DISAPPOINTMENT and no little bafflement might have accompanied the letters which advised an elite group of Cumbrian unsung heroes of their selection to carry the flame on its grand tour prior to the Olympic Games in London later this year.
I always thought the idea was that the torch bearers would be local sporting heroes and people who had given much of themselves to benefit their local communities. Local being the operative word. It seems bizarre that someone from Penrith should have to travel to North Yorkshire and torch bearers nominated in Keswick should be part of Workington’s celebration while participants in their own town are drawn from Edinburgh, Warrington and Loughborough.
No doubt each and every one of them is a worthy person to carry the flame. But I bet their friends and relatives would have preferred to witness their moment of glory on home soil.
The selection process was done by a neutral panel. One can only think that some of its members are geographically confused. Otherwise it appears that the positioning of successful nominees was a random process.
I’m sure Cumbrians will turn out in force to witness the historic moment when they see the Olympic torch, but where are our county’s sporting legends? We’ll cheer whoever carries the torch, yet I can’t help feeling that this week’s announcement, one we had awaited with bated breath, fell a bit flat.
London mayor Boris Johnson may think the official tracksuits to be worn by torch bearers are “elegant” but my first impression was of something the village cricket team’s second XI had chucked away.
And another disappointment. Eighty per cent. of the journey across Britain will be in a security van with each of the 8,000 bearers doing just 300 metres.
Less than athletic-looking comedian Eddie Izzard ran 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief, so surely we’ve got enough athletes to get the torch round the country on foot, by boat, on horseback or whatever without hopping in and out of support vehicles every time the parade reaches a new town.
WHERE QUALITY COUNTS
WHAT a good investment on the part of the woman who produced a copper charger for valuation during Sunday’s Antiques Roadshow on BBC1.
She paid just 22 quid for it without noticing the stamp on the back proclaiming the letters KSIA — Keswick School of Industrial Art. Her item didn’t quite make the profit shown by the woman with the unprepossessing floral paper weight which turned out to be worth £22,000.
But the Keswick plate still showed a handsome profit with the program’s expert putting its current value at between £800 and £1,200.
Sunday night wouldn’t be Sunday night without the Antiques Roadshow and the patient queues of people bearing their treasures in the hope that one of the experts will identify their picture or that bit of old tat from the attic as rare and valuable.
I remember writing a feature about life behind the scenes of the Roadshow some years ago when it came to the Lake District. The production team and experts were every bit as jolly and helpful off screen as they are on it. Mind that was before the then presenter, Hugh Scully, had been given a parking ticket in Keswick!
Although it is 28 years since Keswick’s School of Industrial Art closed, no longer able to stave off the challenge of cheaper overseas imports, the quality of its craftsmanship means that any items that come on to the market fetch a decent price.
Nowadays you are more likely to get a plate of pasta than a copper charger when you visit the school building. It’s an Italian restaurant, although the proprietors have, to their credit, kept the traditional style of the building.
The school was founded by Canon H. D. Rawnsley and his wife, Edith, initially as an evening class in Crosthwaite parish room. Rawnsley was a friend of John Ruskin whose writing and art laid the foundation of the Arts and Crafts movement.
What would the Rawnsleys have made of today’s hi-tech world and all its urgency compared to the painstaking work of those early local craftsmen? It was, he maintained, an expression of man’s soul and self.
Indeed one of the aims of the school of art was to “counteract the pernicious efforts of turning men into machines without the possibility of love for their work”. They didn’t have call centres in Rawnsley’s day.
Rawnsley described the atmosphere as “a sight that does one’s heart good”. The workers, he said, were “so intent, so critical, so cheery”.
I remember reporting the dark day in December, 1984, when the school of art closed despite an exhibition and final appeal which sadly could not prevent the inevitable. But it’s good to know that there will always be a place for Keswick quality, even on the Antiques Roadshow.
ZIP COULD GOOSE THEM
“WHO you gonna call ...?” Certainly not Ghostbusters when it comes to dealing with pesky geese.
The proposed cull of 200 Canadian geese at Windermere landed the Lake District with just the sort of publicity it didn’t want in these austere times. Demonstrations, petitions and even threats of a boycott of the county by animal rights campaigners.
The extraordinary thing about life these days is that some folk seem far more bothered about knocking off a few messy geese than they are about what’s happening in Afghanistan and Syria.
Be that as it may, I have the answer. Send for Dan Laxton and his Border collie Zip. In just 2 minutes and 22 seconds of YouTube the dynamic duo demonstrate exactly how you get rid of hundreds of troublesome Canadian geese — and no animals or humans are hurt in the making of this film.
Mr. Laxton and Zip are in great demand in Westminster, Carroll County, where they have dissuaded vast numbers of geese with unpleasant personal habits from landing on local ponds and lakes.
I’ve seen hundreds of these geese flying in to roost on the shores of Derwentwater. It’s quite a sight. But they are “vocal” creatures with extremely functional bowels and they do leave an unsightly mess behind when they fly off next morning. I presume this is one of the reasons why the Windermere geese management group is so exercised about moving them on, dead or alive as the old western posters used to say.
It’s easy, the way Dan and Zip go about it. Zip has the markings of a fox which terrifies the geese into taking to the water. Whereupon Dan unleashes his secret weapon — an electric boat. A few brushes with Dan’s boat and they soon clear off for pastures new. It “freaks ‘em out,” says Mr. Laxton. “They hate Zip and that boat.”
At least Dan’s geese are a native species, which is more than you can say for ours, for all the “Give Geese A Chance” chanting of the animal rights crowd. Canadian geese were introduced in 1665 as an addition to the waterfowl collection of Charles II. A right Charlie as things have turned out. Talk about a king, they’ve even got a Queen, guitarist Brian May, supporting the protest movement.
Animal Aid urging 20,000 members to boycott the Lakes. Thousands of names on a petition. Yet, all it takes is one man and his dog. Simples!
MIND YOUR LANGUAGE
IF you should spot a stranger sidling up close to the manager’s dugout at Frenchfield next season then there’s only one piece of advice I can offer — “mind your language”.
Penrith, and other Northern League teams, will be in range of a “mystery shopper” with a difference. This shopper will be listening out for the colourful language which seems to have become some sort of macho necessity at football matches these days.
There’s going to be a league table of bad language — a sort of saints and sinners job. Applicants are being sought for the voluntary posts of swear box inspectors. They will be expected to attend games regularly and report in on some of the less pleasant invective they hear.
From what I’ve been hearing this season stood by the dug outs, they are going to need ear plugs and a stout constitution that is not easily offended.