Memories

I was reminded earlier of summer vacations I used to take as a child.

My parents stayed at a place called Llanrwst, in north Wales, for their honeymoon. Note that in Welsh, vowels used to cost extra.

We went back again each year for about the next fifteen years – I didn’t realise at the time what creatures of habit they were. But that period also covered my childhood, so every vacation, pretty much up to the age I stopped going away with them, was spent here, and it was a place I got to know intimately.

One of my memories, there was a castle-cum-stately-home about a mile outside of town. It might only have been half a mile, but my legs were shorter back then. Called Gwydir Castle. They used to open to the public and housed peacocks in the grounds (from their site, it looks like they still do). They also sold seed, to feed them.

It was quite different to Mrs Bump and I. We never went to the same place twice. I can see both sides. We saw a lot more of the world than my parents, but never quite as deep.

Anyway, been playing with software again.

Demanding Venus

I had doubts. When I heard the directors make promises to bait clients, promises which I knew couldn’t be kept, I had doubts. They’d worry about that further down the road. I’d worry about that, further down the road, because it was my job to deliver the promises. When they changed their intended location, it ceased to be consensual, and I had my doubts.

So, I held back.

Continue reading “Demanding Venus”

Wogglicious

inspired by Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC) of 13 March 2021, visual.

Something a little different today. But, with a prompt of “visual” this seemed ideal. The date is 28th October 1978. Andy King scored a screamer to give Everton a 1-0 victory over Liverpool, the first time we had beaten them in years. And I was stuck at Liverpool bloody Cathedral with the sodding Lord Mayor.

But, can you guess which one is me? Click through to a larger image.

Misreading

for the Weekly Prompts Weekend Challenge of 13 March 2021, superfluity.

When I first saw today’s prompt, I misread it. I thought, “Great! Finally! At last! Somebody has issued a decent physiccy prompt” and I was all set to write about superfluids.

A superfluid, by the way, is one with no viscousity. You pour it, it never stops flowing.

Life got even more interesting when I discovered that Superfluid was the name of a mascara.

And then, as if by magic, I realised that I had answered the real prompt, already!

The Lucky Ticket

for the Weekly Prompts Weekend Challenge of 6 March 2021, purple. A childhood memory.

The Loser?

for the Weekly Prompts Weekend Challenge of 27 February 2021, magnificent. Also, I saw that there was a challenge over on MindloveMisery’s Menagerie to come up with a limerick on any subject, so I guess this fits that, too.

A magnificent merchant from Fife,
Has gone and run off with my wife,
But we’ll see, in divorce court,
I’ll make sure she gets nought,
But that poor sod’s gonna get life!

Fractured?

for the Weekly Prompts Weekend Challenge of 20 February 2021, divorce.

I thought about writing a silly limerick, as this is such a good prompt word, but thought I’d try some prose instead.

I’ve never really known divorce. I have friends who are divorced, I have a cousin who is divorced, but I’ve never really seen it close-up. But I thought that, today, I’d post about it, particularly from my parents’ perspective. My parents both died in 2012, but were probably no older than many of you. He was born 1941, she 1944, and under different circumstances, they might still be here. In fact, I still enjoy speaking to my mum’s elder sister to this day.


Divorce was not a word in my parents’ vocabulary. My mum used to moan incessantly at my dad, anout my dad, she would even spend hours alone in a room, shouting (loudly) about my dad. But they stayed together.

After I left home, I presume it continued. From two hundred miles away, she would spend an hour on the phone, complaining about my dad. I used to say, if it was that bad, she should think about getting a divorce (after all, I was no longer a dependent). But she wouldn’t hear of it.

I listened to all of these complaints because I thought that she had nobody else to offload on. A few years later, I was staying with her. Somebody phoned and she spent ages offloading to them – and I realised that, far from being the only person available, my mum would offload on anyone who was prepared to listen.

It was an interesting lesson in people – while I took on board that my mum had a problem, and took the next step of trying to think of a fix, my mum simply wanted to broadcast to people that there was a problem. I’ve found in life that some people can be like that – and I find that their willingness to look for a “fix” governs my own interest in their problem.

But throughout this time, she would not countenance divorce. In fact when I look back at when she seemed happiest, it was when my dad moved into a care home. She was still a “respectable, married woman”, but my dad was not around to bug her.

So, I think she liked the idea of being married (certainly over being divorced) but on the subject of my dad in particular, she might have been more equivocal!

Fallen Star

US football. There’s a scene right at the very start of the movie, The Last Boy Scout, where the running back is rushing, he is about to be tackled, so he pulls out a gun and shoots his would-be tacklers. The point is that the stakes are so high, the guy has blurred the distinction between sport and real-life.

And so it was with the guy I want to talk about today.

When I got into cycling, I was more into doing than watching. I cycled in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, even in Spain. I took my bike with me, wherever I went. But I used to enjoy watching it, too. I watched several Tour of Britain stages, about a half-dozen stages of the world’s leading race, the Tour de France, and visited track cycling events in Belgium.

I was too old, by then, to have idols but one guy stood out above all the others, just for his charisma. You quite naturally wanted him to win.

And win he did! The only time I ever saw him race in the flesh coincided with my very first visit to Le Tour, to see Marco Pantani be crowned the overall race winner, in 1998. Known as Il Pirata, he had already won the Giro (Italy) and here he was, just two months later, winning in Paris too. It was also the first time I went away with Mrs Bump and we stood on the Champs Elysees and cheered. She had no clue about cycling, but was dragged along by the wonderful atmosphere. I had been following the three-week race avidly on TV.

In fact, it was on TV that I watched what I think was Pantani’s greatest win. In 2000, Pantani was forever surrounded in drugs controversy. He had been ejected from one race because of suspicious doping levels (science had not yet caught up with doping), and Pantani generally spent a large amount of time nowhere near his bike. He was considered to be washed-up, eclipsed by the new rising star, Lance Armstrong.

Mont Ventoux is weird. There’s nothing like it. Known just as “the giant”, it is an extinct volcano, down in Provence. It rises, pretty much from sea level, to just shy of 2,000m. Even the professionals, it takes the best part of an hour to climb it, at an average gradient of about 1:8. Very steep, especially considering the distance involved. It’s not the highest mountain, it’s just that it starts so low. It’s a favourite of the Tour. In 2000, ascending Ventoux had come down to a two-horse race, Armstrong versus Pantani. Pantani won, his last big victory. Armstrong, with his eye on the overall title, later said that he had allowed Pantani to win. Only Armstrong knows, but everybody who ever came second could say the same.

Sadly, this was Marco’s last hurrah, and although he raced sporadically until 2003, he never won again. The doping allegations took their toll, he was found guilty of doping by an Italian court – a conviction later quashed, for the simple reason that doping was not yet a crime! The pressure must have been immense, Pantani developed a cocaine habit, and at one point he was admitted to a hospital specialising in the treatment of addictions. In a downward spiral, he was subsequently found dead, from a cocaine overdose in Rimini, on 14 February 2004.

We can look back at Pantani and simply dismiss him as a “doping cheat”, and this was shown years later, in 2013, when the French senate retrospectively tested his samples as part of a larger inquiry into doping. Science, by that time, had caught up. But for me, that doesn’t really matter. All it says is that he was a cheat in an era of cheats. But Marco was the one with the big character, and that will always trump just winning a race. That he came to such a tragic end just adds to his story.

Marco Pantani, 1970-2004
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