ladyofastolat: (Vectis)
Pellinor's away LARPing all weekend, so the house held no Morris man who was duty bound to get up before dawn to dance in the summer. I decided to head out and watch the dancing, anyway. The plan was that I would join them for their post-dancing cooked breakfast, then go on a nice long walk out in West Wight, and be home by lunch. Most of this plan went very well. For once, the sun actually put in an appearance, and the sunrise was glorious. Breakfast was lovely. On my walk, the early morning sunshine was so perfect that everyone I met for the first hour, instead of just saying the usual "Good morning," said "What a glorious day!" and passed me, beaming. (Well, except for the man who was busy cleaning up after his dog, who gave me a big rant about whoever it was who hadn't cleaned up after their dog a few hundred yards back, but when he'd finished ranting, even HE said "glorious weather, isn't it?") The sea was dark blue, the cliffs were gleaming, the bluebells were like oceans, and everything was rather wonderful...

Except for the whole "and be home by lunch" part of it. I'd planned my walk in a sort of modular fashion, and although I knew the rough milage of each module, I never bothered to add them up. After I'd walked non-stop for 3 hours, I suddenly thought, "hang on. There's 14 miles of coastal path between here and the car!" I had to buy food on the way home, so didn't get home until 15.30, having left home at 04.15. So much for having a nap in the afternoon.

But the walk itself - and the sunrise - was rather wonderful.

Many pictures of May Day on the Wight )

May morning

May. 1st, 2014 04:04 am
ladyofastolat: (unbowed)
This is my traditional "we were up long before the day-oh, to welcome in the summer, the summer and the May-oh!" post. Judging from the number of black raindrops on the weather map, the summer isn't going to bother turning up at the party, even though we're getting up extra specially early to welcome it, too. Oh well. English traditions feels all the more traditional when standing there getting cold and wet, telling yourself doggedly that you are having fun, aren't you? And there's an excellent Full English breakfast afterwards, and good bacon makes everything worthwhile.
ladyofastolat: (probably ritual)
I've been musing on Christmas trees and USB humping dogs. (I can't remember who on LJ drew attention to the USB humping dog many years ago, but it obviously scarred me deeply. When the world explodes, a USB humping dog will be found in the wreckage, and for alien historians it will say everything they need to know about the Fall of Man.)

When you go to museum displays about prehistoric times or "primitive" people, it sometimes seems as all items must be either utlitarian or ritual. Even decoration is only grudgingly allowed, generally being turned into expressions of status. And ritual seems like a very solemn thing - something you do in order to cause the sun to rise, or because unspecified Bad Stuff will happen if you don't do it.

How do Christmas decorations fit? They're definitely ritual, but I doubt anyone believes that anything bad will happen if they don't do it. Lots of people have strong feelings on when decorations ought to go up, but they don't think that people will be struck with a plague of tadpillars* if they put their tree up Too Early. Like so many other things in our calendar, it's Tradition, but not one full of deep meaning.

It seems to me that there's a tendency to assume that people in Yore and people in "primitive" societies (and people in Fantasyland) do everything for deep reason. They're not allowed to wave bejewelled dongles around while hopping on one leg just because that's what people do on Midsummer, and it's all a bit of fun and an excuse for a drink, but if you ask me why we do it, I don't really have a clue.

And they're not allowed to have the equivalent of USB humping dogs, either.

* "I wonder what's hiding behind this flap?" said I. "It's a little thing that turns into a frog when it grows up." "A tadpillar!" said a little boy. These metamorphing animals are just too confusing!
ladyofastolat: (fathom the bowl)
Over the last few days, several times a day I've heard various people say disapprovingly, "Such-and-such has got his Christmas decorations up already! It's too early!" (Quite why their neighbour's decision to put a few lights up in their window is any of their business, and anything to be disapproving about, I don't know.) In a few weeks, I know I'll hear lots of people saying almost apologetically, "I've not got my decorations up yet! I'm so late this year!" I wonder which day is "just right" in the consensus of the British public.

When we went to Bristol two weekends ago, the shopping centre near our hotel was fully bedecked with Christmas lights, which I wasn't surprised by, since shopping centres always start early. (The lights did look like enormous freaky mutant alien pod things, but that's another manner.) However, I did feel that it was Too Early for restaurants to be bedecked with Christmas decorations, as was the place we ate on the Friday.

However, in one respect, I am entirely in favour of Christmas starting as early as possible, perhaps January 2nd, and that's when it comes to Christmas sandwiches. It's a happy happy day for me when I can buy sandwiches and paninis stuffed full of turkey, stuffing, bacon and cranberry sauce. (And it is a matter of great grump to me that the Sainsbury's near this week's library has had no Turkey Feast sandwiches in stock either yesterday or today. Outrageous!)

May

May. 1st, 2012 04:08 am
ladyofastolat: (unbowed)
We're about to head out into the rain, gales, cold, floods and thick squelchy mud to welcome in the summer. There's something wrong with this picture, but I can't quite put my finger on what it is.

May

May. 1st, 2011 03:50 am
ladyofastolat: (In comes I)
Happy summer!

(Well, unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, in which case... well, you can still have a happy summer, but it's not very topical.)

(Am now distracted by picturing Australian Morris men dancing around the November Pole. Actually, now distracted more by picturing Australian Morris men, full stop. Yes, I know that national stereotypes aren't true, but, still...)

(And no, cats, there's no way on earth you can be starving to death a mere five hours since you had your dinner. You lie!)
ladyofastolat: (Evil laugh)
(But before I start any seasonal thoughts, what's with this weather? I had my lunch in a car park on the seafront today, and everyone was strolling around in shorts and t-shirts in blazing sunshine.)

Halloween and Bonfire Night )
ladyofastolat: (unbowed)
It's quite unusual for the sun to rise on May Morning. Well, actually, I suspect that it's actually fairly common for the sun to rise on May Morning, and that May Mornings when the sun doesn't rise at all have probably been few and far between over the years, but it is, however, fairly unusual for us to see the sun rising. It seemed very slow coming this year, and I began to suspect that it was deliberately lurking just below the horizon, sniggering into its hand as it listened to us launch into yet another song while waiting. (Or maybe it just doesn't like Morris dancing.) However, come it did... for all of 3 minutes, until it was eaten by a low cloud and the encroaching sea fog.

Photographic evidence )
ladyofastolat: (In comes I)
Um... Well, normally I post a triumphant little bit of verse about Hal-an-tows, and how we were up long before the day-oh, to welcome in the summer, the summer and the May-Oh, but, really, the gist is probably just showing off, saying, "Look at me! I'm up! You're (probably) not! (Unless you're American, in which case it Doesn't Count) Ha ha!" So maybe this year I'll just leave it at that. ;-)

(Besides, from the amount of rain we had yesterday, I doubt that winter's gone away-oh. I suspect that winter's actually just taken refuge in the steep, muddy path that we will have to climb to get to the place in which we'll welcome in the summer, the summer and the May-oh, and that seriously muddy feet and slippy-slideyness will result. But, afterwards, so will a cooked breakfast in a pub, and, after that, so will a day off work and the start of a four day weekend. Yay!)

Wassail!

Jan. 12th, 2009 01:42 pm
ladyofastolat: (In comes I)
We went Wassailing on Saturday. As dusk fell on a frosty orchard, a full moon slowly took shape through hazy clouds, and a flock of rook circled overhead, heading for the trees. The grass was thick with frost, and the air was biting, with all the branches thick with white.

The keyword was cold. All the men immediately started prodding fires, trying to get them to burn well, and then prodding some more, because they were men and man bring fire. A miscommunication about time meant that we arrived an hour before we were needed, so the women slowly froze, feet turning into blocks of ice within the inadequate insulation of wooden clogs.

The Wassail itself involved some song and some chanting, before the apple trees were decked with cider-soaked toast, and cider was sprinkled around its roots. Quite why apple trees will be encouraged by being smeared in the crushed, fermented corpses of their relatives, I do not know, but it's Tradition, so who are we to question the psychology of apple trees? Much noise was made with pots and pans and sticks, and perhaps the evil spirits were driven away, or perhaps they weren't; I was too cold to stick around and watch, and retreated to the fireside for beef and ale stew.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
October 1st, and I've just seen my first Christmas TV advert.
ladyofastolat: (In comes I)
We spent the long weekend at Hastings Jack in the Green Festival, which involved:
- much cider, much ice cream and some slightly fatal carafes of wine
- sneaky spaghetti which had conned me into ordering it by masquerading as mere "pasta", then proceeded to sit there cackling as I failed utterly to persuade it onto a fork
- accidentally walking in on a man in the toilet. Oops.
- spectacularly inept application of sun cream
- Pellinor (there as an other half / pack animal, not as a dancer) running away with some wraggle taggle pink Morris people for hours and hours and HOURS, and probably doing more dancing than I did
- some people who clearly thought that green body paint is an acceptable alternative to clothing
- green, green, GREEN, everywhere green
- witnessing an arrest. Really, Being Bad when there are 12 police men within 20 yards, all ready to marshal the start of a long procession, is not clever
- the buying of lots of second hand books and a swirly skirt
- an underground car park with the best echo in the world. Chicken on a Raft works particularly well in it. I'm not sure what the humans and bikers thought, though.
- a sea gull with a very accurate aim. Also, fortunately, a sun hat that was heroically willing to take the bullet meant for me
- Pellinor being mistaken for a pirate, Dick Turpin, a fop, Lord Nelson, Amadeus, a Venetian assassin etc etc., and being stopped for more photographs than us bona fide dancers. Show off!
- Pellinor having a Late Night Adventure which he's promised to blog about

Some pictures )
ladyofastolat: (In comes I)
"Hal-an-tow! Jolly rumbelow!
We were up long before the day-oh,
To welcome in the summer, the summer and the May-oh!
For summer is a-coming in, and winter's gone away, oh!"

Pauses. Goes to window. Looks outside.

"Winter's gone away, oh!"

Turns up central heating.

"Winter's. Gone. AWAY. OH!"

*glares at Outside. Thinks happily of Bed, which, despite feeling really uncomfortable at 11 when failing to get to sleep, has suddenly transmuted by the magic of the May into the most warm and comfortable thing in the world come 3.45 a.m.*

EDIT (7.10): We even saw the sun! Well, we saw about 15 percent of it, plus a few shattered shards, but it's better than nothing. We also had a very nice cooked breakfast in the local pub, which had heroically got up at 6 in order to cater for us. Pellinor's now off to London for the day, while I struggle to stay awake all day at my desk.
ladyofastolat: (In comes I)
Yes, yes, I know I'm predictable. I've said it all before, but... but...! I went to a dance practice tonight in the room above a pub, and the pub was heaving. Packed with people, full of green and shamrocks and special offers on Guinness. Now, leaving aside the fact that it isn't actually St Patrick's Day today, due to the whole "cancelled it if clashes with Holy Week" thing, here we have an English pub, in England, in which I bet well nigh a hundred percent of the people inside were English, absolutely packed for St Patrick's Day. Fair enough. I have no objection to them doing this. I have no objection to them celebrating St Andrew's Day and St David's Day, and any special day from any other world culture that they want to celebrate. I'm all for multiculturalism and diversity... but I just wish that there could be at least some attempt to celebrate the English special day and reclaim it from the racists and the xenophobes and the aggressive patriots.

I bet this pub won't be doing special offers on local real ales on St George's Day, or putting roses on the wall. It bet they won't be playing English folk music in the background. I bet they won't invite Morris dancers to perform. It's quite incredible how the English have managed to neglect, or even laugh at, their own traditions and folk culture. That leaves a gap that the racists can step in and fill, and make it so that standing up and saying, "hey, my country has some rather nice traditions, actually, and I'd rather like to celebrate them" gets heard as "my country right or wrong, and down with the rest." A couple of years ago, BBC radio's special St George's day programming was a concert with music from Wales, Scotland and Ireland... because to play English music would be jingoistic, I presume, so not allowed.

Anyway... Yes, I've said it all before. I just need to quote Roots again, though:

Roots lyrics )
ladyofastolat: (fathom the bowl)
A lot of people seem to get quite heated about when the "right" time is to put up Christmas decorations, and what the "right" form is for them to take. As I drove in today, and did my ritual snarling at next door's six foot tall Homer Simpson Santa that looms over our front door, I was inspired to do another Christmas poll.

Christmas decorations )

Festivals

Jul. 19th, 2007 09:57 am
ladyofastolat: (In comes I)
Day off today, because of the Day of Doom that is Saturday. While waiting for the kettle to boil, I was perusing my folklore calendar, and I realised that many old traditions have clearly been faked as a result of a random word game. How else can you explain "swan upping" and "church clipping"? At least they got lucky when their olde traditional random word generator came up with "common riding" or "hay strewing". I presume "hop hoodening" makes sense, though I'm not sure how you hooden something. Sometimes they try to disguise things by changing the word word: "Burning the bartle," or "weighing in the mayor", but it's much the same thing.

I think it was a party game for bored Edwardian folklore collectors. Write down 100 random nouns on slips of paper, choosing them by sticking a pin in a dictionary. Do the same with verbs. Put them in two hats. Each folklore collector present has to draw a pair out, design the ceremony - complete with fake scholarly explanation of its pre-Christian origins, and then pick a community of villagers who can be convinced that this was a true ancient custom that had only died out in their grandparents' time. Cue instant "folk revival."

Using the pin-in-a-book method, I have come up with ten new folk customs:
Bell sipping, Tunnel laughing, Grass nearing, Frog smacking, Sky sharing, Virtue shuddering, Stool digging, Quilt screaming, Bottle running, Hair chasing

Now I just need to work out what is actually done on these days, come up with some spurious origin story, and find some credulous natives to celebrate them.
ladyofastolat: (In comes I)
It's really great having a folklore calendar in the kitchen. There I am, busy with cooking, when I happen to notice a phrase like "pea eating customs in the north-east of England" (March 25th, by the way), and then I have to rush off to find more in the folklore books, and then I have to read up on the rest of the months, and before I know it, Pellinor has finished making dinner.

So here are the results of this month's distraction: Folklore in March )

I now need to get ready for the annual Morris Men's feast. I declined the offer of a lift, on the grounds that I might enjoy the feast a bit more if I drink, but I will enjoy tomorrow a whole lot more if I don't. Pellinor is not under the same restriction. I am anticipating much singing later.
ladyofastolat: (fireworks)
Does anyone else have a tradition of eating black treacle toffee on November 5th, and calling it "Bonfire Toffee"? I was brought up with this, but haven't encountered anyone here "down south" that knows about this tradition, and it wasn't shared by any of my childhood friends in Gloucestershire. (Just to complicate matters, Pellinor remembers eating Bonfire toffee, but that was cinder toffee, not black treacle.) While my childhood Halloween traditions owe a lot to the Scottish half of my family, I think that the Bonfire night ones come from my mother, who's from Derbyshire. I've found lots of references to Bonfire toffee online, but nothing about what regions the tradition comes from, so I'd be interested to know if people used to eat it, or not, and whereabouts that was.

We never used to set off fireworks in our garden... though we did once get someone else's spent rocket fall into the garden so violently that it went about four inches into the grass. This has given me a lifelong nervousness around fireworks, since I worry what such a thing would do to my head. I prefer to watch them from inside, or else, as with the Cowes Week fireworks, to be safely on land while they get sent off from a barge out at sea. I was always scared of sparklers, too. I thought they'd burn down and eat my hand. To this day, I still hate matches, and can only light them if they're long matches, and even then only with much shying and squeaking.

Anyway... we used to have indoor fireworks, which were rather pathetic little things, really, but I liked them when I was about five. I remember "snake in the grass", where a strange snake-like thing pushed itself out of some green froth. I'd like to see a box of indoor fireworks again, just for old times' sake. I'd have to get Pellinor to light the match, though. Yes, I freely admit it: I am a wimp.
ladyofastolat: (In comes I)
Singing (sleepily):

Hal an tow, jolly rumbelow
We were up long before the day-o
To welcome in the summer
To welcome in the may-o
For summer is a-comin' in*
And winter's gone away-o


* Not that you'd know it, given that it's pouring with rain at the moment.
ladyofastolat: (In comes I)
Yes, I know St George's Day is tomorrow, but I won't get much time to update then, so I will post my soul-searching and ramblings today instead.

I always feel a bit guilty on St George's Day. Our mixed dance side did its first ever dancing out on St G's Day, and it's always been a special day to the group - the sacrosanct day in the year that cannot be missed. We always start our dancing season on the Sunday nearest St G's Day, and we always go out to dinner together on St G's Day itself. At dinner, we sing loudly and constantly, going through our whole repertoire of English folk songs, music hall songs, and anything else that comes to mind.

I like it. I'm glad that St George is beginning to get the attention that St Patrick and St Andrew and St David have always have. I have ranted here before about how English folk song and dance is totally ignored, or else laughed at by most English people. "Folk" = "Irish" in many people's eyes. People who should know better have stated in print that "England has no folk culture." So I dance and sing on St George's day to show that England does indeed have a folk culture. We have songs and dances and traditions. We have history and heritage. I want these things to stay alive, and get noticed.

But, at the same time, there is the dark side of it all. Guilt and soul searching )
ladyofastolat: (fathom the bowl)
...because I felt guilty about those people who got missed out last time, just because their names didn't scan, or because I couldn't think of a second line. My excuse is that I wrote the original song in my head in bed, and when it got to about 2 in the morning, I had to be firm with myself and stop trying to come up with extra verses, in order to get some sleep.

So here are some of the missing verses, written in my head last night - and after quite a lot of wine, too, which explains quite a bit. I have added some redundant extra syllables to a couple of names to make them fit the metre, so please forgive me.

Livejournal wassail part two )

We're off to the Mainland in three hours, and back on Tuesday. I hope everyone has a lovely Christmas!

Wassail!

Dec. 23rd, 2005 01:37 pm
ladyofastolat: (fathom the bowl)
Well, the last project box has just been done. Yesterday, the big council boss graciously decreed that all Council workers could have an extra half day's leave this afternoon, but I'm stuck here because we'd already told schools we'd be open all day, and teachers might pop in. I've told everyone else to go home, so I'm here alone, but am determined not to do any work at all.

Tomorrow we're off to Gloucestershire for a few days, so here is my Christmas greeting to you all, which is to be sung to the tune of the Gloucestershire Wassail. (Anyone who doesn't know it can find it over at Mudcat, though the tune played there is painfully slow. Please sing it at least twice as fast.)

The Livejournal Wassail )
ladyofastolat: (unbowed)
On Wednesday I went to a winter solstice bonfire. A couple of weeks ago, I sang carols in a church. Last night, I morris danced in the middle of town, in the midst of shoppers who were far too stressed and busy to pay a blind bit of notice.

I am finding all this strangely thought-provoking. Here are my thoughts. No-one has to read them.

Midwinter musings )
ladyofastolat: (fathom the bowl)
We went to see Narnia today, which I liked very much indeed. It was never one of my favourite books when I was young, though I liked it well enough, so I don't feel too bad about saying that this is one film that I prefer to the original novel. It made me cry, and laugh, and not once look at my watch, which in my books makes it a pretty good film.

This morning I meant to write cards, but ended up writing a song instead. I was trying to come up with a list of songs that us group of carol addicts could sing at a pagan bash on Wednesday (lots of Wassails is about all I've come up with) and ended up writing a "oh no! The sun's going away! We're all depressed! Must light fires to bring the sun back!" song.

Last night, we put up the Christmas tree. While I know that I ought to have a fresh tree, newly slain by my own doughty hand, or else a Yule log, all covered with candles and things, we actually go for the "cheap, tasteless and covered with tinsel" school of Christmas trees. However, some of the decorations are not, perhaps, entirely usual.

Christmas decorations )
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Yes, yes, I know it's rather silly to update before the event, but, hey...

Christmas dancing excursion, and strange Christmas songs )
ladyofastolat: (Killer Kitten)
Why not set off all your noisy fireworks tomorrow, a perfectly good weekend night, and the correct day to do such things? It seems we're doomed to get them non-stop for hours tonight, and then the same all over again tomorrow, and then probably strays every night for the next few weeks. Poor cats.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
We had been asked to dance last night at a Samhain bonfire. It absolutely poured with rain en route, but stopped just long enough for us to hobble through a very very bumpy and obstacle-ridden - and sodden - field to get to a valiant bonfire. Things were done involving invoking elements, blowing a horn, throwing past regrets into the fire, and shaking maracas. There had been some talk about us dancing round the fire, but the ground was so uneven that that idea was quietly dropped.

We then retreated to a barn where we did a dance display, and a few songs, though we were fighting a losing battle against the rain that was assailing the metal roof, louder and louder with every minute. There was then another occurrence of the invoking stuff, and we were all given an acorn to plant, to signify something or other. I'm not at all good at growing things, so I fully expect ours to die a horrible death. This is probably a Bad Omen, so I won't breathe a word about it next year. If asked, I will claim that I have a doughty oak tree growing in the garden.

I was reminded of a time when we climbed Glastonbury Tor and came upon some people in robes standing there engaged in some ritual or other. As thick drizzle fell from a grey sky, they raised their hands to the heavens and, all undaunted, spoke of the glorious summer sun that was shining down on them. At least last night, when the leader was invoking the various nature spirits, she did comment on the fact that they were giving us a lot of rain at the moment!


By the way, yesterday I found a large goldfish in the middle of the living room floor. I'd assumed it was courtesy of a cat, but maybe I was supposed to interpret it as an omen. I'll have to look in my folklore books to see what a rain of goldfish signifies.

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