I started to read the UK Government’s brand new, super-duper, English only, National Backdown, sorry Lockdown, scheme, which has all the hallmarks of a thoroughly thought through, back-of-a-fag-packet policy, with all the T’s dotted and probably all the eyes crossed – certainly mine were after reading the first few paragraphs!
A magnificent read if you have four weeks to kill and a diminishing desire to see your way through to the end of it.
However, one bit really grabbed my interest!
Now we all know that Gove moves in Elitist ways, Chinless Wonders to perform, but what is this relaxation of outdoor activity restrictions for Elite sports/Sportspeople really all about?
What does this mean? What is this elitism? Does it apply only to sports, and if so, why?
If we have exemptions for elite sports people, elite rich people, elite political advisers, elite politicians, elite royals, etc, why not for elite actors, elite haberdashers, elite gift shop proprietors, elite grasscutters, elite choristers, elite stamp collectors, and so on?
I see that elite gardeners have probably already been covered in a blanket, no, let me finish, in a blanket exemption, granted for that well-known British essential, the Garden Centre, although why this should be singled-out as essential seems a little odd, even by the standards of this government and its apparently myopic chief adviser.
However, it did make me wonder what this blatant sports elitism is all about. It would appear that there are two kinds of sports/sportspersons – namely elite and grass roots. Indeed, there seem to be two kinds of people – namely the elite and the rest. The former is important and the latter not so. Got that?
Now, if we decide to run with this idea, but only on our own or with one other individual, blah, blah, blah, we are surely still allowed to wonder what/who these “elite” sports/sportspersons are.
(In truth, I should say that I believe this to be the case at the moment because I am at least twenty-five minutes behind the latest government announcements, and they may just have abandoned the whole concept, and decided that the virus does not exist or does not affect English people at all – “Just following the science don’t you know – next slide please”).
So, does this Elite stuff relate to the nature of the participant or the sport, do we think?
Could Elite Sports be those carried out exclusively by public school types, or is it something else?
Firstly, let’s have a gander at some toffs’ only sports, shall we?
Lets Kick off, so to speak, at the heart of all privilege, The Eton Mess
If you have heard of Eton Fives and have realised that it wasn’t part of the Harry Potter franchise, you might have guessed that it is a game for the elite. It started sometime in the 1600’s at Eton College, as a game for young toffs waiting to go in to chapel and involved hitting a ball against the chapel wall. So, an Eton Fives court has three walls with ledges, buttresses, and other bits and pieces. It seemed to have had a brief heyday, but a shortage of chapels was always going to be a bit of a limiting factor. It is probably true to say that it has maintained its elite classification because it remains inexplicably inaccessible to most children.
While we are hanging around the Eton Quad, let’s spare a quick thought for the Eton Wall Game, and its partner the Eton Field Game.
Now, one of these is Rugby Union-like and is played against a wall, while the other is more akin to football (Soccer). I’m sure you can guess which is which.
The wall game is still played on “The Furrow”, a strip of ground 5 metres wide by 110 metres long next to a curved wall . As you can imagine, this is not easily transportable.
The field game is more like football but with a smaller goal, no goalkeeper, and some dodgy offside rules known as sneaking. Sounds a bit like the English Premiership if you happen to be a Fulham supporter, but, apart from sneaking, which seems to have pervaded the whole of the British Public service, this variant seems pretty limited to an elite.
But hey, not all elite games come from Eton. There is the wonderful, Rugby Fives Wall game. Now this has nothing to do with the very middle-class (rather than elite) Rugby Sevens game that pops up at Twickenham every year. Rather, it was first played at Rugby School and is essentially squash, played with your hands. The ball zips around the court and the players wear thick padded gloves – makes less racquet that way! Get it?
I guess the poshest of all games has to be Royal or Real tennis.
It reputedly caused the death of two French kings, and the first Royal Tennis Court at Hampton Court was built for Cardinal Wolsey in the 1520’s. The current court (and yes there still is one!) was built for Charles 1 in 1625 – and I have seen it.
You can’t get posher than that. Surely that must qualify as an elite sport.
But maybe the government doesn’t mean that at all
It could just mean sports and sports activities that are not often found amongst the hoi polloi.
Games like Polo: with toffs on ponies, rather than oiks seeing who could spit a mint with a hole the furthest; or Croquet on manicured lawns with balls being hammered through hoops rather than the poor having to jump through them, not to be confused with Crochet which has its participants in stitches; or even such pastimes as dressage, regatta-frequenting, huntin’, shootin’, yachting, lacrosse, and so on.
All ideal vehicles for our aspiring eliterati which should maybe also be excluded from the going out restrictions.
What do you think?
Remember the message(s) from HMG
Be Alert: Watch out for the light at the end of the tunnel, it may be an approaching train,
Stay at home: Unless you are going to mix with loads of other children, or build a bridge to nowhere, or something
Strain every sinew: But not too much, in case you become a burden on the NHS.
A final word from our sponsors:
Your Government is following the science.
Three weeks behind,
In a hearse.