Working Tool – 21. Me

The biggest tool of all. Me.

Hmm… that hasn’t come out quite as I’d hoped.

It’s blazingly obvious, but whatever tools I use to help me write, they are insignificant next to the source of the writing. Whether it be of the head, the heart, of experience or imagination, the words come from me.

So, looking after me, keeping the tool sharp, as it were, is important.

There is no magic formula. No special magic.

It’s all the things that everybody has already told you. No, I didn’t believe them either.

  1. Sleep. Yep. A good night’s sleep makes you a better writer. (Naps work too.)

  2. Diet. We are what we eat – and all that. Overused, often with a preachy tone, but believe me, less processed stuff will make you feel better.

  3. Exercise. HUGE!!! (Look, capitals. That means I really mean it.) The endorphins help with mental health, physical health and a sense of well-being. Exercise takes time, time that allows the mind to wander…to say, a plot, for example.

  4. Self-love. No. Not that. Go wash your mouth out with soap.

Whatever it takes to show yourself a little love. If you’re interested in writing, then you are insecure. Not insecure? Come back and read this post quarterly. The insecurities are coming. Techniques that I use? A gratitude journal. Meditation. Participation in several writers communities online.

I’m not going to labour the point.

Looking after yourself is important for a myriad of reasons, so do it. Make one small change for the better. It will help your writing. Really, it will.

Now – I’m off to #writingchat on Twitter

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Golfing Gods

Regular readers know that I play golf. Living here, it’s a great excuse to be out in the sun, breathing fresh air and burning some calories.

Of late, I have not been striking the ball well, nor putting well. The strongest part of my game has definitely been the drinking of beer in the club house.

Background

At Secret Valley Golf Resort, where I play, there are regular competitions, and these competitions are drawn – that is to say, you don’t get to pick with whom you play. Such is the traditional way. As a new member, this helps me meet new people. Five hours on the course provides plenty of opportunity to get to know someone. On the flip side, I am inevitably more nervous playing with people I don’t know. Still, I have entered a few competitions now, and know a few more faces. Most members know me by sight, (Plus-twos and bright stockings probably help with that), and as a result, I’m more comfortable.

Saturday last was the monthly medal. I was scheduled to play with three gentlemen, only one of whom I had played with before.

For context, my handicap is 13. So, par for the course is 71, add the 13 and on a good day, I should complete the course in 84 shots.

Golfing Gods

Something happened. I hit a good drive on the first hole, pitched close, and holed a putt for a birdie three. Starting with a birdie usual foreshadows disaster, but hey, anything is possible. The Golfing Gods were smiling upon me. As I stood on the 8th tee, I was one over gross par, so several shots better than my handicap.

Disaster struck. I pulled my drive, and watched as it crossed the boundary of the penalty area and disappeared under a bush.

I took a penalty drop at the point the ball crossed the line. The ball was quite severely above the level of my feet (which promotes a hook), and the flag is 152 yards away. This hole had the potential to be a disaster and to sink the round. I have, in the past, from a similar lie, hooked the shot, losing a second ball, having to take an additional penalty and running up a big number. Still, I know what the risk is, so I adjust my grip, my aim, and focus on hitting a smooth 7 iron.

I hit a good one. Smooth, the right shape and in the right direction. A playing partner, from a good vantage point called out:

“Shot! Oh. That’s close… Wait! …It’s in!”

When it’s your day, it’s your day. A potential disaster had become a birdie 3. Moving my score to gross par. For good measure, I added a birdie on the 9th meaning that at the turn, I was under the card. By some measure, the best scoring nine holes I have ever played.

On the back nine, I was nervous, and however hard I tried to play one shot at a time, the score kept echoing in my mind. I was dropping shots thorough a lack of commitment. Ultimately, I did pull myself together and finished the round on 77 shots. 7 shots better than a good day.

Result

April Medal winner. A tumbler, a voucher for a meal for two in a local restaurant and a whole 6 euro for my 2 on the 4th. My handicap index is cut from 14.7 to 12.6, meaning next medal I’ll be getting 11 shots rather than 13.

Most important of all, a rekindled belief that I can play golf, that I can become a single figure handicapper. This belief buoys me along, puts a smile on my face and will almost certainly last only until the next time I play.

Every golfer knows, the game will reassert its dominance over me at the very next opportunity. Whatever happened, will un-happen.

The beer game will stay strong though.

Living the Dream – 14. On Camino

The Camino de Santiago. This post will, through the magic of wordpress, go live as I am finishing up a thirty two kilometre walk from Sahagún to Religeos.

If you want to know more about the Camino, and why I’m walking it, click the ‘Camino’ category on the page and you’ll get a list of relevant posts.

The photo is by Drew Robinson, whose excellent blog you can find here.

Given the choice, Margaret preferred to have me disappear for a week before we left, rather than after. Understandably, she’d like to be a little more familiar with Cyprus before holding the fort alone for a week.

While I’m swanning about in Northern Spain, there will be lots of packing and organising going on in England, so both Mags and I are playing to our strengths.

This trip, my Camino-buddy, and best friend Stuart (no, really, that’s his name too), and I are planning to cover one hundred and twenty miles over six days. Twenty miles a day is a decent walk. I daresay at the end of it, I’ll be physically exhausted.

Nevertheless, mentally, I will be completely refreshed. I cannot think of a better antidote to the stress of emigrating. The joy of the Camino is the singularity of it. Each day, we have one aim. To walk to the next stop. When hungry, we will stop and eat. When tired, we will sleep. At times we will talk, at others we may not even walk together. The Camino allows me the chance to be inside my own head. (It’s a weird place to be, trust me!)

Life has a new rhythm. We arrive to our stop, check in, shower, change and then wash the clothes we just took off. Administration completed, we head out for food and wine. We write our journals, laugh and swap tall tales with fellow pilgrims. Sated, we’ll be early to bed and early to rise. The next day, we’ll do it all again.

Once I’m back, we’ll be six days from leaving for Cyprus. The movers will be coming, there will be a thousand things that need doing, but I’ll be ready for them. Walking the Camino supercharges the soul and the spirit.

Tough on the feet though.

Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea…

So ends ‘The Italian Job’, the iconic 1969 movie starring Michael Caine, as the cast hang precariously over an alpine precipice. We never learn the nature of the idea, or whether it works.

Paramount Pictures Image of the Italian Job

Mrs L was serious, and knows exactly how her idea will progress.

The idea

“I am going to train in Grief Recovery”.

With that, a new business was born. Over the next few months, a new avenue will be explored, as Mrs L comes back into the world of Learning and Development, having spent a few years kicking back in retail.

I’m delighted.

Mrs L is enormously talented, has incredible empathy and communication skills. I can only imagine that helping people deal with grief is tough but rewarding. Mrs L will be brilliant at it.

She completed a grief recovery programme herself, as a delegate, and found it incredibly helpful. I believe that starting a business started from a passion already has an advantage. It’s a great idea, and every business needs a great idea, but it’s passion that will carry the project through the inevitable challenges that will come.

I’ll post details of her blog once it is up and running.

What will I be contributing to this new venture?

Previously, I posted here, I’m getting the hang of wearing a range of different business hats.

Given that I am as sensitive as a toilet seat, I will be no use at the sharp end of the business, but I do have a little experience in some of the back office function and the process of going from ‘great idea’ to ‘detailed plan’ to ‘functioning business’. I will be trying to help with some this ‘nuts and bolts’ work.

Next Steps

Right now we’re putting together a business plan.

I’ll keep you posted.

Rioja – T minus 2

It’s Sunday night. God and BA-willing, in 48 hours I’ll be in Bilbao, dragging the tight-head out of a bar and looking for the bus to Logrono.

The plan is that we hook up with the ? in Logrono for tapas and perhaps a medicinal glass of Rioja. On Wednesday morning, we’ll jump on the early bus to Los Arcos, the village where we finished our walk last year. From there, we will walk back to Logrono, quite possibly for more tapas and Rioja. This first day will have the advantage of being pack-free as we are pre-booked into the same hotel for Wednesday night.

Thence we will meander through the entire province of Rioja, finishing our six days at Burgos in Castilla y Leon. The plan this year is 150.7 km (93 miles), so a shade over 25km a day (15.5 miles).

Backpack

Charity. I don’t know about you, but I have some charity fatigue. Everyday, somebody is doing something for a worthy cause. This year, we are not tapping you up for anything. Personally, I think that a reunion is the time to raise some cash. For example, where young and stupid men fined each other with alcohol, wise (and infinitely better looking) middle-aged men might be better putting some cash in a pot. Just sayin’ (I am now known as “The voice of reason”).

I’m looking forward to our second trip immensely. I have a few more miles in the legs this year, largely because I have been walking to and from the office. I’m not taking tech with me – just a compact camera. I will feel isolated for a while, but then the lack of ‘notifications’ will become a real pleasure.

Most of all – I’m looking forward to seeing my walking-buddies again.

Buen Camino

Camino 2: Rioja

What Ho!

It’s on. Later this year, the Front Row will pick up where it left off and walk another week of the camino.

Dates have been agreed, flights have been purchased. The Belligerent Basque is primed and ready to go. (Isn’t he always?)

Both Props were delighted to hear that the first camino marked an upturn in the Duck’s health; so much of an upturn that he is now permitted adult beverages. “Oh good!” We cried in unison.

Last year, we managed to get to 2,700 Euros for the hospice on the Just Giving page, and we would like to push that beyond 5,000 this year.

Last year, and more recently, various Barbarians have mused how much fun it would be to join us on our pilgrimage. After discussion, we would make the following observations.

  1. What? You must have forgotten how truly unpleasant we are, individually and as a group.
  2. With much love and respect, we suggest you all fornicate elsewhere. Each of us would heartily recommend that you undertake the camino. All of it or part of it. But do it alone, or in a small group, three maximum. At the risk of sounding trite, the passages of solitude are an important part of the experience – and those would disappear, if the walk became a tour.
  3. The tighthead is putting together a reunion in Bayonne next year. That’s the time to meet up.

This year, we start at Los Arcos, a wee town on the river Odron. At the end of Day 1, we will pass from Navarra into Rioja until we reach Castilla and Leon a few days later. The tighthead will, undoubtedly, in between moaning about how cold he is, give us full background on each vineyard as we pass through it. Probably very interesting the first couple of times. Assuming he lives through a full day, then I imagine he might not bother on Day 2. Poor love will be hungry though, I’m sure.

Los Arcos is at 450m above sea-level, and we finish in Burgos at 850m. In between, there are a few bumps (ees not a mountain, ees an ‘ill), the highest at 1,150m. The camino wanders from medieval village to medieval village, and in those days, you built your village where you could best defend it. Almost invariably, on a hill. Therefore, most camino days end with a steep climb.

Fortunately, we always have the benefit of a jaunty stream of expletives in a panoply of languages from the Duck to help us along.

The loosehead will, of course be i/c logistics and sore feet. I am particularly looking forward to the end of day 5, where the recommended overnight stop is in a “classic pilgrim village (pop 20)

Having crested the highest peak on this trip, we will coast into this village, where there must a reasonable chance that one of the twenty inhabitants will say the equivalent of “Sorry chaps, no room at the inn.” I will smile, step aside and ask that the individual repeat this news to the Duck.

The tighthead and I will probably enjoy a cool glass of something while the hooker beats some sense into, and finalises arrangements with, the poor fellow.

What, as they say, could possibly go wrong?

 

 

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