Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tockholes and Treacle

I do Local Walks with Local People at the weekends, following on from the inaugural walk at Grasmere in August. Last weekend, despite the rain, Two Socks, Bli Guinness and I ventured to Tockholes. Now I don't know if it was the proximity to Hallowe'en and Bonfire Night, but there was a definite spooky feel to the afternoon.

When we entered the woods, there was an extraordinary avenue of trees with black, twisted trunks, set against a burnt orange carpet of leaves on the floor, and an ominous dark sky. The photos don't do it justice.

We proceeded along the Witton Weavers Way through the woodland, over swollen streams to the Roddleworth Reservoirs. Feeding into the reservoir was a river of Guinness - opaque dark waters with white foamy edges. We restrained Bli from jumping in at this point.

Crossing the streams involved a variety of bridging mechanisms including a cambered cicane, designed to be taken at speed, or risk falling into a Guinness tributary.

At some point, the conversation turned to the Slaughtered Lamb - and the Locals' sage warning not to stray from the path. By sheer coincidence at the end of the walk, we found ourselves in our very own Slaughtered Lamb, aka the Royal Arms Pub.

From the stereotypically creaky door, to the tiny stone-floored rooms, filled with the scent of woodsmoke from the real fires in the blackened grates, the atmosphere was distinctly Local. Think Royston Vesey.

But definitely not unfriendly. There were more dogs than people for a start, which is never a bad thing. The home-cooked food was fantastic and plentiful; the beer interesting - from Warsteiner for Two Socks, to Tockholes Treacle Ale for me. There were even old-fashioned treacle lollipops in a jar (we bought several), and an eclectic-bordering-on-surreal music shuffle on the jukebox. The pub is always in the Good Pub Guide and we will definitely be back.

Unlike the individual who left his underpants on the reservoir emergency helpline sign. I know fresh water is the life blood of the nation, but I can't condone going to the extremes of stripping down to the buff to plunge in to save it.

Now where did I put that Brita filter?...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's Just Like Watching Brazil

After two years of intensive training, East Lancs Under 7s League Football has started in earnest for Tiddler. The season had opened with 7 straight wins including 2 with scores in double figures for us.

It's Just Like Watching Brazil, I thought.

On Saturday, however, we tasted defeat for the first time against another, as yet unbeaten side, although it could have gone either way.

This Is How It Feels To Be City, I thought.

As predicted, Tiddler is one of football's natural defenders and spends the game prowling the 18 yard line, protecting the keeper and watching for danger. It does mean his chances of scoring are few and far between and largely restricted to corners and free kicks. Twice the ball fell to his feet from a perfect corner on Saturday. Twice he balanced himself, turned and shot in one movement. Twice I prepared myself to leap in the air screaming like a mad eejit...

Tiddler's blonde head is just visible, lurking behind the girl defender.

and twice the net failed to bulge, as the keeper gathered the ball at the first shot, and the second went narrowly wide of the post.

So near and yet so far.

I console him with the fact that if this were fantasy football he'd have as many clean sheet points as some of our strikers had goal points, so his contribution is as important as theirs.

Speaking of fantasy football. JP, Tiddler and I have entered teams in a fantasy league this year. Tiddler and I languish somewhere around 20,000th, but JP is right up there in 1000th place in the country. He spots players coming into form and makes canny transfers week after week. Unfortunately there's no cash prize in this one, but next year I'm signing him up for the ones with the Big Money - provided I can prevent him from ratting out on himself for being under 18.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Off Road, Off Piste

The Little Petrolheads had a day out with Sister in China, Cousin and Mrs Duck Senior recently at Park Hall Farm near Oswestry. As well as the obligatory feeding of small furry things, the Park has the added attraction of JCBs, Quad Bikes and an off-road dirt course with mini landrovers for Little Ducks aged six and over.

Tiddler was beside himself with excitement.

Unfortunately it was just before his 6th birthday, a minor detail not lost on serial-rule-obeyer JP, which he felt duty bound to point out when they were on the starting grid. Despite frantic shushing from Sister in China, his voice could be clearly heard declaring Tiddler's ineligibility to race.

Tiddler was having none of it. Before the race officials could step in and black flag him, he revved his engine, floored the accelerator and took off round the course. He pushed the landrover to its limits, managing to crash and then roll it on a particularly steep section.

This is nothing new. In Lappland last Christmas he managed to tip a snowmobile up on one blade, nearly rolling it and that was when it was tethered to a tree for safety!

So if you're watching Top Gear on Sunday, wondering why the The Stig is on a booster seat, wonder no further.