TACKLE

Earlier today I was talking with some other writers about viewpoint and how to write a scene involving an injured person, slipping in and out of consciousness, possibly on the edge of death. We wondered if it were possible to convey the scene from the injured person’s point of view without making their consciousness too integrated and yet leave enough for the reader to understand what was happening.

I’m still not sure, but here is an attempt:

 

There were bright lights, little white swirly things, where his field of vision should be. Stars. Too much of a cliché but sparkly spiky things. Red as well, and a booming and a lot of wanting to throw up.

‘Dave, Dave!’

Was that him? Was he Dave or was someone else called Dave there? There were hands.

‘No don’t move him.’

Something. Smell. Definitely earth. Wet, wet earth and grass.

‘Check his tongue.’

Voices but he couldn’t hear them. No, he could. Couldn’t understand them. Maybe it was Russian. In a Gloucester accent?

No. No. That was sort of English. There was copper in his mouth, Swallowed a coin?

‘Ambulance.’

He spoke. He was speaking Russian too.

He pushed himself up, but the grass gave way. Fingers poked his teeth, fucking dentists.

‘Clear.’

‘Is he moving?’

‘Hand twitched just then.’

‘Don’t move him.’

‘What about the blood?’

What about blood? He should tell them he was A positive. Needed to blow his nose. Full of snot. Something. Wet anyway. Dripping snot. Coppery snot. Give it a wipe. Fuck that was hard work. His arm was stuck. Lying on it. The snot bubbled. Hot snot flooding.

‘Dave. Dave, can you hear me?’

Course I can fucking hear you, you Russian twat. Stop shouting. Fuck that river’s loud, all that white water. And his ear was exploding. Must be the shouting. Shit he felt sick.

If he sat up he’d get this stinking grass away from the copper, then he wouldn’t be sick. Best tell the Russian he was moving.

‘He said something.’

‘Tried to anyway.’

‘Dave are you okay?’

‘Kind of fucking question is that? No I feel like hell.’

‘Did he say something?’

‘Sort of, something.’

‘What was it?’

‘Dunno sounded like a foreign language to me.’

Foreign language? You should talk. Please shut up. Let him sleep. Move his legs, got cramp.

‘Careful boy. Stay still a sec.’

Still? He’d never catch that stand off like that. Move like the wind, hit him hard. What’s that?

‘Watch out he’s puking, keep his airway clear.’

Bloody hell. God that hurts. What the hell happened? Shouldn’t be anything there. Stand offs didn’t hurt like that. Oh his head.

‘He’s coming round. Keep checking his airway. Ambulance is here.’

Ambulance? What they on about ambulances for? The Russian guy had gone.

‘Dave?’

‘Yes?’

‘Thank God. It’s okay. They’ll just check you can move, put a collar on you and get you away, okay?

‘Who?’

‘You, you prat.’

‘Oh okay. My car’s…’

‘Don’t worry we’ll sort it.’

‘I didn’t know you could speak Russian.’

‘He’s out of it still.’

‘Not surprised, hit like that.’

‘Dave, Dave? Sorry mate. Didn’t see you on the other side of him. Didn’t expect you to get there that fast. See you at the hospital later, okay?’

Steve? He blinked. The darkness was still half there but he could see a blurry man leaning over him. About four blurry men leaning over him. He nodded. The blackness washed across his eyes again and the coppery taste got worse.

‘We’d better move him now.’

‘We start again ref?’

‘When they get him off.’

He was floating. The spectators looked pretty ill. That woman turned her head away. People were weird sometimes. The sky had purple edges and then he was being slid into a vehicle. It was too light inside and water was drowning out the engine noise. He closed his eyes. It didn’t seem to make much difference, still too bright.

Home soon.

ENGLISH LAW RUNS OUT OF COMMON SENSE ON MARATHON

Before I start writing most mornings I listen to BBC Radio 4 and read a (usually yesterday’s) newspaper. That normally warms me up for writing, with only the occasional bout of shouting at the radio and banging my head on the table. Sometimes this process provokes ideas for stories or scenes for inclusion in pieces I am writing. Occasionally I come across items that make me wonder where the world I thought I lived in went to. Sometimes these are so huge that they defy rational encapsulation. I still cannot understand, believe or rationalise the motives behind the vote to leave the EU. Others are not as all encompassing, but of equal enormity.

Stanislaw Skupian was recently convicted of three thefts and sentenced to three weeks prison for them (a strangely pointless period I would have thought – messing up the system and his life with no obvious corrective effect in a throwback to 19th century moral attitudes rather than any concept of what the justice system is trying to achieve). How he was convicted of theft is unclear as the items appear to have been discarded stationery and a lost pass. However, let that be a matter between the magistrates and the unfortunate man’s legal representatives.

But much worse apparently according to Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court, was the fact he had jogged in the last three miles of a road race. For the ‘crime’ of picking up a discarded number on the road, 300 metres from the end of the race, and crossing the line he was gaoled for 13 weeks, 4.3 times the sentence for the three thefts.

As a display of the idiocy surrounding ‘sport’ and the law in our society it is hard to beat.

Of course the ‘race’ was the London Marathon and the charge was fraud – although bar the crappy participants medal it is hard to see what benefit he obtained, and the medal is worth how many pennies? I suppose at the most it could be worth the £39 ballot fee paid to enter, but frankly I doubt it, as that fee covers a lot of other things that had already been consumed at the point Mr Skupian entered the scene.

Now the London Marathon is a ‘national treasure’ and I understand some people take it inordinately seriously. It’s a ‘serious’ road race with a massive ‘fun run’ attached. I understand that many of the less serious ‘athletes’ in this latter event dress up and take the opportunity of their self punishment to raise money for charity. I won’t comment further on this; charity and its place in a modern society is another discussion.

Bu it sounds like the ‘fun’ element of running has no place in this case. Skupian joined in, without a numbered bib, about three miles out (isn’t part of the idea to enthuse people to join in with exercise?). Now the rules say no-one is allowed to finish without an official number and the owner of one bib lost his, and was hoiked out of the race by ‘fun loving’ officials. He had lost his number c300metres from the finish. Mr Skrupian, approaching the point where he too would have been evicted from the race without a number, found the lost number on the road and put it on, finished the race and was chucked a medal.

The fun decidedly stopped there.

He was arrested, charged and prosecuted for fraud.

To do that to someone who on the spur of the moment joined in, picked up a lost number and received no pecuniary advantage worth the name, is more than strange. It is perverse, unjustified and brings the event into disrepute, but more importantly rips up the social contract between the law and the governed and, one would hope, opens the law up to total ridicule.

This is one of the grossest miscarriages of justice and I wonder if the attitude of those pursuing this to the bitter end would have been the same if the ‘perpetrator’ had been Mr S Smith, jovial English jack the lad, having a ‘larf’ and not someone with a distinctly un-English sounding name who has been resident here for only eleven years? I am sure justice would have been blind.

More Dopes Report on Sport

Poor Sir Bradley Wiggins. Guilty of having asthma. It’s tough, but he’ll have to be executed. Presumably this will be the logical outcome of the insane witch hunt being stirred up by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee report on doping. It trots out the usual ill thought out morass of prejudice, mud slinging and refutation of natural justice that typifies the ‘anti-doping’ crusade.

The DCMS said it is “not in a position” to state what was in the ‘jiffy bag’ delivered to Bradley Wiggins at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine, but went on to say there was no “reliable evidence” to back up Team Sky’s claim the medical package contained a legal decongestant.

So because this is a Select Committee report under Parliamentary Privilege it is able to slander a knight of the realm, ignore the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and indulge in the sort of moronic tabloid mudslinging that other Select Committees have rightly castigated.

This is jumping on a bandwagon, for what PR purposes one can only guess at, of a high order.

Athletes are apparently now officially guilty until they can prove themselves innocent. An almost impossible task and an inversion of the normal presumptions of English Law.

And it gets worse.

Now strident voices are calling for ‘doping’ to be made a criminal offence. The history of the criminalisation of heroin, cannabis, cocaine etc should give legislators pause for thought unless they actually want to encourage organised crime further into the sporting world. The situation with betting gangs is bad enough, now we are planning on making it worth the while of illegal drug gangs getting involved in providing cold medication to athletes.

The whole panoply of WADA and its national sub groups including UKAD, are forcing the pace on building their regulatory empire. We currently have the laughable situation where if you take a decongestant like pseudoephedrine, found in cold remedies, before playing rugby at minor club level, you can get banned. Next you will have a criminal record for taking a cold cure.

It’s time to take a step back and look at what is being peddled by a group of people who have turned kids’ games into a money spinning milch cow They are terrified the public will stop anteing up the cash if their heroes are tainted by accusations of ‘doping’. So rather than take a sensible pragmatic approach, they believe any bit of research that suggests a substance may confer a benefit, however miniscule, in sporting performance and ban it. The list of banned substances is huge with catch all clauses and it alters each year, with compounds coming on and off the list of prohibited substances as new research replaces old.

And who would bother being an elite athlete with the intrusion of continual surveillance and having to say where you will be every hour of every day for a year in advance?

It’s time to say it’s only a game. Sporting heroes are not moral role models, They are people who practice kicking a ball more accurately, throwing a javelin further or pedalling a bicycle faster than other people. None of those things make you a moral exemplar. If people want to invest so much in watching people do these things, fine. Shouldn’t they get the best performance money can buy? You don’t watch athletes run on grass in bare feet do you? The spikes, shoe technology, track science and materials not to mention nutritional science and monitoring are all unnatural aids. Obviously there are limits but we have gone into the weeds of attempting to micromanage sportspeople’s lives to the point where the tail is wagging the dog. Let people play games at school, town and club level for fun and let the elites do whatever they need to without criminalising half of society for having a cold and running a cross country at the same time.

WADA MESS!

So Bradley Wiggins has to play the game now. Sitting on the Andrew Marr show trying to explain, through Marr, to people who don’t want to listen, that his medication was in response to a medical condition and not an attempt to gain an unfair advantage.

Sure, the knowledge that he did this was made public by hackers, possibly (probably?) FSB Russian Int hackers, so maybe he should have to explain. Except he hadn’t of course tried to hide it. He had gone through all the procedures required by the sport and the intrusive Stasi like demands of WADA. To no avail. Such is the prurient interest in ‘doping’ ‘scandals’ that we drool over such pathetic show trials of humiliation; where there is’ no smoke without fire’ and no one is innocent, ever.

Sports officials, and commentators, and gurus, may bemoan this attitude with varying degrees of sincerity but they are the ones who have bred the idea and nurtured it and released it like a mutant virus into the wild of sporting endeavour.

They will argue that they were only trying to keep sport ‘clean’ and stop the ‘drug cheats’. And undoubtedly various sporting figures were using drugs to gain an advantage when this farrago of professionalised ‘dope’ hunting posses took off… But the mad, Alice through the Looking Glass, world they made everyone enter when they decided to treat sportsmen and women like criminals in a Kafkaesque farce has no winners.

Such is the paranoia engendered by this approach to the oh so serious world of monitoring kids games grown huge on too much money and sublimated national hair pulling that we have abandoned rationality.

Indeed UKAD: the British version of self righteous drug hunters, openly, and God help us, proudly proclaims: ‘The Wherabouts system is essential to protecting your sport. Simply put, Whereabouts is about openness and transparency, underlining the achievements of clean, doping free athletes.’

‘Whereabouts’ is the newspeak name for the requirement to let the drug testers know exactly where you will be for a 60 minute slot every day of the year between 0500hrs and 2300 hrs so they can perform random tests on you. Included in that are requirements to let them know access codes to buildings, security codes and if you stay in overnight accommodation away from home not only the name of the hotel but the room number.

We had a constitutional battle over requirements for terrorist suspects being overly restricted, but we happily agree to elite athletes being harassed in this fashion? The world’s gone mad.

Of course the reason the Fancy Bears hacked the records of UK sports people and made them public is because we were cheerleading supporters of the US led WADA attack on Russian sporting participation. I have no doubt that Russia enabled drug use amongst various sporting groups in its country. Just as the western systems of sponsorship and elite training allow various groups to do the same. Not all athletes/sports participants and far from all sponsors or training facilities. But not all Russians took drugs either. The main crimes in Russia’s case seem to have been a) they were state organised and b) they were designed to make Russia look good when it was doing things in international affairs that the old NATO countries didn’t like.

So free enterprise doping isn’t as bad as state doping and athletes from countries who toe the current western diplomatic line won’t get the full rigour of a WADA investigation, seems to be the main lessons from this.

What the hell has this got to do with cycling or running or throwing a heavy object or scoring tries?

I don’t know. Ask the people making a living out if it all and see if they can tell you.

Olympic Ennui

The first athletics event of the current, 2016 Olympic Games starts today. It is the Heptathlon. A few years ago I would have been looking forward to it and nearly all the following events in the athletics stadium and on the road. The exceptions? Walking events. I can’t take competitive walking seriously. It’s not the action or the slow motion quality of the overtaking, it’s not the fact that it looks, well, generally comical. I know it’s hard work. We used to do a bit of speed walking as training in rugby and on fartlek sessions and it is exhausting, so I admire the fitness. But walking? Honestly? All top notch walker run at some point. It was okay when athletes were pushing up to the boundary limits of walking speed, but now and with the slow motion camera ability to analyse every step I doubt whether there is one race in which most of the walkers don’t ‘lift’: i.e. have both feet off the ground at the same time.

Which rather neatly brings me to why I am not really looking forward to the athletics events as much as I used to. I was never that bothered by most of the fol de rol around the Olympics, particularly the other sports. I used to like the boxing, weightlifting  and one or two other sports but as the facade of amateurism faded to nothing and more and more professional competitors from circus sports arrived so the appeal evaporated as well.

The Olympics was a once every 4 year opportunity to see the best athletes (let’s concentrate on them for a moment) from each country contest the title of world’s best. The first Olympics I remember properly was Tokyo in 1968. I saw it in black and white and it had another resonance for our family because my father had fought the Japanese in WWII and whilst it was nineteen years later, the memories lingered. Not that my father displayed any animosity to the organisers or the venue. He shielded me from any bitterness he may or may not have carried. But I knew where he had been and it added a frisson that Mexico for example lacked.

But I enjoyed it immensely. My Dad and I watched together through Mexico and the horror of Munich and Montreal and Moscow. By the time LA arrived I couldn’t be with him to watch it together and anyway the pzazz of LA set the tone for the decline of my interest.  The Olympics got organised as an EVENT to be sold. As Hitler had turned a low key sporting get together into war by proxy the back to back Moscow and LA games turned the Olympics into ideology by proxy. When the Cold War ended with the triumph of Capitalism, Fukuyama’s “End of History”, so the Olympics had moved with it from Corinthian Amateurism (sham or not) to outright blatant finance driven circus sport. The same athletes now competed against each other all year round, every year. There was not the rarity value in seeing a possibly once in a lifetime show down as two sprinters whose careers might just overlap in an eight year cycle faced each other in rare 10 second window of competition. Sure they raced but in a fortnight they would do it all again at the next league meeting wherever the caravan halted next.

Then there are drugs. Poor old Ben Johnson gets the blame for drugs. He won gold in Seoul in the 1988 100 metres sprint,but had it taken off him because he tested positive for using anabolic steroids to build muscle. He still had to do the running of course. And he wasn’t exactly alone in taking them. He was the one that got caught. Others have been caught and the opprobrium has varied depending on how the person was viewed by the public, the media or needed by the athletics union concerned. Linford Christie doesn’t get the contempt Dwayne Chambers gets. And while we are still thinking about Seoul, who was gifted the Gold after Johnson was banned? Carl Lewis. Who now admits he tested positive for three banned stimulants in the trials leading up to Seoul and shouldn’t even have been at the games. And who, by the way is completely unrepentant about it.

You may be forgiven in the current climate for thinking that my disillusion with athletics at the Olympics is because  drug use. Well it is but not because I am disgusted with the drug users. I wouldn’t do it myself because of the medical contraindications of most of them. But I think the self appointed industry of witch hunters in WADA and associated national moral guardians are dancing to the tune of those who themselves created the urge to take drugs. Making it a financial circus, treating athletes like warriors in a gladiatorial contest for top nation status has driven the urge to push over those boundaries of human performance.

I get fed up with the goody two shoes approach of those who label everyone who tales a cold remedy a ‘cheat’. Yes there are undoubtedly those who ‘cheat’ to get an advantage, but before we consign them to outer darkness, remember were the suits that swimmers wore cheating? No, not when they appeared because there were no rules governing something that hadn’t been invented. Then they were available. Then someone decided they shouldn’t be used. So using them would be cheating. Except of course they are obvious, so you wouldn’t even get into the pool. But anabolics and many other drugs were not illegal or banned by sports governing bodies initially. They became banned and users ‘cheats’ because people made a decision that they were and it was. There is nothing inherently morally wrong with taking performance enhancing drugs. The Ancient Greeks did.

It’s crazy if it harms you, but athletics is a pretty weird activity when you think about it- and I did a bit.

If you want ‘clean’ athletes competing as nature intended, get rid of synthetic tracks, spiked shoes, sorbothane insoles, clothes even and let people run. No altitude training to boost your red blood cell count.

I wouldn’t mind a drug free games but I hate the moral fervour and hypocrisy that surrounds the Games now.

The attack on Russia finished off my interest. A political attack that ignored the findings on other countries and athletics trainers to concentrate on Russia. Hitler’s and the Cold War’s legacy lives on. The Olympics is diplomacy and war by other means. I love athletics. I hate the people and attitudes that are running it now. I’ll watch and I really hope Jessica Ennis wins gold again but I can’t join in the finger pointing and moral hypocrisy of the people who are creating the climate that drives drug use.