Weedon’s Wanderings 15th October 2018

Picture of cider label


“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a couple living in a tourist hot-spot, must be in want of a visitor to make them look at it.” To hugely mis-quote Pride and Prejudice, it takes fresh eyes to appreciate one’s surroundings, doesn’t it? And our latest visitor led us to find a firm called Severn Cider, a little brewery in a gorgeous old rectory on the riverside. It lies up a narrow lane which opens out onto pretty cottage gardens. The shop is a little cellar at the back of the house, packed with bottles of cider and perry, jars of pickles and - soft toys? Yep, after being offered generous samples we came away clutching bottles and a cute little wild boar toy, very much a native of our Forest of Dean. The friendly owner even cut us a bunch of grapes from his vine.  Boy, were they sweet and juicy!

You may be wondering what all this has to do with music? Well, a recent TV documentary commented how little things can trigger distant memories. And for me, the word ‘cider’ really set me off. For a start, I grew up in a cider orchard. We had 76 large trees and Father allocated one tree to each family in the village. Come harvest time, they’d all turn up with ladders and sacks and we’d have a jolly time picking together, with tea and cake in abundance. Father used to juice our share of the apples in a (clean) dustbin, using a propeller on his electric drill, then put the mush in a pillow case and squeeze it through the mangle. The juice would plop down into my (also clean) baby bath. Once fermented, it was pure nectar. It probably explains why we kids slept so well at nights.

About this time, a record appeared on the Light Programme. It featured Nina and Frederick singing - you’ve guessed it - ‘Sipping Cider Through a Straw’. As usual, YouTube came up trumps when I searched for it. So here’s some music at long last...

I never realised that Sipping Cider was what they term a ‘call and response’ song, but this clip demonstrates that clearly. And it turns up in a wide selection of versions here, here and here.

Had cider inspired any other composers? Another search threw up The Wurzels singing ‘I am a cider drinker’ which was far bawdier than I remembered. (I worked for Bob Barrett, who recorded The Wurzels at EMI Records, by the way). As they used the tune of Una Paloma Blanca for this song, it was hardly a cider-inspired composition, just a set of new lyrics. But I did stumble upon an attractive piece of film music, written by Rachel Portman, for the movie The Cider House Rules. I seem to recall that was a good film, and worth another watch.

Despite our supply of cider, I have been busy on the computer, uploading sheet music and accompanying recordings. So my next blog will be the grand unveiling of that. In the meantime, if you’re feeling thirsty, take a look at Severn Cider on-line. Bottoms up...