Thursday, December 26, 2013

"In Full Pursuit of the Uneatable" - Boxing Day Morning in Lewes

This morning I walked into town and saw a side of Lewes that was very different from its 'Islington-on-the-Downs' image:

The 'meet' took place outside the White Hart Hotel, where Thomas Paine once used to attend meetings of the Headstrong Club.

On the balcony, a man with a faulty megaphone made a barely audible speech that seemed to go "Maaah the msssss, here a waaahh hmmm wehhhhwer...Royal family...Ennnaahhh tolllpum mahhh our country...mahhhh in forhhhh bin ohhhhh...Rule Britannia!" The crowd applauded the final words, but there was a ripple of embarrassment.

The horn sounded and a procession of hunters, horses and hounds rode off, ostensibly in pursuit, but perhaps, also in flight from the 21st century. Olde England. The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate.

Once the last rider had passed, I walked past Lewes Castle and returned to my hovel.

NB - The title of this post comes from Oscar Wilde's quote about foxhunting: "The unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable"; but I've been assurred that since the law was changed, the riders now merely follow a fox-scented trail.


Debra said...

I took home Jim Fergus's "The Sporting Road : Travels across America in an Airstream Trailer--With Fly Rod, Shotgun, and a Yellow Lab Named Sweetzer".
A modern version of Jim Corbett's tales of life as a hunter in the India of the Empire, and shortly after independance.
Hunting used to be one of the last resorts of a real aristocracy. (I have less respect for fox hunting than Jim Fergus's and Corbett's hunting, though. No human noses to the ground with fox hunting.)
You need to watch Stephen (spelling ?) Frear's film, "The Queen", to understand how British royalty can look like the travesty of the bourgeoisie.
Will corporate parvenus replace the aristocracy, and its ideals ?
Don't hold your breath.
But don't take it out on the people play acting (like true Americans...) the last throes of the aristocracy.
In the U.S. there are now cardboard reconstructions of Venice, European style.
And the French revolution pushes relentlessly ahead.
It just might be the death of us all.
There is a saying that goes something like "be careful what you pray for, your prayer just might be answered."
Amen, she says.

Travellin Penguin & Pam said...

Although I respect tradition I still shake my head at this one. However the dogs and the horses are very beautiful to look at. Hopefully the fox gets away. Happy New Year to you and your family.

Steerforth said...

Debra - As a rule, I support many traditions as they are a conterweight to the global corporations who want to turn our towns and cities into clones of each other. But the best traditions encourage a sense of responsibility, dignity and mutuality. I'm not sure where hunting fits in.

Socially, the hunters were far more mixed than you'd expect. I've noticed that the "them and us" attitude has switched from a class-based view to a rural versus urban one.

Pam - Like you, I love the spectacle, but not the killing. I'm not sentimental about foxes and think that there's far more cruelty to animals on farms, but I don't see what justification there is for hunting when there are alternatives. Drag hunting offers the same experience, but without the cruelty.

Martin Hodges said...

We don't have a local hunt here, thankfully, but the "rural versus urban" attitude thrives. Ironically, perpetuated by urbanite incomers.

Canadian Chickadee said...

Being descended from Norwegian farmers and milkmaids, the odds of my being allowed inside the gates (except as a modern-day paying tourist with pound notes in hand) are slim to none.

But the horses look pretty! :)


Roget said...

Not sure what point is being made here. Fox-hunting is illegal in Lewes as in most other parts of the UK and these people would have certainly been drag-hunting as your footnote mentioned. So what's the big deal? Why is this eccentric pursuit any more redolent of a desperate dive into the past than – say – cricket? Also, your “rich man in his castle” schtik is really not on. Whatever any of us think of the hunting fraternity and sorority, they are definitely not to be dismissed by a pretence that Ted and Ralph rule OK. It's sad in a way that the hunters still forlornly hope to overcome the ban because they won't change the law as it now stands and that's all to the good. But there's nothing intrinsically wrong in what they were doing when you voluntarily left your home to go and watch them, Steerforth. Personally, I'll accept the history, applaud the progress towards more civilized ways and retire to the armchair with my Siegfried Sassoon on any winter afternoon that'll have me.

Steerforth said...

Roger - I wasn't making any particular point, partly because I'm ambivalent about post-ban hunting, but mainly because the purpose of the post was to share the video. I'd agree with your final sentence. I genuinely enjoyed the spectacle, but found the actual event rather odd.

What interests me about hunting is that unlike cricket, it still inspires so much passion in its supporters and detractors because of its emblematic status as the sport of 'toffs'. For me, the meet felt like a UKIP rally, but perhaps I was reading too much into it.

Rog said...

That comment from Roget wasn't me, just for the record. Roger and Roget sound the same but don't belong in the same Thesaurus entry...,

Roget said...

Delighted to confirm to all the doubters out there that you're not me, Rog - and loving the Roget/Roger distinction. I shall steal away, suitably chastened. Have a good New Year.

Steerforth said...

The Roger/Roget confusion reminds me of a Star Trek episode called The Alternative Factor. Does anyone remember that? I won't bore you with the plot details.

Roget said...

And in turn, your Star Trek reference recalls to mind that funky '60s toetapper by the Fortunes - You've Got Your Tribbles, I've Got Mine. Of course you're all too young to remember...

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Such primalism given an veneer of respectability. Hate it. One of Oscar Wilde's finest observations.