British Traditions – Dyke Leaping

This is an extract from my book 40 Humourous British Traditions

The only fatality was in 1671 when Henry de Belancourt starved to death at the King’s Lynn sea-dyke leaping. He was determined to win and so decided to vault across using a small willow tree. In the final round a successful leap would have won him the first prize of six acorns, but he got stuck halfway. Unfortunately the tide came in and because the rules forbid any outside interference Henry decided to wait – however the tide came in for two weeks and by the tenth day Henry was delusional and believed himself to be St Simeon Stylites. He eventually passed out and was draped over the tree when rescued. Attempts were made to revive him, which failed. His last recorded words were “Acorns, acorns, where are my acorns?” Since 1671, in Henry’s honour, the Squirrel Cup has been awarded to the winner of the King’s Lynn sea-dyke leaping contest.

Turtle Rinsing from London

This is an extract from my book 40 Humourous British Traditions

The Royal Turtle Surveyor has to be notified if a turtle reaches the Pool of London so that the ceremony of Turtle Rinsing can occur. This old procedure involves the Royal Turtle Surveyor, The Royal Turtle Deputy-Surveyor, the Royal Net Bearer, The Royal Water Bagpiper, and the Master of the Hose. From the Tower of London, these five officials proceed towards the turtle in a launch bearing The Royal Standard.

Once the turtle is observed by The Royal Turtle Deputy-Surveyor using a spyglass, the Royal Net Bearer apprehends the creature in a special Turtlenet that’s over two hundred years old. Once clear of the water, the turtle in the net is raised to shoulder height. Using a 500-year old hose made from Staffordshire Boar hide, the Master of the Hose sprays the creature for “one round of ye reel”, which is danced by the Royal Turtle Surveyor and The Royal Turtle Deputy-Surveyor. The Royal Water Bagpiper accompanies the dance.

 

40 Humourous British Traditions – Cat Chasing

This is an extract from my book 40 Humourous British Traditions

Barton-in-the-Beans is a village in the county of Leicestershire in the heart of England. In the Middle Ages it was believed that there were more cats in the village than in any other village or town in the country. This could only mean one thing in those times: witches. Lots of them.

There was no lake near the village. The local chalk soil drained easily so even after heavy rain no large puddles formed. Thus deprived of his best known method of determining who was a witch, the local Witchfinder-General Roger Boydell hit upon a novel method for searching out the local witches.

He determined that witches are very attached to their cats; at the equinoxes and the solstices he told his henchmen to round up all the village cats and place them into a large pen. At his signal, a man would allow three of the creatures to escape from the pen. These cats would be chased by the Witchfinder-General’s fitter cronies around the village. If any woman chased after the man chasing her cat, especially on a broomstick, she was determined to be a witch and sent off to Leicester for burning on the High Cross.

This tradition lasted for 400 years, comfortably outlasting the role of Witchfinder-General by over 300 years. In the mid-20th Century, as people became aware of diets and exercise, it was noticed that the cats of Barton-in-the-Beans were the leanest, fittest, and most athletic cats in the whole county.

This is an extract from my book 40 Humourous British Traditions

That’s punny: the winning puns at comedy championships

Leo Kearse has triumphed at the UK Pun Championships, held as part of Dave’s Leicester Comedy festival. Here are some of his gags