Saturday, 29 April 2017

What is Flora Day?

I have always struggled to find the right words to explain Helston's Flora Day and what it means to us Helstonians. When people who have never experienced it have asked me to describe the day, I don't know where to start. So I have decided to take the time to write a chronological account of my typical Flora Day. So next time somebody asks, I can just send them the link and save myself hyperventilating with excitement, desperately trying to explain it all at 100mph.

6am - Rise and Shine! - If you're anything like me, you'll be fresh as a daisy and springing out of bed easier than a child on Christmas morning. That is, of course, providing you haven't peaked too early by hitting Flora Eve way too hard. In that case, wake yourself up with a pint. You're going to have to push through it.

6.45am - The quiet but slowly increasing chatter of town as people gather awaiting the first dance. There is an ever-building sense of excitement as our town awakens on the best day of the year. Friends and families are beginning to meet and gather. Folk are walking through town with a passing "Morning!" or "Alright?" with more of a smile and a spring in their step than any other day of the year. The pubs in town are beginning to open their doors and people are gazing at the sky, commenting about the weather with optimism.

7am - THE FIRST BANG of the Big Bass Drum. Hell! You know you're a Helstonian if even the thought of that first bang gives you tingles in your stomach and stirs something within your soul that you'll never be able to fully explain to outsiders. This opens the first dance. Mainly Helston-born locals, some who have danced pretty much every Flora Day since they were 7 years old in school. You will find me watching with all of my family, waving to all the familiar faces in the dance as they smile back, sometimes a little soggy and sleepy, but always with an evident sense of pride, beaming through.

8.30am - Hal-An-Tow - this ancient tradition will probably seem the strangest to anyone who has never experienced it before. First of all you will hear it coming. Shouting, whistling, banging of sticks and yells that may remind you of an angry mob. Don't be alarmed. This is how Helston welcomes in the summer. Just go with it. What does "Jolly rumble-o" mean anyway?

9am - Children's Dance - The longest and arguably cutest dance of the day. Children from all 3 of Helston's primaries dance through the streets wearing white and their respective flowers that represent their school. As well as Helston's secondary school dancers, proud teenagers representing, every single one wearing their lily of the valley.

12pm - Midday Dance - This is main dance of the day. Expect ladies and gentlemen in ball-gowns and morning suits. Beautiful to watch and a true Helstonian's #lifegoals to have the privilege of taking part in.

THE FAIR - Are you even from Helston if you don't get a surge of excitement in your gut the first time you see the fair lorries lined up in the lay-by a few days before the big day? But going to the fair on Flora Day afternoon can easily be the worst or best decision of your day. Yes, the "Thriller" ride may have been a great idea 7 beers ago. Expect to leave the fair feeling sick, with a bag of candy floss in one hand and a bag with a goldfish in the other, being uncertain of which one you regret the most. This blog is dedicated to my late goldfish Steve, pictured below, who I may have won from a Flora Day fair, but who in turn won my heart.

5PM - LAST DANCE - For me, this can be one of the most memorable times of the day. All the same familiar faces from the first dance are now suitably beered right up! Their dancing might be slightly sloppier but their smiles are even wider and they will answer your cheers with a "yeeeewww" or a "right onnn!". 

By this stage everyone has been considerably drunk for a good few hours. I will always try and catch the dance as it comes to an end outside the town hall. I will try and get as close to the band as possible and surround myself with as many friends who are as suitably inebriated as myself. With pint in one hand and other arm clinging on to closest one of said friends, this is the moment where you take a look around at the crowd of hundreds, maybe thousands you are standing in and realise we are all feeling the same thing as the band plays the final verse and chorus. Connected by the love of Flora Day and the unspoken promise that we will try our best to never miss one and wherever we may go, we will always come home. 

Within a sea of swaying people and pints raised up in the air, the band finishes the last chorus and draws to a stirring end. "MORE!" the whole of Helston will shout and then begins the encore. The same few bars that we have been hearing repeatedly since 7am this morning and every year since before we can remember, yet all we want is to hear it one last time. We just don't want it to end. But when it does, when the band can finally rest and the dancers can relax, you will hear a lone voice coming from somewhere in the crowd. A voice that will be deep and loud and strong and proud. A voice that will bellow at the top of its lungs. "OGGY OGGY OGGY!" and I don't think I need to tell you how the whole of Helston will triumphantly reply. 

No comments:

Post a Comment