Truth is like the sun*

If you find my stories of my new life in a strange land confusing, you might want to read the tale of Maurice Wilson from the beginning.

In case you didn’t know it (and I’m sure that you do) it’s the winter solstice today which means we’re as far away from the sun as it is possible to get. Or at least it feels that way in Cleckhuddersfax.

We’ve been here for the best part of a week now and I don’t think the sun has shown its face once. In fact, the only way of knowing whether it is night or day is to check if the street lights are on or not.

I had thought that being on the 14th floor of the tower block might lift us above the cloud, but all we see through the windows is a permanent fug of rain and sleet.

Pc Barraclough says this is a result of the town’s micro-climate caused by the steam rising from the tripe works on Jutland Street. It is Cleckhuddersfax’s last remaining major employer and the only place still working flat out in these straitened times.

I’m sure he must be right. The air has a definite offal quality to it with subtle vinegary overtones. It is something of an acquired taste.

For those of you who don’t know what tripe is, consider yourself fortunate, but if your curiosity won’t rest, try this link.

But back to the solstice, the pagans celebrate it as Yule, which is where we get the name Yuletide. Some say that the church hijacked Yule and replaced it with Christmas, but this is clearly nonsense or else they would have got their dates right.

All the druids and the popes had to do was check their calendars, or Stonehenge, or something, and diarise as they say in business circles.

Pc Barraclough claims to be a pagan, although I think this is just an excuse for more pre-Christmas partying, but I got up very early this morning to join him in welcoming the newborn Sol.

Pc Derek had promised to organise a lift to take us to the moors on the western side of the Pennines where the air is always clearer and we would have a better chance of actually seeing the sun rise, and I have to say he did us proud.

Police driver Clarkson was at the wheel of the Humber Sceptre in his pristine, leatherette driving gloves and there were four police motorcycle outriders with flashing blue lights. I felt like royalty.

Pc Barraclough obviously thought so too, waving and smiling out of the car window in his matching salmon pink outfit, even though the streets were deserted at that hour, apart from a confused looking milkman who doffed his cap as we passed.

We ended up somewhere on the West Pennine Moors, but with all the twists and turns in the road, I’d lost my sense of direction, so I couldn’t tell you exactly where.

Pc Barraclough had got changed during the drive, a risky exercise as at one point he cracked police driver Clarkson on the back of the head with a slingback-shoed foot, putting the car in a skid.

He now wore a long, flowing, light grey robe tied at the waist with what looked like a length of curtain cord. On his head was a wreath of greenery, dotted here and there with white mistletoe berries.

He introduced us to two dozen similarity attired men who awaited us on the moor. This was the Ancient Order of Druids and Seers (Cleckhuddersfax Branch) there to greet the dawn.

Some were bearded, some clean shaven, and they stood around shivering in the pre-dawn gloom, sipping from hipflasks or gulping from cans of strong lager, and smoking their roll-ups.

As the clock ticked toward 8:22, they gathered in a semicircle facing east, ready for the moment when the sun would peek over the distant horizon. And as they waited, they chanted ancient words that have been uttered down the centuries.

The bitter wind dropped without warning and all was quiet as the sky began to burn orange. The sun rose and on this signal, the Ancient Order of Druids and Seers (Cleckhuddersfax Branch) lifted their robes as one to expose an assortment of camisoles, corsets and self-supporting stockings to the sun’s rays. It was a moving sight.

The ceremony done, the men gathered round for more drinking and Pc Barraclough raised a toast: “Gentlemen, I give you Brother Maurice Wilson!”

“Brother Maurice Wilson!” they answered in unison, knocking back their drinks in one.

Pc Barrowclough slept for most of the journey back, snoring noisily, his nose blushing red, but Pc Derek explained all.

It seems Maurice Wilson is still revered in Yorkshire druidic circles as the man who had come closest to the sun while wearing women’s underwear when he conquered Everest in 1934 and lost his life in the process.

This simple and moving ceremony has renewed my determination to see to it that the memory of this unsung son of York is yet honoured in his own land.

* ‘You can shut it away for a time, but it ain’t going away’ — Elvis Presley

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

8 comments… Add yours
  • Mr Pudding 22nd December 2011

    “they chanted ancient words that have been uttered down the centuries…” – “NICKY BARMBY’S BARMBY ARMY!”
    I must say, now that my wrath is merely simmering, I am finding pleasure in your deranged fantasy and at some time in the future – perhaps when I have time to spare in Blogland – I shall respond with a Lancashire tale sponsored by Uncle Joe’s Mintballs. It will also be a load of tripe!

  • Roger Green 22nd December 2011

    What is this “sun” you speak of?

  • Jennyta 22nd December 2011

    Pssst! I think you may have upset YP! Watch your back or he’ll have you in his ‘zoo’ before you can say Jack Robinson (or Maurice Wilson for that matter.)

  • Francisca 22nd December 2011

    Are you related to Monty Python? 😀 I know only too well what is tripe… the to-some edible kind (I won’t touch it) and the fantastic kind…

  • Elizabeth 22nd December 2011

    I can’t make head nor tail of your post, Ian, but I think that your Compstall tree photographs are gorgeous. George Andrew would have been proud of you for having the presence of mind to sedately wander around his plot whilst taking such composed and creative shots, on the very same day that you were in such fear and fleeing for your life. It must have been exceedingly hampering making a discrete and quick get away with an F14 Prime tucked under your armpit! x

  • Mr Parrot 22nd December 2011

    Glad to hear your rage is just simmering YP.

    For anyone else wondering what on earth this is all about, you probably need to read this thread of posts from the beginning.

  • Trevor Rowley 23rd December 2011

    Nowt wrong with tripe, Mr P, and I trust you and your family are getting plenty into your daily food intake. It’s essential that we keep you in tiptop shape while you remain in such a precarious situation. Chalky White and the lads at the Flying Horse have come up with a “cunning plan” and are confident that they can “spring” you and the family without too much delay and are now in feverish preparation. I’ll say no more at this stage as we must “Be Like Dad and Keep Mum”. In the meantime, you can expect any messages to be coming in to you over the overhead trolley bus wires via Keighley Bus Station. Don’t forget, the code remains the same as previously – one knock for yes and two knocks for no. Three knocks can be for either anything else or blank (you’ll have watched Kenneth More in that Colditz film so you’ll know the score). So, good luck and trust everything goes well on the day.

    PS Don’t forget, “Careless Talk Costs Lives”

  • Mr Parrot 23rd December 2011

    Thank you Trevor. I will have the crystal set tuned into the Home Service for the code words ‘the parrot has landed’.


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