Sunday, 21 December 2008

Wassailing and a village pantomime

Yesterday proved very enjoyable for me, not Christmas Shopping, not watching 'Strictly Come Dancing' but attending two pleasing local events. In the morning I picked up three members of 'The Rubber Band' (two flautists and one ukulele player) and we set off for Cotehele House. Following on from the wonderful work done by artist Mary Martin and her partner James Armstrong Evans in preserving the old apple varieties of the Tamar Valley a 'Mother Orchard' has been created on the Cotehele Estate to follow on from what Mary and James have achieved. This has led to the old custom of wassailing taking place annually at the orchard.

So what is 'wassailing' you may ask. The process will vary slightly according to local custom but in essence it's all about waking up the trees and frightening any evil spirits away. Congregating near the main house a procession of I would think several dozen wended its way through the upper garden to the orchards at the top of the estate. We were led by the 'oss, a local lady dressed inside a horse type costume, followed by 'The Rubber Band' members and friends playing in their usual inimitable fashion and many others wanting to share the fun. And fun it was. Hilary, the town crier for our Parish, said (or shouted) out a welcome to one and all, there was a wassail song to sing, and incantations to repeat at the oldest and youngest tree. At the end of the incantations everyone was invited to make the greatest racket possible to frighten away any evil spirits: so there was much thumping of drums, blowing of whistles, clashing of biscuit tins, banging of dustbin lids and anything else to add to the din! Oh and apple juice was gently poured round these two trees to hopefully encourage a good crop - think I've got that right! More music as the procession returned to the House.

It was good to see photographers from at least two of our local press in attendance. Afterwards one of our flautists had to head off for Calstock Church to bell ring for a wedding but I still had two musicians with me - Liz played her ukulele in the car on the way home, much better than listening to a radio!

A very quick stop for a sandwich at home and then we were off to the popular village pantomime at Bere Ferrers. This year it was 'Little Red Riding Hood', my companion knows several of those involved in this production and my not having been to any sort of pantomime since ... well I really don't know when, I was very happy to do something different. Bere Ferrers is a small community tucked away at the bottom end of the deep peninsula that separates the Tamar and Tavy rivers and is a wonderful example of being relatively untouched, of retaining its character, of having a good community spirit. This panto illustrated the last point very well, one telling feature was the fact that the youngest cast member was just 4 years old, the oldest over 90!

Whether it's playing live music, acting out a pantomime or running a marathon, these are all examples of pursuits where your status or your wealth start to become irrelevant. As such all such activities are to be applauded in my book. Whilst it is fair to say one shouldn't be too parochial (I have been guilty of this on occasion) I do think it's so important to actively support what is happening in your own local area to some degree.

I have to say it was a very rewarding day - the first wassail I've attended and the first panto I've seen probably for decades. Yes an excellent days entertainment.

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