Monday, 28 May 2007

Tudor Pull, Dongola Races, Pointless Fiestas

Great Gate, Hampton Court Palace
Image: Luke Nicolaides [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In all the years - about 20 - that I lived within walking distance (when I was considerably more energetic) of Hampton Court Palace and constantly visited there, I never knew there was an annual Tudor Pull from Hampton Court Palace to the Tower of London.

Like most of these things it all seems incredibly pointless to have a "processional event", rowing up the river Thames, commemorating something that everyone has long forgotten, with a ritual "ceremony of giving back to the Tower's governor the thing that he had specifically sent away to Hampton Court so that it could ceremonially be returned to him."

Just like so many festivals in Spain, in honour of the locally "revered" icon - and nobody can ever explain to me why it is locally revered - that is ceremonially brought out of the church, only so it can be ceremonially taken back in again, I'm certain that a good day will be had by all of those who, mostly, turn up for the food and wine / beer. Crowd size, naturally, increasing in inverse proportion to the "freeness" of the said refreshment.

Sunbury Regatta River Thames Dongola Race
Image: Motmit [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It's funny, but when you've been away for a while, one tends to forget that Britain also has it's fair share of these quite unexplainable and decidedly strange customs. The closest I ever got to anything like it was volunteering one year for one of the teams in the decidedly less regal, "dongola" racing in the annual Sunbury Regatta. Dongola racing, in this context, for those who don't know - that would be both readers - is two competing teams of I forget how many (representing fine local establishments, such as The Jockey Pub, who supported their team members with free T-Shirts and free beer), kneeling up, rowing punts upstream on the Thames, Hawaii Five-O (dragonboat) stylee.

Well, I think we maybe moved the thing a couple of boat lengths before being tipped and sinking into the murky waters, but that was the intent anyway.

We'd trained hard for this though. Half an hour's worth of cursory punt hire - and we even threw a line to a passing motor launch who towed us back up river when we'd had enough - followed by several "challenging" nights down the pub. Ah, perhaps that is the point?

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