Tag Archives: Tramline Dave

Tramline Dave And Banana Man

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I have to say rediscovering time to ride my bike again has been like a breath of fresh air. I’ve more-or-less always had a bike and ridden since being a kid. But having a family and running the kids around on a constant basis (I’m sure many of you are familiar with this situation) became an all encompassing past-time, and kept me from riding as much as I would have liked.

Now, they’ve all reached a more adult age, while I still more-or-less run them where-ever and when-ever, its at more sociable hours to me. Meaning I can get out and ride again. (Woohoo)

So over the last 12 months I’ve been fairly consistent in my rides. Which meant I’ve gradually built up my average basic ride from a 10 miler to a more rewarding 30 miler. My big ride of the week has now gone from a 30 miler to a 50 miler and increasing all the time. It’ll be no surprise therefore to know, my enthusiasm for the recent Tour De France visiting these shores was at optimum.

For all of you confirmed road cyclist haters, the upheaval caused by the Tour de France episode across Britain must have created an incredible amount simmering aggravation in a number of households. From having to clear the surrounding roads to ensure the route was clear hours, nay, days in some places, prior to it taking place, the upheaval in general must have seemed not just an inconvenience but an incredibly unfair situation.

A real feather-spitting, steam-out-of-ears moment for a lot of people in fact.

And when I say – and I have to pick my words with care – I Don’t care!! (Ha!!) I do so from a vantage point that was Holme Moss in Yorkshire.

Wait, wait, wait!

Hear me out.

I have to tell you when I finally reached my viewing point up on Holme Moss, to find Banana-Boy sat opposite me waiting patiently arms folded, well, it was just an incredible bonus..

And I can only include that because I was one of the rapturous many sat near the summit, spying some 3 miles of route descending away from me, some of England’s finest patch-work green, dry-stone-walled hills arrayed before us, and be able to soak in the biggest party atmosphere I have EVER been to.

And I have 60,000 people strung along that route to back me up.

And when I say people, I mean men, women, children and Banana-Boy(!) The generation spread on display sat up there supporting this event was phenomenal. Breathtaking even.

I only have to think of what I experienced up there and even now it literally chokes me up.

I sympathise with those inconvenienced people for the upheaval it caused, I do. But only slightly, if I’m being honest.

Really, I don’t mean this was some wild, drunken party, where you wake up the next day bleary-eyed to slip you feet into your favourite boots.

Only to find guest No 34,435 peed in your shoe cupboard..

Or that guest No 12,487 (heaven forbid) was caught in a compromising situation in the kids room with guest No 29,812 and the only moment you became aware of the rumpus was when a lump of plaster fell off the ceiling as the bed collapsed. And when you rushed up the stairs and into the room to find out what had just happened, only to discover said guests, mercifully backs to you, stood staring down at said bed with its legs sticking out in four different directions. And the Barbie headboard snapped in half.

Both with shirts, shoes and socks on, but minus any trousers..

Or, even that guest No 51,972 didn’t so much shave a friends eyebrow, but in fact, sheared the cat. (Dust Motes)

cat

No, this, party was the best feel-good event I have ever – and I have to say – ever, experienced.

It was with a sense of excitement out of all proportion that I readied my gear for my early morning start. I was cycling over to Holme Moss with my very good friend Tramline dave. I’ve known Dave for some 10 years or so, having come to know him through football. Our boys played together in the same junior team and we then set up our own and had some utterly fantastic experiences together along the way. (See A Starfish On Snowdon)
Since then we had always stayed close and I introduced Dave to road cycling.

Now Dave is a complete obsessional perfectionist. Anything he does he has to do just right. He has to research it to the point of exhaustion until he knows it inside out. When something catches his imagination he completely sinks himself in it. Not a passing fad. I mean, he just lives and breathes it. Submersion. So when I introduced him to road cycling and the bug bit, well, I knew I had my hands full keeping up.

He bought himself a hybrid first, swiftly moving onto a road bike as he recognized the massive differences in the riding styles of each bike. He got a great deal on his bike which he has ridden faithfully for the last 8 months or so just to confirm he loves the sport enough to spend some serious money on a serious bike. Which he did.

Only to have delivery delayed by two weeks which meant he never received it in time for our ride over to Holme Moss to watch The Tour De France pass by. In fact he only took ownership of it a day before he was due away on holiday. A week later. He was, gutted.

I was relieved. I don’t know how I would have kept up otherwise..

I love riding with Dave because he’s such good company. The miles tick by when your travelling with someone you can talk to. And when that person is someone you know well, who is enthusiastic just being there, then there isn’t really any quiet time, unless your climbing a really bad hill. And Dave fills the silence non-stop.

Dave, on the other hand still can. And he fills the one-sided conversation effortlessly. Mainly with encouragement to me to climb the next hill while he’s literally doing press-ups and star-jumps on his bike to make it more entertaining.

And, I know he’s not struggling, but he tells me he is – even puffing and panting a bit to demonstrate a level of suffering. Then he forgets he’s supposed to be exhausted and begins to gallop away up a hill, realizes he’s left me behind sucking in air like a broken hoover and drops back beside me saying something like,

(Pant pant) “Fuckin hell pal! This hills a killer!! Nearly there though! Keep going your doing fantastic!” (Puff pant puff)

See, I also know that he knows that I know, he could drop me like a stone and be up that hill in no time. But he never says anything and I daren’t mention it in case he actually does disappear into the sunset. Its a bit of a pantomime.

So its a kind of happy meeting of non-equals. The cripple panting on one bike laboring away hippo, while on the next bike Tramline’s spinning effortlessly away like a fucking gazelle and pretending he’s a hippo…

Jesus I hate the bastard sometimes..

What makes it entertaining also is the fact that Tramline just can’t judge stopping distances sometimes. There isn’t a ride out I’ve had with him where he hasn’t bumped or nudged my back wheel because he’s been too close to stop. Fortunately more-often-than not, we’re going slow enough where it didn’t matter or he falls off without any help from me.

Our ride up to Holme Moss was planned to initially take us on the flattest route possible through Royton and Oldam (a feat on its own) until we hit Dove Stones, a road that climbs non-stop for some 6km and doesn’t level out.

But I had left Dave in charge of the route as I knew with his normal dogged determination it would be as flat as he could make it. The ride from his house took in an awful lot of although winding back streets, they remained (blessedly) flat for the large part of our early journey.

“Not bad this pal! Few side-streets but it’s cutting corners all over the place!”

But at the back of our minds was Dove Stones.

We both knew we had to ride this route and had both stayed quiet about it, thinking if we didn’t mention it it wouldn’t be as bad as we thought.

And actually it wasn’t.

What helped was the sheer amount of cyclists on the road that morning. All ages, all abilities, all trying to reach their own personal vantage points to catch the Tour as it whistled past. And as we climbed we could see these people strung out along the Dove Stones route, laboring to reach the top.

Dave as ultra positive as ever would be saying,

“It levels out up here a bit pal! Probably just around the next bend…”

And we would take the next corner to view another 1000 miles or so of un-interrupted ascending tarmac hugging the hillside with a breathtaking view of the valley below us to our right. And all the while I’m trying to suck air in with big gasping breaths with my tongue hanging out.

And Dave sounding initially surprised would say,

“I could have sworn it levelled out round here pal! Never mind! We’ll be reet! Keep spinning those legs! Look! We’re gaining on everyone in front! This is brilliant!! Hooray!!!”

See, he’s always kind enough to include me in the description, and it is a lift so that I end up thinking,

“Yeah, I’m not doing to bad at all really.”

Till I realized while I’m draped over the handle-bars like a wet towel, he’s still as sprightly as ever.

I didn’t think anyone could paint a picture of themselves clicking their heels while riding a bike, but its the image at the fore front of my mind when Tramline gets excited about something. His natural positive outlook just makes it seem that he talks in exclamation marks. (!!!) So if I ever speak to Dave and he’s down about something I know it must be bad because I’d have been tying and re-tying the knot to the noose weeks ago.

He also has a quite touching ability of explaining something like its a brand new, never-before-seen discovery.

“This In-ter-net. For getting on-the-line! Its fantastic pal! Click a button and it can do anything!!! You can talk to people AND see their faces at the same time!! Un-fucking-believable!!!!”

(BTW, if you read this one David, that’s an on-line sex chat room. That’s why the nice lady takes her clothes off.)

Seriously though, Dave has enormous amounts of enthusiasm for things that catch his imagination and he’s one of those rare people that makes things happen with the sheer passion he feels about which ever subject he’s caught up with. He cant help himself. Its the nature of the man that makes it so entertaining to witness.

We did make it over Dove Stones with Dave bursting with indignity that there wasn’t a level point, because he was sure there were a couple of places where we should have been able to have a breather and recover.

(The lying bastard.)

But the amazement or surprise he demonstrates is always short-lived. Always overtaken by the enthusiasm.

“I can’t believe it pal! I could have sworn it levelled just round this bit! Ah well. It must be just round that bend just up there. See it? Not looking? Yeah, your probably reet! Looks about 60 miles away from here! Hahaha! – But don’t you think about that pal! Its not that far at all! Look, we’re passing someone else again – Hellooooo there!!! Goes on forever doesn’t it!! We thought it levelled out a bit round here…!!!”

All the time I’m gulping in lumps of air while he’s rambling on and on and on.. And in between Dave was yo-yoing between incessant encouragement to me and disappointment that the level point wasn’t where he thought it would be and all the while not stopping for a breath.

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(Tramline just waiting for another opportunity to click his heels…)

While I’m trying to co-ordinate pedaling and seeing through the little black specs appearing before my eyes, and attempting to string together one oxygen-depleted wish.

“Dear god, Please, please, just make one of his lungs collapse for 5 minutes, give the bastard taste of what it really feels like..”

Finally we did make Holme Moss, meeting more and more cyclists as we got nearer. Anyone walking was doing so from miles away, having made their way from all corners, walking on the empty roads or over the moors, rambling across the hill-tops to reach what was turning into a cycling mecca for the day.

What struck me first of all was the amount of people arriving. At the bottom it was becoming crowded but becoming stretched out as we began our ascent of Holme Moss. The ebullient, almost euphoric feeling emanating from the people along that route was almost tangible around us. From the easy going nature of the police to the crowds walking or lining the tarmac to the top.

Applause and cheers and bells were meeting riders climbing that road at various points as we journeyed up it. The amount of people in fancy dress catching the spirit of the event were numerous. The feeling of being a part of that huge body of people, all with the same idea in mind – to experience and enjoy to the full this event and witness these fabulous athletes climb the same route we were fighting to ride ourselves.

When we did finally reach the summit it was to have our picture taken by the sign, just to prove we were there. I don’t think we quite believed it ourselves. We didn’t linger as there was a constant stream of folk arriving at the same point, all trying to have their picture taken then stand back and soak up the atmosphere.

We decided to drop back down the hill side some 200m and climb up on the embankment with a view above the crowd at road-side, looking over their heads, and down the entirety of the valley.

There were people passing us all day, on bikes, all ages all shapes. From the middle-aged chap wearing his lyrcra that seriously must have last fitted him 30 years ago. With the 30 years of hard-earned tyre hanging out of it, determined to live that moment and reach that place, laboring from left to right across the road.

Down to the electric bike ridden by the lady, legs spinning on fresh air, zipping up that hill, still, got a cheer.

Even though she cheated.

She was there.

The tandems ridden up there. I lost count of the laboring couples. Or the Kids, pedaling furiously to reach the summit, the seriousness and determination plain on their faces..

And each time some worthy rode up needing support the crowd would rise, again and again. Every time. The kids especially received fantastic support. Young boys and girls from around 6/7 upwards were riding this road with their parents and friends. And as they passed the crowd would rush forward and envelope them in a tunnel of humanity, cheering them on, ringing their cow bells and blowing their whistles..

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(Click on to spot Banana-boy)

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Then after all the hype of people passing to reach the top, to find a place and view the event. After the Mexican wave that kept sweeping up the full length of the hillside during our 5 hour wait. After the fancy dress, all the different lycra on display, all the various bikes of every shape and size. After the Police motorcycles, with various sirens, sounds from across the continent adding the flavor to the moment, after the Caravan passed, all the various floats and cars, throwing caps, drinks, sweets and bric-a-brac from vehicles swept past,

The Peloton arrived.

We first became aware of the imminent arrival as the 5 helicopters swept into view down the valley, hovering around the riders still out of view. Only for a couple to fly up the valley along the road to film crowd arrayed along the route.

I’m not ashamed to say I was one of the many bouncing up and down waving both arms in the air as it swept past us.

Then in the distance the riders appeared at the bottom of the valley and the crowd seemed to hold its breath around us and then the cheering began to grow as they began their ascent, and you could feel and hear the crowd at the bottom roaring them on up towards us, the cheers progressing in volume up the hill with the riders..

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I have to say watching those men ride past, at the pace they did, was heroic. Inspiring. Their determination was of draining proportions. The energy they were using to overcome the obstacle that was Holme Moss was quite phenomenal to see. The sheer emotion emanating from the crowd, well if it didn’t touch you on that day at that place I don’t know what will. The support of the crowd was a physical thing, willing those men up that hill. And only one of many, incredibly touching experiences I was lucky to witness that day.

What was the highest point of that day with so many high points though?

Was it the amount of sheer goodwill on display from every person there watching, for the youngest and oldest of people travelling that road on that day? It was unbelievable.

Was it the crowd rushing to form a tunnel and cheer, whistle and ring cow-bells for each martyr who needed lifting in their attempt at climbing to the summit? The experience of the atmosphere carrying them along the route and upwards.

Well, all those witness’ there didn’t disappoint. And I lost count of the amount of times the hair stood up on the back of my neck and I was covered in goose-bumps, each time the crowd found someone who needed that lift, to rush forward and roar on up the hill.

Or was it seeing Banana-Boy idling away the time opposite me, only to spot Banana-MAN, running up the hill, the crowd cheering him on as he did. Only for Banana-MAN to do a double take when he spotted Banana-BOY in a moment of recognition and to rush forwards and High-Five Banana-Boy, then continue on his route leaving Banana-Boy staring after him open-mouthed like he couldn’t believe what just happened..

Or was it just the day of out and out smiles, where ever you looked. The pleasure every person got from seeing all those other people there making the same effort to witness what was coming, as brief a moment as it would be?

I’d have to say, it was having to walk most of the Holme Moss route down, pushing my bike, along a road choked with cyclists and walkers making their way good-naturedly down to the bottom and home. Until we could finally mount our bikes and trickle along the route through the village at the base. Out toward Holme Firth on a road still packed with cyclist’s to feel the familiar bump on my back wheel.

This time I was taking no chances. I was too aware of how crowded it was.

“Oi! Your going to bring us down! Get in front! You’re not putting me on the deck here!!”

I received an apologetic and embarrassed look as Tramline moved in front of me, leaving me in a more relieved position watching his hesitant progress amongst the hundreds of cyclists around us, filling the road from left to right, back to front.

Until the guy in front of Dave had to pull up short and Tramline as-ever not on the ball about his stopping distance, ran straight up the back of him. He had a moment of frantic pedal wrenching trying to clear his cleats from his pedals, then toppled over sideways and had a domino effect across the road. It was halted 3rd man along who managed to hold up the fallen riders and prevent it sweeping across the rest of the road.

Dave was already leaping to his feet trying to get his bike back up, apologize to those he had knocked over and check if he had done any damage, all at the same time.

I could only drape over the handlebars and laugh.

The good nature of the crowd however again took precedent and there weren’t any bad words had.

The only thing damaged was Dave’s pride.

“Just pull over here pal! Just check me bike’s ok!!”

He said some moments later after remounting.

And in between laughing all I could said was

“No point worrying now pal! Everyone you almost killed are long gone..”

Yeah. That was the best part.

I had to make the most of it.

Dave would have the last laugh watching me try climbing those hills back home..

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Fainting Goats

knee1

I was sat in Croma, a pizza restaurant that opened in the  renovated center of Prestwich, with my family. I had only a day or two before undergone knee surgery to correct a cartilage  problem and was just happy to be on the recovery side of the experience. I was sat in shorts with one heavily strapped, swollen, elephantine-like leg stretched out awkwardly at an angle to the table.

A natural disaster waiting to happen to any unsuspecting waiter clumsy enough not to notice it. It was at this point I noticed the chap hobbling in with the same strapping on his leg. He dropped into his chair with an audible sigh (I didn’t do that – stiff upper lip) and rooted round with his leg like he was trying to get a signal with a tv arial, in an attempt to find a comfortable position to point his appendage.

He couldn’t miss me as we were aiming legs at each other, like attracting ends of magnets pointing at each other. I could actually feel my chair sliding forward.

Ah. no.

That was just the anaesthetic still wearing off.

I could see him straighten slightly as he became aware of the similar strapping, and then we shared a knowing glance, my leg doppleganger and I across the way. It was that bottom lip sticking out and silent nod, saying

“Yeah. I feel your pain mate.”

Kindred in spirit so to speak.

Also I was thinking,

“Please God let the waiter trample on, and fall over his leg, and for Christs sake not mine..”

I must admit I had been nervous initially going into the operation. Too much information brought to my attention in the run up to it. I’m one of those people who doesn’t like to be made aware of all the facts entailed in the operation.

I would happily wander into the theatre and have the op blind, rather than be inundated with information about the whole procedure.

Really. I don’t need to know how I’m to be cut, even if it was key-hole surgery. The insertion of what-ever to cut away the damaged doo-dar and make good with a snip here and a shave there and a… well.

Really?

I don’t think so. Hack away good man, just don’t tell me what the hell your going to do as long as I wake up at the end of it.

My wife on the other hand, needs information before she can progress in similar circumstances. Go to the dentist and he would have to explain, step by step, exactly what he was about to do.

I mean. Come on.

She would, as my Gran used to say,

“Want to know about the inside of a cats arsehole.”

Just to settle her mind.

When the day dawned I was also preoccupied with other things.

I ran a team with my good friend Tramline Dave and, after a season of notable success, we had the Oldam Chronicle coming to a training session to take photos of the boys, and print an article. On the day of the interview, I was due in hospital for surgery on the cartilage problem in my knee. I was desperate to be at the team photo, just to stand at the back of the picture and be part of it after the success we had experienced.

As it was, it would be touch and go whether I would be out of hospital in time after surgery and more importantly, compos mentis and coherent after coming round. I was pig-headed in my attitude that I would make it. My wife Jane, on the other hand (a nurse) (what did she know?) was more skeptical.

“Mmmm. I think you should just take it easy Mike.”

I affected that tone you take when your talking to someone who, doesn’t understand the situation because she’s being a girl

“Jane. Dear. Its the paper. We’re going to be in the news. I have to be there.”

Adding a silent (Pffft.) and a (Derrrrrrr.) All in the privacy of my own head.

Jane did what she normally does and just left me to find out the hard way.

When we got to hospital at 7.30am sharp and checked in, we found out that they weren’t actually sure if I could be fitted in on the day. So it was a case of sit and wait. And wait. Annnnnd wait. All I could think about was the time. I was caught between thinking about the operation and what time the photographer was due for the team photo.

Until around 11am we asked if there was any news on my operation situation only to have the nurse do a double take as if realizing I was still there and a quick dart off to the reception counter. Followed quite sharpish by,

“Mr. Walsh? Yes this way please.”

Ah. Here we go then. And we were led off to another part of the hospital for the surgery.

We arrived at another department where the nurse halted us and said to my wife,

“Maybe you would like to say goodbye now Mrs walsh?”

A bit terminal if you ask me. Because all I could think was,

“Fuck me. I’m going to die.”

I mean, I was expecting another waiting room for, a short wait. Somewhere I would have time to steady my nerves and get ready to go in. But this was it. They were going for in. Right now.

I gave Jane a slightly clingy, clammy hug. I think she pried me off in the end, and I was led off beyond another door stopping just before I went through to throw back,

“I will be back.”

and then in a more urgent whisper,

“Don’t go far, I need to get out of here sharpish for the photo..”

Beyond the door I was given 2 gowns and the privacy of a changing room to get my theatre outfit on. Which I have to say is an improvement on the old days. Then, you were given a single gown and no idea which way round it was worn, only to put it on either opening at the front, so you could reach and lace it up, then spend the trip clutching it to your belly in an effort at modesty. Or put it on open at the back, unable to lace it up, with your arse-end on full display as you wandered around. And socks. You can never wear the right matching socks with these gowns..

With 2 gowns, you put one on one way and the other one over it the opposite way. Result. Complete coverage. You still look like a dick with whatever socks you wear mind.

I was led to a room and told to pop onto the bed and realax. (?) I lay there, stressing over the op and looking at the clock wondering if I would be done and dusted in time to get to the other side of Manchester for the team photo.

The attending nurses were professional and already prepping my hand for the anaesthetic.

“How are you Michael? Ready to go down to theatre? Just a small incision and in he goes , little bit of a clean up, nip here BlahBlahBlah….(FFS. Here we go again I thought.) ”

In answer to both questions,

Sweaty. I felt Damp even. And anxious. Definitely breathing a bit harder. Harder by the minute with your description thank-you-so-much.

And No. No I’m not ready. I would say I’m ready to just go-the-fuck-to-sleep-now-please. Now? Please God now??

(And only my mum, nurses, doctors a Priest and the Police call me Michael)

And on she went with my anxiety rising with what was about to happen, thinking along the lines of,

Would I wake up? Jesus! Is that the time? This is going to be a rush alright! My God! Did they mark the right knee? Oh Shit! I’m going to come round minus a fucking kidney-”

And other similar thoughts until finally the nurse said,

“Here we go Michael, we’ll just pop this needle in here, and there you go. You should feel something cold going up your arm now. Yes? You’ll feel slightly sleepy and in a minute you’ll drop off to sl-”

I’ll tell you what.

That anaesthetic was the business. Because the next thing I knew was,

“Michael? Michaelll? Hello? how are you feeling Michael?”

I sort of popped out of quite a heady deep sleep, to open my eyes, with a “Whaaaaa? Wha?” That lip smacking sort of wake up, not quite with it, to see a new face, a new room and my leg heavily strapped and propped before me. It had really seemed like moments before that the nurse had been telling me I would drop off to sleep shortly, I couldn’t even remember my eyes closing.

I was impressed to say the least.

I was wheeled from the single room into the recovery room, where other people lay on beds obviously recovering from they’re own visits to the theatre. Another nurse came over to ask me if I wanted anthing to eat or drink.

“No. No thanks I’m fine. Yep. Smashing. Can I go now?”

“…Actually you don’t look too good Michael. Maybe a cup of tea and a sandwich? Yes?”

Actually I felt terrible but the over-riding thought was

“Done! Woohoo! I can make the team photo. My god. I feel shite.”

I really should have had a cup of tea at the very least. Just something to settle me down. But it really wasn’t too long after I was insistent on giving my wife a call to come and collect me.

“Your sure?? How long have you been out?” asked jane.

“I’m finnnnnne janey. Just come get me. You can run me up to training later for the picture.”

“Your joking. Your not. You idiot. You really need to take it easy. Come home and put your feet up. Relax.”

“Jane, Jane Jane. Oh ye of little faith. Come get me. Please? I’m sat waiting. See you in 20.”

And with that jane was on her way. I called the nurse over and told her.

“my wifes on the way, I can get out soon yes?”

“Are you sure Michael? Really, you’re colour isn’t too good. You should take a bit of time. Really. A cup of tea? Just one?”

“I’m fine thanks. Really. Where should I go and wait?”

She just fixed me with a look that my wife often wore when, she knew better, knew that I knew she knew better but was resigned to the fact that I was doing it anyway and I could suffer the consequences.

And I must admit, under that stare I felt a moments unease. I really did feel dreadful but was slightly desperate at this point to get out, and was watching the seconds hand on the clock do laps.

“Ok. If you insist. Just head through the doors and sit in the waiting room. We need to discharge you.”

“Thanks nurse. I really appreciate it.”

And I slid my bandaged leg off the bed onto the floor and took a step forward.

I had to hop onto the other leg and as I did, Someone had taken away the bendy bit in my knee and replaced it with something that really hurt. I managed to slip into my shorts and trainers, no way I was going for the laces. All I felt was nausea, but I thought I’d grit my teeth and just take it a bit careful, and sit down as soon as possible. This was sore.

I managed to get into the waiting room and find a seat. Feeling quite pasty I sat waiting for Jane to arrive. I realized that I must have looked a bit worse for wear when Jane came through the door and took a good look at me.

“Are you ok. You don’t look it. Your a terrible colour. Why are you going home now? Have you had a cup of tea?? You should be still in there.” She said indicating the recovery room.

(What is it with nurses and tea?)

“Ahh I’m ok janey, Just get the nurse so she can discharge me. I can probably make the training. I’ll take a deckchair…”

So with “The Look”, Jane went off to fetch the nurse. We were then led out of the waiting room into what I can only describe as a broom cupboard. With a table in it. It was the tiniest windowless room I’ve ever been in that’s officially a room.

When the door opened it left just enough room to squeeze behind it and around the end of the desk, to sit on a bench that ran along the 4 foot of wall, and left you sat opposite the female discharging nurse, who (was significantly built to hammer ship plates together with hot rivets and a 40lb hammer), had taken her turn to squeeze into the room after myself and Jane. The tiny room had suddenly become more air-less and all the time my knee (now throbbing) was taking up more of my attention.

The conversation went along the lines of,

Michael, blahblahbalh?Balahbalhbal blah blah? hahahaha! Blah? Ha?”

In the meantime my vision was narrowing down tunnel-like, and it just seemed to be getting warmer by the minute. And air. I felt like running a finger round the invisible collar at my throat, there just wasn’t enough air. And I realized I was (for the first time in my life) going to pass out.

I had just enough time to prop myself, right into the corner of the room, I mean really wedge myself in, because I’m not kidding, it was that or flake out and come round face down on the table with a nose bleed.

All I remember is Jane saying,

“Mike are you ok?”

And me saying,

“Not really, I’ll be back in a minute.” And I let go.

Bang. Gone. Brilliant.

I came round with the nurse, I’m sure she wasn’t alone, but by Christ it felt like she was making a good job of dragging me from the room single handed. And I’m sort of coming round on rubber knees, trying to get my legs under me intermittently thinking, “Blimey I feel awful -Jesus my knee!”.

As she drew me from the room towards a waiting trolley (I actually felt disappointed there wasn’t a resounding pop of a cork leaving a bottle) other arms took up the slack and helped me up. At which point I managed a look down the corridor to see Jane peering round the corner looking quite tearful.

And then I went again.

I just felt myself slump into the arms around me and a knee that wouldn’t bend, did.

I came round again with – it felt like – only the gargantuan nurse present at one elbow, (I think it was just sheer gorilla presence) lifting me up with varicose veins bulging like tangerines and saying,

“Michael! Stand up! Michael! For fucks sake stand up!!”

I’m sure in a professional sense she shouldn’t have been saying that, but I have no doubt in my mind, I’d have been saying worse in her position. In fact I’d have let them hit the deck, rolled them into the recovery position, said “Fuckit” and let them fend for themselves.

Anyhow, they had me on my feet with a nurse either side and Godzilla cursing and cajoling me onto the trolley until red faced, her temper finally snapped.

“Get on the fucking trolley Michael! NOW!”

And I tried, I really did. And it was only as I strained to get on the trolley, leaning towards it, that I realized that I just couldn’t get my feet off the floor. It was only as I looked down in obvious confusion that I understood. The 18 stone nurse currently supporting my right side and and cursing me heaven and back was stood on my laces.

And there was just no way, with the best will in the world, was I going to lift my feet onto the trolley with a small moon anchoring me to the ground.

“Michael! Micha-”

I managed to finally meet her eyes and say,

“Laces. Your stood. On my laces…”

“Oh my God! I’m sorry!”

And in a blink she was off them like an overweight gazelle and had me on the trolley in one smooth move.

I spent the rest of the day in recovery. Drinking tea.

I have to say I seem to have gotten worse with age. I’m not sure if it was the fact I tried to leave too early, (probably) or the fact I didn’t drink a gallon of tea before attempting to leave (possibly) or the shock of the swearing nurse (This seems far more entertaining)

I think It was the shock from the swearing nurse that put me in mind of the fainting goats. Youtube it.

And I never did make the photo.

Dave did though. The bastard.

A Starfish On Snowdon

starfish3

You may have read about my friend Dave who I ride regularly with, covering the miles on our road bikes. ( see Tramline Dave)

I’ve known Dave for a number of years and shared the highs and lows of kids football. Often bending each others ears as we both stressed over our boys struggling through the mine field of junior football, striving towards playing club football. We first met when our lads both played for the same Sunday team, moving on to setting up our own team (Shawstars) and having the most fantastic season. It wasn’t just the huge successes we experienced on the pitch, but the satisfaction of watching a team of boys gel together. And the experience of places and environments they otherwise wouldn’t have had. It has to be said that Dave was the driving force behind all of these various adventures they were lucky enough to encounter and it was through his organization and enthusiasm that they took place.

Dave was the team manager but I was only interested in the coaching side of things. I think we worked well together. We got on, and still get on, fantastically well to this day.

That season went in a blur of games and Dave came up with the idea of ending the successful year with another camping date, having camped during the previous close season before playing a tournament up in The lake District. We Had had a fantastic time, so the idea of having a weekend camping up at Snowdonia in Wales and rounding it off by walking up Snowdon itself appealed to everyone. Even more so to those who had been unable to attend the previous trip and heard all about it.

Steve, the club chairman and I, spent a busy Thursday evening shopping in Asda, stocking up on all the food we could think of that the boys would need to eat or drink for the weekend. Sugar played a big part. We departed the following day, driving up in a scattered convoy of parents and kids, to meet at the venue, a camp site at the foot of Snowdon.

Everyone was in high spirits and we set up the tents straight away, helping each new arrival to erect theirs as they turned up.

The next thing to get going was the BBQ. You just can’t beat that open air cooking and the smell of burgers and sausages floating about. One of the parents had brought up a brazier, and it was duly loaded with wood from the 3 bags I’d brought with me ready to burn as the evening grew colder. As you can imagine, a few beers were opened and consumed – only to compliment the food you understand.

The brazier was lit and it seemed to transfix the boys. They spent the rest of the night adding fuel to it and hovering, waiting for the opportunity to add more. I think if they had had their way we would have had an enormous bon-fire and all the wood thrown on in one go and lit. I don’t know what it is with young lads and fire. They would have burned anything.

And I mean, anything they could have gotten hold of. Really. Anything. Cars. Tents. Sheep. Toilet block..

The next day dawned glorious. It was a bright, beautiful sunny day with a wide blue sky framed with the surrounding hills. We could see Snowdon itself in the distance. So after the obligatory group photo we headed off. The group gradually became strung out as we made our way up the lower slopes. We had intentionally tried to pick an easier route as some people had never done any serious walking before, so we attempted to play it safe and make sure everybody made it to the top comfortably. Some people were fitter than others and marched on. Those that were feeling a little tender from the previous night automatically gravitated towards the back of the group, and I like to think this was the most entertaining part of the assembly. After all. I was there..

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Anyway, as the walk progressed the distance grew between the front-runners and those of us who were Sunday-strolling at the rear. It was an incredibly hot day and it began to take a toll. Dave and I were walking with Wayne and our boys. We had known Wayne for a long time and he had always thrown himself into whatever we were doing with the team. I know he loved all the times we spent away with the boys. Well Wayne was slowly but surely beginning to struggle with the climb. And we had reached a point where it had become more-or-less vertical.

There was a climb of some 200-300 foot to get up. Having walked up the lower valley and swung around to face Snowdon, we had eventually reached this point where the going became quite arduous. The heat wasn’t helping Wayne at all. And this was reflected by his completely bald head and the permanent sheen of sweat that was dripping off it. We were literally stopping every 30 steps or so to allow him to get his breath and his colour really didn’t look good at all. Even the boys were becoming a mite concerned.

Although, from the boys point of view, I think their main concern was the fact that,
A. They were at the back.
B. This man was struggling and really slowing them down.
C. He could die
D. The other boys would get back to the camp before them at this rate and burn anything that was left to burn.

Waynes tent probably if it looked like he wasn’t going to make it.

I must admit though, I was getting worried myself with each stop we made left Wayne gasping for breath. Dave and I were sharing looks of concern and I know what he was thinking so decided to act.

“listen. I’ll head on up in front and warn the others. Take the boys with me. I’ll get Wayne a place on the train going back down.”

Better I abandon Wayne to Dave before the bastard did it to me I thought.

And seeing the look on Daves face I knew I’d done the right thing. He had probably been timing it to make his abandoning Wayne and I look more acceptable.

“Hoooo-noooo my friend.” I had a smidgen less shame than Dave you see. If Wayne was for collapsing let Dave give him the kiss of life.

In the mean time, Wayne was trying to fire a chocolate muffin down his neck, and wash it down with water in the firm, if misguided belief that it was going to have instant results.

“‘eah. ‘ood idea. I just ‘eed to get some fuel down me neck. Have a rest for a minute -”

Force more chocolate muffin in there.

“- you carry on-”

Glug water on top of muffin.

“- Trains a great idea. Don’t think I’ll make it down walking. I’m ‘ucked.”

Whoooa! Hang on pal-” Dave..

“Yes! Your bang on Wayne. Least I can do. I’ll just scoot on up to the top and get it sorted! Come on boys. With me! left foot first now!!”

Whooooa! Just a fuckin min-” Dave…

I was becoming a bit frantic in the haste to be away and desert Dave and Wayne, before Dave could put up a more serious objection.

“Yes! Best get it sorted! You may need a helicopter calling in at this rate!! Ha! Yes a helicopter ride! You’d like that Dav- I mean Wayne! ” I added looking square at Dave with a smile as I hustled the boys on up the path.

I’m sure Wayne was thinking, “What a fella. Doing this for me” as I headed off.

“Phone me if there’s any problems!”

I called over my shoulder, Which I’m sure Dave would. Many colourful things. knowing as well as I did there wasn’t much of a signal to be had for any mobile phones.

I looked back briefly once to see Dave helping Wayne back to his feet and watched Wayne gesture weakly that he “Needed fuel. And water. Please god.” Then Dave started shoo-ing him on up the slope and I quickly turned away before he could try and attract my attention.

“Will my Dad be ok Mike?” asked Waynes son

“Yeahhh. No worries lad. He’ll just be a bit thinner though.”

“Not eating all that chocolate cake he won’t.”

So on we went until we reached the end of the serious climb and it leveled out into a much more manageable walk. It was easier to breathe again and as soon as Wayne reached this point it would be a more comfortable trip for him.

You can imagine my surprise when my phone actually rang some 30 minutes later, and I fumbled it from my pocket to see Dave’s name lit up, and turned to looked back down the slope to see where they were as I answered it.

“He’s on the fuckin floor pal!!” Said Dave immediately upon hearing my voice. “Flat out. Can’t get him up!!”

I finally spotted Dave, a distant figure, speaking urgently down the phone, with his other hand cupped over the mouth piece, walking to and thro around Wayne, who was lay like a star fish on the floor.

“Give him some fuel mate. Give him some chocolate muffin. He seems to like that. And some water! Give him some water!!”

“I can’t!! He already ate the fucking lot!! And I don’t have any water left because he drank it all trying to wash the muffin down!! And then he just threw it up all over the shop. He been heaving like a professional bulimic, then he’s flopped on the fuckin floor. WTF am I going to do???”

“Well first of all you need to calm down mate. Calm down.”

“What do you mean you bastard, calm down! Calm down??”

And his voice actually went up a couple of octaves showing. Clearly. I was the much calmer person here. I felt like putting my hands on my hips and striking a pose. I can only say my calmness was a reflection of my much faster thinking and inclination to abandon Dave and Wayne. I know he was just wishing he had done it first. I was also 30 minutes further up the slope and closer to salvation.

SNOWDEN 23.5.10 150
(The view Dave would have had of me in the distance when he phoned. Snowdon summit beyond)

There was nothing else for it. When you manage to drop some one else in it, you need to maintain distance and keep a perspective, while reassure them that its not as bad as they think.

“Hahahah! Your fucked mate! I’ll phone the helicoptor for you at the top!!”

And I marched on. We managed to reach the summit, where I have to say it was packed with people. I mean packed out. There must have been 2 or 300 people up there. And as we made our way up the final slope along side the train track, I looked to the right, back the way we had walked and thought it looked so gradual. It completely hid the strenuous climb we had completed.

Then I looked to the left and it was like a slope only a mountain goat would climb. It just dropped away into the opposing valley. And clinging to the side of this vertical rocky face, was a ribbon of a path threading its way up towards us. With people picking their way upwards in single file, as it wasn’t wide enough to do more. And I just thanked god we hadn’t decided to come up that route.

Because I’d have abandoned Dave a wayyyyyyyyyy sooner otherwise.

Dave did make it to the top with Wayne making a herculean effort to get there. And we left him there to rest looking pasty and weak, to gather his strength, while we began the descent down a much easier path into the town Llanberis. Wayne would travel down on the train as Steve, who was the only one sensible enough to ride up the much more relaxing route, on the train, had given up his seat to rescue Wayne. We would collect him on the way back to the camp.

We did have a moment of pause when some 30 minutes after departing the summit, we watched an air-sea rescue helicopter head up towards the summit, and we did wonder if Wayne had taken a turn for the worse. But it turned before it reached the top and hovered over the edge of a lake we had passed on the way down, then turned and headed back over us.

SNOWDEN 23.5.10 007

It took some 2 hours to walk back down in the extreme heat of that day, and it really was hot. The only relief we had was not stressing over whether or not Wayne could manage it. It was nice to finally reach the bottom and head straight for the pub for a well earned pint, sat outside the in the heat of the afternoon, absolutely exhausted..

It must have been by the 3rd pint before anyone remembered Wayne.

“Ohhh shit! Wayne!!!”

We had completely forgotten about him in our rush for a cool pint. He had been waiting some 3 hours to be collected.

Steve jumped up and drove down to the station where the mountain train terminated to find Wayne again, star-fish prone, on the embankment outside. He brought him back to the pub where he managed a cold pint. A lot more leisurely than the bottled water he had been using to try and force the muffin down.

“You ok Wayne? Feeling better?”

I must admit he didn’t look much better.

“Well, I thought I’d just relax on the train, but hadn’t gone 200 yards when I started chucking up out of the side. I can tell you I cleared ALL the seats around me sharpish. Its a wonder that the train didn’t pick up speed and run out of control with everyone sat at the front next to the driver.”

Wayne had spent the whole trip down retching and being sick out of the side of the carriage. Just to add to his misery, when he finally reached the bottom he at first tried sitting patiently, then gave up and just spread-eagle himself on the grass in despair, not having the energy to do aught else.

“I’m just glad you finally came for me.”

“Well what else could we do Snowy? We Couldn’t leave you any longer.” Said Scott, another dad on the trip, giving Wayne his new nick-name.

“It was the only thing we could do. It was your round.”

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(Dave and daughter Lucy, at the start. Obviously.)