The Versatile Blogger – nominated x 2

versatile-blogger-award

I am flattered and honoured to have received two nominations for the Versatile Blogger Award so a big, big thanks x 2 goes out to mythinkout and also pointless & prosaic who were kind enough to nominate me. As an Englishman this delights me and makes me feel very awkward, in equal measure. I confess I contemplated ignoring the nominations, but that would have been very rude and impolite, so thank you once again from the bottom of my blogging inkwell you two!

So, in accordance with the VBA rules, here are 7 things about me:

  1. I look like the Before photo in every Before/After fitness transformation photograph that was ever photographed.
  2. I’m 51 years old, but I think I’m about 34.
  3. I was born, grew up and still live in England, but have also lived in Munich – Germany (’97-’99) and Virginia – USA (’00-’02)
  4. I have an INFJ personality type which means I’m in the smallest, most select group alongside Gandhi (good), Plato (smart), Wittgenstein (wow, cool), Dostoevsky (get me!), Hitler (awkward), Bin Laden (wtf …?)
  5. I hate mushrooms
  6. The last time I cried was when our family dog died. He was called George. He was ace.
  7. I’m listening to Joni Mitchell as I type this (Court & Spark album)

My nominations are all bloggers who have either 1) blogged about something that made me go “wow”, 2) made me laugh or 3) inspired me to carry on blogging.

In no particular order:

Antondotreks

Emma Fleming

Cars and cooking

fromroad2trail

3389 miles & further

dazz22

Greater than gravity

 

 

Film review – The Revenant

First off, I should say I’m not a film reviewer, nor am I aspiring to be one.  As my blog seems to be changing to become more of a place where I collect and deposit my thoughts, it seems sensible (and quite useful for me) to also park my thoughts about books, films, theatre, sporting events and other life events I experience. I’m notoriously bad at recalling things as I get older, so this might help refresh my memory and perhaps be useful to a few readers of this blog in the process.

I will try and categorise such reviews under film/movies, books, sport etc, so those that are interested can find them, and those that aren’t can ignore.

I should also mention up front that I’m very much a non-film buff. I’m the sort of person who usually has film conversations with friends that go like this:

Me: “Have you seen that film about that man who escapes from that prison on a motorbike? There’s mountains and green fields in it. You know, it’s got Clint Newman in it … no Paul McQueen, yes Paul McQueen that’s it.”
Friend: “Errr …”
Me: “He throws a baseball against the wall a lot, and eats boiled eggs, loads of them. No, hang on that’s Papillon, no, that’s about butterflies, this is a motorbike definitely. Anyway, have you seen it?”

At which point I’m usually confronted by my friend’s rather withered, horrified look. The conversation can go on for hours until we find out what film and what actor I’m talking about:

Friend: “Steve McQueen?”
Me: “Yes!”
Friend: “The Great Escape”
Me: “Yes!!”
Friend: “Yes I have, many years ago, why do you ask?”

At which point I’ve usually forgotten why I mentioned it in the first place:

Me: “Why do I ask what?”

It’s not always easy being my friend, so in an attempt to smarten myself up, become a better friend, and aid memory recall in future, making such conversations less painful for friends and acquaintances alike, here’s my first film review:

Date: 25th February 2016
Film: The Revenant

I’ve always been indifferent towards Leonardo DiCaprio, meaning I neither dislike him or think he’s mega talented, just a decent Hollywood A-list actor. He is, however, superb in this film, where he plays the part of a fur trapper in the wild-west(?) of 19th Century America. Not sure if it is the wild west as it’s covered in snow, in fact I googled it and it is in fact Nebraska. I don’t know where Nebraska is, more shame me, but it’s ever so cold.

The film is basically the story of Leonardo’s character (I forget his name) who spends the film trying to get home after being brutally mauled by a grizzly and left for dead by a nasty, vindictive Reggie Kray (Tom Hardy) – I think I have my brackets the wrong way round there. Sounds basic as far as plotlines go, and some people (all my 3 kids in fact), thought it dragged and was too long. I however loved it, but then I love long novels like ‘World According to Garp’, which are about people and don’t have much plot. I like that, plots often confuse me, and I really identified with Leonardo’s character, so much so that I was gripped from beginning to end. I was with him as he dragged himself back to life, fighting against endless elements and losing his son in the process (Reggie Kray again). The film is gruesome, brutally so in parts, but it doesn’t feel misplaced. Leonardo is fantastic and indeed the supporting cast are brilliant too, including a few Brits who do rather good American accents, at least to my untrained ear.

I was exhausted at the end, but in a good way. I have a new found respect for Leonardo too, who has come on leaps and bounds from that film he did on that boat which capsizes, you know, it was the same year as Barnsley won the FA Cup … 1912 … ooh what’s it called .. also has that woman in it from Reading, Emma Winslet … that’s it.

The Revenant (****)* – 4 out of 5 stars according to Andy’s newly devised film ratings scale.

 

 

 

These boots were made for walking …

These Boots Were Made for Walking

The boots shown below are my walking boots. I bought them circa 1991, so long ago I forget their exact age, but I think they are dated ‘BC’ (before children). I was with my wife in the Yorkshire Dales, I think we were walking Malham Tarn that week, and we treated ourselves to brand new Scarpa walking boots.

It’s never a wise thing, some would say foolish, buying boots and walking in them straight-away, especially up and around Malham Tarn, but we were young and reckless back then. You’re meant to wear them in, gradual mileage at first, allowing them time to mould themselves to the unique shape of your feet to prevent chafing and blisters. We did none of that, we just put them on and walked and we were just fine.

In 1992 our first child was born and within 5 years we were a family of 5 and walking was soon a long forgotten pastime, replaced by visits to zoos, petting farms and the seaside. Nevertheless the boots made regular appearances over the years. Weekends in the country often involved a sturdy walk, carrying the kids in slings or backpacks.  Both sets of parents enjoyed walking and our boots always accompanied us on day-trips and weekend jaunts.

In 2005 I took my boots with me to the Himalayas for my charity Trek in India. We endured all weathers and all terrain and my Scarpas, already teenagers by then, behaved impeccably, never once letting in water or rubbing.  Friends with newer and fancier boots fell by the wayside whilst my trusty old Scarpas marched on proudly.

And then, in 2015, wild camping with friends in the Lake District, my 24 year old Scarpas marched their final journey. It was cold and very wet, we were trekking with 15kg rucksacks on our backs, often through boggy, sodden ground for 12 hours a day and I noticed my feet were wet, tired and blistered. In over 20 years they had protected my feet through all weathers, over many different terrains spanning North America, Europe and Asia, always uncomplaining, always doing their job impeccably and unflinchingly.

However, that wild camping weekend was to be their swansong. They could no longer keep out mother nature, they were tired and finally flagging. They had done their job and some. In an era when things aren’t designed to last, my Scarpas refused to comply, their ne’er say die attitude saw them through the most of the 90’s, all the 00’s and half the 10’s.

I have new walking boots now, and I like them, but I don’t yet love them. They’re just not my old Scarpas.

I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away and so I still have them now. In fact this photograph was taken this evening. They still sit out the back – wise, proud and loyal.

These boots weren’t just made for walking, they were made for me, and if it’s dry tomorrow I might just take them for one last jaunt down the lane, for old time’s sake.

FullSizeRender

 

In pursuit of rubbishness …

My blog hasn’t gone viral, my blog barely has a runny nose and an imperceptibly mild rash at best, but there are bloggers out there, seemingly ordinary people that blog everyday things, just like me, yet every now and then something they say resonates with their readership and beyond, far beyond – when everything goes a little mental and interstellar.

In this blog which can be found here, Cheri looks at four bloggers, four everyday blogging people who at some point said something remarkable and extraordinary. Cheri sums up what happened to them in her opening paragraph:

You wake up one morning, check your phone, and spit out your coffee. You have thousands of likes on Facebook, hundreds of retweets, and an inbox that has exploded. Your little blog — which normally gets a dozen views per day and has an audience of exactly two, your spouse and mother — has been shared all over the internet, and that post you wrote last night, in your pajamas, has gone viral.

Twelve views would be a good day for me, a fist-pumpingly awesome blogging day in fact, and I have to reluctantly admit to frequently having that gorgeous ‘what-if’ indulgent thought where my imagination runs wild, imagining a parallel world where I wake up to a chirping phone, lit up like the BBC switchboard on comic relief day – a day where my blog goes interstellar.

As a kid I dreamt of scoring a goal at Wembley, as a teenager I was the singer in the band at Wembley (a different Wembley day to the football I hasten to add – even for my egocentric imagination, scoring the winning goal to win the FA Cup and also serenading 100,000 singing Hey Jude, all on the same day, is a little far-fetched). Nowadays I imagine writing a blog that sparks the imagination of people across the world, just like the four bloggers outlined in Cheri’s blog.

They’re all amazing stories of everyday tales from everyday folk. Their blogs haven’t made them rich, but they have made them visible. They all now have a voice, a raised platform, a heightened status, a metaphorical megaphone and a substantial audience which spreads right across their social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. They’ve made it!

But then you read their back-stories, and you realise that all isn’t rosy in the garden of blog superstardom. As ever, success seems to come at a price. Suddenly these people are having to deal with trolls – people that write nasty, spiteful, hurtful and personal insults, and in every case they felt a pressure to maintain their newly found and elevated levels of success. Your next blog can never be as good, such a feat can never be repeated and the truth is the only way forward is down. You have peaked. That’s it, you’ve done it now – pressure, anxiety, expectation – these appear to be the new norm, the consequences of your new found popularity.

Whereas me, I can carry on dreaming, hoping, aspiring, sitting cross-legged at the bottom of my hill staring balefully skywards. My blogs can easily get better, I don’t have to try very hard to make improvements, and that’s the beauty of being rubbish. It doesn’t take a lot to cheer me. Even one new follower perks me up, I’m ever so easily pleased down here in my valley of loneliness. Any shard of light – a comment, a like, a new follower – I lap them all up graciously and covet them.

It’s good down here in my sun-starved blog-valley where the light is obscured by the majestic peaks of successful others – great and worthy, epic bloggers.

I pity them, their future looks bleak up there in the bright sunlight, and the truth is it kind of feels OK down here, hidden amongst the gloom, being ever so slightly rubbish. Yes, I like it here.

Yay for me! Yay for my rubbish blog!Slide1

The idiocy of being me …

I’ve been set an assignment by my Blogging101 course, to ‘write a blog to my target audience, on any subject, but with an interesting twist’.

I immediately panicked, I don’t have a target audience…

Target audience -> all human beings

That feels a bit vague …

Target audience -> people like me

This is hard, really hard.

The Blogging101 students have a common room, an online chatroom. I’ve already been on there several times and seen that loads of people have already done their homework and this is just like school all over again, all those feelings I used to have, have come flooding back. I’m more obsessed by how far others have got on their assignments than actually doing my own, and the more I procrastinate, the bigger my crisis becomes.

And yet it feels ever so slightly comforting and familiar, like slipping into an old pair of jeans. Part of me likes being told what to do, part of me likes to rebel, I will do my homework assignment but not without a small drama, a quiet rebel yell, a Tim Henman-esque fistpump.

It’s getting late, but here I am, doing my assignment, writing about not doing my assignment. This is like a bloody John Le Carre novel.

And this is a picture of a twisty snake, next to Tim Henman, fist-pumping. Pretty interesting huh? My classmates are gonna love this …

 

twisty snakeHenman

A letter to my 16 yr old self …

Summer, 1981

Dear Andy,

Hi, it’s you from 2015. Don’t get up off the settee, stay where you are and enjoy the cricket because things are about to change. Let’s cut to the chase – you know that nagging sense of guilt you have right now watching the test match? That sense of guilt you carry around with you and wear like a cloak? Well, it doesn’t ever go away, it continues to follow you around, so try and get used to it. Stop searching for answers as to why it’s there, because you won’t find any, it’s part of your DNA, sorry.

Also, whilst we’re being honest, you’re not that bright. Ouch, sorry, what am I like! How can I put this … you know how you’ve never really worked hard at anything at all whatsoever, but somehow you’ve always got by and done quite well? Well, that changes from hereon in too I’m afraid. You can’t just turn up any more, instead you have to plan and prepare things in advance, you have to invest time and effort in seemingly unpleasant tasks to get the desired outcome, weird as that must sound to you. Fundamentally, you have to earn any merit from now on. I know it’s a difficult concept for you to grasp aged 16, and I know you are struggling with it, so let me explain it a different way.

You know how you want to be a singer like David Coverdale? Well, David had singing lessons as a child when all his mates just wanted to play football.  He started singing in pubs and clubs when he was about your age and he had to lie about his age to sing in bands in clubs in the north of England.  He was booed off stage, had bottles of piss thrown at him, he was chased off stage and was skint for years travelling in a beaten up old transit van up and down and up and down the M1 for what seemed like eternity, long before he ever joined Deep Purple/Whitesnake and sang to thousands of adoring fans and made his fortune. Shocking as it may seem, he didn’t just practice singing in the mirror for a couple of weeks, using his mum’s hairbrush as a microphone, waiting for the phone to ring. Like you he had a dream, but unlike you, he worked hard to get that dream.

You know Kenny Dalglish? When he was your age he didn’t just want to be a footballer who asked his mum and dad for a football kit for Christmas so he could become one. He didn’t score a goal against St Dominics U-11s and decide he was ready to play at Wembley, no, he went outside every day in the wind and the pissing rain and he practiced his skills, kicking a ball up against a wall time after time after time until his toes bled.  He drove his parents and neighbours mad.  He played football against everyone and anyone he could. He played against older blokes who tried to kick seven shades of shit out of him, so he could get stronger and better. He played football at every possible opportunity, often sacrificing lots of other, more enjoyable things in the process.

You see Ian Botham at Headingley on your TV in the 3rd test match of the Ashes? He’s not there, playing the match that incidentally will go down in history as one of the greatest comebacks of all time by accident. He didn’t just arrive on the international cricket scene because he thought it might be cool, he did it because he was driven, he had ambition, had desire and bags of endeavour, as did Coverdale, as did Dalglish.

I know it’s shit 16 yr old Andy, but you can’t dream your way to success, sorry. It won’t just ‘happen’. Nor will you live forever. You’re mortal, dare I say it, and you’ll like this least of all … you’re pretty average. Ouch!

But hey, don’t be maudlin’ young fella mi lad, for there’s some good news! You see, you can actually be anything you want! You can be Coverdale, or Dalglish, or Botham, but, and it’s a big but, you will have to earn the right. You might not appreciate this, and I know you feel like this is a shitty stupid thing only old people say, but you really do have all your life ahead of you. Look at you, you healthy stick insect!

I’m not going to tell you what 50yr old Andy without this letter aged 16 turns out like, but it’s not at all bad, so imagine what 16yr old Andy can do armed with this advice? Get out there and make life happen, don’t let life happen to you. Life really is amazing, but only if you allow it to be. Make tough decisions and seize opportunities when they come your way. Don’t be afraid to stand up and fight for everything you believe in. Above all, and this is the hardest thing for you I know, but don’t worry what others think of you. You have an inherently good soul, so trust in it and wonderful things can and will happen.

Oh and finally, and there’s no easy way to say this, but you never did marry Steph Middleton, that snog at the Xmas disco last year, that was it I’m afraid.  But don’t worry, because someone even better comes along, so just hold tight and hang on in there and amazing things can and will happen, just so long as you work hard.

Yours,

Me, aged 50

coverdaledalglishbotham