It’s a game of two sick parrots (Andrew)

“Does anyone want to play football? Eleven a-side. You don’t need to play, you just need to be able to run.”

My first thought was “No!” and my second thought was “Hell NO!!!” because full fat football, the eleven a-side version, is horrible.

First, you have to have a position. A position that says where you should be, who you should mark, when you should run and when you should defend. Which sound easy. If you’re a left side defender you should be on the left side of pitch. However, you might think that’s where you should be, everyone else in your team will shout “FFS! You’re out of position again!” To everyone else, you couldn’t be more out of position if you were a dyslexic reading the Karma Sutra.

Because here’s the thing. In every eleven a-side game there’s at least one, if not half a dozen players, who think they have the motivational skills of Sir Alex Ferguson. Not in the inspire you to victory and to give your all until the very last minute type way. More in a “I will *****ing kill you, you *****ing **** if you ******ing don’t get *****ing back in *****ing position” type motivational speech way.

Playing eleven a-side football turns some people into tyrants. Usually Dave from IT, the one you least suspect of Hulking out as he never says a word to anyone, just sends email that you delete without reading because you know he’ll be talking about the server again.

It could be worse though. You could volunteer to play and you hear language that no one should ever hear. Words that would terrify Rambo and make The Rock cower in fear. Those words: “Barry’s not turned up, can you go in goals?”

NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

Made Up Movie Monkeys (Andrew)

Hello. My name is Andrew Todd and I’m a hypochondriac.

Some people have a cough. I don’t. I have lung cancer.

Some people have a twitch. I don’t. I have sclerosis, sclerosis, sclerosis, scleroris, also called multiple scleroris.

Some people have nothing at all. I don’t. I always have something. I’ve even had Motaba, the fictional disease from the film Outbreak, because I’m a hypochondriac, and I don’t let fiction stop me catching a made up disease from a made up movie monkey.

Hypochondria messes with your mind. Not just in the obvious ways. The thinking you’re ill when you’re not type ways. Hypochondria makes me jealous of those who are genuinely ill – at least they know what they have. I don’t. Not until I’ve checked NHS Direct, WebMD and the ‘TellItToMeStraightDocAmIDying?’ internet forum where GPBobaFett357 confirms that “Yes, tiredness and heavy eyelids immediately after waking up first thing in the morning is definitely caused by… sleep tumours. Deadly, deadly sleep tumours!”.

It’s ridiculous.

I even feel jealous of people who are genuinely ill because at least they know they can be cured. There’s no cure for hypochondria. Even if there was, I’d just catch something else. Like the Black Death, which I’ve also had. It’s remarkably similar to the common cold. If only Dark Age doctors had prescribed two paracetamol, a cup of Lemsip and a Netflix subscription, they could have avoided a global pandemic. It worked for me, it would have worked for them.

Every headache’s a brain tumour. Every tremor a sign of Parkinsons. My nose bleeds will never end. I know my response is neither rational nor sane, I know that. But, while everyone is aware, on some level, of their body clock counting down the days, my body clock is bloody Big Ben. Every hour on the hour: “DOOM! DOOM! DOOM! DOOM!”.

DOOM! That brown mole is… the start of skin cancer! DOOM! That white spot is… a leprous pox! DOOM! That red itch… is viral meningitis!

I should see a doctor. But I don’t trust doctors. How can you trust someone who gave dyslexics such a hard word to spell? Or stutterers and stammerers such hard words to say?

Doctors don’t even know any medicine anymore. Last time I went to my doctor, all he did was check Google. To book a holiday. Do you know how much that hurt? To be ignored by a man who has sworn the Hippocratic oath. Especially when I had cerebral palsy. Again!

Hypochondria’s not even a cool mental illness. We don’t get to wear a black bin bag and get off with her-from-The-Hunger-Games like Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook. Ironically, for an illness that’s all about being ill, we don’t even consider it a proper illness. Hypochondria’s other name is ‘Man Up Syndrome’.

“I think I might have bird flu because a seagull shat on my head.”

“Man up!”

“I think I might have brain parasites because I fell asleep watching Star Trek 2: The Wrath Of Khan and they crawl in your ear while you sleep you know.”

“Man up!”

“I think I might have scurvy because I don’t like bananas.”

“MAN UP!”

But I can’t help it. I can’t choose my mental illness. I can’t pick nymphomania, kleptomania,  Wrestlemania or Romania (research note to self – double check these last two are proper manias).

If I had a choice I’d choose nice mental illnesses. Something like Foreign Accent Syndrome – “I am lookin’ for ze Madonna wiv ze big boobies!” or the Cotard Delusion, also called the Zombie Delusion – “I’m a zombie and I want BRAINS!” – or, my favourite, Tourette’s Syndrome, which is 50% genuine mental illness and, I believe, 50% opportunistic heckling.

 

And the strange thing about hypochondria is how predictable it is. There are tens of thousands of illnesses yet hypochondria acts like there’s just three. The big three. Cancer. Cardiac Arrest. Athlete’s foot. Imagine going to a garage that acted like every emergency was the worst possible thing that could happen to you.

“Hi, I’ve think I’ve got a flat tyre – can you take a look at it?”

“No need. I can see the problem from here.”

“Oh, is it the tyre,  it looks lower than the other three?”

“No. It’s definitely exhaust pipe AIDS.”

“Are you sure? The exhaust pipe isn’t connected to the wheels.”

“Sorry mate, and your tyres have athletes foot. If I were you I would just curl up in a ball and cry yourself to sleep just like you do every single night.”

“Oh, imaginary mechanic, you know me so well!”

It’s the lack of variety in hypochondria that makes me watch every medical drama on telly. Many hypochondriacs avoid all medical information because it makes them more anxious. “Got that! Got that! Got that too! Oh God, I’m going to die!”

But, when my Big Ben strikes DOOM I don’t want what everyone else had, I want to be unique, I want to be the world’s first hypochondriac hipster.

DOOM!

“Is this brown mole skin cancer? No, it’s malignant hyperpigmentation – it’s the next big thing!”

DOOM!

“This white spot? Leprosy? Do I look like Jesus? Yes, I know I’m wearing sandals, I am a hipster, but that spot is clearly Denghe Fever which I caught after watching a Discovery Channel programme about rafting in the Congo.”

If hypochondria is all in my head, then I want my head to be bloody brilliant at picking fictional diseases.

But’s that’s the problem, isn’t it? It all in our heads.

Hypochondria is something that no one can see. People think I must be making it up. It’s a mental illness and we’re not good with mental illness. We don’t even have it in the Paralympics – and they’ve got blind people playing basketball: how mental is that?!

I have this theory. In the hierarchy of illnesses you get one point for a losing a limb, two points for a coma and three points from any disease that would actually get people to respond to an office wide email for a charity challenge. The mentally ill get minus one point. Hypochondria minus two.

We don’t get sympathy. All the mentally ill get is a straight jacket and a padded cell because, you know, it really help the mentally ill to have their arms strapped together so they can’t protect their delicate brains when they ricochet off the walls in an all-white padded bouncy castle/loony bin. Yes, we protect the mentally ill by making it impossible for them to protect their brains. I told you, Doctors are pricks.

Well, I say fek that. It’s time for me to “Man up!”. Yes, “MAN UP!”

My hypochondria’s an illness: as destructive as cancer, as strong as AIDS, as difficult to cure as athletes foot. I’ve don’t need to be ashamed. I have a big boy sickness. A proper disease. Just like Spanish flu, syphilis, scarlet fever and, my current illness, the all consuming rage virus from 21 Days Later*. Which I’ve also had, because, as I told you, I don’t let fiction stop me catching a made up disease from made up movie monkeys!

Say it loud. Say it with me. Say it proud “My name is Andrew Todd and I am a hypochondriac

*Though I might just have had the cold and that’s why I wasn’t training last week.

 

Tenerife (Iain)

In front of me a large man, with a massive beer belly, is rubbing sun tan lotion onto his naked upper body and face. I can barely see his skin due to how thick the white lotion is covering him.

This is a weird day.

I’m sitting on a fake concrete beach in a water park in Tenerife. A giant plastic elephant is staring at me and five minutes previously I’d screamed my way down a water slide at 80 km per hour. Quite frankly, the day couldn’t get any weirder. It did.

The fat fake albino turns to a young child, who I assume is his son. The dad raises both hands up and does a a grasping motion whilst shouting loudly “Grrrrrrrrrrr! Grrrrrrrr! Grrrrrrrrrrrrr!”

The dad then stomps around in a circle.

“Son – What am I?”

A mentalist? I thought.

The son stares blankly at the dad. The dad opens and closes his hands. He shouts louder “GRRRR! Grrrrrrr! GrrrrrrRRr! Son – What am I?”

The dads big fake white belly, fake white arms and fake white face where all starting to drip whiteness all over the floor.

“Dad – I don’t know!”

The dad continues stomping round in a circle. “Grrr! Grrrrrr!” The dad opens and closes his hands in a animistic grasping motion.

“SON! What am I?”

The son is nearly in tears “Dad! I don’t know….I don’t know!”

The huge white belly busting beast stops stomping around. He lowers his hands.

“For fucks sake son. I’m a polar bear. A frigging polar bear!”

The son looked at his dad. He though for a second and said “Polar bears live in the Arctic. It’s cold there. The bear wouldn’t go grrrrrrr it would go brrrrrr!”

I admired his logic!

Training on Christmas Day (Andrew)

If you’re buying a Christmas present then people say it’s the thought that counts. Which is true,  unless that thought is “this’ll do!” – then you need to think again.

A couple of years ago, at the office Christmas party I was given a book called “Hitler: His Rise To Power” as a Secret Santa present. Given I had neither expressed any previous interest in history, World War 2 or proclaimed to my colleagues that I was going to extend my desk by annexing a break out room I could only think this was some kind of message.

I started wondering if I’d displayed any Hitler like tendencies in the office and I had to admit that after some considerable soul searching and reflection of my despotic moments  I WAS NOTHING LIKE HITLER!!!! 🙂

It was only later I found out the book had come from someone who’d heard I liked reading and they had a book on their bookshelf they’d never read because THEY DIDN’T LIKE HITLER TOO!

Top tip for Christmas – if giving Hitler as a gift please make sure the recipient really, really likes Hitler first. You might be surprised at how many people don’t want Hitler as a Christmas present. (Most of them).

But Christmas isn’t just about presents. It’s also about training because nothing says “I’m a serious athlete” than training on Christmas Day! And nothing says I’m not a serious athlete than eating your weight in chocolate because “I’ve been for a run, you know!”.

Going for a run on Christmas Day is the worst day for going for a run. The 200 calories are then quashed by the 20000 calories consumed as eating’s not cheating when you’ve been sprinting!

Despite it’s lack of any physical benefits, the Christmas Day run is a good mental boost. For the last 15 years I’ve been running on Christmas Day because I remembered a quote from Daley Thomson, the Olympic gold medal winning decathlete. He said he would always train on Christmas Day because he knew his main rivals would all take the day off. He was one day better than anyone else.

So, I’d run on Christmas Day and would then be one day better than everyone else.

But, in researching this post (yes, there’s research!), I found the actual quote from Daley Thomson and it turns out I’ve been doing it all wrong. He actually said:

“Train twice on Christmas Day. Your competitors may only train once…!

Nooooooo!!!!!

Not only  have I not been better than any competitor I’ve been worse because I had two boxes of Quality Street too!

Nooooooo!!!!

No wonder I’ve never the Olympics!

 

Burness Gran Fondo (Andrew)

I’m not competitive. I don’t feel the need to win nor do I hate losing. I like ‘taking part’.

But…

Sometimes…

I just can’t help myself.

I have to win!

But never do.

(‘Cause I’m not very good.)

Earlier this month I was taking part in a corporate bike ride. A cycle round Aberfoyle and Loch Katrine in the Trossachs. It’s a cracking route and it was a good crisp clear September day.

This wasn’t a race. Everyone taking part was separated into groups of 12 and each group rode as one with a ‘pro’ leading it to keep everyone together and safe.

It was a good set up and promised to be a good day when, after five miles, we started to climb the Dukes Pass – a steep sharp twisting climb of a mile and half. And the ‘pro’ said “Just go at your own pace”.

So I did. And it was faster than the group I was with, and faster than the group in front, and then my competitive instinct kicked in and I thought “I’ll be the first up this hill!”.

Except I wasn’t.

Because when your competitive instinct kicks in there’s also something else that happens: somebody else’s competitive instinct kicks in too! It’s contagious – and deadly. At least for me because, as I said, I’m not that good.

200 metres from the summit the first man passed me. 100 metres from the summit the second man passed me. I wasn’t first. I wasn’t second. I was third to the summit in a race that probably consisted of three men because everyone else, quite sensibly, was just enjoying the ride and going up at their own pace. I was therefore last to the summit.

But, later, first to the café stop. Now that’s a competition worth winning!

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Stirling Duathlon (Andrew)

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Can you buy speed?

If your name’s Jarvis Cocker and you sing that you’re ‘Sorted For E’s and Whizz’ then… yes…. yes, you can.

But, if your looking for speed and not a criminal conviction for class-A narcotics, speed can be bought legally. A race bike will be faster than a BMX. A pair of trainers will be faster than welly boots. Everything you wear or use can help you go faster.

Take bikes. Every bike is different. Even if you just look at race bikes you still get bikes which are better for climbing, better for sprinting, better for comfort or better for keeping your bum dry when it’s wet. (I may have made that last catergory up, but, if it’s not a thing then Specialised or Trek should definitely make it happen. Who wants to go faster when it’s raining? You just want a dry bum!).

The Stirling Duathlon was our chance to test whether different bikes could make a difference when racing. I was using my TT bike and Iain was using an aero bike, which is the technical name for a smaller less comfy bike sold to big men on the basis they’re sore back will make them think they’re cycling harder.

A TT bike on the other hand is the technical name for a smaller less comfy bike sold to big men on the basis they’re sore back will make them think they’re cycling harder but, and this this crucial bit, they also look cooler than a normal bike because you’ve got handlebars shaped like a unicorn.

The race was on. Well, I say on, but for five minutes I kept pace with Iain before deciding to try an early break to see if he could keep up or if he’d fall away.

After five minutes I looked back and he was nowhere to be seen.

I then spent the rest of bike leg trying to go as fast as I could to make sure he didn’t catch me on the line.

Now some people (Iain) might say that I’d merely bought my speed by buying a different (faster and cooler looking) bike. But I like to think I got my speed the old fashioned way – no, not in a Lance Armstrong blood bag delivered by motorcycle courier – but through hard word, dedication, sheer grit and effective training.

Also, I had a pointy aero helmet. And it looked really, really cool. 🙂