November 2012

HalloweenGrey skies, an ever thickening blanket of falling leaves and a recent cold spell are all signs that November is upon us with winter fast approaching. Summer still has the feeling of only being yesterday but in truth, with each passing day it is becoming something of a distant memory.

October went out with what is becoming a traditional Halloween Festival and in England, the 5th November also means Guy Fawkes Night when effigies of Guy Fawkes who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in what was known as the Gunpowder Plot, are burnt on bonfires accompanied with a fireworks display.

These two events, one ancient the other not quite so tend to indicate how different countries around the world adopt local traditions and circumstances into their way of life.

As a youngster, Halloween was not really celebrated in the UK but the news was always focused on the American “Trick or Treat” custom which had developed. Our ever growing supermarkets not ones to miss an opportunity for increased profits, soon realised there was money to be made out of Halloween and consequently started advertising witches hats, pumpkins and all the associated paraphernalia in a big way. Now in the UK, Halloween is as big an event as it is in many other parts of the world. In this case, the drive for increased profits created another tradition in the UK.

The festival of Halloween itself goes way back into history. The name is an abbreviation of All Hallows Evening and there is some debate whether it developed from Christian origins or was adopted from the Celtic pagan Samhain festival. If the origins were Celtic, the Roman Empire which never found any difficulty in adopting local traditions and customs would certainly have helped spread the custom around countries under its control. The Polish Roman Catholic Church has recently raised concerns that Halloween rituals risked promoting the occult but it is fair to say over time, the Christian Church never faced any difficulty in adopting elements of Pagan ritual into it’s own customs. Two examples of this are Yew trees in church graveyards and more local to myself, the tradition of Wassailing. Wassailing is a ritual where the local clergy tour the local apple orchards early each year to give a blessing for a fruitful harvest. In some ways, carol singing is also a form of wassailing. Elements of both the rituals or symbolism of the Yew tree and Wassailing can however be traced back to Pagan origins. There are probably other examples as well.

Bonfire NightI dare say the English tradition of burning a human effigy on a bonfire will one day in the future be viewed as not being politically correct but at the moment it is something we will continue to enjoy. As a youngster, we used to make our Guy Fawkes dummies some weeks before bonfire night. By propping the dummy up on a street corner or pushing it around the streets in an old pram, we would call out what had become a traditional cry of “Penny for the Guy” to passers-by. It was a way for children to collect money with which to buy fireworks. Laws have since changed and it is no longer possible for children to buy fireworks.

Fireworks have also changed both in design and price. Penny bangers as they were known are now banned as are jumping crackers. Fireworks were also small in size compared with those on sale today. As both the size and complexity of modern fireworks have developed, so has the price. Fireworks have now become so expensive that few people can now afford to spend a small fortune to go up in smoke. As the price of fireworks increased, so has the popularity of organised displays where everyone is a winner. For a modest entrance price, it is possible to enjoy a firework display far grander than an individual could afford. In some ways displays are similar to when I was a child. People then used to close off a street and everyone could enjoy watching everyone’s fireworks.

scan0001Recently on a recommendation from friends we went to lunch at a public house in the tiny village of Dinnington in Somerset, about a 15 minute drive from our home. The pub known as Dinnington Docks was the former 17th century free house known as the Rose and Crown. Dinnington Docks is situated on the Fosse Way, the original Roman road that linked Lincoln, (Lindum Colonia), in Lincolnshire with Exeter, (Isca Dumnoniorum), in Devon. It is also close to the excavation site of the largest Roman villa ever found in Britain which once featured in a Time Team television programme.

Our friends recommendation proved well worth the visit with a modestly priced but more than adequate delicious meal accompanied with equally good service. Good pubs like this seem to abound in this part of the world. It is also a pub featured in Camra’s Good Pub Guide.

The decor of the pub features railway and maritime memorabilia to reflect local folk lore of which a spoof picture is incorporated in the pubs sign. The pub also welcomes dog owners and as they say, “Whether on foot, two wheels or four, on a boat or a train, with or without dogs or children, dripping wet or dry as a bone, you will be welcome”.

I can certainly endorse that and although probably better suited to fairer weather conditions, anyone who enjoys hiking holidays would do well to make this pub part of their route and the welcome respite it offers.

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