Row Z edition 69; dateline 2 October 2012

You’re no my queen, pal
It is a matter for Sideliner’s abiding regret that this column has failed in its duty over the years to that small part of our sector which deals with grass and trees and municipal flower bedding. Rather like the only (dare we say ‘just’?) surviving institute for the sport, leisure and culture professional, we have ignored ‘open spaces’ almost entirely, although in our case it’s not because we find tweed-jacketed, old codgers smelling of pipe tobacco and Jeyes fluid an embarrassment; it’s just that we seldom find anything to laugh at in the world of tree preservation orders, gang mowers and greenhouse-pane replacement. Imagine our joy, therefore, on receiving the latest missive from our friends at Fields in Trust, the people who seem to spend their day fighting rapacious house-builders, stupid and grasping councils, and friends of Tory grandees over the future of patches of greensward. One of the finest weapons FIT have to wield is the designation of anything larger than a lawn as a Queen Elizabeth II Playing Field. Simply by sticking up a plaque saying, “This is a QE2 Field”, the hoards of headteachers wanting car parks nearer their office and developers wanting huge profits from building shoe boxes have been thwarted in all sorts of out-of-the-way parts of the UK. Except, that is, in Bonnie Scotland. Up Jocko (as Sidey is wont to call that part of North Britain beyond Hadrian’s Wall) they don’t, or won’t, have QE2 Fields. Up there they have to have QE Fields because Mrs Windsor is not the second monarch called Elizabeth to have ruled over their thistle-bound outpost. Oh no. Queen Elizabeth I, as the rest of us like to call the red-headed, wan-faced wee woman with the heart and something else of a king, was never queen of Scotland. As the young people say, “Get over yourself, Scotland.”

Thistle do nicely
Talk of thistles and the mind naturally turns to the purple-haired, yellow-shorted, green effigy that will serve as a mascot for Glasgow’s rendition of the Commonwealth Games come 2014. Hailed as a “cheeky, wee thistle”, which people educated in Fife primary schools in the sixties might suspect is a euphemism, Clyde, for such is it named, is redolent of Oor Wullie as dreamt following a gallon of 80/- and a white pudding supper, salt and sauce. Despite the fact that it looks like it was designed by a 12 year-old*, Clyde knocks spots of LOCOG’s god-awful spermatozoa, Warlock and Baskerville, and leaves this correspondent curiously hopeful that these Games may not be marred by the sort of expensive idiocy on behalf of commercial concerns which so demeaned and risked derailing London 2012. Any nation that relegates Rangers to a division so lowly it contains Queens Park FC and Annan Athletic has at least some grasp on morality, if not reality.
*Which it was.

Fish in a barrel: chilled and in a reusable container
You can read elsewhere in The Leisure Review an in-depth report (well, 800 carelessly thrown together words) on Leisure Industry Week or go to the show’s own website to watch video clips if you want a different, some might say less slanted, perspective. As a health warning, do please be careful which clips you attend to as some are less acceptable than others. One is an interview involving a suited and booted bloke from Zogs the swimsuit people and a scantily clad member of his sales team. The interviewer embarrasses them both by asking what it is she is barely wearing (it’s a swimsuit; who knew) and then embarrasses himself, his profession and his gender by being simply crass about the woman’s body. But since Sidey swore off LIW about the time the chief executive of ISPAL spent the entire event insulting people, Row Z must settle for pointing the finger by remote control, as it were. Go, if you must, to the LIW webbo. Select Innovation Trail 2012 and then scroll down to the innovative HydraChill 2 in 1 machine. This is on the Innovation Trail 2012, remember. What does it do? It chills water and dispenses it. Into “reusable bottles”. Cold water, plastic bottles, innovation. The prosecution rests.

Diary date for the unwary
The Leisure Review has a proud tradition of providing a focus and a forum for the sport, leisure and culture industry, a baton, or so they like to think, they picked up from The Leisure Manager, the magazine of ILAM, an institute for the sector which from this distance begins to look not unlike sliced bread compared to what has followed it. One of the traditions of The Leisure Manager was a one-day conference timed to coincide with the Christian mid-winter festival to which contributors – of the literary if not the financial kind – were invited. Given that The Leisure Review shares an editor and a number of contributors with its predecessor (although not its predilection for interminable articles on locker solutions) it is no surprise that the tradition has been being upheld, quietly, since 2007. This year’s cultural tour and conference will take place in the city of dreaming spires and involve no fewer than four, and no more than eight, position papers for participants to consider and debate. Two proposers slots have already been filled, with the challenges to the sector from health and the influence of Proust on the work of Arsene Wenger both having been accepted as sujets justes. Potential contributors and participants are invited to submit abstracts, a short CV and a few crisp £10 notes for the attention of the Editor, The Leisure Review at their earliest convenience. Selected participants will be told when the event begins and approximately where the opening walking tour will commence when their cheques have cleared.

Open sesame: seeds of cycling conflict
Sideliner is as respectful as the next person in honouring the contribution of Her Majesty’s constabulary (on the strict understanding that the next person is Mark Thomas) to this once-great nation of ours and shared the distaste experienced by a great many people when confronted with the details, admitted and alleged, of the incident of the Tory chief whip and the bicycle. No one, public servant or not, should have to endure being sworn at by members of the public (and Sidey resolutely maintains that MPs are members of the public whatever they themselves think) as they undertake their daily duties. However – whisper it if you must – one cannot help but wonder whether Thrasher Mitchell might just have had a legitimate point before he let slip the leash of the real self he has kept hidden from the electorate for so long. There he is riding his bike along Downing Street, wondering what he might put in his basket to make himself look even more like an extra from Call the Midwife, when he is stopped in his tracks by Inspector Knacker. The gist of the conversation, minus the sweary parts (admitted) and the socially divisive insults (alleged), was that the coppers on duty couldn’t be arsed to go through all the hassle of opening the massive Margaret Thatcher Memorial Gates and sinking the anti-tank defences back into the road just to let a bloke on a bike go about his business. When the bloke took umbrage at being asked to get off his bike to go through the pedestrian gate, things apparently took a turn for what these days one can only call the Etonian: raised voices, class-based epithets and resolutely unveiled threats. The solution would have been for Mr Mitchell to stall himself from mounting his high horse, stay on his bike and politely point out that the provisions of the Highway Code clearly state that a bicycle is a vehicle and as such should be accorded all the space, courtesies and considerations applicable to any other vehicle, motorised or not. Had the flatfoot still demurred, Tory Boy should then have pointed out that riding his bicycle on the pavement was contrary to the Highway Code and he could not be party to a conspiracy to commit a traffic offence. Had he been smiling, he might also have been able to point out that it would be a pretty good photo opportunity for the nation’s police, not currently enjoying the best of PR what with being shown once again to be complicit in the unlawful deaths of innocent people, to be seen cheerily aiding a person riding a bike go about their business. If this had still failed to elicit a positive response from the coppers in question, he had only to reach for his phone, call a cab for the chancellor and wait for the gates to open, whereupon he could nip through while waving a cheery two-fingered salute. Any pleb could have thought of this. We hope Mr Mitchell enjoys his imminent retirement.

Tommy the Talking Bin goes quiet
One of the parks that Sideliner is obliged to visit while the office junior does the daily audit of the city council’s play facilities now boasts a litter bin so self-important that it is in the running to join the Cameron cabinet. Fitted with a solar panel, the bin in question is apparently able to compact the waste deposited within, enabling it to contain 800 litres of rubbish. When it is 85% replete the bin then sends an email to the parks department informing those who need to know that it is time for an emptying. Not willing to leave anything to chance and fully aware of what usually happens to emails marked ‘urgent’ in most office environments, the bin then sends another email, a reminder to its less dedicated colleagues, when it is 95% full. A little while ago local observers were regrettably able to report that this bin was full to overflowing but the test programme continues. During these early stages it may prove fortuitous that the head of leisure can just about see the bin in question from their office window and could back the bin up with supporting correspondence when the bin loses its rag and resorts to exasperated flame mail with a huge CC list.

SkillsActive getting its AASE in order
Row Z’s colleagues at The Leisure Review have been diligent in their reporting of the launch of RAPS, the registrations scheme for aquatic professionals, and no doubt SkillsActive, the august sector skills council for “active leisure, learning and wellbeing” that is steering this important initiative, will get details on to its website very soon. Meanwhile, visitors to the home page will be able to ponder some important questions while they wait for further information. The first question is: “What is AASE?” And the follow-up question: “When will our very own sector skills council sign that all-important partnership deal with an organisation – any organisation – called ELBOW?”





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