yes! You read that right…..I went Wassailing down the Thames on a Sunday afternoon!! The Twelfth Night of Christmas festivities are held annually on the 6th January, and this year (also the first year) I got to hear about it!
So yesterday (January 6th) was one of the highlights of my London life to date!! I have lived in this city for 11 years now and it was only 2 weeks ago that I learned about the custom of wassailing. I received an email from a friend of mine inviting me to join him and his crew on the Trinity Tide as they carried the Holly (Green) Man from St Katherine’s Pier along the Thames to Bankside. I joined the cutter and crew at the pier at 1.45pm and my excitement knew no bounds; to be a passenger on the Trinity Tide had been a dream of mine since November 2010 when I first saw it in the Lord Mayor’s Show
My daughter who was to be the official photographer and I set off really early and made our way to Tower Hill…thankfully the trains were running just fine and we made it in good time We stopped off at Costa Coffee for a last-minute order (by text…gotta love social mobility) of 5 hot coffees; white please!! I was guessing the crew were in need of urgent refreshment after rowing on what was a cold and grey day, from Deptford to Tower Bridge. Then down to the pier it was…I was still stressing big time about ‘am I in the right place?’ & ‘where were we landing?’ and sent a panic stricken text to Joe to make sure I had the right place. Daft!!!
When we arrived at the pier, there was no Green Man to be seen; my nerves were skittering about and almost overwhelmed my excitement. Then suddenly I saw the Trinity Tide as she rounded the bend
and a few seconds later I saw the Green Man making his way down the walkway to the pontoon!! Hooray!! I was in the right place at the right time! This does not happen often The Green Man looked absolutely splendid decked out in his greenery and the face painting was extraordinary! The Holly Man ‘brings in the green’ and ‘wassails’ or toasts the people, the River Thames and the Globe – an old tradition encouraging good growth.
The cutter pulled up alongside the pontoon and quick as a flash before anyone could change their minds I was on and seated. Try to pry me off now and see how far you get!!!
Within a very short space of time we were off…..the piper in the bow,
the oarsman ready to row, the jolly green man standing as we go, one of the Mummers to wave and say hello; wassail the boats, then me in the VIP seat ( ) and Joe standing at the stern to guide us safely along the river with nautical expressions like: easy as you go, or keep it even lads and even the odd ‘heave’.
Ohmygosh…what fun!!! I was truly in my element, grinning from ear-to-ear like a cheshire cat. I could scarcely believe my luck.
What an experience…..I can recommend it to anyone….although I am not sure that you would be able to go in the Trinity Tide, but you can sure take a ferry along the river. The views of the city are marvellous and although the tide was out and the water so low I could probably have walked along the river (kidding!), it was just amazing to sail beneath the bridges and see the buildings along the embankments from that perspective.
The Cap’n and his crew hailed and cheered the Green Man and the Trinity Tide and even 3 Days in London got 3 cheers….what fun!!
We made exceptionally good time, those blokes sure know how to row….and before we knew it, and way too soon for me, we arrived at Bankside.
And an extra bonus….because we were so early we (the rowers not me!!) rowed almost to Waterloo Bridge and then back down again, all the while the Mummer and Green Man wassailing along the Thames.
We landed safely on the beach (Churchill would have been proud), where we were met by a group of Mummers and others.
Quick as a flash the Green Man was gone and I didn’t even have time to say goodbye I climbed out the boat with huge reluctance! The embankment was lined with revellers and spectators there to see the arrival of the Green Man from the Thames, watch the Mummers and join in with the celebrations and Twelfth Night festivities.
Their costumes were just brilliant and the characters enchanting! I said goodbye to the Trinity Tide and crew and all too soon they made their way back along the Thames to Deptford.
The play was in full swing by the time I found myself a good vantage point and although I could not see very well or hear much of what was going on, the bits that I did get to see and hear were uproariously funny. At the end of the play, cakes are distributed – a bean and a pea hidden in two of them. Those who find them are hailed King and Queen for the day and crowned with ceremony. The little cakes were duly handed out and King Bean and Queen Pea were identified, they were crowned and the whole jolly group set off with revellers and spectators trailing behind to the George Inn for the next bit of the tradition. I ran like mad through the back streets (it’s really useful knowing my way around!) to get to the George Inn before the crowd as I really wanted to record them arriving….which they did with great noise, pomp and ceremony!! What a brilliant experience.
I can highly recommend that you put the 6 January 2015 into your diary and head on over to Bankside for next year’s festivities. Snippets of information in this blog are from this site; do visit it, it’s brilliant.
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