Monday, 15 May 2017

Oh the things we do in England

Shaftesbury Cheese Race 2017
On Sunday we headed to Shaftesbury in Dorset for the Food and Drink Festival and the Cheese Run! The festival was from 10am to 4pm and seeing that there was more effort to advertise this event this year, we expected the town to be packed. In the end, it wasn’t that bad. There were lots of interesting stalls, but of course we were drawn, predictably, to the cheese, cider, homemade ice cream and chocolate stalls. Shaftesbury Cheese Race 2017
M is one hardy beast, though not quite!
The cheese races were scheduled at 1-2pm, with the finals from 3-4. The run is a tribute to a millennia of cheese making in the Blackmore Vale. According to the website, organiser Charlie Turnbull got the idea from local lore about medieval cheesemakers, brewers, millers, and butchers racing to get their goods to the Abbey gates first so that they would be chosen by the Abbess for her High Table, thereby fetching the best price. Basically, there were different categories participated in by the slightly mad, with the men tasked to carry 25 kg cheese, the women – 13 kg, and the children – polystyrene. Now this is not cheese rolling, neither running on a flat boring path. We’re talking about scrambling up Gold Hill, more popularly known as Hovis Hill after the 1973 Hovis bread ad voted as Britain’s favourite ad of all time and directed by Ridley Scott. My photo here can’t justify how steep this hill is, add that those ancient cobbles won’t be of much help. Participants were literally dumping the cheeses upon reaching the finish line (the first rule of the race is not to drop the cheese as a 25 kg of cheese will disappear really quickly when it reaches the bottom of the hill). A 25-kg cheese takes 500 pints of milk to make. I can only guess what joining the races is like, all I know for sure is looking across that magnificent view – those houses down the hill and the Dorset countryside – can hypnotise anyone to do anything. First aiders were at the ready, with the host quipping that this race was a stupid thing to do. I didn’t see what the contract looks like but it must contain a clause about signing your life away when you take part. I urged my daughter to join the kids’ race but never the competitive type, she declined, even after I had told her she didn’t really have to run. There were a few who just carefully climbed up the hill, carrying the cheese; “that would be me,” the husband said about the last guy who barely made it to the finish line. It was a whole lot of fun, though, and it seemed a good time was had by all. I programmed my camera to do continuous shots of the race so I have hundreds of pictures that I might add here or post on Instagram later.

*** Shaftesbury Food and Drink Festival 2017
Gold Hill, Shaftesbury Food and Drink
Festival 2017
Not directly related but I kind of felt nostalgic being back in Dorset, remembering that when I was 23, I was accepted into a Master’s Programme at Bournemouth University, some 28 miles from the spot where I’m sitting (see photo on the right). I painted a watercolour of the Dorset coastline, a belief that my drawings come true (some of them did). I did some research and even contacted the British Ambassador to the Philippines that time to seek advice about studying in the UK. I had met him twice before, at my first job, with Shell Philippines.  He rang me one morning about the options (it was pretty cool that he had called me, especially that this very person is now a knight – years later he also helped me when I had difficulty getting a UK tourist visa from Helsinki during a semester in Finland, but that is another story). I did some research at the British Council in Manila. Long story short, the scholarships were very competitive and there was no way I could pursue the degree without one. It took five years and I got a scholarship somewhere else in Europe, and eventually, a university job in England. Patience is indeed a virtue, and sometimes our wishes are granted in other, usually better, forms. And always, no matter how numerous frustrations are, they’re forgotten when that one big dream comes true.

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