Dennis recently reminded me of the wondrous occasion when I and he were children the people of Grunty Fen and surrounding villages held a re-enactment of the terrible day in the 16th century when the the Revenue men of Cambridge came to the fens. But I’ll let Dennis describe this himself with words “out of his head”.
A Ren'actment eh? We 'ad one of them in Grunty Fen once. We Ren'acted the occasion from the olden days when the revenue came from Cambridge to the Fen to discuss with the roobab men how much tax they owed. Yer see, back then rhubarb grew in the wild and was basically free food to yer average fenman. But some folks took to making roobab wine, then they distilled it an' sold it as rooshine. which upset the Revenue them not getting any share so they work pretty hard to discuss it with the roobab men. The roobab men discussed it just as hard back agin. Eventch'lly as ya know the rhubarb died out and the revenue lost int'rest. In the ren'acment the roobab men was armed with sticks of roobab (jus' like the real event) an' the revenue rattled chains as they try to catch the roobabs to arrest 'em. Still remember the chant of "rhubarb, rhubarb" from the roobab mob.
So there you have it. It was a rather unruly mob stumbling around, as I recall, waving lengths of rhubarb. As you would expect some ended up in custody.
Yours sincerely Miss Edwards Grunty Fen General Stores and Post Office
Exciting News dear reader for those with a wireless set: we had thought that Grunty Fen was forever banished from the airwaves but that is not the case – at least for this Christmas! Grunty Fen has popped up in the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire schedules.
The Grunty Fen story is the result of a long investigation by that splendid young man John Devine. In it he interrogates Mr South about Dennis but also interviews Liz Sayers about Pete Sayers and his role in the creation of Dennis and his other career. For example, did you know that Pete presented music shows on both American and British television? Various fans and friends of Grunty Fen also appear in the Radio Cambridgeshire documentary and, I believe, some old episodes of Dennis will be “aired”.
All that is a lot to squeeze into one programme so it will be split over two days. The first half will be broadcast on 27th December at 12 noon. The second half will be broadcast on the following day (that’s the 28th December) also at 12 noon.
If you will be too busy to listen due to meat or vegetable duties you can listen at your convenience using the BBC Sounds application.
Please do listen and if you like what you hear please remember to thank Radio Cambridgeshire very loudly.
Grunty Fen General Stores and Post Office
Hello there. I’ve heard it said that Grunty Fen folk never stray over the A10 but that is a gross exaggeration. For example, take the case of Arnold Bazeley the famous explorer. This is an extract from the Who’s Who of Grunty Fen.
ARNOLD BAZELEY (1919-2001)
While the majority of people born in the Grunty Fen area are content to spend their entire lives travelling no further than Stuntney or in the more restless cases, Ely, there is a wanderlust gene in their blood which manifests itself in a rare line who are born with their eyes on far horizons.
So it was with Arnold Bazeley, one of the greatest in a long line of Fen explorers going back to the legendary Wanda Aetheling who discovered Dire Pits in c.900 AD. Bazeley followed his father in the pitch-tosser’s trade but from an early age became restless in the spring. Each April he bade his family farewell and with a small sack of liquorice allsorts flung over his shoulder and his trusty bagging hook through his belt set out on foot he knew not whither.
In old age he published an evocative memoir, Far Afield Afoot in the Fens, telling how he stumbled across many hitherto unheard of villages and recorded their local customs. There is a sense of wonder in his words as he describes, for example, Great Sorely where the people washed every day and bathed at least once a fortnight or Bastardy where women with large feet were thought especially desirable and baby girls’ feet were cruelly clamped between boards from birth to flatten and expand them.
I forget my own name sometimes but I never could forget Reverend Barnard. He was quite a character in his day. Here is a brief extract from Who’s Who of Grunty Fen.
According to Barnard’s new calendar, by which many Fen folk now live, the standard week runs Sunday, Unday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
By some force of nature, we are unable to remember the events of an Unday. Mankind lives and goes about its business on Undays but is forbidden forever from remembering what it did on that day. That slice of cold pie missing from the larder sometime between Sunday and Monday was eaten on Unday. That otherwise inexplicable graze on one’s skin was suffered on an Unday. That stranger towards whom one feels an unjustified antipathy is because of something he or she said on an Unday. That strange sense of sadness or gladness we sometimes feel for no good reason springs in fact from the events of Unday. All strangenesses, all mysteries, all odd dreams and curious happenings, and, above all, that impression one has of having “been here before” are down to Unday.
It goes without saying that you can read more about the thoughts of the Reverend Barnard in the book written by Christopher South called Who’s Who of Grunty Fen.
If you’re anywhere near Colne on Saturday 11th August, it’s their World War One Commemoration Fête on the village green in the afternoon.
The event recognises that it’s 100 years since the end of the war and it gives us a chance to reflect on the sacrifices made.
There’s a beautiful poppy display at the War Memorial, there’s stalls, activities, entertainment and refreshments as well as a Village Market with local produce, plus a chance to meet local groups – and even a Children’s Corner!
Do go and have a look around the fête and the village, because the annual scarecrow festival also has a WWI theme and the people of Colne have put a lot of effort in, as you can see from these photos.
With the recent earthquake activity in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire perhaps it is time we had a scale of magnitude more appropriate to our gentle lands than the one proposed by Mr Richter.
I suggest we adopt the scale proposed by Mr Marsden in his talk (see here).
The new British Earthquake Scale would be like this:
1. On the cusp of being felt
2. Like a cat falling off a wardrobe
3. Like someone moving furniture
4. Causes motorbikes to fall over
5. Like a patio door being closed
6. Like the Hulk jumping about
7. Like a rhino ran into the house
8. Bird goes mad downstairs
9. Large artificial tree shakes
10. Like someone arriving on a tractor
11. Like Father Christmas breaking in a day late
12. Mugs nearly fall of the shelf
It would improve the clarity of news reports. For example if a BES 5 was reported everybody would immediately know what the perceived effect was for those in the immediate area.
I’ll mention this idea to the W.I. next time we meet.
Grunty Fen General Stores and Post Office
This is just one of the many photographs illustrating Customs and Folklore that are used to demonstrate the theories of Mr Christopher South. Buy the book and meet the author in Burrows Bookshop (Ely) on March 24th.
Do please come along if you are able to. Mr South is always ready to meet normal people and rarely scares anybody.
That lovely gentleman from the BBC, Mr Christopher South, will be in Ely on Saturday 24th March at Burrows Bookshop. This will be an ideal time for you to get your books signed. Including, of course, The Who’s Who in Grunty Fen and extract of which is attached.
Mr South will be discussing Who’s Who and his other books with anybody who would care to attend his event at Burrows Bookshop, Ely on March 24th. The Burrows Face Book is here
The particular “Who” this sample page refers to isMOTHER MARJORY (fl. 1490) Founder of the Theory of Duality of Purpose and originator of the edible poultice.
Grunty Fen Post Office and General Stores