It’s The Taking Part That Counts


Mike wiped the sweat from his brow, and looked at his crestfallen team-mates who were gathered round him for his half-time talk. It was not going well, they were being out-thought, outplayed and simply outclassed by their opponents.  As team captain, it was his job to re-motivate the boys, lift their spirits and get them pumped for the second half.

“Come on guys,” he said, “we’re still in this. We just need to tighten up at the back and get the ball to Darryl.”

Darryl, who was by far and away the team’s best player, and was more than gratified by his captain’s faith in him, still felt a reality check was in order.

“Mike mate, we’re 10-0 down,” he said, “I don’t think we’re still in this at all.”

“Come on Darryl, we need to be more positive,” chided Mike sternly.

“No, I mean obviously, I want to be positive,” acknowledged Darryl, “but I mean, I think we’ve misjudged this a bit – they are quite a lot better than us.”

Mike siged. He knew what Darryl was getting at. When they’d first contemplated entering a five-a-side league, a few weeks back in the pub, there had been some concerns expressed that the sum talent of the team didn’t really amount to much. Darryl was fine, Pete was not without skill, although a little out of shape, and Roger was certainly keen, if not entirely what you’d describe as gifted. Eddie, Pete’s brother-in-law, was a reluctant recruit who’d only agreed to turn up because he ‘owed Pete a favour’ and there was certainly no guarantee he’d be back for future fixtures. As for Mike himself, well he was definitely the least able player out of the five. But he was enthusiastic and a natural leader. Or, at least, he was the only one who could actually be bothered to sign them up to a league.

Unfortunately Mike had rather misjudged the standard of the competition he had committed them to. Their current opponents ‘The Kingsmen’ (so named because they all drank at the Kings Arms) were clearly superior in every department. They also had a contingent of more than five players, meaning they were able to use substitutes, which was a luxury Mike and his team could only dream of. Nonetheless, ‘The Kingsmen’ had only managed to finish tenth out of fourteen teams last season. It was unlikely that future fixtures were going to get any easier for ‘Mike’s Machines’.

“To be honest guys, I don’t think this is really for me,” said Eddie, to the surprise of no-one, “I’ll see out the second half, but you might want to look at getting someone else for the next match.”

There were a few half-hearted efforts to change Eddie’s mind, but no-one realistically believed that there would be any need to recruit an additional player for future games.

Mike though, was not going to walk away without an attempt to rescue some pride in what was almost certainly going to be his team’s only fixture.

“Come on guys,” said Mike, “we’ve got to give it our all for another twenty minutes!”

There were non-committal grunts of unenthusiastic assent.

“And the first round of drinks is on me after the match,” continued Mike.

There were slightly louder, more enthusiastic murmurs.

“Now let’s get out there and give Eddie the send-off he deserves!” exclaimed the captain, loud enough to draw amused glances from their opposition.

“For Eddie!” bellowed Darryl as he charged onto the pitch.

“For Eddie!” came the slightly muted chorus from the others as they followed, with the exception of Eddie himself, who looked less than comfortable with the battlecry.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, albeit the goals did not come quite as thick and fast as they had done. ‘The Kingsmen’ had rather taken their foot off the gas, what with victory being so completely assured, and were using the remaining minutes as a training exercise, trying audacious passes and shots that they would never have contemplated in a closer fixture.

Perhaps it was this complacency that permitted Darryl to steal the ball of a rather cocky sub in the dying moments and smash what was the first strike on target for ‘The Machines’ all game. It was easily parried away by the goalkeeper, but, in the most unlikely of flukes, the rebounding ball was caught by an unintentional knee belonging to Mike as he bounded up the pitch with his unwavering enthusiasm. As the ball crossed the goal-line in what was the final act of the game, changing the final score from an embarrassing 15-0 to a much more credible 15-1, Mike was swamped by his team-mates.

The Kingsmen, for whom winning was nothing of note given the ease of their victory, were more than a little perplexed by the resulting celebrations from their opponents.

Mike, for his part, was in a reflective mood as he was carried out off the pitch on the shoulders of his friends. There may be no future outings for his ‘Machines’ but he would never forget his brief tenure as captain of this fine group of players.

Insomnolent Isometrics


John awoke with a start. It was dark and without his glasses on he couldn’t make out the digital read-out on his radio alarm clock. Rachel was still sound asleep beside him, giving no indication that his sudden return to consciousness had in any way disturbed her.  Feeling it was probably better to maintain that particular status quo, he shuffled delicately out of bed and slowly exited the room.

Deftly avoiding the creaking floorboard on the landing, he made his way carefully down the stairs in darkness, knowing that the slightest hint of light creeping under the bedroom door might be enough to wake his beloved wife.

Once he was safely on the ground floor, he made his way into the living room, where at last he felt it was safe to risk switching on the light. Realising that he had left his spectacles on the bedside table he was forced to squint at the digital readout on the cordless handset that was connected to what was, in the age of the smartphone, a redundant landline. It was 2.30am. Far too early to be awake, but, by the same token, he calculated that, thanks to a relatively early night, he’d had about four and half hours of sleep. It wasn’t enough, given the day he had ahead of him, but he had survived on less.

It wasn’t the lack of sleep that worried him, so much as quite how he was going to occupy the hours before he actually needed to get up for work. Moving around the house would be too noisy, the last thing he wanted or needed was for Rachel to wake up. He loved his wife, but she was not particularly well-disposed to missing out on sleep, and the fall-out for imposing his insomnia on her could result in days of recriminations.

Better then, to suffer in silence. But it was going to be a long night if he couldn’t find anything to pass the time. Television was too noisy, and the novel he was currently attempting to read was sitting next to his glasses in the bedroom.

He scoured the room for anything to do. There was a half-finished jigsaw on the dining table, but that was Rachel’s project, she would not thank him for completing it for her, even if his rationale was that he’d only done it to protect her current state of slumber. Beyond that there was not much else on offer.

He sat for a while, staring at the opposite wall, breathing deeply, trying to relax himself into a state in which a return to sleep might actually be a possibility, but after ten minutes he had succeeded in boring himself, almost to tears, without discovering anything resembling inner peace and tranquillity. Indeed, he was arguably more tense than he had been at the outset.

Out of the corner of his eye he spotted a much-ignored kettlebell, purchased at a time when he had had a wave of enthusiasm and misplaced optimism about getting into shape. Perhaps exercise was the key to solving his current state of insomnolence. Despite being alert beyond all reason, he didn’t really feel that he had the energy for a workout, and it would be a difficult activity to carry out in silence but, in the absence of any other options, it would certainly fill the time. As carefully as he could, he cleared a space in the centre of the room, picked up the weight and started swinging.

Five minutes later, John was breathless, sweating and completely exhausted. He still didn’t feel particularly sleepy, but he certainly felt drained. He collapsed onto the floor and stared up at the ceiling in a daze. He lay there for a while contemplating what else he might do to kill a few minutes. He lay there a little longer. He wasn’t especially comfortable, but neither was he uncomfortable.

John wasn’t sure at what point he had drifted off, but it was daylight when he became aware of Rachel prodding him.

Rachel, for her part, was somewhat confused as to why she had discovered her husband on the living room floor hugging a sixteen-kilogram lump of iron.




Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Batman!

James Proclaims (4)


At the moment I appear to be in quite a bizarre place health wise. The Christmas period certainly did very little to reduce my weight. And by weight I do, of course, mean mass. Weight, as anyone who studied science to a fairly basic level during their school days will know, is a force and is measured in newtons. We measure mass in kilograms, grams etc. (or stones, pounds, ounces etc. if you prefer the imperial system over the metric system. It’s your call, I make no judgements). But conventionally we refer to mass as weight.

And thus, talk about losing weight.

When we should be talking about losing mass.

Call me a pedant if you will, but I don’t want anyone thinking me to be an uneducated oaf because I refer to weight loss when I actually mean mass loss.

Nonetheless, for the sake of accepted convention, I’ll go back to calling it weight.

So long as we all recognise that that is technically incorrect.

Anyway, I clearly didn’t lose a lot of weight over Christmas. But I didn’t gain any either.

Because while I’ve been eating lots of bad stuff, I’ve also been exercising a bit.

And I seem to have struck a balance, whereby my Body Mass Index isn’t getting any better but isn’t really getting worse either.

And that’s fine, because even if I should probably try and lose some weight, I’m perfectly happy to just buy bigger clothes.

As far as I can see, my weight will only become an issue if that ceases to be an option.

And at the moment I’m happily able to buy clothes that fit me from most major retailers.

So, it’s all good.

But as I say, I have been doing quite a lot of exercise.

This is motivated partly through health reasons, because exercise is generally viewed as being a good thing, but it’s also motivated by a desire to be Batman.

Obviously, I’ll never be Batman, he’s a fictional character, and, even if we were to suspend our disbelief and imagine that Batman could actually exist, his alter ego, Bruce Wayne is super rich. So, while Batman’s crime fighting ability comes partly from his supreme fitness, agility and strength, it also comes from having expensive bits of kit, like the Batmobile.

Even if I can get as fit as Batman, I’m not currently rich enough to own a Batmobile. I do have nice little city car that gets me from A to B. It’s great around town, copes with motorways reasonably well, and is relatively economical to run.

But utterly useless for fighting crime with.

So mostly I exercise for health reasons.

But, given the recent world events it’s probably just as well to be in the right physical condition to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

But I do sometimes wonder (not enough to really do anything about it) whether my policy of exercising a lot but then eating what I want is better or worse than if I had a more sensible diet but did less exercise.

In all likelihood it’s  a moot point because the leftover indulgences from Christmas are nearing their end. I’ll soon be forced to make the decision to eat more healthily or buy more bad stuff in my grocery shop.

And Christmas has wiped me out financially until …er…next Christmas.

So, a sensible diet is probably going to have to be my modus operandi for a while, albeit for reasons of cash flow.

But I presume that will make me healthier.

So ironically, poverty might help me in my quest to be Batman.

But I still think the car is a bit of a barrier to achieving that goal.



Just One More

“Just one more,” is my mantra
As I near my breaking point
Just one more and I can rest
And ease my creaking joints

Breathless, broken, sweating
An hour of constant pain
At the end of which I wonder
What exactly do I gain?

The answer comes soon after
I pick myself up off the floor
And crack open the biscuit tin
When it’s never ‘just one more’…

Stuff I Used To Do But Don’t Do Anymore (Or How I’ve Become A Less Interesting Person Over Time): Part 2 – I Just Kept On Running (Or I Did For A While And Then Gave Up…)

James Proclaims (4)



Part 2 of my confessional about how I’ve become a less interesting person over the years and it is time to focus on a perennial lie on my CV – the claim that I enjoy long distance running. To reflect that fact, this is a longer-than-usual post. A marathon of a post if you will. Don’t say you weren’t warned…

I’ve never enjoyed long distance running. I can’t think of anything I’d rather avoid than running of any description to be honest.

I’m not built for it for one thing. Until settling in the town of Reading in 2013, I led something of a nomadic existence. I’ve lived in a few places in the UK and I even lived for a few years in Paris (more of which later). The one thing that moving around means is changing GPs. And every time you change GP you have to go and have a medical. Consequently, no-one is more aware than me that I am, according to my BMI score, obese.

It’s a horrible word, obese. I often wonder if it’s specifically designed to make you feel bad about yourself. Cos if someone describes you as obese, then you’re going to want to do something about it aren’t you?

And I would, but I think it’s fair to say I’m also quite fit.

I’m no Olympian but I do exercise a reasonable amount. Continue reading Stuff I Used To Do But Don’t Do Anymore (Or How I’ve Become A Less Interesting Person Over Time): Part 2 – I Just Kept On Running (Or I Did For A While And Then Gave Up…)