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Waxing lyrical

There was a fresh rax for the dictionary when a friend in Italy reminded me of Candlemas, which was yesterday.  As with many religious festivals it has been absorbed from previous belief systems, but is now honoured as the day when Mary took the baby Jesus to the temple and was herself purified.  It’s 40 days after Christmas (which itself wasn’t settled as being on 25th December until waaay after the event) (leaving aside any discussion on the notion that a woman has to be purified after giving birth, especially when the prescribed method is to sacrifice a load of food, mmm, who’s going to eat that, I wonder?) and is also midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  Candles are blessed in churches as a symbol and literal bringer of light.  The pre-Roman festival of Lupercalia had similar purpose and connotations.   Lupercalia itself derives from lupus or wolf, nominally the she-wolf of Rome who nursed Romulus and Remus, the city founders of legend/myth*.  Wiki has a note of all the various festivals around this date, for those who are interested.  Tenerife is in with a shout.

There is a weather lore saying relating to Candlemas, a friend of mine is going to remind me of the Fife one, but it’s along the lines of –  if it’s a rubbish day weather wise, that’s winter done, but if it’s fair, there’s more winter to come^.  A concordant notion exists in Italy.  Please get in touch if you know of similar sayings.   I know that older Universities name their terms after this and other religious festivals , which would have made sense to the teachers and students of the time.

If Candlemas Day is clear and bright, / winter will have another bite. / If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, / winter is gone and will not come again.”  It is also alleged to be the date that bears emerge from hibernation to inspect the weather, as well as wolves. If they choose to return to their lairs on this day it’s interpreted as meaning severe weather will continue for another forty days at least. The same is true in Italy, where it is called Candelora.

More Latin:  due to the expiatory offerings made on this day it was also known as dies Februatus , from the Latin Februum, meaning “of purification” giving February its name.

Yet more Latin:  candle of course comes from candere – to glow, giving us incandescent, the French chandle, from which we obtain chandlelier, and after that I looked up chandler, which I never realised comes direct from the man who used to sell candles.   This was broadened into the person who sold everything**, and then narrowed back to ship’s chandler, the person who sold everything for ships.  If you know us then you know why that’s interesting!

Candlemas is also the day for taking down Yuletide decorations, the day for payment of quarterly rents (still enshrined in Scottish law as recently as 1991) and a hiring day for servants.   Elsewhere I read that the person who finds the bean in the Twelfth Night cake (and is elected Lord of Misrule) has to provide food for everyone on this day.

And if all that weren’t enough, it’s Groundhog Day, a popular tradition observed in Canada and the United States on February 2nd. It derives from the Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks, and if it does not see its shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early. While the tradition remains popular in modern times, studies have found no consistent correlation between a groundhog seeing its shadow and the subsequent arrival time of spring-like weather.  (The film, with Bill Murray and Andie McDowell is well worth a watch.)

Many thanks to @elisabettabackstage on Instagram for explaining part of the above.

*distinction left to the reader

^ 2020 – it rained, a lot.

**I knew that bit.


It’s Fife’s worst kept secret that the 100th new Lidl* store in Scotland will be opened here.  In a marketing coup they have nobbled Burns’ Night (Day?) for the occasion, and have also, allegedly, secured the services of musician KT Tunstall for the event.  KT is indeed currently working with the brand Lidl Live, and is performing in Edinburgh that same night, so the signs would appear to be in alignment.  If it were needed, this is a reminder of her first performance on Jools Holland …Later.

*other supermarkets are available.  Aldi’s nearest store is giving away £5 vouchers in the Press.   Lastly, a song which is relevant.


Today I heard this ballad read out, and after much rootling around I found a sound file or two.

The Ballad of the Deluge   by W D Cocker (1882 – 1970)

The Lord took a staw at mankind,

A righteous and natural scunner.

They were neither tae haud nor tae bind,

They were frichtit nae mair by his thunner.


They had broken ilk edic’ an’ law,

They had pitten his saints tae the sword.

They had worshipped fause idols o’ stane

I will thole it nae mair” said the Lord.


Ah’m weary wi’ flightin’ at folk

Ah’ll dicht them clean oot o’ ma sicht!

But Noah, douce man, ah will spare,

For he ettles, pair chiel, tae be richt”.


So he cryet unto Noah ae day,

When naebody else wis aboot.

Sayin’ “Hearken ma servant tae Me,

An these, Ma commands, cairry oot.


A great muckle boat ye maun bigg,

An ark that can float heich and dry,

Room in’t for aa yir ain folk,

An’ a hantle of cattle forbye.


Then tak ye the fowls o’ the air

Even unto the big bubblyjocks,

And tak ye the beasts o the field

Whittrocks, an’ foumarts, an’ brocks.


Wale ye twa craturs o each,

See that nae cratur rebels.

Dinny ye fash aboot fish,

They can look after theirsels.


Herd them a’ safely aboard,

And aince the Blue Peter’s unfurled.

Ah’ll send doon a forty day flood,

An the de’il tak the rest of the warld”.


Sae Noah rocht hard at the job,

An searched tae the earth’s farthest borders.

An’ gaithered the beasts and the birds,

And telt them tae staun by for orders.


His sons, Ham and Japhet and Shem,

Were thrang a’ this time at the work.

They had fermed a wheen trees in the wid,

An biggit a great muckle ark.


Noo, this wisny done jist on the quait,

An’ neebors would whiles gaither roon.

Then Noah would drap them a hint, like

Eh, the weather is gaun tae brak doon”.


But the neebors wi’ evil were blin’,

An little jaloused whit wis wrang, saying,

Och, that’ll be guid for the neeps”, or

Oh, the weather’s been drouthy owre lang”.


Then Noah, wi’ a’ his ain folk,

The beasts and the birds got aboard.

An’ they steekit the door o’ the ark,

And they lippened themselves tae the Lord.


Then boom! cam a lashin o’ rain,

Like the wattest wat day in Lochaber.

The hailstanes like plunkers cam stoat,

The fields turned tae glaur, and syne glabber.


An the burns a’ cam doon in a spate.

An the rivers ran clean owre the haughs

The brigs were a’ soopit awa’,

An whit had been dubs, becam lochs.


Then the folk were sair pitten aboot,

An they cried, as the weather got waur,

Oh Lord, we ken fine we hae sinned,

But a joke can be cairried owre faur”.


Then they chapped at the ark’s muckle door,

Tae speir gin douce Noah had room,

But Noah ne’er headed their cries,

He said “This’ll learn ye tae soom”.


An the river roared loudly an’ deep,

An the miller was droond in the mill.

An the watters spread owre a’ the land,

An the shepherd was droond oan the hill.


But Noah and aa his ain folk,

Kept safe fae the fate o’ ill men.

Til the ark, when the flood had gien owre,

Cam dunt! on the tap o’ a ben.


An’ the watters rowed back tae the seas,

An’ the seas settled doon an’ were calm.

An’ Noah replenished the earth,

But they’re sayin, he tuik a good dram!


*Whittrocks, an’ foumarts, an’ brocks.

= weasels, and polecats and badgers.


lippen [lɪpn]
v. To trust, rely or depend on, have confidence in a person to do something. With tae or wi: to entrust something to someone or someone with something. To expect, look for with anticipation, count on, reckon.

Note – badgers saved for posterity,  most important.



Still on the poetry tack, another which always comes to mind at the turn of the year, deservedly much loved, written by old “mad, bad and dangerous to know”. *   Particularly apt given the overnight weather conditions.  WordPress has removed some of the spacing,  apologies. (*Kirsty removed some of the grammar, likewise. )

Ode to the West Wind

By Percy Bysshe Shelley
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear!
Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky’s commotion,
Loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,
Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine aëry surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head
Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith’s height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge
Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,
Vaulted with all thy congregated might
Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh hear!
Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lull’d by the coil of his crystalline streams,
Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave’s intenser day,
All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers
Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know
Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: oh hear!
If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share
The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be
The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seem’d a vision; I would ne’er have striven
As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!
A heavy weight of hours has chain’d and bow’d
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies
Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?


Having at last arrived in a decade with a proper name, let’s see if the  powers that be can arrive at any version of political and environmental sanity,  although It’s already kicking off in a fairly non-positive way.

Here’s a hopeful poem for 2020.


Stop looking like a purse.  How could a purse

squeeze under the rickety door and sit,

full of satisfaction, in a man’s house?


You clamber towards me on your four corners –

right hand, left foot, left hand, right foot.


I love you for being a toad,

for crawling like a Japanese wrestler,

and for not being frightened.


I put you in my purse hand, not shutting it,

and set you down outside directly under

every star.


A jewel in your head?  Toad,

you’ve put one in mine,

a tiny radiance in a dark place.


Norman McCaig

from The Map and the Clock,  A Laureate’s Choice of the Poetry of Britain and Ireland., ed. Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke, Faber and Faber 2016.





December birds

In the interest of sharing musical gems, absolutely no apologies for reposting this.

Anent nothing, walked past 60+ curlew feeding on the local football pitches, alongside oyster catchers, lesser black backed gulls, wood pigeons and carrion crows.

20th anniversary of the folk club tomorrow.  Looking forward to it.

Jingle jangle

Here we go, month 12,  the official run down is ON, and now I start to find out about all the holes in that preparation, which I was so convinced was complete.  So, it’s back on with the big coat and off to the shops.

Here are two tunes which run round my head at this time.





Wide awake

It seemed like a good idea to go to  England on the day of the Rugby World Cup Final, so we found ourselves in Wakefield, after a stress free train trip with added random acts of kindness.

Our stay was in the hotel in Holmfield Park.  We’ll need to go back to see the rhubarb sculpture, which I would have sought out had I known about it.  The grounds were well stocked with mature trees which put on a stunning autumnal display, augmented by the fireworks display at night which we also did not see, but certainly heard.

On the Sunday we managed to get ourselves and luggage to the Hepworth Museum.  This houses a permanent display of the works of Dame Barbara Hepworth, sculptor and native of the town.  The building, designed by architect David Chipperfield,* sits astride the river Calder, and the full length windows in the building give excellent vistas of the river,  in particular the weir.    It also houses exhibitions, currently on show are works of the young David Hockney and Alan Davie.  It opened in 2011 and it’s free  to visit, has storage lockers and a decent café.

Trip home was also on time, and smooth. Thanks to Tickety Split and a rail card bought with Tesco points, we saved over 50% of the original cost.

*cracking pictures if you follow the arrow on this link.

Life size maquette for work commissioned by John Lewis (Head office)
River Calder weir
Grounds of Holmfield house
Autumn 1
Autumn 2
Autumn 3

Life in Fife