The Dance

Posted May 27, 2012 by Val Moulton
Categories: Poetry

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The old man sits on the wall,

Sits and smokes his pipe.

The child dances in the puddle,

Dances on white clouds

In an upside down sky.

Water rises and falls,

Rises and falls.

The old man smokes his pipe.

Blue smoke billows

And curls ever upwards.

Spectres

Posted March 10, 2012 by Val Moulton
Categories: History, Poetry

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The cold grey sea
Stirs sinuous weed,
Bladder wrack, dulse,
Kelp, carrageen.
Dancing shrouds
Ripple and weave
On the winnowing tide.

Grey water slips
Into gulleys.
Around black rocks
Swash and backwash
Channel and flow,
Shift drifting sand
Over stripped bones.

“O tiny child
What did you see
With your grey green eyes?
What did you see
In that far away time
In the green, green field
Where the hungry grass grows?

Where are the weak?
Do they lie under stones
In the field of death
Or by the roadside?
Nothing but bones.
You alone were
Picked to survive.”

This poem evolved during my research into family history in the late 1840s at the time of the Irish famine. The research raised questions concerning the choices faced by families. How was food shared within the family?

Myfanwy

Posted March 1, 2012 by Val Moulton
Categories: Music, Uncategorized

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For St David’s Day

It has been a beautiful day. The daffodils are starting to open. There are ladybirds and bees in the garden and frogs in the pond. This evening the moon is lined up with Venus and Jupiter, a wonderful sight.

Signs of Spring

Posted February 23, 2012 by Val Moulton
Categories: Nature, Wildlife

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Blackbird in the snow

Less than two weeks ago the ground was covered with snow.  Birds huddled out of view. Now the weather is mild and the air is filled with  bird song again. They are not in full voice yet but the chorus is increasing day by day. There are pairs of blackbirds, robins, blue tits, goldfinches and sparrows in the garden from dawn to dusk.

Blackbird in birdbath

The blackbirds above are permanent residents in this corner of the garden, just outside our French windows. They  like the cover of the bushes.

It is a delight to watch red kites as they fly over the roof tops.

Red Kite

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.e

We often see just one hunting. Now up to four fly over.  Male and female circle each other for a while. Then they dive across the sky straight at each other to touch talons in a risky and spectacular courtship dance. Usually their courtship begins in March so I hope there will be more displays.

Crows are busy too. Recently I watched a pair of  crows stuffing twigs down a nearby chimney.

Starlings are nesting in the eaves next door.

I love the way seasons change, the way winter lingers here and there as it gradually releases its grip and slides into spring.

Hellebores in Snow

Posted February 10, 2012 by Val Moulton
Categories: Local, Nature, Wildlife

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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.

Spring?

Posted January 29, 2012 by Val Moulton
Categories: Nature, Poetry, Uncategorized, Wildlife

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 I open the back door.
The air is sharp and bright.
A blackbird splashes in the bird bath.
Snowdrops nod under bushes.
Pigeons strut and bow on the roof.
Their sound fills the morning.
I feel a hint of change.
Can this be spring?

Apple Trees, Cider and Old Twelfth Night

Posted January 15, 2012 by Val Moulton
Categories: Culture, Culture Myth Legend, Legend, Local, Music, Nature

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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.

REFRAIN:
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.