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Village Carol Singing in 2011

December 25, 2011

Spontaneity is the key with village carol singing. Too much planning would take away the magic in some way. So, in spite of the odd telephone call which is made to ensure that we will not be a choir of just one or two, we leave the rest to Christmas Eve.

This year was no exception. By six thirty, eleven us had gathered. After a swift tot of Sloe Gin (very low food miles – as least for the Sloes, you will understand), we set off. This year the weather was milder than it has been. The stars were out with a beautiful clarity – just as they should be.

It is important not to peak too early with carol singing. It also seems to be important not to practice. But after a nervy start we hit our stride. We must present a strange sight to the passing traffic on usual march to Oxnead, laden with lanterns, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Across the causeway road and back, the spring remains in our stride and we catch up with the year’s events. Everything discussed , from all perspectives.

Little did we know, but reinforcements had arrived in the guise of the Chapman family. Old hands at the carolling game, our volume and delivery audibly increased. Perhaps more relaxed now, the residents of Street Farm were generous in their support and then we struck off towards the rest of the village – along the muddy beet strewn road.

It is the wonder of children that has the greatest effect of carollers. Their palpable excitement and the invasion of their houses and gardens by a singing mob, must leave some sort of memory. We ‘Away in a manger’- ed houses up and down the street. We hit our peak (to our ears anyway), somewhere near John Frye’s house, or perhaps a little bit further on. Wine was mulled and the village club was welcoming – the acoustics within being surprisingly good. We felt something like a Brampton “Flash mob” as we regaled them with our new found confidence. As ever the Humphrey’s were “treated” to “While Shepherds watched”, for very obvious reasons, and the Hylton’s received the same to our second tune (“on Ilkley Moor..bah’t’at). Hospitality was great from all angles, with John Frye’s Italian Wine from jerry cans, and superb mulled wine from both Helen and Geoff and from Linda and Andrew amongst others.

Then to finish things off, a short carol Singer’s Service at the Church. Clustered in the chancel, we sang again and listened to some Christmas poetry readings, to bring the evening to a contemplative end. Now we wait for the count by Katy to see how much money was raised for Quidenham Hospice from the generous villagers. As for next year? Well we don’t plan, spontaneity is the key. The carolling tradition will roll on, depending upon who turns up,
that is…

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The musical call of a skein of wild geese heralded the morning of Christmas Eve in Brampton. The wonderful sound of their calls, which evokes the music of a pack of hounds, echoed from the woods at Oxnead. Some call them Gabriel’s Hounds in an effort to sum up the magic of their calls. This is considered in some parts of the country as being the sound of the diabolical wild hunt, but I think our geese were much more benign – and probably off in search of sugar beet tops.

Kingfisher morning

December 11, 2011

The sighting of a Kingfisher lit up an otherwise dull December morning. At first it just appeared as a shape, albeit a familiar shape, perched on a pliant reed. As we approached it flew a few yards further away. As it did so the bird’s colours colours were lit; the diamond on its back being especially brilliant. This morning’s colour being more of a cerulean blue – some lights this takes on a more of a copper green, but not today. As we left it fishing the high pitched contact call continued to announce its presence to those who tune in.

Bure Mute Swans in November

November 26, 2011

Mute Swans in late November are planning ahead. Walking along the Bure this morning, I noticed a lot of swan activity. Bow-waving Cobs chase one another to defend a stretch a river; with wings raised, neck arched in sprung strength and with the chest thrust forward the dominant male makes short work of his younger rival.

Above Burgh Mill, a younger pair seem totally engrossed as they face one other in mid-stream, their mirrored necks forming a perfect lyre shape. They pay little heed to our passing. The scene is repeated by another pair beside the little footbridge over the Mermaid.

With these scenes of ritual choreography it is so clear why they are the inspiration for human dance.

Elsewhere the dullness of the day is emphasised by the tap of falling leaves. The trees will be bare soon.

November full Moon

November 12, 2011

The full moon of Thursday night was a truly wonderful sight, sailing over the eastern Brampton sky at just the right elevation for a garden telescope-based view. For half an hour, until the cloud cover put an end to proceedings, we moved amongst the brightly lit craters, seas and mountains of the Moon. Tonight the Moon was escorted through the sky by Jupiter – a contrasting scale of distance but this evening she failed to draw us away from the main subject.

Early silence

November 9, 2011

A brief moment of silence this morning, broken only by the gentle contact calls of foraging flocks. Firstly a small flock of Redwings announce their presence by a their gentle sub whistling calls only to be echoed by Bullfinches. Now the time has come for wintering birds to make use of the bounteous supplies of seed or berry before times get tougher. As yet no frost of any significance has softened the sloes, so it is likely to be the hawthorn berries which are popular, for the Thrushes at least.
The Ash trees have dropped their leaves this week – thus joining the Poplars which are always the first to succumb. the Oaks are hanging on but they are looking isolated in a the
bare-branched ash lined railway.

Leaf fall

November 7, 2011

The wind changed direction and blew steadily from the south east earlier this week. This change of angle served to strip the leaves from the poplars that line the Oxnead Road as well as those on the railway line. Hitherto for some weeks the prevailing westerly wind had failed to dislodge leaves – perhaps they were not quite ready. The arrival of some rain may have helped – trees need the movement of water in order to force the issue. A dry period merely desiccates the tree into a kind of suspended state.

Other trees are clinging on, although the Field maples have dropped a few of the chrome yellow leaves.

Autumn maple leaves

The Ash and the Oak hold on. They must be getting some energy from doing so, but I can’t help thinking that this must be minimal.