Posted in 40 List

40 List – Part One

As I will be 40 next year I have decided to compile a list of things do before I hit the big 4-0. This is only part one of the list as I hope to add other stuff as it occurs to me.  I plan to blog about each of these experiences as I tick them off as I go along. Here goes.

Cycle Alpe D’Huez – This is possibly the most famous climb in cycling but is an absolute beast – 21 hairpins with an average gradient of 8.1%, elevation gain of 1071m over 13km. I am not built for cycling so this will be a huge challenge and I am planning to take some fellow old gits with me to share the pain.

Dinner in a Michelin star restaurant with my wife – I really like the idea of the two of us getting dressed up and spending the evening somewhere more sophisticated than usual. I never get dressed up for anything and generally avoid places that are more formal. It doesn’t take much for my wife to look lovely so it’s about time I tried to match her.  Also my wife has already been to two Michelin star restaurants and this might be a way of stopping her going on and on about it.

Harris’ on Harris – I have been promising to take my wife to the island of Harris in Scotland for years and now there are three of us in team Harris I think it is time. It looks like a beautiful place to go to and I won’t be able to resist the endless photo and lame joke opportunities it will offer. My cousin went to Harris a few years ago and quite frankly didn’t make enough of it.

Take the ultimate rollercoaster photo – My greatest triumphs were ‘The Vicars Tea Party’ and ‘Siege on the Big One’ but as I have no plans to grow up it is time to surpass these efforts. My favourite suggestion so far is to wear Jedward wigs but I’m sure there are plenty of other ideas we can explore. Update: new suggestion is Bolivian Pan pipe troupe with the guy at the front selling CDs.

Run faster – I have run (slowly) in a variety of races over the last four years from half marathons to off road mud fests like Hellrunner . I’ve always enjoyed them but I usually finish thinking ‘if I train harder I can run faster next time’.  I’d like to take 10 minutes off my Hellrunner time and/or run a sub 2hr half marathon.

Take George to HQ  – I want George to love rugby as much as me and plan to take him to plenty of games. This has to start with a trip to Twickenham so he can get used to the place for when he captains England to the grand slam.

Swim in the sea – Obviously this is something I have done before but I really love and don’t do it enough. The plan is to swim in the sea as many times as I can in the next year no matter what the weather throws at me.

Play rugby again – I stopped playing rugby 4 years ago after suffering two serious injuries in one season. I still really miss playing and would love a few more games before I hang up my boots for good. Not a popular item on my list but I hope I get to do it.

Thank you to everyone who posted ideas on my original post. I am still considering some of these especially the eating contest so please post any other ideas in the comments box below.

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Posted in Sport & Fitness

Why I have gone off Football

As I clicked ‘like’ on a facebook photo a friend posted of his son wearing a football kit I started to think about the team George might support when he is older. I can think of several friends who are trying to persuade their sons and daughters to follow the team they have always supported despite not living near the clubs home ground. This persuasion is to fight off the lure of ‘glamour’ clubs other kids in the playground will support – in the words of one they are ‘fighting the good fight’. I am a Liverpool fan but I don’t really mind if George supports another team as long as it isn’t Manchester United (I have some standards). The reason behind it is simple – I’ve gone off football and this is why.

England – This is where it all started to go wrong. I stopped watching England friendlies as the players seemed even less interested in the game than me and I was barely awake. Then I stopped watching the qualifiers as they lacked any sort of tension, interest or bearing on tournament performance. The final nail in the coffin was the World Cup in 2010 as England served up a rich smorgasbord of mediocrity, misplaced entitlement, woeful lack of ability and seething resentment. You could pick any number of players who symbolise this attitude and the list would probably start with Rooney, Cole or Terry – I don’t even like watching Stevie G when he plays for England. I’d had enough and although I dabbled with Euro 2012 I can’t see me watching much in the future.

Liverpool – I was born in Liverpool, I will always be fan of Liverpool FC and the club will always have a special place in my heart but the last few years have made it hard for me. Sure they haven’t won much recently and that never makes football fun but it didn’t stop me watching during the dreaded ‘Souness years’. The truth is I have always thought our club was special but now there is very little to make us stand out. Like so many football clubs we face always being owned by business men looking to make a profit, represented on the pitch by disinterested millionaires and supported by too many blinkered fans. All this is par the course but the way the club dealt with the Luis Suarez racism issue was a far bigger blow. I believe the club was right to initially back him as the evidence wasn’t clear and he deserves the right to defend himself. However, the moment he was found guilty the verdict should have been accepted and attempts made to repair the damage instead of enduring the humiliation of misguided t-shirts and snubbed handshakes. How could any Liverpool fan hope to take the higher ground when we couldn’t get our own house in order? The sight of King Kenny (my childhood idol) being forced to shuffle out the door at the end of the season was symbolic of the malaise we found ourselves in.

Premier League – Popular opinion says that last season was one of the most exciting ever but I just don’t buy it. Sure the last day of the season was dramatic and Manchester City did play well but once you get outside the top four or five teams it gets far less interesting. Very few teams below this upper tier possess a flair player and instead prefer to ‘grind it out’ and ‘keep it tight’ serving up hour after hour of turgid non-entertainment. Anyone who follows me on twitter knows I love to criticize Everton and Stoke for this approach but last season almost half teams in the league were guilty. League position has become more important than glory and fourth place is seen as an achievement worth celebrating. I didn’t sign up for this.

Commentators and Pundits – I remember watching a Manchester derby game in the Friendship pub in Fallowfield sometime in the mid-90s. United were awarded a dodgy penalty in the first half (sound familiar?) and by half time the pub was buzzing with the bickering of rival fans. When Alan Hansen appeared on the screen everyone stopped talking to hear his opinion on the controversial decision. He duly declared it ‘a disgrace’ and the pub erupted again. What went wrong? From the old boys’ club buffoonery of MOTD to the tortured wordplay of the commentators, match coverage has become a lumpy mess of clichés and frustration. Also I’m sick of watching players go down under powder puff non-challenges only to hear the commentator scream about ‘definite contact’ and players ‘knowing they can’t raise their hands’ as if a knife has been pulled out on the pitch.

The photo below was the first one that came up when I googled ‘dodgy penalty’ but there were plenty to choose from.

Fans – One of the many things that annoyed me about both the Suarez and Terry racism cases was how fans divided down club lines instead of coming to a conclusion based on the evidence in front of them. Every issue is like this even if the club of a particular fan isn’t involved. Twitter can be really bad for this and I get fed up of reading tweets from blinkered fans shoe-horning their club into unrelated topics to get a dig in or merely to gloat. I’m not talking about the kind of people who boo a minutes silence (we can all do without them right?) but the everyday fans who can’t see football outside of the prism of their club colours. I used to enjoy talking to strangers about football but the common ground seems to be disappearing and football is no longer a universal language.

As this is easily the most negative post I have written so next week I will be talking about why I love rugby. In the meantime please feel free to post your comments below.

Posted in I'm the Daddy

Lump

‘He’s a lump, isn’t he?’ That is how one of my friends reacted to seeing George for the first time last week. Another joked that he didn’t want to catch his eye in case George took a dislike to him and decided to beat him up. The descriptions of George tend to follow a theme. Bruiser. Big Unit. Solid. Chunky. We boys is big and that is the way I like it.

George was always going to be a big baby. His growth charts followed a steady upward curve but always on the top end of his chart. His Mamma always thought he would need to come out of her tummy via the ‘sun roof’ and when he did, he was an impressive 9b 8oz – exactly matching my own birth weight. In the four months since, he has come close to doubling that opening weight and already looks a few months older than his peers.  He has become a little powerhouse and once he is crawling I can’t see anything getting in his way.

To me this is a source of great pride. I have always thought being bigger than the other babies is evidence of how well my lovely wife can grow a baby even though this is based on nothing but fatherly pride. As I am also on the large side, George looks like a mini me in every way and I love it when people make this comparison. I will never grow tired of day dreaming about his future sporting prowess and his potential to rip up the rugby field.

The only time it doesn’t work is when George and his Mamma go out without me. Too many people look at her petite 5ft 2in frame, forget that babies can take after BOTH their parents and conclude that she must be over feeding him. Even if the questions don’t take on a judgmental edge she finds it tiring having to constantly explain that George takes after his Daddy, in looks and size. Hopefully she won’t have to do this forever. To make sure I will be setting my little bruiser on any repeat offenders.

How did people react to your baby? What questions are you constantly forced to field? All comments are welcome.

Update: I took a photo of George’s wrestler legs and just had to add it!

Posted in Sport & Fitness

My Olympic Awards

The Olympics is over and I can’t stop thinking about it so I’m jumping on the bandwagon and blogging about it. Huzzah! They may have medals a plenty but I am handing out my own awards which I know each Olympian will treasure. Let’s take the stage and make it count or summat.

My favourite GB athlete: There were so many incredible performances it feels wrong not to be picking Ennis, Hoy, Pendleton, Brownlee, Trott or Wiggins but it has to be Mo Farah. I have been watching middle distance running for years and have marvelled at the likes of Haile Gebrselassie, Paul Tergat and Hicham El Guerrouj. I never thought I would see a British athlete demolish the field in an Olympic final with the power and authority Mo Farah displayed. Bloody love him.


Award for making me cry the most: Jess Ennis started it off with that emotional post-race interview before Mo Farah upped the stakes by bringing his heavily pregnant wife and adorable daughter on the track. Neither of them could compete in the blub stakes with our wonderful judo star, Gemma Gibbons.  I was lucky enough to catch her matches live on TV and she had me choked from the moment she slammed her opponent down on the mat and pointed to the sky in triumph. I still struggle to watch her mouthing ‘I love you Mum’ without choking.

Bronze that felt like Gold award:  There has been a fixation with winning gold during the games but I saw several incredible bronze medal winning performances from British athletes that felt just as good. It started with the Men’s gymnastics team nailing a routine that would have broken every bone in my body and ended with Tom Daley defying the pressure to twist and turn his way into the medals. My award goes to Becky Adlington who fought her way to two bronze medals but was made to feel inferior despite being our greatest ever swimmer. You go girl!

Celebration of the games:  You would be hard pushed to beat the emotional reaction of Sally Pearson, Jade Jones or Robert Harting but my award has to go to the Women’s Lightweight Double Sculls pair, Kat Copeland and Sophie Hosking. Once they had got over their sheer disbelief at winning gold the first things on Kat’s mind was that they were going to be on a stamp. Priceless.

Favourite non-GB athlete: I know all the focus has been Bolt and Phelps but I have loved watching the Irish boxer, Katie Taylor. She boxed with great skill and passion and brought a nation to a standstill while they roared her to victory.

Too cool for school award: It’s Wiggo, we all know it’s Wiggo.

Award for not winning anything but still being fabulous:  There have also been incredibly impressive performances from a number of athletes who didn’t trouble the medal rostrum. Zoe Smith is worth a mention for breaking a British weightlifting record as is Adam Gemili for his nerveless running in the 100m sprint. However the award has to go to Katrina Johnson-Thompson who was a joy to watch in the heptathlon. A real star of the future and also takes the award for my favourite Olympic Scouser 2012.

Superstar of the future: Laura Trott. I think everyone has worked this out and the BBC have been featuring her very heavily in their montages but she has it all. Only 20 years old so she could easily compete in another three Olympics and bring home a hatful of golds.

This may be my awards but there is space in the comments box for your nominations. Who did you love? Who did you boo? Why didn’t George Michael sing Club Tropicana? Why wouldn’t Wenlock just sod off?