Monday, September 19, 2011


Have you ever been somewhere you've never been before, with people you've never met, and felt like you'd come home?

It's an emotional experience. I don't think you can plan for it or reasonably expect such a thing to happen.

I had something very like it happen to me tonight, and the context is unusual enough to bear a little examining. I mean, I guess I have been hoping since I arrived here that I would walk into some church somewhere & have that magical sense. It hasn't occurred. Well, not really; there was one service that was kind of close in some ways, but not in others. And as I settle into the village church here, I really am not feeling that at all. But still, there you go. Some things are worth the work. It seems right to be there.

The job isn't the context either - though I am enjoying it enormously. As I am beginning to get used to it, and find my feet, I think it will do very nicely, and I will be able to serve the University well - as well as to develop new skills and find new pathways forwards for myself.

No - tonight I went to Bradford. Bradford BMF. British Military Fitness.

Regulars know I was part of the Outdoors Fitness group that met in Pontypridd park, and how that group became a really important friendship group for me, as well as rather transforming my fitness. So when I moved here I looked for an equivalent & found the BMF website. I've been going to the group that meets in Horsforth park - it's a huge group, sometimes with 60 people in it. That's easily more than double the biggest I ever remember Ponty being. And we get split off into different abilities - beginners, intermediates, advanced; in Ponty that was blue, reds & yellows, here it's blue, red & greens. We have coloured bibs here so there's no hiding. In Horsforth you need the bibs (they have numbers) as the group is so large it's hard to know people's names. It's very focussed - not a lot of chat, not a lot of socialising, and yet it's good because you work hard. I do mean hard: in Ponty I was a yellow; in Horsforth I'm a red. The greens (equivalent of yellows) are way beyond me - far too much running. And all that whole social side, the banter & the friendships were really important in Ponty. It kept you going when the weather was bad: you wanted to be there alongside everyone else.

Like Ponty, Horsforth meets Tuesday & Thursday evenings, & Saturday mornings - well, it's more like lunchtime here.

This week I can't do Thursday. And I do want to fit two sessions in; I'm off on holiday next week & you always feel it if you miss too many times. So I looked & saw that the Bradford park (about the same distance from my house as Horsforth, in the opposite direction) meets on Mondays & Wednesdays. I Google Earthed it so I knew where I was going, & set off.

The group was about twenty people. They were chatting & joking in advance. Phil, who works in my office was there. I wondered if it was all a bit closed & cliquey at first - but no, really not. I soon got working with some of the other blokes - Keith, Mick, Steve - and our instructor, Mark, was great. We were all in it together, across the ability range (unlike at Horsforth, but just like Ponty) and I soon had more muck on my hands, legs, arms & shorts than I'd had in weeks of the very clinical Horsforth set up. I loved every minute of it.

I especially loved discovering that I was keeping up with the top of the reds here, even pushing the greens. You can't keep a competitive spirit down for long.

The whole thing was a blast. It felt like being home again. With new people, in a new place. It was great.

Now - I know I've taken my time here, but let me pause for a second. A military fitness class in a Bradford park felt like being at home. Jeff Webb, what have you done to me?

Isn't "home" a strange concept?

The familiar, the place where we belong, where we fit. I think it is one of the most powerful ideas out there because so much of the time so many of us actually don't quite fit, or live or work or play or worship somewhere that we almost fit. And then you hit paydirt. That precious, precious, unexpected golden moment when everything works & you feel - real. No pretence. Happy.

And it went dark, and we carried on, and my spirit soared, and my body worked harder, and I smiled through the physical pain with genuine pleasure and deep felt gratitude.  

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