July 7th – The Festival of the Sluice

If you’re lucky, there will be a bit of a sea breeze to cool the streets of Buentoille today, but for the most part things are going to be very, very hot. The trains and trams that wind their ways around the City all have entirely detachable windows, to allow a bit more airflow and to avoid that awful greenhouse feel, but they are still horrid, sticky places. Its on days like this that you need to look to children for the way forwards; they always seem to know what to do when the weather gets too hot, unlike their sometimes-stuffy counterparts. You’ll see more than one adult in the street indulging in a water pistol fight today, and plenty of them on the Sluice.

The Sluice began on a day much like today, at some point about 80 years ago. Record keeping of such details is not really a priority of the Guild of Children, who run today’s event, but it was certainly begun at some point after the installation of fire hydrants across the City. Nobody ever bothered to write down or remember the names of those first pioneering children, but in the Guild’s oral history they are generally referred to as the ‘Cliff Gang,’ named after the section of Guilgamot district, the working-class area adjacent to the Grand Boulevard that is essentially built on the side of a cliff, in which they lived (and made themselves general nuisances).

Apparently this ‘gang’ would often head out to the Grand Boulevard where they would have excellent fun stealing sweets and other small prizes from the shopkeepers there, and other such naughty activities. If spotted they were difficult to catch, having something close to the legs of mountain goats from their time growing up on the cliff. It was on the second day of the July heatwave, and the children were at the top of the Grand Boulevard. The sun was too hot for running around, and they’d already been chased off by one shopkeeper when they tried to grab a bucket of ice from their stall. Sitting in the shade of a big tree at the top of the hill, one of them spied the fire hydrant and had an idea.

The children weren’t particularly popular with the stall owners, as the wares they had laid out on carpets in the street began to get swept away by the torrent of water flowing down the hill. The surface of the Boulevard was perfect for sliding on, polished down with the footsteps of generations, and the whole thing was helped along greatly when a soap-seller’s wares got caught up in the commotion. Before they knew it, the Cliff Gang had a functioning water slide.

It wasn’t long before plenty of other children were in on the act, some bringing specially-soaped wooden trays to slide on. There were probably about two hundred children there, sliding down the hill or generally frolicking in the torrent of water that continued to sluice away the goods of perturbed merchants. A lot of fun was had before the Water Brigade turned up to shut off the hydrant, so much that they were determined to do the same thing next year and the Guild of Children officially adopted it.

Following talks between them and the Guild of Children, the Water Brigade now factor one day’s worth of water for the Sluice into their calculations for storage ahead of the heatwave. The merchants have learned when to vacate the area naturally, and were not given a choice in the matter. Nowadays the Sluice is a little more developed, with plastic sheeting being laid down and covered in washing up liquid to aid the slide. Before only short slides were possible, but now you can get down the entirety of the hill with one run-up, and the wind in your hair as you whiz down is delightful. Plenty of inflatable beach furniture, useful for getting higher speeds, is sold by the merchants, alongside ice cream, cold drinks and other such summer fare, so they don’t complain.

At one point you would have looked rather silly, as an adult joining in the fun, but slowly over time these things become more acceptable, and now there are just as many adults on the slide as there are children. Adults do, however, have to pay a small donation to the Guild, and are given a lower priority than their smaller counterparts, having to join a separate queue beneath the shade of the big tree, as directed by precocious little Guild officials.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Rain Dance
  • The Festival of Sand Drawings
  • Parasol Day