Jen and I are just back from a fabulous week's holiday in Anglesey, during which, I was extremely daring, bordering on reckless:


OK, so maybe going for a paddle isn't all that daring. But, let's face it: I'm 49 years old; I have a bit of gyp from my left leg after adventurously trying to jump over an extremely narrow stream a few weeks back; my beard is more salt than pepper these days; and I've finally had to concede that my hair might indeed be thinning ever so slightly on top. So just how daring and adventurous can one expect to be at this stage in one's life?

39 years ago, I made friends with a boy named Paul who lived at the other end of our road. We were at different primary schools at the time, but were about to start at the same secondary school. We became very good mates, but ended up going to different universities and pretty much lost touch until we recently re-established contact via Facebook (yes, I am, somewhat reluctantly, on Facebook).

Last week, at around the time I was paddling on a beach in Anglesey, Paul, who was always a tad more athletic than me, set off on a jog from Marble Arch in London. He jogged down to Dover, then swam across the English Channel, then biked it to l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris. In so doing, Paul became the 20th, sixth-fastest, and oldest person to complete the frankly ridiculous Arch to Arc Challenge. In all, it took him 84 hours and 44 minutes.

Paul's Arch to Arc

Paul completing his Arch to Arc challenge.

Paul carried out all this nonsense in aid of the spinal cord injury charity for which he works. He's still accepting donations, if you're interested in sponsoring him retrospectively.

Before you get too impressed, however, I feel it my duty to point out that Paul is 26 days younger than me.


Guardian: Hurricane Norbert batters Baja California and heads north-west

Do you think they're starting to scrape the barrel when it comes to hurricane names? Norbert: what sort of name is that for any tropical cyclone worth its salt? I mean, it's not even a real name. Have you ever met anyone named Norbert? Me neither.

Apparently, Norbert means ‘famous in the North’. Not in this bloody North he's not. Up here, I guarantee, you won't hear tales of the legendary Norbert, who famously did something famous for which he is now remembered throughout the region. In fact, I can honestly say, I have never even heard of anyone named Norbert, let alone actually met someone with that unfortunate monicker. It's a made-up name. It's a joke name. In fact, I've just consulted the Famous People Named Norbert web page and it only lists five men, all but one of whom are dead, and absolutely none of whom you will have heard of. Not even Norbert Leo Butz, the ‘#1 person named Norbert’, who famously graduated from Webster University and the University of Alabama before beginning his career as a Broadway performer, and who then went on to appear on such television shows as The Deep End, Law & Order: SVU, The Good Wife, and Smash.

Do you think that Norbert Leo Butz, in an attempt perhaps to turn the inevitable topic of conversation away from his surname, tries to impress strangers with the fact that, according to the Famous People Named Norbert website, he's the #1 person named Norbert in the whole world? I suppose it's a claim to fame of sorts. But, as with the hurricane names, it smacks of barrel-scraping.

I mean, just imagine if your house got flattened, and you had to explain that you had been made homeless by Hurricane Norbert. Where's the dignity in that? People would just piss themselves laughing, or think you'd made it up.

No, enough is enough! You can't have a hurricane named Norbert. Whatever next? Hurricane Robin? Hurricane Keith (no offence)? Actually, no, it turns out these things are planned in advance. The next Eastern North Pacific hurricanes of the 2014 season, if there are any, will be named (I'm not making this up): Odile, then Polo, then Rachel, then Simon, then Trudy, then Vance, then Winnie, then Xavier, then Yolanda, then Zeke.

Actually, perhaps Norbert isn't such a damn stupid name for a hurricane after all.


Gavin Francis, writing in this week's London Review of Books (subscribers only link):

In New Problems in Medical Ethics (1956), Peter Flood, a Benedictine, stated that Christians in pain should accept suffering ‘as permitted by God for our betterment’. Pain was a ‘privilege, in union with the redemptive sufferings of Christ’. It was essential that a physician tell people they might be close to death, even if they weren’t sure, so that the patient’s opportunity for repentance wasn’t squandered and their admission to heaven put at risk. Pain relief might be administered in small doses, except to those such as lapsed Catholics—the fear being that even small doses might prevent them from returning to the religion of their baptism. In the same volume Eugene Tesson, a Jesuit, sanctioned physicians to administer pain relief only to the dying who had ‘made an act of submission to the Divine’ and those ‘in danger of falling into despair and blaspheming the goodness of God’.

These are the sort of religious, moralistic nutters who, in 2014, think assisted dying is against God's will.

Picture round

You know the picture round from A Question of Sport, where they show you a subtly obscured photo of some sporting celebrity you've never heard of, and you have to try and guess who it is? Well, my Dad and I attended a practice day at the Open yesterday, and I took a picture-round-type photo. See if you can guess who it is:

Ernie Els, British Open 2014, Hoylake

Ernie Els, yesterday… D'OH!!

You will note that, while I insist on referring to the so-called World Cup as the Soccer World Cup (there being more than one World Cup), I refer to the British Golf Open Championship simply as The Open. This is because my Dad has drilled it into me for decades that, while there are French, American, and other golf open championships, as well as open championships that aren't even golf, the British Golf Open Championship is rightly referred to simply as The Open. As if to prove him annoyingly right, the Royal & Ancient has even managed to bag the domain. So there.

[The answer is Ernie Els, by the way.]

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