Kitegate: conflating the lines between tradition and noise
The dictionary defines “tradition” as ”the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way”.
So how many generations does a custom have to be passed down through before it becomes a tradition? And should that custom remain unaltered?
Clearly, kite flying around Easter is a huge tradition in Bermuda. I’m in my mid-fifties and have been making and flying kites since childhood. My daughters, now in their mid-twenties, have embraced the tradition to the point where the Easter weekend is our family’s favourite holiday of the year.
As kids, we made kites with fennel sticks, Piggly Wiggly bags, wood and tissue paper. And, yes, we put hummers on them — as many as possible with the aim of creating that distinctive, whirring hum of a tissue paper kite.
These were made with the same tissue paper as the kite and we all had our theories as to how to make them louder. But at the end of the day, they were called hummers ... not screamers!
We made big kites and small kites, and we flew them with hemp string. One of the challenges was how long you could keep them up in a stiff wind before either the panels started blowing out or the string broke.
My brother and I once made a seven or eight-foot kite. I’ve made and flown kites in Britain when I lived there, and I made and flown kites with my nieces while staying with them in the north of Scotland one Easter, always with traditional materials.
However, nowadays the new breed of kites is made of plastics, cellophane, etc, hummers of the same material and flown on 80lb test fishing line. This new breed of plastic or cellophane hummers don’t hum, they scream. And the new materials enable the kites to be flown without much challenge in 30 knots or more; a real feat for us old-timers.
As I sit here on Good Friday and lament that our family are separated and will not get together to fly kites and eat and drink all the goodies, I can hear the scream of a couple of the new breed of kites above. I will miss the excitement of seeing a great bank of kites in the air at various locations as we head to our traditional flying spot.
In the present debate about kites and their noise, the word “tradition” has become weaponised. In my opinion, though, it is a rather distorted tradition that creates the noisy kites of today.
No one is questioning the legitimacy of the tradition of kite flying or the right to do so, especially not me. I wish our garden was suitable to fly kites; I would have my two up by now. However let’s not describe this new breed of kites as traditional; they are not.
By all means, let’s all embrace the tradition and fly kites, but we can do so with much less noise and annoyance to those around us and still have just as much fun. Can we not?
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