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Sotonians waving to Anthem of the Seas as she leaves the Port of Southampton, May 2015 © Southampton Old Lady
Sotonians waving to Anthem of the Seas as she leaves the Port of Southampton © 2015 Southampton Old Lady

 

This post has been moved to the About page. Scan below for my posts, most recent first.

Advent 25: Baby Jesus

© Southampton Old Lady
© Southampton Old Lady

WordPress say that my blog site is full and I have used up all my library space. Does anyone know what one does when this happens? Can’t post any more at the moment which is just as well as I should be packing up to leave by the end of the year.

Thanks for all the lovely comments and greetings. Enjoy the day whatever your beliefs…

HAPPY CHRISTMAS

Advent 24: A British Christmas Eve

Everyday things suddenly become festive
Everyday things suddenly become festive
Scarce in Britain the last decade, mild weather this year has meant an abundance of mistletoe
The town gets crowded with men, who get drunk, do their final shop and harass the shop assistants for kisses with mistletoe. Listen Sisters! You don’t have to do it and get their germs  –  Just tell them Pagan is so Yesterday!
Buy a poem written by Budgie the Homeless Poet as a unique gift for your loved one rather than anything off the shelf.
Buy a poem written by Budgie the Homeless Poet as a unique gift for your loved one rather than an uncomfortable, sexy underwear set
Petrol (Gas) stations, where disorganised people can get pull up and fill up, get cash from the machine and buy what ever is left on the shelves for presents.
Petrol (Gas) stations open late on Christmas Eve while other shops close. Disorganised people can pull up and fill up on high-priced fuel, get cash from the machine and buy milk, logs for the fire, flowers and what ever is left on the shelves for stocking fillers as they have left it all to the last minute. “Sure she’d like this steering wheel cover!”
Brits tend to have high tea on Christmas Eve or party food followed by lots of drink as we have our main Christmas meal on the 25th at lunch time.
Brits tend to have high tea on Christmas Eve, a buffet which might include mince pies, prawn filos, mini beef wellingtons, salmon paté followed by a night of assorted cocktails, fruits and chocolates. We have our main Christmas meal on Christmas day lunch time.
accompany pianist for singers of carols at the pub
accompany pianist for singers of carols at the pub
carol singing in pubs is usually in aid of a charity
carol singing in pubs is usually in aid of a charity
On Christmas Eve stockings are hung by the fireplace and a mince pie and small glass of brandy is put out for Father Christmas - sometimes also a carrot for his reindeer. Though many British still hang their stockings at the end of their bed.
On Christmas Eve stockings are hung by the fireplace and a mince pie and small glass of brandy is put out for Father Christmas – sometimes also a carrot for his reindeer. Though many British still hang their stockings at the end of their bed.
Ssssh! Merry Christmas
Ssssh! Merry Christmas

 

 

Advent 21: I Saw Three Ships…

p1170778p1170569I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And what was in those ships all three,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day?
And what was in those ships all three,
On Christmas Day in the morning?

The Virgin Mary and Christ were there,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
The Virgin Mary and Christ were there,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Photos of the Port of Southampton © Southampton Old Lady

Advent 19: Mummers, Wassailers and Yulesingers

Blessing the orchard at Manor Farm Country Park, Southampton
Blessing the orchard at Manor Farm Country Park, Southampton

Wassailing, an ancient custom from Saxon times to give blessings of good health over the twelve days of Christmas, is making something of a come-back.

Traditionally, livestock, crops and farm machinery were blessed as well as people. Blessings were taken from door to door. In Scotland and the North of England this is known as First Footing in the New Year.  The Lord of the Manor would give food (figgy pudding) and drink to peasants who worked on his estate in exchange for their blessing and goodwill.

Toasting the apple tree in the literal sense
Toasting the apple tree in the literal sense

P1130610This was the forerunner of carolling – considered too rowdy to be done in church and also the forerunner of trick-or-treating in America, as Halloween was the original New Year’s Eve in the Celtic calendar.

“Love and joy come to you,

And to you your wassail too;

And God bless you and send you

a Happy New Year”

Another example of a carol originating from wassail is “We wish you a Merry Christmas” (see Advent 15)

In the Southern shires of England – apple wassail blessings were to ensure a good crop for cider, especially in Kent which produces the best apples for commercial cider, and in the south-west for Scrumpy.   English writer Thomas Hardy wrote about wassailing in his books and short stories set in Dorset ensuring that the custom has never died out there. The proceedings for apple wassailing are led by a Wassail King through the orchard, toasting trees and pouring cider on the roots:


p1100943 Hampshire Wassail Rhyme:

Stand fast root, bear well top.

Pray God send us a good howling crop

Every twig, apples big. Every bough, apples enow.

Hats full, caps full, Tall quarter, sacks full.

Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

Cider is drunk, songs are sung and drums, sticks, rattles and bells are beaten to drive away bad spirits and encourage the trees to give a good harvest.

Mummers play with St George and Olde Father Christmas
Mummers play with St George and Olde Father Christmas

Mummers plays, about the Good fighting off Evil, are often performed at apple wassails too. These were known throughout the UK and Ireland and were even taken to Newfoundland with The Pilgrim Fathers. Though kept in much of Wales, the festivals elsewhere gave way to Morris dancing in England, sword dancing in Scotland and pantomime (see Advent 8) just about everywhere. Raggedy characters (literally in costumes made from rags) introduce themselves in rhyming couplets:

Policeman Plod: ‘Ello, ‘ello, ello. In comes I, Policeman Plod.

Jack the Sniffer: You’ll never catch me you silly old sod. (He exits)

Betty Bertha: He’s gone off and scarpered all hurt and affronted 

You’ve poked your nose in where it’s not wanted.

Mummer-characters have been Christian crusaders versus Moors, St George (Prince George or King George) and the Dragon, Beelzebub, Dracula, Robin Hood and the Sherif. But secondary characters kept in these plays included Olde Father Christmas and The Fool. These were obviously continued in our pantomimes.

wassail-3
Dipping toast in the wassail bowl to put on apple tree branches at Manor Farm

Wassail also refers to the spiced-cider punch in the wassail-bowl. There are many recipes, which you can find online, but I use beer (left-over and flat) along with fizzy cider and a small cup of brandy in a slow-cooker. Throw in some brown sugar, the juice and rind of a clementine or two, a squirt of lemon, some apples quartered (pips & stalk removed) and Christmas spices such as ginger, cloves, cardamom and a few sticks of cinnamon. It makes the house smell lovely and is a warm welcome for guests coming in from the cold.

All photos © Southampton Old Lady

Advent 18: The Royals

royal-jumpers

At 3pm on Christmas Day each year, the majority of British citizens switch on BBC TV to listen to The Queen’s Speech.

There will be clips of the Royals and what they did throughout the year; as well as a topic which will be the focal point of what the Nation will focus on in the coming year. This could be an emphasis on: older people who live on their own, disabled veteran servicemen and women, war and our defences, unity of faiths, what is a Christian? etc.

However the speech is really commissioned by the Prime Minister for the Government of the day. People watch The Queen intensely to see if there is a flicker of approval or disapproval in her manner while delivering the words.

For instance, in her last speech at the re-opening of Parliament in May 2016, it was virtually a list from Cameron’s Conservative Party manifesto and The Queen looked very miserable. She just looked down and read it off the paper: “Proposals will be brought forward for a British Bill of Rights. My ministers will uphold the sovereignty of Parliament and the primacy of the House of Commons…”

The programme ends with a rousing anthem of God Save The Queen and though I know of many who will be crashed out and snoring on the sofa by this time on the 25th of December, there will be others standing up and raising their glasses.

royal-jumpers-selfie
Santa took this selfie but where did he go?  The Royals as depicted by Madame Tussauds waxworks in London