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Cramp, a head like a tomato and lots of aches and pains – an introduction to running in middle age.

What do you do when you wake up one day and realise that you’re now somewhere between the ages of 40 and 50 and you have no idea how it all happened? Well, there are of course lots of answers to that question. If you’re a man, you may consider some form of mid-life crisis, be it buying a sports car, dressing like a teenager or flirting with people half your age. Actually, if you’re a man you might well do all three and then some, pushing hard to ruin your life! If you’re a woman, you might feel regretful about missed opportunities or low about your appearance, but ultimately you’ll be OK!

Whatever you are, you might want to make positive changes and a really popular change is to start becoming healthier. With the hedonism of your twenties having taken its toll and the hard work of your thirties now bearing fruit in the form of a mortgage, kids and an expanding waistline, you may well decide that you want to reclaim some of your youthful good looks and energy.

There are lots of things you can do. You may go back to a team sport like football, rugby, hockey or netball. You may try a new sport like squash or tennis. You might even fling yourself into the kind of pursuits you’d so far avoided like the plague, like yoga or pilates. Or, if you’re like me and many others in their middle age years, you might just go out running.

Running and health and fitness have been a major part of my blog. They’ve also been a huge influence on my middle age. The two things collided when I fell ill with heart problems aged 44. They advanced somewhat during lockdown and now, six years on, they’re a major part of my life.

So how might you get started with a pursuit like running when you’ve hit middle age? Well, I’m certainly no expert, but let me offer a few suggestions.

The first thing that I would recommend is a change of mindset. I see a lot of people, especially on social media, bemoaning the fact that they ‘can’t do’. That might be because of time and the perception that they’re too busy or because they feel that their fitness is too poor to try. When I was younger this was always my mindset. I wanted to get fit, but would tell myself that it was too rainy, too windy, my back hurt, my knee felt niggly, I was too tired and found it really easy to convince myself not to run. Even when I went out I’d hear a tired little voice in my had telling me I’d done enough and then I’d convince myself that I’d ran a few miles, when probably what I’d managed had been a very slow mile. Often, I’d not even make it out, convincing myself that I’d go when I felt just right. All too often, I’d find another excuse not to go or I’d go out and find myself settling for just a section of a planned route.

Needless to say, it didn’t work and I rarely found running a pleasure. My fitness didn’t improve and as a result, my running dropped off until it was non existent.

I started again following a health scare a few years ago. Despite telling myself – and probably anyone who’d listen – that I was ‘naturally fit’ I found myself in hospital with heart problems. It terrified me and speaking to a patient who had suffered multiple heart attacks seemed to flick a switch within me.

Once I was fit enough again I went out running with my kids. My mindset at first was that we’d run as far as I could. To start off with that’d be 10 minutes and I learnt to love the fact that I was able to do even that. But, by changing my mindset, I managed to keep making progress. I’d celebrate our runs, often posting on social media and I’d tell the kids that we had to run further next time and not just another minute or so, a decent amount. Within a year we did a 5km fun run in Roundhay Park and I’ve never cherished a finisher’s medal so much!

Nowadays, I don’t allow myself to have excuses. Reasons are fine; so recently I’ve been struggling with a back injury and was able just to tell myself to rest. I know I’ll be back out soon enough. Similarly, if I’m too busy, I’ll find time, even if it’s just 20 minutes. Unless it’s ridiculously windy or rainy, I’ll force myself out, whether I feel like it or not. My changed mindset says it’s a huge positive to get out and run. So, my first tip would be to change your mindset – don’t allow excuses and see every step and every minute as a positive. You could say that it’s a marathon, not a sprint!

If you’re beginning to run in middle age you’ll also need to set yourself small goals. At first that might be a lap around the block or a circuit of the park. You can build from there. When I ran with my kids we had a circuit around our estate and we’d always end up doing laps of the football field. Our goal was to do another lap every time, more if we felt we could manage. It worked. If your goals are realistic, you can reach them every time and it’ll feel great. Have a plan, set a small goal and then…out you go.

A good way of setting goals might be to download a running app. I use Strava and while I’m running I might well be thinking of other roads on my route that I could run down in order to lengthen my run next time (a good trick to keep your mind off how your legs are feeling, that one!). Failing that, I’ll look at the map on the app when I’m finished and target a route for next time. And 9 times out of 10 I’ll set myself a simple goal of running just a little bit further next time.

In terms of starting off and setting smaller goals, the ‘Couch to 5k’ app looks ideal. It’s free, easy to use and automatically sets the goals for you, working you up to a 5km run in manageable steps, which at our age is a really good thing!

Another good tip is to invest in some decent gear to go running in. When I first got back to running, aged 43, I simply bought a cheap pair of Nike runners from an outlet store without any real thought about what I was buying. They were there, they were in my size, they were cheap. They actually lasted me for a decent amount of time and were falling apart by the time I replaced them.

This time though, I’d done some research and read up on what I needed. I still didn’t shell out a huge amount of money, but made sure that I read reviews and took into account things like cushioning, weight and the heel to toe drop. The results were great. Firstly my times improved, but much more interestingly, especially given my age, my recovery time between runs got noticeably better. My legs ached a lot less and I wasn’t frequently waking up in the night after a run with shocking cramp! Furthermore, I didn’t feel 30 years older the next day either. So, I’d thoroughly recommend doing a bit of research and spending a bit more money on trainers that are going to be of more benefit to you.

This led to me spending a little more money on kit like shorts and running tops, which if I’m honest just make me feel better because they fit better! As a middle aged runner whose face turns tomato red after about a mile, having nice kit could be an essential distracting factor as I run past people in cars. In short, if my kit’s better, they might not notice my hilarious face! That said, even having better running socks feels like it’s of benefit, so a slightly bigger spend is a great idea. And if you’re worried about money then just keep an eye out for the sales when it’s easy to grab yourself a bit of a bargain. Oh, and buy shorts with a pocket; handy if you’re taking a key out or you just want to take a bit of fuel. I always make sure I have pockets to put some jellies in, which I find give me a much needed sugar rush at certain points in my runs!

As a new, middle aged runner you’re possibly going to feel a bit self conscious. I’m not a fan of my body and it’s safe to say that it’s got worse as I ticked over into my fifties. So, the idea of the horror show that is this tall, skinny middle aged man with a little pot belly running around the streets clad in clingy material haunted me from the word go!

One good idea for this problem would be to find some like-minded individuals. You might have friends who are keen to start running, but if not, there’s always a running club that you could join. A quick Google search is almost certain to reveal some kind of running club in your area and from what I understand, they’re always a friendly bunch. Being a bit of a grump, I still run on my own, but even I can see myself joining a club at some point. It’s got to provide a boost and maybe looking forward to meeting up with your running pals might help you resist the urge to stay in watching telly and resting your still aching muscles! Running as part of a group is also a lot safer too, so it’s definitely a good idea if you can find the right people.

The final piece of advice I’d give you if you’re starting to go running in middle age is to listen to your body. I’ve found running to be quite addictive, particularly as I’ve got fitter and been able to achieve certain goals. But I’ve really had to temper that readiness to go out running. The simple fact is that if you’re starting to run in your middle age, your body isn’t going to bounce back like it used to do! Rest is absolutely vital at this time of life, particularly if you’re pushing yourself. And the more you ignore your body, the more likely you are to pick up niggling injuries that will only get worse. So my advice would be to enjoy your running, but make sure that you not only give yourself good recovery time, but recover properly too; drinking lots of water and getting the vitamins back into your body is vital to being on top of your fitness when you go back out again. I find that eating cranberries or bananas gives me back that limited feeling of vitality that I have in my fifties!

So, there you have it! Hopefully that might give some people a bit of a push or maybe even some inspiration. Personally, I can’t recommend running enough and I genuinely feel like I’m, in a way, revitalised by going back to it in middle age. And given that none of us are getting younger, maybe we all need a bit of revitalisation!

Autumn Bucket List

A new season means changes in everyone’s lives. Be it easing away from the t-shirts and shorts of summer into longer sleeves and layers or just the fact the the days are getting shorter and we have to adjust to longer, darker evenings, it’s all change as we slide into Autumn.

With that in mind, I thought I’d write an Autumn Bucket List for parents with younger children. There are loads of things that you can do with kids in Autumn, but I thought I’d pick out a few that either my own kids enjoyed when they were younger or those that I have some experience of.

Go and kick some leaves around. The first item on my list is really quite simple and doesn’t take a great deal of time or effort. It’s not one I can really go and do now as my children are probably a bit old to be doing it, but they loved it when they were little. There’s a lot to be said for simple, free fun like this.

When my two were younger we’d often go out on Autumn walks to local parks or beauty spots and the joy they would get from heading out in their wellies and kicking piles of fallen leaves around the place was amazing. It was a joy to watch and if I think about it, I can still hear their giggles and squeals of delight! They used to like making big leaf piles and then jumping in them from above, as well as just picking handfuls up and throwing them up in the air too! And there are two benefits here – it’s free and while they’re jumping around, they’re staying warm! Watch out for hedgehogs in the leaves though. We never encountered any, but you never know.

Speaking of those spikey little creatures, you could attempt to make a hedgehog hotel with the little ‘uns this Autumn. And if not with them, then for them, as keeping an eye out for the hedgehog could well develop into a game all of its own for a short while!

This isn’t one I’ve ever done, but it was regularly on the lists when my children were younger. It seems quite simple. You’ll need an old box, but a sturdy weather-proof one, something like a wooden wine crate or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you could make one out of plywood or just adapt something else. I’ve seen them made out of upturned basket and even lumps of thick polystyrene packaging.

Then you’ll need something to make a tunnel – more plywood or maybe an old cut off length of pipe – for the entrance and also a hole in your box so the tunnel has somewhere to lead to! You’ll need to make another, smaller hole for ventilation too.

After the box is finished and a lid put on, you’ll need to fill it with dry leaves or even straw and then place it somewhere hedgehog friendly like underneath soil and leaves. Just make sure that the entrance and the ventilation hole aren’t blocked. And there you go; you have a hedgehog hotel! All you need now is an occupant!

A similar, but larger scale idea, is to go den building with the kids. This is also a lot of fun for adults too and I’d often find that while my kids had lost interest, I was still lugging logs around or trying to make the perfect roof out of foliage and twigs!

Quite a few parks and forests have cottoned on to this as a good way of attracting visitors and often have areas where there are plenty of logs and fallen branches to build with. Failing this, you could just scour an area of the woods for fallen branches and just start building. As long as it’s off any kind of pathway and you’re not harming the environment, you’ll be fine. Don’t resort to pulling branches from actual trees though, but I guarantee that you’ll have an excellent time den building!

Another fun thing to do this Autumn, especially if you have kids is to collect your pumpkins for Halloween. Now, I know that it’s far easier to just buy them in a local supermarket, but a lot of places like parks and farm parks make a bit of an event of it nowadays. So, not only can you wander through a field of pumpkins, carefully eyeing up the perfect specimen to go outside your front door, but you might also get to take a tractor ride, get a lesson in carving your own pumpkins or just draw your face or pattern out for someone who’s a little bit more of an expert to carve for you. If you’re really lucky there might even be a cafe on site for you to relax and take the chill out of your body with coffee and a slice of cake!

Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

We did pumpkin picking a couple of times when our kids were younger and just the sight of a huge field of pumpkins left them in awe! The fact that they got to draw their designs on and then help to carve it out made for a fantastic morning. We even managed to get their pumpkins home in one piece too!

Sometimes though, it’s the simple things that make Autumn fun. And what could be better than wrapping up, getting their wellies on and going for a bracing Autumn walk? These are best taken on those lovely crisp, sunny Autumn days and if there’s a park or a forest to explore, then all the better! You can get some exercise and some fresh air and the Autumn light might help you get some brilliant photos as well. And the beauty of this type of pastime is that it can be kept going even as your little ones get older. My two are 16 and 13 now and, although they might grumble a bit, we always have a nice time on our Autumn walks. I think the ice cream van at the end of some of the walks help, but either way, myself and my wife really enjoy getting out on this type of day.

Scarecrow Festivals seem to be a very British thing. So, if you’re reading this outside of the UK you’ll either find them extremely strange or you might be inspired enough to start your own version where you live! It was something I first became aware of around 20 years ago, when I started teaching at a rural school near Halifax. I distinctly remember driving home one evening and repeatedly spotting novelty scarecrows in people’s gardens, in the windows of shops and just in many of the fields that dominated the area. Shortly afterwards I would find out that this was all to do with the Norland Scarecrow Festival, which still continues to this day.

The fun of a scarecrow festival comes in how the scarecrows are actually made and dressed and participants tend to go to great lengths to come up with imaginative ideas year upon year. Over the years I’ve seen lots of Star Wars characters, Darleks, Super Mario, firemen, Minions, Roald Dahl characters…and even just scarecrows!

Often there’s something like a scarecrow trail to follow and this is always something that younger kids love to do, especially if there’s a list to tick off and maybe even a prize of some kind at the end! The bigger the festival, the more there is going on though, and if you’re lucky there might even be a scarecrow building event. Who knows, you could be building your own scarecrow to be included in your local festival before you know it!

So, there you have it – hopefully, a stress free and reasonably cheap Autumn Bucket List. I hope you enjoyed reading and that it gives you plenty of food for thought. Feel free to let me know what you plan to get up to or even if you agree with any of my suggestions!

My first 10k race of the year – a month to go and I don’t feel good!

In August last year I completed my first race in three years and my first one of any great distance in around a decade. Running is something I’ve done on and off all my life, but from my late thirties through to my mid forties (which, when you type it out is quite a shocking gap) it had definitely been more off than on. Then, following a health scare 4 years ago, I decided to get fit and stay that way.

Hence lining up at the start of a race in West Yorkshire at 8.50 on a cold, drizzly Sunday morning last year. You can read about it on the link below.

Forget medals at the Olympics, let’s Pontefract 10k!

The race went well and I clocked a personal best for a 10k, thriving on the competition and finishing in just under 52 minutes. I was ridiculously proud of myself and had clearly been bitten by the bug. Time allowing, I would definitely be racing more!

Time and fitness haven’t quite allowed though and so it’s taken me a while to get back to racing. And in fact, I’ll be running the same race again in just over a month (last year’s August date was a rescheduled one because of Covid).

With just over a month to go until the race, I feel like I should be in a lot better shape. My fitness has suffered a little over Winter as I seem to have stumbled from one bug to another. On top of this, I’ve just not felt right at all and have struggled to cover any great distance in training. In fact, since around February I’ve managed to run only one 10k. Not exactly ideal preparation!

A couple of weeks ago I damaged my back while doing my shoelaces. I mean, I’m really showing my age here, aren’t I? I was still able to go out on a run later that week and in fact, managed a 10k in around 54 minutes; a decent enough time. The pain seemed to ease after the first mile or so. But the past couple of months have been a bad time for niggling injuries and nagging illness and it’s really set my training back. Then this week I felt a pain between my shoulder blades as I put on a tie and it’s gradually got worse as the week has gone on. It feels much like the nerve damage that meant I was in pain for the whole of last summer, so I’m hopeful I’ve not done similar this time. In fact, I’ve even started doing the exercises that the physio set for me last year, in order to hopefully see off too much pain.

At the moment, I really don’t feel like I’ll be in anything like the shape I want to be when this 10k race rolls round. This worries me a lot. I’m a relatively competitive person and hate underperforming. I realise that at my age I have no hope of winning or even finishing close to the front of the race. But I’ve set myself a personal target of at least beating last year’s time and I honestly can’t see it happening. I’m at the end of a very long, demanding term. I’m tired and everything aches. Usually, running is the thing that cures this for me, but at the moment, it’s not.

In fact, aside from injury and illness, even my enthusiasm is presenting a problem for me. Last Friday, I’d planned to leave work early and go out for a run, as I do every Friday. I managed the leaving work bit, but halfway home it started to snow heavily. I was safe in the knowledge that it didn’t look to be snowing on the horizon – home – but it still managed to put me off. Subsequently, when I got home it was just a case of reeling off a list of excuses in order to convince myself that I shouldn’t go out. It worked. It didn’t rain or hail for another couple of hours, but I still managed to convince myself I’d made the right decision and it actually made me feel pretty terrible for the rest of the weekend.

I’m hoping that my excuses have given me the rest that I might have needed. I’m planning on going out again tonight, but only for a shorter 5k run. I’m hopeful that this will restore my enthusiasm and my faith in my ability a little bit. I really need to get my mind right and hope that my legs and my back will follow!

For the next couple of weeks I’m off work as it’s the end of term and our Easter holidays. So, the big plan is that I’ll be able to go out running at least a couple of times per week and start to build up a better level of fitness. I’m hopeful that this will help restore my enthusiasm too. It’s a lot better being able to run when I actually want to, rather than just cramming one in after work. I’ll probably make sure that I go out relatively early in the morning as it means I’ll have the rest of the day to get through any jobs that I have to do or even to go out for the rest of the day with the family. Fingers crossed for some good weather!

Another bonus about the Easter holidays is that I’ll potentially have a running buddy – my son. He’s only 12, but has always been a good runner. He too had lost his enthusiasm, but after relentless nagging from me, he’s recently started going out running again. Hopefully, for the week that he’s around – we have overlapping holidays, his last week being my first – we’ll be able to get out together. Although, I love running on my own, it’s always quite nice to have his company and it means we can chat as we cover the miles. It’s just a nice father son thing to do as well.

So the next month promises to be make or break as far as my hopes for my latest 10k race go. Last year I finished 271st out of 812 runners. The winner clocked a time of 32.46, while I ran the distance in 51.51, meaning I was a long way behind them, which given my age and level of fitness is understandable. This year, as well as improving on my personal best, I’m hopeful of moving up through the places as well. Getting into the top 250 runners would be great.

The race takes place on May 15th giving me over a month to get myself sorted out and ready to go. At the moment, I feel about as far away from ‘ready’ as it’s possible to get. It promises to be an interesting and possibly painful month!

New Year’s Resolutions – an update on my so called progress.

As much as I was keen to avoid them, I still found myself considering making resolutions as 2022 approached. It’s not a time of year that I like and – although I always end up making some – I never truly buy into the idea of making a brand new start. Essentially, the difference between one year and another is just a day.

So at first I was content to settle for a token three. You know the kind of things: eat healthier, exercise…give up wearing women’s underwear on a Friday, something along those lines. But the more I thought of it, the more I added, until I had nice round 30 resolutions bullet pointed on a piece of A4. So, in order to commit myself a bit, I wrote a blog at the start of the year. It’s on the link below.

2022: Letters, a gammy toe and a fake adopted cat. My New Year’s Resolutions.

Now that we’re a couple of months on, I thought I’d write an update on my progress. So, here we go.

I’d resolved to make sure that I updated you, dear reader, on my resolutions. Thus, this blog represents a big fat tick on my list, which is nice.

In terms of the order of the list though, let’s start with a package deal on my first two resolutions. Learn to moonwalk and start writing my YA novel and my Christmas story. Literally nothing done here. I figure that there’s plenty time with both though. My YA novel is in fact started, but it’s handwritten in a notebook. My Christmas story is still some bullet points that may just be on a scrap of paper…somewhere. Moonwalking will have to wait, maybe until I find that scrap of paper with my story on!

The next resolution was to research and eat more healthy foods and I’m pleased to say that there has been enormous progress made here. Well, I’ve favourited several more healthy recipes on the BBC website, cooked myself a simple fresh pasta sauce (once) and started eating cranberries after a run. So huge might have been a lie. But it’s progress all the same and I’m sure it’ll get better.

My next resolution was to try and be a better son, husband, dad and brother. Soppy, cliched, difficult to quantify. As it goes, I think I’m making progress here. I’ve phoned my mam and dad several times since the turn of the year and as I write, we’ll be seeing them in a couple of days. I even sent my mam flowers on her birthday. I’ve definitely spent more time with my kids, making the effort to pick them up from school on a few occasions and going out for walks despite work and shocking weather. I hope I’ve been a decent husband – my wife is very intelligent and yet still hasn’t walked out, so I must be able to take at least a bit of credit for this. And I’ve been in touch with my sister, although I’d have to admit that this is still limited to sending texts, so I could do a lot better.

In truth, I still haven’t figured out my next resolution which just read ‘modify my Duolingo use’. In short though, I’m on a streak of over 650 days, so I must be doing something that means progress here.

I’d decided to write more content about my work, teaching and my football club, Newcastle United. Well so far I’ve managed a couple of Newcastle related blogs, but nothing on teaching, although there was an idea in the pipeline and that will be getting written soon enough.

My resolution to stop buying crisps was going really well. And then my birthday struck. My lovely work friends, led by organiser-in-chief Laura, got me lots of presents and cake and one of my presents was four (count’em) family bags of crisps! I then discovered crisps that I thought I’d already eaten and worse still, bought another big family sized – as in it’s meant for sharing, not that it’s the size of a typical family – bag of tangy tomato ones today. So. I’ve pretty spectacularly fallen off the waggon with this one. This has also ruined my plans for my next resolution, which was to attempt to get a six pack…

Next I said I’d speak to more people. Again, difficult to quantify but again, if I’m honest, I think I’ve probably failed. I mean, I’ve literally no idea who these ‘more people’ even are!

My next two have also been failures. The first was to play more board games with my wife and this hasn’t happened…so maybe that be a better husband thing is a failure too! Then there was to mow the lawn more and put simply, it’s February and the weather has been appalling. The other day when I was in my garden water was coming up through the lawn as I walked on it. So there’s no chance it’s getting mowed!

Next I resolved to run more and enter more races. I’ve ran regularly, despite being poorly for a bit this year and I’ve already entered two races, with more planned. Safe to say that resolving to do something that I already do has been an unmitigated success!

Sadly, I’ve yet to adopt a fake cat named Fellatio Nelson, but I reckon that one’s pretty doable.

I said I’d make more videos – for teaching and for my own amusement – and as we head towards March nothing’s happened. Said videos are still very much just in my head. But, I have a week’s holiday on my own at Easter, so I will vow right here and now that I will make some videos then. I bet you can’t wait! Easter might also be the time when I make at least some headway with the next idea which was to start a podcast. Until my wife produces a list of jobs to fill my time and I get nothing done at all!

The next two of my resolutions involved what I’d laughingly refer to as my softer side and it comes as no surprise to me that both remain filed away in the space in my head reserved for ‘Good ideas that I’m unlikely to find the time for, even though I’ll clearly have the time’. I really do want to raise a big old amount of money for a charity and yet, going back over my resolutions in order to write this update was the first time I’d given it any thought. So, it’s going to take a gargantuan effort for me to make this happen. Similarly, the pen I was going to use in order to write more to the child that I sponsor in South America, is refusing to work on its own, meaning that this worthy resolution remains untouched. It’s still only February though folks…

And it’s ‘see above’ for the next few entries to my list too. I’ve made up no German phrases for various situations in order to tell people, ‘Oh, the Germans have a word for that’. Nor have I had my infected toe treated (it still doesn’t hurt and I haven’t turned green yet though. Maybe in November I’ll manage to limp to the doctor, just as it actually falls off). The Eurovision and Christmas songs also remain untouched and it’s becoming clear that I should have made my list of resolutions into a sign or signs to put up and maybe guilt myself into more action.

My next resolution was to begin noting down some of the things I heard at work. The idea here being that I had an idea for a book because I work in a school and kids constantly say silly or hilarious stuff. Now, I have actually started this…I just have no idea where the notebook is with the things I’d written down. Maybe I left it on my desk and a colleague is now writing a book. If you are and you’re reading this, could you give me an acknowledgement please? Something like, ‘I’d like to thank the careless knobhead who literally presented me with this idea’.

I’d resolved to learn new words and for the sake of this particular blog, I’m going to say that I have. Please don’t ask me what they are though.

I also said that I’d try to use the expression ‘Amuse bouche’ more as well as just making words up to use on people and amuse myself. Again – and there’s a theme emerging here that tells me that my start to the year has been a lot more sluggish than I’d previously imagined – nothing doing.

Given the previous few paragraphs, I cannot tell you how thrilled I am at the fact that I’ve made some progress with the next two resolutions. The first was to discover more new music. Now new meant both actually new and also stuff I’d heard of but never really listened to, in this case. And I’ve discovered both. In the wholly new section, I give you ‘Jenny and Johnny’ a duo with a terrible name for a band, and also ‘Dry Cleaning’. Check them both out, you won’t regret it. Furthermore though, I’ve been listening to some Minnie Riperton and I’d hardly ever done that before, making her some old new music I’ve explored. And, I know this isn’t music, but it is sound that I’ve explored, so I’d like to mention a podcast I’ve discovered via BBC Sounds, called Fairy Meadow. Again, I’d thoroughly recommend it and it also proves I’ve been a tiny bit successful with another of my resolutions.

For the last two though, we return to a familiar theme. The one of ‘Failure’. I can’t say, hand on heart, that I’ve stopped grumbling at people who happen to walk past me and I haven’t started my ‘Diary of a Middle Aged Singleton’ blog. However, it is still only February, so while I’m not going to look back and put a number on my failures, I am aware that the year still has a long way to go. I remain confident that my resolutions list will all be ticked off in good time, while also remaining utterly amazed that I can still type while crossing my fingers…

Anyway enough of this. Have you met my new rescue cat? His name? Ah, now you’re not going to believe this…

2022: Letters, a gammy toe and a fake adopted cat. My New Year’s Resolutions.

I wasn’t going to write this post. I was reasonably determined not to write something so predictable. I mean, I pride myself on trying to something at least a little bit different and surely every blogger going is banging on about their resolutions? Nothing wrong with that. But I wasn’t going to do it.

And then I woke up just before 3am on New Year’s Day having had around an hour and a half’s sleep. I thought I’d just roll over and slumber on, but no. It’s quite a regular thing for me to get an idea stuck in my head at this time of day and so when it happened this morning, there wasn’t a lot else to do but get up.

I also had a pounding headache, not from the drink I might add. So, I’d go downstairs, have a glass of water and some paracetamol and scribble some things down on a bit of paper. I WOULD NOT stay for long. Just over an hour later and I had written a huge bullet point list of resolutions, a first draft of a poem about resolutions, drank a pint of water, taken two paracetamol and tidied quite a few things away in an attempt to start my resolutions early, even though said resolution (Just pick stuff up, regardless of who left it there) wasn’t actually on my new list.

Here are the results. Some of this is simply exactly what I wrote down, while other bits have been added to because it’s clear even to me that they should get explained. I don’t want people to worry about me. So, in no particular order…

  • Learn to moonwalk. I will study YouTube and then astonish/bore to death anyone within my moonwalking eyeline.
  • Write my YA novel and Christmas story. I started the first of these around this time last year and then ran out of wherewithal. It’s still there, in my notebook and I still like it. It has been a lifelong disappointment to me that I’m not related to Bing Crosby. Imagine the money White Christmas makes every year. My Christmas story is one of many attempts I’ll be making this year to make enough money to speed up retirement. It’s also a good idea, if I say so myself.
  • Research and eat more heart healthy foods.
  • Be a better husband, father, son, brother. There are times when I think that I’m pretty shit in all of these roles. I tried to ring my mam and dad this morning, but they were out. By my estimation, this means that I’m already smashing this one, as the young people would say.
  • Modify my Duolingo use. That’s what I wrote down. I’m not sure what it means.
  • Write more teaching and football content for my blog. These subjects always get more people reading, which fascinates me as even after 22 years of teaching I feel like I don’t really know a great deal more than talk a lot and write stuff on the board. I make a mean display when I can be arsed though. Did I ever tell you about the Andes mountain range that I drew on a huge display board? It was the size of something you’d find in a major art gallery. People gasped when they saw it. I don’t like to talk about it much though…Perhaps I’ll write an epic poem about it…
  • Stop buying crisps. They’re like heroin to me.
  • Attempt to get a six pack – I’ll settle for four – while refusing to give up beer and chocolate, in moderation. Did I ever tell you about my lockdown six pack? Probably not…I don’t like to talk about it much.
  • Speak to people more. People must think I hate them and that I’m just really miserable. I’m not. I’m actually very shy and genuinely can’t imagine that people will want to talk to me. I regularly imagine their thoughts as I drone on about football. As a result, I’ve most likely uttered one word to at least 60% of the people I work with over the last year. That word is ‘Alright?’
  • Play more board games with my wife. She loves them. Be a better husband, see? Seriously, I’m like a freight train once I get going.
  • Mow my lawns more regularly. It looks better and would surely annoy my neighbours, right?
  • Run more. Take part in more races and get back to Parkrun.
  • Amuse myself by telling people I’ve adopted a cat and named it Fellatio Nelson. I might write some spoof adventures of said cat. All because the name amused me. This is genuinely the resolution that kept me awake and got me out of bed, by the way. Some insight into the mind of an idiot there…
  • Make more videos. I created a teacher character called Damian Malarkey in the first days of lockdown. He was the kind of arsehole I really don’t like and as such, made me laugh a lot. My colleagues enjoyed the video and this tells me that Damian deserves another airing. I’ve met quite a few Damian’s in my time in teaching, so I know him well. I also secretly worry that I’m turning into him. For ages I’ve also harboured the idea of videoing myself dancing to certain songs, not because I’m a good dancer, but because it makes me laugh. I do it all the time. I’m like a shit Mick Jagger, I hope. I also mime along to certain songs and have what I think is a brilliant idea for one of these mimes. It’ll no doubt be shit. I’ll laugh though.
  • Start a podcast. I’ve mentioned the idea to my best mate. I repeatedly let him down by floating these ideas and then not being able to find time. I think we’d just chat about middle aged stuff. You know, just moaning and stuff?
  • Get sponsors for a run. Try to raise a silly amount of money. I’ve got a lot of people to be grateful to.
  • Write to the boy I sponsor more often. Over the past 22 years I’ve sponsored two separate children in South America, yet probably only written to them half a dozen times. This is something I hugely regret. (Now you can all join my cardiologist in knowing for certain that I actually have a heart).
  • Make up German words and phrases for things and pass them off as actual fact. “Oh, the Germans have a word for that. Yes, you’re experiencing schencillpumpenhooff.
  • Get my toe treated before it either falls off or I turn into a hobbit or a troll. One toenail is black and has some kind of crust under it. It doesn’t hurt, so what with lockdown conditions and social distancing, I’ve just put up with it. No doubt the Germans have a word for that. If they don’t I’ll make one up for when I go to see the pharmacist.
  • Write a Eurovision entry. I’ve wanted to do this for years. I have the bones of one written down somewhere and it wouldn’t take much to finish.
  • Write at least 2 Christmas songs. One spoof, one real. That second home by the sea won’t buy itself.
  • Start to note down things that pupils and colleagues say. I’ve wanted to write a ‘Things I Heard in Class’ book for years. And boy, do I hear some things.
  • Learn some new words.
  • Invent new words and phrases to impress gullible people with.
  • Use the phrase ‘amuse bouche’ more. I don’t really know what it means, but doesn’t it sound nice? See also words like ‘journey’ and ‘vision’, but only inappropriately. E.g. ‘I’ve just finished reading a book about teaching. I’d like to thank the bedside lamp for all it’s support while I’ve been on this journey.
  • ‘Discover’ new music. Not new like bands containing teenagers, necessarily. More bands that I should know, but haven’t really listened to over the years. I recently discovered James Taylor, someone I’d been fully aware of for years, just by asking Alexa to shuffle some of his songs. I’ve undoubtedly benefitted from this. More please!
  • Stop grumbling at people when I hear them walking past our back fence. Better still, stop this behaviour in supermarkets. Face masks are not soundproof.
  • Write my Diary of a Middle Aged Singleton blog. A spoof, inspired by someone who lives close to us.

The final resolution doesn’t get a bullet point as it is simply to write further blogs updating your good selves on the progress of my resolutions. Some of these are just to amuse myself but plenty of them are deadly serious, which I think is the point of these type of things. In total there are 28 resolutions, plus the promise to keep the blog up-to-date on their progress. I’m genuinely hopeful that I can keep some of them up!