Let’s hear it for the cheeeeese!

The police and Gloucestershire county council keep trying to make it hard for people to support the annual tradition of cheese rolling on Bank Holiday Monday at Cooper’s Hill, Brockworth.

Four years after the event was banned on health and safety grounds (sorry..just pausing to snigger) and visitor numbers were becoming “dangerously unmanageable,” the custom only continues because Brockworth people made it their business to make sure it survives.

This year the police announced extensive road closures and ‘no waiting’ zones to discourage the public from attending.  Gloucestershire County Council also got in on the act by posting numerous off-putting signs around the area. I saw several of them littering the depths of the countryside. I do hope someone remembered to take them all down.

“WARNING  Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll Cheese rolling is a dangerous activity for both participants and spectators. The cheese roll is not managed. You are strongly advised not to attend. It is especially unsuitable for children. You attend entirely at your own risk “

Gloucestershire County Council can stop meddling with something which is absolutely *not* its concern and spend council taxpayers money on something more useful – like mending potholes instead of painting around them.

The clamp-down was such that if you wanted to visit Witcombe Roman Villa, a beautiful spot a mile away from the hill, you couldn’t – because some petty-minded person had locked a gate on the road leading to the car park and villa.

Officialdom doesn’t like cheese rolling. Officialdom would rather it didn’t happen and that people stayed obediently away from the event that they have enjoyed since time immemorial.  Officialdom thinks cheese rolling is silly and a bit of a nuisance.

The county councillors, the council officials and the police – who annually waste taxpayers money flying above the event in a helicopter (we always give them a wave and people can use whatever fingers they like) –  are all *temporary.* Fortunately none of them will last as long as the cheese rolling has lasted and will last.

Brockworth is an average-looking village with a beautiful church dating back to Norman times, an old Benedictine abbey-turned farmhouse, Simon Pegg’s old school and a respected rugby club but the feature locals cherish more than all of those is its cheese rolling tradition on the hill.

Local people will keep the faith with this annual celebration of fearlessness and reckless abandon for fun and the admiration of the masses.

Those who are brave of heart, or braver due to a few beers, take on the challenge of chasing  the bouncing round of Double Gloucester cheese down the 1 in 2 slope.

Those who don’t possess those attributes stand all around the slope and cheer and applaud the crazy muddy competitors as they hurtle, roll, run and cartwheel chaotically down the hill. And let’s not forget the uphill races. Respect to those who climb the wall of the hill, desperately clutching on to nettles and grassy tufts to aid their ascent.

Everyone treks up to the hill on Bank Holiday Monday of their own free will and entirely at their own risk. They don’t need nannying or warning notices.  One look at that hill slope rising into the sky imparts the bleedin’ obvious – that you wouldn’t even want to walk down it, let alone run. Personally, I can’t even look at the view unless I’m 6 feet back from the edge, so it’s with the greatest respect that I applaud the competitors and celebrate the freedom of the event every year.

This year a whole contingent of people from Gouda – Gloucester’s twin town – got in on the act and at the end of the races, bowled their own Gouda cheeses down the hill. Their cheeses broke into pieces but all the chasers survived for a mass celebration at the bottom of the hill. No doubt they’ll be back next year to have another go with more sturdy cheeses.  As Depeche Mode said, you need your own, personal cheeses.

A red-haired bloke stood next to me having a recovery fag after hurtling down in the first race. He had weeds and bits of grass sticking out from his tousled locks and his clothes were caked and streaked with mud.

“God, my ribs hurt,” he said, rubbing his side. “That big divot in the middle got me.”

Turned out he’d driven all the way from Colchester that morning on his own. Why?

“Because I read about it and though well, that just has to be done,” he grinned.

That, right there, is the spirit…the spirit of The Cheese.  Let’s hear it for the Cheese.

 

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One of the many warning signs.

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Hard luck if anyone disabled wanted to visit Witcombe Roman Villa.

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The race is on!  Catchers (thanks Brockworth Rugby Club) waiting at the bottom.

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View from the side of the hill

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Don’t try to do this at home, though.

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Tail up!

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Fallers…and Superman is *down*!

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Walking wounded. Suspected dislocated shoulder

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Les Girls

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Lucy (left) the winner of the Womens’ Race

wpid-img_0908.jpgThe Gouda lads going after their broken cheeses

 

 

Posted in Countryside, Current Affairs, Science | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Peace, piggies and a parrot in the Forest

Mountainbiking in the Forest of Dean last weekend was a real treat – acres of bluebells everywhere, sunshine and shelter from the gusty winds.

The oddest thing was the peace.

I’ve often pedalled around the Forest trails without seeing a soul – mostly in the winter, I admit – but I suppose it was the contrast between last weekend and the May Bank Holiday weekend – when the world was at play in the Forest – that made the utter solitude seem exceptional.

I had to stop occasionally just to take in the vast drifts of bluebells interspersed with tiny white stitchwort flowers.

It was 45 minutes before I even saw another person.. and another half an hour before I met two other cyclists, a guy and a woman, who stopped to ask directions to the Cycle Centre.

“Take the next left,  hurtle down the hill and then wiggle around to the left before taking the left at the T junction – through the gate then right, then left, then right and along that track until you see a sign to the Cycle Centre,” I told him.

“You don’t come here very often then?” he replied.

“Nah, hardly ever.”

I likes bone-dry humour.

I got a bit lost several times, actually, but that’s what makes it an adventure. The trick is to embrace suddenly finding oneself in the ass-end of nowhere and keep riding until you recognise something… possibly Coleford, conceivably Cinderford, occasionally Lydbrook!

I haven’t been riding with Bob for ages but we’d find ourselves generally off piste, tonking on up hill and down dale when he’d see a bit of stonework sticking out of the grass and announce “Trafalgar!”  or the name of one of the many other old colliery sites, long since destroyed and abandoned.

Last weekend, areas which had been familiar were no longer so because of forestry activity.  Grassy lumpy old trails had been transformed into wide gravel roads suitable for massive vehicles – and oddly,  ahead of me at one point near Mallard’s Pike was a cluster of a dozen people who looked like they’d escaped from an early 60’s sci-fi film.  They stood straight and tall, daintily holding on to waist-high handlebars while rumbling along on their segways.  They were all wearing helmets.  I suppose it was always likely that some reckless fool would try to take a corner at 5mph.

If I had to choose between Forest activities, I’d prefer llama trekking to a segway safari. Segways aren’t really built for anything but paths whereas llamas are built for rough terrain, rocks, tantrums and spitting.  Not unlike some  mountainbikers, actually.  Not me, though, I’m adding hastily. I only do rocks at the seaside.. and then they have to be flat.

Other surprises in the Forest recently included a snuffly amiable band of kune kune piglets and a parrot.  The parrot was on a sign –  something to do with a rainforest project, which is fine for kids but made me think that actually, let’s just teach people about the Forest of Dean first.

There’s something about the font and style of ‘You’re in the Forest of Dean’ signs that smacks of childrens’ TV and dumbing down.  I don’t like it. The Forest deserves respect for the unique beautiful historic important place that it is… not just used as a tool to bang on about preservation of rainforests.

But enough of my stuffy pompous-sounding grumblings.  At least the Forest is still here for all to enjoy, whatever your age or interest – apart from hang-gliding. It’s rubbish for hang-gliding.

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Kensley Ridge!!

 

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Nature’s bike rack

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Another bike rack. Not my bike though.

 

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Unexpected parrot

 

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Pigs surprise!

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Not boaring you. This chap’s a kune kune.

Posted in Birds, Countryside, Current Affairs, Cycling | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Eureka!

I moaned to anyone who would listen about my disappointment with the Natural History Museum last year.

I wanted to revisit the beetles.. the display cases full of incredible beetles from all over the world – teeny beetles, mediocre beetles, beetles bigger than your head* from the depths of the jungles of South America.

But there weren’t any on show and they weren’t available to see unless you attended one of their Saturday morning ‘mystery tour with an expert’ type events.  The gist of my sentiments were that the famous, much-admired museum had dumbed itself down too much for younger visitors. I wanted the old-style museum with cases of specimens.

When I was a child, Gloucester museum was all faded stuffed animals with slightly wonky eyes and small labels which you squinted to read, featuring the common name and the Latin name and, if you were lucky, a bit more information.

There were drawings of creatures on maps showing distribution or the stuffed bird would be suspended in front of a hand-painted representation of a desert (much yellow) a jungle (greenery-gone-mad) or an arctic scene (off-white with an igloo and a snow-storm brewing).

There was nothing with whizzy graphics, no buttons to press, no TV screens. It was all a bit dull (“Dry as dust” – mum) but I liked that.  I liked the ‘old’ smell and the way utter silence was broken by my Clarks’ shoes squeaking against the polished parquet flooring.  The dull displays didn’t bore me – they piqued my interest.

So imagine my excitement when I visited Oxford at the weekend with a pal and found, hallelujah, that the Oxford University Natural History Museum and the adjoining Pitt Rivers Museum are the perfect combination of old style and new style museums.

The Natural History Museum is excellent – housed in a specially-designed and much-decorated iron-framed building with a glass roof that allows loads of natural light on the specimen cases, the displays and the impressive collection of dinosaur skeletons.

Probably the single most wonderful collection in the museum – after the massive stuffed albatross, the huge tyrannosaurus skull, the excellent giant isopod and rhinocerous beetle – was the contents of Paviland Cave, Gower, Wales.

I’ve been a bit fascinated about the Red Lady of Paviland – a collection of bones and arrow-heads which were discovered in a mysterious cave in the cliff not far from Port Eynon. On my last trip to the Gower, I spoke to a chap who told me it was possible to walk to the Paviland Cave at low tide and scramble up into the actual cave itself!

There in the museum, beautifully displayed in a case were the entire contents of the cave – a few slender red bones – from a youth who died 34,000 years ago, which made him Paleolithic. His are the second-oldest human remains ever found in Britain. Only a jawbone found in Kent is older. The red had been analysed and is thought to have come from iron-oxide-stained funeral garments. He ended up in the museum because the person who discovered him in 1823 was one William Buckland, first professor of geology at Oxford University.

The adjoining Pitt River building was built a couple of decades later but it’s the yang to the airy natural history museum’s yin – a thrillingly dim hall with galleries around a central floor containing cases and cases of fascinating anthropological material from around the world including the Amazonian jungle.

I was staring at the Japanese mask collection when I saw a ‘yummy mummy’ in Ugg boots emerging from the lift with a toddler in a pushchair and a four-year-old telling them “Now let’s go find mummy’s favourites – the SHRUNKEN HEADS!”

The dimly-lit glass case, contained several heads. They were truly the stuff of nightmares – shrunken dark-leather faces more like small baboons than the people they once were with long reddish-brown hair hanging lank.

Head-shrinking was going on until the 1960’s, according to the information.  The tribal people of the upper Amazon believed that by taking and shrinking enemy heads, they were capturing their souls and absorbing their power into their own people. All this was going on while Buddy Holly was rocking the world with Peggy Sue.

After the ceremonies to claim the soul had been carried out, the tribespeople lost interest in the heads, so they had no qualms about selling them to collectors.

The museum was founded after General Pitt Rivers donated his collection of more than 18,000 objects to Oxford University.  Anthropologists, doctors and explorers have continued to donate photographs, audio and objects so the collection now comprises more than half a million pieces.

While much of the collection is devoted to articles crafted with incredible skill from very basic materials, a lot of it is linked with the man’s inhumanity to man. There is a vast display of weaponry through the centuries and there are other weapons for hand to hand fighting which make the blood run cold to look at them and consider the damage they might do.

But the collection provides a wholly mind-blowing experience – in the old-fashioned way. Everything is labelled and you can immediately tell if it is part of the original collection or has been donated. Sometimes, as with the skulls, the details have been penned very neatly on to the skull itself.

Each display case is packed with items from the tiniest piece of carved ivory to the totem pole standing at the end of the hall.

There’s something to interest everyone, from the gorgeous – tribal garments beautifully made with real feathers – to the gruesome.

I won’t drivel on about the amazing, intricate craftsmanship which Inuit caribou suits demonstrate or the extraordinary waterproofs they used to make by flattening strips of seal intestines and painstakingly sewing them together to make capes.

I won’t even bother to mention the looms, made from rough bits of old wood and string which were used in parts of Africa to create the most stunning pieces of richly patterned cloth.

You should really go and see for yourself but I’d definitely avoid the museum-organised “torchlight tours.”

The sight of the shrunken heads in the dim light of day was enough without encountering them, displayed in all their hideousness, by the dim beam of an old Maglite.

 

*Obviously your head would be quite small…

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The Pitt Rivers Museum

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Japanese Noh mask representing Kumasaka – fearsome bandit of ancient legend

 

 

 

wpid-imag0166.jpgRemains from Paviland Cave – the Oxford Museum of Natural History

 

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All that’s left of a dodo…

All that’s left of some humans…

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Posted in Art, Birds, Current Affairs, Science, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Stop The Cull

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Street art (since destroyed) by Beastie, Gloucester.

 

I experienced a life-time first recently.  A couple of Saturdays ago, I exercised my democratic right to protest peacefully about an issue in a public place.

It didn’t seem very radical in the beginning, strolling to Gloucester Park on a Spring day to stand among fellow badger cull protesters and listen to a woman singing badger-themed protest songs.

I was five minutes early and, to be honest, there weren’t nearly as many people there as I’d hoped. I was thinking thousands… around me were no more than a couple of hundred.

As if the original badger cull wasn’t enough (it wasn’t – it was an expensive, destructive, waste of time), Cameron’s Government are planning a second cull in Gloucestershire, thus ignoring the findings of the Independent Commission into the first cull, which revealed badger cruelty and a complete lack of new data on badgers and bovine TB

I signed a petition, had a chat to a couple of people handing out flyers for badger-related events and observed my fellow badger-lovers – people who feel strongly that badgers should be allowed to live without state-sponsored persecution for spurious reasons.

There were hunt saboteurs, who provided the backbone and a lot of the organization of the badger patrols whose aim, in the cull last year, was to peacefully disrupt shooting activities. There were scores of members of the Gloucestershire badger patrol group, Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting,  wildlife conservation groups and there were individuals like me, people who don’t want to see family groups of badgers who have lived in some setts for 50 years or more, destroyed or terrified for no solid scientific reason.

Among the people I met – several of them from other counties – one woman had come to Gloucester on the train from Swansea to join the protests. She had joined her local Wildlife Trust because they successfully campaigned for a scheme where badgers were caught and vaccinated against TB – not shot.

I looked around for Tony Dean, a former policeman who in retirement, became the chief badger advocate in Gloucestershire. He was the man you phoned if you saw a dead badger at the roadside. He’d arrange for it to be collected and taken off for testing.

He also introduced members of the public to his own particular badger colony. Over the years, with his quiet patience and the wife’s home-made fruitcake, he gained the trust of a colony near Stroud and would take small groups to sit quietly on the hillside in the evening as the badgers and the cubs came out to play.  Those were magical times watching the natural behavior of these shy persecuted creatures at first hand.

Dominic Dyer, the new chairman of the Badger Trust, was eloquent and lucid in his criticism of the Government action as one more chapter in the long persecution of the badger.  The Badger Trust needed all the support it could get, he said, because it is about to mount a High Court legal challenge to the cull.

International conservationist Ian Redmond, who lives in Gloucester and is noted for his work with gorillas, was straightforward and pithy in his condemnation of Government-sponsored endangerment of a species.

Then it was off out of the park with the assembled, amiable masses – about 500-600 of us, by then.  I wore a badger T shirt but quite honestly, as someone about to lose my ‘democratic protest’ virginity, I didn’t have any materials to hand for making a placard. A spatula and a piece of A4 just wouldn’t have cut any mustard!

People were waving flags, holding placards aloft, clutching banners. They had cute badgers in rucksacks, children brought their own toy badgers, there were badger hand-puppets and one chap – who turned out to be a Welsh farmer – was wearing a very furry and heaving looking badger head-dress!

I felt mildly guilty that I hadn’t daubed a piece of cardboard but I would definitely have bought one – so there’s a marketing idea for the Badger Trust at these events!

It took a while for me to get going and join in the march chorus of “Stop The Cull!”  I mumbled like a reluctant singer in church but as the column of people made its way through busier streets, it seemed more sensible to announce what we were all about. The chorus – me included – got louder and more assertive.

The reaction from the public was interesting. Police held up traffic without a single grimace from drivers. Some museum staff came to stand and watch the march passing by – so did some shoppers. Some of them applauded and shouted support.

One of the most moving sights, for me, was to break out of the march and look back up Westgate Street, Gloucester to see the entire street to the Cross and beyond, filled with hundreds of people – all out on the streets because they don’t want to see badgers killed.

My over-riding thought was ‘This proves it’s not just me.”  When I talk to friends and colleagues about the slaughter of badgers, they don’t approve of it but equally they don’t take any action to broadcast that face or do anything to stop it.

It was good to think that if and when the cull is re-started in Gloucestershire, most of those people filling the entire street – and hopefully more besides –  are the ones who will be resuming the night badger patrols – trying to save badgers by peacefully walking public footpaths and looking out for any badgers wounded during this senseless Government-led persecution.

 

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Posted in Badgers, Countryside, Current Affairs, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ooopsie-daisy

 

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Well, it was Mothers’ Day recently so I indulged myself and rustled up some family to visit one of my favourite beaches in Wales – Mewslade on the Gower, Wales.

At low tide, it’s beautiful stretch of rufous sand with low ridges of pitted grey limestone stretching out to the sea from the cliff like bony fingers. At high tide there is no clue to the beach beneath.

After a relaxed picnic with the folks, I wandered over to the waves, rolled up my jeans and went for a paddle.  Each time the surf broke against the rocks, millions of sun-dazzled diamonds of water were thrown up.

It was an irresistible arty picture opportunity,  so I ventured further into the sea among the rocks, in search of the right angle. It wasn’t going to be easy as the sun was directly ahead but Welsh women never say Dai.

I suppose I should have given a thought to the tide racing in. We’d noticed it earlier and moved our picnic to higher ground. Swansea has the biggest tidal range in the world or maybe it’s the second biggest.  I probably need to check that.

And while I was framing that perfect picture with the Canon SLR, the withdrawing sea mischievously sucked the sand out from under my feet, seriously destabilizing my lens and me.

One hand instinctively grasped a nearby rock, the other held the camera above the briny as I helplessly sank into the water.  No gravitas – merely saturatedass.

That was the moment when the mobile tucked into my back pocket probably dislodged.

By the time I realised – after thoroughly checking the Canon and the lens, which – horrors – – had sand on it, the whole area where I’d been standing was deep and murky with swirling sand a seaweed.

I reported the loss to a guy at Vodafone who, bless ‘im, didn’t laugh and they blocked it, just in case it was washed up and still useable but I suspect that by now it’s in Davy Jones’s locker or Dai Jones’ – whoever owns the lockers thereabouts.

It’s quite weird being without my phone.

I don’t usually spend a day without it, let alone two. It’s like another limb. My whole life is in it… memos, diary, photos, conversations with people in various parts of the world, emails, games, plane-spotting app, my running app, my cycling app, my map app, twitter…a half-read book..etc etc  Don’t even get me started on music – oh I have already… well there’s my own music library and Spotify which is a cornucopia of mood-enhancing tunes, familiar and brand new.

The few days before I got my new phone, there were little lacunae where during the busy working day, I’d usually take a look at the phone for messages, pics emails that pals may have sent.  Without the phone, nothing. Not a dicky-bird. I felt catapulted back into the age of the quill pen.

I felt isolated but also released from the habit of immediate gratification.  The emails, the messages and news had to wait until I could access the home computer much, much later and most app-based stuff wasn’t received at all.

When my new spiffy Samsung S4 came, it was a big disappointment. While it’s a rather beautiful, light piece of technology, the battery didn’t even last the day and it refused to link up with the home wifi.

So I’m managing with my trusty old HTC for home use and the not-so-spiffy Samsung for out and about.  I don’t recommend two phones instead of one – twice the fuss and half the effectiveness.

New phone #2 is scheduled to arrive tomorrow.  I’m hoping it’ll survive next weekend’s trip to the beach…

Do HTC sell little mobile waterwings, I wonder?

 

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Posted in Art, Coast, Countryside, Current Affairs, Watery things | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Exercise as punishment? It already IS!

So Michael Dimwit Gove wants schools to punish children with exercise?

Schools are already punishing children with exercise and have done for generations.

There’s nothing quite like school sports teaching for encouraging students to LOATHE sport.

I was an inherently lazy child – like 80% of my school year. Of course there were some who were naturals at sport, like there were ‘naturals’ at art and music but most of us resisted exhortations to Do Sport.

The budding sports stars who might represent the school were very obviously the favourites of those teachers who wore a tracksuit around the place as a badge of honour.

Those who couldn’t or wouldn’t do sports were vilified, bullied and treated as worthless, hopeless cases – this was particularly bad if you were one of those boys who couldn’t play soccer or rugby or often produced sick notes excusing them from taking part.

Very often those same boys were excellent at chemistry, maths or physics so at least it was possible for them to shine in another area. I pitied the sporting no-hopers who were only average at everything else. Their self-esteem didn’t stand a chance.

Why would anyone want to voluntarily jog around the running track at school looking like an eejit? I had a go one sunny day when the sky was blue and the grass was green and no teachers were about. I donned my Dunlop Green Flashes and set off. Forty paces later, I was red-faced and falling-over tired.

Lesson learned. Never be tempted to set the bar too high – particularly in the high jump. A friend and I thought we were horses for several years of our childhood so I was used to showjumping…. well.. ok… jumping the height of my own knee.

But when we were introduced to the high jump as preparation for Sports Day, they set the bar at the height of my eyes. Obviously my human body was not meant to spring itself into the air because when I did attempt it, a crashing noise and a painful falling thing happened.

Similarly with long jump, it took an awful lot of running to make it into the sand. By the time I should have been ready for take-off, I was, quite frankly, tired. Not achieving the sandpit didn’t make me any more popular with teachers, I found.

The javelin was more promising. I felt like an Amazon standing there, body tilted back, aiming my pointy thing at the sky before running and dramatically flinging it – but it always landed flat on the grass.

The discus was better but generally seemed to travel in quite unintended directions due to me releasing my latent power at the wrong moment accompanied by cries of “Watch out!” from nearby observers.

Putting the cannon-ball was much more promising. Basically you just had to sort of dump it into the air and hope it landed quite far away. Of course it didn’t because it was really heavy and really, it would have been sensible to have a cannon to hand to fire the thing. But the fact that it landed only a few paces away made it quite convenient to fetch and try again.

The only game I remotely liked was hockey – I had a handsome stick with a beautifully varnished hook and it more than made up for my hockey boots smelling of old mackerel. I also liked the skirt, which was gored grey flannel mid-thigh length. It felt sporty just to wear it and stand about posing with my lovely hockey stick – let alone flying down the right wing. But when I got picked for the team, I couldn’t get to school on Saturdays to play. I gave up, with bitterness in my heart.

Cross-country running was a disaster. We used to trot disconsolately out of the school gates, walk up the hill and, on a good day, a bunch of us girls would disappear off the track and find a quiet place to take our aertex shirts off for a bit of sun worshipping. We’d lope back to school a good 45 minutes late and claim we got lost. They couldn’t touch you for it.

Being of a contrary disposition, I was much better at, and really enjoyed the sports they didn’t teach me at school: tennis, swimming and sunbathing with a good book.

Tennis was so perfect in the long summer holidays. You could wear really short swingy little white skirts get your legs nutbrown, rest between sets swigging real lemonade or chilled diet Coke while lying about on the grass in the sun.

Swimming was pretty good too. I’ve never minded cold water, secretly loving the bracing effect of a cold plunge and risking extreme hypothermia so I liked the lido whatever the weather. There’s something anarchic about swimming in the rain, when the cold water’s still warmer than the cold pitter-pattery drops on your hair.

Chances are, if I’d been taught either of those activities at school, I’d have hated them too.

My kids learned to swim before having school swimming lessons – and marveled later at how no-one who couldn’t swim ever actually learned to do so at school swimming lessons.

My brother was dead average at school sports and not great at soccer but a national junior cycling champion outside school.

So no, Mr Gove, don’t even think about using exercise as punishment at school. In fact don’t force exercise of any sort at all on school kids.

Instead, give them a couple of afternoons a week when they can choose their activity… and provide role-model sports ambassadors to inspire kids into giving sports a try.

Don’t just offer the easy-to-provide field sports, the soccer, the hockey, the rugby but offer road-race cycling, mountainbiking, track-racing, horse-riding, dry-slope skiing, fencing, archery, mountain-boarding, bowling, bouldering, climbing, snooker, pool, darts!!

That’s the way to get kids active. Let them find out what they like.

If you really want to punish them, there’s always the old pointless and ultra-tedious Saturday morning detention presided over by some old crusty teacher with a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp. I’d run a mile to avoid that, for sure!

Posted in Countryside, Current Affairs, Cycling, Literature, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Starry, starry night

Nothing much went wrong this weekend, which was a refreshing change, so together with the sunshine, warmth, bike rides, flowers, bees, butterflies, birdsong, frogs and the prospect of many hundreds of tadpoles in the pond, it was all pretty good.

It is ending well too.  Until a minute or two ago, I was sitting by the pond lit by shafts of cool bright moonlight in the stillness of the garden.

The garden was all mysterious dark shapes and silhouettes except for the warm glow of the lights through the half-open kitchen door. It was like looking into someone else’s house because the night view is so unfamiliar.

It looked cosy.  On the far wall, cookbooks on shelves with little music player between them, a pew with cushions and orchids arching their exotic blooms over the windowsill.

Outside in the garden I was alone, listening to the chorus of frogs singing in the pond, looking at the stars in the clear dark sky and wondering at the almost-impossible brightness of the full moon.

Coming from the east into the light of the moon I could just make out the lights and the ghostly jetstream of the Paris to Dublin Ryanair Boeing 737 flying at 38,000 feet.  Half an hour to landing.

Posted in Birds, Countryside, Current Affairs, Watery things | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments