• 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.

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

    At stuartlennon.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.

     

  • Eating Food

    eat-real-food

    Now, we are on to one of my specialised subjects. You don’t get to be twenty one stone without packing away a fair amount of food.

    It is not completely new to me that twenty one stone is, shall we say, a little on the heavy side. Like seven stone on the heavy side.

    As I gave up smoking two and a half years ago, that excuse is wearing a little thin now.

    After hours of research (sitting on my ample arse), I came to the conclusion that I may need to reassess ‘my relationship with food’. This is quite a revelation for someone wholly unaware that I had a relationship with food. Relationship? I just eat the stuff.

    Another conclusion was that moving was far better than not moving. Walking is a big part of that – and I am doing lots of it – as you may have read here. 

    So, the long-suffering Mrs L and I are making some changes to our diet. We are going back to basics – and trying to eat as much ‘good’ stuff as possible, while cutting out the ‘bad’ stuff.

    If you actually get into researching this, you soon realise that nobody has the first clue as to what is good and what is bad. It changes on an almost daily basis.

    I suspect that this is partly because the workings of the human body are incredibly complicated, and partly because the vast majority of the research is funded by people trying to make money.

    The dairy industry for example funds studies that unequivocally demonstrate the health benefits of dairy products. Try telling that to the Association of Soya Bean Producers though…their proof is much more ‘proof-ier’.

    My head hurt as I sorted claim from counter-claim. I opted for an entirely unscientific approach and am making up my own rules…

    1. Lots of colours are nice. (Careful cooking stuff, in case you lose the colour.)
    2. Mucking about (or processing as the industry calls it) with food never does it any good.
    3. All things are fine – in moderation. (That last word is a challenge for me in many, many areas!)
    4. Cooking is fun.

    So far…so good. We have made more dishes ‘from scratch’. Tasty. We are eating more colourful, unprocessed and uncooked food.

    It’s fun. We ‘feel’ healthy, and we are losing weight. I’m a positive sylph-like figure as I passed the nineteen and a half stone mark. (Admittedly – a bloody big sylph.)

  • A plan for a pilgrimage

    caminopic

    My last post, I talked about the Camino Francés. The more I thought about it, the more exciting it became. Should we start in Arles? Or Perpignan? Perhaps even Paris? Six weeks walking in France and Spain. What fun!

    “Ah Stu”, said Stu “There is not a hope in hell that I am getting a leave pass for six weeks.”

    Come to think of it, there was no chance that I would get a leave pass for six weeks either. There is a limit to the patience of the long-suffering Mrs L and abandoning her for six weeks “to go for a walk” would overreach that limit.

    What was needed here was a plan.

    Starting in St Jean Pied de Port (Basque country) would make for a 500 mile walk to Santiago, that is estimated to take 5 weeks or so. Might we manage a week a year – and finish up the route in 2020? Perhaps, even aim to finish around my 50th birthday in April?

    Now, that’s a plan.

    A friend told me of a movie, ‘The Way’. Directed by Emilio Estevez. Emilio was struggling for a lead, so he cast his Dad, Martin Sheen. Surely a bit of Hollywood would convince Mrs L that I had not taken leave of my senses? Certainly, I could alleviate any concerns about safety.

    Within five minutes of the movie starting, Emilio’s character had wandered off the path and died. Oops.

    Gliding over that slight hiccup, provisional approval was sought and obtained on both sides of the Irish Sea.

    We have a plan.

    We will fly into Bilbao, transfer to SJPDP and then walk ‘The Way’ for six days. On the seventh day, we will head back to Bilbao and return to the real world.

  • A wee walk

    CaminoFrances

    On October the 8th, I’m catching a plane to Bilbao in Northern Spain.

    I love to travel, particularly to places where I can find good food and wine. This trip is a little different. I’m going for a walk. No. Really. I am.

    I am walking with one of my oldest friends, conveniently named Stuart. There is a school of thought that Stuart and I are both results of some kind of botched cloning experiment. Close your eyes and it can be difficult to tell which of us is speaking.

    As we both embark upon our mid-life crises, Stuart ventured “Shall we walk the camino?”.

    “Absolutely. I’ll have one, if your having one.”

    I fully expected to embark on an eccentric ritual method of drinking wine.

    “No. Seriously. El Camino de Santiago. Have a think about it.”

    I got googling.

    The Camino is a pilgrimage. One that has been around for centuries. It is believed that the bodily remains of St James (an apostle) are interred at Santiago de Compostela, in north-western Spain. Pilgrims walk to Santiago by many different routes, but perhaps the most well-trodden is the Camino Francés – the French Way. The walk starts from St Jean Pied de Port in the Pays Basque region of France, crosses the Pyrenees and then meanders across Northern Spain to Santiago.

    A tidy little walk of 500 miles or so.

    Yes. 500 miles.

    To date, my mid-life crisis had been evidenced by buying a two-seater sports car. Now I was agreeing to walk 500 miles (cue Scottish folk band).

    I have thought about setting up a separate blog for the walk, but decided against it. I will post about it here. (Categorised as Camino)

    What on earth have I got myself into?

     

  • 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…”

  • Q is for Quixotic

    don-quixote2

    Quixotic – Extravagantly chivalrous. (Dictionary.com)

    Acting with the desire to do noble things without realism. (Wiktionary)

    In the best debut novel ever written by me, the protagonist, Sean has a bit of the quixotic about him. In many ways, it is an attractive trait. Nobility is appealing, I think.

    In Sean, I am never sure whether he is quixotic by compulsion or convenience. After all, an overblown desire to do noble things can also be a cover for other, less lofty, motivations. Perhaps I am unfair to the lad. you will have to read the novel to find out.

    I have noticed how all the major political parties in the UK are getting quixotic about pensions now. To look after our senior citizens is indeed a noble cause. Given that I am heading in that direction myself, I’m all for it. However, at some point, somebody needs to inject a bit of realism.

    As a society, we now spend enormous sums of money on life-enhancing and prolonging medicine and treatment. In the UK, much of this is funded by the public purse through the NHS. As a result of this amazing work, people live longer. Drawing a pension – again funded by the public purse.

    Either the public purse needs to get bigger or we are going to need to have a rethink about pensions and health.

    Still – quixotic. Great word.

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

  • Taking Time Back

    This post is going out in the middle of the A to Z Challenge – and is not a part of that exercise.

    I wrote an earlier post on reaching saturation point with technology.

    Much though I love my ‘I-everythings’, I was finding that technology was directing my time rather than help me make the most of it. So, I have stepped back a little.

    Once I started limiting my ‘online’ time – I began experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Really.

    I wanted to keep looking at my phone.

    So, I changed phone. I bought a dumb phone. It can do calls and messages. That’s it.

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    I bought a diary. I have customised the layout to suit the way that I want to work.

    In the diary, I block off time. So, at 1230, I will log onto my webmail and have a look at emails. Then I log off email and go for lunch.

    I log back on before shutting down for the night. That’s it for email. Twice a day. I am planning to get to the point that I log off the computer before dinner.

    Mornings – I do my level best to ignore e-mail and social media. I walk the dog, have some breakfast and a shower. I sit at my desk and get working. I schedule creative tasks for the morning, I find it easier then than at any other time.

    If I am disciplined – those morning hours are great productive time. The key is not to let myself get sidetracked by Facebook, Twitter, E-mail and all the other usual suspects.

    Rather than ramble on for hours, I will leave you with two observations.

    1. I am finding it difficult to ‘cut down’. That tells me that there is a bit of an addiction element to this technology stuff.
    2. Not checking my email every ninety seconds has had absolutely no downsides. None.