Life and Writing

I haven’t posted anything for some time… sorry, but LIFE seems to have somehow gotten in the way. Having just finished a ten day bout of flu, I have just been prescribed a course of antibiotics because I have sinusitis. GREAT! Before that, it was desperately needed work on the house, a family funeral, as well as all the normal things: looking after one sick child; taking her to school, infrequently; getting the other child to school; swimming lessons; choir, as well as trying to keep the house tidy and keep up with my social media duties.

A Great Day Out on Halloween! Twenty Degrees At 9am

A Great Day Out on Halloween! Twenty Degrees At 9am

On top of all that, the publisher of my books ceased to trade, owing money to not only me, but to thousands of other authors. The time spent trying to sort out the books, get them republished etc, has been a nightmare, taking up a massive amount of time for me and my wife, who has been nothing short of fantastic in dealing with everything. All in all, hectic doesn’t begin to describe things.
There has been one positive note. Currently I’m just reading through the first draft of my third book, ‘Bentwhistle The Dragon in A Twisted Prophecy’. Although I’m still some way off publishing it (the editing always seems to take ages), just to have the first draft feels like such an achievement, given everything that’s gone on in our lives over the last year. We’ve spent so much time in hospital and looking after my sick daughter, it’s taken all my spare time to get as far as I have, and although it means more work still, I can’t wait until it’s ready to be released.
In some ways, this third book is already very different from the first two. Of course, I still have dreams about the story, (how it progresses, little pieces to add in, tiny details that seem important, etc.) but the way in which I’ve written it is very different. My first book, ‘Bentwhistle The Dragon in A Threat From The Past’ was written totally in the order that it appears. For whatever reason, I could only write it chapter by chapter, in the exact same order that it is published. At times I would get writer’s block, and be stuck until I could move past it. But before I’d even started to write that first book, I always knew the ending, in the most exact detail. At no point, however, did I think of writing that ending, even when I’d got stuck and couldn’t push through the to the next part of the book. I don’t know what other writers do but, for me, this was how the book had to be written.

Sea Shell Hunting During Half-Term

Sea Shell Hunting During Half-Term

For the second book, ‘Bentwhistle The Dragon in A Chilling Revelation’, things were a little different. Again, I knew the storyline in quite a lot of detail, but when I got stuck, which I did on occasion, I found it very easy to just skip ahead and write another chapter, saving it until I reached the point that it was required. This seemed to work well for me and I would say I wasted very little time, if any at all, fitting in all the separate chapters and then allowing myself to focus on whatever it was that was phasing me.
Finishing the second book, and moving onto the third, ‘Bentwhistle The Dragon in A Twisted Prophecy’, I felt a new approach was needed, purely because there was so much going on in the series, all of which I needed to fit in. So before I’d even written a word, I sat down and spent some time planning out exactly what would happen. I’ve never done that before, because I’ve always known the story in my head, well… the really important parts, with the smaller details coming out of my writing and filling in the gaps as I moved along. But having planned out each and every chapter, I started to write it in a different way. I didn’t start at the start, if that makes sense. I picked the chapters that I’d already seen in my mind, and started writing them, storing them all up to be put together later. And this was the way it progressed, lots and lots of individual chapters, all having to be put together at the end. Is it a more successful process than the other ways? I have no idea. It seemed as taxing as the others, but maybe a little quicker. I suppose I’ll have some idea after I’ve read through the first draft. I’d love to know how other writers put their books together. Perhaps there’s a more efficient way, or perhaps each to their own. I do wonder if they have a writing break after they’ve finished a book. Although I know what happens in the follow up, it seems I could do with rest from writing for a while. I’ve always aimed for a thousand words a day, most of the time achieving more, and on some days, considerably more, but those days are rare and far between. I also know that I should still be trying to write a thousand words a day on the fourth book, but with the editing, LIFE, and everything else getting in the way, I’m finding the writing really tough. Perhaps a break for a few weeks will revitalise me, in the end, doing me loads of good. Who knows? Any advice welcome.

Salisbury Men’s Hockey 4 XI Report – 8th November 2014

Aldershot & Farnham 4’s    2:1     Salisbury 4’s

Salisbury had to endure the long drive to Aldershot through a deluge of Biblical proportions on Saturday for this league match against the bottom side.  However it all came undone with the unavailability/loss of four experienced mid-fielders from the previous game.

Salisbury’s youngsters tried to fill this gap but were sometimes muscled out of possession in dangerous positions. However the defence played well and Barrett in goal did not see an excessive amount of action. Salisbury at times reverted to “old fashioned” grass hockey with attempts at 60 yard passes, most of which were easily cut out by a well ordered defence. Aldershot went ahead from their second short corner with a strong well placed shot inside the right hand post.

The away side did not create much up front during the first half with the exception of a ball from the right which Garrett pulled just wide of the post and Henry Smith scoring the equaliser. On the right hand side of the pitch Hillier nearly overran the ball over the goal line but just managed to one handedly pull the ball back for Henry Smith to fire into the bottom left corner of the goal. Flashes of skill emanated from Fred Bond and Chris Pearl but all too often there was no final ball.

The second half saw both sides intensify their work rate but overall it was a scrappy game. Salisbury throughout the match gave the ball away far too much with poor passes straight to the Aldershot team or by trying to beat too many players in isolation. Despite the magnificent efforts of Cude and Alison in particular Aldershot took the lead 18 minutes into the second half when Salisbury were found wanting. Barrett saved well form a hard shot but only managed to push the ball to one of the home side’s younger players who reacted first and was able to slide the ball home from a narrow angle from the right of the goal. Henry Smith up front was given too many long balls to chase and despite increasingly frantic efforts from Salisbury they could not find the rhythm nor composure to draw level and a second loss in this seasons league campaign was endured.

MoM: Philip Alison

DoD: David Hillier

Umpire: Howard smith, Alan Garrett

Team: Alastair Barrett, Andy Manders, James Palmer, Paul Cude, David Hillier, Jim Nicholson, Alan Garrett, Chris Pearl, Philip Alison, Fred Bond, Henry Lloyd, Henry Smith, Howard Smith

Salisbury Men’s Hockey 4 XI Report – 1st November 2014

Salisbury 4’s     6:0     City of Portsmouth 4’s

Portsmouth only had 10 players available for this match (school half term) and this weakness was exploited from the off by a motivated Salisbury side. Despite lending Portsmouth one of their squad for the second half the home sides dominance was shown in that Salmon in goal only touched the ball once in the entire game and that was to give the ball to a defender for a 16 yard hit!! 

The score line should in fact have been a great deal worse for the away side but for some very fine goalkeeping by Portsmouth’s goalie and poor finishing by a raft of Salisbury players: worst amongst them (on his own admission) was Man of the Match and non-scorer Palmer.

On their second short corner Jon Craig’s shot made a resounding thump as it found the back board. At the next the keeper saved from both Craig and S. Ghauri before Garrett volleyed into the net. Despite numerous other attempts on the Portsmouth goal the half time score remained 2:0.

Young Chris Pearl played for the away side for the second half and was one of their two best players but the efforts of Portsmouth in the first half showed in the latter quarter when Salisbury rattled in another 4 goals from Jamie Short, Jim Nicholson, Phil Pepper and Akram Ghauri. It was of special importance for Akram was it was his first goal for the men’s side.

Strong performances from Phil Pepper, on his debut game, plus a goal, and also from Paul Cude, as usual,  whose many interceptions in mid-field prevented Portsmouth from entering the home side’s “D” and set up numerous attacks. In defence Neil Twentymans first game this season was solid and was supported by Manders and Scrase at the back.

Jamie Short who is only able to play the odd game each season showed a big improvement in his game and contributed greatly with young legs and skill in mid-filed. The unfortunate Will Smith again had muscle problems and withdrew whilst DoD Andy Scrase on his first game of the season showed Roy Hodgson what he is missing in the England football squad!

Three wins from four is a good start to the season but bigger challenges are to be faced but this result and performance was a good fillip to the squad. Salisbury are currently second equal in the league with two other teams all on 9 points.

MoM: James Palmer

DoD: Andy Scrase

Umpire: Andrew Buckingham

Team: Matt Salmon, Andy Manders, Paul Cude, Neil Twentyman, James Palmer, Jim Nicholson, Alan Garrett, Chris Pearl, Akram Ghauri, Saboor Ghauri, Phil Pepper, Jon Craig, Will Smith, Jamie Short

I Dream of Writing………and Have Writing Dreams.

Dragons, hockey, adventure, mayhem, twists and turns…………….all the things I seem to dream about. I go to bed tired, and at some point find myself caught up in the plot of the series of books I’m trying to write. New Cover All 3 Characters Cut Out copy croppedWhether it’s something tiny and detailed that the entire storyline hinges on, an overall feature or direction that the plot should take, homing in on a particular character trait, trying to answer a question about dragons or the world that they live in that I’m stuck on in the waking (well, who really knows!) part of my life.

All of these things……………I wouldn’t say torment me, because if I had the time to knit them together, I’d be on about my fourth or fifth book which would be great, but they do persist in throwing themselves at me night after night. I don’t seem to sleep badly, it just seems like something that goes on inside my tiny brain, while my body is resting.

So with this in mind, does anyone, again suffer isn’t really the right word, because a lot of the time it’s a blessing, but does anyone else go through the same sort of thing? My wife says she rarely dreams, or if she does, rarely remembers. For me, it’s either there the instant I wake up, or later that morning little snippets will tickle my consciousness, until I finally put them all together and remember exactly what it was I’d dreamed about/discovered/solved. It would seem that I’ve been able to remember most of my dreams for many years now, and most of the time they seem to be of some use. As someone who likes to tinker with computers (either building them physically, adding new software, or just generally fixing glitches or problems), I have in the past, quite often found myself puzzled by something I can’t fix, or frustrated about not knowing what to do next. When this happens, nearly all of the time I will wake up with an idea about how to fix said problem, or a few ideas about other things/options to try. This doesn’t just apply to computers; it might be something around the house…… to create more space, something to do with the garden…….or even some other part of my life, such as friendships, hockey or work.

Now that I’ve written this down, it does seem a little ‘odd’, but everything I’ve said is true, and just seems normal to me. It does at the moment seem to focus heavily on the writing, maybe because I’m trying desperately hard to finish my third book, which is already longer than the second (which was about 216,000 words), and my best guess would say needs at least another 30,000 words to finish it. Perhaps the dreams are focused on this because some of my writing is done later on in the evening. It’s hard to find the time to write… children (one of whom is really quite ill), my wife, job, housework, cooking, etc………even the dreaded social media, all have to come before the writing…….so that’s the thing that nearly always loses out. I wish it didn’t, and I dearly wish I could get up in the morning and write all day, but that just simply isn’t possible. But these dreams keep on and on and on……….in a good way.

It’s almost as if there’s a story inside my head fighting to get out and be told. I do my best, but at the rate I’m going…………….it’s going to be in there for a very long time………………….HELP!!!!!!

First and/or Best Piece of Sports Equipment

I can remember playing hockey at school (see ‘Introduction’ post) and using either totally plastic sticks….horrible, or ropey old wooden sticks with the torn cloth grips hanging off the bare wood. I didn’t know any better at the time, but the sticks were rubbish. I started playing around Easter time, and for my birthday in December I asked for, and got, my own hockey stick. I can still remember it now. I chose it from the sports shop myself; it was the first stick I owned and it carried me through to playing club level hockey. It was a wooden Sondico stick with a yellowish leather grip. I remember how fantastic it felt when I picked it up in the shop. It was a wonderful stick, with just one flaw, and almost certainly by now, you’ve guessed what it was…….the grip! While superb looking and great in the dry, as soon as it got wet, I might as well have been trying to play hockey with a slippery old eel, fresh from the sea. The number of times I lost grip of that stick while trying to hit the ball must have gone well in to treble figures…..nevertheless, I treasured it dearly, that is until I moved on….in terms of hockey sticks anyway.

The most amazing hockey stick I ever owned was a DFV 36″ platinum stick. It cost a small fortune and was nothing short of PERFECT!

Two of my DFV sticks!

Two of my DFV sticks!

The weight, the balance, the give, the size of the head…all just fantastic! Often I’d show team mates, etc and anyone who picked it up always said exactly the same thing……..that it was the best stick they’d ever seen or held. After that one I had another DFV, only this time a 38″ blue diamond. It suited me better, but it wasn’t as good as the platinum. I would often swap between the two, sometimes during games….depending on how I felt or how the game was going. Sadly both sticks were lost one day when I got injured during a game and had to be taken to hospital. My team mates, on picking me up from the hospital assured me that my sticks and kit had been picked up by the rest of the team, but disappointingly nobody knew where the sticks went, and try as I did, I never managed to find them again. That platinum stick was priceless in my mind, and I still think of it as an old friend.

Recently, although I couldn’t afford it, I went shopping for a new stick. I haven’t had a new one in probably ten years, and it certainly felt like that when I was trying all of the new sticks in the shop. Given that I did try nearly all of them, at first narrowing it down to four, then three, then two, and then oh boy did the problems start. Nothing changes. 003And it must be the same for most hockey players, I’m sure. Go into a shop with one-hundred sticks, try ninety-nine and know that they’re not for you, and then the instant you pick up number one-hundred BOOOOMMM!!! You know it’s the one. The weight, the feel…….everything about it is right. On this occasion, it was hard to choose between the two sticks I’d narrowed it down to. The cheaper one was the first stick I’d picked up on entering the shop. And it felt great. I kept going back to it and trying it out. It was a Kookaburra stick I think. The second, (a Dita stick) the one I choose, was just love at first touch, despite it being an inch and a half longer than the stick I’d been using. The weight (very light) was perfect, there was a slight curve in the shaft, it was just made for me. After lots of consideration, mainly because of the price, I had to have that one. And given how it performs in training and in a match, I couldn’t be happier.

So, why don’t you see if you can top all of that……over to you now.


Festivals Part 6

There’s another Basingstoke festival memory that sticks in my mind. One of the regular Salisbury male players (let’s call him…….’Air’) was a big hit with the opposite sex (well, at least that’s how he always viewed it…….mostly through rose tinted beer goggles). Anyhow, this particular Basingstoke festival, we had a mixture of experienced players and, because we were short, some of the ladies’ junior players came to join us on the Sunday, as I, being captain and one of the two junior coaches at the time (see pic below), could think of no other way to make up the numbers. Anyway, said juniors all arrived and we played one game………all was going well.

After the game, the whole team adjourned to the bar, all sitting together around the same large table. After a few minutes it became clear that one of the team had gone missing. Yes that’s right………’Air’!

New Sarum ladies juniors with me helping fantastic coach Brian Hiscock

New Sarum ladies juniors with me helping fantastic coach Brian Hiscock

After a swift look around he was spotted, as far away from us as he could possibly get….at the end of the bar, casually chatting up a young girl from another team, who had, through no doubt copious amounts of alcohol, spent the entire night in ‘Air’s’ tent (you fill in the missing pieces!).

Well, ‘Air’ was doing his very best to hide himself from the team, knowing full well  the kind of stick he’d get if we caught him in the act of trying to impress a member of the opposite sex, when there were serious hockey discussions (well……….you know what I mean) going on. At this point, I should probably mention that there was a glass partition separating the viewing area where we were sat, from the bar area where he was preening. As a team we did our best to catch his eye (you know, with lots of hand actions and miming), but although he did notice what we were all doing he, to his credit, managed to totally ignore us…… mean feat I assure you.

Being ignored just made us more determined……..determined to humiliate him in front of the girl he was trying so hard to impress. Now while I will reveal a few things in these blogs…….. I won’t always admit that it was me that either carried things out, or thought up the dastardly ideas in the first place. However, this most definitely WAS my idea. One of the juniors, about fifteen at the time and a great hockey player (Hi Dime Bar!) had brought along her nine year old sister (also a fab hockey player), and their parents had left both girls with us while they had gone off for a walk. I knew my plan was a good one, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to persuade the youngest of the two sisters to play along…….on this, the whole thing hinged. I outlined my plan to the team, which was more cunning than any Baldrick and a group of foxes could have come up with.

By now, the bar had begun to fill up with players from teams just finishing their matches. After explaining the plan, our young cohort steadfastly refused to co-operate despite the whole team and her elder sister urging her on. It took us all about ten minutes to change her mind, while all the time worrying about ‘Air’ finishing his mission, and coming back and joining us. We needn’t have worried as he was in full ‘shark’ mode and nothing short of a team full of topless volleyball players could have tempted him away. With our youngster fully briefed on what she had to do, we opened the glass door separating the team from the bar, gave her the thumbs up and sent her on her way, with our smiling faces firmly pressed against the glass. If Romeo had looked over, he might have had some idea of the ‘ticking time bomb’ that was heading in his direction……but of course his mind was on other things.

Time seemed to stand still as the nine year old messenger approached ‘Air’. The whole team pressed up against the glass, held its breath at the same time, knowing full well what was to come. The young hockey player played her part to perfection. We all watched as she wandered up to ‘Air’, held up her outstretched arm in his direction, palm up and said the immortal words…………”DDAAAAAADDDDD! Can I have  fifty pence for a packet of crisps please?” We all burst into a bout of raucous laughter on seeing the expression on his face, and more importantly, the expression on the young girl’s face.

Romeo (sorry, I mean ‘Air’) playfully dismissed our little time bomb, brushing it all off as a playful joke to his love interest, all the time shaking his fist in our direction from behind his back. Our fully fledged young hockey player returned to a round of applause, fresh soft drink and sweets I seem to remember, shortly followed by the maiden magnet himself (sorry……. I mean ‘Air’). His young lady couldn’t have excused herself  any faster after our little jape, if he’d announced he was a disease ridden psychopath, with nothing more than a thimble for a trumpet between his legs. As a team, we applauded what can only be described as some of our best work!


Festivals Part 5

Image0022Moving on from the fabulous Worthing, there followed numerous trips to HMS Dryad’s mixed festival (one year HMS Sultan I think), Basingstoke mixed festival, Rickmansworth and Swanage. Some of the stories I simply can’t tell you, but my highlights include……

Basingstoke I remember chatting to a young girl in the bar on the Friday night with some of my team mates. The girl in question was part of a team we were due to play the following day, and claimed to be a gymnast of international standard. While she certainly looked the part, the whole team thought that it was something of a ‘tall’ drunken tale, as she would do nothing to prove her bold claims….not even a handstand. As we were leaving the bar, one of her team mates had a quiet word in my ear. “If you want to see her in action, let her score against you tomorrow and see what happens.” Anyhow, it was back to the tent, all thoughts of the evening disappearing into a sleepy haze. The usual tomfoolery followed in the morning, and it wasn’t until we lined up against the said same team that thoughts of the previous night returned. I tapped one of my team mates on the shoulder and repeated what I’d been told the night before. “Let’s let her score and see,” he suggested. Quickly we passed the word on to the defence and midfield, leaving our goalkeeper totally out of the loop. Mere seconds later the umpire started the match, with our centre forward passing the ball to the opposition. Straight away they surged forward and as they did so, we noticed the young girl from the previous night slip into the centre forward position for them. Slowly (as that was pretty much our only speed), the defence and midfield parted like a couple of pieces of worn old velcro (very noisily, and quite slowly) and not believing their luck, our opponents shifted the ball onto their centre forward. Not needing an invitation, and looking slightly worse for wear, the young girl picked up the ball and headed straight for the D. By this time, our forward line (who were more than a little perplexed by our slightly more casual than usual stance…….defence and midfield were all standing, leaning on their sticks) were attempting in vain to run back (more than a little unusual in itself……we could hardly believe it ourselves), while our goalkeeper was screaming things that just can’t be written down, well not without this document bursting into flames and my computer crashing! It was at this very point, as I stood on our 25 yard line, unable to do anything about proceedings as the young girl had just skipped on to the top of the D, that it suddenly occurred to me that the whole thing could be a ruse……designed for us to let the opposition score. A cold shiver ran down my spine at the thought of what my team would do, if that turned out to be the case. As it happened………I needn’t have worried. As the young girl reached the top of the D, she let rip with a shot so fierce, that our keeper never even saw it, let alone managed to get something on it. Everyone (except our goalie) applauded. That, however, was not the main feature. True to her words of the previous evening, the young girl dropped her stick and broke into a run towards the centre of the pitch. My eyes nearly popped out of my head at what happened next. Throwing herself into the air, she flipped, somersaulted and did just about everything you would see a gymnast do on the television…… was truly amazing. Not only did both teams applaud, everyone in and around the pitch and the people on the balcony of the clubhouse all joined in too. After that, there really was only one thing to do……yes, you’ve probably guessed…….let her score again……and we did….straight away (much to the chagrin and embarrassment of our keeper who tried to stop her on his own). Same celebration again, and well worth conceding another goal. And yes, we let her score once more after that, but with being 3-0 down, with only a few minutes of the match played, we then decided to play sensibly (well, you know… much as possible), and I seem to remember we lost the match 3-2. Still…….it was worth it to see the best goal scoring celebration EVER!!!

At another Basingstoke festival (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the same one), long into a very drunken evening, two  of the Basingstoke players came over into a big space in front of where a few of my team were sitting…………something was clearly afoot!! We sat and watched the two (clearly quite drunk) for a few minutes, as they appeared to be miming setting up an invisible table of some sort. While it provided a few minutes of mild amusement, it was nothing to what would follow. The two players with their invisible table set up, started to have a game of what can only be described as……..invisible table tennis……..this was MAGIC!! Long rallies, brilliant serves…….it was all there and everyone in our team was enjoying the show….well, everyone except one! There’s always one in each team…….and I have to say, he was normally it. Having consumed about three pubs’ worth of beer that day, he promptly got up and told the players what he thought…..”that they couldn’t make the over 100, blind, local village, invisible table tennis team”. To say they were offended was an understatement, but just as I thought a fight might break out, one of the young players laid down a ‘challenge’ to our ‘drunken old idiot’. Our drunken old idiot accepted with all the speed that he showed in the bedroom, and lacked on the hockey pitch. With the crowd growing ever bigger, the biggest grudge match in invisible table tennis history began. The young player started with the ball and drew up a serve with lots of spin, sending it flying and waiting for our drunken player to return. He was as confused as the crowd, when our player just stood there……stock still. As the silence ensued, our player coolly stepped up to the middle of the table and straightened the net, then, retrieved the ball from the young player’s side of the table (implying, as everything was invisible, that the serve had not made it over the net). The crowd erupted in to spontaneous applause!!! The young player had more than met his match. Oh, don’t get me wrong…….he and his friend were very good, but, there’s no substitute for experience and although unbelievably drunk, our player had an answer for everything. The young player would stand next to the net and serve (to make sure the ball went over), and our player would return it, the young player would return it……….our player would retrieve the invisible ball from the floor, dusting off his side of the table and implying that the invisible ball had not hit his side of the table……AGAIN the crowd applauded. This happened time after time, along with both players moving further and further back from the table, and our player even bouncing the ball off of a few walls on occasion much to the crowds delight. The whole thing lasted well over 40 minutes and as a teetotal, it was one of the funniest and most inventive things I’ve ever seen.

Please feel freet to comment on anything I’ve written. I’d love to know your thoughts and your hockey and other team sports festival stories. For the comments and thoughts I like the most, I’ll send out a signed copy of my book.

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… 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……… 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.


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