Fiddlers (A Pub Tale)

She looks like the wizened old crone in that painting Jilly did for Geordie when he got into this kick of learning fiddle tunes with the word ‘hag’ in the title: ‘the Hag in the Kiln,’ ‘Old Hag You Havef Killed Me, ‘ ‘The Hag With the Money,’ and god knows how many more. Just like in the painting, she’s wizened and small and bent over and . . . dry. Like kindling, like the pages of an old book. Like she’s almost all used up. Hair thin, body thinner. but then you look into her eyes and they’re so alive it makes you feel a little dizzy. – from Charles de Lint’s ‘The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep’ which is reprinted in his Dreams Underfoot collection

Zina Lee has looked several times at fiddlers and the role, ever so essential, they play in the Neverending Session missed a part of the tale ’bout that group which you should know. Though the the Neverending Session never stops playing, they aren’t always resident in the corner of the Pub they’ve claimed for centuries now. What is true is that they have been playing continuously somewhere on the premises for centuries now.

I’ve seen them play many a Christmastide Ceilidh here in the Great Hall; I’ve sat here in the Courtyard under Merlin’s endroit de repos, a dram of fine single malt in hand, and listened to the musicians playing Icelandic fiddle tunes the night long; and I’ve read The One-Armed Queen while in the Library watching them play ‘The Winter Queens Reel’ which was written in honour of Jane Yolen.

One time they were sittin’ near the fireplace on a very cold winter’s evening in the main area of the Library playing tunes from John Playford’s English Dancing Master. They had a bottle of Midnight Wine, which sparkled with a touch of frost on it, and were entertaining one of our Librarians, Liath, who was reading Pentikainen’s expanded edition of Kalevala Mythology.

Another favourite place one finds them is, not surprisingly, the kitchen which is in the cellar of this building, but which has large leaded glass windows that overlook the greensward, drainage culvert/stream and copse which is part of our holdings. It’s a very big kitchen — some say that once this building had lodgings for the more respectable of travelers, which would explain the rooms on the top two floors — and it has a cozy corner where half a dozen musicians can play, eat, and drink like cats. Really comfortable cats with not a care in the world. They’re as likely to be here in the deep of winter as they are in the Pub which certainly pleases the kitchen staff to no end as they love live music while they’re working. Wouldn’t you be here, too, if you could be?


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