The day of delight

There is always the risk in this country that, when you are wishing for good weather in order to enjoy an outdoor function, you will wind up getting drenched or blown about or snowed in. It doesn’t matter what time of year, or what type of event, the chances are not good that the weather will play ball. That does sound somewhat cynical but with good reason. We have had many wet and/or windy days out.

So, it was with certain misgivings that we booked to attend not one but two outdoor events today. The second event, an outdoor screening of the most recent movie version of Emma, was especially weather critical given the size of the screen. And with nowhere to run.

The first event of the day was the Hampshire Country Sports Day organised brilliantly by the Countryside Alliance. We’ve never been but given we felt cheated out of the Surrey Show this year felt this might be a bit of a consolation. It was so much more.

Set in wonderful rolling farmland near East Meon, a big ‘ring’ had been cordoned off with plastic netting and surrounded by a long line of stalls selling everything you could possibly imagine you would need in the countryside. Particularly gin. There were two gin stalls beside each other. Needless to say we purchased some from the local distiller.

Okay, one of them is vodka but, once tasted, marmalade vodka is not easily ignored.

Gin aside (and the excellent pint of Bowman’s Swift One I had) the highlight was the relay race. And the History of the Shotgun. And the two guys commentating. And the…actually, the whole event was the highlight.

The relay race, though, needs description. We always love the odd things. Like terrier racing and the scurry but this relay race left them both in the shade.

Imagine, if you can, two teams racing around a small circuit, one section at a time, each section ‘tagging’ the next as they complete the circuit. So, basically, a relay race. Now imagine that the first group is three people, a quad bike with a trailer, and some poles. The second group is a person with a dog and the third group consists of riders on ponies.

What happens is the quad bikes race out onto the showground and two of the people leap off and start building hurdles by attaching the poles in the trailer to uprights already in the ground. There are two sets of hurdles. They then have to race back to the start.

It’s then the turn of the person with the dog. The dog has to leap over the hurdles and go through a tunnel in order to complete the course. We didn’t see the heats but the final featured a small terrier against a large lab. (The terrier won.)

Next comes the horses. Three of them, in relay, leap over the hurdles then head back to the start. Finally, the quad bikes re-appear and dismantle the hurdles, finishing with the poles neatly placed in the trailer.

It was insane. Incredibly funny and marvellously entertaining, aided and abetted by the constant hilarious babbling of the two commentators. It was truly wonderful.

Also wonderful was the fact that everything felt so normal. There were sterilising stations everywhere and a sort of one way system that was doomed to failure but there were few masks (I saw two) and everyone was having a fine day. We’re going on the mailing list for next year. Not one to miss.

Unfortunately, dinner in a pub was ruined by Covid nonsense so I’m not going to say anything other than we shall wait to return once life is normal again.

But this day of delight was not over yet.

Following on from last Sunday’s picnic on the south lawn of Chawton House, we were booked into their first outdoor screening. We came armed with blanket, fleeces and puppies. In retrospect, we could have done with some thicker fleeces as the puppies only provided so much warmth. Particularly an almost constantly shivering Emma.

For a day of heat and blue sky, the night was bloody cold. At least our picnic blanket is plastic backed otherwise we’d have caught pneumonia. And we all know: if ain’t Covid, it ain’t gettin’ treated.

Speaking of the dreaded disease, I didn’t see a single mask. And there was a huge attendance. It was so good to see. It was so normal.

The movie was interesting. Not as interesting as the dead things that Freya kept growling at and which seem to inhabit the Wilderness, but interesting nonetheless.

It’s hard not to compare Emma versions given there’s so many but this one had a few interesting things to say about servants. They were always in the background (or foreground) and the main cast just ignored them. We, the audience, were very aware of them but the main characters were not. The servants were just there. It was a fact of life which did not require notice.

I thought it was very good though possibly a bit heavy handed. It’s probably because subtlety is wasted on the current generation of movie goers. I don’t know. I enjoyed the point and that says it all, really. Also, as a directorial debut by Autumn de Wilde, it was very good.

Of the cast, I thought Bill Nighy was perfect as Mr Woodhouse, Miranda Hart delightful as Miss Bates and Josh O’Connor (who we keep seeing in everything these days) superb as Mr Elton.

Emma, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, was an interesting interpretation which I didn’t really like. I think Emma should be likeable to the audience in order to underline when she’s not. Ms Taylor-Joy was excellent but Emma was lacking in the innocence that she should have.

I am not an Austen authority but I do know what I like. I liked the film but not necessarily all of the interpretations.

We weren’t that keen on watching it from a blanket on a cold night. Next time (oh, please let there be a next time) we’ll bring chairs and old people blankets for our laps.

Today, this happened

In 1930 Finnish athlete Paavo Johannes Nurmi ran 20 kms in 1:04:38.4 in Stockholm. This was a new world record for long distance running. He held it for six years until Juan Carlos Zabala of Argentina reset it to 1:04:00.2. The current (September 13, 2020) world record for 20kms by a man is held by Zersenay Tadese. He managed under an hour in 2006. His time of 56:01 is the male record time. The fastest female over 20km is from Kenya. Her name is Florence Kiplagat and she ran a time of 1:01:54 at the 2015 Barcelona half marathon event.

The 20km event is not a recognised Olympic event (though it was in the 1936 Olympics, where Juan Carlos Zabala broke the record) and is bound by some strange rules and regulations. It is held in various places around the world, sometimes alongside other track and field events.

Incidentally, Kiplagat appears to be quite a popular name in Kenya. It means son of Lagat – or daughter, I assume.

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