Sleep Talkin’ Man, assorted quotes

Just discovered this today: here.  Listen to the audio files on the left.  Amazing amazing amazing – I love humans!  Feels like this guy becomes the Mighty Boosh in his sleep – God bless his girlfriend for sharing it all with us.  Here are some examples:

"I've got a really terrible terrible feeling about this custard tart. Terrible."
"Oompa loompas don't sing in heaven. They tidy up the clouds."
"Don't leave the duck there. It's totally irresponsible. Put it on the swing, it'll have much more fun."
"Look. Look at my left foot. Look at my left foot. Smack you in the face!"
"Enough with the cheese. Enough!"

"You can't be a pirate if you haven't got a beard. I said so. MY boat, MY rules."
"Can you hold my starfish? It doesn't like it when I'm getting excited. Oh look, it likes you!"
"The plumbing doesn't help with the cucumbers anymore."
"I love the fact you're a moose. Yes. So soft, so soft."
"Oh, we're going to be late for the pogo ballet, stop it!"

"Fluffy bunny + twitchy nose + big ears = great stew."
"I haven't put on weight. Your eyes are fat."
"Big pig. Massive oink. Little curly tail."
"Look at the size of your bath. I can pee in it and you'd never notice."
"I can't control the kittens. Too many whiskers! Too many whiskers!"

"Butter… nut… squash. I like those words."
"Yah, I can't believe in God when I'm THIS good."
"I want to be a cowboy. I don't want to be a panda. Pandas are boring, stupid & boring. Bad panda!"
"Robots making sweets? But they've got no taste buds! Metal smarties."
"Awesome. Teddy bears bungie jumping."

"Vampire penguins? Zombie guinea pigs? We're done for…. done for." 
"Vegetarians will be the first to go. Vegans haven't got a hope. 'I eat air, I'm so healthy…' Bollocks!"
"This fish has got big floppy lips. Fishy kissy fishy kissy. Oops, took one on the mouth! Not nice."
"Give me back my hands! Limb thief!"
"I demand compensation in cola bottles. Lots of fizzy cola bottles. In one lump sum."

Ethno-Linguistic Map of Europe II

I love maps, I love cultures & people-groups, and I love pretty colours, so chucking them together makes me a happy bunny.  The first one of these I put up – here – is the more beautiful (and carries the historical significance of the post-WWI restructuring of Europe), but this one is more up to date, detailed, and clear.  Here we go:

Linguistic Map of Europe 

Again, no recognition of Scots/Doric or anything like that, but some wonderful detail.  Click on image for a larger version.

getting in with the right crowd

Some advice from TD Jakes, who I love:

If everybody in your life you have to feed and encourage, your crowd is too low.  If you're the smartest person you know, your crowd is too low.  If everybody is looking to you for help and answers, your crowd is too low.

You need to hang around somebody that INTIMIDATES you, that makes you study, that makes you pray, that makes you grow.  You need to get around somebody that is HIGHER.

Because iron sharpens iron.

Shin Kicking


Shins at sundown


Shin kicking (or ‘hacking’ as it has been known in other contexts) is one of the oldest, and bloodiest, of the physical contest sports.  And whereas boxing or wrestling had their rules codified at a relatively early date, giving rise to widespread and unified successes, shin kicking was simply considered too wild and barbaric for any comparable attention.

Originally a working man’s contest in many parts of England, Wales and North America, reports abound of blood gushing from the legs of hobnailed (or clogged) competitors, often in the nude, with individual contests lasting upto forty-five minutes.  Not surprisingly, shin kicking gained a reputation somewhat akin to that of cock-fighting, and died out with the dawning of a more genteel age in the nineteenth century.


One of the traditional homes of competitive shin kicking is the Cotswold Olimpicks (sic), a fun day of sporting contests initiated by a certain Robert Dover, with royal approval, in 1612.  The Olimpicks, annually held, brought upwards of thirty thousand spectators to ‘Dover’s Hill’ in Gloucestershire, attracted by such events as The Pig Race, Backswords, Spurning the Barre (an equivalent to caber tossing).  But it also suffered under the heavy-handed Puritan government’s desire to protect the people from pointless frivolity and were abandoned upon the death of the founder, at the time of the English Civil War.
Cotswold olimpicks
Restarted after the Restoration, the Olimpicks (or ‘Dover’s Meeting’ as it then came to be known) grew to the vast popularity which eventually proved its downfall.  Because the festival, of which shin kicking was a mainstay, attracted such numbers of ‘the riff-raff of society’, it became a bother and burden to the local hosts, who finally disbanded the Games in 1852, not to re-emerge for a century.
But the Cotswold Olimpicks was not forgotten.  A revival was staged in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain, by which time the modern Olympics was firmly lodged in the public consciousness, and the traditional Cotswold spelling added to the uniqueness of the lost event.  The Games were permanently re-established 1963, with shin kicking providing a unique centrepiece: the only annual tournament of the sport in the world.

Faux castle


The Cotswold Olimpicks are held on Dover’s Hill, near Chipping Camden in Gloucestershire, on the Friday following the Whitsun bank holiday – ie. at the end of May or beginning of June – and are opened by men representing Robert Dover and (fellow royalist) Endyminion Porter.  Resplendent in authentic 17th Century garb, they accompany the Queen of the Scuttlebrook Wake (an associated local festival) through a faux castle gate at around 7pm to herald the commencement of the Games.

Shin kicking contestants wear the white smocks of traditional Cotswold shepherds, and prepare for their bouts by stuffing straw – their only safety equipment – into the lower legs of their trousers.

Stuffed with straw

Then, under the gaze of the fellow-jacketed ‘stickler’ (as in ‘stickler for the rules’ = umpire) the contestants grapple shoulders and let fly.  No heavy or reinforced footwear can be worn, and kicks are only allowed below the knee; they are used to weaken the opponent so that they can be thrown to the ground.  In reality, shin kicking is a form of wrestling – the opponent has to be floored in order to be defeated – but is more than a test of strength, since any ‘wrestle down’ has to be performed amidst the act of kicking, and no sweeping moves (a la Judo) are permitted.

The tournament progresses through several rounds – dependent on numbers of entrants – and the later stages take on the air of an endurance event, with already-battered competitors summoning up every last ounce of determination as they undergo further pain during the best-of-three contest.

Shin kicking
OTHER FEATURESThe Olimpicks presently includes events such as Tug of War, the Straw Bale Race, Sledgehammer Throwing, and a 5 mile race, alongside the more traditional Spurning the Barre and Shin Kicking.

A useful tip for shin kickers appears to be the wearing of stretchy trousers (eg. jogging bottoms), enabling a greater quantity of straw to be stuffed into place.  In the brutal 19th Century, competitors were known to harden their shins with coal hammers.

On its way to Bath, the 100-mile Cotswold Way connects Chipping Camden with Cooper’s Hill (the home of cheese rolling).  The two events usually occur in the same week – Spring Bank Holiday Monday and the following Friday.


Shinkicking @ Yahoo! Video

political ideologies that presently appeal to me

Election starts
I am, and aim to remain, non-partisan in my approach to politics, government and all that sort of stuff; ie. I don't think the present system (where 'we' are the messiah and 'they' are the devil) is very helpful, since we instinctively draw up battle-lines against people who have perfectly decent and valid opinions, just because of the party they subscribe to.

That said, I do actually believe in certain things.  Sometimes.  Occasionally.  Here are a few strands of thought that, in whole or in part, scratch some of my present itches.  There are big holes in most of them, so don't worry about that 🙂


People clubbing together to organise mutually-owned businesses, organisations or collectives.  For example, a food co-operative might mean that five families pool their money so that they can buy rice or flour in bulk, saving them money.  A sauna co-operative would be the same except that an on-going project (the sauna), which is potentially a business, is equally owned by the members of the group.  I like it because it encourages good means and good ends.


Wherein society is built up around the smallest possible building blocks, preferably family units, with ownership and responsibility localised and personalised.  Under distributism, home/land ownership is universal and workers are, wherever possible, self-employed craftsmen, making a form of capitalism where everyone owns capital, not just those who employ everyone else.  For example, a baker is encouraged (probably through government incentives) to run a bakery, but not to open a chain of bakeries.  I like it because it's idealistic whilst returning us to pre-industrial revolution localism – life in a lot of the non-urban world for the last 5000 years.

Libertarian Paternalism.

Wherein the role of government is reduced to exclude non-essentials – ie. never seeking to socially engineer through legislation – whilst retaining a responsibility to emphasise and encourage manners of living which are beneficial to individuals and to society as a whole.  For example, a government might want to end under-age sex, but does so through societal means (strong role models, frank discussion of causes and consequences) rather than through adding to and rigidly enforcing the law.  I like it because it reduces the heavy hand of government whilst not taking away responsibility.


This is an old church-based tradition wherein decisions are handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralised competent authority, wherever possible.  For example, central government probably doesn't need to oversee the running of schools in order for them to be good, so the responsibility can pass to county councils, and then in turn to district councils, to communities, and even to groups of families.  I like it because the more 'grass roots' it is, the better, encouraging personal responsibility within community-building.


A step further, wherein localities take responsibility for themselves, even to the point of having their own locals practices and legislation.  The idea being that some things (ie. the armed forces, the laws relating to murder or theft) should be instituted nationally, whilst others (curriculum in schools, the speed limit, planning permission) can be entirely dependent on the needs and wants of a locality and therefore decided by the community.  I like it because living in community is both the best and the hardest of lives, and teaches us to love each other when we are annoying.

These are just some of the things I've read about and am encouraged by.  Not to say I'm not cynical about pretty much every system every invented, but I do get intrigued by anti-system systems like these.  You may be interested to know how I vote: well, when it comes to elections I try to look at the candidates, not the parties.



Senior horse class






The history of the plough is closely linked to the development of settled agrarian lifestyles.  The domestication of cattle in the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia, perhaps as early as the 6th Century BC, provided the power behind the simple scratch plough which, with adjustments, was the main form of the technology until the advent of the tractor in the 19th Century.  Before this time, all ploughing was small-scale and done by hand.


In Enlightenment-era Europe, oxen were generally replaced with heavy horses, and ploughs became more weighty and improved in design, aided by technology imported from China by the Dutch.  Later, as steam and internal combustion engines emerged, able to bear multiple-furrow and rotating ploughs, the use of livestock sharply declined, especially in the West.


Since proficiency in ploughing is directly correlative to successful sowing and food production in general, there has always been a competitive element to the discipline, usually as a matter of pride between neighbouring ploughmen.  In 1931, two farmers (one from Co. Kildare, and the other from Co. Wexford) sought to settle their debate on which of the Irish counties produced the best ploughmen by instigating a national competition.  Forty entries were received from across Ireland, with Wexford ultimately beating Wicklow and Kilkenny into second and third positions respectively.  This successful event spawned others around the country, making the formation of a national ploughing association a necessity.



Ipa icon


Under the auspices of the NPA, the championship has grown from a curiosity of small note to being the largest agricultural event in Europe, attracting nigh on two hundred thousand visitors over its three days.  Until 1949, all competitions were for horse-drawn ploughs, but this has diversified widely in the last sixty years.




Hand plough


The National Ploughing Championship has no permanent location, there having been over thirty different venues over its eighty year history, but is held over the penultimate weekend in September each year.  There are presently around twenty classes or disciplines of ploughing which one may enter – including competitions for age groups, vintage tractors, horse-pulled ploughs, and types of furrow – as well as many other attractions and sideshows.







A competition plot is 100m (roughly half a furlong) x 20m, with variations for reversible ploughing.  A set period of time is permitted both for the opening furrow (which thereafter acts as a guide) and for ploughing the remaining plot, with penalty points given for over-running.  Achievement is not, as might be expected, a mere matter of speed, but is determined by a complex judging process, in which furrow shape, depth, and straightness are all taken into account.  Nine sets of measurements are taken per plot, and points awarded or deducted for the individual measurements and averages.



Competition Ploughing timeline


Due to the scale of the event, appropriate venues are now hard to come by.  A minimum three hundred acre site is required for the ploughing, parking facilities, and accompanying village of trade stands and livestock exhibitions.  The championship has become a truly national event, attracting visitors from all walks of Irish life – including many ingratiating politicians – and not just the farming community.








The World Ploughing Championships have been held as part of the NPC on five occasions – 1954, 1973, 1981, 1996, and 2006.


Scoring System, Conventional Ploughing



1.  Opening Split:
Completeness of cutting through the sod throughout the whole length and width of the split. Uniformity and Neatness.  10 points.
2.  Crown:
No stubble, grass or weed (trash). Furrow slices close. No wheel marks.  10 points.
3.  Crown:
Uniform furrow slices. No high ridge. Soil made available.  10 points.
4.  General work: [Weed control]
No stubble, grass or weed (trash) Skimmers must be used.  10 points.
5.  General work: [Weed control]
Furrow slices close and firm. No holes. No wheel marks.  10 points.
6.  General work: [Seed bed]
Soil made available for seed bed.  10 points.
7.  General work: [Seed bed]
Uniformity and conformity of furrow slices.  10 points.
8.  Ins and Outs:
Neatness and regularity.  No wheel marks.  10 points.
9.  Finish:
Neatness and weed control.  10 points.
10.  Finish:
Closeness and uniformity of finishing furrow slices. Narrowness and shallowness. Only one wheel mark allowed.  10 points.
11.  Straightness:
Measured four times: (i) Opening Furrow, (ii) Crown, (iii) General Work, (iv) Finish.  20 points.
12.  General appearance:
All aspects and workmanship. Clearly defined and uniform furrow slices. No pairing of furrows.  10 points.





Non-farming events to take place during the Championships include ‘most appropriately dressed’ man and woman for which there is a prize of a holiday.













Back in Time

This morning, Maria & I went along to the church of which my family was a part from 1985 to (I think) 1993 – we are up in Hertfordshire, attempting to scout out our New Life (which so far seems to involve getting in touch with aspects of our Old Life).

As you can imagine, it is quite a weird experience being surrounded by people who've never known me as an adult or as anything else than an attachment in the life of my parents.  But that's not what I was going to write about.

The thing that struck me, going back there, was that they wanted to know Jesus.  The church is full of people who are genuinely very successful in their fields, and yet there was a sense of real humble need to get to the core of life – it was genuine and not a show, and (kind of sweetly) it felt like they didn't really know how to express it.

It's interesting what impresses me.  At the moment, I usually feel like my life is deeply unimpressive, and yet looked at from just a slightly different angle, I can also see that it is wildly unencumbered by obligations, happily unmoved by the riches of the world, and within reach of some potentially extraordinary exploits.

I swing between living in the best of times and the worst of times.

A Resolute New Year

I don't really do New Year's Resolutions – and this year will be no real exception – but I do like wondering about it; thinking about what is in my life that shouldn't be, or what isn't in my life that should.

No huge revelations this year.  But I am getting near: realising that I have bundles of great things going on in my world, if only I'd be able to stop and drink in their goodness, instead of flitting off onto the next thing and the next thing and the next thing.

So maybe my irresolute resolution for 2010 might be:

do less, and do it better


slow down



I'm also looking forward to enjoying my marvelous 18 yr Glenlivit with lovers of the good things in life.  Form an orderly queue …