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 14: Silly Jumpers

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Christmas jumper party at the Southampton Christmas Market © SOL

As children we wore our Christmas sweaters all winter – They were more like the tasteful Nordic ones then only not as good crafting.

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Scene from Bridget Jones Diary (2001) 
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Presenters Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield wearing Christmas jumpers

For anyone that has read or seen the Bridget Jones Diary (2001) movie, they will know that in the UK we wear silly pullovers at Christmas. Knitwear presents are popular and if your aunt has spent the year knitting that embarrassing sweater for you, then the least you can do is wear it to family gatherings over Christmas.

But since that film these jumpers have taken off in a big way. Sixteen years later, we now even import cheap acrylic ones from China. We have a Christmas jumper at work day to raise money for charity and Presenters even wear them on television! There are nights out and pub-crawls where it is compulsory to wear your Christmas jumper.

Here are more photos I took from the Christmas jumper night out at Southampton’s Christmas market – click on to enlarge:

Some of my favourites:

Take a look at these Cheesy Jumpers on WordPress

What do you wear at Christmas?

 

Advent 9: Christmas Crackers

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Specially illustrated stamps are printed each Christmas this one is of Father Christmas with a cracker. The cracker has an illustration of a Pantomime Dame

christmas-cracker-drummerIn Britain and Ireland we pull Christmas crackers at the dinner table which we have at lunch time on December 25th.

Victorian illustration of pulling a Christmas cracker
Victorian illustration of pulling a Christmas cracker

Crackers may have caught on in other countries too and I’d be interested to hear from your part of the world if they have.

When pulled it activates a firecracker that makes a loud ‘crack’.

Whoever gets the longest end, gets the prize. Prizes can vary from cheap plastic charms to gold tie-pins depending on how much you can afford.

Coloured paper crown can get quite wrinkly by the end of dinner © Southampton Old Lady
Coloured paper crowns can get quite wrinkly by the end of dinner © Southampton Old Lady

One is set at each dinner place. Each will contain a paper crown, which is compulsory to wear at the table and there will be a lot of cajoling to get a grumpy Grandad to wear his. There will also be a joke to read out – usually a pun on words that will be so corny it makes everyone sigh. It is essential that the joke is corny.

Here are some examples:

Q: What kind of sweet goes swinging through the jungle?  A: Tarzi-pan

QWhat do you call two robbers? A:  A pair of knickers

This then starts the reminiscing  old jokes and funny tales. Often there are enough crackers left to pull the next day “Boxing Day” which is also a holiday in Britain.

Buy Nothing Friday  

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Upstairs in the Art House

Black Friday is a recent consumer sales hype adapted from North America which takes place after Thanksgiving Day (the last Thursday in November) despite the fact that the UK does not even celebrate Thanksgiving.

Buy Nothing Day is an annual event in Britain to highlight the issues around consumerism, especially in the lead-up to the festive season.  It’s a day where you challenge yourself, your family and friends to switch off from shopping and tune into life!

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Curb giving away food at a recent festival

To mark Buy Nothing Day in the City of Southampton, this Black Friday, the Art House Café is partnering with Curb, The Real Junk Food Project, Clothes Swap and Books for Free!

They will be taking over The Art House until 6pm on the 25 November, offering food on a pay-as-you-feel basis, clothes to swap or pay-as-you-feel and books by donation!

P1130006Food will be available until it runs out – a big part of waste reduction is challenging the notion that there is always ‘plenty’.  Be sure you get a plateful of delicious nosh made from food diverted from landfill.

Drop in any time to enjoy some nosh, swap your clothes, pick up a book and have a chat about the ways you can reduce waste in your own home.

178 Above Bar Street, Southampton, Hampshire, UK SO14 7DW

Copyright © 2016 The Art House Southampton CIC, All rights reserved.

 

 

The Shopping Lists Addict

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Shopping List found at Aldi, Southampton

Bread, milk eggs, meat for stew, steaks, double cream, blue eggs (trendy tinted ones?), cauliflower and/or broccoli, pointed peppers,  bottle of Merlot wine, 5-6 pots of heather (lovingly doodled).

Further to my Confessions of a yellow-sticker shopper (two posts back – or click here) – I have become addicted to a wonderful new blog called The Shopping Lists (click to visit if you dare – you may become addicted too!)

The site records scribbled, shopping lists, mostly those left behind in supermarket trolleys.

The Shopping Lists tries to piece together what these people are like via their eating habits and lifestyles. Comments are encouraged offering answers to clues about the shopper’s circumstance.  What’s the meal and how many are they cooking for?  What age, gender, time of year ? – Is it a party?

I have spent the last few evenings playing detective with every list posted. And before I send in this one – perhaps we can guess that this list is for a posh, romantic dinner at home for two, then a bit of gardening at the weekend. The ‘meat for stew’ has been crossed off – so perhaps at the last minute they have been informed that they will be on their own for the weekend and suddenly changed the menu?

You can also submit your own found shopping list by tweeting to @tshoppinglists or send an email to thelistcollector@gmail.com.

 

Goodwood Revival 2016

 

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Bubble car at parking meter outside reconstructed Piccadilly Circus

Like being on a giant film set

The first ever car-race took place at Goodwood race track 75 years ago. For the last 20 years there has also been a Revival, where vintage cars or bikes, race (and sometimes crash). There is a strict dress code for spectators; They must dress in vintage or authentic-looking retro clothing from the 40s, 50s or 60s. Goodwood also employs a number of actors and entertainers who take on characters from those eras.

For a few hours work each morning, I was able to enjoy myself for the rest of the day and take snaps. More people belong to drama groups in Britain than they do football clubs, so it is not surprising that so many make an effort to look the part. But visitors come from all over Europe and the Commonwealth.

The Sixties       (Click on photos to enlarge and read captions)

Each year there is a highlighted theme. This year because it was the 50th anniversary of the England football team winning the World Cup, it was England verses Germany 1966.

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Join in a kick-about with the 1966 England Team reconstruction
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Family day out
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We’re going to Wembley

 

Part of the grounds had a reconstructed football pitch where spectators could join the likes of ‘Bobby Moore’ in a knock-about. There was a parade around the track of traffic on their way to Wembley Stadium, which showed off owners cars that would have been around in 1966. The vehicles included vintage: police cars, milk carts, motorbikes, Mini and Bubble cars, Bentleys, Daffodils, Fords, Hillmans, Jaguars, Rolls, Sunbeams, Triumphs, Vauxhalls, plenty of public transport buses and coaches as well as Germans in Volkswagens.

 

The Fifties

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Dancing in the rain – we are use bad weather at some point during any British festival
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family fun fair
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Go roller skating courtesy of Butlins

The Forties

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Our North American allies and barbershop quartet
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Goodwood invites Veterans raising funds and awareness of D-Day
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There are vintage air displays from Goodwood Airfield. Everything from Dakotas to Lancaster Bombers

Beer tents are a must at British festivals – especially when it rains

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Heading for the Doom Bar beer tent
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Beer tents are always friendly
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Come step back in time
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stand-up atmosphere
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or you might be lucky to find a comfy chair
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There are a quite a few pub tents
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and gin bars
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Vintage cars are on sale
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One could almost forget that the main event is the racing
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Jackie Stewart (in the cap) Stirling Moss and many other first class drivers and celebrities race each year

 

Copyright © Southampton Old Lady. If you would like to use any of my photographs please consult me first.  If your stand or you yourself are in any of my photographs feel free to use them however you wish. Goodwood Actors Guild Members also have my permission to use any of these photos or add links for their profile purposes. Please credit: http://www.southamptonoldlady.wordpress.com wherever possible.  Thank you

 

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.

English Place Names

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Anglophenia is a funny series of YouTube shorts for Americans who visit England.
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Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce complete with the Royal Seal of Approval.

One of the ways we can tell if someone was brought up in a local area of England is the way that they pronounce place names. They often sound nothing like they are spelled. I follow a blog called Travel Much by Olive Ole who often gives some wonderful recipes from Norway. The latest being her home-made burgers (to die for) using Worcestershire Sauce (click HERE for Wiki origins). I have always been led to believe that Worcestershire Sauce originated in Bengal, India and it was brought back to Worcestershire in England and enhanced by two chemists Lea & Perrins. I make my own version and call mine Elephant Sauce (a family joke).

After informing Olive Ole of how impressed I was after making her recipe, this funny conversation took place:

Olive Ole: Oh maybe you can help resolve the argument I have with Sir Nerdalot at the moment. He claims that Worchestershire sauce is pronounced Woster sauce! How dum is that! If they want it pronounced as Woster, then they should spell it that way! I say it like Wor-Chester-Shire-Sauce, and the Nerd giggles!

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My own version Elephant Sauce

SOL: He is right I am afraid. UK English has a number of names like that. Magdalene College in Oxford is pronounced «Maudlin College» It was a popular way to catch out spies during WW2.

Olive Ole: Noooooooooo! Ah! The teasing will be endless! Or I could just not admit to him that he was right! Yup, that is my best option!

(after this I accidentally posted this reply to Poet Rummager – another interesting blogger I follow, instead of to Olive Ole)

SOL: Further to the Woster confusion – this you tube lesson may be of interest: https://youtu.be/9q7VjLVU8Ec (this is a hilarious YouTube post about pronouncing British Place names by Anglophenia – if you click this it will help understand how different place names can sound from how they are spelled)

Poet Rummager: That was hilarious! I got, maybe, 2 right!! Wow, go me. Thanks for the link — I feel so stupid now. Haha! How do you pronounce Southampton? I bet I’ve been saying it wrong all this time. Wanna bet??

SOL: I am going to have to do a blog about this – it has made me laugh so much. Southampton is as it looks. For nearly every town or village older than 1776 in England, there is a town or village of that name (some with the additional New in front) in North America and many of those names also in Australia, as it referred to where those people (colonists) settled from. Many WordPress visitors first think I am from Southampton, Suffolk County, New York. (There’s 3 places from England) There are also Southamptons or South Hamptons in Pennsylvania, California and Ontario. They all sound the same with a soft ‘p’.

Olive Ole replied to your comment  ‘I am going to have to do a post about this – it’s so funny’. Haha! Looking forward to read it (but wont show it to hubby)

(Then after I sent the original reply to Olive Ole):

Olive Ole: hahahaha love the link! And although I am not American, I would say most of those names fairly similar to the american…

___________

Let us not even begin to get into long Welsh names or those from the rest of the UK.

But my question today is: Are there any English place names that you discovered you have been pronouncing differently?