Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The House at Cow Corner (with apologies to A A Milne)

We've just come back from a short jaunt to Guernsey to stay with our lovely friends, A and A, in their amazing new home. We had a brilliant time with them, the fabulous Grannie Annie and their children who came and went much like ours do at home. Not only was it a lovely pre-exam results trip (to take our minds off tomorrow's results - ho hum) but we were there on a mission, the roots of which go back some three years to our last visit to this glorious island...

We go back a long way with A and A. My beloved was at school with A and there are pictures of the two of them from those long ago days with very dodgy haircuts looking very slim and youthful in their various school team strips. We went to each others' weddings - on Guernsey and in Yorkshire - and we have godparented each others' oldest children. Over the years, there have been a few trips to Guernsey with tiny, medium-sized and now rather large children and it's always a treat.

Three years ago we stayed at the house they had recently bought. The house was not quite in the A-and-A mould we have known over the years but the view was spectacular - an uninterrupted vista across the sail-dotted sea to Herm. In the hall of the house, there was a model of the home they intended to build on the site. It looked like Thunderbird Tracy Island right down to the swimming pool!

During the trip that year, there were a few cricket elements, not least because number 3 was with us and the Ashes was on. So when we weren't messing about in boats and on beaches, doing Scottish dancing (yes, really!) and barbequeing, the cricket was on the television. Also staying was a young man who was playing for the MCC against Sark (a rather unlikely venue for a cricket match) and we all went by boat to watch and support. So cricket was much on our minds.

One evening after dinner there was a discussion about what to call the new house, once the old house had been demolished and Thunderbird Tracy Island had been built in its place. Number 3's voice from the sitting room where cricket was dominating the evening television schedule proposed naming the house after a fielding position and suggested Cow Corner - somewhere between mid-wicket and wide long-on apparently.

Three years later and we're back on Guernsey - my beloved, numbers 1, 3 and 4 and number 1's boyfriend and we're here for the naming ceremony. While the house was being built - and it is amazing, making the spectacular view an integral part of the family home in a way that I couldn't have begun to imagine - Cow Corner was translated into Guernsey patois and became Couin de Vacque. Number 3 is given the honour of revealing the new house name, carved in stone by the gate, by pulling away the Guernsey flag. It's a great moment, with family and those involved in the design and build present and we are so thrilled to be a part of it. So in this most beautiful spot, there is a fabulous and unique house, proudly named by a Yorkshireman, translated into the local dialect and celebrating the game we love. Nice!

Postscript: While we were waiting for our plane this morning at Guernsey Airport, number 3 spotted the New Zealand cricketer, Lou Vincent. When we landed at Manchester, he introduced himself to the one-time opening bat for the Kiwis and very friendly he was too. Apparently he had playing cricket on Herm - how could we have missed that!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Glorious Sound of Leather on Willow

When they talk about the Olympic legacy of people trying new sport, I'm not sure this is what they had in mind...

On Thursday evening, we were in the pub - me, child 4 and the intrepid granny - for the weekly quiz night, along with the singing, dancing doctor and Il Presidente of the village cricket club. Each Saturday during the season, our village turns out three teams to play in the Nidderdale League for this is a cricket village. Disaster was about to strike. There were enough players for two teams but not enough for three. Not fielding a third team would mean a deduction of six points and would put them in danger of relegation. Il Presidente was a man on a mission. He would not let this happen.

The singing, dancing doctor has two sons who are brilliant at cricket but are currently away on a World Challenge trip to the Far East so, in his sons' absence, he bravely volunteered. Cue the arrival with classic timing of my beloved. He had been on an all-afternoon lunch and had wisely arrived back from Leeds transported by bus and taxi. He was very relaxed. When asked if he would turn out for the village third team, he smiled and willingly agreed. If we'd asked him to do the Olympic pole vault, go bungee jumping, no doubt the answer would have been the same. Then, surprisingly, number 4 child - the small, beautiful one, volunteered too! Excitedly, with only one bar of signal in the notorious mobile phone black spot which is our village pub, Il Presidente texted the third team captain. Job done. Ten players so no deduction. They didn't have to win, they just had to turn up.

Fast forward to Saturday morning and the realisation of the task ahead had hit. Number 4 was kitted out in number 3's old whites whilst he was playing for the second team that afternoon. My beloved was promised kit by the team captain and off they went, with some trepidation to our next door village where the third team have their home ground. Intrepid granny and I followed in support.

We arrived to find that the singing, dancing doctor was dressed in his number 2 son's kit and looked the part which, coupled with his sons' own aptitude for the game, had convinced the skipper to put him in as batsman number 3. He went in (looking fabulous!), got a run and got out (still looking fabulous and so excited he hadn't got a duck!). Then other proper batsmen went in and were out but a half decent score was accumulating and things were looking up.

Then the legend that is Wilf who is a septuagenarian and normally bats, if at all, at number 11 went in at number 8. Not for long, sadly though runs were still mounting up, and suddenly he is walking off and my beloved is walking out to bat - 37 years after the last time he had done so. I worried: would he have a heart attack (fortunate that his doctor would be present) or split the captain's trousers which were snug to say the least!

He faced the first ball, he looked the part, he hit it ... over the boundary for four! The crowd gasped. The proper batsmen commented on his timing, "he's still got it" and he continued to amaze us - actually running between the wickets, but only singles. Then the last proper batsman at the other end got out and suddenly the small one, helpfully padded and helmeted up by the skipper strolled out to bat with her father.

"Will they be nice?" screeched intrepid granny who was assured by our captain that they would. Fielders crowded round the bat and she hit the ball. In fact, she went on to double the singing, dancing doctor's score before putting up a catch. The fielder sportingly apologised to the small one and she led, long hair blowing in the wind from under her helmet, the fielders and her father back in for tea. Number 4 out for 2, my beloved 11 not out and a total score of 140. Respect!

They didn't win, they didn't get a batting point but no deductions and the third team live to survive another day. Later in the pub, number 4 has been invited to play for the village ladies' team and play in a girls' cricket tournament in September and my beloved was asked if he could play next Saturday. Mercifully he can't - not least because he may not be able to walk tomorrow.

Proud doesn't even begin to describe it. And number 3's team won. A day to remember.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Flying the Flag - our Olympic Story

You know the way that small children say "he's been!" on Christmas morning when they find their stockings (or in our case, pillowcases) have been filled by Santa. Well, that was me on Wednesday morning when we arrived at the Olympic park "We're here!". Ridiculously over-excited because we, number 1 child and I, were there in the most amazing sporting place in the world.
Ever since London won the bid, the whole Olympic thing has been whizzing round my brain. I immediately told my children that it was one of my ambitions to be an Olympic mother. "Pick  a sport, any sport!"  I exhorted and yes ... they failed me. 
Then moving on to the torch, I nominated my dear and brilliant friend, Louise who is the inspiration for raising over £800,000 for two local charities - Alzheimer's and scleroderma - and wonderfully and emotionally she ran with the torch at Barkston Ash and we were there to celebrate her fantastic moment. 
And while all this was going on, I had spent hours - yes, hours - trying to score tickets in the ballots. High levels of abuse at Sir Seb that despite the huge amount of sport played and watched and coached and organised from the little house on the prairie no tickets were available. I chuntered a good deal and finally tried in the third and last ballot for tickets to the diving and yessss (pause for Olympic-size cheering) we got tickets to the men's synchro 3 metre springboard diving! 
So on Wednesday morning I was on the train to Kings Cross to meet number 1 for our Olympic diving fest. Straight on to the javelin train from Saint Pancras where we encountered a very smart volunteer who proudly told us he was in the flag team in the stadium for the victory ceremonies - what a great job! 
Through security and everyone - volunteers, army, spectators - are smiling and sharing their Olympic news. The park is amazing and we walk round to check out the various stadia - velodrome, basketball arena, hockey, pool and main stadium. Of course, there's a massive screen showing all the action from the rowing and cycling taking place elsewhere in the capital.

Lunch proved a bit of a challenge. This is the only the sign of difficulty that we encounter. The various food stalls have had logistics problems getting provisions into the park so paella with hardly anything in it but rice but we don't care - the sun is shining and we are on our way to the pool.  
Before the competition in the pool starts, all the divers from all disciplines are training so we see Tom Daley practising on the 5 and 10 metre board as well as the other GB divers. Then the competition starts and the Chinese are awesome. They have won every diving medal so far and this is going to be no exception. The Malaysian pair bow charmingly after every dive and the Mexicans, trained by number 1's old mate Fito who used to be the coach at Shipley, are doing incredible high tariff dives which are either very successful or a disaster. The GB team gets such a huge cheer every time they step on the board that it feels like the roof may come off. They finish 5th and that's a fair result because the Chinese win by a country mile and deservedly so. As Tom Daley said, winning silver in diving is like winning gold in any other sport. The Chinese have it all sewn up.
Then back out into the park to see Bradley Wiggins getting his medal on the big screen to huge cheers from the crowd in the park and then we join a queue for return tickets for the women's basketball. It takes an hour but yes, we get lucky and front row seats are ours for the GB Russia match. The atmosphere is like a party and the feel is very American but every British score is ear-splitting and the result is close... but the wrong way. 
I sometimes think that as a nation we are not proud enough of being British. I hope that national pride is a legacy of the Jubilee and the Olympics. Proud to be British and so, so proud to be there. A once-in-a-lifetime day. 

PS Massive good luck to Jack Laugher, our GB diver who goes to Ripon Grammar is in the springboard event next week. Can these Olympics get any better!?