Jonathan's Mistletoe Diary

October 25, 2007

Apple Daze

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jonathan Briggs @ 8:00 pm

The end of October is in sight – and that means the end of the Apple Day season.  We’ve been to so many this year, and over such a long period, that they’re more of an Apple Daze than Apple Days.

We started at the Glasu apple event in Brecon and have since taken in events in Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Dorset, missing (much to my embarrassment) the Apple Fest at Tenbury, Worcestershire (though I did spend some of that day in a mistletoe-filled apple orchard)

At Much Marcle’s Big Apple events, 2 weeks ago, I gave one of my mistletoe miscellany talks, after spending time wandering round local orchards, and sampling James Gregg’s cider.  Not my best performance – as the digital projector remote stopped working, really b*gg**ing up my timing, but it seemed to go down fairly well nevertheless.

Today I think it’s probably all over for the season, as we’ve just returned from the Apple Day at the Kingcombe Centre in Dorset, set in the midst of hundreds of acres of Dorset Wildlife Trust grassland reserve.  A relaxed day, with Caroline and I just visiting – no duties today.  The centre, run independently of the DWT reserve, is a field centre running a variety of courses, and serving fabulous food from local sources.  For Apple Day we had just had to sample the apple and parsnip soup, apple ploughman’s lunches, apple cake, apple flapjacks, apple muffins – you get the idea. 

There was thick local ham served with the ploughmans – and whilst eating it we had appropriate views of Baldrick, an elderly large white boar in the kitchen garden.  And I had a long chat later with his friend Peggy, a saddleback sow.  I found she has a weakness for cider apples, and, as a result, is now my friend for life. 

Mistletoe is virtually unknown in this part of Dorset and they have none in the small orchard adjoining the centre – maybe I’ll come back in planting season next February…


October 21, 2007

Boycie and rampaging plants

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jonathan Briggs @ 11:33 pm

John_challis_aka_boycie_fundraiser_ A mistletoey evening with John Challis – aka Boycie of Only Fools and Horses and the Green Green Grass.  Though mistletoe was hardly mentioned, this was a fund-raiser for this year’s Mistletoe Festival – and John had come to Tenbury High School (for free) to entertain a paying audience with his reminiscences.   

A very entertaining and very interesting evening – and many thanks to John and the sponsors (Jen Green (Green Grass Promotions) and CTT Acoustics Ltd Ludlow)

It’s easy to forget what he did in the pre-Boycie years – but it turns out he has previous form for Coronation Street, Z-Cars and some of my favourite 1970s Dr Who episodes, the Seeds of Doom, the series with the rampaging plants. 

Which takes us nicely back to mistletoe…

(The pic show Mr Challis recalling his Doctor Who period, when he was attacked by a giant vegetable, forced into a lake, and then drowned by a malevolent pondweed.  Wonderful stuff!)

October 20, 2007

Ballooning for mistletoe

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jonathan Briggs @ 9:46 pm

Saturday 20th October – the day of the Tenbury Wells AppleFest, and I’m planning to drive up and help out as needed.  But a call last night changes all this.  Richard Parry, our ballooning friend, needs a retrieve crew in the morning – and I volunteer, ’cos it’s fun.

He’s taking up 3 guests in Eagle Balloon, starting at Brimscombe Port near Stroud  My job is to chase after them in the van and bring them back.  Should all be over in a couple of hours, giving time to nip up to Tenbury afterwards – in theory…

But I’m forgetting how late an October launch is – 9.00am instead of the 7.00am launches we did in the summer, and so I get behind the Tenbury schedule very early.  Take off is flawless, though windspeed is low, and they seem to hang, just above the roofs of the Golden Valley for ages before drifting off to the north-west.  Radio comms are working well, and I follow them to Wallbridge, where Richard suggests he’ll probably touch-down up at Haresfield Beacon.  The A46 is closed (for 6 months!) due to geological failures, so I try the Whiteshill road – but my watchful eye in the sky tells me that’s blocked due to an accident, and sure enough I soon find everyone turning round.  So, back down to the bottom to try the lanes through Ruscombe – which are closed for roadworks…

This means a longer detour via Stonehouse, and into the Severn Vale around Haresfield village – which is in the middle of mistletoe-filled orchards!  (You knew mistletoe would feature eventually didn’t you).  Richard and crew have by now come over the beacon and are descending into the vale – and I spot them in a distant field at exactly the same time as Richard radios (as usual) that the ‘Eagle has landed’ (yes, I know what you’re thinking, but wouldn’t you say the same in the same circumstances?).

And the best bit is…  the field is a small, somewhat neglected, orchard with apple trees festooned with mistletoe…  Cue for interesting discussions with balloonists and landowners (emerging, still in dressing gowns, from adjoining house) about mistletoe harvesting techniques etc.  I’m in my element…  I’ll look out an aerial pic and add it later…

Everything then packed into back of van – balloon, basket, people etc, plus a few mistletoe sprigs, and it’s back to Brimscombe and thence to Richard’s house for breakfast.  By now it’s 13.00 – and rather late to nip up to Tenbury… 

October 18, 2007

The media – mistletoe-mad as usual

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jonathan Briggs @ 6:17 pm

Mistletoe and media are linking well as usual – enquiries from the monthlies have been coming in since August, at both national and local level, with many requesting news about Tenbury Wells, the Mistletoe Festival and the Auctions.  Most want pictures from last year and details for this year.   

Now, since I am publicity officer for the Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Festival this is all very satisfying, though I find that continuing problems in determining the exact festival programme (due to funding concerns) has been a bit of a problem – everyone wants to know exactly what is planned – and vague assurances are not good for promotion… 

BBC TV have been showing an interest too – with the usual caveats about not being quite sure whether they’ll run with the story.  Songs of Praise, the Sunday evening show, were interested for a while, for a programme based on Christmas traditions.  I discussed this with their researcher, met with the producer, warned/warmed up the other interviewees they wanted (Tenbury’s mistletoe-man Stan Yapp, Mistletoe-auctioneer Nick Champion and me) and even discussed it with the vicar (in passing whilst talking about this year’s druidic rite – more of that later).  But, media being media, we’ve been unceremoniously dropped from the programme schedule.  I don’t really mind, I know how these things work, but others may not – which is why I do mind a bit about the next story…

Img_0369_2  Loyal mistletoe-blog readers (are there any?) may recall that I did a Christmas Ready Steady Cook (BBC competitive cooking programme) promoting mistletoe back in 2005 (check the pic, and I won! – if you’re really curious read the original blog).  So I was surprised to be approached again this season.  The plan this time, after a bit of discussion, was to have the new Mistletoe Queen and friends in the audience, in costume, to help with the Quickie Bag section at the end of the show.  No promises made, as usual, as this is the media, but a strong likelihood of success so I go to some trouble to sort this out with Tenbury High School (whose head-girl becomes the Mistletoe Queen), and with the Mistletoe Queen’s mum.  The filming schedule was very tight, with only 2 weeks notice – becoming less than one week by the time everyone had been briefed, costumes had been tried out etc.  And then the show cancels – we’ve been edged out by some other Christmassy theme… 

A great disappointment for the girls involved.  Though I know that’s the way the media work, the High School students didn’t, and I am annoyed, as I feel like it’s me letting them down.  I must find another TV show for them…

Meanwhile, back in magazine-land, do make sure you buy the December (or possible the January) Oldie where you’ll find I’ve written their ‘Anorak’ column.  You can probably guess what that’s about…

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