So, cast your mind back to Spring 2008.,,, The folk of Hungerford, Berkshire, had just had their annual Hocktide celebration. This is a very old custom, featuring Tutti Poles (a bit like mini maypoles) which are carried around the various shops and homes that own what are called Commoners' Rights in the town (it's a bit complicated , trust me).
Hungerford and in fact the whole of West Berks has no tourist industry to speak of, so you probably won't find this celebration marked in any of the Visit England brochures. It's really not intended for tourists at all, but for the locals. Which is nice.
It's not entirely clear what it is all supposed to mean, but that is the point of many old customs, I think. However, it seems to be based on an ancient fertility ritual, involving kissing young ladies and handing out oranges, (Below is a young maid from the local school, gone into a house to hand out oranges)
There is also some climbing into bedroom windows, apparently, drinking quite a bit of alcohol, etc. To be honest I have never followed it closely but it has been going on in Hungerford for a very long time. When my family first moved there I seem to remember it was a matter of the coal man dressed up in his aged top hat and ancient frock-coat, followed by a few other people carrying around a ladder to get into the bedroom windows, but ... well, it seems a bit posher now. Anyhow, here they are in one of the many excellent antique shops in the town, partaking of some refreshment.
The local lawyers' office was among the many local businesses that enter into the spirit of it all. It has cross-ribboned its door posts rather beautifully in yellow and blue
The town is pretty good on window decorations, and many of the shops put up a display of blue and yellow ribbons, tutti poles or oranges, and also, I noticed, hats.
And it was a nice sunny day for preparing a hog roast for later
And so Spring seemed to have arrived, as usual...
The people of Hungerford woke up and found everything covered in snow.
Covering the winter flowers....
And the new leaves...
It was too late to have the Tutti celebrations all over again of course :)
But it soon thawed - within hours - and then it was Spring again, with blue skies and snow turning to harmless slush. And Spring came as usual.
Hocktide isn't till 17 April this year, so if you happen to be in West Berkshire, go along and have a look. It ambles on all day but livens up a bit in the evening when they get the fairground organ out.
I thought of this when I was cycling in Suffolk (where we have been for a few days since I couldn't go to Greece). Fantastic weather, almost like June. And now we hear that snow is coming down from Scotland, five inches of it up there and heading our way. None of the Spring flowers at Hungerford were damaged by the unseasonal snow in 2008 but I'm a bit concerned about the magnolias, which came out early this year because of the unseasonally wonderful weather.
I will get round to everyone's blogs now that I am back with a proper internet connection and access to a real computer. I couldn't post properly there, so I have added a few more pictures to the Granada photos (below and here, if you are interested)
I've also been reading Amanda's travel blog here and she's posted a contest for travel bloggers or indeed anyone with a blog. You have to choose a destination and you get a month of free accommodation in the city of your choice. You have to give five good reasons why you want to go to the particular city.
I don't have a month to spare to go to any of the cities, so I won't be entering the contest, but it looks like a fun opportunity for someone.
And talking of fun opportunities, several bloggers contacted me about the Greece blogging opportunity I posted about here. I passed these on to Sue, the PR, and she's going to be meeting with some of them during an upcoming trip to Greece. In fact, she might be there now. If you are one of them, please let me know what happened and if you got any work out of it.
I am glad to say that the hospital tests which prevented me from going to Greece have all been clear, which I am glad about!