Thursday, 6 January 2011


During the Christmas holidays, when the snow was still on the ground, I heard the the deep, resonant call of a raven overhead.  Two of these massive birds were flying high over the snow covered valley.  I don't know what it is about the raven, but they do send a shiver of excitement down my spine. 

They really are a huge bird having a wingspan of around 4 to 5 foot and standing around 2 foot tall.  The pair I saw are said to be nesting in woods near Quenington and the Cotswolds must be on the western extremes of the raven's coverage as they are apparently not to be found in the east of England.  The call is unmistakable and always reminds me of Lady Macbeth:

The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murd'ring ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature's mischief! Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
To cry "Hold, hold!"

Cripes!  She really wasn't WI material, was she?

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The Village Hall

The village hall is one of those vital buildings that make a village a community rather than just a collection of houses.  Our village hall is very well run and hosts a wide range of events from rug sales to birthday parties.  One week in December it hosted the 100th birthday party of a local gentlemen on the Tuesday and the 5th birthday party of a local boy on the Saturday, so it really is used across the community.

The hall was originally built as a reading room with a cottage either side in 1878 and was funded by Earl Sherborne.  Apparently reading rooms were funded by philanthropists at that time to encourage agricultural labourers to stay out of the pub.  I suspect the sensible labourer would have gone to both the pub and the reading room, especially as the latter has very big, stone fireplaces and must have been warm and well lit.  It was probably a welcome refuge from home which was probably a one up, one down smokey cottage with several noisy children within.  Maybe they went to the pub first and then for a good read in the reading room; I could think of worse ways to spend a few hours on a winter's evening even today.