This is the introductory article I wrote, which I’ll share in the ‘About’ Section too.

I created this personal Substack a while ago, to replace my old personal WordPress website (R.I.P.) and to coincide with the launch of my second novel, London Skies; but life got in the way.

As you may have noticed, I don’t really use social media anymore, other than to occasionally post links and share updates, but I feel a kind of icky nausea when on any of the sites, for various reasons.

Despite nearly 100,000 Twitter/X followers, any Substack content I share on there is essentially shadow-banned since things got Musky, and I don’t tend to post the kind of engaging/inflammatory stuff that gets clicks – and so my accounts on all platforms don’t generate the heat on which the algorithms thrive.

It’s also depressing when, occasionally driven to rage-tweet, it goes viral, but anything considered, or article links, are like tumbleweed.

I try to stay logged out of all social media, as it’s so full of rage, bullshit, bad-faith takes, and ever-extreme views, that seems like an assault on the senses. Plus, obviously I always used to get a lot of abuse on Twitter, including the regulation death threats and accusations of being every kind of unpleasant type of person imaginable, and the cons ended up outweighing the pros.

Then there’s just the weight of replies, and feeling bad if I don’t check in with people who have gone out of their way to respond. I just don’t have the time or the energy, nor the desire to wade through the bile, nonsense and ignorance that clutters the good stuff.

And sometimes even seeing the nicer news or photos, on Facebook or Instagram, leads to FOMO; I’m not entirely housebound but I do spend most of my time at home, indoors, and most evenings are spent in/on bed with music, podcasts and audiobooks.

If I have plans for the evening, which is rare, I rest during the day.

Life getting in the way also included new medical diagnoses, to go along with my longstanding M.E. and more run-of-the-mill ailments (I was born with a compromised immune system), to now include the discovery of congenitally deformed lumbar vertebra, whose existence came home to roost in middle age; with the MRI detecting fractures on both sides (bilateral pars defects, aka spondylolysis), ligamentum flavum, bilateral foraminal stenosis, anterolisthesis, broad-based disc bulge and nerve root impingement.

(The technical term is “fucked”.)

On their own, none of these were major, but combined, it caused a lot of pain and concern, and required months of specialist physiotherapy going back to last autumn. Given that my L5 vertebra is simply too small, the situation needs managing (and some of the issues will worsen with time), but I’m not eager to have spinal surgery, for obvious reasons, unless absolutely necessary.

At the same time my vision in my right eye seemed oddly blurry, and scans at a specialist eye hospital showed that a good chunk of the optic nerve had atrophied, and thus arrived the diagnosis of glaucoma. Thankfully my left eye still seems relatively okay, albeit my vision in both eyes weakens when I’m fatigued.

Having been born with eczema and asthma, and various allergies (all perhaps because my mother could only keep down milky cereal during the pregnancy), I was still able to be incredibly sporty as a kid, but life is more challenging in my 50s.

I don’t feel particularly sorry for myself; just frustrated at times, and irritated by things like being told I am (or represent the) privileged, when good health is the most important blessing in life.

(Plus, next on the list is good hair, and that went in my 20s, along with my health.)

It all made me realise that I need to scale down my life, and plan towards selling my basic three-bed semi, which is now too big anyway, and where the stairs can be a challenge on some days. Plus, my mortgage has doubled since September 2022, as have my bills (this is the way of life for many), and I have to focus on managing my health.

Equally, my mind refuses to slow down (except on brain-fog days), and I can have an overflow of ideas and creative urges.

I’ve come to realise that I don’t think I can shut off the generation of ideas, or the delving into data for my sportswriting, or researching a topic for fiction, as it’s what gives me a buzz, as I mostly live the life of the mind (and mind only) these days; certainly 80% of the time. But I do need to find ways to manage it all better.

The new novel was started in 2015, and mostly finished by 2023, bar some editing. I’m not expecting it to sell in large quantities, but I very much enjoyed the process of writing it and I’m hugely proud of the final results. The feedback from my local bookclub, as beta testes (I typed testers but ‘testes’ is worth keeping in), was excellent, and Kirkus Reviews had lots of nice things to say about. But it’s not designed to be commercial.

I’ll share details about it on here soon, with the release pending, but I will also use Off Piste as a place to share thoughts on things that don’t cross over with my sportswriting; including writing about my life with M.E., but also things that interest me, from the realms of music, art, film, literature and dwarf-tossing.

(This last one, including the outdated term, is clearly a joke, for those who take things too literally. Plus, I’m not even talking about the throwing of people of smaller stature.)

I probably won’t allow comments, as I don’t need one more platform to check and moderate. None of the articles will be paywalled, as this is just a mailing list/newsletter/opinion site for me.

If anyone replies to the emails via the mailing list I may read them, but I don’t guarantee reading, let alone replying (albeit I may, depending on my mood, energy levels, etc.)

Thank you.

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Thoughts on life (and things I enjoy) from a semi-famous, non-award-winning, middle-aged sportswriter/novelist


Writer of over a dozen books – sportswriter and novelist. Takes himself 79% seriously. Curious mind, highly curious person.