W3C Cumbrian Hale-Bopp MEMORIES


The inhabitants of the Lake District have always been superstitious, their lives governed by beliefs and ritual to prevent bad luck. There were many beliefs, but the one I remember best, is that in Wasdale, a mother did not wash a baby’s arms until it was 6 months old. This, it was believed, would stop the child growing up to be a thief. As time moved on superstition of events and the cause of happenings became less, or did it?

On July 23, 1995, Alan Hale, New Mexico, and Thomas Bopp, Arizona, discovered, independently, an unusually bright comet outside of Jupiter’s orbit.

Now the approach of this comet in 1997, which became easily visible to the naked eye in the night sky, did not register on the radar of Pete who only saw stars after closing time, and would never dream of looking to the heavens anyway on his way home from the pub up the streetlight-less road. As the comet neared the sun it became brighter still in the night sky and the talk in the billiard room was of nothing else, even hunting took second place.

“I hear t’hounds sit and howl at t’bluddy thing,” said Alan over his pint, “auld Mary, hasn’t slept for a while now, t’whole pack starts yowling when it ga’s dark.” (Mary was an old lady who lived near the kennels and spent her waking hours complaining about them and their occupants.) Pete smiled. “Good,” he said, taking a pull on his pint, “hope the buggar stays forever.” A ripple of agreement filled the room. “She was moaning about the smell to me t’ other day,” I said, “mind you the wind was in her direction and they were doing the drains.” General mirth carried round the room. “They move in and buy up all the housing,” said Pete, “push the locals out and then begin to moan about this and that which we take for granted.” Mrs Mary Hiley, had 'retired' from London 'after a lifetime of service in the Civil Service' and soon after her arrival began to stamp her mark on the village, forming various groups and societies all of the which were dedicated to restoring the village to it’s 'original state', an original state the locals were desperate to leave in the past.

Pete was right, at the time there was a move to bring in a speed limit (which subsequently happened) on the Lakes, so the tranquillity of the area would not be broken by engine noise; the new 'locals' also wanted (and still do) to ban low flying military jets who use the Lakes for training. “T’buggar’s will want hunting stopped an aw afore long,” said Alan prophetically. The remainder of the evening was spent in 'doing down' those who had 'retired' into the area, and at closing time we went to our respective homes and beds. Overhead the comet was easily visible in the deep black night sky.

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