No Problem

No Problem

I try, in these ramblings, to avoid politics, religion, in fact controversy of any kind. Sometimes I may say something which makes the occasional reader bristle. In general though, this blog is a designated place of safety….

asleep on airplaneSo, it is with some trepidation that I commence typing a little piece I scribbled on the overnight flight home. During which I repeatedly thought to myself, how DO people sleep on airplanes?!?

A (ficticious) character, who has moved into my head whilst I’m creating my ‘novel’ (yes, it IS happening…..slowly), is know to chant “god loves a trier, but does he trust the non-believers?”. My atheism forms part of my own belief system but certainly doesn’t intend to influence, nor comment on, anybody else’s. It just seemed something that this character would say.

 

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Christmas, Negril style

Whilst in the land of the birth of Rastafarianism, I saw a plaque with a fabulous saying carved into it. Think of those motivational or loving slogans found on pieces of home-art in The Range or Dunelm, but found in a beach market stall in Jamaica.

 

It simply read “God made Marijuana, man made alcohol……”

I don’t partake of any of the three nouns in that sentence, yet I found myself nodding.

After 14 days of these beach traders and their, let’s face it, stoned, dry humour and “no problem, reeespect” attitude to seemingly everything, it was quite emotional to be wheeling our suitcases alongside the beach ready to begin our epic journey back to (freezing cold) reality.

This disappointment was exaggerated by the particularly drunk pair making public fools of themselves (and potentially jeopardising the flight) on the way home to a Gatwick seemingly populated by the stressed, angry, jostling, selfish majority.

So, there you go, maybe, just maybe, those guys and girls on the Negril beach are on to something……

 

Anyway, approaching the end of the year, I found myself writing a festive, reflective piece for my regular column in the excellent online magazine Run Deep. Mulling over the years pictures, it struck me what an absolutely extraordinary year it has been.

 

de icing car
We’re home!

 

Ahhh, regular readers (if you’re still out there after our little hiatus?) will be only too aware of Nicky and I regularly proclaiming to be ‘on it’. Well, we’ve really pushed the boat out this time.

In fact, and I do digress rather, always trust the advice of a local……

Having managed to get Nicky out on a little catamaran dinghy (we literally ‘pushed the boat out’) whilst in the Caribbean, we attempted to get a boat again on the penultimate day of our amazing stay. The wind was up. Consequently, unseen by us, so was the red flag. I thought it meant Jeremy Corbyn was in town…

We went to the desk…

“Yeah mon?”

“We’d like to go sailing, please”

“Not today…..” (pointing at the red flag)

“Tomorrow, then, our last day?”

“Nobody sailing tomorrow…..” with a knowing smile.

 

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Like a mill pond…. until it wasn’t!

We awoke the following day to find all the resort’s and beach traders’ boats absent from the beach. In hiding apparently. The waves were seriously crashing. It’s almost like the locals knew….

Anyway, back to… er… where was I? Oh yes. ON IT!! We did run the hot Hot HOT Reggae Marathon (read all about it HERE) and a couple of beach jogs and a little bit of swimming. But mostly it was all about the four ‘R’s…

READING, RECLINING, (W)RITING and RAIDING the fabulous all inclusive food and tempting restaurants on offer.

Yes indeed, I came home 8lbs heavier than I went!

Not only this, but we’ve started to push the boat out with endurance targets and ambitions for the year ahead….. there’s talk of over night running adventures, long distance triathlons. There’s also talk of my rather beautiful, inspiring lady wife coming out of her Ultra Marathon retirement, watch this space.

So, yes, we’re ON IT!!

Oh and hopefully we’ll be stuffing an envelope with some of those shiny new folding notes in the hope of saving up for a return to the streets of Negril (and why would you go all that way and NOT run a marathon?)…….

 

 

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100 Metros

100 Metros

Nicky and I watched this fabulous film recently. By coincidence, I needed to carry out a film review, using strict format and word count, as part of a trial for a copywriting brokerage.

If you’re inspired by extraordinary people overcoming extraordinary barriers to attempt extraordinary endurance feats, then you’ll love this film. Or, indeed, if you simply enjoy a full-on tear jerking love story, or a rollicking adventure, I’m sure you’ll be lost in the emotion and action of 100 Metros.

Anyway, it’s over on my writing blog…. HERE

Blogging From The Bench

Blogging From The Bench

2017-10-14 10.01.44I stood and watched a hundred or so runners, including my rather wonderful lady wife, Nicky, head off towards the moors.

Jealous? Moi??

 

 

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Nicky ready to follow those ORANGE flags

“Follow the ORANGE flags!!” yelled myself, the race crew and other spectators. A race of 3 halves, as it were. Pure Trail’s Dartmoor 3-in-1. Those who had elected to try and run all three race on the day were to follow the “ORANGE FLAGS” on the first loop. At 9.75miles this was the longest of the day.

 

Not only the longest (and even longer for those who drifted off course in the mist) race but also the hilliest and the foggiest as it turned out.

In another guise, I did home delivery for Sainsbury’s (You KNEW you recognised me from somewhere!) and for a while we used to cover these west moorland villages. And what a lovely village to base a race, the quirkily named Peter Tavy. Quite a magical air to the village as we optimistically parked  the mini on the wet field. (“it’ll be drier by the time we leave!”)

 

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I wonder just WHAT they keep in the shed

The village hall, acting as HQ for this cracking event, is classic fare – the modern era only nodded towards with the addition of a defibulator, not that heart failure is particularly a modern phenomenon.

 

Anyway, off they all went. Jealous? Moi?

I’d probably have preferred to have been gallivanting across the moors chasing sheep rather than perched amongst the kit bags in the village hall, notepad in hand, trying for all the world to look like “a writer”!

Well, if I DO want to be a writer, then write I must…..

2017-10-14 11.11.28But, my self-diagnosed fooked ankle (did I mention I did The Gower 50 ultra last week?? – read all about it HERE), isn’t in a hurry to get running again, so coat holder and cake eater I was. I also had a wander in the lane and found a Cornish pasty recipe on the village notice board!

 

 

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Steve Skedgell, you know he’s in charge with that hi-viz & air horn

I’m a bit of a Pure Trail fan, trail running events, usually with a twist, created by runners, for runners. We had a great time at their Race The Tide earlier in the year (blogged about, naturally, HERE). They have a regular group runs across the moors and are genuinely good guys to be around.

 

With a 9.75 mile race, followed by a 7 miler and finally 5 miles (with different coloured flags to follow), some were charging around, then using varied techniques to keep warm before the next race’s start time, the day was definitely one for clever pacing.

2017-10-14 12.24.16Rather dangerously for me, I ended up chatting to Steve, half of the duo who are responsible for Pure Trail’s success, whilst the runners were out on race 1. Dangerous? Well, inevitably talk of ultra challenges, “ooooo 150 miles on a canal…” “oooooo MOUNTAINS!” etc etc……..

 

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Jamie after race 1, write your own caption……

So after some quaffing, and scribbling, and chatting, I limped outside to watch the runners arrive back to base. A regular fixture in this blog, Jamie Bullock (see blog about his Stoke Gabriel Carnival 10k HERE) came cruising back, well inside the top 10. In fact he finished 8th overall after all three races.

 

Nicky meanwhile came back with plenty of time to spare. Despite this, the week’s chaos, tight calves and poor night’s sleep had caught up with her. She opted to partake of the three C’s instead of lining up for race 2 – Coffee, Cake and a Cuddle.

Anyway, a great event and lovely day out on the moors, we took a scenic route home, the mist having cleared, and headed for a chilled evening.

BUT – the real action of the weekend was the pebble skimming at Elberry Cove on Sunday, as four generations of this wonderful and kooky family I’m so proud to belong to took a stroll (or limp in my case) in the warm autumnal breeze.

 

 

 

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……..

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

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

70 pence for 2 hours

70 pence for 2 hours

Not only has Sherborne in Dorset (NOT Sherbourne in KENT!) got a White Stuff, lovely coffee shops, stunning period architecture and a well posh independent school, it’s also a mere 70 pence to park for 2 hours.

 

Full-Carbon-Fiber-Aero-Road-Bicycle-Frame-Super-Light-Bike-Frame-Road
Nicky opted to buy a cap rather than a full carbon fibre TT bike

We do love a bargain.

 

Sherborne was pit stop 2 on our journey. Our first port of call was Tri Uk in Yeovil. I had previously had my bargain wetsuit from these guys, online, but had never visited this sweet shop for endurance fans.

We saw bikes for hundreds, but mostly thousands, of pounds and a bike in front of a television screen which you could sit on and ride with people in Japan. We obviously looked a little bit out of place as it took a while for us to be acknowledge as genuine potential customers. But, yes, even us oldies are interested in shiny things and bright moving pictures.

We managed, between us, to only buy a cap. Oh, and coffee, toasties and cake, naturally.

So what was our destination on this trip east?

Ferndown. Yup, the Premier Inn in Ferndown. A mere mile from the start (and finish) of the Ferndown Try a Tri. A triathlon, not a marathon, ultra marathon or trail run. Nope, it’s DEFINITELY a triathlon.

 

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Ahh, the classic kit laid out piccy

Me? Doing a triathlon? Really? Absolutely not!! I’m sure regular readers will guess…. yes my astonishing, adventurous, inspirational (and HOT) lady wife Nicky made her triathlon debut on Sunday. And what a marvellous day it turned out to be.

 

Having blitzed the money we saved on parking on a meal out, although Nicky’s steak was rather disappointingly grizzly (it was heavily discounted as a result), we tucked up for a little bit of Strictly before trying to shake off the pre-race nerves and get some quality shut eye.

The chirpy chappy working reception in the hotel had furnished us with athlete worthy quantities of coffee sashes and we set about these after the alarm broke our fitful sleep at stupid o’clock.

 

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Nicky’s ‘how hard can it be’ pre-match gritted teeth grin!

Nicky braved a porridge pot as best she could and before we knew it we were making the short drive to the leisure centre. Sporting her tri-suit which, was as yet to see active service, and a couple of extra layers to combat the chilly, drizzly air, she registered and set about orientating herself with the event layout.

 

Any new activity, engaged for the first time, is daunting. Some of that apprehension dissipated as we realised that she was far from the only debutant. There appeared to be a full range of ages and levels of experience. We made our way to the swimming pool to watch the first waves complete their lengths using a variety of strokes and techniques.

A really friendly, supportive and inclusive atmosphere cloaked the whole event in a comforting glow despite the grey skies. Before I knew it, Nicky was poolside for her briefing and without any drama she was in. Etiquette in the pool was being observed on the whole and Nicky looked strong as she rattled off the lengths in front of her two lane companions.

 

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So fast through transition the pictures are just a blur

I rushed outside to see her jog along towards the tennis courts where the bike racking and transitions took place. I was so excited, and just bursting with pride, maybe a tad jealous, but mostly just motivated to replicate my incredible lady’s fabulous enthusiasm and drive to keep pushing the boundaries.

 

Before long she was jogging back out ready to mount her trusty stead and head to the streets of Ferndown. We had driven the 11 mile bike route the previous evening and found it to be prolifically marked (and marshalled on the day) and without any alarming hills or dangers.

Disappointingly, the vending machine back inside the leisure centre delivered me a black flat white (actually I quite enjoyed it) to warm the bones whilst I enjoyed watching the transition action. With start times spread out over an hour and a half and a selection of speeds on show, there was always someone passing to wish bon chance.

 

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Blimey, Nicky’s back!

Before I could say ‘blimey, here comes Nicky!’ I was saying ‘BLIMEY, here comes Nicky’!!

 

She gracefully dismounted (there had been quite a selection of dismounting styles) and trotted off to transition. Us spectators were welcome to enter the different areas as long as we didn’t impede the intrepid athletes. But, I’m pleased to report, the anticipated confusion and calamitous comedy was absent from transition.

Smoother than a particularly smooth smoothie, Nicky racked her bike and removed cycling related paraphernalia. Slightly shaking from the cycling effort, she calmly donned her running shoes and set off for the field.

 

The run was four laps (about 3 miles) of the sports fields alongside the centre and, again, it was great for spectators. Being able to see the whole course and your athletes several times, as well as little battles taking place, throughout the field, made for compelling viewing.

And then it was over.

And Nicky was absolutely buzzing.

She has the bug.

And, yet again, I’m just the proudest husband.

And I’m INSPIRED and motivated.

Which is handy.

As I’m doing THIS on Saturday.

 

 

 

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 –