My usual haunts were out of the question; too full of dithering families trying to decide what to buy for auntie Nelly and there is only so much seasonal musak I can stomach. A new second hand bookshop was tempting - I could go and look at the Local History section at least - far better than the retail hell that was Christmas at Waterstones.......
What a sanctuary it proved to be - probably not a money spinner - but warm and empty, with comfy chairs and a gentle Baroque air to delight the ear.
I found this. Only £3.00. OK, not everyone's cup of tea but there will be something in these pages to raise an eyebrow, enlighten and entertain.
It's honestly interesting reading - some very familiar and half remembered things; things which we still do - and not know why (salt over shoulders, never give a knife as a gift, don't look at the moon through glass to name but three); things more curious and strange, sometimes cruel; things from a lost age of innocence or ignorance a long time ago. Ms Hole lists folklore traditions by the hundred, hardly pausing for punctuation or breath. I was glad to see our Holy Well at Rorrington got a mention.
I've been reading it in bed - and last night reached the section on 'Strange Visitors'. Scary stuff indeed; rites, howls, things of the dark side, apparitions of the ould Divil:
'Our mothers' mayd terrifie us with the ouglie devil, with horns on his head, fier in his mouth, a huge tayle in his breach, eies like basons, fangs like a boar, claws like a tiger, skin like a bear, and a voice roaring like a lion.'Then there are wild hunts and baying spectral dogs...........and as I lie tucked under the duvet I hear from the hedge line beyond the little triangular field - JUST OUTSIDE MY BEDROOM WINDOW FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE - the sudden yelping bark of a fox. I freeze to my core in fright. (But fall asleep before I can dare a trip to the bathroom out of the safety of my bed.)
The cold old dark night still has the power to terrify it seems.
PS I have memories of long, night time car journeys listening to Joan Aiken's 'The Wolves of Willoughby Chase', the empty desolation of Yorkshire's high moorland in the blackness outside our speeding car, and of our little boys snuggled on the back seat gripped by the tale....thinking, 'Please, oh please, I hope we don't break down now..."