Sunday, 22 February 2009
The Slaithwaite Moonraker Chippy Incident
We took a trip just over the border from Oldham to Yorkshire yesterday evening, not something that comes easily, you know. We went to experience the Moonraking festival at Slaithwaite.
Each year the villagers of Slaithwaite (they say Slawitt - don't ask me why) celebrate the nineteenth century triumph of local smugglers over the customs and excise officers of the day. The story is quite simple: the smugglers were caught raking barrels of illicit liquor from the reeds on the canal bank; the quick thinking chaps claimed to believe that the reflection of the moon on the water was in fact the real thing, the moon having fallen in the water. They were merely raking the moon out in order to return it to its rightful place.
The customs and excise officers who believed the tale left them to it. Thus was born the Moonraking festival and its glorious winter procession of paper lanterns through the streets.
The streets were teeming with people and the cold winter wind had whipped up a bit of an appetite among me, Mrs C and her mum; so I joined the queue that snaked out of the Captains Table chippy - a nautical name, I know, but I put it down to its proximity to the canal - I suppose narrow boats have captains too.
After an age, I reached the front of the queue and spake my order:
"Two lots of fish and chips, and a fish on its own, to eat now please. Oh, and a buttered muffin."
The queue hushed, and I swear people in streets outside stopped what they were doing. I stood my ground,
"A buttered muffin, please."
"You, mean a teacake."
At this stage I'm sure I heard an Enrico Moriconni tune play in the distance. Mothers pulled their children closer, shopkeepers pulled down the shutters and the undertaker with his tape measure whistled cheefully.
"I whipped my poncho to one side, stuck a cheroot between my teeth and met the challenging stare of the assistant with what I hoped was a Clint Eastwood look. Then I remembered Mrs C and her mum stood in the cold outside, and sighed.
"Yes, a teacake please."
The world relaxed and we stood outside eating our food with greasy fingers, happy with glistening chip fat lips while we watched the lovely winter spectacle.
But it was a close thing; it's not safe over that border you know... it was a muffin though.
Here's a photo of one of the fantastic giant lanterns in the parade. I know it's a bit blurry - I'm sure someone, Lisa, will have something technical to say about light, shutter speed and movement, but you get the idea.