Wednesday, 28 December 2011

World's Strongest Man Final 1983

The World's Strongest Man (WSM) was the premier event in strength athletics for 20 years up until the late 1990's. Men from four corners of the earth were invited to compete against each other in a series of unique events designed to test each individual to the fullest. The events had a foundation in Powerlifting, Highland Games and others were created based on mythological feats of strength.

It was at the end of a long day that we came across the televised final of WSM 1983. We'd found TV gold. It had the constituent parts of: a British underdog, early 80s hair styles and fashion, a brilliant referee and a crowd who were a bit too close to the athletes. We were instantly hooked.

A final to beat all finals. A truck full of tension, a barrel load of theatrics and the first time the event had been held outside the USA since its inception in 1977. Christchurch - New Zealand, I bring you, GB's finest, the 2 time Commonwealth Shot Put Champion and Budgie Breeding Behemoth...Geoff Capes.
There were 8 strangely named events which sorted the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys and the sheep from the goats. Farmers Walk, Bar Bending, Silver Dollar Deadlift, Truck Pull, Rock Lift, Weight for Height, Wool Hoist and Lorry Loading.

All were designed to sap energy, test physical and mental endurance and brutalise any muscle in the human body. There were other characters alongside Mr Capes and much of the focus fell on a young pretender from Iceland, Jón Páll Sigmarsson, with a series of one liners designed to psyche out his fellow athletes ("This is no problem for Jón Páll", "There is no reason to be alive if you can't do deadlift" and "I am not an Eskimo, I am a Viking!"). Jón Páll proved a fearsome competitor in 1983 and would go on to win the WSM 4 times in the future as well going down in history as Iceland's greatest athlete of the 20th Century.

However, 1983 was all about Geoff. Coming first in the Truck Pull and Weight for Height and finishing in the top 3 for all the other events meant Capes was leading with only the final event (Lorry Loading) left. It was captivating to watch as these 12 huge sacks of flour, weighing at least 12 stones each had to launched on to the back of a lorry. The fine flour kept seeping through the porous bags and it got into some of the athletes lungs, including poor Tom Magee who nearly died after he inhaled too much flour and could barely complete the task.

However, Capes knew that he'd done enough and gave a little leap of joy as the final sack landed on the back of the lorry and in his final interview, he declared many pints and drinks were going to be spilled in Christchurch that night in celebration of a little man from Lincolnshire being crowned the World's Strongest Man with a total score of 49.5.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Newark upon Trent - A Glory Town

Our inter-nation travelogue continues...It's like Cheltenham, but prettier. It's like Cirencester, but cheaper. It's Newark upon Trent, home of some of the finest set of independent shops and eateries in our fair country.

Sitting atop of the festive shopping pile is Vintage Vixen (run by the lovely Clare Parker) on Cartergate. A ladies only step back into the 1950s. T got two wonderful pieces (Christmas Day and New Years Eve outfits), a flattering aubergine dress and a knitted straw leopard jumper. Both absolute bargains and I got us a huge piece of maori wall art with a corny story on each corner in a wonderful type face and artistic styling.

Two's Company on Kirkgate is a gift shop doing so well, they've opened up two other shops across the country on the back of the shops success in Newark. Our purchase was a wonderfully decorative key plate which has a retro driving licence embedded beneath the glazed surface.

With some splendid architecture including a 16th Century castle (loaded with history and playing an important part in the Civil War), the Gilstrap historical centre, heritage trails, two musuems and Mr glorious River Trent winding it's way through the town, it's a truly picturesque and vibrant market town which also hosts Europe's largest antique fair at the mighty Newark Showground.

Home to the Railway Club, a charming ode to working men's clubs and histories through the ages it still has a 50p pool table. We've not seen those prices since our glory days back at University in Scarborough (oh those long nights in the cavernous Olympia arcade complete with the best ever bandit - Crazy Fruits). Home also to the famous Tolney Lane which brings an incredible richness and diversity into the population with the traveller community (who I went to Primary School with) who're directly responsible for much of the wonderful famed Newark slang words including: Chavvy, Peeve, Teggys and Yocks.

Just 80mins from London on the train and 20mins from Nottingham and Lincoln and sat proudly astride the ancient Great North Road (known more locally as the A1) and bisecting it east to west is the recently improved A46 aiding all four wheel journeys in the area. Tis very close to Sherwood Forest, home of the Major Oak and Robin Hood himself. There's no earthly reason not to come and share in the delights of this historic market marvel.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Brief Bus Encounters

It would seem that we were destined to meet.

Without my car, I had to get to Radio HQ to record the latest two broadcast specials of Sound Tracks (a Bollywood followed by a Video Game focussed hour of entertainment). So off I trotted on the wonderful public transport of Wilts and Dorset buses and in particular the service no.36 which runs from Bournemouth to Verwood and departed at 8.26am.

There was a gentleman on the bus already and a lady boarded at the same time as I to join our friendly driver en route to Verwood. The gentleman alighted at Ringwood and the driver announced to us both that he needed to go and get some more change as he was running out.

It was at this moment that a conversation was struck up between myself and the lady who was sat behind me. Playing with her new iPhone (sold to her by her son) she began telling me that her son has recently started playing Assassin's Creed Revelations and that she's suitably impressed with its graphics but as she's got an addictive personality, she can't play computers because she'd waste her time on them.

I also discovered en route that she was off to Moors Valley Country Park and was learning to cycle with her friend June. This lady was in her late 50s and respect was due as she's trying something new on this cold December morn.

We offered polite goodbyes, she disappeared into the park and I carried on my journey to Radio HQ. All went well, both shows sounding brilliant and I got on the 36 again retracing the bussy tracks through Three Legged Cross and Ashley Heath. Who then gets on the bus outside Moors Valley Country Park, the same lady with her cycle helmet and friend June waving her off.

She came and sat down next to me and started where we left off 200 minutes earlier like we were old friends. She'd be talking to June about the "lovely person" she met on the bus on the way here, but also shared with me she'd fallen off her bike today (it's normally June who falls off) and the last time she fell off was during "The Jewish Incident". Her son was teaching her to cycle and she actually ploughed into a whole family of three generations of a Jewish cycling family and fell off and slightly hurt herself earlier on in the summer. I told her about the radio and she told me that she worked at the Inland Revenue and her time in South Africa. We got off at the same stop, exchanged names and as we parted at the fork of Knyveton Road - Anne hugged me, smiled and strolled on and said she'd listen to the show tomorrow.