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.
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…