The Duke - July 22, 2015

Tony Robinson is called for when The Manager decides to look for ruins in thje back garden
Tony Robinson is called for when The Manager decides to look for ruins in thje back garden
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I haven’t seen much of The Manager during the hours of daylight for the last week or so.

I know, more or less, where she is, but the nearest I’ve got to tracking her down is by leaving the occasional full cup of tea at one end of The Wilderness (aka “the back garden”) then collecting the empty vessel some time later.

Communication has been kept to a minimum – eg “dinner’s going cold” (partially successful), “I’m popping to the pub” (no response whatsoever) and “if you don’t come in soon I’m going to delete Coronation Street from the recorder” (usually effective).

For her part, the most I’ve heard her say for a while is “it’s just not fair” and “why can’t I find one?”

Let me explain. Earlier this month she read in her Daily Wail that a couple in the Wiltshire hamlet of Bincknoll were having their unwanted leylandii trees removed when they discovered the remains of a long lost medieval chapel.

Now bearing in mind that two of main loves in The Manager’s life are (a) gardening and (b) ancient churches and chapels, it’s understandable she felt it was most unfair that Mr and Mrs Mike and Mary Hudd should just happen upon a 12th century Norman chapel under their lawn, when the most she unearths is the occasional empty crisp packet blown in from the street.

The last known mention of the Bincknoll chapel was in 1609, when it was described as “decayed”, so in a way it’s no big surprise it’s been long forgotten or, as Emma Elton of the Broad Town Archaeology Project, says in that wonderfully understated way such austere bodies possess: “It was amazing to find what everyone thought was lost. It’s not what you expect to find in someone’s garden.”

That’s the good news. The bad is that the Hudds have been advised to cover the site over again to protect it from deterioration.

Digging ever more hopefully in our wilderness, The Manager has vowed should she uncover more than fox droppings she would restore any rediscovered chapel back to its former glory – even if it meant squashing her bluebells.

Left to my own devices, I’ve been trying to think of a new sport to hold my interest should Blackpool FC keep hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Cricket, golf and tennis seem fraught with disappointment, so I thought I might give boules a chance. French philosopher Rabelais reckoned it was a game for all ages, but since its 16th century heyday it’s become more associated with pensioners whiling away their continental afternoons – or increasingly irate holidaymakers grabbing the last plot of sand on the beach.

But now it seems even this most Gallic of games is being threatened by unsporting behaviour.

Forget pitch invasions and four-letter chants – think match fixing and the use of knives and guns to intimidate opponents.

A couple of months ago, a championship game was interrupted when a fight between a player and a spectator resulted in arrests from three generations of the same family for inflicting injuries with bats, iron bars and a metal capped walking stick.

And in June, two men were sentenced to up to 15 years in prison for killing a man in a boulodrome, after a fight broke out over an unpaid whisky bill.

Looks like it’s back to the relative peace and quiet of Bloomfield Road for me then.

I’m saying thanks for nothing in the face of ingratitude

Forget Elton John’s claim that “sorry” seems to be the hardest word – bankers, politicians and pop stars have been demonstrating for years that it is, in fact, one of the easiest ones to trip off the tongues of people caught doing what they shouldn’t have been doing.

No, I’d rank “thank-you” as much harder to say than “sorry.”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I expect grovelling gratitude and kiss on the cheek every time I hold a door open for someone, or step back to let them go through first.

Yes, I still try and do those most old-fashioned of gestures – even if it increasingly results in me standing there so long I’m mistaken as a doorman.

I mean the sort of “thank-you” which not too long ago was de rigeur after receiving a gift. A simple handwritten “thank-you for the present” note was enough.

Mother Dearest would compile a list of who had given what, and couldn’t rest easy until everyone on it had been contacted.

Later it was done by telephone, and more recently a stupid smiley face sent by social media.

But lately even that seems too much trouble for some of the ingrates on our shrinking gift list.

So here on in it’s “sorry” – there’s nothing to thank me for.