Advent 20: Worship

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To listen to a choir sing Silent Night click: HERE 

Photo © Southampton Old Lady

 

 

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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.

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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 3: Home for Christmas

 

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Breakfast in bed © Southampton Old Lady

It is a great time to relax when you go home for Christmas. I love spoiling my daughter. However some people have no homes to go to…

Southampton homeless in doorway
It is estimated that 117,000 children will be homeless in the UK this Christmas. London, Manchester and other cities and especially warmer cities in the South also have high numbers of rough sleepers that are difficult to calculate.    Photo of homeless sleeping in the City of Southampton © Southampton Old Lady

It has been very frosty in the UK and weather forecasters are predicting a white Christmas this year, which is no fun for those who have nowhere to go and are sleeping rough. Why not make a gift of a night in a homeless shelter or buy a Christmas dinner for someone homeless this year?

It is estimated that 117,000 children will be homeless in the UK this Christmas

For homeless young people who have run away to London there is Centre Point’s Home For Christmas appeal – click here

In my area the Society of St James organises such for the homeless click here

Or there is Crisis at Christmas click here

There must be many organisations in your area that you can help: A home is where the heart is.

Also in response to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: Relax

 

Energy Switch Inertia

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By now the term ‘energy-switch’ has probably already caused you to yawn and click off. If you are outside of Britain then click-off anyway as it won’t affect you.

According to the BBC, a new generation of energy switching services is emerging, claiming to offer better ways for millions of people to cut their gas and electricity bills.

Apps will soon be available that can switch you to these automatically to suit your needs.

You will just receive a text message informing you of who your new supplier is.

“They are designed to help overcome the problem of inertia – the seemingly stubborn refusal of more than 17 million UK households to switch energy suppliers regularly, despite the large potential savings available to those which do.”

The poorest amongst us often have to make a choice between eating and heating in the winter. Government Ministers and regulators endlessly encourage non-switchers to seek out better deals for gas and electricity as the key to forcing the energy market to become more consumer-friendly.

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But with fewer than 15% of households switching last year, this strategy seems not to be working.

The way the energy market now operates, people who switch suppliers benefit from the attractive low-price deals companies offer new customers. Those who rarely or never switch mostly end up paying companies’ notoriously expensive Standard Variable Tariffs (SVTs).

I personally, hate apps, but have just switched energy supplier as I came to the end of a great deal that included £240 worth of shopping vouchers a year. If I did nothing, I will have had to pay nearly 50% again and without vouchers. So I went on to a comparison site and changed. It only took 5 minutes online and they do all the work and notify your old supplier etc. I will be paying an estimated £280 less than the good deal last year, with a newly formed company.

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There is no ‘best’ supplier, we all have different needs.

For some people it is not just about the money, some have commitments to the most ecological energy. If you are elderly or disabled a company which has the best customer-care service may be your priority. If you are Scottish, as an example, you may want to support a supplier from your country as opposed to say a German one.

Those continually on the move, such as students, may have payment meters or need tariffs with no ‘exit fees’ (which can cost up to £60 for each type of energy). If you are out most of the time, then some are now offering free weekend electricity, or a tariff 7 just for night-time users.

Often when you change there is a two-week cooling off period, and you existing supplier will more than likely contact you about cheaper tariffs. If the energy supplier is named in your rental contract, you can often find out if you are on the best tariff with them this way.

Each time your tariff changes your company is obliged to let you know your kw that you used for the year – this will give you the most accurate estimate of savings on a comparison site. You can call them for this or you can just use the monthly bill rate to see if you might be better off somewhere else.

The government has done much in the way of regulations to make it easier to change nowadays.

I myself switched via these: https://switch.which.co.uk as they use big and small companies to compare and give review ratings. There are sites like GoCompare and USwitch but I think that they are more biased towards switching you to the bigger companies, which is fine if that is what you feel safer with. There are plenty of comparison sites out there, it is worth looking at a few.

As a general rule if you have dual fuel, pay by monthly direct debit and are prepared to do your own meter readings online it will be cheaper, but not always.

One thing is for certain, the more we are prepared to switch, the more accountable the energy companies have to become.

Why not do a check?  Or, let me know your thoughts and tips.

All photos © by Southampton Old Lady

sign, chair, door, Nº26

Another in my ‘sign, chair, door, number’ series. I have tried to match the colours and textures this time. “Saying Goodbye to Winter”.

Anti-dog-fouling sign, Vienna, 2016 © Southampton Old Lady
Anti-dog-fouling sign, Vienna, 2016 © Southampton Old Lady
Fur-covered cafe chair Vienna, 2016 © Southampton Old Lady
Fur-covered cafe chair Vienna, 2016 © Southampton Old Lady
Door in Salzburg, Austria © 2016 Southampton Old Lady
Door in Salzburg, Austria © 2016 Southampton Old Lady
Number 26 mooring at Southampton Boat Show, 2015 © Southampton Old Lady
Number 26 mooring at Southampton Boat Show, 2015 © Southampton Old Lady