Walthamstow Wassail 2021

Sunday was the 11th Walthamstow Wassail: online this year, like so many other events and traditions that break up the year and help give life some narrative and meaning.

Conspiracy theorists view Covid as an agent of state control, and vaccines as containing microchips designed by billionaires to make the masses more pliant.

These people are idiots, but one unfortunate side-effect of the pandemic has been to miss out on many of those communal, strange, and anarchic coming together of peoples. The wassail is just wandering along some streets, insulting local cheese makers and singing to apple trees, bees, friends, neighbours, and bemused locals. But it’s also a tiny act of rebellion and eccentricity in our increasingly homogenised city.

We sang the Apple Tree Wassail and a Georgian new year chant, but all the friends I had met in previous years, clutching mulled cider in front of a bonfire in a stranger’s back garden, or in a strange boudoir upstairs of the local pub, were all trapped in little rectangles on my screen. Due to internet lag, they, like me, were singing on mute; we were together, but oh so apart.

On the other hand, the online nature of the event meant we had participants from as far away as Canada, a mythical country over the seas. And it meant that Anna, who introduced me to this lovely community, was able to follow along with her daughter from her new home of Glasgow.

Credit to Lucy, the mistressmind behind the Wassail, and the other organisers for keeping the tradition going this year, and for marshalling online events so efficiently.

I am lucky enough to be living in a house with an apple tree in its garden this year, so I was able to stick some toast in its branches and some apple juice in its roots.

Waes Hael! See you all in a year’s time for another celebration of the cyclical nature of existence.

The all-seeing eye of Lucy, some toast, an apple tree.

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