While I was in the chemist's yesterday, stocking up on my illegal stash of hydrocortisone cream, I couldn't help noticing a gentleman wearing a bright blue cloak and tricorne hat browsing through the non-prescription medicines. In any other town in England, this man's garb might have been considered a bit unusual, but this is Hebden Bridge, and we're used to oddballs.
It turned out that the gentleman in question was this chap to the right: Les Cutts, the Halifax town crier, who is in town to compère the Hebden Howler competition, wherein town criers from the length and breadth of the country compete to see who can shout the loudest. Or something like that.
Town criers are like morris men, people who pretend to be statues, and Big Issue sellers: I am glad that other places have them, but I don't particularly want them drawing attention to themselves in my hometown, thank you very much. (And don't get me started on so-called mime-artists.)
Then it occurred to me, what kind of ridiculous job is town crier anyway? It's the twenty-first century for Pete's sake! We all have iPhones and RSS readers these days. We don't need some loud-mouthed hooligan yelling the news at us. We can get that off the telly.
I wonder how they recruit town criers. Advertising for them in the local paper would demonstrate the utter pointlessness of the job: we've got a local newspaper; we don't need a town crier. I suppose, if they were going to do it properly, they would make the outgoing town crier yell out advertisements for their replacement. But that would mean that no town which didn't already have a town crier would ever be able to recruit one. Which is fine by me.
I've been thinking about this a lot, you can tell.
I didn't get to see what the Halifax town crier was buying in the chemist's. I more than half suspect it was throat lozenges.