Wednesday, 11 December 2013



In an earlier post I mentioned that when farmworkers stopped for their lunch break around these parts they called it their "dockey", the word being applied to both the break and the food and drink they took with them to the fields. In the Cambridge Folk Museum I found displayed this dockey bag and can. The bag appears to be hand-made rush-work - so much more elegant than the plastic bag in which I used to take my dockey to work on the farm. The word is said to derive from the fact that farmers used to "dock" their pay for this unproductive time.

The Hole In The Wall

A tiny little opening in the screen in Harlton church. This screen is unusual in being a stone wall rather than the usual wooden screen. In medieval times the screen was just that - a solid partition between the chancel and the nave of the church - and the hole, or squint, was provided so that there could be communication and synchronisation of the service in the two quite separate parts of the church. Over the years the screens have been opened up and now have a more symbolic existence. But in this church the squint remains, presumably because of its more permanent stone construction.


As it's getting near Christmas perhaps we ought to look at something seasonal. Yes, the prickly stuff with the red berries. Except they're technically not berries but drupes. And only female holly bushes have them anyway. The leaves aren't all prickly either - the prickles are only there to dissuade animals from browsing and once a bush reaches a good height it stops producing prickly leaves on the upper branches. This is the top of same bush photographed above...

Like many trees and bushes holly has an adaptation which makes it almost indestructible; if you cut it down it simply grows again. The reason trees have developed this trick (if you believe the conservationist and writer, George Monbiot, anyway) is elephants! Elephants and other large animals cause enormous damage to woodland, and trees adapted in order to survive. Although the large animals have disappeared from our woodland long ago the trees have not lost the ability to regrow.

An Interesting Post 

Deep in the Hertfordshire woodland stands this rather smart post. It owes its existence to the Great Fire Of London. In order to finance the re-building, the City Of London imposed taxes on coal which was brought in. The area over which they claimed these payments stretched about twenty miles from the City and by the 1860s it was decided to mark the area with a series of posts. No by-way was too small to have a post as our photo shows.

Well, I hope that was an interesting post.
Take care.


  1. Dockey - that's where the word comes from! I'm fascinated by the stone wall and that final photo of the post. Great tales (and great festive holly!)

  2. As always, your post is full of information previously unknown to me. I love the info about the holly bush/tree. Last year I visited the South African bush and watched a herd of elephants tearing apart every tree in sight. It is good to know that those sneaky trees have figured out how to regenerate.

  3. Oh you need to make "Oddments" a weekly feature on your blog. I love this kind of stuff, especially learning how a certain word we take for granted has a historical meaning behind it. Well done John.

  4. indeed it was John; the docky is what I think to be the old-fashioned smoko break

  5. Enjoyed reading about all the folk ways especially the docky. Photos were great -- barbara

  6. That was indeed a most interesting post full of fascinating facts. Love the story of 'dockey' and the dockey bag. Round here in the potteries they use the word 'snappin' I don't know the origins but I always think it means snap it up quick and get back to work:)

  7. The last photo of the “post” worked wonderfully on my imagination. Before reading your explanation, I imagined it would be the end of another world like a “lamp-post” which is the end of Narnia. Anyway, I always realize I have much room to learn. Thanks for this post.


  8. Yes, enjoyed this post immensely. I love learning new information and particularly liked the stories of the dockey and the holly. Wouldn't it be great if there elephant around!

    1. Wouldn't it be great if I could effectively proofread before I hit "publish"-- That last sentence is supposed to read: Wouldn't it be great if there were elephants around!

  9. It was indeed an interesting post - your posts are always interesting!

  10. Dockey is a new word to me. Interesting. I have several coal miners' lunch buckets and they too have stories attached. A man's lunch (or dinner, they called it) was an important part of his work day! Larry's dad always carried one of those Hostess Snowball cakes; it was his one treat in an otherwise hard day.

    I wonder how many of those posts are standing? And how many people actually know what they are?

    As always, John, lots to think about here.

  11. It's a lovely "dockey" bag and I wonder what they took along in it for their dockey-break. Hopefully something more appetising than sandwiches.

  12. It was an interesting post indeed. I learned quite a lot, and the day I'm tired of learning something new is the day I die. We have a small holly in the garden, but it must be male since it does not carry any "berries". However, my favourite must be the Dockey. Can't help thinking about a doggy bag - sorry ...

  13. Very interesting. Sir Titus Salt was a collector of holly varieties, so all around Saltaire there are many, of different types.

  14. In the winter of 1998, we had a very bad ice storm that broke the tops and branches off many trees. We wondered how the trees would fare in the long run, and , surprisingly, they survived very well. The maple syrup producers were concerned for their sugar bushes, but the trees healed and kept growing.
    Hertfordshire post - an early toll-road. Some things don't change.

  15. I've never heard the word 'dockey' before, and who knew holly could be so misunderstood! An interesting post?? Yes, to both!! Have a great weekend, as we say downunder ...

  16. Interesting post about the post---so many creative ways to tax people.

    Dockey is new to me--the rush basket is lovely.
    So much of our native holly is gone now--wiped out by the clear cut forestry that is practiced, but we do have a lot of native red berried yaupon that is perfect for holiday decorating.

  17. Hmmm. So farmers docked pay of workers who took time to eat lunch?

    I wish I could successfully grow holly here. My two shrubs (male and female) stay low because of our winter weather. No elephants here.

  18. I like these blogs that round up the stragglers of interesting snippets that seem to escape other blogs.
    Tha posts are especially interesting. Looks like somebody has looked after that one over the years with a fresh coat of paint. Looks like the byway for it is long gone.
    I'm glad I don't get docked for unproductive time - I might starve!!


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