The government’s wilfully stupid outlawing of many traditional rural pursuits such as fox hunting, estate agent immolation, the intermarriage of close relatives, animal ‘husbandry’ and even the mooted banning of Poking an Elderly Relative with a Stick day, and government licensing restriction of Worldwide Admire Your Own Genitals Day, has meant that those rural pastimes that do survive have gained an extra piquancy, if not urgency, amongst their followers. For the adherents of such traditional rural pursuits are now not sure for how much longer their beloved pastime will be allowed to continue by this increasingly totalitarian administration.
One such rural pastime, The Pursuit of the Woman with the Feathered Hat, has found itself becoming – almost by default because of the limitations outlined above – the rural pursuit (literally, in this case) of the moment.
Despite many attempts by feminists to downplay the role – casting it as somehow degrading, retrograde or even an insult to womanhood itself – there is always a great deal of competition amongst the women in a competing village to be the one chosen to wear the much-coveted feathered hat. Many villages have a traditional hat, handed down from generation to generation and much prized by those fortunate enough to be selected to wear it.
The chosen woman is – by tradition – taken to a clearing in the woods just before sunset, where her handmaidens – taken from whatever virgins (or closet approximation thereof) are available for the task – remove all her clothes. They then bathe her in a nearby brook and then liberally coat her all over with the essential extra-virgin badger spleen oil, before placing the traditional feathered hat on her head.
They then join hands and perform the traditional ‘Dance Around The Handbags’, an ancient fertility dance that folklorists have traced back beyond even pagan times into the very origins of the human race, and one that can still be seen performed in dance halls, discos and clubs to this very day.
Meanwhile all the eligible bachelors (or closest approximation thereof) in the village gather in the bar of their local pub. There the bachelors play the traditional game of seeing who can avoid falling off their seat the longest.
Once the woman with the feathered hat is deemed to be ready for the pursuit by her hand maidens the adjudicator gets his horn out, ready to be blown by the woman in the hat.
Once the bachelors hear that the adjudicator’s horn has been blown by the woman in the hat, they immediately stumble into action and order another round. Eventually, the bachelors do find their way out of the pub and immediately try to remember which is the way to the woods.
Once the bachelors have successfully extricated most of their group from the duck pond they stagger off towards the woods. But, by now, the woman in the feathered hat is already making her way across field and dale in an attempt to evade her pursuers. The idea is for the woman to return to the village and get to the traditional Indian restaurant before her pursuers can sober up enough to find their own way to the Indian restaurant without being diverted from their pursuit by the traditional English Chinese Take-Away, or the traditional kebab shop.
By now, the exacting rigours of the chase will have reduced the number of eligible bachelors considerably. Some will have been lost in the duck pond. Some will even be chatting up the ducks. Some will be lost in the woods. Some will be unconscious in those same woods rendered so by high-speed impacts with trees and so forth in the now almost-total darkness. Some will have been mollified by the items on the menu choices offered by either the Chinese Take-Away or the kebab shop (in some cases by both*). Most, in the Great British Traditional Way, will have decided they can’t be arsed and will have returned to the pub.
However, there will now by three or four of the pursuers, mud-splattered, bedraggled, possibly even bloodied or carrying a semi-masticated kebab will have made it to the Indian restaurant. This is where they will then engage in the traditional argument over how many of them there are, and whether they actually – now that they come to think of it – actually fancy a curry at all, or if there is a danger of Missing The Footy On The Telly**
Once this discussion has reached a satisfactory conclusion, there will be only a couple of the pursuers still conscious and on their feet (more or less).
The two finalists will then enter the restaurant where they will engage in the traditional personal combat by ordeal, each ordering the hottest vindaloo the restaurant’s chef can make. Facing each other over their plates, both know there will only be one winner of this trial. They will then begin to eat until one of them can take no more and collapses face-down into the remains of his curry.
The winner of the trial by vindaloo, will then stagger across to the table occupied by the woman in the feathered hat who is now about to pay her bill. She will then greet him with the traditional greeting: ‘Where the bloody hell have you been? Don’t you realise the time? Well, you can just bugger off, typical bloody man. I’m going home!’ Then with the traditional finale to the pursuit of a rousing proclamation of ‘Men, you’re all the bloody same!’ the woman in the feathered hat will stalk proudly and triumphantly from the Indian restaurant with the cheers of the other patrons and the staff ringing in her ears. The woman in the feathered hat will then go back to her place with her handmaidens, where they will spend the rest of the evening eating chocolate, drinking wine and lewdly dismissing the many shortcomings (as it were) of all the men in the village and how they are better off without them.
*These poor saps can be seen wandering backwards and forwards between the Chinese Take-Away and the kebab shop, unable to make a choice between the items offered on the respective menus, for most of the rest of the night. Usually they are taken in hand by the Woman in the Feathered Hat’s handmaidens (hence the name) around the back of the take-away to enable them to come to some sort of conclusion should they be up to it.
**An ancient – but still terrible and powerful curse – that will render anyone afflicted by it unable to have any meaningful conversations with friends, workmates and the lads down the pub for several days, or until there is next any football on the TV, whichever is the sooner.