Albenga

Albenga cafe

A photo from a few years back, taken in a back street of Albenga on the Italian riviera.

It was an interesting city to visit, a bit scruffy and crumbly, its narrow streets hung with washing from balconies, friendly cafe’s, a cathedral and many tall towers.

Exploring the maze of streets we came across this one, a cyclist appearing from around the corner and people meeting for a late afternoon drink.

Jack-in-the-Green

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The May Day parade in our small town is always led by the same three characters: first comes the Marshal, mounted on a gleamingly groomed horse, followed by the Town Crier ringing a bell and calling “O-yez”. Behind him comes Jack-in-the-Green, a walking tree mounted on a wood and wire frame. It’s all very English.

Jack is my favourite character as he represents the pagan origins of May Day celebrations. I wonder, each year, what sort of shoes the person in Jack’s green costume might be wearing. This year the shoes were hardly visible. I spotted a flash of sensible brown leather. Maybe the days of the white trainers and socks, which in years past have provided chuckles of amusement for the watching crowd, are over.

P1020628The Green Man, who Jack-in-the-Green represents, is pagan but his image appears in Christian churches around the world.

I always look out for him when visiting a church or cathedral on my travels. He was sitting high up in the wooden beams of Bridlington Priory in Yorkshire, his face a carved roof boss.

Ooops George, watch out for that pothole!

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These gentlemen cyclists were taking part in the recent Knutsford May Day parade which  has a strong Victorian flavour as the Prince and Princess of Wales (later to become King Edward VI and Queen Alexandra) visited the town in 1887 when a special version of the festival was rolled out for them.

The local vintage cycling enthusiasts always dress up for the parade and ride their penny-farthings and boneshakers through the streets, often veering alarmingly close to the onlookers as they wobble along.

It becomes even more interesting when they reach the hill, as they have here. Some of them get off and walk if they’re riding bicyles with no brakes.

Morris dancing on May Day

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These smiling women are part of a Morris dancing team who took part in the traditional May Day parade in our small Cheshire town. They danced through the streets, accompanied by music played on a small accordion and a tin whistle, with a drum beating time. The ladies wear wooden clogs and hold wooden shuttles, which would have been used in the cotton mills in the north west. These are decorated with bells and ribbons.

Bells also feature in the costume worn by men Morris dancers but worn on their clogs. This group, also at the parade, have music to dance to and they carry small twisted ropes which they wave as part of the dance. The steps are heavy and noisy; stamping rhymically on the ground in time to the music, the dancers change places and make different formations and patterns as they weave around each other.

This group wear staw hats decorated with ribbons and flowers, and have been coming to our May Day parade for over 30 years. I couldn’t help noticing how some of the are now getting on a bit. There’s not been a big influx of new blood over the years, but it’s good that these grey-haired gentlemen are still able to enjoy this very English traditional form of dance and share it in the streets on a sunny day.

Morris dancing is thought to have been around since the mid 15th century. It’s traditional folk dancing associated with Maytime, the Maypole and the May queen. I’ve always understood that the stamping style of dance is meant to awaken the earth from its winter slumber and the small twised ropes held and waved by the dancers are symbolic of seeds being scattered on the ground. May Day has its origins in pagan festivals, the awakening of the earth and the Celtic festival of Beltane.

Llano, Texas

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You can pick up quite a lot about a place, even if you’re only staying there overnight.

Llano is a small Texan town, quite rural and quite pleasant. There are antique shops on the main street, full of interesting clutter, jumble and a few possibly genuine pieces too. Such shops can be interesting for tourists to browse around – who knows what you might find? But as it gets dark, the shops close, the lights come on and the town exudes a different lifestyle.

Cafes and bars are open and busy, the lights draw those who are out and about on a Saturday night (as I was) and the lure of the Opry at the Lantex was calling to some (not to me; I’ve no idea what the Opry might be in Texan terms! Singing, music, a dance hall?).

P1060752 (2)Around the main square everything was closed but the sedate and respectable front of the building housing the Llano News drew my attention. Drab, proper, tidy and rather unexciting. I wonder if the kind of articles that make it to the pages of the local rag are as mundane as those in the local paper where I live?

Turning the corner of the square, ready to head back, I got a clue about something which goes on in the area. The well-illuminated sign bore the call to attend “License to carry classes” provided twice monthly at the Midway gun and ammo shop. This is rural Texas after all…..

I was puzzled by the lit up leaping deer, but discovered later via a poster in a shop window that there is an annual deer fest in the town, so it’s a huntin’ shootin’ kinda place.

Not my cup of tea, but the take out BBQ we had to eat that night was.P1060757 (2)