Ski Racing and the Youth of Today


Disco Dave: “I watched the race from Kitzbühel on youtube last night mate.”

Me: “Oh really?”

DD: “Yeah especially because we got the silver.”

Me: “Huh?”

DD: “Yeah we came second… Dave Ryding? In the slalom.”

Me: “Whaaaaaat?”

I really do love skiing. I’ve been skiing (for at least a day or two) every winter since 2003, with the exception of the wilderness years of 2005 and 2006. In 2005 I instead decided to spend a week with Wiseman et al in Toronto for my friend Alyn’s wedding, and in 2006 I was saving up for an epic trip down under to see England lose 5-0 in the Ashes of 2006-7, although obviously I didn’t know the result at that point. It might have somewhat demotivated my saving effort.

This winter, it seems, is going to be another one sans-skiing. However, I am keeping the dream alive by wearing my ski socks all through the winter, and falling over periodically. Be reassured that I do have more than one pair of socks, and switch between them occasionally.

I also watch the ski racing on Eurosport, every weekend if I can. However, not since the beginning of January, as the Finance Director doesn’t appear to have a Eurosport subscription, more’s the pity. I wonder if she realises how much coverage of international handball she’s missing out on.

And so it came to pass that the best result Great Britain has recorded in the Alpine Skiing World Cup since Nineteen Canteen… passed me by. I might have missed it altogether, had my youthful spiky-haired colleague Disco Dave not pointed it out.

Dave Ryding, what a legend. What a result. On a crazily-difficult piste which saw many of the top names crash out, he finished first in the initial run, and would have come first overall if Marcel Hirscher hadn’t produced one of his now-customary unbelievable second-run charges to take the spoils for Austria.

Hirscher is an incredible athlete. One of the all-time greats, mesmerising to watch, he’s my favourite skier to watch in slalom and giant-slalom.

It’s understandable that countries like Austria, Norway, Switzerland and the USA produce great skiers. Not to mention France, Italy and Canada. They have great mountains and ski resorts on their doorstep. The ski federations and training programmes of these nations are strong and well-resourced. Not so Britain’s.


DD: “Hey mate, did you see we got a gold yesterday?”
Me: “Whaaaat?!”
DD: “Yeah, in the disability skiing”

It’s true. GB’s Millie Knight won gold in the downhill. She’s 18 years old, and visually impaired. Racing the downhill while visually impaired, can you imagine anything more terrifying?

Me: “British skiing are having a real purple patch at the minute!”
Disco nodded and smiled.
Me: “Do you know what I mean by that?” I had used the phrase in a conversation with my youthful goateed boss not long before, to general bemusement.
DD: “No.”

What are they teaching the kids at school these days?

In search of a weekly rhythm

Recently I’ve been experiencing an unsettled feeling. Not unsettled as in ‘unhappy where I am’ but unsettled as in ‘unable to settle’. I think this might be down to a lack of life rhythm.

My niece, Maggie, was born 10 years ago today. At that time, my life had been running on a relatively-unchanged schedule for 10 years, and would follow a similar pattern for another 5.

Each Monday to Friday, I went to work in an office in the West End of Edinburgh from 8.30am to 5pm. Actually to begin with it was 9am to 5. During one memorable appraisal, my boss pointed out to me the helpfulness of arriving at work slightly earlier than that so that I was ready to *start* work at 9, rather than rolling in “around” 9…

At some point I decided I might as well come in around 8.30 to get a head start on the day, and so that became my regular routine. Some time later, out of curiosity, I dug out my contract, and was somewhat taken aback to see that it stipulated an 8am start every day. But I successfully kept that quiet for another 10 years 🙂

Largely, though, my routine went undisturbed. I moved house a few times. Bought a flat. Sold it. Bought another one. Evening activities came and went. Once-per-month Saturday morning work became a fixture. Cricket, during the summer months (in Scotland this requires some definition – I mean May through August), occupied my Saturdays whenever it wasn’t raining, or even sometimes when it was. Sundays, my day off, involved going to church once or twice, initially in one part of town, now in another.

However, the working week was the maypole around which the evening and weekend activities danced.

Now this has changed.

On returning from the States in May 2014, I spent a few months unemployed. Then started my own business selling custom earplugs and IEMs. Began teaching piano. In the autumn of 2014 I found work in a lovely café in the north of Edinburgh, and some routine was established. Working hours fluctuated a little, but were reasonably predictable. Sunday was still my day off, but Monday also offered some time to reflect and be still.

In early 2016, the seasons shifted. I quit the café and took up part-time employment with my church. Immediately Sundays were lost as a day off. This, of course, was not unexpected, but has taken a while to get used to, and I’m not sure I’m there yet. Fridays became my day off – my Sabbath, if you will – and it took a while to reset my internal clock to expect a day of rest at that point in the week.

Meanwhile my piano students had multiplied to 12 per week, at various times of the day, but mostly early evenings.

The demands of my church employment meant an increase in working hours in August, and then at the beginning of this month they increased again, such that my role is now full-time. Aware of the increased time constraints full-time works would bring, I shelved roughly half of my piano lessons at the end of 2016.

The break over Christmas and New Year a few weeks back threw me for a loop. I had two weeks off, and they were entirely devoid of structure and routine. After two weeks off, I couldn’t wait to get back to work. I realised I was craving some routine again.

Tuesday has now become my day off. Having only had 2 Tuesday-Sabbaths so far, I have still not found a repeatable weekly rhythm. In addition, a couple of weeks of full-time work has been enough to bring a realisation that my current weekly schedule has pretty much eliminated the opportunity to live with the rhythm of rest.

I should mention that the the things that have upset my schedule on a grand scale (two years in the US, and two years of a ‘portfolio’ career here) have brought me more life than I thought was possible. I am not complaining. Just trying to find a rhythm.

Accordingly, I have taken the difficult decision to walk away from my remaining piano lessons. I will miss the teaching, and the students, but the truth is that my future is not in piano teaching. A wonderful talk from Sue Eldridge at our recent ESST retreat was a timely reminder that I need to be pursuing what matters, to remain focussed on the goal… on what God has called me to. And whatever that is, it’s not piano teaching.

I need to get some midweek rest back in my schedule. Restarting this blog has been an attempt to rediscover something that gave me life, and forces me to sit, reflect and write. I need time and space for creativity – writing, songwriting. For so long I’ve had that time built-in to my schedule, because I was working part-time. Now I have to take active steps to create time and space for it. Losing the piano-teaching income was something to consider, but God has made sure I’ve always lived abundantly, and that isn’t going to change. He’s too good.

I don’t think I realised how much impact a weekly rhythm has on my sense of contentment and living a settled life.

How do shift workers manage it? I have no idea.

Does everyone find this to be true in their lives? I have no idea about that either.

Welcome your comments…

The Induction

Dear Reader

Life in the Finance Director’s House is going well. Although, there being so many rooms, I do occasionally lose things, notably my shoes. It’s just hard to remember which room I’ve kicked them off in sometimes. And it being a large house of a certain age, sometimes things do go bump in the night, and occasionally doors open by themselves, creaking as they do so, which is mildly disconcerting. Especially when one has just watched an episode of Sherlock, which was prefaced with the warning “contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing”. (Excellent episode that, mind, a real return to form.)

But apart from that, and the regular battle to remember which of the bank of 11 light switches controls the light I want to put on, I’m getting on famously well, to the point where I’ve begun to diligently research Squatter’s Rights.

And so far I’ve made good on my New Year’s Resolution (perhaps “resolution” is a bit strong, can one have a New Year’s Intention?) to do some exercise each week.

In fact, this is my second gym visit this week, no less, which is quite something. Technically my third, but I don’t want to brag, and really all that came of the first (and only, had I not been thwarted by a dastardly receptionist) visit of the week was to reschedule a visit for today.

On Tuesday I rocked up to my local (country) gym, fully intent on sweating profusely in a whole new postcode, only to discover that West Lothian Leisure Gym Receptionists are a little more enthusiastic at following the rules than their Edinburgh Leisure counterparts. On visiting a gym for the first time, she (the over-zealous* Receptionist) explained, one must be inducted, like into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, only different. (She may or may not have mentioned the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame).

My protestations regarding having visited a gym before were dismissed with a glance at my ‘physique’ and an airy wave of the hand, and with her feisty application of the letter of the law ringing in my ears, I found myself confused to the point of scheduling my Induction for 7.30am this morning. I have no idea what I was thinking.

But not to be completely thwarted in my fitness plans, and mindful of the fact that I would not necessarily be in much of a state to exercise properly post-Induction, at such an unearthly hour of the morning, I immediately drove to Edinburgh’s Ainslie Park, where I was allowed to work up a sweat without first having to prove my credentials.

Not much to report on this morning’s Induction. I sat down, and was rudely photographed (I propose that pre-8am portraits should be made illegal), before I broke the blood pressure machine, three times in all, and was taken on a tour of the facility, in the process learning about any number of new instruments designed to torture muscles I didn’t even know existed.

The flip-side to two gym visits in a week, of course, is the entitlement to have two McDonald’s chocolate milkshakes, which, as any athlete knows, is a post-exercise must.

In other news, the current spell of cold weather has revealed that my car dashboard pings and provides a helpful potential-ice-on-the-road icon whenever the outside temperature hits 3C. That’s regardless of whether the temperature is on the way up or down at the time. Accordingly, switching on the ignition when the temperature is minus 1 provides no warning at all, but should the temperature rise to 3, I get visibly and audibly alerted.

Stay safe out there, people, and avoid 3C at all cost. (That’s 37.4F, American friends. I haven’t forgotten y’all, nor y’all’s safety)

*zealous in the Mac dictionary is defined and then quoted in context thus “the council was extremely zealous in the application of the regulations.” I kid you not. How apt.

The Blog is Back

Well, dear reader

A lot of water has passed under the proverbial bridge since I last wrote in these pages.

Brexit… Indyref… Wiseman has MARRIED, for goodness sake. Up, obviously. Actually, Wiseman married a good two years before the blog went into its most recent, and most prolonged (to date) hibernation, and the event went unrecorded because the blog was in a previous hibernation at the time, but really, the failure to chronicle the Wiseman Wedding is an embarrassment. It was so long ago that there’s a mini Wiseman on the go. Wiseboy, perhaps.

DC and Broon have also got married, although not to each other.

Nasty Jen has got engaged, and shall henceforth be called Party Jen on these pages, not because getting engaged has increased her capacity to party, or even reduced her nastiness, and that’s rather the point – she was only ever called Nasty Jen in the most ironic sense. However, perhaps I am going soft in my middle age, but I don’t really want to prepend “Nasty” to anyone’s name.

Lots of other things have happened too. Since returning from Nashville I have started my own business, worked as a piano teacher, and even as a barista.

Some things have stayed reassuringly the same. Not my waistline, sadly. I put most of the blame for this firmly at the door of iColin, who I used to play squash with regularly, along with his cousin-in-law John. Since John’s squash-playing demise, quoting extensive bathroom renovations and a subsequent move to East Lothian (darling) as reasons, iColin and I have only managed one squash meeting. I can’t remember the outcome, but feel sure I must have won heavily. Anyway, the point is, I haven’t been doing any exercise.

I did, of course, play cricket fairly regularly in the summer, but one has to bat quite well (or bowl) to get any useful exercise in a cricket match, and, well, there it is.

Cue Christmas, and a shedload of chocolate consumption, on the back of which I have finally resolved to exercise more in 2017, in fact, each week if I can possibly make it. My preference would be to play some sort of sport which involves winning, or even losing, but in the absence of such competition I have resigned myself to outings to the gym.

I still hate the gym, but having been unhappy with the amount of weight I put on in during my stay in America, and having added to that somewhat with the last year of inactivity, things are in a sorry state.

And so it came to pass, that, only last week, I found myself back at Ainslie Park, seated at some sort of fiendish weights machine, waiting until I was sure no-one was looking, and then in one graceful fluid motion reaching behind me to adjust the weight setting to the minimum, having had a tentative push at the thing and been mortified at my inability to budge it even an inch.

One hour later, sweating, slightly dizzy, and having found my non-custom earbuds completely incapable of blocking out the pumping dance tunes provided, I retired back home for a well-earned Tunnocks Caramel Wafer and possibly a marshmallow or two.

Home these days, at least temporarily, is in a house (a very big house) in the country, courtesy of a house-sitting gig I have scored off my good friend the Finance Director. The Finance Director and her family are in Nepal looking at mountains and spiny babblers for a few months, and have kindly left me to look after their house while they’re away. I have rarely had so much room, indeed so many rooms, to myself that to begin with I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them all.

However, I now have a designated Scalextric Room, and a Music Studio section, and perhaps a Subbuteo Room is on the way.

I have been in touch with Party Jen to discuss the details of a Winter Party, which sounds like a splendid idea, except that I might have to organise it. I’m a little out of practice at party-organisation.

But, as both my parents used to say whenever they wanted to defer saying “no”, we’ll see…