Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Hebden Sports Day

There were a couple of major festivals on Bank Holiday Weekend including the Leeds and Reading Music Festivals. I’ve been to them before and they were great. We decided not to go this year (I’ve seen New Order; The Pogues; Chumbawamba; Blur; New Model Army; Billy Bragg; The Men They Couldn’t Hang; James; Rage Against the Machine; The Prodigy; The Beastie Boys; Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine and Catatonia at these festivals before – somehow this year’s headliner of Guns n’ Roses wasn’t going to do it for me; I saw them 23 years ago when they were fresh).

Instead, we went to Hebden Sports Day and it was fantastic. Driving a diesel Ford Mondeo through the wall-lined single-track lanes of the Yorkshire Dales was a little hairy, but after I turned in through the narrow gate and parked in the field, things were great. I met the lads who have cycled over and are replenishing themselves with Victoria sponge cake and steak burgers from the entirely reasonably-priced food stalls.

The highlights and amusements are varied, and all cost the princely sum of 20p. I am entertained by ‘bat the rat’ in which a bloke drops a beanbag down a drainpipe and you have to pinion it with a baseball bat; all very educational I’m sure. Only slightly less politically incorrect is the ‘knock over a ginger’ stall where you can lob things at wooden panels painted as people and given red wigs to try and topple them.

Folk contested the skittles and grown men who really should know better tried to kick balls through cut-outs in a penalty shoot out game. Throwing things through different holes to reach the highest score was also on offer – at last look the prize of £2 was being shared among 20 people; so that’s the entry fee back, then!

The highlights of Hebden Sports Day were the fell-racing and the egg throwing. First, the kids raced around a tree in the field with push parents egging them on (pun entirely intended). Then the ‘seniors’ (which in this instance means people over 18 rather than 65) pelted through the tiny village and straight up the nearest steep incline.

We clambered our way up it (battling the voracious midgies) to a vantage point where we could watch them leaping over dry stone walls and hurling themselves down a rock-strewn hill. Him Outdoors perched reflectively on a rock, itching to participate (whereas I was just itching from the midgies) but knowing that it would be foolish to risk injury before his big event next week.

As we escaped the rigours of the outdoors (I’ll never make a rural girl) we walked past a more professional photographer with a big lens and a floppy hat. ‘That’s just what I wanted,’ he intoned, ‘You in my shot’. I believe this is what is known as Yorkshire wit – you’re not quite certain if the speaker is serious or not so are unsure whether to take offence, and they really don’t care if you do or you don’t. ‘I speak as I find’, they like to say, usually as a defence of their unspeakable rudeness.

When the mood takes them they can also have a generous spirit and a wonderfully warm sense of humour (and of course, these are sweeping generalisations). The egg throwing (and catching) is a fine example of their ‘playful’ attitude. Couples line up facing each other on either side of a rope and throw an egg between them. At each catch the lines get further apart until the field is littered with egg shell and albumen.

Children of all ages show off their cricketing techniques with the invariable ‘You could play for Yorkshire/ Lancashire/ England with a catch like that’. It’s a simple amusement and highly entertaining. Expect to see a version of it soon at a Blackhurst Party! Pictures below:

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