Perfume River

Perfume River

Autumn is about 3/4 of the way through the year. Whilst the brightest and longest days of the year may be behind us, we’re right in the middle of the BEST days.

 

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Autumn – good, init?

The best colours, the best shadows, sunrises, sunsets. Fast changing weather and the challenges of wintry conditions start showing their faces.

 

(Appallingly cliched analagy alert) A bit like my life. Whilst being young was great, the first couple of decades of adulthood were full of, you know, STUFF. So, my bright, silky skinned, jet black barnet days are long behind me.

Phew!

Because THIS, this is the life I’ve been waiting for……

Utopia. Pure and simple.

I guess one man’s utopia is another man’s dystopia.

Clean. Healthy. Loving. Truthful.

What on earth has this all got to do with a book review?

 

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Busy here on the injury bench, although, I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with Charlie!

Well, here I am on the injury bench, Charlie for company, feeling all, er, all wordy……

 

THE LAST DOG ON EARTH by Adrian J Walker.

Yet another holiday read. The main protagonist, Reg (and his dog Linekar) have ended up living in a post-apocolyptic dystopia. Only that’s not how it feels to them.

One man’s…… oh I’ve said that.

I see, going off subject a bit here, that White Star’s Andy Palmer wrote another piece for The Guardian. Nice. Run Deep Magazine got a plug too. I’ve got a column in Run Deep. Tenuous link to fame there…..

Interesting that people I follow in the media and sporting world tend NOT to be columnists for The Daily Mail (no link inserted there, naturally).

By way of example, Kate Carter, Adharanand Finnish, Rob Deering…… and, er, Andy Palmer!

Anyway, one man’s dystopia…..

the last dog on earthSo, THE LAST DOG ON EARTH

On a the face of it, a quirky, light hearted romp, told through the voice of a foul-mouthed mutt, around a make believe world where barely anyone has survived a civil war led apocalypse.

Linekar (the dog) and Reg (his owner) have remained in London, creating their own power and scavenging for food. Living a simple, simple existence in isolation. Dependent on each other for company and the routine they both enjoy.

The sparse pattern of lights that remain on view are the only suggestion that a hint of life in the city goes on. There are barely enough (of these lights) for a football team (which is sort of the point), and we learn that gruesome deaths and a hurried exodus has accounted for nearly all of the city’s population.

Gradually, we encounter those that rule the deserted streets and others who have remained. Belief doesn’t have to be suspended too much.

The rhetoric and undercurrent of hatred which we seem to have cultivated in Britain is enough for me to join the dots from today’s realities to Walker’s imagined future. Scary.

It’s a fabulous, moody yet pacey, look at relationships, at how we interact and, yes, how our dogs become part of our personality (as well as suggesting what THEY might be thinking).

Reg and Linekar have their crude but effective existence blown apart after a mission to find fuel for their generator.

Inadvertently, and unwillingly, they become guardians to a lost child.

Their journey, their bonds, their fights and fears as they venture further out into the world now run by extremists, are all grippingly delivered.

With echoes of one of my favourite ever books, Station 11, this band of misfits grows, makes allies, encounters relics from the past (everyday life items which we don’t even notice).

The battle to avoid the ultimate test to determine whether they still have a use in the world (I’m avoiding too many spoilers) is terrifying, absorbing and quite humbling.

 

charlie angry
Charlie’s best ‘DID SOMEONE SAY SQUIRRELS!?’ face

A book which tackles extremists controlling the future, mass murder, the destruction of what we call ‘civilization’ and yet can open a chapter with the line “Squirrels are c***s” is a rare trick I reckon.

 

From this book, I look closer at the things that frighten me in the world more and more, perhaps ask myself questions, and definitely look at Charlie and wonder what HE’S thinking!

Keep on keeping people……..

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After the Lord Mayor’s Show

After the Lord Mayor’s Show

To be honest, I’ve used the phrase ‘suspend disbelief’ quite a lot recently, mostly in relation to books.

Anyone who knew me 10 years ago or more would have certainly needed to suspend theirs if they’d been told I was going to run a 50 mile ultra marathon. Myself included!

 

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Did I mention I’d ran 50 miles?

Well, I only went and did it!

 

Which I might have mentioned…….. HERE

For some reason I’ve been devouring books of late, there’s been some real page turners, some inspirational factual volumes – Dean Karnazes’ The Road To Sparta was a good read (see this BLOG), and so was the incredible Clem Attlee biography by John Bew (again, see this BLOG).

Also whizzed through whilst we were doing SWEET F ALL in Kefalonia the other week, was Slade House by David Mitchell. Now, I’m not normally your fantasy, nor horror, fiction type of guy, but for some reason, this relatively small paperback ended up on the credit card with I dread to think how many other books on our last Waterstones binge.

 

pile of books
A trip to the book shop is like a trip to the gym for us!

I know nothing of Mitchell, nor, indeed the genre, but what a quirky, mind altering, (VERY) darkly humorous tale it is. Elements of more simple ‘scary’ stories from childhood combine with quite disturbing blackness of hidden alleys, gates and stolen souls.

 

There is a pace and cruel wit to the exploration of the characters’ personalities and how the ‘victims’ are chosen.

The villains, if indeed that is what they are, are comedic in their evil ways, and their increasingly desperate methods of enticing are almost Laurel and Hardy, whilst being as sinister as Burke and Hare. Quite a trick.

 

The house, set secretly and classically behind a tiny gate in a dark high walled alley, holds the secrets and the spirits of the past. Its occupants need to feed on the right type of soul to fuel their otherworldly existence, inevitably based around a spooky loft.

It’s full of wonderful clichés countered by twisted contradictions.

The cyclical need for sacrifice culminates with a Halloween party where the guests get more than they bargained for. Well one of them does, for the others…….. (avoiding too much spoiler there)

It might make you think twice about that enticing alley on your next run, but it will definitely up the heart rate and turn the page.

It took me out of my comfort zone, and off the sun lounger, to a bizarre, only slightly unbelievable world. And I fairly rattled through it.

I have many influences in my reading and writing, one of my favourite writers, and motivational characters is AL KENNEDY and, she has, perhaps unwittingly, done as much as anyone to encourage my writing ambitions……..

“Have more humility. Remember you don’t know the limits of your own abilities. Successful or not, if you keep pushing beyond yourself, you will enrich your own life – and maybe even please a few strangers.”  A.L. KENNEDY

I can, whenever I am inclined, be found at:

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kbonfield@live.com

Don’t forget – free poetry and other ramblings at my other BLOG

Panda Eyes

Panda Eyes

Feel free to blame John Bew and Clement Attlee for holding up my book writing progress.

One of the books I devoured on holiday was Citizen Clem. Nicky and I are both avid readers, so a week in the sun with our books was a very welcome rest.

Holiday BooksNicky claims (without any foundation, I hasten to add) that I am prone to being more ‘high brow’ in my book choice. We actually both enjoy being entertained and challenged and are as happy to be lightly titillated by a read as we are to have our beliefs, or realities suspended.

It’s probably true that I’m more likely to pick up a 700 page political biography, but then I suppose I’m the whiny, leftie dreamer amongst us!

I imagine this weighty volume, which kept me in sunglasses for many hours, leaving gorgeous white rings on my weathered face, has become prominent again in recent months after the apparent resurgence in Socialism, and of the Labour movement, as Jeremy Corbyn led his party to savage the hideous majority previously enjoyed by Theresa May.

Truthfully, I’m no great political historian and cannot claim to have been a frustrated Attleeite awaiting a chance to be part of a larger crusade. Aware of his tenure through regular references and opinion columns in the type of newspaper I lean towards, his name was also our dinner table topic a few months ago.

“Who was Prime Minister when the NHS was founded?” Why this question? Nicky and I share a home with Frank, Nicky’s father. As regular readers will know, Frank suffers from dementia and quite often struggles to join in topical conversations over dinner.

 

holiday writng
Not a bad spot for a bit of scribbling

Whilst he may struggle, on occasions, to remember the days events, either domestic or from the news, he can quite often hold more detailed conversations when delving into his longer term memory.

 

With this in mind, we sometimes pick something in the news (like the NHS) and try and relate it to occurrences in the past. We try and have our social time over a meal each evening and this ‘tool’ we’ve developed can often lead to a more inclusive conversation.

Anyway, between us we, I’m ashamed to say, failed to answer with any certainty, until we delved into the magic little google machine. To be fair to Frank, he was only 9 at the time!

I picked the book up at Bristol Airport on the way out, and was initially daunted by it’s weight, page count and small print (and luggage allowance!).  BUT, as Nicky will testify, I became quite antisocial as I feasted on the glorious cradle to grave chronicle of one of the truly ‘great’ Britons.

A man who was born in the 19th century, fought in one world war, was deputy leader of the country through another, won an absolute landslide general election victory for Labour and steered the country through the carnage of the post war years, his is a tale to behold.

It is a chronicle told with poise and elegance, an insight into the man as much through what he himself read as much as what he did. Bew’s ability to make such a potentially academic subject so ALIVE is wonderful.

 

holiday running
We took our training VERY seriously on holiday…

After a few days of slowly cooking myself in the sun, with my head buried deep in the book, I felt I truly knew this gentleman of a statesman. Despite Attlee dying the year I was born, I find him to be the type of political figure who feels me relevant to me.

 

Having enjoyed (enjoyed!) a 40 mile outing the day before our holiday, I felt I was ready for, firstly, a REST and secondly the Gower 50 which is rapidly approaching…

 

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Nicky still putting the lengths in after the sun had disappeared

I managed a few little runs on holiday and a couple of lovely sea swims just to tick over the fitness but with only now a week to go until the big one, I don’t feel I need, nor would I benefit from, any more epic runs.

 

So, this weekend we’re off to a secret location where I’ll be supporting Nicky as she, yet again, pushes herself to find new skills, new limits, new potential, and most wonderfully, new adventure. Yes, she’s making her debut in………..

Find out next week!

 

 

 

PS I’m a bit shy about this – but I occasionally post poems and scribblings here too –

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Air For A Cool Breeze

Hot Air For A Cool Breeze

Pink FloydI guess sometimes our heroes really ARE ghosts. We’ve all lost people too early, before they had chance to realise their own dreams and potentials. Equally, I imagine we’ve all drawn inspiration from those lost to us and, maybe, felt the urge to push a little bit harder to realise OUR dreams and find OUR capabilities whilst we are still blessed with the good fortune of health to do so.

2017-09-27 16.51.35Grief top-trumps is a game I find objectionable, the idea that there is a scale of tragedy worthy of different levels of sympathy is, quite frankly, unsavoury at best. And whilst I’m airing my gggrrrrs, what is this social media phenomenon of being asked to ‘prove’ you care by ‘liking’ or ‘sharing’ somebody else’s story? I don’t need to prove I’ve read all of your post in order to care. And yes I DO know how tragic cancer can be. Believe me. I know. tragic, cruel, relentless, indiscriminate, debilitating, destructive, painful and despicable. Yup.

So, where was I? Ah yes, ghosts as heroes.

road to spartaIt’s a breath of fresh air to read some books. The Road To Sparta by Dean Karnazes…. Now, I don’t know how many losses or tragedies have befallen the Karnazes family but I do know that he tragically lost his sister just as she turned 18 (the details of which are covered in his first book). This latest tome is a journey into his family history (him being of Greek parentage) and deep into the history of the Greek nation and the people therein.

Told with a wit and eloquence often lacking in ‘sports’ biographies and combining, cleverly, his strength of character and his confidence with his self depreciating humour and his self doubts.

Embarking on a mission to truly follow in the footsteps of the original ultra marathon man Pheidippides, it charts his frustrations as he struggled to make this happen alone. Ultimately tracing the route by competing in the uber long Spartathon, he compares his progress, diet, emotions and fatigue to how he imagines Pheidippides was coping way way back when.

 

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Spartathlon – a very VERY long race

Acknowledging the new modern fandangle of aid stations, crews and fuelling products, Karnazes made his attempt by sticking to traditional Greek foodstuffs instead of tubes of sickly gunk and power bars. These are the foods that would have been available in 490bc, although Dean concludes that the stomachs of ancient times must have been made of strong stuff.

 

His constitution wasn’t playing ball and he graphically describes his stomach churning attempts to eat or digest this food in the second half of the race. Don’t read these passages too close to your Greek supper, as I did on holiday!!

The second half of the 153 mile race was survived on water, an iron will and muscle memory. Hallucinations (or reality?), despair, negotiations with his maker, negotiations with his mind, body and soul are all charted and delivered in Karnazes’ trademark boisterous, page turning rhetoric.

Yes, it’s ‘in yer face’ stuff, the way life should be lived, honouring those ghosts. This book should be read at full tilt. you don’t need to be an ultra marathon runner (or a runner at all) to enjoy this book, nor a Karnazes aficionado, although you may well become both before long as a direct result of reading it.

I’m not claiming to produce a literary chronicle, but we do like a good read……… and this is DEFINITELY that.

I think, tomorrow, I shall run with my ghosts!

 

Anyway, find me on Facebook – here, Twitter – here, Instagram – here

AND, please check out the new online magazine RUN DEEP where you might just find some more words by yours truly!

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Silence Is Golden)

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Silence Is Golden)

I was a publican back in the day.

 

off to bed
Off to bed!

I couldn’t do that now. I’m tucked up in bed hours before pubs close!

 

Anyway, a member of staff systematically stole off me for a while back then. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was quite clever what he did and it took me a while and a couple of observant and loyal customers to catch him.

Obviously, his welcome in the pub ended at that moment.

It was quite a surprise when, a few months later, I had a telephone call from a pub chain in London asking me to provide a reference for this chap. Apparently it was for a key holder position.

After holding back a whole Ramsey of expletives, I apologised and said that I was unable to provide a reference. Rather than wade into the reasons why, I decided to simply confirm his employment dates and then say nothing more.

I try to focus on the positives in this blog, it is only my thoughts and my opinions, yet I tend to avoid long descriptions of things which I don’t particularly recommend.

 

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She’s in there somewhere

My wonderful and relentlessly inspiring (and HOT) wife, Nicky completed another swim today, a 5km river swim. It’s an out and back course with the ‘out’ being against the incoming tide. She truly is amazing……

 

So, a review you say?? Of this event you say??

I’d rather tell you about the latest book I’ve read………….

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathon Safran Foer, a quite sparkling read.

Tackling one of modern history’s most tragic and startling episodes, the story is told to the backdrop of the terrorists attacks on The World Trade Centre’s twin towers, 9/11.

Whilst a work of fiction, amongst the, quite literally, thousands of tragic tales resulting from the attacks. It is a tale of loss, of identity and of searching told through the eyes and mind of a 9 year old boy. Oskar, the 9 year old, lost his father to the attacks.

In searching for reasons and understanding, Oskar comes across a key. He believes this key will open something, a door, a box, a security lock and the story is his trail through New York attempting to piece together a mystery, to find a connection to his father again.

2017-07-06 07.34.45Voices from family members past are used to link the characters and bonds of love, friendship and kinship are quite beautifully knitted together. The fact that this process is narrated by a (admittedly unique and advanced) 9 year old, makes the story even more beautiful.

If you don’t shed tears, chuckle, and need a hug or two from reading this book I’d be most surprised. It takes some ‘reading into’ to get the feel of the prose and time structure, but once you’re in it, you’re staying!

I won’t give too much away, as the journey with the key, the history as told by his grandmother and the snippets of clues as to what ACTUALLY happened to his father are mesmerising.

Certainly one of my favourite reads of the year so far.

 

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Great Grandad’s prompt and efficient taxi service

Nicky and are both avid readers and, whilst we have our favourite styles and authors, nothing is off limits for having a read. We’ve agreed, too, that it’s ok to give in and put a book down half read if we’re really not engrossed by it.

 

Nicky is certainly more prolific than I, perhaps because she doesn’t rattle away on the keyboard like this, instead happily snuggled up with Charlie and I on the little sofa, ploughing through the chapters whilst I click-clack away.

 

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You just wait until I can reach the handle

In fact, only this evening, she proclaimed “I still haven’t found her head!” whilst buzzing with the intrigue and page turning suspense of another Peter James novel….

 

Anyway, I had a lovely trail run whilst Nicky was swimming today, followed by a well earned sausage sarnie. Our Saturday date with the family is becoming more regular, and the grandchildren didn’t disappoint with their comedy gold moments…

VERY peaceful after they’d left!

Just thought I’d check in…

Keep on keeping on people….