In this blogposting…
* What’s So Special About Hull?
* Wildlife Report
* Eccentric England
* A Bite From The Big Apple
Bring it on…

The other day - and for reasons far too complicated to go into here - I found myself slurping a fairly insipid cup of coffee in a Wetherspoon’s pub.

I’m prepared to admit that, so far, this is hardly the most epoch-making piece of news you will have heard recently, what with riots, financial crises and the rest.

However, there is an aspect of this otherwise humdrum event which has intrigued me virtually ever since. Go with me on this one.

When you buy a cup of coffee at Wetherspoon’s, they give you a ‘coffee collector’s card’, which they stamp each time you buy another coffee. When you’ve bought five, you get the sixth one free. (Not a reward particularly worth having, as it happens.)

The trifling bagatelle that caught my attention was a small promotional ad on the back of the card. It said that free wi-fi was available in Wetherspoon’s outlets - except:
- at airports
- in Ireland and
- in Hull.

So...Wetherspoon’s in Hull has no free wi-fi. The question is, of course - why not?

What’s so special about Hull?

Our Grand Summer Festival - second only to Edinburgh’s in its cultural significance - will take place at 1100 next Wednesday 24 August at the Tanfield Railway. I have asked that purple and orange silk bunting be draped along the entire length of the railway. I have also arranged for a brass band, a hurdy-gurdy and a troupe of attractive cheerleaders - male and female - to be in attendance.

So the least you can do is be in attendance yourself.

You may not be too happy about the off-and-on quality of the weather so far this summer, but it seems to have been of enormous benefit to local wildlife - mostly insects. So, while we’ve been switching the central heating on and off, some of our little neighbours have been taking advantage of the weather’s vagaries. Notably...

You may have noticed how many more wasps there seem to be this summer. This is apparently because, in consistently warm weather, their bodies can dry out. The rain has helped them survive.

...small tortoiseshell butterflies.
These pretty creatures, once common in England, have staged something of a comeback this summer - perhaps because the weather has killed off the parasitic fly that’s been decimating their numbers.

...red admiral butterflies.
These amazing butterflies actually migrate to England from Europe every year, and this year they’ve been doing so in greater numbers than ever.

...bumblebees and hoverflies.
During hot periods, plants wither and their nectar dies. But regular rain has kept nectar levels high, which has greatly benefited bees and hoverflies.

Well done, them.

Here is a list of some of the weirder events that take place, usually annually, in this hopelessly wayward country and which you may like to attend. Keep the list for future reference; after all, you never know when you may be stuck for something to do and might fancy popping out somewhere to see someone gurning, carrying sacks of coal or paddling around in a giant Yorkshire Pudding.
Shrovetide Skipping
When the Pancake Bell rings at noon, the whole of Scarborough heads for the South Foreshore and starts skipping in very long lines and with very long ropes. There are pancake races, too.

World Championship Snail Racing
This takes place on the 21 July on a damp circle of cloth on Grimston cricket pitch, Congham, Norfolk. The snails race from an inner to an outer circle and the winner receives a pewter tankard full of fresh lettuce.
Clock Burning
On 21 December, the people of Brighton gather to make paper-and-willow clock lanterns then march them through the streets to the beach. Here, they set them alight amid a gigantic firework display.
Onion Eating Championship
Each participant is given a 7-ounce raw, peeled onion. The winner is whoever finishes first. If you fancy your chances, make for Newent in Gloucestershire on 10 September.
Orange Races
The good people of Totnes, Devon, chase oranges down the High Street. This happens on August 23, so you’ve got time to catch this year’s event.
Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race
In early June, people paddle across Bob’s Pond (in Brawby, North Yorkshire) in giant Yorkshire puddings - real ones, made of flour and eggs and coated with yacht varnish.

There’s a gurning competition at Egremont Crab Fair in Cumbria every 17 September. If you’re lucky, you’ll also catch the Pipe Smoking Competition and the Apple Cart Parade.
Mud Racing
A 400-yard dash through the waist-deep oozing mud of the Blackwater Estuary near Maldon, Essex.
Water Football
A rather wet six-a-side football game played in the River Windrush at Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire. This year, it’s on 29 August - so you’ve time to catch this one, too.

I’m delighted to say that there are many, many more. I haven’t even mentioned a whole series of Lawnmower Races, the Sherston Mangold Hurling Championships, the Bognor Birdman or the Ossett Coal-Carrying Competition.

I’ve often thought, especially since spending so much time in France, that the English have a unique talent for not taking themselves too seriously and I’m glad that this list seems to confirm my suspicions.

Unbelievably, I’ve been to New York. I keep looking at the photos I took - including the one at the top of this posting - to remind myself that the trip actually happened. That I walked along Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. That I paid homage to Christopher Street and the Stonewall Inn. That I sat in the sunshine of Washington Square and saw the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry. Grand Central. Madison Avenue. Sunset looking out from the Top of the Rock to the Empire State Building and Central Park.

My bite from the Big Apple was only a small one - I was there for only five days. But I’m afraid that doesn’t mean you’ve avoided a typical Robinson travelogue, a la Grand Tour. No such luck. I have domestic worries distracting me at the moment (which is why this posting has taken so long to appear) but as soon as I can, I intend to bore you to tears with tales of what I saw, where I went and who I met.

You have been warned.

Post comments on this blog or email me: truckshunters@googlemail.com


Sid said...

This is an early sorry for missing the agm on Wednesday.
We hope to be at the caravan, and perhaps it might not rain.
Our street made the local news on Thursday....for all the wrong reasons. Gillians vehicle was one of about twenty cars that had windows shot out during the night, possibly with an air rifle.
I think I was the only cheerful one looking at all the damage. I had to hide a grin as I pointed out to my neighbours that it was only glass, and if it had been an AK47 used the damage would have been considerably worse.
I knew I could make them feel better, in a Truckshunter kind of way.

Vivienne said...

Oh Sid, I admire your optimism and good spirits in adversity! I hope you managed to get the windows replaced quickly and that there wasn't too much mess to clear up. I'm sorry too that you will miss Tanfield, but hope the weather is lovely in Jedburgh all week for you, Jean & Gillian.

Lots of love,

Vivienne xxx