Imagine the scene: the sun is shining and the birds are singing. You’re on your bike, riding at that perfect pace: not too slow so you’re burning carbs, not too fast so you take in the vista around you. Your freshly-shaved legs are looking good in perfectly fitting shorts and your tan lines are maturing nicely – in fact, it would be easy to be mistake you for a pro. You chat with fellow riders who are great company, while other road users happily, safely and respectfully keep their distance. The only thing on your mind is what type of coffee to order when you arrive at the friendly little café that lies just beyond the crest of the next rewardingly challenging incline.
Nobody, and I really mean NOBODY is interested in other people’s holiday snaps. They are the photographic equivalent of watching Songs Of Praise at your nan’s house or uncomfortable chats with taxi drivers – something to be endured and got over with, as quickly as is humanly possible.
There are times in life where everything just works. It’s as simple as that. An invention that seems so obvious you can’t imagine life without it, or an occasion that just runs like clockwork. The Stable is a restaurant I’d happily add to the list of places that have this ‘X Factor’ – by which I don’t mean they’ve got an emotional backstory. Rather, it’s effortlessly relaxed and welcoming. The type of place where you make the mental note: ‘I must come here often’.
For hour after hour, I’d play on ‘The Triangles’, where tufts of grass became forests in which The A-Team could take cover and broken kerb stones transformed into a ramps that allowed my Knight Rider car to heroically leap any number of death-defying obstacles. I lost teeth, scuffed knees, argued, won (and lost) friends, not to mention Panini trading cards, on ‘The Triangles’ – all (crucially) without the direct supervision of my parents…
Now, I’m sure there’s a fair number of you queuing up to label me an overly sensitive snowflake. Fair enough, but I’m serious here. We, as a society, seem to have lost something. We’ve allowed ‘niceness’ to become a negative trait; something to be purged from our systems in case it shows up as weakness. “Show me a nice person and I’ll show you a pushover” is beginning to feel like the pervasive motto. I realised, standing outside that department store, waiting for in vain for my turn to enter, that I really miss niceness.
Can we have it back please?
“Wait until your father gets home!”
That’s what they used to say, wasn’t it? Except in my house it was always wait until ‘your dad’ gets home – ‘father’ was a word more associated, to my young mind, with priests and Star Wars baddies.
I still remember the whistling in my ears.
A sudden sense of the world being unsteady and the ground coming up to meet me. Landing hard, I was knocked out. Moments later, my eyes opened as several feet walked away. ‘You showed him,’ said an excited voice. The thing was, he hadn’t shown me anything. I still don’t know what I was punched for.
In the course of human history, more arguments have started over who’s in charge of the TV Remote Control than any other subject.
You know it’s true.
So give your dad the ultimate gift: 24 hours of the TV he wants to watch – without criticism.
It’s that time again.
Up and down the country you’ll hear the shrieks as men (old enough to know better) hop around bathrooms trying to staunch the flow of blood after doing their legs a major mischief while trying to shave them smooth. Soon, once 1,000 tiny cuts dry, the same men are dousing themselves in talc and holding their breath as they squeeze into the Lycra outfits that make their professional cycling heroes look like supermen (sadly the effect on most amateurs can hardly be described as ‘super’). Next they’re out on the streets tentatively riding bikes that cost roughly the same amount as a starter home.
In my experience, summer in this country is so fleeting that several times I’ve popped inside to make a cup of tea and missed it completely. “What did you do over the summer?” people will ask. “I ate half a bag of Monster Munch. To be honest, I wasted half of the summer struggling to get the packet open.”