Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Have a Happy Christmas!



Christmas is coming on like an express train!  Where does time go?  How can it be Christmas again so soon?  And why do I need three Christmas trees this year?  I always get carried away at Christmas.

This afternoon was spent at the church carol service, with a cameo Nativity play put on by the local children.  Just as charming as I remember from when my own children were small and happily donned tea towels round their heads to become shepherds.  Mulled wine and mince pies were served afterwards in the village hall and I swear we could have been in Ambridge.  I kept listening out for the hurdy gurdy of the Archers theme tune!





We won't have snow in Suffolk this Christmas, too mild, but I love these wonderfully evocative lines from Christina Rossetti's poem, which we sang in the ancient Suffolk church today.  The church where we were married just over 18 months ago.  

Wishing you all a wonderful (hygge) Christmas!

'In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago'
Christina Rossetti

Friday, 11 December 2015

Advent Candles and hope


I love that quiet moment in the day when darkness falls too early and I light the advent candle and pause for a while, take time out from the busyness of all the preparations for Christmas, reflect on the day that flew by in a whirlwind of activity.

I know we are lucky to enjoy peace and plenty, and it's something that is brought home to us daily as we hope and pray for peace and security in an increasingly uncertain and troubled world, but a little light shining in the darkness is a potent symbol of hope.

Friday, 5 December 2014

The Ghosts of Christmas, Past and Present


Love it or loathe it, Christmas cannot be avoided in this part of the world, and I do love it, much as I dislike ongoing Christmas creep.  I know retailers need to profit from the orgy of spending we embark upon every midwinter, but I refuse to have much to do with Christmas until the beginning of December.  From then on, however, I embrace it enthusiastically.  The special excitement and anticipation I treasure from my own childhood has never deserted me and we all need to nurture our inner child.  I would always celebrate Christmas even if I didn't have a family but I know I am lucky to be part of a large combined family and there is always a lot of love around at Christmas.

As a child growing up as part of a large Irish Catholic family (now scattered to the four winds) on the outskirts of a large city in the North of England, Christmas was very much a time for church and family and with numerous aunts and uncles and 18 first cousins all living in the same city there was so much fun to be had just spending time together.   I'm sure there were tensions amongst the adults (I know there were tensions amongst the adults - my own parents, shockingly, separated and divorced; the family rift never healed), but we children had a wonderful time and no doubt drove our parents to drink.  Well, as I said, we were Irish.


I have strong memories of cold houses with ice patterns blooming on the inside of the window panes, our breath misting in the bedrooms as we dressed hastily in the mornings, the small, artificial Christmas tree being brought down lovingly from the attic to the sitting room on Christmas Eve and festooned with ancient baubles, the same ones every year, and a string of coloured Christmas lights with a fairy on top - there was always fierce competition to be the one who put the fairy on top.  I remember being woken from a deep sleep at 11 o'clock at night, bundling up into warm clothes, then the long freezing walk to church for Midnight Mass through the clear, frosty, starlit night, cold red chapped knees and rosy cheeks glowing, then back to bed longing to wake up to the weight of the freshly-filled stocking, stuffed with fruit and nuts, chocolate money and tiny treats lying across my feet, and just one very special, much-longed for new toy.  


At eight years old, I was actually secretly disappointed to be given this gorgeous book which I now treasure and will pass on to my grandchildren... 



  
... but I was thrilled to find this baby doll at the end of my bed one year (she had more hair then) and  I wish I could remember what I called her all those years ago.  But what I really, really wanted for Christmas was a kitten and that I couldn't have, my father being allergic, or so he said.  Of course, ever since I have collected cats and currently have three sharing my life and scratching the furniture, part of my animal family, and books and children have continued to be a huge part of my life.


Now my partner and I have a big combined family of seven young adults, many with partners of their own and one living in another country with his small daughter and Christmas has evolved to accommodate our new circumstances.  We no longer focus on Christmas day as, with so many families in the mix, we all need to be flexible and we would hate the children to feel they have to come, so we just try to spend time with as many of our children as we can reasonably see in the run-up to Christmas and spread the pleasure of a big family Christmas.  It works for us.


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

But I had other plans!

The years fly by. The clocks have gone back, hallowe'en and bonfire night are fading memories and it is officially open season on Christmas in the shops, although last Christmas still seems very fresh in my mind. Where does the time go?

Every year is a new chapter, a clean page with nothing yet written/scribbled on it, an empty calendar and diary to fill up, a new list of things I would like to do, achieve, finish, start, and the inevitable fact that life will take its own course no matter how I try to impose my own agenda upon it. As John Lennon so famously said "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."


The seasons come and go, the birthdays become increasingly improbable and I can start to look back on the life already lived, the two thirds of life I have already had if I am lucky? enough to live out my natural life span and I can start to see the shape of my life and also the unexpectedness of it. Life is like a river, it picks you up and sweeps you along. I wonder where it will set me down next?


So, as the year winds down, I am thinking about what has happened, the things which have mattered to me, the highs and lows. This has been a year of painful and stressful dental and oral surgery which is now thankfully coming to an end. Sometimes it feels that life is the bits I squeeze in between sessions in the dentist's chair! There are worse things.

My partner's father is adjusting to the changes in his life, the loss of his independence, although it seems unlikely he will ever be able to go home again. More frail than ever, he is still hanging in there. It's difficult.


The children are all doing OK and that is the best thing. They are all finding their paths in life, the things and people they need to make it satisfying, riding the tiger. Now that summer is over they are making plans to visit, spend some time with us, although Christmas is going to be very different this year as they redefine how they want to spend their holiday. We might even have Christmas off for the first time in over thirty years. 


The house has been on the market most of this year but despite receiving an offer for it, we haven't sold. There is still uncertainty about where and how we want to live and I think we need to spend more time researching. Getting it wrong is an expensive mistake.

Sailing into Venice and Stockholm has been memorable, not always for the right reasons. The sea can be treacherous and should never be under-estimated - it could easily have been us, as well as our lunch, that ended up in the sea.  Our own small boat is over-wintering near Stockholm and I am looking forward to spending more time in Sweden and possibly Finland next year. I hope we will revisit Venice too, but the next trip will not involve living on a small boat with four other people and potential near-death incidents! 

What sort of year have you had so far? Did it go the way you hoped?  What are your hopes and dreams for next year?

Monday, 30 December 2013

My Beautiful Children

 Christmas is complicated in our combined family, perhaps for all families as we all try and see as many family members as possible.  I have three sons and a daughter-in-law and my partner has three sons, a daughter and a small granddaughter.  Two of his children are in serious long-term relationships and the youngest has recently taken the initiative and is engaged. I now have a relationship with people for whom there is no clear definition - my partner's son's fiancee visited over Christmas and as for her extended family, both her parents are divorced and re-married to people with families of their own.  Modern life is complicated.

I was talking about this recently in my weekly French class; my teacher is a French national and she and her partner came over to England about 10 years ago and settled in East Anglia, running a very successful cafe with delicious home-made food and welcoming fires, all very much in the French tradition and very popular too!  I can drop in for a cup of coffee and a croissant before heading upstairs for some serious French conversation. She tells me that the French too have no words for this complex interweaving of family ties but simply have the same name for in-laws and step-relations. Thus my daughter-in-law, my step-daughter and step-daughter-in-law-to-be are all my belles filles, my beautiful daughters, and my step-sons etc are my beaux fils. So they are all my beautiful children!

And it was wonderful to see so many of them over Christmas.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

"It's coming near Christmas..."

"It's coming near Christmas, they're cuttin down trees
They're puttin up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace".

Joni Mitchell 



There's always magic in the air at Christmas.  I love to think of people through the ages celebrating the winter solstice in one way or another, from the ancient pagan tradition to our more recent Christian era.  Despite the commercialisation, it is a wonderful occasion to have a family get-together, share a feast, the warmth of our homes and the giving and receiving of gifts.  I cannot think of a better way to distract us all from what can be a rather depressing and miserable time of year, the short days and often dank weather.  I love the sense of anticipation and goodwill, the lights going up on trees in houses and gardens, the bustle of Christmas markets and the smells of the Christmas cooking wafting through the house. 


And yet, increasingly as time passes, there is such a complex layer of emotions simmering away beneath the surface and I think this is particularly the case where marriages have broken down and families have been fractured and reconstituted.  More than anything, I miss my small sons and their joy and excitement at this time of year, the carol concerts and nativity plays that used to fill my days, whilst at the same time I look forward to seeing the grown-up versions of two of my three sons and spending some time with them; the youngest, sadly, having decided not to join us this year.  My partner, too, misses the family Christmases he shared with his own children when they were an intact family and from which he is now excluded, even as we prepare for them to come and visit on Christmas Eve,  knowing that they will be leaving early on Christmas morning to spend the rest of the holiday with their own mother and her new husband.  


And, of course, this is the first Christmas without my mother.  Bittersweet.


Life is full of challenges and changes, adjustments and adaptations, the weft and the warp. Christmas puts our lives under a microscope and exposes the flaws as well as the beauty of what we create.  It is a time of joy as well as sadness, but this Christmas I hope, mostly joy.

 

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Happy Christmas

It just sort of creeps up on you, sometime after the last firework fizzles out, and before you know it there's just a few days to go and a whole Christmas production to put on. If I didn't do it, who would? I don't think any of the people who will be sitting around my table this Christmas Day would consider making Christmas happen, and yet each year somehow it all comes together and we always have a magical day.

This Christmas will be bitter-sweet for me, as I know I will have to leave this lovely house sometime in the coming year, I know change is coming, so amongst all the giving and receiving, the sense of family and love and warmth, there will be sadness too.

I don't know what happens next; my future is an open book and the next chapter has no heading yet. I just hope I can find a way through this maze, and keep shining.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Christmas Walk

The sun came out briefly as we assembled by the white five-bar gate which separates the farmhouse from the busy B road connecting two villages which, a decade or so ago no doubt was just a quiet country lane. Today there was little traffic on the road and we soon headed off into deep countryside, following the thin trails linking one footpath with another, chatting and admiring the beautiful, unspoilt, wintry scenery, always keeping the Church Tower in view. Our lodestone. After a while we met the road again briefly, beside the old abandoned windmill on top of the rise, before crossing the ancient churchyard shaded by yew trees, and back into open country.

An hour or so later we emerged by a lovely hop-strewn pub, log fire blazing, and a very welcome drink and lunch. One or two people peeled off after lunch, but the die-hards set off back across country, following The Man in the Woolly Jumper who had the map, losing our way occasionally, finding ourselves in someone else's driveway at one point, but always finding a way through in the end.

The light was fading by the time we got back to the house, my sons grumbling by now. Friends rallied round, someone put the kettle on, TMITWJ lit the fire and mince pies were warmed in the oven. After a reviving cup of tea a few more people arrived and bottles of fizz popped as the fire warmed us through, conversation flowed and friends and family relaxed together by the brightly lit Christmas Tree.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas to all my blogging friends!
I am looking forward to catching up with you all soon,
but time has wings at the moment and I am a whirling dervish.
I wish you all a very happy and peaceful time.