Exercise 4 — Quirks of the British

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Read the aricle about the quirks of the British. Decide what words should be used in the gaps 1-15. ONLY ONE WORD in each gap.

Quirks of the British

Nobody does eccentricity quite like us. Get a front row seat at some of these frankly bizzare festivities for a trip like 1. .......... other.


Sometimes we think our label as nation of eccentrics is a tad unjustified but then we look at our calendar of events and realise, yes, some of our pastimes really are rather odd. Where 2. .......... in the world would you see grown men (and women) compete to see who can catch a block of cheese first, or run through the streets with a flaming barrel hoisted on their backs?

So, rather than shy away from our eccentric tag, we’ve decided to embrace it. Here are some of our favourite quirky festivals and events taking place across Britain every year, which offer visitors incredible insight 3. .......... some of our more unusual customs.

The well-documented Cheese Rolling at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire take place each year on the spring bank holiday (the last Monday in May) in the Cotswolds village of Brockworth and is now so popular it attracts as 4. .......... as 15,000 spectators.

The aim is to chase an 8lb piece of Double Gloucester down a notoriously steep hill, with the first person past the finishing line winning the cheese, but more importantly the glory. Origins of the event are sketchy – some say it has pagan links, while others maintain it was designed to decide grazing rights. But while to mere bystanders it might seem like a bit of fun, it’s no laughing 5. .......... to contestants, who train hard and risk injury.

A less hazardous spin 6. .......... the theme is the cheese-rolling event in the Cambridgeshire village of Stilton, which takes place every May Day bank holiday, thanks 7. .......... the ingenuity of a local pub landlord who wanted to attract tourists to the town in the 1960’s. The tournament, which includes a knockout competition, starts outside The Bell Inn and The Angel pubs and sees contestants compete in teams of four to pass the ’cheese’ (they are actually wooden blocks) through the village.

Meanwhile, if you have more of a 8. .......... tooth then the Totnes Orange Races might appeal 9. .......... you. This jovial event, which takes place in Devon town of Totnes each August, was inspired by a myth relating to Sir Francis Drake.

The story 10. .......... that on a visit to the town, Drake knocked into a delivery boy, toppling his basket of oranges and causing them to roll down the hill. As oranges were so valuable at the time, the town’s children made quick to chase after them, and so a legend was born. The event, which began in the 1970’s, requires the racer to chase an orange down a course, with the winner being the first to cross the line with an orange in front of them that is in a reasonable state.

Food rolling aside, Britain, it appears, is also a nation of pyromaniacs and the remote Scottish archipelago of Shetland is home 11. .......... the biggest fire festival in Europe.

On the last Tuesday in January every year, this normally sleepy corner of Britain is awoken from 12. .......... easy slumber as its annual Viking-themed fire festival, Up Helly Aa, gets underway.

Festivities, which echo pagan Norse rituals, centre around a band of 800 heavily disguised men (sorry, women have never taken part), who parade the streets of the main port of Lerwick, setting fire to a Viking galley, before rescuing their leader, known as the Guizer Jarl, from the ship’s stern. It is a raucous affair carried out against a clamorous background of bugles, fiddles, drums and singing, and the dancing and general merriment goes on throughout the night.

Though festivities in some form have taken place here 13. .......... at least the first half of the 19th century, it wasn’t 14. .......... the introduction of a Viking longship in the 1880’s that the theme became apparent.

Since then, the event has been held every year, with the exception of 1901 (to mark the death of Queen Victoria) and during the First and Second World Wars.
Festivities are so lively that the following day is a public holiday to allow locals to recover.

Elsewhere, the Flaming Tar Barrels event in Ottery St Mary, Devon, comes from an old custom dating back to at least the 17th century. Held on 5 November each year (Guy Fawkes night), the tradition involves each of the town’s pubs lighting a tar-soaked barrel, which are then carried through the town’s streets on the shoulders and backs of the brave participants.

There are a few theories as to where this tradition began. Could it be a nod to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605? Were the burning barrels used to fumigate the town’s cottages, or perhaps it was to warn about the approach of the Spanish Armada? 15. .......... the provenance, Ottery was just one of many West Country towns to partake in the tradition and, even now, in the winter months, you can see processions of brightly lit tableaux in many of the region’s other towns and villages.

Words Sally Coffey

From Britain magazine May 2017

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