Turnips. It’s all about the Turnips.

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No, it’s not a selfie on a Monday morning but a good old traditional vegetable of the British countryside, the humble Turnip.  Yes, I’m giving it a capital T as I fear it is overlooked, under-estimated and its’ importance in Halloween completely ignored.  It deserves elevation to a proper noun, in my humble opinion 😉

Anyway, I digress.  So, here we are again, celebrating Halloween.  American style.  Not that there’s anything wrong with the American way; many young children enjoy the dressing up and the innocence of knocking on doors hoping for sweets.  I do live in hope that most of the population will realise this isn’t actually what Halloween is about.  Originally a pagan festival of celebrating life, honouring the dead and the cross-over into the darkest part of the year, one must remember how much superstition dictated the lives of our ancestors.  However, the celebration also respected the power of nature, gave thanks to food on their plates (entwined with Harvest celebrations) and a general understanding of gratitude.

Known as Samhain in Old Irish, Hop-tu-Naa in the Isle of Man, Calan Gaeaf in Wales and Kalan Gwav in Cornwall, one can see how these age-old names pre-date christianity.  Many pagan celebrations were overtaken by christianity to make them more acceptable in the eyes of the early church (namely Easter and Christmas here in the UK).  Most of these are now very commercialised, too much in my opinion, that the real meanings are lost in all the hype.  It takes a bit of internet digging around nowadays if you really want to know why kids dress up and knock on doors for sweets; why you get chocolate eggs in April or why Christmas is a time to get what you want (assuming you’ve outgrown the Santa theme).  Yes, have fun but also show remember to have gratitude.

So back to the humble Turnip, the once-used jack-o-lantern of old.  According to  The Oxford companion to American food and drink (p.269. Oxford University Press, 2007) immigrants to North America preferred the native pumpkin due to it being softer and easier to carve (did they even consider taking Turnips with them I wonder?!).  Apparently, pumpkin carving wasn’t officially recorded until 1837 anyway.  So the pumpkin may take all the glory but the Turnip is where it’s at!

I’ll stop going on about it now, especially as I don’t even like Turnip.  Here’s a couple of photos for you instead – if any of these knock at my door, I’ll just let the dog bark I think! 

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I think old style costumes were much more authentic – and scary!

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Sleep well …

Battle of Lansdown 5th July 1643, near Bath

Well, this isn’t my usual era of interest, in fact, it’s a tad too modern for me but it is on my doorstep in a magnificent part of the world (Southwolds, nr Bath actually) so deserved some air time I thought.  I am also of Cornish blood so who knows if one of these soldiers would have been an ancestor?!

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This was one of the many battles in the English Civil War and contained a tough foot regiment of Cornishmen, who had rose up for the Royalists against Parliament forces earlier in 1642.  Under the command of Sir Bevil Grenville, who had endorsed Sir Ralph Horton as commander of the Cornish force, they eventually took control of the ridge at Lansdown against a Parliamentary cavalry force.  Knowing how high Lansdown is (it commands views as distant as Wales across Bristol), this must have been an extraordinary feat.  This photo was taken just a little way up from the battle site and is actually at a slightly lower altitude than Lansdown Hill itself.

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Although inconclusive, the Parliamentarians did retreat to Bath.  Unfortunately, Sir Bevil Grenville sustained a head injury at the battle site and died the next day.  This monument stands where he was injured:

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This had a detrimental effect to the morale of the Cornish and sadly, many of them were killed just a few weeks later in an assault on Bristol led by Prince Rupert.

Although a beautiful part of the country, this area has seen much bloodshed over time, including the Battle of Dyrham in 577 just a couple of miles away.  But that tale will save for another day!

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References:

http://www.battlefieldstrust.com/resource-centre/civil-war/battleview.asp?BattleFieldId=21 [accessed 4.12.14]

http://bcw-project.org/biography/sir-bevil-grenville [accessed 4.12.14]

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/timeline/civilwars_timeline_noflash.shtml [accessed 4.12.14]