Monday, 6 August 2012

World's Tiniest Conker, and the Lammas Teacake

Fluffhead and I went walking the other day.  The conker tree 2 streets down (to give it its correct technical term) is producing early season conkers for our delectation.  I opened one of the spiny green cases for him, and the world’s tiniest baby conker fell out.  (Fluffhead has developed a tone of voice for indicating small things.  You know that noise we girl creatures often make when confronted with a kitten/chick/puppy/tiny walrus – I was watching Blue Planet yesterday [they certainly do not behave friendly when grown; more like angry drashigs] – that noise of ‘aaahhhhhhhh – cuteness!’?  It can be a bit ear splitting?  Fluffhead has perfected a variation on this.  Also earsplitting, and complete with little pinching fingers hand gesture, demonstrating the shrunken nature of the said thing.)

So Fluffhead squealed excitedly, right in my ear, which almost knocked me over.  (I was bending over with him, doing my ‘I am a grown up demonstrating’ thing.)  He was so excited with it; he tried to put it up his nose.  (An interesting stage in the development of children, that.)  I retrieved it and put it in my pocket.  Tiny lovely thing.

Because of all the rain this summer, it’s become a bit autumnal outside already.  There’s blackberries growing in my front garden, just baby ones, but there they are.  And leaves doing the golden wonder on the paths already.  As well as loads on unseasonal August chilliness here and there between the downpours and incessant humidity.

As usual, life has been such that I feel pressured with my scraps of BlackberryJuniper time, and I haven’t had that time to be properly commemorative of one of the festivals I really like in the neopagan wheel of the year.  That would be Lammas or Lughnasadh, July 31st/August 1st.  Now.  You know better than to wait for me to explain what all that is about, in any depth.  I’ll tell you only the minimum.  There are plenty of websites, plenty of books (plenty of nice healthy – yet irritating – dissension) on what constitutes a Lammas/Lughnasadh festival/celebration for us neopagan wotsits, and what to do etc etc yawn yawn.  Go fetch if you like.

I’ll be quick with my explanation.  The first harvest in the old agricultural year.  Taking in grain.  Johnny Barleycorn gives his life for the land; again, as he does every year (he is his own beheaded flower).  It’s the Festival of Bread!  Baking!  That lovely baking bread smell…pulling apart a loaf and seeing the seeds on the top fall off, warm softness inside exposed.  Dip your nose in and get that good health feeling.  (For those of you not fans of bread, be merry anyway – it’s also the festival of ale, beer, other grains and soft fruits.)  You know:  a thankful for my belly’s joy celebration.  This is my take on it, anyway.

So in between listing trillions of things for sale on ebay (do buy my drashig, seriously?!), taking care of my Amazon shop, doing the laundry[1], and generally trying to keep the house from vermin, pestilence and decay, I realized I had missed Lammas by at least 3 days.  Not even said a few words, or lit a candle.  Tsk, tsk.  Thus does my life go.  I miss many occasions this way.

So when Fluffhead and I went out that afternoon, we visited that place of intense class and comfy highchairs: Munch in Purley.

And treated ourselves to the Sacrificial Lammas Teacake.  (My mother was most pleased to hear that I had indulged in a teacake when I told her later; she would live on them if she could – and I think she believes that if I eat enough teacakes I will soon want to go on strolling rambles wearing a really sensible anorak from Millets, and generally sort my life out.  Actually: I do love a good ramble, I just don’t do them in those rambling groups, as I tend to get irritated with all that inane conversation disturbing my appreciation of the birdsong etc[2].  I also used to own 2 really sensible anorak type waterproof walking jackets from a Millets equivalent.  But I gave them away to needy people who walk in the wet more often than me, and who fitted them better.  So mum knows me pretty well.  I think she would like if I visited teashops with her more often, that’s it…It’s the tea that puts me off though, yukky stuff…)

So, the celebratory Sacrificial Teacake.  With due ceremony, I looked at it meaningfully.

And considered waving fields of grain.  (And the fact that they have been so wetted out this summer, that lots of them are rotting in the fields, which is also true of lots of our potatoes and other veggies, and is a great shame – not to mention it will mean the prices go up yet further and we have to import more.  Also unfortunate for us.)

With Fluffhead looking on, and gleaming eyed, biting the head off his gingerbread man (there! - that’s the Wicker Man spirit, son!), I thanked Johnny Barleycorn in my head, for growing all year and then dying for me, so I could have a full belly of bread (hmmmmmmm, yes, you go and have a chicken and egg conversation with yourself about Christianity and vegetation gods in paganism).

I looked at the shiny topped teacake, all glazed with EGG (said ‘EGG!!’ – Fluffhead’s favourite food, and always asked for at a loud shouty exuberance).  I looked at the raisins and sultanas and thought of all the fruit of the countryside. All the sweet fruit, full of its goodness and vitamins.  (For some reason, I also had a flash of Nigella Lawson with her face covered in overly ripe avocado, from a programme of hers I caught for a few minutes once – I remember I thought it was a terrible waste of good avocado; they’re expensive, you know.  I’m sure they’re good for faces, but nonetheless…)

I cut up Johnny Barleycorn.  (And Fluffhead bit off his gingerbread form arms thoughtfully, still crying out: ‘EGG!  EGG!!’)

And there, buttered with finest generic Munch margarine, and washed down with Twinings peppermint tea, went the Sacrificial Teacake of Harvest.

When we got home, we had an apple too.  I kissed it, cut it in bits, and ate my half, with an attempt at solemnity that was a trifle stuffed by Fluffhead’s trying to feed his half to his Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker Doctor models; then grinding it into the carpet, forgotten, as he rushed off to kneel down with his toy combine harvester.  Pushing it up and down, up and down.  Up and down.  All over poor Patrick Troughton’s un-regenerated-head.

[1] I seem to be always in a state of having the entire house’s clothes, sheets etc on my desk in my room in massive messy ut of the dryer or off the line pile, ready to fold up.  Why??  Why is there always the same amount, when I definitely spend much of my precious incarnation here FOLDING AND PUTTING IT AWAY????????????)
[2] Yes, I know, I talk rambly crap here, so am ensconced in an unfeasible glasshouse.  I know, I know…

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