A year ago today…

I can’t believe it…back in 1988 I moved to Bolton…was looking for a gym to train in. Found a gym called Physiques ran by Charlie Buchanan (Google him) – I loved it. Was my touchstone. It went through various ownerships…and closed down a year today…I miss it terribly. It was no modern gym. Old school. Just the way I like it…friendly, familiar, functional..,

Over 33 years at the same gym…

I miss it terribly

There’s something about seeing that curtain closing…

When I was a child. I had many maternal and paternal uncles and aunts.

Over the years some of them died. The ‘Cooke’s’ which I’d like to concentrate on this blog have a particular interest . My dads family.

My Aunts Marg and Lil used to take more interest in myself and my twin sister more than my parents to be honest. They’d take us all over on Sundays. They were spinsters who lived in the same house they were born in . Cooper Street, Roker, Sunderland.

And there was a brother – Anthony – he never married. And lived in the same house. My uncle Tony.

Marg and Lil looked after him…

I remember playing squash with him at Crowtree Leisure Centre a lifetime ago…

Once I got into my teens (say 15-16) we never really got each other although I used to keep in touch.

When I got married in 2000, Marg, Lil and Tony were guests. I didn’t see much more of them until two things happened. My ‘peer’ cousin Colin died at 40, then his father died a few years later…

Tony died recently…I attended his funeral ‘virtually’ via a webcast – it reinforced to me how short and fickle life is…

Two minutes ago I was having chicken dinner in his house…

Now the curtains are closing on his coffin…

I faked it as a ‘Wedding Photographer’ for 20 years!

Back in about 1992 I worked for Kellogg’s in Manchester. I was ‘into’ photography but not in any professional capacity. A colleague wanted a print of Ashness Bridge I’d taken on a Canon EOS1000FN.

Another colleague saw it on my desk as I was about to ‘deliver it’…

And said “That’s fantastic! Would you photograph my wedding!”

A few gulps later I said yes, but, I haven’t a clue what I’m doing…

So…photographed the wedding and learned very very quickly…

You don’t need to be an artist (although it may help)

You need to understand the emotional hot spots…that’s the key…

So…even though I attended many seminars by the likes of Yervant and Nigel Harper I just did my thing…

I did the very best I could. Was never complacent and only had one complaint in twenty years. A bride said I made her look fat…well, it’s a camera not a wand. And if you’ve lived on pies for twenty years there’s only so much photoshop can do…

And here’s the dichotomy – every wedding is unique…and the same. The emotional hot spots are easy to predict – Bride getting out of car – groom seeing Bride for the first time – the exchanging of rings – the first kiss etc.

And I’ll probably never shoot a wedding ever again…I’m not that interested, I’m old and can do without the hassle…however never say never…

Was never a big reader

At school the only book I was ‘forced’ to read was ‘Kes’ after that never read much at all until…

I met a girl who was an avid reader…first gift she ever gave me…

Now…I’m from Washington, Tyne & Wear and in those days Holden Caulfield was as far removed from me as President Carter. No idea who he was. What he represented. I just didn’t ‘get it’. But I persevered with it…

Then I got into Ian McEwan..,

Here was something I could understand a little bit better. Just the plot and emotion without the Americanisation.

So…here began my reading journey..,

That’s my ‘library’ now. 😳
I read all sorts now.

My daughter has started sending me books…we try to out read each other 😂😂😂

Amongst the books she had sent, she sent me this…it has a certain vernacular and rhythm much like ‘A Clockwork Orange’ – you have to keep at it…

Just watched ‘A Rebel In The Rye’ it was ok…a lot of the stuff I already knew…

Wild Camping? Give me a break…

Lots of people now posting their ‘Wild Camping’ adventures on Social Media as if it’s a new concept.

Well…the terminology might have changed.

In my day it was called camping..

Circa 1980 was at a loose end one Easter. A friend suggested we go camping in The Lake District.

Now…I lived a conservative life in Washington, Tyne & Wear. Furthest I’d been was Filey one summer holiday with my parents.

Anyway, bought the gear, no idea…Ultimate Peapod Tent, Berghaus rucksack, Trangia stove etc.

And we’re off…

Caught a bus from Washington to Newcastle.

Then a coach from Newcastle to Keswick Bus Station (now Booths)

Then the Mark 1 legs took over…

The initial formula of getting to The Lakes never changed…

I had many many adventures over the years.

I’d walk to a pre-planned camp site or more often, just walked until I was tired…put my tent up. Ate, drank, slept. Decamped then started walking again…

I walked all over The Lakes…and I mean all over…

If social media existed back in the 80’s and 90’s I’d be a <YouTube> <Instagram> sensation 😂

My mate Alex (deceased) on Helvellyn
We’re on top of the world ma!

Legs are a bit weary now. Being late fifties ain’t no fun. Still aim to complete the Birketts though!

Bodybuilding Builds Character

From 0-18 years old I was what my mam called a ‘skinnymalink’ terribly thin. I weighed about 9st 10lbs at age 18.

At about 18 I decided to study karate and after a couple of years was put into ‘combat’ with another student. He was MASSIVE (in my eyes). At the end of the session in the changing room and <ahem> admiring his physique I asked him what the his secret was…

Long story short..,I ordered a Weider Bench and a weights set from my mam’s catalogue

And got to work.

I’d train every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, relentlessly in my home gym..

Home gym

Eventually the home gym became limited (and at the time I was too insecure to join a public gym) however, I decided to start training at a gym in Concorde, Washington, Tyne & Wear.

I started to see a real difference.

I’d never been a big hit with the opposite sex on account of being short, skinny and ugly…

Then…ever so slowly..,things started to change.

As my chest, shoulders and legs started filling out, girls started showing an interest and…

Guys who may have been irreverent or disrespectful in the past (was great bumping into old school colleagues – you could visibly see their eyebrows raise) changed their attitude.

Then…for love and work (long story) I moved to Bolton, near Manchester.

I started training at a gym initially called ‘Physiques’ but after a few ownership changes became known as ‘J.R.’s Fitness Centre.

This was no jacuzzi / yoga / new age fitness centre. This was old school..,

After years and years of consistent training and clean eating (150g Protein every day, minimal junk) my stubborn physique began to change…

I used to go into the gym and immediately play Rocky music on a tape I had created…and eventually after about 2 years of that earned the nickname ‘Rocky’ which is ironic…I couldn’t fight my way out of a wet paper bag…

Anyway I trained and trained and trained for years and my luck with the ladies slowly changed…

The red head was my partner for a while

Anyway…I trained at that gym for years and years. My intensity slowed down after my forties.

The gym closed down early 2020. I’d trained there for over 30 years. Great memories. Great friends. It was a touchstone.

And here I am…

late fifties…reminiscing…wishing I could do it all again.

Oh…and I still love Rocky!

Might just be me

2019 get up – shower – get your breakfast – set off for work. Might get cut up, might see another pretty other human, might listen to Nick Robinson – point is – there was differentiation between one day and another.

2020-2021 – get up. Walk into home office. Available from 0800 hrs. until whenever. No breaks (lunch etc.) are respected. Log out. People on a different preferred working schedule still contacting you…might just be me..,

Goodbye

I’m clumsy with words. I always have been and always will be, I’m no Shakespeare, JD Salinger or Virginia Woolf. That said my motives and intentions are pure…

We said goodbye to a much loved colleague this week. The grief comes in waves. It’s very very hard to imagine that if we ever get back into the office there’ll be an empty chair. He was only 37.

I watched his funeral on CCTV through pursed lips. Short small intakes and exhales – willing the whole thing to be over soon. That might sound a bit disingenuous but I hate funerals. I always have…although I accept my pain was magnified a million times for the family and friends.

He was a great guy. Funny. Friendly. The most inoffensive person you’d ever likely to meet. He’ll be missed. Greatly. He was probably physically about 5’9” but his character was 17’10”.

And..,you know how it is with IT. You’d have a problem and you’d just receive an answer of technobollocks. Basically people showing off their technical proficiency. That was never ever Mark. He’d sort you out. No muss. No fuss. Just got on with it. With humour…

My colleagues miss him ever so much. They’d all go out on a burger/kebab/pizza lunch once a week. I used to look forward to hear what food ‘contraption’ they’d come up with (as they all knew I’m quite conservative in my food choices).

He had an interest in photography which we shared. It was fantastic sharing ideas with him.

We’ll all miss you buddy. Ever so much. We’re all devastated.

Want to know why I hate the police…?

Ok. Let’s go back to about 1980. I had a Suzuki GT250. I used to meet up with other bikers at Washington services – about 20-30 of us. One night Northumbria Police goons rocked up and issued a dispersal order. As I was moving my bike a goon (sorry police officer) ‘backed into me’ knocking me over my bike. Damaging it. When my mates tried to help he drew his batton ordering them to get back and that I’d have to sort my my bike on my own. Total bully (there’s a theme here)

Let’s move forward…About 2005 – was meant to picking up a work colleague to travel to John Lennon airport as we had a seminar to attend in London…I took a wrong turning and ended up in a cul de sac – my exit was blocked by a GMP Police van. Some 18st caveman with his little blonde apprentice interrogated me…after 5-6 minutes of me explaining my situation and his hard on rescinding he ‘let me go this time’…

I was a victim of theft from Total Fitness. Despite CCTV. Credit card transaction trail etc. I was notified by @GMPPolice that they won’t be investigating the crime. I’m guessing because there was a bit of work to do, no girls to impress, and their tea was getting cold.

A gym colleague who’ll I’ll refer to as BW – in fairness was a decent bloke. Worked for GMP Traffic. I told him to get down Ulleswater Road in Bolton and that he’ll get his Ticket ratio in about 5 minutes. He said he’d be up to his neck in racist accusation paperwork for weeks. Two tier system?

The point I’m making. These people are not interested in ‘serving’. It’s about power, intimidation, getting off on wearing a uniform.

I met a girl in the 90’s in Bolton town centre. Turns out she was a divorcee. And…you’ve guessed it. A GMP Traffic Range Rover used to turn up at my house every night. Blues on…then he’d follow me to work, sometimes tailgating, sometimes on my left..,just looking into my car. I just used to give him the finger as it was clear the specky little prick wasn’t about to do anything useful…anyway, another gym colleague who’ll I’ll refer to as MD was in the TAG team of GMPolice. He warned him off.

My now wife works for a mental health charity. One day she was alerted that a care worker was barricaded into a bathroom by a client who had a knife. She alerted the cowardly, incompetent lazy GMP. Basically she was told she’d need to try and sort it out herself. I went with her to the project. She had to ring me, keep comms open so that I could intervene if things turned south. No girls to impress. Danger. They’re not interested folks.

A work colleague joined the Derbyshire force as a special constable and took no greater pleasure than sending in photos of him with his batton raised – he was a total lunatic. That’s how low the bar is folks.

Hired lunatic muscle. IQ of sloths and the manner of banshees…