Sunday 13th May 2018

This week’s entry should really have been penned from a height of around 38,000 feet.

Technically speaking, that’s approximately where I was for the best part of Sunday, en-route to the east coast of Australia (Byron Bay, to be exact) to visit my son, having not seen him for the best part of five years. Yes, I should have taken that opportunity to get stuck into my diary then: after all, I spent eighteen hours in the air – more than enough time to do it..

Still (and this is something of a throwaway line): that was then and this is now – and now I’m doing it, currently sat on the balcony of our Air B ‘n B establishment in Byron Bay’s suburbs.

Naturally, it’s most heartening to hook up with my son again – all the more poignant, since I spent far too much time, out on the road on countless tours, away from my children in their formative years. However - says Jake, somewhat selfishly - it would have been good had he elected to take up “temporary” residence in the likes of the Canary Islands, rather than halfway across the globe. “The Canaries” is a three-hour flight, in contrast with the twenty-three hours (with connecting Emirates flights through Dubai) that it took to reach Byron Bay!

However, we are here now – and it is very much the idyllic environment that I expected it to be: too many people, from various walks of life, had attested to the attraction and setting of the place, for it to be otherwise. There are definite comparisons to be drawn between the “vibe” here – and that of Queenstown, an enchanting town on the south island of New Zealand.

We are housed, for our entire stay while we are here, in an “Air B ‘n B” location on the edge of town, which took us just over two hours to reach, from the time we drove out of Brisbane International airport, in the hire car: a three-lane motorway for the majority of the journey.

While it is undisputedly a cool area, it is also undisputedly an expensive area. Case in point: two frappe iced mochas and one orange juice at “The Dip” café (maybe they named it after their patrons, for paying such prices!) this morning came to the sum total of $25.50, which currently computes to £14.20. However, in fairness to that comparison, the standard of living in Australia is known to be higher than the UK – and the same is generally true of their wages.

The laid-back (dare I say “hippy”) air of the place is borne out by more tattoos “per capita” than I’ve seen for a fair while in any given town or city however (and call me old-fashioned if you will) strolling down town-centre sidewalks barefoot makes no sense to me, for several reasons: maybe the “wearers” actually believe that their feet are not touching the ground!

Naturally, I’m more than willing to attempt to “go with the flow” but I stop short at not wearing some form of (“protective”) footwear on the sidewalk: save it for the beach, dude.

On the football front, the three lads that I represent have returned home to France, awaiting developments (which will be very much down to me!) as to how they progress their careers next season: hopefully, in each case, with a “step up the ladder”, football-league wise. With that in mind , I have chosen – for this week’s accompanying track – a great little tune from one of the “eighties” most prolific bands, “M People”, with “Search For The Hero”. Lovin’ Ya!

Sunday 6th May 2018

Let me just say that if every day – weather wise – was as pleasant as it is today, here in Dunbar, I would certainly not have to be planning on spending winter out of the country as the years go on. Therefore, I’m going to take it while it’s going: however, I’m under no illusions.

This past week has been fairly frantic on the football front, as we have reached that point in the season where the league “play-offs” are in full swing and – fairly unusually – my three players are all with clubs who had some involvement with the play-offs in their respective leagues. I use the word “had” as only yesterday afternoon, come 4.45 pm, unfortunately that was down to two players: my player Willis Furtado, who plays for the League One side “Raith Rovers” (who hail from the east coast town of Kirkcaldy) found themselves the losing side to “Alloa”, over the two-legged playoff semi-final, which now sees them out of the competition.

Not a great result (even over the length of the season, in terms of their final League position) considering that Raith Rovers are a full-time club and Alloa Athletic – (to bestow them with their full name) – operate on a “semi-pro” basis, essentially meaning that they only train on Tuesday and Thursday nights: so their fitness should be considerably “down” on Raith Rovers!

Subsequently, the Raith Rovers Chairman resigned his position within hours of the game finishing and, typically, now a sizeable contingent of the fan base are calling for the Manager’s head: this is partly a knee-jerk reaction, out of their frustration of not seeing Raith Rovers ascend to the “Championship” league, for next season’s campaign. To be perfectly honest, I can certainly share their frustration in relation to yesterday’s “below-par” performance.

This is the absolute flip-side of the lucrative nature of the Premier League in England, where the top twenty clubs enjoy an embarrassment of riches while – up here in Scotland (with the exception of the four or five top clubs) – “every penny is a prisoner”. Several of the Raith Rovers playing squad will undoubtedly be fearful of their future involvement with the club, as I’ve little doubt that most of the players’ contracts do not extend past the end of this season.

As is always the case around this time of year, every club will release between five or six players, giving an approximate total, over the 42 Senior clubs, of around two hundred ‘’jobless” players. I would estimate that probably 30% of them will be taken up by other clubs, albeit very likely at one division lower than the club they were released from - meaning that at least 50% of those released are unlikely to find another club where they can play next season, many of them for reasons of their age and their recent injury history: niggling “knocks” are harder to recover from, as the body gains in years. Sadly, it’s the way (more or less) that it happens every year – which is tough for the lads who have spent fifteen to twenty years in and around the senior leagues. They must now “graft” themselves into the mainstream of working life.

If all I have accomplished over the last twenty-two years of my involvement in football has been to serve as a conduit to assist some of those young, hopeful, players to realise their dream to play professional football, then I believe that surely I can hold my head high, no?

In thinking about some of those seasoned players who will be unable to stay in the game next season, I’m going with an iconic “Soul 11 Soul” track: “Back to Life”. May it go smoothly, lads.

Sunday 29th April 2018

Alice already knows the answer to this “riddle”: what’s the difference between a day with clear skies in Cyprus – and a day with clear skies in Dunbar? Answer: about 15 Centigrade!

Well, that’s how it is for this Sunday anyway – although my neighbor Sue did pointedly remind me that it’s still only April, when I put that question to her (hell, May’s just around the corner).

However (and I’m not setting any great store by this hopeful assumption) if we can enjoy such crisp days at this time of the year, might this auger well for August? Ah, we can but dream.

Dreaming: I’ve done a bit of that in my time. It’s a gene that certainly runs through the male side of the Duncan family, and history will show that has been one costly gene, at times. Still, at least it has been recognized and identified before (in my case anyway – although Alice may differ) it wreaked too much havoc in the pendulum of my existence. But, it still caught me.

I have (as a result of “hiding away” in Cyprus for those recent three weeks) unquestionably moved towards “re-jigging” my overall involvement with my football project. Too much of my time to date has been willingly given on a “heart ruling the head basis” – and time, nowadays, increasingly takes on a more poignant meaning. It is indeed a most precious commodity. The crux of the situation revolves around now instituting a more efficient business model, on the football front of things: yes, the time has now come to place quality firmly in front of quantity.

Indeed, if I were to honestly say what is in my heart this week, such a shift in my involvement, time-wise is, arguably, long overdue. Even returning from Cyprus, this Wednesday past, I was starkly reminded of the responsibilities of a single home owner, in terms of the domestic duties involved in such a role. In support of that view, my garden is heading towards resembling a minor “jungle”. I should add that at least I made an initial inroad towards rectifying matters out the back - by varnishing the garden table (in the hope it can be saved).

As part of the life that I lead, I would probably have to admit – if even a quick examination of the time frames were laid bare – that I’ve probably left said garden table out, exposed to the variety of – mainly “wind-driven” – weather elements that Dunbar is known for. Somehow, two of the matching garden chairs managed to up-end themselves into the small bird pools – subsequently having turned a dirty grey, in contrast to the original brown of the other two.

I mentioned – in the body of last week’s Diary entry – that I discussed with Alice the idea of having seven or eight definite “football free” months in the year, rather than continually dabbling (generally ineffectually) during the “closed window” months. Typically, as a starting point, at least half of any given year should now be earmarked accordingly; therefore – right here, right now – into that category goes February, March, April, May, June, September, October and November. That’s eight in total, of course - but a credible starting point, yah?

A fairly busy week beckons, now that three of the four senior Scottish football leagues have finished their scheduled programme of games – and the “play-off” stages are due to commence. In that respect, what follows might therefore be an appropriate track this week. Check out the first lines of this Johnny Nicolas song, “Things I Used to Do”. Very topical! XX

Sunday 22nd April 2018

So relaxed was I, having spent two weeks in Cyprus, that I decided to stay on another week.

Therefore, as I sit here this afternoon, it is now my 19th consecutive day (or part thereof – to borrow a legal phrase) on the island and - to be honest – I, almost, just can’t get enough!.

Aside from having to move a pre-scheduled dental appointment (successfully achieved) there was no immediate need for me to be back in the UK last Wednesday. Part of me wrestled with the “should I really spend three consecutive weeks out here at this time of year?” notion: however the “WTF?” Notion – and this may take some of my regular readers by surprise – won the day! I am harbouring the sneaking suspicion that had I been pondering such a decision a year ago, at this time, I would have “intimidated myself” into believing I really should return..

There is possibly a subliminal theme here: how do you break out of your routine unless you challenge yourself with a “left field” change of direction? Following on from the decision to spend the extra week out here, I can – today – definitely recognise being in an even more relaxed state of mind than I was last week. I need to take time to reflect on that situation..

Slowly but surely (and the last three weeks have certainly enhanced this line of thinking) I’m coming around to the realisation that – having undertaken the vast majority of my working life at breakneck speed – it is not enough for me to take my foot of the gas; not even enough to then apply the brakes. What is apparently required is the need for me to cut the (my) engine and “coast to a complete stop”. If I could be allowed to take this analogy a few steps further – there might then be a case for a serious service and an exhaustive M.O.T. (“Ministry of Transport” vehicle reliability/legality check – lest I may have confused my non-UK readers).

I can’t attest to the imminent arrival of any (long-awaited?) epiphany, but I definitely sense the undercurrent of a gentle sea-change relating to my ongoing mindset. I want to be in a position to enjoy and appreciate my involvement with the football side of my business, but – as time goes on, I must continue to value quality over quantity. Additionally this objective must be pursued without my involvement becoming excessively or needlessly time-consuming..

You could (quite correctly) argue that such a standpoint has been a long time coming for (to?) me, however – keeping in mind how all-consuming my touring work invariably becomes – it’s simply taken three consecutive weeks of me “standing off” my work commitments, to see it.

There is, of course, more to it than that: with some other key, contributory, factors (increasing age not being the least of those!) also percolating to the surface of my - at times, very distracted – consciousness. In the body of last week’s Diary Entry, I recall making mention of a very thought-provoking book I am currently reading (in fact, I’m already on my second reading of the passages of the book which have particularly “struck home” to me). The book, called “The Warmth of the Heart Prevents Your Body from Rusting”, is by a French (I believe) author called Marie de Hennezel: one of nine books by Marie, about “the end of life”.

However, what we can’t have is a Diary entry ending on a morbid note, so here’s a John Fogerty & Foo Fighters collaboration that would wake the dead (but we’re not there yet, are we?!). X

Sunday 15th April 2018

Not to gloat in any way - but purely to share: I’ve just enjoyed the most enlightening weekend.

At fairly late notice - on Thursday evening past, to be precise – Alice and I decided to head up to the north-west coast of Cyprus to spend the remainder of Friday (you may recall Alice finishes work at 1.00 pm on a Friday) and Saturday nights there. We have driven up to that part of Cyprus – only ninety minutes’ drive from where Alice lives, between Pafos and Limassol – on several past occasions, staying mainly in one of the two neighbouring towns of Polis or Latchi. On this occasion, however, we plumped for venturing further along the north coast (not too far mind you, or you find yourself venturing into the northern – Turkish - area of the island) to a small harbour town called Pomos – and what a most relaxing “find” it proved to be!

Boasting only one restaurant that we could see (coincidentally owned – and run – by the same family that owned the holiday apartment block in which we stayed) and two small food stores, it nevertheless showed itself to be a charming and tranquil little village, where (I believe) I was able to take another couple of “baby-steps” in the direction of “finding myself”. In these situations, it can be very difficult to pinpoint just exactly what factors may have unwittingly colluded, to allow you briefly to view your personal situation from a, hitherto, new perspective.

Even as I try to encapsulate the “influences” of the past couple of days into some form of tangible understanding, I must confess to realising that it’s probably way too soon to attempt to do so. More sensibly, something tells me, I would probably be better served trying to allow these renewed thought processes to “gently stew” for a while longer, until I can order them into some articulately presentable realisation - that would make sense to both you and I. However, said thoughts may be in danger of making about as much sense as this paragraph!

I again, this past weekend, found myself assailing Alice with my “egg-timer” theory: this being the need to prevent myself gently “up ending” the said egg-timer, before it has completely drained its contents into the bottom half of the glass. The analogy here being that the total grains of sand represent the flow of my life: however, I want to halt the flow of those grains, once the top section of the timer is empty – furthermore disciplining myself not to just routinely flip the timer through one hundred and eighty degrees again, allowing a further cycle to commence - before initiating some serious thought as to removing some of the sand. While doing so, there would surely be no harm in purposely slowing the rate of flow – as well as the total amount of sand in the timer. Are you (kind of) getting what I’m on about here?!

In summary, that quaint little harbour village has somehow construed to focus my concentration a little more, in respect of the aspects of my life that I feel I need to exert (and influence) more control over. It’s then a matter of how brave I am to make that happen.

In tandem with those above (rambling, yes) thoughts, it just so happens I have started to read a very informative book which deals with the subject (taboo?) of growing older. More about that next week, once I have had the opportunity to digest the book’s subject matter!

Where now to go, with choosing an appropriate track for this week? Bearing only a tenuous relation to this week’s text, let’s go with The Beatles, “I’ll Follow The Sun”: as I may just! XX

Sunday 8th April 2018

A momentous occasion yesterday folks, which I’m happy to share: your writer has turned 66!

I’m just looking at that number, sixty-six – it actually looks better (and more palatable!) written in longhand, than just stated as two numerals. Let me share another fact with you: this coming Wednesday, 11th, my son turns 32! Now that’s funny (in one sense – bear with me here) because 32 written in numerals is certainly easier on the eye than 66 in the same form!

This thought also occurred to me late last night: my son, this coming Wednesday, will only be one year younger than the age I was when he was born. The signs of aging are not on the wane!

However, where do you find me this fine sunny afternoon (although, “fine sunny afternoon” is probably a giveaway here – being that I surely can’t be located in Scotland)? You find me sat on the balcony of our room, at the Flora Maria hotel in Ayia Napa, towards the eastern end of Cyprus, where Alice and I have ventured to, over the Cypriot Easter weekend. Maybe I hear you mutter “now he is starting to lose it – he’s a week behind himself” but, observant readers, the brain cells are still functioning reasonably well - being that, in this part of the world, the Easter weekend is indeed one week later than its UK counterpart. Mr Trivia, indeed.

Here we are – one week into April – and this is my third visit out to Cyprus, this year, already. But why wouldn’t you? If the time is there to do it; the flights are relatively inexpensive (when booked early) – and the weather is of the “sit outside” variety (at the same time as the infamous Dunbar wind can be found to be mercilessly howling down the High Street). Did I omit to mention any other contributory factor? Of course! What was I thinking about? How could I be so inconsiderate? (“Quite easily” I hear someone say). There’s the old girl who lets me stay at her place! Alice – she, the famed producer, throughout the district of Episkopi, of “Scottish Tablet”, treacle toffee, and now – deftly shaking her utensils – comes Egg Foo Yung!

Is it irresponsible for me to pay little heed to what is happening back home, during the periods when I am temporarily located out here? I have to admit that it comes terribly easily. In the age of Direct Debit, there need be no concern of domestic accounts resting on the vestibule floor (not unless you haven’t paid them of course): it can all be done from your laptop in Cyprus!

However, when one diligently factors in all aspects of one’s monthly living costs (council tax; gas & electricity; household insurances; basic travel; food shopping, etc.) there is certainly little change – for me, anyway - coming out of £1,000 each month. It’s a gentle, sobering, reminder of the need to see some occasional earned income finding its way into the equation.

My “pension” is in the form of a small flat in East Lothian which I currently have rented - and this augments the income from my State Pension. Being mortgage free (in the same position of most of my home-owning contemporaries will now find themselves) is, of course, a welcome state of affairs: however, it represents “money” that you are unable to lay your hands on. Sure I know of these “equity release” schemes but, like many (understandably) I am wary!

In closing this week’s entry - and looking to attach an associated track – I find myself ushered towards the mention, earlier, of this “sunny afternoon”: it can only therefore be The Kinks! X

Sunday 1st April 2018

Yes, Easter comes but once a year but - unlike Winter (usually) - there’s no snow to clear!

Do you realise - in case it mildly interests you - that the above line is probably the only time such an utterance has ever been published. It does make you think (but, most likely, it doesn’t!)

You find me this Sunday afternoon – as you have found me on many occasions before – “parked” at the Dunbar Garden Centre with the sun on my back (on even fewer occasions!) - also with the fairly unique late-afternoon light that bathes the geographical position of “Sunny Dunny”.

Already, today, I have been down to the Scottish Borders to briefly visit my daughter, but had no great hankering to return to the house mid-afternoon, on such a pleasant afternoon. Of course, whether I will complete today’s entry before they “shut up shop” here (5.30 pm) remains to be seen as – just prior to making a start to this – I was earlier distracted into viewing several images of the now-long-disused railway station in the town of Penicuik, Midlothian, where I spent the first three years of my life. Did the train ride bring that on?

Anyway – possibly not for too long, mind you – here I am back in the present and, wouldn’t you know it (as if by some ethereal – right word? - sign), the sun has disappeared behind the clouds again! There are periods of my life (not extensive periods though, I have to note) when my daydreaming and night-dreaming worlds are infinitely more attractive than the alternative.

That’s my Niall Horan commitment finished, as of Thursday past in Dublin – helping to bring to close a fairly hectic week for me, which consisted of flying to Paris, one week ago today (as you recall – don’t you?!), returning back late Tuesday afternoon; off to Dundee on Wednesday evening to take in the Development League game, featuring two of my young lads, for Dundee United, Idris and Logan; then flying to Dublin Thursday morning (with a quick turnaround back again, on the 0230 ferry on the crew bus, if you follow what I mean); back up to Dunbar on the train on Friday morning, from Holyhead and then – “finally” – up to the seaside town of Kirkcaldy yesterday to watch the “Raith Rovers” game, where I witnessed my lad, Willis Alves Furtado (albeit, as a second-half substitute) help the team gain a 2-0 victory.

Within reason would you agree (in particular for those fine folks within my own demographic) that – within reason – if you keep yourself busy, then you go a long way to keeping yourself alive? In contrast to that (and – right about now – Alice is rolling her eyes towards the ceiling as she senses an, imminent, complete digression to my conversation) it is surely something of a morbid observation that The Bee Gees penned the iconic song “Staying Alive”, but yet there’s only one of them currently left on the planet. There’s the weirdest music anomaly, no?

My closing thought this evening, as the clock in the Garden Centre café reads 5.36 pm (and as the staff are politely – pointedly? – gazing in my direction) is that …… I’ve forgotten what my closing thought was!! So I’ll pack up here and hope I can recall it, on the walk back home!

Back in the office (in the house) – having already given mention to The Bee Gees this week – I am nevertheless indebted to their contribution to my formative years and will therefore, this Sunday, leave you with another of their iconic compositions, “More Than a Woman”. XX

Sunday 25th March 2018

Leaving on a jet plane (to Paris) – but I do know when I’ll be back again (Tuesday, actually).

Yes, folks, another of my, not-too-infrequent, trips associated with my football project, specifically linked to the French market. You will most likely be aware that I’ve invested significant time in this little hobby of mine, over the last fifteen years and, understandably, I won’t be deliberating at length as to the amount of money I’ve invested over that same period. Suffice to say, if I was still in possession of said monies, then I would be sitting a lot farther forward in the cabin on my Paris flight today, than the story my boarding pass tells.

I can only re-iterate, once again, that “it is what it is” and – save for (on many occasions) a sadistic work rate and a few large, opportune, slices of luck – “it” could have been way worse.

This year – in contrast to the past two – my summer, in the main, will most likely be dominated with a (yet to be confirmed – apologies) UK outdoor summer tour, that will certainly swallow – whole - the month of July, with a few days of “prep” and “clean up” tacked on to either end.

That (while remunerating me admirably) will kill the prospect of the summer trial games that I’ve staged over the last two years, here in Scotland: therefore we have no choice but to switch locations (indeed, countries) – and temporarily, this year, “relocate” to Paris. Nevertheless, we are still unable to have the games during the month of July: however that may be something of a “blessing in disguise” as it requires that we substantially re-jig the normal schedule of how the games are played, in relation to the opportunities for the more impressive of the squad of players, to go directly to trial with clubs who require their services.

The new plan (which I will field to several French contacts over the next two days - during which time I will inevitably consume inexcusable amounts of coffee) is to stage the games, in Paris, as close to the culmination of the French football season – which finished the third week in May. This way the players will be in fine physical condition and (surely) the majority of them will not have disappeared on their annual holidays. There lies the basis of the plan.

Next week I will be in a position to report how said plan was received – and hopefully embellished – by the guys in Paris who I have to lean on, to make it happen. In reaching for the sky, I will try to convince them of the (eventual) benefit of playing two games over two consecutive days however – having the personal experience of marshalling a mere squad of sixteen players, while they were over here in Scotland, on the four occasions I staged trial games - I don’t envy their job! One of them will have to “stand up” and assume ultimate responsibility for overseeing the arrangements for “corralling” upwards of sixty football players (in one 48 hour period) and allocate them positions on the field in one of four teams.

I believe Yann Herrick, from MB Sports Management (who oversaw the arrangements for the game, back on November 5th last year) will once again volunteer to pull everything together. Experience has shown Yaan that if you need thirty players for the game, then you call forty!

Surely this week’s accompanying track must be dedicated to Yaan, so here goes The Kinks with “Till The End Of The Day” – because that’s how long (and more) he’s going to be at it!! X

Sunday 18th March 2018

This evening finds me in Scotland’s (self-titled) “City of Discovery”. Why - Dundee, of course!

As a result of a limited Sunday evening train service, between Dundee and Dunbar (and dinner with Idris having been planned for 7.30 pm, here in Dundee) I was unable to get home tonight, which is why you now find me penning this week’s Diary entry from The Atholbank “B & B” in Thompson Street in Dundee. I’ll be on my way back to Dunbar tomorrow on the 09.34 – the final destination of that train being Truro in England’s West country. I was almost tempted just to stay on the train - throw all responsibility out the window - and disappear for a while!

However, back to life – back to reality. The reason to pop up here to Dundee this evening was to have the opportunity to meet with Idris’s dad, who is over from Lyon for a few days to spend some time with his son. Being the father of an “estranged” son, I can relate to that.

On the way up here today, the plan had been to “call into” Kirkcaldy to take in Willis Furtado’s game for Raith Rovers versus the club East Fife. However, something of a freak snow shower overnight, last night, led to the game being called off. Having already booked – and paid for – the train tickets that would have allowed me said stop in Kirkcaldy, I took the opportunity to make that pre-planned stop anyway - to spend thirty minutes in Willis’s company at the small hotel which is adjacent to the railway station in Kirkcaldy, at 4.30 pm this afternoon. Willis is in good spirits and – typically – the basis of our conversations centered around what lies ahead for his future, the most crucial requirement being to hope that his last club in France (US Ivry) will demonstrate an ongoing willingness to come to the “negotiating table” with us.

Over the last two months, I have slowly formed the opinion (which has been coming for years) that it takes a particularly focused and determined young player to “walk the tough line” - initially with one of the small clubs in the lower leagues of Scotland – to gain notice for his ability, a process which (using Willis as an example) can take as long as eighteen months. However, Willis has shown it can be done - to the point where he is playing with the number two team in League Two, here in Scotland, who have a very good chance of winning the division.

On the back of those various realisations, garnered over the last two months, I am off to Paris this weekend, to meet my various contacts – in conjunction with my European partner, Jean Bosco Murego – and look to focus our attentions on tracking down these particular type of players, because they are in France – and in particular, in the suburbs of the city of Paris.

Yesterday I watched one of my players, Karim Belmokhtar, play only fifteen minutes at the end of the Montrose v Peterhead game, but I am nevertheless convinced that he has the ability to play at a much higher level – and hopefully he can aspire to that next season. Once again the difficulty comes – looking at future options for Karim – in circumnavigating the plethora of unfairly restrictive (a clear restraint of trade!) regulations relating to compensation payable for young players signing professional, up until the age of 23 years old.

So, until next week – coming to you from gay Paris (well, you never now!) – let’s hope I have turned the corner, to some degree, with regards to the football project. I leave you, this evening, with the iconic Temptations and “Shakey Ground” – which I may currently be on! XX

Sunday 11th March 2018

Well, whad’ya know? This week, the Diary from the Road is being written from …… the road!

You find me, this early Sunday evening, sat in the bar area of the Spencer Hotel in Dublin, on Excise Walk – only a ten minute a stroll from the location of tomorrow’s show which, of course, is the 3Arena in Dublin where I will be involved in the first of two shows there with Niall Horan – the second being on 29th of this same month. I’m a little late on-board, onto this tour, however I’m sure if I research the sales history of the two shows I’ll invariably discover that the first show (tomorrow) “flew out the door”, leading to the decision to put a second show on sale fairly quick. That was a correct overview of the situation, however availability (it’s a popular little – big! – venue, as you may know) did not exist to run the two shows consecutively.

In fact, when one notes that the “follow-up” show has been booked for 29th of this month it indeed gives you an idea of the venue’s afore-mentioned popularity. Of course, the mainland UK dates (running from 15th through 27th March) would have already been up on sale, being that all the tour dates – or the “first phase” of them, anyway – are generally simultaneously announced. Therefore, what I can further deduce, based upon my experience of many sales campaigns along the way, is that tonight was unavailable as well (I’ll be taking a wee walk along the quayside in the direction of the 3Arena, after finishing this entry, to see if I’m right).

Whatever, it is pretty impressive to be able to sell two 3Arena shows on your first solo tour, - and I’ll be in there in the morning assisting in shifting the typical 10/20 single seats, to ensure that Niall has a complete sell-out by show-time. Lookout - Doctor Jake is in the house!

On another tangent – but staying with the present tour – I am pleased as Punch (I suspect Punch was an Irish guy!) to be involved with an Artist, much along the lines of working with Olly Murs, who uses real, live, musicians on stage. The era I come from – all Artists had them.

Therefore, for the time being, I’m as happy as a pig in poo - aided to a significant degree by the fact that many of the technical crew are “well kent faces”, 80% of them who I would say I’ve worked with on previous tours. As often mentioned, I have my “extended” family out here.

Yesterday, Dublin was populated, both indigenously - and from afar, by hordes of passionate rugby fans, off the back of yesterday’s game here at The Aviva Stadium where the Irish triumphantly landed the “Six Nations” rugby trophy by (ouch!) putting Scotland to the sword.

The above coming of the back of my football team, Hearts, suffering a sound 2-0 beating, on Friday night, from our arch rivals across the city, Hibernian, who sadly were the better team. Now Hearts have a job on their hands to stake a place in the “top six” when The Scottish Premier League “splits” around the 1st April into a top and bottom six. If we want the financial benefits of facing the likes of Rangers, Celtic and Aberdeen – that’s where we have to be.

Dusk is creeping in now, to this wildly, iconic, city – as the ambient noise in the downstairs bar inversely increases, and therefore the time approaches for me to select an accompanying track that bears some relation to last night’s game. Subsequently, I will leave you – this fine relaxed evening (for me, anyway!) - with a self-explanatory tune, in relation to where many may feel Scotland’s Six Nations campaign currently rests - from The Average White Band! X

Sunday 4th March 2018

Well, folks, over (at least) the ten years I’ve been penning these Diary entries, I would struggle to recall a Sunday where we had endured such severely intense weather in the previous seven days. However, before I delve into the consequences of this past week’s weather, I must confess that I missed the first two days of it, prior to boarding my homeward flight from Cyprus, on Wednesday past. From 27C to minus 7C in the space of just six hours!

In fact, I’ve since learned that my Easyjet flight was the last scheduled flight to touch down at Edinburgh Airport on Wednesday evening, yet surprisingly “only” thirty-five minutes late.

From that point onwards, however, the ongoing forty-eight hours found me literally “marooned” in Edinburgh – with no trains, buses or even taxis running from midnight on Wednesday night. When I arrived at Waverley Bridge in the centre of town, where the Airport Express bus regularly terminates, the scene was like something out of a futuristic, deserted “white out” city. So scarce was the incidence of any moving traffic (allayed to the most unusual sight of a barren taxi rank outside the city’s main station) I was able to walk in the middle of the road – much “safer” than the treacherous pavements - up towards Princes Street. I don’t think I observed any more than about twenty-five moving vehicles, throughout the, slightly perilous, twenty-five minute airport-bus journey in from the airport to the city.

Now (and I may have made mention of this, in a past entry of the Diary) my sister resides in an eastern suburb of Edinburgh, called Musselburgh – probably not much more than a £20 taxi ride: that is if you can find a taxi to take you there! Even the taxis had called it a night. In situations such as that, you are left with no choice but to go and find yourself a hotel room – and hope to God that the rates have not been racked up to take advantage of the situation.

Surprisingly, there was a phalanx of available rooms within the £50 price range, leading me to plump for the Travelodge in Edinburgh’s Waterloo Place – main reason being that (with me trying to stay positive) the Dunbar bus stops right outside the hotel’s door. Surely – I reasoned with myself – the buses would definitely be back in service the following morning, even if the trains were predicted to be running on a very limited service, until further notice.

Well, that little prediction soon went by-the-by when, upon waking early the next morning, Thursday, I was greeted with all news channels carrying the proclamation that the severe weather was due to continue for at least another twenty-four hours. What to do, with the Travelodge fully booked for Thursday evening, but to seek out hotel accommodation for a second, successive, night. Unbelievable that I was “cut off” from home for two days in a row!

Thankfully, help was at hand at Friday lunchtime, by way of young Kirstin - a very resolute neighbor of mine – who managed to locate, through “Dunbar Online”, a few Dunbar residents (who had managed to brave the dreadfully poor conditions to make it into work in Edinburgh) who had spare seats in their various cars for the return journey back down to Dunbar. Suffice to say that I managed to secure one of those seats to find myself at home by mid-afternoon!

So, what a week huh? Which surely limits the choice of any accompanying track. Unperturbed, I’m going with Johnny Nicholas’s “The Hustle is On” – and, this week, it definitely was!! XX

Sunday 25th February 2018

Well folks, by all accounts, Cyprus is definitely preferable to the UK, over the next week!

Word has it that, back home in “Blighty”, the temperature is likely to drop to an average of -8 degress Celsius, over the next seven days. Of course, there’s me saying that I’m better in Cyprus than the UK, forgetting, initially, that I’m actually flying back to Scotland on Wednesday…..

I always (literally) cover myself for such situations by wearing a decent outdoor jacket when I travel out to Cyprus, so that on the return leg, I’m well prepared for that initial blast of not-so-warm-as-Cyprus air that invariably greets me at the top of the airline steps (when you’re flying Easyjet there’s no such luxury as an automated, covered, “jet-way” to de-plane).

The average temperature, over the last couple of weeks out here, has been in the region of 20 degress Celsius, in comparison to back home (I’m reliably informed) - with an average of 8 degrees C.

However, these (by now) fairly frequent trips to Cyprus have got to be paid for somehow, therefore in March I have a couple of weeks work on some Niall Horan dates: hence the reason I’m heading back to the UK on Wednesday. Niall will represent another Artist I will be working with for the first time and it does no harm to have these “fresh” challenges (and fresh faces) thrust upon me at this stage of my career. I suspect Niall’s probably only a third of my age!

As every working person must face at some (later) point in their life, there comes a time when either you make the decision to stop working or – which will more than likely be the situation, in my case – the work just stops coming in. For me, I am more than happy to keep on working, for the next few years anyway, provided there are Artists/Entertainers who still want to hire my services. However I’m aware (have always been aware) it’s – mainly - a “young” business.

Again, on the work front, I would hope to have an involvement with Little Mix’s outdoor summer shows this year, and should be able to confirm said involvement, one week from now, in the subsequent Diary entry. That would just leave me looking to find 2/3 months’ work in the latter half of the year (being that I foresee a couple of decent tours heading my way, over the course of 2019) which would suit me just fine, over the course of this current year.

On the football front, I have been working on a plan for the future – while out here over the past ten days – where my concentration will be targeted on quality, significantly more than quantity. Not that I’ve ever dealt with excessive numbers of players, over any one period of my involvement but it has (slowly, for me typically) begun to sink in just how time consuming it has become, especially during the periods where I find myself being little more than a glorified taxi driver. I can certainly recognize a sea-change in respect of my financial outlay nowadays, as I look to keep a closer watch on my personal monies (that I grafted so hard for).

The afore-mentioned plan should be completed over the next couple of days and I honestly feel it has come along at a time on my life when I need to reel in more of my personal time. Those last few words have just flashed an idea across my wearying brain, for this week’s accompanying track: surely it’s got to be that iconic Steely Dan track, “Reeling in the Years”. Not sure it relates precisely, to my current state of mind - but what an excellent tune! XX

Sunday 18th February 2018

Tranquility is the order of the evening, as I once again find myself writing to you from Cyprus.

Sure, it is still “Winter” out here in the eastern Mediterranean but – really – how can winter be winter, when it’s 17/18 degrees Centigrade? I’ve braved the last five weeks based in Scotland – with the average temperature over that period – although I wasn’t keeping notes - surely around the 5/6 degrees C (just checked online and the actual average for January was 4 degrees C.!).

I’m not going to divert online again, as I share my next observation (although I’ll probably take a peek later this evening) but I’m convinced there is a definite link between aging and the perception of cold weather – or probably just the perception of the “cold”, generally.

For the next fourteen days that’s not anything I have to over-concern myself with, having re-located out here while A) certain interior works are being carried out on my house and B) my daughter has decided to base herself there (mostly corralled in the upstairs part of the house) as she has a week’s holiday due to her, that needs to be taken before the end of March.

Being that hotel/guest-house accommodation is very reasonable at this time of year in Cyprus, Alice and I have spent the last two days up at the Polis/Latchi area on the north-east corner of the island, where we managed to secure two nights at the Bayview Apartments (a favourite of ours, where we have stayed on a few previous occasions) – including breakfast – for a total of €68.00. The apartment is on two floors, with plenty of space to move around in – and only a matter of ten minutes’ walk from the beachfront, although said “beachfront” is currently only a shadow of its normal, bustling, self (the beachside café does not re-open until 1st March).

In fact, Alice and I have come to the mutual realization that Cyprus may actually be quieter in February than it was in January - when I was here five weeks ago. We’ve further deduced – in support of that realization – that this is probably down to the Xmas/New Year visitors having not returned to the UK (which is where the majority of Cyprus tourists originate from) until the end of the first week in January: you may recall that I was here until the 10th Jan.

Although – astonishingly – we both ended up almost soaked to the skin yesterday after being caught, out on a walk along Latchi promenade, in a fairly serious rainstorm for thirty minutes, the weather today was most pleasant for the drive back down to the south coast of the island. You will have previously heard me banging on about how much this island has to offer in terms of the web-like myriad of roads (many “un-tarmacked”) that crisscross its entire land mass. Even though this was probably our fifth/sixth visit to the Polis/Latchi area, in the time Alice has worked out here in Cyprus, we managed to experience further “uncharted territory” on the journey back today, with this particular route taking us past the vast Kykkos Monastery.

Over the next ten days or so, I have set myself the task of streamlining the football side of my business: I say “business”, however – considering it actually costs (rather than makes) me money - my interest is more that of a hobbyist but, as you know, hobbies can be expensive!

Therefore, in trying to make some renewed sense of it all, I’m going to leave you – cryptically - this evening with the excellently atmospheric Tina Arena track, aptly entitled “Chains”. XX

Sunday 11th February 2018

Is 0610 a.m. on Monday morning, 12th February still “allowable” to make a start to this entry?

As we speak, I’ve just boarded the very train of that departure time, out of a freezing cold Dunbar, bound for the big smoke: another of my infamous “down and up in a day” London trips.

In fact, with no small element of risk attached to it, I’m hoping to make a brief “stop” in Leeds, on the return journey later this afternoon, to collect a few items from my touring flight-case - which is currently stored at the premises of the production company there.

Presently, I’m gearing up for another couple of weeks in Cyprus, during which time I’m going to have some alterations carried out at the house, while a wood burning stove is fitted.

I’ve now drawn a line under my footballing activities, with the transfer window closed – as finding available, out-of-contract (fit!) players is now something of a long shot. It’s time to take stock of my efforts over the last month, in trying to place players with clubs during the January transfer window - which I’ve found to be way more of a challenge than in the summer.

For sure, it gave me something to do – albeit, however, not in the most comfortable climatic conditions. One of the “up-sides” of doing it at this time of year is that you are very quickly able to judge how any incoming trial players are going to be able to handle the inclement (cold!) Scottish weather, to which you can throw in the dark mornings and the noticeably short days.

The two lads I scouted (there’s no immediate need to “represent” them for a while yet, as they still hold Amateur status) - who have signed with Dundee United until the end of this season - seem to be taking the Scottish climate in their stride. Long may that outlook continue!

Of course, if my system proved an easy path for “breaking in” players for the British market then it naturally follows that everyone would be doing it – and very few are. The key is probably to retain one’s interest, along the lines of an inexpensive, “part-time” hobby – while continually appraising one’s progress and being disciplined and honest enough with oneself to admit what aspects of the project require amendment, and what aspects are just not working.

It follows that’s easier said than done: – there’s definitely some form of correlation with the (supposedly, safe) gambling ethos: only “gamble” what you can afford to lose then - once you’ve exhausted your “budget” - walk away. Trouble is, that many aspects/areas of football - from the supporters to the owners - uncannily adhere to the “heart rules the head” approach. Where there is passion – for a project of a business nature - there is also, invariably, cost. I am the living embodiment of that principle, within an industry bereft of admirable principles.

So – out to Cyprus again: where I can’t physically be sidetracked into any further involvement in the football project for the time being, other than to consider things from afar – and in appreciably warmer surroundings. In closing this week’s entry, as we pull out of Alnmouth station, allow me to leave you with a track that bears little relationship to this week’s disjointed ramblings. For whatever reason (that I cannot right now fathom) I feel compelled to leave you with Willie Nelson’s passionate take on Elvis’s “You Were Always On My Mind”. X

Sunday 4th February 2018

“Sunny Dunny” comes to the fore! Fabulous light today – making for (so far) a fabulous day!

I’m sat in Dunbar’s “Garden Centre” café, which is a hive of lunchtime activity: the place is going like a train, currently at 1.04 pm – as, with the best intentions, I am making an “early” start to this week’s Diary entry. However, I will certainly not manage this in one straight-shot today, as I’m due into North Berwick (another “neighbouring” coastal town, twenty-five minutes’ drive from here) where I have accepted the challenge from my sister, to meet her there and climb “Berwick Law” a prominent landmark, and a mere 613 feet above sea level. My sister (who - as I may have made mention of in the past – is as fit as a fiddle) assures me there is an accessible pathway all the way to the “summit”. What’s she trying to say to me?!

Well, spinning forward almost seven hours, you now find me back in the house at 7.44 pm, looking to complete this week’s entry while I “preside over” a quiet, darkened, cul-de-sac from my office window, on the second floor of my house. I seriously hanker for the lighter nights, especially with the proliferation of natural light that generously bathes this part of the country. We are probably gaining 5-6 minutes of light each day, but it can’t come quick enough to a lad with a personality such as yours truly – to whom darkness can turn to “down-ness”.

With the transfer window coming to a definitive close last Wednesday, 31st, at midnight there is not a whole lot more to be accomplished on the football front for the remainder of the season, therefore it’s time to take (more than) a step back and review the situation of the reality of convincing clubs to sign players during this transfer window – and the time involved in doing so. Hence, the very reason I’m headed out to Cyprus within the next couple of weeks.

On the one hand, it certainly kept me occupied during January (saving having me sat there in the house, brooding for the month). Not the most inexpensive method of preventing oneself brooding, I’ll admit, with several reasonably late-night drives involved - after midweek friendly games – prompting me to question whether there’s a better way to make things work.

Throw in my fluctuating states of mind (glass half empty, glass half full? I think it’s either totally empty - or overflowing - with me) and one has to careful of when one is on the verge of making any decision of any meaningful importance. This is, of course, nothing new to me.

One thing’s for sure: I have not – as on several past occasions – thrown money at my football project over this last month: at the risk of sounding complacent, £1,500 (approximately) is “cheap at the price” when compared to what I’ve managed to blitz my way through in the past, over a similar time period. If I dared to check back, I will probably find that – at the height of my misplaced love affair with African football - I blew close to £5,000 during the month of January 2006 - when I spent most of that time out at The African Nations Cup in Egypt.

Nevertheless, oh tolerant readers, I’m still here to tell the story – lucky to have eventually come out on top, after such past, (irresponsible?) wanton, expenditure. Let’s hope the two lads that I have signed to Dundee United will “bear fruit” at some point in the not-too-distant future. It had to happen that I am now much more protective of my money, and on that note let’s go with an appropriate little tune by The Temptations called “Don’t Look Back”. Indeed!!

Sunday 28th January 2018

Well, folks, what we have today here in Scotland (well in Dunbar anyway) is a “dreich” day.

Allow me to define that word “dreich”: it is both descriptive – in its own unique Scottish way - of the weather elements that we don’t have, rather than those that we do. Suffice to say we have no sunlight and no warmth (by any stretch of the imagination) – all we have is a depressing overcast sky and (what would appear to be, from the office window) a continuous – almost imperceptible – fine “drizzle” of rainfall. I’m tempted to go check “LastMinute.com”!

Let the record show that’s it’s just coming up to 10.00 am (yes, on Sunday 28th!) and the first paragraph of this week’s diary entry has already been scripted. Turning over a new leaf? Well, I would probably caution you not to hold your breath – as the day, with several impending distractions – is a long way from being over yet. However, I’m confident it will be done today.

I must admit right now to there being a three-hour gap between the last and this paragraph, on account of me sneaking up to the local “Garden Centre” for one of my favourite Sunday morning breakfasts, namely scrambled eggs & salmon. While there, I bumped into my neighbour Sue, in there with her daughter, son-in law and grandson. Between sitting and chatting with them over a fairly leisurely breakfast – and then chatting with Sue for a while, once her family had departed for a visit to their “other” grandparents – two hours flew by.

Do you know who’s just come on the radio (I’ve got it cranked up to “8” downstairs)? Barry White! The man’s a legend if you hail from my era. Unique Artist and style and no one has come along since, to step into “Big Bazzer’s” shoes. I can’t get enough of your love, Barry.

Anyway, it’s unlike me to digress (!!) – and this may not be the last time during this entry, as the station the radio is tuned to is Capital Gold (stumbled upon by accident). Now we have “Radio Gaga” playing and it takes me right back to George Michael’s appearance at Live Aid, an event I was privileged to attend with him. You know what happened there, as the memories of George Michael crossed my mind? I went looking at some photographs on the internet, of when I went to China with George - and got myself majorly sidetracked looking over a whole bunch of photo-agency shots that I had never seen before, from our time spent there in 1985.

I’m back with you now (7.00 pm)! Strains of Ray Charles sneaking up the stairs towards the office are reminding me of how fortunate I have been to witness such Artists in the flesh: in the case of Ray Charles - on a balmy summer’s evening on the beach in San Tropez (I s**t you not). Not that I went there specially to see the man in concert. I just happened to be in the neighbourhood during the time that George Michael was recovering from his throat surgery.

To change tack a little (towards football, of course) I was pleased to witness both of my new lads take the field (albeit, as substitutes) for Dundee United in the home game against Greenock Morton yesterday afternoon – although surely one to forget for Dundee United, who were comprehensively beaten 3 – 0. It’s a tough one now for them to win the Championship.

In closing, for this week’s accompanying track, it’s got to be the afore-mentioned Mr. Ray Charles with an almost haunting version of Lennon/McCartney’s “Yesterday”. Until tomorrow!

Sunday 21st January 2018

Well, folks, I’m here to tell you that I had the best eleven minutes yesterday, for a long time.

One of our French players (Idris Kadded) who we scouted, back at our game in Paris on November 5th, made his debut for Dundee United yesterday, coming on in the 79th minute and (don’t take my word for it – listen to the fans!) made an immediate, “dynamic”, impression. One fan commented on the Dundee United fanzone site that “he was only on 11 minutes, but he was almost our best player, in the whole game!”. Well, that can’t be a bad start now, can it?

Naturally, there’s a long way to go - but I certainly drove back down from Alloa (Dundee United’s opposition in the Scottish Cup) yesterday feeling as good as I have about my football project, probably since Eliphas Shivute scored a goal against Glasgow Rangers “way back” in 1997. In all honesty, there have been too few “highs” like that and too many (at times, expensive) disappointments/false-starts. I’ve only just realized, as I write at this very moment, that it’s far less likely that - as I may have wrongly observed in the past – there is this “dreamer” gene running through the male side of my family: it’s more likely to now be a minor bi-polar condition. I’m not looking for sympathy – just for a few knowledgeable answers.

I may have mentioned last week (I probably did!) that I have been unable, for as long as I can remember, to have had the time in any given December to be able to prepare for “a month of football”, hence trying to place players in this “January window” is something of a new venture.

Ironically, while in slightly uncharted waters, we may have happened upon the two most promising players we have been involved with, for a good few years. I refer to “we”, as it was Jean Bosco Murego, my Belgian-based European scout, who first laid eyes on Idris Kadded.

There is also something of a “silver lining” where Idriss and Logan are concerned: they are very respectful and grateful and ambitious – and talented! Folks, I tell you, that - right there - is a rare combination! You will certainly have heard me say in the past (on more than one occasion, over the past twenty years now) that the nicest guys rarely turn out to be the best football players. Well, in the case of Idris and Logan, we may just have “won a watch”.

Of course, as is the norm in most of those situations – provided the players settle in well to the club environment of Dundee United, and start to make measured progress (which I’m quietly confident of happening) – the lads may find themselves gently hounded by various factions of the media – not to mention a smattering of other agents who will find their way to them (mainly through asking their other players at the club to “put a word in for them”).

Upon reflection, however, if one finds oneself facing such occurrences, it is a sure indication of the fact that we have a couple of decent players on our hands: which makes the “grief” worthwhile. Football has a way of sometimes turning decent, down-to-earth, young footballers – over a period of time – into avaricious, egotistical individuals. Not so with Idris and Logan.

As we await “International Clearance” for Logan, in the hope that would give him some involvement in next week’s home game for Dundee United, I’m thinking that an appropriate accompanying track this week would be the wonderful Bonnie Raitt’s “Nick of Time”. I hope!

Sunday 14th January 2018

Here comes an unpredictable week, I can certainly assure you. Why? Football. That’s Why!

I may have mentioned - in a previous edition of the last month’s Diary entries - that I generally don’t get too involved in the football side of my business at this time of year, as in the last 5/6 years my touring projects have always run close to Christmas, giving me no time to prepare a player portfolio for the various opportunities that can present thrmselves in January. Being that the Little Mix tour “wrapped” on 26th November (and – most relevantly – that I could squeeze in a whistle-stop/one-day trip to Paris in the middle of the LM tour) I was able to plan effectively to assist several young players scouted at the afore-mentioned game.

My two players at Dundee United (Idris Kadded and Logan Martin) are doing very well for themselves - and continue to impress the coaches in training. Dundee have a formidable job on their hands to regain “top spot” in the Scottish Championship – currently the preserve of the team based in Paisley, west of Glasgow, not far from the airport, called “St Mirren”. So it’s all exciting stuff and – naturally – in spite of the great strides St Mirren have made, under their “new” Manager, Jack Ross, since around this time last year. So …. the race is surely on!

Aside from Idris and Logan, there is typically a handful of players in my “temporary stable”, garnered from various sources and various scouting missions: every one of them hopeful of making some sort of breakthrough – but few (by the law of averages) – able to accomplish that feat. However, that shouldn’t deter me from trying to give them a “leg up” for the future.

Look, being here - based back in Dunbar this January (unlike previous years, where I have just slinked off to the sunshine to leave these dark, cold, Scottish winters to themselves) - I should be thankful that I have something to occupy myself – that costs me a damn site less than it used to! By the time I “tot up” the various areas of football-business related expense (and provided I don’t go “do-lally” on any one individual player) I should be no more than £1500 out of pocket at the end of this month, although it’s worth keeping in mind that “the end of the month” is still a good sixteen days away – therefore I need to avoid any frivolous expense.

Having said all that – and despite having blown sizeable tranches of money in my time – it is fair to say that “I’m doing OK” now. However it’s worth remembering “there are no pockets in a coffin” - and I’ll be damned if I let the government (not that I’ll be there to stop them!) take any more money off me, in the form of Inheritance Tax, so – really - how much money does one require, to be comfortable? That view must be countered, however, with the cold hard fact that we just never know how long we’re going to be here. It would indeed be pleasing to know that – in my case – I may still be bopping (hobbling?) around pushing 80, but I’ve no wish to be housebound, even at that stage, so the piggy bank still needs to be close at hand.

I can only push on through January on the football front, haranguing Managers and coaches alike, to take a look at my players (even better - include them in practice games while the professional leagues are on a small break) - and see what transpires. So much luck is involved.

With that sentiment in mind, I’m going for my old mucker Rod Stewart with this week’s accompanying track “Some Guys Have All The Luck”. Let’s hope I’m one of those guys. XX

Sunday 7th January 2018

Only fifty-one shopping weeks left until Christmas! How can I slow down this impending year?!

Having said that, I’ve enjoyed a fabulous couple of “days away” on the eastern side of Cyprus, arriving back late this afternoon, just as the sun was dipping into the western sky, amid a canvas of vivid orange and yellow hues. At times like these, it’s a wonderful thing to be alive!

It seems much longer than forty-eight hours that we have been away: however this impression is undoubtedly aided by Alice being able to finish up on a Friday at 12.00 noon. There is however a flip-side to this, in that she starts again on a Sunday, from 6.00 pm onwards. Having said that, it’s dark here just before six, so one doesn’t really feel like one is losing out on the latter part of the day. Added to which, the sun is up around 07.00 in the morning, currently.

Having completed the last 2017 edition of my Diary last week, well before the final chime of the clock ushered us into this new year, it was my intention to continue to display such timely entries. However, as a result of my laptop encountering the most annoying, intermittent, screen flickering – causing it to continually shut down with no warning (thankfully, it’s well within the Warranty) – here I am on Wednesday, trying to complete last Sunday’s late entry.

There is a beach front area that Alice and I frequently visit, called Curium Beach, which is only around thirty minutes from Limassol. Strung out along said beachfront – over a distance of approximately five hundred yards – there are three Café/Restaurant operations, each with their own inherent character, but all consisting of an indoor eating area and a “decked” outside patio, the latter, in all three cases, a matter of metres from the Mediterranean water’s edge.

Although there are good people – and good food – in all three establishments, I find myself drawn to the “middle” establishment – possibly the largest of all three, “covers” wise – known as “Chris Blue”. As a result of having frequented all three places over the time I have spent here, I find myself most drawn to “Chris Blue”. I would estimate their prices to be around 15% up on its flanking competitors, however – in my view – the additional cost is well merited.

We’ve all experienced this feeling of inexplicable “comfort”, be it when you spend leisure time in a facility such as this – or maybe when you are house-hunting and you are only two minutes over the door of a house for sale - and you immediately sense this is where you want to live.

That’s sort of how it is with me and “Chris Blue”: I just find myself completely at ease out on their deck right now, the waves gently stroking the shore, the temperature (even in Winter) pleasant enough to require only a T-shirt and shorts. I might think about pitching a tent here.

In spite of all of the above – and pending my lottery winner’s cheque landing on the mat – it will be back to reality for me, in a few days, when I fly back to Scotland for a couple of weeks of football business, with the closure of the “transfer window” just under three weeks away.

The last three weeks spent out here in Cyprus have been most beneficial to my well-being, increasing my long-held view that British Winters hold no lasting attraction for me! Keeping some relation to this week’s topic, I leave you with Don Henley’s “Down at the Sunset Grill”.

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