“Tradition! Tradition!” it’s a song in Fiddler on Roof, a light hearted musical that shows the fun the Russian Jewish community had during the Pogroms designed to drive them out of the Empire. It’s a song based around Topol’s insistence that his daughters submit to arranged marriages instead of choosing their own husbands. Which has nothing at all to do with what I’m about to write about and frankly it’s bit depressing and if you fancy watching a musical you’d be better off watching Grease, Mama Mia or Rocky Horror Picture Show.
I am however writing about traditions, because the concept of tradition can be a wonderful thing. Because tradition can be used to explain the unexplainable, especially when someone is taking part in something absolutely batshit nuts and highly dangerous with no actual gain involved. When posed with the question “Why are you doing this?” they can reply back with a shrug “Well it’s tradition!”
And it’s tradition which has kept alive a number of sports that convince me that I am living in a country that has half it’s reality in a Monty Python movie.
Shin Kicking is a sport that has been going for over 400 years in one fashion or another and is considered an “English Martial Art”. A shin kicking contest takes place between two competitors who….look why should I need to explain this? It’s all there in the name. Two men grab each other by the collar (competitors traditionally wear smocks) and then start kicking the fuck out of each others shins with the intention of getting their opponent to quit by yelling “sufficient.”
The spectacle is considered one of the highlights of the annual Cotswolds Olimpick Games. Incidentally that is not a case of bad spelling, that is a canny way for the good but bonkers people of Cotswold to avoid having a swarm of copywrite lawyers descend on them with writs from the Olympic Commission. Trust me the IOC are like the Mafia when it comes to stuff like that. During the London Olympics there were IOC officials prowling the streets, inspecting shops and businesses for anyone using the words “Olympics” or the Olympic logo without permission.
Competitors are allowed to stuff straw down their trouser legs in order to somewhat cushion the blows, which is progress in a way as legend has it that at one time battles would take place with steel toe boots worn.
Even as a long time MMA and boxing fan it’s hard to watch a contest and not to shudder at the sound of the dull impact of a well struck kick against the bone
So if you’re free on Friday 3rd June, take it trip to Dover’s Hill for 2016 Shin kicking Championships.
I’ll be there…no I won’t.
I do long for the day a shin kicker joins the UFC and Bruce Buffer introduces him as a “Shin Kicker.” One thing’s for sure, Anderson Silva won’t want any part of him.
Also to be found at the Cotswold Olimpick games is a display of Dwyle Flunking. What the fuck is Dwyle Flunking? you may ask.
It’s a sport that can only have come about with the assistance of alcohol, which makes sense as the first documented match took place in 1966 the same year England won it’s one and only World Cup resulting in a massive year long drunken bender.
Two teams take part in rounds where a team has one of their member (the Flonker) stands armed with a cloth drenched in beer which is the Dwyle on the end of a stick (a driveller) while the opposing surround him in a circle, link arms and dance around him. The flonker throws the Dwyle at the opposing team and scores points based on what bodypart is struck (3 points for a head shot, 2 points for the body and 1 for the leg). If the flonker misses twice he is forced to drink the collective leftover dregs of beer from the pissup that takes place before the contest and collected in a chamber pot. Drinking penalties can also be issued for contestants not taking the game serious enough.
The spiritual home of Dwyle Flunking seems to be the Lewes Arms pub in Sussex, a lovely looking place that also plays host to the pea throwing championships and Spaniel Racing.
Seriously I’m not making this up.
The biggest football game in the world takes place every year in February in the lovely, peaceful town of Ashbourne in Derbyshire England.
Biggest in that the playing area is three miles wide.
Biggest in that the two teams are made up of the North and South sides of the entire population of the village.
Biggest in that the game takes place over two days with play starting at 2pm and ending at 10pm.
The river Henmore Brooke which runs through the town acts as the divider between the Up’ards (those who live North of the River) and Down’ards (those who live South of it) and the entire 7,000 strong population eligible to play (although many visitors come into the village to take part) It’s one of the most insane spectacles you will ever see.
To score the teams have to force the ball roughly one and a half miles from the town centre towards a Millstone in their own side of the town. The ball can be carried, pushed, thrown or kicked although use of a vehicle is prohibited. It’s rough and chaotic and despite the claim that “unnecessary violence is frowned upon” it’s still downright dangerous especially when the action actually spills over into river. The town is practically closed down for the two days and shops and properties boarded up with only the local cemetery is considered off limits.
To picture the scene, imagine the crowds from two different music festivals fighting over the one last remaining keg of beer and attempting to take it back to the one toilet cubicle which isn’t overflowing with shit at the end of the weekend.
Scoring is naturally difficult and rarely do games consist of more than a few goals.
And speaking of games with few goals I give you….
Eton Wall Game
Of all these contests the most pointless (literally most of the time) must be the long running Eton Wall Game where the last time an actual goal was scored was back in 1909.
Now I don’t want to come across all class war right here, but while I find an adorable element to many of the working class idiosyncrasies I cover in these pieces once the chinless wonders that make up the so called elite of society start to do weird shit I feel an overwhelming urge to slap the silly sods around the head. Perhaps with a flannel dipped in beer……or a cricket bat.
Anyway the game is played between the Collegers and the Oppidans which apparently is a rivalry based on those who are there on scholarships and those who are feepaying students.
It takes place against a wall on Eton college running 110 meters long with the playing area only five meters wide, so basically they’re playing rugby against the wall with the idea to force the ball to the opposing teams end.
The game runs for an hour although any right minded person would watch for a couple of minutes and then say “silly bastards!” before walking off to the comfort of a nice warm pub.
It’s a rough game, although how seriously anyone has ever been hurt we’ll probably never know as been upper class I’m sure that if someone was killed the whole affair would be covered up by the authorities.
There is also some ceremony where the Oddidans throw the caps over the wall as a declaration of hostilities while the Collegers approach the field arm in arm. Frankly it makes what the Dwyle Flunkers do appear the definition of style and dignity.
Let’s face it the upper classes suck when it comes to creating sports, but at least in the case of the Eton Wall Game it doesn’t involve killing some scared animal for a jolly good laugh.
If it was up to me I’d have these arseholes playing their stupid little wall game game armed with flame throwers and chainsaws, let em fuck each other up real good.
(Note from Mike: you fucking made that last one up, admit it.)
Til next time,
If you enjoy the whacky antics of us British as detailed in the Fool Britania series stay tuned for a special one off podcast with me and Fettman covering the series.