The Penny Farthing Post
I am indebted to the BBC news for this treasure – the wonderful Graham Eccles who collects and delivers post around Bude by penny-farthing bicycle ( video link here). Who could not admire his initiative? We all like active heroes and the rise in the price of stamps won’t harm his enterprise. But there’s more than just this.
Certainly there is the sheer visual charm – which cannot but delight tourists and locals alike – but he is carrying on the fine British tradition of eccentricity. He is also providing a service by putting a new spin on an old idea.
This report I owe to the venerable yet lively Whitby Gazette (established 1854). It is the custom to serve carlin pease (a kind of medieval mushy pea) on Passion Sunday – and it is still done in some pubs in the North- East – report here. There are a variety of stories to account for this – in different ports in particular – a fine example of how folk tales evolve to explain customs. You can read more here.
I love how the much-neglected English Civil War crops up in this – reminding us of our shared history. The people of the British Isles should be proud of who they are. I don’t believe this excludes anybody – our much-settled isle has enough stories to share with the whole world.
What relevance to the writer for young people?
These (and so many, many more) traditions go beyond quaint. I happily accept that quirkiness is to be cherished for its own sake but the observation of Pace Egg Rolling and Shrove Tuesday Skipping in Scarborough and the like is also a reply. The continuance of shared customs – through taking part and celebration in writing – is a counter-blast to the dominant celebrity ‘culture’.
It’s not corporate. it’s not blandly international like the wall art in hotel rooms, it’s ours.
Recently I heard someone fear that books can be rejected for being ‘too British’. Well, pah to that. Felicity Bryan at the Chichester Writing Festival ( see my reports here & here – and also Liz Fenwick’s here) gave an excellent answer to that, which I paraphrase:
Don’t worry about a book’s appropriateness for a given market – if the story and the characters are universal, the rest won’t matter.
Being true to who you are, to the ways of your own background whatever that maybe , is essential to you as a person and as a writer. I’m not saying you must mention Morris Dancers in your next book ( though the wonderful Terry Pratchett has given them a boost) but be aware of your tradition.
I want to see more writers exploring and reinventing folklore. Tradition dies if it is not re-invigorated – like marriage has received a fillip from the influx of same-sex couples.
I’ll leave the last words to the marvellous Show of Hands:
Seed, bark, flower, fruit
They’re never gonna grow without their roots
Branch, stem, shoot
They need roots
Roots by Show of Hands