Archive for the ‘Local’ category

Six Overcoats

October 27, 2012

Although this beech tree copse is just a couple of miles from where I live it was six overcoats colder this afternoon. The icy blast from the North whipped the trees into a crazy orchestra.

Beech Copse

We were glad to join the skeletons warming themselves by the log burner in the Courthill Tea Room.

Skeletons by the fire



July 7, 2012

When my feet
Touch this path of rusty flint
And sun bleached chalk

Present and past
Have no meaning,
It is all one
Here at the edge.

Grey wethers,
Woman and man,
Stand forever bound in stone,
Elf shot and spindle whorl
Cast aside.
Lynchettes lie fallow
Under the vast and ragged blue.
Mewing buzzards rise and wheel
Through aeons.

What is this earth,
This stone?
Blood and bone?
A restless churning tide
Of stardust?
My footsteps echo
Through the rolling
Vaults of time.

Hellebores in Snow

February 10, 2012

Temperatures dropped to -12c recently. The hellebores flopped over and looked as if they were finished.  It snowed last night. This morning the temperature is nearer -1c and the hellebores have revived.

Apple Trees, Cider and Old Twelfth Night

January 15, 2012

The 17th of January is Old Twelfth Night. In Somerset, Gloucestershire, Devonshire, Herefordshire and other apple growing areas of England it is a time to wassail the apple trees. The idea is to scare off bad spirits and encourage the good spirits to produce a bumper crop of apples.

A few years ago I went along with my fiddle to wassail young apple trees in a local orchard in Oxfordshire.  I joined a group of musicians in the village hall and we played barn dance music until late.  Towards midnight  we went outside  with villagers, people in historical costume and children banging saucepan lids.  Some Morris Men lit the way with large flaming torches.  The procession set off over the fields to the apple trees.  By now the cider was beginning to work  and we sang wassail songs, old songs and anything that seemed to suit the occasion.

Here’s to thee, old apple tree,
Whence thou mayst bud
And whence thou mayst blow!
And whence thou mayst bear apples enow!
Hats full! Caps full!

We gathered round as those who seemed to know how to wassail placed toast soaked in cider  in the branches of the  trees and poured cider on the roots. More singing followed.

Behind me I saw what looked like fireflies.  I went closer.  The small points of fire were actually fuses. A couple of  men in historical costume were twirling the fuses about their heads while others poured gunpowder down the muzzles of ancient guns. Their hands were steady in spite of the cider. The noise that followed scared every spirit for miles around.

The word wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon toast Wæs þu hæl, be in good health. The custom probably dates back to pagan times. During the Christmas period wassailing is usually in the form of house visiting.

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand’ring
So fair to be seen.

Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.


September 9, 2011

I pretend it’s summer.
The swallows are still here.
Bats wheel at dusk.
Under a bush a hedgehog snuffles.
Berries ripen in the hedgerows.
Combines give way to blue tractors in the fields.
The earth is brown again. Rich, dark brown.
I can’t ignore the spiders on the wall,
I can’t ignore the spiders on the ceiling.

September 6, 2011

Today is dancing dustbin day. The wind has been gusting all night in the Vale of the White Horse. Dustbins are taking off in every direction. Our bin was leaning against the lamp post this morning.

Ash trees sisters weird

August 25, 2011

. Ash1