Thursday, March 25, 2010

A doss

‘The Exmoor’ is the longest compulsory school cross-country run in Britain. A ‘character-building’ eight mile walk to the start then a ten mile run back to the finish (there’s Devonshire logic for you), an eternal hill and mud-blighted slog that instilled in me a deep loathing of the English countryside which it took years to shrug off. There were three possible approaches to the ‘race’:

1) take it seriously and try to run as fast as you can all the way
2) huff and puff along inoffensively doing a bit of running then a bit of walking when you get a stitch or lose a trainer in one of the innumerable bottomless swamps.
3) treat it as an out-and-out doss

Schoolboys who took approach 1 were all prefects and suchlike, insufferable flaxen-haired toadies doubtless now employed in large banks and driving beamers. Those who took approach 2 now vote Lib Dem. Naturally I was a dosser. In our parlance, to doss (v) = to mess about to no aim or purpose. A doss (n) = anything that permitted dossing, eg. a field trip, a free period or a lesson with a teacher unable to maintain discipline.

We all moaned like hell about the Exmoor but an 18 mile nearly-unsupervised ramble about the country - walking, rolling, throwing stuff and talking twaddle - was a prime doss. Fellow Exmoor dossers are still firm friends now. Blogging is a doss and dossing has made me the blogger I am, just as ZMKC’s letters to Dewsbury-Briggs have made her the blogger she is. Character-building.


worm said...

I went to school on dartmoor and we had a similar kind of run (though not nearly as far as your one!)

The best way to doss the course was simply to hide in a hedge just round the first corner and sit there smoking and artfully smearing a few bits of mud on your face and clothing for 45 minutes or so until the flaxen-haired swots came running back past towards the finish - at which point you could leap out from the bush and jog over the finish line in a comfortable and non-suspicion-arousing top 20 place.

Willard said...

God bless us, one and all!

Ben said...

I remember one year when even dossing on Exmoor was too much of an effort.

We saw a minibus a little way behind us which was picking up the waifs and strays and injured. We then showed an Olympic standard of speed as we sprinted back down the way we had just trudged in an effort to catch the bus.

The driver deliberately ignored us and left us to doss around all the way back to school.

Sometimes just dossing around can be too much.

zmkc said...

'walking, rolling, throwing stuff and talking twaddle' - why did we have to grow up? Why couldn't just the flaxen-haired toadies grow up (because they already were really) and leave the rest of us to enjoy ourselves?

Gadjo Dilo said...

I was a 2) and, yes, voted Lib Dem. I've spent the rest of my life trying either to sharpen up my will to win or to relax into total (and hopefully charming) loucheness.

(ZMKC is a bloke? Oh. That was timely info... I could have said something that might have embarrassed us both).

Brit said...

Gadj - ZM doesn't need to validate her gender, but I have amended to avoid awkwardness.

Brit said...

Worm - alas, such tactics were rendered impossible by the military-style march to the starting line.

Ben - you always were the Boss of Doss.

I recall with amusement the start of the Exmoor, when the whistle would blow and everyone would sprint like hell over the first field, then at the earliest moment of being out of sight of the onlooking teachers and dignitaries would revert to doss mode, until, many, many hours later, sprinting the last field to the finishing line.