Traditions

The Peace Pagoda's Lockdown Ceremony

Social Distancing Project 127If the ceremony had gone ahead as planned, this scene would have been packed with hundreds of people. The low platform, recently rebuilt for the ceremony, would have been filled with Buddhist monks and nuns, some from Japan or other countries with peace pagodas.
The man beyond the platform wearing dark trousers and a white shirt is from the Parks Trust; it’s their land. Like me, he was there to observe, but not participate. Anyone else you can see here is just a passer by.

The Distance Project 15

It’s been forty years since the Peace Pagoda in Milton Keynes was finished. This year’s ceremony, the 40th at Willen, was planned to be an important milestone event. Hundreds of people from all over the world would attend and I was looking forward to it.

But the lockdown put paid to that idea. Officially, there was to be no ceremony at all this year. But I turned up to take photographs anyway, to see if anything would happen.

I thought I would perhaps see a monk or a nun chanting for a few minutes, or I would be sat there all afternoon on my own. Either way, I would take photos, if only to record an absence.

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Pancakes for Everyone

Pancake racers  OlneyThe four legged race team.

If it wasn’t for the old vicar of Olney, the town wouldn’t have its yearly race on Pancake Day. Back in 1948, the Reverend Canon Ronald Collins found some photos from the 1920s or 30s in an old cupboard.

The pictures showed women running down the street with frying pans; they were running in the pancake race. He decided to revive the old custom and called for volunteers.

On that year’s Shrove Tuesday thirteen women lined up at five to twelve and the 415 yard race began. Nellie Bosworth was the winner, and the Olney Pancake Race has been held every year since.

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Pop Goes the Church Gun

Preparing the Fenny PoppersA waxed wooden plug goes into the touch-hole.

It’s Noon on Monday, the 11th of November and half a dozen loud bangs echo across Fenny Stratford. St Martin’s church have fired their ceremonial cannon again.

The six small cannons are the Fenny Poppers. The poppers have have been fired on the 11th of November, St. Martin’s Day, since around 1740. I went to watch. At the far end of the graveyard off Manor Road, four men were preparing the poppers.

Loading the Fenny PopperJust under an ounce of Pyrodex is poured into the cannon by Peter White.

Each one is shaped like a tankard, but they are made of gun metal with thick walls. There’s a touch-hole near the base for the fuse. Each popper is just seven inches long, but weighs 19 lbs.

Peter White of the church loaded them one at a time with just under an ounce of a gunpowder substitute, Pyrodex. It’s more stable than gunpowder, but like gunpowder it produces quite a lot of smoke when it goes off, as we will soon see.

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