Abingdon Traditional Morris Dancers (Cotswold Tradition).

Abingdon Traditional Morris Dancers performed yesterday at The Cherry Tree in Steventon. I managed to take a few photographs (especially of Rob in his bells) as they entertained us from the pub car park and afterwards as they played music back in the warmth of the pub.

Parading the Horns.
The Ock Street Horns are always present at an ATMD performance. History states that after a bit of an ox roast dinner and drinking session in 1700 a fight broke out in the town between the men of Ock Street and The Vineyard. Ock Street won the scuffle and took the horns as a trophy. Sounds like a regular Friday night to me...

The Fool.
The Mayor of Ock Street.
The side also includes the Mayor of Ock Street who is elected every year by the residents of Ock Street and carries a chalice and sword as his symbols of his office, and, of course,  there is the fool. What's a morris side without a fool?

The dancers and the musicians:
I recognise him.
And back into the warmth of the pub for a spot of music:

Want to know how they sounded?

Through the rude wind's wild lament and the bitter weather.

The title of this post consists of a couple of lines from that old classic Yuletide carol Good King Wenceslas which is primarily about saintly behaviour. I wouldn’t know anything about that and so will ignore it and tell you that my main reason for including it in this post is because of it’s references to the harshness of winter conditions and the need to gather “winter fu(ooo)el”.

Ah yes, winter fuel. Where was I on that? I was here, wondering what had become of ours.

In a last ditch attempt at trying to locate our order I phoned the Candle Bridge Carrying Company on Tuesday and used my Stern Voice to scare the man into delivering it. I was given a lot of excuses (none of which included problems with the delivery lorries as previously stated) and was promised (on pain of death, I like to think) that our coal would be with us on Thursday.

Thursday came and I phoned to double check. Yes, our coal would arrive that afternoon...

And lo! it did. There was much rejoicing.

But coal isn't our only source of warmth this year. We're using bees. Not literally. We're not setting fire to them or anything. I don't imagine they would give off much warmth if we did and they probably wouldn't appreciate it either. We’re using the wood waste from the production of beehives. It comes in compact blocks from Burning Blocks and leaves us happy in the knowledge that we're being a little bit more environmentally friendly than we would be if using coal alone. And we're doing our part to support Maisemore Apiaries. So perhaps we are a little saintly after all.

No bees were harmed in the search for winter warmth.

Chalky horses and not the fruit I was expecting. How cryptic a title is that?

There's a lot of white horses in Wiltshire, the hill carving kind of white horse - but you already knew that, didn't you?
We had a mad plan to visit eight of them all in one day. Yes, eight. We're nothing but ambitious... And a bit rubbish as it turns out: we managed two of them and a kiwi (not the fruit. I expected a hill carving of a fruit, imagine my disappointment).

I grew up near the White Horse of Kilburn and thought Yorkshire was unique in its ownership of such a magnificent feature (where the Fey resided beneath) but it turns out I was wrong (about the uniqueness, not the Fey, obviously) and you can't move for falling over a white horse down south.

Our first horse was in Malborough. The Malborough or Preshute horse is a bit anorexic these days. It apparently used to be a bit bulkier when it was first carved into Granham Hill by boys from Mr. Greasley's Acadamey in 1804.
No, it really is a horse.
We were still confident in our ability to fill our day with vast numbers of hill figures at this point and eagerly made our way to our next destination. Well, it wasn't even lunch time and the day still loomed large and bright ahead of us. We were, however, reliant on my map reading skills and "umm" apparently should never be the answer to "which way now?" or "where are we?".

We did find our way to the new Pewsey Horse on Pewsey Hill (helpfully named there) and stopped here to have our lunch. This horse is definitely more horse-like and well worth the climb up the VERY STEEP hill to get to - even if it was just to giggle at the 'Animals please shut the gate' sign. Well, it was in a field of (literate) cows. This one was carved in 1937 to mark the Coronation of George VI.

Actually, it does look a little whippet-like.

Did I mention the VERY STEEP hill? There was a lovely view from the top of it but I did have to hide behind Rob and use him to block my view of the sheer(ish) drop to clamber back down.

Don't look down.Don't look down. Don't look down...

It was mid afternoon by the time I had been edged down the mountain (I may have upgraded the hill status here) and so we thought we'd make one final push to fit in another hill figure so we could be home in time for tea.
My navigational skills had improved somewhat by now although I did become a little concerned when we drove down Gaza Road. Gaza? What?
Gaza Road is next to Baghdad Road and that's not disconcerting at all... Turns out we were in Bulford Barracks and here we found a kiwi (not the fruit) carved into the side of Beacon Hill. It was carved in 1919 by the Canterbury and Otago Engineers Battalions awaiting their homeward voyage to New Zealand.

Not a fruit.

It took us a while to find and I was becoming a bit worried that driving endlessly around an army barrack in a white van was a bit conspicuous. There's nothing like vast amounts of razor wire fencing to make one feel welcome. After climbing the hill to see the kiwi and finding a notice about improvised explosive devices I declared that being arrested/shot at/water tortured for looking suspiciously out of place (and clearly dressed as a hiker) was not on our To Do list that day and decided it was time to head for home.

Candle Bridge Canal Carrying Company – Archimedes.

This year we had the opportunity to buy our winter coal and diesel supplies from a traditional canal carrying company. We jumped at the chance as it’s not often we see deliveries by working boats on the upper Thames. It turns out that there’s probably a reason for this: Maidenhead and Reading are full of treacle.
I know that sounds a little odd but it’s the only logical explanation I can come up with that adequately accounts for our lack of coal (that we’ve already paid for). The Candle Bridge Carrying Company *did* bring us diesel and a few bags of coal by river and it was marvellous – can’t fault that at all. Loved it. It was a week or so late but it’s narrowboating and narrowboating rules dictate that Thou Shalt Not Be On Time (it’s a pain of death thing. NEVER break this rule. You have been warned).
Achimedes struggled a little in our shallow moorings but eventually was secure enough to enable us to moor alongside and fill our tank. Unfortunately, there had been a problem with the lorry delivering coal to Archimedes when she was in Reading earlier that week and so instead of the 60 bags of coal we ordered (divided between 2 boats) we received 15. Not so bad really, that’s plenty to be getting on with and we were told the rest would be delivered by lorry two days later. Great.
Two days later (Monday) and the coal didn’t arrive - but that’s still okay because we were promised it by the Wednesday…
No coal. Still, we have bags of it and we were *definitely* promised our coal by the following Monday.
Monday came. Our coal didn’t. It’s okay though, because it’ll be here by Friday.
No, I mean Monday… Wednesday… Saturday… Next week… Or the week after… Make that 2 more weeks… Sometime in the future…
Apparently the lorry got stuck in Maidenhead this time. Or was it Reading again? Or both?. Like I said – treacle problems down south, obviously. Traffic is unable to move south of Wallingford. Is the country slowly sinking into a tin of Tate & Lyle?
Or perhaps the narrowboating timing rule applies to lorries too? That might make a little more sense than my treacle hypothesis. Let’s just pretend I never mentioned the treacle…
But still, where’s our coal? It would be nice to have it some time this year. *Please*? <--- There’s a note of begging in the tone with which that plea should be read.

I have since spoken with Jay from the Candle Bridge Carrying Company and he would like to have it made clear that his company is separate from that of the coal merchants who caused the above difficulties. I would also like to make it known, as I wrote in the post above, that we had no issues with the service Jay provided upholding his end of the business transaction by bringing us fuel via the waterways. I was not aware at the original time of writing that the Candle Bridge Carrying Company operated separately to the coal merchants and was under the impression that they were two branches of the same company. I would therefore like to officially state that we would be happy to conduct future business with the Candle Bridge Carrying Company and hope this sentiment is reciprocated. I reiterate: it was all the coal merchant's fault...

Fruit and alcohol. Mainly alcohol…

There was a thick fog hanging over the river at 6.30 this morning and this afternoon the sun shines so warmly that there’s no need for a jumper. I love this time of year.

Another reason why I love autumn is because of the harvests it brings. I have never been religious but I used to look forward to the Harvest Festival in the Methodist church opposite my school. Not for theDSCF5381 service itself, but because of the wonderful display of produce. And then we sang songs at the fruit and vegetables. Excellent.


This year the hedgerows have been abundant in their offerings. For us it is the God of Booze that is worshipped and to whom we make our sacrifices (does that make us sound like alcoholics? In case it does I’d like to mention that I love tea too: I love tea too...). But how can you pass up the opportunity for liqueur, whisky and gin when all this is on your boaty doorstep? DSCF5387


We usually make bDSCF5394lackberry whisky and sloe gin every year but this time round I wanted to utilise the hips. There are so many and it seemed a waste not to add them to our alcohol collection. The lovely @nbluckyduck of the fabulous nbluckyduck blog suggested I try a liqueur recipe from the Foraging London blog. I must say, it smells divine and very Christmassy already. I think it will be a huge success so I’m not sure whether it will last until Yule time as, well, you know, it has to be tested… a lot. Quality Control and all that…