Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Athleticism recalled by the Sage of Selly Oak ...

Dr Ferris emails: "Now that the Beijing Olympics are but a distant memory and London 2012 a matter of future concern only, perhaps it is time for Crickley Hill Man to enshrine on his blog the sporting achievements of those Crickley diggers who took part in the Sports Days held on the hill in, I think, 1974-1976 during an extended lunchbreak on each occasion. The events I can remember were welly wanging* (throwing a rather unsavoury old wellington boot the longest distance), shovel stropping** (hurling a piece of limestone off a shovel using a technique similar to throwing the hammer in terms of spinning around before releasing the stone, again achieving distance being the aim), the ranging rod javelin and, most gruelling of all, the wheelbarrow race.

The wheelbarrow race set off from in front of the finds hut and involved a barrower racing up from there to the rampart entrance, turning there around an upturned bucket and then racing back. It sounds simple, but each barrow contained a digger who had to hang on for grim life and distribute their weight from side to side as if on a bobsleigh run. In 1976 I won the barrow race with Becky Spencer riding in the barrow, but it was a close-run thing with Robert Roberts and his partner whom I cannot now recall. (Update from Iain: Robert Roberts's partner in the 1976 Sports Day barrow race was Angie - one of Phil's archaeology students from Nottingham for whom Robert carried the flame of love that season, I now recall).   About fifteen metres from the finishing post my legs started to buckle at the knees and I almost lost control of the barrow but somehow managed to steady myself and cross the finishing line. Heaven knows what health and safety implications such a 'sports day' would have now in this age of dangerous conkers."

* I have done some research on welly wanging or wellie whanging - there seems no definitive spelling-: here's an entertaining BBC piece about a mechanical welly wanging machine that can hurl several boots 80 metres!

** Shovel stropping seems to be a term we invented and applied to this activity: research on the web reveals the following interesting piece on how to coal a Royal Navy ship, should you ever need to organise it, or how to strop a razor, but nothing sensible connecting shovels with stropping.  The technique Iain describes obviously informed John Boden's and my endeavours to clear the cuttings of cowpats described in an earlier post here.

For those who have forgotten what the wheelbarrows were like, here's Jane Dineen examining one (and probably not thinking about volunteering to ride in it in the race!) in about 1980 while JP sets off toward the finds hut.

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