Wednesday, 31 August 2005

Filthy Lucre, But Not For Me

I was thrilled to hear from my good friend James that President Bush can bench press 185lbs (84kg) for five reps. That’s pretty awesome all things considered.

This leads me elegantly into the main purpose of this post. The time is rapidly approaching when I will make my debut in powerlifting competition. After six-and-a-half months of hard training, I will be entering the Banbury Bench Press Competition. I have three attempts at benching as much as I can. My personal best so far is a modest 120kg, 264 pounds, just under 19 stone. I’m really hoping that I can improve on that.

This is the third year running that my friend and coach Marco has run the competition, and its purpose is to raise money for Scope, the cerebral palsy charity. You know what’s coming next …

… I would be IMMENSELY grateful if, as a loyal reader of this blog, you could find it in your heart and wallet to sponsor me. You can make the donation, from whatever country you are in, by visiting and following some straightforward steps.

If you would like instead to make the funds available to another cerebral palsy charity, or do not want to make a secure donation online, please email me at

Thank you so very much indeed for what I hope will be a great response. Once I’ve creamed off half the takings to help fund my steroid habit, the money will go to some deserving people. (That’s a joke by the way.)

Your Humble Blogger, Tom

Tuesday, 23 August 2005

It's Real, Baby

Here's another good blog:

Monday, 22 August 2005

Back To The Twenties

Someone else has taken up the cudgels and told us what they wished they had known when they were twenty. These are wise words indeed.

Stumbling and Mumbling is a super blog – and gets a permanent link.

Thursday, 18 August 2005

Not Dead In The Water Yet

I did some deadlifting last night, and the technique really seemed to come together. In the deadlift, you bend down and pick the weight up off the floor, and stand up with it. So it ends up somewhere around the middle of your thighs, whereas a weightlifter would lift it overhead. I’ve been neglecting my deadlift a little as no-one else at the gym is into it, but I got a new PB last night, three weeks after I last deadlifted.

There are two approached to deadlifting. One is to have your feet about shoulder width apart, or even less. This method relies more on back power. The sumo stance, where you take a very wide foot position, involves more leg power. I am very much a sumo man (no jokes please). Last night I felt I really nailed the technique, and it went up very smoothly, with the bar nice and near the body (if it veers away, then the arms do too much work, which is hopeless as they are so much smaller than the bigger muscle groups).

In international competition there are elite lifters using each of the two styles, so they both have their adherents. But one advantage of sumo is that the bar doesn’t have to travel as far. I pulled 195 kg last night, which is 429 pounds, or 30 and a half stone. That’s not bad for a beginner.

I was also encouraged by the fact that the guy I was training with is using quite a bit less weight than me. He is enormous, and has played rugby at a very high level. I am not saying this to put him down – the point is that he has immense potential, but is so new to all this that he has quite a bit of catching up to do. That served as a wake-up call to me not to lose confidence - I AM strong and doing well for a beginner. It is tense-making when you see little blokes lifting more than you – you just have to remember that they have been training longer, and that everything worthwhile in sport takes time.

But the great news is that I reckon I am pretty much there technically with my squat and my deadlift, and so it’s just a case of keeping on keeping on. I need to refine my benching, but that’s coming too. It’s great to know what I’m doing now, and to just have to put in the hard work.

The spellcheck suggests ‘deadlight’ for the word ‘deadlift’. Not any more Mr Spellcheck, not any more.

Wednesday, 17 August 2005

FCUK United

I’ve been meaning to post on the creation of FC United. By way of background, I remind y’all that I am an Oxford United fan. As a result, whilst I do not particularly favour them, I have no vitriolic hatred of Manchester United. But they are not my team, and so what follows comes from an outsider’s perspective.

A good buddy of mine (who has had an article published in The Spectator, the git) is a big AFC Wimbledon man. I’ve had some interesting discussions with him about the nature of football clubs, by which I mean their essential nature. In what sense is the Chelsea team of today the same team as the side that won the 1970 FA Cup? It’s a profoundly interesting and complex philosophical poser. And for a capitalist like me, who really owns a club is fraught with difficulty too.

There’s no doubt that it is too straightforward to say that a club’s financial backers own it. Fans invest sufficient emotional energy (not to mention a big portion of their income) to be able to lay a claim. The players meanwhile will rightly feel they have a special stake. So I do not dismiss the notion that the directors of a club have a different duty of care than they would with other businesses. After all, it is perfectly sensible to say that football is not just a business.

And yep – I’d be pissed off if Rio Ferdinand or Steve Gerrard played for my club and kept holding it to ransom, or if ticket prices soared to the point that I couldn’t afford to go to many games, or if the players never came and signed programmes and acted boorishly and boringly.

I also have sympathy for fans who fear that their club is going to be relocated. However ardent a Dodgers fan you were way back when, the commute from New York to Los Angeles was always going to be a killer. And in short, I have plenty of time for the AFC Wimbledon crew who decided that what would become MK Dons wasn’t for them. Which of these two sides is spiritually the team that won the Cup in 1988? AFC I reckon.

By contrast, I think the creation of FC United is preposterous, and born out of something very sinister. There is no question of Man U leaving Old Trafford. Big money has been a big part of the Premiership since its inception. Which would you rather as a Man U fan – that things were as they are now, or that the club shop was still run by two people with one phone line? Which of these scenarios is more likely to lead the club to success on the field?

I accept that some people have specific worries about Malcolm Glazer having studied what happened with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. OK, so they won the Super Bowl, but I understand that they are not setting the world alight today. Maybe some people think the guy’s an asset stripper. But it seems pretty clear that the main objection is that Glazer is American. And if that really is the basis on which FC United has been founded, then I hope they go bankrupt having lost every one of their stupid games.

After all, how can anyone hate Americans? Emily Procter is an American.


The ever interesting and honest James Hamilton has answered my call, and posted on the things he wished he’d known when he was 20.

On a different topic, I am currently listening to a compilation album entitled Sex and the CD. I got it free a while ago with the News of the World. It has two outstanding classics – Sexual Healing (Marvin Gaye) and Slow Hand (Pointer Sisters). I have a longstanding nagging worry that I am subconsciously a white supremacist.

My musical tastes are based around 70s singer songwriters and country/folk inspired popular music. I have EXCEEDINGLY few CDs by black artists. I absolutely despise hip-hop and rap – as a cacophonous listening experience, for their absurdly bad lyrics and for the hideous culture they lionise. I dislike reggae, in large part because I don’t like bass (I never turn up the bass when listening to a track, and much prefer it when there is none – no offence to Dave Pegg).

Soul and R & B are another matter entirely however. Someone please steer me towards some good stuff. Although going to a comprehensive school ensured I have zero middle class guilt, the disproportionately honky nature of my music collection is making me antsy!

Monday, 15 August 2005

Phoning It In

So fully stone has been lost since I got back from the States. I reckon another two-and-a-half will do it. Certainly my fitness levels have greatly improved, and there hasn’t been any strength loss. Furthermore, I must have put on a bit of muscle, so the fat loss will be more than three stone.

I find myself not at all out of love with blogging, but with little to say at the moment. Politics as such hasn’t been sparking my interest, and I haven’t felt motivated to write about it. I feel a bit overloaded by opinions, and perhaps for once I don’t want to add to the general stock. I’m sure, however, that this phenomenon won’t last long!

Of course there’s more to life than sport and politics (remember that phrase – you will hear it again), and I have been enjoying sinking to comedy and music. I’ve started to really study the former. Thursday night on BBC 2 provides three interesting programmes. The first is Extras. The consensus seems to be that Ricky Gervais has failed to match the brilliance of The Office, and I think that is fair so far. He remains eminently watchable though, and I particularly enjoyed the episode with Kate Winslet. He is quite an evangelical atheist, and turned in a nice skit around that.

Next up is The Catherine Tate Show. She is seriously able. Although many of the scenarios become familiar – the ‘Am I bovvered?’ teenager, the farting Scotch woman, the irritating waitress etc., she manages to produce something fresh every week. Whereas you can absolutely anticipate what is about to happen in the ferociously overrated Little Britain, Tate is much more skilful. She’s fast becoming a national treasure.

Finally we have Absolute Power. I couldn’t imagine anyone who didn’t work for the BBC enjoying the last series, but this one has been a bit smarter. I find John Bird tiresome – it’s time to put him, Fortune and Bremner out to pasture – but Stephen Fry is as adorable as ever.

On the musical front, I have to confess something that I suspect will fast become decidedly taboo / uncool – I really like James Blunt. It’s nice to see a singer-songwriter thrive for once. I certainly prefer his stuff to the latest ghastly cover (this time of Lola by The Kinks) from Madness. Or is it just Suggs? His /their version of Cecilia by Simon and Garfunkel was equally dire.

Yep – this is probably my worst ever post. Sorry.

Wednesday, 10 August 2005

If You Can Keep Your Head ...

One of the many things that sport can provide one with is an enhanced ability to take knockbacks. OK, so sometimes the knockbacks we get in sport are actually some of the worst, and in that sense it is more than just a learning process for other aspects of our lives. But nonetheless, the point holds true.

I haven't had a knockback so much as a lack of progress with my powerlifting recently. My bench press is stuck at 264 pounds, 120 kilos. This is pretty piss poor for a guy my size, and certainly seems awful given the context of wanting to be really good. There was a barrel chested, short armed 24 year old training with us on Monday. He benched 155 kilos for several reps. It's easy to get disheartened under such circumstances.

HOWEVER, it's not where you start that matters, it's where you end up. I have to constantly remind myself of the progress I have made since February. There was another enormous lad there the other night, and he struggled with 80 kilos. I told him not to worry (he'd never done free weights before), and that his strength levels are currently ahead of his technique levels. Wise words I hope, and ones I must heed myself. I get very pissed off when I read about small women who bench about what I can, but they do have the advantage of years of training under their belts (and - it must be said - in many cases absurdly supportive clothing).

I am not going to stop. Marco reminded me that you get sticking points in this game, and surprised me by saying that he was stuck at 130 kilos for years. He now benches 180 kilos. I will master this lift.

The great news is that my deadlift is very good (so long as I make sure to use my wide stance), and - apparently - I have a PERFECT squatting technique. Although I mustn't place limits on myself, I suspect that I will become known as a squatter-deadlifter. The barrel chested short armed physique dominates the bench. We longer limbed types turn it on on the platform.

Don't write me off just yet.

Tuesday, 9 August 2005

Thought For The Day

If a foreign national living in the UK advocates violence against Britons and their allies, it is - to put it mildly - eccentric to give a damn about how that foreigner will be treated if we deport them.

It's high time we tore up our copies of the European Human Rights Act. I don't give a flying f-k what the French think about our terrorism policies. Or Liberty. Or the Liberal (sic) Democrats (sic).

Thursday, 4 August 2005

Twenty-Twenty Visionary

Herewith some more ‘things I wish I’d known when I was twenty’ from a friend who wishes to remain anonymous:

1) Unless you’re quite precocious, delay going to university for a few years. By all means spend one of those years travelling, but spend the rest doing a proper job – you will learn more about the real world than mucking around at college.

2) University isn’t primarily about enjoyment, but about learning. Don’t rely on lectures or lecture notes. Pester your lecturers for reading lists and read, read, read.

3) Whether in university or out of it, seek out the company of intelligent people and talk with them and listen to them – at length.

4) Television is a waste of time. If you have a TV throw it out now.

5) The modern meat industry is an abomination. Unless you can be bothered to find / afford to buy organic meat, go vegetarian.

6) Don’t suffer needlessly though stifling summer nights that stop you from sleeping. Get a fan, get used [to] the noise and leave it on all night (uses no more electricity than a lightbulb). That way you can get a decent night’s sleep – something you should never skimp on.

7) Modern art isn’t all crap. A lot of it is, but don’t miss out on the good stuff.

Interesting stuff. I should have followed 2), although I think enjoyment is immensely important – perhaps it’s hedonism we should disavow. I wholly disagree with 4). Television is just a medium, as is the book. It can be good or bad. I suppose some people can become excessively dependent on TV, but I for one find TV a real addition to my life.

I find it hard to believe 7), and certainly haven’t seen any evidence of non-crap in the Tate Modern. But perhaps I should look harder!

Wednesday, 3 August 2005

What I Wish I’d Known When I Was Twenty

Inspired by Alan Titchmarsh, I thought this would make an interesting topic. Any additions to what I have scribed below are welcome at I’d be particularly keen to hear from James Hamilton.

It’s arguably a bit precocious of me to do this at 29, but here goes anyway. In no particular order, I wish I had known the following when I was 20.

1. Family Matters. Most of us are blessed with immediate families who care about us far more than we realise – I certainly am. Not telling them about our lives or failing to introduce them to our friends is thoughtless and hurtful. I still need to work on this!

2. Keep Fit. It is very easy to put on weight when one leaves one’s teens and doesn’t do school sport any more, and becomes more responsible for one’s diet.

Lifting weights regularly is essential to my spiritual wellbeing, and is one of the most important things that defines me. I also need to play football fairly often (and more than I am doing now!).

3. Sociology Is Bunk. Sociology is a worthless discipline. There is no merit WHATSOEVER in reading the diseased ramblings of these people, even for the purpose of crystallising one’s own dissenting views. No prominent sociologist has ever made a truly insightful and correct observation about humanity. Anyone - and this is invariably true - who calls themselves a Marxist is a hypocrite. They are also probably evil.

4. Ask People Out. I do rather wish that I had known what I have only really discovered recently – that a large number, and possibly a majority, of my fellow Trinitarians thought I was gay. This assumption seems to have been a product of my not asking girls out. This reticence in fact stemmed from a peculiar shyness that contrasted oddly with my general gregariousness. It would also have helped if more of my female colleagues had been pretty, however.

Having dinner with someone need not be a big deal, and may well be very pleasant. This can apply even if there is no sexual spark there. Americans understand all this.

5. Black People Actually ARE Less Intelligent Than Us. I can’t believe you fell for that.

6. Bullies Must Be Tackled Head On. There is only one way to handle bullies. They cannot be placated or won over through gentle persuasion or simpering. They must be met with an absolute refusal to bend to their wishes. It is almost never necessary to raise one’s voice to a bully, and yet physically hurting a physical bully is utterly legitimate.

7. People That Appear Wise Are Not Always So. Some people, and many of them end up at Oxford, have a demonic ability to make people think they are very intelligent. By parroting someone else’s ideas, or answering debating points with what in fact is a non-sequitor, or by trotting out a series of liberal Left (supposed) truisms, they often succeed in convincing us of their sagacity. Don’t fall for it. They are probably degenerate, disgusting people rotting in Hell without even knowing it.

Moreover, it is perfectly possible to be shrewder than someone more intelligent and knowledgeable than you, so be totally confident about taking a contrary view. Finally, intelligence is not a particularly admirable quality anyway, certainly when stacked up against kindness or moral fibre.

8. Adolescence Is A Long Period. Quite simply, I don’t think I was at all grown-up until my late twenties. It is now clear to me that growing pains go well beyond our teens. Sorry if you’re seventeen and reading this, but suck it up and all will be well.

Instead of brooding in a room, always see plenty of other people (and lots of different people - don’t just stick to the same friends all the time), and ask them about themselves. It’s a good thing to do in its own right, and it will make you a lot happier too.

9. Psychotherapy Rocks. Given that I was crippled by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder from the ages of 12 to 26, I sure wish I hadn’t assumed that a shrink would inevitably be some Freudian dickhead Hell-bent on screwing with my brain. Had I known then what I know now (and what has, I am delighted to report, made all the difference), I could have saved myself and my immediate family a lot of suffering.

I now know that there are good psychotherapists out there who can fix your brain like a surgeon fixes your leg. They offer common sense advice in a thoroughly non-hysterical manner, but crucially add the professional expertise that a good friend cannot. By the way, anyone who belittles mental illness is an arsehole.

10. Old Friends Matter. Meeting new people is exciting and worthwhile. But I don’t have any better friends than my oldest schoolmates, even though I have a few to whom I am as close. Some friendships do have a finite lifespan, but some don’t, and we shouldn’t neglect our old buddies. I apologise to those to whom I was a little distant when at university. I love you guys – but not in a gay way.

Nathan Jones, You’ve Been Gone Too Long

I know, and I’m sorry – poor showing on the posting front recently. And an even worse one on Once More, which I am having technical (but not philosophical) difficulties with.

At least I have been usefully engaged. Not much on the work front though, and I was informed today that I am not even going to be interviewed for a job that I had assumed I would be OFFERED. Bastards. The organisation, which I will call Sport England (as that’s their name) don’t know what they’re missing.

But I have been busy. Specifically, I have ratcheted up my aerobic exercise in the last ten days or so. I’ve started running – which I still can’t quite believe – and playing squash, and did a ten-mile walk this afternoon. The walk was Hell, not on the lungs or legs, but because Becca and I had no water. On the way back I started fantasising about what I’d do if a chatty neighbour tried to waylay us on the way to much needed water. I shudder to think what I might have actually done in reality.

The effects of this increased exercise are staggering. I have lost ten pounds in ten days. I am also utterly confident that it isn’t hurting my health (although my knees ache a little too much), and I only hope the trend continues until I am rippling with nothing but muscle.

By the way, Nathan Jones is not only the star of that Bananarama hit of the same name, he is a former World’s Strongest Man contestant (and possibly a future one I understand). So it’s not WHOLLY inappropriate to use his name in the title of this post.

Talking of people of who have competed in that competition, and indeed about someone who has actually won it, Jamie Reeves is a very nice man. I don’t want to elaborate on that just yet, but he is – genuinely – a very agreeable and kind chap. You’ll recognise Jamie if you watch WSM every Christmas – he’s the expert commentator who works with John Inverdale.
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