Fen courting customs, camouflaged cricket and how chimney sweeps use a camera to make portraits without photography: Christopher South’s third Grunty Fen book

PUBLISHED: 16:44 04 November 2017

Chris South shows off his latest book, 'The Customs and Folklore of Grunty Fen.'

Chris South shows off his latest book, 'The Customs and Folklore of Grunty Fen.'


Sorry, my dear fen friends, I’ve gone and written another Grunty Fen book.

Chris South relaxing at a Grunty Fen beauty spot.Chris South relaxing at a Grunty Fen beauty spot.

What’s worse, I’m relying on you to tell me where I’ve gone wrong.

For the best part of 30 years I’ve been imagining a crazy fen village. For 17 years I did it on the wireless with Pete Sayers who invented Dennis of Grunty Fen. Then he died quite young. But you lot wanted more so I took to books.

The Authorised Guide to Grunty Fen fooled quite a lot. Then came the Who’s Who with its gallery of improbable people.

Now, for Pete’s sake really, I’ve come up with the lavishly illustrated The Customs and Folklore of Grunty Fen.

You can read about disgusting courting customs, camouflaged cricket, how chimney sweeps use a camera to make portraits without photography, why people keep their finger nail clippings in sacks and why the A10 is worshipped. Twenty-seven chapters of total twaddle.

Time and again Pete and I found that some of our craziest ideas turned out to be true. When we said the flow of ditches and dykes at Grunty fen sometimes reversed direction for no reason, an expert said this was true; when we said that for centuries the village fell outside the rule of the bishop of Ely, that turned out true, too; when we said an isolation hospital was sited there because no-one cared about the locals, that was true; and when I said Grunty fen was so hopeless it was left out of drainage schemes that... you’ve guessed.

Now we have the latest amazing case. Long after I wrote Chapter 10 of The Customs and Folklore of Grunty Fen, which examines how local ladies use fancy buckets instead of handbags, I was invited to visit a chalk upland within sight of Ely cathedral. There the archaeologists had found a high-born woman, buried more than a millennium ago.

This “princess” was buried with things she treasured, like a garnet jewel and...a bucket. Yes, a bucket. A very desirable Grunty Fen sort of lady’s bucket made of metals and wood.

See what I mean? Try it for yourself. Read The Customs and Folklore of Grunty Fen and see if it rings a bell. Or a bucket.

You can buy a copy from Burrows in Ely, Toppings in Ely or from David’s bookshop in Cambridge.

You can also buy it direct from the Grunty Fen online shop www.dennisofgruntyfen.co.uk, from Amazon, or order through any bookshop.

Customs and Folklore of Grunty Fen, South, Christopher, ISBN 9780993013027.


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