This was the 2nd antiques fair at Bakewell Showground this year, and what a fair it was. I had arrived and set up my stall by about 8.30am, and would have been happy to have stood there all day having not taken any money just to look at the surroundings, they are breath taking, and the weather, well was absolutely magnificent ! There was probably about 120 - 130 stalls at a guess, but still a huge immprovement on the last fair there. On arrival, I was greeted by a one of the senior event staff, although young in age, but clearly knows what she is doing and how to look after the customers, and was welcoming, friendly and polite, and always smiling. ( it is refreshing to see compared to the growing frowns we see everywhere now). She then directed me to a gentleman in a high vis vest who then asked me to wait a moment while the next person along directed the car infront into its pitch. After being directed down to my space, the gentleman parking the cars was also one of the main organisors, and I think clearly, if you want a job doing properly, you do it yourself. He was fabulous, clear, polite and helpful, especially when I needed extra help in reversing with my trailer, he even offered to do it for me !!! Yes my driving is that bad !!! As at all fairs, you get the typical traders doing the rounds, and then at about 10am, this sleep little village comes alive and the public really start to arrive, and before you know it, the fair is in full swing, and its shoppers and buyers galore !! I sold the things I wanted to sell, and more, and then some more still. It was great. Glorious weather and lots of buying public, a sellers dream come true. Cant wait for the next one !!!!
Thailand's songkran Festival.
This event, rather like Christmas in the West, has been diluted somewhat from what it was originally meant to be. Celebrated across Indo-China, Songkran is a primarily Buddhist religious occurence, that also has strong astrological overtures. Whilst it relates to ths sun moving into any zodiacal sign, it more specifically refers to entry into Aries, hence its celebration in April, alias the ram zodiac sign. Its full derivative name is Maha Songkran, or Major Songkran to clearly delineate it from other similar festivals.
It is the Thai's traditional New Year celebration, and they approach it with the same kind of enthusiam and joie de vivre that Westerners do with our equivalent. My experience of Songkran came earlier this year, when I was in Bangkok researching for a new book I'm writing. Its reputation preceded it, but I don't think I was quite ready for the total, uninhibited lunacy that I encountered. It was great.
Part of the ritualistic nature of Songkran entails a 'cleansing' which is originally about bathing sacred Buddha images, but now is extended to soaking anyone who comes within hosing distance. Seeing as it's permanently hot in Thailand, it can be quite a refreshing experience, although I disturbingly noted a number of farangs (foreigners) who became quite upset and aggressive towards people who kept throwing water over them. It seems to me that they are the types who can't be bothered to read up on local customs and habits prior to setting off to a country for the first time. When in Rome ...
I did, however note that the water-throwing incidents tended to be in certain parts of the city; there was little activity up near my hotel in Chon Buri, but the fights (used loosely) were quite intense and protracted down the low-number sois (lanes) that branch off of Sukhumvit Road.
It is worth further noting that sometimes people are smeared with what appears to be talcum powder; this may be connected to that part of the festival in which Thai people take sand into temples which is apparently a way of making reparations for what they may have taken out.
Finally, note that the methods of dispensing water over people isn't just by hose - buckets, powdered water guns, fire engines, etc., are also used. You have been warned ..
NAME OF FESTIVAL
Stainsby Festival is held every July on a field, in Stainsby, Derbyshire overlooking the M1, provided by Paddy Lane who stepped in to buy the site, after the previous owner Dot Brunt died.
This year's festival is on 18 July until 20th and I for one hope that the car parks are in better condition than last year's! I had to be towed off and it took my dad and me all day Monday to clean it before its MOT!!!
The festival celebrated its 39th festival last year on the weekend and commemorative glasses for the 35th festival were made by local craftsmen in Chesterfield and were available for £2.
Due to the above problem, it was thought that the festival may have to close, because the site was not available and then one year the foot and mouth disease meant that they could not camp overnight - that year they held a one day event.
I have not been going for very many years, because I did not know about the event until I transferred from Chesterfield Division St John to Parkhouse, which covers this as a first aid duty, as it is in their area. However, it is such a big event that we often have to combine with several other Divisions in the vicinity.
The festival takes its name from the village of Stainsby which is close by. The site is at Stainsby near Holmewood, just off jnc 29 of the M1 and can be clearly visible from the Motorway and Hardwick Hall can be clearly seen from the site.
Hardwick Hall, a National Trust property, is near Stainsby Mill, another National Trust site, a former flour mill reopened for the public.
Hardwick Inn, a restaurant on the edge of Hardwick Hall's estate, sponsored last year's souvenir programme.
It was formerly a folk festival but now plays most music and has dropped the word folk from its official title. More details on www.stainbyfestival.org.uk
This year will be the 40th anniversary!! So there is bound to be something special happening.
As this is a music festival, with its own campsite, there are plenty of facilities provided. There are portaloos, (one set for female, one set for male and usually a unisex loo for disabled visitors).
There is also a disabled parking area. The main car park is another field on the opposite side of the road to the main campsite area and cars are not allowed onto the campsite field. However, there is usually a landrover style vehicle who assists with delivering people and their luggage to the main campsite.
There are several taps for water, a welfare and security team, St John first aiders are on site all weekend, activities for children including crafts (may be small charge for some of these), craft stalls, beer tent, dance area, milk and papers are available from the public information area and various food stalls.
The Public Information area deals with all enquiries; sells papers, milk and orange juice; makes announcements; reunites lost children with their guardians; collects lost property; and provides programmes and other information.
Well, being as I am usually working I can not comment much about this but from my first year there was :
Toe-Sucking Cowgirls from Australia and they were superb. One of the other First Aiders and I were extremely impressed with them and said that we hoped they would come again sometime and the Welfare steward we mentioned this to agreed with us;
David Saw & Band, who appeared at Glastonbury;
Loscoe State Opera, a Derbyshire group, who again I thought were excellent. Came back for the 2005 event!
Twizzle; Jiggerypipery; Boo Hewerdine; Spiers & Boden; Celtica; Kirsty McGee; Dick Gaughan; Eric Bogle; Warblefly; Left Hand Drive-- also due to be at 2005 event!; Caroline Kendall & Nuala Friedman; Serious Kitchen;
Seize the Day, another of my favourites, and other's too as they were "back by popular demand" as was Dick Gaughan.
One year the highlight for me were the Fridge Magnets with a clarinetist and the Huckleberries whose members play guitar, violin and drums. I do not know what I expected but the programme listed them as playing Irish, folk, American and other music but I was slightly disappointed as all they did was play - there were no vocals at all during the entire set - to my knowledge.
Another group I really enjoyed was the FOS Brothers - a great band with brilliant vocals and very popular - the marquee was full and there were plenty dancing in the aisles. In addition, there were people watching from outside the marquee. It had me toe-tapping - a very enjoyable set.
The Arabian dancing was great too. They danced on a metal style floor set up outside the willow circle and on several occasions the dancers were accompanied by a folk band with violins etc. This may have been the Fridge Magnets - but the programme did not specify this, so this is only a guess.
In addition for the children, there were circus performers available all weekend to teach plate spinning, diablo tossing, stilt walking etc.
I even went to the Chai Chapel and sampled the Chai tea. This tasted very much of cinnamon and had a hint of chocolate in it. It smelt very Christmassy - but was not to everyone's taste. Some thought it was too strong a smell and taste, but I enjoyed it. It cost a whole pound, though so one to try but not have regularly!
There is also a fire show where the wicker object created is at the end burnt. One year it was a wicker dragon, but previous years have been a Wicca Man, Baba Yaga's hut and in 2002 a beautiful Phoenix, a fitting choice as the event itself rose from the ashes.
There were also workshops on dance, singing and musical instruments - one year there was bongos. Last year apparently it was banjos according to the programme.
I am usually involved with the children's activities as we sometimes have Belarus children from the Chernobyl disaster area with us on a month's trip. As they do not speak much English when they arrive I assist with them on the circus and other activities available.
There is a parade on the Sunday which the children show off their completed crafts such as Wicker Lanterns and flags and wander round the entire campsite before finishing off in the "Green Area" which is a wicker circle.
Dogs are allowed on site but must be kept on a lead, with the owner on the other end - some years we have dog bite injurys because someone was irresponsible enough to just attach a lead but allow the dog to wander at will, and this could ruin it for everyone next year. Be warned.
As a St John member, I do not pay - because the event can not go ahead without first aid cover and we are volunteers.
However, I believe that the price is pretty reasonable. The website said that it was £40 for the weekend if you paid before Jun 1st and £45 after that. If you just wanted to visit for one session they were as follows £13 Sat evening, £12 Sat afternoon, £10 all other sessions. (2004 prices listed - check website for upto date figures)
The campsite is usually open from 12noon on Friday until 8am Monday. There are specific rules which campers must adhere to - all are set out in the free programme, which is sometimes available online. The main one being that you must wear the band provided on your wrist and show it if asked by a steward. FLASH YOUR WRIST!
1.Good for children - plenty to keep them occupied
2.Plenty of music and activities
3.Great stalls in the craft areas
4.Very hot on recycling - facilities are available for this.
1.It seems to be over far too quickly
2.I never seem to get to see the show, at least I can hear it!
We start planning for next year!
In 2005 the Festival chairman Tony Trafford said (2004) "People love the atmosphere of Stainsby Festival. Its intimate and relaxed." The fun is at Brunts Farm, Stainsby near Heath"
MORE INFORMATION FROM
46 John Street, Brampton, Chesterfield, the website www.stainsbyfestival.org.uk , or the dedicated information line 01246 559036.
It is always the third full weekend of July apparently, but this may alter due to other festivals some years so keep an eye out on the website or add your names to the mailing list either online or by contacting the above.
Am usually too busy tending to the sick and injured to really hear the artists each year but met several of them who had to be treated for a variety of reasons (e.g. heat related problems, stings, plasters for dancers feet, etc).
The Lost Padres sounded good and Jiggerypigery were brilliant. Could hear most of what occured at the Space and the drummers for drumming circle workshop were joined by one of our own.
This years' toilets were "Rolls Royce" style and were kept well stocked and clean by the male cleaning crew.
Thanks to all the Site Staff for their hospitality and assistance throughout the week and I hope I wasn't too much trouble and I am not barred from next year's festivities!
If you are visiting Stainsby next year, from my point of view as a St John member could you please ensure that you drink plenty of water (not just alcohol) so that you do not dehydrate, and if you feel dehydrated add a teaspoon of salt to 1 litre of water or 1/2 to a 500ml bottle of water and SIP it not gulp it (or have salt on your chips) to replace the sweat you lose dancing the night away!
Another good tip is to wear a hat when it is sunny to protect yourself from the heat. Put plenty of suncream on regularly and try to keep cool - I can recommend a bottle of cold water over the head - it did wonders for me.
We often have an all or nothing kind of weekend and if I seem to shout at you I apologise but we are often understaffed this particular weekend. We try our best to treat you for any illnesses or injuries on site so you can continue to enjoy the festival, but we need your assistance in that so don't overdo the alcohol or stay in the sun too long.
There was a lot of animals there this year as there was a Bear Hunt (or was it a Bare Hunt?) and in one year's closing ceremony werewolf was not alone, as there were loads of dancing wolves with flame throwers and even a wolf band! I particularly liked the Wolf banner and their Wolf flame picture. A bit scary for some young children but very entertaining for the majority of the people.
This occurred in the main arena by the Wish Tree and moved into the Willow Circle, and apparently some children got too close before they moved into the Willow Circle so please keep a close eye on your children, as there is usually a fire ceremony of some sort. The Willow sculpture (Wish Tree) was not burnt due to the very dry conditions this year.
Enjoy the festival and pop in and see us for a chat if you want.
I was busy in the first aid tent due to the weather conditions and due to the treacherous conditions underfoot didn't get to see many acts in person. I did see about 20mins of the first act Nathan Kaye from Australia with the didgeridoos. He was excellent and at least the main marquee was dry and warm! However I got called out to an emergency so didn't see any more!
I did see Seize the Day but got called out again, and heard the Lost Padres and Jiggerypipery (my favourite band ever seen at the Festival).
There were less casualties but those there were seemed more serious and difficult to treat under the conditions as every step you were in danger of losing your own footwear! We developed the Stainsby Shuffle and Stainsby Slide as our unique way of getting around the campsite.
Let hope this year - the 40th anniversary we have a green carpet not a brown one underfoot! Hope to see you there!
Everyone loves a good party and no race can party like the Spanish. If you happen to be in Spain on the 23rd-24th June you should not expect to sleep because the whole country will be celebrating the festival of San Juan.
The history of the celebration seems to date back to Pagan times and many of the rituals and customs are therefore of Pagan origin. The San Juan rituals are also inherent in the people of Spain and the celebrations go on long into the night. If you have no knowledge of this festival then you will be pleasantly surprised if you arrive during the celebrations.
The 23rd June is the transition between the dark nights of winter and the long nights of summer and the festival celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. It embraces the elements of fire, water and sun and all the celebrations revolve around those elements.
I can only comment on the events in Andalucia (southern Spain) but I understand that very similar events take place all over Spain.
The first thing you will notice on the morning of 23rd June is the frenzy of activity, starting around 6am. Your local town or village has to be decorated, bunting, flags, balloons, baubles etc. will be put up anywhere that they can be attached. The pyrotechnic guys will be having a field day, many beaches will be cordoned off as they prepare for the biggest firework display of the year. Huge stages are set up for the musical events that take place later in the evening. All this activity first thing is the morning is very exhausting and you will find that everything is organized by 2pm. There then follows the traditional siesta until around 5pm no-one sleeps on this day though, every bar and restaurant is filled to capacity as the celebrations begin.
Then around 6pm everyone makes their way to the beach, you would not believe the amount of stuff that is carried onto the beach. Massive groups of people assemble, whole extended families arrive armed with barbeques and enough food and drink to feed them all for a week. Tents are set up and bonfires are lit all the way along the beach (this is the one night of the year that you can do what you like on the beach). It is the busiest you will ever see a beach in Southern Spain, everyone from the newborn baby to the great-great grandmother is there.
Everyone basically parties on until just before Midnight when you will notice that everyone makes their way down to the sea. Tradition is that you have to enter the sea backwards at midnight, empty out a bottle of old water, fill up a bottle of fresh water, come out of the sea facing forward and wash your face in the fresh water this supposedly guarantees eternal youth (hmmmmm). There they follows the spectacle of the youths jumping over the bonfires to ensure fertility. Children also burn their old schoolbooks from the year just finished. Individual families have their own traditions which are quite fascinating to see.
After all this activity everyone settles down to watch the incredible fireworks displays all along the beaches. Then it is basically party till the sun comes up. This is a fantastic night and one you will certainly remember for many years. The amazing thing is that by 10am the following day, you would never know that there had been any bonfires on the beach, everyone clears away their own mess, that is part of the tradition. All the fires are extinguished and ashes cleared from the beach.
If you are in Spain on 23rd June you must take in this celebration actually it would be very hard to avoid. Join in the fun and have a great time.
As Bloc Party where saving the world at Wembley, Americas elite artists flown into New York on Concorde and British acts the other way, it was left to the great Spinal Tap to expose this hypocrisy for what it was by suggesting: hello Wimbledon, dont exhale for the next year! The Red Hot Chili Peppers, who were the first act with any energy on stage, also saw the event for what it was and stormed off with a couple of swear words that were less than complimentary on the current atmosphere in the Wembley ionosphere, polluted with all sorts of noxious substances back stage no doubt, the Chilies off-setting their carbon footprint by planting a couple of fields of the good stuff in Afghanistan no doubt. What made me really chuckle was Genesis opening proceedings with the song. Turn it on
turn it on again...lol.
Just as the Church has shares in arms companies many of the artists will also have shares in heavily polluting companies. Some of the artists actually performed in Scotland for the Party in the Park series on the same day, yet another carbon foot print of hypocrisy. If Bono had shown up I know where I would want to put my carbon foot print!
I think the good thing about this concert, compared to the woeful Diana event, was most people involved were not on message and saw it for what it was, a live outdoor summer gig with some good acts to help Al Gore get elected, not some sort of revelatory event that will get people to save the world by not being the consumer freaks this gig was encouraging them to be. How cool if the crowd on mass promised not to buy any music CDs of the bands that showed up for one whole year to save the worlds resources. The little known Bloc Party must have been laughing when they got booked for this one. Cachinggggg! I suppose the supreme irony here is extra resources and materials will be needed to make those increasing CD prints in the sweat shops of China and Vietnam. If these guys and girls did a Botham style walk from John O`Groats to Lands End, experiencing all manner of weather without their PA`s and luxuries, then I would be impressed.
These gigs are all about white middle class guilt and away for them to put back by not actually putting back anything. How could one forget the crowd that turned up at Hyde Park for Live8 to help starving Africa, as white as the Alaskan snow, all avoiding certain London Boroughs to get to the Park. Post 911 Britain couldnt be more racially polarized than we are now. Of the 8 million pounds raised for the Pakistan earthquakes in the UK in 2004 only one million came from the 85% Caucasian population here. Lets not pretend multiracial Britain is pulling for each other through these gigs guys.
The Diana show didnt work on so many levels. Firstly the audience were as white and female as the first lifeboat boat off the Titanic, all those black and Asian kids Diana cradled in her arms during her charity years nowhere to be seen. Ungrateful sods!
But of course our ethnic minorities are far too cool for staid gigs like this and the crowd was essentially middle aged women of a certain sentimentality and menopause who lost their patron saint. A bit like our big sisters, the only men their being gay or designated drivers.
The crowd seem to be like the women that go to classical music concerts in the park hoping to meet a wealthy guys, or it was those Christians who have a constant smurk on their face, waiting for the rapture, usually seen doing silent peace protests in your high street. Hands up who isnt looking forward to the day when all Christians are sucked up into heaven and leaving us all down here alone.lol.
Although the original Live Aid was a great show, Bobs political naivety and ego essentially prolonged the Civil War in Ethiopia by another seven years, the military Marxist government that was backed by the Russians in the Cold War, enticing the people north with the promise of Midges grain, which, as soon as the boats of staple food arrived in the port, where then being sold onto Russia and turned around and sent to Moscow. Bob did save lives, as a good Catholic should do, but it was never about changing the world, just appeasing consumers and pop stars guilt from burning all that C02, even back then, buying vinyl and believing in our musical heros for divine guidance. I was never quite sure how the Flock of Seagulls could lead me to the light.
The tsunami was the big charity gig that never was, the images enough (and the hoards of dead British and European tourists on the beach) to have the west digging deep. And for all those that did do without ever contemplating waving a banner around with I love Elton on it in some super stadium, your money is safe and not being used to fund a civil war. 62% of the billions raised for the tsunami disaster is nice and snug in the worlds biggest charity bank vaults, some three years after the wave devastated South East Asia. The Red Cross alone has one billion dollars unspent. Yep! Only 38% has been doled out, a lot of that on new shiny four wheel drives and staff, the plight of the still homeless people of Ache particularly embarrassing.
The images of the15ft wave that flushed 50,000 Muslim down the pan that energized the world to help these people with hard cash wasnt as immediate, it seems, for the charities on the ground, only 10% of the houses being replaced, even though the money is there and much more. Believe it or not but the charities are quietly allowing the hotel chains to build on top of the flattened fishing villages we all chipped in to rebuild. Because most peoples documents of right of ownership to their properties were also washed away the governments are refusing rebuilds. If you knew that was going to happen would you have still given? A British Red Cross spokesman responded by saying: Its not as easy as just going in and putting up house. Well yes it is guys and thats why we gave money.
If you want to annoy a high street chugger (charity tugger) then ask him why they havent spent the tsunami money yet and is that paying your £7.50 per hour wages? In the Red Cross defense, be it trivial, a number of governments who promised money and logistical support at the time have yet to pay up.
How cool would it be to have Al-Qiueda Aid, put there case for Shari Law Britain (which I presume includes increased benefits) and their war in Iraq anger. Im sure the crowd will be suitably dressed and Burkha Metal the way forward. Once they twig Sharia law wont actually generate any capital and so a money driven society that can produce surplus for social security benefits, free housing and the NHS, we can move forward.
So remember the message guys. Cut your emissions now so our pop stars can have more Learjet miles to their pounds. How dare you aspire to their lifestyles you ignorant masses! Vote Bono/Gore for the Whitehouse!
Diwali is a perfect time to visit India as the whole country is full of celebration and splendour (although if you're like me and don't like the sound of fireworks, it could get a bit too much to handle). Banks close around Diwali time in India so be warned about banking and even though businesses close their books and open new books, people are so busy celebrating that a lot of businesses will be closed during the Diwali period - a bit like a lot of businesses close here in the UK between Christmas and New Year.
~*~*~ WHAT IS DIWALI/DEEPAVALI? ~*~*~
Diwali is one of the most important (if not the most important) festivals in the Hindu religion. It is celebrated passionately in India and by Indians outside of India the world over. It is commonly known as the "festival of lights" and marks the end of ignorance and beginning of enlightenment. The lights signify driving away the darkness in our lives and welcoming the light. It is also considered as the Hindu New Year.
Diwali (also commonly known as Deepavali) is celebrated over several days and I can't say which days it falls on each year as they're slightly different depending on the Indian calendar months, but usually Diwali falls around late October/early November.
The meaning of Deepawali (a Sanskrit word) - Deepa means light and Avali means a row - a row of lights.
~*~*~ SOME STORIES SURROUNDING DIWALI ~*~*~
Some of the stories of how Diwali came about follow:
1. One belief is that Diwali commemorates the return of Ram, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the eldest son of King Dasharath of Ayodhya, from a 14-year exile with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman after killing Ravan who was an evil demon. Candle lights lit up home and fireworks were let off to celebrate Ram's return to his kingdom.
2. A king was told his son would die four days after his marriage. So his young wife kept an all night vigil on the forth night after their marriage and lit lots of candles, lamps and adorned treasures all over their room and kept her husband awake by telling him tales and singing him songs. When the God of death arrived in disguise as a serpent he was dazzled by the lights and the young bride's singing and stories and sat down to listen to her enchanting tales. So impressed was he that he left the prince alive and went away quietly the next day.
3. Another story is about a philanthropic king who was a threat to the Gods. A God came down to earth and sent him to the underworld only allowing him to rise once a year due to his generosity to spread the light of wisdom and love.
4. Gambling on Diwali is quite common and this came about because a Goddess (Parvati) played dice with her husband (Lord Shiva) on this day and she declared that whoever gambled on this day would be prosperous throughout the year.
~*~*~ WHAT HAPPENS AT DIWALI? ~*~*~
I cannot begin to give you a full detailed list of everything that goes on at Diwali as there are just so many different traditional rituals that take place but I will try to give you the most common rituals as far as I'm aware...
1. Diwali is a time to light diyas (clay or oil lamps but people use candles as well) all around the home and wear bright new clothes.
2. Family members give each other gifts and the younger generation seek to be blessed by the older generation and the elders give unlimited blessings to the young.
3. The lighting of sparklers and fireworks to symbolise brightness and happiness so that the Gods in the heavens can see and hear and grant good health, wealth and knowledge.
4. At Diwali, it is a time to spring-clean and redecorate the home to welcome in the New Year with a clean, freshly decorated and welcoming home.
5. Brother's Day - when brothers give their sisters gifts and sisters bless their brothers (funnily enough my brother expects a gift from me - his excuse - because he's younger than me) - I want to know why there isn't a Sisters Day?!!!
6. A time to close off the books for businesses and start new books. In India Diwali marks the end and start of the financial year.
7. The streets of Indian towns and villages alike are adorned with bright lights - a bit like Oxford Street at Christmas but on a much grander scale.
8. Ever tried Indian sweets? Diwali is a time to give gifts of sweets to friends, family, colleagues and neighbours. Big business for the sweet shops - best time of year for them!
9. Food, money and clothing are given to the poor to show gratitude for what one has and to share one's wealth with those less fortunate.
10. People give offerings of sweets and fruit in temples in worship.
~*~*~ HOW DO I CELEBRATE DIWALI? ~*~*~
I'm a Bengali and we celebrate Diwali in the name of "Kali Puja". Goddess Kali is a form of the Goddess Durga - Kali being all-powerful and feared by all.
In pictures Kali is depicted by a black faced Goddess with a garland of heads around her neck and her tongue stuck out - the heads symbolise the many demons she defeated and the tongue signifies her mocking human ignorance.
She is also depicted with her foot on a man's chest - this man, in fact, is Lord Shiva (Kali's husband) who had to take this form to stop Kali as her defeat of the demons caused her to lose control and run riot! Kali is also revered as Goddess of Tantrism - make of that what you will!
At Kali Puja we tend to go to a social function where people wear brand new clothes, eat lots and socialise with friends they've usually not seen since the previous year. People travel far and wide to attend these celebrations as it's a time of get-togethers and having fun and of course some praying for those that way inclined.
As well as the above, we send Diwali greetings, whether by post or by email. I'm quoting from a greeting I received which sums up just about everything that people could wish each other at Diwali:
"The gift of happiness to fill your homes, the gift of prosperity to fill your lives and the gift of love to fill your heart is prayed for and wished for you and your loved ones.
May the New Year be filled with wisdom, light and prosperity and all that you hope for, wish for, pray for be yours."
~*~*~ THAT'S ALL FOLKS ~*~*~
All in all I would have to say that Diwali is really more of a social festival than a religious one. It's a time to forget any grievances and to meet up with family and friends, share gifts, make and eat splendid food and share kind words with each other. Pretty much like Christmas and New Year really, don't you agree?
Thank you for reading, I hope you've learnt something about Diwali here.
If you'd like to read more about Diwali and/or see pictures relating to it, here are a few suggested sites:
Some festivals and holidays seem to be celebrated nearly everywhere. Others are unique to a particular country and culture. For those outside the area or culture of origin, those customs may seem mysterious at best, and downright odd at worst. I am to, for at least one festival, change that. This was originally written elsewhere as a 'What am I' type challenge. I suspect you folks here will have no trouble working it out.
Isn't it funny what we learn as a child - or, more to the point, how we learn it. "Lies to Children", these simplifications and half-truths have often been called (most recently in The Science of Discworld...but that's another op).
History, and patriotism are often simplified for children. The phrase 'taxation without representation' is an example - in the US, we learned that the colonists rebelled because the King taxed them, without allowing them a seat in parliament. Of course, once you're older, you realise that Britain had gone nearly broke defending the colonists during the French and Indian War, and thought, perhaps not unfairly, that the colonists should bear the brunt of that debt. Nothing is as simple as it seems. But I digress.
At my mum's, there is a picture of me, aged about five or six. I'm standing outside my grandparent's house. There are red and yellow leaves on the ground, and some multi-coloured corn tied with ribbon to the lamppost. I am wearing black and white - a little white bonnet, with a black dress with a buckle at the waist, and a large, white collar. This is not uncommon, at that certain time of year.
Lies to Children
The story goes that a long, long time ago, there were these folks in England who didn't follow the established church - that they had their own way of worshipping the Christian God. They were horribly persecuted by the powers-that-be, and were not allowed religious freedom. So these people decided to undertake a pilgrimage, and visit a (to them) brand new land.
These hardy folk sailed for a long, long time, finally arriving on the shores of this new land, after undergoing much hardship. Upon arriving, they met a new people - which was just as well. For these pilgrims did not recognise the wild life, or know what plants were edible and able to be cultivated. The natives of this land gladly showed the new arrivals how to survive in the new land. The pilgrims were thankful for the aid, and, after the harvest, celebrated with their new friends, holding a great feast incorporating all these newly discovered (to them) foodstuffs.
That's the story I knew as a child. What's wrong with this picture?
Lies to Adults
Well, the story above is more or less true...as far as it goes.
The ship that took these souls to the New World (The Mayflower) did not contain solely Pilgrims. In fact, the Pilgrims (the 'Saints') were outnumbered by the 'Strangers' (the name given to the others by the Pilgrims themselves). When the English arrived, they initially met no-one. Many people died during the exceptionally hard, New England (boy, weren't THEY imaginative with their place names!) winter (of the 110 people who began the journey, fewer than 50 survived the winter). Bill Bryson writes at length (in Made In America) what the pilgrims thought they should bring with them - sadly, their supplies barely included sufficient food even for the journey, much less for the settlement.
It wasn't until the following year that a member of the Abnaki tribe of Native Americans walked into the settlement (no doubt giving several of the settlers minor coronaries), and said 'Welcome'. In English. It seems he'd been speaking with the captains of fishing boats that trawled the coasts, and so had learnt some English.
This was the turning point for the settlers. Another native (Squanto, if you really want to know) joined the little group (unofficially), and taught the settlers how to grow corn, harvest maple syrup, and all sorts of other useful tricks. Not the least of which, one assumes, how to catch a turkey.
The settlers then thrived - they had enough in the harvest to see them through the winter. They would survive - and they had friends. A feast was held, and there were many people there (some people, however, argue that it wasn't all peaches and cream - that the Native Americans, knowing that things might someday change, ensured that every brave was there - a show of strength. But who knows...now?)
Not every harvest, nor every winter was quite so successful - and I think we all know that not all relationships between European and Native were quite so mutually beneficial.
Factlets, or, random trivia
The Pilgrims were by no means the first settlers in the New World. For that matter, the English were not the first settlers.
It is said that the Vikings made it over WAY before 'modern' Europeans. Be that as it may, it IS a fact that the Spanish had colonised the South of North American, as well as Central and South America, long before the 'modern' Northern Europeans arrived. However, by the 1800's, this was deliberately ignored, and generally 'forgotten'.
It better suited the 19th Century Americans to have 'God-Fearing', Protestant, fair skinned (or so they presumed) pilgrims as a national symbol of 'beginning', than the Spanish Conquistador type person (which, of course, is another Lie to Children, but that's another story).
Oh - and by the way - most of the turkey we eat here and in the US is not the American wild Turkey. The common domestic turkey cannot fly, whilst the wild turkey can apparently fly (briefly) as fast as 55mph. Hmmm...
The story goes that during a rainstorm, a domestic turkey is so stupid it will drown. How? It looks up to see what's coming down, and water gets in its mouth and nose. The story is a myth.
A Holiday, A Holiday...
It wasn't until 1863 that a national holiday was created (by Abraham Lincoln - not just a bearded face). Admittedly, the timing of the holiday is a mystery to me - and is, a bit like Easter, movable. Sort of. It's always on the same day of the week, and always at the end of the month. But it has to be a full week...but I'm giving too much away here :)
So...what do we do? Eat. Lots. Eat more. You're supposed to remember what the day is called, and feel...appropriate. But mostly, people eat. They see family, watch the parade, and then watch American Football. Lots of American Football. Falling asleep after stuffing yourself silly is not uncommon.
There are no presents, and ONLY the Thursday is an official holiday. Many people do indeed have to go back to work on the Friday, although some companies give the Friday off to make it a long weekend.
Hope you like turkey - you'll still be eating the leftovers around Christmas (when you may well be eating turkey again). Your bird would traditionally be accompanied by yams (sweet potatoes). Pumpkin pie is another traditional foodstuff (I hate pumpkin pie, personally, mind you, I don't really like sweet potato either). Thankfully, I don't know ANYONE who includes Brussels sprouts in the mix.
What Am I
Well, if you haven't figured it out by now...I'm not going to help you anymore. You're on your own.
Oh, and by the way...it was meatloaf for me last year...and nothing exciting again this year. Thanks Mr Lincoln - Thursday is a darned awkward day.
WOW ... like nothing you've ever seen before, World of Wearable Art is mind-blowing, zany, unbelievably creative and best of all it transports you to another world.
For a few nights in September, in Nelson, New Zealand the Trafalgar Centre has been a wonderland of outrageous creations from artists/designers/sculptors, professional and extremely amateur competitors from all over the world.
What you see now, when you are lucky enough to get a ticket, is grand, out-of-this-world music, light and sound extravaganza where local models parade a catwalk of non-stop garments, all have to be ''wearable'' but that's about the only rule.
It wasn't always this grand, in 1988 a local sculptor, Suzie Moncreiff decided to hold a wearable art exhibition in a little old cob cottage to give it a bit of a financial boost to refurbish it. The first night it poured with rain and the rain-washed event attracted a small number of entries but the imagination of local artists was whetted... from then on it has grown to be a huge, international event, so big it's shifted from Nelson in the South Island to New Zealand's capital city, Wellington.
The success of WOW Wearable Arts is that the local people have got in behind it. For month and months each year people donate their time to build sets, work on lights, get the music right, model, become dressers and loads of clubs volunteer thousands of hours to get the show underway.
Nowadays it has grown to be an extremely polished, professional event and hundreds of people send entries in from all over the world. A couple of months before the September show the judges announce the 160 or so which will be in the show.
Now, I cannot start to describe the garments I've seen in three shows: just imagine the most unusual, creative, colourful and strange get ups and you are just about on your way to knowing how exciting WOW Wearable Arts is.
Some of the past winners have included Bacon Bits: an entire, flowing gown of mushroom coloured, flowing fabric with real bacon bits strategically placed. Another year the New Zealand paua shell made up into many thousands of pieces was sewn into the most amazing coat and pantaloons. Another,dragon festooned yards and yards of flowing silk, of stunning colours for many feet as the beast floated across the stage. Imagine a tree - gnarled and so slowly strutting the stage, inside a 80 year old model, doing his thing for WOW. Picture a huge, smokey space ship landing on the stage and hundreds of little blue children dancing up and out of it - in a cloud of mist.
One year the finale was more than your emotions/senses could take in..... a woman and man, dressed all in white approached each other, slowly from each end of the huge stage... music built up to a crescendo and as they met, he raised his hands to the heavens, she slowly moved her hands up beside his body and from nowhere raised a brand new - two-day-old nude baby to the heavens. I've gone all prickly remembering it. Have to say it wasn't seen as creative by some, the local newspaper ran quite a few complaints about the baby's rights; I have to say, being there, on the edge of your seat for two hours and such a personal, moving, emotional finale was mind boggling.
The music, light and choreography is now world class, Suzie Moncreiff has built up a team which works all year round to present something bigger and better each year. Such is its reputation that firms in countries all over the world pay her to take mini-shows to special events in their promotion, political and other activities schedules.
Now, in the earlier days I decided to make a Wearable Art entry on the theme of Nelson Our Home Town. To my great surprise it was accepted for the show. I crocheted, knitted and sewed every spare minute available to me things to promote my home town: grapes, tobbacco, hops, apples, peaches, vegetables.I created it in miniature and sewed or glued them all onto my 'picture'. The front was a collage of Nelson 'things', (imagine my Southen Alps and the strategically placed 'mountains'with skiers plying the slopes), the back was a sunset against Fifeshire Rock in the harbour, made with dried flowers. I made a yellow mask of dried flowers, with flashing lights as the sun and hanging from it was a crocheted aeroplane with parachute jumpers moving up and down. I loved it. So much so that I had talked and talked to all my friends and workmates who insisted I have a ''showing'' before submitting it for consideration.
Now, that was a party to remember. My live-in companion refused to attend as he was more than a little piqued that he had not had a meal on the dining room table for 4 months and thought it all a bit ''odd''. But, my girlfriends were so surprised to see it and when it was accepted to go in the show they were wrapt for me.
On the night of the show he sat beside me and said, ''I needn't have worried about how weird your entry was, the other competitors around us are much more weird in their evening dress! I have to say, my entry was never going to win but I was still proud to see it being worn so well and moving its way along the catwalk with other entries which actually paled mine into insignificance. That's where it is now, insignificantly folded up, in a sheet in the top of the wardrobe!
WoW, Wearable Arts has now attracted many sponsors, putting huge amounts of money into it and ordinary people like me would have no show of being accepted for the show. But, over the years there have been successful entries from school children, rest home residents, artists, sculptors, potters, embroiderers, weavers, tanners and even woodworkers. Anything can be used for this extravaganza, as long as it is wearable. Imagine the surprise of all when one year a person entered a garment made in seaweed, fresh,so it had to be remade every night.
There are several competition sections and each year a special new one is added to bring something new for prospective entrants. There is no break in the show, from the first sound of music and sight of subtle light, or a spaceman bursting in from the heavens, the show MOVES. Suzie and her team pick a theme which is the main show with the competition sections melding in so professionally.
I cannot possibly paint the real WoW Wearable Arts picture for you here, I wish I could because you would be gobsmacked as thousands are every year. Months out you have to queue in the street to get a ticket or buy one via the Air New Zealand Website. I was lucky because I covered it each year for my newspaper so mostly I got free tickets to go, I think now it is something like $65 NZ (GBP25 pounds approximately) but this is a huge investment in your entertainment, arty, cultural experience, money well spent.
If you are in New Zealand in September, you will now have to go to Wellington to attend an absolutely amazing show, but go to the website early in the year and see what to do about booking a ticket. www.worldofwearableart.com/tickets.html
Then, if you like the show, when you visit Nelson you can go to the WoW Wearable Art and Collectable Car Museum where you will see some of the past winners on show, along with beautiful collectable cars, shown by the local millionaire who assisted in funding the venue to more permanently show the premier WoW garments.
The website I mention will give you a little idea of what the garments look like, if you would like to enter, don't let your distance from the show put you off. For a couple of years now an English designer has created fantastic garments and he even travels over there to make sure they arrive in tip top condition.
WOW, you must experience WoW Wearable Art at least once in your life - I sure hope you can.
Just before we left for San Francisco, we found out that it was Gay Pride month (June) and on Sunday 30th it would be the Gay Pride Parade down Market Street, so with nothing planned for that day, we decided to take a look. On the news the night before we saw pictures of thousands of people in the street celebrating and over a million people were expected to attend the parade, so true to British form, we arrived in Market Street 1.5 hours early and the street was bare! Hardly anyone was around, so again being British we picked a spot and sat and waited. Within 20 minutes of the start time, throngs of people started to arrive, suddenly we were surrounded by people, some openly gay/lesbian, others, like us just along for the ride. The parade started with what they call Dykes on Bikes. Hundreds of lesbians riding huge motorbikes down the street, there must have been over 400 bikes and half again as many women, some dressed, some not, some in biking leathers, some just in leather!! Then followed the rest of the parade with floats, cyclists, walkers etc, the usual carnival stuff. Many of the people taking part were protesting quietly about gay and lesbian rights, such as the right to marry etc. Some were dressed normally, some in drag, many dressed outrageously and many not dressed in much at all! There were women who used to be men, men who used to be women, some showing off their surgery i.e. mastectomy scars and boob enhancements etc. There were transvestites and also celebrities such as Sharon Gless (ex Cagney & Lacey), Nancy Sinatra, Sir Ian McKellan and various Mayors and dignitaries etc. We left the parade after 2.5 hours as it was getting very hot, but it was still going strong, so I’m not sure how long it went on for in total. Apparently there was a party planned for after too. All in all it was a very entertaining experience. Some of the sights were a little shocking and many downright hilarious, but it was a
fun day and one I am glad to have seen. It is a shame that much of it was political, but if that is the only way to get your point across then so be it.
Venice's Carnival (or Carnevale) is one of the best known in the world, perhaps after Rio de Janiero, but for that, it is a relatively modern entity, being revived in the 1980s as an attempt to attract the tourist dollar (or Euro.. or pound, even!). It has certainly been successful. Indeed, so successful that this year they actually had to stop people coming for a few hours because the whole city was full to bursting point. I had the very pleasurable experience of joining a squash (queue is not the word!) of people trying to make their way through the city, with policemen desperately trying to prevent serious injury! Oh, but don't let me put you off! I went to Venice a few times during the Carnival this year, because I was based locally. The Carnival lasts for the 10 days prior to Ash Wednesday, so it always encompasses two weekends. I went the first Saturday and Sunday which were thoroughly enjoyable, if a little packed, as well as the second weekend, which was a complete and utter nightmare. So what happens during the Carnival, well, apart from people wandering around Venice in costumes and masks, there are lots of cultural and social events. You can get a programme at the bus and train stations and main piazzas. Typical events this year included open air concerts, plays, masqued balls (the famous masqued ball in Piazza San Marco is free, but only if you are dressed in full costume and mask!), and many expensive looking dinners and canal/lagoon cruises which I didn't pay much attention to, being far out of my price range! There were also live links with national radio and television stations, concerts of a less traditional nature and someone giving out free temporary tattoos, of which I collected an almost embarrassing amount! It is almost impossible not to get caught up in the atmosphere, from the moment they release the doves in St Mark's Square, to signal the arrival to the finale, also in S
t Mark's Square, and the masqued Regatta. There are things happening every day, of the 10 days duration, and of course, there are slight changes every year. There are also many traditional carnival goodies to eat, mostly involving hideous amounts of sugar and some very thin, fried pancakes things, which are lovely but if you drop them on the floor they shatter like glass (oh, yes, mine met a very sorry end!). I loved the carnival and hated it. I loved the first week, it was full, busy, but the second week I went it was almost impossible to breathe for people. So if you go, try to go near the beginning, I know it builds up to a climax, but trust me, it is not a happy place to be when the crushing takes effect! But I defy anyone who arrives not to leave with their own mask.. it is all too tempting, especially after a few of cups of the mulled wine they serve! I have my mask here, next to me as I type and I have mainly very happy memories,but I am glad I had the opportunity to go a few times! The prices do tend to rise around Carnival time and if you want a bit more tradition, so I'm told, head out to the island of Burano, where the pace is a little quieter.. and it is beautiful there anyway.
Today I wont to tell you about ‘Redentore festival’, a traditional venetian festival that is celebrated every year in the Saturday before the third Sunday of July. It is famous because of the fireworks show in the sky in front of St. Mark’s Square; but it is also a religious recurrence, and usually venetian people go and visit the Church of Redentore; it is in the isle of Giudecca (in front of Zattere, near the port) and to help people to go there it is assembled a “votive bridge” built on a row of boats. It is built by the Pontonier Corps of the army and it is very interesting to see; in fact many people stay and watch all the work. They begin to build it about 19.00 (in Saturday evening) and from that moment there are deviations form the path of “Vaporetti” (the typical venetian mean of transport). About 17.00 many people begin to take place in the canale of Giudecca with their boats and many others take tables and chairs on the bank and begins to lay them for the party waiting for the night with the show of fireworks. Usually they eat quick lunch like sandwiches, and fruits but also traditionally foods by fish, duck, pasta and beans. Upper the roof of venetian house there are often a kind of wooden roof-terrace called “altane”, and many people adorn them with chinese lamps and have dinner there, in this night and later, watch fireworks from there. But the best place to do it is from a boat in the dock in front of St. Mark’s Square on in the Channel of Giudecca. Venetian people usually go with their boats in the dock about 19.00 or 20.00 and stand there until the beginning of the show: they have dinner eating traditional venetian foods, singing and chatting with friends. May you imagine the scene? The dock is full of gondolas, and hundreds of great and little boats; and the greatest ones are adorned by lights, festoons and chinese lanterns. Inside the boats there are groups of
people: whole family, adults, children and also teenagers with their little boats. Yes, because in every town teen-agers have a motorbike or a scooter, venetian ones have a little boat. There are also many gondolas, usually they arrive in the dock about 22.00 but they are more little of other boats and they find always good positions. If you have a venetian friend that owns a boat, I advise you to ask him to invite you for this festival, you’ll have a funny night! Many tourist agency organise parties in motorships or great motorboats moored in the dock where you can have a great dinner with traditional foods, listen music from some live orchestra, dance for all the night, and you can see fireworks form there. At 23.30, the fireworks show begins and you can see fireworks of every colour and shape until midnight, it is really great! During the show many people play horns of the boat making really a great noise. The show ends at midnight and all people move their boats, many people (especially young ones) go around for the lagoon looking for a place to have bath and spend the night; motorships go away slowly and inside them the party continues until the morning. Many people go home, and sail for “Canal Grande” and the other little channel of the town up to home. If you walk near a canal you can see it full of hundreds of boats with their coloured lights, and chinese lantern, and roads are full of people too, because also who saw the fireworks from the Square have to go home, of course. Many people living near Venice go there for this festival, and after it come back home, but usually public means of transport are not enough to take all them from St. Mark’s Square to Bus o Train Station; so there are hundreds of people that cross all the town walking and about 3.00 a.m. principal roads are full of walking people again. The day after, usually venetian people go and visit the Church of Redentore trough the bridge on
the boats, this bridge is disassembled on Sunday evening.
Singapore has very few 'local' customs - that is, things that are not borrowed from other locations in asia. Chinese New Year, Deepavali and Christmas are all celebrated here, but it's all a little fake. (although the Chinese New Year fireworks and parades are worth seeing) Fittingly enough, one of the main events of the year for the most materialistic country in South East Asia, is a Sale. Not just any sale, mind you. The Great Singapore Sale. And it deserves the capital letters, too. Over six weeks, covering all of June, and some of either May, July, or both, Singapore erupts in a frenzy of what it does best - shopping. Shops and Malls down Orchard Road offer up to 90% off - every shop is Singapore is on sale. To get to the goods you'll have to push and shove past not only the Singaporeans, but a couple thousand Malaysians, who drive over the causeway for the occasion. It's the 'Aunties' you have to watch out for - the middle-aged local woman who scramble for the last size on the clothing racks. Smarter shoppers target one store, trying everything on before the sale, then coming in early on the first day to grab the goods. Dressing room lines stretch round corners. Elsewhere, the Funin centre, known as the legitimate place to buy computer goods (Sim Lim Square being one of the most popular places to buy illegitimate computer goods), will have lowered prices further. Singapore is known as a good place to buy reasonably priced electrical goods, and tax can be refunded at the airport if you save your receipts (it is a bit of a lengthy process, though). Through all this, wide eyed tourists wander through the maze - on average, each tourist who arrives in Singapore during this time spends over S$1000. There are bargins to be found in Singapore in any time, but if you come here to shop, June is the time to do it.
The Mop Fair is always held on the Monday before and the Monday after Old Michaelmas Day which is October 11th. Should the 11th October also be a Monday, then that year there will be 3 Mop Fair Days. It is held in the Forum Car Park. Up until the 1960s it was held in the Town centre. Yes 'Mop' is an odd name for it but it was originally a hiring fair after the harvest when people were looking for work for the winter. If people were looking for work they wore a mop emblem. Hense the name. It dates back as far back as the 13th century. Years ago after the Sunday church service a signal would start the men with flaming torches, followed by traction engines and the fair, coming into the town. It was great then with Rock and Roll music playing etc. So it would be great to have it back in the town centre. Hope the council do in time. Although having said that, please go as it is good.