Why is it that when you’re struggling to retain balance, say, almost pitching off the log you’re using to cross a small brook that’s tumbling off the moors, you lean the wrong way? Imagine slipping to the left: you push your body weight out to the right. But this is your hips and your trunk. Your head and shoulders almost inevitably end up canted to the left, that is, the way you’re falling. More logically, you would make a simple pivot at the hips, angling your whole upper body away from the direction of fall.
I supposed that it must be more to do with the need for the head to feel as though it’s vertical, but this is completely wrong: the head ends up at a more severe angle than otherwise. I think it must be two things.
First, it’s about keeping your weight above your feet, reducing the likelihood of trying to maintain an impossible angle and slipping off entirely.
Second, once you lean your whole trunk over, you can’t correct: you’re committed, and you might just as likely overcompensate and fall over the other way. With hips out one side and head the other, you can perform that recognisable finessing wobble until you’ve recovered fully.
Me, I cheated. The dog, on a retractable lead, had already crossed, and was ahead and to my right. Fixing the lead and giving a sharp tug pulled me back upright and on over the bridge. Good dog, as I effused afterwards, to her bewilderment.
Andy thinks the good news about his play has been trumped.
It’s a great anecdote, but it’s a false premise. The poster looks fabulous and I just know the play will live up to it. I’m looking forward both to the reviews and to its UK premiere.
It’s not just the Weiszs, Johanssons and Lauries of the world that are getting excited about the prospect of reaping a few awards this week. This weekend is the third annual awards for my football (it isn’t a club, not really a team either, so it’s just “the football”).
This means my first evening out since the household increased in size about five months ago, to a local pub and then a meal. Weekly subs of one pound sterling mean that, after the costs of buying a new ball and pump every six months, bibs and corner flags (a bridge too far, some thought), we have enough in the kitty to stand everyone an annual slap up meal.
It would be unfair to suggest that a free meal is anyone’s prime incentive for playing, but it is noticeable that a couple of almost-forgotten players have crept out of the woodwork since Christmas, just in time for inclusion. Generously, we feign to believe that this is their New Year’s health kick in action, and not the siren call of a hot and heavily subsidised biryani.
One charming tradition of the awards themselves is that, in the tradition of kindly schools everywhere, there is a prize for everyone. The entertainment comes in constructing categories for achieving this. In the past, we’ve had the honest appraisal (”Most Improved Player”), the corporate vagueness special (”Best All-round contribution”), the award for Effort (”Most Appearances” and “Most likely to be on time”). The year I (jointly) won “Most likely to pick balanced teams” was a personal high-point.
More fruitful, in general, are the slightly (or significantly) sarcastic categories (”Most likely to be late”, “Most entertaining goalkeeper”), sliding towards the downright pointed (”Most likely to cause an injury”, “Most likely to cry on the pitch”, “Most likely to cause an argument”, “Biggest risk to own defence”).
I’ve written most of this year’s awards, and it seemed like a good idea to use the shining examples of our modern day professional footballers to give the categories an extra incentive. Some examples:
The Rio Ferdinand award for forgetfulness
The Emile Heskey award for balance in front of goal
The Little Mickey Owen award for goalhanging
The Alan Smith award for leg-nibbling
The Craig Bellamy award for on-pitch gobbiness
The Teddy Sheringham veteran’s award (although none of the current players are quite of Mr Sheringham’s vintage)
Normally I’d be aiming for the “Best Winger” award, on the basis that I can occasionally cross the ball left-footed, which my colleagues regard as some kind of voodoo, but I understand is due to my actually being left-footed. Unfortunately, I forgot to put in a winger category, so my hopes this year rest mainly in the Emile Heskey and the Steven Gerrard (for defence-splitting passes, of which I helpfully unveiled a couple for the benefit of the voting constituency last week). I’m only grateful that there’s no Lawrence Dallaglio award for “best use of rugby-style handoffs”, for which I retain an unfortunate and confused aptitude. Wish me luck!
Warning: playing with sand, fire, water, oil, plants and slugs eats time which I don’t have, so I’m foisting it onto you. Don’t accept the gift.
Enough, temporarily, of sea shanties. I know that what you really want to know is how to yodel. Use your new powers wisely, child.
Finally, looking to start your own country, but all of the good land is gone? Easy: build one, out of pop bottles.
Some people carry an impregnable nostalgia for the hymns and carols of their youth. I am not particularly one of them, but even I, over the Christmas season, find myself succumbing to the occassional heave of welling emotion in the middle of some familiar verse.
Given my youth by the water, the single line most likely to smart a tear from my eye is always “for those in peril on the sea”. Even more the slightly archaic fun of the sea shanties, this immediately brings up a great swell of the deep-running fear of the sea suffered by anyone who lives by it. The line is the sung equivalent of the nervous glance exchanged by all when the lifeboat maroons go up: the shared dread that this time it is for one of yours.
Most of the Christmassy associations, however, are lighter and more jubilatory. This year we spent a silly amount of time listening to Michael Praetorius’ utterly bombastic In dulci jubilo (link to clip), which you know even if you don’t think you do. I particularly enjoyed its manic macaronic, starting:
In dulci jubilo
Nun singet und seid froh:
Unsers Herzens Wonne
(”In sweet jubilation / now sing and rejoice: / our heart’s delight”)
And I was positively belting out:
Ubi sunt gaudia
Nirgends mehr denn da
Lo and behold, when I went to fetch the Wikipedia entry for macaronic, it gives In dulci jubilo as its example. I wonder if these were genuinely instances of the vernacular borrowing a little liturgical Latin, or whether the author was dumbing down for the audience.
I should have mentioned also the real trauma inflicted on London by the oil explosions on Sunday, and entirely missed by the ever-vigilant London Evening Standard.
Marks & Spencer, who turn out to have a depot in Hemel Hempstead, were without sandwiches on Monday. You could feel the panic welling up in London’s office workers as they faced up to the prospect of life without a Sparks sarnie.
What Christmas present to get for the spy who has everything? Why, an Enigma machine of course. [Actually, a Nema machine, the Swiss knock-off, but still. Contents may settle in transit.]
Elsewhere, I am clearly going to have to start a ‘goalkeepers’ category, if only to properly capture this delicious winter anecdote about the goalkeeper booked for building a snowman.
Recent research sheds new light on the attention spans of babies on long car journeys, particularly on return from unexpectedly balmy weekends in the south west of the country. A number of distractions were tested for effectiveness in preventing crying.
1) The trees and the sky: extremely effective for up to one hour at the start of journey
2) Sleep: 100% effective for up to 90 minutes, thereafter unobtainable
3) Singing: Excellent, if tiring for the singer, for up to half an hour. Rounds are particularly recommended, as the repetitions make everything sound like a round in the end regardless
4) Toys: Ten minutes each, no more
5) Loud baroque music: Mesmerisingly effective in small doses. Would have been better if they could have beeen turned into rounds.
6) Mobile phone ringtones: Five minutes before irritation sets in (adults, not baby)
7) Video camera footage of baby taken that day at the beach: Almost limitless enjoyment.
This last proved a peculiar experience, stepping the whole research team eight hours back in time. Existential discomfort also produced by the cheerless postmodernism of the procedure. Concern expressed that nothing should be so entertaining to the subject as footage of the same being entertained.
I walked into my kitchen the other day to hear the end of a conversation. I caught only the phrase “…in a fridge, with her handbag”.
I was rather proud of myself for guessing correctly that this was a recollection of the rumour, back in September 2001, that the Queen Mother had inhaled her last G&T, but that the news was being held back on account of all the September 11th business.
These things always set my idling mind spinning at the origin of these rumour tropes. Who first was alleged to be kept on ice; gone, if you like, but not defrosted?
To me, it sounds terribly Cold War: I recall the fate of more than one Soviet leader (Brezhnev, the fleeting Andropov) being speculated upon while they failed to make any public appearances for a while. Popes also seem to be favourite targets for this rumour, hence, I suppose the sad malarkey this year with the late John Paul II having to put in reassuring appearances at his hospital window.
The movie ‘Dave’, a presidential version of The Prince and the Pauper, using a life support machine to keep the President of the USA technically alive and governing for its mainspring, but this is comparatively recent, and I don’t know of any other American instances.
I suspect that the assumption that the Russians would flash-freeze their leaders is a slightly shocked reaction to the mummification of Lenin, with all of its confusing intimations of saintliness. Otherwise, the trope seems to operate on the ancient assumption of some kind of connection between king and land: even a wounded king is better than a dead one. It could hardly express more clearly the common belief amongst the rest of us that it’s the possession of power that counts, not the ability to use it. The practical mess that a frozen leader would mean for the government of any country should make us dismiss the idea out of hand, but there’s no denying the power of the symbol of the indestructible leader.
Finally, I wonder if the myth of the frozen leader isn’t, at heart, a consolatory fantasy as seen in the myth of Avalon. Although Arthur is gone, we hold onto the slightest promise of a return should things really require it. I wonder if every apparently callous rumour of a frozen, unburied, aristocrat or politician is really our fear of letting them go. Does anyone these days depend on the Once and Future Queen Mum?
On those occasions when I’m struggling to comprehend the behaviour of my own countrymen, there’s one object that I only have to recall in order to reconnect myself to the innermost soul of the Brit: the teasmade.
Tea itself is the cliche of Britishness, but I think it’s the Heath Robinson madness of the teasmade that truly opens out the true desire of the typical inhabitant of this dyspeptic isle. Think of it: given the choice of any luxury, any convenience to make life a genuine pleasure, we chose to build a machine that ensures that you have your morning cuppa the moment, no the moment before you wake up. It doesn’t matter that it’s weak, pumped through uncleanable tubes, with night-old milk and effortfully lukewarm at best. It’s a cup of tea, and you didn’t have to make it yourself. Joy almost unbearable.
I don’t think I’ve seen a teasmade since staying at my granparents’ as a kid, where, in a rare display of youthful good taste, I refused the machine’s strange brew. My feelings were mixed, then, when I chanced upon the inevitable web community on teasmades. I fear that these are thin times for teasmades. There are only three models available now (read all about them in the marvellous Teasmades in the news) section, but showing that blitz spirit, the home page has a link to eBay for chasing up second-hand models.
I know I know I know things are quiet here a the moment, but rest assured that things are bouncing along. More than anything else, silence here is a reflection that those quiet little periods at home in the evening just aren’t any more. If I but had one of those awful Palm PCs on which to spend my commuting time scribbling, you would be inundated, I swear.
Too often, then, it’s just me spending a couple of minutes clearing up after the comment spammers. Even they seem to have recognised that something has changed. Where in the past this place would often be bombarded until it was throbbing with frankly eye-opening offers of all kinds from naughty women of all persuasions, these days I seem to be attracting spam about cigars, ForEx trading (zzz) and, I ask you, flowers. Sadly, also, the surreal spam names seem to have been weeded out. Now it’s just Diether and Edward, who at least seems to have found his target well: he spams with apparently random selections from Poe’s Dupin stories, adding a welcome touch of Gothic mystery to the process of deleting rubbish.
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