Magazine article The Spectator

Junior Leaders

Magazine article The Spectator

Junior Leaders

Article excerpt

I should not have been surprised to discover that The Spectator has a profound influence on village life -- a happy state of affairs which was illustrated last Friday evening immediately before the start of our junior fell races. As the young contestants were lining up, I was handed a box and a sealed envelope. The box contained a revolver and inside the envelope there was a note about how the weapon should be employed. George V once suggested that a similar gift be made to officers of the household division, whose pleasures he regarded as deviant. Happily, the letter which was addressed to me did not suggest that I go into the garden and blow my brains out. Instead, it asked me to accept the donation of a starting pistol and use it in place of the clay-pigeon launcher with which -- as reported in this column a month ago -- I have imperilled my fingers at the beginning of the last seven fell races.

The benefactors were Baker, Shepherd and Gillespie 'ecological consultants', who, in their own words, were the 'offenders' responsible for the 'pyrotechnic display' which, as described in the same issue of the paper, provoked angry correspondence in our parish magazine. They were making amends, and gratitude for their act of contrition prevents me from even mentioning the inconsistency of 'celebrating ten years of successful ecological consultancy' by polluting the atmosphere with fireworks. I simply admit that, after the lady who started the junior races had fired the pistol without doing herself an injury, I carried it around the playing field with the aggressive swagger of Jesse James.

The senior fell race was, as always, efficiently organised and swiftly run. The junior events -- earlier in the evening -- were run in about the same time, though over shorter distances, and completed in equally good order. Admittedly, the prize for the first girl home in the under-16s' race was not awarded for the compelling, if slightly disappointing, reason that no girl took part.

Indeed, there were only three boys on the starting line. But the under-12s more than made up for the regrettable absence of adolescent support. The youngest contestants possessed a quality with which neither the adult, nor the adolescent, event could compete. The wiry men and women in the livery of famous harriers' clubs and the freelance runners -- one of whom wore the briefest briefs, apparently made from a union flag -- lacked the charm of Charlie, a girl of about six who ran in what looked like a deerstalker, and seven-year-old Fay, who wore a pink cardigan. …

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