Were Martians from outer space to land in the UK now, they’d realise that we like to engage in some strange rituals. Last weekend, the whole country dressed up as witches or ghosts and went from house to house collecting sweets. This weekend sees lots of us standing around large bonfires watching an effigy burn while setting off fireworks.
And if they waited around until next month, they could see lots of people dressed up in red outfits, some with pillows stuffed up them so as to look fatter or wearing wads of cotton wool around their mouths.
And that’s not the end of our eccentricity. Were they happy to travel around the country, here are three more wacky celebrations that might have them scratching their antennae in wonder at.
If they headed to Ottery St Mary in Devon this weekend, the Martians could watch the Flaming Tar Barrels event, where contestants – including children – run through the town with a barrel on their shoulders. So far so normal, except these barrels have been filled with tar and then set on fire.
Said to have originated in the 17th Century (but for what reason, no one quite knows!) the event attracts up to 10,000 visitors, many of whom believe that it’s good luck to ‘feel the lick of the barrel’s flames’ (Health and Safety officers please look away now).
Were they to hover over to Gloucestershire (a very short ride compared to wherever they had come from) the Martians could have watched an equally bizarre competition; this one involving up to forty contestants chasing an eight pound wheel of cheese down a very steep hill.
The annual Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling Event now attracts competitors from around the world who each vie to catch the cheese, many breaking their limbs in the process. Naturally, no one does which would make explaining the rules to our visitors even more difficult.
Travelling even further West (and going back in time to last August) the Martians could’ve watched the World Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling Championships, which took place in Llanwrtyd Wells, and involved competitors riding their mountain bikes as fast as they could along the bottom of the Waen Rhydd bog – a two-metre-deep water-filled trench.
Worried they might fall off? Not likely as the bikes had been specially prepared with a lead filled frame and riders wear lead weight belts to avoid floating off the bikes!
Naturally, they wouldn’t have known that bog snorkelling is an already well establish pastime and this race just tries to take it (down?) to another level.
It’s a shame that the Martians didn’t visit the UK last year, as they could then have have attended the Worthing International Birdman competition. Unfortunately, now cancelled, this event ran for eight years and saw competitors attempting to fly off the end of Worthing Pier in a variety of man made contraptions. Unlike its own space ship, none of these worked and all ended up in the sea, although last year’s winner, Tony Hughes, did manage to ‘fly’ just over 106m (347ft).
The Martians likely response on returning home? “We thought Planet Zog was weird, but the UK…”!