When Susan Calman isn’t being funny on things like QI and Radio 4 she occasionally pops up in CBBC shows like ‘School of Silence’, and she’d graced us with her presence previously in sketches for ‘All Over The Place – Australia’. But this is the first time she’s been out with us on location, and I felt slightly sorry for both of us when I heard we’d be cheese rolling today. Back home it’s one of the most dangerous events there is, with legs and arms regularly broken as people bound down a steep slope after the elusive bouncing dairy product.
I was quite glad when I found out that Italian cheese rolling in the town of Pienza is a much more sedate affair. The event was started in the early 60s as a way of bringing tourists to the hilltop Tuscan town, and some of those original competitors are still going strong – one of them is 100 years old! The aim is to roll a pecorino cheese wheel from a standing position towards a target marked out on the town square and hope that it lands in the bullseye and wins your team (who come from different regions of the town) 5 points.
Before we could go head to head we dressed up as Albert Einstein and pestered stall holders in the cheese market because… well, why not? Then we were given pride of place in the cheese procession, actually holding a basket containing the 2 official rolling cheeses. I’ve never seen so much fuss made about cheese. There was flag waving, trumpet playing, drum rolls and streets lined with tourists all hoping to get a glimpse of these hallowed objects.
Once the event got underway it became apparent that, as usual, it wasn’t as easy as it looked. The cheese is a bit unevenly weighted and the cobbles don’t make for the smoothest of rolls, so Susan and I did spectacularly badly, with me only managing to scrape one point out of our 3 rolls each. The crowd seemed rather unimpressed and gave me a mild smattering of applause – but at least I did better than that 100 year old man. His didn’t even reach the target. Ha!