Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

November 2006

This months News



Nature Notes

The month of blood and bonfires!  In Gaelic: Ant-Samhuinn, the month of the Samhain festival.  Meaning “summer’s end” and pronounced “sarwin”, this is the Irish name for 1 November, the beginning of winter.  The word was then “highjacked” by witches and neo-Pagans in England who use it in reference to All Saints Day and Halloween.

Here we are at the beginning of November and in the past few days I have seen Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies still in flight and only last week I watched a wood pigeon sitting on the fence busily feeding its juvenile offspring.  Wood pigeons are one the latest breeding birds, laying eggs well into September.  The squab takes 25 to 30 days to leave the next.  This particular squab looked as fat as butter and quite a while after the parent had left, it sat on the fence like an oversized football unable to take off.  November was the month for fattening up livestock ready for slaughter.  William Cobbett in 1822 wrote “Make your pig quite fat by all means.  The last bushel, even if he sit as he eat, is the most profitable.  If he can walk two hundred yards at a time, he is not well fatted.  Lean bacon is the most wasteful thing that any family can use …the man that cannot live on solid fat bacon wants the sweet sauce of labour, or is fit for the hospital”!!  How things change.

In the sixteenth century a “pigeon” was a person easily duped or swindled, especially in gaming.  The American “stool pigeon” has the same kind of meaning referring metaphorically to someone employed (again usually in gambling) as a decoy.  In its literal meaning, a pigeon would be fastened to a stool as a decoy for birds of prey.

November 13 – unlucky for bulls?  This was formerly the date of the Stamford bull-running, a tradition that apparently originated in the early 13th century, when a runaway bull was pursued through the streets of that Lincolnshire town by local butchers and their dogs.  The chase had continued across the river and the fields beyond until all were exhausted.  It ended with the slaughter of the bull and a roast beef celebration.  The Lord of Stamford Castle, from whose field the bull had escaped, joined in the chase and had such a good time that he decided to make it an annual public event.  This event obtained its celebrity by inspiring one of the first successful campaigns by the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in 1835.  The local people had been fighting hard to keep their custom since 1788 when the first attempt to ban it had taken place, but the bull running was finally suppressed in 1839.

November 27 – Eels now in season for baked eel pies.  “To take Eels in winter, make a long bottle or tube of hay, wrapped about with willow boughs, and having guts or garbage in the middle.  Which being soaked in the deep water by the river side, after two or three days the eels will be in it, and you may tread them out with your feet.”   Markham The English Husbandman, 1635.

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: November 06, 2006