Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday is English Culture day…

It is decided, every Friday this site will feature a few aspects of the rich culture of the nation state of England. Some will be date relevant, other stuff will be in because I think it should be.

Music - We start off with a jolly tune from Richard Thompson, ex Fairport Convention member and giant of the English folk scene. The track I have chosen to link to is Richard’s signature ditty, 1952 Vincent Black Lightening – mainly because it’s a fab song by a great singer-songwriter and also because I love Vincent motorbikes.
Richard Thompson - 1952 Vincent Black Lightning

Tradition – Flaming Tar Barrels. Oh yes, it’s a health-and-safety free zone on the 4th November in the village of Ottery St Mary in Devon. This ancient and spectacular event has so far given the guys with the clip-boards the body swerve as competitors attempt to outdo each other in the fire carrying department. The ingredients for a successful day’s tar barrelling are lots of flaming tar barrels, lots of beer, lots of volunteers to carry said barrels and more beer. If you are interested in attending, ring the Ottery tourist shop to check out a place to stay.

Nouveau – 28 to 29th October sees the world famous Crazy Golf World Championships at Hastings. Thrill as the ball is chipped through the windmill’s sails, oooooh as it lips out and rolls down the north face of the Eiger, aaaah as those crazee golfers tackle the world’s craziest golf course, how crazy can you get? It’s fast, wacky and crazy, it’s crazy golf – and we have the world championships here! Eat your heart out, USA.

Spooky – 31st October is Duck Apple Night – well, that’s what we called Halloween anyway. Basically we’d spend a whole night thinking of really interesting things to do with apples, string, water and flour – plus the odd exorcism thrown in. One thing is for sure, I’ll have no truck with ‘trick or extorting’ – an American import that should be resisted with a polite but firm “Bugger off before I smack you one” to any kid who knocks on your door demanding gifts with menaces.

Nowadays I settle down to read a ghost story from the genius that was M.R. James, a Victorian Oxford don who knocked out phenomenal stories of the ghostly happenings all based around English folk-lore. He’s a bit of a hero of mine – so I’ll be doing more about him in the weeks to come.

Being the spookiest night of the year, it’s important to remember that spooky things happen on spooky night – such as….

- If a witchball is hung in a window and it glows, it means that a witch is passing by, so there. (and don’t ask me what a ‘witchball’ is)

- Villagers would lock up their cats, believing that if their cats were loose, they would be captured by elves.

- Turnip lanterns must be placed outside gateposts to protect the home from spirits.

So remember to put up your turnips, lock your cat in and make sure you get your witchball before they all sell out. (Tesco are doing a special ‘Traditional British witchball promotion’ in store right now. You can find them in between the Scottish and Welsh witchball displays). Every little helps.

More English culture stuff next Friday….


Toque said...

My parents live in Budleigh Salterton, the village next door to Ottery St Mary.

I live in Brighton and Hove, the city next to Lewes.

The terrible dilemma I face is do I go to Lewes or Ottery's bonfire night.

Bearing in mind that it is the first ever Bonfire Night for the Canadian Mrs Toque.

alfie said...

Well I would take her to Ottery - who knows how long it will allowed before the H & S nazis get their way?
BUT - as you live in Brighton, why not whip Mrs T down the coast to view the spectacle that is the Crazy Golf World Champs this weekend?

I mean, how much excitement can Mrs T take?

Toque said...

Damnation! I only just checked back to this post - I suppose that I have missed the crazy golf championships?

Can't stand it myself but it's a big sport in Canada - what else do you do in perpetual winter? It's inddor there, usually in a mall.