Headway 10k 2021

I love race day. I love 10ks. Sunday morning dawned cool, damp and still. I generally like to race in either my Jersey Spartan singlet or that of my Irish club Crusaders, but this is most often worn over another t-shirt. Today it would be just the Crusaders singlet.

Headway is the local branch of the head injury charity and the race is sponsored by Jacksons the car dealer. The race director is Bryce Alford and he’s put together a well organised race. We start on the cycle track at Les Quennevais and this has the effect of stringing the field out a little before we head out onto the main road towards the airport. I’m feeling ok though my quads are still feeling the effects of Thursday’s sand dunes even though I had a good run the day after. Still, it’s only a dull ache and nothing to worry about.

So down towards the airport, turning right past Strive, the new health and fitness centre most recently used by the British and Irish Lions during their training camp, past the rugby club, diving left past St Peter’s football club and across the main Route de Beaumont into the lanes by St George’s Prep. I’m running pretty well, keeping up a decent pace, feeling strong. At half way now and I glance at my watch – just under 26 minutes so on course for 52 with which I’d be pretty happy.

The field is, of course, well spread out by this time and the fast men up front will be approaching the finish. Out of the lanes, back across the main road, behind St Peter’s Village and we connect with the path around the airport perimeter. Always I have the runners ahead of me as targets and I’m never satisfied unless I can nibble away at the gap and perhaps pass them out. But what’s this – John Cunningham onto my shoulder? We exchange a few words. John’s a legend of local running having completed the Comrades Marathon (in fact it’s 89 kilometres) in South Africa on a number of occasions. However he’s no spring chicken and has a heart problem so he’s taking it easy. Still, I’m honoured to be alongside him in a race. Now into the last 2k and trying to latch onto John’s heels keeps me from fading, still pushing for a decent time.

And, into the last kilometre, ahead of John is Sue Le Ruez, another legend and a good friend of mine. I’ve never even come close to Sue in a race and here’s my chance. But no. I can’t find another gear and Sue, then John pass over the line but I’m amazed to be so close to both of them. My watch says 50.42, quicker than I’ve run for many a long year.

So, not fast by the standards of the ‘proper’ runners – the race was won by George Rice in 32.01 with Katelyn Ridgway first woman in 37.04. Still, 89th out of 175 finishers ain’t so shabby.

Cork’s Pandemic – 1956

News of the 2020/21 Covid-19 pandemic has been, from the outset, through the power and reach of the internet, widely publicised and commented upon. CLOSE THE BOARDERS (sic) bayed many in Jersey in the early months.

65 years ago there was an outbreak of the dreaded poliomyelitis in Cork in southern Ireland. Though news travelled less swiftly in those far off days, travel it did. And the panic was disproportionate in relation to the damage which, was, in the event, very well dealt with.

Ireland loves its sport, and Cork more than most. That year both Cork’s Gaelic football and hurling teams had reached their respective All-Ireland finals, to be played in Dublin. The women’s camogie (similar to hurling) team had likewise reached the All-Ireland semi-final, to be played against Mayo in Castlebar, the county town of Mayo in the north west of the country.

There was outcry in Dublin and Castlebar. The residents of those places were panicked and demanded that the games be cancelled so that the expected hordes of plague-carrying Cork supporters would not come. The governing body, the GAA, duly postponed the matches but eventually they all went ahead. Cork’s men lost both of their matches, the loss to Wexford at hurling proving to be the 10th and last All-Ireland final appearance of the great Christy Ring, eight of those appearance being on the winning side.

Christy Ring

The Mayo ladies refused to play the rearranged semi-final so Cork progressed to the final to face Antrim in Dublin. By all accounts the better team, Cork were beaten by a heroic goalkeeping display by 14-year-old Teresa Kearns.

In the event, the 1956 polio epidemic claimed just five deaths in Cork and 20 across the country. The disease has now been virtually eradicated around the world.

In the absence of a pic from 1956 here is Cork’s All-Ireland-winning camogie team from 1934.

Sunset Trophy 2021

I thought I’d reinvigorate this occasional blog by recording bits about my running – training, races etc. I’ll start off with a race report from yesterday evening.

One of Spartans’ long-established events is the Sunset Trophy. Originally, this was two circuits of the sand dunes which climb from sea level at Le Braye up to the high ground of Les Quennevais – the playing fields, the golf course and the Les Ormes resort. The course has has since been modified so that the climb takes place only the once (small mercies) and the runners are then decanted off the dunes and onto the playing fields, along the Railway Walk, down La Pulente Hill and back along the road to complete the circuit. Only 3.2 miles but still a bit of a challenge.

23 of us lined up at the car park, amongst them Paul Holley who we don’t see much of these days but who immediately became the pre-race favourite. The first objective as we set off though was to avoid breaking an ankle in one of the many rabbit holes. Then there’s the matter of choosing the best course up the dunes. The choices are many and, having made brave but wrong decisions previously, this time I dutifully followed the majority.

There is a reason that athletes and other sports players train on the sand dunes – it is a trial of strength as you slip back one step in three and fight for grip to maintain upward momentum. Still, I made the gate off the dunes with a few runners behind me and settled in for the two remaining flat/downhill miles.

Bernie Arthur is a class runner but he’s now 73 to my 68, and also struggling a little with injury. He came up onto my shoulder and threatened to pull away. OK, I was in a race. I like that. It brings out a bit of my competitive instinct and raises my game. I concentrated on keeping the gap manageable and with the last flat mile to go I was on Bernie’s shoulder again. I felt I had a bit left and thought I might test out his injury, see if he could respond. (Sorry Bernie.) I pressed on the gas a little, no response. And so I opened the gap and finished in 13th place out of 23 in a time of 28.14. Paul Holley had duly won in 19.22.

Is this normal?

I suddenly stopped what I was doing and thought, “Is this normal? Does anyone else do this?” I was grafting the last sliver of a bar of soap onto a new bar so as not to waste any. Like so.

Exhibit A

I’ve been doing it all my life, just the way I was shown by my mum. Now, as a working class family in Birmingham we weren’t rich but Mum and Dad worked hard to feed and clothe us and pay the rent. They were used to being thrifty, looking for bargains, cheap cuts of meat, squeezing the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube. But soap grafts? I’ve never known anyone else do it. Do you?

Hold on though, there was something else.

Exhibit B

This is a cricket jumper. When you are little your jumpers get too small don’t they? And your mum buys you a bigger one. Oh no, not my mum. As I grew she’d buy a ball or two of white wool and knit an extension. Then another, then a third. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to me to have differing shades of white on the bottom of my jumper with the original stripe (yellow/black in the above example) up around my chest somewhere. The sleeves must have got the same attention. I wondered by the other boys used to giggle.

Did I have the worst mum in the world or are these things quite normal?

Canada’s day of reckoning is here: we have the Truth, let’s get serious about the Reconciliation

A gut-wrenching post from Jane Fritz on the destruction by European settlers of the indigenous Canadians’ life and culture and the enduring effects.

Robby Robin's Journey

NationalIndigenousMonthIn my Map Monday post last week I committed to writing on issues relevant to National Indigenous History Month – June – on each Monday in June, so here we go.  There’s so much that wants to tumble out that I’ve found it difficult to know where to start.  I don’t want to write only about the angst and horrific injustices; there is so much Indigenous knowledge and wisdom to learn from, especially in our time of environmental crisis, and so many cultural and spiritual traditions to celebrate.  But Indigenous history in what is now called Canada has been filled with so much tragedy since shortly after the arrival of European colonizers that I think I have to start with the harsh realities.

Just as a reminder, the Americas had been occupied by Indigenous peoples and empires with a diversity of languages and cultures across two continents for at least…

View original post 1,752 more words

The King of Rome

This is a pleasing little story from the north Midlands of England. Not earth-shattering, and it probably would have remained in obscurity only for a folk singer/songwriter.

Pigeon fancying, pigeon racing got popular in England during the years of the Industrial Revolution. In the north in particular it became a hobby for some men, a release from their grim working lives down the mines or in the factories.

This story concerns such a man, Charlie Hudson, who lived in Brook Street, Derby. He bred pigeons and one day in 1913 he entered his prize bird for a 1,000 mile race from Rome back to the birds’ home lofts. Charlie knew that it was unlikely he’d see his bird again but he wanted to experience what freedom was like, vicariously, through his pigeon.

‘Yeah, I know, but I had to try
A man can crawl around or he can learn to fly
And if you live ’round here
The ground seems awful near
Sometimes I need a lift from victory’

As predicted, few pigeons made it back home. Charlie’s bird did. And today the King of Rome stands proudly in a glass case in Derby Museum.

Folk singer Dave Sudbury wrote some words about the King and composed a song. June Tabor and others covered it, most recently a powerful brass band-backed version by the Unthanks.

Long live the King of Rome.

Tradition in Action

There isn’t much call for thatchers here in Jersey. We have plenty of lovely, traditional granite buildings but of thatched roofs there are no more than a handful.

So when five thatchers from Devon arrived in the island a couple of weeks ago, everybody sat up and took notice. Here at Hamptonne we have three historic farm buildings, two of which have thatched roofs. It is 20 years or so since they were last attended to. It was only as they got to work with their bright, golden straw that it could be seen how overdue the work was.

It was a surprise when they initially just tidied up the existing thatch and prepared to lay the new over it. The second surprise was the thickness of the new thatch.

Scaffolding is up

The guys are a taciturn bunch. They don’t say much, but just get on with it, dawn till dusk, seven days a week though they finish a bit earlier on Sundays. We’ve had TV and radio up here filming and interviewing, reluctantly in the case of the boss thatcher. They just want to get on, finish the job and head home with a cheque in their back pocket.

One week later

Today they’re just about finishing off Hamptonne House, the former home of Laurens Hamptonne who was the first to acclaim Charles II as King when his father had his head chopped off. Shortly they’ll start on Langlois House assuming we can deal with swallow nests, bats and other impediments to work.

Finished and pictured in late afternoon

The Sound of Leather on Willow

“Baseball has the great advantage over cricket of being sooner ended.” GB Shaw.

A sure sign of Spring, men dressed in white, including several sweaters each against the Baltic temperatures, skipping or strolling out onto the cricket grounds of England. It’s the first day of the season and – at least in England – the professionals are plying their trade in front of empty seats.

Here in Jersey, where Covid restrictions are being lifted apace, the amateur leagues will soon be getting underway. The general standard of the game has come on in recent years both through a very good coaching programme and the regular exposure of the Jersey team to international tournaments. Yet the number of players overall has fallen away somewhat. Fewer social/bog standard players are willing to devote the best part of a Saturday or Sunday to the game.

Foliot Fields, home of Sheldon Marlborough CC

I was once one of those willing but limited participants. Years before I moved to Jersey I joined my local club in the Birmingham suburbs, Marlborough CC (they have now merged and play as Sheldon Marlborough CC), where I spent an enjoyable couple of years cricketing around the Midlands with David Genge, Stan Redding, John Green and others presumably long gone now* – this would have been around 1970. On leaving school I joined a rather posher club, Aston Manor CC who played (indeed they still do) in north Birmingham. There I scored my one and only century, 104 not out as we recovered from 29-2 to 231-2 dec. A couple of weeks later I was out for 96 but I assumed that the years ahead would bring many more centuries. If only I’d known. A few names from those days* – Tony Thane, Roy Cutler, Billy McDonough, Bob Lawrence, Malcolm Hayward, Peter Tucker, Barry Holbutt, Dennis Cottrell**, Arthur Hodgetts, Keith Forman, Brian Mason, Peter Bilton, Gil Secker, my schoolmates Phil Bragg and Colin Prentice [and, via the comment below, Dave Lowe, Bob Rogers, Iain Woods, John Dymock.] A good bunch of lads with whom I enjoyed playing on many of the Midlands’ most picturesque grounds and always with plenty of beer to follow, win or lose.

Farmers’ Field, Jersey

Moving to Jersey in 1977 I hooked up with St Ouen CC and played with them until about 2004. Along the way I played evening cricket with the legendary Jersey United Banks RFC who provided not only intra-match beers for ourselves but also for that evening’s opposition. By now, limited overs cricket was becoming the norm with little chance of settling down to play a long, steady knock. Instead of improving I regressed until one day, in the middle of a match, the penny dropped. I was no longer enjoying the game and I packed it in at the end of that season to concentrate on my work with Jersey Spartan Athletics.

Now I can’t even be bothered to turn my head and watch a match as I pass by, something which would have been unthinkable 34 years previously.

*= names may be added as I remember them 🙂

**= One afternoon Dennis was opening the bowling and I and another young player were fielding in the slips. In a short space of time, two or three edges had eluded us to Dennis’s loud frustration. After consulting with the skipper, two more experienced players were moved into the slips and us two were ordered, in disgrace, to the outfield where we could do less damage to our team’s prospects.

Back at Hamptonne

Hurrah, Jersey Heritage’s sites are open once more for the season. With light Covid restrictions of course but open nonetheless.

The sites are (inside) Jersey Museum and Maritime Museum (outside) La Hougue Bie, Mont Orgueil, Elizabeth Castle and Hamptonne Country Life Museum. I have the great pleasure of working two days a week at Hamptonne on the front desk.

You’d have thought it might have been quiet this morning for my first shift, especially as I’d entirely forgotten the workings of the till and associated systems, my login passwords etc. But no, Hamptonne is a regular meet-up location for nannies and childminders and in they poured on the dot of 10 o’clock, young charges in tow, old and young flying through the shop, membership passes being flashed my way, chicken food being politely demanded. Track and Trace contact details to be collected. After a while the wave subsided and I was able to draw breath.

Hamptonne House

Hamptonne sits amongst quiet lanes in the middle of Jersey, not easy to find. The buildings date back 400 years and are quite beautiful. But the local families are more interested in the animals and open spaces, a lovely place for the often town bound kids. We have chickens free-ranging around and rabbits in the stables. New this season are sheep in the meadow and piglets to replace the monster hogs that virtually needed dynamite last October to shift them to wherever fully-grown pigs go. Finally, a couple of Jersey calves, the prettiest breed of cows.

The new Hamptonne sheep

A Gardien is in overall charge of each site, a VSA (Visitor Services Assistant) at front of house. In addition there is a regular stream of volunteers. Today, for example, we had Dave as Visitor Host who took some of the heat off me at the desk whilst providing good football chat in quieter moments. There are Tour Guides and, later in the season, we’ll see a bit of Living History, guys and gals that dress and act as if in the good old days.

Like all hospitality businesses, Heritage have struggled with the pandemic but we are well supported by the government. It’s nice to be able to open on time but everyone hopes that we’ll soon be able to welcome overseas visitors once more.

The Age of the Takeaway

A rainy old day. I ran around the coast road to Gorey Pier – a regular little run – ready with my bus pass to get the no.1 bus back to my starting point. The harbour area is a pleasant spot in the shade of Mont Orgueil and busy with tourists in a normal summer. There’s a large, four-sided shelter where the buses turn around. The benches on all four sides were occupied this day. The bus arrived and I hesitated, waiting for those who had arrived earlier to climb aboard.

No one from the shelter moved a muscle. On I got and off we went.

It’s the new phenomenon, here in Jersey at least. The cafés, unable to seat customers due to Covid restrictions have embraced the takeaway (‘takeout’ in the States I believe). So where do you go with your takeaway? Of course, one of the many shelters constructed for bus passengers or, elsewhere, for the weary tourist. They’re packed. The rubbish bins are full of cardboard cups and more bins have had to be deployed at popular spots.

This pandemic has certainly galvanised many local businesses into survival mode and who have made changes to adapt to the new circumstances. One of the striking first examples of this was at the time of the first lockdown in March of last year. Suddenly our local fishermen had no sales outlets for their catches. What did they do? They started selling right there from the harbour, from the boats, via a hurried social media campaign. The response from the locals was excellent.

Photo by Melvin Wahlin on Pexels.com

For general food shopping, queues formed outside supermarkets due to restrictions on numbers. In response, the supermarkets started to offer home deliveries, taking on extra staff to do so. Not to offer delivery was to risk losing market share.

Non-food retailers, classed as non-essential and therefore restricted even more, started to offer Click-and-Collect, rarely heard of before. Many upped their online presence with many more people now finding it easier to shop from their armchairs.

And never mind the cafés, the high-end restaurants are now offering takeaways and home deliveries to keep a little income flowing before life returns to ‘normal’. My local Chinese takeaway was rushed off its feet during first lockdown, the delivery guys couldn’t cope. However they are now quieter than previously as so many other places have joined the battle for the home delivery market. (Personally I still don’t understand why many people won’t stretch their legs a few yards to collect their food but I guess these are the times we live in.)

And when this is all over our retail landscape will most certainly have changed forever. I doubt it will be benefitting our previously thriving town centres though.