Sunday, April 4, 2010

Someone asked, "What's a Pace Egg?" ...

Here’s an only-slightly embellished anecdote…

A couple nights ago, my wife and I were enjoying a post-prandial drink in a very nice hotel in the West Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge.
Jane, vigorously grabbing my arm, suddenly announced to me, “That’s Tosspot!"
She discreetly indicated a diminutive male figure in company at an adjacent table.
Fortified by an excellent meal, and emboldened by a not-insignificant quantity of wine, I approached said gentleman to enquire, “Excuse me, Sir, my wife wants to know if you’re really a tosspot?"

(Now, readers will detect a certain element of risk embodied in such a confrontational invitation to converse. If anything serious should have ensued, I could always blame Jane!)

The gentleman rose proudly from his seat, thereby achieving an imposing stature of 4 feet and 11 inches. He bared his irregular teeth.
I cowered away somewhat, anticipating a knee-blow to my soft parts.

Slowly, deliberately, menacingly, and giving a sly wink to his companions, he manufactured the most malevolent grimace.
Jane hid under the table.
The tension all around was palpable.
There was a hush in the hitherto cacophonous conversation at the bar.
I took another step backwards, narrowly avoiding falling over the table behind me that almost concealed Jane's behind.

“Indeed, I am, Sir! TOSS POT at your service!” he loudly proclaimed to the wider audience.
Then, after giving a well-rehearsed theatrical bow, he shook me firmly by the hand!

Order was restored as onlookers resumed spontaneous respiration.

Now let me explain …

Toss Pot is a character in a Pace Egg Play. Such plays are usually performed outdoors on Good Friday. I first came across them as a child when I lived in Yorkshire and Lancashire, although they are certainly more widespread. Toss Pot is claimed to be unique to plays originating in the upper Calder Valley.

Here, on the south coast, the ‘combat variety’ of Mummers Plays have a similar narrative, although performances are generally restricted to the winter season.

The moral plot, if one can be identified at all, is the triumph of good over evil. However, in the present day, the dramatic personifications of these abstract notions would be perceived as inciting racial violence.
St. George is always Caucasian and righteous.
Wickedness is characterised by the BLACK Prince of MOROCCO or a TURKISH Knight!

Toss Pot’s primary function is to coerce unsuspecting on-lookers into giving money.

Toss Pot's efforts at the annual Pace Egg Play at Heptonstall, that Jane and I attended this year, were well rewarded. Here's a clip ... Heptonstall Pace Egg Play, 2010

... and nobody really died!

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