Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Red shoes

Here's one I wrote at Andy and Steve's Creative Writing class just before Xmas:

"Whatever happened to those red shoes you used to wear?"
"Red shoes?"
"I never ever have had red shoes."
"Must have been one of your other girl friends."


There was no going back or rather no going forward. Think laterally, talk about Christmas.... anything.

She looked at me with such a sad look on her face. Anger I could have dealt with. I could have even enjoyed a good row, but that sad look hit me in the guts - a physical sensation, almost painful.

It's like I am digging an ever deeper hole but I am not doing anything active so it is more like quicksand - in which we are both sinking. I must do something, anything to change this, to break the mood.

She nods almost inperceptibly.

'Oh fuck' I think to myself as I leave the room. I put the kettle on and lean against the radiator.

How do you re-weave a broken web? OK so that which does not destroy me (us?) makes me (us?) stronger but what if I (we?) am not destroyed merely wounded? I don't feel stronger neither does she. What a tangled web that now fragments who were, are and can be. 'Sorry?' 'Sorry doesn't do it.'

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Music again

So i copied my last blog entry to Carol Donaldson who runs the Intergenerational Choir and she replied in part:
"Yes, it's amazing how singing together engenders such good feeling. I think a combination of the physical (deep breathing which oxygenates and calms), the mental (brain busy concentrating on harmonies, so too absorbed to worry about life/ourselves) and the emotional (lovely bonding experience) and sometimes I think we can reach the spiritual, when we're singing a powerful song and there's so much good intent in the room, it does raise us all up."

This last week I have had a profound, and I think spiritual, shift in my piano playing. I had started to get some aches in the muscles of my upper arms (I had these for many months 10 years and nothing - massage, herbal remedies, oils, sacro cranial therapy shifted it and then I dreamt of Peter Mandelson and the aches left me! - If you are interested I'll tell you the whole story some time :)).

I thought 'Oh No, will this stop me learning piano?' So I finally talked about this with Rebecca my piano teacher (I'll blog more about her teaching another time). When I get tense in playing I hit the keys hard - rather like Thelonius Monk but not so good. To avoid getting tense and loud I have to play slower and softer and quieter and I start to relish the music more and notice each note. It then becomes a kind of meditation, I enjoy it more and it relaxes me more and paradoxically it sounds better.

So I am not rushing to play something anymore instead enjoying the indwelling particularly on those pieces I really relish playing. So something is shifting internally in this process and it feels like doing yoga or mediation or Quaker silence.

Isn't life strange? And of course I found that Rebecca has a fascination with the spiritual. Kind of typical synchronicity for me.

Bill-on-bike avoiding the frost spots or walking the bike, but loving the stars - have you seen Venus and Jupiter they were close to the moon a couple of weeks ago, it was magic to me - the wonder of it all!

Monday, 8 December 2008

In praise of Carol Donaldson

Regular readers of this blog will now something of my passion for music and how things turned out for me - being told to mime rather than sing at my Primary School and somehow always ending up second from bottom in Music at my Grammar School. But the delight of singing on my bike, in the bathroom and singing to and with my daughter Grace when giving her bedtime baths.

Last year Grace taught me to read music and to play a few notes on the piano in a few minutes not knowing that I can't read music and can't play it. So since March I have been getting music lessons from Grace's teacher Rebecca. About a month ago I was round at friends and played on their piano without any music sheets in front of me. My first public performance infront of Tim - 'Sky Boat Song' and 'Amazing Grace'.

But there is another part to my musical life. For about 3 years Grace and I have been attending a choir based at Grace's school. Originally it was called the Family Choir and was open to children from the school their parents and carers. More recently it has been thrown open to all and it is called the Intergenerational Choir. It is led by the extraordinary Carol Donaldson. She has this amazing talent of being able to make great sounds come out of us in a very short space of time. We meet on a Sunday afternoon at the school at 4.30 twice a month for an hour. There are some regulars and others who pass through so there are almost always people there who don't know the songs we are doing. And it doesn't matter. We are split into 2 or 3 or 4 sometimes for different harmonies.

There has been a real surprise for me in this. I am most comfortable singing Bass. It seems as if all my life I have been trying to sing too high up. Singing the bass part seems more natural to me. It also helps me understand what my hands need to do in music i.e. bass is left hand.

Apart from healing my past hurts this choir is such a source of joy for me. It affects me holistically, spiritually even. I get such a sense of wellbeing from singing in this choir. We do warm up exercises and this gets us using our diaphragms for breathing and of course singing. Using your diaphragm more is a great boost to health apparently. And signing together like this with people I know and don't know gives a feeling of belonging and community.

We even get to do gigs usually at the School's Winter and Summer Fayre's but sometimes other opportunities arise. On Saturday last it was the Winter Fayre and we had half hour to rehearse and then half hour signing 4 songs from all over the world. That itself is a powerful thing to do. Once at an international conference in Edinburgh I was singing in a bar with friends. We sang 'Amazing Grace'. There was a Black woman there from the USA. She told me later only Black people sing 'Amazing Grace'. So singing from all over the world is profoundly inclusive. We all belong to the earth and to each other. Incidentally there is an amazing Youtube clip about Amazing Grace. It's a bit evangelical but extraordinary - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMF_24cQqT0

So if you are in South Manchester on a Sunday afternoon and want to sing come along. Email me for details.

Best to all,

Bill-on-bike enjoying the cool winter air today as the dawn slowly broke through on my way to work.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

In praise of Annie and Kenya update

One of the best decisions I made a few years ago was to find a supervisor who could help me cope with the institution that I work in. That is I speak with Annie about once every 6 weeks for an hour or so about my working life. It is easy for me to get swamped by sheer busy-ness and lose a sense of how I am and where I might want to be going. Why not talk to colleagues you might ask? Well I do but they are often caught up in the same madness.

Annie isn’t and she has wide experience of public and private institutions. She has helped me define and stick with my own agenda, what I want, what I am trying to achieve, helping me to step back and not take too much too personally. And it works and it is not magic and it is hard work AND I have done better than I expected better than it might have been without her help.

I have just been through a very hard time. The run up this Autumn to the new phase of my work in Kenya has especially hard with severe problems both ends. And then to top it all last Friday my project was cancelled. The Kenyans did not take this lying down and wider counsel prevailed here and by Tuesday this week the project was revived. We are licking our wounds. I feel shattered but my spirit will be fresh enough by the time of my next visit to Nairobi on the 4th January 2009.

So at this point I would salute all of you who have supported me and the Kenyan project oveer the years. I had such a strong sense that this was what I was called to do. ‘Why me?’ and ‘Do I have the necessary skills?’ were questions that arose but I couldn’t ignore the success of similar work by me and my team in Britain and trust that I could find a good way to do something similar in Kenya. Whatever happens it wont fail through the commitment of the Kenyans involved nor mine.

Your thoughts for the success of this 6 year project matter more than you might imagine.

Bill on bike in the frost and rain!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Poem for Pittu

(Pittu Laungani 1936-2007 was an extraordinary man who I had a few brief meetings with in the last years of his life. There will be a book out shortly - watch this space - in which a n umber of us explore the relevance of his life and ideas to modern therapy. I think my poems work best like most poem when read out loud.)

Poem for Pittu

I cried at your funeral
No one else did
It was so strange

I befriended a man there
Dress like a plumber
He was an old colleague of yours

I saw how white your world was
It was a very English
And multicultural funeral

There is a Pittu shaped hole in my heart
So I couldn't write your obituary

I struggle to make sense
Of Your life
Of our few intense meetings
And your death

I have to say
You were one of my teachers
I think you can live
(and die) with that!

It's funny curious
Living without you
Living with all your words on paper
And on one CD

So maybe
Just maybe
You are not dead to me
But can I ever see you again?

Monday, 10 November 2008

How do you live? (poem)

[Another poem gifted to me at Tony and Steve's class]

A while ago
She said
There's no point me carrying on
I'm going to die
When I saw a video of him
Reading a book out loud
And so beautifully
My heart melted

We are all going to die
You know
It's how you live
With what you've got
And how often your heart melts.

Stacey appears

[Stacey has been a rather mysterious figure hovering just out of my consciousness for the past few months. I knew she was a good editor and a bit of a perfectionist but then at Steve and Andy's Creative Writing workshop on Saturday she emerged into the light.]

"Cheating is not pretty but it happens. That's life aint it?"
"No it bloody aint!"
There was a silence.
Then a longer silence.
Then she swallowed hard and blinked three times. I cautiously reached a hand out and touched her ice cold hand. She flinched but then relaxed a bit.
"I dunno... I dunno, what I am going to do-"
"Why do anything just yet?"
"Whatcha mean? I've gotta."
"make the bugger suffer for a while."
She laughed, "Yes!"
And so began the revenge campaign.

At first it was fun - you know the odd cut up shirt, the odd nasty text message, a very odd computer virus; but then it got nasty. And she was getting way too much pleasure out of it. It had almost become her reason fro living or so it seemed.
"I can't let go."
"I know but you must. It's time to move on."
"But it's like 'I revenge therefore I am'."

Still waiting (poem)

Waiting for you in the cafe
And the click clacking of high heel shoes

I seem to spend half my life
Waiting for you in the cafe

The cafes change and I change
But still
Waiting for you in the cafe

It could be spring
It could be winter
It could be Paris
It could be Rome
Waiting for you in the cafe

And I could be calm and content
Or angry and sad sullen and withdrawn
Waiting for you in the cafe

And one of these days I'll wake up dead
Waiting for you in the cafe

Friday, 7 November 2008

Frankie in despair speaks to Q

(For new readers Frankie my PA, Q my spiritual director and the Boss are merely(!) figments of my creative imagination or so I allege!)

"Hi Frankie how can I be of use to you?"
"Oh Q, it's been a bad time..."
"My life is a mess and I drift from relationship to relationship and I screw up at work and sooner or later the Boss is going to get fed up with me.."
"Yes, I don't know what to do..."
"And you are talking to me"
"Yes it's weird aint it? What with you being religious and all that"
"All that?"
"Well my grannie was an Italian Catholic and my mum was a Welsh chapel goer but me and my sister had no truck with that...And... I ain't the kind of man that's very welcome by Christians"
"You know... you know what I am. You know what Christians say about Gays"
"All Christians?"
"Most, and the ones that might welcome gays are mostly quiet about it"
"True Frankie... How do you feel talking to me since I am as you say religious?"
"Well I guess you are OK you are a friend of the Boss'(Q nods) and he doesn't have a homophobic bone in his body despite his bad moods from time to time.."
"So Frankie, where do you go from here?"
"Well Q... I was walking home late the other night and I saw Orion - you know the stars ('Yes') and I suddenly felt drawn into the sky towards the stars and there was great light all around me and a voice 'Frankie you are love' and I sobbed my heart out... I can't stop thinking about it. Was it true? Was it real? What should I do?"
"What's it like talking about it?"
"Oh... it feels good."
"And how has it affected you?"
"Well it scared me especially that voice, but if I believe, if I can believe in it I feel better inside despite my problems."
"Hmm.... is that not some kind of answer?"
"You mean... you mean take the experience as real?"
"Why not?"
"But... but...well.. er."
"Try it."
"OK I will, but don't tell the Boss."
"Frankie I wont tell a soul. Come and see me again if you want."
"Sure will and you are not that bad for a straight" (They both Laugh)
"There's praise" said Q in a Welsh accent.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


I can't write today without sharing my pleasure at Obama's victory. It is so important that a black man be elected President of the USA on a left of centre programme. Having a Kenyan father seems poignant too, perhaps the US will have a healthier relationship with Africa from now on?

Something shifted in me over the weekend with my visit to the Sound of Music and the Cabinet War Rooms over the weekend (see my last blog for more). I remember a difficult discussion with my Dad about Northern Ireland in about 1970. He really had a go at me for supporting Civil Rights and the radical People's Democracy movement which promised so much at the time before Internment and the decline into further violence, the British troops so welcomed by the Catholics all too soon became part of the problem. I could not answer his arguments, indeed I felt destroyed by them but I knew I was on the side of the peacemakers. I still am. And I recognise that I might in some circumstances copy my dad and fight like he eventually did in 1940 but meanwhile how do we peace make?

When the post election violence erupted in Kenya I was scared for my friends out there - their safety but I was also scared for Kenya as a whole, a beautiful country and people facing some real difficulties and on the edge. I felt helpless. When I viisted Kenya next last September at the KAPC conference I heard about the work done in the Displaced People's Camps. I encouraged Gikundi, from KAPC, who was chairing a session and presenting a report on the counselling work done in the camps that he ask the audience to stand up if they had been to the camps to offer counselling, group work, de-briefing, or had supported the work through supervision and in other ways. Well out of an audience of 300+ about 4 out of 5 people stood up. I am weeping as I write this so moved at the memory of this love and care freely given, not always even with transport costs covered.

Yesterday on the course Clare and I teach we had a visiting speaker Ian Kaplan who does amazing work with photography. One thing he does is hand out cameras and get children in school to photo places they like and places they don't like and then talk to him about it. There was a picture taken by an African student from Zambia of his favourite teacher and his class. It was fairly typical in my experience - a bare class room with bright children in it.

I made a connection, I was the first in my direct family to go to Uni - my mum and dad left school at 13. My sister at 15. I broke the mold and crossed the line. All of my adult teaching at Universities since 1994 has been with mature students some of whom are breaking the mold too. I identify with them. This is why I work with the people in Kenya I want to lift them up as I was lifted up.

When I had the chance to do a second degree and then a third degree both with John McLeod I was hungry to learn. I biked or bussed into Leeds railway station at 6 in the morning and caught 2 trains and bus to reach Keele Uni. I read Carl Rogers and Gerald Egan on those early morning trains. I travelled to Keele for 5 years like this, weekly for 2 years and then fortnightly. I raided the Uni library in my lunch breaks - there was no electronic journals then. I had a passion for learning. I still do. When people are up for it I am with them.

I aint no saint and my teaching is often a bit rambling but my spirit is clear and when people can connect with me we can move ahead together.

Bill still on bike and it is a bit less cold and my heart is warm today

Monday, 3 November 2008

The Sound of Music

Hi, I was in London with Grace and Sheila and we went to see The Sound of Music at the London Palladium. It was a pretty good show (if you like that sort of thing!) but I found the final scene most disturbing. What happens is the family sing some songs at a festival in Salzburg in 1938 and then they run away to Switzerland as the Nazis want the Baron to captain a ship in the German navy. So the final scene is done by turning the theatre into a festival setting complete with some armed Nazis in uniform and several giant Nazi hangings complete with Swastikas.

This really upset me. I wept and wept thinking about how my family and other people's families and lives were changed for the worst by the Nazis. I think the hangings were in bad taste and whilst it was good theatre I am disturbed and not sure this is the best way for the many children in the audience to understand these horrors from our history. We visited the Cabinet War Rooms the previous day so all this Second World War stuff was around for me.

I would have liked to have felt angry but I wept instead. So the next day in a taxi to Bethnal Green and the taxi man talked about this mother being evacuated from the East End in the War and about her nearly dying in the disaster at Bethnal Green tube station when many did die in a stampede in the War. He spoke of how kind the Jewish people were from the Whitechapel area (nearby) providing clothes and other help. That had me crying again. And then he says 'Not like the Bangladeshi people today'. Oh God.

I think it is natural for most of us to feel compassionate. Yes it can become dulled and we can develop prejudice. Most people of my generation in postwar Britain were fed a diet of anti German feelings - the old black and white war films, the war comics, the plastic aeroplanes. I think the anti German jokes that still have currency are a residual way of dealing with these feelings. It doesn't make it right and when will it end? Meanwhile under our very noses the same racism remains.

So maybe the Sound of Music has got me thinking usefully!

best to all,

Bill-on-bike in the sunshine

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Near miss

So a few days ago on the bike I was turning right onto a fairly busy road (Albany Road into Brantingham Road to be exact). A line of parked cars to my right reducing visibility plus its a hump backed bridge and this quiet car comes fast over the hill. We both hit our brakes and he stops two feet away from me. 'All shook up, I'm all shook up' - who sang that - Elvis?

So I figures if I earlier turn right at the lights on to the main road - Wilbraham Road for you Chorltonites/Mancunians - and almost immediately take a left then that's probably a better route. The turning right is not without its challenges but the visibility is so much better.

It's been a mad time: yesterday an important step occurred in my work in Kenya (i.e.e we can at last begin to sign people up for the course) which will start in earnest God willing early January - watch this blog(!) and I sent my latest academic book (edited by me) off to my publisher this morning. One of these days it will be the novel!!

So I am wore out with 3 early mornings in a row - not by design, just me waking up. And its nearly 5pm now and I have a 2 hour class to teach...

Best to all,

Bill-on-bike and by heck its cold!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Len and Q in dialogue

(Note for new readers/the easily confused. Len and Q are both figments of my imagination. Len is half white Australian, half aboriginal. Q is the boss' spiritual director and is loosely based on some fine religion people I have met over the years. Still confused - if not you soon will be!)

"Hi Len the Boss told me a bit about your conversation on dreamtime and I was intrigued."
"Yes, he seemed to make a lot of sense of it. As you know us Abos have the idea of there being two realities. There's the ordinary one and what we call Alcheringa, which loosely translates as Dreamtime, which is the Reality behind the reality, if you like. When we go walkabout or with the boss it was cycleabout we connect more deeply with Dreamtime and maybe follow a Songline."
"Well now, all things were created during the Dreaming and the spirits left their marks on the landscape. A songline both celebrates these journeys of the spirit and acts as a kind of map to follow during walkabout."
"It sounds a bit like how the Boss talks about his training rides. He even makes up songs that include places and events."
"Yeah you know if we could get him to sing the parts of this blog that relate to his epic Lands End to John O'Groats journey that would be some Songline, I can tell you!"
"Do you mean that?"
"Yes, sure. Why should not Songlines be created now by individuals of such spirit? The Boss's thousand mile cycleride was some cyleabout I can tell you. And he certainly seemed to spend a far bit of his time in dreamtime"
"There's another thing. You Westerners tend to get caught up in theology too much with disputes about the nature of God and the Universe. Well now, you're mistaking the map for the territory. We Abos like your Quakers, Sufis and Buddhists experience it and talk about experiences but never mistake our words for the actual experience. You can't control how people experience Dreamtime. They just experience it! It is absurd to argue about words, it is also absurd to try and put the experience of Dreamtime into words. Dreamtime is Dreamtime. You are either experiencing it or not. Everything else is irrelevant."

Friday, 17 October 2008

Moscow Daze with Frankie

A missive from Domestos! Weeeell from the sunny Greek island of Domestos (up past Lesbos in a high speed jet ski and turn left) I have been accessing the Boss' blog from an internet niteclub would you believe. His story of our trip to Moscow is rather economical with the truth to say the least. No I did not pass out on the spare bed in Jane's room - well I might just have been resting briefly(!) but soon after I was out clubbing with one of Boris' secretaries who moonlights at this club called Potemkin. You can imagine the scene some great huge posters from the film and various bits of nautical artifacts and the bar staff all dressed up as sailors, dead cute - 'Hello sailor' I couldn't help but say it(!) but I got a filthy look back. 'Oh get you'. But the music and (my) dancing was ace, a lot of techno and house stuff and some tracks from the Pets Battleship Potemkin CD. Dead romantic and tragic.

Love and kisses,


Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The Boss becomes speechless on cycleabout

The Boss and his Australian friend Len have gone cycleabout which is a variation on the Aborigninal notion of walkabout. They are on a cycle track running alongside a canal somewhere 20 or so North of Manchester. The Boss is singing Waltzing Matilda with great gusto and nearly in tune. ("Nearly in tune, that's about as close to being in tune as I've been to a crock" says Len.)
"Hey Boss don't you know any other Aussie songs?"
"My only other Aussie song is 'I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky. lucky-"
"Okay, okay"

A few miles of companionable silence ensues.
"Boss how about some tucker?"
They stop with a glorious view of some Lancashire hills.
"Boss I've been thinking about what you wrote about spirituality on your bike. You remember the Aboringinal notion of 'dreamtime'? In The Last Wave, a film by Peter Weir, one of the characters says: "Aboriginals believe in two forms of time; two parallel streams of activity. One is the daily objective activity, the other is an infinite spiritual cycle called the "dreamtime", more real than reality itself. Whatever happens in the dreamtime establishes the values, symbols, and laws of Aboriginal society. It was believed that some people of unusual spiritual powers had contact with the dreamtime."

"Well without inflating your ego Boss - which is probably big enough already your spiritual experience on the bike sounds rather like dreamtime to me. It's why us Abos go walkabout to re-connect with that truer greater reality dreamtime and I think you have stumbled across your own version of it on bicycle"

The Boss for once was speechless.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Pale Mourning in Moscow

This is from the Boss' archives/diary:

Four 4 hours I remember nothing at all and then fragments of memory start to emerge. I do feel surprisingly good, though I expect to pay for it later. And now I have to face the others.
"God was I wrecked last night!"
"And how," said Frances. This was a bad sign. What had I said? What had I done? Can I approach this cautiously? No!
"Was I... did I... you know... hmmm... did I do anything too dreadful?"
"Dymean did you jump on anyone?"
"No... Yes, ah..."
"No, you were surprisingly chaste-"
"But you did rave a lot about your sister and her Will or lack of one and you gave Vivian a good dressing down."
"Oh F***."
"F*** right. You told him to get his act together and to stop arsing about-"
"No more" I feel a bit ill.
"You want the truth AND sympathy?"
"No just a cappicino with a double shot."
"This is Moscow lover boy."
"F*** yes. I can't bear another Moscow breakfast."
"Where's Frankie?"
"The last I saw on him he was crashed out fully clothes on the spare bed in Jane's room."
"Huh huh."

And now the difficult part, "And Sylvia?"
"She's fine."
"You didn't?"
"No of course not." (Did I? Oh f*** I wish I could remember. I can just about remember the scene with Vivian it was after the fifth or sixth slug of vodka and-
"Good morning."
Oh f*** it's Petrova our culture guide.

Cross Fencing

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of once more attending a creative writing workshop run by Tony and Steve from paper planes. Their 12-4pm workshops are run in Withington in South Manchester hopefully on a monthly basis and are ace. For further details: email: paperplanes@hotmail.co.uk.

This is poem I wrote at the class:


You fell asleep
the other side of the fence
In the sunshine
And a criss-cross pattern
Was etched into your bare skin
It was a bugger to cover up
with make up

I love you for your carelessness
Clumsier than me
it was such a relief

So what happened?

Friday, 10 October 2008

The Boss goes cycleabout with Len

Now Len you understand is half white Australian half aboriginal. "The best of both Boss he assures" with a big grin. Born in the bush near Alice Springs he grew up in an aboriginal settlement with his mother before going away to school. Somehow Len is able to move between the two ill fitting cultures.
"Boss why are you Pommie bastards so hopeless with barbeques?" said Len with a twinkle in his eye.
"We are as good as barbies as you lot are at cycling?"
"Oh Yeah?"
"Oh Yeah!"
The Boss foolishly agreed. It was a bad move, a no brainer. Even when Len swapped his Dawes bike for the Boss' Rayleigh hybrid it made no difference. Len won by 15 minutes and the actual course took him 30!

Having got that out of their systems Len proposed they go cycelabout. It is rather like an aboriginal walkabout but on bikes.
"How do we do that Len?"
"Well we get some food and drink together and get on our bikes and head off."
"What about maps? Routes? Hotel? A tent?"
"Naw we'll just head off and see which way the wind blows us"
"Oh...OK," said a rather subdued Boss. "Oh what the heck it sounds fun."
"Sure thing Boss. Let's go"

To be continued or not!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Making a mess of a puncture repair

OK so it wasn't the best day for it. My real boss had been unable to secure any improvements in my team's contracts - despite all the extra work we were all doing - and they were all fed and pissed off and told me so - as if I had any power over contacts or budgets! Then I was carpeted for not doing some paperwork - Frankie where are you when I need you? (Singing "Frankie come back" to the tune of 'Baby come back' originally recorded by the Equals back in 1967 or 8? And then done again a bit more recently. I have a sudden flashback to the last day of my grammar school in 1968 up in the prefects room (Yes dear reader I was prefect but hated it and wished I had refused it) we had all been out for a lunch time drink and were a bit pissed and joyously had an impromptu sing of 'Baby come back' with one guitar and a lot of us improvising percussion.)

I turns me bike upside down, levers out most of the inner tube and begins to pump it up. I can hear the air leaking out but I can't quite find it. So I turn the wheel, lever out some more inner tube and pump some more. I can still hear it so I turn the wheel some more and then the bike falls over, the pump snaps, part of the pump attached to the valve breaks the valve, so I have lost one pump and one inner tube since a tube without a valve is useless - which is how I felt!

I do have a spare inner tube from my LEJOG days but no pump and no confidence that if I take off the back wheel to fit the new inner tube that I will easily be able to get it back on. I knew I should have stayed in bed.

Bill still not back on bike and grumpy!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Bike Book Part Five

The story so far for new and confused readers. This is the 5th extract from my opus/novel about the adventures of Martin who never comes home one evening and disappears on his bike. I know what you may be thinking and my therapist asked, "I have to ask you William is this about to happen?". I don't think so but watch this space(!) or rather don't because if it were to happen this blog would probably go silent. It might go silent for other reasons so don't wait in hope or dread!

Bike Book Part 4 was put on the blog a couple of days ago and earlier parts were put on in May was it? and sooner or later I will put it all together in the right order or not. In the following extract Thomas's therapist is quizzed about his disappearance:

"Jane Baliniski?"
"DC Jackson and Matthews"
"Oh... do come in." Jane was a bit flustered, even though she was expecting them it still set her on edge. She waved them into comfortable chairs within her therapy room (that seemed to her the right place to talk to them in). She had a half smile on her face at the thought of engaging a police man and women in therapy - couple counselling indeed!
"As I told you over the phone there is a question of confidentiality between therapist and client-"
"We appreciate that Mrs is it? (Jane nodded, not wanting to score a feminist point) Baliniksi. But Thomas Marino is missing and we have found his bike at Beachy Head"
"Oh" gasped Jane suddenly feeling tearful.
"Yes... so we value any general information that you can give us."
"Especially about his mental state.... You were the last person to have seen him as far as we know."
"Oh... let me see... THomas, hmm... He seemed his usual self when he left."
At five o'clock?"
"Yes that was his regular time... But I had wondered. He had been less forthcoming somehow the last month or so. A bit out of reach, a bit like he was turning in on himself, almost closing down a little. You would hardly notice it."

"Would you describe him as suicidal?"
"Matthew? No, well not actively so, he might neglect himself as men can often do, especially when their marriages break up. But that's not the case for Matthew. Is it?"
She paused, "Listen I am telling you this is confidence, giving you some background-"
"We understand."
"Although Thomas wasn't that happy in his life, in his marriage, in his work, I really don't think he would take his own life, not the sort. However, I can imagine him leaving-"
"Home, work, friends, everything?"
"Why? Well there comes a time in many people's lives when they feel they have had enough, when the prospect of leaving their old life and starting anew is attractive. Many people dream of this."
"Yes, but" for there was an implied But.
"Yes, I know, would Thomas? I believe he would and he has the tenacity to do it. But what surprises me is that I didn't see it coming.... There was no hint of an approaching crisis..."
"Only the way he had been withdrawn you said?"
"A bit withdrawn yes... how did I miss it?"
"So if he hasn't killed himself but he has disappeared any thoughts of where he might have gone?"
"No he left behind his passport."

"Thank you for your help... Can we call on you again if necessary?"
"Yes of course."
A somewhat stunned Jane showed out the policeman and woman and then sat in her favourite armchair and stared into space, 'What on earth are you doing Thomas and where the hell have you gone?"

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Frankie, a Greek Goddess and other stories

In case you were wondering the email from a Greek Goddess to Frankie was not of my creating. The Greek Goddess is of course independent of this blog. Not that I am adverse to female characters appearing here. Indeed one named Stacey is on the way but I would not compare Stacey to a Greek Goddess ("Steady on Boss!" - Stacey). No Stacey has more of a Northern European nature ("Hmm" says a doubtful Stacey, "you are digging yourself some hole here Boss"). Meanwhile I wont deny the speculation that an Australian character named Len with shortly appear here ("Strewth mate!" - Len).

On the way to work to day, on my bike, in the drizzle, I get a puncture after passing though Alexander Park about half way to work. When I get punctures rare but they do happen it always seems to be around the Park. I can moan and complain about it but really I was so blessed on my 1,000+ miles LEJOG ride I got no punctures at all and so far no punctures on my training rides.

Best to all,

Bill not bike until I get it repaired.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Bike Cycle Story Part Four

When I wrote my poem for Neil and Chris I came across this poem/book chapter that I had not put here on the blog. Part five will follow soonish. Early parts are back in May etc.

Bike Cycle Story Part Four

God there’s a sign for Beachy Head
Wouldn’t it be fun if…
I’ll cycle there and see how I feel

I feel scared
Looking over the edge
Hearing the surf
Smelling the sea

No, I won’t jump
But I will
I will
Throw the bike
Over the edge

It goes
And crashes

I turn away
Dawn is breaking
I’m not

I feel free
Free of the bike
Free to walk away
No more cycling
On these weary legs for now

I throw a coin
Left to Cornwall
Right to Dorset
Cornwall it is.

Poem for Neil and Chris

Poem for Neil and Chris

Back in 1990
On my Walkman
Neatly filled in the time
Between my home and my new lover’s

Your words were
A backdrop to my new passion
Your soft centred irony
Allowed my own mushiness
See the light of day

Your melancholy poetry spoke to my soul
And my being danced to your music.

Frankie gets an email from a Greek Goddess

Frankie asked me to run this email here:

Dear Frankie

this is a Greek Goddess speaking :).....so, i heard you went to this island called Domestos? tell me more about your experience there....where did you find it on the map? how does it look like and why did you choose to visit?

there is a rumour that you are gay (???) what a pity as i reckon that you are a cool guy...and it is scary when the imbalanced ratio between men and women on the globe is going so crazy that, for a woman to find a man seems to be getting more and more difficult. also, just to inform you that the rumour around Lesvos being the island with homosexual history is a completely distorted version of many western scholars misinterpreting ancient Greek script....i do not hold anything against one's preferences in sexual expression but also, it is so frustrating when the mostly magic scripts around what love means (and it is 'love of spirits' that Plato refers to in the Symposium, not sleeping with each other as many have read it due to the lack of extensive and variated vocabulary around types of love in other languages). So, if you want to have wild life in Greece, go to Mykonos where there is a version of Manchester's Canal Street but under sunshine and is mostly occupied by tourists....but if you'd rather want to reflect on your true essence, then visit Delphi

you shall start learning ancient Greek, Frankie, to be able to read the real stuff yourself, do not trust the translations please

and...take good care of the Boss, he is a remarkable man!

the Goddess

Friday, 3 October 2008

Spiritual help

At work yesterday talking with a colleague C I suddenly realised something important. It goes like this:

The 12 Step programme used by AA and other addicts starts with a first step:
"We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable."
and then says:
"Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."

It seems to me that we, the human race, are just not getting together to truly face the ecological challenge of climate chance. The current financial crisis has caused these issues to slip down the political agenda at a time when we are running out of time. The longer it goes on without effective action being taken the greater the action needed. So why not admit our powerlessness to make the necessary changes?

The next step is to recognise we need spiritual help, not as in leave it all it all to God but as in we need spiritual support to truly face the challenge of global warming. To realise that we are unlikely to save human life on the planet without doing so.

And this does not have to be about belief. It can be seen to be about experience. Time is too short and precious for theological debate and argument. (We don't have the luxury of the time the Christian churches have had to figure out equality issues around women and gays!) The simple truth of when two or more people are gathered in a loving encounter then more (spiritual) resource is available. We need this extra help. It's not religious its spiritual, its freely available you don't have to believe only feel the truth that we are all part of creation we are all in this together we are all interlinked with one another and the planet. We just (just!) need to live this out.

Best to all,


The Boss meets Q

After breaking down in sobs in the office during Frankie's holiday absence on the Greek island of Domestos (Not Lesbos as widely rumoured!)the Boss sought an emergency session with his spiritual director Q. Now read on:

"Hi Boss you sounded awfully troubled when you rang me up"
"Yes, it just felt all too much for me, coping with so much going on at work and no Frankie. And however much I slag him off and however imperfectly he performs he makes a real difference. And you know I miss him.... what's wrong with me?
"Hmm... It sounds all too human to me."
"Whatcha mean?"
"Well it's the busiest time of your year, right?"
"And Frankie, key player in your team is away, right?"
"Any arrangements in place to cover for his absence"
"Well no, I just got on with things, He had done all he could before he left-"
"Remember how often you have told me that it's an impossible job?"
"Uh huh"
"So when a key player of your team is not there, and let's face Frankie above all acts as your gatekeeper and your emotional lodestone?"
"He carries your emotional side, he allows you to have emotions, he embodies emotions, he paradoxically keeps you on an emotional even keel however strange that idea might seem"
"Oh (pause) what can I do?"
"Well what do you need practically?"
"Some kind of cover while he is away, however imperfect"
"Good and now what about your emotional side?"
"I find it really hard to admit these feelings"
"And I guess as a result they just build up until the dam bursts and the overwhelm me"
"Would it be so hard just to acknowledge your feelings from time to time?"
"The idea sounds simple but..."
"I dunno"
"OK how are you feeling now?"
"Relieved, calmer able to go back to work and get on with things"

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Frankie's on Domestos

So my colleague Neil asked me recently 'How's Frankie?" How's Frankie indeed! Not here just when I need him. There I am battling into work through the driving rain on me bike get to work gasping for a coffee and no Frankie! (And no Raquel serving the coffee's either!) Then I remember he's grabbed a late cheap holiday on a Greek island - Domestos or something! I am sure he would welcome your emails - frankie.says@live.com as he suns hismelf on the beach!

So here I am in the office surrounded by papers, books, memoes, phone calls, visitors, double bookings, too many meetings, just been carpeted by 3 professors - and no Frankie!

I can't go on (sob!)


Message from Bill-on-bike - The Boss was rather overcome just then so I have sent him off for an emergency session with Q. Normal blogging will be resumed as soon as possible!

Monday, 22 September 2008

On the road again

Last Friday I snatched a day off work - before the academic year kicks in - for a bike ride on my 50 mile training route around Alderley Edge. Training for what? you might ask. I don't know. I dream about another LEJOG without breaking it into bits. Or maybe a ride in Ireland, Germany, Africa - my list is long.

I felt I was on a mission to do my practice run yet again. This notion of 'mission' seems spiritual to me - 'What do you think Q?'
'If it feels to be spiritual then it is spiritual'

I think there is a lot to be said about what men do because they don't get pregnant! Other things have to be 'birthed' and something has to be done with our energies apart from drugs and rock and roll :).

It was so good to be out in the sunshine, in the open air, in the countryside. I needed this time out from ordinary life, in myself, in, and moving through, the world.

Best to all,


Monday, 15 September 2008

Yet more rain

It was raining when I left home for work this dull Monday morning. I don't like rain after rain after rain. So on with waterproof trousers, over shoes and my yellow cycling jacket. For some reason thoughts and images from my LEJOG ride were with me - maybe because I met up with an old friend Em on Saturday and I talked to her about the LEJOG ride, about growing older, and about how we had many mutual friends with high blood pressure.

I feel a bit dislocated being back at work again after my work visit to Kenya. It almost as if part of my work persona remains over there and the pile of dissertations and assignments waiting to be marked are even less attractive than usual. And the future of my teaching in Kenya remains in the balance.

I wrote a letter to Neil Tennant this week. I hesitate to include the text here so I wont. It was partially a fan letter but much more. I listening to 'Release the Stars' by Rufus Wainwright a lot at the moment and of course Neil produced it.

I am still learning piano, helped by my amazing teacher Rebbecca, trying to perfect my version of Amazing Grace - at least I can play it now with out sobbing. Playing piano is pleasurable but I am not a very quick learner.

Best to all,


Friday, 12 September 2008

Bike, bear and crockodiles

I could not help running this story picked up from the CTC newsletter:

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) -- A middle school teacher suffered some bruising and a big scratch on his back after he struck a bear while riding his bicycle to school.

Jim Litz said he was traveling about 25 mph Monday morning when he came upon a rise and spotted a black bear about 10 feet in front of him. He didn't have time to stop and T-boned the bruin.

He tumbled over the handlebars, his helmet hit the bear's back and the two went cartwheeling down the road.

The bear rolled over Litz's head, cracking his helmet, and scratched his back before scampering up a hill above the road.

Litz's wife drove by shortly after the crash and took her husband to the hospital. He hoped to be able to return to teaching science at Target Range Middle School on Friday.

Mind you those of us who have had their dingies capsized by a crockodile on the Norfolk Broads think it is quite small beer!

Yorkshire, the Broads and Nairobi

A few years ago staying with my good friends Peter and Mary in Bentham in the Yorkshire countryside I went out one morning into there back garden and I was in nature - no longer was there a barrier between me and nature. I felt a bit vulnerable. It feels that way sometimes on the bike especially on my LEJOG ride and especially when I was miles from anywhere in the Scottish Highlands.

When I was on the boat on the Norfolk Broads in August it was a bit similar. I was closer to nature than usual, the silence at night, the clear brighter stars, the great sunsets and sunrises, the sounds of wild life.

Then in Kenya I stayed at the Safari Park Hotel on the outskirts of Nairobi in 25 acres of grounds. My room was in a one of the 2 storey blocks set in the grounds with lots of wood rather like in Austria. I was woke up before dawn by an amazing exotic dawn chorus of birdsong then gradually, then quickly the light of the sun came up. Magic.

I am thankful to be touched in this way.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Meeting Ziggy in Bewdley

Yesterday I posted a poem I wrote after meeting Ziggy my teenage best friend after 39years. On the day I met him I wrote a poem and it does not seem to work as a poem so I am trying it out as prose.

In Bewdley, waiting to meet Ziggy, I am flooded with a wave of memories and feel pretty overwhelmed by them. There was the cafe near the river where I was chatted up by an attractive fair haired teenager but I remained faithful to my first love who, coincidentally or not worked nearby in the hairdressers shop.

Opposite the George Inn I walked passed the turn off to a house where Ziggy and I had been to a party. Ziggy spent some time there talking to a very pregnant teenager. This excited me at the time as Ziggy had written a song about such an encounter a few days previously. But nothing developed unlike the song.

I walked by the River Severn and passed by the spot where Ziggy and I had rented a boat. We attempted largely unsuccessfully to row upstream against the strong current despite the verbal help of an enthusiastic man on the river bank.

Later I saw the shop where once my cousin Phyl had sold baby clothes from and it was now a hospice charity shop. The same hospice my sister Liz left so much money to in her Will forcing me to meet medics and premature babies and their mums when all I wanted to do was to cry...

Round the corner was a bungalow where my Aunt and Uncle retired to and nearby hidden away the gem of 1690s Quaker Meeting House where more recently I heard the Quaker silence broken by the hoot of a steam train on the Severn Valley Line.

Swimming in these memories I wait on the bridge to meet Ziggy.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

On meeting Ziggy in Bewdley

A few weeks back I met Ziggy for the first time in about 39 years! He was my best friend when we were both teenagers and my daughter Grace has been much taken up with stories about Ziggy, Toad and Chunky. So a poem from my notebook:

On Meeting Ziggy in Bewdley

of times passed
A new version
of an old story
Forgotten memories
Weaving new ones
Of roads less travelled
Of future possibilities
Of current aches and pains
Body and soul
Stories laid to rest
And new ones forged
In shallow-deep conversation

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Don't give up

My taxi driver form the Hotel to Nairobi airport was quiet talkative so I ventured to ask him about the post election violence. He told me how important it was that Britain responded well to Kenya in their hour of need. To him Britain was still the Mother country.

Sitting on the plane writing this I am sobbing because it shows me that we can always make a difference. It is just that we don't know how, when, what consequences will follow.

But don't give up. We are worth it.

Monday, 8 September 2008

A moment in Kenya

So there I was delivering my keynote speech in front of over 300 people - mostly Kenyans but also people form East Africa and further afield. I decided not to do my usual this is my current stuff speech but instead tell them what my visits to Kenya had done to me - what I learnt from them.

I talked about the impact on me of coming from Britain and my feelings about how destructive Britain had been on Kenyan culture and traditions. I also spoke about he terrible concentration camps Britain set up in the Kenya fight for independence and how I thought there was a need for truth and reconciliation, healing and forgiveness.

After my speech a woman stood and set it was history and that I should not worry myself. Then an old man stood up. He told the conference how members of his family had been badly treated during the Mau Mau uprising against British rule. More recently his daughter had married a white man from Britain in the face of opposition from the family. He had been unable to accept his British son-in-law. Now hearing me acknowledging that history he felt differently. We met up after the speech and embraced. We were both very moved. Later that day he rang up his daughter - now living in Britain and talked to her and cleared the air.

I am thankful.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Frankie goes to Nairobi

Yes it's true! The Boss is taking me to Kenya on Sunday for his regular conference jaunt. You should have seen him recently in Barcelona - snogging every woman in sight! (Steady on Frankie - the Boss) OK Boss, your very important and very busy visit to Nairobi, representing the University, making a big keynote speech, doing an exam board etc (OK, OK, no need to lay it on with a trowel).

The Boss says there is a good chance I can dance with the Maasai warriors dance troupe who usually open the conference - think about it they kind of pogo like Punks should to do! And then imagine hitting the niteclubs in Nairobi... Steady on Frankie! Otherwise you will get grounded. "No Boss".

Yours can't-wait-to-go


Sunday, 24 August 2008

Kenya days

I feel the call of Kenya, I will be travelling out there next Sunday for 6 days. And true to my form I am both already almost completely packed but also feeling very unready and wishing I had a few more days (for what?) before I go!

The run up to my visit this year has not been easy. Plans have been drawn up for some time for me (and other members of my Uni team) to do some actual teaching in Nairobi. I am very excited about this prospect. But the stuff that has needed to be sorted before this can happen has been all but overwhelming, disheartening and certainly energy sapping for all of us involved. For example the online system of my uni is pretty dense and user unfriendly and the Kenyan ways are not British ways!

A couple of weeks ago I emailed a few close friends who I knew would be willing to pray for this project and whilst there was no immediate miracle there was soon a surprisingly helpful response from one of the admin team - interestingly the one who has had most contact with the Kenyan would-be students.

So I will get my usual chance to do a keynote speech to about 300 black Africans and instead of sharing my latest research and writing obsessions - well they have had 4 years of this so far! - I am going to focus instead on what I have gained from visiting and meeting them.

I think it is worth reflecting on what we give value to and thereby what we don't give value to. Africans don't necessary play the Western game although there are many pressures to do so but maybe the 'games' they do play have something to teach us. Maybe if we had not been so keen to give them Christianity, our diseases and weapons we might have been even more enriched by meeting them.

Even though I aim to meet people as people my meeting with Kenyans is in the context of representing a prestigious British University which many of them would, and do, give so much for to have the chance to gain our certificates. So it feels neo or post colonial. Despite this unequality I try and get along side people and talk and listen.

I'll maybe post my keynote speech here after the even.

Meanwhile best to all,


Messing about on the Broads

Spent a week recently on a small yatch with a dingy on the Norfolk Broads. I managed to stupidly fall into the water on our second day when I capsized the dingy as I tried to get into it! It tipped over and Grace my daughter and I were flung into the water! (Of course in the more heroic version which I will be dining out on we were attacked by man and woman eating crocodiles who holed the dingy beneaf the water line and Grace and I fought them off with my bare hands and an oar etc - "Oh Boss that sounds sooo heroic!" - Frankie).

It was rather scary for both of us and my watch stopped and my Pet Shop Boy peaked cap was washed away from me and sank! Well Sheila threw down a coiled up ladder but it was so tricky clambering up the concave side of the yatch. So Grace and I were cold, wet and scared but things gradually looked up.

The peace (most of the time) on the Borads was sublime. The freedom to travel where we wanted to on the Broads and more or less moor our boat where ever we wanted was a delight.

Sailing even in a yatch with a motor is rather physical work and everything has to be packed away because there is so little room and because the yatch sways from side to side. It is rather like camping or skiing and I think I quite like it and we will do it again.

Best to all,


Monday, 4 August 2008

Conversation with Q

"Q I have been thinking about my recent all day bike ride and how it resembles in many ways a retreat"
"Boss that's interesting... tell me more."
"Well, you know people often ask me 'Don't you bored cycling all day?'. I don't. Well sometimes it get boring for a bit when the going is uphill and I am tired but otherwise no. I enjoy it some of the time. I get great ideas and solve my problems some of the time. Some of the time I am pretty mindless, in the moment, in the countryside, on my bike."
"OK some of that can be retreat-like especially if you were on a walking retreat.. but"
"But, how does that make it spiritual?"
"Hmmm good question. It depends on what you mean by spiritual ("Good" - Q). For me the essence of a good retreat is being away from my usual life and worries with time to reflect on my life to remember who I am on a deeper level. That feels like spiritual to me at least with a small 's'.
"And with a large 'S'?"
"Well then I would want to bring in something explicitly spiritual via a prayer or a text."
"That gets interesting"
"Yes what would it be like to do that on my next day long bike trip?"
"Keep us posted"
"But of course!"

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Yellow Triangle

Here is a gem from the latest CTC members email newsletter:

"Yellow Triangle
Here’s just one example of how CTC is helping more people across the UK to experience the benefits of cycling. A mum in Sheffield wrote: My son Will has Asperger’s Syndrome which for him manifests itself with deep depression and anxiety. Earlier this year at an appointment with his psychotherapist, he was asked to colour in a sheet of paper to reflect his feelings. He coloured the whole page black and used sharp, thick, heavy lines to represent his anxieties but in the bottom corner of the page was a small yellow triangle. The psychotherapist asked "what does this represent?" and he replied "riding my bike". He went on to explain that when he is out riding his bike everything seems ok and manageable. As a result, we decided that we should ride bikes as a family and, with encouragement from CTC’s Cycle Champions Officer Steve Marsden and affordable second hand bikes bought from Recycle Bikes, we now have at least one long bike ride a week."

When I began to cycle more regularly training up for my LEJOG trip I discovered that cycling to work 5 days a week in all weathers made me feel so good in myself. 2 or 3 times a week previously had not had the same impact. The dose, if you like, for me needed to be at least 5 times a week - 25 minutes twice a day. This sense of physical well being is visceral and tangible. On my bike I figure all kinds of stuff out - work problems, life problems whatever. I also go pleasantly blank from time to time and yes occasionally it gets boring. But the net affect is beneficial.

CTC tells us that regular cyclists have the body of a person 10 years younger. So I told this to my daughter Grace and she immediately said 'Oh so I will have the body of a baby in the womb!"

Best to all,


Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Lorraine: returning to 18

I recently remembered this meeting wiht Lorraine when I was 18 and it turned into a poem.

We met on a beach
On the warm sand
A casual encounter
I was convinced that you were Italian
And older than you were
You had deep dark eyes
That seemed to reflect
Some infathomable truth
Any a Brummy accent
You could cut with a knife!

But I wasn't sharp
And your parents were nearby
So we talked
It was easy so easy
An interlude
A chance encounter
In our very different lives

Where are you know?

I am older
I doubt that I am much wiser
And remain a Kiddy lad at heart
But your ease in conversation
Remains marked in my memory
Along with your deep dark eyes.

Back in the saddle

Today was my first big bike ride since I completed my LEJOG (Lands End to John O'Groats) trip Last October. I followed my old training route from Manchester via Wilmslow, Alderley Edge then a circular route mostly on country lanes in Cheshire then back via Alderley Edge etc. It is a round 50 miles trip and it took me only just over 6 hours including a sandwich break - picnic on a farm gate!

For most of the first hour it rained, though that did not dampen my spirits and then the sky cleared. It was so good to cycle and I found myself to be fitter than I thought though I am tired now back home. I am too busy to really have cycled today but life is short and I was able to muse on some of the shed load of work I need to be doing!

I was called by the open road. I have been resisting this call for months and it was time to give it its due and muse on my priorities, time to think and then hopefully act smarter - a period of what Moustakas would call 'incubation' but that's another story!

Best to all Bill-on-bike

Monday, 28 July 2008

Talking about Frankie


My recent posting about Frankie, the Boss and Q provoked the following comment from Louise:

"William Thanks for the info on your blog about 'Frankie' - I thought he was real!! I will read him through new eyes. Excellent! Best wishes Louise"

This is intriguing and of course highly entertaining. Frankie started out as a joke ("Oh really Boss!") but I have to admit he does represent the drama queen inside me and I, like Frankie, am getting a taste for Rufus Wainwright especially when he is produced by Neil Tennant of the Pets on Release the Stars CD. ("Naturally" - Frankie. That's rather an obscure Pethead joke!).

But my friend Graham North (no relation!) cheekily suggested that Frankie was a similar sort of creation to Samantha from Radio 4's 'I'm sorry I haven't a clue' panel show. However, Samantha is only ever spoken about and then usually rather lewdly. Now Frankie is rather vulgar at times ("Oh really Boss that takes the biscuit or should I say-" "Don't go there Frankie!") but he does blog and email - frankie.says@live.com and has been subject to literary feedback, an altogether superior existence to Samantha.

What I am learning and these comments show this to be true is that when you dream up/invent someone like Frankie you are not in control of your creation nor are you in control of what people make of him or her. But then all my life has felt a bit like that. I find out and make sense of my life looking back. I don't control it much I recognise and shape. Which of us can add an inch to our height as the good book says short of some growth hormones...

Best to all,

Bill on bike.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Skyping with Francisco

Skyping with Francisco

This stranger is filling up my computer screen
He looks like a South American
But he is speaking English
And sounds like a Yank
I've only known him for five emails
But already we have that curious intimacy
That can arise in cyber space
When two souls meet unprotected
By the visual cautions of a face-to-face encounter
I look at him real curious
And make conversation at first
To get my bearings and figure this out
I lean back in my chair but go
Off vision, off webcam
So I force myself to lean forward
Closer to this large face on my computer screen
It gets easier it gets fun it gets exciting
It's my first time on Skype
But Francisco is a veteran with a glass to hand
How about a virtual pub crawl?
Or a meal, or cyber dancing?

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Story so far - for new and confused readers

I thought it might help to explain this blog for new and confused readers. Back in February 2007, I think, I started this blog to record my preparations for my 1,000 mile bike ride from Lands End to John O'Groats i.e. from the bottom to the top of Britain. This is the big one for British cyclists. Some do it in 10 days most take 14or more. I figured that I might do it when I retired but then had a minor health scare summer 2006 and thought why wait? I reckoned going public in a blog would encourage me not to back down(!) and also raise some interest for sponsorship. People had asked me who are doing it for for. I hadn't planned it this way at first but it became obvious to do it for KAPC a HIV counselling NGO in Nairobi who I have contact with through my work.

I finished my glorious bike ride in 3 or 4 parts in October 2007 over 15 or 16 days and for a while the blog lay dormant, but I had been bitten by the blogging bug and decided rather than launch a new blog with a new name that I would carry on with this one. This came clear to me whilst I was in Bangalore this January and began to blog about being in India etc. Whilst I was there I found always myself writing poems again for the first time more or less in 35 years. Some of these ended up on this blog.

Then in May I went to Cardiff and developed the fantasy of having a PA called Frankie. Well it was inevitable that Frankie blogged. In answer to questions from my daughter and others it was established that Frankie was 33, born on 12th March 1975 in Swansea with a Welsh mother and a half Italian father. Frankie is rather camp, 33 going on 16, mad on Rufus Wainwright and has an irritating habit of calling me the Boss.

The Boss is loosely based on my work persona and I guess Frankie is the drama queen inside me. Recently Q has appeared on the blog and Q represents the ideal spiritual director I don't actually have. There is a character called Tracey who is very pedantic and good at copy editing about to burst forth onto this blog but currently I don't seem able to give her a voice!

Confused - you soon will be!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Pam poem

On meeting Pam again after 30 years

I was ill
Sitting at a table
In the Art Gallery
Awaiting a friendly bowl of soup
"Is it Bill?" a voice said
And I looked up
And saw
a grey haired woman
With a somewhat familiar face
"It's Pam" you said
"Of course, I replied
Time travelling
back and forth
Over 30 years
From the blond haired young woman
Of spirit
- who I loved
To this defeated short grey haired mature woman
Were you time travelling too?
But at least you had the advantage on me
Of seeing me at a distance before coming over
I told you of the recent deaths
Of Mole and Woody
You had not heard
You'd been mad on a psychie ward
You told me you were here with your OT
And not to let on I knew you
Oh my God paranoia on your part
Or playing safe self care
You left me
With a whiff of our shared and separate histories
of sadness, of time passing
Of my survival and flourishing
Of your survival by your fingertips
Isn't life strange?

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Frankie goes to graduation

Hi Friends and fans!

The Boss smuggled me into the graduation ceremony today and I dressed up(!) and processed in front of everyone. It was like soooo medieval. The gowns, the hats, the hairstyles, the clothes, the shoes and that was just the men! And then there was the photo opportunities! (Let’s take lost of photos to paraphrase the Pets!). “Frankie looks this way!” “Frankie here!” “No Frankie over here!” All the Boss’s students were so keen to be photoed with me. The Boss was quite put out by this but he did look rather fetching and so King Henry like in his floppy hat and gown but rather naff patent leather black shoes. Yeuch a real fashion disaster there Boss. And then we hit the wine and then later the wine hit us. But it was worth it!

Yours not knowing whether I’m coming(!) or going,



One of my students commented recently how she felt I treated her and the others more as equals than many lecturers do. That's set me thinking.

1) I offer what I wished I got and sometimes did not.
2) It fits with my humanistic/Quaker value system. "You say you better than no-one/and no-one is better than you". "All men (and women!) are created equal". "We are all equal in the sight of God".
3) I have always had so much inside that needed to be expressed, I needed help and inspiration from teachers but not filling up, not rote learning.
4) I often could not voice my truth I hid it away and acted dumb or insolent.
5) My dad found it hard to hear my truth when it differed from his.
6) My upbringing was a bit Victorian at times - 'children should be seen and not heard'.
7) As a teenager and a young man I found most adults conservative and dull.
8) Meeting elderly Quakers in 1990 was mind blowing they looked like my dad but were radicals. Suddenly I could trust some people over 40 - I was 40 myself then!
9) I have had some amazing teachers - Dennis Handley (Primary Head), Jake Potter and Charles ?(Grammar school teachers) John McLeod (MA/PhD), Prem (Yoga) Peter Jones (Reichian therapy) Dorothy Lewis (Colour Healing) Tony Slides (creative writing) Grace (my daughter), my mum...

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Meeting with Q(2)

The Boss came to see me recently and posed the following question:
'How do I know that I am doing God's Will?'
'Why is that important to you?'
'Because... because, I like to feel that my life serves a greater purpose.'
'Yes but you could get that without invoking the notion of God.'
'Maybe, but that is how I figure things.'
'Fine. I was just checking. So, to feel that you are going God's Will is important to you?'
'And you have been doing God's Will before?'
'Yes, albeit imperfectly.'
'And now?'
'And now I feel that I am a crossroads in my life - I am wondering how to best spend the time I have left-'
'Does doing God's Will inevitably involve big life changing decisions?'
'God, let's think about doing God's Will in your life at home, with your family.'
'Aaaaah' sighed the Boss and he slowly breathed out.
'How about a few moments of prayerful silence,' said Q.

We sat in a silence that grew deeper and deeper, like a shared meditation that swept us into the quiet place where souls meet one another and their creator.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Frankie says gets lit crit

Yes it is true! Philip Craggs, the Fiction Editor of Blank Pages, which published my Grabiella poem, had some interesting things to say about Frankie says blogs.

"I find it difficult to believe that the Boss would be so easy going with his PA in the circumstances. Hacking into his blog to post stories about him flirting with staff members is surely a firing offence, and Frankie does not seem to be a very competent PA. And the tricking him into signing a release form does not ring true. I think it would work better if the two characters have their own blogs and the story cuts between them, although it still leaves the problem of why Frankie isn’t fired for spreading rumours about his boss. Perhaps Frankie posts anonymously in a way that prevents his boss working out whose blog it actually is?"

"I’m also slightly confused about the boss’ job. He’s clearly in education, and while I know that high up people in that sector can end up travelling a lot, it seems odd that there are trips to both Barcelona and Hollywood coming up in the near future. .. The relationship between the two is very odd for boss and PA, and you could use their posts to shed some light on why this is... You could investigate how their accounts of the same incidents differ, and use their own words to give the reader an insight in their characters – possibly more insight than the characters themselves actually have."

I love it! It is also a great help for the writer-in-me which is apart from the Boss-in-me, Frankie-in-me and Q-in-me.

Best to all,

Bill on bike - utterly rain swept today and yesterday and whilst not quite glorying in it its' great for our strawberries and raspberries!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Barcelona days (Frankie says 14?)

Hello my blog readers! Frankie here - I must tell you about how stunning the flamenco dancers were in Barcelona. The urgent staccato rhythms of their heels hitting the floor, the hand clapping, the frenzied guitar playing, the body movements, the striking poses struck, the swirling movements, the high energy of the whole performance.

Now the bit you probably wont get is that I can see elements of flamenco in the score of the dancers at the live Pet Shop Boys performance and on their videos.

I was entranced by this flamenco it spoke to something deep within my Welsh soul. I am an archetypal Pet Head. This is because like Neil Tennant I love too deeply to be able always to show it directly. So it has to be at least half ironic, half passionate, half universal, half gay, half straight, half English, half Welsh. All Frankie not afraid to show some passion!

Even the Boss has his passions but no let's not go there too much!

But the Boss was on his feet cheering and whooping the flamenco dancers.

The Boss was aghast that someone at the conference in Barcelona accused him of being a 'romantic'. Well I ask you the Boss romantic! OK he can be mushy at times but he is about as romantic as Cliff Richard! (Who you might well ask!).

Even Jeni putting in a good word for romance did not really lift the Boss's spirits. I think this calls for a vote - all of you out there if you think the Boss is romantic email 'Yes Boss' to frankie.says@live.com and if you think the Boss is not romantic email 'No Boss' to frankie.says@live.com.

Love to all,


Am I a romantic?

It was suggested in Barcelona at the SPR Conference that I am a romantic and I don't think this was a compliment. It stung because there was some truth in it and searching Wikipedia only helped a bit; finding out that my favourite poet Wordsworth was see as a Romantic poet. And yes I am Romantic about my Welsh blood; my mysticism; the art of counselling and so on. So it called for a poem which owes a bit to Christopher Logue' 1963 Poem 'I will vote Labour'!

Am I a Romantic?

Am I a romantic?

If believing in love, peace and understanding
Then I am a romantic

If liking the Pet Shop Boys
Then I am a romantic

If dreaming of equality of all people
Then I am a romantic

If believing Aston Villa can ever again win the Championship
Then I am a romantic

If believing you love me
Then I am a romantic

If following my inner Light
Then I am a romantic

Best to all,

Bill on bike enjoying the sunshine

Ooops, I blame Frankie


My good friend Graham has pointed out that the link to Blankpages 3 that amazing arts online magazine that has published my Grabriella poems does not work. Personally I blame Frankie for not checking it out. ("For goodness sake Boss you were so over the moon you didn't know what you were doing!")

So try this out: http://www.blankmediacollective.org/index.php/news/newsletter/blankpages_issue_3/

Best to all,

The Boss

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Poem published


40 years ago I used to write poetry and occasionally get stuff published. Since then I have written prose but since January I have written a number of poems some of which have appeared on this blog. One of them - Poem for Gabriella, one of my best I reckon, has just been published in Blankpages an online magazine. You can download it from: http://www.blankmediacollective.org/images/uploads/Issue3.pdf.

I am as excited by this development as I am when my more academic stuff gets into print. Thanks to Tony Slides of paperplanes my inspirational creative writing tutor for the idea.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Monday, 30 June 2008


So I have been a bit out of action since Barcelona. I now have a gum infection and am dosed up on antibiotics which makes me feel rather strange and unworldly. Nothing new there you might well say!

So I sat yesterday in my local Quaker Meeting enjoying the silence - Quakers in Britain meet mostly in silence unless someone is moved to speak for a few minutes and then we have more silence. It is a bit like meditation but different...

Anyway I suddenly had a vision of us being in a video clip - some shots of us silently sitting there and then some music and singing. I did not know what at the time. Later talking to Sheila and Grace about this it became clear. The music was 'Somewhere' as sung by the Pet Shop Boys among others.

So first off a shot of the Quaker Meeting House with a new LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans) friendly message on its message board then some shots of the silently Meeting - a slow pan across the faces. Later some shots of the forthcoming Gay Pride march in Manchester including some shots of some members of the Quaker Meeting marching under a Quaker banner. There was some heckling of the Gay Pride march last year from evangelical Christians and we wish to show that you can be Christian and LGBT.

"There's a place for us
somewhere a place for us
Peace and quiet and open air
wait for us somewhere

There's a time for us
some day a time for us
Time together with time to spare
time to learn, time to care
some day, somewhere

We'll find a new way of living
We'll find a way of forgiving

There's a place for us"

It's self evident to me that we are all created equally and that we should try and treat each other with equal regard and not fear one another.

Best to all,

The Boss, Frankie and Q.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Barcelona days with Frankie (11)

The Boss was livid - "4 hours, 4 hours stuck in the departure lounge at Manchester airport - we culd have cycled there in that time". (Well maybe Jonathan could have -Jonathan is the Boss`s new secretary and a keen cyclist he did 8,000 miles last summer!)

But eventually we got airborn and I blagged a brandy off an airhostess - off her trolley(!) and soon the Boss was snoring away with his mouth wide open, "He´s not with me` was all I could mouth to my fellow passengers who were appalled at the noise - But I didn´t want to wake him up. The Boss can get very very mean!

It is just as well that the Boss gets some sleep in for the way he goes at it at these conferences ´over tired and over emotional´ is absolutely NOT the word for it.

He gets so tired he is almost hallucinating. For instance he becomes convinced that he can sing. Oh my God the embarrassment! Terry will not longer got out with him and Clare sits as far away from the Boss as possible. But Dori only encourages him, in fact she sings along with him which is a shame as she has such a good voice, likewise Dave or El Gringo as the Boss calls him.

The Pets are on my headphones "I get along without you very well" a song Neil wrote about Blair and Mandelson but also about a failed love affair - like me and Lesley - Oh boy what could have been (sob, gulp). Oh shit I have woken up the Boss - better put the headphones on him quick.

That´s better - where was I? Oh yes Lesley...can´t keep brooding on him, I am thinking about him too much... better to think of...hmm... Nadal! Now where can I get a Nike Lime green top to strut my stuff in Barcelona. Ole.

Love and kisses,


Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Introducing Q

This is Q here, I am the Boss' spiritual director or soul friend. The Boss meets me from time to time - usually over a long lunch - and pours out his heart and soul to me. He has asked me if I am willing to allow him to quote me here and of course I said 'Yes'.

Indeed my latest words to the Boss were "Consider the lilies..". I also reminded the Boss that doing God's will in whatever sense these words have for him might not necessarily lead to an easy life.
"So God wants me to suffer?" asked the Boss, direct and straight to the point as ever.
"No. If anything to learn-"
"But why does it hurt so much?"
"It just does... and All Things Must Pass."
"You are not much comfort today!"
"Do you want to be made to feel easy or do you want to hear the truth?"
"Both" replied the Boss vehemently.
"OK... I can see you need a rest... Let' sit in silence for a while."

Out of the silence came a profound sense of stillness. All things stopped. Everything made sense. The Universe seems to hold its very breathe ... and then breathed again, a bit more easily.

The Boss smiled with tears in his eyes.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Frankie and the Boss going to Barcelona (10)

Yes it true, the Boss is taking me to Barcelona this Wednesday! He has even promised to take me to the final night banquet and out clubbing afterwards! Well!!!! Mind you have you ever watched a bunch of therapists dancing it is rather hideous! Sorry Boss I didn't mean you, honest!

The Boss was dead pleased to be invited to the student end-of-course picnic last Wednesday. he planned to wear dark shades and his black Pet Shop Boy baseball hat. Well in the end it was held in doors but the Boss still wore the hat - I could have died of embarrassment - And And! he wants to take the same hat to Barcelona! Well as long as he doesn't club in it! Me I will be wearing a lime green T shirt modelled on that dishy Spanish tennis player Nadal plus my long black cycling shorts - can you see me?

Your in anticipation,

Frankie and the Boss (signed in his absence!)

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Bike thought/you were always on my mind

OK so there I was on the bike cycling through Alexander Park - this was the park where I had one of my early spiritual experiences back in 1970, more recently I had to stop my bike to catch a falling poem ('Catch a falling poem and put it in your pocket/never let it fade away' to the tune of that last 50s song 'Catch a falling star').

So I am singing 'You were always on my mind' Pet Shop Boys style not Elvis. The difference apart from arguably Elvis has the better voice, is that Elvis does regret his failings and you think maybe he might just win his woman back. In contrast Neil end up with a final line of 'Maybe I didn't love you' in other words he recognises that his failure was a statement about the relationship and not about his failure to love.

Anyway leaving all that aside I took a leaf out Neil's approach to his and other song writers' lyrics and to see if the words worked on a different level.

OK get this, sing the first verse:

Maybe I didn't treat you
quite as good as I should
Maybe I didn't love you
quite as often as I could
Little things I should have said and done
I never took the time
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind

As if you were singing to our planet! 'The little things I should have said and done' are illustrated by a video of humans - us - throwing away waste, sitting in traffic jams - the whole bit by bit way we lay waste to our planet. What do you think? email me or Frankie.

Best to all,

Bill-on-bike, Frankie on keyboard

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Frankie says (9)

The Boss here: I think this Frankie business is getting out of hand. Why only last Tuesday at my therapy session with Dee I found myself talking about Frankie. And then I thought I am paying good money here to talk about Frankie who is a figment of my overheated imagination-
"Oh Boss, that's not-"
"Well have you not heard the expression 'I blog therefore I am'? And have you not heard of the Second World which is virtual and recently had a virtual Pet Shop Boys concert?"

And another thing said the Boss changing the subject as he is want to do when he is losing an argument Frankie is getting better fan emails than me ("Now we are getting the truth Boss". "I'll ignore that!") Why F the Greek says she likes Frankie and that he is fun implying that I am unliked and unfun ("Well if the hat fits wear it Boss!") and Tony has asked Frankie to spill the beans on my lurid past. ("Oh Boss I wouldn't. I wouldn't dare!" Aside encrypted message to Tony "Not unless you offered me a huge publishing deal, well any deal - beggars can't be choosers - and a safe house - you know what a wicked temper the Boss has got - you remember the time he trashed that restaurant 'in a West End town/there's a madman around' - that was the Boss!, or the drunken so-called therapy group/truth telling session in that Moscow hotel, his team has never really recovered..."

Love and kisses,
and in the words of Oliver Cromwell 'Keep your powder dry!'


Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Frankie says (8)


The Boss was in a right state this morning. He had to do a big powerpoint presentation and he brought in his laptop specially but forgot to bring the mains leads and his batteries were flat. Panic phone call by yours truly to the audio visual man Peter who is cool and into jazz and up he comes with a spare laptop and the Boss offers him his presentation on a floppy disc would you believe? Well floppies went out with the ark(!) and Peter's laptop simply does not take them. Another panic by Boss and yours truly to the rescue yet again schelping up and down the corridor searching for a memory stick! Finally, finally the Boss is launched on his presentation.

The Boss was admiring the memory stick I cadged from Liz, 'Small isn't Boss?' I said innocently.
'Size isn't everything, Frankie'
'It is when you are wall papering a room!'

You know something? Every since the Boss has let me loose on his blog the number of hits has gone up by 10% - the Frankie effect I call it. The Boss is not so amused. 'What's wrong with my postings on biking' he asked me rather crestfallen.
'Exactly' I couldn't resist replying even though ii was a tad cruel.

Love and kisses,

Frankie, going to Barcelona if not Hollywood
(So he hopes - the Boss)

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Frankie says(7)


The Boss says I must stop sending you my missives unrequested. Indeed he mentioned the dreaded word spam. Well I never! So if you want more of Frankie Text F, and no more Frankie NoF... But seriously(!) email me at frankie.says@live.com or visit the Boss' blog at www.billonbike.blogspot.com where he promises to upload my messages if not my Youtube and webcam performances. Mind you the Boss is getting, dare I say it, hip? Cool?? (NO that's going waaaay too far!) At the Cardiff Conference he read out one of his poems to 200 people (I nearly died of embarrassment but actually it was not that bad). And he is full of himself today because when he walked through the park to pick Grace up from School yesterday a teenage girl asked him where he got his jeans (yellow cords actually - yeuch!) from. Being truthful he replied 'M & S'. Now I would have said Next, Primark (that's irony!) or Monsoon.

Love and kisses,


Thursday, 29 May 2008

Frankie says (6)

So the Boss tells me he was talking to Shelley about his artistic nature (It's true the Boss does have a creative side - or so he likes to think!) Shelley then says "You're not about to use the F word" Meaning ME!! Well who is this woman!


The Boss here, I think Frankie is just a little bit over the top here although he wont like me saying so. Shelley was merely being humorous albeit at Frankie's expense (muffled sob from Frankie at this point) "Hey Frankie what's really troubling you?"
"You don't want to know Boss you don't want to know"
"I am all ears"
Frankie chose not to pass comment on my ears which are rather large and stick out somewhat they have been compared unfairly in my view to Prince Charles' ears!
"Boss you know I went to that new club Psychology last night?"
"No, but.."
"Well there was this gorgeous creature there called Lesley..."
"You didn't Frankie?"
"No but I wish I had...It was so humiliating" (sob)
"Oh Frankie. Why do you put yourself through it"
"What can a poor boy do?"
"You deserve better"
Frankie sniffed, made his excuses and left.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Message to Behr

I have just received this post from Behr with no email address attached so I am replying here

"Hi Bill, I was just reading about your fund raising trip and was wondering how I could go about doing the same. I'm in Israel right now, planning to bicycle from Turkey to the Atlantic starting in August."

Hi Behr,

Sounds fantastic. If you visit wwww.blogger.com and follow the instructions there you will be able to set up a blog in no time at all. Then just start blogging and tell as many people as you can about your blog - put it as a strapline on your emails and tell me and other blogs about it and away you go.

There are websites that will at a price collect donations for you - I chose not to do this. And your blog site can carry adverts - blogger can arrange this for you but again I chose not.

Blogger.com does not offer space for photographs bubt it does offer a link to a site such as flikr.com so that your picture does appear on your blog.

If you have a modern mobile phone you can text straight to your blog - I wish I had done this. 'Help I am in a ditch now etc'. I had hoped to visit cyber cafes or get my backup team to upload to my blog but they weren't having it!

Do email me (william.west@manchester.ac.uk) and tell me more of your plans.

Best wishes,

Bill on bike

Frankie says(5): webcam here we come

So Shelley is hosting this party for various members of staff here who are about to have 'milestone birthdays'. Well the Boss asked her if Frankie could come and she said 'No he's too young'. Well get her! I am all of 33 even though I do look much younger in candle light! And as my old friend Stuart used to say 'You're as old as the man you feel'.

The Boss is going very geeky on me and is about to get a sandpit - no not a real one - although that would be interesting and reminds me of an interview I read with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys who had his piano installed in a sandpit in his living room so that he could feel the sand beneath his feet when he played. Hey that might suit the Boss for his piano lessons. On the beach with Rebecca his piano teacher! Mind you Brian Wilson's dog used to do his business in the sand. Yeuch!

Anyway the Boss is also getting into Breeze and Scype and is having a webcam installed. Can you see it - Frankie gets webcam and chats to all his overseas friends and uploads the clips to Youtube and then this producer - who knows Neil Tennant - watches the clips and the next thing you know Frankie's on the next Pets video DJing at Heaven....Hmmmm.

The Boss has asked me to point out that the sandpit is a virtual one and is part of Blackbroad(!) a Virtual Learning Environment, sounds like just the place for me!

Love and kisses,


William in the rain


It rained and rained this morning then it eased a bit but once I was out there it came on full again. It was so bad I could hardly see out of my rain drenched glasses. But my waterproofs worked apart from the space between my trousers and cycle shoes - I wasn't wearing my overshoes unfortunately and of course my cycle shoes are now soaked through.

It reminded me of the dreadful day before I reached John O'Groats on my LEJOG bike ride last August. That day it blow as well once I reached the North of Scotland. Sometimes I was blown sideways, sometimes I was blown backwards and once or twice the wind was behind me! It was the worse day of the ride.

2 nights ago it rained and rained all night and I lay awake and remembered the night before I reached Edinburgh again on the LEJOG. I had just avoided rain and then it rained all night, more of a storm. The next day was over 70 miles through very lonely roads, no garages, shops or houses for miles for hours but no rain. Lunch was a bacon sandwich made up at my B and B and a cereal bar and water. I enjoyed the cycling it was my final day and I reached Edinburgh ahead of time.

I have to say how glad I am to be alive and fit as I am. I guess we all fade out as we get older maybe it makes dying easier. I would rather go in my sleep but who knows. meanwhile I cherish life and the people in my life.

Best to all,


Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Grace says shush

So, on the way to School with Grace today and there I was signing Dire Straits' 'Money for nothing'- because the chords were in yesterday's Guardian - when suddenly Grace says 'Shush'. I couldn't get her to explain why but I guess she was embarrassed by me. "Now that I am old I will embarrass my children..." I might have guessed when I embarrassed her recently in Clarks' shoes shop by pretending to dance.

But this is the girl who I taught to sing in the bath - Yellow Submarine (complete with alternative version chorus of 'We all live on bread and margarine' and the daft Lennon stuff int eh background - mashed potatoes, cabins etc) and 'Octopuss' garden' and a truly inspired drunken cat howling version of 'Show me the way to go home' that had to be heard to be believed. (Ask Sheila if you doubt it!) Then there was the business I taught her of strangling yourself with the shower attachment (as mike) whilst singing 'Magic moments' (This messing with the mike was copied from 60s star Dave Berry - remember him??) Then Sheila got Grace to sing Singing in the rain using the shower attachment as a mike and then Sheila turned the water on. Grace thought this was fantastic!

There's a great children programme Grace and I used to watch called Mortified about an Australian girl with hip parents who are always embarrassing her. My little girl is sure growing up...

Best to all,


Monday, 19 May 2008

Frankie goes to Barcelona

Frankie here - using the Boss' blog with his permission, well I put loads of papers in front of him to sign including a declaimer about using his blog! Anyway the Boss says I CAN go to Barcelona if I get my act together.
"Well Boss I thought my act was pretty cool already"
(For instance: as I was saying to my mate Steve, "My mother made me a homosexual". He replied, "If I give her the wool will she make me one?")
"I don't mean that sort of act. I'm thinking of student feedback, comments form colleagues etc"
So all you out there email the Boss - or me on my new offsite hotmail address: frankie.says@live.com - say how fantastic I am! I know I am, you know it too but the Boss doesn't... Yet.



Friday, 16 May 2008

Frankie says(3)


I was horrified to discover that Frankie had abused his position as my PA to both email and blog (on my blog too!) scurellous and inaccurate comments about me and my attitude to Raquel and my behaviour at the Cardiff conference last weekend. Really, I think a period of re-training with Shelley is called for ('Oh, Please Boss anything but that!')If Frankie thinks he wants to go to Barcelona next month let along Hollywood(!) he 'd better buck his ideas up, (Yes Boss!).

I think to really understand Frankie you need to listen to one of his favourite Pet Shop Boys songs - Flamboyant:

Every actor needs
an audience
Every action is
a performance
It all takes courage
You know it
Just crossing the street
well, it's almost heroic
You're so flamboyant

And to put the record straight Frankie wasn't the only one at that memorable gig last Autumn when the Pets played at the Apollo. Although why Frankie had to stand next to me wearing his 'I'm with stupid' T shirt heaven alone knows. ('That was me doing irony Boss' 'Irony, that about as ironic as David Beckham photographed in his underpants!' Frankie shuddered at the image.)



Thursday, 15 May 2008

Frankie says(2)

Frankie here, William (or King Billy as I call him but not to his name!) is out of the office. He's after a cappuccino and a chat with that Raquel in her coffee shop on the ground floor. I think the Boss has a soft(!) spot for her but he's old enough to be her father or even grandfather if you ask me. Anyway yesterday there he was dissing a dissertation - he's been like a bear with a sore head since they all arrived last week - the air was blue and the things he said about Clare and Terry don't bear repeating! I can tell you. And then he blames me(!!) for his misreading his diary. And then he accuses me of being unprofessional - Moi! I ask you. Is that calling the kettle black or what. This was on account of my clubbing the nite before. Well I wasn't that wasted like I was when the Pets were at the Apollo last year! Now that was a nite. Mind you the Boss didn't seem to like me singing "I'm with stupid" the next day! And you should see the state of the Boss when he's at those conferences he goes to - there's a story I could tell. Last Friday night, there he was in the bar in Cardiff, it was 2am, it was so so embarassing, you wouldn't believe it. He even tried to sing a duet with that fancy woman from Salford. I could have died! Oops he coming back...

Wednesday, 14 May 2008


So last night I had my third piano lesson with my amazing teacher Rebecca. Now get this she got me to place a couple of pieces using both hands more or less simultaneously! So what you might think any idiot who plays the piano uses two hands. But remember 2 weeks ago I had never played a piano or had any confidence in my musical ability after some appalling early experiences I blogged about 3 weeks or so ago.

I can actually recognise the tunes I am playing. This morning for the first time I tried playing Good King Wencelas and it was recognised not just by me but by the long suffering Sheila. So who knows it might just be 'A red letter day' for Xmas maybe even 'West End Girls' - but have you tried singing that?

I don't know here this piano stuff will end. I started merely to find out if it was possible after Emily had showed me a little. Now I am hooked and playing stuff I never thought I would be able to. It's not even Grade 1 but I have surpassed my own expectations. I am learning a lot about learning in all of this. How much bad teaching reinforces lack of self belief. All my life I have loved music and never felt outside of the bathroom I could sing it or play it. Well I have blown that nonsense away.

I have always thought "do more of what you love" was a great cure for most ill health. The piano book Rebecca suggested I buy is called "You are never too old to learn to play the piano". They are many things we can learn at any age. Go for it!

Incidentally learning a musical instrument was one of my retirement fantasies but why wait? Who knows what's next meanwhile I am not waiting to live or to pick up any of my hopes and dreams.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Frankie says(1)

Frankie had told me that there was a team meeting today but he got it wrong it’s next week. (As you know Frankie manages my diary and generally acts as my PA/door keeper). So I said to Frankie:
“The team meeting’s next week”
“Oh” There was pause. “Sorry boss I was out clubbing-.” I wish he wouldn’t keep calling me ‘boss’.
I struggled to get control of this interaction. “I thought you were looking a bit wasted. Listen Frankie if you must go out clubbing in the week for goodness sake get home early and get to bed.”
“It’s not as simple as that boss, it depends on who I get to bed with” said Frankie archly.
“That’s way more than I need to know.”
I always get the feeling in these exchanges that Frankie gets the better of me but he is such a good worker as a rule and I don’t where I would be without him.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

On meeting the ancient mariner in Cardiff Bay


I re-met an old friend of mine in Cardiff Bay whilst at the conference there. Those of you of an English literary bent - or like me forced to learns poetry at secondary school - will be familiar with Coleridge's Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. A wedding guest, I think it might be the groom? - is stopped on route to a wedding by an ancient mariner who spins a web of story telling about a sea voyage including an encounter with an albatross etc.

On meeting the ancient mariner in Cardiff Bay

I met the ancient mariner
Who held me
With his intense gaze
With his compelling story of seas crossed
Of people met
Of his loneliness
His need for an audience

Eventually we parted
He to find his next listener
Me wiser
More ready than ever
To do my own ocean goings

Have I already become the ancient mariner myself?
And found my captive audience?

Best to all,