With leaves dropping, Jack Frost appearing, summer is certainly well and truly hibernating. A relieved Aunt Sally has been placed into storage in the comfort of a shed having spent the past few months having Shire-rites trying to knock her head off. Perhaps she is receiving a comforting hug from Worzel Gummidge? No wonder Una Stubbs was pleased to move on. Having survived Alf Garnet, she was then asked to dodge four by two timbers. Housekeeping for Sherlock a far quieter, if complex, occupation.
Not originating from the Shires, posters for ‘Aunt Sally’ at many pubs in the area, were intriguing. As were the numerous ‘coconut shies’ in the beer gardens.
Having now witnessed an actual event I would like to say that I’ve got it…I haven’t though, well not totally. But…please do not let me get in the way of consenting adults having a good time in the back garden, throwing sticks whilst having a few drinks. You have to remember that ‘Pooh Sticks’ remains very popular and spear throwing has won many a tribal war. Also, both Fatima and Tessa won significant medals chucking a stick.
From my extensive research, the event goes back a few hundred years. The best so-called recollection being that the Royalist soldiers started it when Charles set up court in Oxford during the English Civil War. A bit like a dual or conkers or marbles, they met at dawn on Port Meadow (before Summertown became on-trend) to finally settle a dispute. With the ‘Aunt Sally’ replaced by a cockerel, whose time was numbered! A stronger account dates to the Victorians who liked their pastimes. Supposedly introducing it as a parlour game! Now, this is worrying. What I witnessed would have caused mayhem in your front room. Perhaps that’s why the French ‘Aunt Sally’, ‘jeu de massacre’, translates to ‘game of carnage’.
Versions are played worldwide. Inaugural world championships having taken place in Oxfordshire; the Charlebury Beer Festival for singles in 2011 (attended by the local resident; Dave the PM) and The Bull at Launton for doubles in 2019. The Bell in Bicester winning the latter. In England, however, it remains largely in the Shires. Wednesday nights in the summer with a lump of wood; Colonel Mustard did it!
For the uninitiated, such as me, here’s how it plays out. A human being stands a defined distance from a pole (wooden, not a plumber) with a resemblance of a female head on it (I think it is meant to have a pipe in its mouth, but that may just be for PC purposes, no colour defined). Then with a set of clubs (again wooden, not Soho House) the human attempts to knock the head off the pole (hence not a plumber!). A scoring system then ensues, with drink taken.
With so many participating across our region it is obviously a very popular ‘sport’ (has anyone mentioned being an addition to the Olympics?) and that there must be many of you that participate. Could you please enlighten us and share your experiences…thank you.