Monday, 16 June 2014

Another Monday.

It seems a long time since Friday. 

Amazingly Friday was mostly bright and fine and sunny, even though it did get a little dull towards the end of the afternoon. I say amazingly because it was Whit Friday, the closest we come to a fiesta around here, which usually means that the weather turns wet and windy, not say bleak and cold at times. 

Whit Friday starts off with Whit Walks, a kind of procession of witness from the churches and Sunday schools, not restricted to this area. I can remember doing this as a child but I’m pretty sure we walked on Whit Sunday not Whit Friday. Decked out in new white pleated skirts, white cardigans and white sandals (the little girls) and crisp white shirts and Sunday best trousers (the little boys), we marched in pairs between ropes of paper flowers, with our little church’s curate at the front and assorted parents bringing up the rear. Somewhere along the way we joined the larger procession from the Mother Church of Saint John, to which we all marched together for the Whit Sunday family service. 

(Our smaller church was the “Daughter Church” of Saint Mary, originating as a Sunday school on the recreation ground and progressing to a temporary church building as the congregation grew along with the housing estates at our end of the town. My sister was the first child christened there and always planned to be the first to be married there. However, church attendance fell off and the temporary building was never replaced by a permanent one. I never found out what happened to the funds we worked so hard to raise! And eventually the temporary building was removed, the land deconsecrated and two houses built in the space left in the road. As for my sister, she was married in Spain and, our little church having disappeared and the vicar of the Mother Church having long since passed away, ended up having to appeal to the Anglican cathedral in Liverpool for certificates of baptism and confirmation so she could be married in the church in Andalucía. I wonder if she would have to do the same nowadays!) 

Anyway, here in Saddleworth the Whit Walks take place on Whit Friday morning, accompanied by the local brass bands and causing mayhem to the public transport system as roads through village centres are closed for at least a couple of hours. I wanted to go to the local Tesco and set off on foot, knowing that I would have trouble catching a bus. 

At 10.30 in the morning there were already people waiting at the side of the road out of Uppermill sitting on folded canvas chairs and equipped with flasks of coffee and sandwiches and goodness knows what other supplies as well. They had a long wait. As I went past the park in the centre of Uppermill, they were gathering the masses (surprisingly numerous masses), groups from the various local churches and brownie packs and so on. A chap with a loud speaker was urging the children to come to the front and get ready for a good sing. But, as yet, there was little sign of movement and I went on my way towards Tesco in nearby Greenfield. 

Coming home, I thought I might be able to walk from Greenfield to Uppermill, pick up a nice loaf from the baker’s and catch a bus the rest of the way home. No chance! There was a police road block preventing traffic from making their way through, the place was jam-packed and the procession was just making it’s way out of the park. This was about 12.15 so the spectators on their folding chairs must have been a bit fed up of waiting. I hope they had a book with them. 

I pushed my way through the crowds, managed to buy my loaf of bread, admired the procession and decided to carry on walking homewards, crossing the river via the stepping stones and getting onto the bridle path that way. 

Imagine my amazement to find a barrier across the access to the stepping stones: “Stepping stones closed for Friday 13th of June”. Goodness knows why! Maybe they were afraid of drunks falling into the, currently not very deep, river later in the evening and feared legal come-back! Fortunately, the barrier was not very substantial and was easily circumvented. On the other side of the river, where the access point is narrower, someone had simply pulled the barrier away. The place is getting more like Spain every day: a sunny day for a religious fiesta and a little bit of anarchic disregard for petty authority! So I crossed the river and went home with my purchases. 

One reason for the Whit Walks taking place on the Friday here is because it coincides with the Saddleworth Band Contest. Saddleworth is made up of a collection of distinct villages which have not yet managed to join up into one huge conurbation, despite increased building in recent years. Brass bands from all over the country, and from various places in mainland Europe as well, travel from village to village by coach, stop just outside each one and march into the village centre in their band uniforms to play the requisite set piece and be awarded points. And, as we all know, points mean prizes! Many of the bands are traditionally work-place based and some have achieved national and international fame. I have worked in at least two educational establishments with prize-winning bands. And our village, Delph, featured in the film “Brassed Off” starring Pete Postlethwaite, with the band marching over the bridge into the village centre. Here’s a link to a clip of the Grimethorpe band (I think) playing the Concierto de Aranjuez.

We often meet some friends in the centre of the village to listen to at least one band and then have a beer. This year we had invited another friend to join us and planned a pleasant “grown-up” evening. Then our oldest grandchild decided to sort of join us. She wanted to use us as a base, then meet friends in the village and eventually sleep at our house as there would be no buses back to her house – roads closed, as above. That was ok. although she did have some problems getting here as the bus she caught to come here stopped and threw its passengers off so that it could take a diversion which did not go through the Saddleworth villages. She ended up walking most of the several miles here, occasionally phoning me to rant at length about “annoying bus drivers”. 

In he midst of all this, and while I was still walking home with my shopping, my daughter called me. Her almost-mother-in-law had been rushed onto hospital and was in intensive care. She and her fiancé wanted to go over to Lancaster to the hospital in question. Could she drop the younger grandchildren off for the weekend? Well, what could I do? By 3.30, I had a grumpy, hot and tired older grandchild, recovering from a long walk and two younger grandchildren, promising their mother that they would be super-good, super-co-operative and so on while she rushed off on a mission of mercy. 

So some extra bits and pieces were added to the planned early evening meal, extending supplies to accommodate three grandchildren and the older grandchild’s best friend. The walk into the village involved taking along a football so that one rather grumbly grandson could have a kick-about the pub garden. Our “grown-up” evening became a “family” evening but, give or take a couple of arguments, a good time was had by all. 

On Saturday the younger grandchildren and I went on a mission to find “loom bands”, the latest trend for kids throughout Europe, or so Sunday’s newspaper told me. We successfully bought packets of tiny rubber bands which kids weave into friendship bracelets. Our rather macho, football-loving grandson sports about eight of these on each wrist and asks me to admire his colour combinations! And in the evening we recorded the England-Italy football match so that the football-loving boy could watch it on Sunday. 

And suddenly it’s Monday and it seems a long time since Friday!

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