18 April 2020 – The Heffle Cuckoo Fair

Today I’ve been making a feather. A cuckoo feather. Because today was the date of the Heffle Cuckoo Fair, Heffle or Hefful, being the old name for Heathfield, which is just up the road from me in East Sussex. The Heffle Cuckoo Fair was originally celebrated on First Cuckoo Day, but is now held on a Saturday. When there isn’t a pandemic happening, obviously. 

So given I couldn’t live it up watching Dame Heffle releasing her cuckoos (for cuckoos, read racing pigeons) to symbolise the beginning of spring, or summer depending on your source, I thought I would do something cuckoo related instead. Something crafty. But I didn’t fancy getting needles or hooks out, or banging together a clock, or baking with beaks, so I settled on a bit of macramé. 

For those of you not subjected to crafting in the 1970s, macramé is an old knotting technique recently appropriated by hipsters to display their hanging plants. The pattern I found was less feather and more leaf but with a bit of judicious pruning, I thought I could make a brave fist of it.

The actual knotting was really easy, it just seemed to take forever to build up any length. And as it grew, it took on a distinct whiff of the xenomorph that face planted on John Hurt. Which kind of made me want to make a xenomorph. But I persevered with the feather at hand. When I got to the carding with cat brush bit, I realised I hadn’t been using the correct yarn, but it didn’t seem to matter too much. I came a bit of a cropper on the trimming. I knew what I had to do, but just couldn’t find the right shape. So it still looks like a leaf. And then the painting wasn’t a particular triumph either, but you know what, I really don’t care. Knotting is great fun, even with adult sausage fingers. 

Sound up! 🔊 You can write to The Times now…

I found my copy of The Complete Book of Handicrafts from 1973, and it has 15 pages of macramé projects including a golden shawl with meter long tassels. Watch your backs, Millennials, this Generation X baby might be coming for your macramé beaded crowns…



Resources

Blake, J. and Fisher, J. (eds) (1973) The Complete Book of Handicrafts, London, Octopus Books Limited

Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Simpson, J. and Roud, S. (2001) Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore, Oxford, Oxford University Press

https://www.projectbritain.com/year/april.htm

http://media.featherbase.info/images/images/kuckuck08-2.jpg

https://www.facebook.com/events/old-heathfield/heffle-cuckoo-fair-2020/184798686072915/

https://timeline.com/macrame-knot-history-dc71dbb8e74d

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