|Holidays in Yore|
There's a school of thought that says you won’t actually save any money by staying in Britain for your holidays this summer. Okay, so you won't have to pay for air fares and car hire; but while the price of everything is going through the roof over here, the strong pound means you can buy your own Aegean island for half a packet of fags and the Euros you didn't bother to change back into sterling last year.
Be that as it may, more and more people are celebrating the recession by holidaying at home; and for them, the search is on for something to do. Well, heritage is one of Britain’s strong points – just as well, given our climate – but it needn’t mean trying to keep the kids quiet while gawping at some stately home. It can also mean watching complete idiots doing the hilarious things they’ve been doing since the Days of Yore.
Take the Oxenhope Straw Race, for example, when teams of two compete to lug a bale of straw round all five pubs in the village, downing - naturally - a pint of ale at each pub. It’s only a two-and-a-half mile course, and the bales weigh about 40lbs each, so it’s not exactly Geoff Capes territory. But this being North Yorkshire there isn’t a flat road in the place; and straw bales, of course, have no handles, so the contestants have to come up with all sorts of ingenious (and unmotorised) gizmos to carry them. These range from a couple of broomsticks stuck through the bale to - no kidding - the back half of a car converted into a kind of rickshaw.
The event is hugely popular - it has attracted as many as 400 teams in some years, and raises £10,000-odd for charity. But actually, it's not all that Yore-ish: it was dreamed up by a couple of local lads after a night on the ale only 35 years ago. But that’s how traditions start! This year’s event is on Sunday 1st July; visit www.strawrace. com for more details including how to enter.
For something more genuinely ancient visit Devon for the opening of Honiton Fair on Tuesday 24th July. The fair is a genuine survivor of the hundreds chartered in the 13th century and is always opened by a procession led by the Town Crier carrying a golden glove on the end of a pole to symbolise – well, something. Probably. Anyway, the procession is enlivened John Haslam, via Wikimedia Commons by the ritual throwing of pennies from the upstairs windows of pubs along the route, and in Days of Yore the pennies were red hot so the bountiful gentry could laugh themselves silly watching the starving yokels burn their fingers as they scrambled desperately for the largesse. Don’cha just love them crazy Days of Yore?
Even more Yore is the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle, Co Antrim, on 27th-28th August. This is vastly popular and attracts swarms of visitors to the tiny seaside town, so be patient as you sit in the traffic. It’s groaning with history, though: Lammas is a pagan festival that followed the hay-harvest and marked the return of the sheep and cattle from their upland summer pastures. This is a fairly standard fair, albeit a big one, with sideshows and loads and loads of traditional music: the silly thing, though, is that it’s when everybody eats dried red seaweed. Dulse, as it’s called, is said to be quite nice really, although if it was that nice they’d eat it on more than two days of the year, wouldn’t they?
Another very Yore event that probably started off as a Lammastide celebration is the Highland Gathering (better known as the Highland Games) at Braemar on Saturday 1st September. Lammas was when all the spouse-hungry young lads tried to impress the maidens with various feats of manly prowess: hence tossing the caber, throwing the hammer, putting the stone. Oh yes, and playing the bagpipes. Loads of those at Braemar!
Possibly as ancient – although probably not – as the Lammas celebrations is the Abbot’s Bromley Horn Dance on Monday 10th September. Basically, this is morris dancing not with bells on, but with reindeer antlers on, because the dancers wear headgear made of reindeer antlers which have been carbon-dated to the time of the Norman Conquest. The dancers leave the church (where the antlers are kept) after a blessing at 8am and make their way through the Staffordshire town to Blithfield Hall for a spot of lunch (and as the heaviest set of antlers weighs 25lb, the dancers have earned their refreshment!). In the afternoon they dance back, and the whole thing ends at 8pm with another service in the church.
Now this could well be a survival from prehistoric days, given the antlers; on the other hand it could be connected with the town’s Barthelmy Fair, chartered in 1221 and abolished by the Roundheads; but on the other other hand, assuming you have three hands, the use of the antlers wasn’t recorded until 1686, so it might all be a bit of Restoration whimsy. You pays your money, you takes your choice. Lots of other stuff goes on at the same time; visit www. abbotsbromley.com for more info.
And finally, another 13th century fair, another silly tradition. This is the Egremont Crab Fair in West Cumbria on Saturday 15th September, named after the crab apples which were once an important crop round here but now world-famous as home of the international and quite possibly intergalactic gurning championship. Gurning is the Yore equivalent of a knobbly knees contest, in which the (mostly ancient and toothless) competitors simply pull funny faces, using a horse-collar as a frame. In Yore, it was a common feature of local fairs, alongside fighting with sticks and torturing harmless bulls, badgers, cocks etc. As the least sadistic of the pastimes of Yore it has managed to survive; and, like punk rock, anybody can do it. Just remember to leave your dentures at home!
|Mon May 20 @07:30PM - |
Science Alive: Science Cafe
|Wed May 22 @10:00AM - 03:00PM|
Green Team Volunteers
|Thu May 23|
Inspired By Horses
|Sun May 26|
|Sun May 26 @10:00AM - |
Harlow Conservation Volunteers
|Tue May 28|
Exhibition: “All alone together “ by Nick Turvey
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John Petters Jazz
|Fri May 31|