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May 2011 Archives

May 1, 2011

Help for Heroes: Doug Hamilton-Cox

Doug Hamilton-Cox is an extraordinary man, and his wife and principal support driver Sue in many ways equally remarkable. At the age of 67, ex-Sapper Doug is yomping from John O'Groats to Land's End, sustaining an average of 4 mph on his walking days. On his "rest" days, he collects for Help for Heroes in various towns en route.:

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Photo: courtesy of his website

Sensibly he has enlisted help not only from his military contacts, but also from Rotary Clubs along his route, though sadly he isn't a member. Yesterday, with a little help from our Club, he collected over £800 from the generous folk of Stirling, which on this journey is a record for a single collection so far. Sue travelled up from Exeter to rejoin him as his main support, and they just stayed with us overnight at Landrick. I have never felt more proud to be able to give a fellow walker a Compeed – for his first blister so far!

You should be able to follow his progress from Where's Doug Now? but it badly needs to be updated: today it still showed his position as the Corrieyairack Pass instead of Dunblane! Doug's previous two long walks raised over £25,000 and he is running ahead of schedule on this 1000-mile journey. Everything about him suggests that he will complete his mission, and that he will raise a remarkable amount of money in doing so. He reminds us all what one determined individual, with an amazingly supportive partner, can achieve.

May 2, 2011

Trailblaze blots on the landscape

I'm about to set off for my first long walk in the south of England: the South Downs Way. The goal is to sample the route and its waymarking and to make any final tweaks to our forthcoming guidebook.

At least, that was the original goal, but over the last month I've become aware of the spread of Trailblaze on our National Trails: garish metal boxes with a hole into which runners are supposed to stick their timing tags in order to prove how fast they ran. These blots on the landscape also advertise the Trailblaze website. Here's a photo sent by a friend while walking Offa's Dyke Path:

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So far these things have been installed on 8 National Trails, including apparently the South Downs Way – so I shall struggle not to be distracted by them. I was delighted to find that some enterprising person has set up a Say NO to Trailblaze website and I must have been among the first hundred to sign their petition. Please follow this link to find out more and read people's comments, including some big names in the outdoor world.

I have nothing but respect and admiration for endurance runners who push themselves to the limit, whether on a National Trail or elsewhere. I just can't understand why they need to clutter our lovely countryside walks with these clunky metal boxes. If you are proving something to yourself or to others who trust you, what is wrong with a wristwatch – or, if you prefer, GPS? And if you don't trust other runners to tell the truth, the Trailblaze system won't work: there's nothing to stop cheats from cycling or mostly driving between boxes in their desperate attempts to be named on the website and win their coloured wristbands.

The system seems hopelessly low-tech, even obsolescent: you register online but then the timing tags have to be posted back and forth, so there's a delay before the results appear. It's also sadly open to misunderstanding and vandalism. Somebody suggested (in jest) on a forum recently that the flame logo and hole might confuse people into thinking it was a safe place for smokers to stub out their cigarettes. But a friend just sent me this photograph of the start of the Cleveland Way:

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Look closely and you'll see that some vandal or fool has already done just that:

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I can't say that I'm looking forward to seeing one of these "in the flesh" for the first time on the South Downs, and we'll avoid any photos that include them in our guidebook. I'm so glad that Hadrian's Wall Path has stood out against the trend among Natural Trail managers to agree to Trailblaze being installed.

May 20, 2011

The Rob Roy Way and Rotary Club of Stirling

Last Sunday, I organised a sponsored walk on the Rob Roy Way which was well supported by members and supporters of the Rotary Club of Stirling. We covered the 79-mile route in sections, and all completed their sections in good time and in good spirits.

We can't compete with the massive fund-raising achieved by the imminent Rob Roy Challenge, but we have raised a total of over £2350 for our two charities: End Polio Now and Riding for the Disabled. Considering we are a small club of fairly high average age, I think that is a creditable effort. What's more, we had a great day out, not much rain and a friendly meal at Stirling Golf Club that evening:

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May 26, 2011

Keir's voice as heard via The Sun and Radio Scotland

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It started today with the Sun. Keir is comfortable writing about education for heavyweights such as Holyrood or the Times Higher Education Supplement, so when he said he might have an article in the Sun newspaper I was open-jawed with surprise. But here it is in today's newspaper!

Now The Sun doesn't resemble Keir's normal publishing genre. For a start, it gives you 96 pages for 30p! Also, its paragraphs are short and its sentences even shorter. Even its words are short!

Impressively, Sun journalist Graeme Donohue had not only talked to Keir about the issue of pupils using computers in exams, but also had let him read what he intended to attribute to him before publishing it - a journalistic discipline that isn't easy to maintain on a weekly, let alone daily. And although it's mostly in Sun-speak, you can still hear Keir's authentic voice in the breakout quote "when I was a pupil, the introduction of the biro pen was deemed controversial". Quite.

The heart of the issue over whether using laptops, calculators or other aids leads to cheating is well summarised:

What constitutes cheating depends on what it is you are trying to test.

Anyway, half an hour later I was hearing Keir's authentic voice again, this time on Good Morning Scotland, which had obviously picked up this story from this morning's Sun and phone-interviewed him. The questions ranged over calculators and laptops, and felt less coherent than his Sun article, but perhaps I wasn't fully awake.

May 27, 2011

In memoriam canum (Bramble and Max)

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Bramble would have been 15 years old today, had she lived. You've never met such a good-natured dog - emotionally intelligent and loving to a fault. From puppihood in 1996 she had lived happily at Landrick - much loved by Sandy and Helen, as well as by me and Keir, and in the last five years adored also by Amy. We were all very sad when her end came 3 weeks ago, on 3 May. I want to keep her memory alive with this photo that I hand-printed back in June 1999, just after Bramble had mothered five lovely puppies.

Below is her great friend Max, a half-Doberman mongrel whom we rescued from Cambuskenneth in May 1998, and who nearly took over my life. His end came over five years ago, and Bramble is now peacefully buried beside him. Life at Landrick will never be the same without these wonderful dogs. My office feels achingly empty.

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About May 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Jacquetta in May 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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