This could be the last time

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

In the past, TF has said that dealing with perceived defeat requires nothing more than picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and moving on. That’s too simplistic.

Let me give you two examples of what I mean – they’re both from The Shawshank Redemption. The story of Andy Dufresne’s  imprisonment after he was wrongly convicted of the murder of his wife has become a classic movie. You’ll also probably remember that the other main character in the film was Ellis “Red” Redding.

At first glance, you might imagine that it would be Andy who would have the most difficulty in dealing with his situation. However, he comes up with the phrase “get busy living or get busy dying”, which seems to give him the encouragement he needs to press on.

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Andy was faced with a tangible obstacle to his happiness – prison walls. In a way, a prison wall or another tangible barrier is easier to overcome than a mental barrier. It’s like looking into the abyss and realising that there may be a path around it. Knowing that there is something tangible on the other side of an obstacle can give a person hope that, one day, they will overcome. Sometimes, thinking to ourselves “get busy living or get busy dying” will be enough for us to pick ourselves up from whatever has gotten us down.

Red, on the other hand, had a different problem. After spending decades in prison, Red became – to use his words – “an institutionalised man”. He was faced with a physical and a mental barrier in that he had spent so much time in prison that his mind couldn’t contemplate anything else. He had stared into the abyss for too long and he needed more than self-motivation to help him survive his freedom. Many of us will have times in our lives when we need the support of others in the same way that Red did.

So what saved him? Well, Red’s thoughts after he left prison give us a clue:

“I find I’m so excited that I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel. A free man at a start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.

I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams.

I hope.”

Like Chris Moltisanti in the Sopranos, Red is looking at his future as a journey which he wants to start. Like all of us, he hopes that he gets to where he wants to go. However, crucially, Red has identified that seeing his friend is an essential part of that journey and, in a way, would mark the end of it.

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The point of these three editions of TF is that ambition and resilience are not all that’s required to be successful (in the widest possible sense) in life. The third – and perhaps most important aspect of success – is what old John Donne said: “No man is an island, entire of itself”. LCD Soundsystem put it another way in the TF anthem “All My Friends” (which charts a person’s life) by ending with the words: “where are your friends tonight?”

Like Red, the time has come for this Tash Appreciator to embark on the next long journey. Rather than simply being excited, it’s a fairly scary proposition and all I can do is give it everything I’ve got and hope that it turns out ok. Unfortunately, the start of the next journey means the end of TF, at least for now. Part of the reasoning behind this final TF has been to acknowledge the help and support that I receive from many of you – I really do appreciate it and I am lucky to be able to say that the expression on Red’s face when he sees Andy on the beach in Mexico is one which I understand and probably quite often mirror. I hope that in return TF has added something to your Friday mornings over the last three or four years.

Also like Red, I have plans to reach the blue Pacific ocean but, until then, I will make do with the blue of Blue Dog in Glasgow at around 9pm. I’m hopeful that a few of my friends will be there tonight – you are all most welcome.

I shall leave you with two things. Firstly, this week’s Tash, which of course is Morgan Freeman:

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And secondly, the question which I hope will continue to challenge all of us, regardless of whether TF is around to provide a weekly reminder:

What’s next?

You better, you better, you bet!

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

I was talking to a fellow Appreciator about how I couldn’t think of anything to write this week. Her one bit of advice was: “just don’t make it about Valentine’s Day.” The thing is, that is exactly what this week’s TF is going to be about.

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I suspect that many of you will not be fans of Valentine’s Day. The usual complaint about that it’s a creation of the American greetings card industry. After a bit of reading, it’s clear that’s not the case. It apparently dates back to an early Christian festival celebration of Saint Valentinus. These days, it is far less “Americanised” than Halloween or Christmas.

I don’t mind there being a day set aside for people to show their affection for one another. My complaint is that, if you engage with Valentine’s Day, all you can do is meet expectations or be excruciatingly unoriginal.

If you’re in a relationship, you either have to make some kind of gesture (which, ordinarily, would be appreciated but on Valentine’s Day is seen as normal) or you do nothing and run the risk of inflicting upset upon your significant other.

The Who summed up this sorry state of affairs in “You Better You Bet” when Roger Daltrey sings:

“When I say I love you, you say ‘you better’

You better, you better, you bet!”

If you’re single, you might get texts from your single pals with dubious rallying cries lifted from Beyoncé songs (“all the single ladies” springs to mind). Worse still, you might receive condescending head tilts from those smug folk who offer consolation in the form of platitudes: “plenty of fish in the sea” etc.

At least all of us are in the same boat in a couple of respects: dating companies will be doing their utmost to buy our email addresses from any source – legitimate or otherwise – and will then endeavour to clog our inboxes with offers of free trials of their websites. Not only that, none of us will be able to go out for food as every restaurant will have bumped their prices up by a minimum of 50%.

There is, however, one group of people who won’t give Valentine’s Day a second thought: men with moustaches. Some of these men – the ones who really know how to rock their Tash – transcend the single v. relationship dynamic of Valentine’s Day because everyone appreciates them. Therefore, Valentine’s Day for them is just like any other. Here are some classic of examples of the sort of chaps I mean:

Clark Gable

Clark Gable

 

Jean Dujardin

Jean Dujardin

 

Errol Flynn

Errol Flynn

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

Hell of the North

Morning Tash Appreciators,

I was out and about over the weekend and there seemed to be loads more runners and cyclists than usual. Maybe folk are trying to get in shape for the summer. Or maybe they just thought the weather was decent for the first time in months! Either way, many of them appeared to be suffering. 

Spring has long been the time when people get their act together and start becoming a bit more active. Whether it’s spring cleaning or getting some exercise in, it’s like the sun gives everyone a bit more energy. 

When folk first start getting out on the roads or down the gym, the first few sessions will be the worst. People will generally feel like they’re going to throw up or that their limbs have turned to jelly. 

Thankfully, it’s the same for everyone, even pro athletes. For example, the cycling season started a month or two ago but the first few races were in exotic locations with pristine roads and comfortable temperatures. They weren’t real races. Now though, the season has moved on to Belgium for the spring classics and the real races have begun. 

These most recent races have seen dozens of cyclists abandon due to lack of fitness but there have been some incredible performances. In last week’s Tour of Flanders (a one-day monster where the riders tackle the same 20% hill six times) Fabien “Spartacus” Cancellara rode away from the rest of the field after 150 miles with pure will-power and determination. Look at the expression on his face:

This weekend sees the biggest race of the spring: Paris-Roubaix, also known as Hell of the North. Team-mates will not help in this race – the cobbled roads (yes, for large sections of the race the riders will be going at 20+ mph over cobbles) mean its every man for himself. Strong men end up looking like this:

The point is, it’s all relative. These boys will cover 157 miles in a little over 6 hours. However, the pain they suffer is no different to that of you or I as we pound the pavements or brave the pot-holed roads. 

For example, Nike released an advert a couple of weeks ago about an overweight boy who decided to lose weight and took up running:

s there any difference between his pain and the pain of the guys doing Paris-Roubaix? Yes, the cyclists are being paid big bucks and have thousands of people cheering them on; it’s much harder to put the hours in on your own.

If you’re getting out and about this spring, TF salutes you. 

Have a great weekend folks!

Keep going!