Friday, 12 February 2010

I'll race you to half-term

Barely have we recovered from the long Christmas holiday and snow days
 but it is half-term, already.
Time for the cross-country race.
It's a tradition; and the accretion of years is such
 that even the Headmaster can't recall
why February
 is the traditional season
to don your shorts
and race around the frozen fields.

Double-click on the pictures
better to see the tiny racing figures
and the flock of sheep.
Do you suppose those sheep
look up from their munching
and wonder, idly,
what the fuss is about?
 Might they get the notion
to join in?

And now, we run around the lake
girls in green,
and boys in red.

Unlike the runners,
the bystanders are all bundled up.
Wellies, tweed, a hat and most of all
a dog
are de rigieur.

The perfect examplar
of English country style.

The last bit is all up-hill
and it separates
the sprinters from the stragglers.
You do get a boost from the crowd, though.

It's all over now . . .
except for the jelly doughnut, the hot chocolate
the warm bath
and two loads of sports kit in the wash.


Sarah Laurence said...

At least the snow has melted! I think it’s tougher on the spectators without exercise to keep you warm.

I hope you have fun stuff planned for your break. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the kids over ours. All the snow is in the south.

Beth said...

Perhaps the race is held in February because the cold, chilly weather inspires the children to run just that much faster to the finish line – and the hot chocolate!

rachel said...

My school also favoured cross country running in winter - usually when the hockey pitch was too snowy to use! I just remember the raw, red, frozen knees....

slommler said...

I can't for the life of me figure out why they run in Feb.??? How odd and freezing too! At least they will run faster to get it over with!

steven said...

bee that's a cold cold time to run but running might keep you warm . . . it's the stopping that freezes you right up!!!! great story and pictures to match!! steven

Anne said...

This looks like so much fun! And the colder it is, the faster you run--the better to get to all that cozy food and drink!

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

Bless their hearts!
Is the race mandatory? I understand it's a tradition, but in the cold??

I hope you and your family will have a nice break--have fun!

Tracy :)

kristina said...

What a fab tradition! Wish I could still run like that... K x

Anonymous said...

Good to see that the British are still trying like mad to toughen up their little ones. Plus I think it works.
We were made to run along the crest of the Malvern Hills in wind and rain, and one rather slight child got blown off the top of British Camp --the hill with the earth works.

Yes, yes, we will explore Malvern together soon. I long to go there.
Much too cold here still. I'm so glad your new camera is getting a work out.
How muted English colors are compared to here.

Emm said...

I know! Can you believe that it is half-term already!! Enjoy your ski trip!

Teresa O said...

My son ran cross country as a sport, so I'm very curioius about this tradition. Is there a story behind it or some historical reference?

Have a fun winter break.

linda said...

those kids are dressed so conservatively! is that just me or are they in a uniform? very curious here ;)

loved the picture of the kids running with that flock of fat sheep looking all bewildered! looks like a good time if not a cold one! have a wonderful holiday!

Lucy said...

Ugh! Legs red with cold and covered with mud. I like the labradors though.

Enjoy half-term!

jane said...

looks like a blast! especially the jelly donut part;)

Marcheline said...

I love the way Brits say "kit" instead of "clothes" or "outfits"... also, "get your kit off" sounds much naughtier and more exciting than "undress, please". 8-)

Jan said...

I LOVE hot chocolate but even THAT couldn't get me doing THIS!!
But great posting as ever..!

rxBambi said...

this brought on flashbacks of my cross country running days. We had to run in many crazy places, but I don't think we ever ran into sheep!

Looks like a lot of fun :)

Meri said...

Oh, their little legs are so red with cold and exertion! As for me, I'll wear leggings and a long top and a cozy coat with a scarf. And sip hot chocolate. . .

Relyn said...

I loved this tiny peek into your life. What a terrific tradition. I'd surely have been a straggler.

Nancy said...

How fun! I can't think of a more perfect way to spend a frozen afternoon than running through fields. How wonderful to be so young...

Nice to see all of those black labs! Lucy would be in dog heaven.

Evening Light Writer said...

I absolutely love this post although I felt quite out of breath at the end after watching all that running. I think a footrace is a proper way to jump start spring.

A Thousand Clapping Hands said...

The clothing is a giveaway that you are across the pond. Looks sooo cold - too cold for shorts, that is. And speaking of giveaways...Have a look over yonder.


Anonymous said...

Don't know about dogs being 'de rigeur' - more like black labs 'de rigeur'!!
Horrid memories of freezing cold winter days at school freezing to death in arctic conditions.

Alyson (New England Living) said...

I love traditions like that! Odd traditions where no one truly know when they began. Something so soothing about traditions, yearly rituals.

By the way, I'd love to see that article on Helena Bonham Carter! And I love your offer to visit that cemetery if I make it out there. That would be awesome!

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

I am SO ready for winter "travel week". Christmas break was so busy, now I just want to sleep late and do nothing...

I'm not sure you'd see me running in those fields. Strolling, more likely ;-)


Anonymous said...

how charming!

and I bet the sheep do ponder idly as they munch what could possibly compell any creature to run in that weather, or even run at all. perhaps they are unaware of the jelly donoughts at the finish??

I hope all is well!


Fantastic Forrest said...

You need to add sound clips to make reading this a well rounded experience. Here's my nomination:

Also, I want some hot chocolate. How much longer before computer can replicate beverages? Better yet, some of your baked goodies.

This reminds me of the end of school year bonfire in Ireland. Why don't we have cool traditions like this here?

Reya Mellicker said...


I suppose running around frozen fields warms the body, though wearing shorts seems perhaps a bit extreme.

What I've noticed every time I've been in England is the way in which sheep and cows arrange themselves artfully on the rolling hillsides. How do they do that? American livestock never does it. Do you think the ley lines are responsible?

Christina said...

lol now this looks like fun! i would just be a bundled up, watcher though. would that be okay? : )

Kristen In London said...

Oh, Bee, this brings tears to my eyes, as it can, possibly, only to another American mum in England! it's the feeling that our children's lives are crossed with "A Man and His Dog," and that the shriller whistle will win the day! A gorgeous, stylish post. I loved it. Half term, sigh. We just returned from Venice and tomorrow Avery takes her first train ride alone: from Paddington, one stop, one change, on to Winchester for a friend's invited weekend! The jolliness never stops, does it?

kristina said...

I can't imagine that anywhere else than in britain :-) I really like the photo of the runners and the sheep!

Dick said...

Poor little tykes! Kids in PE kit and staff wrapped up in sheepskins and scarves, no doubt. What school is this, Bee?

Marcheline said...

Come 'round to my blog today if you can, I need some advice.


P.S. Lurkers welcome!

dogimo said...

See too me, this makes way more sense as a tradition than Quidditch, for instance.

Bee said...

Thanks so much for all of these fantastic comments.

If you follow FF's Youtube suggestion, you can see the opening scene from Chariots of Fire . . . and no doubt those English runners were also made to run cross country during the winter term. Maybe I'm just projecting, but the leaden sky and gray sea look REALLY cold . . . and I love the muddy blobs of sand covering legs and otherwise pristine white sports kit.
Marcheline, you are so right about the word "kit." Linda, yes, the children wear a school uniform.
My daughter had to drag back a huge mesh bag full of sports kit today . . . after the half-term holiday.

Reya - I don't know why; but you're right about artful arrangements of cows and sheep.