And there it was, gone. BBC Radio 5 Love quietly dropped its reading of the classified football results last Saturday as part of the station’s shakeup to accommodate its broadcasting of a Premier League game each week that kicks off at 5.30 between two teams of overpaid footballers that no one is particularly bothered about other than those in that particular stadium.
When football was football, all matches kicked off at 3pm on a Saturday and listening to the signature tune for Sports Report and the reading of the football results was a ritual, providing fans with a comprehensive survey of what had gone in all the leagues no matter how lofty or lowly in status. There would be a groan when the news that a certain result was not yet in, suggestive of some late drama or the phone lines from one of the darker reaches of the country had gone down. Fans would rush to their cars to be certain to catch the dulcet tones of James Alexander Gordon or congregate in reverent silence around a chap in an anorak on the station platform who would obligingly turn his transistor radio up for the reading.
Of course, the primary purpose of the service which started in the 1950s was to let punters check their football coupons – remember those? – and the ubiquity of smartphones and apps means that anyone anywhere can get up to the minute scores of any match anywhere, but there seemed to be an air of authority and inevitability about a result announced on the Beeb. Hearing them required concentration and they seemed to stick in the memory. There was a curious sort of kudos to be earned in the evening when you were able to answer the inevitable query about the fortunes of Cowdenbeath that day.
Following on from the closure of the last of the Saturday evening sports papers, the ending of the classified football results is another moment when leagues outside of the Premier are starved of the oxygen of publicity. It is an own goal of gigantic proportions from an organization that purports to be a public service and needs to be shown the red card.
England’s women might have won the Euro championships, but Scotland has just crowned its first national tree-hugging champion. The Inaugural Scottish Hugging Championship was held on July 22nd at Ardtornish as part of the Morvern Games and Gala Week. Organised by Darach Social Croft and An Darach Forest Therapy, the competition attracted twenty-four competitors, double the number the organisers had anticipated.
There were three events on the programme; speed hugging, where competitors had to hug as many trees in a specified area in a minute, with each hug lasting a minimum of five seconds, dedication, where participants had to hug a tree for up to a minute in a way that showed presence, intention, love, and respect, and freestyle, where entrants were required to demonstrate the most inventive way to hug a tree, again for no more than a minute.
The winner was Alasdair Firth, who was dressed appropriately in a leaf-covered camouflage suit and lives in a woodland croft in Rhemore on the Morvern peninsula.
The event was held in association with the World Tree Hugging Championships held annually in the HaliPuu Forest in Levi, in Finland. This year’s championship will be held on August 20th and is one I shall follow closely.
In a sport famed for its use of the term “love” in its scoring system, for excessive grunting on the courts, and a former champion lost all after a quick bunk up in a cupboard in a London restaurant, it is perhaps not surprising that officials at the All-England Championships aka Wimbledon found they were courting trouble when they opened a new facility in the Southern Village. Described as a space designated for “retreating for a moment of peaceful meditation, prayer, or introspection”, the series of quiet rooms each have two armchairs, a foldaway table, and changing facilities.
Sadly, instead of contemplating their own navels, some users have been gazing on their partners, or worse. Reports emerged during the tournament of “sheepish looking couples” emerging from the facilities, while others were reported to have left with big grins on their faces.
Next year, perhaps they should make life easier and include a bed. At least there were no calls for new balls.
Last Sunday heralded a welcome return of the UK Wife Carrying Championships to The Nower, a nature reserve just outside the Surrey town of Dorking. Run over a course 380 metres in length and with obstacles to overcome such as hay bails and water hazards, the winners have the honour of representing the UK in the World Wife Carrying Championships which will be held in Finland in July. On top of that they receive a barrel of local ale and £250 towards their travel expenses. The competitors finishing in last place did not go home empty handed, receiving a pot noodle and some dog food. All competitors get a medal and a mini-cask of Pilgrim Ale.
Established in 2008, the competition’s rules are strict. The carrier can be either male or female and they do not need to be married to the person they are carrying who must have given their consent, be aged over 17, and weigh over 49kgs. Competitors who tip the scales under the minimum weight requirement have to carry a rucksack filled with cans of baked beans and other objects to get them up to the required weight.
There is no particular technique demanded but the most recognized carrying styles are the piggyback which is popular, but slow, the shoulder-ride precarious, possibly high-risk, but could be quite fast, the ‘Fireman’s Carry’ – where the ‘wife’ is carried across or over the shoulders – uncomfortable for both carrier and ‘wife’, and the fastest position, the Estonian carry – where the ‘wife’ hangs upside-down on the carrier’s back, with their legs over the carrier’s shoulders and the wife’s head in the ‘danger zone,’ next to the carrier’s bum. Possibly the least fast – but the funniest – is the reverse Estonian, or Dorking Hold, pioneered in Dorking in 2013, which is a kind of Wife Carrying ’69’ position. This will guarantee you fame – and infamy.
This year’s winners were 35-year-old Alex Bone carrying Millie Burnham. Best of luck to the couple in Finland in July.
This Shrove Tuesday saw the welcome return of an event that has stood the course of time since 1455, the Olney Pancake Race. Open to female residents of the Northamptonshire town, numbers restricted to a maximum of 25, and wearing headscarves, aprons, and t-shirt, and carrying a frying pan, the race is run over 415 yards. Competitors have to toss their pancake at the start and the end of the race.
It is said that the event’s origin lies with a local Olney woman who ran out of her house, dressed in apron and scarf, tossing a pancake in a pan to stop it from burning as she had heard the church bell toll alerting the faithful to the imminent start of a service. This year’s winner was Katie Godof, the third time she has triumphed, with a time of 1 minute 10.83 seconds.
Since 1950, there has been an international aspect to the race, with competitors from Liberal in Kansas joining in the fun. The ladies from Liberal hold the pan handle in this competition, winning 36 times to the Olney ladies’ 26. Curiously, the 1980 contest was declared null and void as a news van had inconsiderately a new van had blocked the finishing line. True to form, Whitney Hay from Liberal finished first with a time of one minute 7.54 seconds.