In this blogposting…
*England’s Grass Roots
*Getting Older: The Importance Of Walking
Now then - nice and slow…
...took place as planned yesterday, June 12, in Newcastle.
In faithful attendance were Hildie (naturally) and myself (equally naturally). Adorning the AGM with his irresistible presence was none other than J Arthur Smallpiece, the Poet Laureate of the Honorable Society of Truckshunters (whose real name - Gerry Rawlings - ought to be far more widely known in poetic and literary circles).
Excellent though that threesome undoubtedly is, the AGM was graced, for the first time, by my old friend Brian, whom I’ve known since my salad days and who was visiting me for the weekend.
Brian is a ballet-master of some considerable international reputation who has thankfully retained an ability not to take himself too seriously. Nevertheless, we were compelled to forego a public demonstration of his skills, which would have attracted far too much attention from the crowds thronging the continental market - and may very well have got us barred from Pret a Manger forever.
A splendid time was had by all. BIG thankyou hugs to Hildie, Gerry and Brian.
ENGLAND’S GRASS ROOTS
Mystery emailer Miles - whose wonderful list of ‘Useful Advice’ you can find in posting 278 - has been in touch with me again. This time, his message was of a different order altogether.
His email says that, in a book he read recently, he came across this eloquent description of ‘England’s Grass Roots’ which he thought we might like.
I certainly like it - and I hope you do, too.
‘In typical English weather, April is the moment of the ‘spring flush’ of grass growth; when, winter over, grass - suddenly conspicuously greener - starts growing crazily. It’s a crucial moment because - be in no doubt - grass is what Great Britain’s greatness rests upon.
Grass is the root of the wool industry, by which Britain became a great trading nation, by which the Industrial Revolution was underwritten, and by which we built the largest empire in modern history. It’s not hard to make the case that it’s only for the sake of grass that, for five centuries, our navy ruled the waves.
The grass of the British Isles is like no other grass. ‘The fineness and almost perpetual greenness of our turf cannot be found in France or in Holland,’ notes the diplomat and essayist Sir William Temple in 1685 (thus dismissing, at a stroke, our two supreme trading adversaries).
He is right, of course. In a general sense, grass is what makes our land so green and pleasant; it’s why the overwhelming sensation, on returning to Britain from abroad, is one of greenness.
Even setting aside the wool trade, British culture has always been grass-rooted: from the roast beef of ‘olde Englande’ to the dairy herds that make the best cream, butter and hard cheese in the world. What other country has fresh milk in every local shop?
And what other country has a velvet sward so perfect that we’ve had to invent things to do with it? (Football round 1100, bowls by the thirteenth century, cricket from 1300 or so, golf by the 1400s, rugby around 1823, croquet in the 1830s, lawn tennis in 1874 and hockey by 1849.)
Grass is what makes Britain beautiful - an observation not wasted on 18th-century landscape gardeners such as William Kent or Northumberland-born ‘Capability’ Brown as they set about ‘tweaking’ our verdant landscape, with lakes and clumps of trees, into scenes of romantically idealised pastoral beauty; ‘England’s greatest contribution, perhaps,’ observed the architectural historian Christopher Hussey in 1948, ‘to the visual arts of the world.’
And directly descended from these pastures green is that centre-piece of every English garden, that shorn turf ‘so delicious to the sentient bootsole’ (Henry James’ words) - the English lawn.'
A little bit of ‘excusable nationalism’!
Thanks Miles; I’ll never think of grass in quite the same way again.
GETTING OLDER: THE IMPORTANCE OF WALKING
As a kind of follow-up to Hildie’s useful exercise regime, described in posting 281, here are some comments sent to me by Eric and Jean, from Tantobie.
‘Walking can add minutes to your life. This enables you, at 85 years old, to spend an additional 5 months in a nursing home at £2,000 per month.’
‘My grandpa started walking five miles a day when he was 60. Now he's 97 years old
and we have no idea where on earth he is.’
‘The only reason I would take up walking is so that I could hear heavy breathing again.’
‘Every time I hear the dirty word 'exercise', I wash my mouth out with chocolate.’
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