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I’m not a sports fan

I’m not a sports fan.

I don’t understand the rules of football (or why the majority of fans are violent idiots), formula one is basically glorified scaletrix and while I’ve been known to play the odd game of golf I’d rather clean 10 bathrooms than watch it. I don’t get caught up in the Olympics, tennis seems like a pain in the neck and the only people I know who consider themselves cricket fans seem more concerned by the opportunities for drinking than the subtleties of the game. I just don’t understand why people get so caught up in this world of sports, enjoy it by all means, but the moment it begins to make or break your day? Forget it.

My family do not share my view. Growing up, many a family gathering revolved around the latest sporting event. Everyone would come round for a slap up lunch, before heading to the lounge where mum would begin, quite literally, screaming at the television, in the hopes (I suppose) that Schumacher, Henman or Schmeichel would hear her enthusiasm and jolly well pull their socks up! During these times, I could mostly be found hiding in my room, trying to block out the shame of having such an embarrassingly rowdy family. That is, until I discovered rugby.

I’ve been trying to decide what it was about rugby which finally lured me out of my pit (another familism) and into the lounge with the others. After some consideration, I’ve decided it was the welsh cakes. Unlike other sporting days, rugby meant steaming mugs of tea, and piping hot welsh cakes dripping with butter. Delish!! Once in the lounge I was all too easily drawn into the game, and a love of rugby was born. It always seemed more ‘sporty’ than the other sports. 80 minutes of brute strength vs dogged determination, rugby is full on, bloody and intense. Noone cares about brands, hair styles or tattoos, and at the end of the game everyone (usually) shakes hands and parts as friends. Sport and sportsmanship? Brilliant.

England v Wales

However, being a rugby fan created a few, umm, issues. With a Welsh dad, and English mum, which team would I support in the all important 6 nations? I’d been born in England, but grew up in Wales…red or white? Rose or daffodil? Mum or dad? I lamented over the decision every spring, till eventually I made my choice. I chose both.

‘BOTH??!’ I hear the sporty amongst you cry ‘you can’t choose both! Don’t you know how sport works?? Who do you support when they’re playing against each other??’ My innocent reply, ‘surely then I just win either way?!’. Exasperation, indignation and downright anger are common responses to my choice, ‘it’s not right’ they tell me ‘you have to choose!!’, but…why?! Why, stranger (for friends and family have long since made peace with my decision) does it bother you so much who I support? What is it about my decision which offends you so? Is my loyalty so important that it will affect the outcome of the match (it certainly didn’t help Wales today!), does me cheering for one team at one time, and another slightly later, ruin your experience of either game? Often the pub is filled by people of all nationalities playing that day, so what on earth leads my decision to have such an effect on you?

So in an attempt to placate the haters I altered my decision slightly. Rather than supporting both teams each year, I would alternate. One year Wales and the red shirt, the next England and the white. There, happy now? Of course not, it still counts as fence sitting, a heinous crime in the sporting world. Well, you know what?

Bothered.

I happen to like rugby, for the first time I can say I’m a sports fan, I enjoy the game even when neither England or Wales are playing. During the 6 nations I like the fact that supporting two teams gives me a stake in double the games. I even like that for 1 game in 15, I can’t lose! So what if it doesn’t follow the ‘rules’ of sports? I’m sticking with the land of my fathers, and my mothers, the homes of welsh cakes and cheddar cheese. These days I’ve even been known to scream at the tv (thanks mum!). I’m hanner a half and so’s my rugby. Deal with it.

So there!

England-v-Wales

Recognising happiness

I’ve been trying to articulate a thought for the past week or so; a thought which seems quite reluctant to form, let alone allow me to put it into words. It seems a situation has arisen which is usually only viewed with hindsight, so viewing it in the present and recognising it for what is it feels foreign and bizarre.

The thought? I’m really happy!

It’s not that I have been unhappy of late, I think perhaps there is a space between unhappy and happy in which a person can just be content. You may call it ‘existing’, ‘plodding along’ or just ‘life’, but whatever it is I have been there for some time, living for the moment, enjoying the good times when they’re around, feeling neither exultant nor despondent (though with the occasional spurt of both). But something clicked recently and, for the first time in a long time, I can’t seem to stop smiling.

It’s a feeling which has arrived along with a sense of dormant familiarity akin to randomly bumping to an old friend from years gone by. You know that tip of the tongue moment that sees you trying to remember their name and so awakens sluggish synapses from years of peaceful slumber…’It’s that girl…you know!!! The one from primary school! She was in the year below, hung out with Kelly…Does her name start with S maybe? Saaaa…Sarah! That’s the one!’ That kind of moment. I remember this feeling, I’ve felt it before, when I was younger and (apologies for the cliché) life was simpler. Part of growing up is realising that life is not always a bed of roses, or maybe that it is exactly that, and that something which looks great and sounds perfect actually contains hidden thorns which will leave you a worse for wear. But despite all that, happiness has shown its smiley face and waited patiently to see if I would recognise it or pass it by only to realise later what was in front of me.

The latter is the more common route; looking at things with retrospect and adding a rose (again with the roses!) coloured tint to situations means that down the line we look back on how good we had it and lament for when we took being happy for granted. I did it myself last year, when I was so fixated on fulfilling a lifelong dream that I didn’t realise what I was giving up. That old phrase ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’ certainly rung true. However; experiences like that, and many since, have taught me things about myself I didn’t know before. In the last year and a half I have learned so much about who I am, what I want and what I can do, all of which has brought me here and therefore obviously done me good.

There’s a phrase “If the bad times weren’t so bad, the good times wouldn’t be so good” which I think sums all this up. Perhaps the trials and tribulations of the past few years have prepared me for this moment where I look at my extraordinary housemates, brilliant friends, full weekends, fun evenings, great job and everything else that goes with it and realise how good life is right now. Whatever catalyst of events caused this moment of self-actualisation I’m not complaining. How blooming fantastic to be happy and to know it; I may just clap my hands! 

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Tell me a local news story…

A few days ago I made the case that local news was likely to offer more positivity than national news. Today Peg and I are writing about local news stories and sadly it is far from town crier material! The BBC Oxford homepage shouts of doom for businesses and tales of murder, sex offenders and animal cruelty.

But the top story today? It’s a goodun. The Oxford dictionary has a new word… Twerking.

Thanks to my daily injection of Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw on my drive to work I am aware of twerking. The breakfast show (which increasingly makes me feel like I should be listening to radio 2) ran a feature on it a few weeks ago in which various truck drivers and other burly men went on camera to display their skills at the move to the woman who made it big – Miley Cyrus.

And just in case this word making its Oxford debut wasn’t enough you may be interested to know it is not the only word to have been added to the famous pages! Other new additions include ‘selfie’, ‘dappy’, ‘girl crush’ and… most alarmingly, ‘vom’.

This is headline local news? Other than it being the Oxford dictionary, how is this in any way relevant to the town of Oxford and its people?

Sometimes our world is bizarre.

If you could go back to ‘the good old days’, would you?

An ambiguous time really, the ‘good old days’…

If I were to ask my grandfather who is approaching 90 when the good old days were I imagine he would offer a very different answer to my 60 year old step-father or almost 40 year old aunt. So for starters are we talking about the generic good old days, or just yours?

I’m going to assume we’re referring to the romantic notion that the past was somehow a softer, kinder place in which troubles were less troublesome. Nonsense. All that says is that humans are nostalgic, sentimental and more likely to remember the good times – and why not? Who wants to reminisce about times of sadness, sickness or anger? The stories told around the fire are far more likely to be those of happiness, friendship, love and success… it is these stories we will boast of to our friends, tell our children and therefore these stories are the ones which live on. History belongs to the winners; it is they who decide how the day is remembered.

So, of course the good old days seem like a better time, where prices were reasonable, Politian’s were noble and children respected their elders (thanks Baz!). However, I’m willing to put money on the fact that when I am old it will be my turn to say the world was a better place in the days of my youth. I will have conveniently forgotten about the recession, wars and unneighbourly ways of society and instead look back at the time when I was young, healthy, carefree and relatively without responsibility fondly. I will. it’s human nature.

So, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, as far as future you is concerned, these are the good old days – go and live them to the full!

Is the news too negative?

A few months ago the Guardian suggested that giving up the news will make you happier; with so much negativity, hyperbole and drama thrown in our faces every day it’s easy to view the world as an awful place, and worse than that, an awful place where you, as just one person, can do nothing to help.

But at the end of the day, there must be a reason the news is always on such a downer, and the reason (call me cynical) is money. Bad news sells, just like gossip spreads. You’re far more likely to hear people discussing negative news than good, it appears to be human nature to take an interest in the bad things happening, apparently it’s due to the hunter-gatherer environment our brains are wired for, in which anything dramatic or out of the ordinary had to be focused on as it was the difference between life and death. We’re evolving way too slowly if you ask me.

Another reason the news may seem more negative than necessary is that most of us now interact with the national and international press rather than our local newspapers. Were to pick up a copy of your local news you would see far more positive stories, stories of children’s sports days, weddings, fundraisers and success. Severely bad things don’t happen that often to individual people, therefore the smaller the pool from which we take our news the less likely it is there will be negative tales to report. However once you start looking at things on a grander scale then of course the number of negative things happening will go up considerably. It’s all statistics.

So, perhaps if you’re the type of person who considers the news too negative it’s time to switch to local news instead, or like me, avoid it completely. It seems to be working for Rolf Dobelli – maybe it’ll work for you!

5 favourite nursery rhymes:

How many nursery rhymes do you know? I can almost guarantee that it’s a bigger number than you expect! Spending time with anyone small will, one day, jog some sleepy synapse into providing you with the lyrics to Old King Cole, Little Miss Moffet and The Grand Old Duke of York like you learned it yesterday.

Here are my five favourite nursery rhymes, in no particular order:

1. Two little dickie birds – I like songs which are interactive and give both parent and child something to do – this one is as simple as holding up your index finger on both hands to be the dickie birds (Peter and Paul), flying away, then flying back, but it’s fun!
2. This is the way the ladies ride – another interactive one, which I LOVED as a kid, being thrown around on someone’s knee before the inevitable ‘dooooown into a ditch’ of the tractor; great fun! I’m a bit big for that part these days but this one is just as much fun for the grown up – if a little tedious after the 15th time!
3. The Grand Old Duke of York – good for a proper sing-a-long!
4. Round and round the garden – both equal parts loved and hated…that build-up of apprehension when you know the tickley bit is coming, ahhhh!
5. Diddle diddle dumpling – for some reason the idea of someone going to bed with their trousers on was hilarious to mini-me. Now I just assume he must have frequented the local tavern first!

What are/were your favourite nursery rhymes? Do you think you remember all the words now?

Is conscription too constrictive?

There are pros and cons to every argument, and this one is no exception. With unemployment in 18-24 year olds still ‘worryingly high’ and a general apathy about work in the majority of young people I do wonder if bringing back conscription would benefit our society.

It would not have to be service in the traditional way, where the majority of young men (you couldn’t get away with that now anyway) were called up to the armed forces ultimately to train them for war; it could be any work which is needed by society. Perhaps you could choose between the traditional armed forces, working as a carer or domestic for hospitals and hospices, helping out on a farm or cleaning up our towns, cities and roadsides. You could volunteer overseas or run charity and aid projects in your local community, work with children or the elderly, anything which gives something back to the world around you. Each of these would teach a level of discipline, introduce young people to work and offer a chance to try something you may not previously have experienced in a safe environment surrounded by people your own age.

All those people who go to university unsure of what to study and who they want to be would have a year or two to work that out, while learning practical skills and also improving their fitness (I think all services should involve at least some physical aspect; why not fight obesity and teach kids about exercise at the same time as all the rest!) and earning money. By the age of 20 they would have a better idea of who they are, they would be more mature and better equipped to handle university life, they may be more prepared to knuckle down and work rather than viewing their education as an extra 3 years to lie in and get drunk (I’m massively stereotyping here of course). The money earned during national service could also go some way toward funding that education, should they wish to pursue it once they leave.

After 2 years of working for a wage, doing some form of exercise 5 days a week and learning skills surely we would have a generation of twentysomethings who are more prepared to life a full life and learn what it means to be accountable to the world around them? I’m not saying it would eradicate the workshy or lazy, and can imagine the cost of chasing those people who try to get out of it would not be low, but I’d hope the benefits would outweigh the costs.

So in essence, while there will never be a simple ‘click to fix’ solution for unemployment, and bringing back national service won’t necessarily create a boom in our economy, but it might teach the next generation something about work ethic, team work, compassion and other life skills which will make us a more productive and switched on nation – which I personally support wholeheartedly. I have often said I would have benefited from something like this, especially the discipline and fitness side of things. There would have been a national system in place to guide me, at a young and impressionable age, into learning more about myself and what I can achieve, while perhaps exploring the world, making lifelong friends and ultimately earning money. I don’t regret the choices I have made, and I’m happy with where I’ve ended up, but I can definitely see how a scheme like this would have benefited me, and surely that’s the point?

national-service

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