The May Song

Attending May Day in Padstow is becoming something of a habit. We started last year, just because we were in the area. This year, we made the effort to plan our excursion. The excitement is all about welcoming summer on May 1st. Last year the weather was astonishing. This year, the weather hadn’t quite got the message but it was, at least, sunny and dry, which went against the general flow this week.

Floral Smile Blue Oss procession Having decorated all the streets with colourful flags, the Padstonians’ celebrations centre around processions following two "’obby ‘osses": the blue ‘oss, which is the young pretender and hits the streets at 10:00 AM, and the red ‘oss which is the old original ‘oss and emerges at 11:00 AM. (There are actually also two childrens’ ‘osses which come out far too early in the morning.) In a display of considerable stamina and encouraged by its "teaser", each ‘oss continuously whirls and dances its way around a tortuous circuit of the streets of Padstow. Each ‘osses procession consists of throngs of supporters dressed all in white trimmed with ribbons of the appropriate colour, blue or red, together with a band of musicians continuously playing The May Song. Spring flower decorations abound and are worn on clothing, especially hats, as well as adorning the musicians’ instruments. If you’re especially lucky, you’ll hear encouraging chants of "’oss, ‘oss, wee ‘oss" above strains of the incessant music.

There is reportedly strong rivalry between the red and blue supporters but everything appears to be very good natured with mixed groups of supporters, those not in the actual processions, chatting on the streets – fraternizing with the enemy, as it were. A very few folks actually appear to be completely impartial wearing mixed ribbons of red and blue. Good for them.

The blue ribbon Oss passing the harbourWe arrived just in time to see the blue ‘oss procession passing the harbour area. Later, we also managed to see it emerging from an alley on our way out of town. We completely failed to get a good view of the red ‘oss for the second year running so, as complete outsiders, I think we are verging towards supporting the seemingly more accessible blue ‘oss. We also like that chap with the wonderfully floral hat (above right).

May Pole Other centres of attraction on May Day include a very colourful May Pole and, of course, drinking. (Lord knows when the pubs actually open – sun up, I think.) One must, of course, have a pasty for lunch but it must be carefully protected against raids by marauding seagulls which lie in wait for the unsuspecting tourist. This can only be washed down with a pint of something local, such as Tribute. The atmosphere is wonderful and completely addictive. Odd, given the amount of accordions. 🙂

Being unable to drink continuously and also being in need of a shopping trip and a McDonalds wi-fi for three days worth of blogging, we left Padstow to its ongoing celebrations soon after midday before finding our way back to St. Agnes via a roadside McDonalds, Lemon Quay in Truro and Sainsburys.

Bizarre planners that we are, having driven from St. Agnes to Padstow and back, tomorrow we move Billy on to Rock opposite Padstow across the Camel estuary. (Rock and its surrounds appear to be something of a McDonalds desert so Lord knows where we will find a wi-fi network to post this.)

Posted in Cornwall, 2008

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