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Sat, 11 Dec 2010
Alison Uttley, 5Greenway of Wordpress Blog Very Berry Handmade. Present Over the Hills and Far Away.

HOME COMFORTS WITH DIDDILYDEEDOT AND TODAYS SPECIAL GUESTS, ALISON UTTLEY AND 5GREENWAY

Today my wonderful husband gave me an early Christmas present. He is always giving me early presents, for I pester him like mad if I see he has a book or dvd in his bag. I love pressies, never expensive ones, usually from a Charity Shop (there are 12 in Mold my nearest town) so he has plenty of places to go searching. So today I have a new/old 1942 book by Alison Uttley published during the war years.

It is called NINE STARLIGHT TALES  and is written by Alison Uttley and the illustrations are by Irene Hawkins and the book is dedicated to Frances Mary. Inside are nine wonderful tales, all with the titles of Nursery Rhymes.

I am going to write out one of these small tales, it is the story of Tom, Tom the Piper's Son.

But at the end of the story I would like to show you a wonderful wordpress post from Alison Uttley Christmas * Very Berry Handmade

OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY

Night was falling, and the little bare room was nearly in darkness. young Thomas sat on one side of the dying fire, his hands crossed over his knees, and Old Thomas, his father, sat opposite him. From outside came the rattle of carts and horses on the London cobblestones, and the cries of hawkers and shouts of quarrelling beggars.

"What d'ye lack? What d'ye lack? Fine blue Ribbons for your back," called a voice, and "Lavender, sweet lavender," sang a woman, and the footsteps passed by the window. Young Thomas took no notice of them, for his eyes were fixed on his father, who was playing sweet tunes on a wooden pipe.

"Play 'Come Lasses and Lads',Father," he cried, and the piper piped the merry dancing tune. "And now play 'Lady Greensleeves,'" said Thomas, and his father player the lovely air which everyone in England at the time knew by heart.

     "Greensleeves was all my joy,

Greensleeves was my delight,

Greensleevs was my heart of gold,

And who but Lady Greesleeves? "

He played "All in a Garden Fair," and Gathering Peascods", and "If all the World were   Paper," and his little son sat entranced, listening to the sweet tunes which came out of that boxwood pipe. "Now it is time for your lesson, my lad," said the piper. " You must learn to play so that you'll be able to keep me company." And he took a small pipe from a shelf, wiped it with his handkerchief with tender care, and gave it to little Thomas.

What squeaks and squawks came from it! Sometimes it sounded like a pig under a gate, sometimes there was nothing at all but breaths and puffs and grunts. "You'll never make a piper unless you practise," grumbled the piper, I don't know what will become of you if you can't earn your living by piping, and play like me."

Tom puffed out his cheeks and blew and twiddled his little fingers over scales and trills. "Hark to me," Cried Old Thomas, impatiently. He put the pipe to his lps, and sent out a stream of rippling music like the sound of birds at dawn. He made the notes of the cuckoo, blackbird, thrush, wren, so that Young Thomas clapped his hands.

"Are the birds over there ? he asked.

"Over where ?" said his father. "Over the hills and far away," replied Thomas, gravely. Then he went on: Father, tell me the tale of the land over the hills and far away."

"Will you promise to practise two hours a day?" demanded his father. "Yes, oh yes, said Thomas earnestly. I promise," He would have promised anything to hear the story he had so often heard, the story which was always fresh. 

"I don't know why you want that same old tale. I've told it so many times, you must know it off by heart." Tom nodded, "Tell it again," said he and he put his pipe back on the shelf and settled down by the glowing embers, whilst Old Thomas retold his story.

         "You were born in the city of London Thomas but I came from far away, over the hills, where there are no streets or great houses or rows of shops. It is a village nestling in a cup of the hills, and there are three rivers run near it. These rivers aren't like the Thames, They are foaming tossing rivers, with ferns and primroses on the banks and rowan trees hanging over them, and moss covered boulders in the water, so that you can jump on them and stand on an island. There's a humped back little bridge, called "The Devil's Leap", so narrow that only horsemen can cross it and the packmen who carry wool on their donkeys backs. In the water are trout, and many a one I've caught with my fingers and carried it home for my mother for supper."

Thomas looked hungrily at his father, and nodded.


BUT HERE I WILL HAVE TO STOP FOR THIS EVENING. IT IS ALMOST 00 . 30 AND I HAVE HAD A BUSY DAY WITH MY YOUNGEST GRAND-DAUGHTER MOLLY JAY, WHO IS FAST ASLEEP IN THE TRAVEL BED. I AM GOING TO TURN OFF CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, THE MOVIE AND CLIMB INTO MY BED NEXT TO MOLL'S AND FALL ASLLP WATCHING THE SPORT ON EUROPE LIVE.

I WILL RETURN TOMORROW WITH THE REST OF THE STORY OF OVER THE HILLS, BUT HERE IS THE BEGINNING AND THE WORDPRESS FROM 5GREENWAY. TAKE CARE. DIDILYDEEDOT'S DREAMLAND. XXX

http://veryberryhandmade.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/alison-uttley-christmas/

Alison Uttley Christmas

Another bookish post for Tuesday. And with Advent calendars starting tomorrow, and snow outside, it doesn’t seem too unseasonal to do a slightly Christmassy post. All the books I’m writing about here are sadly out of print, but they’re well worth tracking down; two of them are children’s picture books, and the other is one for the grown-ups.

Alice Jane Uttley (born Alice Jane Taylor in 1884) was a bit of a remarkable woman. Only the second woman to graduate with honours from Manchester University, with a degree in physics in 1906, she worked as a teacher before marrying in 1911. After her husband’s death, she turned to writing, drawing upon her childhood growing up on a farm near Matlock in Derbyshire for a series of books for children.

She’s probably best known now for the later series of stories about Grey Rabbit and her woodland friends who recreate ‘a rural society largely populated by animals’ (Brian Alderson, Dictionary of National Biography). She was helped in this by her illustrators: Margaret Tempest for the earlier books and Katherine Wigglesworth for the later ones. Both produced lovely pictures. It’s Uttley’s mirroring of a remembered society, as well as the lovely illustrations, which make the Grey Rabbit books so enjoyable.

This is true for the two Grey Rabbit books set around Christmas, Little Grey Rabbit’s Christmas and Little Grey Rabbit and the Snow-Baby, are typical Uttley fables. They’re lovely books. The gentle sentiments contained within manage to avoid being oversweet: the Snow Baby in particular is a lovely little tale of a Winter visitor who leaves with the season, not unlike Raymond Briggs’ snowman.

The coming together of all the characters in Little Grey Rabbit’s Christmas, around mole’s tree, says something strong about community, rather than something sappy. Sadly, while the Christmas book is available from Abebooks (linked above), the Snow Baby story appears to be more seriously out of print. They’d be well worth a reprint. And they do turn up from time to time in second hand shops..

The same qualities, without the animal trappings, are evident in a rather wonderful 1932 memoir, The Country Child. For anyone interested in reading about the ordinary customs of a Christmas in England at the end of the nineteenth century, this book is one of the first places to go. In the three wintry chapters, December, Christmas Day and January, Uttley describes familiar customs like stockings and trees and plum puddings; and traditions that have not come all the way to our century, like a kissing bough and the ‘Christmas texts’, improving pious mottos to decorate the walls. The blessed relief of Christmas in contrast to an often harsh Christianity is striking:

She was almost too happy, and her heart ached with joy as she stood on a hassock by her mother’s side, with her hymn-book in her hand, singing “Noel, Noel”, feasting her eyes on the coloured windows and bright berries and flowers, wrapped in scents and sounds as in a cloud of incense. She buried her face in her muff in ecstasy. No thoughts of hell or idols to-day, only of Baby Jesus in the manger, and the singing angels.

On her return from church, Susan is surprised to see a small Christmas tree, brought in alive to be returned to the plantation after Christmas, and decorated as it sat in its pot on a table (see the bottom pic). It’s a reminder that the Christmas tree in England is a relatively young custom, especially in its adoption by all parts of society. Elsewhere there is music and visits from guisers, visits which Uttley transferred across into Little Grey Rabbit’s Christmas (right).

The reading of the Christmas Story from the Bible on Christmas Eve reminded me of the family reading in Enid Blyton’s Christmas Book (1944), my favourite when I was little. Is this another lost, widespread custom? Today we may rely on one-to-one re-tellings from children’s books (if at all) than to sit down with the family Bible or to tell our own version (as the idealised Blyton mother does…). The stories we respond to as whole families are probably more likely to be on TV or DVD now.

The Country Child describes a world in transition from the nineteenth century re-imagining of Christmas to our more familiar, modern celebrations. There’s still a balance of the sacred and profane; tall tales and the Bible, carols and concertinas, set within a community coming together to wish each other well:

Then the villagers rose to their feet and passed out of church, to greet each other in the porch and find their mufflers, sticks and pattens. Margaret lighted the lantern and they pulled their stockings over their shoes in the confusion of the crowd. Becky waited for them at the gate, and they called, “Good night, good night. A happy Christmas and many of them. A happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year when it comes. Same to you and many of them”, as they turned away to the darkness.

Passed through memories and fond nostalgia, these little snapshots, whether they are villagers in the shapes of animals, or the remembered characters of Uttley’s childhood, give us a corner of the eye glimpse into a Christmas that’s at once familiar and far from us now. The outward shows we put on may be quite different now; the well-wishing, community and abundance at the centre of it hopefully are not. All three of these books are great reads, in their own way, and each might prompt some thoughts about the way we celebrate our Christmases.

Posted 18:40

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