Since 1540, the opening of the Colchester fisheries has seen the town's mayor go out into the sea and dredge up the first oysters of the season, before sampling one accompanied with gin, gingerbread and a toast to the queen.But not this year. Because this year, the town of Colchester slipped up…
But for the first time the 16th century tradition in the Essex town will be conducted onshore for fear that the motion of the waves will make mayor Sonia Lewis ill.
Sonia Lewis, you see, has not heard about such stoic advice as ‘grin and bear it’ and ‘do one’s duty, no matter what’.
Sonia Lewis is a modern, inclusive, diversity-friendly Mayor, and thinks that putting up with things you don’t enjoy for the sake of duty shouldn’t be in the job description.
Mrs Lewis' aversion to the sea also extends to the shellfish, so the ceremonial consumption of the season's first catch will also not take place.Hmmm, maybe she’s allergic? In which case, naturally, she wouldn’t be expected to taste them.
But, no. As the ‘Mail’ reports, she simply doesn’t like them:
In a further snub to tradition, Sonia Lewis will not even eat any oysters because she can't stand them - proclaiming herself 'a fish and chips girl'.Look, love, when you put yourself forward for this position, just what the hell did you think you were going to be doing?
Doing things you'd rather not do is pretty much what the position entails. From the moment you first take the oath (no, not the sort of oath that escaped by lips when I first read this) you are no longer Sonia Lewis – you are the representative of the town of Colchester.
That means that you endure the primary children at the local school murdering ‘Romeo and Juliet’, you tramp round the opening of the local old folk’s home summer fete, smiling sweetly and nodding sympathetically at the fiftieth complaint about the noise from the nearby nightclub, you attend cold, wet remembrance ceremonies when you’d rather put your feet up at home by the fire.
Because it’s about the town, not about you…
But no. That’s not for Sonia Lewis. Sonia Lewis is the quintessential 21st century English Mayor; selfish, ignorant of tradition and convinced
Naturally, being the sort of person she is, she feels the need to deflect some of the justified criticism heading her way with the Shield of Health & Safety and the Sword of Inclusiveness:
Mrs Lewis said: "I have never been able to go to the opening of the fisheries because of my inability to tolerate tidal waters and other councillors have been in the same boat.The townsfolk aren’t. But then, who cares about those old fuddy duddies?
"This year those who also suffer sea sickness, such as Jackie McLean, will also be able to attend.
"Having the ceremony on land also means it will be accessible to the disabled.
"We hope it will be an inclusive and happy occasion.
"I am looking forward to it enormously."
Sadly, it doesn’t matter any more that no-one has ever complained. They no longer need to.
The sudden downgrading of one of the town's oldest ceremonies has horrified locals who say it is good for publicity.
But Mrs Lewis was unrepentant, suggesting the decision meant disabled people would be able to attend - even though landlubbers, whether able-bodied or not, have rarely witnessed it in the past and never complained.
Note to the townsfolk of Colchester – next year, choose your Mayor wisely.
Mrs Lewis said it was uncertain whether the tradition would even return to the water next year, when she is out of office - because of health and safety.
Last year her predecessor, mayor Henry Spyvee, almost fell into the water as he moved from boat to boat.