Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt

Listening to BBC presenters reporting on the culture secretary is a bit like watching show-jumping.

Sarah Montague, for instance, had a tricky round earlier this morning. Approaching the fence that has caused many a fine rider sleepless nights, she at first appeared supremely confident.

I have to confess my heart was in my mouth, as I sensed she was taking it too quickly.

Hooves drumming:

the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt
the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt  
the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt

... she approached the jump head on.

But then - just as I feared - she seemed to lose impulse at the critical moment and almost faltered.

As it turned out, her back hooves barely cleared the top rail.

Well done Sarah !!

All the same - it was a heart-stopping moment.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer .. or what?

For my father, the thought of going on holiday any later than mid-July was out of the question. The way he saw it was that by August they'd be pulling the boats up and stacking away the deck chairs - or if not actually doing these things, they'd be starting to think about them - and that was just as bad.

No – the perfect fortnight for our Cornish seaside holiday was the last week in June, first week in July - the time of year when summer suddenly bursts out with exhilarating vitality. Mornings, cool and bright - light sparkling on crystal clear water; the evenings, balmy - the harbourside aglow with yellow lamplight against a peaceful, turquoise sky.

.... provided it wasn't raining, of course.

A rainy holiday was enough to plunge my father into bleak despair. Even the prediction of rain was enough to put the dampers on an otherwise perfect day.

"You enjoy it while you can", he would pronounce gloomily, as the rest of the family lolled in the warm sunshine. "I know what's coming."

So, all in all, I think it best he was spared our recent summers.

For my own part, I have developed a technique for coping with the despondency brought on by the daily sight of rain falling from a featureless, leaden sky and that is to play the there's always someone worse off than I am game.

I have tried thinking about what it must be like to be a farmer, a road-mender or one of those people inviting shoppers to fill in questionnaires; that was until I hit upon the perfect subject for these gloomy meditations:  namely the man selling donkey rides on the beach at Weston-Super-Mare.

Just picture the scene: a makeshift lean-to, hard against the sea wall. No floor, just bare sand, littered here and there with donkey-droppings. The donkey-man himself, slumped in a sagging picnic chair, leafs dejectedly through a dog-eared copy of Take-a-Break, long past bothering to peer out at the deserted, rain-lashed beach. And, all the while, a bunch of sodden donkeys, blunt heads buried in their feed bags, steam patiently in the gloom.

You have to be careful though; think about it too much and you can end up feeling even worse. 

(First published in Horsley's Over the Wall magazine