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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 11, Number 2, June 2017

Claire Everett
Northallerton, England, U.K.


I was once young, I was journeying alone, and lost my way; rich I thought myself, when I met another. Man is the joy of man.*

It’s a pop-up bar, for want of a better description, hailed as THOR’S (in a bold runic font) just down from Coppergate, where the Vikings once lived cheek to jowl, trading cups, fleas and sagas. In the damp dog-ends of the year when the price-guns are armed and ready with first-minute bargains and the children, already bored with their spanking new toys, are queuing up for the handful of rides left over from St. Nick’s fayre, the tipi is a hubbub of conversation and colour.

Drink. Feast. Conquer. Repeat, says one sign, Little Vikings Welcome, another. It seems there’s no obligation to buy a tankard of ale, a glass of mead or mulled wine, because while there’s wassailing aplenty, there are corners dark enough to cosy up in and drink deep of the warmth from the great open fire. The air, fragrant with a strange mix of woodsmoke, animal skins and allspice, crackles with flames and laughter. Hands are extended towards the burning logs as if about to reverently touch a priceless artefact. Couples gaze into each other’s eyes, oblivious to the jovial din while strangers are invited into “selfies” and “ussies.” A teenage girl, composing hashtags, stares at the hearth and exclaims, “What? No way! #isthatevenathing?”

We’ve a train to catch and just as well, because a glance from the doorman suggests we’ve had as much conviviality as you can get for free. We step out of the bawdy brightness, hurriedly zipping ourselves to the cold. The sky is blintered, not with stars, but strings of half-hearted festive festoons. It’s the trees in the square that catch the eye because while we were inside, it seems they’ve been decked anew.

They have come—not in their usual ones or twos—in the dwindling light, to perch in the topmost branches. And now, with the white of their breasts kindled by streetlamps, they begin their soft, chittering songs.

the colours of dusk …
a roost of pied wagtails
one hundred strong


*From the Hávamál (“Sayings of the High One”—the god Oðin), a poem, found in a medieval manuscript known as the Codex Regius, 700-800 CE

"Frost-cups": hrimkaldar; glass drinking vessels beloved by the Vikings

Coppergate, York: Koppari-Gata: the street of the cup-makers ( the Jorvik community’s cups were lathe-turned from wood)

About the winter behavior of pied wagtails: City Roosts for Pied Wagtails



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