Someone, somewhere, has a blog whose sole topic is odd things that exist, or have occurred, in the United Kingdom. Its author would never run out of subjects to explore; in fact, if only place names were examined, the treasure trove would be inexhaustible. What strikes one is how crazy things have gotten at various times in a nation known for its reserve, great respect for tradition and good order, and cultivated manners. Today we'll look at just two bizarre items:
The Nine Days Wonder
The gentleman depicted above, Will Kempe, was an comic actor who was for a while in Shakespeare's company until he was dismissed in 1599, known for excelling in the roles of Falstaff and Bottom. Will was a Saturday Night Live type performer way ahead of his time, remembered for his "merriments," to quote a contemporary, as well as improvisation and song-and-dance numbers. But much more than this, he found his niche in history for Morris-dancing from London to Norwich, a distance of about 100 miles, over nine days as a publicity stunt. The Morris dance itself, more than half a millenium old, is pretty quirky, involving bells on the lower legs, stylized movements, and the use of props such as sticks, handkerchiefs and clay pipes The pipes are hopped over while lying crossed on the ground, like a Cossack leaping over swords. Of course, there was no individual named Morris involved; it's a corruption of "moorish." Look up pictures of the Pearly Queens and Mummers to see how things have really gotten out of hand since Will did his long-distance jig.
|Norwich remembers Mr. Kempe's jolly visit|
Just Don't Frighten the Horses
It's hard to imagine that, in the proper town of Wickford in Essex, back in 1924, the first English nudist camp was established by a small group named Moonella. The founders all went by pseudonyms, for obvious reasons, and the owner of the land (Moonella him- or herself) has remained anonymous to this day. The experiment in tanning in the generally rainy U.K. only lasted for three years, but you have to give them credit for trying it in what was still quite an Edwardian society.
A judge seemingly had enough of the oppressively hot climate in British India back in 1891, so he did the logical thing and established his own bare group, the Fellowship for the Naked Trust. It probably did not last long, either, but he had more appropriate weather to frolic in. But still -- a nudist judge in the Victorian British Empire? Ours here in the Keystone State exchange porn via e-mail, sell justice like kettle corn, and use state employees to campaign for them, but they would never, uh, frolic.
Speaking of a sport not suited to the climate, six swimmers bravely attempted a naked relay across Loch Ness for charity in 2005, but were defeated by the wind, chop, cold water and all that. Besides, they were all in their 40s and 50s. Past prime time, I'd say.