Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Tuesday 31st October 2017

FOR someone who has enjoyed writing about and participating in sport throughout my adult life, here’s an admission. At school I hated it.

I could have been a top class rugby player but for two main factors — I could not see five yards ahead of me without my specs and I was inherently a coward. Mind you, there were mitigating circumstances for the latter because they used to invariably stick me at full back with orders to catch high dropping balls and tackle the big lad when he broke clear. I could see neither until it was far too late to get out of the way.

Once I thought I’d cracked it when a ball wobbled out of the side of scrum and none of the other players seemed to notice. I gathered it and sprinted 50 yards to touch down, only to discover I was on the adjacent pitch. Dodgy eyesight again. And they all laughed, which heaped further humiliation upon me.

There’s been a lot of discussion of late about safety in sport. Some influential health professionals and others would like to see a ban on tackling in rugby and heading in football, certainly in the more formative years.

It would be foolish to ignore their arguments. But at the same time life is about balancing risk in certain areas, including sport, especially at time when one in three children in Britain leaves primary school overweight or obese. Research suggests 85 per cent. go on to become obese adults, with the extra pressure that puts on NHS resources.

Not a good story in parts of Cumbria, where we have the worst figures for childhood obesity in the country, according to figures published last week by NHS Digital. Barrow, Carlisle and Allerdale are all in the first four in national results for state schools.

Former England World Cup-winning rugby player Lawrence Dallaglio now works with a charity involving teenagers who have fallen out of mainstream education. He is also part of a campaign to have more artificial grass sports pitches built in communities across the country.

Dallaglio readily admits sport helped put his life on track after a family tragedy, dropping out of school and making “poor life choices”. He said: “I could easily have ended up down a different path to where I am today. Rugby gave me an outlet to focus my energy and taught me to channel my emotions.”

We’re seeing so many of our community institutions disappearing. Banks, pubs, libraries, shops and schools closing. Each loss, in its way, a diminution of community contact. Soon everything will be ordered on-line and there will be no opportunity for direct human contact.

That’s where sports clubs have filled gaps. They are increasingly the hub of communities. Where I live there are several thriving clubs providing activities for young people, run by ex-players, parents and volunteers. Dallaglio says these clubs promote values of discipline, team work and respect. But they need places to play, and too often overuse puts grass pitches out of action in the winter.

Rugby used to be very much a roughty-tufty man’s game, but in recent times the women’s game has developed exponentially while many local clubs are putting on Sunday morning sessions for kids of all ages.

It’s counterproductive if youngsters are at risk of injuries with long-term ramifications, but I suspect there’s never been greater awareness among adult coaches of their duty of care. In most sports there will always be the odd black eye and nose bleed, but let’s not scare kids off when sport has such benefits. I can vouch for that despite my early sporting experiences which, thankfully, did not deter me in later years.

Kids these days need an outlet to get them away from their mobiles and tablets and somehow pass the bean bag just doesn’t hack it.


I HOPE you realise this week’s “Nobbut Laikin” has been written by a film star.

Yes, folks, I’ve made it at last. Sadly not as a matinee idol or the hero of a glamorous new TV series. And you won’t actually get to see my contribution to a new travel show — unless, that is, you are planning to take a November holiday in Japan or China.

Three of us, looking like bedraggled extras from Last of the Summer Wine, were filmed in the Keswick area last week by a Japanese crew. We marched relentlessly on from viewpoint to viewpoint, eulogising each in our own words, for a program which is part of a series focusing on various British holiday locations. Apparently they love their travel programs in Japan. Quite what they will make of three codgers — two of us over 70, one topping 80 — rambling at Friars Crag and Surprise View and picnicking at Ashness Bridge, I’ve no idea.

Actually it was a fascinating experience watching the technical skills and reshooting scenes until the director was satisfied. The film team had spent a week in the Lake District in the rain, but our filming day was lovely and the views looked ravishing.

They told us that most Japanese tourists think of Windermere as the beginning and end of their Lakeland holiday experience. This was an opportunity to show them just what a priceless gem we have in the north Lakes.

What their TV audience will make of our version of Three Go Rambling I can only surmise. One group of tourists asked us “are you famous?” Well, yes, in our own minds perhaps. Foggy, Compo and Clegg never had it this good.


IF there’s one thing that gets my dander up it’s the use of the term “bed blockers.”

It is trotted out ad infinitum by politicians, senior NHS bosses and, yes, even many of my colleagues in the newspapers and on television news programs.

It’s so thoughtless. Nobody actually wants to be stay in hospital any longer than they have to. The implication of bed blocking is that patients, generally of the older generation, are obstinately sitting in hospital beds refusing to shift out of sheer bloody-mindedness.

It’s insulting, and one suspects it’s a convenient way of subtly moving the blame for the NHS’s problems on to unfortunate patients. In reality it’s those patients who are being blocked by failures in social service provision and a lack of joined up thinking.

Is it the fault of people of my generation that politicians, who never look very far ahead, have failed to prepare for an increasingly ageing population?

The number of elderly stuck in hospital has gone up by 80 per cent. since 2011. Hospitals cannot discharge patients because care has not been set up for them at home.

The correct term is “delayed discharge”. Recent research revealed it was responsible for up to 8,000 deaths a year. We live in an age where we have to watch our tongues and avoid referring to ethnic and gender groups insensitively. Why, then, are older people fair game to be treated as no better than the unwanted, unloved flotsam of society with terms like “bed blockers?”


I ONCE devoted a whole weekend to boning up on The Archers in preparation for an interview with one of the stars of the ageless radio program.

Sara Coward, who sadly died a year ago, played the oft-doomed-in-love Caroline Sterling and acted in a couple of summer seasons at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake. She was quite impressed by my knowledge of The Archers. Little did she guess it was the result of 48 frantic hours of study.

In the end I became quite fascinated by the goings on in the rural village of Ambridge and, for a few months, became a regular listener. And now there’s a Methodist minister who has spoken on Radio 4’s Sunday morning program about how listening to The Archers has been helping him get to grips with his new rural patch.

Indeed he believes there is much religious symbolism in the program and the realisation that so many families are connected helped him to avoid putting his foot in it when tempted to spread the local gossip.

As a junior reporter, it was my task to go through a pile of church magazines and see if they contained any potential stories we could follow up on. They were a rich source of local information.

Vicars wrote their monthly treatises about fund-raising projects and good deeds in the parish and wondered where all their congregations were hiding away. Now we know — they were at home getting their spiritual guidance from the folk at Brookfield Farm.