As some of you may know we have a springer spaniel going by the name of Harry. He’s three years old now and I have always meant to get him trained to work on shoots, it is after all what he is bred to do, and after my column on prevarication the other week I finally picked up the phone and spoke to a trainer. On the phone Mel seemed very nice and we agreed to meet up and see if Harry was up to the grade. We met up at Minions and in reality she seemed every bit as nice as she had on the phone but it soon became apparent that it would be a question of whether I was up to the grade just as much as Harry!
So Harry and I got out of the car and instantly my heart sank. All around us were wild ponies and sheep, I’m afraid Harry is pretty good but not perfect and I was concerned that things might career down the pan before we got started. However, Mel agreed that they would be too distracting for him and we moved them on so that we could begin our work. At first Mel wanted to know what I’d taught Harry, we’d obviously already failed the ignoring sheep test. I explained that we’d only really done the basics but that Harry was pretty good at those. It turned out that he wasn’t. I demonstrated how well Harry walked to heel, Mel pointed out that Harry was walking to heel when he felt like it because he liked my company not because he had been told to. The minute something more interesting came up, say a gorse bush or a butterfly, he was off. His recall was equally suspect. Yes, he did come back to me but not always, once again that passing gorse bush could be an attractive thing to a dog with clouds in his head. The stay command worked well although I had been doing it wrong. Apparently when you tell a dog to “stay” you must always return to him, you shouldn’t call him to you because stay means just that. If I want him to sit in one spot and then come to me it’s “Sit” and then “Come here”. Or rather three blows on the whistle. Which I didn’t have.
We then began to walk in circles and squares and figures of eight which I kept getting wrong, memories of my terrible attempts at dancing at Burn’s Night earlier in the year came flooding back and Mel seemed quite bemused by someone that couldn’t complete a figure of eight without getting lost. After that humiliation we progressed onto retrieval work, which Harry thought was great fun and acquitted himself fairly well. At the end of the session Mel thought that Harry had promise and I needed to do some homework so we went away happy with our progress. So far, he’s walking to heel on the lead perfectly and off the lead he’s pretty good except for the odd gorse bush. Sit and Stay are also working well but he seems to have nosed dived when it comes to retrieving. One thing at a time is going to have to be our motto. I’ll let you know how we get on.
Obviously with last week’s article running a bit close to the bone, deadline wise, I determined to sit down straightaway and write the next week’s copy. That didn’t quite happen and whilst I’m happily on time this week I’m not as early as I had wanted to be. Of course I have a whole list of excuses as to why this didn’t happen but the main problem is out and out prevarication. I absolutely believe in doing things the minute they need to be done, I just don’t seem to be able to do it. This week has been a timely reminder to live in the “now”. My youngest son has just gone up to senior school and it seems like a whole part of our lives have finished. I spent quite a while worrying if I could have spent more time with both of them when they were little, did I teach them the right things, did I pay enough attention to their concerns. Naturally I suspect I could have done more but I bet we all think like that and probably what we did was just fine. The important part was making the most of the time, at the time. The company I dive with have just changed their business outlook to concentrate on commercial ventures as that is where they want to focus but also so that they can see more of their young family. Whilst I shall miss diving with them it is so clearly the right decision. It always sounds like a cliché ridden card but “live for today” is just so correct. You just don’t know what is around the next corner, you can be sensible and plan properly so that you are prepared for a range of scenarios but you really shouldn’t overthink it because you can’t plan for everything.
So am I living in the now? Hardly, I’m spending all my time worrying about whether or not I let my children watch too much TV as toddlers, should I have talked to them more as babies and so on, then when I’m not worrying about what can’t be changed I’m paralysed by fear of what might come. What if they don’t get on in school, what if they fail their exams, what if they don’t get into University? It doesn’t take much in my mind before they’re on drugs and I’m visiting them in prison. Actually it’s not that bad, my biggest worry is what if I don’t like their girlfriends? What a mess! I’m spending all my time looking forward and backwards and completely forgetting today. I bet I’m not the only one but whilst “live in the now” is easy to say it’s a lot harder to do and as I have already pointed out I’m really good at prevaricating.
However, it’s a sunny day, my children went off to school with smiles on their faces, I have a big list of things to do which I am steadily working through and I am about to tackle three jobs that I have been putting off since forever. I’m cleaning the oven, I’m clearing the garage roof and I’m emptying all the rubbish from the passageway behind the house. Not exactly clean jobs but I’ll feel great when they are done. I’ll let you know which of them I actually did next week.
There are times when I feel very sorry for my editor. Usually it’s because she has to try to sort out my novel use of punctuation or tackle my curious spelling alternatives but every once in while I will get a phone call from her that’s very friendly but also slightly strained asking where my article is? Today is one of those days. It’s not so much Stop the Press or Hold the Front Page but it’s quite close to Get a Bloody Move ON!
I’m afraid I have no excuse other than sheer indulgence. Towards the end of August I start to get so fed up with the crowds, the children and the business that I become as frazzled and bad tempered as an autumn wasp and last week I reached my snapping point. You are probably all aware of that moment where people who like you start to talk to you in a careful manner and your partner tells you that you are unbearable. No? Oh, dear, just me then. Anyway I it was time for me to take a chill pill. This advice was proffered by my youngest and rather than kill him I decided to do just that.
I’ve been out on two great dives out of Mevagissey. I love diving, it is so peaceful and so uncrowded, there is a whole new vista down there and you can become truly lost in your own contemplation of marine life. September is a lovely time to take up diving as the sea is warm and there is an abundance of plants and wildlife to look at. It’s also nice to do an activity with a bunch of different people to the usual crowd; divers are always really friendly and because you are literally relying on your diving partner to save your life should anything go wrong you all get chatting pretty quickly.
As well as some great dives I decided to take Harry up to Minions and go for a really large, get lost type of walk. It was wonderful, I was out there for hours and saw hardly anyone, we discovered lots of new features that I had never seen before, ringed enclosures standing stone and so on, in fact Minions is rather littered with remains of archaeological significance, it almost seems as though it’s hogging stuff, there is so much. Harry and I traipsed from tor to tor thoroughly enjoying paddling through streams and rolling in the heather, I did more of the paddling and Harry did more of the rolling but from time to time we did swap duties. I even discovered a fabulous quarry, a place called Golddiggers near to the Cheesewring itself. In fact it is so close that I was a bit embarrassed that I had never found it before. It’s a wonderful location and as I sat beside it in the sunshine I watched a small shoal of fish also basking in the sunlight, with Harry popping in and out to refresh himself. It was very tempting to go for a swim but I didn’t have a cossie and I didn’t want to scare the group of teenagers that were also enjoying this little haven.
Finally, I spent yesterday on the beach with about 8 other families, the children all grouped up and had a blast and all the mothers agreed that back to school couldn’t come soon enough. So there we are, no excuses but I am now fully rested and will start next week’s column tomorrow and save my poor editor any further grief.
I think it can be agreed that the Olympics has been a huge success but what has made it so successful? I would like to say that it’s been a lot more than the amount of medals that we have won, although that has been great.
I believe there have been a range of reasons why it has been so successful, in the first place the whole thing worked. There were no gridlocks, no security scares, no unfinished building, all the scaremongering from the media came to nothing, we staged a welcoming, efficient, accessible set of games. The next reason was how we were able to follow every aspect of the games via the BBC. Their coverage has been exhaustive and we have all been able to follow whatever our particular interest is. We’ve also been able to watch sports that we never see; I never thought I’d get into watching Canoe sprints, dressage or BMX cross country. Since when was the long jump so exciting or the 800m so nerve wracking? I think this has been one of the keys to the sense of national pride; we have been able to join in and follow along. The next thing that has made it so successful has been how well the girls have done, gold after gold have fallen to our Amazons and they were so well deserved. Finally we have loved the tales of true grit; some of our athletes are headline acts and seem to do all right in terms of sponsorship but we’ve had people who have had to sleep on floors, kip in cars, sell stuff to fund their training. This seems to me to be the true Olympian spirit, these people are not in it for the money they just do it because they love it and they want to be the best. Here in Britain we love the underdogs and it seems that our underdogs have outperformed all expectations.
So where do we go from here? To me it seems obvious, show a wider range of sports on television, not just the paid channels. Support more female events, they outperformed the boys; let’s see that excellence reflected on TV. The BBC has an arts channel and a children’s channel so why not a sports channel? Clearly some of us are interested in sports other than premiership football. Let’s also get more money into grass root sports, help clubs, help parents with grants and get behind local events. Finally, get games back into the school curriculum on a regular basis. Bring back competitive sports, they don’t have to be all that is offered but children need to learn how to lose and how to cheer! Taught well, team sports can help children pull together. Even if you don’t fancy team sports any sort of regular physical exertion is good for the body and good for the mind, Mens sana in corpore sano!
Of course the turn of the true Olympians come next with the Paralympics. The hype is probably going to be less intense than what we have seen over the past fortnight but what these competitors have overcome and will achieve will be no less stunning and probably more so!
What a week! My column on my rotten veg patch clearly hit the right note with you lot. Janet said that I made her feel better that she hadn’t got around to doing her patch this season. Trevor pointed out that I shouldn’t expect anything more as I lived in St Austell; everyone knows Meva has the better soil and Gemma’s mother clearly took pity on me and dropped in a bunch of rather nice looking, and tasting, cucumbers! I often get feedback on my columns but a bag of veg is the best yet. Given my awful spelling I should be grateful that it wasn’t a bag of rotten tomatoes. I often get people telling me they read my column every week, they don’t say they like it, just that they read it – I’m guessing that this lot enjoy the grammatical howlers and schoolgirl spelling errors. I hope I manage to disappoint this week!
Mevagissey played host this week to an Antarctic Island called Nowhereisland – it’s floating around Britain as some sort of art installation. Quite frankly it floated in and floated off to Falmouth and I’m still not much the wiser about what the point of it was. Part of it seemed to be interested in the melting of caps, other parts were about becoming a citizen of a new nation and what that nation should stand for. Dave, in his rather down to earth way, said that we should focus on getting our own nation right before fixing imaginary ones.
The thing that has really caught my attention this week though was the stranding of the 50ft Fin Whale on Carlyon Beach. There was a lot of criticism on Facebook of people posting photos but I thought that was completely understandable. If I had been able I would have gone down to have a look because quite frankly I’m curious and I don’t think there is anything wrong with curiosity. Where would mankind be without it? I should have loved to be able to see such an incredible animal up close. It was very sad that it died but it proved a salutary reminded of just what goes on in our seas out of sight and too often out of mind. Our seas are viewed as some sort of giant garbage dump but it is home to stunning leviathans, rare creatures, exotic, alien life forms even our weekly fish suppers.
So please don’t dump your fishing tackle over the side for fish to drown in, keep your plastic lager ties in the bin as they get stuck on the noses of sharks and dolphins damaging their sensor systems. Don’t get involved in balloon races as turtles can’t tell the difference between jellyfish and plastic bags and balloons, they eat them and then die, autopsies showing stomachs full of plastic.
Get involved, join a beach clean, take up diving and visit the wonders of the deep for yourself or just simply aim to eat fish once a week and make it something other than cod; any fishmonger worth their salt will be able to give you some quick recipes. Our oceans are stunning and we are hugely lucky to live so close to the sea, we just need to pay it a bit more attention.
Whilst we wait for the Paralympics I wanted to share my favourite bits of the Olympics so far. It started in Bugle, as I’m sure many things do. I was driving through it about an hour before the flame was due to pass through and it seemed like the whole village was out. The village silver was proudly displayed on a table, brass bands were assembling in the side streets, bunting and flags festooned the road and every front door was open with people milling about, laughing and smiling. It was at this moment that I realised that we might be in for something very special.
The momentum of the torch moved towards a parachuting Queen and a stunning opening ceremony with the most wonderful and artistic cauldron at the end.
I loved seeing the cheeky Czech delegates arriving in the Stadium in wellies! Even better was seeing women from countries that had never sent a woman before, even Saudi Arabia, who don’t even let them drive, fielded female athletes. For Team GB our girls have been phenomenal, the first medals went to girls as did the last, the first gold went to a girl and in between they collected many more medals than ever before.
The technology in our stadiums was incredible, did you know the velodrome had been designed to be warmer than normal as warm air is slightly thinner and makes for faster cycling or that the baffles in the athletics arena were engineered to make it the loudest in the world?
Then there were the events themselves; the dead heat at the end of the female triathlon. Watching the Brownlee brothers coming first and third in their triathlon, the three Jamaican flags rising for the 200m and I really loved the expression on Katherine Copeland’s face as she could not believe she had just won gold! Almost as good as Andy Murray’s.
I was also so impressed with how the athletes celebrated with each other even when it meant they lost gold. In particular during the Men’s High Bar final. Each time all the rivals clapped and hugged each other as stunning performance was followed by even more stunning performance. Those men were able to look at excellence and applaud it rather than show their own disappointment. I was touched by the tears from Pendleton when she saw her Gold changed to Silver but her huge smile and victory lap for the audience and her hug for her competitor were properly Olympian. As was the Jordanian who finished her face clearly in agony but kept on to cross the line There were times when getting a Bronze seemed even better than a Gold and it was a real laugh to see Tom Daly and his whole team jumping in the pool in celebration.
Even if I didn’t get tickets I could still take part due to the wonderful BBC coverage and I’ll never forget watching the diving on the shop computer with a German family, all rooting for each other’s guy . Then there were the golden letterboxes – well done Royal Mail and finally sharing it all with my friends on Facebook who had been lucky enough to attend. All in all an outstanding affair.