Tag Archives: Lincolnshire

When an oeuf is an oeuf at the annual World Egg Throwing Championships

World Egg Throwing Federation President Andy Dunlop with enthusiastic tosser

World Egg Throwing Federation President Andy Dunlop with enthusiastic young tosser

At the annual World Egg Throwing Championships in Lincolnshire, no edible eggs are used, so no food is wasted. Sort of.

There are long-distance egg throwing and catching contests. There is the Trebuchet competition where contestants use home-made giant catapults (based on medieval siege engines) to throw eggs. And, of course, there is Russian Egg Roulette.

In 2012, I was runner-up in the Russian Egg Roulette Championship. I had high hopes of doing even better last year but, beneath my hard-boiled exterior lies a wobbly centre. I cracked under the pressure of high eggpectations and was beaten in the first round. For months afterwards, my mind was scrambled and I was merely a shell of the man I had once been.

My view as smashed Englishman Jerry Cullen fails

My view as smashing Englishman Jerry Cullen fails

This year – the year of the Scottish Independence vote, when my country of birth may at last free itself from the yolk of English oppression – I had hopes I could show the heathen English what true Scotch eggs competitors are made of.

World Egg Throwing Federation President Andy Dunlop tells me that 64 people started the Russian Egg Roulette Championships yesterday. He may be over-egging it. I think there might have been 32. But there were certainly a lot.

To remind you, Russian Egg Roulette is the sport in which two contestants face each other across a table on which there stands a box of six eggs: five hard-boiled, one raw. Contestants take turns to smash an egg on their forehead. The one who discovers the raw egg loses. It is a knockout competition. Sometimes literally.

I bring shame on the Scottish nation yesterday (Photograph by Gail Deptfod)

I let down myself and the entire Scottish nation yesterday (Photograph by Gail Deptfod)

Yesterday, I triumphed in the early rounds, beating my 2012 nemesis Jerry Cullen – who was wearing an England football shirt, I think, just to rile me.

I triumphed in the Quarter Finals, but then I was shamed by Fate in the Semi-Finals. I suspected fowl play.

I consoled myself by talking to former World Gravy Wrestling champion Joel Hicks.

Joel Hicks scrambling for safety yesterday

Joel Hicks was scrambling for safety yesterday

When we chatted for my blog last year at the World Egg Throwing Championships, he was a human target dressed as a boxer and as a Samurai Warrior. This year, he was the anarchist hero of V For Vendetta.

“You been doing anything interesting this week?” I asked him.

“I did the Mud Runner Oblivion yesterday,” he told me. “That’s a 10k mud run near Gloucester. I’m absolutely shattered. I write for Obstacle Race magazine, so I do all the mud runs.”

Obstacle Race magazine?” I asked. “Has that got a big circulation?”

“Yes,” said Joel. “It’s sold in WH Smiths. It is a massive, massive industry these days. Things like Tough GuyTough Mudder. There’s so many and it’s a million dollar industry.”

“Tough Mudder?” I asked.

Joel Hicks: a man egged-on to do charity work

Joel Hicks: a man egged-on to do charity work

“Tough Mudder,” Joel confirmed.

“Do you get paid for any of these events?” I asked. “It’s all for charity?”

“It’s all part of the Always With a Smile Foundation, which is what I do in my spare time to try and keep people smiling. It’s tiring stuff sometimes, though not as painful as today.”

“Painful?” I asked.

“Yeah. You wanna stand here and have eggs hurled at you by grown men at 100mph who have no thought for how it feels when it hits.”

“Do you wear a cricket box over your genitals?” I asked.

“No. Every year, I think I should have some protection but I kinda feel it’s cheating.”

Joel Hicks with right hand egg man John Deptford

Joel Hicks with the Championships’ l’eggman John Deptford

This coming Saturday, Joel is taking part in The Color Run in Manchester.

“It’s a race franchise,” he told me, “where you run 5k and start in white but every kilometre they throw coloured powder over you. Then, on Sunday, it’s a trip to Wales for The Naked Run, which is 5k, usually in good weather. The weather affects some men more than others.

“The weekend after that, on Saturday I’ll be down on the South Coast for the Worthing Birdman competition where they build flying machines and jump off the pier. And then back up to Wolverhampton on Sunday for the Tough Guy event called Nettle Warrior, which is their summer obstacle course race.”

“Nettle Warrior,” I said, “sounds painful.”

“It IS very painful,” replied Joel. “A 10-12 mile cross-country run followed by a 2-mile, purpose-built, multi-million pound assault course.”

One girl did not have to throw so far yesterday

One little girl yesterday was right on target with her egg

“An assault course of nettles?” I asked.

“No no,” said Joel, “all sorts of contraptions. The nettles come in, really, in the 10-12 mile cross-country run.”

“Have they put the nettles in for you?” I asked.

“They grow naturally,” said Joel. “Six or seven feet high all on their own. They design the course to the features on the ground. Ah! There’s some nettles! We’ll make then run through that bit!”

A typical egg-plosion yesterday

A typical egg-plosion yesterday. The pun never ends.

I’m busy all through the year. Fifty-odd events every year.”

“Very odd,” I said.

“Every weekend and sometimes twice,” said Joel.

“Out of the frying pan…” I said.

In August, World Egg Throwing Federation President Andy Dunlop will be supervising the Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Championships during the Edinburgh Fringe as part of the Increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show. He may or may not be accompanied by his trusty l’oeuftenant John Deptford.

I saw the back of Andy Dunlop as I left yesterday

I was glad to see the back of Andy Dunlop yesterday

In a few days, Andy is off to Holland for their Egg Throwing Championships. He will be back.

But John Deptford is going to Siberia on Friday and has no idea when he will be back, if at all. The insects may kill him. He is going to Mirny where, he tells me, “the mosquitos have been known to carry babies away and the best mosquito repellent is a shotgun.”

Yesterday, as I left the Championship Field in Lincolnshire, Andy Dunlop was being pelted with the remaining eggs. I hope this will become an annual tradition. Andy does not. This morning, he told me he had a serious lip injury.

For more on Eggmen, I refer you to The Beatles’ I Am The Walrus

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Egg-throwing, cabbage-hurling, onion-wanging and Hardee Comedy Awards

Spot The Cabbage competition 2014

A 2014 Spot The Cabbage competition in Lincolnshire

Throwing things at other things is always interesting especially, it seems, in Lincolnshire.

In a couple of weeks, the World Egg Throwing Championships take place in Lincolnshire and, yesterday, I went up to Holbeach Town & Country Fayre to see cabbage hurling and onion wanging (that’s hurling too).

Both events are connected to the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Andy Dunlop, President of the World Egg Throwing Federation, supervises the Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Championships during the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the end of August.

And John Ward, supervisor of cabbage hurling and onion wanging, designed the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award trophies.

Egg smashes on forehead in Amritsar Test Match

Russian Egg Roulette at the Amritsar Test Match in India

Russian Egg Roulette is a bit like the Russian Roulette seen in The Deer Hunter but without bullets and with eggs. It involves two contestants sitting opposite each other at a table on which is a box of six eggs. Five of the eggs are hard-boiled; one is raw and will smash on impact. Each contestant takes it in turn to smash an egg on their forehead. The one who finds the raw egg loses. It is a knockout competition.

Cabbage hurling is for adults. Onion wanging (because of the smaller size of the missile) is for children.

At the World Egg Throwing Championships, trebuchets (basically large catapults similar to but smaller than medieval siege catapults) are used to throw eggs. You have to build and bring your own trebuchets.

Careful preparation is all in the cabbage hurling world

Careful preparation is important in the cabbage hurling world

Thus, too, with cabbage hurling and onion wanging, except two trebuchets are provided.

Yesterday, there were 3½ tons of cabbages delivered in a refrigerated trailer.

“They’re actually grown for coleslaw production,” John Ward told me. “That’s why they’re white not green. They’re all Grade 1. Last year, I asked: Any chance of a box of cabbages? and yea and behold this behemoth of a truck arrived with 4 tons of cabbages. We asked them to cut it back to 3½ tons this year. There’s a limit to how much you can hurl in one afternoon and a lot of them get re-cycled in the field. Each team of three has three attempts and some of the contestants run up and retrieve and use the same cabbage again, shouting: That’s my lucky cabbage!”

Cabbages hurled at tyre targets

Cabbages are hurled at multi-dimensional tractor tyre targets

The object is to catapult the cabbage into one of several marked vehicle tyres for 10, 20, 25 or 50 points. The 10 point tyre is large; the 50 point type is small.

John Ward, who has been known to encourage journalists to call him a ‘junkist’,  told me: “All the scrap metal to build the two trebuchets came from farms in the area. The uprights are from the transit cases for Kubota garden tractors which come from Japan. In transit, they have metal cages, then a wooden box inside and then the tractors are inside that. Normally the cages are unbolted and thrown away as scrap. Last year, someone told me he had a yard full of them and asked: Are they any use to you? ARE THEY ANY USE????? Red rag. Bull.”

John Ward contemplates the ecological impact of hurling

John Ward contemplates the ecological impact of his hurling

“Do you get complaints about wasting food?” I asked.

“I had some herbert this morning,” John told me. “who was ranting at me about wasting food and I told him: Well, if you come back later today, you’ll find it’s all been picked up – all the loose leaves and everything – and it all goes to animal feed. Cows thrive on all this sort of stuff. There’s no waste. There’s an end product. It’s a win-win situation. We get entertainment. The cows get fed.”

“You could franchise cabbage hurling,” I suggested.

“We’ve been asked to take it round other shows in Lincolnshire. But, at the end of the day, No, it stops here. It’s associated with Holbeach Town & Country Show. Like they have cheese-rolling in the West Country.”

2014 Cabbage Hurling winners with John Ward (lorry behind had 3½ tons of cabbages)

The 2014 Cabbage Hurling winners with John Ward yesterday (The lorry behind had delivered over 3½ tons of cabbages)

The winners get £150 and a silver cup which they keep for a year.

With the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards, the winner gets one of the eccentric trophies designed by John Ward. But he/she gets to keep that trophy forever. I like to think, rather than give a trophy which the winner keeps only for a year, with the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards, we give the winner something interestingly decorative which lasts longer, like herpes.

There is a video report on Cabbage Hurling on the BBC website

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Egg-sit the Olympics – The World Egg-Throwing Championships are coming

It was in October last year that I first encountered and blogged about Andy Dunlop, much-respected President of the World Egg-Throwing Federation.

Now things are coming to a boil with the 2012 World Egg Throwing Championships themselves – on Sunday 24th June at Swaton in Lincolnshire.

Andy started the annual event in 2006 and, since then, has managed to persuade the English Sports Council to recognise four of the five main egg throwing disciplines as legitimate sports.

The one they don’t recognise is Russian Egg Roulette, as I explained – or, as Andy might say, eggsplained – in my previous blog and this year Andy promises a “better than ever event” with international teams already scrambling to gear up for the big day.

He says: “Last year’s champs, the Dutch, return again to take on the World and their old rivals the Germans. The Dutch have just set a new World Record in the Dutch heats of 73.2m. The Germans – this year submitting two teams – have said that they see No problem as their teams are regularly making the catch at 55m in training despite strong cross winds and they say that Any chimp can throw that distance outside competition. They (the Dutch) won’t be able to take the heat on the day”.

Irish champion Paul Murphy has confirmed that he will also be attending on June 24th to defend his title in Russian Egg Roulette and Joel Hicks (World Gravy Wrestling Champion and Britain’s Got Talent contestant) is likely to once again step up to the mark as target in the Throwing with Accuracy challenge.

The Latvians have confirmed they will attend with their trebuchet (a big siege engine catapult to you and me).

On hearing this my chum, mad inventor John Ward felt his patriotic hackles rise in this our glorious Jubilee year and decided to build his own British trebuchet for the event. He told me this morning:

“I am going to go for a hand crafted-looking device, with more than a hint of genuine hand-carved MDF and a lick of varnish. It will be mounted on road wheels and towed behind our car. I am now off to the shed to make a start on the base unit and the towing axle.”

For me, the annual World Egg Throwing Championships will dwarf the Olympics in my calendar this summer. It epitomises international sport at its best.

So far there is no news of anyone poaching any other team’s players.

All of the money which people shell out will go to charity and Andy Dunlop definitively says: “No chickens will be hurt during the championships”.

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Eccentrics think differently – but maybe everyone else is out-of-step

(This blog was also published in the Huffington Post)

Someone somewhere sometime – well, it may have been Victoria Melody in Lincoln yesterday (more about her later) said: “We are only as interesting as the people we know”.

And I do try my best.

Yesterday I went to an Eccentrics Symposium at the University of Lincoln. Purely as an observer, you understand.

I went along with my chum mad inventor John Ward, whose yo-yo safety net (a hair net attached to the yo-yo-using person’s leg) once got a two-page spread in German magazine Stern when they were writing about serious conservation issues. John says:

“I have found that, if you keep a straight face, people will print anything. James Dyson will be remembered for inventing his vacuum cleaner; Frank Whittle will be remembered for inventing the jet engine; and I will be remembered for inventing the electric bra-warmer.”

(It was featured in the science pages of the Guardian.)

Interestingly each of the speakers claimed that he or she was not actually an eccentric himself or herself – except for John who had little alternative but to admit it, as he has featured in various academic books on eccentricity.

Anthony Schrag, the first speaker, grew up in Africa and was nicknamed ‘Wrinkle Blue Bum’ as a child because he liked to climb trees so much that he reminded his friends of local apes. He is an artist interested in the way people move. His CV says he focuses on “blowing things up, climbing on things and occasionally kidnapping people”.

Yesterday, he revealed he had discovered that, if you tightly wrap a boy in a blanket or similar covering and roll him down a hill, the boy cannot stop himself rolling. He also persuaded the audience to try the internet craze of ‘planking‘ – lying straight, across unlikely objects… though the President of the World Egg Throwing Federation (of whom more later) claimed that, on the internet, ‘planking’ has been replaced by the craze of doing a ‘Batman’ – hanging upside-down by your toes from unlikely objects.

John Plowman talked about his hats – he always wears one except when having a bath and having sex and buys them in London, New York, Chicago and – well – anywhere… mostly pork pie hats although, he admitted, this is rather odd as he is a vegetarian.  He seemed to have bought two non-pork pie hats because they have initials inside them; one of those two had his own initials inside them. He always carries an umbrella with him because he does not like his hats to get wet.

Project Pigeon’, an “art and education project which works with pigeons as a vehicle to bring people together”, did not send anyone along but they did send a video along which included shots of pigeons doing back flips. These are a specific type of pigeon and they have to be kept in quite small cages to prevent their tumbling getting out of control.

Unless I misunderstood, tumbling pigeon and ‘parlour rolling’ contests are held and this type of pigeon was specifically developed by a bus driver in Birmingham in the early 20th century by selective breeding. Quite how he chose pigeons with the appropriate genes I am uncertain. The Project Pigeon website claims that this particular type of pigeon is “the uniquely acrobatic Birmingham Roller, a type that originated in 1920 in Bordesley Green, Birmingham, after local fancier William Penson noticed one of his birds perform a backflip while in flight.”

It looks to me a bit like the pigeon is having a panic attack but, according to Project Pigeon, “today there are hundreds of Birmingham Roller clubs around the world and fiercely fought competitions to pick the birds that perform the most dramatic tumbling.”

The utterly fascinating Victoria Melody  as previously alluded to – “We are only as interesting as the people we know” – had actually spent about a year living with pigeon fanciers because she has a passion for other people’s passions. She said that, when she put an ad in a magazine saying she wanted to live with pigeon fanciers for a year, she got a lot of responses from much older single men living alone.

Yesterday, she screened a video taken by a tiny camera and transmitter which she had attached to a pigeon which then flew across Brighton; she says she received and recorded the pictures using a satellite dish on top of a car. The pigeon, alas, went AWOL.

An even briefer video of two pigeons playing ping pong was apparently shot by B.F.Skinner, the highly admirable man who later created the concept of a pigeon guided missile during World War Two: a concept which I feel the US military was short-sighted in rejecting.

But Victoria Melody’s passion for people’s passions stretches far wider than pigeon-fanciers. She spent a year immersed in the fascinating Northern Soul scene – centred round what she described as “the Motown Music that never made it into the charts”. It was a year, as she described it, of “being taught how to dance in people’s living rooms”.

Her latest cultural immersions have been dog shows (with her Basset hound Major Tom) and the world of beauty pageants, specifically preparing for next year’s Miss Galaxy 2012, where all contestants have to be married women.

Which brings us to Andy Dunlop, aforementioned President of the World Egg Throwing Federation, which was formed in 2006 though the sport started in 1322 in Swaton, Lincolnshire. Andy has managed to persuade the English Sports Council to recognise four of the five main egg throwing disciplines as legitimate sports. These are:

– two-person Throw and Catch, which consists of one catcher and one tosser.

– six or seven-person Static Relay (in which competitors pass eggs to each other by throwing them).

– individual Target Throwing, although Andy did not mention to the English Sports Council that, at the annual World Egg Throwing Championships, the target is the World Gravy Wrestling Champion – with extra points for hitting his groin.

– team Egg Trebuchet, a trebuchet being a large catapult-like siege engine which was employed by armies in the Middle Ages.

The English Sports Council, rather short-sightedly in both Andy’s and my opinion, refused to recognise as a legitimate sport (despite the obvious skill required) Russian Egg Roulette.

This involves guessing – sorry, skilfully choosing – which individual egg in a six-pack of eggs is raw as opposed to hard-boiled. Five are hard boiled; one is raw. Contestants, with handkerchiefs tied round their foreheads, as in the Vietnam movie The Deer Hunter, then smash the eggs on their foreheads to prove/disprove their choice. Obviously, the one who smashes a raw egg onto his or her forehead loses.

Victoria Melody attempted this with tragic results. Her hair was still sticky with raw egg 40 minutes later.

Egg Throwing is a fast-spreading sporting event. This year, the World Championships in Lincolnshire attracted TV crews from 26 TV stations worldwide. The Deputy Vice President of the World Egg Throwing Federation is former British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott – or, at least, Andy Dunlop chose Mr Prescott’s non-refusal of the offer to be an acceptance. Likewise, he took actor George Clooney’s non-refusal to attend the World Egg Throwing Championships as an acceptance and got worldwide press publicity across the globe for George Clooney’s decision to turn up at the championships in Lancashire which, sadly, he did not.

But, as Andy says, “it cost nothing, got us worldwide publicity and was better than paying £60 to put an ad in the local paper”.

This is a major factor as important in general eccentricity as it is in egg-throwing.

A more serious point was made by Andy when he pointed out that it was only a few centuries ago when almost everyone believed the world was flat and that the planets all revolved around the Earth. People who thought the world was round and that the earth revolved around the Sun were seen as slightly mad eccentrics.

And who was right?

The minority.

The eccentrics.

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I have seen some unexpected acts in my life but I had never seen what I saw last night… I am still shocked.

This morning, I used the Listen Again button on the BBC’s website to hear Boothby Graffoe being interviewed on yesterday’s Radio 2 Arts Show with Claudia Winkleman (it’s 18 minutes in, but is only available online in the UK if you are reading this within seven days of me writing it).

He was on the Radio 2 show to plug his new music album Songs For Dogs, Funerals (the comma really is there – don’t ask) and his UK comedy tour, which starts next Tuesday.

I knew he was the only comedian named after the small Lincolnshire village of Boothby Graffoe but, until he mentioned it on the show, I hadn’t realised this meant he was also named after the second largest site in Europe for testing genetically-modified food. Now there’s a thing.

I listened to the Radio 2 show this morning because I bumped into Boothby last night when I went to Vivienne & Martin Soan’s always extraordinary monthly comedy club Pull The Other One in Nunhead, South London. You know a comedy gig is good when other comedians go to see it even when they’re not on the bill and Boothby just went along to see Pull The Other One before he went back home to Leicestershire.

If I were using glib phrases – which, of course, I wouldn’t dream of writing – I might say it turned into an evening of unexpected revelations.

After the show, I was chatting to Martin Soan and, despite the fact I’ve probably known him since around 1990, I never knew he wrote several sketches for Spitting Image at the height of their TV success.

It was no surprise, of course, that, during the actual Pull The Other One show itself, Bob Slayer enticed a woman from the audience onto the stage and ended carrying her off over his shoulder.

What was unexpected was the climax of Mat Ricardo’s act. He is billed as a juggler, but is more than that and he introduced the final highly-visual thing he did as “impossible”… as indeed it is, but he still did it.

After Mat’s act, there was an interval and one of the other acts – smiling broadly – just looked at me and said: “Jesus!”

Another said to me: “Jesus! I have never seen that done before.”

The Lord was being invoked quite a lot after what we saw. I was and remain so shocked by what he did that I am going to pay to go to see his full live show Three Balls and a Good Suit next week in the hope he does it again.

What he did involves a table and a tablecloth and – no – it is not at all what you think.

There is seldom anything new under the sun – but I have never heard of anyone else doing what I saw and I have certainly never seen it before.

I can’t believe I did see it.

And I have seen a lot of acts.

Jesus!

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Of comedy awards, bra warmers and the death of Malcolm Hardee

(This blog originally appeared in What’s On Stage)

Time Life Books called John Ward “possibly the best English eccentric inventor living today”. Yesterday I went up to Lincolnshire to see him at his home (an enormous, rambling bungalow within someone else’s farmyard). I was up there to take delivery of his latest creations – the newly-designed Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award and the new-this-year Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award. They join his Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality trophies. All will continue to be awarded annually until 2017.

John’s other creations include his surprisingly overlooked invention the electric bra warmer, as well as the one-man personal barbeque, the mobile church font and my personal favourite – a small rubber nautical mine which you leave in your cup of tea so no-one else will steal it.

He still fondly remembers a curry which the late lamented Malcolm Hardee cooked for him in my kitchen. It was, I think, the only occasion known to me when Malcolm did not drop curry down the front of his shirt, something I am eternally grateful for. Malcolm once had a meal with comedian Charlie Chuck at the end of which, instead of asking for a doggie bag, he spooned the uneaten parts of his curry into the top pocket of his white suit.

His famed Edinburgh Fringe exploits included writing a glowing review of his own show and conning The Scotsman into printing it under the byline of their own comedy critic…  and riding a tractor (naked) through the middle of American performance artist Eric Bogosian’s show.

Malcolm, oft-called the “godfather of British alternative comedy” talent-spotted, encouraged and advised Keith Allen, Jo Brand, Jenny Eclair, Harry Enfield, Harry Hill, Paul Merton, Al Murray, Vic Reeves, Jerry Sadowitz, Jim Tavare, Johnny Vegas and many other comedians early in their career.

He drowned in Greenland Dock, Rotherhithe, in 2005. At the Coroner’s Court, Police Constable Martin Spirito said that, when they pulled Malcolm from the water, he “had a bottle of beer clenched in his right hand”. Even in  death, he had a sense of his priorities.

Five years gone but not forgotten by the comedians he helped.

The Malcolm Hardee Awards this year are going to be presented on Friday 27th August during Nik Coppin‘s nightly show Shaggers, part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival at the Three Sisters in Cowgate. I feel Malcolm would have approved of the title of the show. Judges include Tim Arthur of Time Out and Dominic Maxwell of The Times plus The Scotsman‘s Kate Copstick and Jay Richardson.

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