January 2011

Sunday 9 January 2011

Tromso is fab. In the 24 hours I have been here it has left an indelible mark on me.

 

When I think something or somewhere is cold, I will stop and think “it’s not as cold as Tromso.”

 

When I think something or somewhere is expensive, I will stop and think “it’s not as dear as Tromso.”

 

When I think something or somewhere is bleak and lonely, I will stop and think “it’s not as bleak and lonely as running at the back of the field in the half marathon in Tromso.”

 

And despite all that negativity I love it. The people make a place and the Tromsonians have been brilliant. Everyone you spoke to was engaging and enthusiastic (ok, kilts and See You Jimmy hats provides useful talking points). The buildings are beautiful, Little House on the Prairie style wooden jobs. Beautiful. The scenery is dramatic. The approach to the airport is through fjords, the mountains silhouetted against the dull grey of the few bleans of light that leak over the horizon in the winter months.

 

It is the darkness that gets you. There is a dusk-like lightness in the sky from 9am to 2pm and then the night returns. I imagined every second shop would be a tanning studio that the residents would use religiously. It would be a land of Tommy Sheridan impersonators. But no, people make the best of it and smile.

 

The run itself was frightening in advance but straightforward in hindsight. My concerns beforehand centred on being left behind the field. Such a trivial concern. So what? In the end I spent large chunks of the race on my own. When I run on my own, without Karen for company, I go through the whole range of emotions from fear to elation. I don’t pause to think often but running on your own in a biting arctic wind is a great opportunity. I thought primarily about the stupidity of running in the snow, on my own, in the dark, in the arctic circle.

 

Sixteen hours after finishing, as I lie beside Big Al, taking the opportunity to write a blog which he has generously given me through his snoring, I think what a fantastic thing to have done. It would never of happened if it had been for my Parkinson’s.

 

P.S. If you don’t know what a blean of light is then look it up here (http://folk.uio.no/alied/TMoL.html#anchorB). Quite possibly the funniest book I have ever read.

 

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

I am a much happier bunny than I’ve been for a while. Primarily because I am back into a regular running routine. Christmas excesses are marvellous but when you are an athlete the toll such excesses take is enormous.

 

Clearly when I say “athlete” I mean it in the loosest sense of the word.  The annual two weeks of darts on the telly, as both versions of the world championship were fought out, brought the subject of darts as a potential Olympic sport back into the limelight.  Or, more accurately, the lager and limelight.  If darts can be considered as a candidate for Olympic recognition then I, indeed, am an athlete. Don’t get me wrong, I love darts.  A darting achievement is listed in my goals for 2011, which in order of increasing difficulty are:

 

1. To turn 40,

2. To cure at least one neurological disorder, and

3. To throw a left handed 180.

 

I have utmost respect for the greatest exponents (dartisans???) of the game. Phil Taylor’s 15 World Titles is an astonishing achievement, and achievement that puts him in the same bracket as the select few who have been head and shoulders above the rest in their field – Sir Donald Bradman (cricket), George Best (football) and Tommy Sheridan (sun bed worshipping). But darts? An Olympic sport? I can’t imagine the Gods on Mount Olympus would be over the moon at the prospect of all the spectators giving it laldy after a health dose of Olympic lager and an Olympic vindaloo (there is a flaming rings gag in their somewhere). I can’t imagine the soldier who ran from the battle of Marathon to Athens being thrilled at the site of Andy Fordham having to be hoisted onto the medal rostrum. And I can’t imagine the likes of Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali or Sir Steven Redgrave being thrilled at the prospect of names like Scotty 2 Hotty Waites or Martin Wolfie Adams being listed alongside their’s as Olympians. If darts can consider itself an Olympic candidate then I am an athlete.

 

On the subject of darts, the first of my objectives, turning 40, will be realised in 6 weeks!! The occasion will be marked with the first Wobbly Dart-a-Thon, a 24-hour fundraiser at the Three Tuns in Gosport, Hampshire.  When John Bundy, the organiser, told me of the location I thought it was the Three Tons, which isn’t a bad score in nine darts (I apologise if these darts references are completely over the head of non-Brits or Guardian readers). It will be cracking fun and a great way to enter my 40s.

 

On a serious and very sad note, Mr Jelly’s retirement from the front page of WobblyWilliams is imminent. I have long felt concerned that we couldn’t use him as we wished due to the fact we didn’t own him!!! As soon as the new charity (FundingNeuro) is registered, we will be revealing a new brand and a new look to the four arms of our little empire; WobblyWilliams, The TryAthletes, FundingNeuro and the WobblyWilliams Shop. It will be sad to open up a WobblyWilliams and not see the vibrating Mr J.  However, Mr Jelly will be talking a new role as Head of Events so he won’t be gone forever.

 

I fly to Bristol on Monday for a meeting with Steven Gill, the neurologist who appeared to successfully deliver GDNF at the turn of the century to discuss the developments in his work and the progress towards human trials of his delivery system for chemotherapy and GDNF.  On Tuesday I am visiting Parkinson’s UK for the first time. I want to get an idea of how their change in emphasis towards looking at cure has actually manifested itself. There is an opportunity to promote that change in emphasis and work with other members to place a cure front and central of that organisation’s goals.  I would like to be part of it.

 

I started a course in stand-up comedy last Wednesday.  To graduate you have to perform a five-minute routine at a Glasgow comedy club.  The course is very challenging and makes me feel quite uncomfortable, I am very much of the view that if you have to attend a course in stand-up comedy then you shouldn’t be allowed to be a stand-up comedian.  A bit like the view that anybody who wants to be a politician should be barred from doing so.  However, I see stand-up as the most extreme form of public speaking and anything I learn from the class will help me in the more regular sort of speaking that I do.

 

As I said earlier, the running season is back.  It is wonderful to be getting up at five o’clock on a Saturday morning to eat porridge so I can start a two-hour run on icy paths.  The year stretches ahead of me like a great opportunity to see more of the world on foot.

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