Friday, 23 December 2016

Twelve Days of Christmas fanfic


Again, this was written in 2004. It was a collaboration with two other fanfic writers. A chapter was posted live again, on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas, 2005. Each chapter illustrated something about that day from the song. This fic was probably my favourite, because it was a collaboration, and because it was our gift to the fandom over the 12 days.

The Twelve Days of Christmas




Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Winter myths


and the links to Christmas.

In Celtic mythology the Oak (Summer) King and the Holly (Winter) King were twins, pitted against each other in a never-ending fight for supremacy. Oak trees, sacred to the Celts, lose their leaves, while the  holly trees are evergreen. The Holly King is now known as Santa Claus. He wears red and bears holly leaves and berries in his hat. He drives a team of eight deer (or reindeer) because deer were highly sacred to the Celtic Gods. The number eight represents the eight sabbats of the solar calendar.

As cold weather approached, the Celts marvelled at how the evergreen holly trees, hidden amongst the leafy oaks during the rest of the year, now stood out prominently, with their red fruits, on an otherwise barren landscape. The Holly King had won the battle, as the incarnations of his twin brother had shed all their oak leaves and stood naked in defeat.



By the time the winter solstice arrives, the tide has turned. The Oak King’s flow in power is the Holly King’s ebb. The deciduous twin takes his first baby steps towards re-establishing his supremacy. The battle between the two Kings takes place; the Oak King kills the Holly King and takes his place. The Oak King is the modern-day New Year, the fresh and young child-god that beckons mother nature to re-new herself as he brings the warm rays of the sun back.



Dancing the Night Away weaves this Celtic myth into a piece of fanfiction.

Winter Solstice, the time of the year when the days get longer and the sun begins to return was truly a cause for celebration among our ancestors in Scandinavia. Their Midwinter Feast lasted at least twelve days. So there are the twelve days of Christmas.

At Midwinter, or Solstice, the Vikings honored their Asa Gods with religious rituals and feasting. They sacrificed a wild boar to Frey, the God of fertility and farming, to assure a good growing season in the coming year. The meat was then cooked and eaten at the feast. This is the origin of today's Christmas ham in Scandinavia.

 Another Viking tradition was the Yulelog, a large oak log decorated with sprigs of fir, holly or yew. They carved runes on it, asking the Gods to protect them from misfortune. A piece of the log was saved to protect the home during the coming year and light next year's fire.

During the festivities they burned a giant Sunwheel, which was put on fire and rolled down a hill to entice the Sun to return. According to one theory, this is the origin of the Christmas wreath.

Even the Christmas tree goes back to pre-Christian times. The Vikings decorated evergreen trees with pieces of food and clothes, small statues of the Gods, carved runes, etc., to entice the tree spirits to come back in the spring.

 Ancient myths surround the Mistletoe. The Vikings believed it could resurrect the dead, a belief based on a legend about the resurrection of Balder, God of Light and Goodness, who was killed by a mistletoe arrow but resurrected when tears of his mother Frigga turned the red mistletoe berries white.

The Yule Goat, (Swedish julbock, Finnish joulupukki, Norwegian julebukk) is one of the oldest Scandinavian Christmas symbols. Its origin is the legend about the Thundergod Thor who rode in the sky in a wagon pulled by two goats. An old custom was for young people to dress up in goat skins and go from house to house and sing and perform simple plays. They were rewarded with food and drink. The Yule Goat at one time also brought Yule gifts.


Old Man Winter was welcomed into homes to join the festivities. Dressed in a hooded fur coat, Father Christmas traveled either by foot or on a giant white horse. Some think that this horse may have been Odin's horse Sleipnir and that Father Christmas was originally Odin, who was often depicted with a long beard. When the Vikings conquered Britain in the 8th and 9th centuries, he was introduced there and became the English Father Christmas.







Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The Longest Night


I wrote this years ago. As it's set during the longest night of the year, and includes all my favourite bits of myth and legend about this season, I'm re-posting it again.



Friday, 11 November 2016

We will remember



 Today's date has enormous significance for most people. It's Armistice Day and many of us are observing two minutes silence right now.

A special dedication to my Granny's brother, James.


J.A. Ryder MM (Manchester Regiment)

The  dedication wall.


Thursday, 13 October 2016

Birthday Month

October is a time for celebrating three family birthdays - mine on 2nd, MWNN's is today, and The Daughter's on 28th. For the past eight years, there has been an additional family member to add to the October list - Ron, on 24th. After The Daughter left home, we've usually organised a get-together on a weekend between 13th and 28th.

This coming weekend, The Daughter is taking part in her second 100mile ultra. There are two weekends left in the month to organise the birthday bash. Hopefully, the latest leak repair in the utility room will be finished by the time we get together.


"October is the fallen leaf, but it is also a wider horizon more clearly seen. It us the distant hills once more in sight, and the enduring constellations above them once again ..... Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night." Hal Borland





Happy Birthday MWNN.





Saturday, 8 October 2016

Photo Retrospective

Southwold October 2016









Sole Bay Inn - our local for the week. Good food, great ale, very convenient location (our cottage was the blue one on the right of the picture).

























Southwold Lighthouse, right behind our cottage's rear yard.

Watching the beams rotate at night is mesmerising.


















Gunn Hill Beach Kiosk, the opposite end of the Promenade from the cottage,  is a good place to stop for a rest and a cuppa.

















Ron's favourite pastime. We managed two or three beach walks each day.













Digging out the castle moat.






















New sand cliffs are building up with each tide.























WWII mine used as a collection box for Shipwrecked Mariners.





















Unknown bird, photographed by MWNN, outside the cottage.




















MWNN serving tea at Sole Bay Kiosk.


















The one place we have yet to visit (because it's a wet-weather destination and we haven't had many wet days during our visits to Southwold) is the Electric Picture Palace.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Blackthorne Marina


MWNN, Ron, and I, spent a long-weekend on the boat. It's almost ready to take out for a couple of days, but there were a few things that needed doing to make it weather-tight and comfortable.




MWNN has moved to the forward cabin, to sleep on the new 4ft bed. I am relegated to the rear cabin, on the single bed. When the rear bulkhead was replaced, the door frames were removed to enable the new wood to slip into position. The frames, trim and draught-exlcluders have been missing since then.








Mr Chippendale clutching the wood glue







The first night, I woke regularly because of the cold. Although I had a warm duvet, I needed to put on an extra layer of clothing, with long sleeves. During the warm weather, it didn't matter. I welcomed the cool breeze. With night temperatures heading into single figures, and a lack of heat during the day, it became important that the frame was finished.











Mr Hepplewhite weilds the panel pins and hammer









MWNN set to work. Even though it was raining, he was able to work on the frame. The rear canopy provided cover, and prevented any incursion of rain as he worked.




















As the rain eased, I took Ron for a walk. The trees and shrubs look different now. The guelder rose berries are ripe, the blackcurrants are variable - some are still green, others plumo and black. The cones of the Black Alder confused me for an instant. At first glance, I thought they were acorns. But the leaf-shape was wrong, and there wqas no acorn cup.

We have two books of trees on the boat, but I find it much easier to identify trees by Googling.








After the storm






 Autumn has arrived, and, as we came back from our trip past the fishing lake, the sun gave one last, glorious burst to show the autumnal colours.








I slept better that second night. Not a puff of air came in through the door. Thank you Messrs Chippendale and Hepplewhite.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Season of mists


Blackberries







and mellow fruitfulness.












I spent a couple of days on the boat, hand disinfected  and then steam cleaned the floor. Between cleanings and clearing, I took Ron for a few walks along the Stanwick Lakes Trail, to Woodford.

Fully ripe blackberries




The hedgerows were groaning with  berries.











Viburnum opulus berries





Unfortunately, not all of them are edible.













I've been disappointed this year, at the lack of English plums for sale in supermaarkets. I bought a couple of punnets of Victoria plums and a couple of greengages (Rein Claud), but that's about it.

The local hedgerow mirabelle tree has disappeared. There is a dearth of plums this year.



MWNN drove up to the boat yesterday afternoon to help with some surgery on the gas fridge which problem. We drove home this morning to avoid the 31 degrees (in the shade) heat forecast for today. The season of mists and mellow fruitfullness doesn't usually include a heat wave.





Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Hot now, summer



in the city  town.

It's  lovely and sunny here in rural England, but I'm now housebound because it's too darn hot.





The town, nevertheless, is looking very pretty



















and summery.















Last week, we went into town and had lunch at Lusssmans the new restaurant in Sun Street.

The meal was a little pricey but well worth it for MWNN's freshly-made Sussex pork rillette starter and fishcake main course. My beefburger was beautifully cooked, tender and fragrently seasoned.









There was a Kids' Day in the Market Square, with the town train,


















a carousel,


















and a couple of Dennises













Hitchin TV, once again, caught the town in all its beauty, in the sunshine

video









In other good news - I have new summer walking shoes, that can be worn without socks..











Sketchers Go Walk 2










Amazon was great. The first pair I ordered were size 3 and wre tight across the instep. A free return (via Amazon Locker) and the second pair, size 4, arrived 24 hours after arranging the return.




Monday, 1 August 2016

Part two


The couple of days we spent at the boat were lovely. Lots of fresh air, plenty of exercise, and peace.






I'd soon clocked over 10,000 steps by walking Ron along the Stanwick Lakes path, past the trout fishing lake.
















Then we checked the new facilities in progress at the marina -  the new toilet/shower block,





















and the new porta-potti sluice.



















Ron led the way  into the woods at the opposite side of the lake, tracking electricity cables' trench




























that headed towards the river and the lock at Woodford.


















At the point where the undergrowth grew thick, I lost sight of the cables, and turned back.











As I followed the cables back through the woods, I heard the unmistakeable sound of a mosquito buzzing near my left ear. I batted it away with my right hand. My hand felt irritated, as if I'd been stung by nettles.










By the next morning, my hand looked like this, and we were heading for the nearest pharmacy.








The pharmacist took one look at it and sent me to the local GP surgery across the road. The GP refused to see me, despite my recent bacterial infection. I was told to go to A&E, but phoned our own GP instead. I was given an immediate appointment (allowing for time to travel home).





By then, the hand had got worse, and the infection was spreading towards the elbow, The GP prescribed penicillin, and recommended holding it upright (something I'd instinctively been doing anyway).












48 hours later, the hand was beginning to look normal, and we had jungle formula spray (the lotion burns my skin) for our next visit to the boat. Moral of the story - even if you're well covered with long sleeves, and socks over your trouser bottoms, the buggers will find a way to feast on you if you don't apply some deet to exposed skin.


A bonus of the trip, was that Ron is beginning to settle on the boat. Until now, if we both stepped off and left him below decks, he would whine and whine, building up to a howl if he thought we had left him alone. Now, with lots of walks, and games aboard, not to mention his own 'cabin' and bed, he's relaxed enough to accept being left aboard. We'll extend the time that we're ashore, and then walk some distancce away to see how long he remains quiet. It's a long process, but one that has worked many times.














Sunday, 31 July 2016

A couple of days



relaxing on the boat.

Part 1




The environment is glorious.


The weather was warm, cloudy at times and breezy.

















Ron got to do lots of terrier-type exploring, more often than at home.















He was a bit miffed at not being allowed to go for a swim in his private pool,

He would definitely not have been welcomed by the Swan family.
















I found lots more flora and fauna that I haven't often seen before.

They're relatively common, but I've never seen a Ringlet butterfly in the wild before













I had quite a bit of trouble photographing it at first,
























I'd also never seen a Teasel in flower before. They're very pretty.






















Poor man's orchid is becoming quite a problem along canal and river banks.






















Woody Nightshadem although not as dangerous as Deadly Nightshade, is poisonous,


















as is Ragwort.


It causes liver damage to grazing animals. Despite this, the cattle kept beside the lake,  are in a field full of the stuff.

















Another deceptively attractive plant is Bryony. All parts of this plant are highly toxic. A lethal dose for a child, is just 15 berries.



















A gentler plant, one that my father used to recommend for sprains and bruiises, is White Comfrey. It can also be used in an infusion, as an expectorant