The View From Old Blighty: Bells, Treasure and American Crayfish
By Anth Ginn
I’ve been watching the jackdaws. We throw spare bread onto our lawn. The jackdaws gather in a gang, hungrily inspecting the crusts and scraps from a couple of meters, swooping down for a piece, then changing their minds. Finally, one plucks up enough courage to pluck up a crust. The rest, immediately go into hysterics, screech, attack, and try to snatch the food from the bird foolish enough to have grabbed a bit, completely ignoring the pile on the floor. Which brings me to the party conference season.
In Brighton, Manchester and Bournemouth, the faithful have been gathering in conference centers to screech, grab and attack each other, waffle on for ages about nothing, and make empty, idle promises. They behave with the dignity of a clattering of jackdaws. With a general election looming early next year, the screeching is louder than ever, and you can’t turn the TV on, without watching them ripping each other’s feathers out, or snatching stale bread from each other’s beaks. It’s not surprising the nation is loosing the will to live.
However, there have been one or two glimmers of hope on the horizon. August saw lousy weather, but in September we saw the sun and blue sky for a couple of hours. We used to get “Indian Summers”, but nowadays we’re happy with the odd “Indian tea break”. In Ipswich, Suffolk, the bells in St. Lawrence’s church have been repaired. This caught the imagination of the nation, eager to grab onto any good news in these troubled times. They are the oldest bells in Christendom, and date back to the 15th century. They were silent for almost thirty years, but this autumn they were heard again. You can sit outside the church, close your eyes, listen to the bells ring and imagine you’re Cardinal Wolsey. If you ignore passing traffic, overhead jets, and burglar alarms going off, you’ll hear exactly the same sound the cardinal heard when he was sitting there, trying to figure out how the hell the king had managed to steal Hampton Court and York Palace from him.
Meanwhile, over in Oxfordshire, the bells of the 12th century St. Peter and Paul church, which chime every hour, could soon be silenced by Miss Higgins, 41, who lives 150 metres from the church, and hasn’t had a night’s sleep for over six years. The village is divided on the matter, and await the decision of the Parochial Church Council. Things are even worse up in Lancashire. The bell ringers of St. Mary’s church, Leigh, have been served with a noise abatement order from Wigan council, due to complaints from nearby residents, who scurry down the High St every week, clutching their ears, screaming, “The Bells. The Bells”.
Meanwhile, down in Staffordshire, Terry Hebert, a metal detector enthusiast discovered a massive hoard of Saxon gold and silver buried in a field. Over 1,500 pieces of gold and silver, many decorated with precious jewels have been declared treasure, and handed over to the state. Mr Herbert will receive a reward, based on the value of the treasure, which will keep him well supplied with oatcakes for the rest of his days. The treasure is almost totally weapons fittings, and is believed to be the booty from a battle in 643 AD between Manchester United and Stoke City fans, when City knocked United out of the Ethelread the Unready Cup with a disputed penalty in extra time. The trophy was renamed the Carling cup in the 989AD, when it became sponsored by the court of King Canute.
Wales played Russia in Cardiff, in the knock out stages of the World Cup. Things have changed since the days of the USSR. Wales played the old USSR team in Cardiff, in the 1980s. Before the game, the Welsh anthem was played. The crowd sang their heart out. Then the anthem of the USSR was played. The crowd stood in respectful silence. Finally the “English” national anthem was played. The crowd erupted in loud booing. We were in the final stages of the Cold War at the time, and the USSR were supposed to be our enemy, so it was so embarassing to see the crowds reactions to the different anthems, that “God Save the Queen”, was removed from the song sheet shortly afterwards.
There’s a vicious battle for survival going on in our rivers and streams. The red signal crayfish has been introduced into UK waters from America, and is wiping out the sleepy old indigenous British crayfish, which spends most of its time laying around listening to 15th century church bells chiming, dreaming of buried treasure. A chattering of fascist jackdaws has picked up on this war in waterworld, and issued a statement. According to Lee John Barnes, the legal officer of the British National Party,
“The North American Crayfish is the Mike Tyson of crayfish. It is a diseased, psychotic, evil, illegal immigrant colonist who displaces the indigenous crayfish, colonizes their territory and then reproduces until it totally devastates the indigenous environment and indigenous crayfish... DEATH TO THE USURPERS!”
You can always rely on a Nazi jackdaw to explain things clearly. Meanwhile, Google searches for crayfish recipes have increased tenfold, and Ronnie Sullivan’s crayfish traps are selling like hot cakes at £4.99 plus postage and packing. As we say in Cornwall, “Every red signal crayfish has a garlic buttered lining.”