Gussage All Saints and Ravel's Bolero by Sandra Horn

Earlier this month, I fulfilled a long-held ambition. I visited Gussage All Saints! Not only that, we stayed overnight in the delightful community-run pub, The Drovers. Gussage all Saints…along with Nately Scours and Nether Wallop, some of my favourite mad place-names. It was a fluke that we were there at all – it was a Crick Crack Club night at the Earth House in Cranborne and we are in the indulgent habit of staying overnight in or close to the village afterwards so we don’t have the drive home late that night.

  It’s getting more and more difficult nowadays to find anywhere taking a one-night (Saturday) booking through the season, and The Drovers was the only place in the whole South of England (according to my husband) we could have. It was away from Cranborne a bit and down narrow unlit lanes, but absolutely worth it. There was an evening of brilliant story-telling round the fire. The final storytellers used a Japanese ritual – as a story ended, they each picked up a candle, faced each other and blew the candles out. After the final story (gory, spooky) the last candles were extinguished, plunging us into the dark except for the glow from the fire’s embers. While the stories were being told, sheet lightning was flickering outside. The storm was too far away to hear thunder. We drove away to our overnight stop through mist swirling up from the rain-soaked roads, under a mighty electric light-show. A brilliant end to the evening!

I’ve long been fascinated by lightning-without-thunder and only recently discovered that it isn’t anything mystical – it happened when the storm is far enough away that it’s out of earshot but not eyeshot. I’m glad I didn’t know that when I was a child growing up in a Sussex Beacon Town and I could simply marvel at the mysterious spectacle:

There’s something about our Sussex Downs the lightning seems to love.

I’ve watched it play across them by the hour.

A flickering kiss, a glancing touch,

a meeting strangely silent, seen from here -

sneaking from its violent other half

to romp in secret on our soft, round hills,

fearing discovery yet lingering still.

There’s something about our Sussex Downs the lightning seems to love.

Driving to Gussage All Saints, the show was over Dorset’s lovely hills, not the Sussex Downs, but it was just as thrilling.

Going back to odd  place names, I once tried to set some of them to Ravel’s Bolero. Not being a musician, I found it incredibly difficult, in spite of being as familiar as I was with the music, to hold the rhythm in my head while I tried to fit the names to it. I asked a couple of musical friends if they’d like to listen to the words as afar as I’d got and make helpful comments, but on both occasions I got a polite, evasive response. You know how it goes:

DAA dada dada dada ditdadaah, didadadaah, dadaditdadada DUM or something like that…so,

Poole, Kelmscott, Bagshott, Theydon Bois, Cooper’s Green

Rowley, Weyhill, Jesmond Dean,

Ware, Milton, Chilton, Carbis Bay

Drum, Dippie, Duddon, Byker, Hay, Wray, Sway,

Calf of Man, Brough, Grimpo,

And so on.  There’s more, but I’m less and less sure about whether it works.  Would anyone like to try singing it? Feedback gratefully received…


Peter Leyland said…
Great post Sandra. I'm thinking of the places I have been to on your list - Theydon Bois and Nether Wallop are two. When we used to go to Hay-on-Wye we would pass Cold Slad and of course you can guess the joke. We would also go by Symonds Yat where an old friend of mine once had a 'tryst'. I can never pass it without wondering what happened...

Love the picture too
Griselda Heppel said…
Yes it works! I love it. More verses please. It's like the Geographical Fugue which is great fun.

Trinidad. And the Deep Mississippi and the Town Honolulu and the Lake Titicaca etc

Your storytelling night sounds brilliant. And spooky. Brrrrrrr.
Sandra Horn said…
Thank you Griselda! I'll carry on...

Popular posts

Is a picture worth a thousand words? by Julia Jones

Why John Green Can Bite My Surname by Lev Butts

Writing to help children save the world - Kathleen Jones

Writing Cold Environments - Elizabeth Kay

Legacy Publishing by Julia Jones