We’re just back from Tynwald Day. Not the colonial clown show itself, which only the mentally defective bother with nowadays, but the fair on the Tynwald Field behind it.
In theory, this is where all Manx human life is to be found on our national day - folk dancing, selling female relatives to over-subsidised farmers, ritually thrashing each other with wet rhubarb or whatever else wildly inaccurate guides to Manx custom written by senile Edwardian vicars (and recycled by Manx National Heritage) have to say on the subject.
In practice, it is where local charities and odd social reform groups lay out their stalls amongst burger vans and a few chancers taking a day off from E-Bay, but still a handy way to take the national pulse.
Which is pretty weak, judging from this year’s atrocity exhibition.
Balloons featuring cartoon characters were more in evidence than national flags, and burgers and crisps far outsold either heavily hyped (and largely inedible) ‘organic farm produce’ or just old fashioned traditional fare like bonnag cakes. And the quality of second hand tat on rabid right church group stalls was so poor that it wasn’t even worth playing ‘reverse shoplifting’ – an anarchist sport where you get points for the most unlikely and startling tape, CD or DVD you can slip into a case originally holding devotional product.
Not that traditional religious values were much in evidence either.
As far as I could tell, Christian evangelicals were heavily outnumbered by new age nuts. This was even reflected in the live radio coverage, broadcast over a big screen and watched by almost nobody, when an item in which the Bishop explained the deep symbolic significance of an old stick he was carrying was followed by a much longer item, in which the interviewer got a live tarot reading from an over-excited gentleman who appeared to have overdone his happy pills.
Frankly though, as long as legal privilege (never mind public subsidy) for the new charlatans does not follow and they stick to fleecing the clueless rich, who cares?
I must also point out the poor state of the modern military. Judging from numerous obese, khaki-clad adolescents with severe acne who were wandering around, the UK armed forces can still happily take our least employable youth as cannon fodder, but only by skipping medical tests, PT and anything resembling a balanced diet.
There was also an RAF band playing, which brings me to more evidence of military madness.
After all the penguin suited politicos and any associated freeloaders had been herded into St. Johns Chapel by an obliging Border collie, it was safe for normal people to look round the main field. Within 30 seconds my daughter had picked up a handful of band uniform buttons, and I was amused to discover these are now shoddy plastic efforts, not proper brass. If this is the standard of components on a Number One Dress uniform, no wonder they feel outgunned by Talibanimals armed with AKs salvaged from Russian scrapyards.
I also spotted a renowned nationalist pushing a life size dalek around the field. Intrigued, I took a closer look, expecting it to be a wry piece of political street theatre, with the dalek being named after, say, an MLC or overpaid public servant. Turned out he was just letting kids play at being daleks while he pushed them about: I asked around, but even his fellow nationalists had no idea why.
It was just that kind of a day. You had to be there, but believe me, you might be glad if you were not.
3 years ago