Category Archives: Sport

The Grandest Day Out

C'est Vrai

C’est Vrai

So my children have coped admirably with England defeat.   So much so that as we watched Brazilians openly weeping in the stadium after their comprehensive thrashing by Germany (1 – 7 just in case there is someone on the planet who didn’t know) they would watch so dispassionately and remark that they would get over it.

Buoyed up by their resilience to English football results, I thought I would throw another sport into the mix and I dragged them out of bed on Saturday morning at an UNEARTHLY hour to watch the Grand Depart of the 101th Tour De France from Leeds Town Hall.    For months now I had been watching  with rising levels of interest and excitement as Yorkshire decorate itself (in increasingly more eye-catching and inventive ways) in the tour jersey colours Yellow, Green and White with Red Spots in readiness for the world’s greatest cycle race.

There was disappointment in the week leading up the day when it was announced that Bradley Wiggins wouldn’t be in team Sky due to the support  (domestiques n’est-ce pas) needed for Chris Froome the defending champion.  As any regular reader of my blog will now I have supported him for a long time (click on his name if you want to read it) so I was quite gutted that the first British champion ever of the TDF wouldn’t be riding up the Headrow at 11.10 am on Saturday 5 July 2014.

Still we had Cav, practically a Yorkshire man as his mum lived in Harrogate (the finish for Stage One) so  I managed to get over the absence of my favourite mod cyclist and we joined in the throng of happy (and a few a bit grumpy) spectators and stood behind the barriers and waited, and waited and waited

It was fairly surreal standing in crowd 4 deep on a Saturday morning when then Town Hall clock said it was only 8.15 am watching the oh so cool  Gendarmes walking along the street in wraparound shades even before the sun came out.  There were many, many, many vehicles, from motor bikes to pick up trucks all with French number plates and official looking stickers zooming around looking very official and very important to keep our interest.

We saw Christian Prudhomme (the organiser of the TDF) be interviewed right in front of us.

Monsieur Tour

Monsieur Tour

No 1 of many many many vehicles that drive around the Tour whilst those incredible men race on their two very thin wheels.

No 1 of many many many  four wheeled motorised vehicles that drive around the Tour whilst those incredible men race on their two very thin wheels.

We saw giant fruits shoots and packets of chips fly past us as part of the “Caravan” a convoy of vehicles that precede the riders around the 190km course.  It had to be the most surreal part of the day.  But before we could really process  what we had actually seen the riders started coming out and being interviewed.  The tension in the crowd was palpable and as the riders lined up in front of Leeds Art Galley I had my first glimpse of the pelaton.  It was more thrilling than rows of brightly coloured plastic helmets ever have the right to be.  Then they were off on the roll out up Harewood House where the official race would be started by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  We saw them all, Alberto Contador, Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish and nearly 200 other sleek lyrca’d machines pedaling leisurely up the Headrow.   It was so exhilarating that moments after they passed my legs were like jelly such was the intensity of the adrenaline rush

We had train tickets to go onto Harrogate for the finish to meet with friends but it wasn’t to be.  N and I came home (and H to a party) and watched the rest of the race unfold on television.  The sun had come out and so had every single person in Yorkshire it seemed.  Everyone on the highest of highs and not just those on Cote De Buttertubs.

Yorkshire Cordiale

just where does the race when and the spectators begin?

blurred lines – just where does the race en dand the spectators begin?

Yorkshire Cordiale

Yorkshire looked so beautiful.  The race was so exciting.  I knew every inch of the road.  Ariel shots of Middleham Castle, home of Richard III, Jerveux Abbey and Fountains Abbey, the location of many a sun-filled family picnic all looked glorious.  Harrogate was full to bursting point and as Cav was lead out by his team up Ripon Road (the loudest shouts coming from my dad I have no doubt) it looked like the sprinter would get his much dreamed of stage win in his mother’s hometown and get to wear the Maillot Jaune on Stage 2.  Alas for poor Cav it was not to be the fairytale ending as he crashed painfully just before the line and and Marcel Kittel crossed the line just outside Bettys on Parliament Street.

The crowds just before the end of the race..

The crowds just before the end of the race..hope Betty’s don’t run out Fat Rascals…

But despite that it was the most intoxicating day, all my friends were messaging each other delighting in their “blink and you miss it” stories that all ended in”but it was so worth it and I have never been prouder of Yorkshire” And best of all we got to do it all over again the next day.  My dad always said it was bigger and better in Yorkshire and really I don’t think there was anyone in the world that would have disagreed.  The Tour in Yorkshire was a Triumph.    This is really what this blog is about.  I want to say thank you to Gary Verity for having the vision and balls to pull this off.  I want to say thank you to every single person who decorated a bicycle yellow and dotted them around the route.  Who bunted or covered statues in yellow jerseys.  The pub in Knaresborough who painted red spots all over their walls.  To the farmer in Killinghall who painted his sheep in the colours of the three iconic jerseys.  To all my friends who swapped pictures on social media to allow us all to get intimate views and pictures of their experiences.  You all made this weekend one of the greatest of my life.

Of course N and I got out on our bikes in the evening.  As the sun set behind Temple Newsam N was determined to ride up the hill to the house.  “I need to conquer this hill” she said.  “Every time my legs hurt I just think of the Tour De France riders”.  Now then, isn’t that a champion legacy. Non? Bien Sur!


Parental Advisory

Happy and Glorious for now…..

Yes I got suckered in.  Admit it you did too.  All the chat about the low expectations of the England football team perversely got my hopes up.  I blame David Beckham too.  I was quite happily ignoring all the build up to Brazil until his journey of self-discovery  up the Amazon, and  who could resist a  beautiful man bearing his soul as he exposed that H&M underwear model bod.  Well I am only human.

So I was in, I couldn’t get enough of the stories from the Favelas.  Of the mum Rosie who provided so much love and fun for her children whilst living on the rubbish dump that also the workplace.   I was very humbled by the simple easter egg hunt of hens’ eggs wrapped in  old newspaper she created that resulted in unmistakable glee from her children.   Despite living in abject poverty their smiles lit up the screen when describing the game and the full belly from the feast afterwards.  It is easy to generalise but we seem to dissatisfied so easily by our lot in the first world. Spoilt in fact.  Each of us little emperors stamping our foot when the smallest whims don’t go in our favour.

I had paid such scant attention to the World Cup this year I found myself on the wrong side of the politics too.  An expression on Facebook of my mounting excitement found me told in no uncertain terms that this World Cup was an abomination to the poor of Brazil who couldn’t eat a football to survive.  A quick lesson via very funny British comedian (but on US tv)  outlining everything that was wrong with Fifa soon put me straight.

I do wonder how Fifa can get away with it, especially the Budweiser Bill.  It does all look “a bit arrogant”  Fifa official.

But despite all of this, the night of the first England match I was football crazy again.   The previous matches had been so exciting, so full of drama and goals I was getting lured in. Brazil, Mexico, Holland, Spain, France, Ivory Coast.  Every night  a mouth-watering prospect that didn’t disappoint.  N and I had been faithfully completing the wall chart.    Already I couldn’t imagine a night without a game.  I certainly didn’t want to miss a minute of our first match even at 11.00 on a Saturday  night.  My  expectations were low but in my heart, well before that first whistle anyhow, my hopes were flying high.

Surely  Roy’s young team would rise the occasion and do us proud.

So we lost the first match.  This is England, we like to make things difficult for ourselves don’t we?  We could come back from this defeat.  We had played well, we were just lucky and it was with these thoughts I prepared to watch the match with the children.  H has been enjoying watching football more and I had been sharing with him my wealth of knowledge which was mainly watching One night in Turin the superb documentary about our glorious campaign in Italia 90.  That tournament had started uncertainly too. Everything was going to be ok.    H & N were excited.  We had put a flag up both in the car and the house.  N was flag-waving during the national anthem, which I was singing lustily.  My children had the football bug, and I had encouraged and delighted in it and we were in for a fun happy night.

Well you know how it goes.  Lost again.  My son shouting at tv… Ref Ref how can you not see that as the Uruguay player stuck his arm at Sterling’s windpipe… These Uruguay players are so dirty.   The hope of the Rooney’s equaliser, abject the despair when Suverz scored again with 5 minutes or so to the end of the match.  The desperate last minute ultimately futile English scrabbles to get another goal.  The pleading deals being offered up to an indifferent God during last minutes of injury time.  “I will not have a chocolate again this week if England scored”  The gutting blow in the heart and solar plexus when the final whistle blows.

What was I thinking?  I was used to this torture.   I was a resigned, cynical, battle hardened England (and Leeds) fan.  I knew this would be how the story would end.   But my innocent children, they knew nothing of this, they were babes in arms.  What was I thinking exposing them, nay actively encouraging them, inviting this pain into their lives.   This was a kin to letting my children watch a video nasty.  I monitor my children’s internet use.  I tried very hard to shield my children from any none-age inappropriate viewing.  Hell I have even spoken to my soon to be a teenager son about how corrosive porn would be if he was exposed to it at this tender time of his life.  As I looked at them so down beat and dismayed I felt like I had ensnared them like the most diabolical drug dealer pushing a narcotic high that lasted for the first 20 minutes then would condemn the user to a life of never ending misery.

WHAT WAS  I THINKING?   I had wept for days when my favourite tennis player had been knocked out of Wimbledon at the same age.

I tried to show them the picture of distraught Gerrard being comforted by Suarez after the match as the true message from the game.  As history will attest, Suarez and his teeth has been somewhat discredited since that gesture of good sportmanship.   But it turns out that either my children weren’t quite so involved as I thought during the game, or had already an inbuilt immune system to England losing,  or they were much more resilient that I was at their age.  And now for the first time time since England went home so anonymously  I felt happy that I hadn’t shattered my children’s innocence.    Now then, all I need to know, who is the team to support for the rest of the tournament, Brazil or Germany?


My Top 5 Songs of the Year

So here it is, my 5 favourite songs of the year, I am sure they will not feature on anyone else’s list but then they can do their own list  can’t they- this is really just an excuse to play my favourite songs of this year again.

At Number 5, and my memory is so bad I am not a hundred percent sure this was actually out this year. Ren Harvieu.  I love her, you can keep Adele Skkkkyyfaaaaaaaaaaaallling her way to the top of the charts, for me Ren’s voice is the true voice of pain and heartache, the sound of survival , of gritting your teeth and it making it through the other side. (Well after Amy of course).  Tonight also has the most amazing woozy sounding brass, the sound of a night spiralling out of your control, giddily exciting at first, but with more than a hint that everything could end in tears….

And at number 4, yes it’s that internet sensation, You Tube’s first million hit millionaire, Psy and Gangnam Style.  This is really one for my children.  They adore it, and really sneakly I do too, especially after seeing Damian Lewis “horsing” his way across the Green Room on Jonathan Ross.  I saw Brodie from Homeland in a whole new light.

So just in case you are the one person on the planet who has missed it, here it is… all together now.. “Hey sexy lady, Woop Woop Woop Woop”

Feel the Love by Rudimental is at 3.  I love this tune way more than I should.  Surely this is just a song for 16 year olds, but I can’t get enough of it.  How can anyone resist that soulful old skool vocal soaring over the dubstep?  One to be played very loud, especially out on a run, it makes me feel I never want to stop.

Jake Bugg is at number 2.  He is amazing.  When I first heard Lightning Bolt I didn’t know if it was a new track or just an unfamiliar old one.  For an 18 year old boy from Nottingham he sounds incredibly like Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan.  Simple, catchy tunes with lyrics that wise beyond their years.   The BBC used Lightning Bolt as the bed on a piece about Usain Bolt during the Olympics which made me ridiculously happy.

So here it is, my number one for the year.  I bet you can hardly care less.  But anyway I will press on regardless of the apathy.  In my best DeeJay Voice, at at Number One, Eugene McGuinness and Harlequinade.  And cut to everyone looking at each other and saying “Who?”  Why isn’t it Rihanna or One Direction or that nice Katy Perry, such a shame about her and Russell Brand.

Anyway it isn’t, it’s Eugene McGuinness.  He is the guitarist for Miles Kane.  He brought at an fantastic and very unrated album in the summer called “An Invitation to the Voyage”. It is jam-packed with infectious pop classics, just waiting to be discovered and played and made into ear worms in your brain.  Oh and the video is a masterclass in creativity on a budget.

So there you, my top 5 songs of the year.  I could have included the entire soundtrack to the Olympic Opening Ceremony, with special mention to Caliban’s Dream but then that would have to have been 6 songs of the year.. and well that is just ridiculous isn’t it?  Who has 6 top songs of the year, except hopelessly indecisive people?  Perhaps that should be another blog, my top 5 moments of the year but that would just been just one long moment; our glorious, wonderous, uplifting, never to be repeated summer of sport wouldn’t it?  So here is Caliban’s Dream.. enjoy… and if you fancy it, do let me know your tunes of the year.


Prince William.. I think I am falling a little bit in love with your wife…..

This post has taken me by surprise too but watching the Duchess of Cambridge present the wonderfully exuberant Aled Davies with his Gold Medal last night and then heartily sing the National Anthem, I thought congratulations Prince William you really have managed to find the most lovely wife, not just for you but for the country too.

At both Games, Kate in particular, seems to have been ubiquitous and has supported, cheered and clapped Team GB and Paralympics GB at an incredible number of events. Even  in the rain at Eton Dorney yesterday she seemed as delighted to be there as the rest of us would have been.  I have found it very exciting to see her pop up everywhere and I am sure her presence has given the athletes a real boost too.

I know that she comes from a life of great privilege.  I know she will never have to do the weekly shop with that hideous feeling in pit in her stomach, worrying herself sick trying to feed her family well but on a very tight budget.  I know she will never stress about the lecky bill,  or redundancy, or the state of her pension.  But despite that, I still feel that she does seem fairly normal and quite grounded.   She might live in grace and favour apartments but she doesn’t look like she puts on any airs and graces.  She might have a £30,000 a year beauty spend and I am an Aldi Face Cream kinda girl (purely out of necessity!) but still I think Kate has quite similar in outlook to the rest of us, just with a lottery-winner sized bank balance.

I am probably very late to the party here.  I know the British Fashion have been in love with “Kate effect” for some time now, such has been her impact, particularly on the High Street.  Looking back now last year’s wedding was a strong indicator that she was quite down to earth, managing to combine glorious displays of British Pomp and Ceremony without obscuring that at the heart of it we were watching a marriage of two people who truly were in love   The fact that her dress was loved universally, edgy enough for the Fash Pack but classic enough for the traditionalists, was a very good barometer of her innate good judgement and her ability to manage to please everyone, seemingly effortlessly.   She even seems to know how to make the Queen smile.  And as we have seen recently at the Jubilee and the Opening Ceremonies, smiles from the Queen are few and far between.

Maybe the date is significant.  A couple of days ago it was the 15th anniversary of  Diana’s death. Maybe that is why I looked at Kate, and remembered that 15 year old boy walking behind his mother’s coffin, and thought William, I think you have found the right person to support you in your future life, both private and public.  And this I am  not ashamed to say made me feel rather happy.  Both for him and for us!


An Inspiration to Every Generation

It’s funny isn’t it, we came third on the Medal Table, we won a unprecidented 29 Golds, Yorkshire’s  success was noted as far afield as Australia, even Leeds achieved 2 Golds, a Silver and a Bronze thanks to the superhuman efforts of  Nicola Adams, the Brownlee brothers and Lizzie Armitstead, and yet it is the silver medal won by Louis Smith, and the extraordinary graciousness he displayed to Krisztian Berki, after he was pipped a Gold Medal by the narrowest of margins that I want to celebrate the most.

When you have dedicated your whole life to a goal, to have the prize taken from you despite you both having the same score, despite you performing the harder routine, and yet to be magnanimous enough to go straight over and congratulate your opponent. Well that is the very best of British isn’t it?

I would have been screaming and crying and demanding a recount and generally tantruming on such an epic scale I would never have been able to show my face to my family again, never mind the watching world!

And yet Louis Smith went straight over to Berki and hugged and congratulated him and spoke to the media and said he was a friend and he was pleased for him.  In all subsequent interviews I have seen he has been just as gracious and articulate, proud of his achievements and without a trace of bitterness.  I have to keep reminding myself as well that this is not some wise old sage who has been matured by the highs and lows of a long and eventful life but a 23 year old from Peterborough.  The level of maturity from not just him but all the Team GB have been astonishing and rather humbling.

I know the legacy of the London 2012 to inspire the next generation into a lifetime of  sport and fitness but I could definitely learn a lot from Louis Smith on how to conduct myself! Oh and if being “handsome and cool” as The Times said of him yesterday wasn’t enough, he can cook too,  his recipe for Jerk Chicken is well worth trying out too.  It’s so good it’s become my 10 year old son’s favourite dish.  An accolade I don’t think Krisztian Berki is going to snatch away any time soon!


Go Team GB….Olympics has stopped play!

I have managed to tear myself away from the excellent Olympic Coverage for just long enough to say I AM LOVING EVERY MINUTE OF IT.

From Danny Boyle’s wonderful, witty, quirky but hugely ambitious opening night to the Boxing I was watching late last night, it has all been fantastic, heart-stopping, dramatic, soul lifting, exhilarating, exciting, emotional and utterly addictive.

I have run, jumped, cycled, rowed, shouted and wept along side everyone.  I have never been more proud to be British.  And not just because we are third in the medal table.  The way the Olympics has been run seems to have been a triumph too.

Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremony seemed to represent my Britain.  The place of innovation and wit, the home of the best music and a leader in youth culture.  But for me the cornerstone was the celebration of the digital revolution and the appearance of Sir Tim Berners Lee.  His altruistic gift to the world has changed all our lives and in this age of greed and avarice in many of our institutions it was good to be reminded that Britain is full of decent, wonderful, funny, generous people.

The same with the volunteers and the people watching the rehearsals.   Danny Boyle told them to take as many pictures as they wanted but just to save the surprise.  And everyone did.  Not one piece of the opening ceremony was leaked.   We are a nation chock-a-block with good, honest people but it’s not often we get to see it.  I love my country right now.  Everyone has that feel-good factor, I like it and I don’t want it go away when the Olympics ends.  Maybe that needs to be the legacy of the Games, that it’s great to feel good about ourselves and our country, that not only it is ok, it’s essential.  That is this a wonderful, fair, inclusive, funny, tolerant nation, and it’s good to celebrate it.  It makes me want to be a better person, to try harder, to be the best I can be too.

And the games, where do I start?  It has just been amazing.  The whole family is loving it. My daughter wants to be Jessica Ennis when she grows up, we have re-bunted the house. We have flags on the car.  I don’t want it to ever end.  We are even going down to stand on the streets of London to cheer on the Men’s Marathon runners on Sunday.

Right if you will excuse me I need to get back to seeing how those Yorkshire brothers are getting on in the triathlon.  Did you know if Yorkshire was independent we would be 7th in the Medals table!  Makes you proud by gum!

Jess Ennis making me clean the bathroom that little bit better


Allez Wiggo

What a year 2012 is shaping up to be already.   Andy Murray is the first British Man to make the finals of Wimbledon in 70 odd years. A British man, in fact a Yorkshireman, Jonathan Marray actually won the Mens Double at Wimbledon.  But far, far, far outstripping these achievements is Bradley Wiggins. On the cusp of the London Olympics he has become the first British Tour De France winner ever.  He has worn the leader’s yellow jersey since 7 July and even won over the French, “Allez Wiggo”.  He has cycled over 3,000 kilometres,  up and down 5 mountain ranges in 20 days and  yesterday triumphantly  into Paris.

I have always had a real soft spot for Bradley Wiggins.  Maybe it is because of his mod sensibilities, those unmistakable sideburns, or maybe that he lives in Chorley (having moved to be closer to the British Cycling Team), but I think it is mainly because he remains a very humble, straightforward, plain speaking person despite of his immense talent.

He was winning Olympics medals in the 2000 and 2004 games.  In Athens he was the first Brit to win 3 medals at one games since Tokyo. But this was all before British cycling hit the Gold payload in Beijing.  Bradley won 2 golds but Chris Hoy won 3 and to the pursuant media this was the story, and heaped all focus and attention on Chris Hoy. All sorts of accolades from Knighthoods to Sports personality of the year followed.  All the time Bradley Wiggins was by his side, but in my opinion being grossly and unjustly overlooked.  He never seemed to look anything other than gracious and a team player but I used to think it was so unfair.

His attempts at the Tour De France have also demonstrated his true grit and never give up attitude, the first team he rode for was embroiled in a doping scandal when the team leader tested positive.  He threw away that kit and never rode for them again.  He came 4th in 2009 and yet had a disappointing race in 2010.  Then 2011 he crashed out in the early stages and broke a collarbone.  But he just got right back in the saddle this year and the rest is history.  The most glorious, hard-fought for, sweetest reward of them all.  I see with interest all the papers are now calling for Bradley Wiggins to be named sports personality of the year, oh the fickle finger of the media!

Will Carling wrote a book on sports psychology where he praised the inner reserves of someone like Adrian Moorhouse, the swimmer who had lost at two games before winning Gold at his third attempt.  What incredible levels of self -belief must you retain to sustain 12 years of training, dedication, hard work and sacrifice to achieve that.

I have watched two amazing documentaries (Knockout Scousers and Victoria Pendleton: Cycling’s Golden Girl) about sportsmen and women training for the 2012 Games.  As I watch from my armchair I can’t do anything but admire them, their spirit, talent and single-mindedness to dedicate their lives to their sport. I wish everyone the very best of luck for the next two weeks.  I will be sitting in my armchair weeping for every winner (and loser!).