Frostnip in Banff, Canada

FROSTNIP IS THE COMMON TERM for first-degree frostbite. It’s characterised by one’s skin turning pale or blue and feeling cold to the touch. If one stays out in the cold with these symptoms the skin may begin to feel cold to the touch and to tingle. The tingling can turn into quite severe pain and needs some simple first-aid. That first-aid generally means getting out of the cold and rewarming the affected areas. Failure to do this can result in moving through further stages of frostbite occasioning very serious tissue damage with consequential grave results.

It was on a frigid late December afternoon that I took to one of the outdoor skating rinks of the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta for a skating session. The rink was deserted apart from myself and whilst very cold indeed, was welcoming under the fairy lights and seasonal music emanating from an outdoor sound system.

Banff Springs Hotel, Alberta, Canada

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It was quite heavenly, the cold air icily refreshing my face as I traversed the wide open spaces of the rink, accompanied only by the familiar sound of my skate blades cutting sharply and crisply into the ice as I turned this way and that.

What could possibly go wrong?

Outside the skate-changing shack next to the ice was a handily-placed thermometer which I glanced at a couple of times when passing. The temperature, already very cold, was dropping slowly. I was warm though, with a fleecy top, ski pants and gloves and working up a head of steam on the ice.

Moraine Lake, Banff, Alberta Canada

Crystal Ski Resort, Alberta, Canada

I finally ended the session in the darkness, apart from the pretty lights of the rink and glided slowly to a halt at the shack, sat and began to remove my skates to change to shoes and take the short walk by the picturesque Bow River. Back to the warmth and a hot drink in the plush hotel.

As anyone who skates will identify, it takes but a few minutes to complete this procedure and I sat for a few moments afterwards admiring the wonderful and peaceful scene in front of me. I noted the outdoor thermometer registering at –28C.

It was only then that I began to feel the tingling in my fingers, moving into my hands. My first experience of frostnip. Walking ever more rapidly back to the hotel, the pain actually began to feel quite intense, in fact it was very painful indeed. I’d had my hands out of the ski gloves for only a few brief minutes but it was long enough.

Breaking into a run back to the hotel room and slightly confused by the sudden pain after feeling relatively comfortable, my partner of that time, a Canadian native quickly ran the hot taps in the bathroom and stuck my aching hands underneath them. There I stayed for the next thirty minutes until the pain began to subside.

Two pairs of gloves were in evidence for the next outdoor skating session, that time on an amazing frozen lake.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 7.12.19

A winter-sun December Saturday it is and it comes as a relief in case the atmosphere inside Meadow Lane this afternoon becomes decidedly frosty. I’ll be meandering through the city for Notts County’s 3pm kick-off versus Sutton United in the Vanerama League. Heady days.

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The Magpies have been experiencing a fairly torrid time of late after an excellent run of nineteen games in which they lost only three. Things have slightly nose-dived since however with Notts drifting out into a mid-table berth. It’s all very disappointing for the team’s faithful and appears to be pointing very much towards another season of non-league football for the club unless there is an immediate and dramatic upturn in fortunes.

The city and its roads will no doubt be overcrowded today, exacerbated by Christmas shoppers, thousands of students and the (I have to say) pretty naff Christmas Fair in the Old Market Square, set to fleece visitors or their hard-earned.

Back in the heartland, Hibs take on the tough challenge of the Dandy Dons of Aberdeen. It would be good to think that Aberdeen will turn up with less of a cynical attitude than on various other visits in the past few seasons. Hibs manager, Jack Ross has the task of lifting the team after a disappointing road trip to Dingwall midweek with a 2-1 capitulation. Seeing Hibs yet again give up a lead is not edifying at the moment and questions are being asked.

These questions are invariably concerning the Hibs defence which is achieving sieve-like qualities recently. There is a major problem at Easter Road in this area of the team with several key players aging at the same time. Great and good servants such as David Gray, Lewis Stevenson, Paul Hanlon and a soon-returning Darren McGregor have for some time been needing replacements coming through but Porteous aside, there has been little by way of that. Anyhow, thinking of you, Hibees from my spot at a game here.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 16.11.19

It’s international break weekend (boo) so just the one fixture under scrutiny today, Notts County v Barrow. I’ll meander along to Meadow Lane via a quick watering hole stop to witness any damage or otherwise. Two days ago it was looking like this might be a boat trip with part of Nottingham under water. Today presents two teams in fine form, the Magpies having lost only three in the past nineteen games and Barrow having won a tremendous nine out of ten previous away games It’s fair to say that it’s anyone’s game today and the team that comes out of the traps in the best fettle will prevail. Arguably rare at this level too, both teams are renowned for trying to play good football and a passing game so it should be a reasonable spectacle which always makes the afternoon more agreeable along with the Scotch Pie and Bovril.

(Image: Economist)

North of the border and Hibs, well it’s all been happening, apart from a blank football Saturday. New manager, Jack Ross, safely installed, we can only hope for a little stability returning to Easter Road after a slightly disastrous first part of the season. It’s almost been laughable seeing some of the comment about him before barely setting foot in Leith. I sometimes wonder what drives this kind of attitude of sky-high expectation, albeit the Hibs support certainly deserves a little bit more success over the piece one could argue. Safe to say, apart from Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klop, any candidate is going to get trashed by one section of Hibs fans or another. Good luck Jack Ross, I still believe Hibernian is a fine club, well run and with some potential. You’re going to need some good fortune though.

South Africa – World Champions 2019!

CONGRATULATIONS THE RAINBOW NATION!

You were absolutely awesome today and played like men, with heroism, skill and determination. You brought pride to your nation.

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The South Africans were not in the slightest scared by England’s bull and over-confidence

The following was sent to me by a South African pal before the game:

‘One of the teams in the Rugby World Cup Final will run onto the field knowing they have a better head to head success rate over their opposition; at home, away, at neutral venues, at World Cups and in World Cup finals. They will know in their last 17 matches against their current opposition they have won 13 games, had 1 draw and lost only 3 times. They will also know they are in fine World Cup form, having scored the most tries, the most points, dominated key statistics like lineout steals and scrum penalties and also conceded the least tries at the tournament so far.

They will take confidence from knowing they have won two World Cups in six attempts (with two bronze medals also secured), never lost a World Cup final and have never been beaten in a World Cup knockout match by any northern hemisphere side. They will also be boosted by the fact they won their most recent involvement against the British and Irish Lions, have just knocked out the World Cup hosts in the quarter finals and also knocked out the six nations grand slam champions in their semi final. They will run onto the field with the support of a Rainbow Nation behind them, knowing anything can happen in a final. The other side, England, will run out as firm favourites.

Goosebumps! Lekker Bokke!’

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 2.11.19

Saturday’s the day we play the game.

A squelchy day in the rain is promised for me at Meadow Lane for me today as Notts County take on Hartlepool United at 3pm The ‘Monkey Hangers’ are pushing for a play-off position where the Nottingham side currently reside after a quite magnificent run of form of late. The Magpies, fresh from battering Woking 4-0 in midweek away from home in a seriously good performance will be attempting the tightest defensive record intact.

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(Image: Independent.ie)

It’s been interesting watching Notts’ progress since the shaky days of late summer when a side was cobbled together just two days before the first game of the season. They have grown in stature, cohesion and confidence week-by-week. Pleasing too to see Notts boss, Neal Ardley grow with the team after the relentless pressure he had been under since joining the club. A good and decent man.

After the game it’s a dash home by tram and bus to Redhill and hopefully access some coverage of Hibs in their League Cup semi-final against Celtic at Hampden Park. There have been tough times for the Hibees this season of course, with the team consistently offering mediocre and punchless displays. Celtic meanwhile sit atop of the Scottish Premier League and are scoring freely. Expectations will be modest for all Hibees today but at least the team have shown some solidity and resilience of late. My wish is that they have a really good go at Celtic and don’t allow them to play their football. ‘Mon the Hibs.

Nottingham Forest also find themselves pushing for a play-off spot currently after relinquishing what might easily have been a second spot berth for them with two successive defeats. They travel south to Luton Town today hoping to get back on track. Manager Lamouchie reports healthy selection problems.

Peter Cormack, Dementia and Protecting Footballers

Some sobering news about a former footballing hero of mine today, Peter Cormack. Peter and his family have disclosed the news of his dementia diagnosis and symptoms of it he has been experiencing for some years.

Peter was an entertaining and swashbuckling attacking midfield for my team, Hibs, moving to Nottingham Forest where I was able to watch him many times as a youngster. I loved to watch him play and so did my dad who had a very high regard for our fellow Edinburgh native. As a boy I liked to try to emulate his prance-like run as Peter ran on the balls of his feet.

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Perhaps Peter’s high watermark as a player came when performing for Liverpool in what became a trophy-laden career, as well as gaining nice full Scottish caps. As a player even as a skinny youngster he could certainly ‘dig’, pass the ball and had excellent control and vision. He was also versatile enough to leave his midfield berth and take over in goal for Hibs in an emergency as well as playing up front or in wide positions as well as his normal midfield slot. His great talent was spotted at an early age by then Hibs manager Jock Stein among others, when in 1964 in a prestige friendly game against Spanish giants, Real Madrid, Peter, just seventeen years-old scored against the legendary club.

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(Image: Shoot Magazine)

Peter, though not a big man by any means was so very talented in the air – a great header of the ball due to his agility, ability to leap and his superb timing. It brings up the subject of another former footballer, the late Jeff Astle – also an exceptional header of the ball – who passed away due to a degenerative brain disease in 2002 caused by repeated traumas through heading the heavy leather footballs of the day. This is in light of a recent dementia study that has resulted in the Scottish Football Association considering a ban on Scottish children heading the ball

On a wider note, I have a growing feeling that professional footballers, perhaps due to considerations of their their ‘wealth’ (or assumed wealth) are being somewhat sacrificed for the needs of the game. In Peter and Jeff’s day footballers were perhaps considered differently with much more modest rewards available from the game. In the modern era, it seems to me that players are increasingly vulnerable to addictions such as those of gambling, alcohol and recreational drugs. Stories of depression, anxiety and even suicidality in players due to pressures of the industry and attendant lifestyle are becoming more common and are almost certainly under-diagnosed and reported due to stigma and ignorance. It’s almost as though the players cannot complain about the issues or problems they are experiencing in the public’s view due to arguably, a minority being paid fortunes to play the game many would love to.

I do feel the football industry and individual clubs need to focus more on the health and well-being of football players – no matter how much or little they earn. Money is not a protective factor for health or mental health in these circumstances. Tales of excess and ruined lives litter the professional game and those stories are certainly not relegated to the modern era solely. Players it appears are increasingly more indulged and overprotected in everyday matters of running heir lives and careers. Their personal health and well-being however seems to be a lesser consideration. In some ways, attitudes in the game have not evolved significantly from past days with certain subjects still being subject to stigmatisation.

Good luck and bless you Peter Cormack. You gave me so many happy memories which I will always cherish. Let’s all wish for the better protection generally of the professional football players of today.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 19.10.19

A not too shabby day in Hood Town (i.e. it’s not raining) and it’s another bus-walk-bus to the south of the city and Meadow Lane Stadium to watch Notts County take on a team I haven’t seen since the 1960s – Belper Town, in the FA Cup. Back in those pleasant football-going days it was Belper travelling to Arnold FC’s Gedling Road ground in the now-defunct Midland League. ‘Mary’s’ as Arnold were long known from their days as Arnold St Mary’s FC hold fond memories of Saturday afternoon and Wednesday evening football kicking off at a ground that was walkable from my folk’s front door. A call in at a Front Street chippy for a sixpenny ‘mix’ (chips and peas) with the gang and home to watch Dad’s Army on the telly. Those were the days.

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‘Eight One…Eight bloody one!’

In 2019, Belper Town reside in the eighth division of League football and Notts in the fifth. The ‘Nailers’ from the nearby Derbyshire town being expected to bring some 1,500 supporters to Nottingham. Should be fun.

Meanwhile, my dear Hibees travel to Hamilton in Lanarkshire to face the Accies at New Douglas Park. A curious and unpredictable one this after the international break with Hibs showing a little more resilience in the three games prior. Hibs don’t have their problems to seek currently with few of the close season additions being termed as a success. They particularly struggle up front with new signing Doidge not firing as yet and Florian Kamberi out of sorts once more. I’ve a feeling there will be more questions asked of manager Heckingbottom come 5pm today.

The international break came at an inconvenient time for Nottingham Forest who were on a fine run of form and points gathering when the league had its short hiatus. It will be interesting to see if they pick up things where they left off against Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium tomorrow and my hunch is that they will. They have shown a reliable resilience this season so far. It’s too early to be considering prospects for the season currently but I’d absolutely love to see the Garibaldi Reds back in the top flight once more where I believe they belong.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 12.10.19

Autumn rolls relentlessly on and for me it’s another visit to Meadow Lane Stadium in Nottingham to watch Notts County v Torquay United. How the not-mighty have fallen as the representatives of the English Riviera make the long trip to civilisation, possibly populating a motorised scooter. The Magpies’ boss, Neal Ardley appeared in the local media the previous day answering fan questions and reaffirmed what a genuine, principled and real football man he is. Well done Neal.

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Meanwhile, the team in black and white stripes continue their press towards the play-of positions and with a good and sizable squad look well placed to make a charge on promotion as the season wears on.

The cat will no doubt come to the end of the drive to wave me away on this brave quest of bus, tram and terrace warfare.

At the same time, my one true football love, Hibernian, kick-off at New Douglas Park as they take on Hamilton Academical in an unpredictable-looking fixture. There have been some more encouraging signs from the Hibees of late after a fairly terrible time this season so far with at least a little more grit being apparent in their play. However, the jury remains firmly out on manager Heckingbottom at the moment, if only for having a silly Yorkshire name. The grand old team still appear to be labouring under some mediocre close season recruitment Do what you’ve got to do Hibs and put a display on please for my pals in that faithful away support in deepest Lanarkshire.

Edit: Just to make sure you’re paying attention at the back, the Hibs game is next week.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 28.9.19

Saturday’s the day we play the game and it’s off to the city and Nott’s County’s Meadow Lane I go for the 3pm kick off against Fylde FC. It’s bargain giveaway day today as owners of club, the Reedzt brothers, have kindly offered the game for just £3 admission as a thank you for the club’s faithful sticking by their team in the dark days of last summer.

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Surprisingly, my new cat-pal-visitor decided not to follow me in the persistently precipitous weather. Cats are so smart. Notts Manager, Neal Ardley in almost a year at the club hasn’t overseen his team experience back-to-back wins in all that time and after a midweek away win, here’s another chance for the Magpies. My Saturday afternoon will be punctuated by a Scotch pie kindly provided by my Glaswegian pal at half time and earlier, checking up on the goings on at Easter Road where Hibs play Celtic. Probably by viewing my iphone through my fingers.

It’s turbulent times at Easter Road of course. Most of the dialogue features releasing Manager Paul Heckingbottom as nauseam with little debate about any other subject. I remain convinced that the Yorkshireman will find it incredibly difficult to turn fortunes around. His own lack of popularity being partly attributable to some challenging and slightly dismissive comments directed at the club’s supporters.

It was good news for Nottingham Forest last night as after an exciting 3-2 away win they went top of the Championship. Great to see Forest on top again – even if it may be short-lived. They are looking like strong challengers this season and play some exhilarating football at times through the likes of the excellent João Carvalho, Joe Lolley and Lewis Grabban.

You’ll excuse me now as the Hibernians have just kicked off and gone ahead courtesy of any own goal by Celtic’s Ajer…

Postscript:

Notts performed grittily in grinding out a 2-0 victory. Another clean sheet would have been pleasing to them as would a terrific goal by forward, Thomas. I think many have seen the team perform better this season and lost. A moment of note was when the referee was injured in a collision with a Fylde player. Needing to retire from the game, the announcer on the public address system requested any ‘fully qualified referees to please come forward’. Handily, the Pavis Stand generally finds itself well stocked with ‘referees’! The Magpies now find themselves on the cusp of the play-off places for the first time this season.

Hibs competed well in a slightly tempestuous and feisty game with quite some controversy. Manager Heckingbottom managed to get himself banished to the stands after kicking a Gatorade bottle in anger, hitting a linesman! Some good signs but much work to do.

Nottingham Diary: September 2019

It’s been a turbulent week on Nottingham’s roads with simply just traversing the city a little problematic to say the least. However, sadly, lives have been lost.

Cityscape(1)(Image: Invest in Nottingham)

Last Saturday evening, a man was stabbed to death in the centre of the city. A friend passing mentioned that he had witnessed the victim being unsuccessfully resuscitated. Another pointless waste of life. The fact that part of the city’s roads were closed for forensics that evening and through most of the next day is of no consequence by comparison.

Wednesday brought another fatality, this time on the main thoroughfare, Upper Parliament Street in the heart of the city. A local man, just 34 years-old, was hit by a single-decker bus and was was reported dead the next day. Passing the scene later in the day was a hard view, with the unfortunate victim’s rucksack still lying in the road behind the bus and hard to not see.

Friday came and saw city centre gridlocks due to different reasons. The earlier part of the day saw demonstrations by Extinction Rebellion by way of a massed cycle ride and later, a gathering in Old Market Square. No question that there are difficult issues to be faced here. The movement’s methods will continue to be debated by the public.

It’s still Friday and it’s that day and weekend where Nottingham’s thousands of students descend back on the city. A lighter note at least to see the pavements near my office teeming with students and their parents, arms full of bedding, clothing and foodstuffs for the young incomers. Perhaps the most amusing sight being two young lads each absolutely laden with two-litre bottles of mineral water, maybe concerned about the availability of running water in their new homes. A visit to the supermarket on leaving work saw a scene resembling a plague of locusts having swarmed its formerly heavily laden shelves.

Some people find the preponderance of students around the city from late September onwards an irritation but not me personally, notwithstanding that they’re not vomiting, staggering and crying in the street in the early hours  in the suburb where I live. I do like though, to see that youthful ebullience tinged with trepidation as they leave home for the first time and sort themselves into their new friendship groups in a strange environment. And let’s face it, there’s nowhere stranger than Nottingham at times.

Finally, and like most Saturdays from September to May in Nottingham one of the city’s two professional football teams are playing at home, this week, Nottingham Forest. Approaching the ground is Trent Bridge where a ‘police incident’ has been reported. This, sadly, is modern day code for a possible suicide attempt, in this case a possible jumper from the Trent Bridge into the River Trent’s dangerous currents far below. An increasing trend in these troubled times. I do hope this person is safe and goes on to continue forwards into a content and meaningful life.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 14.9.19

Saturday’s the day we play the game.

A sunny September day in Nottingham and it’s a trip to Meadow Lane to see Notts County v Halifax Town. The last time I watched these two football behemoths face off must have been about 1973 at The Shay in Halifax, comfortably the most awful football ground I’ve ever stepped in (and that’s a few).

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There’ll be no loose shale underfoot on the terrace for opposition fans to throw at each today in a comparatively sterile atmosphere.Just a need to duck no doubt from a few errant long balls coming down from the stratosphere from Notts’ cultured defenders.

My first love, Hibs’ supporters are on the sixty-mile road to Kilmarnock to see Hibernian play. Come on the Hibs!

Forest take on league leading Swansea in a tough-looking fixture on the road at the Liberty Stadium.

Postscript:

Notts ran out worthy winners by a goal to nil having played practically half the game with ten men after captain, Michael Doyle received a red card.

Hibernian suffered a miserable-sounding 0-2 reverse to Kilmarnock amid fresh clamour for manager Heckingbottom’s head – preferably before the Edinburgh derby in just seven days time…

Forest had a terrific 1-0 win over first-placed Swansea with skilful Portuguese midfielder, João Carvalho apparently showing his full range of trickery.

Happy 75th Birthday, Pat Stanton

Happy 75th Birthday Pat Stanton, Hibernian legend.

Perhaps no player embodied the ethos of the Hibernians more than Pat. On the field of play he was elegent, poised and personified class. He played the ‘Hibs way’ and led by an an example that few, if any, could ever match. What a glorious and wonderful footballer he was. You knew you were in the presence of greatness when watching Pat Stanton play the beautiful game.
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‘What a time that was at the Hibs. We were the last of the romantics.’ – Pat Stanton’.

A descendent of Hibernian co-founder Michael Whelahan an emigree of County Rosscommon after the Great
Famine in Ireland, Pat Stanton upholds the link between present day and the 1875 of its Irish founding fathers.

As a young man, Pat with his dark, Irish good looks, and gentlemanly and kindly manner was a fine ambassador for the club he loves. He remains so at 75 years. Safe to say, no player in the club’s long history demands more respect and fully deserved, downright adoration. Happy Birthday, King Paddy.

Suicide: Risk Factors, Warning Signs And How To Talk To A Person With Suicide Ideation

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and as so many talk of ‘raising awareness’ as the saying goes nowadays, I’d like to talk a little about communicating with a person experiencing suicidal thoughts. Perhaps a good place to start is in understanding risk factors for suicide and recognising the sometimes subtle warning signs.

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Each and every suicide is a tragedy, and one which leaves unanswered questions. Most often, suicidal thoughts develop from deep feelings of hopelessness and an inability to cope with certain challenges in our lives. From this, a belief that taking our own life is the only possible or most simple solution to our problems can grow. A great pity of course is that those very challenges are often temporary in nature. A permanent solution – suicide – is applied to what in essence is a temporary problem. Indeed, it can be seen that most people who survive suicide attempts go on afterwards to live full and most rewarding lives.

Risk Factors

Arguably, the most prevalent risk factor for suicide is that of depression but there are many others. These diverse factors include experiencing chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychiatric disorders, suicide in the family, substance abuse and not least, a previous suicide attempt. Impulsive thoughts, particularly in the young, can play a role too.

Warning Signs

If a person is felt to be at risk due to any of the above they may exhibit behaviour such as mood changes – even to the extent of a sudden and unexpected upbeat mood. They may alternatively display completely new behaviours. These behaviours can indicate a person who is actively suicidal.

A common myth about suicide is that those who ‘talk about it are not the ones who do it’. This is a fallacy. Whether people talk about it or not has no true bearing on the likelihood of them completing a suicide.

People with suicide ideation will commonly talk of not wanting to be a burden to others in their lives, of having nothing to live for or not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. They may talk of feeling trapped in some way or of their unbearable pain, whether physical or emotional pain. These types of words can indicate a person who is contemplating taking their own life.

Talking To A Suicidal Person

Here we encounter another great myth about suicide, the notion that talking to someone about their suicidal thoughts is somehow encouraging them to carry out the act. In these situations, it is important to begin a dialogue, to initiate a conversation about the subject. The conversation can include discussion about sources of help and assistance such as attending the GP or a therapist. It is wise to identify a help line such as The Samaritans and to keep that number in their phone or wallet/purse. An agreement can be made to follow up these actions with a future chat in which progress can be reported and reviewed.

I feel it’s better to be fairly direct with a person by asking similar to the following questions:

  • How are you coping with your problems?
  • Are you thinking about dying or hurting yourself?
  • Have you made any plans to take your own life?

The latter – making the distinction between a person experiencing suicidal thoughts and one who is actually making the plans to do it is of high importance. This is not only for the helper/listener but also for the person themselves in understanding and clarifying their own situation a little better.

Samaritans: Freecall. 116 123 (24 hours)   E. jo@samaritans.org.uk (response: 24 hours)

 

 

‘Sir’ Geoffrey Boycott

Ex-cricketer, Geoff Boycott is awarded a knighthood by the recently departed Tory leader. I’m no fan of the honours system and here we see a particular beastly example of it. Boycott was found guilty just over twenty hears ago of beating his partner, Margaret Moore and received a three-month suspended prison sentence plus a fine of 50,000 francs.

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Margaret Moore after the 1996 attack

The court was told of him punching his partner twenty times with Boycott’s story being that she’d had an ‘accidental fall’.

We have to consider if the subject of domestic abuse is still not taken seriously. 

To give a further insight into this man’s character, in 2017, when asked about his prospects of gaining a knighthood he commented that he would be more likely to be given the award if he ‘blacked up’. He then bluntly stated that knighthoods were given to West Indian cricketers such as Sir Garfield Sobers and Sir Vivian Richard ‘like confetti. (Clue: they were much better and less selfish cricketers than you mate).

I had a brief experience of Boycott a lot of years ago as a youngster. After leaving school I had a job at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground for a few months. Part of my duties on match days were to go out on to the pitch at the end of the session and ask the batting team whether they would like the light or heavy roller to be used on the wicket before the next session. I remember Boycott’s slightly threatening response to this simple and unassuming question: ‘I want the heavy roller and I want the full f**king seven minutes lad.’

I mean really, to a sixteen year-old kid?

Compare this say to gentleman, Clive Lloyd, the West Indies captain’s response: ‘The heavy roller please young man, thank you very much’.

Gambling Urges and Cravings (3) What Can Help With Them?

In general terms, it is good for a recovering gambler to be as busy and occupied as is reasonably possible. This is not necessarily a lifetime strategy but certainly a most important contributor to overcoming the addiction in earlier days of abstinence. To plan activities, tasks, work and pastimes as regularly as possible is the gambler’s friend and this concentration on activity can assist in preventing gambling urges and cravings forming. What can the gambler do however, to deal with them if and when they arrive?

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(Image: Rasto Belan)

It has been an observation of mine from clients that the beginnings of gambling thoughts and urges are most often of a positive nature. Thoughts about opportunity and winning, coupled with additional thoughts about ways of spending those winnings characterise their first notion when the subject of gambling first pops into the head. One might say that without this feeling of positivity, the urges to gamble might be quite ineffectual and short-lived, for obvious reasons. These thoughts contain little balance or cost benefit thinking so an initial task might, after recognising and acknowledging the thoughts, be to challenge them. A train of thought might develop thus: ‘I have time and opportunity to gamble, money to do it with and that football match/horse race has very attractive odds. I could easily make money on them. With those winnings I could buy this or I could pay off that…’. At this point a challenge is required, ‘But what happened the last time I gambled? I lost money I couldn’t afford to lose and left myself short of funds all month. I felt depressed and anxious. I couldn’t talk to my partner and it affected our relationship’. Just an example and like many strategies practicing it makes it more effective.

Another main area I like to concentrate on is that of mental exercises to distract the gambler from gambling thoughts. Again, the initial acknowledgement and recognition that one is having those gambling thoughts is necessary and we can then turn to the distraction techniques. The central principle is that if there are thoughts about gambling in someone’s head then the most beneficial thing that can happen is simply to remove those thoughts as we cannot concentrate on two trains of thought simultaneously. Counting exercises are popular and effective, often the more menial the better. In my office I venture the idea of counting the many leaves on a pot plant, or looking through the window at a nearby building and counting windows, roof tiles or any other feature. It sounds unlikely but it is effective. Concentrate hard enough on the exercise and at this point those gambling thoughts will be extinct, they will not exist We have already established that for most gamblers, the urges are not long-lasting – possibly minutes typically – and so (thankfully!) these exercises need not last long at all until the gambling urges pass. A footnote might be that occasionally, gamblers believe their gambling urges last much longer that the minutes we talk of here. I would posit that much more likely is the fact that for those people, shorter urges are returning over and over again during the day – much like the waves described earlier

Of course, there are many other distraction strategies to choose from but an important factor in whatever one chooses is to have the strategy pre-planned and ready for any urges and cravings coming along. Know these environment, recognise where and when they most often happen and plan accordingly. I also like the idea of simply talking to others, be that face-to-face or over the telephone as conversations can be quickly engrossing. Other strategies people have mentioned to me include, taking a cycle ride, walking the dog, playing with their children and generally participating in hobbies and pastimes. I quite like to hear of physical activities that are in complete contrast to the gambling activity. All of these can assist a gambler in dealing effectively with gambling urges and cravings.

Gambling Urges and Cravings (2) Why Do They Happen?

Gambling triggers, broadly speaking, can be placed in two categories – external and internal. External triggers are arguably easier to identify and are exemplified by such as physically passing betting shops or casinos, encountering gambling advertising on the TV or receiving communications electronically from gambling companies, i.e. emails or texts offering ‘free spins’ and other offers. We can observe that external triggers to gamble are from things the stimuli we see or hear from outside of ourselves and induce us to gamble. In addition, we can think here of the way that people, places, situations and times of day can offer external triggers. People might often relate the influence of other people as confined to sharing time with others who gamble but other people who create certain moods in a person are less identified but can be highly relevant, as will be explained. Places and situations can perhaps be more easily recognised, examples being at home alone, with an opportunity to gamble online or being in a situation of needing money for whatever reason and gambling to acquire it. Times of day might follow a pattern of opportunities around work, home and social life. For the purposes of this discussion however, I am more interested in the subject of the other category, that of internal triggers.

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(Image: Jeff Prieb)

We can relate internal triggers to how you are feeling and the thoughts you are experiencing – your mood patterns. A classic example might be of a person experiencing low moods, feeling upset or depressed and this creating gambling activity as an ‘escape’ from those moods – classic escapism. This can be easily compared with other addictions and their escapism factor. Perhaps a most obvious example might be that of alcohol, where someone might indulge in ‘drowning their sorrows’ to use a well-worn phrase. The alcohol might work well temporarily in masking or ‘fixing’ those unwanted feelings for a time at least. A problem being that after the return to sobriety the cause of the low mood may still exist (and be exacerbated by a hangover!) The same is very much true of gambling. Individuals can ‘lose’ themselves in the gambling activity which offers them distraction from whatever is creating their low moods. This I feel, is especially true for those indulging in gambling which requires frequent use and response such as online games or fixed-odds-betting terminals (FOBTs) in betting shops or fruit/slot machines in arcades or other environments.

Another mood type which can influence and induce betting can be boredom. Being under-occupied, living a generally humdrum lifestyle or lacking excitement or interest can lead to the need to chase a ‘buzz’ or a pattern of gambling behaviour which provides thrills – even if only in a gambler’s addiction. Other moods might be anger, frustration, loneliness or numerous others. It’s a useful exercise to question whether any of these moods are applicable to oneself. It may well be key to understanding the prime driver for the behaviour and therefore beginning to work on helpful changes.

As an aside, the subject of ‘addictive personality’ can be interwoven with this subject. Like many, I do not subscribe to such a concept and there is much evidence against it. Suffice to say, people can reach out to various maladaptive coping strategies such as alcohol, drugs or gambling due to the same basic underlying problems in their life. It’s important to remember that people have been trying to ‘fix’ their feelings since biblical times and this provides a good explanation for the above behaviour.

We know that cravings only lose their power if they are not reinforced by further episodes of gambling. This for me is a pivotal consideration in stopping urges and therefore stopping gambling happening. So how long might this desirable state of affairs take to come about – that of the urges declining to the point of extinction? Statistics – which may well not be the most useful resource when thinking about this subject would indicate that a majority of ex-gamblers’ urges and cravings disappear in around 6-12 months. This can be a little disheartening and worrying for people trying to stop but really shouldn’t be. It does not mean there is a likelihood of 6-12 months of purgatory, being deeply troubled by these urges, for after a much shorter period they can be rendered into mere feeble thoughts than can be easily batted away. The length of time that people experience gambling urges is highly variable due to numerous factors such as the level of the former gambling habit, personality traits and circumstances but a pattern emerges indicating that often, urges decrease quite quickly to the point of being much less troublesome after say, a month of abstinence. Some people don’t even experience urges at all it should be recorded. We therefore can see an encouraging pattern for the recovering gambler of the urges decreasing in both frequency and intensity to the point of extinction. The task becomes ‘easier’ at the days, weeks and months of abstinence draw on.

I sometimes use a nice analogy for urges and cravings and that is of a stray cat. If a stray came to your door and you feed it, what would most likely happen? Yes, it will return for another feed. Gambling urges and cravings work in much the same way. If you feed them by gambling they will certainly return.

In summary, one of the reasons it is often more difficult to decrease gambling levels as opposed to stopping it completely is because the addiction continues to be ‘fed’, albeit on a decreased scale, thus creating urges to gamble further. The cycle can then occur of gradually heavier gambling and a return to the various issues this creates. For people who have never been what we might term as a problem gambler gambling more casually can hold together, it is however, most problematic for a person recovering from problem gambling and not advisable.

Finally, urges can be quite intense in the early stages of stopping and can endure for a period of time after the gambling stops so be prepared to accept them as part of the change process,

Gambling Urges and Cravings (1) What are they?

Often, people speak to me in my capacity as a Gambling Practitioner about the subject of the strong urges and cravings they are experiencing whilst dealing with their addiction. Of course, such feelings can leave a person in recovery feeling vulnerable, not to say, anxious. It can also rob them of their confidence in their ability to overcome a gambling addiction and crucially become a part of the process of lapsing or relapsing. To that end, some psychoeducation around the subject of urges and cravings can be hugely beneficial.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         (Image: Jeff Prieb)

It’s important to understand that urges and cravings are actually a natural part of modifying (either abstaining from or decreasing) the gambling activity. Naturally, the more a person understands them, the more this will assist in overcoming them.
I often ask if clients understand the underlying cause of their urges to gamble but find that very few have an accurate conception of why this is. More often they will refer to certain personal triggers which whilst certainly a contributor are an accessory or facilitator to the underlying reason. Simply speaking, urges to gamble are caused by gambling itself. They are generally the result of reinforced gambling activity over a period of time and can endure for a further period after becoming abstinent from the gambling activity. It follows then that if a person has a history of heavy gambling in particular, it’s quite likely they may still experience strong urges after stopping.

What we see from the above is that people fall into a vicious cycle of gambling activity creating urges – urges creating gambling behaviour – gambling creating further urges and so on. It’s for another conversation but here is where an initial intervention and plan is put in place to stop gambling by controlling funds, access i.e. phone/betting shop and/or time and opportunity.

A useful way in which to conceptualise how a gambling urge works is to think of it being similar to a wave on a beach. The latter will begin as a mere ripple initially before building up to its strongest point prior to breaking and flowing away when it hits the beach. The comparison is of a gambling urge beginning as a small thought in someone’s mind, growing and overtaking other thoughts before finally ‘crashing’. The latter is a direct comparison with a wave breaking, where the urge reaches its culmination – either by gambling or by avoiding it.

We find that urges can last for seconds, minutes or for more protracted periods. This can depend on what you are doing (are you occupied with other thoughts especially). Keeping oneself occupied and busy really is the recovering gambler’s friend – preferably occupied with things you enjoy doing but not necessarily. Clearly, the thoughts about gambling then have less opportunity to occupy your thoughts and create those urges. Duration of thoughts can also be influenced by how a person is feeling and this comes into the area of triggers for the activity.

Some Thoughts On Depression

Seeing ‘no light at the end of the tunnel’ is a subject worth understanding how to think about. It can be acknowledged how difficult or even impossible, that can feel at times. A good subject for general discussion then.

Some define it as a ‘dark tunnel’ others as a ‘dark maze’ to find their way through. From a philosophical viewpoint, bringing about ‘light’ might be thought of as attempting to deliver oneself into a better place – one where one feels happier and more content. Sometimes this can be discovered in finding meaning or purpose in life in some way. So how do we do that? It can present a daunting job to many.

I would like to propose a certain ‘re-framing’ of expectations about one’s life. This doesn’t amount to ‘settling’ (for less) in my view (for this can indeed be a ‘happier’ place). It does though entail learning how to comprehend and enjoy those simple things in our lives that we sometimes find ourselves overlooking.

I often think of this change process as a stepped approach. Psychology for example can be so effective in helping with this and yet effective psychological support can be a longer process which takes time to help and re-orient people’s thought and behaviours. Rather, for me, a behavioural approach initially can be helpful – the ‘first aid’ if you like. Clearly, psychology is suited to treating deeper causes rather then just resultant effects/symptoms. However, it may take time, that’s a given. By contrast, behaviours – by using a behavioural approach can change the situation overnight and quite possibly give one the lift needed to get you on the road. Maybe we should consider some of those behavioural factors. Some of them will been overlooked because they feel ‘difficult’ for someone lacking motivation to help themselves into recovery. Nevertheless, they are worth examining.

We can focus on the fact that, yes, some days will just feel utterly rubbish. I think it’s helpful to have an acceptance of that. What we can say though is that there will be times also when that hurtful feeling will pass and you will feel more well. Remember that too.

Living in the present. We might say that in living too much in the past, there lies triggers for depression from when living though previous difficulties and times. Conversely, looking too far ahead and too often, there can lie the anxieties of not being certain about what the future holds. We can never know these things for certain. I present therefore a suggestion to live in the present as much as we can. Practice a little mindfulness and live life.

Social comparisons – try to avoid them, upwards or downwards. Downwards social comparisons (comparing yourself to others who are less fortunate in order to make you feel better about your life does not work. Indeed it can be counter-productive in the way it may make you experience guilt feelings about this. Making upward social comparisons towards people you see in a ‘better’ position than you can of course be sapping and soul destroying. I think the principle here is don’t judge yourself by others. In fact don’t judge yourself at all if you can begin to avoid doing that.

Look to those simple pleasures as much as you can and concentrate on those small things that fleetingly make life feel beautiful. Holding your child, his or her laughter and smiles and you nurturing the child to adulthood. On the note of children, I have a friend who has a picture of herself as a youngster, growing up in the country she came from. Her intention is to look after that little girl every single day as she sets off to to carry out life’s sometimes tough and demanding business.

Further, we all know the small but not insignificant things than can help us. A splash of fresh air and daylight, being active, enjoying friends and family, taking a little exercise, looking after your sleep and eating good food. Getting into ‘good habits’ as a certain football manager from these parts who was ‘the best in a group of one’ would say.

I hope some of this makes a little sense to anyone reading and doesn’t sound too fanciful. They are, for me, things that have taken a long time to understand better in some cases. this is not just through education and training but just as much through passing through a few things in my life too. Those who know me may remember that I had a personal tragedy a few years ago, the quite violent suicide of a partner, one that took a lot of thinking, hard work and yes, sheer perseverance to get through. There were certainly times when I couldn’t ‘see the light at the end of the tunnel’ either and felt like I’d be better off not living. I made mistakes (because I’m human), tried and tried again and I probably feel more content these days than I have in many a year, even through my personal losses. A huge factor in arriving at that point was finding something I could do that brought great meaning and purpose to my own life but’s another subject for another day.

Social Media And The United Kingdom 2019

What an ignorant and disgusting cesspit social media has become. Certainly a reflection of what this country has developed into – a place I increasingly despise for so many reasons. Division, selfishness, self-serving politicians and their hideous believers. Good friends becoming former friends due to their beliefs. I do believe this country is all but done too. It will never be the same again.

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As for the former, I’m seriously considering distancing myself from the friction and negativity of social media generally. Not a plea for comment or opinion, seriously, just an observation of the reality of the situation and the experience. I feel other ways of spending one’s time are becoming more attractive than trawling through the garbage spewed up constantly through this type of media.

Sorry, it just had to be said.

Of course we are all allowed out own opinions on major issues, that’s a given but I find the cowardly and aggressive way these views are often expressed through the medium of social media a little pathetic.

I’m not sure what the exact answer is as I would also greatly miss talking to friends that I can’t normally enjoy the company of. I am thinking that the way we manage and interact with social media is key. Having said that I walked away from it for a few weeks not long ago and didn’t miss the habit of it at all.

I think a problem generally is the invasive and provocative nature of reading things on social media that we violently disagree with in principle – that even offend our personal code of conduct and what is ‘right’, moral and honourable in life. In ‘real’ life it’s likely that we wouldn’t keep the friendship or even be acquainted with such individuals that we might consider as having what we discern as despicable views.

I have a general premise for my thoughts on this overall subject. Evolving over a long period of time, through both professional and personal learning, I have come to extol these and attempt to practice much of the thinking around Positive Psychology. I find it directs me towards a more content life. Increasingly, as a part of that, I refuse to let the constantly negative that surrounds us be part of my own thinking, especially as regards individuals who behave and communicate such views. This is not a ‘Pollyanna’ way of thinking but more about understanding what things contribute to the ‘good life’ and what things subtract from it. The latter I increasingly see social media as exemplifying.

Les Strongman

i WAS SO SORRY to hear of the passing of a real Nottingham sporting legend. Les Strongman. Canadian Les, hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, joined the inaugural Nottingham Panthers line-up immediately after the war in 1946 and over eleven seasons iced 508 times for the Panthers recording 733 points (402+331). Les also had stints playing in Malmo, Sweden, Zurich, Switzerland and for the Wembley Lions in London.

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Les Strongman appearing for the Nottingham Panthers 1950/51.
Les was reputedly the first hockey player in the UK to wear a helmet after sustaining a head injury when hitting the boards at Lower Parliament Street

When the club reformed in 1980 after being extinct for twenty years, Les re-joined in a coaching role and latterly coached the younger teams and took a committee role. Many will remember him for his newsagents business opposite the old Nottingham Ice Rink on Lower Parliament Street which he kept for many years. I managed to see him skate in charitable affairs and his coaching role long after retirement. Well into his sixties, his style was remarkable, super smooth and effortless. The left wing also had a laser beam of a shot. The greatness of his youth was still clearly evident.

In addition to being a great gentleman, Les had clearly been a very special player and was often talked about along with his amazing line-mate, fellow Winnipeg native Chick Zamick as centre ice to Les. Together they plundered hundreds of points for the Nottingham team in a wonderful partnership.

After many decades living in the UK, Les decided to re-emigrate back to Canada in his senior years to be closer to his son and daughter. He died peacefully, aged 95 years after a lifetime of achievement. He will be remembered fondly in the city which he chose to call home for so many years.

Rest in Peace, Les Strongman

A Notts County ‘Protest’

A Notts County ‘protest’. This is a football club that faces possible extinction in just four days time. A winding up order due to an HMRC debt of approximately £250,000 has been served and postponed twice in hearings. The coming Wednesday hearing could dictate prior administration or even possible liquidation on the day. No more football club.

The club’s Chairman and owner, Alan Hardy, has a litany of arrogant, reckless gambling on Notts’ future in order to feed his narcissism. His building interiors company is in receivership with 100 staff unceremoniously made redundant without payment due to money taken out of it to feed his football vanity project.

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Nott’s County’s playing and non-playing staff remain unpaid after reassurances of meeting this commitment by the owner.
He has seemingly, continually lied about the future of the football club by issuing false promises. He has additionally, embarrassed himself, his family and the club by accidentally exposing his genitals on a Twitter post. A short while ago he manifested his lack of humility by complaining endlessly and finally appealing against yet another speeding conviction – driving at fully 77mph in a 40mph zone. Apparently, Mr Hardy is the ‘busiest man in the world’ and the laws of the land do not apply to him.

He has not denied negotiations with a consortium of possible new club owners who have at the helm a convicted fraudster with a changed name who shamefully embezzled money out of pensioners and was sentenced to six years in prison.

Hardy has presided over the Nottingham club’s demise in being relegated from the Football League after a long 157 year history. Currently the team find themselves without enough players to adequately cover requirements and using last year’s kit as Puma state they have not received payment for a new one from the club. Today the team also find themselves in their first friendly fixture of the season away at Nuneaton Borough FC, needing to drive their own transport to the game due to no money being available for a team coach.

The image shows the extent of Notts County’s fans’ action in response to the near-complete demise of their club –just thirty fans protesting outside the Meadow Lane stadium. (Apparently, it was raining). Plenty do care though care and it’s those faithful and persevering souls I feel sorry for.

Lambley Under Water Once More

Extensive flooding in the area from last night with the main street in the local town closed (now opened again). Houses flooded and businesses closed. Several roads were closed and public transport halted.

The local villages invariably take a battering in these times and Lambley was in the news once more this morning.

Lovely Lambley in Nottinghamshire has been flooded so many times over the years, I think they might now have their own Navy.

lambley(Pic: ITV.com)

Reports from last night tell of up to four feet of water in places in the village. Travellers were stranded, including a minibus full of Indian tourists, perhaps visiting the area for today’s Cricket World Cup match at Trent Bridge I’m guessing. Happy and reassured to hear of the local villagers taking people into their homes in the early hours for refuge from the conditions.

Nottingham: June 2019

Just the two stabbings then in Nottingham city centre last night, at 3.30am and 4.05am.

One on Goldsmith Street in the centre of student land and the other on Mansfield Road, a busy main thoroughfare, both in the middle of the city. It’s notable the time of some of these violent incidents but by no means always is this the case.

Goldsmith Street Stabbing

https://www.nottinghampost.com/news/nottingham-news/goldsmith-street-stabbing-it-not-2933220

Mansfield Road Stabbing

https://www.nottinghampost.com/news/nottingham-news/second-stabbing-city-centre-believed-2933497

 

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(Image: mirror.co.uk)

People are concerned, for themselves, for their young ones growing up into this danger and lawlessness and for our older people. The underfunded police make misleading claims about ‘isolated incidents’. Other profess that Nottingham is ‘no worse’ than other cities.

Only, I don’t believe this. Nor did I believe it either when the city’s ‘Shottingham’ image was continually and steadfastly refuted by the local authorities, the police and the universities seeking to bring in more and more students.

There is no way I would want a daughter or son of mine to study and live in this city the way it is now.

Nottingham used to be a great city to live in or visit. It was vibrant, with good facilities, great sporting culture and charismatic and historic architecture everywhere. Some of these things still exist to an extent of course but the mood of the city is ugly and its streets are no longer comfortable or safe. It feels more like a ghetto each month that passes.

We see the unfortunate and disadvantaged who sleep rough in most cities but there is no question that the amount of homeless people on Nottingham’s streets has exploded in recent times. Most short walks through Nottingham entail running a gauntlet of people begging and sleeping in shop doorways.

Large communities of students upset their neighbours on a continual basis, robbing them and their children of sleep and peace, vomiting in the streets, breaking glass and staggering around. I am not anti-student having worked for both local universities and understanding the positives they also bring to the city.

Now we have a daily report of the stabbings and slashings which are almost certainly nevertheless under reported. The city’s drug problem is clearly totally out of control and the city centre streets often hazardous with groups of drunks teeming around the streets on busy nights Worst of all arguably, are the frequent suicide attempts, completed or not, from the likes of the multi-storey car parks around the city and the lack of action taken to stem this.

The Nottingham of 2019 is not a vintage one and it’s sad and worrying to see its deconstruction. In the meantime, self-serving politicians argue about Brexit and sit on their hands as usual.

Notts County Depart The Football League

Yesterday saw the black and white side of the football divide in Nottingham depart the Football League after a disastrous season. On the final day of the season, Notts required all three points at Swindon Town with the Magpies’ relegation rivals Macclesfield needing to lose at home to Cambridge United. It was a difficult task but one that looked  for a short period into the second half of the games with Notts a goal to the good and Macclesfield trailing by a goal. ‘ It’s the hope that kills you’ as the saying goes though with matters coming to an ignominious end among tears of sorrow among the faithful at the final whistle.

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(Pic: Nottingham Post)

It’s at least good to see that many true football fans can recognise the sadness in the situation of Notts County being relegated from the Football League yesterday. The ending of 130 consecutive years in the League, which they were a founding member of. Notts have been in existence for 157 long years.

Living here, I’ve taken the opportunity to attend Meadow Lane quite regularly this season (and Forest too) and observed this absolutely disastrous season unfold. Most would apportion much of the blame to Chairman, Alan Hardy, a local businessman who bought the club 30 months ago. An attention seeking, somewhat egotistical figure, he has in the past few months presided over not only the demise of Notts County but also his largest company, Paragon, leaving a redundant, unpaid workforce and a trail of creditors including many smaller sub-contractors.

Earlier this year he added to the circus by inadvertently posting a picture of his genitals in a Tweet. Yes, you did read that right, he left his phone’s camera roll on the image he posted. Prior to that he was prosecuted for speeding at 77mph in a 40mph area which he continually griped about in the media and arrogantly appealed against.

Sacking two managers earlier in the season, (the first one widely reported as being allegedly heavily on the sauce) he panicked and sanctioned the signing of several players in January for third Manager, Ardley. The problem is that around 80% of the Manager’s choices did not want to sign for the Magpies due to their perilous position and also because by now many agents refused to deal with Notts due to previous non-payment.

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Distraught Notts fans (Pic: Nottingham Post)

Neil Ardley has struggled with an almost impossible situation since his appointment in November. He’s shown himself to be a good, honourable and decent man though naturally has had much of the blame set on his shoulders. The club’s supporters have been magnificent in their support, turning up in average numbers of 7,300 at home, the third highest in the division.

I’m not a Notts or Forest supporter, I’m 100 per cent Hibs but I enjoy the local teams here doing well and creating a vibrant sporting culture in the city I live in. Notts County meant a great deal to my late mum’s brothers for many years. We know how this works in football, these are the ties that bind, through the generations. I myself was introduced to Nottingham football as a youngster by an uncle who who would kindly take me to both Meadow Lane and Forest’s City Ground on alternate Saturdays. A very varied experience with Notts at the foot of the Fourth Division playing in front of 3,000 fans and Forest challenging at the top of the First Division with regular attendance between 30,000 and 40,000.

At this time there is said to be a takeover in process by a South African consortium. The truth of that is subject to some doubt though. It would not be overly dramatic to say that the whole club’s future lies in the balance. Things will be tough on the field too, there have been some notable successes of teams leaving the Football League and returning stronger, Luton, Lincoln and Mansfield etc. but there are many more that have stayed in obscurity, almost fatally wounded.

Congratulations to Macclesfield on their hard fought survival, they deserved it. I do feel incredibly sad for Notts County’s supporters though after the darkest day in their long history. A little piece of my family background disappeared with it too.

Notts are in the balance…

Saturday’s the day we play the game.

A possible swansong for Notts County as a Football League club beckons on Saturday for a somewhat ominous-feeling visit to Meadow Lane a few miles away. The Magpies make their final home appearance of a disastrous season against Grimsby’s Mariners. A day which must bring a heart-sad feeling to many a Notts supporter. I can feel for them.

Recent weeks have seen growing anger and disbelief at their team’s many dismal showings and the extremely worrying news regarding the at-risk future of the club itself. Although crowds have remained fairly healthy for a team propping up the rest of the Football League, it’s been sad to hear some of the vitriol aimed at the players and especially the manager, Neil Ardley.

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Fighter – Notts midfielder Michael Doyle

I really can’t say whether Mr Ardley is a good manager or not. He was brought into an incredibly dire situation with a bloated and underperforming squad, shorn of confidence, one with little dynamism, energy, goal-scoring and no clue on the basics of defending. His single window of opportunity in the transfer market in January being recently reported as featuring 80% of his targeted players being ‘unwilling ‘ to sign for Notts, leaving him with limited choices. He is however, clearly a good and honest football man though, unselfish and courteous towards his many critics. I find it a little sickening the way he is being referred to by some ‘fans’ of the club – enough indeed to make me question how much success they really deserve. I don’t need to expand on the recent reported death threats and vile abuse forwarded at club staff via an ever more appalling social media. They are beneath contempt.

In January , the ex-Wimbledon manager, Ardley, brought in fully eight players from what were slim pickings. Within those players have been the experienced midfield heads of Scot, Jim O’Brien and Irishman, Michael Doyle. Clearly a pair of battle-hardened warrior pros they have strove manfully with others such as the excellent Mitch Rose to bring some fight into a lacklustre situation. Another veteran, former Scottish international Craig Mackail-Smith has belied his age with some energetic performances, when played.

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Subject of abuse – Neil Ardley

The weeks have passed and opportunities for safety appeared and quickly disappeared on a regular basis, Notts unable to capitalise on the failings of their relegation rivals and now there are just two games left to alter the fate of this club. It is now partly out of their own hands with a win for Macclesfield Town tomorrow spelling relegation to the desert of non-league football after 157 years long years.

It is a little tragic yes, but then Notts County don’t have or deserve any special privilege in these matters, by the end of Saturday or the following one they will have recognised and deserved their fate and so will their rivals. Before this set of fixtures I have really felt deeply for the first time that they are more likely to be relegated than not. Time may have finally caught up with them.

I do believe though that Notts have players such as the aforementioned Doyle and O’Brien who will fight to the death in these two games. We can ask for no more. I’m going to channel a little bit of Jimmy Sirrel magic for them, they really need it.

On Gambling Urges and Cravings

‘The thought of stopping frightens the **** out of me.’

The words above, read from an internet forum and regarding the troubled feelings experienced when considering stopping gambling very much resonate for many individuals I have worked with. There is an understandable fear of stopping felt by many. A significant section of clients may arrive for their initial session extremely tense and anxious (occasionally, some have even had a bet on the way there!) A part of that might be attributed to wondering what they’re going to face, will they be given a difficult time in therapy for instance etc. (absolutely the opposite is true) but much more it’s about finally facing up to a difficult problem.  This can easily be empathised with.

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People who gamble can be quite frightened of their urges and cravings, they can feel threatened by them or that the urges will always be in control of them. This is often far from the truth in actuality though. To begin with, for the majority of people the cravings last a relatively short period of time – maybe 1-5 minutes or even just seconds at a time. People sometimes feel it’s longer because they tend to arrive in waves throughout a period of time, especially during inactivity, coming and going at frequent intervals.

Some good news.

I often ask clients what they feel might create gambling urges. They may offer suggestions about certain things that trigger their urges but seldom do they identify the base reason for them. In essence, urges and cravings are simply caused by reinforced gambling behaviour – it’s the gambling itself that creates further urges to gamble and therefore a person can become trapped in a vicious cycle of gambling-urges-gambling.

An intervention is usually necessary initially in the form of a barrier or barriers to gambling. A common method is to put in place one or more of the following:

Money – (say by having your cash looked after for a period by another person

The means – (smartphone/ betting shop/casino etc.) Self-exclusion from the latter and blocking software for the former

Time/opportunity – (distracting oneself and keeping busy with other activities can help hugely).

When the vicious cycle of gambling behaviour and urges becomes halted by behavioural changes such as the above, the urges begin to decrease as the individual is not doing the very thing that creates the urges by abstaining. Statistically, this might be a decreasing pattern for say, a few months, people often tell me that the urges decrease quite drastically after about four weeks though whilst some experience very few cravings. It becomes easier and easier, there’s just a need to agree to one of those self-imposed interventions and life can quickly change for the better and the problem unravel.

That’s Entertainment

Interested reading about the nearby local community of Arnold. The town, although only a short journey to Nottingham was traditionally quite self-sufficient and separate from Nottingham through its history in areas such as employment, retail, sport and entertainment. Regarding the latter, the town owned, among other venues, the Drill Hall – still extant and used for other purposes in these days.

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The Drill Hall, Arnold, Nottingham
(Image: Peter Barr)

Formerly, the Drill Hall would feature a variety of entertainments for the people of the town and it’s this in particular that took my interest. I’m imagining the era we’re referring to is certainly mid-20th century around the 1940s. How about a Saturday night bill reputedly packed with some of these performers of the day? I’m particularly enamoured of the idea of Mr B Blunt who married the art of playing the mouth organ and swinging clubs all in one act. I’m going to call that a value for money performance.

John Colman – Female Impersonator.
Dorothy L. Barlow, Humorous Monologues
Cadet R. Newton – Imitator
Mr B. Blunt – Mouth organ and Club Swinging
Mr L. Watts – Yodeller
Keith Hoskins – Xylophonist
Cadet F. Bull – Ventriloquist.

Makes an evening over a couple of pints at your local Wetherspoon outlet seem a bit tame doesn’t it?

Blood On The Tracks

I’m a little ambivalent about the Nottingham trams really. Perhaps that’s because I don’t use them very frequently, although at odd times I find them useful. It seems all is not well in the business though and major problems are on the horizon.

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The company, Tramlink, recently filed its annual accounts – some four weeks late. They showed a loss of £18m, this loss in addition to a previous loss of £48.5m in the previous year. Those losses are said by Tramlink to reflect the cost of new trams and the construction of new routes.

Further, debts of £24m from 2017 have risen significantly to a worrying £307m in 2018, including in excess of £277m in bank loans.

When I observe the trams in the city they are often very full – indeed uncomfortably so with people crowded into them like sardines in busier periods, which can be quite protracted. Unlike during quieter periods, they can be overheated, overcrowded and arguably dangerous to a degree. They most certainly are unpleasant at those times of day. Just last week saw major disruption in services practically most days due to power outages and servicing of trams.

So what is going wrong, with the apparent business and customers being evident and plentiful? Many feel that a large amount of individuals actually don’t pay to use the service. That if detected they are merely asked to leave the tram in which case they simply wait for for the next one along in just a few minutes. In my experience ticket inspectors appear rare though that may not be a true overview I’m not sure. What does seem certain is that negotiating the length of a busy tram in order to inspect tickets is a problematic affair with fare dodgers simply alighting when they spot an inspector approaching from a distance. Gone are the days when conductors were employed on the trams – arguably as a cost-cutting measure that has very much rebounded. This is to say nothing of the issues of security and safety on this form of public transport.

Part of the city’s landscape changed and was disrupted greatly when areas were ripped apart to lay tramlines and their associated street furniture, stations et al. Many people, including myself for some time, paid and still pay a Workplace Parking Levy charge within the city boundaries to undoubtedly fund this major project. It would be simply disastrous for it to fail at this point – so much has been invested in it in all sorts of ways. Perhaps the companies that have run the service have been a little penny-wise and pound-foolish I don’t really know. The days of free tram rides for those not qualified for them really have to end for the system to flourish, it appears to me though

Neil Lennon and Hibs

Very sad and dismayed at the news from Easter Road that it appears Neil Lennon may have managed his last game for the club. A great many rumours and not too many facts being reported currently and so I’ll reserve judgment for the moment.

I am a fan of Neil Lennon’s abilities. He makes mistakes like every single other manager but for me is the most talented Hibs manager for many a year. Crucial is his winning mentality, steel and determination which he brought to the team. Far from being the ‘soft touches’ often considered in the past – something which many had yearned for.

My main comment for the moment is the concern that his assistant and the rest of the managerial staff seem firmly supportive of him and on his side. They appear to feel he has been treated badly by inference. That speaks loudly to me and raises real concerns akin to the bad old days of the manner in which the club and team were managed.

One For Sorrow….

Notts County 0 – 1 Cambridge United

IN A SOMEWHAT turbulent week for Nottingham football partly due to the departure of Forest manager, Aitor Karanka on the opposite banks of the Trent, I took advantage of a giveaway offer of two pounds admission at Meadow Lane to watch Notts County entertain Cambridge United on this murky January afternoon.

If there is such a thing as a ‘six-pointer’ this game would undoubtedly have qualified as one. The Magpies rock-bottom and propping up the entire league and the Cambridge men only a couple of places above. Notts desperately needed to drag their opposition deeper into the dogfight but proved unable.

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(Pic: Nottingham Post)

New signing, Jim O’Brien immediately slotted in well for the home team with the Scot giving an assured display in the middle of the park. At long last someone with the ability to put their foot on the ball and look for a pass. Someone with a little time and organisation to dictate play. A shame to say but few of his teammates took his lead. Allessandra might be excused with his neat touches but there were few other exceptions. The wholehearted Stead, a classy performer at higher levels of the game in previous seasons very much looked his 35 years all afternoon, winning few headers and generally being behind the pace of the game. Notts not only defended poorly but the rearguard continually launched the ball forwards nervously and aimlessly to no one in particular.

In general, Cambridge looked the superior team all over the park, more dangerous in the box and more efficiently guarding their own. A large crowd of over 15,000, apart from the Cambridge contingent who were in fine voice, showed signs of restlessness as Notts’ mistakes piled up Conceding deep into the first half saw the Nottingham men on the back foot for the second period with a mountain to now climb.

It may be recorded that despite throwing everything they could at Cambridge, the Magpies looked ineffective and not seriously looking like scoring through the second half. The crowd grew ugly in mood, especially so as they booed the players off the pitch at the close.

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Beleaguered Manager, Neil Ardley

(Pic: Nottingham Post)

Some reflections: I felt for manager, Neil Ardley today who cut a bewildered figure in this technical area. A man of some considerable experience with now just one win in eight games since arriving. He must be seriously wondering how to get a result out of this side.

There is a despondency about the club and around the ground that is palpable. Many look resigned and almost beyond anger. I left the stadium wondering how on earth the club could pull this situation of likely relegation to non-league status around. The fact is I cannot envisage their safety. I feel that despondency for their supporters too. I truly don’t believe that they will avoid their fate. They do not have the talent, heart or ability to survive and they will deserve their fate because of this.

Today, for the first time I felt truly sorry for Notts County. For over 150 years the city of Nottingham has owned two league clubs in Notts and Forest. I largely grew up with that since early days here and it is part of the fabric and culture of this city.

Sadly, I fear for not too much longer.

Newcastle United 0 Dustbins 1

Quite a few Hibs supporters I know seem to have a soft spot for Newcastle United. Maybe it’s an East coast thing but I can’t claim similar, quite the contrary. It’s probably partly to do with them unfairly ejecting Nottingham Forest from the FA Cup a lot of years ago when Forest were giving them a beating at St James’ Park and their fans invaded the pitch and physically attacked the Forest players. A story from a local radio interview this morning with Frank Clark, highly decorated Forest full-back and former Newcastle player therefore seemed extra funny.

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Frank mentioned a coach at Newcastle in the early days who’d organised a training session where the first team would play a ghost team (an imaginary eleven). This particular day they tried a different version using dustbins as the opposition – the ball came to Frank and he passed it back to the goalie, Gordon Marshall. Unfortunately, Gordon was sorting out his cap and gloves at the edge of the goal and Frank’s pass went straight past him and into the net.

The coach was furious and abandoned the game – the dustbins had won!

NEWCASTLE UNITED 0 DUSTBINS 1

Gambling ‘Obscene’ Profits

A somewhat heartfelt posting this evening. I was alerted to a news story today regarding the owner of the Bet365 betting company declaring a huge personal income from profits of the company.

Bet365 founder paid herself an ‘obscene’ £265m in 2017

I’m not particularly here to change anyone’s opinion but here’s a little insight into the other side of things which may or may not be of interest. I am employed by a registered charity as a psychologist, counselling gamblers and their families.

Each and every working day I see broken lives coming through my office, gamblers and their loved ones too who are innocently experiencing the fallout of a family member’s addiction, children very much included. Outcomes for many include bankruptcy, loss of relationships and children, homelessness and prison sentences. Suicide is the ultimate tragedy occasionally and I have to say I have counselled many individuals who have attempted to take their own lives. General symptoms can include:

Criminal Activity
Feeling Isolated
Mental Health Problems
Domestic Abuse
Financial Difficulties
School/University Difficulties
Drug Misuse
General Health
Suicidal
Alcohol Misuse
Family/Relationship Difficulties
Housing Problems
Work Difficulties
Anxiety/Stress

These symptoms are not rare but everyday.

Gambling companies not only feed addiction but actively create and enhance them, often surreptitiously in my view, by carefully considered psychological strategies that induce people to gamble and relapse. It is not enough to only say that people are responsible for themselves (which they are). People are often only as ‘good’ as they can be in difficult circumstances. We may consider here unconditional positive regard for an individual. We have possibly all found ourselves doing inadvisable things in our lives and so judging on that is not appropriate in my view. Perhaps one of the greatest ironies is that a significant section of gamblers bet simply because they don’t have enough money to live on – which of course never works and there follows an inevitable slide deeper into addiction and its negative effects on their lives. In what must now be approaching thousands of clients I’ve treated I have never witnessed one single client bet their way out of trouble permanently. Not one.

What help is available? Well the casinos in the city I live in make huge reported profits and fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in betting shops contribute approximately fifty per cent of the gambling industry’s profits. Ever wondered incidentally why there are just so many betting shops on the high street these days? It’s because the law regulates each shop to a maximum of four FOBT machines only. They therefore open shop after shop with four more machines in each. In the meantime and by comparison, currently, I am the only individual in the East Midlands of England and parts of Lincolnshire (approx. four million people catchment area) offering free funded help. You may imagine that many gamblers, deep into their addiction become unable to afford other professional treatment at around fifty pounds per hour. A classic catch-22 situation.

You can possibly understand what my attitude to the Bet365 owner making such huge profits might be – at the expense of much human suffering and even deaths – most often not just by the gamblers themselves but their innocent families.

Should anybody require free help and support they can contact Gamcare’s Helpine or Netline which can be found at: www.gamcare.org.uk

For those finding things getting out of control with their online gambling I can thoroughly recommend self-exclusion via a scheme that began in May 2018 called Gamstop. www.gamstop.co.uk

The scheme is completely free and takes around ten minutes to register to it online from their website.

As we say, if you should have a problem ‘the worst thing to do is nothing’.

Notts County – A Broken Club

Notts County 0- 3 Cheltenham

I’m really beginning to believe that for the first time ever, Nottingham will have just one League club come next season, losing the oldest of all League clubs. The Magpies are in a dreadful tailspin as shown today by a resounding and somewhat pitiful capitulation at home against a team placed almost rock bottom and without a win in nine games.

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This team has few notable qualities. It can’t defend to save its life, has no creativity, it is dispirited and broken. There is no leadership but more to the point, little ability. The club’s Chairman, Alan Hardy has shown himself to be ego-driven and impetuous in his decision making. He behaves as though he understands the game and what is required for success but in reality is merely an enthusiastic fan manifesting a misplaced arrogance.

Manager-less after sacking a manager who had just fourteen games with the team, there are few quality contenders to replace him. Notts are far from a ‘big’ club as I seem to keep hearing and they are certainly no ‘sleeping giant’ as is oft-quoted. They appear to be a very old institution in terminal decline, travelling headlong to possibly years of oblivion. I have a different football allegiance personally but I do feel to lose that history will be a sad day for the city.

Leicester’s Loss: Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha

In perhaps the most apt result of the day, Leicester City win their game away at Cardiff. The whole of the Leicester City  playing and managerial staff lining up to pay tribute in an emotional minute’s silence for the tragic loss of Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. The Chairman sadly losing his life seven days prior in a horrific helicopter crash whilst leaving Leicester City’s King Power Stadium.

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Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha

Nor should we forget the other four people who sadly perished in that terrible scene, Kaveporn Punpare, Nusara Suknamai, Izabela Roza Lechowicz and Eric Swaffer.

Well loved in the city for his kindness and philanthropy, I feel for that club and the people of that city. It has been my good fortune to recently read of his many and selfless deeds here in the East Midlands. There are far too few people like Vichai in the world of football and in the world generally

Just one example of the type of man Vichai was. May he and his friends Rest in Peace.

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Jose Ragoobeer, who lost his family

‘My whole family died and Leicester City’s owner was there to help me’

The Bipolar Nature of Modern Football

You know, sometimes I really feel like turning my back on football completely, as I’ve been known to do in the past.

Football fans have always been fickle and that’s the truth, no surprise there, nothing new. It didn’t seem to work on a game-to-game basis as it now does however with the bipolar nature of many supporters in these times. It’s tiresome, immature and largely fuelled by social media the internet in general and by people who can barely spell ‘Hibs’ who really shouldn’t be left alone in charge of a computer or mobile phone.

It seems we live in times where many cannot accept a defeat of any description without lashing out or finding someone to blame.

And it’s utterly boring.

The Cowgate, Edinburgh ‘Little Ireland’ – scene of the foundation of  Hibernian FC

It’s been a tumultuous week in the Edinburgh football world with a bad tempered and fractious clash between two age-old protagonists in Hibernian and their city rivals, Hearts in midweek. After that game many stood in support of Hibs Manager, Neil Lennon who suffered in a violent incident and who has now spoken of the greater problem surrounding that sectarian abuse in Scotland. We’ve witnessed ‘Only one Neil Lennon’, ‘in Lennon we trust’ and the usual stuff (that is quite incongruent with how he was spoken of before he took charge at Easter Road I should add) and the dubious reception he was afforded by some.

Since that time he has proved his worth, ability and professionalism time after time, while Hibs in general have reached greater heights as a club than they have in many a year. Lennon is the best Manager I have witnessed at the club since Eddie Turnbull and the Famous Five legend vacated the role some thirty-eight long years ago. Attendances at Easter Road are the highest in a generation, the grand old club is buoyant, expertly and professionally run with vision and purpose and in a more healthy financial position than I can actually recall. Apparently, this is not good enough though.

Below is just a fraction of the childish garbage I’ve read this evening since the final whistle sounded today. Don’t worry though, you can be certain Neil Lennon will be a football genius by the time Hibs have won their next game.

Sometimes I think I’ll just concentrate on watching ice hockey instead. I feel pretty sickened with the whole thing just recently…

‘Forget the hype..Lennons nae better a manager than that has gone before..alex miller, jim duffy, Mcleish, even boaby williamson’

‘Cmon tae f***..he’s an average manager at best….big chip on his shoulder’

‘Off the field antics affecting us.’

‘Horrendous result.’

‘Starting to worry bout this side. Lennon is not convincing me with his recent starting 11s’

‘Not convinced Lennon knows his best team. Starting to have my doubts’

‘I don’t even think he rates us (Hibs) with some of his comments.’

‘tactical decisions have been questionable’

‘Starting to get a bit concerned’

‘Lets be honest last two displays have been terrible.’

‘would you blame both on Lennon ? I would’

‘How s**** whittacker (sic) is’

‘Without Kamberi, Jamie MacLaren is useless’

Mental Health And Gambling Addiction

WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY 2018

COUNSELLING FOR GAMBLING ADDICTION – FREE CONFIDENTIAL SERVICE

On this significant day I would like to speak about an arguably epidemic situation with problem gambling in current times in regard to its effect on mental health. Despite a rapidly worsening situation, there is comparatively little help for this problem in the UK. Our media and particularly sports are swamped with gambling advertising among such platitudes as ‘When the fun stops, stop’, insincerely backed by the gambling industry who maintain that they act responsibly in the face of much evidence to the contrary.

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In my work, I see much tragedy daily, broken homes, splintered families and wrecked relationships, bankruptcies, isolation, high anxiety and depression and mental and physical illness. I also witness prison sentences and even suicide and it’s ideation, often attempted and occasionally unfortunately, completed.

For a little time, there has been no facility in my part of the country, Nottingham, or indeed the whole of the East Midlands of England to offer free assistance for gambling issues until recently this year. Currently, as a lone worker, I offer some of the only free regular counselling support to a population of approximately four million people.

I am employed in Nottingham City Centre by the registered charity, Aquarius Action Projects whose head office is based in Birmingham. The counselling service is a charitable one and completely free of charge and confidential. Already a busy service in Nottingham, the operation is hopeful of expansion in order to further look after our local communities and others more widely over the East Midlands and into Lincolnshire too.

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Counselling can presently be offered in person in Nottingham city centre or by free telephone calls. Based on psychological principles and behavioural change, it’s a friendly and accessible service and one I’d particularly like people to be aware of.

The help is funded by the national charity, Gamcare whose website and free help line I link below. Gamcare have a partner agency network throughout England, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man. The help and support is out there and readily accessible.

If you’d like help with your problem, please call Aquarius on 0300 456 4293 or email on gambling@aquarius.org.uk
Alternatively, you can contact Gamcare, our funder’s Helpline or Chatline on the link below to gain immediate help and/or be referred across the UK:

www.gamcare.org.uk

http://aquarius.org.uk/gambling

‘The phrase ‘raising awareness’ sometimes feels a little overused in these days but I’d be very happy if my friends – and friends I’ve yet to meet – would be willing to share this information and help others,

Thank you.

Stuart


Notts’ St Patrick’s Day Draw In Blizzard

SATURDAY 17TH MARCH, ST PATRICK’S DAY and a lunchtime visit to Meadow Lane Stadium to take in a local Nottinghamshire derby game between Notts County and their counterparts some fifteen miles north, Mansfield Town. Most definitely a ‘six-pointer’ with the Stags lying just two places behind Notts in third place in League Two.

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Notts County V Mansfield 17th March 2018

A less familiar 1pm kick-off meaning a direct journey via bus and bus to the Meadows, just short of Trent Bridge and taking my seat with a friend only just in time two minutes before play proceeded. A strange kaleidoscope of weather on the way there through short, sharp blizzards of fine dry snow which failed to settle at this stage but made it almost impossible to see properly as I strode across Old Market Square with muted St Patrick’s Day celebrations ensuing. I felt a little sorry for the damp squib that this year’s revelling appeared to be. The previous day and with some slightly alarming warnings of poor weather conditions, the organisers had decided to abandon the usual exuberant celebrations with an outdoor stage in Slab Square when representatives from an Irish County are invited to lead the event and receive hospitalities with a background of traditional music and dance. What a great shame and I hope the Irish diaspora of the locality can once again enjoy festivities as usual gain next year. I’m pretty sure they made the best of things though.

St Patrick’s Day parade in a snowy Nottingham Old Market Square. (Image: Nottingham Post)

The game itself set off at furious pace is is the way of these games with a length of the pitch falling in the shade of the Derek Pavis Stand white over with thin powdery snow. Today was not to be a day for silky football skills but rather a war of attrition waged in sub-zero, quite appalling conditions at times. At regular intervals the blizzards re-emerged making it quite difficult to watch the game effectively as snow came breezing through under the high roof of the stand resting on the few thousand people within it. A quite bizarre scene at times and one I scarcely recall witnessing in thousands of games over many years in different stadiums.

With just a short journey for Mansfield’s following, a good 4,500 or so of their supporters inhabited the Jimmy Sirrel Stand and made their presence felt from prior to the whistle. A 12,500 attendance rated as a healthy one for a League Two game in such unpleasant conditions.

With prevailing weather conditions prohibiting more expansive play it was probably not surprising that the first goal was a somewhat scrappy one, Notts’ experienced veteran, Shola Ameobi rattling the crossbar with a header and the ball falling to the Magpies’ Hawkridge’s feet to bundle into the net.Play being fairly even, it was a significant marker for Notts in getting their noses in front.

Notts other experienced striker, John Stead played an influential part in the game in his promptings from up front, attempting to bring his teammates into the play. There were a few angry skirmishes as one might expect from such a tightly fought fixture with much at stake. Notts midfielder, Noble impressed at intervals with his commanding play while Mansfield’s Conrad Logan enjoyed a solid performance, the former Hibs hero solid in the Stags’ goal.

Wintry conditions at Meadow Lane. (Image Nottingham Post)

The game appeared to be blustering towards a merciful finish and a victory to the home side before referee Woolmer signalled for seven minutes of stoppage time. After a full 98 minutes, Alessandra of Notts handled just inside the area to concede a penalty to Mansfield which Kane Kemmings emphatically dispatched into the Notts County net. With little time left, honours ended even at 1-1.

I noticed that post-match, Magpies young Manager, Kevin Nolan was unhappy about the decision and the amount of time being added on, not for the first time recently him complaining about officials in his frustration. I hope he manages to address this as in this case, for me, it was nothing more nor less than a stonewall penalty as playbacks showed.

So thankfully, I filed out of Meadow Lane and towards the Meadows and the city centre beyond. One late piece of drama was on the bus itself with some confusion reigning and passengers trooping off the bus from the upper deck. We were finally told that a man was unwell upstairs and that emergency services had been summoned. I walked off to catch the appropriately named ‘Jimmy Sirrel and Jack Wheeler’ tram further towards the city whilst I read in retrospect that the unfortunate ‘casualty’ had to be ‘extracted’ from the upper deck by the fire services. I hope he’s alright, whoever he is.

The tram drew through a fairly dismal looking Old Market Square, the Irish boys and girls no doubt ensconced in Nottingham’s comfortable bars, and towards home and a warming hot drink and a welcome place by the fireside.

Sir Roger Bannister

Rest in Peace, Sir Roger Bannister. Seen here in the classic shot of him about to breast the tape at Iffley Road, Oxford becoming the first man ever to run a sub-four minute mile. Ably assisted by fellow athletes, Chris Brasher and Christopher Chataway. Not only a great athlete but a learned man and a gentleman in the true sense.

Reading about Roger’s great feat at Oxford and his modern, individualist thoughts on training were an inspiration to me as young teens middle-distance runner. For me he appeared to know exactly what he was trying to achieve and the way in which he would do it. The planning of the Iffley Road event was a final testament to that clear and uncluttered thinking.

Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2011, his words when talking of the subject three years later were characteristic:

‘I have seen, and looked after, patients with so many neurological and other disorders that I am not surprised I have acquired an illness. It’s in the nature of things, there’s a gentle irony to it.’

Dignity, greatness and an inspiration to all – Sir Roger Bannister

Lovely Linby, Nottinghamshire

I happened across this picture recently of pretty local village, Linby, shrouded in fresh white snow, The Horse and Groom pub standing central in the shot. The village a rarity in Nottinghamshire in it’s construction mostly of the attractive stone quarried nearby just along Quarry Lane. The stone is reminiscent to that of Cotswold stone to my eyes, a warm yellow sandstone which is very easy on the eye and not in any way austere.

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Image: Linby Village Website

Linby, with a current population of approximately 230 people, grew up around the numerous mills which fed off the River Leen which flows through to the River Trent in Nottingham a few miles away, hence from where the village’s name is derived. The mills were the scene of much child labour in the past. I recall hearing anecdotally that one such building slept around 36 children in its roof space. Attractive features of the village are the two small streams known as Linby Docks which run adjacent each side the Main Street.

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The Horse and Groom, Linby

 Two stone crosses stand in the village -Top Cross,  the original version built in the medieval era and denoting the edge of Sherwood Forest and Bottom Cross, erected circa 1660, celebrating the restoration of King Charles II.

I have a tiny piece of personal history in the village in that it was very much a playground for my mother as a little girl – her living in nearby Hucknall and a walk along the ‘Black Pad’ as she would tell me. I recall her saying that her name and that of her childhood sweetheart are inscribed on one of the crosses, Marian loves Frankie’. Many times have I attempted to find it but to no avail. How I would love to

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‘Top Cross’ Image: Linby Village Website

Local legend decrees that the Pancake was first invented by the women of Linby village no less, this was reputedly in celebration of the defeat of Danish Viking invaders who had enslaved them! They must have bred them tough in Linby back in the day…

Linby, although it’s main street being a well used route to the local M1 Motorway remains largely unspoilt. As with so many of our ancient villages it stands under threat of being overwhelmed by local house building, extending its much larger neighbour, Hucknall. I hope that it can remain the unspoilt, idyllic small historic village I have always known it to be

Nottingham Railway Station Alight

Sincere thanks to the wonderful firefighters and other agencies of Nottingham and neighbouring areas that bravely fought the devastating fire at Nottingham Railway Station today for fully twelve hours. The fire is thankfully, now extinguished.

The ‘Midland’ Station as we used to call it is a fine and historic building which serves 16,400 commuters every weekday. Barely four years ago it was the subject of a £50m refurbishment which left it looking better than I’d ever seen it. So sad to see some of this work cruelly undone.

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As the fire began early in the day, reputedly in a ladies toilet, there were few commuters around and we can be thankful that no one is reported hurt.

The latest report indicates an arson attack. I hope the people of Nottingham hold together against the kind of element that causes this disruption and destruction of what is still a fine city with a great and storied heritage.