Sunday, 20 February 2011

Thomas Telford - What Would He Think Of Ice Hockey And The Punk Rocking Gamers?

Have you ever been to Telford?

It is a bizarrely fascinating place. Not just a new town or the largest town in Shropshire, Telford is situated a mere 30 miles from Birmingham, with a population of 162,000+. It didn't exist until the sixties and wasn't renamed in Thomas Telford's honour until 1968. Embarrassingly the Americans had recognised his worth over a century earlier, when the North Pennsylvania Railway Company named a railway station after him in 1857.

I went there twenty years ago. I detested it. Yesterday I returned. I loved it.

It was something to do with the design of the town which achieves great space and a feeling of being a rural conurbation with roads concealed by avenues of trees. There is a certain grandeur. Even the buildings are interesting in a new town sort of way. It seems to have come of age.

The best bit is the statue to Thomas Telford, the civil engineer, canal builder (Ellesmere, Shrewsbury and Caledonian canals being amongst the most famous)and bridge builder (Menai Straits Suspension Bridge). Outside the law courts, Andre Wallace's intriguing work, made in 1987 consists of large steel letters and the great man leaning on one of them, with his coat hung over another -

I was there because of transporting the Whitley Bay junior ice hockey team who were playing Telford at the only ice rink in the West Midlands. These guys are dedicated to the extreme. They have to pay large subs to cover the cost of equipment, training, tuition and transport. Then they have to travel vast distances on buses for their matches. This trip was one of the longest at nine to ten hours driving, through hail, ice, blizzards and fog. They only spent two hours in Telford.

"What will be the score?" I asked them before the match.

"Well it will be 15-0. Then we will have a fight. (usual ice hockey players behaviour on the rink - it's a tough, physical sport)."

They did neither.

"We were 5-2 up," said one of the supporters quietly after the match, "then they did a Newcastle United performance in reverse and Telford won 6-5."

"It's a long way to travel when you get beat," said another.

But they were a nice lot of players. Cheerful and peaceful. They shrugged their shoulders and smiled as we began the journey home. It was difficult to get out of the coach park as it was next to the International Centre, which was concluding a large Computer Games conference. hundreds of people came spilling onto the pavements in fancy dress, dressed as their favourite computer games character.

Not being young enough, I found most of the costumes to be unidentifiable. Sleeping Beauty may have been around, so maybe the Mario Brothers. The rest seemed to have come out of a 1970's Punk Rock concert in the 1970's.

That's me though. I must be getting old.

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