THE good folk of Agra must get proper fed up with the constant stream of women trailing their husbands and boyfriends towards that bench in front of the Taj Mahal in order to re-enact the classic Princess Diana shot.

And the people of Paris must surely find the throngs crowding around the foot of the Eiffel Tower très irritating.

Pity the busy New Yorkers battling their way through upward gazing crowds in front of the Empire State Building, and the harrassed London commuters weaving between the throngs in Covent Garden.

The world over, people who live near famous landmarks tut, sigh and shake their heads at the tourists who impede their daily lives with their very presence.

Never mind the money they bring to the economy or the kudos a world-renowned site brings to one’s home turf.

Really, it’d be much better if they just went away and left the locals to get on with their unremarkable lives in peace.

Now Swindon has joined the heady ranks of displeased natives.

We too can grumble and moan about the inconvenience created by large crowds of people all united in the same pursuit.

Although in our case, there is no Coliseum, or Vatican or Acropolis drawing the unwelcome masses.

No, our outrage has been sparked by a bunch of people running a race.

By all accounts the newly revamped Swindon Half Marathon was a roaring success.

More people than ever laced up their trainers and pounded the 13.1 miles through the rain on Sunday.

The new route, taking in some of the town’s humble landmarks, was hailed a triumph.

The people who took part, whatever their finishing time, can be proud of themselves for taking on the challenge in the first place and, after months of hard work, succeeding at it.

Even more than their own personal achievement in running for so many miles in pretty grotty weather, many of the participants should be proud that their efforts will benefit charity.

All in all, every one of us in this town should be proud that a tradition that last year looked as though it might have bitten the dust has been revived with such aplomb.

But no. Some people were trying to get places in their cars and it took longer than it normally would. And this has infuriated them.

Now, let’s be honest here, nobody likes sitting in traffic. It’s got to be up there in the top five most annoying things ever, along with the Birdie Song, people who say ‘cheer up, it might never happen’, misplaced apostrophe’s (see what I mean) and sitting on a train next to someone with leaky headphones.

But, dear motorists, let’s just experiment with a little perspective here.

The half marathon happens one day a year.

For one day, people come from all over to our town to take part in our race. For the visitors, it is their chance to see our all too often maligned metropolis for themselves and realise it’s actually quite nice.

For the locals, it is their chance to pound the streets cheered on by their nearest and dearest, who they know will be brimming with enthusiasm and delight.

It is every runner’s chance to smash his or her expectations in making it round the full 13.1 miles or by beating their personal best.

It is a day for all of us to be proud.

So next year, take your foot off the gas and your hand off the horn and applaud the efforts of all those involved. You will get where you’re going soon enough. It’s up to you whether you arrive with a frown on your face or a smile.

Proud to boo baddies

“SO is it all songs, all the way through?” asked my chum, tentatively, over dinner.

I choked on my cheese and truffle tortelli.

I knew he was an opera novice but there’s not knowing anything about opera and there’s not knowing anything at all about opera.

I broke the news gently and told him if he really hated it he could leave in the interval.

Fast forward an hour or so and the interval curtain fell on the Russian State Opera’s production of Madama Butterfly.

“Wow, that went fast!” said the friend —surely a good sign?

And yes, he enjoyed it thoroughly, as did the rest of the audience at the Wyvern, if the semi-standing ovation was anything to go by.

The rapturous applause was peppered with panto-esque booing as the ‘baddies’ took their bows.

That’s what I love about this town. You can go to the theatre to watch the opera and it’s not all snooty and pseudo-intellectual. Here you’ll get a crowd who will whoop and cheer and boo with gusto, leaving the performers in no doubt at all that we all had a thoroughly good night. Even if it was all songs, all the way through.

  • BOSSES at the Great Western Hospital have spoken out to reassure us that they are able to provide patients with good care, despite the ever-rising pressures placed on the health service.

This is good news for any of us who may become sick or who knows a patient.

What would be even better news would be if the powers that be stopped putting such pressure on our doctors and nurses by sitting down and addressing the underfunding that has landed us in this position in the first place. A first world country should not be worried that it may not be able to cope with the sick.