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A wry view of life for the world-weary

Category Archives: Sport

Sporting Event Of The Week (15)

Taking back control of your body is one of the rallying cries of the 21st century. Looking at my ageing carcass, though, I’m not sure it is worth the effort. But now that summer is in the air, at least here in the northern hemisphere, people are rushing to dispose of their clothing and give expression to their inner selves – all in a good cause, of course.

Take skinny dipping.

The world record for the largest skinny dip was set on 8th March 2015 at South Beach in Perth, Australia, when 786 participants took the plunge. But this record was well and truly smashed to smithereens last Saturday when 2,505 ladies braved temperatures of 54 degrees Fahrenheit for the mandatory five minutes off a secluded beach in Ireland’s County Wicklow.

The swim was in aid of Aoibheann’s Pink Tie, a charity that supports children with cancer. As well as sponsorship and donations, organisers pledged that 10 euros from the registration fee would go to the charity. Good on ‘em.

But they can’t rest on their laurels. My sources tell me that a group in Australia are organising an attempt in February next year to take the record back down under.

Swimming in the buff I can understand but cycling? Well, last Saturday was also World Naked Bike Ride Day and several hundred intrepid cyclists set off from six points in London – Tower Hill, Regents Park, West Norwood, Hyde Park, Clapham Junction, and Kew Bridge – ending up in Hyde Park. The aim of the ride was to highlight the vulnerability of cyclists and to raise awareness on the world’s dependency on oil. It all went swimmingly, I believe.

For me I was content last Saturday to celebrate World Gin Day. That’s more than enough exercise for me.

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Sporting Event Of The Week (14)

Here’s a litany of bank holiday sporting carnage.

One of the many attractions at the Young Farmers’ Clubs Northern District Field Day in Irthington in Cumbria on Bank Holiday Saturday was the women’s arm wrestling event. This keenly fought competition proved too much for one competitor who during the course of her bout suffered what was described as a “bad break” to her fighting arm. Her opponent, when she realised what had happened, fainted on the spot.

Other than that”, said a medical attendant, “the day was fantastic.” An event clearly not for the faint-hearted.

Some 200 miles further south, the annual Cheese Rolling championships were held at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire. Competitors chase 8lb specially made double Gloucester cheeses, which reach speeds of up to 70 mph, down the 1:2 gradient.

For Chris Anderson it was business as usual. He won the first of this year’s men’s downhill races and in the process broke Stephen Glyde’s record of 21 successes. The irony, and we love irony, is that Chris can’t stand double Gloucester, preferring a nice bit of cheddar. Although Chris triumphed again in the third race, he tore his left calf muscle in the process.

The winner of the women’s downhill race was Flo Early from Stroud, repeating her successes of 2008 and 2016. But when she crossed the finishing line, she was quickly attended to by the medics for a suspected dislocated shoulder.

They will need to go more Caerphilly next time.

To lighten this unremitting gloom, I bring you glad tidings of 71-year-old Anne Bruinooge who did a headstand outside of the offices of the Ketchikan Daily News in Alaska. Slightly bizarre behaviour by anybody’s standards but for the game old codger it marked a watershed moment. She had just performed a headstand in each of the 50 US mainland states.

Not only has no one ever done that before (or so it is believed) but she didn’t even injure herself. There’s life in the old ‘uns yet.

Sporting Event Of The Week (13)

The thought of running any distance is anathema to me but here’s an event – sold out I’m afraid – which might even have appealed to me in a moment of madness, the Inaugural Boerne 0.5k, which takes place in the Texan town today (5th May).

Yes, that’s right – the course stretches just 546 yards, starting off opposite the Dodging Duck bar which, sportingly, will provide each participant with a free pint before the event, and ending at the Cibolo Creek Brewery where further alcoholic refreshments will be available. Halfway along the course is a coffee and doughnut station and that is where the designated smoking area is.

The monetary cost of entering – there is a physical cost too I’m sure – is $25 and proceeds go to a charity, Blessings in a Backpack, which provides meals at the weekend to poor and needy American children.

If, like me, the thought of running, even fuelled by a couple of pints, a doughnut, coffee and a few gaspers, is too much to bear, for an extra $25 you could become a VIP, entitling you to be shuttled, in a 1963 VW bus no less, along the course.

Whether you are a runner or a VIP you get a medal and a car sticker. The only downer on what is a truly worthwhile event is that a bagpipe player will drone their way through Amazing Grace at the starting line. If that doesn’t get you moving, nothing will.

Sporting Event Of The Week (12)

Around 40 competitors rocked up to Dunbar on Scotland’s east coast last weekend to take part in the second European Stone Stacking Championships. The venue, Lauderdale Park and Eye Cave Beach, was chosen because the many shapes, sizes and colours of the rocks in the area make it a paradise for stone stackers – at least that is what the organisers say.

I hadn’t realised it but the benefit of stacking stones, at least of you believe the publicity for the event, is that you get moments of clarity as you search for the next stone or find the sweet spot of gravity when you know you’ve got perfect balance. I suppose there are also periods of intense frustration as, jenga like, your piles come crashing down.

Be that as it may, there were a number of competitions spread over the weekend, including most stones balanced one on top of the other, a children’s competition, balancing against the clock – a timed competition rather than stacking stones against a timepiece which would have been rather easy – and the most artistic balance. The photos of some of the pieces are spectacular and oddly fascinating.

The overall winner was Pedro Duran from Spain whose prize included financial assistance to participate in the World Championships in Llano in Texas next year. Mind you, he only balanced 29 stones on top of each other, three fewer than last year’s winner.

Standards must be slipping.

Sporting Event Of The Week (11)

My attention was diverted, albeit briefly, last Saturday by the ninth annual Varsity Goat Race, held at Spitalfields City Farm in London’s E1.

Two pygmy goats, Hamish and Hugo, sported the favours of the the two ancient universities, the former representing Oxford and the latter Cambridge, lockeinghorns before a sizeable crowd. There was even a bookmaker, Billy Hill (natch), on site for those who fancied a flutter, and the crowd was warmed up with live music.

Unlike that sporting relic of the distant past, the Boat Race, where Cambridge romped to victory, Hamish stormed into an unassailable lead, winning the coveted prize for the other University.

A good time was had by all, I kid you not. And I have no reports that there was a warming stew served after the contest.

A race of an altogether different sort is being planned by conservationists in New Zealand to raise funds for the endangered bird, the stitchbird or hihi. If they are unsuccessful, it will doubtless be known as the bibi.

For what is being known as the Great Hihi Sperm Race they have collected sperm from male birds from four different colonies and punters are invited to place a ten dollar bet on which of the 128 sperm samples swims the fastest. Winning punters will receive prized donated by sponsors.

For anyone interested there is a form guide, describing the attributes of each of the sperm donors. Quite what that will tell you about the speed of their sperm is anybody’s guess.

Still it has raised the profile of the bird’s plight and got my attention.

Sporting Event Of The Week (10)

A cold snap and Britain reels.

News reached me this week that one of our most eagerly awaited sporting contests, the First International Snail Grand National, which was to be held at the Dartmouth Union pub in Holbeton in Devon last Saturday, had fallen victim to the inclement weather.

The problem, as pub manager Donna Aziz found out when she arranged to collect the highly honed racing molluscs from the local pet shop, was that the cold had induced them into a state of sluggishness – surely that should be snailishness – which meant that they were next to useless for racing.

The event, organised to raise funds for the Devon Air Ambulance, had to be postponed and will be held again when the weather is more conducive.

I shall be on its trail.

Tee-shirt Of The Week

I suppose that for people like me who run a mile to avoid exercise we will never have the satisfaction of wearing one of those tee-shirts that proclaim that the wearer has completed some benighted marathon, half or otherwise, somewhere at some point in time. If it didn’t involve any effort, I would doff my hat to them.

Mind you, I am on the look-out for anyone who completed last Sunday’s Dewsbury 10k, a course which took the runners through the pastoral delights that are Batley and Birstall. Upon crossing the finishing line, they were presented with a fetching blue tee-shirt, emblazoned with a logo which is supposed to represent the outline of Dewsbury’s splendid Victorian town hall.

It didn’t take long for people to point on social media the rather phallic nature of the logo. Was it all a bit of an unfortunate error or was the designer an anarchist making a point?

We will probably never know.

Sporting Event Of The Week (9)

Last Sunday saw what to many observers is the culmination of the Australia Day celebrations – the Tuna Tossing World Championships held at the Tunarama Festival in Port Lincoln in South Australia.

Fifty contestants, thirty men and twenty women drawn from locals and tourists, battled it out for the crown and the prize pot of a thousand Aussie dollars. A variety of styles were deployed but the most successful seemed to be one that was akin to hurling a discus. Contestants had to throw the tuna as far as they could whilst remaining inside a circle.

Local, Estie Mayer-Stander, won the women’s event with a throw of 9.6 metres and Levi Proude proudly won the men’s competition hurling his fish an impressive 18.9 metres. Proude’s throw, though, was a long way short of the all-time record of 37.23 metres, recorded by former Olympic hammer thrower, Sean Carlin.

The idea for the competition came from watching dock workers hurl fish from the decks of boats moored in the harbour and from 1979 until fairly recently real tuna, albeit dead, were used. These days the fish are rubber with a string attached to the tail to give the contestants a better grip.

What Is The Origin Of (155)?…

Gaffer

We are some way into what seems to be another interminable football season where outrageously overpaid “stars” hog our TV screens and back pages of our newspapers. Invariably when said “stars” are able to string a couple of words together in the always illuminating post-match interview, there is a reference to the gaffer, the manager or the boss. Football seems to be one of the last industries in which this quaint term for the person in charge is used but where did it come from?

The earliest recorded reference to the noun was, according to etymologists, around 1565 to 1675. It was used as a term of respect, employed by country folk to refer to their elders and betters, someone to whom due deference had to be accorded on account of their experience or position in the community. It appears simply to have been a contraction of either godfather or grandfather, or both. It is comparable to gammer, a noun to describe an old woman, which was a contraction of godmother or grandmother and first appeared around the same time. Unlike gaffer, though, gammer sank into obscurity, perhaps only to re-emerge when the first female professional football manager is appointed.

As time moved on, its meaning broadened to indicate an old man, irrespective of status and prestige, particularly an old rustic, with a slightly patronising, if not pejorative, side to it. By 1841 it was being applied to the head of a group of labourers or what we might term the foreman, again showing that it was being used as a mark of respect or at least an acknowledgement of rank or position. Our noun appears in the English translation of Honore Balzac’s Two Poets, the original published in 1837, with the sense that the gaffer is the boss or leader of a group; “He had dragged the chain these fifty years, he would not wear it another hour, tomorrow his son should be the gaffer.” And it has kept that sense to this day.

If you stay long enough in a cinema and have eyesight sharp enough to make sense of the credits – I fail to qualify on either count – you will see that someone occupied the position of gaffer. The gaffer in the film industry is the head electrician and their responsibilities include the execution and, occasionally, design of the lighting plan for a film. The pre-eminence of the position amongst the techies may have earned it the title of gaffer, adopting the sense of the noun as it has developed over the centuries. However, it may also have a different origin, reflecting the fact that overhead equipment was moved in the early days using a gaff, a handle or pole with a hook on the end. I think this is probably where it came from in this particular context.

The term gaffer as a term in the movie business first appeared in print in 1929 in Mary Eunice Macarthy’s The Hands of Hollywood, seven years earlier than the first citation attested in the Oxford English Dictionary. The gaffer’s assistant is known as the best boy, irrespective of sex.

And just to finish off our consideration of the term gaffer, the Irish, to illustrate their contrariness, use it to describe a youngster, usually male, while in glass blowing circles, the gaffer is the master blower, responsible for shaping the glass.

Sporting Event Of The Week (8)

Ordinarily it would take the longest stretch of the wildest imagination to describe last Saturday’s Evo-Stick North Premier league fixture between Halesowen Town and Shaw Lane AFC as such, notwithstanding the visitor’s recent FA Cup exploits. It was a typically dour 0-0 draw with the visitors starting off stronger but the Yeltz clawing their way back into the game and, perhaps, being unlucky not to snatch a win.

For me it was a landmark game – it was the first time I had taken my eldest grandson, BoJ1, to a football match. It was going to be Shrewsbury versus Charlton but international call ups, primarily but not exclusively from Charlton, put paid to that. If he gets half the enjoyment I have had from watching football at all levels, I will have done him a favour!