Sunday, 23 November 2008

Stick People

One of the real joys of living in Cornwall is the variety and individuality of the scenery. I get out once a week, usually on a Sunday or Monday, to tramp over the countryside and admire the wonderful surroundings. Be it coastline, moorland or the truly atmospheric Cornish antiquities, on goes my walking stuff.

I love my walking boots. A bit odd, you say, but you haven't tried them on. They're a good ten years old, and like butter. I've caked them with dubbin and I'm always amazed at the amount they can swallow up. In a sale a few years ago I bought a second pair, thinking that eventually the old faithfuls would drop to bits, but they are still very much a going concern.

I tend to wear army surplus stuff when walking. There are loads of pockets for all the necessaries, and this stuff is tough. Hacking through brambles on Predannack Down may not be your ideal cup of tea but it would be a jolly sight worse in Marks slacks, let me tell you.

My car is filled with essential equipment. A change of clothes in case it chucks it down.
A map is good, as well as food, a small pack, a camera and a book. The last doubles as my toolkit - if I break down, I can read it until the RAC arrives.

Walking isn't a solitary pursuit at all. You meet other, like-minded explorers and people are at pains to say hello and have a chat. Often they are middle-aged, but walking is great exercise and many of them are very fit. Some are knowledgeable about the locality, some have friendly dogs you can make a fuss of. Some know the direction of where you want to go, which is always helpful when the map's wrong (this happens quite a lot). The old campaigners are easy to identify because they have battered but suitable clothing and equipment.

But will someone please explain to me the current fad for walking with the aid of sticks.

We see this particularly among smartly-dressed walkers, couples with new cagouls in bright and (emetically) sometimes matching colours. In addition to their new boots and packs they carry telescopic, carbon-fibre walking sticks, sometimes just one, often two. To some, apparently, such equipment is now considered an indespensible aid to motion.

Why do the stick people have to push off (as it were) on every stride? They could just walk. The terrain is sometimes perfectly flat, and is never likely to reach the severity of the Matterhorn. It's hard to believe they would be unable to totter along without such support. Or is the object to go faster, in which case heaven help us.

No. What we're saying is, even in the simple world of walking about, the uncontrollable necessity has arisen - having been carefully nurtured - to accessorise. Megacorp is snaring even this uncomplicated activity in its loathsome grasp. What further ludicrous embellishments can we expect?

Message: don't be a victim, don't buy stupid sticks! They aren't cool, they do not help you walk, you have already learned how to do that some time ago.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Shouting Out from The Touchline

Tomorrow I'm going to watch a rugby match. The giants of Redruth are taking on the leviathans of Leeds, so at least they'll all be the same size. Just bigger than the people in the crowd. Rugby is a wonderful game - thirty men determined to win at all costs. Why not give them a ball each, you might ask, this would save them fighting over just the one. You obviously don't know very much about rugby!

I love it. My dad introduced my to the game, he supported Penzance so of course I had to choose a different side, and lucky old Redruth got my vote. At the time I wasn't quite sure where Redruth was (I was seven) but I followed them as best I could through the local paper. I can't remember the two sides ever meeting; Redruth were ineffably superior and played in a much higher league, as I recall.

Years passed, but I always kept an eye on Redruth, even when I lived far away from Cornwall. And now I'm back. The ground is as I remembered it (though smaller) and the same faces - or types of face - populate the crowd. Big men - and women - with veins and funny teeth, shouting instructions to the players, following every move, sometimes mildly at odds with the referee. Huge coats, woolly hats, water-proof leggings, big boots, to ward off cold and rain. Cups of soup, pasties, and thousands of empty plastic pint glasses crunching underfoot.

But who would want to stand
on a bank of mud in all weathers, urging mad, violent people to get hold of a bit of pumped-up plastic and run about with it? Well, I would. The thing is with rugby, not only is the game actually absorbing, graceful and satisfying, but going to a match is about more than just what happens on the pitch.

You can stand intermixed with supporters of the opposing team, and not get your head kicked off. Just a bit of friendly banter, and if your lot score, they will clap. Imagine that happening at a 'kiss-ball' match. Rugby supporters are well-behaved; they take a pride in their conduct, perhaps having in mind the contrapuntal antics of those who favour the other-shaped ball.

You can buy a nice hat with Redruth RFC embroidered on it. You can go in the club house and admire the trophies, caps, photos and other memorabilia of past glories. Fancy a sausage roll? They really are OK. You can have a beer before the game, or during it, or afterwards, or all three. It's not dear to get in and the atmosphere is terrific, with the crowd roaring and the Bassett monument lowering over Hellfire Corner.

I have even kicked a penalty there. Exploring the town one weekday, I fetched up at the club's main gate and as it was open I went in. I was walking round the empty ground enjoying happy memories when I found a ball under the stand. I took it onto the pitch, lined it up for a penalty kick and biff - between the posts it went! Sadly though, my achievement was witnessed only by an itinerant dog.

So off we'll go tomorrow, my and my mate Dennis. It's really great fun, particularly so as Redruth are having an exceptional run at the mo. So put your team jersey on, take some money for 'refreshments', and get there nice and early for a good view. You'll love it!

Monday, 3 November 2008

Tap Tap

My flat is cold and damp. Being a student, I am loath to heat it so I'm sat here wearing two coats, a big jumper, football socks (where on earth did they come from?) and a woolly hat. And other clothes, obviously. Why am I obliged to spend so much time in this inhospitable environment? Well, thriftiness plays a part. But how is it that I'm not thawing out at a rich person's house, or in a nice warm pub?

I am nailed to my keyboard. Naturally the MA is to blame.

I seem to take a long time to complete my course assignments. I pick them over before offering them up to my peers for review. I type and retype them. I also like to type my lecture notes out so that I can refer back to them and understand them. I like doing this blog - more keyboard. I'm currently sketching out my project for the summer - more keys again. I also like to visit other blogs. Tap tap.

I should be a natural touch-typist as a result of these labours. I am probably much faster than PC Plod writing up his report on the station typwritr (plink ..... plink......), you'd think with all this practice 500 wpm would be easily achievable. But no. Despite incessant repetition the skill eludes me.

Tomorrow I will once again feel the full force of more assignments, and the tap tap will continue. I've decided the MA should be awarded with a complementary RSA 1 in typing. Two new things to put on your CV for the price of one.

I will make enquiries.


At the moment my band is blessed with the services of Helen, a most accomplished fiddle player. But Helen's on her way, she has long had an ambition to sail round the world and she'll be making a start on her plans in the new year. We will be sorry to lose her, but we know she is doing the right thing. So we're faced with the task of replacing her.

This isn't going to be easy. Helen has a quality of playing that makes you, as a performer alongside her, feel comfortable no matter what the size of audience. This year we played Glastonbury and actually it was a piece of piss, due in no small amount to the strength of the fiddle. That and the fact that we're pretty well drilled, peddling our act once or twice a week, every week. Large or small stages, over the years Helen has strutted her stuff and the engine sat alongside her rarely misses a beat. We are close, and we rely on one another to come across well.

One thing's for sure, the incoming person will have to be a strong and confident character. Yes, of course they have to be able to play, but a large part of being in a small tight group of people is the ability to be a good fit, to get on with those around you. I'd trade that quality plus competence any day for a virtuoso tosser.
So step up Mr / Ms X fiddle.

We have a couple of candidates at the moment, and will be checking them out over the next couple of weeks. Exciting times. It should knock us nicely out of our comfort zone.