New beginnings: Zimbabwe, back from the brink

With Mugabe’s catastrophic 40-year rule finally over, there’s optimism on the streets of Zimbabwe.

‘You’re like a gladiator’: calcio storico players on the world’s most brutal game

Every year in Florence four teams of locals kick, punch and wrestle each other in an event that dates back to the 15th century. Why do they keep doing it?

NWW Photo Prompt – Communion

This is a response to the following New West Writers photo prompt

I haven’t been to church for many years.

The priest partially dipped the consecrated bread into the consecrated wine and then placed it in my mouth. By the time the priest was at the end of the line of kneeling communicants, the candelabra on the altar had become blurry and the wall had started to sway in front of me. I took the picture with my camera phone before crawling back to my pew. I think some people thought I was devout.

Sitting at the back of the church, I could only think the communion wine must be stronger these days. Or perhaps the spirit of the Lord was inside me?

Ski Yachting – Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica – Sports the Olympics Forgot

The windiest place in the world is on the continent of Antarctica. Commonwealth Bay is about 48 km (30 mi) wide at the entrance between Point Alden and Cape Gray and was discovered in 1912 by the Australasian Antarctic Expedition.

The wind regularly exceeds 150mph and the average annual wind speed is around 50mph. The winds are katabatic in nature and flow along the steep surface of the ice shield towards the sea. The air flow is accelerated by the increasing gradient of the surface of ice and by the Cape Denison cliff monolith.

However, in the summer there are periods when the wind abates sufficiently for the Christmas Ski Yachting race to take place. The race has been held since 1948 and now attracts teams from 20 countries. The race takes place over a distance of 10 miles starting in the interior and finishing a mile from the sea cliffs.

Each yacht is crewed by four people. The boat has to be a minimum of 20 feet long and be fitted with at least six skis. Each yacht must be fitted with three anchors each of which must be strong enough to stop the yacht on its own in a 75mph wind. Two guide ropes are stretched across the ice at the finish line and are designed either to stop the yacht or allow the crew to bail out if the yacht isn’t stopping. As an emergency the crew also have to wear life-jackets just in case the wind proves too strong and the yacht heads over the cliff with the crew still on board.

When the forecast shows the winds for the following day are going to be relatively light, the yachts are towed to the start line in the interior by tracked vehicles.  This towing allows the organizers to see that all the skis on the yachts are correctly aligned and are functioning accurately. Once the yachts arrive they are placed on the starting line downwind. The starter checks the wind speed and if it’s under 60mph he waves a wooden seal in the air. This is the indicator for the teams to rig their yacht and put up the sails.

And in one bound he was free

This is an extract from the book Cats with Purrsonalities

As Freddie became older I thought he needed to do more exercise particularly as he had recently been diagnosed with diabetes. We needed to try every possible way to reduce his blood sugar to levels where he didn’t need two injections of insulin per day. I decided that I should try and take him for a walk around the garden and along the back alleys of the neighbourhood.

I tried a lead normally used for a dog, but this didn’t work as Freddie just sat down on the ground and invited me to pull him along, which I didn’t want to do as he could have been easily hurt. I decided something more sophisticated was required, so I went to a specialist pet store and sought their advice. They provided me with a proper harness with three loops and two areas of leather that would provide comfort for his back and chest. I went home and thought I would try the harness straightaway.

Freddie always enjoyed any attention, so putting the harness was quite straightforward. He was purring as I placed each of his front paws through separate loops and his head through the third loop. One of the pieces of leather fitted comfortably against his chest and the other one on his back, so he looked like he was wearing a saddle. Freddie then realised he felt trapped and started to roll around on the carpet, but he couldn’t get out of the harness.

I pulled on the lead and dragged Freddie across the carpet. He started to yowl. I stood him up and he immediately sat down. I stood him up again and pulled the lead so that he couldn’t fall down again. He swiped the lead with his paw and tried to bite it. He did walk a few paces and then sat down again. I picked him up and carried him down to the lawn, which would be a softer place to start practising taking Freddie for a walk.

I placed Freddie on the ground and pulled the lead. He stood up and miaowed and walked a step before sitting down on the ground. I pulled the lead and he stood up and took two paces. He then shook his head. He raised his left front paw and shook it. He placed this paw on the ground and then raised his right front paw and shook it. He then miaowed and raised his back before diving down on to the grass.

He miaowed a couple of times and then in a blur of movement he divested himself of the harness and left it lying on the ground. He took a couple of shortish jumps and then miaowed whilst looking directly at me as if to say “And in one bound he was free.”

This is an extract from the book Cats with Purrsonalities

11 Funny Stories

These stories can be found in the book called The Rhetorical Musketeers and other Stories

The eleven funny stories include the obituary of a flying ace, a rejection letter sent to William Shakespeare, an explanation for the building of Silbury Hill, the story of how the Yeti received its name, and some new definitions for old words.