Adam Bird


become a fan on Facebook

Sunday, 28 August 2011

A Summer Through Time & Living in the Minds of Strangers

The Bicycle Man

At the end of June, I disclosed through the pages of this blog that I was at the beginning of a project. Under the working title of “The Bicycle Man” I’d began writing something that I termed as “substantial” without actually going as far as saying that it was an attempt to write a novel. At the time, I’d barely written over a thousand words - tonight, just two months later, that word count stands at a catchphrase under 30,000. Does it mean therefore that I have to enough to start calling it something else?

In writing this blog, purely for my own benefit as a way of encouragement to myself. A way of measuring a milestone and saying “this is what you have done so far, keep going”. In two months I have gone from having an empty word document with a photograph (seen in the banner above) of a man  I’d never spoken to and an introductory few paragraphs that sparked a set of questions with answers that I needed to deliver. And now, I have some substance, of who the man was, where he is now and how he managed to tell his story. I still have no idea where it’s heading or how it’s going to end, but I am getting there!

The problem I have right now though, is the ugly old monster of confidence. In my mind, I think to myself, what’s the point? You've spent all this time, all this effort and for what? It won’t ever be published, people won’t enjoy it and it won’t be no good. What’s the point in a manuscript sitting somewhere on the cloud, accessed by me from time to time to read and depress myself about the time that I could have spent doing something more productive?

Self doubt is a poisonous thing and I cope with that by badgering my sister, sending her finished chapters and asking her for an opinion, or anyone else who may ask me about what I’m doing. When she replies back, “yes it’s really good”, I then worry even more, is she is only just saying that because she is my sister, does she hate it really? I get myself into this vicious circle and if it wasn't for the fact that I've written so much it’s any wonder I haven’t ctlr+alt+deleted the whole thing.

Instead, what has pushed me so far is not necessarily about the length, or whether or not it is good enough, has been just the shear determination and will to finish something. I might not ever have a published novel, but at least I can say that I have written one, that I have been through the process and beaten my own demons whilst doing it. More importantly, that it has been a pleasure and a source of enjoyment and that come the end - whenever that may be, there will be huge sense of loss for the people I’ll leave behind. The characters that I have created, The Bicycle Man and his wife, his best friend Pete who went missing just when they’d finally had the chance to start living and Ian, the man whose sympathetic ear helped heal some wounds in his own life as The Bicycle man unburdened his.

Whatever happens, success or failure, I’ll remember this summer as the summer I went back in time, researched the war, read a book called “Lost voices of the Royal Navy” in an attempt to understand better the horrors of the sea and sacrifices that many sailors made for our country. What it was like to be an evacuee and how some people were not as fortunate as others, a human lottery where dependant upon your number your fate was sealed with sometimes fateful circumstances. Or if not looking back, sitting on the train on my commute home with my “Ian” head on, thinking about possible scenarios I could put him in and how he might deal with them. Or his wife, Lucy, his best mate Rob, or the copper Ian turns to - a continual growing cast that need a back story, an angle and a role to play within the narrative.

To ask again; do I have enough yet to call it something else? Well... no, would be my honest answer. I’m fearful of calling it a novel as I’m not sure I want the pressure, but it’s almost certainly beyond the scope of a short story! I'm going to keep it simple, it is what it is - one of two unfinished documents sitting snuggly within the confines of my computer, this being one of them. Let’s just leave it at that for now...

Sunday, 21 August 2011

A Sad End to a Smart Start

This week is a sad week in the Bird household. For Oliver particularly, but also for us as parents, as Oliver leaves Smart Start, the nursery which he has been attending for the past three and a bit years before heading off the week after into the big brave world of Shears Green Infant school and full time education.

With Stephanie and I having to remain in full time employment and unable to rely on the constant goodwill of our families we needed to find a day nursery in the local area for Oliver to stay two days a week. At the time, we were living on the Overcliffe, which was just down the road from Smart Start day nursery which is owned and managed, funnily enough by the parents of our good friend Stuart. We’d also heard glowing reviews from other friends whose own children had attended the nursery so it was always going to be our first choice.

Despite having such a personal relationship with the nursery owners Stephanie and I have nothing but wonderful things to say about the nursery and it is part of the reason why this week is tinged with such sadness. Oliver simply loves getting up each day and going to school, telling Stephanie and I about his day upon his return and the things that he has done and the friends that he has made. We are both hugely grateful at their role in his development and encouragement of the things that he enjoys doing and allowing his personality to flourish, which is just as important in our eyes as learning numeracy and reading at this stage of his education.

It would be too easy for us to be accused of bias, that because of our friendship we are bound to say nice things, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The nursery manager is only one person and has little involvement with Oliver’s day-to-day life within the nursery. There is a whole structure of classroom attendants and room managers which Oliver sees day in, day out and it is these people that have made his time at nursery so special, rewarding and fulfilling.

So what makes it all so sad? The fact that Oliver is leaving somewhere that he has always been happy, even if he did say once that the teachers were trying to kill him and on another occasion that the teachers hadn’t fed him which were tales of his over enthusiastic imagination, tales that Stephanie and I still laugh at, fuelled by goodness knows what. Its another step towards growing up, where those funny innocent stories get replaced by the gritty realities of real life, exam pressures, homework, school playground bullies and the frustrations of having to learn.

As a pregnant and emotive Stephanie and I discussed this week at the dining table the other night and she sniffled back a few tears, I said to her that it’s not all bad, we have another child due soon and he or she will no doubt be attending Smart Start at some point - after all, every child should have Smart Start, we’re just so very glad that Oliver did!

Finally, I thought I’d ask Oliver some questions about his time at nursery. Here is what he said.

Q) Who is your favourite teacher?
A) Maria, it was Sarah, but she went so it’s Maria now.

Q) What’s your favourite dinner you have at school?
A) Cheesy Pasta, it’s yummy

Q) What will you miss most about Smart Start?
A) Everything!

Q) What is your favorite thing at Smart Start?
A) Playing with K’nex

Q) And who are your friends at school?
A) Mia, Kelly, Caleb and Joshun!

Monday, 15 August 2011

The Journey Begins

I remember my first Gillingham away game. I remember the second one too, in fact, I could probably give you a snippet or a fact from them all. Like that first one, which was way back in 87, on the open away terrace at Southend United. My younger sister Jessica was also there and I remember my fingers being stained from eating a packet of Bovril flavoured crisps. But the thing that I remember more than anything else was swallowing a whistle which I had sucked inwards rather than blowing out in order to make a reverse whistling noise and having my Dads best friend performing the Heimlich maneuver to wrestle it out when it got wedged in my windpipe. It’s why I thought that I’d better record Oliver’s first Gills away game - as it wasn’t quite so interesting.

I’d had a call from Bampy on Friday afternoon, would I like to go to Crewe on Saturday? Our weekend was already planned and it involved gardening, running, rowing and taking you down the park to learn how to ride a bike with two wheels, but Bampy was adamant that I went! I explained that Mummy was at work and we’d need to get someone to look after you for a couple of hours, but his response was rather surprising - bring you with us! He was already taking Paris as some great child swapping routine was already taking place, so I agreed, we’d be going!

It took us just over four hours to drive up to Crewe, it would have been quicker but Bampy was doing an experiment with fuel economy and you decided to play another one of your bathroom games. We stopped off at the services where you asked “are we at the football now?”, “No Oliver we are not”. Bampy got us all a drink whilst we went to the bathroom. I’d told Bamby to get you only a small drink as I knew how difficult you found keeping anything in. No sooner had we gotten back in the car, driven for half an hour you told us that you needed to use the bathroom again. Not being able to stop for another twenty miles we asked you to hold it in, which was a task that you only just about managed before we got there in time.

Once we had arrived, parked the car outside the ground and brought our tickets, which itself was an experience. The lady in the ticket office refusing to charge you for a ticket as you were under 5, despite the price list clearly showing under 11 ticket prices as a fiver. We thanked her very, very much and asked ourselves whether we’d be afforded the same treatment back home at Priestfield? Anyhow, onto food, we wanted to find a Pizza Hut, or something Oliver and Paris friendly, but all we found were fish’n’chip shops. Crewe must have more fish’n’chip shops per mile than any non-seaside town I’ve ever been to, but we picked a good one with a nice seating area for a well deserved prematch meal, which included a nice Mr Whippy for desert, which you carried all the way back with you to the ground whilst Bampy disappeared to the bookies after a hunch that the Gills would run out winners 2-0.

Once in the ground, we found a place to sit, second row from the front, which was great for you and Paris as you could watch everything that was going on. For five whole minutes you sat in relative peace and quiet, watching the players train and to your amazement kicking the ball “really, really high into the sky”, but the novelty soon worn off and you preferred to mess around in your chair which folds up when nobody sits in it - annoying me, the person in front and the person behind in the process.

Through further bribery, sweets, iPhone threats and what not, we managed to get through the first half without me having to moan at you too much. Gillingham scored twice, much to my delight, but Bampy sat there looking rather nervously at his betting slip and wishing it was the final whistle rather than the one for half time. After Gillingham had scored there second goal, and Bampy had said to Paris that Gillingham were winning 2-0, Paris asked him “what ones are Gillingham?”

The second half began, you were more fidgety and bored, managed to drag me away from the action for yet another bathroom break, which fortunately didn’t coincide with any on the pitch action, so nothing missed. More fidgeting ensued before you said to me “Daddy, I don’t know what to do?”, “What do you mean, you don’t know what to do?”, I don’t want to watch football” you said, “I don’t like football, I don’t know what to do!”. If there was a more hurtful thing I’d ever heard you say, I cannot remember it, but there we were an hour into the game and you deciding that you didn’t like football! Until the Crewe player hit the ball so hard, missed the goal and went over the stand, which was your personal highlight of the day as it was the first thing you told Mummy when we got home.

Much to Bampy’s disappointment Crewe pulled a goal back, which meant, for Bampy and I, along with the other 293 Gillingham supporters a nervous finale to game. You and Paris made up the official total of 297 away fans, but wouldn’t have seen the three goal line clearances or the fantastic saves made by our goalkeeper Ross Flitney as you were too busy giving each other Chinese burns or in your case, staring at the people behind you despite my numerous attempts to tell you otherwise.

All in all, a semi-successful day, Gillingham won meaning that they had two league wins out of two, Bampy lost his bet, but broke a new fuel economy record, whilst yours and Paris’ first Gillingham away game passed by merely as a statistic. To sum it all up, I’ll leave that to Paris, Bampy asked her “Paris, did you enjoy that?”, “Yeah”, “Would you like to go again?”, “No!”

Oliver and Paris, with Bampy at Gresty Road, Crewe

For the Record

Oliver's first Gillingham away match

Crewe lineup: Steve Phillips, Harry Davis, David Artell, Adam Dugdale, Carl Martin, Ashley Westwood, Lee Bell, Luke Murphy (Ajay Leitch-Smith 67), Shaun Miller (Max Clayton 87), Byron Moore, Nick Powell (Danny Shelley 64), Subs not used: Alan Martin, Caspar Hughes

Gillingham lineup: Ross Flitney, Barry Fuller, Andy Frampton, Lee Martin, Matt Lawrence, Charlie Lee, Chris Whelpdale (Curtis Weston 34), Jack Payne (Stefan Payne 83), Danny Spiller (Matt Fish 88), Lewis Montrose, Danny Kedwell, Subs not used: Paolo Gazzaniga, Garry Richards

Result: 1-2

Attendance: 3,401 (297 Gillingham Supporters)

Monday, 8 August 2011

In Awe of the Foursome

In recent years, a group of my friends, organised and skippered by my good friend Will have taken part in the Great River Race, an event which takes place every September on the River Thames and sees a large quantity of boats, of varying classes being rowed by crews of varying sizes from Greenwhich to Richmond, a course that meanders through central London for more than twenty long, hard miles.

Last year, I participated for the first time. Not as a rower, but as passenger, which all boats entering are obliged to carry. “What a great day out!”, you might think, “aboard a boat sailing up the river Thames, taking in the sights and relaxing serenely on the river as it heads west past Fulham and the leafier, greenier parts of the London waterway system”. Except it isn’t quite that comfortable. Magog, which is the name of our boat, isn’t really suited to carrying a passenger. The oarsman and the coxswain are suitably accommodated for, but any passenger is asked to perch precariously on a triangular platform at the bow of the vessel, leaning up against a broomstick which acts a flag-pole carrying our rudimentary insignia, whilst also ensuring that your legs are suitable positioned and not in the way of the last rower who needs to be given plenty of room to do what it is that he needs to do.

All in all, the experience last year was very much an eye opener. I had started to go out with the guys during their training sessions from near the sea school at Gravesend and once, twice a week they would row up river, or down dependant upon the tide, whilst I coxed, itself being something I’d never done before. But these training sessions were never particularly long or strenuous affairs and I hadn’t realised just what importance the coxswain role is to the team. Rather than just steering the boat, as I tend to do whilst dodging other maritime vehicles and having a nose around at what is happening along the shore. The cox acts as a rhythm keeper and a morale lifter as was perfectly demonstrated by Mark during last years race who constantly counted to ten at the top of voice and screaming “come on”, “you can do it” to the team - something which I’d not be able to do as nearly as well, preferring to keep quiet and watching the world go by.

Having seen the guys row for what amounts to just over three hours, without stopping, the effort, the determination and guts required to break through the pain barrier of fatigue on more than one occasion was pretty awe inspiring. I’ve never been much of a sportsman, preferring less strenuous sports such as Pool perhaps or PlayStation and tiddlywinks, but this year, somehow, I’ve been included into the party again but as a passenger stroke rower instead - meaning that once one of the crew has hit the physical wall of pain, I’ll be taking over and relieving them for a mile or so just whilst they recharge their batteries and can get going once again..

Now as I say, I’m not quite sure how this came into being, I thought that I was helping out from time to time again during their summer training and that any rowing I took part in was just an experience of saying that at least I’ve tried it, but I now I find myself having a month to get myself into some kind of sporting shape - which to put things mildly, will require a rather large miracle!

For the past two weeks I have been running (yes, running), from the house to where our boat is moored and rowing during part of each training session trying to get some kind of grip on the technique, rhythm and more importantly stamina required to make sure that I’m not letting the side down come race time. If there was one thing that stood out last year was that each of the crew to a man rowed for the team and not each other and there is no worse scenario in my mind having to row even a short distance and letting the whole crew down - so I have lots of work to do over the next few weeks or so!

Still, whatever happens, if I fall overboard or row like Steven Redgrave it can only be a good thing, a bit of exercise and fitness has never harmed anyone and if I can reduce some of the excess pounds which have applied themselves to my waistline since I stopped smoking and got married it can only benefit my long term health and vitality!

Find out more information about the Great River Race right here.

Monday, 1 August 2011

In Hessenthaler, We Trust


Life as a lower league football supporter is never easy. You base three months of your life in the hope and expectation that the new season is going to be better than the last, that the team which left you deflated at the end of the previous campaign undergoes a miraculous transformation and that in those three summer months those players suddenly morph into world beaters and take the league by storm.

Last season as a Gillingham fan was not much fun. It started as all seasons do with expectation, the return of Andy Hessenthaler as manager and according to the club “the biggest budget of the division”, nothing less than promotion would be acceptable and we were on a mission to bounce back to League One at the first time of asking. Supporters had just witnessed the pitiful manner in how the club were relegated on the final match of the season before, away to Wycombe Wanderers, which was personally my lowest moment as a Gillingham Football Club supporter - a team bereft of passion, of desire in wanting to wear the shirt of the club with pride.

In the end, it was all one huge anti-climax, the team couldn’t get going, the long term away record which saw us go a whole season away from home without a single away win hung like an albatross around the players neck and continued half way into the last campaign, finally ending in late November with a single goal victory over Oxford United. By then the damage had been done. The club were languishing towards the bottom of the league and were outplayed and outclassed at home against Dover Athletic, the team who ironically had supplied us acrimoniously with our management team the summer before.

It was a case of too little, too late, the team started churning out results and went on a long and near record breaking undefeated run, pushing us up into the play-off places and at one point threatening the top three clubs for that elusive automatic promotion spot. The team however, ran out of steam, with two, easy on paper home fixtures in succession a play-off place was to be a formality. But watching Gillingham is not for the feint heated. We proceeded to lose at home against both sides, Barnet and Macclesfield Town, both teams hitting four goals against us. Abject defensive performances that had echo’s of the Stimson team that performed so terribly away from home the season before. Fortress Priestfield was no longer. Teams had come, done a job on us or in the case of the two teams above, outclassed and outplayed us. At least with Hessenthaler’s predecessor we could hide behind the success of our home form, which was one of the best is the country but now, even our home games had become depressing affairs.

I have a family and mortgage now, bills are due, long gone are the days when I’d be able to spend each weekend travelling the length and breadth of the country in the name of Gillingham Football Club. I do unfortunately have to pick and choose. I go to away games that are close by, of if the opportunity presents itself a long haul away game to a club that I haven’t yet been to. So to watch my team at home nowadays, I expect a little more, I want to be entertained, to see goals, to see effort, commitment and if you are lacking in natural skill, those traits are even more important.

Since May passed, then June, the club had been quiet, no news is good news, or so they say. Rumour abounded on the Internet, players we maybe signing, our best out of contract players who had been offered new deals failed to sign and went on to bigger or better things, or in the case of Akinfenwa, back to his old club Northampton, which added more fuel to the fire. “The club have no money, no ambition and that we’d be relegated next year”. But these were the voice of WUM’s (Wind Up Merchants), who sit behind keyboards and type away the first things that come into their heads without measured reasoning or information to back up their arguments, to kill the drudgery of the their daily existence.

Instead, at the beginning of July, the club announced over the course of two days, a list of seven signings which, more than anything was a huge sign of intent from the chairman and management team. Andy Frampton, Lewis Monstrose, Chris Whelpdale, Charlie Lee, Ross Flitney and Matt Fish all signed as well as Danny Kedwell, which was most refreshing of all as during his press conference he came out the closet as being a passionate Gills supporter and used to stand on the old Rainham End as a kid growing up. As a fan you want to know that your team are up for fighting for the cause and their is no better player than the a player turning out for the team he supports.

No sooner had the plan started to come together, disaster struck. Firstly, after we’d recruited another striker, Dover Athletic’s Adam Bircall (they really don’t like us), suffered an unfortunate serious knee injury after only a few fleeting appearances during pre-season. This coincided with Ian Hendon, our assistant manager leaving for West Ham which now leaves the club in some what of a mini-crisis. We are now left with a last minute search for a new striker to cover long term, as well as a new coach to take some of the work load off of the team manager and coaching team.

Whelpdale who helped rescue our season in a brief cameo loan spell are a cut above League Two standard, but we remain terribly short upfront, particularly if anything was to befall Kedwell, a player himself who is untried and tested at league level.

At the moment, despite the new season being only five days away, we look to be in good short term shape. We may not be entirely ready for the duration of a long campaign, what with still having some tinkering to do up front, but the chairman who should be applauded for his backing and trust of the manager will be working hard on resolving that. The budget has been stretched and the players have been brought in to give us a fighting chance. It’s down to the much loved and respected Andy Hessenthaler to lead the way now, prove that he has got what it takes and that he can be a manager for us half as good as he was a player.

If I have to make a prediction, which I should do really, I’m going be bold and predict a successful promotion winning campaign. We seem to have a more solid defense, the signing of Andy Frampton could prove to be a masterstroke. We have competition at right and left back, which we haven’t had for a while and as I said above our midfield looks to be the strongest in the league. I’m confident that the club will find a solution to our striker woes and that with the midfield we have, creating chances will not be a problem. Taking them, as always is the difference between success and failure, which for us this season - is not an option.

Newer Posts » Older Posts » Home »

Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)

Contact me: via Google+