I have never had the greatest affinity for the classical arts and "culture". I do however find that the odd operatic performance can be quite moving; a top rate performance of Nessun Dorma would be a great example. Paul Potts BGT audition version on YouTube has over 80 million hits so I guess I am not alone there though I have to say personally I prefer Pavarotti with a mere 12 million hits [but man oh man is the maestro badly in need of a trip to the barber shop]; check out the tone in his voice at a minute 26 and the power and duration of the final notes. You might want to check out his Ave Maria as well once the video ends.
Having said that the idea of sitting though a whole opera puts me in mind of sitting on the back patio and watching the weeds grow - there are things I would prefer to do. Ballet does nothing for me; I can accept that the dancers are probably supreme athletes but honestly, effeminate men in tights prancing about like nancy boys and heavily muscled women that would be more at home in a music box. I don't think so. Perhaps the symphony, not really. Like opera there are snippets of classical music that can be very stirring but in my world music is for listening to while doing something else not for watching [anyone for the back patio again]. Maybe art galleries; heck no. The art world is a complete mystery to me; paintings that look like the subject I can appreciate at times but get into Picasso like stuff that a chimp could have done or the "modern art" world of piles of bricks or plastic water bottles and you have lost me completely.
So is there a cultural or "arts" medium that can melt the philistine heart of the Grumpy Old Limey? Despite being a British expat I cannot say there is anything from the old country that I genuinely miss but if I was forced to pick a few things I could get into then I have to confess I would probably return to my roots for some real "culture".
What could I possibly be referring to - check it out after the jump!
Well for example, what about Welly Wanging [Youtube]. Maybe a blast from the past with the now illegal Lancashire originated "purring" which is described this way on the website Culture UK.
"The age of the clog also added a new dimension to brawling. In the illegal clog fighting or ‘purring’, men would wear clogs on their feet and violently kick each other, while otherwise being entirely naked! This would be to try and settle disagreements once and for all."
We could talk about "Hedgehog Rolling" in Grindon, Staffordshire [and before the animal lovers out there put the hate on me I too love our furry friends and they are not real 'hogs] or we might perhaps consider attending the annual Hen Races at the Barley Mow in Bonsall, Derbyshire [Youtube]. And there is more - some of the greatest athletes in the world compete annually in the World Toe Wrestling Championships at the Bentley Brook Inn in Fenny Bentley, Derbyshire - heck in 2003 even the mighty CNN reported on the event. If you feel like mounting an international challenge the World Toe Wrestling Organization's rules can be found here. As always you can rely on YouTube to get a firsthand look:
And then there is the Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Ashbourne, Derbyshire played on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday each year. Few events could boast the history of this one; it has been played since at least the 12th century, yes you heard right - nearly 1000 years. Played over two days with goals three miles apart and hundreds of players there is no "football" match quite like it. The rules of the game appear to be simple enough and are quoted this way on Wikipedia.
• Committing murder or manslaughter is prohibited. Unnecessary violence is frowned upon
• The ball may not be carried in a motorized vehicle
• The ball may not be hidden in a bag, coat or rucksack etc
• Cemeteries, churchyards and the town memorial gardens are strictly out of bounds
• Playing after 10 pm is forbidden
• To Score a Goal the ball must be tapped 3 times in the area of the Goal
Check it out on at Ashbourne Town.com where you will find information, history, stats and videos including this one from the 2009 event:
And finally a new one to me - thanks to Elizabeth Hennesy who posted this on Facebook - she prompted me to reminisce and then write about these great English traditions - man have we limey's got it going on! Anyway to the new [to me at least] event - the Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival. Essentially the festival involves everyone putting up scarecrows everywhere for a couple of weeks in August - could not be more straightforward eh? A relative newcomer but sure to be the start of another storied English tradition the festival dates only from 1994. Taking place in August each year [and going on right now] the festival generates huge media coverage; Yahoo News, the BBC, the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian amongst others. I grabbed a few pics [all under creative commons license on Flickr - click the images for a larger original size view and source attribution] and if you cannot live without more there is a large gallery on Flickr.
So - I say hats off to us limeys - when it comes to culture we just can't be beat. makes me proud of the old country. Either that or we're all just bloody barmy.