Saturday, 24 September 2011

War, Soggy Drums, and Swithing

I’ve been woken after a bare hour of sleep to the thub-thub-thub of a soggy-skinned drum. My family (if not other animals) have all come down with the same cold. That unfaithful germ has worked his way and left me with mop and a bag of rags to clear up after him. My youngest sprout, the brave and bold Bosswell, has had it worse and refusing to be upset as ever then as ever again she has spent the night angry. So I mopped and I calmed, cuddled and whispered stories so as not to disturb her fellows just as snotty, but they with the benefit of sleep. Despite the growling of small dinosaurs throughout the cottage I too managed to sleep, until now, not long after then, until the sound of that drum.
Thub-thubber-thub, thub-thubber-thub.
Not so very far away and on the green that drum is calling together the men of the village, to pitch up with pike, club or firelock for they are King’s men and for Parliament on this day a bustle of scouts from John Lox’s Stilbourne Blues entered Tolly Maw in 1644. Our own Lord Maw being a royalist in an area not otherwise so, sheltered safely in our mists. Old as he was but with a very young wife he was excused from battle, a royal incident that to this day excludes the men of Tolly Maw from war if they can demonstrate that they are in the vernacular ‘possessed of the good will of wife as to swithe or begat’. So in Tolly Maw you actually have a choice, whether to make love or war.
The Battle Of Tolly Maw was not even a scrap that followed the proper noisy slaughter of Marston Moor. There where Fairfax and Manchester defeated Prince Rupert and sent him running. Since I’ve over-egged the Rupert pudding of late I’ll make no more of the obvious. None fled here but within a week and local Stilbourne had been ordered to scour the land for defeated Royalists. The Blues entered before dawn but as the legend goes a young boy throwing rocks at squirrels* saw them and raised up a warning on a drum that he found, and which no one thereafter could lay claim to.
The Tolly Maw Militia was aroused and formed upright on the green, apart from those excused by dint of being able to get upright in the pink. The battle itself consisted of little more than abuse and bluster until the Inn opened. Whereupon they retired to do the same, just with a jug between them. And today the local re-enactors are coming together to do just that, with abuse, and a lot of drinking, which is rather the point of re-enactment anyway. And oh now here they are and the abuse has started.
‘Cromwell is so fat that when we ran around him we got lost.’
‘Prince Rupert’s mirror breaks each morning, because it knows not to get between Prince Rupert and Prince Rupert.’
And bloody so on.
Thub-thubber-thub, thub-thubber-thub.
And the sprouts too are now waking up. My sweet Q has gone already to work. I have a horrible feeling I might soon be conscripted.
Thub-thubber-thub, thub-thubber-thub!
*Actually he was setting fire to kittens, but my readers whilst they will object to nothing - the nothing they will always object to is this.       

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