Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Expand your vocabulary, the Scots way

On this day last year my then five-year-old son had the joy of tasting the delights of the nation's favourite fizzy beverage (resulting in several hours of bouncing off walls afterwards, of course). This year will be a little quieter, I hope, since the kids are off school today because of the national strike.

In theory we'll be going to the supermarket today, if the roads have cleared from all the flooding we had yesterday - the town nearest to us was completely cut off in the floods, and we had half of this month's average rainfall come down in 24 hours - about 2 inches, I believe, often coming down as huge chunks of hail. With no sign of any let up in the weather any time soon I suspect it's only going to get worse; this month has been extremely wet already and the ground is absolutely sodden. We're not too badly off where we are - on top of a hill - but the dogs are feeling thoroughly bored and forlorn.

The weather is officially dreich. A good word, that. In honour of St Andrew's Day, it's only right to celebrate all things Scottish. So how about some more good Scots words?

Awfy - awful
Baw - ball
Blether - idle chatter
Blootert - extremely drunk
Boak (bowk) - retch, vomit (as in: 'Och wheesht, ye'll gimme the boak' Oh shut up, you'll make me sick
Boggin - stinking, no good
Bowfin - smelly, stinking. Worse than mingin
Braw - handsome, fine
Breeks - trousers ('pants'), i.e. breeches
Broon - brown
But and ben - a type of two-roomed cottage, generally with the door in the middle and a window either side
Cludgie - toilet
Corbie - raven or crow; a generic term for corvids
Coup (cowp) - a rubbish dump, tip
Crabbit - grumpy, grouchy, ill-tempered
Craw - crow
Druthy - thirsty
Droukit - soaked, drenched, sopping wet (or else: drookeet)
Dunt - bump ('A dunted ma heid' - I bumped my head) 
Fair - somewhat, very
Feart - frightened afraid
Foosty - dank, damp-smelling
Frae - From
Gallus - self-confident, outgoing, cheeky or daring
Geggie - mough (as in: 'Wheesht yer geggie!' Shut your mouth)
Gies - 'give us' (as in me - 'Gies it' Give me it)
Gin - if
Glaikit - silly, foolish
Greet - cry

"Don't cry, there's more in the pot."

Gubbit (gubbed) - beaten, thrashed, broken
Haud - hold (as in: 'Haud yer wheesht!' Hold your wheesht; Be quiet!)
Haver - talk nonsense (as in The Proclaimer's song "And when I'm haverin," in I Would Walk 500 Miles)
Hen - a familar (but also somewhat patronising, depending on context) way of addressing a woman, a term of endearment. "Dinnae fash yersel' hen" Don't bother yourself, hen/Don't go to any trouble, hen
Het - heated (as in 'Het Pint'); het up - worked up 
Hoachin - absolutely rotten, maggot-ridden
Hoodie - a type of crow, but also used as a general term for all kinds of corvids
Howfin - stinking; also: howling
Howk - dig, gouge
Ilka - every
Keek - look; 'keek!' is a Scots equivalent of 'peekaboo!' with babies
Ken - know, understand (as in: 'Ah dinna ken' I don't know; 'Ah ken fine damn well' I understand perfectly
Kich (or keech) - shit
Leid - language
Licht - light (and as such: bricht - bright, nicht - night etc)
Lum - chimney (as in: 'Lang may lum reek!' Long may your chimney smoke; wishing someone the continued prosperity to be able to keep their fire going strong)
Mawkit (maukit) - literally, it refers to maggots (mawks), it's used to refer to something that's absolutely rotten, filthy; often used to describe children (as in: 'Lookit ye, yer mawkit!')
Mickle - a lot, a great amount
Mind - remember (as in: 'Dae ye mind yon lassie?' Do you remember that girl (over there)?
Mingin - stinking
Neuk - corner (nook)
Ony - any
Piece - slice of bread with something on it, or a sandwich; pieces and jam/jeely piece - jam sandwich
Peely wally - pale, sickly-looking
Plook - spot (acne)
Shoogle - shake, bounce (as in, 'Am shooglin the wee bairn oan ma knee' I'm bouncing the baby on my knee); also shooglie - shaky
Skelp - smack (as in: 'Wheest, or Ah'll gie ye a skelp aroun yer heid!' Quiet, or I'll give you a smack around the head!)  
Skelpit - smacked
Sic - such
Sleekit - sly, cunning, slick
Sook - suck; someone who ingratiates themselves, sucks up, an affectionate animal ('Ya wee sook')
Tattie (tottie) - potato
Telt - told
Thegither - together
They - those (as in: 'See they weans' See those children)
Thrawn - stubborn, obstinate, contrary, difficult or awkward; misshapen, twisted
Toaty - tiny (as in: 'toaty wee footsies')
Unco - strange, unknown, odd, great, or as an adverb: very
Wan - one
Wean - child (possibly a contraction of 'wee ane' - wee one; or else referring to a child that has now been weaned (although it's not pronounced the same) according to some) 
Wheesht - hush, shush. Also found in Gàidhlig - 'Ist a-nis!' Hush now
Widnae - would not (also dinna - didn't, wisnae - wasn't etc)
Yin - one (referring to someone, a thing); Big Yin (Big One - a nickname for the comedian Billy Connolly)

And finally, some insults and swear words (consider yourself warned!). These are generally applied liberally in conversations, and calling someone such names can be a term of endearment or an insult depending on the context. There aren't many words that are considered to be extremely taboo, and the 'f' and the 'c' word tend to get thrown around a lot in social conversation, almost of like a form of punctuation:

Bampot - someone who's a bit daft, crazy, a silly idiot
Bawbag - ballbag (i.e. scrotum) also bawheid, fanny baws, cunty baws
Besom - a difficult woman. Can also be used affectionately - 'Ye daft besom' 
Clarty (or in Glasgow, 'clatty') - dirty; may also be used to describe a lady of loose morals
Cuntit - 'Cunted' - as in pissed (drunk) to the extreme, paralytic, exhausted
Daftie - a harmless idiot, silly
Dobber - idiot, tosser, wanker (kinda rude, associated with a penis; in England 'dobber' can refer to someone who tells tales, so be careful!)
Dunderheid - idiot, simpleton
Eejit - idiot
Erse - arse ('A face like a skelpit erse' - A face like a slapped arse)
Fud - 'the female genitalia'; less harsh than calling someone the 'c' word; an idiot
Jobbie - turd
Numpty - fool, moron
Nyaff - an irritating person
Pish - piss; can be used in a variety of ways, e.g. not very good ('That's pish!'), nonsense ('Yer talkin' pish'), an expression of disdain, pished - drunk, annoyed
Scunner - nuisance, or else a bore, sickening or disgusting person
Teuchter - a pejorative term for a country person, north of the central belt (especially in the sense of a Gàidhlig speaker)
Tollie - turd
Tube - (pronounced 'choob') idiot, tosser

Friday, 25 November 2011

Pottering about

Not much doing at the moment, except pottering about here and there and trying to avoid the wind and rain outside at all costs. And the usual stuff that any full time parent does each day...Yes, it's a veritable rollercoaster of fun round here.

So I've done some more tweaking and updating on the website, and I've added a chunk more to the Article Downloads page. A good one in particular I came across is Space and Time in Irish Folk Rituals and Traditions, which has some interesting stuff on various festivals and wake traditions. It's an interesting read, and has some good pointers to further reading as well.

Other tinkering about includes a reworking and republishing of the So what do you believe? article, and after searching through some old articles I found a bit on the origin of the word frìth, which is usually said to be Norse in origin, but John MacInnes claims is, in fact, Gàidhlig after all. I added that into the Frìth essay on the website, and also went about tweaking the Saining article to correct a few bits and pieces that have needed seeing to for a while now.

It's St Andrew's Day next Wednesday so the local school is getting well-prepared for the celebrations (although they'll be on strike on the actual day, so I'm not sure if they'll move the celebrations to before or after). In preparation for the day, my eldest, Tom, is learning a smattering of Scots. So far I've been reliably informed that a dog is a doug, a cow is a coo, and a crow is a craw. He's very proud of his command of his newfound command of the dialect.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Manannán and the Shepherd

Time for something a wee bit different now, I think. This is a story I found in an article on the lore of Manannán, which I though I'd share (from 1924, so out of copyright).

Here's a bit of preamble that might be useful, too - some epithets and associations:
He is spoken of variously as the Old King, Mananan of the Flames [the least common name], the King of the Wanderers, the Sailor's Friend, and--most intimate and frequent of all the names-Himself. There are stories of his calling people away to his secret Island of Immortality beyond the western sea, or appearing to sailors or fishermen in danger and helping them-sometimes in distant parts of the world. He is the patron (sometimes openly acknowledged but oftener not) of sailors and beggars and poets and all careless wandering people; he has been seen rolling and leaping along the summits of the middle mountains in the form of a wheel of fire; and he is never very far away from the hills of his Island, or from the imaginations of his people when they speak or think of the unseen world.
The following story is called simply "Manannán and the Shepherd", recorded "from the top of Laxey glen, and relates to the same district" on the Isle of Man:
There was a man living up at the Griananes one time, and he had sheep on the Big Mountain [Snaefell]; and one day he was up after them alone on a middling thick evening in the winter. He had them all nearly gathered in a quiet corner ready for counting, and was thinking of making tracks before the dark would come on him, when he seen a big coarse-looking man and him all like in ragged clothing, coming straight for him through the mist.

"Good evening to thee, master," he says; and "Good evening to theeself," says my bold boy.

"It's a fine lot of sheep thou have there."

"Aw, middlin', middlin'. I'm just for counting them before I'll make tracks for home."

"A hard task, that," says the stranger.

"No, not hard at all when ye know the way," says the farmer - but the words weren't hardly out of his mouth till he heard a mighty big laugh and a sound like a little mocking tune. And behold ye, when he looked around him there wasn't a sign of a sheep nor man nor anything at all, only thick, thick mist going swirling around him, and a high wind blowing. And he heard a big voice shouting out in the wind:

"Count thy sheep now, master! Count thy sheep now! Do thou know the way, master?"

Well, he knew then that it was some fairy making gammon of him, but he was wild atchim [Manx: 'terror'] and started trying to find his way out of the mist. But no use at all, for it wasn't minutes till he was in a strange country altogether, and big, high rocks all standing round in the mist fit to frighten you, and all like the noise of water falling down in deep gullies and places, till he didn't know where he was at all. And the dark begun to come on, and then he knew he was fairly took, so he sat down and waited till the thing would lift off him.

But no sooner did he sit down and give in than he found the Big Ragged Fellow standing in front of him and saying:

"Didn't I give thee a fine race now, and wasn't it a hard task to count thy sheep for all? But sit you there now, and I'll make the hard task easy." And then the Big Fellow drove the sheep right past, slow and plain that he could see the mark on every one, and right into the same corner where they were before; and then the man found he was close on the track going down the glen for home.

"What sort of a wandering fairy-man art thou, playing tricks on a poor fellow that never did thee no hurt?" he said. But behold ye, when he looked at the Big Fellow again he was taller than ever, and a sort of shine around him, and like going away up the Big Mountain in the mist. And a soft, easy voice come slipping down the hill - not the same voice at all that was shouting and mocking at him before, only he knew it was coming from the Big Fellow - and it said:

"Who would I be, only the King of the Wanderers, travelling the land and playing pleasant tricks on the like of yourself for my own diversion? But thou'll be none the worse for thy race arounnd the mountain!"

And he wasn't neither, for he had great luck with all his stock from that on, and came to be the richest man in the parish.
'Mananan -The Sea God of Mann' From A Correspondent in the Isle of Man.
Journal of the Folk-Song Society, Vol. 7, No. 28, Manx Collection Part I (1924).

Friday, 18 November 2011

Next new article

This one took a while longer to finish than anticipated, but I suppose it's safe to say that once I get going it's difficult to stop sometimes. When talking about virtues, brevity and succintness aren't ones that I'd really be able to claim...These are failings that maybe I should admit to and work on, eh?

Anyway, suffice it to say, I had to split the article up into several parts:

Values - Part One
Values - Part Two
Values - Part Three
Values - Part Four

One of the good things about researching this subject is that there's quite a bit online that can be referred to. Sometimes the translations might not be too up to date, but maybe they're the best we've got. Sometimes the up to date stuff is freely available too, and that makes me happy.

I've given links where possible in the references, and maybe I've over referenced, to a certain extent, but my aim with this kind of stuff is to give as many pointers as possible to help people make their own minds up. I can't claim to have gone through all of the sources exhaustively, because I don't necessarily have them to hand, but I've tried to be as complete as I possibly can.

As ever, any questions, comments, blah blah feel free etc.

Friday, 11 November 2011

New article

It's been a while since I've had anything of substance to add to the website, but I've finally managed to get back into the writing groove for long enough to finish another article.

After finishing the series of articles on the gods, spirits and ancestors I've been feeling a little lost and aimless in terms of what else I can add to website - not so much in the sense that I'm running out of things to write (there are plenty of things I've yet to even touch on, I'm fairly sure of that) - I've just been lacking an idea of where to go from here.

There's not much I can do to force inspiration; I've found the best thing to do is just relax and let myself stumble across it as it happens, so instead I've channelled most of my energies into reworking bits and pieces, here and there; a bit of reorganising and additions. But recently I've been thinking more and more about one subject in particular, and so I decided that I had my next article to be getting on with...

As ever things haven't quite worked out as I was expecting; one article has turned into two, so I've got one of them finished, and the other is in progress as we speak. Fermenting in my head, if not literally being typed, anyway. The finished article is on:

Gessi and Buada

Or, 'prohibitions and prescriptions' (there are so many different spellings to choose from - I know geis, singular, is the Old Irish spelling but the variety of plural options is confusing, so I ended up picking one and just running with it; not being a linguist I'll make no claims about my choice of plural spelling being the best one, but if I'm wrong on either count then at least one academic is as well. And at least I'm consistent...).

Mostly I've concentrated on the geis side of things, because I didn't find much to go on for buada, in spite of the fact that they seem to go hand in hand. I've tried to be as thorough as I can, and in the process I found a good few sources are available freely online - always handy! I've listed these on the Article Downloads page already, and I've tried to give links to as many of the tales I refer to as possible. Yesterday I found a book on that will be really handy for the next article as well. I've yet to add it to the website but it's worth noting here anyway, since it's a modern translation (1999) of a wisdom text I've spent ages trying to track down:

Old Irish Wisdom Attributed to Aldfrith of Northumbria: An Edition of Bríathra Flann Fhína maic Ossu - edited and translated by Colin Ireland

There's a good discussion of wisdom texts as a whole there, so it's worth a read if that's your kind of thing.

Anyway, all that remains is a few confessions (nothing juicy, though, so don't get your hopes up for anything good). Firstly, this wasn't the article I intended to write, but it's the one that apparently had to come first before I could concentrate on writing about values and virtues, my original topic of choice. Once I get the second article finished some things might have to be tweaked or moved around with this article, so they both still make sense, and I hesitated a bit before deciding to publish it right now. For some reason, I get impatient if I have to sit on something finished, though, so my impatience won out.

I thought at first that gessi would be something that I could look at in the process, but then my research ended up concentrating more and more on gessi than anything else, and then when I started writing I ended up with four pages of an article, three of which were about prohibitions and prescriptions. So it seems they wanted their own page. Who am I to disagree?

My second and main confession is that I've stopped short of really going into any details about how gessi and buada might apply in modern practices. I can't help but feel this might be a bit of a cop out, in one sense, but I decided that it wouldn't be right for me to go on about it. I'm not sure if I've really seen much discussion of them in a modern - Celtic Reconstructionist/Gaelic Polytheist - context, even though I do see the occasional query about them. But without much to go on in that respect, I decided it would be better to leave the question unanswered than fudge it.

So errr...Enjoy...

Monday, 7 November 2011

On a lighter note...

After rambling on about fireworks so much recently, it would be remiss of me not to bring your attention to some news of a display-gone-wrong in Oban. This, you might say, is what you call a bit of an oopsie...

In brief: A Bonfire Night display in Oban was scheduled to last about 20 minutes last Friday; but instead, with the crowd eagerly gathered to enjoy the show, a technical hitch resulted in all (£6,000 worth) of the fireworks being set off within the space of less than a minute:

The result: Glorious.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Finishing up

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

Technically speaking, we celebrate Guy Fawkes' Night in commemoration of the successful foiling of the plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament, on this day in 1605. And so, in celebration of the fact that it's business as usual, and as we've done for centuries now, bonfires, fireworks, sparklers and toffee apples all mark the day. For those of us on the peripheries of the kingdom, shall we say, such celebrations may not always be as totally enthusiastic about the historical roots of the day...

When I was a kid, the bonfires would be piled up high and the Guy - an effigy of the man himself - would be thrown on the bonfire as part of the proceedings. When I lived in Glasgow (more than ten years ago now), local kids would go round on the streets - even getting into the tenement houses and knocking on the doors - lugging the effigy around and begging for a 'penny for the guy'. It's not just Glasgow where they do that, but that's the only place I've come across it myself; it seems to be a dying tradition. The guy itself would often be an effigy of someone widely hated - sometimes an unpopular manager of a football team, say, or the Pope, but mostly (certainly in Scotland) Maggie Thatcher. Not a popular lady.

When I lived in Bo'ness, grass verges of any substantial size would end up home to huge piles of wood, piled up by the local residents, ready for the big night. I can see how Hutton might suggest that the Samhainn bonfires simply came to shift to Bonfire Night, being so close together.

For most people these days, of course, the evening is nothing more than a good excuse to go and see some fireworks. As a kid my dad used to set them off in our garden, and we'd have a big bonfire right at the bottom, but as I got older it became more common for people to go to displays put on by local charities (or fire stations) - it was cheaper, and you got more for your money, certainly. The ones I went to as a kid used to have the big bonfires, but these days in general they seem to be on the decline (obsessions with health and safety, insurance, and getting sued usually get the blame for that). Certainly the display we went to tonight didn't have one. A shame, really. But perhaps, given what people tend to throw on the piles, a bit kinder on the environment.

So anyway. We decided to take the kids off to a local display in Gourock, which was tied in with a Myth and Legend event, with traditional storytelling and song on offer, as well as a parade through the town. Parking being what it was, we missed the storytelling part, but got there in time to join in with the tail end of the parade. And then, with a hot chocolate warming my hands and an ice cream for the kids, we got to see a spectacular display:

Tom, now six, was more than impressed. He was dancing and shouting in glee. Rosie, on the other hand, stood in awed four-year-old silence.

When we got home Tom ran out into the garden to watch the neighbour's get their fireworks going, jumping up and down on the trampoline in glee before we handed both the kids their very first sparklers. Rosie wasn't too sure about that at first. But it was OK in the end. 

And now the air in the village is hanging heavy with smoke. And for me, as the air begins to clear, so the transition from autumn into winter is truly complete.


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Oìdhche Shamhna

Oìdhche Shamhna mhath dhuibh!

I hope you had a good one. Or will do, whenever you celebrate.

I know a lot of folks in the more northerly climes across the Pond have had a lot of snow over the weekend and might even still be cut off from phones and power right now; I'm hoping everybody stays warm and safe. Here we've not even had a first frost yet, but there's been some early snow on the peaks across the sea over in Argyll so winter is well and truly on its way. We're still getting a relatively warm and damp south-westerly for the most part, but there's definitely a bite in the air too now.

The geese are all gone and the crows and the rooks and the magpies have been noisily heralding the turning of the season for the past week or so, and have also been demanding their due out in the garden. Considering the fact that we have kids and Hallowe'en is such a big thing round here, I like to keep the day tied with Samhainn for the fun and festive feel with everyone in the village joining in too, rather than waiting for the first frost or whatever. There have been plenty of signs that it's time, anyway, and for the past week or so the kids have been asking about family and all the people who've died that they never met; grandparents and great-grandparents, what they were like and what they looked like. It's a neat and timely bit of synchronicity, and I've spent a lot of time digging out old photos to show them and talk about the people who came before us, who are responsible for our being here today.

So I've been busily preparing and looking forward to it all. In particular I'd been looking forward to the guisers arriving on our doorstep and performing their bit in exchange for their treats - it's always fun and gives a sense of community - and I made sure I bought plenty of treats to hand out this time. The past Hallowe'ens we've had in this house, in this part of Scotland on the west coast, we've always run out of treats and have had to make a mad dash to get more. But this year the night was pretty much a total washout. Hardly anyone braved the incessant rain, it seems, and so I have two large tins of sweeties left over. One of our neighbours just dropped off a bag of sweets for the kids this morning so it seems everyone's in the same boat here. We actually decided not to take the kids out guising just yet. They were up at 6am yesterday morning, and I think it would've been too much for Rosie in particular. There would've been wailing in the end. But with all the sweets left, the kids aren't complaining either way...

Things didn't go entirely to plan this year; usually I have a kind of three part celebration over the course of three days, from the 30th October to the 1st November. We do our seasonal pictures, and each day tends to have a different main focus - on the spirits, then the gods, then the ancestors...Usually, on the first day I carve the tumshies to kick things off, but things didn't quite work out according to plan this time round.

On Sunday we decorated the house with all of the decorations that we'd made, spooky ghosts made out of tissues, our skellington (Frank) taking guard at the front door, our tasteful flashing skulls and ghosts and spider up on the mantlepiece, with the even more tasteful decorations given to us by my mother-in-law last year:

And some decorations made out of orange, purple and black felt, that I cut out using cookie cutters as a template (we used the cutters to make some spooky gingerbread, but they didn't exactly keep their shape well once they went in the oven...ah well. Still tasty). There were bats and cats and more ghosts, but I think the bats are my favourite:

And we put some up in the living room, and the rest around my 'hearth shrine' in the kitchen. We did our seasonal pictures:

They're supposed to be fireworks, honest! Last year we did snowmen as our wintery theme, and ended up getting snowed in for five days...So yeah...This time I suggested a different direction, and the kids decided it was a good one (any excuse for glitter). We've covered the weather and snowy, flowery, leafy pictures and all that kind of stuff by now, so I thought we could do fireworks this time. We talked about how it was going to be a lot darker now, earlier and longer, but that meant that there would be fireworks! There's Guy Fawkes' night on Saturday (and one of the local events is apparently tying it in with a day of cultural events and storytelling etc; hopefully we'll make it there), and Hogmanay usually has fireworks too. So in all the darkness, we'll be having lots of things to celebrate. When I was a kid, every Guy Fawke's night we'd have fireworks in the back garden, and our grandparents would come over, and mum would hand out hot tomato soup in mugs to keep us warm. One of my happier childhood memories, so I promised the kids we'd do that too (the soup, that is, if not the fireworks in the garden).

Sunday afternoon we spent at the in-laws to show off Tom and Rosie's costumes, and after lots of excitement and showing off, two tired children were pretty much ready for bed. The clocks had gone back an hour for winter - very apt timing - so the kids hadn't adjusted yet and technically it was well past bedtime for them already. Just as we were leaving, fireworks started going off somewhere on the street. "Fireworks!" screamed Tom. "Mummy, the fireworks must be thanking us for doing our pictures!"

Well I do hope so.

I hadn't been able to get any shopping in, so once we got home and got the kids to bed I tried to get some turnips from the local shop, but the only ones they had were too small and mouldy to boot. So there was no carving on Sunday night. Yesterday was therefore a very busy day.

I'd promised Rosie some pumpkin soup, because she'd had some at nursery as part of their week of festive activities, and she loved it. Far be it from me to deny the kids vegetables, so I said we'd get a pumpkin for carving and make soup from the innards. Alas, the weekly shopping I'd ordered arrived without a pumpkin, and with two pathetically small tumshies. It's easier for me to order in these days, but it's a real pain in the arse when you're at the mercy of other people picking out your food sometimes. Luckily Mr Seren had to go into town anyway, so he was sent on a mission for a pumpkin and he ran here there and everywhere trying to succeed.

Alas, he returned without a pumpkin, but he did manage to procure two of the biggest turnips I've ever seen so all in all it wasn't a disaster. He stopped in at a grocers on his quest, and the grocer said with a resigned sigh, as soon as Mr Seren walked in, "We're out of pumpkins, but I've got huge tumshies." (Lucky you, sir).

I'd already started on one of the small tumshies and hadn't planned on doing as many as three of the buggers (let alone to giants), to spare my poor aching back, but waste not want not, right? You can see the size difference from the one I got from the supermarket compared to one of the ones Mr Seren got, in the photo at the top of this post. I'm proud to say I managed to carve them all with all limbs intact, and only one blister. I did some smaller white turnip lanterns too, and they went on my shelf in the kitchen.

The school makes a big deal out of Hallowe'en, so the kids went in costume and all the parents were invited to attend a parade. Tom decided to go as Optimus Prime and Rosie decided to go as a pirate; she already had the costume and my mother-in-law sorted Tom's costume out, so we got Rosie some extra bits and pieces to compliment the ensemble and we made a telescope for it, out of a tube, some felt, gold paper, and decorated with pirate treasure and gems. I managed to persuade her to wear some spooky face paints to complete the look (Tom really isn't fussed with dressing up at all, so he wasn't interested), and so we had:

Tom was happily in character, but I think Rosie was getting a bit self-conscious about people looking at her at this point; like me, she's confident and outgoing amongst people she knows, but otherwise she's shy and she doesn't like a lot of attention. In the end, she didn't want to join in with her class at the parade, but Tom happily paraded:

Yes, there he is next to the not at all offensive 'Indian Chief'.

Sooooo anyway. After school I got the dinner on, finished the tumshies, and we got on with the games. There was the obligatory dookin':

I totally failed at that. After trying with our mouths, we had a go using forks (trying to spear the apples, effectively - that's how they do it at the school, too), and then Mr Seren was set in charge of the rest of the games while I got on with the rest of dinner. They played musical statues, musical bumps, 'hot chocolate', hide and seek, and steal the sock (steal daddy's sock, that is), and I was glad that it wasn't my eardrums that weren't being almost pierced by the shrieking and squealing. I think it's safe to say they had a good time.

After dinner (beef stew and mash, followed by cranachan and oaty crumblies) we had the guisers start trickling along. Mungo, our youngest and incredibly neurotic dog, had been looking worried all day long because not only had I cleaned the house, everybody was all excited. Something was happening, but whether or not it was a good thing he wasn't too sure. Once people started arriving, he decided that things were actually OK; lots of children to sniff and get fuss from. All good. Although it would've been better if people had shared their goodies. Especially the kids who turned up with hot dogs (given to them by a house further down the road from us).

Eventually we had to get the kids to bed, and two very satisfied children promptly fell unconscious within approximately three seconds in spite of their insistence that they weren't tired. Honest. And that left me to my devotions for the night, along with offerings, charms, saining, and a little time to myself just to think and be and listen to the rain and what it had to say. I'd overdone things a little by this point and was in quite a bit of pain, so I didn't spend as long as I would've liked (but I still have tonight to finish things off, at least). I needed a good sit down and time to decompress before leaving some food out over night, and one more offering and then bed.

After Tom finishes school today we're going to make a fat cake for the birds out of suet and seeds, and we'll leave that out as our final offering in honour of Mr Seren's gran, and Rosie's namesake. I never met her myself, and we don't have any photos to look at, but feeding the birds is one thing Mr Seren associates with her in particular and I figured we could honour her that way, make it a family tradition for us too. She fed the birds every day and whenever Mr Seren asked why, she'd say it's because the little birds can talk to the angels and if you look after them and listen carefully they'll whisper to you and help you find lost things. Some bird food seems apt as a final way to welcome in the winter, as well, to round things off; we're being told it's going to be another cold one this year, so experts are encouraging people to make sure they leave food out for the smaller birds in particular. So we'll start as we mean to go on.