One of these keyboard clickers lives across the Atlantic popping over the ocean as often as she can, always excited to discover a new corner of my adopted country. Whilst not pounding cobbled English Streets, she often emails me London inspiration - scraps, stories and shenanigans that inspire me to always keep wandering. One of these slunk into my inbox recently and I knew I simply had to spring out of bed & go...
Apple Day is an annual celebration of apples and orchards, held in October. It is celebrated mainly in the United Kingdom, traditionally falling on October 21, the date of the first such event in 1990, but events are held throughout the month.
In essence, what began as a simple festival has mushroomed to 600 events held all over the country. We stayed a little more local in flavour, and visited the bustling halls of Borough Market.
The festival is very family friendly (it felt like there were hundreds of little kids wandering with their parents in amazement) and features many apple related activities(!) such as cooking demonstrations, hot spiced cider, local theatre company performances, orchard apple tastings, a service by the Southwark Cathedral vicars and a procession of the Corn Queen and Berry Man (who goes by many names, including John Barleycorn or the Green Man).
We didn't stay for the full parade, but delighted in meeting with this year's John Barleyman, decorated beautifully in strands of chestnuts, pine fronds, berries, quinces, loquats, hops and ivy leaves. The bedecked John Barleycorn figure represents the personified grain harvest and output of the crops (eg. bread & alcohol). The story and character probably derives from pagan beliefs about the harvest, which were then taken into Christianity to help the conversion of pagans (and is explained much better by Jenikya here!)
This handsome fellow (above) is a corn dolly, representing the spirit of corn, who lived in the fields until the harvest. Idols were created to give the spirit a home until the spring where the person cutting the last of the crop would bring it home, drench it in water, and the oldest married woman would turn it into a shape of a woman. (More about corn dollies can be read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_dolly)
And of course we enjoyed a cheeky cake slice or two - it would be have been rude not to...
...especially as we watched the local Morris Dance troop indulge in a touch of bell-tingling hanky waving. I do adore a spirited group of Morris dancers (though I suspect they are less in it for pagan reasons, and more the pint in the pub afterwards...)
Isn't London wonderful? And slightly bizarre? All these wonderful traditions, in the shadow of modern edifices which pierce the skyline. (Wow, too much cider perhaps.)
How do you like 'dem apples? (Sorry, couldn't resist!)