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Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Heyday of Dangerous Sports


Even so, none of us at the time thought it was possible – even though she was prepared to give it a go. Back in those days, of course, Health and Safety was not the great over-riding concern it has now become. So her attempt to open a corned beef tin without gauntlets, safety goggles and an air-sea rescue helicopter on stand-by, was regarded – at the time - as brave rather than foolish. Consequently, there was no attempt made by the local authorities to attempt to ban the proposed opening of the corned beef tin, or even to insist on a fenced-off security zone erected around the vicinity of the tin.

However, come the morning of the attempted opening, it was a fine English spring morning, with the howling gale throwing pouring rain into the determined, but expectant crowd that had gathered there, ready to witness the spectacle. Although, most people in the crowd confidently expected some bloodshed, if not the loss of one or more digits. There was even some speculation that an out-of-town betting syndicate with links to organised crime back in The Smoke, were taking good money on the loss of one or more limbs, once the initial tricky first corner of the tin had been broached.

She, of course, despite the storm, had come dressed for the occasion, which – as this was the 1970s, necessitated her wearing a bikini while some superannuated sheepskin-enrobed TV gobshite mouthed dreary double-entendres into his microphone.

It was tense, tight, right up to the moment when she inserted the key, feeding the little metal tab into the key slot, then waited while the local mayor, and a couple of local MPs bored the shit out of everyone with some pointless and – luckily for most – almost totally-inaudible and irrelevant speeches.

There was some concern that the bikini-clad contestant was turning blue under the downpour, so a couple of the sharply-suited gentlemen from the betting syndicate suggested that the local dignitaries cut it short before they had an accident.

Then, with only a brief fanfare from the sodden brass band it got under way.

She had been practising, of course, but only with a normal tin opener, and the then nascent ring pull on beer cans, but this was her first attempt at the dreaded and highly dangerous corned beef tin.

It was tense as the key began to turn and the TV commentator screaming inanities into his microphone, while the watching crowd pressed closer, all eager for their first sight of blood – or failing that – corned beef.

The contestant herself, her fingers numb with cold and sodden from the rain, couldn't get an adequate-enough grip on the metal key and the rain-sodden tin label was coming off in her other hand.

There were calls by the more safety-conscious to abandon the whole spectacle before disaster struck, but their voices of sanity were drowned out by the rest of the crowd, pressing every-closer as the first sightings of the corned beef were confirmed by the judges and the TV presenter nearly had a heart-attack trying to peer down the contestant's rain-sodden bikini top.

Then – suddenly – it was al over. The contestant stepped forward, beaming, the two parts of the tin separated, one in each hand.

Quickly, her assistant rushed forward with a plate and the contestant and her assistant began the tricky procedure of getting the corned beef out of the tin without either of them losing a limb in the process.

Then, with a suspiciously-orgasmic sigh from the TV presenter, the disgorged corned beef and the two parts of the tin were displayed to the wildly-cheering and applauding crowd as the judge and the adjudicator confirmed that the contestant did – indeed – still have al her appendages and that she had - in fact – completed the tin opening in what they could now confirm was a world-record time.

That night there was jubilation and impromptu street parties throughout the length and breadth of the UK, in scenes not seen since England had won the World Cup over a decade before.

It was a time when so many - once again – found themselves proud to be British.

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