Dandelion Day
A D. I. Y. half marathon on 23rd April

It was a coincidence that I decided to do a half marathon on what is generally regarded as the Anglish National day. It just happened to be a Sunday that I was free and no attempt at celebrating such nationalistic nonsense should be inferred.

I got off the bus in Spondon, at about 2 pm and started trying to find where the hell my run was suppose to start.

The issues with this particular half marathon was that it was neither planned nor organised. It was very much a D. I. Y. half marathon and the start that I had D. I. Y.ed was just off the only map I had making it a little difficult to relate the bus stop I had randomly got off at, to the start.

My embarrassment at such rubbish planning was tempered by a combination of: there not being anyone else to notice my cock up; the relative easy with which I was able to find my way back onto the map by accidentally selecting the right road and, coincidentally, running in the right direction down it.

It should be noted that this is not the usual outcome of this method of problem solving. A more normal result of this approach would have been at least a couple of miles added to my run or more likely, after an attack of 'toys-out-of-pram' syndrome, jumping on the next bus back in the direction I came from and into a long afternoon with a long face in a long drink or two.

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Those of you who have never heard of Spondon probably have an image of a nondescript corner of Anglandshire* that gets on with whatever it gets on with without bothering anybody much. A quiet sleepy corner of the world where strangers rarely venture.

It was as I was negotiating my way through a nice corner of Spondon, Sitwell, looking for the road to Locko Park that I became aware that things were not all they might be in Spondon.

There were flags down the high street, on every pub and outside every shop. The flags fluttered, a crow called and a coke can rolled down the abandoned street in the wind.

Nothing else stirred.

I fancied I heard the strains of one of those pieces of Hollywood music that tell you something is going to happen and if the protagonists had any sense they would turn back and turn back now!

The thought crossed my mind that I had stumbled upon a forgotten corner lost in some distant, unfathomable and ultimately dangerous past that, had it been on a Scottish Island, would have formed the basis of a rubbish cult Hammer Horror from the 1960's. A world of knuckles dragging over the floors of spittoon populated bars and national flags are draped across over ripe beer bellies, where they lynch woolly liberals, who run for pleasure, as casual sport and they build wicker effigies for the summer fete which is always opened the by a Vincent Price look-alike.

It would seem that some people still celebrate the 23rd of April.

The celebrations, such as they were, appear to have happened the night before and the populous were engaged in sleeping off their national day behind curtains drawn to keep out the bright, warm, spring sunshine.

I jogged passed as quickly as I could.

This got me to thinking, as you do when running on your own, a whole load of 'fetid dingo's kidneys' about the Anglish National Day.

OK, so it is the supposed death day of a rather obscure Roman soldier from Turkey or thereabouts. George achieved fame by defeating mythical beasts, saving maidens and sitting with them on manicured lawns making dandelion chains to the gentle sound of the lute, before vanishing in a puff of scholarly reality when it was, rather unfairly some might say, suggested that if he existed at all he was merely a lowly squaddie who got the chop because he wouldn't denounce his Greek Orthodox Christianity and it is rather unlikely that any of his traditional heroics ever took place because dragons certainly didn't.

My musings were curtailed for the while as I entered the grounds of Locko Park.

Locko Park may sound like a crass modern theme park sponsored by some dodgy multinational trying to sell sweet sugary drinks to unsuspecting children via the efforts of lots of people on zero hours contracts wearing smurf like suits while failing to engage or amuse small children.

It is actually Spondon's best kept secret. No, it's spondon's only secret, outside the cult of George worshipers still sleeping off their dandelion wine.

Locko Park is a privately owned county estate complete with an C18th mansion, the size of something out of that awful T.V. drama where the rich lord it over everyone else and the 'everyone else' is really rather grateful and just can't grovel enough as the T. V. ratings rise and the BAFTAs pile up.

The difference is that this is real and although they will allow you to use the paths because, and only because, they are public right of ways, woe betide anyone who tests the patience of Gilbert the Game Keeper and lets their dog wander where it shouldn't.

I wonder if Lord and Lady Huntley and Palmer, of the biscuit fame, heard the sound of knuckles dragging across the floor of the servant's quarters, echoing across the valley, as another lefty jogger jogged by.

23rd April is of course also William Shakespeare's Birthday. The birthday of the National Bard. A witty voice of reason and enlightenment reverberating down the ages. Now there is something to celebrate and give the Spondon Knuckle Brigade pause for thought as they began to stir from their post primeval ritual slumber in the mid afternoon.

Well, that is also a bit of a myth. There is no actual record of Shakespeare's birth although there is a record of a William son of John Shakespeare being baptised on the 26th April, in a copied parish register of the Holy Trinity Church, Stratford. There was at the time a tradition, that was largely ignored, to baptise the new little one on the next Sunday after the birth. This would make the 23rd likely. But it is just as likely to have been the 24th, the 22nd or heavens forbid the 21st.

The 23rd was just a convenient date to choose.

The path from Locko Park leads to another of the gems of this corner of the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire border and another rendezvous with a piece of Anglandshire's celebrated past.

Dale Abbey.

This sleepy town, as the name suggests, was established around one of the many medieval monasteries that would have formed a great part of the Anglish heritage were it not for the actions of one of our better known 'betters' of days gone by who, in a fit of peak because he couldn't get the woman he wanted, jumped on the band wagon of a convenient new religion, broke all ties with Rome, sacked the monasteries for all the gold he could get his sweaty little hands on and in the process had them torn down for building material to make many of those chocolate box villages that the country likes to think it is world famous for.

I'm sure King Harry would have known how to keep the mythical Turkish saint's day and, were he alive today, would probably be spending this particular one behind a pair of well drawn royal curtains in Spondon, nursing a right royal hang over after a right royal night of knuckle dragging.

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From Dale Abbey, it was off across the fields, passed the last remaining structure of a once great abbey along the dandelion strewn bye ways, toward Stanton By Dale.

It was about this time. Several miles in to my lonely half marathon that the meandering bollocks of my thoughts around the true nature of nation's desire to make the 23rd of April a day of significance started to get all 'Erich von Daniken'^.

And this is where Dandelion Day comes in. It doesn't take an ecological genius to notice, as you do a random long run, in mid spring in Anglandshire, that the 23rd April is the day when all the dandelions in the world choose to flower.

If it wasn't for the bad press that these fine weeds get, this would be a day of great celebration. Their display is really quite impressive.

It is also the traditional day to collect hundreds of dandelions and make something obscure with them. Dandelion soups, dandelion marmalade or dandelion pate, none of which would actually be accepted at the now traditional Anglish food banks on account of them not being in a tin, preserved with the necessary chemicals and sugar to allow them to stand, ignored, on a shelve for weeks on end, before being condemned to the traditional Anglish skip ready for transportation to the traditional Anglish landfill.

There is also of course dandelion wine!

All this points towards the rather fun possibility that, dodgy mythical Saints and dodgy birthdays of national bards aside, the 23rd of April has long been significant to those who regard themselves as Anglish. I like to think that this has something to do with a long lost cult based around the Dandelion.

There is of course no evidence, but that never stopped Eric von Daniken writing books, making films and a whole lot of money into the bargain, out of a piece of half baked, woolly reasoning, so it's not going to stop me.

There was clearly an ancient dandelion demi God of this land. There. It has been said!

I paused my Danikenesk musings for the sleepy village of Stanton by Dale.

Stanton is mentioned in that most Anglish of things, the Doomsday Book. It was actually the first post Anglish historical document since it was commissioned to help the new Norman lords and masters collect tax from the now down trodden Anglish. Our relationship with Europe is indeed a long one.

However, Stanton's real place in history came when it was dragged kicking and screaming into the industrial revolution with the advent of the Ironworks in C18th. The Lord of the Manor at the time followed the great Anglish tradition of a unique relationship between the nation's under class and their betters when he sold the Parish to the Ironworks who then only allowed workers at the Ironworks to live there, thus ensuring excellent industrial relationships for the next couple of hundred years in one move.

It was becoming clear to me, as the miles worn on and I became more and more knackered and close to delusion brought on by fatigue, that the whole history of Angland was tied up with the forgotten deity. The God of All Things Dandelion.

It was clearly a formidable demi God. It also has the properties as a plant that fit in with what was to become the national character of the Anglish. It is aggressive and will swamp all other weeds or at least have a damn good go at it whilst making a decent fist at taking over the world in the process. I suspect, if it were able to speak for itself, it would express an opinion of other weeds, from the far flung corners of the weed world, that is suitably disparaging.

All this make the Dandelion the natural national flower of the Anglish and is far more appropriate than the rather showy and tarty red rose that is commonly worn on the Anglish national day. Roses don't even flower on the 23rd of April.

The dandelion is also celebrated with many common names include: bitterwort, blow-ball, cankerwort, clockflower, go-to-bed-at-night and wet-the -bed. This last one refers to it's diuretic properties. That is, it makes you produce more piss, which in some circumstances: heart failure, liver cirrhosis, hypertension, influenza, water poisoning, and certain kidney diseases, can be very useful.

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However, in other more normal circumstances, like sleeping off a night of knuckle dragging, the affect can be unfortunate. Meaning that to get drunk on it could have been ... would have been (let us not shy away from Eric von Daniken's taste for the unsubstantiated assertion) the basis for a strange rite of passage repeated by the faithful on the God's special day.

My thoughts drifted back to the knuckle draggers of Spondon. Their heads filled with misplaced national pride and a thick pounding pain brought on by post pub consumption of too much home brewed dandelion wine in celebration of the great God's day and the sudden realisation that their God had performed the second miracle of evening.

But it was a good afternoon for drying mattresses, so all was right with the world.

I pootled on through the remainder of my selfie half marathon, rather please at my afternoon of musing, pondering possible titles for my forthcoming book. "Dandelion, The Forgotten Anglish God?" "Homebrew of the Gods?" "The Wet Mattress and It's Place in Anglish History."

*Angland because it is from the Angles, minor cousins of the Saxons, that the country gets it's name and shire as a reference to the place where Hobbits come from which is after all the rather pleasing metaphor that the Anglish like to associate with themselves and their place in the world.

It is not I hasten to add a metaphor that the rest of the world shares.

^Eric von Daniken was responsible, via his film "The Chariots of the Gods?", for making a complete fool of me and therefore should be revered and ridiculed in equal measure. His film put forward the hypothesis that aliens came to earth in ancient times and changed the course of human history.

His evidence? Well, this was his genius. The evidence: a few misinterpreted ancient carving, the orientation of an ancient stone or two and mysterious marking on desert floors that were clearly landing strips for intergalactic space craft, was sufficient to convince a ten year old who had just watched it at the cinema and rather liked the idea that everything was not as it seemed in the world, to part with all his pocket money, birthday money and Christmas money on the latest editions of Danikenesk ramblings for several years, thus swelling the coffers of the Deniken Institute for the Pursuit of Absolute Truth - also known as Eric's personal bank account.

It was not however enough to convince anyone else, as I found when I put it forward as a basis for serious discussion during a fresher's lets-make-friends session in a shitty collage bar many years later. Only to find that in the intervening decade others, who had also watched the film and wanted to believe that things were not as they seemed in the world, had bothered to read the follow up criticisms for this intellectually flawed master piece. They dismissed it as a load of 'fetid dingos kindneys'* and the conversion moved to the safer ground of 'what music do you like?'

*Fetid dingo's kidneys - load of old bollocks - Douglas Adams, Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.

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Oh My Nottz is a HotHouse Theatre production. Co. No. 6505843 Charity No. 1154523. Tel 07963020259 email guy@hothousetheatre.com website www.hothousetheatre.com