that growing up sometimes means receiving fewer (but more expensive) presents; however at the same time, it shows a complete ignorance of just how much those two gifts happen to cost.

I admire his apparent restraint, but not only is the gesture undermined when the two presents seemingly cost more than a decent family holiday, I also know he’s a lying little shit.  Sure, he can make such a bold statement now, but even if he did receive both the Barcelona kit and Scooby Doo Lego on Christmas morning (which he won’t), is he honestly going to sit there, content, while Isaac continues unwrapping gifts for the next half an hour? No, he’s going to sulk like a little bitch.

Saying he only wants two very expensive gifts for Christmas, is like me saying I only want an Aston Martin and Holly Willoughby this year (which, if my wife is reading this, is exactly what I would like, please). Ok, the logistics of arranging this are somewhat complicated (one promises to be a luxurious and thrilling ride…. and the other is an Aston Martin), but it’s what I truly want, and Christmas should be a time of making your loved ones happy.

Still, socks are nice too. I always need socks.

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Repeat Blog

There’s no new entry this week, I’m afraid. This is partly because I have been very busy, but mostly because the few ideas I have been working on have frustratingly not come to fruition.

So, rather than post nothing, and with it again being ‘Movember’, I have decided to repeat an entry from this time last year, in the hope I can in some way do my bit to raise awareness of testicular issues in men – and explain why we shouldn’t make them such an issue in the first place.

Thanks for reading x

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‘The Blog’s Bollocks’ – First posted, 18th November 2016

It’s not often that I write something serious.

There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, I’m not very good at being serious, and it’s not a style of writing that I particularly enjoy. I much prefer to find the comedy in a situation, as you may have gathered by now, and – generally speaking – writing about my (often embarrassing) personal experiences, comes more naturally to me.

Secondly, it’s far easier to appeal to a wider audience, and maintain their attention, if they enjoy what you write about. That’s not to say serious subjects don’t have a place in the world of blogging, of course they do, but I would personally hate to focus on one subject, without any element of humour, and feel like I was boring people.

Thirdly, I cannot resist the opportunity for a bit of daftness and double entendre. A good knob-gag is like catnip to me, and any attempt to resist grabbing it with both hands would be futile. *sniggers*

Ironically, despite all the above, this ‘serious’ entry will still contain an element of personal embarrassment, not to mention several references to male genitalia.

Let me explain. Just over twelve months ago, I contemplated writing an entry about testicular cancer. As many of you will know, the ‘Movember’ charity has exploded in recent years, with blokes all over the world growing moustaches for the month, to raise awareness of testicular (and prostate) cancer, as well as mental health issues, among men.

I took part in Movember myself three years ago, partly because I wanted to do my bit for a very worthwhile charity, but also because I had never grown a moustache before, and I was curious to see what I would look like. Turns out, I looked like a twat:

I only went for the handlebar look because I wanted to make a bold statement, and to fully embrace the concept of doing something unusual for charity. Should I ever choose to grow facial hair properly in the future (if, for example, I want my wife to leave me), I will never again opt for this style. In fact, I wouldn’t restrict myself to just a moustache anyway, since – apart from during Movember – all men with moustaches should be approached with extreme caution.

Anyway, not only did I find the whole experience very embarrassing (apart from on the rare occasions I encountered a fellow ‘MoBro’), but it was itchy, and my wife did indeed threaten to leave me if I ever grew another. I therefore decided that my own participation in Movember would be a one-off, but I still donate each year, via a friend’s fundraising page.

Then, two years ago (by coincidence, it was November), I had to go to the GP myself, with my own testicular issue. Since only my wife and doctor were aware of this until now, and I know my family and close friends may react with some concern if made to wait, I’m going to say from the outset that I did not have anything seriously wrong. In fact, it all turned out to be fine, and everything is fully shipshape down there – with all three of my ‘gentleman potatoes’ working perfectly.

Essentially, without going into too much detail, I had developed a sharp stabbing pain in one of my testicles, which didn’t get any better after a few weeks of praying it would. Had that pain been in any other part of my body – with the possible exception of my head – I would not have been anywhere near as concerned, but, if I am entirely honest, I was shitting it.

No matter how much I tried to re-assure myself that, despite the pain, there were no lumps or abnormalities down there (to my knowledge), and regardless of how much I read that testicular cancer is rarely, if ever, accompanied by pain anyway, I was still very scared. Maybe I was overreacting, and perhaps my inner hypochondriac took over (I know he’s in there somewhere, the devious little bastard), but I imagine most men, when asked, would admit to worrying about that part of their body the most.

Is it because that’s the one area we’re most protective about? Or perhaps it’s so personal and private to us, we don’t like talking about it, let alone showing it to a stranger (and, I should stress here, I’m talking about a medical professional or partner, not someone on the night bus)? Is there a stigma attached to problems in that region, and we feel that our very masculinity is questioned if something isn’t working right?

I’ll wager it’s a combination of all the above, and I am no exception. It took me well over a week to tell my wife, the woman I share everything with (apart from chocolate Hobnobs and underwear), because I was that worried and embarrassed to admit something might be wrong. My wife. That’s fucking ridiculous.

Naturally, she insisted I go to the GP, but even then I chose to ‘leave it a week or two’, to see if the pain would subside. It didn’t, and I eventually – and reluctantly – accepted that I needed to get checked out. I still remember sitting in the waiting room, sick with fear, reminding myself of everything I had read which suggested it would be fine.

Looking back, I was overreacting, and there will be people reading this who have had, or will currently have, far more serious medical issues than mine. But, as I have already explained, it’s an area we men are most frightened about malfunctioning, and that kind of worry can do stupid things to your rationality.

My GP carried out an examination, and reassured me that there was nothing to be too concerned about, but since the pain had persisted for a few weeks, he wanted to refer me for an ultrasound at a nearby hospital.

Any embarrassment I felt during his examination, paled into insignificance when compared to walking around a hospital in an open-backed gown, with my arse in the breeze, before undergoing an ultrasound with two female sonographers. No amount of  them shouting ‘wow, that’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen!’, was going to make me feel any better or less uncomfortable (ok, that’s clearly not true, but they really should do that more often, like when you used to get a sticker at the dentist for being a big boy). Thankfully, the ordeal was over in a matter of minutes.

I’m hesitant to admit this, but as I drove back home following the appointment, knowing the results would probably confirm everything was ok (but aware I would have to wait another week or so to find out), I cried. I don’t know whether it was fear, relief, or a mixture of the two, but at that point it just got a bit too much.

I was stupid. I was stupid for thinking it was something serious, and worrying about it, in the first place; but I was even more stupid for delaying going to the doctors to get checked out. Then, to top it all off, I was supremely stupid for deciding not to write this entry a year ago, because I was embarrassed, and worried what people might think of me.

The truth is, I’m still a little apprehensive of how this entry will be received, and how readers might react, but that’s the entire fucking point. Why? Why am I, and other men like me, so concerned about sharing our experiences? Thankfully, my issue was minor, and has long since resolved, but there will be men out there – perhaps even reading this – who are in a similar situation, and who also delay in getting medical advice. Every day, nervous, embarrassed men, are leaving it too late to get checked out, and that’s when there is a problem.

Imagine telling someone that you had an issue with one, or both, of your testicles, but you got checked out, and it all ended up being fine. Embarrassing? Now imagine telling someone you have testicular cancer, because you left it too late before seeing a doctor.

I’m not going to lie, and say the examinations and scans were fun (although, ordinarily, if someone offered me the chance of being locked in a darkened room, while two women applied gel to my nether regions, they wouldn’t even get to finish the sentence), but any issue you have, no matter what it may ultimately turn out to be, is far better dealt with as soon as possible. No amount of hoping it will go away on its own – even if it eventually does – is the sensible approach.

So, to any lads who are reading this, please check yourselves regularly and, if you do discover anything out of the ordinary, don’t be a dick – get to a doctor.

Similarly, to any women reading this, make sure the man in your life checks himself regularly. Even offer to help, or do it for him, if that’s what it takes. Few men will pass up the opportunity of having their bits fondled, even if there is a (very) serious reason for doing so.

Look, all joking aside, we shouldn’t be so uptight about issues like this (and the same goes for some women reading, although I suspect they are far better at sharing and resolving personal medical issues than us), and the more we can raise awareness, the more we can catch cancer early, when it is still treatable.

I’m going to leave you with the words of a good friend of mine, Matt, who has given me permission to repeat part of his Movember page:

“I had testicular cancer when I was 26. I left it too long to go to the doctors, and had to have radiotherapy as it had started to spread. Thankfully, we got it in time, and I’m here to tell the tale – as well as having two beautiful children.

My aim in doing Movember, is to break down the barriers and stigma that still exist with blokes. My message is simple: check yourself (or get some to do it for you!) once a month, and if you find something, go the doctors. We’re all in this together, so we should talk about it and make it a normal part of conversation.”

Matt has also asked me to pass on this message:

“The next time you see a MoBro in the street (he’ll be the chap who looks embarrassed about his moustache), congratulate him for making a statement, and be kind to him. After all, you don’t know his personal reasons for taking part.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself. After all, like so much of this blog, it’s just bollocks.

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/testicular-cancer/getting-diagnosed/finding-early

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Blogged Determination

I’ve set myself a challenge for 2018. Yes, I know it’s a little early for New Year’s resolutions, but once the X-Factor live-shows start, it’s basically Christmas, right?

I’ve undertaken some stupid challenges in my time; however, generally speaking, I have always ended up being proud of what I achieved, usually because I was raising money for charity at the time – and you can get away with some pretty weird shit when it’s for a good cause.

“I’ve decided to hop to work on Thursday, dressed as Scooby Doo.”

“Are you mad? It’s three miles!”

“I know, but I’m raising money for The National Association of Disabled Great Danes.”

“Ah, fair enough. A fiver ok?”

In 2001, I watched all the James Bond films back-to-back (up to, and including, The World Is Not Enough), with a good friend of mine from Law School – we’ll call him Gerard because, well, that’s his name. It took us forty-three hours (without sleep) and, from a medical point of view, I believe our condition at the end of the ordeal would be best described as ‘a bit fucked-up.’

I can only take my wife’s word for this, because I have very little recollection of events from the start of Goldeneye onward, other than a vague memory of me being topless, and trying to mould a third nipple (in homage to Scaramanga’s anatomical abnormality in The Man With the Golden Gun), from some dampened pink toilet paper.

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It’s no wonder I never heard back from that Blue Peter audition.

Then, in 2008, Gerard persuaded me to join him in a charity abseil, down the side of the Europa Hotel in Belfast. At 51 metres high, The Europa boasts (if ‘boasts’ is in fact the right word) the title of being the ‘most bombed hotel in the world’ – and I threw myself off the side of it (admittedly attached to a rope, I’m not a complete moron).

To make matters worse, I was chronically hungover at the time, and still suffering the effects of a dodgy Lebanese kebab that I had drunkenly scoffed the night before. The people of Belfast will never know how close they came to literally being ‘shat on from a great height’.

I sometimes question why I remain friends with Gerard, because he is clearly not very good for my health (mental or physical), but he and I are very similar in many respects. In fact, we share so many common interests, the only clearly distinguishable difference between us (other than physical appearance – and even then, with the exception of his facial hair, we are not overly dissimilar), is that he is, without doubt, psychologically unhinged.

He’s like my reckless, sociopathic, death-defying alter ego from Northern Ireland. If it turned out that he is in fact a figment of my sub-conscious (a little like the Edward Norton / Brad Pitt relationship in Fight Club*), I would not be entirely surprised. I may, however, question why my psyche has given him an accent that I couldn’t fully understand for the first few months of our friendship.

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(*belated spoiler alert. Sorry if you’ve not seen the film, but it’s been out nearly twenty years, so you only have yourself to blame. Oh, and Bruce Willis is a ghost in The Sixth Sense, too. Oops.)

Partly because Gerard lives in Ireland, partly because we both now have families to look after, and partly because (as my wife constantly reminds me), prolonged exposure to some of Gerard’s ‘suggestions’, would almost certainly result in my boys growing up without a father, we haven’t seen each other in a few years. It’s probably for the best though, because the last time I spoke to him, he was still harping on about us kayaking down the River Lagan in Belfast, dressed as Mel Gibson’s William Wallace character from Braveheart. I’m not even sure why.

Anyway, as usual I digress. The bottom line is, I still like to set new challenges for myself every now and then (e.g. getting more than three hours of sleep, eating an entire packet of chocolate Hobnobs in one sitting, climbing a flight of stairs without developing back/knee/chest pains, etc…), but with one important distinction: I won’t be attempting anything dangerous. As such, skydiving and bungee jumping are definitely out of the question, as is swimming with sharks, cliff diving, and going to Port Vale away ever again.

These days, as I hurtle towards middle-age, I prefer my charity escapades to be feats of endurance, rather than anything which might result in serious injury or death. So, with that in mind, I have previously organised sponsored walks to away football matches (Macclesfield in 2013, and Hyde in 2015), as well as last year’s ‘Big Road Trip’, which involved myself and another good friend (who we shall call Gareth), driving 1,000 miles around the country, visiting twenty-eight football grounds in one weekend.

Our adopted good cause for these previous events, has been a children’s cancer charity based in Salford, called ‘Kidscan’. I first became aware of Kidscan, through my dealings with an online Stockport County fans’ forum in 2013, and since childhood cancer was affecting my wife’s family at the time, that’s when I took the decision to organise the first sponsored walk.

For my latest venture, I wanted to depart from anything to do with County (partly because there are no convenient away fixtures that we could realistically walk to this season – at least, not without a risk of snow – and partly because I simply fancied a change of direction), so I decided that my new hobby of running might be a suitable platform. Actually, ‘hobby’ implies that I enjoy running, whereas I merely tolerate it, in order to halt the advancement of middle-age spread. In all honesty, I am to running, what Boris Johnson is to foreign relations. Or running.

Having ruled out some kind of distance target (in my sleep-deprived state, I genuinely/naively Googled ‘how far is it to the moon?’, and then immediately dismissed the idea, when it transpired I would need to average 654 miles a day, for the entire year, to achieve my goal), I began considering other options.

Then, in a moment of weakness, I thought back to my first ever 10k race in September. At the time (and for a few days afterwards), I was telling anyone who would listen that I would never do it again. With aching limbs (and moderately tender nipples), still very much fresh in my memory, I had more chance of entering Iraq, or Katie Hopkins, than another 10k event.

However, time is very much a healer – of both memories and nipples (note to self: consider ‘Memories and Nipples’ as potential autobiography title), and it wasn’t long before I questioned whether I had been prematurely dismissive of competitive running. Maybe  I could grow to love it. Perhaps this was my sport after all. Perhaps I could still – even at my advanced stage of life – become one of the world’s great distance runners?

Ok, fine, if I’m honest, I just want more shiny medals to add to my collection (of one). Does that make me a bad person? No. If anything, it makes me a fucking magpie.

Then, one morning, I settled on the idea of running a number of 10k races throughout 2018. I briefly contemplated a challenge of doing one a month, but found this not only difficult to organise (I wanted to keep the events local, and there isn’t quite one a month in the surrounding area), but I also might need some flexibility in case of injury etc. So, having changed my plan slightly, I decided to try and run 10x10k instead.

The more I investigated the various running events throughout the calendar year, the more I realised that they all see it as one big competition between themselves, as they battle to be the best 10k event in Cheshire (not that such an accolade actually exists).

The ‘Knutsford 10k’ organisers claim to have the prettiest course and the biggest medal; the Alderley Edge 10k may be boring (the route essentially takes you down the ‘new’ bypass and back again), but is largely flat and promises the fastest times, not to mention a t-shirt in your goody bag at the finish; the ‘Poynton 10k’ is apparently like an assault course, with a route that includes some steps and a stile (although I do not necessarily consider this to be a good thing, as it’s meant to be a 10k race, not fucking Ninja Warrior UK).

In fact, each of my local 10k races seems to boast something the other’s don’t have, as if fickle sods like me are only attracted to material items and gimmicks, rather than the sheer love of running (ok, they got me, I’m only doing this for the silverware).

Each of the races I looked at, within a 25 mile radius of Sandbach, had their own individual appeal, with the exception of Market Drayton. Not only do they keep the contents of their goody bag a secret until the day of the race (how can I tell if I want to run their stupid 10k, until I know what I get at the end?), but the wearing of headphones is ‘strictly forbidden’ (despite it being a perfectly safe, fully road-closed, course) and results in instant disqualification. Well, Market Drayton 10k, I don’t care if you ‘sold out within 24 hours’ last year, as far as I’m concerned you can piss off with your shitty secretive goody bag, and I’m not running unless I can have music to distract me from my burning nips.

I’ve already paid the entry fee for five races: Kidsgrove in January, Poynton in March, Whitchurch in April, Knutsford in June, and Alderley Edge in July; and I have four other definite races pencilled in, which aren’t currently open for registration (including a repeat of the Sandbach 10k next September). For my tenth race, I am toying with the idea of a trip to see the in-laws in Norwich next August (which would be the largest event by some margin – several thousand runners, in fact), but there are a few alternative options if that doesn’t work out.

For now, I’m just eager to get going, as I think I’ll be less apprehensive when I have the first few races under my belt by Easter. All details – which will be updated as I go along – are contained within my JustGiving page, https://www.justgiving.com/greg10x10k, and if you feel like sponsoring me nearer the time, or joining me at any of the races (or both), well that’d be just grand.

And the best part about all of this? That’s at least ten blog entries for 2018 already.

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Blogelona – Part II

FRIDAY 20th OCTOBER 2017

 

12:45pm – The Big Reveal

Well, that didn’t exactly go according to plan. I picked Ollie up from school an hour ago, as arranged with his headteacher (I explained that we would never normally take him out of school, but Monarch had rather fucked up my travel plans), and when the lady from the office brought him out, he was sobbing. My immediate concern was that he thought something was wrong, or he was in trouble; but, no, he was crying because I was dragging him away from his power point presentation to the class.

Once the teacher had confirmed his group could make their presentation after half-term, he was somewhat placated – if a little jittery at being removed from school for a surprise trip. After all, my surprise trips are not always better than school, so he was understandably apprehensive.

However, I took him home and fed him, and then as soon as we got on the train to Manchester Airport, I revealed that we were off to Barcelona – to see his idol, Messi, play against Malaga the following evening. To say his face lit up would be an understatement. Many of our family and friends apparently shed a little tear of joy, when watching the video of his reaction on Facebook, but being the rugged manly-man that I am, I naturally held it together rather well. *lies*

 

9:00pm – Epic Burgers and Shit

Following an uneventful journey (although, after the week I’ve had, anything other than a full cavity search was a win), we arrived safely at the Airport Hotel shortly before 8pm; and, having checked in, immediately headed to the bar for dinner.

Ollie has been buzzing, partly because our hotel room is apparently the best he has ever seen (clearly forgetting the ‘themed’ rooms at Disneyland Paris and Alton Towers, which we paid a small fortune for), with a bathroom described as ‘epic’ – he celebrated this fact, by immediately taking a large shit – and partly because he has just devoured a huge burger (with bacon) and fries, washed down with a glass of cold milk.

I wasn’t sure anything was going to top the bathroom, but the burger appeared to excite him even more, and he kept pinching himself on the arm throughout the meal, to ensure it wasn’t all a dream. Bless.

To be fair, his burger did look amazing, and I only wish I had ordered the same. Unfortunately, being a manly grown-up, I opted for the ‘Blackened Aberdeen Angus’ burger, topped with foie gras, instead. I’ve never tried foie gras before, and to be honest I’m still not 100% on what it is, but it’s safe to say I won’t ever have it again. That’ll teach me for watching Masterchef, and getting all carried away in the moment.

(I have just Googled what foie gras is, and had I known it translates as ‘fat liver’, I would have definitely avoided it.)

We have a very long day ahead of us tomorrow, so we’re off to bed.

 

SATURDAY 21st OCTOBER 2017

 

1:15pm – Hotel No. 2

No, not another of Ollie’s bowel movements, but our second hotel.

As explained previously (https://middlerageddad.com/2017/10/20/blogelona-part-i), I only booked the extra night in the airport hotel, because Monarch ruined our travel plans by going bust, so we are now checked in to our intended accommodation, for tonight and tomorrow.

This hotel is far more ‘budget’, and far less ‘epic’ (Ollie’s disappointment upon first glimpse of our new bathroom was palpable, and not immediately followed by a celebratory dump this time), but when we get back from the football tonight, it will be very late, and we’ll be ready to crash, so this is merely a base.

Time to explore before the match!

 

00:30am – The Camp Nou

Wow.

The Camp Nou was every bit as spectacular as we had hoped – which was for the best, as we spent about nine hours there.

Ollie insisted we get to the stadium early, to look around the megastore and buy some souvenirs, so we planned our route on the metro system, and off we went. Any travel disruption, resulting from the Catalan Independence clashes in the city centre, didn’t materialise, and we arrived shortly before 2:00pm – nearly seven hours before kick-off.

Ok, the megastore spanned three floors, and contained every single item you could conceivably stamp a Barcelona badge on (Barça eggcup, anyone?), but even Ollie would have struggled to fill seven hours looking at red and blue tat, so we ended up sitting in the sunshine having some lunch – and a much-needed (large) Estrella for Daddy.

After a while, we were asked to leave (well, not just us, but everyone in the bar), so security could get the stadium ready. Fortunately, a separate area was open, where Ollie managed to fleece me further still, and we ended up purchasing three photographs of him alongside his Barça idols, as well as ‘signing’ for the club.

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He then played football for a bit, with a younger Spanish lad (Ollie didn’t ask his name, but did shake hands with him afterwards), and before we knew it, it was time to head into the stadium.

We’d been advised to take our seats as soon as the gates opened, to get those all-important photos, and although that meant queuing for a while (during which I was ‘persuaded’ to buy a Barcelona scarf), it did mean we got a spectacular view of the stadium before it quickly filled.

Having dined on a hotdog and some popcorn (following the Barça crisps Ollie had insisted on outside), our long wait finally came to an end, and the match kicked off.

Messi, in contrast to nearly every match he has played this season, had an uncharacteristically quiet ninety minutes on the pitch, but there were still touches, flicks, and jinking runs, which showed why he is the world’s best footballer. Luis Suarez (former Liverpool striker/cannibal), also had a quiet game, but whereas Messi interspersed his tame performance with brief touches of class, Suarez did the opposite, and his only involvement of note, was to miss an open goal. He then devoured a ball boy (whole) in anger.

The match finished 2-0 to Barcelona, and whilst Ollie didn’t get to see his idol score (well, he did, but it was ruled offside), he witnessed a Barça victory in one of the world’s greatest stadia – even if it was apparently only three-quarters full. We were also directly behind the goal for this:

We had an amazing day, only marred by the fact my camera was stolen on the way back to our hotel. Apparently, Barcelona is the pickpocketing capital of Europe (a fact, it seems, everyone apart from us knew), and I only realised it had gone when unloading my pockets in our room. I thought I had been careful, but obviously not careful enough.

Looking on the bright side (rather uncharacteristically), whilst we have certainly lost some precious photos that I had not yet downloaded, all the ones of this trip were taken on my phone, and it could have been much worse. My wallet or phone could have been taken, and at least we knew nothing about the theft, which is infinitely preferable to being mugged.

After the initial upset and anger had subsided, I consoled myself with the knowledge that, although I will never know what became of my lovely camera, if there is such a thing as karma, then the scumbag who took it will hopefully meet a slow and painful death, in the not-too-distant future.

That may sound vicious, but anyone who steals from a father and son, knowing they are taking not just something of financial value, but irreplaceable memories, deserves everything they get. If that happens to be syphilis, or a flesh-eating tropical disease, then so be it. Fuck ’em.

Anyway, time for bed. Tomorrow, we’re off to the Camp Nou again (no, really).

 

SUNDAY 22nd OCTOBER 2017

 

9:30am – Pickpocket Prevention Pants

Apparently, the nine hours we spent at Camp Nou yesterday were insufficient, so today we are returning to take the official tour. Well, we’re not coming back any time soon, so we might as well make the most of it.

Despite it being very warm outside – as it has been since we arrived two days ago – I have opted to wear jeans, as the pockets are very tight, and far more secure than last night’s shorts (even though my camera was concealed in a buttoned pocket).

If some prick thinks he can rob me today, he’ll have to go past mine to get at anything, and if there’s one thing I will notice, it’s some Spanish reprobate manhandling my chorizo.

 

4:35pm – Camp Nou, Take Two

I’m very glad I paid extra to do the stadium tour, on top of last night’s match.

Not only was it ‘access all areas’ – with the exception of the home changing room – they offer a superb audio guide, with videos, games and quizzes, that kept Ollie entertained for over two hours. We spent ages in the museum, saw the press room, walked down the players’ tunnel onto the pitch, sat in the dugout, then climbed to the very top of the stadium to sit in the media box. It was brilliant.

On the way back, we eventually tracked down the police station, but gave up trying to report last night’s theft, when we were told that not only was there a two hour wait, but we needed our passports to do so (and I didn’t fancy dragging Ollie all the way back to our hotel to retrieve them). Besides, the place was full of Brits and Americans, who had all been victims the night before, and the majority had come off far worse than us.

In the end, I decided it was not worth walking a couple of miles, and waiting a few hours, for the sake of a camera we would never get back, particularly when our time was so limited. Besides, thanks to my security-conscious decision to wear jeans today, it’s like the Amazon rainforest down there.

For our final evening, Ollie has decided we should soak up some local culture and cuisine, by watching Liverpool v Spurs, in an Irish bar, while eating pizza.

 

MONDAY 23rd OCTOBER 2017

 

12:15pm – Bye Bye Barça

We’ve managed to negotiate our way back to the airport in good time for our flight, and we’re now sat playing Gin Rummy (with Ollie’s new Barça cards, obviously), while waiting to board.

We’ve had an amazing time, and I refuse to let a theft spoil that. Actually, I’m more pissed off that Ollie is currently destroying me 304 – 5.

Bonjour Barcelona (that’s Spanish for farewell)

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Blogelona – Part I

This afternoon, I am taking Ollie on a surprise trip for the weekend…. to Barcelona.

The main reason for going, is that tomorrow evening we will (hopefully) watch Barcelona play Malaga at the famous (and enormous) Camp Nou stadium:

Like many kids his age, Ollie is obsessed with Barça, and in particular a certain footballer by the name of Lionel Messi (who, by all accounts, is rather good).

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The last time a Lionel was this globally popular, it was either Mr Richie (of pop music fame) or Mr Blair (of tap dancing, and Give Us A Clue ‘fame’), throughout much of the 1980s.

In fact, a cursory glance through the dark abyss of Google, reveals that after Messi, Richie and Blair, the fourth most popular ‘Lionel’ search is for Lionel Logue who, let’s be honest, no one has heard of (apparently, he was an Australian speech therapist, who treated King George VI in the 1920s).

After that, there is only one other Lionel of note (Canadian athlete, Sanders) before Google assumes your chubby little sausage fingers have failed, and what you really wanted was ‘Lion-O’ from Thundercats.

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Appalling tan-lines

Whilst Ollie has no idea about our trip (although he will by the time most of you read this), it was essentially his idea. By that, I mean he asked me to take him to Barcelona a few months ago, to watch his idol in action, but I told him there was no chance, as it was too bloody expensive (plus, I didn’t want him realising how woefully shit Stockport County are). Don’t get me wrong, I love treating my boys, but I draw the line at extravagant jaunts abroad, purely to watch a football match.

To Ollie’s credit, he knows that he will never get what he wants by begging, especially when I have already – very firmly – said no, so he accepted the trip wasn’t going to happen. As far as he was concerned, the dream was over.

Then, one night, I decided to investigate what it would actually cost, more out of curiosity than anything else – and because, deep down, I kept thinking how fucking cool it would be to watch a match at the Camp Nou.

I wouldn’t say that I was pleasantly surprised by what I discovered, as the total cost (once I added together the tickets, flights and accommodation) was roughly what I had expected, but the more I thought about it, the more I badly wanted to go. I began to imagine his little face, as I told him we were going to Barcelona, to watch the one man he would happily swap his own father for. I can’t wait to see his reaction.

The more I weighed up the expense, against how happy it would make him (and, by association, me), the more I adopted a ‘fuck it’ mentality. After all, he won’t always be this excited about something (in just over five years, he will be a teenager, and then he won’t be enthused about anything), and you never know what is around the corner.

Look, I don’t intend to be morbid, and I don’t want you thinking I have recently received bad news regarding my health (which, unless the wife has been intercepting my mail, I most certainly have not), but you need to make the most of life while you can, and if that means splashing out on a city break to make my son’s year, then so be it.

In the end, whilst I was pretty much convinced we were going, it was a conversation with Ollie a few months ago that eventually made up my mind:

“Daddy, have you heard Messi might leave Barcelona next summer?”

“Really?”

“Yeah, he’ll be out of contract and might go to Man City. So, we could watch him play there instead!”

Fuck that. I would rather re-mortgage the house, to cover the cost of going to Barcelona first class, via Dubai, than take my son to that pathetic moneybags excuse for a football club. Right there and then, I decided we were off to Barcelona.

When I looked at the fixtures, I realised Barça tend to play on Sunday evenings, which meant I would need to wait for a school holiday (not that I particularly wanted to try and squeeze the trip into a term-time weekend anyway). Then, the more I investigated, I realised that there was only one workable fixture – against Malaga, on Sunday 22nd October.

Tickets for Barcelona matches vary wildly in price. The cheapest seats – understandably – are right up in the Heavens, so I decided early on that I would rather spend a bit more to get a good view, and avoid the onset of crippling vertigo. After all, we’re only doing this once.

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Having chosen the price band I wanted, I counted down the days until the tickets went on sale, and then quickly purchased two (and I’m glad I did, as I checked back half an hour later, and could no longer find two seats together – we don’t tend to get that problem inside Edgeley Park).

In terms of our flights, I was initially tempted to book with Ryanair, but three things changed my mind:

  1. The flight home was early on the Monday morning, and since Barcelona matches sometimes kick-off at 8.45pm, there was every chance it would be a late night for Ollie on the Sunday, with only a few hours of sleep before leaving for the airport;
  2. The outbound flight (on the Saturday), wasn’t scheduled to land until 7.10pm, and whilst this wouldn’t necessarily pose a problem, I had read somewhere that La Liga clubs often move their fixtures to the Saturday night to accommodate TV scheduling. If that happened to our match, the Ryanair flight wouldn’t get us into Barcelona in sufficient time to make kick-off – which was a risk I didn’t fancy taking;
  3. Ryanair always appear to be the cheaper option, but by the time you add on the various additional charges (some of which are compulsory), the cost escalates. For example, you have to pre-book seats, and if you want hold luggage, that’s extra too. In the end, by the time I had indicated that, yes, I would very much like to have a fully-qualified pilot please (little did I know, they would soon be in short supply), and once I had answered the question ‘Sure, will you be wanting fuel in the plane as well, will you?’ in the affirmative, the total cost rapidly exceeded the GDP of a small African nation.

In the end, it worked out considerably cheaper to book our flights with different airlines, and because I was already struggling to stay within budget (plus, the flight times were much better), I decided the extra admin was worth it.

I then found a nice – albeit basic – hotel, just off Las Ramblas, and booked the Saturday and Sunday nights to complete our trip.

I’d done it. I had successfully arranged a three day trip to Barcelona, for my son and I to see the (current) greatest footballer in the world in action. All I had to do now, was hope Messi didn’t suffer an injury in the intervening six weeks, because surely that was the only thing which could possibly ruin our visit?…

Just a couple of weeks later, I realised how close I had come to making a serious error with our flights, when Ryanair revealed to the world they had committed what, in business terms, is known as a ‘monumental fuck-up’, by arranging for all their pilots to go off on holiday at the same time. Genius.

The news got better, too (well, for me, anyway), because soon afterwards, Barça revealed they were switching the match to the Saturday night after all. I had come so close to booking with Ryanair, and now not only was there a good chance that flight was cancelled, even if it did go ahead, it wouldn’t have got us to the match in time.

I breathed a sigh of relief.  Thank goodness I had trusted my instincts, and made the smart move. Thank goodness I had paid that little bit extra, and booked our outbound flight with Monarch instead…

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Just in case you haven’t heard, and missed the sarcasm in that last sentence, a few weeks ago Monarch airlines ceased trading (with very little warning). Yes, I had booked our flights with an airline that seemingly had plenty of pilots, and would certainly get us to Barcelona in plenty of time for the match, if only they weren’t about to go out of fucking business.

To cut a long story short, in the last two weeks I have had to not only re-book our outbound flights with yet another airline (at considerable extra expense), but because there were no alternative options on the Saturday, I have had to switch our travel plans to fly today, Friday, a day earlier than I intended. This meant, in turn, that I also had to book an extra night in a different hotel for tonight (our original hotel, where we are staying tomorrow and Sunday, is unfortunately fully-booked).

To make matters worse, I had booked the Monarch flights on my debit card, which offers me no financial (or ATOL) protection whatsoever, and it remains to be seen whether I will ever get the money back.

The upshot is, I have now spent more than twice my original budget, but I keep telling myself that it will be worth it when we get there, and surely nothing else can possibly go wrong?

Oh, hang on. I forgot to mention (and you may have noticed), that Barcelona is currently experiencing considerable civil unrest, following the recent Independence Referendum, which has not only divided Catalonia, but the whole of Spain. Generally speaking, when taking your timid seven-year-old son away for the weekend, it’s best to try and avoid violent protests, riots, water cannons and rubber bullets. If I’d wanted that kind of excitement, I could have taken him to Stoke.

In fact, such is the current turmoil in Barcelona, the last league match at the Camp Nou ended up being played behind closed doors. Imagine travelling all that way, and not being allowed into the stadium for the match.

As I type this week’s entry, I am still worried that our trip could ultimately turn out to be of the most expensive mistakes I have ever made (even accounting for my questionable car history). Or, it could end up being one of the best things I have ever done, and the most amazing collection of memories for my son and I.

You’ll have to wait until next time to find out (or, just watch the news over the weekend).

Wish me luck…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ernst Stavro Blogfeld

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This week’s entry has been inspired by my eldest son, Ollie.

Admittedly, my blog is often inspired by our boys, it’s just that they don’t usually know about it. They are an endless source of comedic material, as they each stumble from one inadvertently-hilarious situation to the next (very much like their father).

On this occasion, however, whilst Ollie didn’t necessarily come up with the idea I have moulded into this week’s entry, he certainly ignited the spark in my twisted little mind.

On Wednesday morning, as he got ready for school, Ollie randomly starting talking about James Bond, and asked me whether I thought a good replacement for Daniel Craig would be Sean Connery. I immediately laughed at this suggestion, and his little face dropped.

“But you said Connery was the best Bond ever!”

I had to explain to Ollie that, whilst that is indeed the case (and anyone who suggests otherwise is mistaken), there are two very good reasons why, when Daniel Craig does eventually hang up his Beretta, and trades in that Aston Martin for a Honda Jazz (the vehicle of choice for the modern pensioner), Sean Connery is not really a feasible replacement.

Firstly, and surely the main reason why Connery is no longer suited to the role of James Bond, is that he is really fucking old. Hang on, let me check…. Yeah, he’s 87. Even the most die-hard Connery fans must now accept that his age effectively rules him out of an unlikely return as 007. I guess he could perhaps make a cameo appearance somewhere, but I get the impression Sean might not be up for that, as, by all accounts, he was a miserable git forty years ago, and his mood has seemingly deteriorated with each passing year.

Secondly, Connery has already returned to the role of Bond twice – officially, in 1971’s hugely disappointing Diamonds Are Forever, and then unofficially, in the 1983 abomination which was Never Say Never Again.

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If we were to plot those two films on a ‘Disappointment Graph’, and continue the ‘Curve of Failure’ as it descends down past Stockport County’s start to the 2017-18 season, every Radiohead album since Ok Computer, and the KitKat Chunky with Peanut Butter, Lord only knows how dire a Connery-led Bond film would be now. It might even be worse than Battleship *shudders* (seriously, if you haven’t seen it, just imagine Rihanna – yes, that Rihanna – battling alien sea-monsters in order to save the planet… then lower your already rock-bottom expectations by 80%).

As ever, I digress.

Once I had explained to Ollie that Sean Connery was not a viable replacement for Daniel Craig (who, for what it’s worth, has been an excellent Bond, and I for one am delighted he has agreed to do another film), the conversation went thus:

“Well, what about George Lazenby then? He looks young.”

“No, Ol. He already looked middle-aged in OHMSS, and that was released in 1969. He’s nearly as old as Connery.”

“Timothy Dalton?”

“Also too old.”

“Roger Moore?”

“Too dead.”

“Pierce Brosnan?”

“I still haven’t forgiven him for Die Another Day.

The conversation got me thinking, however, that if any of those actors were to return as James Bond (with the exception of the late great Sir Roger, may he Rest In Peace), the film titles and plot lines would need to be adapted to suit their advancing years in life.

Just imagine, if every Bond film had featured older versions of the actors….

Dr, No, Please (1962) – Following a week or two of suffering with a burning sensation whilst urinating, Bond attends his local GP surgery and undergoes a prostate examination.

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From Russia For Love (1963) – An ageing 007 struggles with erectile dysfunction, so purchases some mail order Viagra pills from the Soviet Union.

Coldfinger (1964) – After decades of repeatedly pulling the trigger on his Beretta and Walther PPK, James Bond develops Reynaud’s Syndrome in his right hand, and starts a prescribed course of Nifedipine.

Thunderball (1965) – Bond wins £500,000 on the National Lottery, by successfully guessing five numbers plus the Thunderball. He then wastes the money on pointless things that he doesn’t need, because it’s always old people who seem to win the lottery, when they no longer need the money.

You Only Live Twice More (1967) – Having cheated death on countless occasions – sometimes in extremely unlikely, and physically impossible, circumstances – Blofeld (a relentless cat lover) informs Bond that he has now used up seven of his nine lives, and will shortly run out of luck. He then leaves him in an easily escapable situation.

At Her Majesty’s Secret Pleasure (1969) – Bond inappropriately slaps Moneypenny on the arse, following a meeting with M, and is charged with sexual harassment. Following a public announcement of the charges, 2,453 further women come forward with their own allegations, and Bond is sent to jail. His incarceration is, however, kept secret by the Government.

Diamond Weddings Are Forever (1971) – In a highly improbable alternative universe, Bond actually settled down with Moneypenny at the age of 24, and they now celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary at a swanky hotel in London.

Live A Bit Then Die (1973) – Now in his late 80’s, Bond reflects on a lifetime spent in the world of espionage, and ponders his own mortality.

The Man With The Older Gums (1974) – After decades of smoking, Bond visits the dentist, and is diagnosed with periodontal gum disease.

The Spine Who Loved Me (1977) – 007 undergoes back surgery, to have two discs in his lumbar spine replaced, following which he has a new lease of life, playing golf twice a week with Q, and attending local Council meetings about all the dog poo and litter in the streets.

Manraking (1979) – Roger Moore spends a delightful summer’s afternoon in the garden, something he wouldn’t have been able to enjoy, had he not undergone spinal surgery just two years earlier.

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For Your Eye Test Only (1981) – Having written-off a very expensive Aston Martin prototype for the third time this year, and following an unfortunate incident where Bond mistakes a hat-stand for Moneypenny, and is caught indecently exposing himself to it outside M’s office, Q-branch insists 007 undergoes an eye-test.

Octogenarianpussy (1983) – Bond moves into a retirement village, where he meets 86-year-old Maud Adams, who, like all single women in their eighties, is surrounded by hundreds of cats.

A View To A Kilimanjaro (1985) – Following the passing of his fourteenth wife, Bond’s children insist he should ‘get away for a bit’, so he books a Shearing’s Coach Tour of Tanzania.

The Living Room Lights (1987) – Having nagged him for weeks, Bond finally succumbs to Moneypenny’s demands, and fixes the two blown lightbulbs in their lounge.

Licence to Grill (1989) – Timothy Dalton organises a BBQ for the residents of his retirement village, which ends in disaster when one elderly neighbour chokes to death on a spicy chicken wing. Bond immediately assumes foul play, and breaks an ankle whilst trying to vault over the retirement home wall, after he spots a white cat on the other side, and assumes Blofeld has returned once again.

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Goldeneyes (1995) – Pierce Brosnan faces his most terrifying enemy yet, after it transpires Sean Bean’s character, Alec Trevelyan, did not in fact die when a 1,500-tonne satellite dish landed on his face in Cuba. Now in his late-sixties, Alec has developed cataracts, which, due to a quirk of nature, have turned his eyes gold.

Tamara Never Dies (1997) – 007 befriends his 102-year-old neighbour, Tamara Titsworth, who claims to have cheated death even more times than he has. Rather inevitably, they sleep together, before enjoying a delightful game of Bridge with Frank and June from across the corridor.

The Waltz Is Not Enough (1999) – Despite a moderately well-received Tango in the first round of their retirement home’s dancing competition, Bond and his partner, 82-year-old former model Betty Bangzer, fail to win a prize after she slips during their Viennese Waltz in the final.

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Dine Another Day (2002) – Bond goes on hunger strike in his retirement home, after his carers refuse to allow him to sleep with a gun under his pillow, ‘just in case’.

Chicken Royale (2006) – A decrepit Bond is clearly confused, and increasingly agitated, whilst trying to order lunch at a busy Burger King in the heart of London.

Quandary of Solace (2008) – Having witnessed yet another lover murdered before his very eyes, Bond finally decides that enough is enough, and he would be better off seeing out his remaining years without any female company.

Skyfall (2012) – Bond breaks a hip falling from an unstable ladder in his front garden, whilst trying to re-position his satellite dish in order to watch Bargain Hunt.

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Spectacles (2015) – Thirty-four years after failing his eye test in For Your Eye Test Only, Bond finally accepts that it is time he started wearing varifocals, but insists it will only be for ‘close up reading, and the occasional assassination’.

Thanks for reading x

Credits:

Blog inspiration – my son, Ollie

Blofeld picture (and title) – my good friend, Ant

Everything else – me.

 

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