My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Jack Strange’s England is never a bore; it is a mystifying country with its tempestuous history and colorful characters populated by the ever undead of the bygone eras still roaming their past abodes or workplaces among the quick. It is a quaint country where history meets myth and legend. This book will guide the reader to Strange England where fanciful folklores and historical facts are anchored in the traditions and customs.
The author admits that England is perhaps arguably one of the most haunted countries in the world, thanks to its religiously and politically tempestuous pasts spanning the wheel of time from the Roman colonial period to the present. To illustrate, in Derbyshire a spectral Roman sentinel is often seen leading a parade of a circus comprising gladiators, chariots, and slaves, then all of them disappear into the mist. Another lovelorn Roman soldier is witnessed alongside Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, wandering in despair of his betrayed love for a fair English maiden. The phantom English residents also encompass the Benedictine monks led by St, Cuthbert in Lindisfarne, which was a target for frequent raiding by Norsemen who also threatened the cradle of English Christianity. It is said that the best time to see the saint or the monks is when the tides are high and a full moon lights the shore as a natural lantern.
England is also a home of many interesting sports that are historically – and sometimes by happenstance – originated. The World Gurning Championship in Egremont in Cumbria was originated in 1267 when the Lord of the manor gave out crabapples to the locals. One can imagine without difficulty the consequence of tasting the apple, and thus can master the art of making as ugly face as possible. Hence this hilarious tournament comes to exist to this day. It’s open to everyone – yes, even to the fairest of all – , and it’s all about fun and participation. Also, there is Black Pudding Throwing Championship in Ridge, Lancashire. Originated in 1455, this tournament shows English humor mixed with historical irony, which makes it all the more convincing. It was during the period of “War of the Roses” elegantly referred by Sir Walter Scott (who was a Scot) to the feud between the House of York whose symbol was a white rose and the House of Lancashire a red rose. At the Battle of Stubbins in Lancashire in 1455, both forces decided to throw puddings at one another instead of lances. Believe it or not, the descendents still commemorate the incident by holding a championship every year with mirthful popularity.
Subsequent to Strange Tales of the Sea, the author Jack Strange has done a marvelous job gleaning the extensive historical documents and cultural artifacts from his tireless research to provide his reader with interesting facts about his England. Strange is a gifted artificer who digs artifacts buried in the depths of forgotten times and lost folklores. Strange is also a mysteriously reclusive figure himself because there’s no personal information about him. Maybe that’s why his writings are so hauntingly attractive and oddly addictive. Strange is an excellent storyteller who weaves a tapestry of legends and folklores imbued with his impressive knowledge of the history of England and his English humor permeated in his writings. This book is Strange’s winking invitation to his beloved England that spins a general image of the country with enchanting oddity and wide-eyed wonder that the readers will not tire of.