Tour De Lance – Part 1

I have always been into cycling, and always fascinated by the Tour De France. It is an amazing spectacle. Whichever side of the fence you stand on; whether you hate cyclists altogether, or just the ones that you believe clog up the road in the morning, or just the ones that take drugs, professional cyclists are a different breed.

The drugs allegations have always perplexed me. I knew from years back, when Lance Armstrong came back after his treatment that he was taking something. The improvement was incredible. Indeed once he was asked ‘Is it a miracle?’ To which he replied ‘Yes, it is’.

His behaviour, his power and control and cruelty which he would yield as briskly as a ‘kick’ up a mountain, was as brutal as could be possible, superseded only by his arrogant denials. There were a few racing at the time who I never suspected, who also turned out to be dopers or cheats as they are more widely known. They, for some reason I didn’t think were cheating, but I always thought he was. It seemed he quickly started believing his own lie, made much more easily by some of those around him not only ignoring what he was doing, but others in very high places, actually assisting him.

The president of the UCI at the time, (I won’t mention his name or the event), once allegedly said to Lance, ‘We have found something in your system; you need to give us a reason for it being there.’

This to me was and is astonishing, but a lot of people don’t blame Lance for the lies, they despise him because of the arrogance, the denials, and the power and cruelty he displayed in a nonchalant, god like way. I do think he is an extremely intelligent man, and he has been through an awful lot, some his own making, some out of his control. People have used him, and he has used others. Guess that makes him human, but some of what he did was evil. Other things he did were wonderful and beautiful and generous and overwhelming, and he seemed brilliant with children.

To me, he seems almost machine like, he kind of looks like one, like a variation of a new Terminator (if you know the films). This isn’t surprising really. Imagine getting over cancer; imagine having your head cut open and lesions cut from your brain, pretty spectacular stuff really. He said that whatever happened in cycling, whatever he did, nothing would be as painful. He said he looked at winning the Tour as life or death, as that’s the way he views everything now.

I think this strength, this determination, and this darn right doggedness not to die, would change you, and would totally determine the rest of your life. I’m not condoning what he has done but I kind of see why he did it. The old lame excuse of everyone was doing it doesn’t hold any validity at all, and neither should it. And it is this I have never understood. Pro cyclists do about 12,000 miles a year, that’s the same average as a family car. It is incredible. They work their socks off; make all sorts of sacrifices and concessions in the pursuit of cycling perfection. So, they get to a point when they are good, but just not quite there. They must know or at least suspect that those above are doping, so why don’t they stay being true? Why do they make the leap? I think pressure from all circles plays a part, including team managers, (in some cases), but also, they must get to a point and think what the hell, everyone else is doing it.

This is the bit I don’t get, why would they risk it? If I was a pro rider in the Tour, and I finished say 60th every year, approximately halfway down the general classification I would obviously have a hard time staving off the desire to join the elite, but I wouldn’t for one simple reason. All the effort that had gone before would be for nothing, both in my head, and if I got caught.

David Millar who for quite a while was England’s best hope, came clean (if you pardon the pun) and admitted as soon as he was asked that he was doping. Incidentally it’s worth noting that the French even have a word for those who are cheating within pro circles, how widespread does that make it? He started once he lost a few races and stages in succession and just couldn’t keep up. He was directed, by his team boss, to go and recuperate with a colleague down in Spain. The colleague happened to be a well known doper. Coincidence? Hmmmmm. David cracked, not in pure cycling terms, but in terms of capitulating and starting to cheat. He got to a stage where he said he felt like a motorbike and the crux came when it wasn’t if he was going to dope, but when.

I do find this sad. I know for those of you who aren’t interested in cycling you’d have not read this article at all, but the whole psychological aspect of cycling is incredible. Here as some quite astounding facts:-

• Mark Cavendish crashed out of this year’s TDF. He did this because he caused a crash, while fending off a rival by leaning his head against another rider at over 40mph
• The average speed of this year’s TDF is 26mph. That’s including 3 weeks,
numerous mountains and over 2,270 miles of racing.

• The average time trial speed for this year was 28 mph over 33 miles.

• 12 of the 23 TDF riders questioned think Lance should have his Tour wins back

Now, which one of these facts stays mostly in your mind?

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Clementine – (A short story, written as poem)

He sat down on his comfy chair
The sense of regret was everywhere
He squeezed the Clementine to see if it was ripe
He wished this was another night

The small fruit tendered gently in his hand
This night had not gone as planned
The radio turned on to change the mood
How tonight could he think of food?

With all that had gone on and with what he had seen
With what others had done and with what he had been
Now he sat with just a Clementine
The radio and a glass of wine

How did this happen?
How did we get here?
With all the hope surrounded by fear

No one will listen
No one will believe
He will be found guilty
No sense of reprieve

He slowly peeled and looked at the skin
All those segments contained within
All the veins, the oils, the juice could squirt
He still saw her face under the dirt

He peeled it gently all in one go
What else those hands did only he would know
With each movement there slipped his time
Slowly slowly, the Clementine

With each hand he would reveal
All the truth, him holding the peel
There in his hand all the segments of his deed
The fruit intact but his heart would bleed

Now in half he disposed of the rind
How he hoped they would be kind
It would have to end, he couldn’t take any more
The Clementine fell, footsteps up to the door

Mark Scotchford © 14/07/2014

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IM&T Department

Please call the Service Desk
Between 8 & 6
Whatever the problem
We can find a fix

We are IM&T
Here to assist
We try to hit targets
Have we missed?

Whether its word or RiO
We’ll do what we can
We have direction
Implement a plan

There’s Technical Support
They will be at your desk
Installing a printer
We aim to impress

There are other sections
Behind the scenes
To find solutions
We have the means

System Administration
What do they do?
They allow all the systems
To be available to you

Network Admin
Make sure the connections are in place
We constantly improve
Watch this space

There is Projects too
And don’t forget Training
We hope these words
Have done some explaining

Mark Scotchford © 27/06/2014

Wrote this for a work event, it was quite well received.

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Does fat mean fail?

I was bullied at school. Not all the time, not constantly, but there was certainly an underlying sense it could happen. Until one day when I finally lost my temper and stuffed someone inside a bin; but that’s a different story. Needless to say, the bullying stopped after that.

I was overweight at school for sure, still am now, but less so. So why was I? Why am I? And is it a big deal? Why is there such a stigma attached to being overweight? Was that the reason I was bullied? Conversely, why should someone be fat? Who cares? Does it only affect them? Is it there choice and no one else’s? We have different names for it too; there is overweight, obese, and morbidly obese. Should it be OK to be either of these?

‘Being different’

You can be bullied because you are fat, bullied because you are different. I was both, and the two are not necessarily interlinked at all. Being different to me, is such societies way of saying you don’t conform, you’re not like other children, you don’t think or act the same, and you constantly ask questions and be inquisitive. By the way, these traits have a habit of really annoying your school friends, and more so, the teachers. They can also really frustrate your bosses, when you finally do grow up and leave school. You can be bullied and then become fat, or bullied because you are, but there are underlying causes.

I was always fascinated at school by the fact we never saw colour or creed, which was wonderful, but children always knew who the fat child was, and they seemed constantly met with derision. I personally wasn’t picked on for being fat, there were children much bigger than me, and two of them were proper hard core, no nonsense bullies. Guess how I know that?

My susceptibility to being bullied went far deeper, and has really influenced how I see the whole picture of bullies and the bullied, and what makes one and the other.

Animalistic

If you look at nature, a few things stand out. Most species are lean, size does and doesn’t matter, nature generally takes a path of least resistance, nature can be brutal, symmetry is everywhere, if something is used it grows, if it doesn’t it goes. All these traits are geared towards survival and the ability to reproduce.

If a Cheetah can’t run fast, it can’t catch prey, it eventually will die. If a Cheetah damages its paw, and it’s overweight, the extra weight will exacerbate the healing process, it will take longer to heal. It may not even be able to heal, because of the extra weight, it will die.

Scientists have actually proved this and there is even some odd equation that states for every 1lb you are overweight your knee joint will count an extra 5lb in the healing process.

An ex girlfriend had a photo of me and 3 other guys on her wall at work. One of us was devilishly handsome. It wasn’t me. She worked at a girl’s school and 5 year olds would enter her office, then point at the person in the photo who wasn’t me and always say: – ‘who is that?’

Even at that age, they knew who was good looking and it seems symmetry makes us good looking. If you don’t believe me, look at a flower or a leaf.
In the same way an animal that limps is an animal that could die; a child or a person that is overweight must signal to everyone the same message. Fat = premature death or weakness which = death.

It’s shocking to say but it is true. We are animals after all. I think it is entirely plausible that the brain can decide we are to eat ourselves to death, and although that is an entirely exaggerated concept, I do believe it in principal to be possible. We can give a signal to say ‘I don’t want to live.’

Also, sugar and addiction etc, is caught up in all these permutations too. Of course, yet again, the opposite is true, we can starve ourselves to death, become anorexic you be the victim of a multitude of other eating disorders. I also think we must look at the element of metabolism. I don’t think our metabolism is predefined, predisposed to always be the same. Just as it changes with climate and exercise, I think we can change it too, in a small way, by the mood we are in etc. Obviously different metabolism rates exist, but I don’t think they can account for huge swings weight fluctuation. There must be studies where two people of the same height, sex, age, and weight have been given the same routine with the same diet and the results measured? I’d like to see the findings.

Studies have shown that if you are about 7lb’s overweight you are actually healthier. You have a slightly higher immune system and because of the slightly higher weight you are less susceptible to colds etc. Another thing I’ve noticed is, due to my excessive weight, I can go 24 hours without eating, quite comfortably, providing I do little exertion. A person that is at the correct weight; (according to science) when hungry, will really need to eat because there are no reserves, nothing for the body to fall back on, no resources to tap into. These people are also far more susceptible to catching cold’s etc at this precise point in time as their immune system is lower.

Another contrasting point is although we consider ‘fat’ and ‘obese’ to be incredibly unhealthy, people that are seem to hardly ever get colds. It just seems harder for any germs or bacteria to get through.

Fat Cat

For centuries, being fat has been seen as a sign of wealth, it is nothing new. The big city executive getting out of his huge chauffer driven car, in an expensive tailored suit that still doesn’t quite fit, as it competes to retain the overwhelming belly that protrudes over the strained belt. This is how I imagine a fat cat to be now, but 100’s of years ago, a similar thing would be seen, but the relative paraphernalia that accompanies it would be different. Horses, goats, farmland, large sellers, more staff, etc. Is this living well?

Also, I mention being lean and size as in counting and not. In some circumstances it does, and in others it doesn’t. A cat can be scared of a spider; a bear could be scared of a small grass snake. A large elephant seal will dominate his territory and most of its bulk can be fat. A large cheetah, if too fat, will lose its territory and eventually die. So I guess it comes down to environment?

Just as the elephant seal can not only survive but thrive if huge and grotesque in its environment, so can a fat executive survive in his? If the environment changes, then how quick they adapt will make the difference. And size and intelligence will play a part in this.

In short, ask yourself this…..how many ‘obese’ people do you ever see escaping from a natural disaster?

Mark Scotchford ©28/06/2014

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I’m Sorry

I’m sorry I didn’t perform
So sorry I shied away from the norm

I’m sorry I didn’t succeed
The warnings I did not heed

So sorry I didn’t hear a word
To me it seemed absurd

Sorry I didn’t do as you say
Remind me who you are anyway

So sorry I didn’t believe
You won’t notice if I have to leave

So sorry for writing what I think
You’re so smart, can you see the link?

So sorry these words are lost
Count your wealth, consumed by cost

So sorry you didn’t even see
Who you and I are meant to be

Mark Scotchford © 11/06/2014

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A short story – Part 1 – Then & Now

Then

Tracey and Tristian had an understanding, she was always right. Sure he could have his opinions, and express them any way he wanted, but Tracey had the final say. Their names; such a contrast in the perceived unrealistic interpretation of class convention, was always a source of amusement to them and their friends.

They both relished the usual conversation between new friends and acquaintances of how they and their names became intertwined. For some their names were just that, but for others, familiar with the popular culture of naming someone based on the trend at the time, theirs held an interesting significance.

Being born as they were, on the same year, they seemed to grow up at the opposite ends of the 80’s class divide. Many thought there were no class divides any more in the UK, but the masses knew different. A strategic end of war decision by governments meant that those with much would live close by to those with little. To the casual observer, a coincidence echoed throughout England, but it was part of a carefully orchestrated social plan.

Tristian and Tracey were a good example of this social interspersion. Tracey; born to a working class family, growing up on a South London council estate. Tristian; born and bred with money, although the wealth came from a very modest pursuit. His father owned a number of Fish & Chip shops.

He had a grasp on frugality though, and learnt the value of money early on in life. His father, rewarding him for doing well in exams, bought him a portable CD player, worth £200 at the time. Within two weeks, he handed it back to his dad broken, with a nonchalant ‘fix it’ glance. The CD player wasn’t fixed until Tristian got a job working in Woolworths saving up to get it repaired himself.

It was a subtle but valuable life lesson, and Tristian knew the value of money from then on, and its power. A quality that endeared Tracey to him from the moment they met. She was walking in the rain, some 10 years ago now, high heeled shoes coming apart in the rain as she walked, their soft leather uppers even more beyond repair with each puddle she stepped in. The interview had gone well, but now with little money, she was forced to walk home in the rain, unable to afford any other mode of transport.

Tristian pulled up alongside her in his Audi A3 sport, bought new that week.
‘Want a lift?’ he said, after grimacing at the rain soaking his immaculate shirt and arm as the window opened
‘I’m not getting in your Audi’ she said, with a look of discourse and intrigue
‘Isn’t the response supposed to be, I’m not getting in your car? What difference does it make if its an Audi? Don’t you like them? If I had of pulled up in a Vauxhall Corsa, would that have been better?’
Tracey laughed, she couldn’t help it. He was mildly amusing she thought as she could feel droplets of water running down her back.
‘You’re right, the car doesn’t matter, and I like Audi’s, I just don’t want to get in the car with a stranger, and…You are a stranger, and besides, as I like Audi’s, I wouldn’t want your seat to get wet’.
It was Tristian’s turn to laugh, as he thought of something to say.
‘How about a coffee then? I’ll park and we can go and find you a seat we don’t care that gets wet?’
She was quick witted and didn’t need as long as him to come back with a retort.
‘So you do care about your precious car getting wet?’
Tristian was raising his game; she had but the ball in play.
‘I was actually trying to eradicate the notion of me being a stranger to you’.
‘ooowwwhh, posh words won’t help you get me into…….’
She paused, fleetingly trying not to think what where else she could possibly like a man of her dreams to get her into. The rain was now coming down harder, her bag trying to slip off her shoulders, and her defeated umbrella flexing in the wind.
‘Get you into where? I’m only trying to get you into a coffee shop. I know we are on the street, but get your mind out of the gutter, I hardly know you.’
It was a make or break line from Tristian, as he sensed this little tat-a-tat had gone on too long and the circumstances were far from ideal. He was modest about his looks and his appeal to the opposite sex. He always thought of a friend’s advice.

‘A man should never think they are the most handsome thing in the world, they must always think they are a little bit out of their depth when it comes to women. Then they may fair OK. Arrogance is no substitute for intelligence’.

‘OK’ said Tracey, finding him attractive and not scary, but still nervous and trying not to give too much away. ‘What or where do you suggest. And hurry up and make a decision I can’t stay for long, I’m blooming freezing.’

He thought about parking and sitting in a coffee shop with her. It was not even 6 in the evening, they would be sure to find somewhere. He would get wet, she was soaked, and clearly cold, it wouldn’t be the best start. He took a chance…

‘OK, you’re wet, and cold, so if you don’t want a lift anywhere, would you like me to leave you stranded here and take your number?’

She thought about her options. She had an instinct, she could trust him she thought but getting in his car would be a stupid thing to do. He was ahead of her in this thought process, scrabbling around in his car for a pen and paper, he offered them both out the window.

As the rain started pelting the paper, the bag finally dropped off her shoulders onto the cascading river that was the pavement. Her umbrella was dropped too from her other hand, almost dissolving onto the pavement disintegrating into several pieces.

She gave in, almost gasping with exacerbation as she carefully wrote down her name and number on the piece of paper, the rain drops appearing to fight with each other to tear it apart, the rain seeping into the ink making the numbers appear to weep.

‘Do this a lot then do you with a pen and paper at the ready?’ She hoped the number would still be legible by the time she passed it back to him. ‘It’s my home number, I still live with my parents, I don’t have a mobile.’ She thought she’d get that all out of the way in one go.

‘OK’ he said, ‘I’ll call you’. Handling the piece of paper like it was a rare and priceless manuscript, noticing her name as he tried to work out if the number was real. Realising she didn’t know his name as he delicately lay the piece of paper on his passenger seat.

‘I’ll need your name’ she said, ‘I get a lot of calls’.

‘It’s Tristian, and don’t take the piss’.

‘I won’t’ she said, ‘until I see you again’.

He gave her a beguiling glance as he pondered once again whether the number was real. She very ungracefully gathered her soaked belongings from the pavement, lingered on his glance, thinking for a second it was now his fault she was getting wet. He waited for her to walk away, then pressed the button to raise his window, and drove off past her quite progressively, beeping his horn twice.

Mark Scotchford © 01/06/2014

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Young Summer

I see you both
You’re love’s young dream
Tanned and untarnished
A re-occurring theme

Gazing into each other’s eyes
In love or naive
I’m old enough to know different
You’re young enough to believe

No lies, no heartache
Just having fun
No days are rainy
You always see the sun

Youthful exuberance
Every time you meet
Summer in love
Enjoy the heat

Mark Scotchford © (Originally written) 09/05/09

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