Today I attended the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show near Builth Wells in Powys. The Royal Welsh Show is one of the largest agricultural and livestock shows in Europe and is organised by the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society and the show has been held for the 110 years.
As well as the various displays of livestock and farming, which as a city boy, hold very little interest to me beyond the novelty value, there are a great number of traders from businesses across the length and breadth of Wales, and since it is first and foremost a farming show, a good number of these traders have something to do with the food industry. So for me much of the day was given over to sussing out which would be the best examples of food and drink to partake in after our official lunch. This was also interspersed with hunting out the stalls giving out things like free pens and bag.
It was however a very tiring day, with a lot of walking, not aided by Marianna who was becoming quite restless by the end of the day, and rather unfairly for a pale skinned ginger, she wound up getting a fairly impressive tan.
After rolling in at about 2:30 this morning after more than a fair few drinks, I, along with Jessica and Marianna got to go and open the fete at the Cold Barn Farm Community centre, with lots of activities like face painting and coconut shies, raffles, tombolas various stalls selling things and the typical fete like foods like burgers, slush puppies which I found to my delight were a great hangover cure.
As you may already know, my absolute favourite TV show is Doctor Who. You may also be aware that the BBC’s showrunners have decided to recast the position of the titular Doctor as a female.
The Role is going to actress Jodie Whittaker who will be taking over from veteran actor Peter Capaldi. Now I’m not against the idea of a female take on the classic character, unlike almost every part of the internet that I’ve see relating to the subject. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen Ms Whittaker’s work so I don’t know what she’ll bring to the role, and for her sake, but more important for the sake of the fans, I hope she does well in the show, and more power to her.
My only gripe is this, aside from the Doctor, there have been very few good male role models on TV, who act with compassion and use their intellect to solve problems rather than their first instinct being to blow something up, or fire a gun. I hope this addressed by the BBC in the very near future for the sake of young men and boys everywhere. And that little moan aside I look forward to the continued success of my favourite TV show.
A few weeks ago we were at Blaenavon’s World Heritage Day and there was a Punch and Judy show so we decided to stay and watch it, because we thought Marianna would love it. To say we were wrong would be an understatement. Marianna was so terrified of Mr Punch and his cohort of victims that the mere mention of the little bugger will actually make her shake with terror. But I on the other hand seem to have developed a little morbid fascination with Punch and Judy and Co.
Everyone knows the story of Mr Punch, or at least the key elements. Mr Punch kills his child and his wife Judy, and the policeman who tries to arrest him, gets attacked by a crocodile, then beats the doctor who saves him for giving him a bill (although seeing the sort of bills from American doctor’s I can see why) after finally facing trial Mr Punch manages to trick the hangman into hanging himself, and is then haunted by a skeleton, before beating the devil himself, all the while exclaiming “That’s the way to do it”.
Its a show that has been going on since 1662 (with Mr Punches birthday being recognised as May 9th) the diarist Samuel Pepys saw an early version of the Punch character in Covent Garden in London. It was performed by Italian puppet showman Signor Bologna. Pepys described the event in his diary as “an Italian puppet play, that is within the rails there, which is very pretty.” Punch chases his roots back to the Italian Commedia dell’arte appearing as a hunch back in a jesters motley characterised mostly by his jutting chin and hooked nose (giving him almost the shape of a crescent moon) he carries a stick almost the size of himself called a slapstick (where the term slapstick humour derives). Originally performed as a marionette show it wasn’t until the mid 18th century that it gave way to the more well known glove puppet.
A more substantial change came over time to the show’s target audience. The show was originally intended for adults, but it changed into primarily a children’s entertainment in the late Victorian era. Ancient members of the show’s cast ceased to be included, such as the Devil and Punch’s mistress “Pretty Polly,” when they came to be seen as inappropriate for young audiences.
The story changes, but some phrases remain the same for decades or even centuries. For example, Punch dispatches his foes each in turn and still squeaks his famous catchphrase: “That’s the way to do it!” The term “pleased as Punch” is derived from Punch and Judy; specifically, Mr. Punch’s characteristic sense of gleeful self-satisfaction.
In modern times Punch and Judy is often chided as violent and inappropriate for children, for its glorification of domestic violence and death, and Mr Punches gleeful malignance, but if your going to put on a Punch and Judy show, “That’s The Way To Do It”.
Today was Jessica’s civic service, which is essentially a church service designed for the new Mayor to have her or his work blessed by the church. It harks back to a time when religion played more of a role in civic life than it does today (although it is still more of an active part than you might think). Its also an occasion to dress up and celebrate a great achievement with friends and family.
We were chauffeured to the church (Holy Trinity, Pontnewydd) and were escorted to our seats by the church wardens, where we engaged in many hymns and the usual prayers of exultation to god. I then gave the following reading from the book of kings:
“The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for it was the greatest and highest place in the kingdom, and there he offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar to god.
While he was in Gibeon, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and said unto the king, “Ask what you want from me.”
King Solomon answered god by saying, My Lord you have shown great mercy to your servant, David my father, for he walked before you in faithfulness, righteousness, and with uprightness of heart toward You. And You have shown him great kindness in giving him a son to sit on his throne now this day.
Now, O Lord, my God, You have made, me, your servant a king in place of my father David, yet I am still a child, and do not yet know how to go out or come in. And I your servant am in the midst of your people, whom you have chosen. A great people. A people so numerous that they cannot be numbered or counted.
So My Lord God give unto me your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who else is able to judge among so great a people?”
And It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked for such a thing. God said unto him, “Because you have asked this and have not asked for such things as long life or riches or for me to take the lives of your enemies, but you have asked for yourself wisdom so that you may have discernment in your judgement,
I now do according to your words. I have given you a wise and an understanding heart, so that there has never been any like you in the past, and that there shall never come another like you.
And I have also given you that which you have not asked, both riches and honour, so that no kings will compare to you all of your days. And If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments as your father did, then I will lengthen your days.”
Solomon awoke and found it was a dream. But when he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of our Lord. And there he offered up burnt offerings and offerings of peace and fellowship. he made a great banquet for all of his court, friends and followers and did so in the name of the lord.”
After I gave my reading it was followed by another reading from our local Member of Parliament and then a reading by Her Worship The Mayor, then we were treated to a performance by the Pontnewydd Ladies Choir before The Reverend Harald Thomas gave the sermon, there were a few more hymns, the collection plate went around and the national anthems were sung, Thus ending the service.
We were then bundled back into the car and driven to the reception and break neck speeds, so that Jessica, myself and the Mini Mayoress could greet everybody as they arrived at Mount Pleasant Hall, where the staff and the caterers had done a fantastic job decorating the place to make it, in Marianna’s words, Mum’s special day.
We were subjected to a lot of photo’s and a lot of small talk, but it really was a wonderful day, marred only by the fact that I didn’t get to take home our tables centrepiece bouquet.
As part of the thirty comics that I want to wade through before the time I reach the terrible prospect of my thirtieth year of existence I purchased a copy of Neil Gaiman’s The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy Of Mr Punch. A rather morbid and dreary tale of a man reflecting upon the experiences of his youth spending time with his grandparents and various relations, interspersed with various experiences of the traditional show Punch and Judy, and those responsible for bringing the magic to life.
The comic really highlights the violence of Mr Punch and that this sort of thing can have a truly lasting effect on children, and this is mirrored in the experience of the narrator who is introduced to the worlds of violence and of sex, and showing the early signs of disillusionment that come from witnessing adults as people for the first time, by being subject to their foibles and innate humanness the illusion crumbles and the child begins to become an adult, in possibly the worst way imaginable.
It is a work typical of Gaiman who manages to show magic and enchantment in even the most banal of situations and the dark moodyness is really highlighted in the artwork of Dave McKean and lends an almost Tim Burton like quality to the story.
Mr Punch is his usual terrifyingly evil self and McKean really has go the essence of the little bastard down. But I suppose if your going to do it “That’s the way to do it.”