Sunday 22 January 2012

Quaint Quirks and Customs

Well, there's nowt so queer as folk.

And without a doubt the English are the queerest folk about.

It's ok, we know it.  There is even a certain level of pride associated with it.

We tend, as a nation not to take ourselves too seriously, to be self depreciating and to unceremoniously take the piss out of ourselves and our fellow countrymen.

We do this as a form of self defence, and to confuse the hell out of you.

England is relatively tiny, approximately 50346 square miles in size and yet, within those few miles there are possibly up to 50 or 60 different accents and dialect *

We mostly don't even understand each other (drop me into the middle of Liverpool or Manchester I might as well be in Azerbejan).

Throw into the mix our range of local customs and traditions (which gives us something to focus on when we get bored talking about our shite weather) and we are, we admit, a frankly fucking odd bunch!

I mentioned gurning in my last post and Catherine asked me what it was.

So, just for you Catherine, THIS is gurning:

don't you just want to pinch his chubby cheeks??

Now, gurning is considered an art form at the Egremont Crab Fair in Cumbria held every September and the home of the Gurning World Championships.

Contestants put their heads through horse collar or braffin while they create the ugliest, most grotesque faces they can manage. A certain amount of skill is involved but a lot of beer and a level of toothlessness probably has an impact as well.

For some, such as me, gurning is pretty instinctive, point a camera my way and the likely outcome is similar to the above.

Gurning is but the tip of the iceberg, so, what else do we get up to in our spare time?

Well .... sit back and let me share ...

Cheese rolling at Cooper's Hill

Once a year, as they have done for hundreds of years, young men and women hurl themselves down a hill so steep that it is impossible to remain standing in pursuit of a seven or eight pound wheel of locally made Double Gloucester cheese. In this wacky race there is no way participants can come down Cooper's Hill on their feet. Spectators who get too close to the edge have been known to tumble over and join the race involuntarily.

At the bottom are a positive army of paramedics waiting to shovel up the injured and ferry them off to A&E.

Bog Snorkeling

Yes indeed, you read correctly, bog snorkeling. If any of you ever doubted that us Brits are mad, this should make up your minds for you. Basically participants dive into a bog, wearing goggles, a pair of flippers and a snorkel, they then proceed to race each other along a 120ft trench filled with stinking mud.


Because it's FUN!!!

Worm Charming

I shit you not!

Worm charming is a way to of attracting earthworms from the ground. The village of Willaston, near Nantwich, Cheshire is the place where since 1980 the annual World Championships have been organised. The competition was actually initiated by local man Tom Shufflebotham who on the 5th of July, 1980 charmed 511 worms from the ground in only half an hour. The competition has 18 rules. Including:

1. A garden fork of normal type may be stuck into the ground and vibrated by any manual means to encourage worms to the surface.

2. Music of any kind can be used to charm worms out of the ground but no drugs can be used! (Water is considered to be a drug/stimulant).

3. A handbell to be rung about five minutes before the start of the competition (because we like hand bells)

Morris Dancing

Ah, the ancient art of Morris dancing ...

Men in lederhosen prancing around like dressage horse hitting each other with sticks (or sometimes swords) and occasionally thwacking each other across the face with a hanky.  One of our proudest traditions!


Although I don't originally hail from Somerset, this is one of my favourites.

Wassailing, when a piece of toast is soaked in cider and hung in a tree, shot guns are fired into the top most branches and buckets are beaten.

The reason for this?

After half a pint of scrumpy (the devils brew which will have you flat on your back and hallucinating for four days!) who knows and who cares!

* I made that up but it sounds about right.

Oh, and for those of you  who were interested.  I sent a message to M from Baddo and got a really nice reply saying to get in touch if I ever changed my mind.

And Matt and I had that chat and, well, we reached an understanding too.


The Rambling Pages said...

I am a pretty miserable cow at the moment and your post has just made me laugh right from me boots! Thank you!Every year in Knareborough there is a bedrace,how it hasnt been banned for health and safety reasons is beyond us but it is tradition - through the river, across cobbles, down main roads - its great!!

Sarah said...

I've heard of the bedrace RP - sounds like fun!

Sufer Dude and I have been thinking of staging our own version of it with a sofa and flaming ores down the hill and into Lyme Regis Bay :)

Glad it made you smile - we are pretty weird aren't we? x

Anonymous said...

I feel almost embarrassed to admit that I used to live a whole 7 or 8 miles from the centre or World Worm charming, and have even entered into a worm charming competition once at the boys primary school...

We (the English) most certainly are a completely mad bunch, and that is something I am very proud of....

Lou :-)

Sarah said...

Never apologise, never feel embarrassed, never explain, remember, it is not the English way ... (haha, did you really though?;)

Can't believe I missed out welly wanging!

pam said...

I tried to explain Pooh sticks to Italians and they looked at me with pity in their eyes.

Sarah said...

We are much misunderstood PP. (Perhaps next time try it with dried pasta, see how fast they run to the other side then? ;-)

A.K. Knight said...

This explains a whole lot of Mr. Feisty Cat's odd behavior.

What is it with the "I'm not in pain," when Brits are actually dying? That I don't understand. Americans whine like crazy.

--Feisty C

Anonymous said...

When you really think about it, all of humanity is odd. Granted, some customs are stranger than others, but we are all just odd ducks!

That is part of what makes life so interesting.


Catherine said...

I could have guessed for the next decade and NEVER come up with the meaning of gurning- you crack me up!! You are indeed a silly wacky people but I'd still love to retire in a lovely little cottage somewhere on your island.

Sarah said...

Come and join us Catherine - we can drink wine and wang wellies together :) x

Anonymous said...

welly wanging should be an olympic sport - after all its got techniques and rules :)