Folk Customs Of Old Leicestershire : Sprout Hanging

I happened to be waiting at the bus stop in the village of Foxton on New Year’s Eve, when I noticed this string of Brussels sprouts hanging from an adjacent hedge.    

As I nibbled abstractedly on a sprout to sustain me through my long vigil, I spotted a passing folklorist going about his business and questioned him about the origins of this custom. 

Knocking the dottle from his pipe out on a nearby dog-waste bin, he informed me that the villagers traditionally hang any spare sprouts they may have left over after Christmas in the hedge as a propitiatory offering to Arriva, the Goddess of public transport, to ensure a reliable bus service over the coming year.

And they’d be Damned Fools if they didn’t.

“Something To Wear Against The Heart”

November’s poem is brought to you by R.S. Thomas, the austere Welsh priest.


A Day in Autumn


It will not always be like this,

The air windless, a few last

Leaves adding their decoration

To the trees’ shoulders, braiding the cuffs

Of the boughs with gold; a bird preening


In the lawn’s mirror.  Having looked up 

From the day’s chores, pause a minute.

Let the mind take its photograph

Of the bright scene, something to wear

Against the heart in the long cold.


In case your mind has failed to take its photograph of the bright scene, here are a few I took last Sunday along the Brampton Valley Way.  Looks a little like a catalogue for the William Morris Wallpaper Company. 

Autumnal Fruits

Now here’s a funny thing.  A sort of arrangement of early Autumnal fruits in the hedgerow around the perimeter of the ground at Fairfield Road. 

Perhaps some kind of offering to the Spirit of Cricket?

And, on a similar theme, a fat wood mouse – bold as you like! – eating a squashed windfall apple in the middle of Scotland Road.

I fancy that’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year in the bag again!

It’s an Ill Wind …

The North Wind doth blow

And we shall have snow

And what shall poor Robin do then, poor thing?


One of my neighbours has an apple tree.  Every Autumn the apples fall and lie uncollected and I think what a shame it is not to make use of them.  Since the snow has fallen, though, I’ve begun to have second thoughts.  Every day positive flocks of birds – blackbirds, thrushes and assorted small songbirds congregate to eat the apples.  There are so many they’ve even attracted a small hawk of some description, leading to a few spectacular mid-air dogfights.  In time, the birds will digest the apples, excrete the pips and – where they fall – new trees will grow.  And so it starts again.

 I suppose this is actually – unless you take a severely anthropocentric view of things – what fruit is for.




Blackbird with Apple


A Calendar of Sonnets : September, by Helen Hunt Jackson

The first of September, so over to Helen Hunt  Jackson for the monthly forecast:



O golden month! How high thy gold is heaped!
The yellow birch-leaves shine like bright coins strung
On wands; the chestnut’s yellow pennons tongue
To every wind its harvest challenge. Steeped
In yellow, still lie fields where wheat was reaped;
And yellow still the corn sheaves, stacked among
The yellow gourds, which from the earth have wrung
Her utmost gold. To highest boughs have leaped
The purple grape,–last thing to ripen, late
By very reason of its precious cost.
O Heart, remember, vintages are lost
If grapes do not for freezing night-dews wait.
Think, while thou sunnest thyself in Joy’s estate,
Mayhap thou canst not ripen without frost!

Almost a freezing night-dew yesterday morning in Little Bowden.  Certainly the mornings are drawing in on me –

Little Bowden, 6.30, 31st August 2010


Rose Hip November by Vashti Bunyan and some memories of Rosehip Syrup

Not much in the way of music on this blog recently, so, as a seasonal offering, I give you Vashti Bunyan’s Rose Hip November (or, in fact, about two thirds of it – don’t know why it’s been truncated by the director of this YouTube clip).  The autumnal pictures that accompany it seem to be from Victoria (Canada, I think, rather than Australia or, for that matter, Victoria Station).

(If anyone would like some practical tips as to what to do with rosehips in November, by the way, may I point you in the direction of that excellent and instructive blog The Wartime Housewife – Hedgerow happiness 1).

My own memories of Rosehip Syrup are as the main, indeed almost the only weapon, in my mother’s medicinal armoury.  Cough – Rosehip Syrup.  Cold – Rosehip Syrup.  Broken arm – Rosehip Syrup (I exaggerate slightly here). 

I saw a bottle of the stuff in a chemists a while ago and thought about buying it for nostalgic reasons, but was mindful of how the imaginative and excitable American rock critic Lester Bangs had become addicted to cough medicine and came to a sticky end as a result.  But, perhaps, it wasn’t actually Rosehip Syrup that was his undoing.