18 things I learned in 2018

I saw someone else do a blog like this so thought that I would try it as well. This time of year often leads to self- reflection and introspection and for that reason I’m not a big fan of new year. In many ways I could consider 2018 a pretty rubbish year for me but, with a step back and a bit of perspective, I need to count my blessings again and realise that things have been ok and anything that has gone wrong can be turned into a positive. So, with that said, here are 18 things I learned in 2018.

  • Get regular eye checkups. Kirsty had been getting onto me for a couple of years about getting to the optician to get my eyes checked. Part of me always thought my vision was alright so there was no need for me to go. Another part of me was too scared to go in case they looked in the back of my eyes and found something wrong with me, pretty stupid, I know. Had I gone for a checkup earlier they may have noticed something was going wrong with my eye and I could have done something to stop it going wrong, then I wouldn’t be left with quite badly impaired vision in my right eye and the need for an eyeball injection every month. So yeah, get your eyes checked, you are entitled to a free one every 2 years if you are over 40 or in some other cases, check here for more information on this in the UK.
  • Don’t be scared of the doctor. Gee I was scared of the doctor. I’ve always suffered with a bit of health anxiety so when my eye problems kicked off and the consultant at the hospital told me to make an emergency doctor appointment that had me scared! I distinctly remember sitting terrified in the waiting room with Kirsty and then not even being able to speak properly to the doctor. I needn’t have worried though as he was great, reassuring, calm and kind. My only issue was a sky high blood pressure, in part explained by how worried I was feeling but easily enough fixed. I’m now in and out of the doctor more often for prescriptions etc and it holds a lot less fear for me now, doctors are there to help us and make us better, not to give us a hard time and shout at us, again, this is obvious for most people, not for me though!
  • Do not get your hopes up when it comes to Greenock Morton. I learn this every year but need to keep re-learning it every year as well. Summer was quite an exciting time to be a Morton fan. We had signed a few good players and got a semi-competent manager in Ray McKinnon. I even badgered Kirsty to get me a season ticket and stuck a bet on us to win the league. Fast forward to the end of August and our manager had left us for Falkirk. Fast forward to December and we have had thrashings off Ayr, Ross County and Alloa and the season ticket is feeling more and more like a punishment.
  • Drinking water is important! I was never a big water drinker until this year. It’s really good for you though and helps you to lose weight, something to do with the flush effect or something. In my new place of work there is a water cooler right outside my room, and a toilet as well, so I’ve no excuse for not drinking the water. Barrs’ decision to mess with the recipe of Irn Bru has also helped wean me off soft drinks and onto water, something I will definitely make an effort to continue with next year.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff. I think this could be my most important lesson of the year. As I’ve alluded to in other blogs such as this one here , I was/am a massive worrier. Anxiety levels are always high and I know this can have a negative effect on my blood pressure etc. so I’m needing to make a big effort to try and rationalise my worries and look at them in context. Here I am, living in a developed country, with access to clean water, a roof over my head, plentiful food, a job and a healthcare system free at the point of delivery. Comparing the problems I was worrying about to others that people around the world have and that people around me are dealing with makes me realise that things aren’t so bad for me and worrying about things won’t change them at all.
  • I’m still not much of a hugger. When did hugging people become so popular? Hi, how are you? Here’s a hug. See you later, bye, here’s another one. Congratulations, commiserations, have a hug. Ha, I like the sentiment behind it and I appreciate it but don’t be offended if I offer an elbow or handshake back 😀 https://youtu.be/hN8CKwdosjE although watching that it’s hard to argue against hugs being a force for good!
  • Ask for help when you need it. This is something that I’m always saying to my pupils in work but it’s a piece of advice that, as adults, we don’t often follow ourselves. Whether it be problems at work, problems at home or problems our health, there is always someone who can help. Don’t worry about admitting to mistakes or vulnerabilities, learn from them and use them to help you grow and improve. Particularly men! We hate admitting weakness and vulnerability but we need to do it, help is only one phone call, text or conversation away.
  • It’s important to help each other and look after each other. There were a good few people that reached out and helped me this year and it made such a difference to me and, to kinda pay it back, I’m trying my best to offer assistance to anyone I think maybe struggling or whatever. It’s a pretty rewarding feeling, you should try it. Imagine how good a world we would live in if we kept checking up on each other and looked out for each other. This reads like the People’s Friend or a Hallmark card or something, but that’s ok, it’s true enough!  So, if anyone ever wants to go for a run or needs a hand with something or just have someone to moan at, then give me a try!
  • Do things, don’t plan to do them. I will need to take my own advice here because I’m an awful procrastinator but getting things done is the only way to be. This year I entered the London Marathon, in previous years I had only thought about it. I could launch into a “life is short, do things while you can” bit here but it’s been said a million times before by people wiser than me!  I prefer the whole “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today, that way if you like it, you can do it again” way of looking at this.
  • Being grateful can totally change your mindset. There I was back in May feeling awfully sorry for myself and my lack of right eye vision when I decided to instead be grateful that I could see well out my left eye and lots of people would love to be in my situation, that transformed the way I felt about myself and is something I’m going to try and keep doing in 2019.
  • Cyprus is awesome. I knew this in 2017 but had it reconfirmed in 2018 in July.
  • Don’t take things for granted. Yeah, things like your eyesight and health, look after them.
  • Wash the bottom of the dishes too! Thought i better put this in to show Kirsty that I’m trying to learn! Also, related to this, check the washing is properly dry before I put it away and when I am asked to clean the toilet, that doesn’t just mean the toilet itself but also the bath, shower, sink, floor, mirror and little units in there as well.
  • I work with a lot of amazing people. I was lucky enough this year to work with a whole lot of new people and they have all been great. I could name a few people who have been brilliant for me this year but I’m scared of missing someone out but rest assured I’m thankful for all the help and support and laughs I get at my work, what a difference it makes.  Linked to this, I also have a lot of great friends who are full of kind words and encouragement and support.
  • You will get through this. Every person reading this has been through challenging times in their lives and they are still here, proving that whatever you are facing, you will get through it.
  • Breathe. When I was obsessing over my blood pressure and measuring it 8 or 9 times a day I noticed that a couple of deep breaths would take my blood pressure down by quite a lot.  It’s such an easy form of relaxation that I am annoyed I haven’t incorporated it into my daily life until now!  I need to watch though as too many deep breaths can make me feel light headed when I stand up!
  • Laughter is a great medicine.  I have had the good fortune to attend a number of comedy gigs this year.  Jason Manford in the few weeks after my eye went wrong.  Jason Manford is one of life’s good guys and had some really poignant words about mental health at the end of his really funny set.  We also went to see Jon Richardson and I went to see Rob Brydon with my brother.  Rob Brydon was the big surprise here, what a funny and engaging person, he was near enough the perfect gig.
  • People are good.  Yeah, most people are good, accept this and trust people and you will rarely be let down. If they do let you down that says more about their character than your’s.

Right, that’s the 18 but I have a few more bonus things that I learned.

  • De-clutter.  I always feel better after chucking out a load of things I no longer need.
  • A kind word can transform someone’s day, as can a nasty one.  This has been a big lesson to me this year.  I can totally over-react to negative things people say to me but, then again, maybe others could be hurt by things I say to them, even though I may mean no malice so I am going to try my best to choose my words really carefully this next year.  Also, when someone says something nice and positive, no matter how small, it makes me feel a million dollars! So, again, I will be making the effort to be as positive as I can with people this next year.
  • East, West, home is best.  This year the good people of Dunoon have helped me out as always.  In the summer it’s a great time for a visit when it’s sunny.  In the winter in a big storm it’s a great place to visit as well.  The people from Dunoon are great as well and loads of old friends have offered me loads of help with my marathon training and fundraising. The very fact that I had stones from the West Bay on the tables at my wedding to mark where people should be sitting shows the loyalty I have to my hometown.
  • Turn negatives into positives.  Hopefully people can see from this blog that a theme of my whole year has been turning negatives into positives.  Had it not been for my dodgy eye I probably wouldn’t be running the London Marathon and I would probably still be struggling at times without letting people help me out.  But that event back in April has radically altered the way I look at things.  Right now I feel fitter than I have since my teenage years and I am able to wear shirts without an “X” in their size again (well, maybe not just now after the Christmas excesses).

Anyway, that’s it,  I will maybe write another one of these tomorrow with 19 targets for 2019.  In the meantime, remember you can sponsor me for the RNIB doing the London Marathon at this link here.

Christmas Runnings in and around Dunoon

Has anyone else put on half a stone over Christmas? Just me then? I reckon if I hadn’t gone a few runs over the festive period that would be closer to the full stone.

Yo ho ho etc

The Christmas Holidays got off to a good start with a parkrun on the 22nd. I had looked out an elf hat to wear but it had a bell on it which would have only been slightly annoying with every step I ran! A quick Asda stop on the way down to Strathclyde Park and I had bought the above hat / beard combination. The beard is lost already though.

Could not run with that beard on

My time was ok, I’m still not getting beneath the 25 minute mark that I’ve only managed once but I’m happy enough to be running around the 26 / 27 minute mark pretty comfortably.

My splits show that I still have a bit left in the tank going into the final kilometre so maybe it’s time to try running that first kilometre a little faster although it is pretty crowded at the start so I will need to move further forward nearer the start line, a move I’m not happy making!

Sunday I was meant to do a 75 minute easy run but I sacked that off until Monday, Christmas Eve, a day I had loads of other jobs to do, as you can see below.

My jobs

I got them all done by 6pm though, I surprised myself with that. The Christmas Eve run was rather convoluted. I started in Hamilton which was choc-a-bloc packed with last minute Christmas shoppers. I ran from Hamilton over into Strathclyde Park, did the parkrun route then came back over and ran around a playing field type area for a while before finishing at a statue of Scottish football legend Davie Cooper. He scored the penalty in 1985 that put Scotland into a playoff for the 1986 World Cup. I’ve never been so nervous watching a penalty and had to lock myself in the toilet. Jock Stein also sadly died that night.

Davie Cooper Statue

This is quite a nice area of Hamilton, the mausoleum is here and this is where the Commonwealth Games baton ended up one sunny evening in 2014.

One thing that slowed me down was the bridge into Strathclyde Park, it was awfully icy and I had to walk over it.

The River Clyde, I would be running past the same river in a couple of days where it is 2 miles wide

You can see from my split times below the two times that I crossed the bridge slowly, kilometre 2 and kilometre 9.

Onto Christmas Day, a drive to Dunoon for dinner with the family but first of all a stop at Cappielow!

Then onto a parkrun. This was the first time I had been to Greenock parkrun and what a friendly bunch they were. Someone was dressed as a zebra loads of people wished me a Happy Christmas as they overtook me! I was a bit too out of breath to say it back clearly so if anyone is reading this that thought me a miserable git then I’m sorry. There were a load of serious runners here and, because of the layout of the course, they run past you a few times.

Greenock parkrun start

The speed these people are the front go at is amazing, I can only imagine what kind of speeds Olympic athletes must go at, it’s not until you start trying to run yourself that you fully appreciate the fitness and athleticism of these runners.

Again, looking at these splits, I could push myself more at the start. An encouraging thing from this run was my pulse being lower than it has previously been whilst running, a sign of improving fitness maybe?

Then onto the ferry to Dunoon. It was a foggy day and here is a poor photo of a ferry emerging from the fog.

McInroy’s Point

Another great family Christmas Dinner in Dunoon. My Auntie Irene’s Turkey Broth was spot on as always and my cousin Moira did a great job with the turkey.

Table always looks great

Because I had that morning run I figured I could have 3 puddings!

I got home well and truly stuffed and had an early night.

Next morning I woke up around 5 and decided to go a run around Dunoon, right around the outskirts of Dunoon. Halfway up Kilbride Road I thought about sacking it off but I decided to just keep going, I’m glad I did.

The route involved starting at my Dad’s house on the dangerous Dunoon / Kirn border and running along the West Bay, past the swing park before turning right up Kilbride Road (which is surprisingly steep). I ran along there, past Neil Walker’s house send along over the bridge that I used to think trolls lived under.

From there I ran past where Highland Mary was born. My wife calls her Dirty Mary but that’s another story.

Along Alexander Street next and down McArthur Street, I missed out Cowal Place and Valrose because I couldn’t face that hill! Along King Street, down Jessie Place and then around to join Argyll Street at the Police Station. I ran out past the hospital and then onto Bencorrum Brae where I had to walk. You can see by my split times exactly where Bencorrum Brae was in the run, kilometre 6!

Next I ran along Ardenslate Road stopping for a wee seat on the bench at the school in memory of my Mum. It was nice stopping here, I would like to say i reflected upon life and how lucky I was to be able to do this at this poignant spot, but i was knackered and trying to catch my breath!

Next, left along Hunter Street, past the school hostel, round that weird curvy, scary bit with the trees, onto James Street past the haunted house (called Bonnie Blink I think) before turning left onto George Street and passing my old house. Then down onto Cammersrianach Brae where I got a view of the deserted ferry terminal that would be mobbed in a few hours.

Then back along to my Dad’s house where I went back to my bed, I was shattered!

So, here we are, lying on the couch on the 28th December, half a stone heavier, watching the darts and getting ready to start again with another parkrun tomorrow – bring it on.

As always, people can donate if they want to donate to the RNIB for me running the London Marathon at

www.justgiving.com/fundraising/stuartmtaylor

Thanks a lot for reading this, hope everyone has a great new year.

My modest sporting background in Dunoon.

Postcard view of a chilly Dunoon

Today I was in Dunoon. It was my Dad’s birthday (happy 73rd birthday Dad) and I always like visiting my hometown. Kirsty says we can retire there but I am not so sure I believe her. This blog is going to be a look at some of my background in sport in Dunoon and there are plenty of old clippings from the Standard and some pictures of current day Dunoon. There are plenty of names in the old paper cuttings, if you can’t make them out or zoom in too much give me a shout and I will zoom in on my copy and send it to you. As always, I am writing this to try to promote my sponsorship efforts for my London Marathon run for the RNIB. You can sponsor me by clicking http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/stuartmtaylor or by texting SMTR76 £3 to 70070 (other amounts can be done as well.)

School Sports results

What better place to start than the school sports. I loved these days and was gutted when injury ruled me out of my P7 school sports day. These are the results of my final sports day, hopefully you can enlarge this to read the names. Not a stellar year, 2nd in the skipping race, joint 3rd in the obstacle race and 3rd in the 3 legged race.

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Dunoon Fun Run from the mid 80s. I am number 31 on the right.

The Dunoon fun run was probably my first taste of an organised run outside of a school sports day. Registration was held in the Argyll Gardens then we all ran to Western Ferries and back – 4 miles. I enjoyed it. My friend Innis suggests we ran it together one year and I stopped in Kirn Variety for an ice lolly, probably a Lemonade Sparkle or a Mini Milk.

Finishing straight in the fun run and the swimming pool
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A view down to Innellan

Another really fun race was the Innellan Fun Run. The view above shows part of the route. A current 10k and half marathon goes down this stretch of coast. I did the 10k this year, running into the prevailing South West wind was brutal! The Innellan fun run was organised as part of the Innellan Festival, a fine event which also had a 5 a side competition (picture of that later) and a pool competition in The Osborne, I didn’t enjoy that so much as I was always playing someone miles older and I was scared!

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Me and Innis finishing the Innellan fun run
Dunoon Stadium, home of athletics and Dunoon Amateurs and Cowal Games

Next is my time in Cowal Amateur Athletics Club, hosted at Dunoon Stadium. I always fancied myself as a bit of a long jumper but was no real use at anything else. Gary Clark was bullet fast over the short distances and Neil Walker was the long distance man. I was reminded earlier of the rocket fuel drinks of diluting orange we got in a room in that main stand – if the anti-doping federation had been about they may have had something to say about this – that stuff was potent and oh so tasty.

A Thistle Award

In Athletics club we competed for Thistle Awards, you got points for different distances or times in different events and they were combined to get you a number of gold, silver or bronze awards. These were then presented at the end of season awards ceremony in the Masonic Hall after we had spent all night doing the Conga and the weird “Superman” dance – great times! We got wee badges and patches to go with these.

I have just given myself the idea to try and see if my 42 year old self could beat y 10 year old self!
Can’t believe we lost

Occasionally we would have competitions against other Athletics clubs. Loads of names here, click and share if you want! I hope people can read this.

2 silver – no gold for me…
Modern facilities much better than they used to be.

Now onto my football career. Not a very successful one! I remember playing in the DYFL with some massively older people. My first game was for the Wizards against the Stings at the Grammar School. It was pouring down and someone passed to me straight from kickoff and I miscontrolled it. My confidence was shot. Who knows what could have been had I controlled that ball. Dunoon actually produced a large amount of players: Andy and Gavin Galloway, Neil MacFarlane, David MacGregor and Andy Graham. Recent additions include Lewis Strapp and Declan McDaid. I eventually got placed in the Nursery League with the Phantoms and started to play well (against younger people) I enjoyed that more.

Me at the Toward 5 a side competition
My favourite clipping ever!

Football was always great fun, I wish I was better at it. I was not the worst and sometimes was called up for “Select” teams that got to play on Dunoon Stadium in the black “Legends” strips. A local nightclub sponsoring 12 year old football teams may not be quite as welcomed these days! I also played for an under 18 team in Dunoon, the most memorable moment being whenwe lost 13-0 to Ferguslie Youths and our goalkeeper David Mitchell still won man of the match! Or the time a big fight started (I was not involved) and the referee called over Dunoon number 9 to send him off and was our best player. Someone then distracted the referee and our number 9 swapped strips with one of the weaker players so the wrong person got sent off – the Erskine manager went bananas!

Newly refurbished Queens Hall

In here was all sorts of things. 5 a side football and badminton being the main ones for me. Badminton was on a Monday evening and used a series of metal rings to indicate who was playing who. I once was runner up in a mixed doubles competition, see below! I also played badminton at Friday Club out in Kirn, I think it was only meant for Kirn Primary pupils but I was allowed to go and made new friends.

I was a runner up
Putting Green

We used to play mammoth putting competitions here in summer, 90 holers! Sadly no longer used for putting.

Finest view from a tennis court anywhere

Every day in the summer holidays was spent here at the tennis club – we did near enough everything except play tennis! Football, cricket, urban golf, chess, mountain bike men, table tennis, pool and running about the Castle Gardens – but not much tennis. I was junior champion in 1991, beat Mark Johnstone in the final. I tried to attack in the first set but Mark kept tapping it back to me and let me make mistakes so in the 2nd set I just tapped it back to him as well. It went down as the most boring tennis match in history. Umpire Neil Lea said he felt sick because his head was swinging back and forwards so much.

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We did play tennis sometimes
Castle Hill
Argyll Street – home of the bed race

There used to be a bed race in Dunoon, we took part once with the Scouts, racing hospital beds up Argyll Street!

The “family jewellers”

I’m just whacking in a picture of this shop because they always provide me excellent, quality service! Plus I used to play tennis against Timothy J Sharp and his younger brother.

Argyll Hotel and Argyll Gardens

Here I used to work on the bouncy castle and try to perfect flips and kicking the inflatable crossbar at the front of it. There also used to be trampolines here and little buggies as can be seen below.

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Those cool wee humbug things in the Argyll Gardens
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I did make the swimming team once

I also went to swimming club every Tuesday, it eventually became a little competitive for a non-competitive wee guy like me but loads of the members did really well, a really successful club.

Dunoon Pier

Finally the Pier. We used to engage in a spot of Pier Jumping off the waiting room roof that you can’t see here. We waited until the Waverley came in so the pier staff were all too busy to come and stop us. That was pretty dangerous now I think about it. Nowadays they have a mountain biking competition here and the ultra race and triathlon finish here.

So, there we have it. Having written all that it further reinforces how lucky I was to grow up in a town like Dunoon with so many adults willing to give up their time to help us get into sport. I am also really grateful to have supportive parents who ferried me to all those things and encouraged me to stick at it even when I wasn’t enjoying it too much – thanks Mum and Dad 🙂