Custom: The Blessing of the Throats
About: All ceremony and no pomp. Following catholic mass on February 3rd, two candles are held up to the throats of worshippers – and their throats are blessed. CalendarCustoms described the St Etheldreda’s service in Holborn as the most celebrated in London, so that’s where I went.
Custom: Sir John Cass Founder’s Day
About: Another church service, but this one was certainly livelier… The Lord Mayor of the City of London and LOADS of school children are present, all to celebrate the founder of the Sir John Cass foundation and its associated schools. All attendees wear red feathers – a symbol for Cass’ blood stained quill. He signed his will (and the money to fund the schools) as he was dying, causing much controversy over its authenticity.
Thoughts on 2018:
The Big Stuff:
This was a year of finding our footing again. It took a while, but we’re now pretty settled into parenthood. I took three months off work to look after the sprog. I can’t say I did anywhere near as a good as job as Soph did, but hey – we survived. We went on a few short trips away as a family, and I took a few trips away with friends too. Work was less climactic than last year, but I got to spend a lot of time with some good clients on some exciting projects. I spent some time acting as trustee for Depaul UK but found I didn’t have much time for my own side projects.
The Small Stuff:
Played squash most weeks, until it got too cold in December. Lots and lots and lots of walks to Starbucks in Mile End, in the hope sprog would fall asleep en route. Plenty of fuck-ups. Plenty of melt-downs. No music gigs, one comedy gig, a couple of films – but what to expect with a 1 year old. The first of (hopefully) many BBQs at our new home. Dry January and Dry October, with a holiday-ish run up to Christmas.
Quote for the year:
“Dad seems to be coping okay. No parental concern.”
Books read: 20
Best three books:Number of photos taken: 9825
Number of songs starred on Spotify: 72
Most listened to track: A Beautiful Spring Day – George Bruns
Series watched: Seinfeld, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, House of Cards S6, The Staircase, Narcos S3, The Crown S2, Bodyguard, The Informer
Album of the Year: 11 Nursery Rhymes – Nursery Rhymes 123
Film of the Year: The Darkest Hour
Pub Quizzes Partaken: 1
Pub Quizzes Won: 0
Trips to the doctor: 0
Trips to the dentist: 2
Trips to the vet: 1
Museums visited: 13 (including the V&A Museum of Childhood many times…)
New Year’s Resolutions:
Dry February. Find more time for writing. Find more time for side projects. Sort out the garden and host more BBQs. Matcha over coffee.
Custom: The Lighting of the St Paul’s Christmas Trees
About: A special annual service in which the crib is blessed and the Christmas trees are lit. It’s hard to find anything concrete about its history – but it’s not as old as you’d expect. In fact, even as late as the 1930s, one writer states that the chapter of St Paul’s felt uncomfortable introducing the Christmas tree lights ‘innovation’.
Custom: The Ceremony of the Keys
About: It’s said to be the oldest military ceremony in the world, performed nightly for 700 years. At 9.53pm, a 7 minute long, faultlessly choreographed tradition takes place, as the Yeoman Warders and Queens Guard lock up the tower for the night. Tickets to watch it are free, but they go 12 months in advanced. Nonetheless, on the night I saw it (the 21st December) 40 people didn’t show up – so the ten of us that made it were treated to a private tour of the tower and the guard room by the very generous beefeater, Moira.
Custom: The Boxing Day Mummers Play
About: Mummers plays are one of the oldest surviving traditions of the British Christmas. This one, performed outside Gloucester Cathedral on Boxing day, has been going for about half a century. It follows the traditional structure – two characters engaging in combat, revived by a quack doctor. Several Morris sides also perform (including my Grampy’s old side – Lassington Oak).
Custom: The Boar’s Head Ceremony
About: One of London’s oldest traditions – it’s been traced back to 1343. Like several of these city traditions, it has its roots in land rental. A group of butchers in London got into trouble washing meat and disposing of entrails near a local monastery. To settle the issue, the Lord Mayor of London gave them some land to use, in exchange for a boars head every November. The boar’s head was paraded from Butchers Company hall down to Mansion House, but they now use a model (with the real boar’s head in place, ready for carving, at Mansion House.)
Custom: The Tar Barrels of Ottery St Mary
About: Said to have started in the 17th century, barrels coated in tar are set alight and carried through through the streets on villagers’ backs. Thousands of people turn out around November 5th, to dodge the flames as the barrel carriers run at the crowds.
Custom: The Lord Mayor’s Show
About: Over 800 years old, and still going strong, the Lord Mayor’s Show is a huge spectacle. It’s the longest and old procession in the world, accompanying the newly elected Lord Mayor as he or she travels to Westminster to swear allegiance to the crown and begin their year in office.
Custom: The Festival of St Cecilia
About: An annual celebration of the patron saint of Music, St Cecilia, and all musicians in general. All proceeds and donations goes to Help Musicians UK, that helps thousands of musicians in hardship each year.
Custom: Braughing Old Man’s Day
About: A man called Matthew Wall, in the 16th century, supposedly had a lucky escape from being buried alive, when the pallbearers slipped on some wet leaves as they were carrying his coffin to Braughing church. The fall jolted him awake, and he lived to be an old man. A bequest left in his will commemorates that day – local school children sweep the path down to the church, and the current owner of his cottage paying the church £1 every year.
Custom: Harvest of the Sea Festival Service
About: Traditional harvest festival ceremony near the old site of Billingsgate Fish Market. A fishmonger stall is set up inside the church, and the wares are blessed by the pastor. The service itself is carefully curated, with fishy verses and songs about the sea.
Custom: London Bridge Sheep Drive
About: Exercising their centuries-old right (as freemen of the city) to drive sheep across London Bridge, the Worshipful Company of Woolmen annually herd a flock back and forth. Unfortunately health and safety precludes it from being a fun public event, with it happening behind big barriers and many security guards, so this picture will have to do.