Images with the poems starting the months are all engravings from The Pictorial History of England (London: Charles Knight & Co., 1837). The names given in italics were the titles I used for them when I sent out the email version 2016–7.

1 After Lithe

Image: "Sculptured Stone lately dug up in the ancient chapel of St. Regulus, at St. Andrew's. . . .", p 218. St Regulus Stone

2 Weed Month

Image: "Figures of Ancient Gauls in the Braccæ, Tunic, and Sagum — Drawn from Roman Statues in the Louvre", p 127 Gaul

3 Holy Month

Image: "A Group of Arch-Druid and Druids", p 64. Druids

3c Yes, really, Bishops Stortford. Survey made by Plan UK to publicise their report The State of Girls' Rights in the UK, published in September 2016. Not in the top of the 10, but in there. And there may have been a St Ealdgyth, though no history of the place I have encountered mentions her. Ealdgyth may be modernised as Edith — I was chasing online links between Edith and Bishops Stortford (the reason will be found in Wound Scar Memories), and discovered in a text available online through Google Books: ". . . it can be reasonably be expected, by analogy with kingdoms with better documentation such as Northumbria and Kent, that princesses of the Mercian royal house would have founded and entered nunneries as the traditions claimed they did. The royal monastic descendants of the Mercian royal house may already appear to be legion, but it should be noted that there are a number of local cults in Mercia for whom no traditions survive at all. It is possible that some of these were also Mercian princess of the conversion period. They included Eadburh of Southwell and Edith of Polesworth in the Secgan; and Ealdgyth of Bishop's Stortford and Osburh of Coventry in the list of Hugh Candidus." From Barbara Yorke, Nunneries and the Anglo-Saxon Royal Houses (Continuum, 2003), p 22. Hugh Candidus, a monk at Peterborough, wrote its history: C Mellows (trans) and W T Mellows, (ed.), The Peterborough Chronicle of Hugh Candidus, Peterborough Museum Society, 1980, which I haven't read. But somewhere in one of the three medieval MSS of his Chronicle is presumably a list of saints' cults, including some not included in the main early surviving listing of these, Secgan: On the Resting Places of the Saints, dating from the pre Conquest Eleventh Century. However, in the early Saxon period, Stortford was within the kingdom of Essex (which accounts for its inclusion in the diocese of London until 1846), only put into Hertfordshire when when the post-Alfred Wessex kings took control of Mercia and divided it into shires. Essex princesses are, however, and perhaps surprisingly, even more obscure than Mercian ones.

4 Winter Full

Name of the month refers to winter beginning with its first full moon

Image: "Designed from a Plate in Sir S. Meyrick's 'Ancient Costumes of the British Islands:' taken by him from figures on a Danish Bas-relief; and from Mr. Astle's Reliquary engraved in the 'Vetusta Monumenta'", p 151. Carra and Bussa

4c The Bern of Theodric of Bern is not Berne (German Bern) in Switzerland, but Verona. So it's not, you now realise, the other Theodric, the Frankish one whose army killed Hygelac the Geat, but the Great one, ruler of Italy.

4e I was informed of the riot in Walden by a resident (some years back): the Essex police helicopter was called in to break up a mob outside the kebab shop. The Army Council meeting was in 1647.

4f The quotation is from a strange YA historical fantasy novel, I, Coriander, by Sally Gardiner (Orion Childrens Books, 2005, p 122) which has a haunting evocation of the Seventeenth Century vision of fairyland.

5 Blood Month

Name is a slight mistranslation — blodmonath should be sacrifice month, but this is also linked with slaughter of livestock that won't be overwintered, and blod for sacrifice is obviously connected to blood etymologically.

Image: "Statue of St. Cuthbert. From one of the external Canopies of the Middle Tower of Durham Cathedral," p 331. Identification of the statue seems very dubious to me! St Cuthbert

5b "Dilapidation" on signs for lawyers always amuses me.

5c Oh no! False news even in the Very Dark Ages: the tale of Romulus Augustulus retiring to spend more time with his pet chickens turn out to be in neither Wikipedia nor Gibbon — but a fantasy possibly emanating from Dürrenmatt's play Romulus der Große (1950) — or did he base it on an existing story? It was the even more wretched Honorius who was in fact the poultry-fancier. Don't trust a thing written down in this text!

5d My Pudding recipe is online as part of Within These Latter Days, at https://withinthese.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/36-recipe-for-christmas-pudding.html, while my cake recipe is simply Jane Grigson's, from her English Food, faithfully followed.

5f The cafe failed, unfortunately. The very nice owners, a Polish builder and his wife, put a lot of effort in, but the premises are too small, and not in a spot where people would want to linger in a cafe, just a busy route into the town centre. But I was given a very pleasurable introduction to Polish food there. I'm assuming here Bede's "Rugini" — don't often hear of these do you as our ancestors? but he lists them as one of the peoples involved in the "invasion" of Britain — were the Slavic speaking inhabitants of Rügen, hence, roughly, Poles, rather than the Germanic-speaking Rugii or Rugians, who went South. But you never know, and language ≠ "ethnicity" anyway.

5e At St Margaret's House at a Jonathan Mann Capital Letters session. Fine vegan cafe. Even finer poetry and discussion in descacralised (but still atmospheric) chapel

6 Before Yule

Image: "Residence of a Saxon Nobleman. . . . Harleian MS. No. 603," p 317. Unwin at Yule

6a I was told by the man trying to run the Polish cafe, after attempting to pronounce "gołąbki," that in fact the Polish dark L was just pronounced as "W" by most Poles nowadays.

6b Leofwine, Ælfwine, mean dear friend, elf friend

6c The skull collectors idea comes from a van I see around Bishops Stortford, from The Skull Rack, "for serious skull collectors". I can't find any internet presence, which is odd, or premises. But there we are. I've even seen the van parked up near the grandchildren's school. Hunting, or dropping off, children? And, of course, one of the actual distinguishing traits of the people with "Celtic" cultures was a serious cult of detached heads, especially enemies'.

6e I used as a source for the inset "poetic" lines Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals of the Origins of Yuletide, by Christian Raetsch and Claudia Mueller-Ebeling (Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont, 2006), remaindered at the bookshop. Very strong on what they call "smudging" — making smokes. I think that was just life generally pre-chimney really. I also use this source for the Yuletide images. Also — do you remember that in December 2016 the phrase "Winter of Discontent" was used to hopefully rally resistance against the Government of Old Etonians?


3 It was a strange Bank Holiday, to make up for a Sunday Christmas. Everyone seemed to want to get out after the two ritual days of Family Rituals, so the streets were full of happy, holidayish people, not spending money. Lovely, pleasant and utopian. A weird foretaste, as I write up these notes, of Life Under the Lock-Down.

12 An illustration from the late medieval L'Histoire de Valentin et Orson. Orson (bear's son) is the wild man of the woods - yes, linked with Christmas, the dark, Krampus side (go ask Steve Fowler!)

7 After Yule

Image: "Convivial Party. . . . Harleian MS. No. 603," p 337. Unwin and his band play music

7f Quotation is from edited by Massimo Bacigalupo, Ezra Pound, Posthumous Cantos (Carcanet, 2015), p 21, the opening of a draft of Canto IV.

7h The "Self Portrait" was an interactive conceptual piece set up by Stephen Emmerson. Contact him for further details.

8 Mud Cake Month

Image: "Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, Pronouncing a Pastoral Blessing. From Kerrick's Collection in the British Museum, Additional MSS No. 6728", p 561. monk

Name: Of February, Bede wrote "Solmonath can be called 'month of cakes', which they offered to their gods in that month", though others link the name with a word for mud, which seems reasonable. I've combined the two in my translation: I hate February. All there is is mudcakes, basically, most of February.

8f Quotation is Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War (Penguin, 1954), translator Rex Warner, p 402. Beuno was a Welsh saint of the Age of Saints period, normally cited as ending his days in the monastery he founded in Lleyn. There are many dedications to saints of this period along the coast of North Devon & West Somerset. Culbone Church is one, with his name possibly commemorated in the place name — except that is of obscure origin (Domesday Book calls it Kitnor), and the dedication is in fact questionable. But it is commonly accepted, even officially now by the Church of England. The wretched community ministered to by Beuno (maybe another Beuno? or he could bilocate?) comes from Joan Cooper's A Spiritual History of Culbone (Georjan Studio, 1977), where she visioned a sequence of wretched marginal groups occupying the relatively remote site for much of the last two millennia (after its use as a major spiritual centre — which it shall return to be — founded by very serious forces of Light). She, though does place "Celtic Christian" monks in Culbone during the "Dark Age" period, though the emphasis on marginal groups comes later (and appears to be based on some historical evidence). I referred to Culbone in several poems in "In the Present Historic Sense: A Serial Poem of the West", in Textual Possessions: Three Sequences (Shearsman, 2004), and also online at http://www.greatworks.org.uk/poems/pht/pht0.html (with some pix).

9 Aretha Month

Name: The month was in Old English, Hretha-monath, "named for their goddess Hretha, to whom they sacrificed at this time." Nothing is known of her, and her name lacks the clearcut etymological connections of Eostre. So I've modernised her name as Aretha, and taken it from there.

Image: "Saxon Ships, from an Engraving in Strett's Chronicles of England, made up from various Saxon illuminations,2 p 266. boats

9b There's a bush of a cultivated mezereon outside our front door, whose beautiful fragrant blossoming is this month

9f Quotation: Burt Bacharach, 1967

10 Easter Month

Image: "Saxon Tables. From Harleian MS. No. 603," p 324. Ettins (I can't help link the word with cannibalism, which turns out to lie at its etymological root)

10b The day was one of a meeting of Writers Forum Workshop — New Series, in which not only was I the featured poet, but had been asked by Luna Montenegro to bring some cake, as she had heard of my baking cakes for my poetry performance events at Cafe Oto. So I did. I had thought of Easter Biscuits (which were in the bakers around Easter time in Martock in my childhood) — but the only recipe I could find produced something quite odd, so I baked more normal cake. 10e Fryup Dale's in the North Yorkshire Moors, named after the goddess Frigge, not Yorkshire treats. It's beautiful.

11 Three Milks Month

Name: after the blessing given by spring grass — three milkings a day! If you were lucky. My sense of Maia is also influenced by Robert Graves's (oh no!!!! Yes: The White Goddess — greatest work of fantasy ever — and sadly [maybe not?] read by me at an impressionable age). He found Maia a rather negative goddess — that's why it's "Ne'er cast a clout . . ."; reinforced now by the political significance of the name. No cakes for her!

Image: "The sculptured stone, commonly called Sueno's Pillar, at Forres. . . . Yet what can we make of the elephant by which the whole delineation is surmounted?", p 221. Sueno's Pillar

11a The chartered market day is Thursday, though the Saturday market is livelier.

11b Apart from some obscure wolf-calls (using the word wolf in some European languages), you can also enjoy the entire corpus of Pictish inscriptions. Q-Celtic? P-Celtic? Pre-Indo-European? Imitation of writing in oghams by people who don't actually know the alphabet except as marks? Congenital dyslexia in ancient Caledonia? Too much heather wine? I regret I can't now trace the source of this version of the corpus — so apologies to the scholar(s) I have ripped it from. Nehtan (and similar forms in the corpus) may represent the Pictish name Nechtan, born by an early Eighth Century king.

12 Before Lithe

Image: "Arms and Costumes of the Tribes of the Western Shores of the Baltic. Designed from a Plate in Sir S. Meyrick's 'Ancient Costumes of the British Islands;' and taken by him from some Danish horns of gold," p 139. Unwin