Category Archives: A challenge won

I was sitting in Switzerland and watching things in Mexico.

It was Friday 18th October 1968 and four of us were having an evening drink or two by a lake in Switzerland.  We were on a product training course across the border in France but staying in Switzerland.  The Mexico City Olympics was on the television and the men’s long jump was about to begin.  I had done some long jumping at school and Pete’s son was a school high jump champion.  Alan and Chris were good at drinking beer!  We had been watching ‘our man’ Lynn Davis – the then reigning Olympics long-jump champion – but his first jump was poor – almost a foot shorter that the women’s champion had achieved!

Bob Beamon had come close to missing the Olympic final, overstepping on his first two attempts in qualifying. With only one chance left, he had re-measured his approach run from a spot in front of the board and made a fair jump that advanced him to the final.  When the final stages were beginning, and Bob Beamon was preparing for his first leap, Alan said ‘he don’t look very good; beers all round guys?’  We said yes and turned to the TV screen.  Beamon got ready, set off down the track and took off.  It looked pretty good but Alan returned with the beers and they now took precedence – although we all did watch his leap.

My beer was almost empty when the announcer called out the distance for the jump, 8.90 m (29 ft. 2½ in.)  Bob Beamon was unfamiliar with metric measurements and didn’t realize how far he had jumped.  It was when his teammate and coach Ralph Boston told him that he had broken the world record by nearly 2 feet, Bob’s legs gave way and an astonished and overwhelmed Beamon suffered a brief cataplexy attack brought on by the emotional shock, and collapsed to his knees, his body unable to support itself, placing his hands over his face.

In one of the more endearing images of the Games, his competitors then helped him to his feet.  Lynn Davies told Beamon, “You have destroyed this event,” and in sports jargon, a new adjective – Beamonesque – came into use to describe spectacular feats.

We also came to our senses and called for another round of beer to celebrate!

Advertisements

The Birth of British Radio

Britain’s first live public radio broadcast took place in June 1920. The public loved what they heard but this enthusiasm was not shared in official circles.  They said that the broadcasts interfered with important military and civil communications and by late 1920 public broadcasts were a banned.  However, by 1922, nearly 100 broadcast licence requests had been received and the General Post Office – the GPO – proposed that it would issue a single broadcasting licence to a company jointly owned by a consortium of leading wireless receiver manufactures.  It was to be known as the British Broadcasting Corporation – the BBC

On Saturday 20th July 1889 a boy had been born at Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire, Scotland – the youngest, by ten years, of seven children.

He was baptised John Charles Walsham Reith.  In 1922 he was employed by the BBC as its general manager.  In 1923 he became its managing director and, in 1927, he was made the Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation that had been created under a Royal Charter.

His concept of broadcasting as a way of educating the masses underpinned for a long time the BBC and similar organisations around the world.

A snippet for 18th July

It was at the Montreal Olympic Games on Sunday 18th July, 1976 that the first perfect 10 ever recorded in Olympic gymnastics was achieved up by Romania’s 4-foot-11, 88-pound Nadia Comaneci on the women’s uneven parallel bars.  She later said that:

I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.

Two other of her comments at the time are also worth recording:

Hard work has made it easy. That is my secret. That is why I win.
and
You should also appreciate the goodness around you, and surround yourself with positive people.

Snippets are back again

As you sit and watch colour television in Great Britain today please remember that it was not until 2pm on Saturday 1st July 1967 that the householders of this country at large were able to watch colour television in their own home – that is/was of course provided they had the right television!

It had taken a long time to get this far – the first demonstration of colour television in the UK had been demonstrated on 3rd July 1928 – just 3 years after black & white pictures had been seen on TV!

What the ….

‘What the …’ Peter’s loud, slow, voice echoed over everything and everyone.
Everyone stopped talking.  Silence fell across the room.
He chuckled to himself: ‘I thought that would work’.

It did, and everyone turned to look at him.  23 pairs of eyes turned on him as he stood on the bench at the side of the hall.

‘Yes’, he said in a clear but quicker voice, ‘what the heck are we going to do about the grass verges in our village?  Three times I have called the council – and three times they have said they will be cutting it, but they never say when.  I think it’s time we set to and did it ourselves.  What do you think?’

Predictably a silence fell over the group followed by a burst of everyone talking.  Peter let it run for a minute or two then called them to order.

‘Hands up all that think we should leave it to the council’.
13 hands were raised.

‘Hands up all those who think we should do it ourselves’.
He counted the raised hands.  There were 17.

Ladies and gentlemen – there are 24 of us in this room.  13 said the Council should do the cutting and 17 said we should do it.  I make that 30 voters.  How come?’’

There was laughter at this.  Bill Taylor put up a hand.

‘Some of us voted for both!’  There was laughter in the hall. ‘I reckon – we all reckoned – that the council should do it but, as we have seen, they haven’t.  The village looks a mess so I suggest that we should do it – and properly‘.

There was a round of applause with two or three ‘hear hears’ as well.

Pete Sheldon stood up. ‘Why the heck should we do it.  We pay our taxes for them to do the work.  I don’t reckon that we should do the work as well.’
There was a ripple of applause but nowhere near what Bill had got.

It was Susie Williams that closed the discussion.

‘There are seven ladies here.  Starting on this coming Saturday we will all begin cutting the grass in question.  If any gentlemen wish to join us they will be very welcome.  If they don’t we’ll do it all ourselves’. 
There was laughter across the room with more than one voice calling ‘We’re with you Susie’.
Susie continued – ‘At 8.00 a.m. we shall meet at the post-box on the green and work out from there’.

She sat down to loud applause.

At eight o’clock on Saturday morning virtually all – 20 to be precise – from the meeting were there.  There were also five individuals of the younger generation.  At least two did not seem to be keen but … you never know.  They each had brought with them something to cut shrubs and, of course, some lunch.
Peter organised them into five groups of four and handed each group a barrow and a rake.  He had also brought three motor-mowers with him.

It was amazing how quickly the grass got cut and loaded into the barrows.

Peter had also arranged for a friend of his to bring his tip-up truck.
It was surprising just how quickly the overgrown grass verges disappeared and bright fresh, green, short grass took its place.

Peter kept an eye on all five groups and as soon as each group finished their patch he moved them on to the next.  His wife Jane and Helen their daughter brought round tea, coffee and buns of all kinds for the team.

By 5 o’clock Peter announced that there were just two bits left to deal with and they would do that tomorrow morning – hopefully completing this before church.
They did.

It was early on Tuesday morning as he drove down the road that he saw the council lorry parked up near the Green.  He stopped and went over to speak to them. They spoke first!
‘Where’s the bloody grass and that that you’ve been moaning about?

Peter politely told them.

‘You’ve what?  You’ve wasted our time and council time. You’ll be hearing about this.’

‘I don’t think so’, Peter politely replied. ‘I’ve just told our story to the local paper.  You’ll be able to read about it on Friday.  I think you’ll see some pictures as well.  Unfortunately you won’t be in them but your counsellor will be. 

Perhaps he’ll have a few words with your boss – and he, of course, might want a chat with you’ added Peter as he got into his car and headed off to a Council Committee Meeting.

My shock – and the story of a Balloon

Sunday 21st March 1999 proved quite a shock to me when I was trawling for snippets to write. Why? Because it was on this day that the first non-stop round-the-world balloon flight was completed. It was a two-man balloon and one was Bertrand Piccard – no real surprise there. It was the other that amazed me because his name was Brian Jones! I just do not remember doing this flight – and I certainly would remember it because I just have NO head for heights! I think I need learn more about this man with my name – and I have.

This Brian Jones is younger than me, was born in Bristol and served in the RAF for 13 years.  The balloon in question was ‘Breitling Orbiter 3’ which had been built by Cameron Balloons of Bristol and stood 180ft tall when fully inflated.  It was powered by propane gas that fuelled six burners containing 28 titanium cylinders mounted in two rows along the sides of the gondola. There was some concern about fuel consumption so the team added four additional propane containers prior to take-off.  As it turned out these additions proved necessary to complete the trip!  The two set off on Monday 1st March from Château d’Oex in Switzerland.

The daily routine called for each man to spend eight hours alone at the controls, eight hours working with his crewmate, and eight hours in the single bunk. There was a unique pressure-operated toilet curtained off area at the rear of the craft. Despite the use of heaters designed to maintain a cabin temperature of 59 °F (15 °C), temperatures occasionally fell so low at night that drinking water froze and the ice had to be carefully chipped away from delicate electronic circuitry on the interior walls.

They landed on this day in Egypt after a 45,755 kilometre flight lasting 19 days, 21 hours and 47 minutes.
For his achievement, Brian Jones received awards including the Hamon Trophy, the Hubbard Medal, the FAI Gold Air Medal and the Charles Green Salver.

The gondola is now on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum in Dulles Airport outside Washington D.C.