Ceremonials

My apologies, yet again, for my absence. It has taken me longer than I anticipated to recover from depleted energy from enjoying Christmas and New Year celebrations.

I planned for a few blog posts while away, and although I took photos, the blog posts did not come to fruition. However, I can share a selection of the photos now.

I went with a friend to the annual celebration of the life and work of the writer Sir Walter Scott in Selkirk: Scott’s Selkirk. Sir Walter Scott was the Sheriff of Selkirkshire from 1803 to 1832, and his old courtroom is open to the public.

The event includes street entertainment, bands, historical re-enactments, craft stalls etc. Most people are dressed in Victorian clothes, and it’s like stepping back in time:

Coach and Horses, Scotts Selkirk

The sounds and smells of the horses, fiddle music, mulled wine, hog roast wrapped us up in a lovely Christmassy feeling.

Street Organ, Scott's Selkirk

Penny Farthing, Scott's Selkirk

There was even a Christmas Donkey:

Donkey? Scott's Selkirk

I think it was a donkey… might have been a mule, I’m not sure…

The delightful lady accompanying the “donkey” was displaying old toys, whilst plucking a chicken

Chicken Plucker, Scott's Selkirk

and scaring children by pulling the tendons on a severed chicken foot to make the toes move – once seen, never forgotten.

We strolled around and saw a few bands and stayed on into evening to see the promised torchlight procession and fireworks – we were freezing cold! The procession stopped on the way for a bizarre re-enactment of what I now know was the “False Alarm.”

Frenchmen and Scotsmen, Scott's Selkirk

“The False Alarm of 1809 is replayed in the town when the Selkirk Yeomanry were hurriedly despatched to Edinburgh to repel an ‘invasion’ by Napoleon’s army. It was, of course, a ‘False Alarm’. ”
from Selkirk Online

It was all very strange, but quite amusing, and we were handed a wee dram of Sloe Gin. I had to show you a photo of the cute girls playing their pipes and recorders in their lovely costumes (apologies for the red eye effect):

Wee Pipers, Scott's Selkirk,

The night ended with some great fireworks, let off around the backs of the houses, which echoed back the boom and whoosh of the rockets flying into the sky. It was a fun day, and definitely got me in the mood for Christmas.

I travelled down to the South of England to spend Christmas with my family. On Boxing Day, we all ventured out to see Sompting Village Morris perform outside The Black Horse pub in Findon. They have women dancers as well as men, don’t they look smart in their outfits?

Lady Morris Dancers, Sompting Village Morris at The Black Horse, Findon, West Sussex - Boxing Day 2012

And what amazing many-coloured coats!

Many-coloured coats, Sompting Village Morris at The Black Horse, Findon, West Sussex - Boxing Day 2012

The men got going with their crazy Christmas hats:

Christmassy Morris Men, Sompting Village Morris at The Black Horse, Findon, West Sussex - Boxing Day 2012

Morris Dancing, Sompting Village Morris at The Black Horse, Findon, West Sussex - Boxing Day 2012

While the women were dancing, some of the men were getting dressed up for the Mummers Play they were going to perform. I was very taken with St. George’s knitted chainmail outfit (see the women dancing in the background).

St. George, Sompting Village Morris at The Black Horse, Findon, West Sussex - Boxing Day 2012

The Mummers Play was fairly indecipherable, and involved several people challenging each other to fights, I don’t know why…

Mummers Players, Sompting Village Morris at The Black Horse, Findon, West Sussex - Boxing Day 2012

This was the quack Doctor riding in to tend the “wounded”. It’s good to see people having fun, and keeping old traditions alive. And look at this man in the audience:

What a Moustache! Sompting Village Morris at The Black Horse, Findon, West Sussex - Boxing Day 2012

What a moustache! and what a hat!

I went back up to Edinburgh after Christmas, and worked for an afternoon in the museum, then headed to Newcastle for the New Year. My friend there was keen to go to Allendale for their New Year Celebrations, especially as the weather wasn’t too bad. It’s quite a remote village in Northumberland, and we have been put off going in the past by the difficulties presented getting there and back in snowy and icy conditions.  This year it was cold but not freezing. We had heard they have a procession with burning tar barrels through the village.

We headed out there about 10.30 and had some drinks in the pub. There was quite few people coming into the pub with fancy dress on, someone had knitted some red elves hats you can see them behind me:

Elf dreaming in Allendale, Northumberland

It looks a bit like I am dreaming of elves, I just need to draw a cloud bubble around the elves outside.

We headed outside to watch the fun:

Flaming tar barrels in Allendale Market square New Year's Eve 2012

They processed in a circular route (not very far) and finished in the Market Square:

Flaming tar barrels on heads in Allendale Market square New Year's Eve 2012

It’s a very small square so you end up really close to the flames. I’m amazed that they don’t get burned, the flames really lick about in the wind. They did a countdown to midnight and threw the burning barrels on to the bonfire to get it started:

Tar barrels thrown on the bonfire in Allendale Market square New Year's Eve 2012

Then the bonfire really got going, and the wind kept blowing the smoke about, so we were all moving away from it with stinging eyes.

The bonfire gets going in Allendale Market square New Year's Eve 2012

A memorable way to start the New Year.

We made a little movie that gives you a feel of the atmosphere – Allendale Movie 0:17

I love going to celebrations and ceremonies when everyone throws themselves into it whole-heartedly, despite it being a bit daft. Quite a affirmation of the quirky human spirit.

Thanks to S. Miller for the use of his photos and movie of Allendale.

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