Jimmy Fish, the Artist & the King of Constantinople….

Jimmy Fish, the Artist & the King of Constantinople….

This is an account how a picture led me to discover two very different people and their very different lives. They both lived in the East End of London, one an artist, Reginald Knowles, the other the boy who lived next door. This boy was Jimmy Fish, the brother of my mum’s step-mother. I will never know when they first met, how often Reginald and Jimmy saw each other, if they chatted over the garden wall or whether Reginald told…

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There Be Giants In Them Blue Remembered Hills….

There Be Giants In Them Blue Remembered Hills….

The Giants of the Blue Remembered Hills of Shropshire… Since I was little I have liked giants: wicked giants, kind giants and silly giants, like the one who fell down the bean stalk; Oscar Wilde’s ‘Selfish Giant’ whose heart was melted by a gentle child bringing back spring to his garden. As I got older I discovered there were older, more dangerous giants, movers and shapers who tore up mountains and cleaved chasms, shaping land and water. These giants were…

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Eadric Silvaticus: Legend of the Wildwood & Shropshire Folk Hero…

Eadric Silvaticus: Legend of the Wildwood & Shropshire Folk Hero…

The Eleventh-Century Saxon Thegn Who Became A Nineteenth Century Folk Hero Eadric the Wild was one of the richest thegns (high ranking Saxon noblemen) in pre-Conquest Shropshire. He held land throughout the Welsh Marches and had much to lose following the Norman conquest. We know little about Eadric. Today his deeds are largely forgotten but his name survives through legend and folklore. In 1067 Eadric submitted to William swearing fealty to him along with other Saxon noblemen, including Harold Godwinson’s…

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“On the Holiday Times of Old”…

“On the Holiday Times of Old”…

…Of Guising, Feasting and the Old Grey Mare In 1824 the Literary Gazette published a review titled ‘On the Holiday Times of Old’ lamenting the decline and passing of Christmas traditions. The writer, let’s call him ‘Gentleman’, wrote how ‘in vain do we look for “The jolly Wassel-Bowl” and the “Bore’s Head” with garlands gay and rosemary’ in a sad reflection on the neglect of the old customs. Our Gentleman reasons that this is due to the ‘sad effects of…

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Searching for the Lost Villages of Shropshire: Hangsters Gate

Searching for the Lost Villages of Shropshire: Hangsters Gate

‘No traveller comes easily to a lost village. Such empty sites are not well served by public transport and many lack even the convenience of a metalled road along which to approach them. You must be friend to mud, to green lanes and unused footpaths, to rotting footbridges and broken stiles, to brambles and to barbed wire. It is a landscape which has forgotten that human beings may want access, and it may be pardoned for its forgetfulness. It is…

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Holdgate: ‘The Castle of a Man Called Helgot’…

Holdgate: ‘The Castle of a Man Called Helgot’…

After submitting my thesis a few weeks ago now I miss my daily journeys into the murk and dark corners of the 12th century Welsh Marches. So, on feeling the need to escape for a few hours, away from Covid, Brexit and my woodsman husband’s looming redundancy, myself and Dan saddled up and journeyed over The Hill. It was a clear and sunny morning in late October and we headed north in search of a glimpse of the medieval past….

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Ghosts in the Landscape…Romans, Normans and a Georgian Woodsman

Ghosts in the Landscape…Romans, Normans and a Georgian Woodsman

I wrote the following ‘short’ for the Folklore Society Newsletter some time ago. It is about the old mott and bailey castle in Brinklow, a village in Warwickshire near to where I sent some of my childhood. Many of us heard tales as children concerning the local landscape: secret passages, fiddlers lost in underground caves and old women roaming the hills. Brinklow ‘tump’ is a huge mound right next to an old lane. As we drove by with my grandma…

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‘Tis merry in the hall, where beards wag all’…traditions of harvest home

‘Tis merry in the hall, where beards wag all’…traditions of harvest home

Now, there came three men out of Kent, my boys, For to plough for wheat and rye, And they made a vow and a solemn vow John Barleycorn must die. ~ Trad. Version sung by Fred Jordan, Shropshire farmworker and singer Harvest time! Once a huge event in rural communities, this was the culmination of the farming year with people coming together to bring in the barley, rye and other crops. When all was done they were rewarded for their…

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He Sings a Song in May…

He Sings a Song in May…

From time to time I collaborate with my friends, artist Hannah Willow and storyteller, Phillip Holmes, to produce workshops celebrating British folklore and legends . Alas, much of this year’s program has been cancelled but previous workshops, held at Avebury and Tintern in Wales, have focused on lore related to corvids and the element of ‘air’. Both included birds as messengers and portents and migratory birds were especially significant, suddenly arriving and leaving later as the year rolls towards winter…

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A Sense of Place…?

A Sense of Place…?

Strange times. Arguably the most common understatement of the current crisis. I use this expression a lot, to summarise my own sense of unreality at this time of lock down. Of course, there are other expressions… The coronavirus outbreak has anchored many of us to our home: the place we ‘live’ in, the place where we must stay, for now, and where many of us find new ways to organise our days, ways to mark and pass the time. For…

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Americana 2: A Tale of New York….

Americana 2: A Tale of New York….

After a few days on the Jersey Shore (see previous blog), we drove back to Newark and caught the train into New York City. This extraordinary city does not, or should not, disappoint. It is hard to define, despite the imprint of colonialism, immigration, opportunity, industrialisation, poverty, politics, and more. It occupies a space neither old or new. New York really is a place of ‘other’. Since my last visit ten years ago, there are many differences: Time Square is…

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Americana 1. The Race of Gentlemen

Americana 1. The Race of Gentlemen

Last month we crossed the ocean to witness a new tradition, The Race of Gentlemen, held every year in Wildwood, New Jersey since 2012. This is Americana at it’s finest! The Race Of Gentlemen or TROG, is held on the East coast on the Jersey Shore under a very fine backdrop of retro America…. Wildwood is where Bill Hayley first performed Rock Around the Clock in 1954 and the town still has examples of over 200 beautiful motels from the…

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