Oddities

Welsh traffic news

After Wales’ 21-13 decisive victory in yesterday’s Six Nations rugby fixture in Cardiff, Traffig Cymru, the Welsh Government’s traffic information service, couldn’t resist having a bit of fun on Twitter at the expense of the England squad and English rugby fans.

Tweet reads Our control room have received a report of a broken down chariot heading away from Cardiff on the #M4 and traffic officers have been despatched to find it #findthechariot

Swing low…

I wonder if the chariot had been rescued by a band of angels before Mr Plod had a chance to find it… 😀

Gloucestershire Live reveals truth about The Independent Group

Gloucestershire Live is a sister title of the Bristol Post/Bristol Live and as such provides a similar mediocre quality of journalism to its victims readers.

Yesterday, it shook off that veil of mediocrity – albeit briefly – as its website published an item confirming what many believed concerning the main politics news story of the week: the exit of right-wing MPs from the Labour Party to form a breakaway group, as shown in the screenshot below.

Header for piece about Chuka Umunna reads Conservatives

My Gloucestershire friends have this morning confirmed via social media that as far as the governance of the county is concerned, politics inevitably equals the Conservatives and the Blue Team dominate what is effectively a de facto one-party state.

Hat tip: Westengland.

Meet Victor

In Ireland, any predominantly Irish-speaking area is known as a Gaeltacht (plural: Gaeltachtaí). The island’s Gaeltachtaí are shown in green on the map below.

Map of Irish-speaking areas of Ireland

The green-shaded area beneath the Dingle Peninsula is the Iveragh Peninsula (Irish: Uíbh Ráthach) in County Kerry and an interesting appointment has just been made here.

Yesterday Irish broadcaster RTE reported that a Russian had been appointed as an Irish language officer there and would be leading efforts to revive the Irish language there.

RTE states:

Victor Bayda, a native of Moscow, has taken up the post with Comhchoiste Ghaeltacht Uíbh Ráthaigh, a community organisation in the south Kerry Gaeltacht of Uíbh Ráthach.

Mr Bayda is a fluent Irish speaker and has been teaching it in Moscow for about fifteen years. In addition to Irish, Mr Bayda also speaks Dutch, Scots Gaelic, Welsh, Swedish, French, German and Icelandic.

His duties in his new post will include implementing a comprehensive language plan aimed at arresting the decline of the language on the peninsula, where 60% of the residents claim the ability to speak Irish.

According to the 2016 Irish census, just 7% of the Gaeltacht population speak Irish daily outside the education system.

Mr Bayda becomes the tenth Irish language planning officer to be appointed so far in Gaeltacht areas.

In 2017, Victor posted the video below on Youtube.

The Ale-Conner

Manchester Star Ale

A spot of conning anyone?

Recent delvings into the history of Market Drayton’s court leet (posts passim) have taught me of the duties of the officers of that ancient manorial court; and the more researching I’ve done, the more has come to light.

The duties of one officer in particular caught my attention: the ale-conner.

Further news of that officer’s duties at Drayton’s Dirty Fair comes from a surprising source – the 30th December 1911 edition of The Corrector. This was a newspaper that used to be published in the 19th and early 20th century in Sag Harbor on Long Island in New York State.

At the bottom of page 3, in E.J. Edwards’ New News of Yesterday column, the following piece entitled Tasting The Drinks appears:

An old custom has just been observed at Market Drayton, where the annual fair, called “the Dirty Fair,” has been opened by the Court Leet. A proclamation, it is reported, was read by the “Ale-Canner,” who warned “all rogues. vagabonds, cut-purses, and idle men immediately to depart from this fair.”

“Ale-Canner” has a jovial smack about it, but we are afraid it is a misprint for “Ale-Conner,” an ancient and honorable officer, both of manors and corporations, His duty was to taste the new brew of every “brewer and brewster, cook. and pie-baker.” and if it were unfit to drink the whole was confiscated and given to the poor.

It should be added that in the middle ages “unfit to drink” usually meant weak and watery. The chemist was not abroad in those benighted days, so there was no risk of arsenical by-products being present in the pottle-pot.

Besides testing beer and the measures in which it was sold, the ale-conner also ensured the goodness and wholesomeness of bread, plus the measures in which it too was sold.

If this report is to be believed, it was therefore the ale-conner’s duty to declare the Dirty Fair open in times gone by, in addition to his public health duties in the days before the various improvements in ensuring the health of the public brought about by our 19th century forebears.

Conner is an interesting noun as regards its origins. Nowadays we are all familiar with the noun con, which is short for confidence trick. However, thinking there is any connection between the two would be erroneous. There’s also a conning tower on a submarine, but its origins have more to do with conning in the sense of navigating a vessel.

To find the conner’s origins one has to go back to many hundreds of years. According to Merriam Webster, its origins are indeed in Middle English, as would befit an office established in a medieval court. In Middle English, the noun was cunnere, meaning an examiner or tempter, which was derived from the Middle English verb cunnian, to examine, which itself originates from the Old English verb cunnan, meaning to be able.

Finally, ale-conner was sometimes also rendered as aleconner or even ale-kenner.

Memories of Market Drayton’s Court Leet

Following on from my post on the markets and fairs of Market Drayton (posts passim), my home town, the following comment was left on the site by Andrew Allen long after comments on the post itself were closed.

Andrew also grew up in Market Drayton somewhat later than myself and my siblings and his words are reproduced below.

I was born and brought up in MD and for some reason I just had a flashback of the Court Leet which I recall being re-enacted when I was a child in the late 1970s.

It was great to read your notes about the Court. We have a photo at home (my mother’s) of a load of gentlemen standing outside the Corbet in their finery, I guess around 1900… it has my grandfather in the shot… I now think that must have been the Court Leet.

Anyway, thanks for your notes.

Courts Leet were a very old institution. According to Wikipedia, “The court leet was a historical court baron (a manorial court) of England and Wales and Ireland that exercised the “view of frankpledge” and its attendant police jurisdiction“.

My original source for information of Market Drayton’s Court Leet – Peter Hampson Ditchfield’s 1896 book, Old English Customs Extant at the Present Time: an account of local observances – states the following:

At Market Drayton there are several fairs held by right of ancient charter. One great one, called the “Dirty Fair,” is held about six weeks before Christmas, and another is called the “Gorby Market,” at which farm-servants are hired. These are proclaimed according to ancient usage by the ringing of the church-bell, and the court-leet procession marches through the town, headed by the host of the “Corbet Arms”, representing the lord of the manor, dressed in red and black robes, and the rest of the court carrying silver-headed staves and pikes, one of which is mounted by a large elephant and castle. At the court several officers are appointed, such as the ale-conner, scavengers, and others. The old standard measures, made of beautiful bell-metal, are produced, and a shrew’s bridle, and then there is a dinner and a torchlight procession.

High Street Market Drayton with the Corbet Arms Hotel on the right

High Street Market Drayton with the Corbet Arms Hotel on the right. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Only two officers of the court are mentioned by Ditchfield – the ale-conner and scavengers. The ale-conner’s duties were to ensure the quality of ale and to check that true measures are used. The duties of scavengers were to ensure standards of hygiene within the lanes and privies and to try and prevent the spread of infectious disease.

The ceremony Andrew remembers seeing as a youngster in the late 70s was a one-off re-enactment in 1977 for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. The Shropshire Star sent a photographer to record the event. The paper’s record of the celebrations, including the court leet re-enactment is still available online. As regards photographs of the original court leet, the Shropshire Archives collection contains 3 photographs of the court leet, all dating from the first decade of the twentieth century. According to the National Archives, the Shropshire Archives also contain a printed menu from 1936 for the Market Drayton Tradesmen’s Association dinner held at the Corbet Arms Hotel after Drayton Manor Court Leet broadcast. So it seems the court leet may have survived in some form until the mid-1930s.

Many thanks to Andrew for getting in touch and sharing his memories.

If anyone has further knowledge of which other officers constituted the Court Leet, please use the comments below or the contact form.

Telegraph exclusive: Brits using ducks to negotiate Brexit

The right-wing Telegraph newspaper has enjoyed a long and close relationship with the Conservative Party. So close indeed that it is often referred to as the Torygraph.

This close relationship means that developments within the Tory Party are frequently reported first in the Telegraph.

It is therefore no surprise that the latest developments on the state of the UK’s Brexit negotiations popped into my Twitter feed this morning with the following Telegraph headline and abstract.

Image text reads Brexit latest news: Theresa May will meet Jeremy Corbyn today as she prepares to send a revamped negotiating teal back to Brussels.

Yes, that’s why the negotiations have been so disastrous. They’ve been handled by ducks, or more specifically a Eurasian teal, a male specimen of which is shown below.

Male Eurasian teal

A top international negotiator according to the Telegraph. Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

How a duck or ducks actually managed to deal with the question of the Irish backstop remains a mystery and is probably why the Tory right wing is so obsessed with it. And quite what a revamped negotiating teal is, one could indulge in conjecture. Was it taken to some backstreet ornithologist and given the plumage of, say, an Arctic skua, together with a bit of beak remodelling?

Please Torygraph, tell me it’s not a typo! 😀

An unfortunate juxtaposition

The placing of articles and/or photographs next to each other in newspapers (and on newspaper websites too. Ed.) sometimes has unfortunate consequences and connotations.

This is from the Murdoch-owned Times.

I’ll say no more.

Theresa May pictured next to headline stating Russian sex workers are world's best says Putin

Shopping in Wales: what’s afoot?

A Twitter user from Swansea has today discovered a strange physical benefit of being able to speak Welsh in Wales, namely the ability to walk to the shops quicker than Anglophones!

That, of course leaves one question unanswered, i.e are bilingual Welsh and English speakers blessed with dual speed perambulation? 😉

Photo shows 2 minutes' discrepancy between Welsh and English signage

Next time folks, remember to proof the copy for consistency and accuracy!

Currywurst reaches 70

Although I graduated over 4 decades ago, I still look back with fondness on the days of my modern languages degree.

One of the absolute requirements for the award of the degree was a compulsory period of residence in countries where the languages being studied were used.

In my instance this involved 5 months’ residency in both Perpignan (France) and Saarbrücken (Germany).

While in Germany, I became acquainted with what would now be called German street food, including the currywurst.

Currywurst

Currywurst typically consists of a bratwurst cut into slices and seasoned with curry ketchup, a sauce based on spiced ketchup or tomato paste, itself topped with curry powder, or a ready-made ketchup seasoned with curry and other spices.

It’s often served with chips.

The currywurst reaches the grand of age of 70 this year.

Here’s its history in brief.

Herta Heuwer had been running a snack stall in Berlin’s Charlottenburg district since summer 1949. There wasn’t much happening on 4th September, so she had time to experiment. She mixed freshly chopped paprika, paprika powder, tomato purée and spices together. The she poured the whole lot over a fried, chopped sausage. The currywurst had been invented.

Herta Heuwer subsequently gave her business the address of “The world’s 1st currywurst cookshop” and had the word trade mark “Chillup” (a contraction of chilli and ketchup) registered for her sauce.

You can’t eat a proper original currywurst any more, because Herta Heuwer took the recipe to the grave with her in 1999. In 2003 a memorial plaque was put up at the former site of her snack bar. According to the German Currywurst Museum in Berlin over 800 million currywurst are consumed every year in Germany.

To mark this culinary anniversary the Berlin State Mint has issued a commemorative coin.

Currywurst coin front

This commemorative coin is the sixth of a series of anniversary issues which the city mint started in 2004 and is limited to a production run of 2,500.

West Oxfordshire – first sighting of Brexit unicorn?

Former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron will go down as one of the UK’s worst peacetime Prime Ministers.

In a bid to solve a decades-old breach in his party caused by xenophobes, racists and Europhobes, he organised an “in-out referendum” on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union.

Once the referendum came up with the wrong result, Cameron immediately ran away and left others to clear up the mes he left behind, a process at which his successor Theresa May and her ministers have failed spectacularly and serially, highlighting the shallowness of the Tory Party talent pool.

My brother and his family have the misfortune to live in “Call Me Dave” Cameron’s former constituency of Witney.

Even though his Witney constituency voted to remain in the EU in the MP’s disastrous referendum, there might just be changes afoot.

A unicorn, a supposedly mythical beast, with which supporters of remaining in the EU mock the extravagant and totally unreal promises made by the Leave campaign, has appeared in one of Witney’s main shopping streets, as photographed yesterday by your ‘umble scribe.

a papier maché unicorn spotted in Witney Oxon

An odd stance. What’s the beast trying to do?

The reason for the unicorn’s unusual stance is unknown.

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