At the risk of blasphemy, I wouldn’t mind crawling into a cave right now and having someone put a bloody great stone across it. At least that way I could get some peace and a damn good kip. And I'd be in no rush to reappear, I can tell you!
I seem incapable of getting myself to bed at a sensible hour. By the time I’ve finished with the children (about 9 o’clock), I’m so drained (five very boisterous ones for tea yesterday whose noise reached Neptune) that I can do nothing more than come down and stare at the telly for a couple of hours. Even making supper is almost a bridge too far. I’m beyond speech really. I always aim to get to bed for about 11 o’clock, but then I think ‘oh God, I’ve just wasted the last two hours, and this is the only time I get to do something for myself, so I think I’ll just go and turn on the computer/pluck my eyebrows/flick through the teetering pile of catalogues…’ and, hey presto!, it’s 1 o’clock in the morning again!
So today I’ve decided to be firm. I’ve dumped the children with a friend (I was the virtuous one yesterday playing Mothers Entertaining Children in School Holidays all day) and have sat down at a far more sensible hour to ‘do my thing’.
Trouble is, I’m so tired that my brain is a fog, and all the bright ideas I had buzzing through my head yesterday as I whizzed round the countryside with my car-full of kids are long gone. Instead, I am reduced to cribbing. Still, it’s quite an interesting crib, and vaguely topical as it is Easter time (well, sort of).
Shifting us away from the chocolate frenzy of modern Easter (says she, having just popped another square of Green & Black’s in her mouth), I thought I would tell you about a rather dodgy sounding custom which used to be practised around my neck of the woods in the 18th and 19th century. It was called ‘Lifting’ (see what I mean?) and seems to have been practised in the western side of north and middle England, namely, Lancashire, Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Derbyshire and the northern half of Wales. A Manchester correspondent to the Gentleman’s Magazine of 1784 described it (somewhat snippily)thus:
The men lift the women on Easter Monday, and the women the men on Tuesday. One or more take hold of each leg, and one or more of each arm, near the body, and lift the person up, in a horizontal position, three times. It is a rude, indecent, and dangerous diversion, practised chiefly by the lower class of people. Our magistrates constantly prohibit it by the bellman, but it subsists at the end of the town; and the women have of late converted it into a money job. I believe it is chiefly confined to these northern counties.
The basic procedure was very similar from place to place, although there were differences in detail. Apparently, in Shropshire, the men carried posies that were dipped in water to sprinkle on the feet of the women (torture now!), and whereas men were usually lifted in the way described, women and elderly people were more often placed in a chair, which was usually decorated with ribbons and bows (ah, that’s better). There was also a wide variation in the amount of ‘rough handling’ allowed. Nearly all the descriptions stress that it was very much a working-class custom, and several say that women and timid men avoided going out on the day if they could. Don’t blame them. Sounds ghastly – specially with a full stomach of chocolate.
Because this custom was performed on Easter Monday, it has been assumed that it celebrated the resurrection of Christ, and one report mentions that the lifters sang, ‘Jesus Christ is risen again.’ This seems logical enough (despite there apparently being no real evidence either way) – but it strikes me that this is just a thin excuse to engage in some hanky panky with strangers of the opposite sex! Indeed, down south, northern Lifting had its equivalent in ‘Hocktide’. Here, on Easter Monday, the women attempted to catch men and tie them up (to be untied on payment of a small fee), and on the Tuesday it was the men’s turn to do likewise with the women. Hmmmmm…..I rest my case!