Tuesday, 18 December 2012


Hi all,
In my last post I said I would share my latest pyrography project with you. Well there is good news and bad news. As is customary in theses situations, here's the bad news first; I've been too busy working on my latest book to do anything serious with my pyrography iron so I won't have anything to show you until the new year. I have made a start on a new picture, but nothing I can show you yet.

With that out of the way, here is the good news. My wife has been busy decorating the house for the festive season and while she was in the mood she knocked up a nice Christmas picture to hang on the wall. I guess the holly is the plant that most people associate with Christmas and it made a fitting subject for her pyrography iron. She also used her paints to good effect to bring the subject to life. Below you can see the finished result. I'm afraid the photo I've taken is not so good as I would like it. The camera seems to have burnt out some of the colours from the centre of the image, but I'm sure you get the gist.

When I look at this picture it brings back a memory that I have of Christmas when I was a young lad growing up in the Staffordshire countryside. Unfortunately, it isn't what you would call a good a good memory.

Times were hard in the fifties and early sixties and if we could gather something in from the countryside that surrounded us, then so much the better. We picked wild mushrooms, blackberries and other items to help supplement our mother's rather meagre budget. Indeed, it seems hardly believable now that we took eggs from moorhen's nest to go in the frying pan. My friends and I would search the local ponds and risked drowning as we plundered nests that were built in the most inaccessible of places.

We didn't take all the eggs from any one nest, even in those days we had the conservancy bug about us, we only took a maximum of two eggs from each nest because even then we realised that if we took them all there would be no moorhens the following year.For the record, moorhens' eggs taste much the same as normal hens' eggs but they are a bit smaller.

Right, back to holly. It is a strange thing about holly that although it is always shown with bright red berries most holly trees don't have any and those that do are raided by every known species of bird so that by the time it comes to Christmas, they are devoid of fruit. Anyway, one year we found a tree that was still loaded with berries and Christmas was barely a week away. This was an opportunity too good to miss, so my friends and I cut some nice branches off the tree and took them home for our parents.

Unfortunately for me, my father believed in every superstition that is known to man. To make matters worse, most of these folklores revolved around death. If a bird comes tapping on your window it is a sure sign that somebody in that house would croak it in the next couple of days. These were the things he believed in and so it was with the Holly. According to him, holly must not pass over the threshold until Christmas Eve, if it does somebody in that dwelling will kick the bucket before the new year.

I was unaware of this and because my mother came from Finland she didn't know about it either, but we both had to suffer my father's wrath when he came back from the pub and found that we'd taken some nasty holly into the house.

I'm sure most of you have seen the scene from Fawlty Towers where Basil gives his car a good thrashing, well that's what my dad did with my holly branches. He took them outside and thrashed then against the side of the house whilst shouting in a wild rage. The interesting thing is that nobody came even close to kicking the bucket that year and even if they did I doubt the poor old holly would be to blame.

By the way, I'd be interested to know if anybody else had moorhens' egges in their diet or was it something that only villagers did in these parts.

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