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In the pink at the pram race ((photo: Antony Mair)

Hastings Old Town Carnival – the fun continues

By the time you get to Wednesday in Carnival Week you feel yourself flagging a bit.  We’ve had the Whelk-eating competition and the Seaboot race, writes Antony Mair.

Seaboot race in Courthouse Street (photo: Antony Mair)

We went on one of the Old Town walks run by the Hastings Preservation Society yesterday, which was an interesting foray into the early nineteenth century and the Napoleonic Wars, when there was a serious risk of invasion by the French.  (Military forces were billeted in the town, bringing new prosperity and – this is England, where property has always been a bit of an obsession – a rash of new building.)  We followed that with a cream tea in All Saints Church.  Then there was the Winkle Club’s putting competition on the miniature golf course, where we put up a seriously poor performance.

Carmen Miranda lookalike in pram race (photo: Antony Mair)

The high point of Wednesday in Carnival Week is the Pram Race.  Forget any image this may conjure up of people pushing old-fashioned perambulators or even buggies through the streets.  “Pram” has become a flexible term, meaning virtually any pushable device on wheels.  Teams assemble to choose a theme and then dress in appropriate costumes, pushing their “pram” in the centre.  This year’s themes varied from space age, with a small space capsule, through Monopoly, Carmen Miranda lookalikes, doctors and nurses, the Navy, to Worzel Gummidge and his friends.

Crossdresser collects (photo: Antony Mair)

The competitive element, which makes it a race, involves teams calling in at every one of the numerous pubs on a route through the Old Town, where they have to give the correct answer to a question.  When I was in the Dragon, someone dressed as a pumpkin (I think) lurched up to the bar and was required to give the height of the owner, the immensely tall and genial Paddy, to the nearest half-inch.  “Six foot six and a half” he said.  “Wrong”, howled the bar staff, which meant that the pumpkin had to down a shot of alcohol. By this stage the noise level, and the crowds, had risen to levels of a miniature Rio.   George Street was awash with people in costumes and full make-up.  Yet again the propensity of large men to cross-dress was to the fore.

The buzz of talk and general hubbub of the participants was accompanied by a background of rattling collecting tins for the local charities.  We’d taken a fairly good supply of small coins, but these were rapidly exhausted.  In spite of a fairly constant flow of alcohol the mood was still genial when we left around 9 pm.  A couple of hours later, when I took the dogs for their last walk of the day, there were some rather bedraggled Cinderellas still downing pints outside the pubs.  Hopefully by that time the collecting tins were full.

Republished with kind permission from Postcards from Hastings

Posted 14:05 Saturday, Aug 10, 2013 In: Hastings Life

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