November 2015

SDC10327Today the countryside lost what remained of its lush coat of green summer foliage as strong winds and  rain blew in from the Atlantic. Yesterday the golden brown hues of autumn lingered on, but alas in the space of a few hours trees were striped bare to be left forlorn looking until next spring. Although still very mild at the moment,, this sudden tree stripping act does seem to me, to be natures way of heralding the tail end of autumn and giving advance notice of the rapidly approaching winter.

Pavements and roads have been carpeted with a layer of brown wet leafy mush, and it is not surprising it is a time of years that accident rates from slips and falls sharply increase, especially for the elderly. One thing I do appreciate about Mother Nature is that the local fields and hills in the distance remain green except for times when there is snow around.

I suppose it is to also be expected at this time of year when weather gurus start to predict how harsh or not the winter ahead will be. I am however not that strong believer in local weather folklore and simply accept what will be will be.

A few weeks ago we had the natural phenomena of what is know as a “Super Moon” in conjunction with a eclipse of the Moon by the Earth. Although tis must have occurred millions of times before on the celestial time scale, on the human time scale it is a somewhat unique event with the next one not due to take place for another 18 years in 2033. I did manage to take a number of photographs of the event throughout the evening, some of which I have placed below.

 

Yeoman WardersToday being November 5th, is the UK’s historical anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament by Guy Fawkes and his villainous associates,  always reminds me of a travelling companion of mine. He was a Yeoman of the Guard which is the smallest regiment in the British Army. The Yeoman are a small group of ex-servicemen with long years of service. They carry out their mainly civilian occupations but assemble as Yeomen when ceremonial occasions require them.

One such occasion is the 5th November when the cellars of the House of Parliament are searched by the Yeomen which is how Guy Fawkes was originally discovered and caught. Effigies of Guy Fawkes are also burned on large bonfires in the evening at fireworks parties. Children also used to sing a song around the bonfire which started:

Remember, Remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Well the UK has never forgotten the Gunpowder Plot which occurred in 1605 and we have been celebration Guy Fawkes going up in smoke ever since.

 

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Super Moon

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Super Moon

 

 

 

 

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Prior to Eclipse

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Earth’s shadow across the Moon

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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