Archive | November 2014

Celtic Tree Month of Elder


 

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We are just into the Celtic Tree month of Elder, an enchanting small tree…

‘The tree is said to have within itself the ‘Elder Mother’, called Elle or Hyldemoer in Scandinavian and Danish myth. She is said to work strong earth magic and according to legend, avenged all who harmed her host trees.  No forester of old would touch elder, let alone cut it, before asking the Elder Mother’s permission three times over and even then he was still in dread of her possible wrath.  Likewise, in many country districts of Europe and Britain, wise people will show respect by touching their hats when passing elder trees, in continuance of ancient custom.  Certain North American tribes also believe that elder is the Mother of the human race.

According to legend, witches would often turn themselves into elder trees, and one famous witch-tree turned a king and his men to stone, thereby creating the Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire, England.  This ancient piece of folklore tells of a Danish king, on his way to battle for the English Crown with his warriors, meeting the witch and asking her what his fate would be. The witch replied:

Seven long strides thou shalst take,

And if Long Compton though canst see

King of England thou thalst be.’

Source: ‘Tree Wisdom’ by Jacqueline Memory Paterson

 

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends and family.


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Feels odd being here in England on Thanksgiving! I am English but with an American husband and time spent living in Tennessee, I have one foot in each country. I think it’s a lovely tradition and I wish we did more of it over here. Our roots here go back thousands of years and it’s hard to know, remember or even think of our origins. However we do have so much to be thankful for. My list is endless, it really is and today, such a special day, I am thankful for my family and friends and that includes all you bloggy followers.

I am making a pumpkin pie for Larry, although he doesn’t know it yet.  It must feel so strange for him being here today, his second year living in England away from his family and all things familiar. We’re going to have a turkey dinner out somewhere nice later on.

So Happy Thanksgiving one and all from my pen to your computer.

Oma x

Trees and conservation


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When I was living in Tennessee, I noticed lots of things which were different to over here in England. One of those things was the trees. The trees are very different, all of them. They are all beautiful but different, rather like people! I noticed that there were many more trees in America but that they were being mown down to be replaced by buildings of concrete. You can see it clearly from the aeroplanes. When I first went over, I saw the roofs of the shopping malls and I thought they were large car parks, but the sheer expanse of concrete covering the earth is alarming.

Please stop it!

You don’t need to do so much building. When a shop goes out of business, you don’t need to move on and build more, you just need to revamp what you have.  America is such a big country, huge, massive! that it is thought the land is endless but it isn’t. Pretty soon you will lose your trees if you don’t stop the endless building. I saw it at first hand. Living in Knoxville, we were on the west side. The east side came first, I believe and now a large part of that is derelict, just left to decay. Sad, very sad.

In England we have done the same in years gone by and that is why I say ‘stop it’ to you over there. Keep what you have and appreciate the beauty.

Here is a quote from one of my favourite books:

‘Over many centuries, ancient Britain was transformed from a land covered in natural forestation in which clearances were made to a ”land of clearance” with only isolated patches of forest.  However, the average person still had the security of working the land.  This changed drastically as the peasants were thrown off the land by the institution of the General Enclosures Act of 1845 and while Britain became dangerously deforested by the demands of industrialization, there was a rise in the amount of new species of trees planted as wealthy landowners landscaped their gardens and estates.  On the one hand the rough grazing land of the peasants was taken from them, enclosed and cleared of growth for the plough, while on the other, having cleared so much land, landowners had to literally remake copses in order to house the game they kept for sport.

When timber became the long-term crop of private woodlands, new species of trees were introduced and established.  These were mainly fir, larch and spruce, and they were planted alongside our fastest growing softwood, the Scot’s pine.  During the twentieth century, great conifer plantations arose as a result of the need for quickly produced timber, especially during the times of world wars, after which they became purely commercial producers.

The Forestry Commission was founded in 1919, and it advised private landowners to acquire and plant trees on any land unsuitable for agriculture.  While the Forestry Commission has been guilty of planting acres of sombre, uniform conifers, it has in fact also been successful in arresting the decline of many of our remaining deciduous forests, specifically the seven National Forest Parks.  It is heartening to realise that a new generation of foresters (or woodmen) are now concentrating upon replacing areas of hardwood trees, for deciduous woodland shows the seasonal beauty of Nature in its fullest glory.  New forests are being born out of sympathy with nature rather than for monetary gain and the skills and wisdoms of old are once more taking hold.’

from ‘Tree Wisdom’, by Jacqueline Memory Paterson

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Steam Train passes through Leagrave Station


Last week we went to our local railway station for an important event. Dylan and his dad came too. We were going to watch a steam train come through and it did, on time and at speed! Here it is:

 

 

At the end you can see Larry ducking to get out of the picture.

Dylan had never seen a steam train live before.  He wasn’t sure what he was going to see. He asked his dad if it was going to be like Thomas (the tank engine). Isn’t that so sweet? At the event, he was frightened, which is not surprising, after all he has only just turned four. He is used to seeing the electric trains go through but this was something different and it did go very fast.

It was a first for Larry too. He had never seen a real steam engine in action either and he found it very exhilarating.

The last steam engine to pull a passenger train in England was in 1968. It was the Oliver Cromwell and it went from Liverpool to Carlisle.  Is it really that long ago?

Do you have any memories of travelling on a steam train?

Oma

 

The difference between Sinterklaas and Santa Claus


My mother was Dutch so I was brought up with both Santa Claus and Sinter Klaas, although I only had one set of presents! I love this description of the two gentlemen in comparison and couldn’t resist sharing with you as we start to think about the Christmas period to come.

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The majority of Dutch emigrants are as fond of their traditional Sinterklaas celebrations, as their new friends and neighbours are of Christmas. However, Sinterklaas is almost entirely unknown outside of the Netherlands and many foreigners mistakenly believe that he and Santa Claus are one and the same. Yet, although both festive figures are based on the real-life Bishop of Myra, who lived in Turkey during the fourth century, their associated folklore and customs have evolved in largely different ways. This means that Sinterklaas and Santa Claus not only look dissimilar, but also that their stories are celebrated in a totally different manner.

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My Memoirs – Remembering the fallen of World War 1


Private Harry Davis - died at Flanders in world war 1

My great-uncle, William Harry Davis, was born in 1879 and baptised in 1882 at St. Peter’s, St. Albans. Later on, with the death of his father, the family moved to Hart Hill Lane, Luton, Bedfordshire. On 4th August 1906 Harry (as he was known) married Mary Edridge. There were two children born – Stanley and Gladys.

Harry went to France with the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, but was killed on 16th February 1916 in Flanders. He is buried in the Cambrin Military Cemetary, Pas de Calais, France, grave reference F9.

I have found out this information through family research. I didn’t know the story beforehand. Harry was part of a very large family of Davis’s. There were about thirteen children. My little nanna, Ethel was the youngest and her brother Harry was next but one up the line with Mabel in between.

I didn’t see my dad for a large part of my life because he moved to Australia when I was fifteen. I didn’t see him again until I was thirty-two years old. If I had known my dad better during those years, I expect I would have heard these stories frequently. I do know that my dad, whose middle name was Harry, was named after his Uncle. I know that now but I didn’t know it until I started researching.

When I heard that The Royal British Legion were offering commemoration for the fallen soldiers in World War 1, I decided to remember my great uncle in this way. I am hoping they will put a poppy on his gravestone, since he is fortunate to have one. Not everyone did.

I have no contact with this branch of the family. Does anyone on here know of them? All I know is that Harry and Mary were married in Northwood, Middx. but since he spent a large part of his growing years here in Luton, I felt it appropriate to remember him here.

Who are you going to particularly remember on November 11th?

Oma