A highlight of the Hooting Yard year is the annual jamboree jointly organised by the Sawdust Bridge Community Pole-Vaulting Collective and the Pointy Town Avant-Colliery Marching Band. Sebastian Coe may have described tickets for the 2012 Olympics as “the greatest tickets on earth”, but clearly he has never seen a jamboree ticket, a thing of unsurpassed beauty not just on earth, but on any other planet or planetoid or flaming ball of gas in the known or unknown universe. Had he done so, he would eat his hat, with knobs on. It may look like a mere slip of thin beige cardboard with a few letters and numbers printed upon it in bold black ink, but this year, as every year, the jamboree ticket was designed by the noted ticketist Rex Tick, a man who knows more than Sebastian Coe could ever learn about the design of tickets, had he but world enough and time. And he has not, for all those naked wrestling bouts with William Hague in a basement gymnasium at the Palace of Westminster have taken their toll, and now he is reduced to uttering hyperbolic twaddle whene’er a broadcaster’s microphone is thrust towards his gob.
The gob of noted ticketist Rex Tick, however, is taciturn. He is a taciturn fellow. In fact, one wit dubbed Tick “the taciturn ticketist” on precisely that account. The fruit of his taciturnity is the unparalleled beauty of his ticket designs. Every year he comes up with something of such blinding glory that some foppish aesthetes have been known to buy a ticket without any intention of attending the annual jamboree, in that squelchy, squelchy mud-strewn field. No, the dandies put their ticket in a frame and hang it on the wall of their boudoir or salon, to impress their equally foppish pals with the exquisite delicacy of their sensibilities. So I am told, at any rate, by Rex Tick’s sister, the vamp Dot Tick, who has been seen “stepping out” with an art critic or two.
But the tickets are not the only things of eye-popping splendour on show at the jamboree. When they come vaulting into view from across Sawdust Bridge, the athletes of the Community Pole-Vaulting Collective display, on their jerkins, insignia designed by the noted heraldic emblemist Rex Blem. Consisting of three Bobnits rampant engrailed azure on a field gules, with boisson gingembre lashant, sewn into place over their pounding hearts, the emblem has thrice won the Top Pole-Vaulting Club Insignia Cup awarded by the Academy Of Pole-Vaulting And Bird-Spotting And Shilly-Shallying (Sawdust Bridge Branch). Rex Blem himself has never turned up to accept the cup, for he is a recluse with a fear of cups. According to his sister, the flapper Dot Blem, the great insigniaist drinks his tea from a flask, and has his boiled eggs balanced in a contraption of wire and rubber bands and balsa wood.
It comes as something of a surprise to learn that the avant-miners of the Avant-Colliery Marching Band from Pointy Town have no insignia of their own. They seem happy enough to have co-opted the generic Pointy Town badge, emblazoned on the backs of their helmets. What they lack in visual zip, however, is more than made up for by their musical prowess. With their tubas and xylophones and oompah-parpers, they march across the bridge in the wake of the pole-vaulters, playing a repertoire including Scriabin, Arnold Bax, transcriptions from field recordings of howler monkeys, and Kinnie The Explorer.
The field in which the howler monkeys were recorded is, of course, a very different field from the squelchy, squelchy mud-strewn one in which the jamboree takes place when the Community Pole-Vaulting Collective and the Avant-Colliery Marching Band have crossed the bridge and successfully negotiated their way past the heavily-armed sentries. Drawn exclusively from the ranks of the most sociopathic cadets, the sentries have their own insignia and their own music, buzzed directly into their ears by transmitters which pick up signals from the netherworld. Ticketholders have nothing to fear from the sentries, but woe betide the fool who tries to skulk past their concrete huts ticketless. What do you think is the reason for that line of heads impaled on spikes, stretching as far as the eye can see?
Thanks to Roland for the Community Pole-Vaulting Collective (and insignia) and to Robin for the Avant-Colliery Marching Band.