The Judge: a short story response

This isn't something I'd ordinarily do. As part of the cut-and-thrust on Twitter earlier today, I mentioned that the idea of an openly gay, ex-Olympian fencer who was a judge sounded like top superhero material. An old-school costumed vigilante in the Detective Comics-era BatMan or Zorro mould. Maybe a flash of Baroness Orzy's The Scarlet Pimpernel. A couple of people commented that it sounded like an agreeably daft idea. 

And I had a couple of hours free. So here it is. The Judge. Some caveats here. It's a 2800 word single draft piece written in a single sitting. I'm likely never to go back to it ever. And it's a work of fiction. No real people are meant to be inferred etc. We clear? Good. Just an afternoon's writing amusement. 

Anyway. The story's here, it's free for you to read and enjoy/comment on/disparage, and can be downloaded as a pdf file

#LincsLore roundup for February and March

Here's a compilation of the #LincsLore tweets I put out occasionally, cherry-picking the quirky customs, festivals and country sayings from Lincolnshire's history. This selection pulls together the months of February and March. January's compilation of the same is here.  

February

Feb 10: Lent takes its name from Anglo-Saxon "lencten", meaning to lengthen. "Days lengthen, cold strengthen" is an old Lincs phrase. 

Feb 10: On Ash Wednesday (or the following day, Clerk Thursday), lock-out your schoolmaster until he grants you a half day holiday.

Feb 14: The first unmarried man you see on Valentine's Day will be the one you marry.

Feb 29: Women may propose to men; by leaping on their back. Men accept the proposal by leaping on the woman's back in return.

Feb 29: If a man refuses your proposal he must buy you a silk dress.

March

March. Saxons called the month Lenctenmonath, as the days were lengthening. The Christian term "Lent" comes from this root.

March 1: Gainsborough. The river Trent is a greedy river, taking seven lives a year. Sacrifice a lamb to the river to spare a life.

March 1: "If the fruit trees blossom in March you won't get a crop, and if it blossoms twice a death will occur in the family".

March 2: St Chad's Day. Patron saint of medicinal springs. "Sow your beans on St Chad's day" is considered sound advice.

Mothering Sunday. A day's holiday for apprentices, who would return home.

Mothering Sunday. Also: Apprentice Sunday, Refreshment Sunday, Laetare Sunday, Simnel Sunday. "Mother's Day" = C20 US invention.

Mothering Sunday. A fragment of folk memories of worship of Cybele, mother of the Gods.

March 6: Refreshment Sunday. A day's relaxation from Lenten abstinence. Wild flowers given as gifts. Simnel cake.

March 6: Mid-lent fairs start today: Stamford's dates back to at least 1224. Tradition is that the mayor has the first dodgem ride.

March 17: St Patricks Day was celebrated in expat Irish communities across Lincs (Lincoln, Caistor, Woodhall, Louth).

Palm Sunday. In Lincs, pussy-willow was used for palm. Beat a child with pussy-willow (or "withy"), & you'll stunt their growth.

Palm Sunday: Caistor Gad-Whip: a ceremony involving cracking a whip throughout the morning's service, and 30 pieces of silver.

Caistor Gad-Whip links to a child murder, being an act of penance written into land tenancy; seen as "desecration"  by mid C19.

Spring equinox. Throw a piece of silver into the Eagre tidal bore at Gainsborough to prevent you from being drowned that year.

I was away from home over the Easter weekend and so didn't have the reference work used to source the bulk of these sayings. That book, by the way, is A Lincolnshire Calendar by Maureen Sutton and is a fine repository of Yellowbelly arcana.

 

 

#LincsLore for January

Over on Twitter, my social medium of choice (I've never really got my head around Facebook, so my presence there is a bit vague and sporadic), one of the things that I like to do is to tweet little bits of Lincolnshire folklore. Being Lincolnshire-born, and having spent the bulk of my life in the county, it only seems right to repay the county with a little bit of attention.  

So what I'll do every month, at the end of the month in question, is to round up the tweets I've published under the hashtag #LincsLore. 

The bulk of these are sourced from A Lincolnshire Calendar, by Maureen Sutton. The book's well worth tracking down if you've an interest in the area. And in the area, if you what I mean. 

Doubtless some of these rituals, notable dates, traditions and other assorted bits of arcana have parallels in other parts of the country. Some, though, are particular to Lincolnshire, a county that guards its particularities well to this day. And, as a writer, you never know when a concept or a practice might pop up that makes you think "There's a story in that"...

Anyway, here we go with January:

New Year. It's unlucky to do laundry at New Year. "If you wash on New Year's Day, you'll wash one of the family away".

The "robin dinner"; a New Year charity-funded feast for the poor. A parade, free music hall/cinema too. Lincoln, until 1930s.

5th Jan. Shooting the trees. At Twelfth Night, shoot apple trees to encourage the sap to flow, and so a good crop.

Twelfth night. Take down evergreen and mistletoe trimmings. Holly represents Jesus' crown of thorns; burning it is bad luck.

Twelfth night. Save a piece of Christmas holly to burn on Shrove Tuesday; use it to light the fire you cook your pancakes with.

Twelfth night. Plant holly at your boundaries. It's bad luck to those who seek to cut it down and so interfere with your land.

Twelfth night. If you burn holly in your house you'll stir up the spirits and they'll stay in your house all year.

Twelfth night. "Dorcas" charities gave coats to widows this time of year, as in the Bible: Acts 9:39

Twelfth night. Or, "Old Christmas", if you're not down with the newfangled Gregorian calendar.

6th Jan. Haxey Hood. An annual match; a cross between quidditch, rugby, and a beer-fuelled riot.

The first Sunday after Twelfth Night is Plough Sunday. The plough is cleaned, oiled and take to church for its blessing.

Plough Monday (1st after Twelfth Night): ploughboys parade the decorated plough round the village; rewards of food and drink

The Plough Light. Carried with the plough on its tour round villages; paid for by ploughboys and kept in the church all year.

Jan 20. St Agnes' Eve. Sow a handful of barley seeds under an apple tree, and you'll have a vision of your future husband. 

There's more about the Haxey Hood, including photos from this year's event, here