February Travels

Pancake day.

We stayed a bit closer to home for Shrove Tuesday this year. In previous years we’ve travelled the country in search of mass-participation football games and world-class pancake races. This year we just popped down to Scarborough for the day, where they have an odd Pancake bell-ringing ceremony followed by mass participation… skipping.


Yep, skipping. Apparently skipping used to be a traditional thing to do on pancake day, and in Scarborough they still give the kids the day off school, close the (usually busy) seafront road, and everybody goes skipping. I was a bit surprised by how popular the event was… I mean, if *I* was given the afternoon off school at that age, I expect I’d just sit at home reading comics and playing spectrum games. So it’s good to see the custom perpetuated… and mostly, it would seem, without the need for adults to goad the kids into doing it.

Chinese New Year.

OK… not a major excursion, since all it involved was a quick drive into Newcastle city centre, but I made a video so it still counts! I’m slightly annoyed with myself here… the main dragon dance has got so busy in recent years that it’s virtually impossible to see clearly from the crowd, so I took my monopod to use as an overhead camera boom. I lugged the thing all the way to Stowell Street, started setting up, then realised I’d left the all-important connector plate at home and couldn’t fix the camera on top… doh! … so this footage was mostly taken at arms length… with lots of post-production de-wobblification involved.

We’ve been to a few of these; there’s a really good carnival atmosphere, and lots of street-food on offer. My top tip: when you get hungry, ignore the restaurants and go to the Chinese Association building, half way down Stowell street — they do a *delicious* noodle stir-fry on the day; big portions for just a couple of quid; we’ve gone there for a couple of years now, and been impressed both times. Plus, it’s likely that a lion dancing team or two will turn up while you’re eating… as shown at 1:55-ish in the video.

While watching the lion dancers this year, it occurred to me that the whole idea of monsters dancing on your doorstep to let in the new year has an awful lot of similarities to the Mari Lwyd ceremony that they do in south Wales. I wonder if there’s some obscure historic connection. Or just some deep-rooted idea in the human psyche about spectral beasties on your dooorstep heralding a new era.

Finally… the end of the month saw us visiting Slaithwate, West Yorkshire, for their biennial Moonraking festival … in which the villagers “capture” the moon, parade it around the village for a couple of hours, and then put it back in the sky. As you do.

It was a fun event, and a lot more elaborate/artsy than I was expecting, with some cool mutli-media thingies going on. Check out the “moth globe” at 1:50 — the faces on this (and other animations) were collected from spectators, via a webcam. Neat idea. Surprisingly effective firework show at the end of the event too — lovely use of silver mortars! I *do* like a fireworks show where a bit of thought has gone into things, rather than just seeing how much pyro you can get into the sky in the minimum time possible 🙂

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