Apr. 26th, 2016


Apr. 26th, 2016 01:36 pm
millionreasons: (photo)
At Liverpool Street Station, I almost walk into Gary Windass, then, as we eat at Mildred's, I recognise that the curly blonde woman canoodling with her girlfriend and being made a fuss of by the waiter is Kate Tempest. I almost expect to see Alan Bennett or David Gedge hanging around Leeds station. We arrive in Marsden at half eleven, where the streets are dark and empty. Tanya leads us up the mountain hill to her house at the top of the town.

We've come up for the cuckoo festival, which dates back to ancient times 1994; it's a rite of spring, celebrating not just the bird, but the time the Marsdonians tried to trap the cuckoo in a tower but forgot to put a roof on said tower, so it just flew away. Although having discovered that the Hartlepool monkey hanger story is apocryphal, I no longer trust these local legends. The next village along is called Slaithwaite, pronounced Slawit, although you can only call it that if you were born there. I suggest Marsden adopt a similar parochial pronunciation, such as Moosden or Massden.

As well as the cuckoo parade, there is side show entertainment: local folk groups, an acid brass band doing Beyonce and White Stripes covers, the hill rescue people standing around not rescuing anyone (there also a local defibrillator to be operated by a member of the public under telephone instruction, which seems a way to replace the NHS with volunteers), singing children, craft stalls, home made jam stalls (£1.50 a jar!) cupcakes (50p!), charity bookshop (all fiction 60p!) belly dancing led by the local extrovert, donkey rides, maypole dancing, and morris dancing. Lots and lots of morris dancing, from epileptic riverdancing, to clean green and white maidens, to 1940s Morrisettes (I wonder if there should be some '80s dancers in deely boppers and ra-ra skirts) to the dark side of morrising, the frightening, greened up, steam-goth John Barleycorn Magpies in their flight goggles and black feathers. If Britt Ekland were to turn up during their dance, I'd be scarpering to Slawit.

I like the non-sexist nature of the Morris persons, there are mixed groups and men dancing round the maypole. There are also old men standing around old engines waiting to catch your eye so they can tell you all about them, a coconut stall, where you wonder if the no longer exotic nuts should be replaced with jackfruit or a pack of quinoa, a dissonant, out of tune ice cream van that sounds like it's been driven an evil clown, and a woman making candfloss in tribute to Prince. There's also a lot of pie and peas which seems to be a major Marsden obsession.

We repair to Crumbals (sic) cafe for teacakes (sandwiches) and tea and watch the grand finale of the cuckoo parade, which features everyone we've seen performing so far, like when everyone jams at the end of Jools Holland, as well as the climatic cuckoo and a giant St George with a webcam in his head to film the proceedings, not so much a Big Brother as an enormous one. Although Dave thinks he's meant to be King Arthur, as he has the Celtic sun symbol on his papier mache armour. But what's a mistaken saint/mythical king between friends.

We go round to Tanya's friend Dave's cottage where he regales us with tales of Luddite times, how the local metalworker made both the looms that enraged the weavers and the hammers they used to smash them.

Later, after Tanya lasagne, we walk back down to the town, tangerine lights slung across the valley. At the Socialist club, I'm disappointed that no-one is sitting around talking about Nye Bevan and the post war social contract, but it's possible that the band playing, 6 Months in Mexico references Trotsky's time in Central America. Unlike Joanne Joanne, they do do Rio, as well as Echo Beach, Footloose, I Love Rock n Roll and Run To You. When covers bands start doing songs from your youth, that's when you know it's the beginning of the end. We try to interpret the songs in a party-line manner:
I love rock n roll – I love the youthful overthrowing of the capitalist system, which marries idealism (rock) and pragmatism (roll).
Put another dime on the jukebox baby – Redistribution of wealth.
I love rock and roll – I love the upcoming revolution.
Put another dime and dance with me – Unity is powerful! Come together! If I can't dance I won't be part of your revolution!

In the morning, we walk up behind Tanya's house onto the moors up a hill in the sleety rain. Fuck your marathon, this is harder, rambling over brambles, past dry stone walls, willow trees, wild grasses, under a large, slatey sky. We go up to what looks to be a cairn, but is more likely a disused Yorkshire water building and peer down a hole under which the river rushes.


Back in the town we have Sunday lunch and a sticky parkin pudding at the Riverhead and then it's time to get the train. Marsden to Huddersfield, Huddersfield to Brighouse, Brighouse to Doncaster, Donny to King Cross, Kings Cross to Liverpool Street, Liverpool Street to Stratford, Stratford to what is starting to be Home.

Photos by David except the cairn/water tower.

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