The Morning After the Harvest Home Before

It was – almost needless to say – Thomas Hardy who commented on the paganism that resides unheeded in the quiet corners of our sceptered aisle of plenty. And in this he was of course, like a good Victorian, mostly planting his own, metropolitarian views on the people from whom he came. For one man’s dance is another woman’s folk relic of a pagan ritual. And the gathering in of the crop is a universal human activity and so, by definition, links us back to our foremothers and fathers of deepest prehistoric time.

And so the humble working-folk of Great Tremlett – stockbrokers, nuclear physicists, accountants, supermarket assistant managers and reiki relaxation technicians – gathered to celebrate the gathering in of the Harvest.

Obviously in such a rural environment one would expect people at this kind of event to be singing the old songs of country matters – “The Tailor’s Britches”,”Cupid’s Garden”, “The Foggy Dew”. So Martin the verger belting out ” I Will Survive” during the karaoke was a bit of a surprise. Though maybe not that much of one.

These are only two farms in Tremlett; and the few people that work those farms were still working last night, but we raised a toast in organic Argentinian red and New Zealand white to them as we ate our Welsh lamb and Ugandan air-freighted sugar-snap peas.

It was the red wine, I presume, that excited my senses to the point where I unwisely bid for the biggest pumpkin in the auction. Somewhere over a hundred pounds in weight, it needed two burly blokes to carry it back to my kitchen. But in our post-modern rural idyll, sadly the village smith – arms rippling with quite unnecessarily exciting muscles – no longer seems to exist. Instead I needed three computer programmers and a marketing director to move the thing. Nothing like so interesting.

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The Long Harvest Festival

Quite a marathon for Revd Nathan today then.

Every parish in this part of the world has always had a Harvest Festival.Image

And they always have it on the last Sunday in September.

So Nathan has tried to get some to be flexible. And, to be fair, they have changed their customs slightly. But the one thing they won’t shift on is the date. It has to be this Sunday. Oh yeah. And they all have to have a meal after the service. Because it’s the most important Sunday of the year – outranking Christmas, Easter and the Second Coming in popularity with the non-regular churchgoers, they have to have a meal. 

So Nathan’s itinerary today goes:

8am – Harvest Festival at Woodby, followed by Harvest Breakfast

10am – Harvest Festival at Great Tremlett, followed by Harvest Brunch

Midday – Harvest Festival at Little Tremlett, followed by Harvest Lunch

3pm – Harvest Evensong at Woodby Chapel End, followed by Harvest Tea

6pm – Harvest Eucharist at Grilby on the Hill, followed by Harvest Supper

9pm – Compline at Great Tremlett (it’s the last Sunday of the month, and they complain if they don’t get Compline).

So Nathan’s got five services today, each followed by its own meal. And then, as a bonus, a meal-less service. And he’s not allowed to field any subs. It’s Back to Church Sunday, and every church insists that “their” vicar has to attend the service, so people get the “A” team.

To be fair, it’s a hard day for the benefice’s number one organist, Caswell. But the good news for Caswell is that he gets paid for each service, whereas Nathan’s on a flat rate. And nobody will be insisting Caswell has to eat something at every event afterwards. Poor old Nathan was particularly concerned about the Harvest Breakfast. Apparently the good people of Woodby have had a particularly good crop of radishes this year.

It’s at times like this that you’d think a vicar who’s the proud (if poverty-stricken) father of three strapping teenage children would cash in. Get them along to all the services, and you won’t need to feed them for a week, But oh, no. Susan his wife has decided they’re getting right out of it. She’s taken them all off to Grandma’s until the excitement has died down.

It’s gonna be a proper marathon. I hope he gets something to eat before he sets off. And let’s hope he stays strong in the five Harvest Raffles he’s now going to be involved in. Susan tells me that last year he won all five prize pumpkins. And that’s a lot of soup.

Twitter Bug Divorce

I note from an article on the BBC website that twerking girl Miley Cyrus and her fiance have broken up.

Furthermore, the article reveals that people knew because “Cyrus stopped following Hemsworth on Twitter, which led to various reports in the media that they had split up.”

Which is a little worrying, and more widely than just two actor/singer/whatevers – however sad their own breakup may be. Because Twitter users have long claimed that there is an “unfollow” bug, causing users to unfollow people they really wanted to keep following.

You can see the see the problem. Celebrity A is following his / her beloved partner, Celebrity B and vice versa. Suddenly, Twitter unfollows A on B’s behalf. Somebody in the Media notices that B no longer follows A  (just how sad is it, checking to see which celebrity is following which?)  And so the news that A  has been dumped by B hits the world public, causing great sadness for people they’ve never met.

But it could be worse. Perhaps A notices the unfollow and, being unable to express their thoughts too well, unfollows B in revenge. B phones A up, demanding to know what A is doing. A  asks what B think they’re doing. Accusations fly and, from a situation where everybody was happy, a relationship is wrecked by a rogue piece of code.

If that unfollow bug really exists, I reckon Twitter better fix it fast. Before it’s cited as cited as co-respondent in a celebrity divorce case.

Y Wars Start

This is very much a work in progress at the moment, so you’ll have to bear with me. I do know the difference between Causality and Correlation. Correlation is when two people have the same cousin, whereas Causality is a short-lived A&E drama where RoSPA would try and work out just why the victim fell off the ladder into the knife-grinding machine or whatever.

So you think about all the wars that were ever fought, and their causes.  Maybe 7% or so of all conflicts historically had religious causes, and only a vanishingly small fraction of 1%  were caused by women. I can’t even think of one  Boudicca’s rebellion was a perfectly legitimate response to the Romans. Maggie sent a task force because Galtieri – a man, notice – had invaded the Falklands. Only Good Queen Bess arguably caused a war. But then she did claim to have the heart of a man.  And the innards and quarters of a number of Catholic priests. But then, look at her parents.  Ghastly. Ghastly. But the sort of spotty dawk-worshipping dorks who hang around on forums or comment on Comment is Free cheerfully blame religion for wars, without realising the common theme in all wars is the thing they learnt to type one-handed for.

And it’s easy to blame this whole “men cause nearly all wars” thing on their upbringing. After all, living as we do in a country where boys are encouraged from a young age to fill in world atlases with a pink pen, it’s no surprise if they decide to attack Iraq without any good reason.  Yes, I know George W Bush said we should do it, but if George Bush said let’s all jump off a cliff, Tony Blair wouldn’t do that as well, would he?  Although I hear not all the footage from Camp David was released.

No, it’s simple. Given any situation of minor stress that should be resolved by negotiation, kind words and maybe a bit of bitching about France behind their backs, military options are routinely considered because thinking and talking is too hard. Nobody ever really wins a war. And it’s got to be a good principle that’s worth dying for – and a better one to send others to die for. But rationality is an interesting thing. And a  good dose of testosterone can make any number of deaths seem like a reasonable price to pay. Simplicity and glory always seem so much easier than losing face or even simply trying to find a better way

No, it’s pretty obvious. You can talk about economic stresses. You can consider your ethnic fault lines. You can blether about religion. But it’s men who cause wars, and they’re chemically wired to do it. If some of them didn’t at least have a half-dose of humanity and intelligence, we’d all be wiped out by now.

And if; by some freak, that happens – then if the last human on earth crawls out of the wreckage, looks across a blighted, lifeless post-apocalyptic landscape crawling with cockroaches, and reflects that at least we stuck to our principles – then you can bet that last survivor will be a man.

Behind the Fridge, and What I Found There

Behind the fridge? is that even a place?” asked my friend Judith when I discussed current political events with her this morning.

A telling question. After all – the only time I have ever seen behind a fridge was when replacing one fridge with another fridge. And I’m no philosopher, but I would have to say that if you’re replacing a fridge, then that spot is no longer “behind” the fridge – it’s the place where the back of the fridge used to be, and where the back of another fridge will be some time soon.

So I put on my uncle Hank’s old American Football helmet (he never actually went to America, and his real name was Ronald. But he was inspired by the film “The Mean Machine”).  I strapped on some football shin pads I borrowed off young Tommy next door, laid the old Slazenger V400 handy, and pulled the fridge away from the wall. I put my head – very carefully – around to see what was in there.

It was a surprise. A portal leading through to another world. So I grasped the V400, and plunged on through. Well, you do in these circumstances, don’t you?

I staggered, blinking, into the daylight. I was in a woodland clearing. Dancing round, small children filled the glade. Beyond the hedge, sun-burnt, honest sons of the soil, went through the fields, harvesting the barley with scythes. I noticed that every one of them was right-handed. Not one leftie to cause trouble and danger in the harvesting. Below, the fair-skinned maidens of the corn – every one approved as keeping a spotless kitchen – followed along, bundling, wimbling and gleaning.

The scene of rustic harmony went on for hours – the hard-working men occasionally running off for a quick frolic with the gleaning-girls, or grasping a drop of the surreal ale which they kept in an oaken cask – of English oak, I was told, and constructed by an English cooper. The work stopped for a moment as a car drew into sight in the distance – and all cheered to see their much-loved Squire, driven by his chauffeur in the luxurious Bentley Farage.

Morris dancers skipped across the distance. Jack-in-the-Green lurked in the spinney, awaiting the return of spring. And then, far away across the fields, the tolling of an iron bell called the faithful to their knees, to hear the softly-spoken magic spell. They filed gratefully into Church for the Harvest Festival, where the upper-class, beautifully-spoken Reverend Maybold thanked God for the chance to live in this beautiful country with its sun-dappled evenings.

Then a quick game of cricket on the Green. The burly blacksmith took 4 wickets, although the Squire’s son, down from Cambridge for the summer, won the game with an educated innings of 57 – not one shot hit “on the up”. When night fell, the womenfolk returned to their thatched cottages to boil up the chitterlings which they bought from their English corner shop, while the men headed to the Rose and Crown to smoke long pipes, drink English bitter and tell tales of foreign countries where cucumbers were straight and mass-murderers were set free if they missed their household pets. Then they put on their British-made coats and British-made flat caps, and cycled on their British-made cycles back home for dinner, and to listen to the Goons on the wireless.

But under the darkling sky, the maypole stood lively against the western glow, as the hobbits danced round it with abandon. They rejoiced that the dark shadow of Mordor had been removed from the land, the swarthy Southrons were no longer seen, and the elves had returned to the Grey Havens, leaving the English to run their own affairs. The smell of garlic was no longer to be found in the land. And I gradually realised that this world, though beautiful and precious, had never really existed.

I really, really, really shouldn’t have eaten that cheese I found behind the fridge.

No Animals Harmed…

I’m going to need another shower before Morning Prayer.

I have now made the connection between a number of apparently unrelated matters. The odd little distillery in the yard behind Mandy’s Corner Shop;  her thriving feather-pillow trade;  and what I had thought, while making a purchase yesterday, was a charming marketing makeover of my favourite anti-perspirant.

I’d loved the apparently hand-written style of label – seemed to imply a back-to-basics theme. Which, in a way, it was. Still, I’m not buying “Dove” products from Mandy again.

And her new “Vole” range is out, as well.