Menu

Stuart Lennon

Writing about stuff

Ageing

Why did nobody tell me about ageing?

I walked the dog this morning, and on my way back, paused to admire the lawn. Not only to admire it, but to take a photograph of it.

Why? I have absolutely no idea. Out of nowhere, the state of my lawn has somehow become an issue about which I care. It must be part of the ageing process.

Another one. This weekend, we had a wonderful blast of weather. You know the type, a gorgeous, sunny couple of days which promises a long glorious summer, only to be followed by a ten degree drop in temperature and sideways rain. Anyway – in an unexpected, and unusual moment of good sense, I liberally applied sun cream before heading off to play golf on Saturday morning. I toyed with the idea of putting on a hat – but look, it’s April.

I returned home bronzed and revitalised. The vitamin D had not seen off the man-flu, but I certainly felt a bit better.

“You look a bit crispy.”

Not quite the adjective I was looking for, but I decided it was a compliment. Sunday brought another day of golf. This time with a hat.

On Monday, I awoke feeling a little flat. The day was frankly a struggle. Shortly before eight pm, I was being barked at for snoring loudly on the sofa. I muttered something about a shower before creeping up the stairs and under the covers. Where I stayed, unmoving, until gone six this morning.

Where did that come from? In bed by eight? I am claiming a touch of sun-stroke, but I suspect that actually, I’m just ageing.

One last one. As you know, I love a bit of golf. This weekend, the Masters was on. Going into the last day, Justin Rose (from a club just up the M3) and Sergio Garcia from Spain were joint leaders. Sergio arrived on the golfing scene in the 90’s. An eager puppy with a winning smile and twinkly eyes. The next big thing. The new ‘Seve’. Talent tumbling out of his ears. For the best part of twenty years he charged about, winning some tournaments, making buckets of money, and gradually earning the tag ‘best-player-not-to-win-a-major”.

This Masters was his 74th Major. The last day, Sunday, would have been the 60th birthday of the great Seve Ballesteros, Sergio’s golfing hero, hell, the golfing hero of an entire generation of European golfers.

Could he do it this time? Could he win? Of course he couldn’t. The Masters requires a whole load of things, but it definitely requires nerveless putting. Years of struggles have made Sergio a nervy, fidgety man with the flat-stick. Watching him putt can be painful.

As the last day unfolded, the challengers fell away. It became simply Justin against Sergio. The Spaniard eased ahead over the front nine. The metronomic Rose kept in touch though, reeling him back in. As they walked off twelve, the momentum was with Englishman. It was clear to me, that the pressure on Sergio would increase shot by shot, until he cracked under the relentless competence of Rose’s game.

Sergio took on the riskiest line for his tee-shot on 13. He didn’t quite catch it right and the ball settled at the bottom of a bush. Rose was in great shape in the middle of the fairway. Sergio needed to take a penalty drop for an unplayable lie. Wherever he dropped it, he would have an iffy lie, with trees and water between him and the green.

Time for bed, I thought. Nice work Rosie.

In fairness to Sergio, he salvaged a par 5, but Rosie was 2 ahead walking onto 14.

Hang on, look at Sergio. Bouncing along, a smile on his face. Not dropping a shot has given him a little shot of something.

One more hole, I thought. on 14, Sergio made his putt, Rose’s grazed the hole. Only one in it.

On 15, under enormous pressure, Sergio hit an 8 iron that will be on highlight reels for years to come. A gem. He eagles the hole. Rose birdies. All square, three to play.

Lest this become the longest post in history, I’ll spare you the blow by blow account of the remaining three holes. They could not be separated. They moved onto a sudden-death playoff.

Sergio was left with two putts down a slope to win. He did it in one.

The partisan American crowd around the 18th green leaped into the air as one. Pretty much every golfer in the world cheered. The Americans began chanting ‘Ser-gi-o’. Me? Inexplicably, I had got dust in both eyes and tears were tumbling onto my cheeks.

Must be part of the ageing process.

AUGUSTA, GA – APRIL 09: Sergio Garcia of Spain celebrates after defeating Justin Rose (not pictured) of England on the first playoff hole during the final round of the 2017 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 9, 2017 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 692254095 ORIG FILE ID: 666619486

Spring is here!

A whole month has passed. My second month at the helm of Pocket Notebooks

Writing has taken a backseat as I revel in the ups and downs of a new business. Nip over to the blog page on that site for news.

The business has meant the Lennon household rediscovering old rhythms, as I head off to the office each morning. Nero the schnauzer is loving being my 2ic. As an employee, he is wonderfully low maintenance, requiring only the odd walk and constant company.

I am learning photography. Partly because I have always wanted to, and partly because it is really handy for the business. I am suddenly more conscious of light and its importance. The photo above was taken in the sunlight that streamed into the dining room yesterday morning.

The changing of the clocks and the longer days lift my spirits. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful, vibrant spot.

This morning, Nero and I took our morning stroll in the company of joyous songbirds chirping away. Within five minutes, we had seen a pair of cows, several pheasants, rabbits and a deer. Woodpeckers tapped away, invisible in the tops of the trees. Perhaps I’m getting old, but I truly feel privileged to enjoy such a morning walk.

My day looked set for perfection as I chipped in for a birdie on the first hole of the monthly medal, but as it often does, the game of golf soon reminded me that the only time I’m consistent is when I’m crap. I came off the course with three birdies, but enough big numbers to ensure no chance of winning anything.

Now, my gorgeous wife is cooking me supper, while I contemplate a glass of wine…

Spring is here and all is right in my world. I hope it is in yours too.

Distraction

Don’t get me wrong. I am extremely lucky to have so many distractions.

I write this post from a beautiful spot in Cyprus, where I have been swimming every day and playing golf, watching my wife get better and better at the game. It’s only a matter of time until she beats me.

unnamed

This photo was taken on a rare dry moment in a practice walk around Howth, near Dublin.

At sensibleshoescamino.comI have been posting about another distraction. I’m looking forward to a week walking in some gorgeous countryside with friends old and new. We are hoping to raise some money for a hospice. If you can spare a couple of euro, then please donatePlaces like Our Lady’s Hospice are very special. As my friend and co-walker, Stuart Smith (in the featured photo) wrote “he passed away in a loving, caring, pain-free environment.” Read the rest of his post here.

In order to bring some sort of order to my days, I am experimenting with both the Best Self Journal and Bullet Journal, two systems that I will write posts on soon.

Writing is getting done around all these brilliant distractions. It’s all about editing at the moment, getting feedback from my writing buddy and tightening the prose. Methodical, detailed work…all the things that do not come naturally to me. So, short concentrated bursts work well.

My long-suffering Writing Buddy is doing her level-best to keep me on task, but frankly, it’s a bit like herding cats.

Nevertheless – I’m confident that a book will get published.

 

Sunday. Restful Sunday.

Lazy Sundays

What a day!

I awoke early, having volunteered to be starter for a competition at the golf club. Hardly a taxing job, I simply tick off the competitors on the start sheet, remind them of what competition they are playing in what format and send them on their way with hearty “Play well Gents. Enjoy your day.”

Just after dawn, I set out to give the dog his walk. Both he and I enjoy the early mornings, especially on a Sunday, when the village is quiet, but for the birdsong.

The sky was darker than the weather forecast had indicated, with some drizzle looking a certainty rather than a possibility. Nevertheless, I put my trust in the BBC and donned shorts and a polo shirt. As a precaution, I put a waterproof jacket in the car.

Drizzle? It was bloody raining sideways. I briefed each flight of miserable looking golfers from the shelter of the starter’s hut, promising them all drier weather to come. (It’s nearly always best to lie in these circumstances, after all without hope, what is left?)

Discretion being the better part of valour, I left the course as soon as I had sent the final group on its way.

A friend was due to drop by. We chatted, drank tea until the mighty Mrs L proposed lunch. Those who know me are aware that I have never knowingly declined an offer of lunch. As it was a Sunday, I graduated from tea to chardonnay and was soon in a state of blissful contentment.

As Murray cruised to a two set lead, the sky brightened, and Mrs L suggested we might play a few holes ourselves. (She is a zealous convert).

Off we went and played nine holes before retiring to the club house.

“Drink?” She enquired.

Here I was, at the golf course, on a Sunday afternoon, with a chauffeur.

“Pint of London Pride for me!”

This was shaping up to be a fantastic Sunday. I set a quick pace on the pint, and had another ordered before Mrs L had managed a sip of her soft drink. The beer gently acquainting itself with the wine in my tummy, I sauntered to the passenger seat full of bonhomie and good cheer.

As Mrs L prepared to reverse through the drive gates at home, she pressed the button to open them. (We are terribly posh, you know.) Nothing happened. As is the way with all things electric or electronic, she pressed the offending button repeatedly, and with increasing force. All to no avail. She was obviously doing it wrong. I took the fob from her and repeated the strident button-pressing.

I suppressed a hoppy belch with a honeyed gooseberry finish and clambered from the car. The keypad that usually glows blue was dark.

“There’s a power cut. Give me the front door key, I’ll go around and open the gates manually.”

Mrs L showed me a solitary key in her hand. An alarming habit has developed where to avoid the massive bulk of two keys, Mrs L sallies forth with only a back door key. An admirable strategy – unless of course the back gates become disabled for any reason. It was not clear whether I was more furious at her for only having one key or at myself for having none at all.

I sized up the gate in much the same way as I imagine a Royal Marine Commando looks at an assault course.

“Go and ask someone for a ladder.”

Fortunately, Mrs L has a more realistic view of my commando abilities.

A step-ladder was provided, tested and ascended. At the top, I took a moment to breathe and admire the view. (I was, after all five or six feet up; heady stuff.) A few neighbours looked on, in what I can only imagine, was unbounded admiration. Determined, I tucked my shirt firmly into the waistband of my shorts. The dog, locked in the house, was going bananas at the sight of his Lord and Master, slightly pissed, teetering atop a step-ladder at the back gate.

With the grace and agility of a hippopotamus putting on cycling shorts, I heaved my myself over the gatepost, onto the wheelie bins. One made a worrying crack as my weight settled onto it. Fearing calamity, I dismounted the bins at pace, and strode to the back door to release the frantic hound and get the manual override key.

Much patting of backs ensued, with some wifely concern over a scrape down the inside of one leg. As I fought back the tears, (and another of those hoppy belches) I assured her that I would be OK. John, our neighbour, took his stepladder back, eyeing it with a degree of concern. I suspect he will test it extensively before trusting it to take his weight.

With the electricity down, no means of cooking supper and the hound needing a walk – there was only one option. I would walk the dog to the pub, while Mrs L got changed and drove to meet us there.

“Pint of Ringwood and a bowl of water for the little fella please…”

Ugly Social Media

Click on this if….

No. Stop it.

Gradually, I am overcoming the dramatic gastric impact of Spinning, which is a great relief to the dog and many local residents.

However, I am increasingly annoyed by the tactics some organisations are using to garner positive social media statistics. You know the posts that I mean;

“Like this page if you believe that a soldier who saved his platoon, sacrificing his life should be honoured while this malicious paedophile should not!”

Seems a bit of a no-brainer.

Then you look to see that the post originates from a page called “Lovely fluffy British folk”. Curious fellow that I am, I look at this page.

It turns out that the page should more accurately be called;

“Racist, xenophobic dimwits? You have found your online home.”

Many of these ‘like-farm’ posts are using images of the military to lure people to anti-immigration or anti-muslim organisations. The implication being a polar relationship. “Military Good, Military fight Bad. Immigration Bad. Muslim Bad.”

I thought I might take a moment to relate to you an anecdote.

4-British-Army-Getty

(Getty Image taken from the Independent website)

I live adjacent to Salisbury Plain, home to Stonehenge and essentially an adventure playground for the British Army. I play golf (badly) at Tidworth Garrison Golf Club, which as the name might suggest, has strong military connections.

Tidworth is a garrison town.

On Tidworth high street, I went for a haircut in a busy barbers. Three barbers were working and four more customers were waiting. I’m fairly certain I was the only non-serving military man there. I was the only one not in camoflauge for a start.

The standard cut seemed to be, “number 2 back and sides and short tidy on top please Kemal.”

You see the barbers were all Muslim Turks. Really.

Immigrants too. Good heavens.

Please don’t associate images of the British military with stupidity, ignorance or prejudice. They’re way too good for that.

Incidentally – best haircut I’ve had in ages.

Sky. Stupid.

sky-logo-2

I have just finished a telephone call.

A charming-sounding lady called me. The phone indicated that she was calling from Derby and she told me that she was calling from Sky.

The call was not entirely unexpected, as I have recently informed them that I will no longer be taking their services once my contract expires at the end of April. I daresay that Sky has an entire team dedicated to getting customers to change their minds. Good for them, I say.

I have no problem with Sky TV, but I have come to the conclusion that we were not getting value for money from it. Essentially, we were watching channels that are free to air, with me occasionally watching some golf.

In effect, it came down to paying £70 a month for me to sometimes watch some golf.

Watching golf in the twenty first century is not something to be taken on lightly. Watching a round requires planning and organisation as well as the ability to watch the same adverts over and over again. Professional golf takes an age. We are talking 5 to 6 hours per round. A full day of golf coverage can quite literally be from dawn until dusk.

Frankly, I can’t be bothered anymore. Too many other things to do. During a day’s coverage, I can walk the dog twice, play a round of golf, write a blog post and eat three meals.

I digress. I was telling you about my phone call.

The call was to explain how any transactions (pay per view purchases etc) between now and the termination date would work, I was told.

The caller and I agreed that my name is Stuart Lennon. The fact that I had answered the phone with the words “Hello, Stuart Lennon speaking” was a pretty big clue, I thought.

The caller asked me to confirm my address.

Reluctantly, I did so.

Then she asked me for my password. I politely declined to do so. I did provide the rationale: “You called me.”

There may be some asking yourselves, “Why would Sky need to identify a customer to explain that with no contract, he couldn’t buy pay per view events?”

Well done! They don’t need to identify me for that. They need to identify me just in case the charming lady is able to convince me to change my mind, or to accept a reduced price.

I got the impression my caller was a little niggled. Nevertheless, she persisted.

“OK, will you give me your Mother’s maiden name?”

“No.”

“If you google the telephone number that came up when I rang, you will see that it is a Sky number.”

Honestly. That is what she said. All of these warnings about phishing and passwords, all nonsense. All that one needs to do apparently is Google the caller’s number. Then be free and liberal with your personal data and even passwords. Hurrah!

I’m reasonably certain that it was Sky calling and not some criminal mastermind, but surely companies should not be phoning up their customers asking for personal data?

I suggested that if my caller was unable to continue the call without my mother’s maiden name or password, she might want to discontinue it.

We parted as friends, but I have the distinct impression that she was a little miffed.

I had a quick ten second trawl on Sky’s website.

I quote from their section on security;

“Identity theft/Fraud
A few simple rules could help you guard against criminals stealing your personal details.

The risks

•Phishing – being tricked into giving private information, such as bank details, user names and passwords”

Is it any wonder that people are confused about online and telephone data security, when there are massive multi-national companies being so incredibly stupid and half-witted?

Stupid, stupid, stupid Sky.

IMG_0674

I posted last week about a Golf Day that I attended – BattleBack versus Rugby’s Golf Club.

Once the golf had finished, we repaired to Tedworth House, a Help 4 Heroes Recovery Centre, for a spot of dinner and a charity auction.

I bought the print above. The original (complete with signatures of many famous sports and media folk) was presented to Welsh Rugby legend Cliff Morgan on the occasion of his retirement.

One hundred prints were countersigned by the man himself to be used for charitable purposes.

Now I have one in my house. This makes me feel inordinately pleased with myself. My wife is, for the moment, reserving judgement.

Rugby’s Golf Club relates to the game of Rugby, not the place. It binds people with interests in Rugby, Golf and doing good. Jason Leonard is the club President.

After dinner – one of our number stood up and spoke about The Rugby Business Network. His name was Colm Hannon.

Colm, like me, played prop. Unlike me, he was good at it.

Colm played professional rugby in Ireland, England and South Africa. I daresay that he made a pretty decent living.

Post Rugby – he identified a need for something like The Rugby Business Network and went out and set it up. Good on him.

He presented to us what it is and what it is for.

I may get a word or two wrong, but I’m sure that he will forgive me;

“Essentially there is one criterion for membership. Officially we say that at any RBN event you must say “How can I help you?” – but unofficially, it is much simpler.”

“No Dickheads.”

If you played Rugby, then I suspect that you understand the nuance.

Certainly many in the room nodded their understanding, although of course, this may have just been people nodding off as the wine took effect.

I have a feeling that Jason Leonard knows exactly what it means and I am sure that Cliff Morgan would have too.

No Dickheads means team first.

Your teammates come before all else. No ego. No bullshit – not on the field, not off the field.

If there is anything that anyone takes away from the game of rugby – then it is this. (And a lot of very imaginative and graphic song lyrics)

In many ways, it is a good maxim to live by – in business, in sport, in everything.

 

Battleback

“More Golf?”

Now, now, dear reader. Relax.

You sound like the wife.

This post is only tangentially about golf.

Yesterday I took part in a golf day at my home club Tidworth Garrison Golf Club.

It was a match between BattleBack Golf and Rugby’s Golf Club. I slipped in with a few other club members to even out the numbers.

Please do check out the links above, a great golf club and two superb sports initiatives. All the links will open in separate pages.

Back with me? Good.

I was playing with the two people in the picture. They were playing for the BattleBack team.  – That makes them injured service people.

On the left we have Fiona, who was injured while training and has had and continues to have multiple operations on her shoulder and knee. On the right is Jimmy who managed to get himself shot five times in the leg on Operations.

Both people that might have some justification in feeling a bit hard done by as well as not a little bit sore.

Not a bit of it. They were both bundles of energy, out to have fun. Out to get recovered.

It’s all a matter of perspective apparently.

Jimmy has not yet got a handicap, and was predictably a bit erratic. When he got it going the right way, you can take my word for it, that ball stayed hit. As his leg recovery continues, and he continues to play (he has just started) he will comfortably pass me in golfing prowess.

Fiona is an accomplished golfer. To demonstrate the point, she knocked in a hole in one on the thirteenth. (That is the green that you can see on the left of this page.) A beautiful shot and her first hole in one.

FionaGrayHIO

The purists will of course need to know that Yes, poor Fiona was hit for a very large round of drinks!

Quite apart from sharing in the delight of that rare thing, the hole in one, the whole day was brilliant.

Dinner was hosted at Tedworth House.

Here food was eaten, some jokes were told, some wine was drunk and there was even a little auction action.

A gentleman called Mark was asked to say a few words about Help 4 Heroes and what it had meant and continues to mean for him.

I cannot recreate what he said or how he said it. I am not sure that I can adequately express how much sincerity weighed down each and every one of his words.

I can write that BattleBack and Help 4 Heroes are important. Like life and death important.

Days like this are about perspective, and understanding what things really matter in life.

My perspective? How lucky am I to have the chance to write what I want, do what I want – because brave Men and Women go out and serve.

 

Stuart Lennon. Abbots Ann, Hampshire. April 21st 2015. Copyright Warren James Palmer. www.wjpphoto.co.uk 044 1264 848 056

Stuart Lennon. Abbots Ann, Hampshire. April 21st 2015. Copyright Warren James Palmer. www.wjpphoto.co.uk 044 1264 848 056

Me again! Hello there. How have you all been? Or perhaps that should read how have you both been? I’m back.

I have been a busy busy boy. My Mum is now living around the corner, which is great; and I have access to a lovely place in Cyprus.

I have played a fair amount of golf – burned some meat in the name of the British summer and even kept the garden quite tidy.

Life is good.

On the corporate front, I’m looking after a couple of clients AML and CTF needs, which is keeping my hand in and provides a welcome trickle of revenue.

I even have appointments set up to review acquisition opportunities with my business partner. Look out World of Commerce – we’re on our way back.

What I have not been doing, is very much writing or communicating on social media.

Procrastination? One of those things?

A bit of both, I suspect.

But now…I’m back.

 

Y is for Yank

yank_100644

Yanks. They are just such a nightmare.

Loud, uncultured, ignorant peasants. Always have been. Always will be.

I know this, as I was taught it from a young age.

Then, I met some.

Some loud ones. Some quiet ones.

Some uncultured ones. Some cultured ones.

They even came in a multitude of colours, races, creeds and religions.

Annoyingly, I have met some spectacularly amazing people that, God forbid, were born and bred in the USA.

On the quittrain.com there are some folk who are genuine, bona fide superstars from the States. Nancy, Babs, Colleen, Ava, DD, MQ, Sonic. Joe, Rez, Bakon – all on my bucket list of people to visit, thank and raise a glass with. (There are more too on this incredible site.)

I once posted on a golf site about having the possibility of tacking a day or two onto a trip to the US so that I could play a golf. Within 24 hours, it was arranged that I would be staying at someone’s house in California with guaranteed tee times on Pasatiempo, San Juan Oaks and…Pebble Beach. – Yes. THAT Pebble Beach.

The host was a Yank.

A Yank with exceptional taste in left bank Bordeaux.

I met a wonderfully intelligent, hospitable, humorous couple whom went out of their way to ensure that I enjoyed every second of my time in the USA.

It all came as a bit of a shock.

My eyes were opened to the enormity of the USA. Are there some bad things about the US? I am sure that there must be – guns would be an immediate question mark in my mind. However, in my experience, there are an incredible amount of positive things too.

Most importantly – the vast majority of Yanks seem to be ….well, quite normal people really.

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

Some great A to Z Challenge Blogs can be found here