Well, this was going to be a light-hearted little number about how I scare the living Bejeezus out of tourists visiting our happy little town by driving round the place blasting unexpected genres of music and singing along with exaggerated mouth movements.

It’s quite true – I was doing it only this morning, bopping along the main street happily trilling along to ‘Go Home’ by Eliza Doolittle and causing seismic tremors in the pacemakers of several out-of-towners in the Market Square with my impassioned, not to say vehement, rendition of the finale: “I just wanna go home in my dancin’ shoes/Put my dancin’ shoes on/Gonna cha-cha-cha, I’ll cha-cha-cha my way home/I won’t stop till I’m/Goin’ through my front doo-ooo-OOORR!” …and so on. They seemed to be in fear of their lives for some reason.

And so it is by this wacky and roundabout route that we come to today’s real theme: fear. After almost a year of planning and daydreaming, the Highland Games become a really real reality of the real kind this coming Saturday. And I have to say, I am pretty scared.


I just project apprehension, don’t I? But honestly, all kinds of stupid little fears are jumping at me like yappy toy dogs going for my ankles: what if I can’t even lift the stupid weights when it comes to it? I’m 47, for goodness’ sake, and I spend most of every day sitting on my arse in front of a computer screen – what if I’m kidding myself and I really am too old and saggy and wobbly to make a credible athlete? Is my throwing kilt too short? Are my kick-arse motorbike boots too extreme? Am I actually a self-deluded idiot that everyone will be glad to see the back of at the end of the season? Will I ever be able to turn a caber? I have hearing problems – what if I can’t understand what’s being said over the tannoy (seriously, can ANYBODY understand those things?) and miss my throw, how pathetic would that be? And so on… and on.

Fear eats you alive if you let it. Sometimes it does it in dramatic, bone-crunching fashion, but more usually it hollows out your resolve and character from the inside, saps your motivation and drive, paralyses you, a cancer in your spirit. You try to avoid it, flinch away from it, and it warps your path. Choice by tiny choice, you end up in a place you don’t even recognise, let alone want to be. Something I’ve learned: those toy dogs grow into Dobermans if you feed them.

In the pilot episode of ‘Lost’, the hero, Jack Shepherd, is talking to the heroine, Kate, about fear. He says he coped with it by making the decision to let the fear in, let it do its thing – but only for five seconds. That was all he’d give it. And he started to count: one. Two. Three. Four. Five. And the fear was gone. It’s a great scene, a great TV moment. It also happens to be true. This post is my five seconds, if you like – my way of dragging my fears into the light and letting them do their worst, showing them to myself for the yappy toy dogs they really are.


Take that, yappy toy dogs!


And that.

Counted to five. Committed my spirit to the Almighty. And oh, look.

No more fear.

Thank you and goodnight, all you Dobermans.


Money For Nothing? Not quite…


Why am I subjecting myself to the rigours of retraining my protesting middle-aged body to compete in the Highland Games? Partly ‘cos it’s just an irresistible challenge. Partly because I want to do some good out there. The charity I’m supporting is called Sanctuary For Kids (S4K), a not-for-profit foundation set up by actress Amanda Tapping (of ‘Stargate’ and ‘Sanctuary’ fame) and producer Damian Kindler, to provide sanctuary for kids worldwide who do not live with the right to safety in their lives.

Please head over to the Sanctuary For Kids website. Be generous if you can! If you’re strapped for cash, don’t fail to give just because you think a small donation wouldn’t do any good. One of S4K’s mottos is ‘little ripples make big waves’. If every person who looked in on this blog donated just one unit of their currency – $1, £1, €1, whatever – that could mount up to a huge total!

So donate, people – donate, donate, donate! (Hint: click the orange word) And when you do, please mention this blog so S4K can track where the donation came from. Thanks a million! I may be doing the heavy lifting, but your donations will be doing the real work!

Let’s Get This Party Started. Right.

I have never been what you’d call a sporty type. I am not (and you know who you are, people!) one of those lean, focused types with muscles like a Victorian anatomy chart, who thinks a good evening’s entertainment involves putting on Lycra and running ten miles. I do not run. I don’t even jog unless being chased with a cattle prod. I do not swim laps – please, I’m not a goldfish – and my idea of a good evening’s entertainment is far more likely to involve me sitting in a pub listening to live music, or curled up at home with a good book, or a daughter or two and a DVD. PE at school was a sweaty hell of team sports, at which I was utterly hopeless, and occasional bright interludes such as the time I almost decapitated my teacher with a discus (yeah… sorry about that, Miss Moss). I joined a Kung Fu club at the age of 19, but had to give it up after about a year because it was just too embarrassing to continue. So, sporty? Not so much. 

However… and here we reach the salient point of this blog…

I am now 47 years old, a widowed solo parent, and when I went on a two-day jolly up to Scotland last August with my best friend Robyn, we decided, on a whim, to go to the North Berwick Highland Games. It would be a fun day out – bagpipes, cute little girls dancing with swords, stalls, food, bagpipes, arena entertainments, and the prospect of seeing brawny men in kilts tossing the caber and suchlike mirth-making stuff. And bagpipes. ‘Cos everything’s funnier with bagpipes, right?

The arena entertainments on the day were fun, the massed bagpipe bands from all over the world were incredibly stirring and not at all ridiculous, the wee Highland dancers were indeed cute as well as skilled, and the weather was… well, let’s just say it was pretty typical of a British summer afternoon. It drizzled, then rained. Then it rained some more, only harder. We huddled shivering under umbrellas by the arena fence, along with hundreds and hundreds of other people, watching the Heavy Events. And you know what? It wasn’t the comedy I was half expecting. It was really, really impressive and very athletic (and did I mention that when the guys spin before putting the shot, throwing the weight for distance and so on, their kilts swish in a braw, manly way and display their muscular legs to great advantage? Well, I’m mentioning it now, ladies).

And, alongside the men in kilts, there were two women in kilts, doing a demonstration event. I was transfixed (and not just by the men) – it sounds idiotic, but somehow it had never crossed my mind that women would participate in this kind of sport. It was a revelation. The rain pelted down, we had to fetch fleece blankets from the car in order to stop ourselves turning blue with cold, but there was no question of packing up and leaving. Robyn, at some point during the afternoon, turned to me and uttered the fateful words, “You could do that! Oh, please do that Sue, it’d be great, and I could fetch you drinks and be your cheerleader!”

By such casual knavery is the course of a life changed forever…

Yes, Robin, I’m blaming this on you.

This blog is an attempt to track my progress as I prepare for my first season as a novice thrower in the Heavy Events at a whole rack of Highland Games in the UK this summer, 2012. More details will appear here as I finalise the list.

It’s also a shameless bid to gain publicity for the charity that I’m going to be supporting while I pursue my loony dream: Sanctuary For Kids.

Sanctuary For Kids was set up by actress Amanda Tapping (of ‘Stargate: SG-1’ and ‘Sanctuary’ fame) and her producer Damian Kindler when they realised the huge potential for fund-raising among the enormous and very supportive Sci Fi community. Sanctuary For Kids (also known as S4K) is a not-for-profit foundation set up to provide sanctuary for kids worldwide who do not live with the right to safety in their lives. This includes support for rebuilding the Miriam Centre in Haiti, one of the only facilities in the country which houses, educates and loves Haitian children with cerebral palsy, severe autism and other major life challenges. Children born with special needs in Haiti are seen as cursed and are often treated as such. There are no government or social rehabilitative services for them in rural areas of the country, making the Miriam Centre an incredibly important resource – and this is just one of the fantastic initiatives worldwide supported by Sanctuary For Kids!

I will be setting up an online sponsorship and donation page in the next few days. In the meantime, please head over to the Sanctuary For Kids website and use their online donation form. Be generous if you can! If you’re strapped for cash, don’t fail to give just because you think a small donation wouldn’t do any good. One of S4K’s mottos is ‘little ripples make big waves’. If every person who looked in on this blog donated just one unit of their currency – $1, £1, €1, whatever – that could mount up to a huge total!

So donate, people – donate, donate, donate!

Thank you. The blog proper starts below… or is it above?