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A Poem for a New Year
When January Appears
Jean K Cave
Lambley Historical Society
The Victorian Pantomime
At our last meeting of the year in November, Ann Featherstone gave a fascinating talk on the history of pantomime. She took us through 500 years of pantomime from the slapstick of commedia dell’arte through the sumptuous stage-designs of the Victorian period to the TV soap stars of the present day.
Pantomime started in the 18th century with the slapstick of commedia dell’arte. The early pantos were mimed up to the 1830’s. These then developed over time with the introduction of magic and illusions. A huge number of people were involved in the production, including many young children. The main roles eventually evolved into the Principle Boy, played by a female in male clothing, the Dame, a man in drag and the Principle Girl played by a young female. By the 20th century, music hall stars were taking part, and the scripts reflected local and national events, including both wars.
By the 1940’s they were populated by the radio personalities of the time and new pantomimes were being written. By the 1960’s, TV was providing the actors, and then came stars from soaps and reality shows.
Every major town now has a pantomime, either professional or amateur and they appeal to the whole family.
Our next meeting is 27th Jan when we have our AGM & Social evening and we ask everyone to contribute a little something to our pot luck supper.
Photo by John Harding
Know Your Finches – Part 2
The Chaffinch and the Brambling
The Chaffinch, as the name suggests, is a member of the finch family and is one of our commonest breeding birds. The species is known as the ‘bachelor’ bird because during the winter months, the males are often found in large flocks. The name Chaffinch refers to its habit of flocking in fields of stubble to obtain the chaff left over from harvesting. British Chaffinches are mainly sedentary birds and during their life will stay within 5km of where they originated. In winter, they are joined by many migrants from Scandinavia.
Chaffinches are found all year round over most of the UK in woodlands, hedgerows, fields, parks and gardens. The male of the species during breeding time is particularly attractive and is easily recognised by its pink breast and cheeks and slate-blue crown and nape. It has a chestnut coloured back, a green rump and white wing bars which easily show up when it is in flight. The female is duller and has an olive-brown back and buff-white underparts. She also has a green rump and white wing bars. You are more likely to see the Chaffinch hopping about on the ground, especially underneath feeders.
Bramblings are winter migrants to this country. They are closely related to the Chaffinch. The male Brambling has an orange breast and shoulders and a yellow bill. Its head and back look a mottled brown and it has a white belly. When in breeding plumage, its head is black and this contrasts beautifully with its orange plumage. However, in the UK we do not get the opportunity to see this species in all its breeding finery because it is a winter visitor to our shores. The female is a much paler version of the male and lacks the dark head. A defining characteristic of both sexes is a white rump which is especially noticeable when they fly.
In summer their main diet consists of insects and caterpillars. Outside of the breeding season their favoured food is beech mast and if the crop is poor, they will leave their breeding grounds in Fenno-Scandia and western Siberia and come over to Britain or go to other parts of the continent. Beech woodlands are the best place to see this attractive bird but you may also see them amongst flocks of Chaffinches in arable fields. If food is scarce and the weather is harsh, they will frequent our gardens, so if you see some Chaffinches, check carefully as there may be a Brambling amongst them.
Jean is a voluntary Ambassador for the British Trust for Ornithology’s Garden BirdWatch scheme in Nottinghamshire. If you enjoy watching birds and other wildlife which visit your garden, Garden BirdWatch may be perfect for you. If you would like a free information pack about the scheme, contact Jean at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bto.org/gbw