Fetcheveryone Member of the Month

Each winner receives a £100 ADVANCE PERFORMANCE voucher

Interview with HowFar?

Flatlander asks: At last, you have achieved this honour :-)

Your tales are so beautifully told and written with such humour. Do you have to work at that, or is it something that comes very naturally? If it is a gift, thank you for having it.

HowFar? says: Thank you very much. That’s very kind of you.

I enjoy writing. Actually that’s not entirely true. There are many types of writing that I detest, when it is work related. I do enjoy spinning the odd tale though, or writing a script for a play at school. I suppose, when I think about it, it isn’t really the writing that I enjoy, but rather the reaction that it gets. I can’t pretend that I would write for fun if nobody ever saw the results. Writing a script or the lyrics to a song and then seeing them get a good reaction from the audience is a lot of fun.

I don’t have to work too hard at the school tales. The children (and occasionally other staff members) do all the work for me there. All I have to do is notice it and write it down. I’m sure if more people spent more time watching and listening than they do talking, they’d notice more stuff too.

I do think blogging has made me tune in more to ridiculous stuff. Now, when I have a moment of foolishness, like having to dangle through the window of my own classroom to retrieve some keys because I have locked myself out, there is still a brief moment of under my breath muttering, but after that I very quickly think, “Well, at least I’ll get a blog out this.” It’s not too bad a way to view life, I don’t think.
Fenland Flier asks: Congratulations we'll deserved, are you a runner and how did you start?

HowFar? says: I was a runner. Then an achilles injury put me out of action for a reasonably long period of time and getting back running just got harder and less appealing. I have had a few goes at starting again, but it never lasts very long. A problem I face here is that the majority of land is farmland and there are no public footpaths. The main road where I live has no footpath and little verge so I always have to cycle somewhere to run. I can’t see me getting anywhere near the times that I used to be able to do and there are other outdoors activities that I love so running is not something that I am desperate to be able to do again. I haven’t given up ever running again, but I would need there to be a big social element now. When I was running marathons, I didn’t need that, apart from the track sessions. I could always cope with doing the long runs on my own and perhaps even enjoyed them more on my own. The track was always much, much easier with a group.

I did blog about the first run that I could remember, jogging round a football field after my friend Craig. We’d been driven to the field by Craig’s Dad, with the express purpose of running round it. That was certainly new to me. Of course we spent a lot of our time running, but before that it had been running after a cricket ball that had been whacked down the road, or running for a football while trying to do the match commentary at the same time. Sometimes it involved pulling on our dad’s wellies and running up and down the garden with buckets of water in our own budget version of It’s A Knockout. The running was always part of the game though, never the sole element. It had never really occurred to me before that people might just run for running’s sake.

My next encounter with just running was probably about 10 years later, while doing the Sport Aid run for Africa in 1986. I decided the night before that I would go and give it a go. I turned up to Goodwood race track and ran round the 2 laps. I felt fine while I was running. I felt dreadful the next day. My legs were like blocks of concrete.

I had a similar experience years later when I did my first race - a 10k in Bolton. A couple of friends where I worked were both keen (and very good) runners and they persuaded me to go. I went along, and ran round it, not really knowing what to expect. I can’t remember what time I did - somewhere around 45 minutes I think. I do remember thinking that I had probably played it a bit safe and could have run harder. Then I sat down on a kerb for a bit. When I tried to stand up, I could hardly get my legs to move at all.

It was after the Bolton run that I gradually began to run more regularly and think about training for specific races. I enjoyed marathons and did a few ultras. Too many hilly training miles began to take their toll though and that’s when the achilles injury began.
jennywren asks: Yes!!! Finally! Are you from Northern Ireland originally? I know you lived in the Manchester area for a while so I was just wondering.

HowFar? says: Unfortunately not. Mum and Dad are both from Belfast. I was born in Derbyshire, while Dad was studying at Nottingham University. I have moved around a fair bit, living in Nottinghamshire, Merseyside, Somerset, Devon, West Sussex and Greater Manchester. I did my teacher training in Manchester and stayed in the area to teach for many years. I loved many things about living around the Manchester area and most Fridays and Saturdays were spent in The Boardwalk, or Holy City Zoo, or Sankeys Soap, or The Hacienda. However, the loved up crowd was replaced by increasingly aggressive youths on coke and amphetamines. All the good club closed down. I got older and the draw from the ‘homeland’ was too strong to resist.

I remember when I was growing up, we’d get the ferry from Liverpool to Belfast and Mum would talk about ‘going home’. It confused the young me. ‘Home’ was in Formby, or Yeovil, or Plymouth. I didn’t understand what she meant at all.

As I got older, it all made perfect sense.

I was usually perfectly content where we were living, but I never felt any real affinity with the place. I guess Manchester was the closest I came to feeling at home, but now, in Fermanagh, it feels completely different. It’s hard to explain. Do you remember going in the sea when you were little? It was great fun while you were in the water, but you knew it wasn’t the place to stay. Then, when you came out, you’d run up the beach to a waiting parent who would wrap you up in a huge towel and make you feel all warm and snuggly. That’s what Fermanagh is like for me. As soon as I catch my first glimpse of the lough, it’s like the comforting, fuzzy towel being wrapped round me. That’s when I know I am home.
Night-owl asks: Congratulations. You have a great talent with words. Have you ever thought about writing a book. Forgive me if you've already have and I missed it. 😆

HowFar? says: Thank you. I have often thought of writing a book. I would love to pack in the teaching and be able to earn a living from writing. I have thought of compiling all the school based stories that I have blogged and see if there is any interest in that. I have a chapter and a half written.

I also fancy writing some children's stories about a teacher who is also a super hero, but a rather hopeless one who needs members of his class to help him out with his heroic deeds.

Then there are the stories that I rip off from nursery rhymes or fairy tales. I sometimes wonder if there is a book in those.

The only thing I have actually done in relation to trying to get some writing published is to send a script for a Christmas play that we did in school to one of the main companies that sell that sort of thing to schools. I haven’t heard anything from them though.

They say everyone has one novel in them don’t they? I suppose the thing they don’t say is that everyone has one novel in them that the rest of the population are dying to read. Perhaps the book thing will happen one day. Perhaps not. I’ll keep blogging from time to time, all being well, and wait for a famous publisher to catch the running bug, find a wonderful website to record all their training, stumble across other site features (like blogs, for example), get their attention caught by a snappy title and become caught up in the nonsense that is my life. It’s probably only a matter of time before that happens, right?
_andy asks: Congratulations HowFar? As is traditional in an acceptance speech, we'd expect a list of thank yous to various important people. So could you tell us who has inspired you most, both in life in general and in running?

HowFar? says: Thanks, _andy

I suppose the really worrying thing from my point of view, as I think about this question, is that I find myself hoping that I can be like Dad. Anyone who has been reading my blogs for a while will understand the full horror of that situation, but it is only a matter of time before I am having to seek assistance from TKMaxx staff to get me out of a coat I have been trying on, or I get disappointed because the pair of trousers that fit best just happen to be women’s jeans, or I bundle a homeless person onto a bus and pay their fare to a place they don’t live and don’t want to go to.

Of course, the stuff I don’t blog about, because it isn’t all that entertaining, is the stuff that I hope I can emulate - the looking after Mum as she gradually declines with dementia; the answering of the local WhatsApp cries for help when someone’s lawnmower won’t work, or their toilet is leaking; or their guttering is blocked. At the moment, he’s trying to get to grips with Zoom so he can set up chats for people in the little development where he lives because he’s worried about some of the ones that cannot go out starting to suffer from the effects of that lack of human contact.

Last week he contacted everyone on the development to see if they’d like him to send them e cards. He bought a subscription to an e-card site just before Christmas and now he sees his chance to get his money’s worth, I think.

If I could have his work ethic, his organisation skills, his ability to chat to people and make them feel comfortable and valued, his DIY skills and his compassion for others I would be absolutely delighted.

Unfortunately, I am going to end up with his innate ability to cause confusion at the drop of hat. (Probably a large, floppy hat that he’s trying on in the most ridiculous fashion in the middle of the shop as Mum and I try very hard to look like we are not with him.)

From a running point of view, there were a couple of friends that I worked with who were both very good runners. They seemed to think that I would be able to run a 10k. Then they thought I could run a half marathon. After that they thought a marathon would be manageable. If I could run a marathon, I could probably run one a bit quicker. They didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t get times that London Marathon organisers judged to be significant. I just sort of went along with their beliefs. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have thought any of that was possible, but they were so matter of fact about it all that it didn’t even seem like a particularly big deal at the time. They told me I could do it and I did the training that they told me to do and ran the times they told me I should be able to do and it all made sense. I wouldn’t have had that belief in myself.
Raggedy runner asks: I bet you’re a brilliant teacher. I know they’re a bit young, but do you think you’ve ever inspired any of them to try running?

HowFar? says: I absolutely cannot claim, or even pretend to be a brilliant teacher, but I have had many good runners. We had a very successful cross country team when I taught in Manchester, with several of the children representing the local authority in the Greater Manchester championships. We were always very keen to encourage children to join the local running club so much of their success must be attributed to the good coaching they got there.

One of the lads who ran for us has run under 31 minutes for 10k and one of the girls went on, I think, to be English School girls champion at 400m.

As I say, our school only played a small part in the scheme of things, but we did give them an opportunity to take part and guide them on the pathway to continue in a more serious fashion.

We had upwards of thirty children coming to cross country club after school. If some of them have continued to run and get pleasure from it, at whatever level, I’d say all those afternoons on the school pitch and Saturday mornings at races were time well spent.
westmoors asks: Congratulations HowFar? If you could meet anyone, past or present, who would it be and why?

HowFar? says: Thank you, westmoors.

I would be hopeless at meeting anyone famous because I would just be completely tongue tied and not have any idea what to say to them. I ran the Edinburgh Marathon one year and spotted a group of very well known Fetchies sitting around at he finish and I couldn't even go and talk to them because they were too famous for me! I just stared at them from afar - in awe.

This is actually the hardest question out of all the things I have been asked. I have come back to it several times and I really don’t have a good answer. I have come to the conclusion that I don’t think I like meeting people. I never know what to say. If I didn’t have to meet them, but could just sit at the next table and listen to them, there would be loads of people I’d like to do that with.

Perhaps, if I was really pushed for an answer, I might choose Peter Ustinov. I think he’d be more than happy to do the majority of the talking. He would have some magnificent stories and they would be brilliantly told.
RRR-CAZ 🇬🇧 asks: Congratulations Howfar If you were to be given golden tickets to any sporting event across the world what would you pick ?

HowFar? says: Thanks RRR-CAZ. I have been to quite a few memorable sporting events.

I was at Old Trafford for the Ashes in 2005, which was an amazing test match.

I saw Geraint Thomas win the Commonwealth Games in a rain sodden Glasgow, and Lizzie Armitstead win silver at the London Olympics.

Seeing Sheffield United beat Leeds, with two goals in the last few minutes, at Bramall Lane in the League Cup was amazing.

Being in the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, with 30,000 Ulster Rugby supporters when we beat Edinburgh in the Heineken Cup was very special.

If I had to pick a sporting experience, then I think the Super Bowl or Rose Bowl would both be amazing spectacles.

But, if I could have my dream event and result, I think a Northern Ireland World Cup win, with Dad next to me, would be very hard to beat.
Carpathius asks: Hurrah, so glad you've got this :) What is your favourite cake cake?

HowFar? says: Thanks, Carp. I do love cake. All cake. It would be a toss up between a chocolate cake and a Christmas cake. I suppose Wedding cake is similar to Christmas cake, but the slice that you get is usually tiny, you have to sit through a lot of very dull stuff before you even get to the cake and you're expected to wear some very uncomfortable clothes so, for those reasons, it is off the favourites list.

When push comes to shove, if I had to pick just one of those, I'd probably go for whichever was the bigger slice.
Nemeth asks: How far is too far, HowFar?? (I see you've done an ultra - have you found your distance limit or what is the distance you would consider too far?)
Pt. 2 just for fetch - when you did your ultra, did you feel like a Hobbit?

HowFar? says: I did a few ultras, as well as a marathon that I turned into an ultra thanks to some navigational issues. I felt okay doing the 50k, although trying to do it 'quickly' was hard. I was after a qualifying time for some European 50k but I missed it by about 5 minutes. I did one 6 hour track ultra - which I enjoyed more than I thought I would. the thought of going round a 400m track for 6 hours was a bit daunting, but it was actually quite a sociable thing to do - much more sociable than a marathon where, if it's a small field, you might not be running near anyone for ages. I would have liked to carry on with marathons and ultras, but I got injured and never really got running again so that's why my longest ultra was the 6 hour one - not because it was too far.

At no point did I feel like a Hobbit.

I did go to see Lord of the Rings (because a group of work colleagues asked me if I fancied going to the cinema and only after I said that I would go did they tell me what the film was.) We were in some quite comfy seats and I was laying back, enjoying the comfort. There was a section where nobody was speaking English and I was very confused. It was only later that I found out that there had been subtitles, which I couldn't see because there was a brass rail in front of our seats and I had slumped so far down into my seat that the brass bar completely covered the subtitles. Perhaps being able to read the subtitles would have made the film more comprehensible. I am not tempted to re-watch to find out.
monsenb1 asks: Blue Monday or Love Will Tear Us Apart?

HowFar? says: Oof! That's really tricky. I think I have probably danced more to Blue Monday. The Hardfloor remix brings a smile to my face every time and I am swiftly transported back to a sweaty, smoke filled box of a room, with black silhouettes of bodies bouncing and twisting against the strobes and the music pounded. I had some of the happiest times that I can remember in those Manchester clubs.

Love Will Tear Us Apart was more bedroomy, more likely to be discovered on a mix tape handed to you by an enthusiastic friend along with a load of other marvellous, guitar driven, indie-kid tunes.

We used to go to The Sugarhouse in Lancaster when I was at University. I loved the energy of the indie stuff and was very, very dismissive of the house music that was beginning to catch on in some quarters. Some friends of mine were wearing dungarees with smiley faces on and gushing about Inner City and I just didn’t get it at all. I got there in the end though and I’m delighted that I did.

That’s quite along winded way of not answering the question at all. If I can only have one, and it would pain me to have to lose one, I would have to go for Blue Monday.

As with all music questions, that could all change if you ask me next week.
halfpint asks: About bloody time. Who will I vote for now?

That’s not my question. The coronavirus is coming. You have to self isolate for an indefinite period. Fetch blogs are being rationed and you can only read three fetchie’s blogs. Which would you choose and why?

HowFar? says: Thanks, HP. I think we should work our way through the singles thread for future nominations and voting purposes. That should keep everything nice and easy to remember.

Thanks for the horrible question, by the way. How am I supposed to answer that without leaving out loads of people? Sometimes there is a captivating storyline going on in some people's blogs so I have to read them to keep up with what's going on.

If I had to pick three, I'd have to have McGoohan's as one. It could have anything in it, from stunning (awful) poetry to family tree dramas. There aren't many places where I can read about a war veteran one day and look at googly eyes on a toaster the next. It's also the one that often kicks off ideas for my own bit of a blog.

Fellrunning's blog is one that I imagine the vast majority of Fetchie's would have as one of their Coronavirus Island choices. It's always beautifully written and quickly transports me to the heart of the Peak District. But it's so much more than just a description of farming life in a beautiful part of England. Fellrunning's down to earth attitude, his care for his environment and his respect for his fellow human beings shines through and the fact that there are people like that in this world gives me hope for the future.

The third one is perhaps the one I look forward to most of all. It is one of the less frequent ones, but a Bint blog is always a good thing. Her blogs are always entertaining and usually accompanied by photographs that must take her more time to find than in tales to actually write the blog. That attention to detail for our entertainment goes above and beyond the call of duty. Also, without the Bint Blog, I would never have spent many a run imagining I was trying to escape after being lassoed by a cowgirl.
minardi asks: Many congratulations HowFar? What's your favourite way to spend downtime?

HowFar? says: Thank you.

I have a season ticket, with Dad, at Ulster Rugby so that takes care of a few Friday nights. We've always watched some live sport together and this is our latest team to be disappointed by.

My favourite thing to do with my spare time is to go fishing. My Granda was a very keen fisherman and I grew up going fishing with him. It's one of the reasons why I moved to this part of the world. Granda used to have a caravan on the shores of Lough Erne and we'd come down for a week every summer. I now live about 2 miles from where the caravan still sits, nestled in a small clump of trees. I can happily spend all day walking round a small lough, or along a river bank. Catching the odd fish is certainly a bonus, but just being outside in some beautiful countryside is a great way to pass the time.

I recently bought a fishing kayak so I have been enjoying getting out on the water for a paddle, with a couple of rods on board. Gliding gently around the bays and between the islands at this end of the lough is a glorious way to spend an afternoon. I can watch the mayflies as they struggle to break free of their shucks, listen to curlews in the lough-side meadows and see the white flash of a lapwing's wing as it takes off from a grassy island.

It's usually a paddle west to get home so, if I'm very lucky, I am able to enjoy the full splendour of a stunning sunset from the water as I make my way back to the field where I launch. From there it's a bit of a slog getting the kayak back up the slope to the bungalow, but it's one of those happy tired feelings when I finally slump in the comfy chair with a mug of tea at the end of the day.
Back To Top