Dr John Hawkins
Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff,
home to a huge load of pictures,
and my daily blog.
My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.
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Maison de Stuff
- Recent Entries:
- Highgate Cemetery and Hampstead Heath
Chateau Musar White
Lunch at the Pineapple
New Year's Day
New Year's Eve
Vera and Robin
Boxing Day in Cheddar and Clevedon
Christmas Day in Devon
Christmas Eve in Devon
London to Devon
- Highgate Cemetery and Hampstead Heath
- [Saturday 11th January 2020]
I went for an urban walk this morning while Erika was at her Japanese school - took in Highgate Cemetery and Hampstead Heath.
- [Friday 10th January 2020]
Night out with the usual suspects, involving laksa.
- Chateau Musar White
- [Thursday 9th January 2020]
Had Lebanese food for dinner and tried Chateau Musar's white wine for the first time.
- Lunch at the Pineapple
- [Wednesday 8th January 2020]
Went with Chie for lunch at the Pineapple.
- Evening Walk
- [Tuesday 7th January 2020]
Went out for an evening walk to get some exercise.
- [Monday 6th January]
- Gomshall Mill
- [Sunday 5th January 2020]
Went down to Gomshall for lunch at the Gomshall Mill with Adrian, Liz and the kids.
- [Saturday 4th January 2020]
I'd been pleased to discover that wassailing was not something purely confined to the West Midlands and West Country, and that a few of the morris sides in the home counties organised an event, particularly in Sussex where there was also something of a cider industry. I think ideally I would have liked to go back to the wonderful Leominster Morris wassail in Herefordshire again this year, which I had attended two years ago. It had felt incredibly atavistic, and had in a way been the catalyst for my new found desure to spend more time in the countryside over the past couple of years, in part manifested through a lot of country walks.
However, the Leominster Morris always holds their wassail on Twelfth Night, the 6th of January, regardless of which day of the week that falls on. That would have been a Monday this year, and would probably have required taking at least a half day off work either side to get there and back. So it seemed eminently more sensible to go to the Chanctonbury Morris wassail in Sussex, not far from Haywards Heath, today, it being a Saturday evening.
The event was scheduled to start at 6pm, but I aimed to get there slightly earlier so I could visit the cider bar/shop at the location where the wassail was being held beforehand. The bar had apparently only opened in the last year, and although I was delighted to discover a bar solely dedicated to cider (such a rare commodity!) I did slightly worry how it would work out as a business proposition - it's a surprisingly remote spot, and there's pretty much no way to get there other than by car. I had got a taxi from Haywards Heath, which admittedly is pretty well served for taxis, but I wondered how many other people might do the same.
Anyway, at least this evening there was a fairly impressive turnout, which suggests people can manage it! Quite possibly around a hundred people were there...?
As billed, with impressive punctuality, the proceedings did indeed start around 6pm, and the gentleman I assumed to be the squire of the Chanctonbury Ring Morris Men gave an address to the assembled crowd. The attendees then collected flaming torches and processed along the track from the main cluster of farm buildings to the orchard. There had also been a torch lit procession in Herefordshire two years ago, and this really does add an edge of drama to an event like this, and gives it a really primal and magical feel. Particularly given that once we got away from the farm buildings there were no other light sources in the immediate vicinity. I hope the pictures convey some sense of the atmosphere at this point.
I decided not to take a torch in hand myself, partly because I got the sense they were in short supply and partly because I wanted to keep my hands free to take pictures (and drink cider!).
When we arrived at the orchard we formed a large circle and the ceremony began. There were verses read, songs sung, later on dances danced, but the most fun part was the part where all present were invited to make loud noises to wake up the apple trees. I had brought with me a slightly ridiculous slide whistle to contribute (see this video for the cacophony).
Then we eventually processed back to the farm buildings and The Cider Tap for wassail cakes, more cider, and more morris dancing. I joined in with one of the dances a bit later on, and it was a wonderful reminder of when I'd been an occasional dancer in the Penallt Morris Men, with Dad, in the late 1980s.
The plan after the wassail at Wobblegate was for the festivities to continue at the Royal Oak in Wineham. I had originally thought I might do a night time walk to get there, but ultimately the thought of a couple of miles stumbling through dark countryside after a couple of pints of cider didn't entirely appeal, so I asked around and managed to get a lift.
Although I love the Royal Oak, I had been just before Christmas, and somehow once I got there this evening I wasn't really in the mood. The morris dancers seemed to want to (quite reasonably) have a quiet time of it after their exertions at the wassail. I had heard there was going to be music there from 8pm, but by about 8:30 nothing had as yet started, and I decided instead maybe I should just head home. I did still have the uncertainty of whether or not I'd be able to get a taxi from the Royal Oak back to Wineham - as it turned out when I called them it was fine, but maybe it would have been a different story had I stayed until 10pm. So as it turned out I was back in London around 10pm, and back home by 10:30.
See also this Google Photos album, which contains the same pictures as linked to above, in addition to a few videos.
- [Friday 3rd January 2020]
Another quiet day at home. Opened a half bottle of Nyetimber in the evening.
- Winter Wonderland
- [Thursday 2nd January 2020]
Took Erika to Winter Wonderland for the afternoon, then later on dinner at Oliveto.
- New Year's Day
- [Wednesday 1st January 2020]
Had a quiet day at home and ate some Japanese food. Erika didn't get out of her pyjamas all day!
- New Year's Eve
- [Tuesday 31st December 2019]
I went for a walk in the morning - a circular walk starting and ending at Liss, with a section of the Shipwrights Way on the way towards Petersfield, a lunch stop at the Harrow Inn at Steep, then back to Liss via part of the Hangers Way. See also John Goes For a Walk.
In the evening we had local friends over for New Year's Eve.
- Ashdown Forest
- [Monday 30th December 2019]
Went for a walk in the Ashdown Forest with Chie and Erika to see the Pooh Sticks Bridge and Gills Lap.
See also John Goes For a Walk.
- Camp Stove
- [Sunday 29th December 2019]
Spent the afternoon chopping up wood, assembling an improvised wood store, and trying out my new camp stove which generates electricity.
- Vera and Robin
- [Saturday 28th December 2019]
Went to see Vera and Robin in Abergavenny in the daytime before heading back to London in the evening.
- Boat Inn
- [Friday 27th December 2019]
Met up with Bec and family at the Boat Inn in Penallt, and stayed the night at the St. Pierre Country Park.
- Boxing Day in Cheddar and Clevedon
- [Thursday 26th December 2019]
Left Starcross in the morning, and drove to Cheddar, where we went to see the caves and the Gorge. After that we drove on to Clevedon where we had dinner and stayed the night.
- Christmas Day in Devon
- [Wednesday 25th December 2019]
Presents in the morning, a midday stroll to the Anchor at Cockwood, then Italian food for dinner.
- Christmas Eve in Devon
- [Tuesday 24th December 2019]
The plan for today was to stock up at the big Sainsbury's in Pinhoe near Exeter, then have a lunchtime drink at the marvellous Bridge Inn in Topsham. Slightly waylaid by an unexpected trip to Kwik Fit!
- London to Devon
- [Monday 23rd December 2019]
Took the train to Bristol, stopped up for lunch there, then picked up a Zipcar and drove the rest of the way down to Devon.