There is no rest in the street…

Autumn always make me think of T S Eliot.

There is no rest in the house. There is no rest in the street. I hear the restless movement of feet. And the air is heavy and thick. Thick and heavy the sky. And the earth presses up against my feet…

Here I am deep in the copper, rich reds, golds and fading greens of an English rural autumn with its misted mornings and purple brooding skies playing christmas music and drawing christmas sketches and browsing ebay, pinterest et al. for inspiration and items for the craft room at the Christmas Fayre contemplating the various stages of turning a sock into a snow person. How on earth do you make it all for a small profit? Even sourcing craft items eats the PTA budget. I wonder how many school fayres and fetes would turn a profit without the generous donations of the parents who not only donate their time and expertise but also quite often the raw materials? But I’m glad we’re having a home produce stall this year, I love trying other peoples chutneys!

It has also been the Rugby World Cup 2015 championship. Christmas and Rugby in October is quite a strange combination. I may have been marred by the experience. I am dimly aware of events in the Middle East and in particular Syria, attempting to inflame my inner moral compass but stoically resist as I contemplate how it must feel to flee my country, un-prepared and in fear, not just for myself but my family, the vulnerable. Would I really be prepared to accept the traditions and culture of the country that offers me sanctuary, almost certainly in the immediate aftermath but in the long-term? Is re-settlement a long-term solution… In the same way that I struggle to be at ease in hot countries where women are suppressed and treated as second-class citizens, can those used to such a culture deal with our climate, our ways and fully integrate towards a harmonious community?

Despite all our technology and knowledge we haven’t yet solved hunger and poverty but there, I’ve digressed. Plenty of questions, not enough answers yet.

If you’re feeling open to reading something on poverty and inequality, can I recommend this; a speech by Sir Michael Marmot ending with the Pablo Neruda quote “rise up with me… against the organisation of misery” Sir Michael Marmot

But what about you? What have you been doing this autumn? Have you escaped Rugby fever or embraced it? The more ‘live’ matches I go to the more ‘sport speak’ I pick up. This year it’s all about how the Northern hemisphere game isn’t up to the Southern hemisphere game. I’m neither an expert, a rugby player or a particularly avid sports fan but it seems to me the northern hemisphere teams get penalised for things the southern hemisphere teams are adept at not getting penalised quite so much for.  ‘Playing the Ref.’ a term which saddens me because it’s why I can’t watch football anymore and which refers to a most un-sporting box of tricks that I’m told everybody does at some point – is a term I wish I hadn’t come across. I saw South Africa play a match in Cardiff some years back and was amazed to see them punching and kicking as they tackled, mauled and rucked, largely without reprimand. The males around me shrugged it off as part of the ‘intense physicality of the southern hemisphere game’. References were made to the tribal idea of nationality and pride and battles won and lost on the sports ground rather than the battlefield. I’m not so sure about that, look around you guys! I thought that I wouldn’t be very proud to win a game on that basis rather than on my skill at dodging, passing and kicking the ball, which South Africa also do very well, they were beautifully choreographed as a team and to be fair, it was just a few that I saw being so ‘physical’. I know, it’s a contact sport but really should it be acceptable? It has been great to see how Rugby has striven to make this very physical game safer for players and more consistent in terms of the technology it employs to monitor the games but ‘playing the ref.’ is too reminiscent of the bone crunching, gore spattered rugby of the seventies which I grew up with and was appalled by. As the players get bigger and teams like Japan come bounding into the rugby spotlight I suppose I’m fairly confident this will be addressed.

After Scotlands defeat by Australia on Sunday I was informed that Rugby is largely a sport for the privately educated according to a Daily Mail article (which I couldn’t access as my spam filter wont let me do Daily Mail links – who said technology isn’t humanised;0)) That’s not my personal experience but it doesn’t change the fact I wouldn’t take my daughter to a football match but we’ve safely attended several rugby ones. Would I let my daughter go to a party at the Rugby Club? Possibly not, as the inherent machismo of “tell her no means yes” is not yet eradicated from male dominated sport but maybe in my lifetime it will be. I feel the restless movement of feet….

Murder in The Cathedral by T S Eliot


Wimbledon 2013

Mr B. and miniartsmonkey are members of a local Tennis Club and play there in the open air every week in term time; light rain, pre-snow, winter gloom or sunny shine. This is all due to an inspirational coach at the club – Mihaly Burkhur, who has nutured a love of the game and a committment to the team spirit. Miniartsmonkey has been patiently coached with her school friends to the point where she can actually get the ball over the net, knows the rules of the game and can play a match. She has few aspirations to fame as a tennis star but is starting to get the sporting attitude and has learnt about fairness, good grace in defeat and all about being a team player as well as deveolping her own skills. As Lawn Tennis Association members their names go in a hat for a draw for tickets for Wimbledon. Last year they were given someones tickets who couldn’t go and loved their day out, this year Mr B’s name was first out the hat so he got first dibs on tickets for the mens singles. You can imagine the building excitement as Andy Murray ploughed his way through to the finals.

And so a glimpse of their amazing experience in pictures (in no particular order) taken by them both today. Although they didn’t need to tell me Murray had won.  The Eldest and I had taken the dog to the beach, and were sat near the boat park slipway watching the tide start to flow back across Christchurch harbour when an almighty cheer skipped across the water from the mainland to be followed by echoing cheers all around the Quay. Well done Murray!

Reflecting on the Relay #day54

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Yesterday the torch came through our part of the UK. My youngest daughters school had been part of an arts project gearing up for the event, and in fact Sports Day had been planned to be held in the afternoon. Not suprisingly, this was cancelled due to the rain but many of us who weren’t  going to a larger evening celebration held in the City turned up to wave banners and cheer the torch on. But if you read my initial response from yesterday you’ll see it left me feeling disappointed. The children had a good time, waving and cheering but by the time the Torch itself came past, they had waved and cheered at so many lorries, coaches, cars, police bikes and buses (all part of the torch entourage) that it simply proved they’d wave and cheer at anything and invariably had been.

It was messy but the preparation wasn’t; the cleaning of the route, the security, the management of traffic, parking, access – we have never seen (and probably will never see again) so many Wiltshire Council vans around our part of South Wiltshire and they did a great job. I had visited the London2012 website and looked at the stories of the torch bearers with my youngest, it didn’t translate to the relay itself. Branding has finally overshadowed the act of ‘sport’ in every way it can.

I was, for once, grateful to ‘macdonalds’, as they weren’t evident, although I had been conjuring images of obese people in tracksuits handing out free burgers prior to the Torch’s arrival. There were lots of people passing by on the coaches/buses/lorries behind shaded windows and I couldn’t tell you who they were, only that any sense of ‘sport’ or athleticism was swamped. One or two people took the trouble to say hi to the crowds as they passed, but who knows who they were. Perhaps, if all the torch relay participants had their kit emblazoned with a one or two word description of who they were COACH, TEACHER, MUM, OLYMPIC ATHLETE, CANCER SURVIVOR, WEIGHT LIFTER, LOCAL MAN, RUNNER, MINOR CELEB, CLEANER, ACTOR, CHEF, YOUTH MENTOR, etc., maybe that would have conveyed a taste of the stories of personal challenge and participation or at least, have encouraged people to go away and find out.

Afterwards I talked to a lady who had seen the torch relay in 1948 who was quite bemused by all the fuss today, compared to the simplicity of the relay back then, (just after the second world war in another decade of austerity) which evoked ‘wild rejoicing’ by the crowds. She had been waiting by some pupils from torchbearer and Deputy Head, Neil Mawdsley’s school and by the grandmother of profoundly deaf torchbearer Caroline Hurley, who had flown over from South Africa to see her grand-daughter run with the torch. This lady was confused by the way the torch had been overshadowed by the entourage and the fact that it cost £199 for torchbearers to buy their own torch. She was sad that the pride and values of Olympic spirit had been subsumed by both commercialism and what someone else had referred to as ‘over organisation resulting in spits and spots’. I wondered if our part of the route was not typical and whether other parts of the relay had been better ‘presented’ and come across in a more visually inspirational way.

I was reminded of Eddie Izzards remarkable run around the UK as part of Sports Relief and how it caught the imagination and hearts of people whose towns, cities and villages he ran through, how inspirational it was to those who met or saw him and I reflect on that today as I think back on yesterday and am left flattened by yesterdays experience. It just goes to show, good stage management requires good stage managers and no matter how much money you throw at something, you can’t make a sows purse out of a pig’s ear. Let’s hope in future years someone finds a way to rescue Sport as a whole from greedy, commercial interest and brings it back to the core of ‘sporting values’ whatever they are, for I fear that on a  ‘national scale’ they have been lost – team, challenge, committment, endeavour, honour, physical prowess and mental integrity?

#TorchRelay 2012

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For me the stars of the show were Carnival Arts and the Police. Well done Alex Grant for coming up with a simple and accessible idea for children in schools – to create beautiful silk banners to wave and cheer with – they looked stunning and the children were all very proud of their work. I have seen children from several schools waving their hand-made banners today whilst out and about today. And well done the Police and the MET for really conveying the Olympic spirit by producing a real spectacle, smartly turned out, waving and grinning to all the excited children – giving them a sight to remember. I was hoping for something more inspiring (torch included) than the baggy white track suits, and dowdy brown outfits worn by accompanying out-runners (all three of them). A bit disappointing. There was no space for highlighting the stories behind the chosen runners in the actual relay, or the achievements (if there were any) of the trickle of random people inside the coaches or loping alongside of them. It probably looked more exciting on the television.  Without doubt, the torch relay must have been a nightmare both to organise and execute, and I’m grateful our children got to see it but I’m not sure however if the most prominent message given out from the Olympic torch relay was one we should be giving out. The spirit of the Olympic Games: athleticism, challenge, endeavour and sportsmanship were overshadowed by big brightly branded lorries/coaches/buses. Handing out free bottles of coke to children, certainly didn’t win me over.  Still at least the Police might see a higher rate of new recruits after this, I nearly joined up myself (nice bikes!). Real life should be a better experience than television but in the case of the Olympics I think it’s all been choreographed to look good on the TV soundbites. Or maybe they were all a bit tired by the time they got to us at 6pm today.