Exactly ten years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled "Today I Am 40", which you can read here should you be so inclined. Being mathematically astute, you will have figured out that a full decade has since passed and I am now marking the milestone (millstone?) that is fifty.
40 was a largely pleasurable moment, reminiscing with fondness on aeons of vague recklessness in the years theretofore. Fifty, it's a word not a number, feels somewhat more ominous. For anyone so presumptuous as to believe a hundred is achievable, it represents halfway; as the transit through a fifth decade has increasingly frequently reminded me, 80 might be considered a very fine stint and, as such, one is now well into the back nine. Such mortal self-awareness has some legitimacy, as will emerge before the end of the page.
If that's as sombre an overture as has perhaps ever been scribbled in this virtual notebook, allow me to indulge a moment or three further, and to paint a spot of colour into that dark initial outline. Actually, some bright flourishes.
The '40' post offered a potted history of a lifetime to that point; here I will merely fill in the gaps since then, many of which have been shared with the longer-suffering amongst you (sincerely, THANK YOU) in real time.
Shortly after my 40th - note, not immediately after! - young Leonardo was conceived and, in September 2012, he arrived. Just about every mum and dad will recall with seems-like-only-yesterday lucidity the early reactive struggles of clueless parenting. They soon (relatively) give way to a lifetime of joy - at least from where I'm sitting prior to the teenage years - and I can honestly say that each year with Leon has been more of a pleasure than the one which preceded it.
Carole (Mrs Matt from older personal accounts) and I are extremely fortunate to have carved out livings in a way that allows us to be at, or close to, home most of the time. That means Leon has been a little spoiled for parental attention or, to spin that more positively, has been given every opportunity to show academic and generous-spirited aptitudes. It is my very great pleasure to relate that he has accepted all such figurative invitations to date. Just turned nine, he's a kind, funny, bright, loving, inquisitive, charming, thoughtful, handsome young man. And, obviously, he is the apple of his dad's (and his mum's) eye. He is also lucky enough to have perfect health, as have we all, touch wood, and that is one of the things for which time - and experience - has given me a far deeper appreciation.
In 2013, I conceived my second child, almost as beloved as the first. Yes, Geegeez Gold emerged threshing and wailing, burping and farting into the bright lights of the internet and onto a screen near you. Having previously overseen a portfolio of websites (with help from many people, notably Chris - my mainstay and right hand here), I took the decision to dump them all bar geegeez.co.uk and to instead double down by building "the best racecard and form tool website in Britain". That was my ambition eight years ago and, while it is maybe not for me to judge [we have won gongs, don't you know? 😉 ], I feel we've come at least pretty close to that bold aspiration.
It obviously didn't happen overnight; and it didn't happen without the endeavour of some very smart people - Dave, Nige, Paul, Jean-Francois - and me a bit, too. Since 2014, your subscriptions have fuelled the development of the service, and they continue to do that. We've added so many features, too many to mention, but perhaps the stroke of genius/luck (there's a fine line, right?) was the very first thing I created: Instant Expert, or the unsexily-named 'Race Analysis Report' in its first incarnation.
That simple view, which can deconstruct the entire form history of all the runners in a race in, literally, seconds is the 'go to' for many Gold'ers even after myriad features and functions, metrics and matrices, have been subsequently added. And understandably so; it remains a core part of my 'first pass' research also.
Geegeez Gold is reaching maturity now, by which I mean it has become hard to add features of earth-shattering utility because most of them are already there. Nevertheless, the workstack continues to grow and things on the near- to mid-term 'to do' list include a big Query Tool overhaul, further sectional additions (including, hopefully, the remaining course data), a Profiler page, and potentially some big race trends pages. There is always more to add!
As well as investing in the software, and the editorial on site (most of it brilliantly provided by others this year, though I definitely plan to get back writing in 2022), we've been able to sponsor a few of the actors, too. Currently, the Champion Apprentice (and Champion All-Weather Apprentice - a double I don't think any other rider has achieved) Marco Ghiani (85 winners in the past year), fourth-placed finisher in the Flat Championship David Probert (169 winners in the past year), and the shrewd and ascendant jumping yard of Anthony Honeyball - as well as his two stable jockeys, Rex Dingle and Ben Godfrey - all sport the geegeez.co.uk logo with swash and buckle. And all are top blokes, too: that's been a very great personal pleasure for me in recent years.
Since 40, that previously alluded to autobiography illustrated with a picture of a trifle made by my mother, I'm sad to impart that, in August 2015, she passed away suddenly, aged 70.
In August 2019, having been diagnosed only two months previously, my sister Celeste also passed. She was 54. That was in many ways a greater shock. The loss of a loved brother or sister is more poignant than that of a loved parent, at least it was for me: we expect to outlive our parents, we don't take such liberties with our siblings.
I don't mind admitting that, for six months or so, that - excuse me - knocked the absolute bollocks out of me. All passing loved ones are tough to bear, some tougher still.
The world kept turning while I wasn't really paying attention to it and, from that difficult stanza, I came out swinging on the business front. 2020 was going to be a year of transformation. I hired marketers, we had a plan to expand socially (one of the biggest challenges of growing a business like geegeez.co.uk is that we are so heavily constrained in terms of where we can advertise - sigh), we had a new office from which to expedite this scaling mission... and then, Covid.
Belt tightening was the first order of business for every commercial entity not owned by Jeff or Zuck (nauseating little megalomaniacs that they are), and geegeez was no different. The timing of expansion plans was thus horrendous. Thanks in major part to the understanding and kindness of the geegeez community we rode out that storm, and came back firing from June onwards.
Changes in the development team slowed progress for a while but we are now on a better than even keel, and looking forwards once more.
I've been doing a few different things alongside geegeez since stepping back from the huge time vacuum that is the Horseracing Bettors Forum, of which I was a founder member and latterly Chair for a while. There's the tennis project, TennisProfits.com, created by the brains of Steve 'Goal Profits' Brown and Paul 'Tradeshark' Shires, and me; and I've been playing with crypto investing for a few years, too.
(Investing is too strong a term. I started out with eight Bitcoin, which I bought for £300 each, and have managed to fritter most of that away via Ponzi schemes and altcoin 'diversification'. Here's what I've learned: put 85%+ into Bitcoin and guess your best guess on the rest. There will be big winners while most go to zero, and it is still too early to say especially convincingly which will be which. But Bitcoin is very likely here to stay. N.B. this does NOT constitute financial advice. Duh!)
And now, here I am at fifty. Try as I might I've not yet got my head around the number. I know it's a 'thing', this mild midlife crisis, fifty-itis: like all the other stuff I've referenced above, encountered and experienced by many/most of those at such a vintage. And, like many/most, I'll get over it and press on.
Leon is growing up and, if I'm lucky enough to get to another birthday ending in zero, he'll have just about flown the coop. At that point, I'll be able to say that I've achieved the big things I wanted to achieve, both personally and professionally; though of course I still have unfulfilled ambitions on both scores (many of them revolving around racehorse ownership - first world dreams!)
When I was forty, I didn't think, "where will I be when I'm fifty?". And I didn't know Geegeez Gold would become the thing that it has. And I definitely didn't know that 'young man' would illuminate every day with his casual facility.
So, why worry about sixty? Or even fifty-one. Carpe diem.
p.s. it's very unlikely you've read this far if you don't know me - and geegeez - very well already. But in the unlikely event that that is the case, you can get full Gold access for the next week or so just be registering a free account. Here's the link you need for that.