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Far From the Tree exerpt:
‘Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for coming out on this very cold January night to help us in our celebration of the apple crops for the coming year. As many of you will know, there has been wassailing on this site for well over four hundred years, and my family’s celebration of the custom is just the most recent in a long succession of celebrants of the land, its power and its ability to give us the crops we so desire.’ Matthew paused and looked around at the assembled villagers. The polite smile turned to one of delight and surprise when his gaze lingered on Anna for a moment. Then, as if remembering himself, he continued.
‘We at Carter’s Cider are thankful to the forces that provide us with such bountiful apple crops year after year, and we are equally thankful for the help and support of the village of Little Somerby. As a gesture of our appreciation, please feel free to partake of some more of our famous mulled cider, and a slice or two of the hog roast that Joel and the boys are cooking up for us. May the apple crop be plentiful once again this year. Wassail!’ The wassailers had reached Matthew now, and he took the proffered wassail cup and poured it onto one of the sleeping apple trees. Another cheer went up from the villagers and then they gratefully retreated to the warmth of the hog roast and another glass of mulled cider.
‘I’m glad you could come tonight,’ Matthew said, once he’d got through the many locals who wanted a chat and a gossip.
‘I wouldn’t have missed it,’ Anna replied. ‘I’ve never been to a wassail before. There’s something very…elemental…about it.’
Matthew smiled. ‘Well, I’m more of a believer in science and reason as techniques for growing good apples, but who am I to argue with the Morris Men? And it does make for a good party.’
‘Certainly does,’ said Anna stoutly. ‘And the mulled cider keeps the cold away, too.’