Sunday, 4th July, 2021

[Day 475]

It was raining quite hard when we woke up this morning. I contemplated going for a walk in the rain to pick up our supply of the Sunday newspapers but eventually concluded that after about 40 minute walk in the rain, I might just about get soaked to the skin – and I did not particularly want to catch a cold. So I made life easy for myself and went down to collect the newspapers in the car. When I returned, Meg was in bed and in fact stayed in bed for most of the day, as she was feeling rather tired and ‘wobbly’. When I returned home I turned on Classic FM (which I am rarely without, particularly when I am on my own) and heard an incredibly beautiful rendition of the hymn ‘Abide with me‘ which, as well as typically being played at funerals up and down the land, is also traditional sung at the English Cup Final each May. I had always imagined that the tradition arose because an aged family member had died and therefore had missed the Cup Final. I had always assumed that the tradition arose because those attending the Cup Final had wished that their older family members could have had the same privilege. So I decided to do a bit of research on the web and discovered that it was first performed at what was then called (according to the programme issued for the day) the ‘Final Tie’ (not the Cup Final) when Cardiff City beat Arsenal 1-0 (the only time a Welsh side have won) The General Secretary of the FA had approached the King (George V?) and asked if there was a particular anthem or tune that he would like played as well as the English and Welsh national anthems. The King replied that he would like his wife’s favourite hymn. The hymn was actually composed by an Devon Anglican vicar – Henry Francis Lyle – who composed it when consoling a dying friend – he and the friend searched for several Biblical texts for comfort until they found some phrases that conveyed the sentiment of ‘Abide with me‘ and it was subsequently set to the music we know – it was first sung at Henry Lyle’s own memorial service in Brixham.

Upon researching all of this, I discovered something else I did not know. I dare say we are all familiar with the expression ‘Back to Square One‘ but do we know the origin of the saying? It dates from the time that the BBC were going to provide a running commentary on the Cup Final for the first time in 1927. In order to help listeners build up a mental picture of where the action was taking place, the Radio Times published a diagram in which the whole of a typical footballpich was divided into a grid of eight squares – four in each half, with two squares contiguous with the centre line and the other two with the goal line. Rather confusingly, although the squares are numbered 1-8, the numbering started on the right hand side and proceeded leftwards i.e. grid squares 1-2 being on the right hand goal line and 7-8 being on the opposing goal line. This is where, apparently, the phrase ‘Back to Square One‘ originated – but my sources do not indicate for how long this system persisted. Another curiosity in the diagram published in the Radio Times is that the familiar ‘D’ shape which forms the front of the penalty area was not shown in the diagram – and subsequent researches revealed that the penalty arc was added later in1937. The ‘D’ is technically called the ‘penalty arc’ and no player may enter it when a penalty kick is being taken and I now know that it does not form part of the penalty area itself. The idea is that no other player other than the penalty taker can be within 10 yards of the penalty spot.

I had quite a busy morning because my Irish friends invited me in a for a coffee and a natter (welcome as it was still raining) nd I subsequently onto the park to meet with our University of Birmingham friend. When I got home I made Meg and I some lunch and then after a little read of the Sunday newspapers, I wondered if the weather would hold up for a spot of gardening in ‘Mog’s Den‘ as I intended. As it happened, the little spots of drizzle turned into a more prolonged downpour but I did manage, before the heavens opened, to make drainage holes in two the four planters I purchased yesterday.

The latest COVID news appears to be that after ‘Freedom Day’ on 19th July, the wearing of face masks will be a matter of personal preference rather than being mandatory. I would imagine that all of the younger generation will still be wearing masks but not the other way around (which it should be – the young and unvaccinated are more likely to be transmitters of the virus than the old and vaccinated part of the population). Personally, I am waiting for the enterprising manufacturer of a face mask to print supplies with the slogan 'This is keeping you safe – are you keeping me safe?’ or something a bit snappier and more direct which conveys the message.