More Feathered Friends

More Feathered Friends

This is Paula with a gyrfalcon. Gyrs can sell for up to a quarter of a million dollars each in Saudi Arabia, so you could probably buy a house in Chester for the cost of this bird.
Paula and Gyrfalcon
On the other hand, who needs a house when you could have a pet that can travel at two hundred miles an hour? More feathered friends later, but first, the minstrels’ court.

As usual, the Welsh were to blame. 1n 1204 they were besieging the Earl of Chester in Rhuddlan Castle. He sent word to Chester to ask for help, but the messenger arrived on the midsummer festival, when all the soldiers were drunk. The Constable of Chester looked around to see who was sober, and the only men he could find were the musicians and street performers. He duly ordered the minstrels to march off to Rhuddlan to break the siege. The minstrels, faced with imminent death in battle, set up an impromptu marching band. Perhaps they were not entirely sober. The Welsh heard them coming, and assuming that they were the vanguard of a great army, retreated.

This might seem unlikely if we did not have similar example from modern times. During the Vietnam War, U.S. Army Major-General John Hay ordered the 1st Infantry Division band to play Colonel Bogie and march down a road controlled by the North Vietnamese. One must wonder about his motivations for doing this. Perhaps he was trying to take revenge on the bugler who disturbed his rest every morning. Whatever the reason, this bloodthirsty vindictiveness turned into a stroke of military genius when the Vietnamese retreated. Like the man said…

The lions looked up in surprise
But they backed away when they saw the madness in his eyes

The Earl of Chester was so delighted by his rescue that he granted street performing licenses to all the minstrels who had participated and their successors, the license to be renewed every year on midsummer day. Anyone who has tried to get a San Francisco street performing license will tell you what a great boon that was. The tradition of granting licenses to minstrels has continued to this day, with one brief break of 252 years. Today minstrels and other re-enactors gathered at the Church of St John the Baptist to celebrate theanniversary.
However, what they really worship in Chester is cake.
Cake worship
Apparently C of E now stands for Cakes of England.

Chester has a somewhat misnamed Roman garden just outside the city walls.
Roman Garden
No, sorry, fail, the Romans did not have lawnmowers. Every time they dug up a bit of Roman stonework they dumped it here, but Roman gardens were a lot more utilitarian, with salad stuff and herbs growing alongside the ornamental plants. You may notice a patch of the city walls that is smoother than the rest. That is the bit they had to repair after the Roundhead cannons knocked a hole in it in 1645. The Roundheads did not get through the gap, however, and the city remained in Royalist control until they ran out of food in 1646.

Chester had held a midsummer parade since the 15th century. In 1564 the parade contained

4 gyants, 1 unikorne, 1 dromodarye, 1 luce, 1 camell, 1 dragon, 6 hobbyhorses and 16 naked boys

A luce is a kind of fish. Almost all of those were also present in today’s parade, except for the naked boys.
… luce …
… gyants with wyngs…
… camell and dromodarye…
… gyant nun…
Gyant Nun
… unicorne and duocorne…
… hobbyhorses…
… dragon…
… bigger dragon…
Bigger Dragon
… and a guest appearance by the devil himself…
The Devil
… but no naked boys at all.

After the parade we went to the cathedral’s falconry centre, because every house of worship needs a few raptors to demonstrate the imminence of sudden death from the skies.
Golden Eagle
Gotta love golden eagles.

We saw a demonstration in which one of the falconers put three birds through their paces. The first one worked fine, the second one got distracted by a pigeon and vanished for several minutes before condescending to chase the lure, and the third one, the gyrfalcon that Paula is holding above, was attacked by three wild peregrine falcons. This happens regularly, but it was spectacular to watch. One of the peregrines would dive down on the gyrfalcon, and at the last moment the gyr would flip upside down and greet the attacker with upturned claws. The peregrine would veer off without striking, and another peregrine would come in for the next attack.

We’re off to a concert in the cathedral tonight, so I’m going to stop blogging and eat dinner now.

Oh, wait, I nearly forgot. Black pudding flavored pork scratchings.
English cuisine at its finest? Or two foods that have no reason at all to be in the same packet?

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