21 December 2020 – Winter Solstice

St Thomas gray, St Thomas gray
Longest night, and shortest day.

While all around us is going tits up, at least after today we’re counting back up to summer. It’s the Winter Solstice and St Thomas’ Day. And last night, despite an onion stuck with pins secreted beneath my pillow, I dreamt of nothing. Nada. Bobbins. No husband for me then. The other night I dreamt I was galloping around with a spy who had an assignation with the Pope on top of the number 7 bus. Now that could have been an interesting love triangle. 

Back to today. There’s a little bit of weatherlore that depends on frost. But we didn’t have any, so it’s said we’ve dodged a very hard bullet. We’re also at the midpoint of December’s halcyon days, but I’m not entirely sure December is aware of this, given today was fretful and dank, and now there’s a gale blowing. Although it has to be said, it’s not as bad as last Winter Solstice, where I got soaked through to my undercrackers whilst volunteering at the annual Burning of the Clocks bonfire on the beach, despite wearing waterproofs. So, colour me sceptical when comes to this particular piece of fine weather prediction. 

Anyhow, back to today. It’s said that on St Thomas’ Day, or the shortest day, one should plant broad beans. Despite scouring several sources, I can’t find out exactly why this is, but I went with it. I planted four as it’s also said when planting broad beans one should sow:

One for the rook, one for the crow;
One to rot, one to grow.

And while I’ll be lucky if there’s anything to report on before the end of the project, it will give me something to look forward to. Not least because it’s reported that broad bean flowers make you frisky. Or as Vickery cites:

There ent no lustier scent than a beanfield in bloom.

Vickery’s Folk Flora, p.103

So put that in your pipe and smoke it. 

Wheat Watch!

Today’s AdVent:

Bessborough Street, Pimlico, London, SW1V, the top of the Western Pumping Station Chimney.
Designed by William Webster

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Resources

Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Jones, J. and Deer, B. (1987) Cattern Cakes and Lace, London, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Vickery, R. (2019) Vickery’s Folk Flora, An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson

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