Life, IIH And Of Course Hockey!

I swear in my life……….I’ve never worked so hard. And yet I still can’t understand exactly what it is I’m doing, or exactly where all the hours go. I’m up at about 6am, usually before, and don’t go to bed until around 11pm. I might get an hour or so to relax during the evening………watching television, reading, etc……..but for the most part, I’m working in some way, shape or form. Anyway, whine over, back to how things are going.

Nearing the end of the last school term, just before the summer holidays, my eldest daughter, the one who’s been unwell, and diagnosed with IIH (Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension…it is IIH awareness month. Please take a look here) had worked really hard to get to the point where she was able to go into school (it was the last few weeks of her time there…..so not much work, but still quite an achievement given the fact that she’s had one constant headache since the start of October last year) for four days out of five. While I could still see her struggle (with things like her reading, and P.E.) it was also noticeable just how happy she was to be back at school with her friends.

The kids river dipping at Hengistbury Head

The kids river dipping at Hengistbury Head

Both my children love going to school, and always have done, something I’m incredibly proud of, and immensely grateful for. In fact my youngest has already picked out the enrichment activities that she’s going to do when she moves up schools, to the one my eldest daughter has only just started, and that’s not for another three years yet………….CRAZY CHILD!! Where was I? That’s right………how things were, in the last few weeks of term, going so well. My daughter had come off the large dose of steroids she’d been on (something of a nightmare…….both being on them, and probably more so coming off them), while continuing with the Acetazolamide that she’d been on since much earlier in the year. I suppose, up until that point, the pain from her headache had gradually been coming down (from a 7/8 out of 10 to the point where it had got to just under a 6 out of 10) but it seemed to have reached a plateau, with no improvement reported. Just to let you know, I’m a mean daddy………I ask her every day about her head……how much it hurts, what the score is out of ten, has it been any better/worse during the day, if so when and what was she doing. I’m sure she gets fed up with me doing this, in fact I know she does, but I think it’s important to do, to recognise what things make it worse, and if anything at all makes it better. I suppose so far, the only thing that really makes it worse is something she really loves to do……..READING! Which given she’s just started at secondary school, is really not a good thing. Back to the summer.

On breaking up from school, I suppose we had a week or so without really doing very much. We had one day at Moors Valley country park, losing ourselves in the forest, taking on the play trail, hunting dragon and damsel flies, all with great success. The children and I had a wonderful day. But really that was about it, for the most part the kids chilled out, and I got on with my writing and social media work. It was all going so well. Of course though, it didn’t last.

Ten days into the holiday, my eldest wasn’t feeling very well, unusual really. She’d been fine the day before, and gone to bed the previous night with as much of a smile as she ever has. But the following morning her head hurt, the light hurt her eyes, and she didn’t want anything to eat. This went on until early afternoon, when yes………you’ve guessed it, we ended up back at the hospital. As per all our other visits, the staff at Salisbury District Hospital were magnificent, from the paediatricians, to the nurses, to the eye clinic staff………everyone. But it was a body blow to say the least to have to be admitted again as an emergency, one from which I’m probably still reeling, one from which my overwhelming memory is pushing her around the hospital in a wheelchair, because she was so unwell she just couldn’t walk. They ran all the tests, checked her eyes……….finding papilloedema, the swelling from raised pressure behind them. The long and the short of it is that there were conversations with the neurologists at Southampton hospital, with a decision being reached that she should restart on the steroids. Not a good day, followed by quite a few more. The summer holidays that started so well, fell away like a lemming over a cliff. As a family we stayed in for the most part, helping her rest and recover, with the odd day at Hengistbury Head or shopping. She had recovered, to some degree anyway. But always on our mind was what lay ahead, the starting of a new school on the 1st September.

It didn’t take long for the first day to come round. Even without all the illness and everything, it still would have been important, a landmark.

Jaina in her school uniform on her first day

Jaina in her school uniform on her first day

But with what she’s still going through, doubly so. The first day was a success, with just her year group in school, she had a great time and got to know some of the other girls in her class. It wasn’t the first time she’s been there, as there have been a few taster days and evenings towards the end of the last school year. But with such a big step up comes more responsibility and more work, as well as all the fears and worries of starting a new school and being in an unfamiliar environment, all of which lead me to worry even more. But one of the positives from all of this, is just how wonderful, flexible and supportive the school have been about it all. I can’t begin to praise them enough, and long may it continue. Of course they want her to succeed and for fill her potential, gaining great exam results along the way, much as we her parents do. But more importantly to me anyway, is her personality and happiness, something the school at this point, seem to understand, for which I am very grateful.

 I suppose over the last couple of weeks she might have been in to school about half the time. It’s hard from my point of view to know whether I’m pleased about that or not. In many ways it’s disappointing it’s not more, given how well she was doing during the last few weeks at her old school, but given that for most of this year she’s been so unwell, it’s been hard to imagine her being well enough to go full stop. So my feelings on the subject vary day by day……..probably even hour by hour. It hasn’t been helped by hospital appointments. Neurologists last Friday…………..the only new thing is she’s started a three month course of Iron, and another eye appointment at Salisbury later on today.

With all of this going on, getting my eldest to her new school over the other side of town a tsome ungodly hour, getting her sister to school, swimming, zumba….oh yes, ZUMBA! Which by the way, she absolutely loves, my wife working hard, at least a couple of days a week going off on the train to London, Bristol, Exeter, etc, at ungodly hours, and not returning until late, my life feels like it’s constantly spinning, a merry go round zipping round at speed,  with me, unable to get off. As if that weren’t enough, there are all the jobs at home….replacing bricks in walls, painting front doors, all the usual, as well as the writing (trying hard to complete the third Bentwhistle book), never ending social media and all the housework. Wow……it’s hard enough writing about it, let alone doing it all.

And as if all of that wasn’t enough, I’ve started playing hockey again, after my forced absence of last season (I did help with coaching the juniors). As well as playing mixed hockey throughout the summer, with the ladies’ 5th XI and the men’s 4th XI, I have attended training for the last few weeks, and agreed to help with some ladies’ coaching (not entirely sure how long that will last…….due to being old and aching rather a lot), not to mention playing half a game on Saturday, and umpiring the other half. I find it’s the only time I can relax, a hockey ball on the end of my stick………..it makes it all go away, briefly anyhow. So we’ll see how long it lasts, with my aching body constantly hurting from all the exercise, and my mind swimming from all the places I have to be, and just when I have to be there. Anyhow, got to go. One child to drop off at school, one to take to the hospital. Already tired from being up at 5.30am, working on the computer. Roll on bedtime, that’s what I say. Until next time.

 

 

Festivals Part 4: Camping

While Worthing was probably the biggest ‘ticket’ in town so to speak, it wasn’t the only one. Other mixed festivals that involved staying over (always camping) included HMS Dryad, HMS Sultan, Basingstoke, Rickmansworth and Swanage. The camping in itself, at times, could be as much of an adventure as the rest of the weekend. Putting your own tent up alongside a team full of (generally) intoxicated hockey players is a challenge in itself. Image0050 (2)As soon as you have one part of the tent up and move on to the next part, a teammate is normally disassembling the first part. (Well, in my experience anyway……..yes I know, sometimes ….well, quite often, it was me doing it to other people, but I was on the receiving end quite a lot as well.) Tent pegs would be hammered into the ground and, as soon as you’d move around the tent, they would be pulled out again……this could go on for a very long time……particularly if there was nothing else to do.

I think my most memorable experience in a tent (not like that!) was at a Salisbury August festival. I was sharing with a team mate in a small, two person tent. On the Friday night/Saturday morning we’d got back to the tent late after helping clean up the bar and clubhouse (collecting and washing glasses, mopping the floor, chasing everyone out of the clubhouse). My team mate was rather drunk, but managed competently to get into the tent, slip into his sleeping bag and fall asleep at the same time as I. With it being August, it was as you’d expect…hot!…….really hot, and light very early in the morning. I was woken by my team mate announcing to me at some ungodly hour (about 6 am) that he was “going home to have a shower” and that he would “see me later”. On only a few hours’ sleep, I mumbled “goodbye” and fell back into not quite the blissful sleep it had been before being so rudely awoken. On dropping back to sleep, I was aware of two things. One: the middle part of my body was definitely lying in a dip, and two: it was getting incredibly warm, indeed, so much so, that I had started to sweat profusely. Despite these two things, I fell back to sleep, exhausted from all the work and the fun of the day before. When I finally awoke, it was only half an hour before the matches were due to start, and even then, only because people had been shouting at my tent as they walked past, for me to “WAKE UP!” The first thing that occurred to me as I came to, was that perhaps I was unwell. My back and legs ached….sleeping on the bare ground in just a sleeping bag, but I was absolutely drenched in sweat. After 60 seconds or so, I thrust my hands out of the sleeping bag and slowly slid the zip down the side. To say the sleeping bag and I were a little “moist” would be like describing the Thames as a little trickle. I sat up and tried to extricate my sticky, damp legs from the sleeping bag. It was then that I noticed…………..IT! To one side of the tent….not my side…. lay an empty pint glass on its side. For a few seconds I was overcome with confusion……..that is, until I followed the trail of damp, foamy grass from the top of the glass……all the way to the very-nearly-full-of-beer dip, in which I’d been sleeping. In my team mate’s clumsy attempt to leave the tent earlier in the morning, he’d knocked over his nearly full pint of beer that he’d brought back in to the tent with him in the early hours. The beer had found the dip in which I had been lying, and consequently I’d been rolling around in it, in my sleeping bag, for a couple of hours. So not only was I damp and sticky, but I smelt like a brewery, something as a non-drinker that wasn’t very pleasant. When I explained what had happened to my team mate (naively expecting sympathy), he laughed almost to the point of some pee coming out, I seem to remember.

Another August festival at Salisbury had me camped just to one side of one of the grass pitches, and for some reason I’d gone to bed a little early (hmmmm…..midnight, or just after). Lots of fun and games were going on around and about…….you know the kind of thing……drinking, singing (v. loud), mucking about……..the usual! I remember falling asleep straight away…….well it was Sunday night, and again I was totally shattered. I was having a dream about flying through the air on my back, only to discover that, a whole load of hockey players had taken out the tent pegs of my tent, and were moving it with me in it. Snuggled up in my sleeping bag, I was……trapped! What they then did, astounded me. They put the tent back down, and then proceeded to hammer in all the tent pegs, one by one. “What’s wrong with that?” I hear you ask. Between where my tent had been and the hockey pitch, was a rather steep, grassy bank. They’d pitched my tent on that steep bank, hammered in all of the pegs, and then just walked away laughing. What made it worse, was the fact that my head was at the lower end, with my legs effectively in the air, way above my head. In the end, I couldn’t face getting out and repitching the tent, so I eventually managed to turn round and slept on that steep slope all night. They were all very proud of their jolly jape in the morning.

Let me know what you think, and your own hockey festival experiences for a chance to win a copy of my book.

Festivals Part 3

Continuing on from my last blog about mixed hockey festivals, here are some of the most memorable moments, well for me anyway.

• The most amazing ice cream fight at one of the venues, during a break from the hockey. With nearly the entire team having acquired Mr Whippy ice creams, the chaos was started by yours truly when, I said, “My ice cream tastes okay, but smells really funny.” Inevitably, one of the girls in our team came over to smell it, and of course I shoved the whole thing in her face……ohhh how I laughed, well, for about a second, before the entire team erupted in to an ice cream war….very funny, but very, very messy.

• Crazy car races around Worthing, either from one hockey venue (the hockey matches were played on three different sites) to another, or after having finished the hockey and racing back to the guest house to use the showers first. Memorable moments include racing back to get showered, behind a car full of our ladies, not entirely sure of the way back. As driver, I flashed my light at them, and stuck my right indicator on, signalling to turn right. They duly turned right, across the busy lane of traffic, into a complete ‘dead end’, while we continued straight on, all getting use of the two showers in the guest house first…..the girls were more than a little disappointed.

• Me being woken up, early on the Monday morning, as there was something of a …..problem with one of our players. While I probably wasn’t the most sensible person about, I was normally always the only completely sober person, so would often be tasked with looking out for the odd person or two. On this fateful morning, I was guided up into the very top room of the guest house, where our male goalkeeper was sleeping. Now the last time I’d seen him, was just before midnight, the previous night, competing with some of the ladies in a drinking competition…….never a good idea, even I knew that. Anyhow, I’d gone to bed tired, and thought nothing more of it. Anyway, on entering the player’s room, it quickly became apparent that he was still fast asleep, but that wasn’t all. Image hock 4His normally flat hair, had been gelled to the max, his face was made up…eye liner, eye shadow, blusher, lipstick…you name it, he had it. And, all of his nails had been painted….a very bright red, and very professionally done. He had not looked like this when I’d left him, the previous night. Anyway, the reason I’d been dragged into this, was because apparently, nobody could wake him up. Anyhow, to cut a long story short…try as we might, we couldn’t wake him. In the end, we had to call an ambulance, with two poor ambulance men attending, who couldn’t wake him either, and had to strap him to a stretcher and cart him (remember he was a goalie…..not renowned for being as light as a feather) from the top floor of the guest house, down three flights of stairs and into the ambulance………all the time looking like some mad lady boy experiment had gone disastrously wrong. And, guess who had to go in the ambulance with him……yes, that’s right…….the only totally sober person, one with no hangover….ME! So off we went to A&E, where I spent the next 3 hours, watching a very stern, and very scary matron like figure, shout and slap our interestingly disguised goalie, all because he decided that he could take on some of our heavy hitting girls in a drinking competition. Eventually he came round, eventually we met up with the rest of the team…still with some of the makeup on, and the nail polish, and then it was time to go home….him to his….other half. Now I wasn’t in the same car as him on the way home…but the story goes that they had to take quite a detour to find somewhere, anywhere on a bank holiday to find a shop that sold nail polish remover. When they eventually did…..and it was eventually, apparently the man in the shop took quite a fancy to our goalie….much to the goalie’s annoyance….if you know what I mean. Ohhhh how we laughed!

• Fine cards with everything from throwing up, missing breakfast, refusing an alcoholic drink to losing the cards being subject to fines of some sort. On the subject of losing the cards, everyone would go to great lengths to pinch other people’s cards, with a view to getting them fined….you had to be very careful where you kept your card, particularly as you were supposed to have it with you at all times…..made showering a very interesting experience!

• On the fine cards for one tour, one of the fines was for refusing an alcoholic drink….hmmm, had the potential to be unbelievably bad for me…what with being teetotal. A deal was struck, not really to my satisfaction, but it was all I could do at the time. If I drank on the Friday night, then I would be excused for the rest of the weekend and not fined…….brilliant! So it started as soon as we reached the first pub in Worthing after having checked into the guest house. I ordered a pint of lemonade and lime, and to my surprise, the person in charge of the ‘kitty’, at the bar, agreed. The buying of the drinks took some time, with mine being the first to have been ordered. Some ten or so minutes later, with all the drinks bought, the ‘kitty’ monitor returned, and, pretending to stumble, managed to pour a double..something…vodka, bacardi…who knows, in to the top of my lemonade and lime, which by then I’d drunk quite a lot. This was very much how the evening progressed, with me drinking everything put in front of me. The things I remember most about that evening were, one of the very nice ladies rescuing me from a potential talking to by the police, by grabbing me and moving me along when I was tempted to start mucking about with a shopping trolley in the middle of the road, only for two more of my teammates who were behind me to fall into that trap. Being made to drink Pernod…..hmmmm…never been quite sure of aniseed, that combined with the effects next day….yuck! Turning up at the big hotel in the early hours of the morning to meet up with hockey players that we all knew, only for them to realise there was something different about me, but taking half an hour to work out what it was. And waking up in the morning with absolutely no hangover whatsoever, much to the disappointment of the whole team, particularly those I was sharing a room with. However, later on in the day after we’d played our first game, the whole team left me sleeping in the hot sun, giving me a nice dose of sun stroke and making me feel worse than a hangover probably would have. A definite one off I think!

• On the particular morning above, there was a little incident. Four of us were sharing a room, and with the sun shining through the tattered cheap curtains at some ungodly hour, we were all awake, especially me, who, being the only one without a hangover, thought it a good idea to keep everyone else awake and make lots of noise. Anyhow, with the room heating up like a sauna with Kylie in nothing but her hot pants, everyone was keen for the window to be opened for some fresh air. So we all nagged the player in the bed nearest the window (yes, you Nige..if you’re reading) to open the window. He had the worst hangover of everyone and was not keen to leave the comfort of his bed. So instead of us walking six or seven feet, we continued to nag him until finally he gave in and got up to open one of the windows. From snuggled under our covers, all the other roommates could here was him muttering, the pad, pad, pad of his feet on the floor, the squeak of the handle on the window being turned, and then……………”OH SHIT!”, followed by the biggest, loudest ‘CRASH’ in the world. Before I go on, I should explain that the room in the guest house we were in had a massive window (about 15ft)that ran the entire length of one of the longest walls. It had two normal sized windows at each end, with a rusty old metal frame….the whole thing was……HUGE! At the sound of the massive ‘CRASH’, all three of us sat bolt upright instantly, only to find the whole of the window frame missing. Poor Nige, had turned the handle on one of the small windows and the whole thing, including the frame, had dropped two storeys onto the path below. Luckily because of the early hour nobody had been hurt. Needless to say, the three of us took one look, and all fell about in an uncontrollable fit of giggles. Lots of explaining later, it turned out that the window was well and truly hanging on by just a thread, such was the state of disrepair. For the rest of the weekend, all poor old Nige heard was, “Are you having a SMASHING time? Have you got enough money or are you BROKE? Are you in PANE Nige? We think you were well and truly FRAMED? “….you get the idea.

• Numerous silly themes for the Saturday night disco in the town centre, with Noddy always choosing his white trousers and medallion…..something we secretly all copied one year without him knowing right up until the very last moment.

• An interesting trip to a restaurant, where another hockey team (very drunk) were having a meal. They very politely asked our goalie (yes the one from earlier) to take some pictures of them sitting at the table; however, what they didn’t realise, but we did, was that he was taking pictures of everything but them….himself, the waiters, the bar, the toilet, the ceiling, the floor…..his..unmentionables, again…you get the idea. Not sure they would have been best pleased when they got the film developed (younger people….you’ll have to look that up on the internet. It’s what happened before digital cameras).

• Dressing up different members of the team to play in goal….highlights for me….Mr Cosens….and Nige (see above), only because he looked so cute and swapped his nickname of Condom, to Ribenaberry I seem to remember, just for the rest of the weekend.

 

Festivals Part 2

In my previous post, I told you how it all started….well for me anyway. The trip to Lowestoft with the Haunchers was wonderful and led to a whole host of great times……none more so than playing mixed hockey. Before I tell you any more, I should say that in the last couple of months I’ve had the opportunity to renew my acquaintance with this wonderful form of the game, after not playing it for a very long time. Salisbury hockey club have been running a mixed summer league and some friendly mixed games every other Saturday, which I have been privileged to be part of. Image0051As well as great fun on the pitch with the games being played in the right way, the social element and mix of age groups has been fantastic. It has been great to play alongside and against friends old and new alike. The mixed tale for me starts ohhh, a very long time ago. I was just about to tell you when, but, well let’s just say it seems like another lifetime ago. As a youngster, on joining the hockey club, one thing in the club’s fixture card, well two actually, caught my eye and intrigued me greatly. On the back pages of the card were fixtures for Mixed 1st XI and Mixed 2nd XI. I had no idea at the time what this was, but was very keen to find out. As it happened it didn’t actually take too long. At the time the men’s and ladies’ clubs were separate entities, based at the same location. The members of both clubs got on famously, with the social side of the sport being just the best thing ever. The clubhouse on a Saturday night was buzzing with hockey players. Come 6pm, it was just heaving. Players who’d played at home at 2.45 were still there, with all of the away teams arriving back at just about the same time. It didn’t take long, even for a shy teetotaller like mysel,f to make friends and join in with the fun. In making friends, I managed to be invited along for some of the mixed games, and ended up being a regular player in both of the mixed sides……it was an amazing time to be involved with hockey, well for me anyway and to this day, the magic and friendship of that period of time has never been repeated with quite such an effect. Playing in the mixed sides consequently led on to……….mixed tournaments! The earliest one I can remember playing in was down at Chichester on a Sunday. We as a team stayed all day, played in loads of games, didn’t win a cup or anything, and then stopped off on the way home for food and of course a drink…….what a day! Although I can remember snippets of the hockey, it was the atmosphere and friendship that sticks out in my mind, even to this day…..don’t forget, I was only a very young teenager, so we’re talking well over 25 years ago. The mixed games could only ever lead on to one thing………Worthing! The biggest mixed hockey festival, certainly in the country at the time, and if I’m not mistaken, in Europe. Salisbury hockey club’s annual trip had already been going for quite some time before I had my first taste of it. Having heard dozens of stories about the adventures of others at Worthing, it was with no small amount of excitement that I set off on my first one…….and believe you me, it did not disappoint. The non-stop hockey and socialising was something else all together, and made my trip to Lowestoft with the Haunchers look very tame, something I wouldn’t have believed possible. The tour started by meeting up late afternoon on the Friday, by which time some members of team had already started….’socialising’. The trip there, at breakneck speed, was followed by a first come, first serve, fight for who had which room in the guest house, before very quickly heading out into town to find a pub or pubs that would be open as late as possible (for those younger readers……this was long before 24hr opening). After the pubs, it would be on to a rather large hotel, where some friends of the team would be staying, and there we would stay, until well into the early hours of the morning. All of this, and then up early for more adventure, hockey, and yes you’ve guessed it…more…’socialising’. How the good residents of Worthing ever coped with what went on in their lovely town during that weekend…I’ll never know. You only had to leave the guest house and walk for a few minutes before you’d bump into another hockey team, heading for the crazy golf course, the go karts, the town or the beach…….it was absolutely heaving with hockey players. All in all, I attended Worthing on four of five occasions….each one fantastic in its own right. I’ll try and tell you some of the highlights in my next post….but please bear in mind, there’s quite a lot (being sober all the time, means that I can always remember everything everyone else has done, in quite a lot of detail. Also, fun for me means that I always add a few things into what actually happened, just to amuse me, while helping to fill in the gaps in my hungover teammates’ memories) that I really can’t mention….I think you’ll understand. To be continued…

Salisbury August Festival Continued

Back to my favourite festival ever……….my home festival of Salisbury, which used to be held over the August bank holiday. Image0023I’ve already described my first one…..how wonderful it was, meeting new friends, playing in fabulous games and turning out against the team I was most proud to play for…….the ‘Haunchers’. But there seem to be so many memories of that particular festival, probably because I attended it so many times, and also because it’s what I always tend to think of whenever I arrive at the ground to play, or even if I drive past.

After only a few years, this festival became one of the most important events in my yearly calender (remember, I was only in my mid-teens then). With there being quite a gap in the hockey calender during the summer back then, a large percentage of hockey players chose to play cricket, but I looked forward to the start of training, which generally began towards the end of July, and then of course the festival and the preparations towards it. Along with a few others from the club, we always made sure we were free on the Friday beforehand, to help prepare the ground and help out in any way possible. And what started out as just that, culminated in a lot more as visiting teams would generally start arriving on the Friday afternoon, and with the bar being open……….well, let me see…..hockey players + beer………..hmmmm, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see where this is going. And so it began that the Friday of that weekend became almost as much fun as the other days of the festival, despite no matches being played. It was a time of anticipation, combined with fun, a little work, mucking about (with and without a hockey ball), seeing friends again, some of whom hadn’t been seen for a year, and of course the starting of proceedings for the next three days. Thinking about sitting outside the clubhouse on the rickety old picnic benches waiting to see who ventured around the corner from the car park next, brings back such exciting memories.

The ‘Haunchers’ who I played for in all but that first August festival (when I played against them, as mentioned previously) were made up of players from all over the country, and as such would turn up on the Friday night in dribs and drabs. As well, players that had played for Salisbury, but had subsequently moved on to another club, always made an effort to come back. That, combined with the usual assortment of men and women from what was back then New Sarum ladies hockey club and Salisbury and South Wilts Men (now just Salisbury hockey club…….much better to be all together) made for an atmosphere that was just ELECTRIC!

Off the pitch mucking about at the Salisbury August festival.

Drinking, dancing, singing…………..oh the songs! Somebody really should create a website of hockey songs, and yes I know they’d probably be similar to a lot of rugby songs, etc…..but oh how I’d love that. I can’t tell you the number of times, being sober, that I’ve stood and watched a team, and generally it is a team, albeit led by a rather good/drunk/knowledgable/confident/and able to laugh at themselves conductor. If all of that’s going on in a clubhouse/bar, most players/teams are drinking, singing, joining in a little. But to just stand and watch sober, taking it all in, is great, for what can be on occasion, quite a period of time depending on the song, and how well it is……..well, one can only really say…choreographed in some of the cases I’ve seen, albeit in quite a drunk, I-seem-to-remember-having-done-this-before kind of way. It’s the kind of thing I’ve seen that on some occasions, has been so good, you wished you could have recorded it on a video camera. Sometimes it’s quite good being sober in a clubhouse full of drunken hockey players, although that said, it is something of a rarity for that to be the case. Other times it has proved to be worthwhile include:

- the ‘naked pyramid’ which was at least five players tall……….something of a feat, and it took many goes to achieve, but they all stuck at it, so……well done.

- the biggest game of human ‘space invaders’ on a sloped bank of ‘The Old Castle’ pub on the outskirts of Salisbury that sits beside a main road. How there wasn’t a road traffic accident with that going on I’ll never know.

- the baseball match at HMS Dryad that started in the dark (lit only by the headlights of four cars….mine was one) and was very evenly matched…..ie, the same number of players on each side. It was, from what I can remember, made up of mainly Salisbury players (plus a few others) on one side, against our hosts on the other side. I sat in my car watching….well, I had to keep it running for the headlights to work, and being sober, it seemed like the best place to be. There were, quite frankly, some magnificent pieces of play. It never ceases to amaze me some of the things that people do when they’re drunk, however stupid, but also some of the incredible things that do happen that are never recorded or remembered. Some of the catches were astonishing to say the least……mainly from our hosts, while the throwing and the running left a lot to be desired. But the main thing I remember about this game, aside from it being in the dark, lit only by car headlights, was the fact that as the game wore on, and it started quite late, the Salisbury players, men and women seemed to either sober or wise up. It started to get quite cold quite quickly, and they were on a hiding to nothing against our very fit hosts. So, one by one, they dropped out, feigning injury, toilet break, sleep, etc. Now you would think that at some point it would no longer be possible to carry the game on. What would that point be? When you’re playing with say………..three or four against eight to ten players……..NOT SO! And back to the drunken old sod of the Salisbury team, who probably instigated the whole thing, but………..who ended up taking on the whole HMS Dryad team…….all on his own. Sounds unbelievable eh? Well, I can attest that he did just that. For about twenty minutes (which believe you me was about nineteen minutes, fiftyfive seconds too long) he pitched, fielded, tried to run some of them out, all the while nursing his drink that was kept safely on the ground. All of the Dryad team thought this hilarious, as did I, but I repeat, nobody thought that he’d last as long as he did.

More often than not though, being sober is a distinct disadvantage. Apart from the obvious things like speaking to strangers, pretty girls, sorting out anyone ill, negating any stupidness or violence, etc, you quite easily get embarrassed by the things other people you’re with do, or the things that are going on around you. Cases at hockey festivals include:

- watching one of the touring teams at much later August festivals……the ‘Bush Burners’…. do their party piece at the Saturday night disco……..you work it out. All I’ll say is that was one smell I never want to smell again!

- watching a University team at the Bournemouth Easter festival pee in the clubhouse while swinging from the main support beams……lovely!

- numerous people streaking and thinking it’s great……….mainly drunk men by the way.

- and spotting, and in some way getting tangled up in other people’s mess, by way of seeing them do something or someone that they really shouldn’t be doing.

Anyhow, it seems I’ve got a little off of track. Needless to say Friday night of the August festival was fantastic, not just for me, but lots of others as well, and I often wish I could be transported back in time to experience it just once more.

.

Lulled Into A False Sense Of Security

4am and here I am………….typing at the computer, the few hours of sleep I’ve had all but deserted me now. Where has it gone so wrong? Things seemed to be going so well, but as I’m constantly reminded, disaster never seems particularly far away. I thought the constant nightmares that continued to haunt me had started to leave, be pushed away into some forgotten corner inside my very spacious head, but not so, and with good reason. awful day, the one whose anniversary is coming up in something like seven or so weeks’ time.

Something completely obtuse can open the floodgates. At the start of June I was very kindly invited to have a run about at the mixed hockey that has been a regular fixture over the last couple of years between the lower men’s and ladies’ teams, every two weeks over the course of the summer. Although I feel older than Noah himself, every molecule inside me is always desperate to pick up my stick and knock a ball about. So of course I turned up to the first session, giddy like an excited little kid. Faces old and new were there, more than required, allowing oldies like me to come off and have a rest during the four or five twenty minute sessions. With the teams split in two, one in yellow, the other in orange bibs, (something of which there weren’t enough of……so I donned my ancient orange Salisbury Mixed XI top from my stick bag, that is decades old) I set about trying to remember all of my extremely rusty skills, and pushing my knackered old body to the very edge of its limits, which didn’t take long considering I was up against youngsters a third of my age. Still……….you can’t beat experience. Well, you can sometimes, but on quite a lot of occasions it has the ability to make an instinctive stunning reverse stick tackle, or the occasional good looking aerial ball, all seemingly out of nothing.

I digress. After the first session was up, an umpire for the second session was required. I volunteered (more than happy to have a little rest……given the heat and all) and duly made my way across to the far side of the pitch, whistle in hand. I’d only got a few steps, when it hit me like an onrushing freight train, so much so, that it was all I could do not to break into tears. Reaching the far side of the pitch, and with both teams still getting organised, I tried to rally my thoughts, push them to the back of my mind, but as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t shake the images of that day that came flooding back to me.

It was the shirt that started it off……….innocuous in itself, but the catalyst this time. I’d turned up in a blue shirt, but with me being put on the orange side, and there being not enough bibs, as already mentioned, I found one of my favourite hockey shirts, old as it might be, and thought nothing more of it. 003What I realised, or rather something in the back of my mind did, as I walked over to the far side of the pitch all on my own, was the last time I had worn that shirt, was that very fateful day at the start of October 2013, when hockey training with both my kids and when, more importantly, I had to rush my eldest daughter up to the hospital, something that turned into the worst day of my life (see Worst Day Of My Life post)

I won’t bore you with the details, but I can remember every single part of the day, and I was stuck in my hockey kit (and THAT shirt) for all of it, and some of the following day……..as I’d slept there overnight, with no change of clothes…. with the exception of my shoes, which I’d managed to swap for sandals. Anyhow, just remembering the last time I’d worn THAT shirt had a profound impact on me, and as I’ve just stated, it was all I could do not to cry, the feelings were so strong from the memories of that fateful day. Since then, I’ve attended all but one of the hockey sessions, and have always had the shirt in my kit back, but so far, have got away with not needing to wear it, despite it being one of my favourites.

Up until then, I had been starting to get sucked into thinking that everything was on the mend, that my daughter was going great guns, improving at a wonderful rate. She had started doing half days, and then the odd full day at school, and for the most part I accompanied her, listening to my youngest daughter’s class read, so that I could be about the school premises, in case my eldest was suddenly unwell, something that was necessary given that she was coming off steroids, and might well have needed an emergency injection of hydrocortisone, something I’d been trained to administer. It was all working out okay, and the school were fantastic about everything, with both children and staff alike delighted that my daughter was once again able to show her face. From then on things improved even more, and given the fact that this summer has been the end of her final year there, in the last two weeks of term she managed to attend pretty much everything going on, and as you might imagine…………there was a lot. From school plays, to leavers’ services, to class parties, concerts, etc, etc, you name it, it was going on, and happily, she managed to attend it. We kind of got through it successfully, managing between us to have the odd rest morning. It was both sad that she was leaving, but fantastic that she could attend at all, given what’s happened over the course of the last ten months.

So the end of school came and went, and last week was the first full week of the holidays. Given how hectic the last few weeks at school had been for everyone, mostly we stayed at home, with just one day out at the stunning Moors Valley Country Park near Ringwood. 104We arrived nice and early, as always, getting almost the whole forest to ourselves, and were able to leave just before lunch, just as it was getting particularly busy.

And so on to yesterday. Unusually, my eldest wasn’t looking right, or feeling well from the outset. Odd considering when she went to bed on Monday night, nothing was out of place or wrong. She complained of her head hurting more (something we haven’t heard in months), of the light hurting her eyes, and of just feeling unwell. All she wanted to do was lie on her bed in her darkened room. Hmmmmm…………..not good! With her mother off work on holiday, and with us having planned to go out, needless to say we didn’t, but stayed in, taking it in turns to watch over her. About mid-morning I responded to an email from one of my friends. In it I predicted that we would at some point during the day, end up at the hospital. A prediction that, disappointingly, came true.

The usual course of events unfolded, something that at one point I seem to recall being almost a bi-weekly event. The local hospital were, as usual, great, seeing us straight away……nothing too much trouble. She managed to get to the eye clinic so that they could check the pressure behind them (albeit with a rather dubious driver pushing her wheelchair……..me of course!). The staff in the clinic were fantastic……fussing over her, and putting a smile on her face for the first time during the whole day. The outcome was that the pressure behind her eyes seems to have increased…………bugger! (This is the quickest way to test for symptoms of IIH, the condition my daughter suffers from – check out the wonderful IIH Support website if you want to find out more about it.) So after going back to the ward, and with the great team of paediatricians communicating with the neurologists in Southampton, our knight in shining armour informed us that she would be starting back on a course of steroids again. Not something we or she wanted to hear, but something that we’d already predicted would happen, minutes before we were told. Fortunately, we were discharged, although I have to say, it looked touch and go whether she would be up to going home, for much of our time there. So here we are, what feels like back to square one almost. My waking and sleeping thoughts still haunted by that day, my daughter being chased down by something unforeseen, me…….unable to protect her. It shouldn’t be about me……….I know. But once again I feel so helpless. You sit and wait, hold her hand, push her around the hospital in the wheelchair, find her drinks, try and comfort her in every way possible………..but it never seems enough. I truly thought over the last few months that things were heading in the right direction, and with a new school year, and more importantly, a new school, looming on the horizon in September, we as a family had hoped that things were all heading in the right direction. But that’s not how it feels at this very moment. I hope as the one medical professional we trust above all others said, that it’s just a ‘blip’, but it doesn’t feel that way, not now, not when things seemed to be going so well.

So I suppose all we can do is wait, something I really, really hate. As I sit here now, the illuminated screen of the computer lighting up the room, daylight gently filtering through the sides of the curtains, I wonder what the coming weeks and months will bring, haunted by memories of that fateful day, the tentacles from it that still have hold of my daughter. 001The bright orange shirt is tucked away with my hockey sticks, just out of sight over my shoulder. I wonder if I should put it on, face my demons, or perhaps never wear it again. In theory it should make me stronger………just as picking up one of my hockey sticks does, but somehow this feels different, scary, frightening somehow. Oh well, off to see if sleep can claim me for a couple of hours. Wish me luck!

 

Salisbury August Festival

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of playing in a mixed friendly game (well, four lots of 20 minutes) with a whole load of great people from Salisbury hockey club. After a quick shower, I grabbed a drink and joined everyone in the function room of the fantastic, relatively new clubhouse. While everyone sat socialising and tucking into the delicious food provided, my attention turned to the scene I gazed upon out of the window. I looked out over the fab astroturf pitch that I’d just played on, but more important to me was what lay beyond it. I could see the gorgeous old church in the background, and between that and the astroturf pitch lay a cricket pitch and part of the golf driving range.

While it might sound odd that I was captivated by such a sight…….there is a reason. That reason is that Saturday was the August bank holiday, a time in the past that has been so important to me.

The first hockey festival that I ever visited was the Trojans Easter festival, as I’ve already mentioned elsewhere in these pages. But the single most important festival to me has always been the Salisbury August festival, which sadly no longer takes place.

At the grand old age of 13 (again, I know by today’s standards that’s incredibly old……there was no junior training, no 5-10 year olds being coached), and after coming back to summer training after the enforced summer break, I was duly informed that in only a few days time, we (Salisbury Hockey Club) would be hosting our yearly August festival. Well, you can imagine my surprise, and…..my excitement! I was still thrilled at having gone to the Trojans Easter festival, and that was many months earlier. Having a big hockey festival only a short walk from where I lived….what on earth could be better than that? As it turns out……..only about three things ever!!! With the instructions of what time to turn up on Saturday morning still ringing in my ears as I walked home from training, I can distinctly remember laying awake that night, dreamily thinking about what the coming weekend would bring.

Turning up early on the designated Saturday, I embarked on a ritual that would become both regular and familiar over many years to come. The three men’s grass pitches had been marked out, but the goals and nets for each pitch needed to be set up, so along with what would become a regular cast, we carried all of the posts, backboards and nets on to the trailer that was duly hooked up to the sports club’s tractor. As the same group headed towards the pitches on foot, the tractor started up with its noisy rumble, and a great big puff of engine smoke. I don’t know exactly how early this was on the Saturday morning, but what I do know is that the weather was glorious….as it should be, being August bank holiday…unlike this year.

After setting up all the goals, and re-marking the D’s on the pitches, we all got ready to play. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was, but my overwhelming memory is of how I just seemed to…….’fit in’. It’s hard to explain really. I wasn’t unpopular at school and had different groups of friends, but since I’d found hockey at my middle school, it had taken over nearly every aspect of my life, and I found myself spending more time with those friends that shared my love of our glorious sport. But it was very different in this setting. I was, by quite a fair few years, the youngest of the lot…and they all, without exception, accepted me and……more importantly….treated me like one of them. They laughed, joked, included me in all their ‘banter’. You can’t begin to know, unless of course you’ve experienced it, how much all that means to someone of that age, especially when it’s with people/players you look up to and admire. At this point I feel desperate to name the people involved in all that….but I know if I do that I’ll probably either miss someone out, or perhaps disappoint people for mentioning them.

Well, I have gone away and thought about it for ten minutes or so, and I still feel I should name some of those people who made my first August festival so special. Gary Turner (GT), Alan Garrett (Noddy), Mark Cheesley (Cheese), Gary Butt (GB), Dave Parker, Mark Watford, Steve Wellstead, Andy Miles (Millie), Les Malinovszky, Jean Green, Jean Walker, Mike Griffiths (Sid) and everyone else who played in the Salisbury side at that time, all of the New Sarum ladies, as well as the Haunchers side that I played against for Salisbury….I’ll come on to that in a minute. Everyone there welcomed me, treated me as a adult, looked after me, and gave me a glimpse of what was to come if I continued to play hockey……this, I can assure you, was never in any doubt, even at this relatively early age.

Some other things also really stand out from that festival for me. It was hot….really, really hot…pretty much as an August bank holiday should be. I remember lots of drinking, not me…remember…I’m teetotal. I remember lots and lots of hockey players having the most amazing amount of fun. I remember being introduced to the Norwich Grasshoppers…..wow could they drink and have fun, alongside the Norwich ladies, both regulars at the festival for many, many years. I remember the mother of all water fights between some of the younger players, and some of the older players, in which I was used as ‘cannon fodder’ by both sides…..’YES’ both sides, you know who you were.

But probably the outstanding memory was playing against, and meeting my beloved ‘Haunchers’ for the first time. For some reason, and it’s the only time I can remember playing there, the Salisbury game vs ‘Haunchers’ was being played on a grass pitch up at Old Sarum (about a ten minute car journey from the ground). It was only when I arrived with my Salisbury team mates that I saw I would be playing against people that I already knew: Mark Cheesley (Cheese), Gary Butt (GB) and one or two others. The game itself was fantastic, and the first time I can remember really playing in a game where everyone else was an adult and really going for the win, albeit in a fair and friendly sort of way. I gave everything I had in that game, and I know all those who played alongside me did as well…..Les, Millie, GT, Steve, Mark…down to a man. It was one of the best games I’ve ever played in, and probably shaped my future in a way I really couldn’t have understood at the time. I can’t remember the final score…I know we gave away a penalty flick at one point, and I know the Salisbury defence were under pressure for a great deal of the time, with our goalkeeper Malinovszky playing out of his skin as usual, as well as Miles and myself. But something I witnessed for the first time was the friendship between the two sides, something that I found surprising then (even though I probably shouldn’t have given that there were Salisbury players in the ‘Haunchers’ side), but know now it is more the norm, than anything else.

A fantastic start to what would be a mind-numbing number of August festivals for me. After that, there would be no keeping me away from South Wilts Sports Club at the August bank holiday weekend. More August festival memories next time…….

 

My Earliest Club Hockey Memories

My earliest club hockey memories:

• Travelling back from a game against Bournemouth in the Purple People Eater (A Purple Capri owned by the teacher responsible for getting me into hockey). On the twisting and turning Ringwood to Salisbury road, overtaking on blind corners in the dark. To this day I still think of that journey every time I travel on that road, which is quite a lot…thanks Polks!

• Being phoned up by one of my great friends (and hockey heroes…a reference to which you’ll find in my book) and asked to play hockey the following day at the Bournemouth Easter festival when it was still at their Kinson site. My friend (you know who you are!) picked me up in North Salisbury, and 28 minutes later we arrived at the ground, just in time for our game. If you know your geography, you’d know  how impossible that would be, even early on an Easter Sunday morning, and you’d probably be able to take a guess at what colour I was when I exited the vehicle. The journey back was much more sedate.

• Playing for an Eastleigh men’s side (yes, I played a season or two for Eastleigh juniors…Salisbury had no junior side then, a very long time ago) in a tournament/festival at the Southampton sports centre. The game was 6 or 7 aside, played on very bumpy grass pitches. The day was hot and sunny, and I’d travelled up on the train to meet the rest of the team. We played lots of games…all of which were great fun. However, during the last game, I found myself covering behind our onrushing goalkeeper, right on the goal line. The opposition striker slipped the ball to a team mate, who promptly ran into the D and undercut the ball straight at me. I stopped the ball, but instead of cushioning and controlling it, the ball bounced straight back into the path of the onrushing striker, who pulled back his stick, and once again undercut the ball straight at me, from an even closer range, with the precision of a urinary surgeon (yes, ….that should give you a clue). He hit me straight in the ……..how would Terry Pratchett describe it……..straight in the ‘trumpet and skittles’. Unbelievably the ball again fell kindly for the forward, who ignored me writhing around in agony, and promptly chipped the ball over me and into the goal from about two inches in front of my face…..lovely!!!! The umpire promptly signalled a goal….something to this day I feel should have been disallowed. I remember vividly having to go off, and the sensation of feeling sick for about the next 12 hours or so. To add to my woes, I had to walk, very John Wayne like, back to the railway station (none of my team mates could take me, and it was about 3 miles) with all my sticks and kit to catch the train back to Salisbury….oh how I wished on that walk that I hadn’t been so addicted to chasing the little ball about with the stick…..oh well!

• Going on a Sunday to watch the Wiltshire men’s county side play at Marlborough School with some of the Salisbury players. I had just turned 17 at the time and was keen to spend my weekend doing anything hockey related. I travelled up (taking my kit as all good hockey players should….even though there was no chance of me playing) with one of my friends…yes that’s right, another risky car journey. As we watched the men warm up from the sideline of the astroturf, a Wiltshire Under 21 game was just about to start on one of the adjacent grass pitches. One of the coaches came over and asked me if I’d like to make up the numbers as the Wiltshire side were short of players. Faster than an Alex Danson penalty flick, I kitted up, all the time thinking how ironic it was that I was about to play for the U21 side, when only 2 weeks before, I’d failed to be selected for the U18 side at their trials. I played in the game (a very muddy affair I seem to remember) and must have done something right, as I spent the rest of the season playing for the Wiltshire U21 side.  That, however, is not why the day turned out to be so memorable.  After both the men’s and my game had finished, nearly the whole Salisbury group, and a few others decided it would be a good idea to stop off for a curry in Marlborough on the way home. “All well and good,” I hear you say. “What’s wrong with that?” Well, most……no, let’s change that to all…of the Salisbury men were something of a legend in the ‘socialising stakes’, and not always in a good way. I was, at the time, only just 17 and very much in awe of all the players around me…….and don’t forget, important this part…….very much teetotal. In the restaurant, I sat next to the only female of the group, (one of the New Sarum ladies, who I socialised with, played mixed hockey with, looked up to, and counted as a friend…..hi Sue, if you’re reading this). Anyway, things were all well and good to start with, if not a bit rowdy. As the evening progressed…things started to get more out of hand…….play fighting, poppadoms being thrown, drinks being spilt……and it was rapidly going downhill from there. I can’t say I enjoyed any of that very much, but then the dreaded whispers started to travel around the large group of players that I was with. The only word I could hear clearly was “RUNNER”. While still pretty young and naive, I still had a fair idea of what this all meant in the present context and was more than a little worried. Luckily for me, my guardian angel, the designated driver, repository of common sense……..not sure about that one, and all round lovely lady (yes Sue….you!!!), made sure that she was going to get me out of there in one piece, but more importantly talked all of the men out of it (no mean feat considering how drunk they were, and how keen they were to ‘do a runner’). Every time I travel through Marlborough on that main road, I still think of that very rowdy evening, and how if things had been a little different, I could still be there….washing up to pay off the debt of that whole meal.

A very, very young me playing for Salisbury veterans. Look at the sticks!!!!!

Tag………I’m It!

My friend and thriller writer extraordinaire Eric Gates has tagged me in a little game called

Meet My Main Character
Blog Tour

The Rules are simple…
…the taggee must write a post answering the same seven questions about their Main Character… then the taggee becomes the tagger and chooses five other authors… sort of like a chain letter with all the potential to become a global virus.

1. Tell us a bit about your main character? Is he fictional or a historic person?
Events in my book revolve around the fictional main character called Peter Bentwhistle. In part, his personality and many of his traits are based on me, and although he spends a fair amount of his time posing as a human, he is in fact a dragon, something, I can assure you, I’m not. (Although at times, I deeply wish I was.)
The name Bentwhistle comes from the fact that when in his dragon form, he has the markings of a ‘bent whistle’ splashed across his scales. He cares deeply for his friends and always tries to do the right thing in any circumstance but often fails because he’s afraid to stand up for himself. He is more than a little naive, maybe because of his dragon nature and the fact that only a few years have passed since he completed his education in the nursery ring, (fifty years in a dragon school) and was then, like most dragons, thrust out into the human world above ground to help guide the course of humanity.
His gentle nature and love for his friends are traits that I find endearing in him, but which have a tendency to endanger those around him. Recently introduced to the team sport of hockey (field hockey), by one of his best friends, he’s fascinated to the point of addiction by the intricacies of the game, the feeling of being part of a team, and the love, freedom and excitement that flow through him when he plays, provoking feelings similar to that of flying and using mantras when in his dragon form. The typical reluctant hero, with a heart of gold, willing to die for his friends, seemingly enjoying the human world more than the dragon one (something that would be more than frowned upon by the dragon hierarchy), with a love of hockey, who would like nothing better than an easy life. Unfortunately for him…….NOT GONNA HAPPEN!

2. When and where are the stories set?
They are set in the present, where dragons and humans live smack bang alongside one another, without of course the human population knowing. The dragons are committed to fulfilling an ancient prophecy from ages past which sees them protecting, nurturing and guiding the human race because the futures of both races are so inextricably intertwined. The first book introduces the secretive underground dragon domain, visiting the stunning Purbeck Peninsula enclave, situated directly below a beautiful part of southern England. Dragon London features, deep beneath the real thing, as well as the intricate and slightly outdated enclave of Salisbridge. Above ground, Salisbridge once again features, the beautiful seaside town of Swanage, as well as a brief visit to a very chilly, and very deadly Antarctica.
The second book covers much more of the world, both above and below ground. Opening in Egypt, the focus once again remains on events in Salisbridge, but with action covering as far and wide as Antarctica, Perth, Australia, London, New York, Montreal, Chicago and New Zealand, and many other places in between.
New Cover All 3 Characters Cut Out copy cropped

3. What should we know about him?
A dragon in a human shaped body, Peter works at Cropptech’s head office in the fictional city of Salisbridge. Peter’s introduction sees him as part of the security team, but at different points in the story, he ends up as head of security, as well at some point, as losing his job entirely. The importance of him working at Cropptech is that they extract and procure rare minerals, in particular a rare metal the dragon community below ground value because of its unusual properties (something the humans aren’t aware of) ….laminium. His position there is more for the good of the dragon community, than that of the humans, but ultimately combines both roles to good effect.
Peter and I share a love of team sports, in particular hockey, appreciating its ability to help people bond with others, the sheer thrill of helping and/or being helped by a team mate and the fast paced action that you find yourself caught up in. When the moment catches up with Peter, he certainly has the potential to step up and be the dragon other dragons are. But with a lack of self confidence, and an all encompassing fear……….can he?

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?
Suspicious changes above his position at Cropptech start to make his life, and the lives of those around him, intolerable. This leads to a deadly chase for the truth, with the valuable laminium at stake. A mysterious stranger, that only he can see as something other than he appears, cause rifts between friends, and set off a catastrophic chain of events that could not only affect him, but in fact the entire planet. As he struggles to put the pieces of the puzzle together, with and without his friends, he finds new allies in the strangest of places. A master mantra maker long forgotten, and more eccentric than the maddest of professors, provides invaluable help along the way, and more than a few laughs, along with an unknown dragon **SPOILERS** if I tell you anymore about him. From a desperate race to save the laminium in the first book, to a growing global threat from something long in the past, in the second.
Blackmail, intrigue, forbidden love interests, a near fatal mantra gone wrong, a highly charged rugby match in which Tank (one of Peter’s best friends) takes a beating, combined with enough laminium ball action to please dragons the world over, stretch the bonds of the dragons’ friendship like never before. New friends and ancient enemies clash as the planet braces itself for one of the most outrageous attacks it has ever seen. Lost secrets and untold lore come to light, while sinister forces attempt to steal much coveted magic.
Explosive exploits, interspersed with a chilly backdrop and unexpected danger at every turn, make for an action-packed, electrifying adventure.

5. What is his personal goal?
Peter’s personal goals are about being happy, fitting in, doing his job to the best of his abilities, and really just having an easy life. His recent introduction to hockey (field hockey) is almost an addiction to him…..that’s how happy it makes him to play and stand alongside his teammates and fight as one, not just on the pitch, but off it as well. From a social point of view the hockey has been a revelation to him, particularly given that both his best friends play different sports (lacrosse and rugby) at the same sports club, enabling him to hook up with them more often, and learn more about their sports and the effect it has on them, as well as making new human friends within the hockey team.
He’s known Richie, (one of his best friends, the other being Tank) ever since his first year in the nursery ring (dragon school) and deep down has harboured strong feelings for her ever since. But Richie’s wild, never one to play by the rules, and has had many dalliances with humans (something strictly forbidden) and something Peter just can’t understand her obsession with. Will he get together with her? Does she even want to? What about dragon and human relationships? Everything changes as the story progresses, with the three friends almost becoming addicted to everything it means to be human, despite their dragon DNA.

6. What are the titles of your novels, and can we read more about them?
Currently ‘Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Threat From The Past’ can be found at Smashwords, in all formats, or can be purchased in either paperback or kindle version from Amazon.
A Threat From The Past New Cover (Reduced)
The second book in the series can also be found on Smashwords or on Amazon.
A Chilling Revelation Cover (Twitter)
My books can be found at Barnes and Noble here
The Goodreads page for my books can be found here
My facebook page can be found here
I can be found on Google+ here
I can be found on Pinterest here
I can be found on twitter @paul_cude

I have my own website to support the book www.bentwhistlethedragon.co.uk as wells as this blog www.thesoberhockeyplayer.co.uk that provides an insight into me and also offers author the chance to be interviewed.

7. When can we expect the next book to be published?
Hopefully ‘Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Twisted Prophecy’ will be available early next year.

And now, for the next victims…

1.Independent writer, and one of the hardest working people on the planet I know:
Christoph Fischer http://writerchristophfischer.wordpress.com/

2.Talented Young Adult and New Adult writer:
Amalie Jahn http://www.theclaylion.com/

3. Award winning:
Dianne Harman http://www.dianneharman.com/

4. Blogger and awesome author:
Ian Hutson http://runningduck.com/

5. Vampire and horror expert and author:
Shane KP O’Neill http://www.draculachronicles.co.uk/category/blog/

…….and thanks to chief ‘stitcher upper’….OOPs! I mean all round wonderful human being and author Eric Gates for getting me on board with all of this. Check out his wonderful blog http://my-thrillers.blogspot.co.uk/

Star Wars Blog Post Part 2

First of all, I must say ***SPOILER ALERT!*** For those of you who haven’t read the books of the Star Wars Expanded Universe (now apparently not canon) the following will contain graphic information regarding plots, characters, twists and turns, as well as my favourite bits. ENJOY!
Despite reading Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye, Han Solo At Stars End etc, for me, it all started with Heir To The Empire. What a fantastic book, and a great start to a three part adventure. The introduction of some many great things. Thrawn (the blue skinned exotic alien with piercing red eyes) and Pellaeon (who would go on to have a much bigger role in the future) for a start. Typical Empire…..scheming and moving pieces into place, treating people and resources as if they were part of a giant chess board. 1959546_281485678678159_6910432929946227566_nI love the way Thrawn can deduce the actions of individuals and entire species from studying their art…….fabulous! Pellaeon has great survival instincts, and seems an excellent judge of character (particularly with the Noghri, something Thrawn seems blind to).
Ahhhh….the Noghri. A great introduction. I love the mystery surrounding them in this book. Portrayed as scary, deadly assassins, they’re relentless in their pursuit of Leia. The close calls where Luke, and then Han’s quick thinking save them are nothing to when they pursue her to Kashyyk. The capture of one gives a whole new dimension to what’s going on.
On the subject of villians……..C’baoth seems to add a chilling quality to everything else that’s going on. It’s interesting to see Thrawn keep him in line, albeit only just on occasions.
Mara Jade….where to start? This for me is the best part. Anyone who can organise the capture of Luke Skywalker must be something a little special…….and she is! Of course she goes on to have a huge part in things to come (more of that later). Her deep, seething hatred for Luke, combined with the fact that she’s desperate to either hand him over to the Empire or kill him, make things tick along at quite a pace, particularly after he’s captured and imprisoned on Myrkr, the most unsuitable planet in the galaxy for a Jedi it would seem. Both the vornskr and the ysalamiri play crucial parts in what happens, and yes you’ve guessed it, come back time and again much later in the expanded universe. Any creature that can block the force would no doubt attract much attention and be of use to both light and dark side users. 10153076_281464952013565_1767954603721828916_nMara and Luke’s hike through the forest thrilled me. I couldn’t work out what would happen, particularly with Han and Lando back at Talon Karrde’s base, and figuring out that Luke was the escaped prisoner. Karrde constantly reminds you of Han, whether it’s what he could have become, or because of the decisions he makes, and his sense of honour (among smugglers).
The ending ties up well, and I love the fact that Wedge joins the action. The X-wing series are wonderful and I can thoroughly recommend reading them. The whole book makes you wonder what will happen next. At the time of buying it when it first came out, I can remember finishing it and being desperate to find out the next instalment, something that any good book in a series should aspire to.

On to Dark Force Rising, the second in the three book series, continuing from where the first one left off. This to me has a different feel, more kind of settling in. The treachery in the council is intriguing, while I was desperate to know how the Empire were getting their information. This is key to lots of things, and constantly has you thinking of ways the enemy could be spying. Han and Lando pairing up is great, and of course full of action as you’d expect from two ex-smugglers. Leia going to Honoghr was a surprise, particularly given that she’s pregnant with twins. The whole time she was there, especially on her arrival, I thought she’d be caught, but the fact that she turns the tables on the Empire with the Noghri and shows them exactly how they’ve been treated, and who their real enemy is really made that part of the story worthwhile. star-wars-millenium-falcon-wallpaper-02It was however criminal of her to leave the Millenium Falcon orbiting Endor, all on its own. That…..is no way to treat that spaceship. My favourite part was probably Mara and Luke (yes….the state of things to come) teaming up to rescue Talon Karrde from the imperials. Just as you think they’ve succeeded, Grand Admiral Thrawn plays the art card, and works out what’s happening, to make for a very tense piece of action. The interaction between Mara and Luke is great, while again it’s fantastic to see Karrde making the right decision about Mara, even though he’s got precious little to go on. The surprise when Luke discovers the Falcon in the deep storage part of the star destroyer, and then escapes on her is very fitting.
Finding out about the clones at the end, combined with the Katana fleet left me again begging for more when this came out, and the subsequent times that I’ve reread it.
The Last Command…..I couldn’t wait for it to come out, and got it on the day of its release. The third and last book in the series did, for me, live up to expectation. All these characters coming together to defeat the evil of the Empire and the deranged jedi C’baoth.
It’s great to watch Luke grow as a Jedi here, from backtracking the mysterious clones, to ending up inadvertently on Honoghr, to the trek through the dangers of Wayland and on to the predestined confrontation. Here he comes into his own, as well as showing what a great team he’d make with Mara. It would seem after this their pairing would be inevitable.
The best, and most chilling part of this book was when Imperial Intelligence entered the palace in search of Leia and her newborn twins….Jacen and Jaina. 10269639_281464705346923_6698055358447055339_nNow to give you some idea the impact this book had on me, (and to be honest, I’m not quite sure I should mention this) my eldest daughter is called…….JAINA! And yes, you read that right. Now the main reason for this is because I think it is such a lovely name, and the fact that it is unusual made it appeal as well. But the fact that Han Solo and I share a daughter with the same name makes me a little………..proud. Anyhow, the Imperials shooting up the palace in search of the newborns gave me the creeps quite frankly. I love the fact that primarily its Mara that saves the day, proves her allegiance (well, to Luke who never doubted her, but also to Han, Leia and Lando). This was for me a thrilling part of the book, and easily as good as the ending. The fact that they immediately (without Leia) bug out to Wayland (effectively springing Mara) is perfect.
The intrigue with Karrde trying to persuade all the smugglers keeps things going at a nice pace, and turns out wonderfully well when he’s proven innocent of betraying them.
Leia finding delta source (and what IT turns out to be) was a really compelling part of the book, and not in a million years could I have guessed about that, despite all the clues being there in the previous books.
With Karrde whisking Leia off to Wayland, and Luke teaching lightsaber technique to Mara on their Journey from the Falcon, as well as the Noghri teaming up with them all leads to a fascinating final encounter. I couldn’t get enough of it. Grand Admiral Thrawn’s fate is perfect, given what he and others from the Empire have done to the Noghri. A fitting fate to an interesting character.
All in all………..read these books. I don’t know if they’ll be phased out, or replaced. I find that hard to believe. 10253926_280579848768742_4154236528898602274_nBut if you’re a Star Wars fan, and you enjoy reading, please, please, please read these books. They carry on from where Return of the Jedi finishes (well, pretty much…about five years afterwards I think), but they are all wonderful. If you don’t want to start there…..I can most certainly recommend ‘The Courtship Of Princess Leia’ which starts before then, and sees Han being a typical rogue and scoundrel………LOVE IT!

Heir To The Empire on Amazon

Dark Force Rising on Amazon

The Last Command on Amazon

The Courtship Of Princess Leia on Amazon

To be continued……….

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