You know it is summer in London when glorious sunshine is suddenly replaced with a five-minute downpour, leaving you soaked & revealing more than intended in your silk summer Reiss jumpsuit. Other indicators of summer in London are the endless event opportunities to be outdoors, dress to impress, and drink refreshing pitchers of Pimms with strawberries and cream. Royal Ascot, Wimbledon, Glyndebourne, country fairs, and music festivals are the more common British summer traditions, but Blondon has discovered some of the less well-known spring and summer events that will really make you wonder what it is that makes the Brits so nuts!
|Festival friendly feather shades: a must|
If you’re worried about getting too muddy at Glastonbury, then you’re probably too prissy to enter or be a spectator at the annual Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake near Gloucester in the town of Brockworth. Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling contest is a 200 year-old plus tradition that draws in spectators and contestants worldwide. Essentially, a Double Gloucester Cheese is rolled down a massive 200 yard long hill. Contestants throw themselves off a cliff chasing after the cheese and whoever crosses the finish line first wins. Sounds pretty harmless right? Guess again. Ambulances and paramedics are lined up at the finish line for a reason!
|Coopers Hill in full cheese rolling glory|
After countless injuries and several deaths, the annual Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling competition was called off in 2010 due to safety concerns. Did that stop this eccentric tradition? Of course not. Apparently, the event still took place without the Cheese Rolling Committee -yes, such a committee does exist! Over 500 spectators showed up for the unofficial race and six time local champion Chris Anderson won the Cheese Rolling race once again. Mark your calendar on the last Monday in May (Spring Bank holiday) next year for the opportunity to sacrifice your body and potentially your life for a Gloucester Cheese.
|A Double Gloucester Cheese: worth risking your life for?|
Don’t believe such a competition exists? Watch it for yourself!
Next time you sting your leg on stinging nettle, imagine eating 26 feet of it and no, I am not referring to a cruel Fraternity initiation. Every June, the town of Marshwood in Dorset holds the annual World Nettle Eating Championship, where contestants have one hour to eat as much stinging nettle as possible. This tradition started in 1986 when two farmers discussed which of their fields had the longest stinging nettles and one farmer promised to eat any nettle which was longer than his.
Like any serious sport, there are rules at nettle eating championships. Contestants aren’t allowed to use mouth numbing substances and must eat the provided nettle rather than supply their own. If your body expells the nettle then you are automatically disqualified.
|Nettle eating contests: a good way to get more than your daily dose of greens?|
Contestants are encouraged to drink beer as they munch away on the piles of stinging nettle and are cheered on by a large crowd of spectators, who are known for local cheers and strange costumes. Stinging nettle not only turns your mouth jet-black but the plant is described as tasting like “a mixture of spinach and cow-pat.” Hungry yet?
Most of us can admit to playing spin the bottle at some point during middle school, but have you ever experienced bottle-kicking? Easter Monday is the blood thirsty Bottle-Kicking & Hare Pie Scramble, an annual battle between Melbourne and Hallaton, two Leicestershire villages, which is a tradition first recorded in the late 18th century. The bottle kicking event is similar to a rugby match with no rules and a lot more injuries. The object of the match is to wrestle the bottle to your village’s stream, scoring a point each time you reach one of the two brooks. The first village to score two points wins.
|Let the bottle-kicking games begin!|
This tradition wouldn’t be complete without 3,500 plus spectators, over 300 competitors, tons of testosterone and paramedics and ambulances at the ready once things start to get messy.
|A Vintage Shot of ‘The Scramble’|
To make this match between two villages even stranger, there is also a town parade where locals carry a massive hare pie, which is blessed by the vicar before it is cut apart and thrown to the crowd. Clearly this event is a great place for a first-date, since most ladies just love having hare pie thrown on them.
|A ‘hair-raising’ hare pie|
After hearing about these bizarre British traditions, it made me think that American rituals like 4th of July fireworks or trick or treating are actually rather dull! You have got to admit, the Brits really know how to celebrate for the sake of celebrating. Who cares if you are violently ill from eating too much stinging nettle or lose an eye chasing a
cheese down a hill? Traditions like these are a sacred part of British culture and further validate the theory that Brits go a bit bonkers once the sun comes out. Of course another difference is that the Brits can rely on the (free) National Health Service, while Americans might be bankrupted by the medical bills caused by such exploits! Gloucester