214. Participate in the Holmfirth Duck Race
The Holmfirth Duck Race is an annual event organised by Huddersfield Pendragon Round Table. Since it’s inception in 1983 they have raised over £200,000 for local charities. The Gala is a lovely day out that includes entertainment, food, drink, a licensed bar, and fair ground. The concept is (like lots of British pastimes) both bizzare and simple at the same time. Participants buy raffle tickets that correspond to individual plastic “rubber” ducks. These ducks are piled into a dumper truck and with surprising ceremony, unceremoniously poured into the River Holme where they “race” to an predetermined finish line. The winner is the Duck that reaches the finish line first. It’s a grand day out, with all of the usual trappings of a village fête thrown in for good measure.
A plastic ducks cost a pound and I guessed that a fiver would give us a reasonable chance of winning.
The Day of the race arrived and we, a happy band of potential duck racers, set off from my house in excellent time for the start. Our plan was to arrive early and enjoy a stroll around the lovely village of Holmfirth before following the path of river with the ducks back to the fairground to collect the prize that we would invariably win.
By the time we arrived it was almost lunch and the village was already in the swing of the event. I picked up five pounds worth of duck race tickets and we set off into the centre of the village to pottered around the monumentally quaint bric-à-brac shops. It was all very lovely; If I said they film some of the “Last Of The Summer Wine” in the village you’ll get the idea the sheer amounts of quaint that I’m talking about. For those of you who don’t know what “Last of the Summer Wine” is. It’s a documentary about how life in England really is. Invariably it involves elderly gentlemen performing sacred races in wheeled bathtubs. I don’t understand it myself, I suspect it has a grounding in ancient Celtic paganism.
These things invariably do.
In short order had found ourselves a lovely tea room and settled down with a relaxing day ahead of us. The Tea was excellent and my scone was deliciously free of things that I am allergic to. I bought a pickle grabber from a quaint bric-à-brac shop for no other reason that it looks exactly like the sort of thing that you would remove an eye with. I do not need to remove an eye and doubt I will ever need to remove an eye, but frankly, you never know and I was not going to get caught short in the eye removal department just because I didn’t give a fiver to a lady in Holmfirth.
Anyway, as the time of the race approached we gained more and more companions all here to see the race. As we all crowded around the river it was obvious that the Duck
race was a major attraction for the village and unable to get a decent view of the start line we shuffled onto the the bridge with dozens of other people and waited for the ducks to be released. And we waited. And waited.
After what seemed like hours we finally saw the first sign of yellow making it’s way down the river towards us as they reached the bend and came into view an actual duck got what I can only imagine was the fright of it’s life as thousands and thousands of plastic dead eyed facsimiles floated towards it. Took a moment to imagine what was going through the living duck’s mind as it came to grips with the sheer terror of what it saw. I can only imagine that it is akin to none but the most horrific of dreams of George Romero. The lone duck fled and as it’s plastic brethren passed under the bridge, the crowd roared and clapped jubilantly.
The race was on!
No, not that race, for we had suddenly realised that as we were the start line, we now had to make it all the way to the other end of the village before the first duck made it’s way across the finish line. Suddenly we were embroiled in a Man (and woman) verses Nature (and duck). A race we needed to win! Setting off at a fair pace we strode! There was no time for marching bands! There was no time for ice-cream! There was no time for the joviality of village life.
In hindsight given the urgency we shouldn’t have stopped to get our faces painted (as Spider-man for me and a butterfly for Mel if you were wondering) as we raced towards the finish line. The winning duck would not stop for such frivolity and neither would we (to an extent, I wanted to be Spiderman).
As it turned out we arrived with an abundance of time to spare and managed to find an excellent place to stand at the banks of the river to watch the winning duck float by. Whilst we waited, my loving companions were also gleefully suggesting I tried getting on the kiddies carousel to ride the elephant (to fulfil one of my tasks) but I was less than convinced. Whilst the carousel looked fun, it also looked like it was for the under fives. I’m not sure that the humourless looking ride attendant would let me have a go without calling the local constabulary whilst I found myself occupied by the ride.
As the ducks raced it was clear there was an obvious winner. A good 20 feet a head of the pack and ably helped along by one of the Pendragon Round Table chaps (to the good natured cries of “CHEAT!” and “FIX!”) the winning duck cross the line with no competition in sight. We had not won, but we’d had a grand day out and there was still plenty of fun to still be had at the fair.
By the time we’d left I had won a hook-a-duck game, lost repeatedly at lucky raffle, eaten an utterly delicious pigeon and pea pie, enjoyed the roast pork and and stuffing sandwiches and out and out refused to degrade myself riding an elephant ride designed for toddlers.
All in all it had been a wonderful afternoon.