Posts Tagged ‘competition’

Do-Do-Do The Funkay Chicken

Monday, August 4th, 2014

My recent adventures in worm charming have encouraged me to seek further animal-based competitions (all with happy outcomes and zero cruelty, of course.). Jon, my social enterprise and environmental development friend (he’s told me I’m not allowed to call him “Garden Boy”), told me about the annual Hen Racing Competition in Bonsall a few months ago and I immediately wanted to go. So Jon, my friends Pooja and Jonathan, and I headed to Bonsall on a rainy Saturday morning to watch the spectacle.

After a slight detour in Derby, which we decided to blame on ‘technology’, we made it to Bonsall as the races were beginning. It was a wet and soggy day so the umbrellas were out and the wellies were on as a few hundred people turned out to cheer on the chickens. Bonsall is a small town and I suspect that the hen race is the biggest event of the year. Saying that, if the hen race was held in London it would be the biggest event of the year there, too.

The race was held in the carpark of the Barley Mow pub with a 20 yard track sectioned off with plastic fencing. The crowds had gathered close to the sides and umbrellas blocked the view so visibility was low for spectators who had turned up a bit late due to scenic drives through Derby. The atmosphere was certainly charged with previous winners returning to reclaim their titles and new birds arriving on the scene with fresh legs. Exciting times at the Bonsall races.

Fighting for the best view.

Fighting for the best view.

Hen racing requires three parties – the hen plus two humans; one to hold and release the bird at the start line and another shaking seed and worms at the finish line. Training is important – hens don’t just run for the sake of it. They need to know where they are going and what they will receive when they get there. Like me, they make decisions based on their stomach but also have a tendency to get lost along the way and simply stop and stare at people.

One of the competitors.

One of the competitors.

Out of around 52 competitors, the winning chicken for 2014 was Road Runner and his ten year old trainer was particularly pleased with the results. It was a very exciting competition but it was a bit unfortunate that the sun didn’t come out until the race had finished. It then turned into a glorious day as we drove back home through the Peaks. Out of worm charming and hen racing, I would pick the worms as my preferred animal event, simply for the weirdness factor. However, Jon is planning on training a hen and raising it to be a born winner. Perhaps next year will bring improved weather and ultimate Hen Racing Championship glory.

Post-race drinks in the sunshine.

Post-race drinks in the sunshine.

In side news, Jonathan photographed the event and they appeared in The Daily Mail and The Telegraph. This story will go down in history.

Charming Worms

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

A few weeks ago, my friend Jon mentioned he had once competed in a chicken racing competition. This led to further discussions about other animal-related events that happen throughout England. It was this procrastination-driven discussion that eventuated in Jon and I attending one of England’s most prestigious sporting events – The World Worm Charming Championships. Yes. Worm charming. Amazing AND true.

That worm has been charmed.

That worm has been charmed.

Located in Willaston, a small market town and centre of all things worms (apparently), people came from far and wide (Jon and I drove for at least an hour to be there) to compete in and witness the wonder that is worm charming. When I found out about the event, I read the website description and imagined boxes of soil, a maximum of 15 competitors (all of them over the age of 65, male and wearing tartan hats) and a lot of waiting. So I was extremely surprised as we drove into Willaston and found rows of parked cars and hordes of people carry garden implements and heading in the direction of Willaston County Primary School. It would appear worm charming was popular.

The World Worm Charming Championship has been held in Willaston since 1980 and it would appear the organisers know what they are doing. The Primary School’s playground had been carefully divided into 144 plots of 3 x 3 metres. Competitors of all age groups were running around making final preparations for the big event. Jon and I immediately realised that we were unprepared for worm charming and that us entering the competition at the last minute would be a pointless and futile decision and we would simply look like fools. We would watch, learn and gain valuable knowledge for next year’s event. And learn we did.

The Willaston Rose Queen counted down the start of the competition and as the siren sounded, the relative peace of the primary school field turned into a hub-bub of banging, clanging, yelling, and general eagerness. My eyes bulged and my jaw dropped – never before had I seen so many humans performing such a ridiculous act. A ridiculous yet utterly brilliant act!

It would appear that if you stick a garden fork into lawn and proceed to vibrate and shake it while also stamping your feet and hitting mallets against the ground, the worms will come. Hundreds of competitors were banging drums, shaking garden forks, jumping, tap dancing and hitting coconuts against pieces of wood on the ground in order to simulate the vibrations of rain hitting earth. This is what gets worms really excited and makes them rise to the surface. Once the worms were visible, swift hands snatched them up, placed them into plastic containers and the team with the most worms would be crowned the winners. I have never seen so many worms exiting lawn before, nor did I ever expect to. I couldn’t believe how quickly, easily and regularly worms were coming out of the ground – one a second is what the commentator estimated.

Fork action.

Fork action.

The competition lasted 30 minutes which is a very long time to whack lawn for. There were hundreds of exhausted competitors who had gone out too hard in the first 10 minutes and didn’t have the stamina to last the full duration. There was one man who had sweat pouring off his nose as he pushed himself for the entire length of competition time, while also pushing his 8 year old son out of the way as he clearly wasn’t being useful at all.

Hundreds of worm charmers.

Hundreds of worm charmers.

As the competition came to an end, excitement grew over the record number of worms that were being collected. It had been a good year for worms – warm conditions leading up to some rain just before the big day. The worms were plentiful and it made for an excellent competition. The results have been released and the winners were the Bowden family with 394 worms. According to Crewe News, they were even interviewed by a Russian news crew. Such international exposure.

The sheer ridiculousness of the Worm Charming Championship made it one of those community events that you just hope will continue to exist for generations to come. There was a bouncy castle, a sausage sizzle and more tombola competitions than were really necessary spread out over the school grounds and some excellent dance and singing performances from local children’s groups. The community vibe was plentiful and I loved it. I really hope to be able to participate one year. I might need to come back to the UK just for it. I’m off to practise my fork vibrating.


Go Little Legs!

Monday, October 1st, 2012

After two Saturdays of training, the Paris-Versailles run finally arrived. I was really looking forward to the challenge – 16 kilometres with an apparently evil climb and a seemingly long finish. I knew I was going to be able to complete the race, so I added a few additional challenges to push myself – no stopping at any point and complete 16 kilometres in under one hour and 30 minutes.

It was a beautiful Sunday morning as Becky, my running buddy and fellow Equip-Top-Gâteau-Vitess member (we made up that awesome team name while waiting for the race to start), and I stood underneath the Eiffel Tower with 21000 other runners. The race didn’t start until 10am, a very comfortable Parisian time of the morning to begin a running race. We had to wait for 20 minutes before the start which meant being squished by Parisians who have no concept of personal space and many of whom had spent the last half an hour warming up and therefore stank. Yum.

Paris sky

A beautiful sunny day in Paris – great weather for running.

The race finally began with competitors being sent off in groups of 300. We were the 23rd group to go, heading off at about 10.20am. The run took us from the foot of the Eiffel tower and then west along the south bank of the Seine. We ran through the outskirts of Paris, under the peripherique and then into the banlieu or outer suburbs of the city. It was fun looking around and discovering different parts of Paris while running with a large mass of people – firstly through newer commercial areas, high density residential zones with ugly concrete apartment blocks, past sand factories along the river, and then we hit Issy-Les-Moulineaux.

Paris Versailles run map

My Garmin map of where we ran

Issy is a town/suburb/I don’t know what you’d call it, situated just outside of the peripherique of Paris and it was here that I discovered what a hill is. Before the race, Becky and I had learnt that there was a ‘hill’ in this race that many people warned was particularly painful. The incline of the hill wasn’t anything more significant than the two hills we run up most mornings so we figured it would be fine. No worries. Hmmm…

It turns out that while the incline wasn’t any greater than our normal climbs, when the hill goes for almost three kilometres you discover that a hill is not just a hill. It’s bloody awful and it HURTS. Oh how it hurts. There were quite a few turns as we went up and each time I thought, “Oh maybe this is the end.” But as I rounded the corner, another mountain was waiting for me.

I am very proud to say that I kept to my challenge and I didn’t stop. Both Becky and I overtook people who were struggling with the slope and we made it to the summit without dying or rolling back down. It was a great personal achievement. And I have to thank Jens Voigt for providing me with the “Shut up legs and do as I tell you!” inspiration.

We then ran through a beautiful forested area that eventually turned into a down-hill gallop – people were speeding past as fast as they could go, causing a few potentially dangerous moments.

The final three kilometres into Versailles were long but I picked up my speed for the final two and really pushed myself in the last kilometre to attempt to make my one hour and 30 minute goal. The actual race was 16.3 kilometres and I came in with a final time of 1 hour 31 minutes and 19 seconds. According to my Garmin watch, I reached the 16 kilometre mark in just under one hour and 30 minutes. I think that made me happier than crossing the actual finish line.

Paris Versailles race

Post-race crowds

It was such a great feeling to finish and to know I had actually pushed myself a long the way. I have never been this fit in my life – I have very strong memories of being at primary school and making up excuses to not have to do cross-country running. I now love being able to run long distances and not feel dead at the end. While my legs were a bit tired, I could have kept going. Plus all of this exercise means that yesterday I could eat two pieces of cake, which really is the best reason to run from Paris to Versailles.

Paris Versailles medal

I got a medal!

Votez Pour Moi!

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

I have entered my blog in the Paris Golden Blog competition. I don’t expect to win, but hey! Maybe some new people will discover my site and like it! Anyhoo, if you’re feeling generous and want to votez pour moi, please go here and click on the magical blue button… Merci!

Why Not?

Friday, April 13th, 2012

I am not in any way expecting to win but I figured I’d get my blog out there anyway, and I have entered myself (yes, self promotion) in the 2012 Blog of the Year Competition! So now I need you to vote for me, my lovely, fabulous, exceptionally handsome readers. Just click on the button below, head to the last page in the list of blogs, click on Zaum and bam! My love for you will exceed the tests of time.
People's Choice Award

Now That’s a Steak

Monday, October 31st, 2011

I can’t remember if I have discussed this previously, but Tom and I are currently involved in a small competition with two other couples – Sonia and Guibril, and Becky and Vivien. The competition is boys vs girls and involves the daily punishment of sit ups, push ups and the plank (hold yourself up off the floor with your forearms and toes. Fun fun.) It is in its third month, with the first month involving 20 sit ups, 20 push ups and 20 seconds of plank. Month #Two was 40, 40, 40, and now we have 60, 60, 60. It’s hard. But the reward for the team who does the most exercises at the end of each month is a dinner paid for by the losing team.

The first month was won by the girls (WOO!) and the boys took us for indian at a remarkably good indian restaurant. Unfortunately, due only to Sonia being incapacitated due to a sore back and Becky having to spend an entire day on a plane, the boys won the second month. It wasn’t a particularly spectacular win but we let them feel good about themselves and took them to a restaurant called Le Bistro du Coin on Saturday night.

I had booked the restaurant via my favourite website, La Fourchette, which granted us a 40% discount on the meal. There was no way we were paying full price for the boys’ dinners. When we arrived at the restaurant we had to wait for our table as it had been given to someone else. That’s never a good start. The owner of the restaurant was smooth and relatively friendly, however he had that French cockiness about him that lets him get away with things like not having a table for us.

When we were eventually seated, it took a while until we were served and then the food itself wasn’t all that spectacular. I ordered a piece of beef which was chewy and a fairly ordinary cut, and the eschalot sauce was gloopy and unremarkable. Others had the duck that was small although apparently quite tasty. Tom was the winner – for an extra 11.50 Euros, he ordered the côte de boeuf. A huge 500g piece of meat, perfectly cooked and very, very tasty. Back in Perth, Tom would often choose the T-Bone steak and would hack away at the huge slab of flesh, and he hadn’t found anything that could compare in Paris. But here it was.

Bistro du Coin steak

It was even served with bone marrow

The desserts were ordinary – my moelleux au chocolate tasted like it came out of a packet and Tom’s profiteroles were mostly whipped cream. The other waitstaff were a bit strange, too – they managed to drop two wine glasses in the time we were there and one waiter kept asking us if we wanted the bill. None of the other food we ate was worth photographing – that’s how much I am not going to go back. Unfortunately Tom has now had a taste of the giant steak so will be wanting to return but I think he will be going on his own.

Find It!

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Yesterday saw the release of two books into the wild. My UWA colleague, Brendan, and I (and potentially Kylie as well), have set ourselves a little competition with the help of Book Crossing. For those of you who do not know, Book Crossing is a website where you register books, download stickers, put the sticker into the book, and then leave the book somewhere. Then someone finds the book, goes to the Book Crossing website and says they have found it and then, after reading it, drops it somewhere new. The idea is to encourage the sharing of books and to also watch how far your book can travel.

The terms of the competition are: We have each chosen a book and dropped it in the same place within the UWA Business School. We are now waiting anxiously until 1 January 2011 to see whose book has travelled the furthest – if at all. The prize for the book that has travelled the furthest – Lindt 70% chocolate.

So may I encourage you all to visit the UWA Business School, pick up Spike Milligan’s “Adolf Hitler – My Part in His Downfall” and take it far, far away. Preferably overseas somewhere. If you happen to see “Scar Tissue” by Anthony Kiedis, just ignore it. Or hide it somewhere so that no one can find it. Ever.

Spike Milligan

The book to find!!

Discount! discount! DISCOUNT!

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

I received an email this morning from Book Depository offering me 10% discount vouchers for ten of my friends! So I thought I’d open it up as a little prize to my millions of readers. First ten people to email me with “Please, please, I need discount books!” as the subject line gets a voucher!*

*Winners will be notified by email. Offer ends sometime soon.

Hooray for Clipart!