What the Wassailing Was That?

Around this time two years ago I was lucky enough to walk the red carpet at the Golden Globe Awards in California. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I dined on a three course Wolfgang Puck meal in the Beverly Hills Hilton and sipped (ok maybe glugged, since it was free) Moet alongside A-list celebrities and Hollywood big wigs – many of who are probably on some dodgy watch list now, but anyway.

Golden Globes
Red carpet at the Golden Globes – no big deal

This year it was my husband was the one invited. He got to mingle with the stars and get told by superstar DJ Mark Ronson to “please STOP dancing like that to my music”. (Doesn’t bode well for his tap classes does it.)

But where was I? Was I….

A.) Sat on the sofa watching the awards with my feet up by the fire? 

B.)Wrapped up like an eskimo, whacking the bejesus out of a saucepan with a wooden spoon, skipping around an old apple tree and chanting about three men trying to lift their sacks?

Well it would be a stretch even of my imagination to make the latter up.

I was celebrating Wassailing. Was..a.what? I hear you ask. I thought the same when it was suggested we throw this party in the apple orchard. 

My wise dad began to explain: “It’s an ancient PAGAN tradition,” at which point I tried desperately not to switch off. “It’s to awaken the CIDER apple trees and scare away the evil spirits to ensure a good harvest.” I heard cider and perked up. “There will be singing, dancing, gunfire, a bonfire and a lantern procession lead by the Wassail Queen.”

With this description it’s no wonder one of the 120 people invited to this bizarre shin dig ushered me into a corner at the children’s birthday party I was at just hours before the Wassail and whispered: “At this thing tonight, are we sacrificing anything?”

I looked around us to make sure no one could hear our covert conversation and nodded: “Yes. Why do you think the invite asked you to bring a saucepan? It’s to catch the blood.”

Wide eyed he asked: “Is it a pig? A chicken? Oh God, do we need to come in costume? Is your dad wearing a cloak and stuff?”

Turns out he’d been binge watching ‘Vikings’ and when I told him the saucepan was so we could hit it to make a noise and the only thing he might end up sacrificing was his dignity, I don’t know whether it was relief or disappointment I saw in his eyes.

Because while I am trying to eek out some trendy stuff to do in the countryside, it’s becoming ever more apparent that in quiet places like these, we often have to make our own entertainment and it can actually be – and pardon the pun – bloody brilliant.

I’m sure this is probably the first and only time someone has compared the Golden Globes with a Wassailing, but I like to be different.

We had a toast. Ok it was a piece of toast soaked in cider and hanging from a tree, rather than the glass of bubbles my husband was no doubting using to toast a celebrity win. 

Wassailing Toast
Not quite the toast I had in mind

We had security that came in the form of a bucket of water to throw on the bonfire and some fencing (we powered off the electric one, although that could have added a spark!) to stop the children falling on the flames.

Plus we had our three course meal. Cider punch, bratwurst and Danish pastry. A combo worthy of a Michelin star or two I’m sure.

So perhaps next year I should combine the two celebrations and throw a Golden Wassail. Who is in??

Crazy For Coffee

Coffee shops used to be about more than just a place to get my caffeine fix when I lived in Los Angeles. My local Starbucks was my office three days a week and the crazy clientele was as regular as my daily order – a tall Americano, chocolate covered salted almonds and a chicken, veg salad (not all together) in case you care. 

There was Moty the Israely man who approached me because I was “always typing” and asked me to help write about the hangover cure he was marketing in return for some free samples! Not sure how I should have taken that?

Mrs. McDonald – as I called her – who always hijacked the corner table as a sales booth where she chowed down on her chicken nuggets and fries and in between mouthfuls attempted to round up clients to buy the same pair of shoes – clearly stolen…..and worn – day in and day out.

Mad bike man who reveled in walking around the joint in his crash helmet shouting: “Breaking news everyone. I have just proposed to my girlfriend and she said yes. She’s a Christian. First time for me, second time for her! Congratulations to me. That’s it for now. Over and out goodbye.” 

But my personal favorite was the blind man who would tap his way up and down casually bumping into people –  nearly always females funnily enough – with his white cane. I’d watch and sigh when a kind hearted sole would pull out a chair next to them and help him sit down. I’d fallen for this once before too so I knew what was coming. He’d unzip his military drum – and no, that’s not code for something else, he really did have an oversized military drum with him – and proceed to give a demonstration which, if you didn’t just walk away, would last FOREVER. Once you were trapped with him, there was no escape. I used to feign different voices because if he heard me talking in my British accent he was there like a shot, reciting every line from the old English show ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ and blatantly ignoring me when I’d politely say “I’m so sorry but I’m actually working”. 

Bow Wharf in Langport won H over with it’s marshmallow hot chocolate!

I probably looked just as nuts as some of the other customers as I played musical chairs to try to avoid him. I know it sounds cruel, but this debacle happened every week for well over a year!

Amongst the unusual Starbucks frequenters was also a handful of regular celebrities. I’d marvel at how Rod Stewart always made time to not only buy the homeless man a coffee, but would sit and chat to him too and I’d look at ‘Sex and the City’s’ Mr. Big and wonder what Carrie would have to say about his slightly hungover, stubbly appearance.

So I was eager to find good coffee shops and cafes in South Somerset. I knew I wasn’t likely to stumble upon quite such an eclectic group of caffeine addicts in my local Caffe Nero but I have found some great places to sip on a decent roast or brew –  listed below! 

The path to the coffee shop – mind the cars!

That being said I actually think my latest Somerset coffee experience trumps anything I came across in Holly’weird’. Because while sipping my coffee around a campfire – not a fire pit, an actually campfire with a giant black kettle alongside a tub of onions cooking – outside a woodland coffee shop, yep you heard me right – a lady approached me to tell me about proud she was that her ‘slightly psychotic’, sweet but once troubled son had just got this chainsaw license.

I gulped as she continued, envisaging a talented, all be it mildly troubled wood sculptor roaming the Somerset area wielding his rather dangerous work weapon.

But I could breathe a sigh of relief when she informed me that while they’re getting his meds sorted, he’s only using a chisel!!!


HERE’S MY PICK OF PLACES SO FAR (Feel free to tell me about more!)

The Orchard Food and Coffee House

Provenda Deli 

Bean Shot Coffee Bar

Finca Coffee

Bow Wharf Cafe