Custom: The Weighing of the Mayor of High Wycombe
About: A tradition from the mid 17th century, each new Mayor is weighed at the start of their term and again at the end. If they’ve gained weight, they are booed by the crowd, as its assumed they have been enjoying themselves too much at the taxpayers’ expense. The Mayor is weighed first, followed by all the dignitaries and major officials. Even the Mayor’s wife was weighed when we went to watch it.
Custom: The Cheese Rolling
About: Since the 1800s, race participants have been throwing themselves after an eight-pound round of Double Gloucester cheese, as it is released at the top of the VERY steep Coopers Hill. The winner is the person who gets hold of the cheese, or the first person to the bottom of the hill. The loser(s) are the ones that break bones attempting it. It’s impossible to understand just how steep the hill is unless you visit – it’s hard enough to climb up to see the event take place, let alone take part.
Custom: Beating of the Bounds
About: An ancient custom observed by many church parishes, going all the way back to medieval times. The bounds of All Hallows by the Tower are beaten on Ascension Day, with members of St Dunstan’s college, clergymen and and liverymen all walking the route and beating the path with sticks.
Custom: Beating Retreat
About: A military ceremony dating back to the 16th century. Originally the drum beat signalled the end of fighting for the day, with troops being ordered to return to the safety of the camp. Later, the drum beat signalled the closing of the camp gates. Now it’s more a military practice concert, a few days ahead of Trooping the Colour, which marks the sovereign’s official birthday. With drums, fireworks and cannons.
Custom: ‘Obby ‘Oss
About: The origins of this one are unclear, but its a centuries old tradition (the Independent believes it may be the oldest dance festival in Europe). Padstow is dressed in May Day greenery, and two ‘Obby ‘Osses (hobby horses) parade through the streets, lead by the ‘Teazer’. The Blue ‘oss and the Red ‘oss jump and turn around town, trying to pick up ‘young maidens’ as they go, followed by a huge procession of dancers, accordion players and singers. Lots of day time drinking, starting in morning darkness. The ‘osses retire to their stables at some point in the evening but the partying continues into the wee hours.
Custom: The Butterworth Charity Sixpence
About: Started by Joshua Butterworth in 1887, the Butterworth charity awards a sixpence to up to 21 poor widows in the church parish, and hot cross buns to all children in attendance. As we no longer use sixpences, over the years its become tradition to distribute what they would be worth in today’s money – around 20p. However this year’s sole claimant got lucky, as the church had found an old sixpence and awarded her that instead. And they gave everyone in attendance a hot cross bun, not just the children!
Custom: The Widow’s Son Bun Ceremony
About: The ceremony is held in an old east end boozer, built on the site of a widow’s house. The story goes that the widow had a son who went to war and asked for a fresh hot cross bun for his return at Easter. She baked one for him, but he sadly didn’t return from the battlefield. Every year that followed, she dutifully baked another, and kept them all strung up in a net hanging from the ceiling. The pub continues the custom today, annually hanging a bun from the ceiling above the bar.
Custom: Tichborne Dole
About: Established in the twelfth century by the lady of Tichborne House, Mabella Tichborne, as she lay on her deathbed. She wanted to leave a donation in her will, annually gifting food to the poor. Begrudgingly, her husband offered her land to do so, on a condition; she could have as much land as she could run around, with a lit flame. She made it round 23 acres before the flame expired. Ever since her death in c1150, every resident in the Tichborne area is entitled to one gallon of flour every year – their surnames are read out one by one, followed by the gallons due “Harris two and a half”
Custom: Olney Pancake Race
About: This annual race has been going for over 500 years. It is said to have started in 1445, when a local woman panicked when she heard church bells ringing from her kitchen and, fearing she would be late for a Shriving service to confess her sins before Lent, she ran through the town in her apron, holding her pan.
Custom: Atherstone Ball Game
About: This is an annual game, dating back to 1199, when Leicestershire and Warwickshire teams played a match using a bag full of gold. It’s brutal, bloody, and seemed more like an excuse for a sanctioned brawl than anything else.
Custom: The Blessing of the Throats
About: All ceremony and no pomp. Following catholic mass on February 3rd, two candles are held up to the throats of worshippers – and their throats are blessed. CalendarCustoms described the St Etheldreda’s service in Holborn as the most celebrated in London, so that’s where I went.
Custom: Sir John Cass Founder’s Day
About: Another church service, but this one was certainly livelier… The Lord Mayor of the City of London and LOADS of school children are present, all to celebrate the founder of the Sir John Cass foundation and its associated schools. All attendees wear red feathers – a symbol for Cass’ blood stained quill. He signed his will (and the money to fund the schools) as he was dying, causing much controversy over its authenticity.
Thoughts on 2018:
The Big Stuff:
This was a year of finding our footing again. It took a while, but we’re now pretty settled into parenthood. I took three months off work to look after the sprog. I can’t say I did anywhere near as a good as job as Soph did, but hey – we survived. We went on a few short trips away as a family, and I took a few trips away with friends too. Work was less climactic than last year, but I got to spend a lot of time with some good clients on some exciting projects. I spent some time acting as trustee for Depaul UK but found I didn’t have much time for my own side projects.
The Small Stuff:
Played squash most weeks, until it got too cold in December. Lots and lots and lots of walks to Starbucks in Mile End, in the hope sprog would fall asleep en route. Plenty of fuck-ups. Plenty of melt-downs. No music gigs, one comedy gig, a couple of films – but what to expect with a 1 year old. The first of (hopefully) many BBQs at our new home. Dry January and Dry October, with a holiday-ish run up to Christmas.
Quote for the year:
“Dad seems to be coping okay. No parental concern.”
Books read: 20
Best three books:Number of photos taken: 9825
Number of songs starred on Spotify: 72
Most listened to track: A Beautiful Spring Day – George Bruns
Series watched: Seinfeld, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, House of Cards S6, The Staircase, Narcos S3, The Crown S2, Bodyguard, The Informer
Album of the Year: 11 Nursery Rhymes – Nursery Rhymes 123
Film of the Year: The Darkest Hour
Pub Quizzes Partaken: 1
Pub Quizzes Won: 0
Trips to the doctor: 0
Trips to the dentist: 2
Trips to the vet: 1
Museums visited: 13 (including the V&A Museum of Childhood many times…)
New Year’s Resolutions:
Dry February. Find more time for writing. Find more time for side projects. Sort out the garden and host more BBQs. Matcha over coffee.