Your average Cycling writer? Fat chance!

Honesty, that’s the key.

I come back to it over and over again. People can tell, always, when you’re trying to be pretend you’re something you’re not.

When I started writing about cycling I had to make the decision (and it was a decision) to be honest.

What do I mean?

In short, I had to make it clear that I wasn’t one of those lean, mean, ‘cool’ cyclists who clock up 100s of miles without breaking sweat.

Oh, no. I was one of those men on the wrong side of 30 (or 40 nowadays) who was carrying a little (a lot) too much weight, didn’t know a groupset from a twinset and could only manage a ride down to the all-night garage and back before collapsing on the couch.

I realised that there were many people out there like me – they were never going to be Chris Froome or even ‘Joe Bloggs’ the second-fastest fella at their local bike club.

Yet I understood that what these people were was enthusiastic for change and more than a little bit intimidated by a sport that seemed to celebrate a bodily perfection that they couldn’t hope to live up to.

It takes bravery to leave your house in skin tight Lycra when you’re carrying the extra pounds. It takes humility to smile and wave as the local bike club whizzes by, leaving you for dust. It takes patience to sit by the side of the road and change a flat tyre as white-van man toots his horn and shouts something unrepeatable as he speeds past.

There’s a whole host of people who aren’t photogenic, fast or fabulous on their bikes. They’re just folks trying to carve back a bit of life for themselves, despite the naysayers. I write for these people.

That’s why I share photos of me out on my bike (they’re never flattering), I tell stories of my failures (and occasional triumphs) and don’t worry when what I write takes a comical edge.

It’s OK to laugh at my experiences. Laughter doesn’t hurt anyone really. I just hope, that after people have laughed, that some of them might get inspired to get out on their bikes too.

They’ll be glad they did…

Moose Allain Interview

I’m proud of this one, my interview with Moose Allain – artist, writer and Twitter god – for The Western Morning News. Click here for the full piece.

The first thing Moose Allain offers me is a towel – he’s that kind of guy. Embarrassingly, I arrive at his door sweating buckets having decided to cycle to his East Devon home, without realising the entire journey would be uphill. Guided inside, I stumble into the kitchen; where I collapse into a chair. Coffee is proffered and after a few glugs I feel more like myself again. Moose is kind enough to give me time to regain my composure, while his wife, Karen, soothes my embarrassment by explaining that even marines they’ve known struggled climbing the nearby hills. A likely story, but it’s gratefully received.

As soon as it’s clear I’m no longer feeling faint, conversation begins in earnest. Moose Allain is a big, avuncular fellow. His naturally serious face regularly erupts into gales of laughter that are as contagious as they are welcome. I’m immediately at home in his (clearly family-orientated) house – it’s that kind of place. I’ve long been interested in Moose, seeing him as part of the vanguard of creatives who moved West and capitalised on the opportunities for non-centralised working offered by the internet, social media and new technologies

Chris McGuire, West Magazine.

Writing for my heroes…

They say never work with your heroes.
It’s probably a good maxim in life.
Yet I’m so glad, that in one case, I did.
Working with Ciaran Morrison and Mick O’Hara aka ‘Zig and Zag’ was one of the biggest thrills of my career. They presented a show called ‘Me:TV’ and I got the honour of scripting these iconic aliens…
The thing is, most of the time, when you write a script you hope that whoever is reading it will do it justice. You pray they’ll get the jokes, pause in the right places and (frankly) not drop the ball.
With Zig and Zag I had no concerns. Rather than worrying, I’d sit back and watch these two masters of their field raise what I’d written to whole new levels.
It was absolute bliss.

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…

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.