Posts Tagged ‘friends’


One of my favourite and most enduring childhood memories is of the long summer holidays. They couldn’t come quick enough and seem to last forever. The summer of 1976 is one that sticks in my mind as it was also the first time I had experienced a heatwave. The skies had been crystal clear blue since May that year and we couldn’t wait to finish school and be free from the classroom and play out and enjoy ourselves. Every day was a special day that year as we played football, went down the valley and messed about on my mates, dads truck. We were happy and carefree and had no idea of what life had in store for us. It was all about living in the moment and enjoying every moment. On one particular day my brother had come home from the army and everyone lost track of time. It was at least 10pm if not later before my mum realised I was still out and called me in to go to bed. Other years whilst not as warm were as long and as happy. The innocence of youth providing a protective barrier for all of us from the pain that life can sometimes bring and providing us with day after day of pure childlike pleasure. They were happy times, good times and I’d go back to them in a flash to relive them over and over again before the storm clouds arrived and it was back to school and the reality of life.


I still remember the very first time I saw Mark Holdsworth at Holme Middle. It was in the playground and Mark was leaning back against the railings that went around the school in his school uniform wearing a pair of Doc Martens surrounded by other kids. He seemed very popular and I remember thinking how I wished I could have a friend like Mark and be popular with kids to talk to and play with all the time. I can’t remember the first time I spoke to him, but we did, and we clicked too as we’re still friends I what must be forty years on from that moment. After that meeting, we were at each other’s houses, playing down the valley, down the woods and on Black Hill. We were pretty much inseparable, and Mark introduced me to other people, some of whom are still my friends and others who drifted away as time went on. These were good times, fun times, times when life is perfect because you don’t understand the world and what is going on in it.


I still remember two people from my early days at Holme Middle. One is a lad called Thomas. He was mixed race, what we called half caste at the time although it must be remembered that we quite often used terminology without understanding it and there wasn’t the awareness back then that there is now. Thomas lived in the children’s home on the other side of the valley. I don’t know the circumstances of why he was in the children’s home and never asked him. The children’s home was the biggest house on the estate and stood out because of this. I can’t remember anyone thinking any differently of the children from the home, they were just kids like us. I started hanging around with Thomas and he started coming back to my house. This ended when my mum caught him stealing money from her purse. I never saw Thomas again. Another lad whose name I can’t remember stood out because he dressed in a more feminine way. It didn’t bother me or anyone else, not in the way it seems to do in today’s society. He was a nice kid and we never said a bad word to each other. I met him again many years later. I was collecting loans on an estate and he lived in a flat there. He’d had a sex change and was engaged to a man who loved him. I was really happy for him. Despite growing up at a time when it was perceived that acceptance of difference was less tolerant he’d trod his own path and become the person he always wanted to be and believed he was, and he’d found love as well which is a very special thing indeed.


It’s September 1976 and the start of a new school year at a new school, Holme Middle. It’s further away than Holmefield First but not by much and I enjoy walking to and from school. Some of my friends from Holmefield First have gone to different schools and I will never see them again, but I make new friends here playing games in the school yard and in lessons. It’s a great start to a new chapter in my life, one without any cares, worries or stresses, one where I can be me and no-one else and live a carefree, happy life. Looking back this could be the last time I felt like this for so long without the changes that growing up is and the stresses and pressures that come with the change of age. With a new school comes new teachers and one of the first to make an impression on me was an elderly gent, probably approaching retirement but one of the nicest teachers I knew. I can’t remember his name now but I do remember that he was kind and knew how to get the best out of you and always had time for you. He drove a Triumph 2500 which at the time was one of the best cars on the market and I loved it! I remember wishing I had one every day I saw it.


Paul is my first friend on Holmewood. We play in the street and on the green, have fun. Paul moves to Cornwall. I never see him again. Malcolm is my next friend. There’s a group of us all playing and having fun. One day I go to Malcolm’s house. His sister looks at me and tells me to leave. She gives no reason. I don’t know why, don’t understand. Maybe she knows something I don’t. I never see Malcolm again.

Chris is my next friend. He’s older than us and the leader of our gang. We play down the valley, jumping over streams, hide and seek, crawling in tunnels, running on trails. I’m enjoying life, having fun with friends, playing with no worries, no fears, no regrets.

More new friends on Holmewood. Paul, Colin and Peter. It’s the summer of 1973. We play football all day and all night. I’m me, I’m free. I’m enjoying life. Food, friends, freedom. Everything I want and need right now. Life is perfect.


Opening my big mouth (again)

My running journey continues

Andrew Smith

Sunday, 06 December 2015

 

This Saturday, 5th December saw what is I hope the final piece in the jigsaw of my return to running from an Achilles tendon injury, although it didn’t start out as such.

The Friday night before I decided to go out as I have a race at Dewsbury in the West Yorkshire Winter League (WYWL) on Sunday, 13th December and I like to stay sober for a couple of days before a race at least! As is usual these days I ended up at the local club although I did start out at a different pub for a change after a friend arranged to meet for a catch up.

At the club the usual suspects were in and what was intended to be a quiet couple of drinks soon turned into a decent session as the beer flowed freely and frequently. Like many runners I am on Strava as are several of the runners from my club, Queensbury Running Club (QRC) and somehow I got into a chat with a couple of other runners from the club about the joys of running off road and challenged them to a run the next day. This might not have been so bad if I wasn’t heavily intoxicated at the time, went for a large Chinese curry afterwards and went to bed late.

One of the many things that alcohol does to me is to make me incredibly brave and stupid at the same time. Bravery in this case making me believe I was fitter, faster and a capable runner than I am, stupidity in challenging faster and more able runners to my challenge. The full realisation of this hit me at 3am the next morning when I woke up and had a vague recollection of the events from the night before and checked my phone to discover they were true and at around 10:45am would become very, very real for me.

So I laid in bed desperately trying to think of a way out of the run and still save face. After an hour I decided that there was no way I could worm my way out of it aside from a major disaster happening. Man flu wouldn’t work especially as one of the runners was female and she would never let me forget it again. Being drunk wouldn’t work nor would getting to bed late so I came to the only sensible conclusion I could that I would have to man up and do the challenge. It was my route after all and I had laid down the challenge.

Secretly I was looking forward to it as it would be a good test of my running abilities since my comeback from injury and the route was tough and good preparation for the forthcoming race. So at 10:45am I arrived at my local Co-op carpark to meet my fellow runners. We had been joined by another club runner so there was now four of us ready to go. Surprisingly considering the session I had the night before I was feeling good although I wouldn’t recommend going for 5 mile mainly off road run on a stomach full of beer and Chinese curry!

The weather was wet and windy as storm Desmond was passing by. This made the route more interesting as much of it would be muddy and wet grass which would make it more difficult and challenging. The first part of the route was a steady downhill to a pub just out of Queensbury. My three fellow runners set off at pace as I expected and although I couldn’t keep up with them I soon found my own steady pace and kept them in sight. At the pub we met up and went through the carpark to a row of houses behind. Passing between two houses we were soon into a wet and muddy field, heading down to a stream and then back up the other side and to the main road.

At the main road my companions set off at a decent pace again and I did my best to maintain my own decent pace. Luckily for me one of the other runners was familiar with the area so I wasn’t holding them back too much. The road goes downhill and then turns left going into a short but steep ascent. About three quarters of the way is a stone stile which was the next part of the route. Passing through this stile leads you into a farmers field. At the bottom of the field is a dirt track that leads you past the farm and back onto the road. The field is a sprint even in wet conditions and is a good test of speed and stamina.

When we had reached the road we went over it heading towards the village of Clayton. However we only went along this road a short distance before turning right and up a steep and long hill. This hill is quite a challenge as it is grass and the wet conditions made it slippy underfoot. I really struggled on here because of the pace being set by the other runners. This was my fault setting a challenge when I was drunk! However despite struggling it is still a very satisfying feeling when you reach the top of the hill and you look down and can see how far you have come.

The next part of the route took us round the top of the hill before we got to a small quarry and made our way down a short but steep embankment and onto a road called Brow Lane. This is well known locally as it is steep on both sides leading you down to the bottom of a valley and back out again. Whichever way you approach it you have a steep incline to get up and it is a good test of your climbing ability.

We headed down here and up the other side under an old railway bridge. Again I struggled and I was starting to feel the effects of the climbing and pace due to my lack of fitness and pace compared with the others. However I knew that I would benefit from the run because my fitness and pace would improve and if my Achilles held up then mentally it would be a massive step forward for me and give me confidence to go faster and further.

After the bridge there is a row of houses and a track called Bridle Stile Lane. This starts off road and is rough terrain with plenty of loose rocks to keep you focused on where you put your next step. At the top of the first incline the lane turns to tarmac and flattens out for a short distance before rising steeply back up the main road. The flatter bit gave me some respite but I was breathing heavy now and walking, determined to do my best and not give up. When I made the challenge I had said I had a killer to finish off with. At this point in the middle of Bridle Stile Lane I was considering changing my mind and heading back to the car park which wasn’t far now.

Instead at the top of the lane the others decided that they wanted to continue and do the full route. I felt mixed about this as I felt totally exhausted and ready to go home but also looking forward to the final part of my challenge. We then ran down a short distance before heading off road again up a short but steep track known as Harp Lane. This was very wet and muddy and even the others struggled a bit on this. At the top we met up and headed back down the main road to the carpark where we had a quick chat. The others congratulated me on a tough, challenging route, just over 5 miles and 800ft of climbing that takes in pretty much everything you could imagine.

I got home and felt relived but proud too. I had pushed myself to my limits and done the very best I could on the day. My Achilles had more than held up and I feel that my injury worries are behind me. A massive thanks to my fellow QRC runners who came with me for supporting me and waiting for me. They helped me push myself harder and further than I would have done on my own. I did say to them that I felt bad for holding them up and that if they wanted to drop me from the group I would understand. However they wouldn’t have any of it and said I was welcome to come along again. I’m really looking forward to the next run as they will help me push myself more and get out of my comfort zone. Well done everyone who came on the run.

And hopefully I will think twice before I open my big mouth again!