Thursday, 4 December 2008

Advent Tour 2008 Day 5

Advent Sunday – fourth before Christmas? Right? Well, sort of. But for the garden centres it seems to come in September even before harvest festivals are finished. So it's a long time before the church catches up and fires a late starting pistol (okay, that's not really the right metaphor – tell me a better one) with a rousing rendition of 'O come, o come, Immanuel.'And then it's a mad dash from one carol service to the next, and from one Christmas dinner to the next so that by the time Christmas comes, I'm longing for bangers and mash or steak pudding and chips.

When we lived in Yorkshire, Margaret and I used to look forward to the lull which came on Christmas Eve when we would take the scenic drive to Castleton in Derbyshire. It's a wonderfully picturesque village nestling in the Hope Valley at the foot of Mam Tor, the Shivering Mountain. And in the Three Roofs Café in the village, our Christmas Eve treat was battered cod, chips and mushy peas. Lovely.

After we moved to South Wales we tried to keep up the Christmas Eve tradition but Castleton was too far away and nowhere else had quite the same feel. This year, however, a week early, we think we have find the perfect place to renew our tradition. The Blue Cap at Sandiway in Cheshire. It's a lovely 18th century inn fairly close to the location for my current novel. But it won't be fish and chips this time. Wild Pheasant with berry and red wine sauce. I'm hungry already.
Who's the dog standing on guard on top of that post? Well, that's Blue Cap himself, of course, a legendary fox hound noted for his exceptional speed and agility.

An old Cheshire custom was souling - going around the houses singing and begging for goodies. Originally it was associated with All Souls day - hence the name - but the custom merged with wassailing during the Advent season. I can recall a December holiday spent with my Gran and Grandad who lived on the edge of Delamere Forest. Lots of us kids and several adults went the rounds of the cottages and farmhouses singing a song that went like this:
A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missus, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry,
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for Him who made us all.

God bless the master of this house,
The misteress also,
And all the little children
That round the table grow.
Likewise young men and maidens,
Your cattle and your store;
And all that dwell within your gates,
We wish you ten times more
A soul, etc.

Down into the cellar,
And see what you can find,
If your barrels are not empty,
We hope you will prove kind.
(We hope you will prove kind,
With your apples and strong beer,
And we'll come no more a-souling
Till this time next year.)
A soul, etc.

The lanes are very dirty,
My shoes are very thin,
I've got a little pocket
To put a penny in.
If you haven't got a penny
A ha'penny will do;
If you haven't got a ha'penny,
It's God bless you!
A soul, etc

And when we got back to Gran's fireside we had enough treats to last for the rest of the holiday.



Marg said...

I love this idea of taking time out between the rush of preparation and the actual celebrations of Christmas Day.

Thanks for a really lovely post, and for participating in our Advent Tour.

Melissa said...

What a lovely post. It makes me wish I lived somewhere where there was an 18th century hamlet nearby. :) I loved your pictures, too.

Vickie said...

What beautiful pictures! I wish we had beautiful areas by us. We have to go up farther north in Michigan.

I love the idea of Souling. We do Halloween, so I don't think the neighbors would appreciate having to give away more food. But, it would be so lovely, walking in the snow and singing.

Happy Holidays.

Kailana said...

Great post! Thanks for joining in. :)

Strumpet said...

Souling! Wow! Never heard of it, but don't you think it sounds a bit like a start to a Trick or Treat thing?

In Norway, kids go around singing carols dressed up in masks on New Year's Eve ... it's called Julebukk, which I have no idea what can be translated to. I'm usually stumped on that one when people ask.

Thanks for the lovely photos of England. Makes me long for a dark pub :)

Julia Smith said...

I just love this post. First of all, that picture of Castleton just made me shivery with oh-I-wish-I-could-be-there-right-now. I love your tradition of going out to the same place to order the same yummy thing. It's impossible to duplicate something like that, but your new place sounds like it will make a nice new tradition.

The carol lyrics are just marvellous. My friends from choir (when we were teenagers) used to go carolling at Christmas - it was freezing but fun.

Morgan the (Almost) Muse said...

I did not recognise this song until I got to the end, but we sang it, or at least the ha'penny part, when we were children one year, for our school christmas pagent. I think it was just part though, because I remember something about a goose. But that was a lovely post! I did enjoy it so much.

Rob Crompton said...

Thanks all for dropping by - glad you liked the pics.
Morgan - that version with the bit about the goose, was it:

Christmas is coming
the goose is getting fat
please to put a penny
in the old man's hat
If you haven't got a penny
a ha'penny will do
If you haven't got a ha'penny
God bless you.

splummer said...

Love your story of carrying on a tradition. Hope you new place, The Blue Cap, keeps your tradition going. Thanks for sharing!


Kerrie said...

I remember that song :-)
Merry Christams and happy advent season

bigSIS said...

how wonderful! I too love the pictures. I often read of places like that and so wish I could visit. Glad you found a way to continue your tradition. Thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas...enjoy that pheasant! Yum!

Memory said...

The Blue Cap sounds great. I hope it is indeed the start of a new Christmas tradition for you. :)

Bogsider said...

I adore this style of houses and villages and it makes me want to go to England/Wales for vacation. Thanks for a wonderful post and some wonderful images.

Alison said...

Rob, I really enjoyed your entry in the advent tour. I too have spent Christmas in Yorkshire - it's beautiful country - and I LOVE a good fish and chips. Thanks for sharing :-)

Julia said...

Those are some beautiful pictures! It make me wish that I live there :)

The rush of preparation for celebration of Christmas Day seem fun, but I hope at the end you got yourself a nice relaxation after that :) Thanks for sharing, and Happy Holidays to you!

Callista said...

That was a very interesting post, love the photos. I love reading about how others celebrate the Christmas season. Merry Christmas!

Susan said...

I'm catching up on the tour, so I'm sorry I'm late with my comment. what a lovely post! I've had one Christmas in York so your memories of taking some time away into the countryside is lovely - just hearing the word Yorkshire brings back so many things! - and I love your photos. Good thing we'll be in England in 6 days! I don't have to get too homesick....I also love your memory of the 'souling'. I see by your other posts that you are a writer, I am also, and i have to say that when I saw the word 'souling' I was thinking of something much more different! I might have to borrow the word :-) for an idea it's given me! lol thank you so much for your post, and i'll be coming back - I've put you in my blog roll. Happy Holidays!

Anonymous said...

It's magic to have found your blog. And my Dad (English) sang the song who's lyrics you've included here. Thus the happy (nostalgic) tears in my eyes right now.
Dinner sounds lovely. Perhaps I'll change our Christmas Day dinner menu - always good to shake things up!
signed, Oh (Stateside)

Kailana said...

Howdy! You have a Christmas Spirit Award waiting for you at my blog...