Sunday, 13 January 2013

consider the ravens

To the tower and to the ravens
And the tale that hopes they'll never leave.
What if they should go?
We always dread to think of them.
I wonder if they flew one day
And no-one ever knew they'd gone
To circle over ships at sea,
Claiming yet another son.

The first few flakes of snow made an attempt at midday today as we parked in the Waitrose car park. The sky has been threateningly grey all day but so far, it's all come to nothing. The Russian weather front was supposed to hit yesterday but, as you can see, it was a beautiful day in Suffolk.

We left about nine o'clock in the morning to get to the meeting place in plenty of time - it meant being able to stop for petrol along the way as there are precious few patrol stations in the wilds of Suffolk. A jay flew up from the road as we gently came round a bend and then half a dozen roe deer ran across the road ahead through Rendlesham Forest. This was going to be a nice day.

We parked behind Orford Castle and after a while as the rest turned up we went for the first walk of the year. We completed a circular walk although we actually finished it off at The King's Head a few hundred yards further down the road. Of course.  What's the point of going for a four hour ramble and not having a pint at the end as a reward?

Suffolk is pretty flat and there isn't much opportunity to use many different muscles on this sort of walk but it was great to get out into the fresh air and drive away the post-Christmas blues. One week in to a new term and already everyone's knackered. I've tried to keep away from New Year Resolutions but there are a few areas of my life that will benefit from a change or two. Mrs Dave and I are determined to get out and walk more at weekends. We bought an OS Active Map of the Woodbridge and Saxmundham (Explorer 212, if you're interested. It's the same one if you're not, too) so that automatically makes you feel that you have to use them as they cost £14. Anyway, we felt great and after a pint or two of Adnam's finest we were looking forward to collapsing in front of  the tv and watching Made In Dagenham. After a bath and a chilled Thai meal from Waitrose that's exactly what we did. Therefore, as the more astute amongst you will have already realised probably completely detracted from most of the benefits of going for a four hour wander around Suffolk woods and fields. Ah well.

Those roe deer we saw seemed to be circling us - we saw them twice more during the walk - we're fairly sure they were the same ones. There were sixteen of us on the walk and one of the chaps had a dog with him. I think it was the dog that made the deer even more nervous than usual but it was a fine sight. It also prompted a discussion about poaching as two of the chaps with us were ex-police. I also learned that we now have any crimes that are punishable by the death penalty. This may explain why so many comedians nonchalantly take the mickey and are openly rude about the Queen nowadays.

Okay, so we've reached a point where castles and Royalty are connected. As I looked up at the very graceful keep towering above me I desperately wanted some crows to be flying around, which were there but not quite visible. On the way home we stopped off at the newly opened Waitrose in Ipswich where I picked up a copy of their weekly paper.

There was a fairly bizarre story therein about the Tower of London and how the ravens have, evidently become fussy about the food they eat. They don't like Cheese and Onion crisps, it seems. Well, who does? But still, they rip open packets of crisps and dip them in water to get rid of the taste. Perhaps that's why people drink beer with crisps. Anyway, there are two new ravens at the Tower, Jubilee and Grip. The first is obviously named as he was a present to Her Madge whilst the other was the name of Charles Dickens' pet raven. I didn't actually know he had a pet raven, but each to his own (the past is a different country and all that).  The last paragraph in this short report is:

Legend has it that in the 17th century, King Charles II decreed that at least six ravens should be kept at the Tower at all times, in the belief that if they ever left, the place would crumble away.

Of course, as most schoolchildren used to know, if the ravens left the Tower then the country would fall. There is a Celtic connection here. In the Mabinogian the story of Bran (which means 'raven') has his head buried facing France at the Tower to ward off invasion by France. However, supposedly King Arthur dug it up. Whether any of this is true or not doesn't really matter; the point is that ravens have been kept at the Tower for hundreds of years.

And why is it that they have never left so that England has managed to avoid being invaded? Oh, they've clipped one feather of one of their wings so they can only make very short flights around the area they are captive in. Hmm, best not to take any chances, eh?

Oh well, Sunday evening and still no snow. I guess the ravens are still happily being "treated like Royalty" (possibly being photographed naked in a hotel room somewhere?) so I suppose it's business as usual. Back to work . . .


Brendini said...

Hmmm, poached deer. Is that anything like rustled eggs?

Dave Leeke said...

No, not really. But we never found out as nobody had a poacher's pocket.

eeyorn said...

I have a Morris dancing mate who is/was the Head Gamekeeper at Knebworth Park. He could help you out if you want to try venison.

Dave Leeke said...


Ah, that'll be Wocco, I take it?

If it is, I used to go round to his cottage when I worked at Knebworth Park in the mid-seventies. Lovely bloke. I thought he got caught selling venison an Nottingham Market?

If it's not him perhaps one of the requirements for the job are to be a Morris Dancer?

eeyorn said...

Yes its Wocko....he still lives on the estate and can often be found walking the dog in the general direction of the Lytton Arms. The venison-selling incident rings a bell too :)

Dave Leeke said...

Blimey, that was nearly forty years ago! Has he got squatter's rights on the cottage?

Send him my regards - I was the skinny, long-haired kid with a big nose that used to go on about Fairport, Thompson and "Morris On". I probably wasn't the most interesting parson he ever met but he served up a damned fine venison stew and glass of ale.

eeyorn said...

With luck, he's being retained as a Consultant? he-he

I will pass your good thoughts on Dave, I saw him only recently at the Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival. I'm not so sure he wouldn't remember you. He's still got his very sharp mind despite his long and abundant consumption of ale.

Dave Leeke said...

I'll drink to that.