Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Proof, as if it were needed, that there's a one born every minute.

A Welsh entrepreneur has set up a company called Wales In a Bottle. He's selling ornate flasks of pure Welsh air for £24 a pop.

Coincidentally, I'm just about to head over the Severn Bridge to the Land of my fathers for the informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers.

E-mail me and I'll send you your very own empty coke bottle of Welsh air collected from the side of the M4.

A bargain at £20.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Thanks to everyone who has e-mailed me with news of Motala -- the prosthetically-propelled pachyderm.

The 44-year old female elephant had her foot amputated after she stepped on a landmine on the Thailand-Burma border six years ago.

Motala's temporary prosthesis is a a green canvas sack filled with sawdust and cushions.

I don't think she'll be troubling me on the duathlon circuit any time soon.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Should an amputee take exercise asks a correspondent to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Damn right they should -- and that's why I spent my Bank Holiday Monday competing in the Hart Sprint Duathlon -- a 6k-20k-5k test through the Hampshire countryside.

My excuse for my lowly position in the final rankings is that the cross-country course across farmland put me at a disadvantage. It takes considerably more effort to run on soft and uneven terrain because the Cheetah doesn't return energy anything like as effectively as on a hard surface.

Even so, my cycle was reasonably competitive -- and I did cross the finish line 41 minutes ahead of the back marker!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The US amputee community is jumping on the coloured bracelet bandwagon.

The Amputee Coalition of America have twisted Lance Armstrong's "Livestrong" motto and come up with their own version -- Limbstrong (geddit?)

Meanwhile, the fellow one-legged cyclists from Amputees Across America get a press write-up.

Nice limbs, boys!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


At some point in their careers, most broadcasters have made an unguarded comment when the fader was open and the mic was live.

So when the little red light comes on in the studio, we watch our mouths....most of the time.

There's great anticipation in the newsroom over what tomorrow's papers will make of this unbelievable exchange between Radio 5 Live's Richard Evans and BBC Royal Correspondent Nicholas Witchell.

The spat has been circulating internally for the last few days but, like a case of bird flu, has now crossed the species barrier into the public domain.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


My sporting hero Lance Armstrong is once again at the centre of doping allegations in the French press.

L'Equipe claims traces of the blood-boosting drug EPO were found in samples Armstrong gave during the 1999 Tour de France.

The samples were tested in 2004, after cycling's governing body started using a urine test for EPO.

Armstrong has, unsurprisingly, categorically denied the allegations -- and Tour legend Miguel Indurain has leapt to his defence.

As an Armstrong fan, I'm more concerned about the damage to his reputation caused by his cycle rides with President Bush than by the latest media revelations.
Here's the final match report from England's amputee footballers in Rio.

England return home with the bronze medal after beating Ukraine 1-0.
Now that Tony Blair's holiday destination has become public knowledge, perhaps you can understand the tone of poorly disguised jealousy in this posting.
The Guardian picks up on research suggesting that guests spend £300 each to attend a wedding.

I won't be offended if you decide not to come.

Just pop the cheque in the post.

Monday, August 22, 2005

There's more media coverage of Lynn Bradach in the Portland Tribune.

I haven't spoken to him myself yet, but according to the results posted online my Death Valley team mate is now officially an Ironman -- with a time in yesterday's Ironman UK of 12:23:59.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Lots of things to blog, but it'll all have to wait until tomorrow.

This evening I'm resting my wearing bones after cycling 50 miles in the Bike Wales event.

Glorious weather, fabulous Monmouthshire countryside, friendly riders -- if it hadn't been for Wentwood Hill it would have been a perfect day.

Even so, it was a fantastic event -- and great training for Death Valley.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Lynn Bradach's pilgrimage to Camp Casey in Texas gets a write-up in her hometown newspaper, The Oregonian.
Let's hear it for Death Valley team-mate Matt Willson.

Tomorrow, Matt will swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles and then end the day with a gentle marathon during Ironman UK.

Matt -- we salute you, and good luck!

Friday, August 19, 2005

After the piss poor performance of England's two-legged footballers against Denmark this week, there's all the more reason to cheer a team that really deserves to wear the Three Lions.

England's Amputee football team is preparing for tomorrow's semi-final clash against Brazil in the World Amputee Football Championships.

Unfortunately, you can guarantee that even if they go on to lift the cup on Sunday, you won't be reading about it in the sports sections of Monday's newspapers.
Exactly a month from now I'll be a married man.

What a scary thought.
The fatal shooting of Charles de Menezes by police in London was obviously a tragedy.

An innocent died in circumstances that are yet to be explained adequately.

But let's keep some perspective.

According to Amnesty International, in Mr Menezes' home country of Brazil last year:

- There were consistent reports from around the country of corrupt, violent and discriminatory policing.

- Official figures cited more than 1500 killings by police.

- Across the country "death squads" continued to participate in the extrajudicial executions of criminal suspects.

- Torture continued to be widespread and systematic in prisons, police stations and at point of arrest.

None of this justifies, Mr Menezes' killing, of course.

Something clearly went badly wrong at Stockwell Station on July 22nd and his family are right to want the truth to be made public.

But those -- especially those Brazilian government officials -- currently attacking the Metropolitan Police would do well to remember the situation closer to home as well.
I pay my monthly subscription to the NUJ because they helped me out when I was negotiating with my employer after my accident.

But the recent BBC strike had me questioning my union membership -- and the NUJ's latest statement has left me questioning their sanity.

The NUJ has criticised the BBC because our material is being broadcast by Canada's CBC while its own journalists are locked out in a wage dispute.

The union says:

"The NUJ and BECTU condemn the use of material from BBC World to replace regular news programmes during the lockout of more than 5,500 staff at Canadian national broadcaster CBC.

"The NUJ and BECTU call for urgent talks with BBC management to demand it takes action to stop the BBC being seen to be used by management to break the strike and to preserve the reputation of the BBC for impartiality."

The NUJ may claim to represent journalists -- but it clearly has no idea how the modern broadcast industry works.

We have reciprocal arrangements with many international broadcasters -- ABC, CBC, Al Jazeera to name just a few.

The deals mean that when a big story breaks we can immediately access the best material from the nearest national broadcaster.

To claim the BBC is taking sides in the Canadian dispute is akin to saying the Ford Motor Company supports terrorism if its cars are used by suicide bombers.

It's absurd.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Gaza disengagement -- the amputee angle.
Call me ignorant, but I thought the Gaza Strip was what settler girls asked for when they visited the beauty salon for their waxing.
It's A-level results day.

I've got a great suggestion for how the cover the story.

Let's go to a nice middle class school and film pretty blonde teenage girls opening their envelopes, then screaming and hugging each other.

What do you mean, someone's already thought of that before? I thought it was an original idea.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Reopening yesterday's posting, Lynn Bradach tells her story in this week's Time magazine.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Oak trees grow from small acorns -- and it seems Cindy Sheehan's protest is having a similar effect among anti-war activists in the US.

Sheehan's campaign has only picked up patchy coverage here in Britain -- but it has been all over the American media.

Sheehan's son Casey was killed in Iraq in April 2004. She has now set up camp outside President Bush's ranch in Texas and says she's prepared to stay there for the duration of his vacation until she is granted an opportunity to speak to him.

What started as a solitary protest seems to be gathering an unstoppable momentum.

Several hundred people have now gathered at what has been dubbed "Camp Casey" to call on President Bush to withdraw US troops from Iraq.

Among those heading to Crawford to join the campaign is a friend of this blog, Lynn Bradach from Portland, Oregon.

Lynn's son Travis was killed while clearing land mines near Karbala in 2003.

Lynn will spend a week in Crawford and I'll be keeping an eye on her progress.
It's the 15th of the month -- and that means it's pay day.

So if you haven't dipped into your pocket for the MAG Death Valley Challenge, then now's the perfect time to do so.

Thanks to some of those who have: Roger, Caroline, David, Andrew, Jacob, Sarah and Stuart.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

At some point in their fledgling career, most rookie journalists working in the local press are asked to do the dreaded "death knock."

It works like this.

A family has lost a son or daughter, father or husband.

The trainee hack is dispatched to the grieving household and ordered to come back with a tearful quote or soundbite and a photograph of the deceased, which is then plastered all over the news media.

It's one of the worst jobs in journalism -- that's why You Blew Me Up You Bastard comes as a godsend.

The site's authors offer to "store a photo of you, giving it large at the terrorists what done you in, and in the event of your body being blown to bits by a suicide bomber, we'll supply your disgusted image to all news services."


Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Five years ago I worked as a volunteer on the magical St Kilda archipelago, the remotest part of the British Isles.

While there I enjoyed more than a pint or two at the Puff Inn -- a gritty watering hole at the edge of the world.

But there's shock news on the Press Association wire today; the days of hard drinking at the Puff Inn could be coming to end -- for civilians at least.

The last St Kildans left the island 75 years ago. Here's hoping the new rules at the Puff Inn don't cause another exodus.

By Louise Hosie, Scottish Press Association

Visitors to one of Britain's most remote watering holes will no longer be able to enjoy a pint after non-military staff were barred, it emerged today.

The Puff Inn on the island of St Kilda, which lies around 110 miles off the Scottish mainland, has long been a popular drinking spot for passing yachtsmen and tourists.

But today the Ministry of Defence, which owns the facility, confirmed that only defence contractors working on the island's radar tracking station will now be able to use it. An MoD spokeswoman said: "The Puff Inn is part of a number of buildings which provide accommodation for people working on the island and official MoD

"We have become aware that we may have allowed some unofficial visitors who have been using the inn on a discretionary basis."

She said that the decision to deny entry to members of the public was due to issues of "public liability insurance" and a general need for tight security at any MoD facility.

"This is not related to an increase in security related to the London bombings," she added.

The last full-time inhabitants of St Kilda left 75 years ago, but it remains home to a variety of rare bird species.

It was also recently awarded World Heritage Status in recognition of its "cultural landscape".
More props due to more supporters of the Death Valley cycle.

It's thanks to fellow Hillingdon Triathletes members John and Fiona.

Monday, August 08, 2005

One small step for man -- the first podcast from space.

Makes my podcast from the Tour De France look like small beer.

Friday, August 05, 2005

One story I should have mentioned yesterday is that of Garri Holness, who lost his left leg below the knee in the 7/7 attacks.

I know exactly what Garri is going through; the physical pain, the grief for the loss of a limb, the long road to recovery.

But I also know that his strength of spirit will see him through.

"I'm not allowing myself to have a bad day," he's quoted as saying.

"If I allow myself to have a bad day then they [the bombers] have won that one day from me.

"I'm not allowing that to happen. I won't let them beat me.

"I'm looking at myself as being one of the lucky ones.

"My life still remains here, I can still move on with it."

Garri will go on to do great things.
Want to put my half-arsed ramblings on your bookshelf alongside the Shakespeare and the Chaucer?

Well, now you can.

I've just come across a vanity publishing firm called Blogbinders, which turns blog content into bound volumes.

I think I'll wait for the publishing deal. And wait...
Thanks to everyone who's donated online to the Death Valley challenge...including James H, the Rev and Dan and the fine folks from Swim ForTri (whose services I may well be calling on next season).

If you haven't donated yet -- why the hell not?! Do it and your pyramid scheme, sweatshop, arms dealership or Nigerian spam scam will be promoted here.

Three weeks ago I took the lift to the 13th floor of a plush hotel in Kensington.

After knocking politely on the door, I stepped inside and dropped my trousers.

Before you ask....No, I'm not forging a second career as a high-class rent boy.

I was getting measured up for a suit for my wedding.

I'd read about Raja Fashions and the prospect of getting a bespoke suit and custom-made shirts for the same price of an off-the-peg number on the High Street seemed too good not to try.

The garments arrived this week, neatly packed and couriered from Hong Kong.

They're wonderful.

I've never owned a bespoke suit before but it looks and feels as was made for me.

Best of all is the embroidered name tag on the inside pocket.

I'll never wear an off-the-peg suit again -- even if I do look a bit like a footballer at a remand hearing.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Some assignments involve spending a fortnight living in a mud hut in the third world.

Others involve spending a fortnight in a tropical paradise.

Tony Blair is about to go on holiday.

For security reasons I can't say where.

But in the heightened security climate all the news outlets would be expecting him to respond immediately to any new terrorist incident.

So a team of journalists need to be on 24 hour standby, in the same place as the Prime Minister, so they can record and playout an interview with him in the event of something happening.

What this means in practice is that a bunch of hacks on expenses will spend a fortnight lazing around on sun loungers.

It gives a new meaning to the phrase "pool interview."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

There's a prize for whoever finds the first newspaper article to infer that this story means the Koreans have discovered a new and potentially limitless source of food.
The company which makes my prosthetic feet, Ossur, is one of the sponsors of my Death Valley cycle.

They're publicising the project here.
CNET News talks to Bert Harman from Otto Bock about advances in the prosthetics industry.

Regarding the technology, Harman says that "as far as lower extremity is concerned, we're moving into the second generation."

Cory Bergman notes that Steven Vincent, the author shot dead in Basra, was a blogger as well as a journalist.
Human Rights Watch has published an important new briefing paper on US landmine policy (read the press release here.)

I say important, but in fact much of the material contained in the document has been debated by the landmine community for some time.

Indeed, I was reporting on much of it during last year's Nairobi Review Conference.

HRW's paper is important, however, because it distils many of the arguments why campaigners believe the Bush administration should sign up to the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty.

The recommendations are hardly earth-shattering; the Bush administration should reverse its decision not to join the Mine Ban Treaty and should not insist on the right to use self-destruct antipersonnel mines indefinitely.

Again, HRW have been calling for this for some time.

So the Human Rights Watch paper is more of a pull-together than a source of revelations.

Even so, it's essential reading for anyone interested in landmine issues -- although I was disappointed HRW couldn't even give grudging credit to the US for spending $800 million since 1993 on humanitarian mine action programmes.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

I'm not going to beat around the bush.

I want your money.

The online donation facility for the MAG Death Valley cycle is now online, so you can contribute wherever you are in the world.

CLICK HERE to donate.

I'll only keep bothering you if you don't.
Good to see a youthful changing of the guard in Saudi Arabia following the long-expected death of King Fahd at the age of 84.

His successor, Abdullah -- Saudi Arabia's de facto leader in recent years -- is a sprightly 81, while the new Crown Prince, Sultan, is a positively youthful 77.
Yesterday's press launch has been picked up by BBC News Online and the Western Mail.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The third edition of Radio BNI has been uploaded.

Subscribe to the podcast feed here.
At editorial meetings I attended last week there was robust debate over the decision to invite convicted paedophile Jonathan King onto Radio 5 Live.

Should we be giving air time to a child abuser who hasn't shown any remorse for his crimes?

Could the interview be justified on editorial grounds?

Could we give King's victims a solid defence for providing him with a platform on national radio?

The answer to all these questions is quite clearly no.
The photo shoot's done and the story's running on the Press Association news wire.


By Helen William, PA

A television producer who lost a leg when he stepped on a landmine in Iraq is to tackle a marathon cycle ride through Death Valley to help other victims.

Stuart Hughes, 33, will face 90F heat on his 200 mile Californian trip in November in aid of mine clearance charity Mines Advisory Group.

He said: ``Over 100 countries have a landmine problem and so in a lot of countries people are living in death valleys - areas littered with landmines.''

``I wanted to do something to draw attention the work of MAG - this seemed appropriate.''

``It really is an every day problem. I went to Cambodia about a year ago I was genuinely shocked because there were little children playing six inches away from a minefield.''

``Having goals like this keeps my motivation up.''

The BBC news producer was covering the Iraq war when he stepped on the mine as he got out of a jeep in April 2003. His lower right leg was amputated.

Mr Hughes, Jim Muir the BBC's veteran Tehran Correspondent and Iranian cameraman Kaveh Golestan had gone to look at an abandoned enemy trench in the small northern Iraqi town of Kifri.

Being close to enemy lines, Mr Golestan confused the explosion with artillery fire and tried to dive for cover. He died instantly after stepping on a second mine.

Cardiff-born Mr Hughes of Ealing, west London, will be wearing a lightweight carbon fibre blade-shaped leg for the charity ride which he hopes will raise #30,000.

Cycling was a vital part of his fitness regime after the blast and helped return him to good health and his job at the BBC.

Training has also included running and lots of 10km races to help build up stamina.

Today he took a spin in the British Olympic Association hot chamber at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow, north west London, to help him acclimatise.

It also means he has a reason to take a backseat in the fine details of his wedding to Aileen Meldrum, 33, in September.

He joked ``I cannot plan my wedding at the moment because I'm training.''

``I'm feeling great. It is obviously difficult to start with. When a surgeon tells you that you are going to have your leg cut off it is pretty traumatic. The BBC have been great. Doing things and having goals like this keeps my motivation up.''

Mr Hughes will be part of a five-strong team taking part in the four-day Death Valley challenge.

Setting off from the town of Lone Pine, the team will travel east along Highway 136 before picking up Highway 190 through Panamint Springs.

After rolling to the bottom of Panamint Valley, a tough climb begins up the famous Town Pass - a 13 mile, 3,800 foot climb with grades of 10-13%.

The cyclists will then drop down 5000ft to Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek, from where they will head south to Badwater which, at 282ft below sea level, is the lowest point in the United States.

They cycle on to Shoshone before heading north to the finish line at Death Valley Junction.

MAG has been clearing mines since the last Gulf War in 1992, destroying hundreds of thousands of mines and unexploded bombs.

More information about MAG can be found on its website,