Wednesday, August 20, 2008

She Stoops to Conker

A school headmaster at Cummersdale in Cumbria, Mr Shaun Halfpenny, has thwarted the efforts of the Health and Safety police by issuing safety goggles to his pupils, thus clearing the way for the introduction of Conkers into the school curriculum. Having yawned through the Olympic Games Finals of the Mountain Bike and BMX, I think it’s time to consider the inclusion, not only of Conkers, but other long-neglected playground sports into the Olympics programme for London 2012. With our trees groaning with horse-chestnuts after the wet summer, it’s not too early to start training.
The said headmaster’s name suggests that the time may also be propitious to campaign for the acceptance of Shove-ten-p (formerly Shove-ha’penny) into the Olympic schedule.
As host nation, the opportunity is, well, golden. We should be campaigning now for the acceptance of other quintessentially British sports, (though I’m not sure about cricket). Tiddleywinks, for example: if jobless teenagers were busy tiddling their winks on street corners there would be less knife crime.
The only problem is that if the IOC were to allow the above classifications, the fiendish frogs would lobby for inclusion of their much more lethal sports, such as Boules, or its Provençal variant, Boules Carrées, (square boules), designed for mountainous regions to avoid the boules from rolling down-hill. (It's true - the Boules Carrées World Championships are being held in Cagnes-sur-Mer this weekend.)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Scots Wha' Hae

The party’s over and we’re back in rainy Windsor, which is only slightly less wet than Edinburgh. The Edinburgh Festival was great fun – not just the Book Festival but THE Festival. So much going on – allegedly 1200 venues – and that wasn’t the Festival proper - only the Fringe. We had only time to see five of them, but they were all brilliant, especially a couple of plays: Air Swimming and You Don’t Need to Know That – a Kafka-esque tale of a guy who failed to fill in a form that he had never been sent and finished up on the guillotine. Reminded me of the fascist antics of Wachovia Bank – now threatening to “disable” my account and impound the $7000 that’s in it. (Perhaps they didn’t like my blog.) Even managed to survive the shock of going down to breakfast and bumping into John Prescott.
Ah yes – the Edinburgh International Book Festival: we were the same price as Prescott but the BOSGOF was better value – buy one Scouser, get one free. It went rather well, despite the fact that we were in the graveyard slot at 8.30 pm. Not quite a sell-out crowd but an excellent turnout, no one walked out, no eggs were thrown and – as Nicholas confirms, (Comment, below) - we flew the flag for our natal city.

Which is more than I can say for Everton yesterday.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

What's the plural of Scouse?

In case it has escaped your notice, the Edinburgh International Book Festival starts this Saturday, August 9. This is undoubtedly one of the key literary events of the year. Edinburgh is the place to be in August, especially this year, because on Monday, August 11, you will be able to see two Scouse authors for the price of one. Nicholas Murray, novelist, historian and biographer (of Bruce Chatwin, Kafka, Aldous Huxley, Andrew Marvell and others), will be talking about his latest book A Corkscrew is Most Useful: The Travellers of the Empire, a colourful collection of real-life accounts of travel in the Victorian age. Joining Nicholas on the stage of the Peppers Theatre on Monday evening will be your genial blog-host, talking about - What was it now? Oh yes - my book The French Riviera: a Literary Guide, a virtual literary tour of the Riviera covering the lives and work of the many writers who found inspiration there. Afterwards, both of us will be signing our books in the Festival bookshop.

Edinburgh International Book Festival, Monday, August 11th, 8.30pm. Hope you can make it.