OK UK?: English "Sports" Involving Ferrets...
I'm not sure if it’s the weather, the food, or simply the genes, but there are some very strange pastimes on my home island. Now if, in the course of a normal conversation, someone mentioned that a gentleman was ‘ferreting around in his trousers’, you would assume he was adjusting his underwear, or very discreetly adjusting his meat and two veg. Rude, certainly, but we all need to give each other a little leeway when it comes to personal discomfort.
You would not expect this to be some kind of sporting event.
Let me clarify. In some parts of our sceptered isle, a small group of gentlemen gather to test their nerves and manhood, by quite literally putting ferrets down their trousers. It is a simple sport, played by simple men of the sod. Rough twine is tied around the bottom of the participant’s trouser legs, which are usually well-worn, very baggy tweeds, circa 1850 or so. This is done to circumvent the obvious escape route of any animal from one's trousers. That is, in fact, all the preparation required for this sport. So, string, a bag containing a ferret and a stopwatch is all that is required to enjoy this low cost, low equipment endeavor.
The ‘athlete’ need not warm up or dress in any particular fashion, though the normal attire would, aside from the tweed trousers, include Wellington boots and multiple holey-sweaters, a tweed jacket (not the same tweed as the pants) and a tweed flat cap (ditto).
After a few pints of the local brew, the first brave soul stands, has his underwear discretely checked for anything untoward, the ankle ties checked for security, and then the activity begins in earnest. Hauling the, by now pretty confused, animal out of the bag, the master of ceremonies drops the ferret into the front of the pants. The pants are either held closed, or the very brave actually cinch their belts, and the animal then tries to find its way out of the offending trousers. The longer the animal remains in the pants will obviously determine who is the winner.
There is so much wrong with this that it is hard to know where to start. First, ferrets are feisty little buggers at the best of times, liable to remove a handler’s finger for absolutely no reason. Placed in a dark, damp and odiferous location, they are likely to bite cleanly through bone.
And they do bite, despite the ferret fan club's "look how cute they are" websites. The hero takes as many bites as he can, then calls for the handler to remove the animal.
So, now you have to wonder what exactly is going through the poor ferrets mind. It is not much of an existence, it actually makes the life of a bullfighting bull seem idyllic by comparison. Plan A would, of course, be to run out of the bottom of the pant leg, but something is preventing you from doing this. You rush back up, but that escape is similarly removed from your options. What is the little beasty to do? Come on, you'd bite in the same circumstances, no matter what your kindergarten teacher told you that time when you bit Billy Smith for showing you his willy.
And the handler is hardly coming out of this smelling of roses (very difficult to smell anything but ferrety if you own one). You rear and raise and feed these voracious little animals in a cage that needs to be built of solid steel, then pop one in a bag and take it down to the pub. After a few drinks, you check your mate’s pants, pop in the ferret and stand by, with leather gloves at the ready, to whip the animal out of your friend’s, potentially bloody, pants. Stick the now demented creature back in the bag, and then do it all over again with another of your idiot friends.
There is not enough beer in the world that could have me willingly place an animal in my pants, let alone a lightening fast, angry, biting machine. Who the hell are these guys trying to impress,their non-ferret friends? The good women of the village? Fortunately, no one has thought that this would make good TV. Could you even imagine the footage from the ferret-cam?
Ferreting is, I’m certain, the zenith of the ultra weird on the island, but there are plenty of other activities vying for your attention: Mud running (in a fine silt that sucks as well as smells,) is a New Year’s Day event in my home town of Maldon. Hill climbing (in cars that love to roll back onto you.) Welly tossing (literally throwing Wellington boots as far as you can.) Not to mention a pastime that makes even the dourest individual smile, Morris dancing.
Morris dancing involves; wearing the most flamboyant clothes you posses, the flouncier the better, putting bells on your legs, and then setting the whole ensemble off with many multi-colored handkerchiefs. You then get to do a strange version of pat-a-cake with sticks. Think square dancing in really strange clothes.
When anyone tries to explain why a man who lives his life in, otherwise, quiet desperation, would do any of these things, the normal response is that the answer was lost in the mists of time. The real reason is that it made no sense, even back in the day, and later somebody lost the rules. That would seem to indicate that it would be fairly good idea to stop doing it.
Now do you understand how, by comparison, utterly normal and un-weird cricket is? Why on Earth should a sport not stop for tea? At least no one is getting bitten in his silly mid-off…
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