Twelfth Night Tales, 6: Green Man

This chimerical mask is made from fired clay, created some years ago by my partner along with some companion pieces; he’s a permanent fixture on the wall above the fireplace, but as a result of a midwinter custom we invented, over the years he’s become a kind of homage to the Green Man. We accidentally initiated this custom out of (mild) despair about 25 years ago in the second winter of living in this house while it was being pulled apart by builders.

They should have finished weeks before Christmas but the discovery of dry rot had prolonged the disruption and by mid December the floors were still crunchy with rubble and the living room walls had only just been plastered leaving unattractive bare surfaces, mottled with damp patches as they dried out. The whole house felt forlorn, and we needed cheering up.

Ivy ‘wall wig’ for disguising the bare plaster, before the Green Man arrived.

So we set off to our local wood with secateurs and brought back long strands of ivy and some brightly berried holly that we draped and swagged across the walls, fixing it in place with a staple gun and damaging the new plaster. But, it was a magical transformation from grimy building site to woodland grove and such a success we’ve continued the practice every year.

Once the clay visage took up residence a few years later, with his useful orifices he seemed to invite being festooned and threaded with greenery, and thus the Green Man homage began. So near the winter solstice we make our annual pilgrimage to the woods and return laden with the evergreens to “deck the halls” and grace our clay-faced companion with fresh foliage. By good fortune, on sunny days he’s further enhanced by a dazzling spectral streak, cast from glass prisms that hang in the window.

Wild nature in the living room, assisted by Photoshop for our Christmas card a few years ago.

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