Advent#27

Extending my Advent to include Yule has brought such pleasure. During my ponderings I discovered the Yuletide Goat. This thrills me because I have a fascination for goats . They are the highlight of Greek holidays, and a recurring source of pleasure.

Before today my knowledge of all things Yule extended to logs, both the chocolate and massively woody sort. Yuletide , the time around Christmas, originally of Pagan origin.

The Yule Goat is a revelation. He is a Christmas tradition of Northern Europe with Pagan origins. He was in some traditions the giver of gifts , a precursor to Father Christmas . As traditions have matured and altered he has become the creature that Father Christmas rides to deliver gifts or even the animal that pulls the sleigh. This is all hugely confusing in Britain where our traditions are either created or improved by first the Victorians and secondly the USA. Goats do not play a part .

Imagine the complexity of the Santa App if it had to cope with Reindeers being taken out of harness over Scandinavia to be replaced by goats or even Santa going Solo and just casually swinging a leg over a solitary goat to hit the hard to reach places.

The Goat is significant in Poland. Particularly vexatious for me as I’m writing this on Boxing Day and I spent the day with Polish relations who could have explained Goatish things to me.

As an aside I spent yesterday with American relations and had to explain Boxing Day.

Trust me Advent 2020 will be much more Goaty. I will research goats, I will photograph goats . I will find more utterly gorgeous Goat illustrations like this one from Buccifolio.

https://www.redbubble.com/people/buccifolio

I remembered a festive goat from Hong Kong a couple of years ago at PMQ. Created for the Chinese New Year. Not exactly a Yule Goat but certainly proof that theoldmortuary loves a Goaty photo.

http://www.pmq.org.hk/?lang=ch

Advent#6

Why an advent blog? Actually why not, theoldmortuary blog is a flimsy insubstantial thing. A daily pondering of no real significance, so why not ponder productively whilst the evenings are long.

Advent is not solely the possession of the Christian Church, like many things considered to be Christian, it was a pagan tradition beforehand. Advent in the Northern hemisphere belongs to December when the days are short and the weather intemperate. Some days feel as if almost nothing is achieved within daylight hours. The long dark evenings are good for cosy activities like reading or indeed pondering. Advent ponders are whatever crops up in my day that makes me think…
Today it’s baubles.

These amazing baubles hang in a local garden centre. These particular ones have travelled from Slovakia, others from the Ukraine, but most come from China and in particular Yiwu.

This article from The Guardian in 2014 explains their production.
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design-blog/2014/dec/19/santas-real-workshop-the-town-in-china-that-makes-the-worlds-christmas-decorations

Gisella Graham is a bauble designer and wholesaler. theoldmortuary has loads of her baubles, some from the Garden Centre and some from Liberty, London. The ones we mostly buy are London inspired, they also make great gifts for our family and friends abroad. I’m unsure where I thought baubles came from, but it wasn’t factories in China or wholesalers near the Elephant and Castle. Like Yiwu, Elephant and Castle is not a remotely Christmassy location. I only mention this because I once got lost nearby and discovered this bauble Mecca. Just as in China, normal people work there. No Elves. Shame.
https://www.giselagraham.co.uk/contact-us/

I’m sure the baubles of my youth came from Poland and Hong Kong. They were fine and fragile. None have survived my many moves. These random thoughts have inspired me to research the history of the bauble.

Germany was the home of the first blown glass bauble in the 16th Century. Hans Grenier produced glass beads and tin figures in the small town of Lauscha. In the next two centuries, the growing popularity and commercial success of his original decorations inspired other glass blowers in the town to make baubles. By 1880, F W Woolworth had discovered the German baubles of Lauscha and started to import them, despite bauble manufacturing beginning in New York in 1870. This German business grew and flourished until the end of World War Two.

After WW2, the Lauscha bauble factories became state owned and production ceased. However, after the Berlin wall came down most of the companies re-established themselves as private companies. They positioned themselves as high-end manufacturers, not competing with mass production and continue to produce baubles of very high quality.

Meanwhile, to fill the gap created by the closure of the Lauscha producers after WW2, mass production of baubles started, in the second half of the twentieth century, in Poland, other Eastern European countries, Mexico and China.

My recollection of Hong Kong baubles proved to be correct. During the Korean war, there was an American embargo on China. Hong Kong quickly increased its manufacturing capability not only to produce the products it would normally import from China but also produced enough goods to export to the rest of the world replacing China’s output. Glass blowing had been established in Hong Kong in the 1920’s, so inevitably baubles became another mass produced item that Hong Kong could export all over the world.

Bauble pondering, a journey of changing destinations, sometimes caused by war. Fascinating.

Advent#4

Mistletoe at Cotehele

Mistletoe looking glossy during last weeks visit to Cotehele.

Culturally it’s a busy plant, there’s the well known kissing tradition, beloved by Hollywood and the music industry.

#metoo has illuminated that to be a less benign and darker force at times. Especially in the workplace.

Pre- Christians, and Ancient Greeks tagged Mistletoe with the responsibility of representing male fertility. The Celts took this to a whole new level and claimed Mistletoe was the actual semen of a chap called Taranis. Surely that would smart* a bit.

It takes the Romans to give Mistletoe a more comfortable festive responsibility . As part of Saturnalia it was hung around doorways and thresholds to protect those within and represented Peace, Love and Understanding.

*smart – verb, to feel or cause a sharp burning pain in part of the body.

More plant based Cotehele stuff,
https://theoldmortuary.design/2019/11/29/cotehele-garland/

Instagram theoldmortuary

The Last Dahlia- a pondering.

Yesterday was a day of garden clearing and tidying ready for winter. The last Dahlia was picked.

Google is a wonderful thing, we needed to know how to overwinter the dahlia plants. The trouble is, with Google, it doesn’t just stop there. Once I had discovered that a thick mulch of bark would do the trick, I set off on other Dahlia related adventures. Goodness there was a lot of sadness. The National Trust property, Baddesley has reluctantly decided to give up having a Dahlia border due to an infiltration of pests. 20 years of gardening tradition gone only moments after I had first discovered it.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/baddesley-clinton/features/the-dahlia-border-at-baddesley?campid=SocialShare_Central_MainSite_Email_1431758463791

Worse was to follow, Black Dahlia was the name ascribed to a murder victim in Los Angeles in 1947. Elizabeth ( Bette) Short was found dead in a parking lot. Her body dismembered and eviscerated and her face disfigured by something described as a ‘Glasgow Smile’, her mouth was cut from ear to ear.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38513320

Away from Google and still pondering Dahlias I remembered that while we were in Hong Kong ,in June, the very early style of the protesters was not only black clothing but also each protester carried a white flower, very often a Dahlia. Why did I not take photos? There was ample chance, peaceful protesters with flowers filled our trips to the city .Sadly things have escalated and the flowers have a different purpose now.

Photo from Sydney Morning Herald

Dahlia pondering, sadder than you might expect.