Stockard Channing

Has it been a phenomenal summer of sport on the telly or what? First came all that European soccer, then the tennis, now the Olympic Games. Unbelievable!

All of which explains how Jen and I have finally managed to make massive inroads into our West Wing box-set. We're about half-way through season four at the moment, and we're totally hooked. I mean totally.

If you've never watched The West Wing, you really should. What makes the series so special is that every one of the main characters is both extremely likeable and extremely intelligent. You don't get that very much on the telly. And there are some fantastic jokes too. I'm not kidding, Jen and I have been literally laughing out loud at least once per episode.

One thing about The West Wing has been troubling me, though. The character of the First Lady is played by a very fine actress named Stockard Channing. Yes, that's right, Stockard Channing:


Stockard Channing (L) and Martin Sheen (R) as Mrs and President Bartlet respectively.

I know: where have you heard the name Stockard Channing before? It's been doing my head in.

I Googled her, obviously, and discovered that, in addition to playing First Lady Abbey Bartlet in The West Wing, Stockard Channing is perhaps best known for her role as Betty Rizzo in the film Grease. Which didn't particularly help, as I don't think I've ever seen Grease. Thanks for nothing, Google.

Then, after several days' frustration, it finally dawned on me why I recognised the name. Honestly, you're going to kick yourself…

Stockard Channing is the name of a motorway service station on the M5 just south of Bristol. I stopped there once for a comfort break and a coffee and blueberry muffin.

Holy crap. The poor, poor woman. She must have been teased mercilessly at school. What sort of person names their child after a motorway service station? (Apart from Charlton Heston's dad, I mean.)

Jen and I are pretty devastated that we're already half-way through The West Wing. So much so that we're starting to get a bit jittery about which landmark US TV series we're going to watch next. We already polished off The Sopranos during the last World Cup. We tried the first couple of episodes of The Wire, but couldn't understand a word anyone was saying. Which has left us in something of a quandary. The front-runner at the moment is the highly acclaimed Game of Cards. What do you reckon?

Life imitates Gruts

Remember this from December 2009?

I see Manchester City F.C. has a new manager, Roberto Mancini.

This is blatant Gunners envy. The Citizens simply couldn't stomach the fact that Arsenal were the only Premiership side whose manager, Arsène Wenger, had a name which was practically identical to the club's. So Man. City had to have Mancini. It was as simple as that.

What nonsense can we expect next? Chelsea Clinton to manage The Pensioners? Trevor Nunn to take over at Goodison? The late Oliver Poole to replace Benítez at Anfield?

Well, not quite. But I couldn't help noticing that the team synonymous with the Kop has just appointed a new manager with the made-up name of Jurgen Klopp.

The world has gone mad.


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.

Postscript (03-Oct-2014):
Paul's account of his successful Arch to Arc Challenge