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News & views

Country wisdom scales Olympian peaks

[28 July 2012] Scenes of mooing sheep and maypole-tugging milkmaids at the Games opening ceremony will doubtless have amused the good folk of Rainow, a rural spot in the Derbyshire Peak District whose main street is enriched every summer by quirky and topical mannequins.

This year Rainow’s figures strike some not-so-athletic poses that mildly mock the toned bodies on show in London, the stand-out creation being a gent with a gammy leg whose torso sports the legend ‘Rainow Limp-ics’. Though this may not lead to a knock in the night from the Olympic branding police, you can put your money on some politically correct PC popping in for a chat the moment somebody squeals it’s offensive to disabled people.

Sandra Howard, wife of former MP and Tory leader Michael, often collided with country humour when she went canvassing on his behalf, an activity she loathed: ‘I was no good at knocking on doors. I simply didn’t know what to say. I remember walking up a very long lane to a farmhouse and saying to the farmer: “You have a very long drive.”

“Yes,” he replied, “if it were any shorter it wouldn’t reach.”’

In deepest Somerset, the Lowland Games features mud-wrestling and ferret racing and is a great showcase for the Crewkerne Young Farmers’ Club, whose motto shows their breeding (as it were): ‘Stand up and be counted, or lie down and be mounted.’

Which is far funnier than the recent comment from double Olympic decathlete champion Daley Thompson, who said on BBC’s One Show that whoever was responsible for tattooing a torchbearer’s arm with the misspelling ‘Oylmpic Torch Bearer’, ‘must have been Irish’. The BBC apologized to viewers, describing the remark as ‘extremely offensive’.

Perhaps the BBC could have placed Thompson’s ill-judged quip about halfway up the scale of ‘old-fashioned and insulting thoughtlessness’ instead of reaching for a top-level racist rating. Can’t be too careful, though – the BBC had received ‘several complaints’, apparently.

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