Sunday, 26 May 2013


  The horse chestnut trees here are finally in flower – only about two weeks later than in some parts of Manchester and two months later than in Vigo. But then, Vigo is a lot further south. 

The bluebells have also started to make their presence felt. 

So have the dandelions, as I know to my cost having pulled a huge number of them out of my garden. It’s almost a shame to pull them up, they look so bright and cheerful but they will insist on turning into dandelion clocks and then get blown all over the garden. Before you know it you have nothing but dandelions! 

Even the tadpoles have been swimming around merrily in the stream next to the bridle path. It must be spring, at last! In fact today is the second consecutive day of sunshine. I am quite impressed. 

Quite why this couldn’t have started a day earlier is beyond me but Friday was more like March than May. Friday really needed the sunshine as it was Whit Friday. Whit Friday around here means Band Contest. In the morning the local churches organise the Whit Walks, a kind of procession of witness when all the Sunday school children parade through the streets in their Sunday best. Then in the evening brass bands from near and far come and play in all the villages of Saddleworth and are judged on their musical ability and general performance. This year the children must have been frozen as it was blowing a gale, freezing cold even when the clouds cleared and the sun came out but also horribly wet at regular intervals when the clouds blew back in. 

We saw people straggling back from our village’s Whit Walks as we waited for a bus to go into town. Forewarned that the village itself was closed to traffic for the morning, we went to a different bus stop from our usual one. An old chap there told us he had been waiting for an hour without any sign of a bus going in the direction we wanted. Three had gone in the other direction so we all assumed that the roads were actually open. It was only when we phoned for a taxi, after waiting for well over half an hour, that a bus actually came. Taxi hastily cancelled, we boarded the bus and went on our way through the decidedly un-spring-like weather. 

In the evening we went into the village to meet some friends of ours who have endowed a “deportment prize”, judged presumably on the bands’ marching ability as they enter the villages. We’ve never enquired to closely as to why someone from Prestwich felt the need to spend his money on a brass band contest prize but here is our friend Stanley talking to the Cheshire Constabulary Band who have won the prize in other years. 

It was slightly less wet than in the morning but still rather too wintry for my liking. Others must have felt the same way as the village was relatively empty. 

And then Saturday dawned to a blue sky and sunshine, prompting me to visit the garden centre and pick up plants for the pots on my garden wall. Now we no longer have pots of weeds but colourful pots of pansies. 

On my way home I opted to trespass through a section of my favourite walk which has been closed to the public. The bridle path follows the route of an old railway line, closed long ago by Dr Beeching. The last section has never been smartened up like the main part of the pathway and recently whoever owns the land has put up barriers and large notices telling all and sundry that this is private land and that they must keep out. This worked for a while but someone has opened ways in and out of the area, making the direct route available once again. 

As a rule I am an obedient citizen and take the long way round but yesterday I chose to trespass. The local youth clearly still get in there and set up impromptu ramps for their bikes and leave their graffiti tags in this bit of industrial wasteland. 

Traditionally the Whit Friday Band Contest has been followed on the Saturday by the Beer Walk. Teams would apply to the local Round Table group to take part in this glorified pub crawl. Their subscription fee entitled them to walk or run in fancy dress from Saddleworth village to Saddleworth village, collecting money for the charity of their choice as they want and stopping at almost all the local hostelries for a beer en route. As I said, a glorified mass pub crawl. 

 Last year the Round Table organisation decided that enough was enough and that they would no longer organise the Beer Walk. However, some people didn’t seem to be aware of this and late yesterday afternoon our village was full of Vikings, pirates and giant cockroaches, all milling around trying to buy beer. Or course, because it was not an official beer walk but what someone referred to as “the pretend beer walk”, minor chaos ensued. There was no police escort to stop traffic while revellers walked into the village or to chivvy said revellers on their way after their stop at the pub. Oh, no, there were just crowds of would be carnival folk spilling out into the road and generally blocking the way. 

Minor mayhem ensued as you might expect. Is this a new local “tradition” in the making?

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