Sometimes You’ve Gotta Slaughter a Few Sacred Cows

Today I got two bits of sad news in quick succession. I’ll leave the second for again but the first made me sad.

Bob Allard, former Reprographics Manager at the University and a guy with whom I worked closely died last week. He had cancer. I only heard the previous week he was unwell, but as is often the case I didn’t realise how unwell he was.

Bob and I had as much in common as a Muslim and a pork processor. He was as English as could be. He referred repeatedly to going to Londonderry. As a former RAF man he was loyally British. He proudly talked of the visit by Her Majesty for the campus back when it was still the plain old NUU.

His background in the armed forces made him quite certain that black was black and white was white. Never the twain did meet. I know of staff in the University that would rather not do something than incur the wrath of Bob. He was unreconstructed old school. Big time.

Although he was the Reprographics Manager, he had another name for himself and a badge made up to match. Logo Cop. He was charged with maintaining the integrity of the University of Ulster’s logo following its introduction and subsequent roll out. He had a device that he would whip out at the slightest provocation to view the dot spread of the logo and would robustly point out any errors in sizing or printing. He could give chapter and verse on the logo, frequently did and it didn’t matter whether it was the Vice-Chancellor or a secretary, Bob made exceptions for no-one.

Once we commisssioned a VAT consultant to come in and advise us how to claim back VAT, what was exempt etc. With this guy, Bill was his name,the first ten minutes were free and then he charged by the fifteen minute block. And boy did he know how to charge. As a former VAT inspector now gamekeeper turned poacher his advice was excellent. Expensive but excellent. He was also prone to bullshit about two other topics. Manchester United and Golf. He met his match though.

When he came to see us in my office, Bob was ready for him. After the pleasantries were completed (very quickly I might add) Bob whipped out his list of pre-prepared questions followed by a dictaphone which he placed on the meeting table. As the meeting began he proceeded to interrogate Mr VATman – in detail! Not only did he get VFM for his paid for slot, he also covered a fair bit of our ground in the free ten minute slot. The meeting didn’t last long at all. And it was all there on tape too so there could be no confusion and we could listen again to the specific points at our leisure. I think we recovered about twenty grand.

He was a canny wee bollocks. Old school, difficult, cussed and contrary. He also however had a good sense of humour, although he was quite sexist in a Sid James sort of way (to whom he also bore a slight resemblance). He wore driving gloves when driving and it was easy for us to imagine him in his flying gear, up there taking pictures.

He had previously served in the RAF as a photographer and on his wall hung a picture of an RAF Spitfire. He had been given the picture as a gift by a Polish airman who’s life he had saved. He was vague on the details but the picture had special significance to him.

Once when his office was relocated to the Cavehill building – in effect the graveyard of the University – he suffered a break in and was visibly distraught when he learned the burglars had stolen his Spitfire photograph amongst other things. It was of immense sentimental value and he was deeply upset at its loss. The people that stole it of course had no idea of its value and no doubt dumped it somewhere unaware of the stress they caused. It was never recovered.

Bob finished his time at the University and enjoyed a number of years retirement, doing some work for the RAF on its history in the North West.

Although we had little in common we worked on a good many projects together and he was a loyal and dedicated colleague whose work and opinion I and others valued. Those who knew what he did knew it could only work if done Bob’s way. Otherwise, it was the highway. His name still brings a smile among those of us that worked with him.

Not About the Bike

OK. I’ve done it. The first cycle. My legs, in particular my thighs have settled down but they were like jelly. My arse, possibly my perineum is quite painful but not as bad as I thought. 22.5 miles on the first day out. Not a bad start and I’m pleased that I was able to do it.

McLarnon first raised this as a possibility with me on one of the overnights with the camogie squad. In the back of my mind I probably always knew that reluctantly I would try it. 100 or 50 miles to raise funds for Eoghan Rua. But more than that a challenge to myself to get fit, to lose weight. To do something else that would give me a personal and physical challenge. I ask the players to do the extraordinary. My hope is that this time it will be my turn.

And, at the end of it what? A sense of achievement. I know from winning things the moment of victory is fleeting but the overwhelming satisfaction afterwards lasts an eternity. That moment when the whistle goes, experienced a few times this last year. A drug yes, but after that something else sets in.

Anyway, before I get to that stage I have to get to that stage.

I have wrestled with the matter of buying a bike, To buy or not to buy. Funds are tight with me, I have a tax bill to pay and it is the summer. Children have to be entertained, the usual expenses. I decided to go for it and try and get a bike that would get me thru the summer and beyond. I didn’t want the hassle of someone else’s machine or a reconditioned machine. Something that I can stand or fall with.

I went to Claudy Cycles, on the recommendation of Paddy McColgan. I like Paddy’s world view. Country chic hick, he is grounded, pragmatic and most of all knows that an arsehole in lycra is an arsehole in lycra whatever way you look at him.

So, Brian @ Claudy Cycles successfully sold me a silver bike. I know nothing about the make, model or even the number of gears. It is silver, the Silver Tassie I will call it. The seat he tells me isn’t too bad. “You will not be the judge of that my friend” I thought inloud ‘My arse will.’ I also purchased a puncture repair kit;  helmet; a pair of cycle shorts.

On the latter Brian informed me ‘They are brave and tight round the balls.” Sounded like just the job. He also threw in a bottle of free screenwash and, availing of the 10% discount negotiated by Paddy McColgan the total bill was £270.  With Brian too, we discussed the possibility of further work. Might be worth pursuing there based on my experiences with a  few other small businesses and leveraging the contacts that I have. We’ll see.

Having read a leaflet circulated within the club by Sean McGoldrick and provided by uber nutrition enthusiast Declan Mullan which recommended the right things to eat in advance of a match, I decided to prepare for the following morning’s inaugural outing with a Spanish Sizzler medium pizza from Dominos washed down by a bottle of Wolf Blass Merlot.

Excited at the prospect of the next morning’s outing I fell fast asleep on the sofa after this generous repast and woke on the sofa at quarter past three in the morning, lights on. After climbing into bed I conked out waking again early to prepare for the 8:30 rendezvous at the Orange Hall where the day’s 20 Mile trek was to begin.

The first dilemma of the day was whether to wear underpants under my newly purchased cycling shorts. Chafing was my worry. Having puzzled this for a while I decided not to cycle commando ‘What if they split’ which is a fair enough question considering the size of my arse.  Angela went off to Tesco to buy food for the children while I climbed into the rest of my garb. Trainers, ankle socks, icebreaker top and yellow luminous waterproof, my shades and helmet. When she returned Tesco were out of Vaseline (a canny echo of the article I wrote for Talking Balls last week. Unlike the protagonist in that story I went for Angela’s emulsifying ointment rather than other forms of lubricant.)

Duly lubed up to the max to avoid aforementioned chafing, I stuck a Nature’s Crunch bar in my pocket, sank a half litre of Lucozade Sport Lite and a banana. I also brought my phone in case of a crash, emotional or physical and a puncture repair kit. Having no rack for a water bottle I tucked a carton of juice in a pocket and off I sailed. Angela of course found the whole ensemble hysterical and took pictures of me meandering  off.

Having had a bit of banter, off we went down the Mill Road. The brakes were an early concern and I genuinely felt I would fall off going down the first hill which ended on a corner round a roundabout. I was pleasantly surprised when BMcL informed me we had completed 5 miles or so. The only real problems occurred when we encountered the first hill. My heart, shocked into action was pounding out of my chest and my left leg started to misfire. No pain, just no power. Over a few more hills including Drumslade on the way home I found a severe lack of power in my leg. Its fine when pedalling down hill, even when driving her on uphill when the body screams stop, the heads busting and pounding but you just keep on going. On that occasion there is no place for diplomacy with fellow travellers. They need to move on to let me tackle my own personal demons.  Could I keep in the seat and keep the bike moving no matter how low the gear. The granny gear BMcL called it. I’m some granny in that case. The etiquette appears to be if you are struggling the person doing the blethering moves on. Cunning apparently is bad for this, I will have to tell him not to talk to me in that case.

Aside from Dermot having a few minor technical problems the time passed fairly uneventfully. I struggled up Drumslade Paddy last, but I stayed in the fuckin saddle and I stayed on the fuckin bike which was more than I expected. The padded cycle shorts appeared to have eased the big ass burden but I was till dripping sweat half an hour after a shower and my heartrate took a while to settle. Next time I need to work the bike more, more pedalling less freewheeling and find a few good gears.  At least there is a next time. Bring it on.

Broken Things

My iPhone. Water got in. Now a dog.

Washing Machine. Has sounded like a helicopter taking off for months. Now it’s just fubar.

Leo’s remote control plane. One second flight propellor cracked. Thankfully no passengers were lost or injured.

My memory. Struggling for words. This happened before. Very strange.

Sorcha’s green ceramic elephant she made in Westport. She broke its head off and it sits on the desk now decapitated accusing me.

The Car radio. Volume button is fubar.

Car seatbelts have become idiosyncratic.

The bin in the kitchen – no longer ingenious the way it slides out on pulleys. Fubar.

Trampoline safety net needs fixed.

One hen. Gone. Deceased? Or did it just get fed up and fuck off?

Enthusiasm for coaching. Low ebb. Need to summon something from somewhere.