Cycling writing…

It’s funny how things go.
I started writing about cycling after a series of events in my life:

1: I got fat. As with many in their late 30s, I focused too much on work and too little on exercise. A combination that meant I was carrying more than ‘a little’ extra weight.
2: I started cycling to try to lose weight. Simple as that. Between you and I, it took more than a little bravery to leave the house carrying the extra pounds in unflattering cycling tights
3: l got a diagnosis. From nowhere I discovered I was a Type 1 diabetic.

Essentially, I was an overweight, newly diagnosed diabetic, lacking in any real skill, cyclist…
Which is just the person the cycling industry needed to hear from!
Since then I’ve written many features for Cycling Plus Magazine and a whole host of national publications about cycling.
In a world of experts I have the voice of someone who doesn’t find it easy and still makes a mess of shaving their legs…
Oh and it led to my book ‘The Modern MAMIL: How to look pro’ illustrated by the amazing Spencer Wilson.

It’s been a rollercoaster and may have led, every now and then, to someone taking an embarrassing shot or two…

Hairy Dogs for Nick Toons

I’ve always loved animation.

Over the years I’ve worked on developing and scripting several animation projects for both TV and business.

‘Hairy Dog Stories’, the series of shorts I originated, scripted and produced for Nick Toons, will always have a special place in my heart.

These funny little vignettes see ‘Arnold’ (a shaggy sheep dog) ably assisted by ‘Toby’ (a spritely terrier) on their daily routine – ensuring all lampposts and trees in their patch are properly marked with, ehem, ‘scent’… During this activity, which takes place with almost military precision, Arnold tells his young companion the tallest of tall stories.

Each ‘Hairy Dog Story’ is filled with Arnold’s unbelievable adventures, from having a picnic with the Queen to becoming the first dog is space.

Created by Zoo Film Group, for Nick Toons, these shorts always makes me smile…

BAFTA memories

Taking another walk down memory lane.
This was over a decade ago, when ‘Me:TV’ a programme for Nickelodeon that I scripted and was one of the producers on won a BAFTA.
What are my memories of the night?
1) Flagging a taxi down on Park Lane, outside The Dorchester, is a lot easier when you’re holding a golden mask in your mitts.
2) Never wear a hired tux without braces. I had to spend the whole evening, including going on stage to collect the gong, with my hands in my pockets to ensure my trousers didn’t fall down. True story.
3) Ade Edmondson was nice – nothing like his character in Star Wars.

*Although to be fair, he wasn’t to play his Star Wars role for around another decade.

It was a great night, the culmination of some hard work for the whole team.

Why Dads are better than Superheroes…

They may not have the flashy Lycra but, for me, dads are certainly better than superheroes. Here’s a piece I wrote for Huffpost UK…

I have proof.
Dads do AMAZING things WITHOUT superpowers. It’s (relatively) easy to save the day if you can fly or walk up the side of buildings. Superheroes (on the whole) are blessed with some pretty nifty abilities that the average person in the street could only dream of. They’ve got a bit (read ‘a lot’) of a head start. The thing is, I’ve seen dads do amazing things with no superpowers whatsoever. OK, OK, what they do might not be as ‘showy’ as the antics of Messrs Wayne, Kent and Stark – but they’re more impressive. I’ve seen a dad change a nappy one-handed while simultaneously dealing with a melting down 3-year-old. Superman couldn’t do that. I’ve seen dads reply patiently to a question they’ve already been asked 1000 times. There’s no way Batman, Mr Misery Guts himself, would put up with this. He’d be sulking in the Batcave before you could say “Kapow!” All in all, dads do whatever is necessary, whenever it’s necessary – without the fanfare…”

Chris McGuire, Huffpost UK

To view the full piece, click here.

Silence is golden…

Here’s a piece I wrote for the Western Morning News in defence of those who have no desire to be the centre of attention. Silence is golden…

“Yes, this week, I’ve reconfirmed my suspicion loud people are (officially) the bane of my life.
Firstly, if you are a loud person reading this, please, for everyone’s sake do so in your head.
Ah… that’s better already.
As a self-appointed representative of the (unheard) quiet majority here are a few points that I feel are pertinent:
1: Being quiet (or quieter) is not a passive activity. By which I mean I am not quiet simply
because I have forgotten to be loud. Far from it. I am being quiet because I enjoy silence and the serenity that comes with it.
2: I am not being quiet in order to blend in – to fade into the wallpaper. My quietness is
nothing to do with any third party, it’s a state I enjoy independently of others. I am, believe it or not, a very confident person.
3: Being loud is not synonymous with having a ‘big personality’, by which we usually mean interesting and fun. Being loud is a sign of nothing more than being loud. ‘Empty vessels…’ and all.”

For the full piece, click here.

DI Why?

Here’s a piece I wrote for Western Morning News, all about the trials and tribulations of doing it yourself…

“D. I. Why?
They tell me that a picture can say a thousand words, which makes pictures far more impressive than parrots – who are usually limited to a few dozen. Moving on from our feathered friends, I said at least a thousand words as I attempted to hang a picture recently – unfortunately most of them were expletives. Yes, this week, I learned that DIY and I aren’t a good mix… not at all… ever.
“Chris…?” said my partner, as she attempted to rock our baby to sleep. “Have you seen my list?”
I had. She was leaning slightly to the left, which I took to be caused by the geriatric springs on our couch.
“My list of things to do.”
I hadn’t, or maybe I had and pretended not to.
“It’s just a few DIY things I need you to do around the house.”
I felt sick. She spoke with the nonchalance of someone who’d never seen me attempt DIY before. Surely she knew of my deficiency in this area?
“I can’t…”
“Come on Chris. How hard can it be?”
Nonplussed, I assumed this was a rhetorical question and went off in search of the list…”

For the full piece, click here.

Taking down the tree…

Here’s a piece I wrote for Eastern Daily Press a year ago (before the world changed) all about the strange joy of taking down the Christmas tree.

Taking down the Tree

All things must pass.

It’s a truism that’s also the title of my favourite album by George Harrison.

You see, I am (a teeny bit) cultured after all.

Actually, if I’m being technical, all things don’t (in reality) pass – if ‘things’ are my 16-year-old self and the ‘passing’ in question was my GCSE Spanish exam.

Anyway, putting my deficiencies as a linguist to one side, I’m keen to discuss the end of the ‘Holiday Season’ and its most visible manifestation – taking down the tree.

Have you taken yours down yet? How do you feel? It’s difficult to describe, isn’t it?

Putting up a Christmas tree is a joyous occasion, filled with optimistic hope for fun times ahead. The tree will be the centre of merriment during this, most festive, time of year. Under its branches gifts find shelter until the morning of the 25th when they’re unceremoniously stripped of their wrapping paper and chucked into the two piles of present destiny: ‘Keepers’ and ‘Re-gifters’. It’s during their time under the tree that gifts are at their most exciting – perfect in their mysterious form. Like Schrodinger’s cat, they’re everything at once, the latest gadget, the perfect jewellery, the toy of the moment – it’s only when the box is opened that the spell is broken and the deodorant ‘gift set’ is revealed.

Anyway, all this special stuff – happens under the tree.

Christmas, in many ways, is like those impossibly perfect presents – our expectations are always too high, it can never live up to the hype. So, it can be a relief to get back to the normality of ‘everyday life’ post-Christmas, without all that pressure to follow one magical moment with another. Taking down the tree can feel cathartic, taking mine down certainly was.

A tree, as any parent of small children knows, is like a magnet for toddlers. With lemming-like disregard for their own safety, my two kids seemed to be exclusively focussed on pulling the prickly pine on top of them. My whole existence throughout all 12 days of Christmas has consisted of acting as a security guard for the tree – leaping into action at a millisecond’s notice before the whole thing toppled like a tinselly tower of Jenga. Thinking about it, bringing a dead tree into our homes for a month each year is just weird. Why did it start? The only reason I can think is this: the producers of ‘You’ve Been Framed’ invented a time machine and went back to the Victorian period, where they planted the seed of the tradition with Prince Albert, in order to ensure 1000 ‘hilarious’ tree-based clips for the home video show’s (endless) Christmas specials in the centuries to come.

I mean, what other explanation makes any sense?

I didn’t catch on camera any ‘Framed’ worthy clips with my tree this year, more’s the pity, the £250 reward the show gives would have been a welcome addition to my (sadly depleted) post-Crimbo bank balance. I was half tempted to pull the tree down on myself as I took it down – but I’m sure the producers would spot a faker a mile off.

So, it was with some sadness and some relief that took the tree down this week. Christmas over for another year, time to crank up towards Easter. But before all that, I have a task to complete: getting rid of unwanted presents.

First to regift, “How to pass GCSE Spanish” – 25 years too late. That boat has sailed.

Feliz año nuevo!

Taking down the tree… Chris McGuire, Eastern Daily Press.

Better Latte than never…

Here’s a piece I wrote for the Western Morning News a few years back about how becoming a sleep-deprived parent made me completey dependent on coffee…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not coffee snob, far from it. I couldn’t tell an Arabica from a Robusta (I looked up the main bean types on the previously-mentioned search engine). I don’t mind if it’s freeze-dried, freshly ground or filtered through an old sock. As long as it’s black and buckling under the weight of its own caffeine, then that’s fine with me.

I’m well aware that coffee is no real substitute for genuine sleep. But when a decent stretch of sleep isn’t on offer, due to my baby son teething / having a cold / being hungry / doing a secret experiment on how long sleep-deprived parents can last before losing the plot, coffee is a great plan B.

They know me at my local coffee shop. I’ve gone from that annoying Lycra-clad cyclist (with footwear that sounds like tap-shoes), to that annoying pram-pushing dad (mumbling about night feeds and Old MacDonald).

During my son’s sporadic daytime naps, I often sit in the café, nursing a latte and watching the other caffeine users arrive for their ‘fix’. The customers range from an eclectic selection of stressed parents through to what I’ve come to know as ‘normal’ people – although normal may be pushing it. The other day, one man insisted on being given a latte without milk. “But that’s an espresso, sir!” said the barista, as politely as she could. “No, no, no,” he replied, increasingly irate. “I want a latte without milk!” So that’s what he got. A lonely espresso shot at the bottom of a huge paper cup. Another man, quite brazenly, opened his duffle coat and poured an entire container of sugar into a pocket. I can only imagine that anyone having a hot drink at his house, would find the sugar a fluff-laden affair.

There’s no doubt that coffee makes people act oddly! Or is it that odd people drink a lot of coffee? I think that, in my sleep-deprived state, I fall into the latter category.

In fact, the only coffee I won’t touch is the coffee crème chocolate that always lingers when everyone has eaten their favourite soft centres at Christmas. I sometimes wonder how sleep deprived I’d need to be before considering a nibble on one of those?

Let’s hope I never find out.

‘Tall, dark and strong’, Chris McGuire West Magazine – Western Morning News

For the full piece, click here.

The day I met the REAL Santa Claus

As we all start to feel that little bit more festive, I thought I’d share what happened when I met the REAL Santa Claus…

They say you should never meet your heroes, but there are some opportunities you can’t refuse: like interviewing the REAL Father Christmas.

Here’s what happened…

I’m led by an elf (whose name I didn’t catch – could it have been ‘Squeaky’?) through the vast workshop complex here at the (rather chilly) North Pole. ‘Impressive’ doesn’t begin to describe Santa’s HQ, candy-striped elves fill every nook and cranny doing anything from painting rocking horses to soldering tablet computers (I make a mental note to consult an elf next time my laptop plays up. Although I’m not exactly sure how I’d get hold of one, they don’t use social media ‘It’s bad for your elf’ says one rather smug fellow).

Lovely as the complex is, I can’t ignore the strange smell in the air. Eventually I bring it up and I’m informed the sickly odour is emanating from Santa’s reindeer: ‘They stink,’ says my nameless guide. I must say, I’m relieved it’s the deer and not Santa with the issue – discovering that Father Christmas has a record-breaking case of B.O. would have been too much to bear. Feeling slightly nauseous due to the stink from Santa’s flying friends, I’m glad of the distraction when we finally arrive at Santa’s office. Face to face with the man himself, I can’t help but smile as he welcomes me with his trademarked cheeriness.

‘It’s our busiest time of year, of course. It’s tiring,’ says Santa, opening a can of a popular fizzy drink. ‘Caffeine helps,’ he says between slurps. ‘I used to drink full-fat, but frankly it was having an effect on the old waistline.’ Santa slaps his tummy, which I can confirm does indeed wobble link a bowl full of jelly. ‘No, it’s diet drinks for me now. Probably not the best for you, but at least they mean I can fit down the chimneys… or most chimneys at least!’

The day I met the REAL Santa Claus, Eastern Daily Press

For the full piece, click here.

Meeting author Tom McLaughlin

Interviewing Exeter’s own Tom McLaughlin, the amazing children’s author and illustrator, was a genuine pleasure. Tom is a lovely fella and was on a high that his book had just been read on CBeebies by another famous Thomas…

“It was definitely supposed to be today.

From my limited interactions with Tom McLaughlin (40), I didn’t expect him to be late – he just doesn’t seem the type. I decide to send a text message. Nothing too pushy, just a gentle nudge:

“Hi Tom. Are you still OK for our meeting? Best C.” 

A reply lands.

“Yes, I’m here too.”

The penny drops. Who’d have thought there were two branches of the same coffee shop in central Exeter? I race through town, thinking I wouldn’t have made a good secret agent or prime minister (two of the roles the stars Tom’s children’s books themselves in) with organisational skills as bad as mine.

Finally united, we exchange notes about babies as I search for a notepad in a bag overcrowded with wet wipes and teethers. Tom’s partner, Elle (34), I learn, has just given birth – their first child together.

Down to business, there’s no way of avoiding that Tom is currently part of a social media sensation. He grins. “I got an email a while back, but wasn’t allowed to tell anyone.”

Tom’s book The Cloudspotter was read on CBeebies by none other than the smouldering star of of Taboo and Peaky Blinders, Tom Hardy. The internet went crazy about it. “I remember tweeting,” Tom says, of when the embargo lifted. ‘I said Tom Hardy is reading my book on CBeebies. This is the coolest sentence I’m ever going to write.’”

I’d dispute that. Tom McLaughlin’s written some very cool sentences in his books – or funny ones, which are, surely, the same thing. It’s not for nothing that Tom’s often compared with David Walliams.”

The Story Teller, Tom McLaughlin interview for West Magazine

For the full ‘West Magazine’ (Western Morning News) piece, click here.