Goodbye Horses

Saturday, 27 August 2011

I've never been a fan of horses.

Actually, I ought to qualify that statement. I've got nothing against the beasts themselves, they look pretty majestic without a saddle, stirrups and all that other horsey paraphernalia. It's the people that ride horses that get my goat.

I suppose if I were to examine my dislike of horsey people I'd probably remember when I was a boy and was bitten by a mangy old thing that wasn't long for the glue factory. His owner, some circus numpty, simply laughed. And I suppose the fact that ex-wife/partner (no.1) was a lover of horses and told me the following might have alienated me slightly:

'I doubt we'll remain together because my love of horses will outlive and outshine what I feel for you.'

Sure enough, ex-wife/partner (no.1)'s love for horses is as strong today as it was back then (1983) and Yours Truly is nothing but a memory and a name on a filed away Decree Absolute.

So when I met Jon Vann today for an eight mile run on Epsom Downs the likelihood of meeting at least one beast and man in unison was as sure as the Pope saying his prayers.

Actually, an experience of my meeting horse riders while out running was detailed within this blog. That's now lost like tears in rain since I deleted everything after being taken to task for my online mutterings. But it involved an over confidence in map reading and being geographically confused while being borne down upon by half a dozen race horses. In that instance a promise of the rapid and close quarter delivery of a left hook/right hook combination, to rider and horse alike, was enough to deter the mounted zealots from a continued confrontation.

Sure enough, as Jon and I ran toward Langley Vale, we caught up with four or five race horses, clip-clopping along the road, with riders on their backs clad in colourful riding garb. The fact that we caught up with them ought to provide a clue as to their speed.

I felt anger and despair well up inside me. Why, when you're onboard an animal that's bred and trained to move quicker than a German eyeing the remaining sunbed, would you travel at a snail's pace?

As we approached the group, which as you might imagine was followed by a line of cars that snaked up the hill and into the distance; one of the horses began to leap about in fright.

'Do you mind?' asked the rider, as his mount pirouetted around like an organic fairground ride. 'The horse is young and scares easily. If you wait there til we're gone. Thanks.'

In the past I might have told him where to put his request and continued running. Because that's what we were doing....running. Not standing around getting cold and looking at the disappearing sight of a knob end on a horse. But just lately I've been working hard at being nice. After all, it's nice to be nice. So I stopped and waited.

Now Jon's not a guy that enjoys conflict. He witnessed my previous meeting with the mounted zealots and still comments on it to this day. But just lately I've noticed a shortening of his fuse, a less liberal approach to fools and idiots.

'You shouldn't be on the road with it if you can't control it,' said Jon.

I don't think the rider heard as his charge leaped about like a loony as the group disappeared up the hill.

'I though I might have seen you in action, there,' Jon remarked. 'Getting soft in your old age? Poof.'

'It's nice to be nice, Jon,' I replied. 'They're gone now, let's crack on.'

And crack on we did. Jon must have been training pretty hard recently because I couldn't keep hold of him. He was way in front of me as we crossed the race course and made our way off-road toward Headley.

As I rounded a corner I saw another horse approaching being ridden by a young fella in a riding smock reminiscent of a Dennis the Menace jumper. I got closer and slowed down so as not to scare the beast. In my new found guise as Mr Nice Guy I even said 'good morning' to Dennis the Menace.

As I began to speed up I heard it. It was a muttered comment but the wind was from behind and it carried the word from the rider's mouth to my ear.


I turned around but Dennis had quickened the horse's speed to a canter and was disappearing from view. I fumed and ran on, attempting to close the distance between Jon and I. When I eventually caught him he said:

'I suppose you stopped for that horse as well.'

'I don't stop for horses anymore, mate. The people that ride them are all twats and I hope they spend all eternity in a fiery hell turning knackered old donkeys into glue.'

'That's more like it,' said Jon. 'Welcome back, mate.'

The Return of Vann the Man

Friday, 26 August 2011

You're not gonna believe this but I'm about to mention the 'R' word.


I was at the gym today and after having beasted myself to within an inch of my life (when I tell you this I have to say that I wasn't actually near death; but vomiting in one's own mouth while performing 'snake press ups' comes pretty close to the extreme end of physical exertion, right?) I got a text from my old pal and West Highland Way Race veteran, Jon Vann, which said:

'I'm back. Run tomorrow?'

Now when considered in a modern, electronically enabled communicative way, Jon might be regarded something of a Luddite. He doesn't do email; he thinks Facebook is an intellectual version of the 'pearl necklace'; and to him Tweeting is what the birds in his garden do just before he blats them with an air rifle for daring to approach his newly laid grass seed.

Despite being in receipt of a text that probably took Jon over twenty minutes to create, I replied quickly:

'Cool, name the time.'

After I showered, applied moisturiser, dressed and brushed my hair (Hair? ha, ha, ha....I'll get there before you), I received a reply:


Jon and I need not specify a meeting place, as we always meet outside the Leg of Mutton and Cauliflower public house. Now, I always told people that this pub had the longest name for a hostelry in Britain. However, I recently discovered that I was talking bollocks because I came across the fantastically entitled 'The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn.'

Long pub names matter not because The Leg of Mutton and Cauliflower is known locally as 'The Leg' and The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn is known in them parts as 'The Pub.'

But even expecting Jon to type 'The Leg' may have impacted negatively on the available time to make such a rendezvous on Saturday morning so I expected and received no reply.
This means that tomorrow I will be outside the Leg at 09:00 to meet Vann the Man and might even end up with a bloggable running tale. Whether I am or not I fully expect that every time that Jon and I are overtaken by a fitter and stronger runner, Jon will utter the words:
'Twat. I bet he can't drink as much beer as me.'


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

I once heard of a guy who had never bought a record in his life (I suppose that ought to be the overarching term of 'form of recorded performance' now given the availability of CD/MP3 etc).

Well, for me I'm the opposite. I've spent my life buying plastic, CD and MP3 and if I actually had everything I 'd ever purchased I'd have a fucking big collection. I suppose I should be happy that half of my collection was stolen some years ago (the thief is now dead. Karma? I wouldn't wish that on him plus whoever inherited his record collection now owns my original 45 of Gene Vincent's Race With The Devil).

But, in essence, I guess I'm looking for an easy blog post that requires little work because I'm tired and beaten now. So here goes, in a YouTube thankyouesque kind of way:

How I saw myself as a lad:

A  few years later and a whole lot older I appreciated the idea of 'live to fight another day' so I guess things were more like this:

I guess you might have picked up on the fact that both of these songs are based on the theme of leaving.

So tonight, as I prepare to leave, I give you this. I couldn't find a song called 'Laters' so I say thank you to the late but magnificent Mary Travers.


Thursday, 18 August 2011

The thing about John Kynaston's blog roll is that shit happens to you so you have a drink. Then fortified by strong wine you write what you believe is an appropriate blogpost that conveys your pain. This piece of alcohol affected artistry then appears at the top of John's blogroll for all to read.

In the morning you decide your efforts of the previous evening were entirely self serving and indulgent so you scurry over to your computer, having woken up the best dressed man in bed, and delete your embarrassing blogpost with a contented sigh. How many people could have read it during the hours of darkness, you wonder? (I applied the same argument to a comment I made recently about a politician and got eight weeks in the cooler for my troubles).

Then you get phone calls and texts all day long enquiring about the likelihood of suicide because the fucking thing is still at the top of John's blogroll.

For those of you that are confused by the motivation behind said (now deleted) blogpost, I'm afraid I cannot say more due to my refusal to indulge myself again. But mainly I'll say no more because I'm not drunk.

Regardless of this little piece of shit, there are other little pieces of shit that may be conveyed by the medium of blog.

Take, for instance, Monday's session at the Battersea Caius Boxing Club where I coach the young, disaffected hoodies of SW11 in the art of pugilism. The aim is to create more socially aware and responsible individuals. Sometimes we produce socially aware and responsible individuals that can hit like a mule. It's the socially unaware and irresponsible individuals that can hit like a mule that provide ammunition for the anti-boxing lobby.

Anyway, it was as I was teaching one of these lads the art of defending oneself to a hook that I got dealt the little piece of shit that is conveyable by the medium of blog.

'You throw a hook and I'll place my gloved hand over the side of my face to block your hook. All the while ensuring my elbow and upper arm provide protection to my body,' I instructed. Then placed my right hand over my face and said 'Go on then.'

The little angel couldn't believe my offer. I stood there like an idiot with the right side of my head completely covered and he looked at me before smashing a right hook into the completely unguarded left side of my face.


'Thanks for that,' I said, as my eye began to swell.

Anyway, this particular individual is usually a good boy and understands fully the meaning behind the statement I made when he turned up at the club:

'This is a hard sport for hard people.'

I could do with a bit more smashing about at the moment so I've decided to take up my place in the Hell on the Humber Bridge race on Saturday night. I'm required to run back and forth over the Humber Bridge between the hours of 19:00 and 07:00.

At the end of that I may wish someone was smashing me in the face.

p.s If you haven't worked it out this blogpost is designed purely to obliterate my deleted one from the blogroll.


Soy un Perdedor or The Child That Scoffs Kebab on the Sabbath Day is a Loser.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Today is Sunday.

If you're of the religious bent you'll be at church (assuming you're Christian, of course) dressed in all your finery. God wouldn't be happy if you turned up at his house in shorts and flip flops.

If you're a traditional type of person that wasn't attracted to the 'shopping with violence' event of last weekend you'll be roasting a great big joint of beef and awaiting the arrival of your family.

If you're a runner you would have probably been up early and performed your weekly LSR (long, slow run).

If you're John Kynaston you would have done all three.

Well, beginning with the first of those Sunday events, I'm of the belief that the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands, so I gave Church a bit of a wide berth this morning. Instead I took Mason (dog) to the park.

Now while God may not dwell in man made temples I don't think he hangs around Ashtead Recreation ground either. If he does and he's responsible for the empty beer cans and used condoms he can bloody well get his sorry arse out of bed and clear his shit up (if you're reading this Big Fella, and being omnipresent I kinda guess you are, that was a joke by the way).

Regarding Sunday event number two on my list, I like to consider myself a traditional type of guy and there's nothing I like more than a slap-up Sunday dinner with all the trimmings. However, as a single father whose daughter has infinitely cooler things to occupy her time on a Sunday than dinner with her old man, I can't be arsed to cook for myself. What's left has a hierarchy of sadness that goes something like this:

A few weeks ago the absolute sadness of buying one of those microwaveable Sunday meals-for-one had me almost slitting my wrists. Then, in an act of out and out snobbery, and desperate for a Sunday dinner, I decided that a Marks & Spencer Sunday meal-for-one was quite acceptable. However, the act of eating it alone, on my lap, in front of the telly was full of such in-your-face sadness it may as well have come from Lidl.

I tried going to the pub for Sunday dinner. Apart from the fact that this type of behaviour has friends labelling you an alcoholic for occasioning a licenced establishment during daylight hours, the quality of pub grub round these parts ain't that good. So while, on the face of it, 'eating out' might appear quite sophisticated, the 'ping' of the microwave oven from the pub kitchen and the fact that you're publicly eating alone makes this infinitely more sad than eating a radiated meal at home and in secret.

Today I plundered the depths of saddoism to such a degree that I'm quite disgusted with myself. In fact, I'm so utterly disgusting that my estranged sister, whom I've heard nothing from for years, contacted me to slag me off. Yep, today I realised that microwave meals for one and being Billy No-Mates in the pub are one thing; but hitting the local kebab shop for your Sunday dinner is in a league of saddoism of its own.

I mean, the shop is open on a Sunday so you'd expect the proprietor to welcome the custom. But I'm sure after I said:

'Large chicken kebab, plenty chilli sauce and a can of Coke. Oh, and is there any chance you can arrange it on a plate clockface fashion with a dollop of horseradish sauce on the side? And put Songs of Praise on the telly?'

I caught him making a letter 'L' on his forehead and ringing my sister and saying:

'We've got that loser brother of yours in here asking for a kebab for his Sunday dinner! Ha, ha, ha!'

Anyway, after my kebab I headed off to the running club to complete Sunday event number three on my list. Now this club has a membership that are such a collection of motley individuals it's almost as alternative as my Sunday dinner. 

No LSR for this lot. No Siree, it was an hour of hill sprints before they all scuttled off wittering on about  roast pork and crackling.

If you thought you were about to get a descriptive rundown of the training session with split times and all that other bollocks, forget it. I've got indigestion.


Anarchy in the UK

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

It's a little bit difficult to write anything here without mentioning the events of the past forty-eight hours. I had planned to get all high and mighty and tell you that I'd returned to the running club after a three week layoff; a layoff that was brought about by nothing more than idleness and indolence; but I'd imagine you'd be looking into your computer screen and hissing:

'Bollocks to the running club! What about the riots?'

So while treading very carefully and avoiding falling foul of any extant policies on the use of social networking media, I offer you this:

It was Monday afternoon and in our own enclave of South West London we doubted any of the weekend's rioting and looting that had scarred other areas of the capital. After all, as I stated in a former post, Battersea has become something of an upmarket location in recent years. And when we saw groups of young, masked hoodies giving the riot-gear clad bobbies the run around outside the fire station it was more comedic than serious. A kind of Benny Hill romp in Burberry.

However, when the smoke grenades started being aimed at the fire station it became a bit more of a serious proposition. Then we heard tales of a local fire engine being targeted in Brixton and hoodies removing the axes from the lockers and using them as a means to gain entry to the crew inside. Apparently it was just the quick reaction and remarkable ability of the driver that got the crew and appliance out of a pretty sticky situation. It's not easy to perform a J-turn in a fire engine.

We pitied the oncoming watch as we changed over and headed home. One of our number didn't actually get there due to meeting a hostile band of natives just up the road who surrounded him on his motorcycle and proceeded to kick seven bells out of him. He's now recovering at home with an interestingly coloured torso and the word 'ADIDAS' temporarily imprinted on his face. Part of what occurred later that night is captured here on Youtube. The area was continually misrepresented by the press as 'Clapham.' It is in fact Clapham Junction......which is in Battersea.

Driving into work the following day was like entering some kind of war zone. The detritus of a hard night's looting was spread across the road that spanned the sealed off area of Clapham Junction. Broken glass was absolutely everywhere and the still burning party shop seen in the video above belched black smoke into the sky.

It wasn't long before we were out on the fire engine relieving the tired and dirty crews that had been fighting the fire during the night. They had done a good job considering the upper floors were inaccessible due to the staircases being burnt through. In fact, they had done such a good job that by 14:00 we had the fire fully out and the scene cool. My crew were filthy, hungry and exhausted and we began to wind the job up, all the while watched by a crowd of community minded locals who had arrived with brooms to help clear the mess up. At that stage they were held behind tape and a line of coppers but they waved their brooms indicating their burning desire to get to work (Note to self: If this type of community assistance continues I wonder how viable it will be to claim that my garden has been set upon by a gang of rioting, green-fingered hoodies?)

Just then I saw the blonde, bouffant head of a stout, suited man in the distance. He was surrounded by an entourage of hangers on and a woman I instantly recognised as Theresa May. And they were heading our way.

'Stand by, chaps,' I said. 'Boris is on his way. Look lively and make sure your chinstraps are done up.'

'Nah, it ain't Boris,' said one of my lads. 'He's on holiday.'

'He cut his hols short 'cos of the riots,' I explain.'He flew back this morning.'

As I affected my most professional stance, scanning the front elevation of the building for hot spots, I watched the Mayor's approach out of the corner of my eye.

Make sure my handshake is firm.

Make sure I speak clearly and don't swear.

Make sure I take complete responsibility for all the hard work the other crews did.

Boris was almost upon me, walking with purpose. I did a final check of my lads ensuring they weren't slacking or fucking about.

I was sure I could smell Boris's aftershave masking the fading tang of Factor 30 sun lotion.

I swivelled to meet the Mayor of London and held my hand out to greet him.

I'm sure I saw Theresa May make that hairy palmed gesture at me as Boris swept past us majestically, not even acknowledging our existence, intent on engaging with the group of volunteer cleaners, all waving their brooms like demented Mary Poppins.

'Right guys, pack up, we're going home,' I instruct my lads and we head off back to the station for a cheese roll and a round of mutual back-slapping.

So as I wind this blog post up we had a quiet night in London last night. The clue might be in the 16,000 pissed off coppers on the streets and various gangs of vigilantes. I'm kinda hoping they're out and pissed off tonight too because I'm about to head back to SW11.


Faux Dog Tags and Shirley Valentine

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Listen, I've done no running and very little physical activity of any kind lately so if the word 'Running' that occurs in title of this blog had you logging in hoping for some split time action forget it.

Although I do actually spend some of my time running I've never considered myself much of a runner (good job really considereing some of my non-achievements...I prefer that to 'failings').  I'll never be a runner and to be quite honest I have little time for runners. They tend to stand around in ridiculous clothes looking like they need a good meat pie. And all they do is yabber on about bastard running. Let's face it, as cave people we either ran after our food or ran away to avoid becoming someone else's food. We didn't need compression socks or stupid fucking sleeves to do that. Neither did we need to convene a meeting of the hungry gang to discuss the most efficient way to run up a 2% incline.

Anyway, now I've offended a very good percentage of my friends I'm kinda hoping that I might flush my anonymous contributor out from his/her hiding place and encourage another pearl of anonymously created wisdom.

If  'Anonymous's' calling me a tosser was based on the dual meaning of the hairy handed antics of a man that lives alone coupled with his or her distasteful opinion of me, that was very good. However, I doubt his or her consideration actually ploughed that deeply. Come on, 'Anonymous,' have another go. You do wonders for my hit counter, by the way.

Anyway, with no running stories to entertain you I'm drawn to my employment as one of those people in London that extinguishes fires (is that oblique enough to argue that I haven't actually mentioned I'm a fireman?).

However, I am disallowed to mention my employment in any detailed degree so I'm not in a position to regale you with the antics of the natives of SW11. What I might be permitted to say is that I was in Battersea the other night 'on business'and it was like a return to the old days. In recent times it's fair to say that Battersea has become something of an urban village. An area of Nappy Valley domiciled by city types and young professionals.

As a boy from Peckham I remember Battersea being considered a dark, frightening place that was dangerous to enter. And when I started my current career that perception hadn't changed greatly.

I first visited Battersea 'on business' as a fresh, green person-that-puts-out-fires back in 1992. My colleagues that were based at the far more salubrious Kingston were terrified to report to the three storey building on Este Road so I was sent instead. Those were the days when the local Battersea Belles shagged the fella that worked in the local kebab shop because they thought they were being Shirley Valentine-esque.

Or when the fellas all got faux dog tags made by the local cobbler and hoped for a random game of volleyball because they'd been so thoroughly affected by Top Gun. How they ever hoped to play ball games while being permanantly attached by rope to a snarling beast that would later fall foul of the Dangerous Dogs Act, God only knows.

Back then as you entered Este Road you were greeted by joy-ridden Ford Capris and dog fights.

Those days are now gone. Although, as I stated above, my last night in Battersea while 'on business' was a bit of a return to form. Yep, the never-quiet-silence of a Battersea night (the Ford Capris and Pitbull Terriers might be gone but the trains still shunt in and out of Clapham Junction throughout the hours of darkness) was pierced by a warring couple who were both desperate to rush the other to a hole in the ground. The screaming and hollering went on for at least an hour in a Vicky Pollard meets the Right Reverand Ian Paisley kinda stylee.

On convening in the morning in the room where meals are served my colleagues all looked bleary eyed and tired.

'What's up, lads?' I asked. 'You all look like you've been up all night.'

'Didn't you hear the screaming?' I was asked.

Of course I did. but to me it's a bit like being the guy that lives next to the motorway and never hears the traffic.

It's great to be back.