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

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Been to Southampton beach yet?

“Been to Southampton beach yet?” – is a common joke older students ask Freshers when they arrive to start their new course at University. Most of the beaches in the UK are pretty, so many coming to study assume that as Southampton on the very edge of the sea in the south must have a good beach.

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This is not our beach, it is a make-do place at the Town’s quay to see a glimpse of water and sunbathe

If they did their research they would realise that Southampton is one of the biggest industrial ports there is. Its coast is taken up with docks, crammed with shipping vessels and harbours boxed up with metal containers that arrive and depart all over the world. Residents are blocked off from a view of the sea, apart from a few spaces to get a glimpse of light dazzling on the waves of Southampton Water, such as Mayflower Park (SO14 2AQ).

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The Port of Southampton is one of the worlds most productive and busiest

There were attempts in the early 1980s to boost tourism. A sand beach was built near Mayflower Park to welcome Carnival Line and to tempt cruise liner passengers to stay for a day. The cash injection did not work and landed us in debt, so it was not kept up. For any day trippers today there is an excellent walk around the old city walls (guided by volunteers even) lined with ancient pubs, five stunning parks – the odd museum and ancient plaques stating what or who used to be here.

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Southampton’s artificial beach at the town quay in the 1980s

In Jane Austen’s time Southampton was a fashionable spa town. Most of Southampton’s elegant buildings were Blitzed during WW2 and being an important financial hub and port, white concrete architectures was quickly thrown up. Most of the tourism to Southampton today is for its diverse range of live music and arts and festivals. West End theatre shows that tour usually start here. Sadly the city no longer worries about holiday-makers and has no tourist office – (though you can get info online and leaflets from the library) – but provides excellent transport links for cruise ship passengers to get to other more desirable destinations quickly, whether its London (70 minutes) the New Forest (10 minutes) or Stonehenge.

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The Jurassic coast line that stretches from Hampshire to Cornwall © Southampton Old Lady

We tend to swim at a pool or in one of our rivers. As for beaches Southampton is surrounded by the most beautiful beaches, so why compete?  It would not take you long to get anywhere along the Jurassic Coastline. You can take a short ferry ride to the Isle of Wight , a train to  Bournemouth a taxi to Southsea. Not to far by car you can visit Lepe, Hayling Island, Brownsea Island, Sandbanks (29 miles), Hengisburty Head (21 miles), Barton on Sea or Highcliffe (Click on the Beach Guide and look under Hampshire and Dorset). 

Greater Southampton does have beaches though, but these are not as pretty and take just as long to get to as those outside of its boundary.

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Weston Shore, as seen from Victoria Country Park, Southampton

Our beaches are mainly used for water-sports, as Southampton Water and the Solent are incredible tests for such enthusiasts. They are of pebble, not sand, they have views of residential or factory blocks, even an oil refinery.

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Another view of Weston Shore across to the oil refinery

There is Weston Shore in Netley and Calshot Beach (officially in Southampton and on Southampton Water but part of the New Forest) SO45 1BL.

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Calshot Beach is excellent for sailing, windsurfing and has an olympic sports centre. It is one of the best place to see ocean-liners arrive and depart and has a fort built by Henry VIII

Click Discover for what to see and do in Southampton.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WPC: Frame

When I saw that the weekly WordPress Photo Challenge this week was Frame (click to take part or see others), I realised that framing a photo was a natural past-time for me taking my routine snaps. So here are 15 from my media library (click on to enlarge or see captions)

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From outside looking inside a tent
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From inside looking outside a tent
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Reality reflected in a frame
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A reflection framed with reality
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From outside looking inside a vehicle window
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From inside looking outside a vehicle window
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A frame of nature
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A frame of concrete
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A frame of a house tunnel
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Framed construction
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Framed by a stairwell

 

Fun 2: Seniors

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Second from the right is my husband
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Yes that’s him with Emily – their boots in the air

About an hour drive from Southampton towards London on the M3 is the giant funfair Thorpe Park, making it the nearest one to London.

My husband, sporting a blue cardigan, will be 80 this year (much older than me).  He spent a joyous day on location at this attraction last week, shooting its latest commercial with Emily Barker – a character who visits on a regular basis.

Seniors have campaigned against age-discrimination with regard to special offers at funfairs. So in an effort to correct this, Thorpe Park have just launched an Old Age Coasters (OAC) Pass which provides multiple discounts for the over-65s.

My husband is a retired helicopter pilot and loves the rush. He is a bit of a dare-devil – last year he went paragliding with my daughter – she takes after him.

Are you an adrenaline junkie?  (No I am not getting paid for this)

 

Click on the links:

The actual TV commercial on YouTube

News item about the OAC Pass in London’s Evening Standard
Article from my Art So Provident  site about Derren Brown‘s macabre theme rides at Thorpe Park
Thorpe Park  website
Official Thorpe Park photographer photos first used in Evening Standard

Fun Arcade

When I saw these vintage penny arcade machines at Portsmouth’s  Historical Dockyard, it brought back so many happy childhood memories of going to the Southsea funfair with my parents. I loved the puppets so much and could remember exactly what would happen before I put my coin in. I am so happy to find that they still exist in a museum.

In response to the Weekly WordPress Photo Challenge: Fun

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A coin in this machine has this “Laughing Sailor” belly-laughing so infectiously that the most grumpy person ends up chuckling to it.
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The machine reveals funny things that happen to “The Drunkard” (from erotic to nightmarish) in  his dream as he crashes out in the beer cellar
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Ghosts galore in “The Haunted Churchyard”
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An art nuevo machine with crane to attempt to catch sweets.
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“The Burglar” finds himself distracted by the fire cracking, the radio pipping, the victim snoring while he tries hard to listen to the clicks of the dial of the safe.

Happy Easter

chocolate factory in Austria © 2016 Southampton Old Lady
chocolate factory in Austria © 2016 Southampton Old Lady

Most Brits are such Pagans at heart. We look forward to our spring holiday. To us Easter is all about chocolate eggs, symbolising fertility. Birthing and the spring equinox, with images of lambs, chicks and rabbits. It has been a happy occasion since it was brought to us by the Germanic peoples and their worship of the Goddess Ēastre.

It was the same when I lived in Cyprus. Painted eggs decorated by children and happy picnics with lamb kleftiko and freshly baked flounes.

Flounes from a hot clay oven in Cyprus.
Flounes from a hot clay oven in Cyprus.

When I lived to Portugal though, I thought I was being clever when I said: “Feliz Pascoa” to some Portuguese friends. They were shocked!  I had said Happy Easter okay, but to most people in Roman Catholic Europe, Easter is certainly not a happy time.

“Our Lord died this day – what is happy about it?”  I was taken along to mass with a long dirge of a procession and realised that this was more like our Remembrance Sunday.

When I moved to Andalusia in Spain, it was even more sad, with religious brotherhoods in tall peak hoods carrying heavy statues of Christ in agony on the cross (this is where the Klux Klan got the idea for their brotherhood).

Spanish tourism photo
Spanish tourism photo

I follow a wordpress blog called “Wandering Wives”. The two British women explained that they went to a Remembrance Day service in a small French village and it was a happy occasion there – it was in honour of the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month and that meant “Liberation!”

So it occurred to me, that there are certain times of the year, usually around equinox and solstices where we all get spiritual – sometimes in celebration and sometimes in commemoration, but that these vary according to climate, country and culture.

So Peace to all – and may your god or goddess go with you

Photo Challenge: One Love

Locks on a bridge, Salzburg © 2016 Southampton Old Lady
Locks on a bridge, Salzburg © 2016 Southampton Old Lady
© 2016 Southampton Old Lady
© 2016 Southampton Old Lady
© 2016 Southampton Old Lady
© 2016 Southampton Old Lady
Two hearts, one lock. © 2016 Southampton Old Lady
Two hearts, one lock. © 2016 Southampton Old Lady

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Weekly WordPress Challenge: “One Love:

If you would like to see others or take part, click here: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/one-love/

 

Colour Your World: Gold

I spent two days in Salzburg. A beautiful Austrian city with touches of GOLD

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Painting of Grace Kelly in hotel
Painting on hotel wall

And then there’s the hotel fixtures and fittings

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Even the Supermarket logos are in gold
Even the Supermarket logos are in gold

In response to Colour Your World Photo Challenge: February 8th 2016: GOLD

To find out more about the challenge: http://jennifernicholewells.com/category/color-your-world/

The Gathering

Southampton students on a themed party night out. © Southampton Old Lady
Southampton students on a themed party night out. © Southampton Old Lady
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun in my neighbourhood © Southampton Old Lady

Photo challenge: The Gathering https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/gathering/

You may be forgiven for thinking that these young people are out celebrating New Year’s Eve. Well, It is almost the opposite. Let me explain:

Southampton has a population of nearly 245,000. Of those 43,000 are higher education students (students 18 years-old and over, attending universities and colleges  – coincidentally, 18 is the legal age to drink alcohol in Britain). Seniors over the age of 65 years make up a mere 13% of the population. Southampton is a transient and vibrant city that caters well for young people.

I happen to live in a neighbourhood, favoured by students, who pass by my home, every night, seven days a week. If the weather is mild, they just gather outside and gossip until the early hours of the morning. It is often difficult to get a night’s rest. But I can hardly complain, because this is exactly what I did when I was a student, many, many years ago.

However, over the holidays, most of the students return to stay with their parents. Then the number of people in my area decreases, leaving mainly working residents.

Christmas can be a very quiet time and on New Year’s Eve people say it is boring – there is hardly a whisper.

Just sleep     … in heavenly peace…

Feliz fin de año