Wednesday, 15 April 2009


Not for the faint hearted, the Hallaton Bottle Kicking. Easter Monday for centuries has seen local (and not so local) lads fall down the fields in a mass of thrashing arms and legs in order to put a bottle (in fact a small wooden keg) over a stream that runs in a deep cleft to the south of the village. This is pagan rivalry, an annual contest of brute force between Hallaton and the neighbouring village of Medbourne, shrouded in ritual and very, very, tribal. It starts with the cutting-up and distribution of a Hare Pie at the church gates, a blessing of be-ribboned bottles on the Butter Cross followed by a bagpiped parade headed-up by a man in green velvet with a Kit William's style hare on a pole. And a girl looking like an Ovaltine Dairy Maid who throws buns at the crowd from a wicker basket. Even more beer is put away, and then everyone troops up Hare Pie Bank to where the 'kicking' begins. What fun. Bloody fun, but amazingly good natured. When I got a bit near the centre of the action a winger, or whatever they're called, barged into me but immediately said "Sorry!". And then there is the additional spectacle (or dare I say attraction) of a secondary army of girls shouting encouragement to boyfriends, husbands and just blokes they fancied who were engaged head down in the heaving throng. And to a feisty girl in there somewhere. All swooning on testosterone like poets on laudanum, these are the camp followers, running with the pack like a baggage train on a battlefield. I walked back to my village across the sunlit fields, thinking myself a dismounted rider returning after the Charge of The Light Brigade, wishing I was at least thirty years younger so I could get in there with everyone else. Maybe next year I'll turn up in a big Michelin Man padded suit, but expect to be tipped-up in a ditch and abandoned, vainly trying to get upright again.


Diplomat said...

Along with other homo-erotic displays such as the bull run at Pamplona, Ice Hockey, and Morris Dancing, the Bottle Kicking at Hallaton is so steeped in myth and legend that the true reason for it has long been forgotten. Shame really. Great pictures - you could get a few quid for those at Men's Health Magazine.

Joos de Littlemore said...

VERY good-looking pie, I must say....not sure about the Serbia-Montenegro flags!!!

Philip Wilkinson said...

H'm. Sounds nearly as life-threatening as the annual scramble that is Cheese Rolling here in Gloucestershire - dozens of young men (and, yes, the occasional brave and feisty lass) run, roll, and jump down a near-vertical and usually muddy hill in hopeless pursuit of a Double Gloucester cheese.

Jon Dudley said...

Wonderful report Mr.A. All my adult life I've been meaning to go - next year it is, then. Strange, curious old Britain with The Haxey Hood Game, Mayday in Padstow and The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, The Bury Man and The Bacup Coconuteers and a host of others - YouTube any of 'em and see what I mean. Whoever said we Brits were inhibited has never been to Hallaton.

Ron Combo said...

Far too dangerous. How have NuLabour allowed this public disgrace to continue? I expect an immediate public enquiry and nothing less.

Peter Ashley said...

Funnily enough, I think H&S did get involved a couple of years back, and their officers are either dead in a ditch or running down a quayside in Ostend.

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