Posted: 5/12/2018
Title: THOMAS COOK, BIG BELLS, AFRICAN VIOLET

Blog:                                                                                                                         

         Loughborough is in the heart of England with a busy train station and close to the MI motorway and East Midlands Airport. First mentioned in The Doomsday Book in 1086 perhaps its most famous occasion was when young Thomas Cook brought to town the world's first package tour in 1841 with about 300 temperance members on a short 11 mile trip from Leicester, standing up in the carriages for £1 all in..no beers !! He later expanded to Europe and the world !

       It has the world's largest bell foundry, John Taylor Bellfounders who have produced the great bell at St.Pauls Cathedral and the bells of York Minister. For the first time in 54 years I returned to the campus of Loughborough University where I was in graduate school. The chancellor is former student Lord Sebastian Coe, twice Olympic1,500 metre champion in 1980 and 1984 and boss of the very successful 2012 London Olympic, and now President of IAAF-  World Athletics.

      I decided to attend a very unique sports and teacher training programme there with just 30 or so hand picked colleagues, after graduating from Leeds University. One big reason was the awesome African Violet training suits made in Leicester. I wore mine crossing Russia in 1964 on the Trans Siberian Railway,across The Sea of Japan for 3 days and in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. The colour is an awesome lilac and lavender shade.

      The University, formerley Loughborough College in my day, has grown 20 fold and is so big that you have to take the free shuttle bus around the huge campus., which fortunately starts and returns to Loughbourough train station. Recently voted the best student experience in Britain.

       I had come for a double header at the UEFA u17 championships one week ago. First up at the very impressive Loughborough University Stadium on campus was Denmark v Bosnia and Herzegovina. There were about 3 dozen Bosnian fans with banners and flags singing and chanting throughout the match and they even sang their national anthem before kick off. It looked as if the Danish Dynamite would win after scoring from the penalty spot late in the match to go ahead 2-1 until a remarkable 6 minute surge with 2 goals from the Bosnians for a 3-2 victory. Denmark would eventually lose all three matches. The small vocal group went crazy and hailed their young heroes with song and a group photo. AWESOME support.

         The local student volunteers in their African Violet T shirts were very helpful and enthusiastic and the best press room. Sadly inside there was a shock for me as I found a large photo and dedication in memory of a fellow student in my days Mike Halliday who passed away a few years ago.

       The stadium is home to the University football team who play other colleges in mid week and in the Midland Football League at weekends. When I was there Bob Wilson, later Arsenal was in goal. The rugby team also plays there and next door is the home field of their American Football team the  Loughborough Aces. They also have a womens semi pro netball team The Loughborough Lightning. The Briitish Olympic team and many national sports teams meet here for get togethers in the acres of facilities. 

      Four hours to the next match so I went up the hill to the university owned 4 star Burleigh Court Hotel with 225 rooms and conference facilitiies and camped in the comfortable bar with a pint of Somerset Cider, Many blazers and teams were in residence and there is also a brand new Elite Athletic Centre and Hotel that opened this year.

        Next up was Republic of Ireland v Belgium. The Boys in Green never got started and Belgium came away 2-0 winners and in fact won all three matches in their group while The Irish won the next two and qualified for the quarter finals next Monday.

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