I have been asked on several occasions by friends and colleagues from abroad “what makes you English?” and I always struggle with the response. I could of course say that we are a proud nation, arrogant, insular, bloody minded but with the ability to send ourselves up and indeed laugh openly at ourselves. We are idiosyncratic, generous (to a fault) and open minded, but best of all we revel in the ridiculous but often funny things in life and celebrate things that foreigners look in amazement at, and think WTF!
One of the best examples of the “crazy English” is the annual Gloucestershire “cheese rolling contest” when thousands of people line a steep hill in Gloucestershire to watch crowds of thrill-seekers fling themselves down in pursuit of a wheel of cheese. The 8lb (3.6kg) Double Gloucester is chased 200 yards down the 1:2 gradient Cooper’s Hill at Brockworth every year.
Chris Anderson, 28, won the first two downhill races – his 16th and 17th Cheese Rolling victories in total. “It’s brilliant, I’m really happy,” said the soldier from Brockworth who serves with 1 Rifles, who has now won 17 races in total, does not like cheese!
“My friend Izzy John sadly passed away recently so this is for him and his family. He won it multiple times,” he said. “Cheese rolling is really important to Brockworth. It got cancelled in 2009 and the organisers this year have done a brilliant job and I’m really happy to win it for the community.”
The official event was cancelled in 2010 over safety fears (so typical of this risk averse society we now live in) when more than 15,000 people turned up the previous year to watch the competition. Since then it has been held unofficially with roads closed up to 2.5 miles (4km) around the slope, but the locals would not let the event die and took control of promoting and running the event.
Cooper’s Hill is 200 yards long and the gradient is 1:2, and the event now attracts competitors from all over the world with TV crews from across Europe also in attendance.
Warning signs are put up around the site warning spectators and competitors that they are attending entirely at their own risk.
So next time someone asks me “are the English mad?” I shall refer them to the above event (and video) and respond with a resounding YES!
Some info from BBConline