Philobiblon: Mid-winter tremours

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Mid-winter tremours

Since yesterday was St Nicholas's Day, it was an appropriate occasion for a midwinter celebration come ghost-story night through The London Adventure. The setting was Treadwell's Bookshop in Covent Garden, the best-smelling bookshop in London, for it's an occult shop that also sells ingredients for your cauldron. (Or rather nice-looking herbs, if you prefer. I never knew that cumin was supposed to keep away thieves; had thought of it as an ingredient of lamb casserole.)

It also boasts wands for the Harry Potter fan in your life. "From trees in the London area ... cut at the full moon, by hand ... we have left them au natuerel for you to wax and oil according to your personalised preparations ..."

As for the ghost stories - well I guess when you think about it all the Christmas jollity is meant to drive them away. In the deepest mid-winter you huddled around the fire, but just at your back was the dark and the deadly cold. Dickens helped to revive the tradition, but it seems to have faded away again.

But if you want to revive it, some suggestions from last night:
* HP Lovecraft's "The Festival"
* Vernon Watkins' The Grey Mare, which refers to a ">Welsh tradition of parading around town with a horse's skull. The holders would engage in word games and riddles with houseowners, and if they "won" would be able to feast there.
* Walter De La Mare's The Listeners
* M.R. James


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