September is a really stupid time;
It clearly isn't summer as before -
A week may change from stormy to
Then equinoctial gales return once more.
The early crops have gone to jam and bottle -
The later harvest has
not ripened yet;
A single gale, and all the fruit you've got 'll
Be windfalls - not the crop you'd hoped to get.
The wasps are dozy, dangerous and spiteful,
Malevolent Hell's Angels
high on dope;
Like muggers, they consider it delightful,
To sting you more than once, if given scope.
But, none the less, there's one consoling rule;
If you have children, they go back to school.
Painswick is an ancient small town in which legends
abound, many of them centered on the Church.
Here, ninety nine
clipped yew-trees may be found -
The Devil always kills the hundredth one -
But when the Congregation
(Ycleping - compassing - the sacred ground)
To sing the Clipping Hymn, encircled round
St Mary's Church, the Devil
well may run;
Then pocket money and a Painswick Bun
Reward the children as the Church bells sound.
Tradition thus survives another year -
Thus continuity is handed down,
Familiar as the iron stocks in the yard;
Unchanging values never disappear
Whilst, nodding high approval of the town,
The omnipresent Beacon stands on guard.
None can deny the shortened,
Or overlook the colour of the trees,
As tender plants are placed on indoor trays
Protected from the icy-fingered breeze.
The swallows gather in a shrill convention,
And swiftly pass a motion, it is clear,
Declaring the majority intention
To head South, and - perhaps - return next year.
The animals and men, perforce remaining,
Begin to button up against the cold,
And fill and check the granaries containing
The necessary stores, worth more than gold.
A final Indian Summer may enhance
The feeling that this month is One
STOW ON THE WOLD
Stow is another ancient Cotswold
town known for its cold, elevated position, for the fact that it acts as the crossroads of the Cotswolds, and for its famous Horse Fair.
The many Cotswold roads all meet at Stow,
The highest of the upland limestone towns
Exposed to all the chilling winds that blow
And turn the Summer greens to Autumn browns.
And yet, before the Winter, Stow is where
The ancient annual ritual runs its course,
And country folk and gypsies hold a fair
To sate their joint obsession with the Horse.
What is it that they seek? A bargain? Fame?
A rich reward for much inferior stock?
A century hence, and all will be the same
As years ago, and now. Let others mock -
The Fair tests judgement, honesty and trust,
And lets a true man act
as true men must.
November is a nothing month, and so
No censure is too harsh, no praise too faint.
All Saint's Day? In November?
True - although
To choose this month, you'd need to be a Saint.
No fun - it's such a dark and dreary time,
No wonder all the population talks
Of raising spirits. Party? Pantomime?
Not time yet - have to settle for Guy Fawkes.
No sun - the weather fails to inspire
An appetite for healthy country
And no doubt buttered crumpets by the fire
Do nothing to reduce those waist-line rolls.
A nursery of negatives and woe -
This wretched month starts typically with 'No'.
Cirencester was formerly the Roman town of Corinium, one
of the most important towns in Roman Britain. It still holds a key position at the crossing of the Fosse and Ermin Ways; and considers itself of sufficient importance to claim the title " Queen of the Cotswolds".
For those who doubt our ancient pedigree
Or challenge our authentic air of fame,
A mere consideration of our name
Reveals our lineage for all to see.
Mosaics, villas, Roman roads, which we
Have set in our Museum all proclaim
Our honoured past; to sceptics, just the same,
We proffer proofs of our veracity;
Where else can show an Abbey in its ground,
Or flaunt the tallest tower
in the Shire?
Where else has high-hedged Bathurst left his mark,
Whose Christmas Trees are annually found
Adorning each Corinium yuletide fire?
Where else can boast a nearby
No explanation needed!
for reflection, and Infant Nativity plays.
This is the time when infant Wise Men stand
And gaze in awe as Infant
Her ageless lines;
and infant Angel Band
Perform like angels, fortified with crisps.
This is the time when thoughtful folk collect
The necessary trees and mistletoe,
And carol-singers normally expect
A welcome - double welcome, if there’s snow.
This is the time when party plans are laid,
And secret gifts are hidden in a drawer;
When Christmas cakes and marzipan are made,
And wrapping paper litters up the floor.
For this brief spell our baser passions cease,
Allowing us to glimpse what could be peace.
The oddly named Marshfield occupies a point high above the Vale of Avon where three Counties
meet, and was reputedly used by the Highwayman Dick Turpin as a base for his attacks on the coaches travelling to Bath and Bristol. It is a Boxing Day tradition to re-enact the story of St George and the Dragon.
Where, high above the sweep of Avon Vale,
Both Gloucestershire and Somerset
With Wiltshire; and where County squabbles pale
Into proportions that you would expect,
There, Marshfield ( what an
Well occupies a high prestigious site,
And does not need the artificial fame
Of old Dick Turpin, and his famous flight;
For each December, full of
The scene is set for rivalries to cease;
So hostile attitudes just disappear
As thoughts are fixed on Charity and Peace -
Except, on Boxing Day, folk raise a flagon
As our Saint George beats hell out of their Dragon.
My memories of New Year revels fade,
capricious as the wind -
The refuse of the Old Year, quickly binned.
My thoughts are sober. Promises are made -
Amendments to my Life (that fickle jade)
With which salvation can be
For surely I was never one who sinned
So deeply that a penance can't be paid?
Thus, sitting in the winter firelight's glow
Whilst icy flurries lash the shuttered pane,
My resolutions lucidly appear -
Exactly as they did twelve months ago;
My heartfelt changes, promised once again,
Will vanish, I'm afraid. Just like last year.
Broadway is a quintessential Cotswold Village, much beloved of tourists in season. It is overlooked by Broadway Tower, which is a three-sided eighteenth century folly. It seems appropriate to stear the year with a conundrum.
Below the scarp, a mellow Broadway lies
Once loved by William Morris - then, I fear,
A fixture on the tourist
Now, innocent of summer novelties,
Exuding power greater than their size,
The well-loved buildings instantly
Appropriate as a springboard for the year,
A philosophic model for the wise.
For up on high there stands a tower, which
Presents three faces to our puzzled gaze.
Why three? What can they mean? I hear you say:
One face surveys the past, serene and rich;
The second seeks the future through the haze;
The last observes the follies of today.
In February, frail Nature starts to show
A growing will to quicken dormant life;
Some hardy blossoms even bloom
And plants are strengthened by the pruner's knife.
The chill night echoes to a howling fox
Whose noisy courtship hints of cubs to come;
A blue tit may inspect
a nesting box;
A wobbly lamb bleats gamely to its mum.
Then, later in the month, the climbing sun
Enjoys a new-found vigour
in its rays,
While we, now sensing Nature re-begun,
Can almost visualise long summer days.
But Nature, just like us, can get cold feet
If faced with frost, and ice, and hail - and sleet.
Snowshill is an isolated manor-house filled to the brim with assorted objects collected by Charles Paget Wade.
Snowshill, where winter snows are last to thaw,
Is isolated, off the
The very ambience suggests a lack
Of human progress, or an open door.
Charles Paget Wade, eccentric to
Filled up the house with tons of bric-a-brac -
A boat, some armour, or a printed sack -
He bought and valued anything
Was he eccentric? Could it be that we,
While living in the mainstream of our days
And often discontented with our lot,
When viewing Snowshill, possibly may see
That by just slightly lowering our gaze
We'd value much more highly what we've got?
What if the yellow slashes that enhance
The yet untended border down
the side -
The daffodils, coy debs at their first dance -
Can't bring themselves to flaunt their charms, or hide?
What if the polyanthus, once so small
You wondered if they'd lived the
Grow colourful and elegant and tall,
Filling bare spaces, like they always do?
What if the swelling buds
of sundry trees
Suggest that early leaves are on the way?
A single frost can do away with these -
You know damn well they won't be out till May.
Ignore such fickle signs, save only one;
The clocks go on - long evenings have begun.
The longer hours of day and warmer sun
Combine with Nature to invoke
Of childrens' games upon the village green,
Of Easter Eggs, the smell of Hot Cross Bun,
Which show the yearly cycle
has begun -
The annual resurrection which can mean
An active time for every creed between
That of the avid gardener, and
But also at this time of surging hope
Life's drama finds a more romantic plot;
The nation's youth with Cupid now engage
(Provided only they can find the scope)
And in the Spring, the young lads turn to what
The lasses have been planning for an age.
Gloucester is one of the most ancient of historic cities; and though not strictly in the Cotswolds, it deeply influences
Stern William, celebrating Christmastide
At Gloucester, in the royal Norman style,
Decreed that agents scour the countryside
For Domesday data, every inch
Enhanced the Abbey - stone and deep-stained glass,
Misericords, hard lessons carved in wood,
Seen Perpendicular to those who pass -
Which now stands upright as St.Peter's
This human city also finds a place
For later interests, smaller than the Dock -
The Tailors's Shop; the
Cross; there's even space
For Father Time to tend the Baker Clock.
Tradition also sees
the Mummers Play
And Morris Men, who mark St George's Day.