Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The wonder of worm charming!

I had an email read out on Chris Evans' breakfast show today on Radio 2! I was sooo excited and it was in response to his interview with the organiser of the Annual World Worm Charming Championships in Willaston, Cheshire.

I have taken part in these very championships. It must have been about 1991 when I was working at Radio Stoke and I was approached by the Cystic Fibrosis Society, Stoke-on-Trent branch to compete in the championships and get sponsored to raise money for their charity, so of course, I jumped at the chance.

Now I couldn't even charm a duck off the water, so what chance had I of trying to persuade some innocent little worms to leave the sanctuary of their soggy underground haven?

For those of you that don't know what goes into the art of charming the worm, the rules are many but simple. You are given a small plot of land and have about half an hour to charm as many worms as you can and these are the rules:

Each competitor to operate in a 3 x 3 metre plot.
Lots to be drawn to allocate plots.
Duration of competition is 30 minutes.
Worms may not be dug from the ground. Only vibrations may be used.
No drugs to be used! Water is considered to be a drug/stimulant.
Any form of music may be used to charm the worms out of the earth.
A garden fork of normal type may be stuck into the ground and vibrated by any manual means to encourage worms to the surface.
Garden forks to be suitably covered to prevent possible injury when being transported to and from the competition. No accidents please!
Each competitor to leave his/her fork in allocated plot on arrival.
A piece of wood, smooth or notched may be used to strike or 'fiddle' the handle of the garden fork to assist vibration.
Competitors who do not wish to handle worms may appoint a second to do so. The second shall be known as a 'Gillie'.
Each competitor may collect worms from his/her own plot only.
Worms to be handled carefully and collected in damp peat and placed in a suitable, named container provided by the organising committee.
A handbell to be rung about five minutes before the start of the competition.
Competitors to keep clear of competition plots until given the instruction "Get to your Plots".
The competitor who 'charms' the most worms to be the winner.
In the event of a tie, the winner to be decided by a further five minutes charming.
Charmed worms to be released after the birds have gone to roost on the evening of the event.

When I took part in it, I managed to con my Mum into coming with me by promising her a day out in the country! It was an incredibly hot day and I felt really sorry for her as she didn't like the heat and so I got her a chair in the shade so she could sit and watch her second born make an absolute charlie of herself.

First of all, I was wearing a very ill fitting T-shirt which doesn't help when you're a big girl. There was a cartoon worm on the t-shirt which looked a bit distorted because my boobs are quite big and the worm looked like his head was sticking out of his body! In fact, my large chest made the worm look like he was in 3-D!! (or should that be a 43D?Lol!!)

Secondly, I drew a plot that was in direct sunlight so no worm worth his salt would want to come out into the sunshine.

Thirdly, the only tool I bought with me to charm the little blighters out of the ground was my plastic recorder! I thought I would lure them out with music rather than the primitive garden fork method - I now know from bitter experience that Cheshire worms are either deaf or do not appreciate live music. That's probably why you never see any worms at a Coldplay gig.

The half hour seemed like six hours and after ten minutes or so, I'd run out of my recorder repertoire so then I started to improvise or play familiar tunes over and over again. I think I played the theme from Z Cars a few times, three blind mice, Mull of Kintyre, a bit of classical and something that Wilson, Keppel and Betty used to do an Egyptian dance to. (See the film below by following the link or Google Wilson, Kepple and Betty - you'd love 'em)

I was so relieved when the bell sounded but at the same time, deeply ashamed and embarrassed. It was also a bloody good job that I wasn't sponsored per worm or else I would have made hardly anything for the charity.

When I tell you that the winner had the grand total of 200 worms charmed, you will appreciate why my haul was so pitiful. I only managed, THREE, yes THREE and I'm sure one of those was cut in half. It was very embarrassing but like I said, I was in a bone dry plot in direct sunlight so I was fighting a losing battle.

However, it was all good fun and I think I raised £500 from listener , friends and family donations, so the charity was a winner at least.

My Mum enjoyed her trip to Cheshire - well at least she didn't say she didn't and somewhere in my photo album I have a picture of her taken on the day of the worm charming championships and it's one of my favourite pictures of her.

I must admit that it was certainly an experience I will never forget but sadly, it has not made it to my CV yet under hobbies or interests!

So you can imagine my glee at hearing Chris read out my email in full to his millions of listeners. I was at work when he read it out and my friend Katie heard it! That's one thing I love about email, it's so instant. Being able to respond to a radio programme about an item you've just listened to and have your message read out minutes later just makes me want to say in a Fast Show character way:

"Int' modern technology Brilliant?"

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Goodbye dear friend...end of an era

You could say that I am a Cadbury baby. I was virtually weened on the brown stuff. Cadbury chocolate has always played an important part in my life and today, it is with great sadness that I say goodbye to a dear friend.
When I was growing up, Cadbury chocolate was given to me as a treat, it was given to me as a reward, it was given to me to cheer me up should I be down and to calm me down should I be playing up.
The Cadbury purple has always been my favourite colour and I could sing everyone of their catchy jingles. I must have eaten every chocolate bar they have ever created.
Yes, I know, that could be the reason why I am the shape of a Cadbury Lime Barrel (to be found in a Milk Tray selection) but it has made me realise sitting here typing this, just how much a part of my life has been made happier by scoffing their sticky delights.
To let Kraft, a big US conglomerate, snatch a part of our heritage away from us right under our noses is too much for me to bear without getting hot under the collar.
Britain's best loved chocolate-maker is no longer ours. Two hundred years of history with quaint but wonderful Quaker traditions has been surrendered to a processed cheese giant with little of no regard of what it has won - to them, it's just another company to be swallowed up. To us, it's our last great asset which will be stripped in no time.
I am mad. No, I am angry. Why has this been allowed to happen?
It's not too late. Please Cadbury shareholders, don't surrender. Think of what you are letting go.
The once sweet taste of success for a family-run firm will now be a bitter pill to swallow seeing the drum-playing Cadbury gorilla wearing a hat made from processed cheese.
I've nothing against Kraft, they saw a firm that was iconic and much loved the world over which was making a profit in today's troubled times.
Mark my words, a few years down the line thousands of loyal Cadbury workers (many of them generations of workers from the same family) will find themselves on the dole when production is shifted abroad to cut costs so Kraft can pay for the loans they have had to take out to pay for takeover.
Hostile takeover? You bet I am hostile towards it and judging by the reaction of people I have heard being insterviewed it should not have been allowed to happen. It wouldn't have happened in France or Germany but we let this go on time and time again. It has got to stop before we lose every scrap of identity and pride in what we produce.
This sucks, it stinks, it's wrong but it's not over till the fat lady sings and I am not singing until the bitter end.
Keep this wonderful company the way it is and save it for future generations to enjoy.
It's not too late. Say no to the money - you know it makes sense.