Sunday, 8 May 2016

Writing - Urban Legends

It strikes me that if you were that way inclined you could create your own local legend.

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There are hundreds of diggers buried below London and it's legal to shoot a Welshman in Hereford. These are among the rumours that resurface occasionally across England and seem to have extraordinary sticking-power. But for all their tenacity - they're not true.

As a wordsmith it would be possible to create such modern myths without too much work.

Image result for sir loin

The knighting of a tasty piece of meat, thus giving it the name "Sir Loin" has been variously ascribed to Charles II, Elizabeth I and James I.
The story regarding James I is still honoured in Lancashire, where it's said during a meal in 1617 at Houghton Tower near Preston, the monarch was overcome by a succulent steak and gravely made it a knight of the realm.
It is true that the tower was playing host to the king as he and his retinue made their way back to London from Scotland - and who knows, he may have jestingly touched his sword to the chunk of beef.
But while it is possible the monarch enjoyed a pun, the word "sirloin" first appeared in English as far back as the early 16th Century and therefore pre-dates the reign of James.

Image result for diggers beneath London

Various news outlets, including the New Statesman, Daily Telegraph and ITV reported rich people who excavated under their houses to fit in swimming pools and home cinemas found it more economical to abandon diggers below ground rather than take them back up to street level. Seems like a possibility when you consider the amount of mechanical equipment abandoned in deep coal mines but it is untrue.

Image result for archers from 15th century

Are you within your rights to shoot a Welsh person with a longbow after midnight in Chester; or on a Sunday in the Cathedral Close in Hereford; or a Scots person within the city walls of York (other than on a Sunday)?
No. Of course you're not.
The myth about slaying Celts could have originated from a City Ordinance of 1403 passed in response to the Glynd┼Ár Rising, which imposed a curfew on the Welsh. Both Chester and Hereford were frequently under attack from Wales in the medieval period.

The point is that you could seriously influence your local culture by writing a story. It could also be a source of amusement and entertainment.

Image result for crocodiles beneath the floorboards

I worked in a school in Cleckheaton that had a strange infestation. The school had always kept animals and not just the usual, hamsters and guinea pigs but we had hens, giant rabbits and more. One of these creatures was a baby crocodile! It was always the intention to donate the creature to a nearby safari park once the children had the opportunity to observe the creature. Plainly, a school could not make adequate provision for such a reptile. Unfortunately, the unthinkable occurred - the mini beast escaped. A search was conducted but there were no sightings of the crocodile and after a few days it was assumed that it would have starved to death. 
There was no news for a couple of years then one of the cleaners, working in room 11 after the school had emptied for the day, heard what seemed like a low rumble, or snarling noise. She reported the incident but nothing was done, but when she had complained on numerous other occasions the caretaker decided to lift the floorboards of that room. What he found was a very wet and soggy area with the bones of various small mammals and with no evidence of anything else blamed rats. A clean up was attempted but the ground beneath that part of the school remained wet and on studying historical maps it was discovered that there was a natural spring which would eventually need to be piped away. Money being in short supply nothing was done!
Then James, a young and rather naughty child was sent to detention in room 11 one Monday evening. Apart from the teacher he was alone in the classroom carrying out some mindless task. At some point the boy, also renowned as a petty thief, was left alone for a couple of minutes. When the teacher returned the boy, along with the teacher's watch, had disappeared.
A hue and cry of prodigious proportions ensued but suffice it to say that James was never found.
Year's later a different cleaner reported hearing growling sounds beneath room 11. It was investigated and a rather battered watch and some decomposed human remains were discovered. Eventually, with the help of DNA testing, it was discovered that the remains were of young James and the watch had belonged to the teacher. The skeleton showed marks of being scored by something with exceedingly large and sharp teeth. A further search was carried out but nothing found.
In spite of the spring being contained and no other children going missing, periodically a large dog owned by local people, the odd sheep, some of the schools hens disappeared with barely a trace. Quite often the staff working late would report animal sounds, scratchings and low growling but nothing was ever discovered. 
Even today children are solemnly warned not to be in that classroom alone or indeed to return to play round the school during weekends or holidays.

God Bless