Sunday, 12 June 2011

On ducks, donkeys and gipsy caravans.

Roads around here are being decked with notices saying: PARKING RESTRICTION. NO PARKING. NO UNLOADING. NO WAITING.

This is all in preparation for next weekend. Friday is Whit Friday and almost everything around here comes to a halt on that day. Well, not quite, in the morning the local churches organise processions through the villages: the Whit Walks. Having got that out of the way the local children traditionally go mad running around with pea shooters, firing lethal dried peas at each other and at anybody who happens to get in their way.

Needless to say, the local schools close so that the children can get involved in this little bit of mayhem. As my grandchildren have the day off but their mother doesn’t, her school being outside of the Saddleworth area, they will end up with me and we will go and observe this madness but also see morris dancers in the square and possibly get involved in a duck race. A friend of mine has been the custodian for the last 15 to 20 years of a set of numbered yellow plastic ducks which are floated down the river. You “buy” a duck and if yours arrives at the finishing line first, you win a prize. Such fun!!!

In the evening there is the Band Contest. Brass bands some from all over England, all over Europe in fact, to play in each village in turn. That’s what the parking restrictions are all about; the bands go from village to village by coach and then march into each village in turn and play their piece. They don’t want parked cars getting in the way. Back when I was a working girl I would arrive home to find that I had to park about a mile away from my house and walk back.

The bands are judged by a committee in each venue and eventually an overall winner is chosen. We usually meet up with old friends in the village to watch the bands progress through Delph and then we retire to one of the local pubs. On rare Whit Fridays, the weather is delightful and people stand around in the evening sunshine, enjoying the spectacle. Mostly, however, it is rather cold and damp but we all put on a brave face, a good English stiff upper lip and declare that we are enjoying ourselves anyway. Don’t knock it; this is the closest we get around here to a fiesta.

The whole thing has started already with a Donkey Scarecrow trail around Delph. If you can’t manage to just walk around here without the need for added stimulus, you can buy a map and tick off Donkey Scarecrows as you spot them. All proceeds go to the local library; so it is all in a good cause. There are even a couple of donkeys in the car park of the pub next door to our house.

I’m not at all sure whether the gipsy caravan which I spotted in a farm gateway just on the edge of the village has anything to do with all this. It was there yesterday when I jogged around the village (in training for the Race for Life which I am running with granddaughter number one and a couple of her friends in July to raise money for cancer research) but today has disappeared.

And then today is the Saddleworth Show , a sort of village fĂȘte on a large scale. That, of course is, why the day that began with sunshine has moved on to wind and rain. It’s traditional to get soaked at Saddleworth Show.

It’s just another example of the English summer, with bells on!

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