Saturday 30 December 2023

Review of the Year in Photos

 This has become a regular thing - picking photos that sum up the year. 
My year seems to be made up of library books, art exhibitions, rural bygones sales, church visits, the garden and growing food and car boot visits.

JANUARY - The first Library book photo of 2023. Every month the books reserved and collected get a mention. I'll continue with this as I know sharing book ideas is always popular.

FEBRUARY - The Keep Moving group was going well and the original organisations had stepped back from helping so we had to run it ourselves. Sadly since this photo a few people have stopped through illness and we'll need to rustle up more folk for 2024.

MARCH - Was the month of my fun challenge of eating mainly from the value supermarket ranges much to the disgust of some people! 

I would be so depressed if I had to eat like this. Buying, preparing and eating food should be a pleasure. I spend around £100 a week on food for three hungry adults and we eat well with never a supermarket shop in sight. Mind you we do eat a lot of proper tiny green Puy lentils (delicious to bulk out a homegrown spicy tomato and sweet pepper sauce served on the best quality brown basmati rice), home grown borlotti beans (essential in ribollita soup) and homemade houmus (going to try growing chick peas in the veg plot this year - I hear they like a hot dry summer). Last night we had roast leg of pork (£10), homemade stuffing (leftover crusts of bread, one red onion, splash of rapeseed oil, one egg, herbs from garden), roast potatoes from a £5/10kg sack from the farm, kale from garden, local apple sauce and roast local parsnips from our village shop. Husband and I worked together in the kitchen to produce this dinner and it was much enjoyed and appreciated by all three of us and the highlight of a very cold March day. 

I too would be depressed if I had to eat so much processed rubbish. Life’s too short.

It was an interesting experiment - cooking from scratch rather than processed which is probably what that commenter thought I was going to do. Spending was cut considerably - not a lot of variety is the main problem. My round up at the end of the month with the meals I made is HERE

APRIL - Some of my regular outings are to local Art Exhibitions to admire what other people can do

MAY - I had my first short holiday alone - not far away on the North Norfolk coast - the weather was good except for the Very cold NE wind.

JUNE  - A few of the many car boot finds from the year. Recycling at it's best.

JULY - Celebrating the first raspberries from the garden my favourite home grown fruit.

AUGUST - and more produce from my garden - The first Figs from the fig tree brought here as an 18 inch tall 'stick' in 2021

SEPTEMBER - The month of the new sofa and armchair.

and the month when I got the long stitch tapestry finished ready to display for Autumn.

OCTOBER and clearing up in the vegetable garden. Almost the last produce of 2023 were the mini plum tomatoes

and compost jelly. Which I'll probably make again next year.

NOVEMBER was A-Z posts and Christmas/Xmas Fairs/Fayres. I went to as many as possible  but didn't spend much money - I was no help for all the crafters who'd spent hours making things to sell! 

DECEMBER was the month of illnesses - colds/ear infection/ tonsillitis/sickness - you name it and someone in the family  had it. Home made remedies didn't cure but did make me feel better.

I wonder what 2024 will be like.

Thanks to everyone for reading, following  and commenting through yet another year.

I'll be back Monday

Friday 29 December 2023

Looking Back at the Books Read in 2023

Grand total of 123 books read in 2023. Roughly divided up into 21 Non Fiction, 23 General Fiction, 63 Recently Written Crime Fiction (after 1960), 13 Older Republished Crime Fiction,  and 3 Children's Fiction. (I lost count twice and gave up!)
Although I went to two large and three small charity second-hand book sales,  almost most all books read were borrowed from the library

Thanks to the publishers who are bringing back stories that have been lost in time, I've read many from the 1940's and 50's and was very sad in March when I heard there would be no more from Dean St Press in the Furrowed Middlebrow imprint because of the death of Rupert Heath the founder of the company. British Library Crime Classics are still going strong, now reprinting one each month. 

I also found that the early Donna Leon books were being reprinted and the library had them in stock so have caught up on many that I'd not had the chance to read before.

Looking through the details of the 123 books I've read there weren't many that stand out as absolutely wonderful and to be remembered forever - which is sad I guess - but doesn't really matter. However the books most enjoyed most were..............
E.C.R. Lorac - Death of an Author. Crime Fiction. ( British Library Crime Classic Published 2023 Originally Published 1935). Vivian Lestrange is a well known author of a mystery book but he's a total recluse. The only people who've seen him are his house keeper and his secretary. When he suddenly vanishes Inspector Bond and Chief Inspector Warner don't know what to believe and later a burned body in a remote part of the countryside seems to have a connection. This is the 9th by this author that BLCC have reprinted, one of their best authors and this title has been out of print since it's first edition. A very good story.
Ann Cleeves - The Rising Tide. Crime Fiction. (Published 2022). This is the 10th in the Vera Stanhope series (although there have been many more TV programmes made). Much of this story is set on Lindisfarne, the island reached by a causeway from the Northumbrian mainland. Friends who went there on a school trip return every five years  for a reunion and now they are almost at retiring age.  Soon there is a murder that looks like a suicide but is the reason a modern one or something from a hidden past. Excellent story as always. It's already turned into a TV episode which was on over Christmas. I thought it wasn't as good as the book.
Anthony Horowitz - The Twist of a Knife. Crime Fiction (Published 2022) This is the 4th book in which Horowitz  writes himself into the book as one of the main characters. He is again helping Daniel Hawthorne who is a private investigator but this time it's Horowitz himself who is accused of the crime of murder. The woman killed is a theatre critic who has written a very nasty piece about his latest play. An excellent story where it becomes difficult to decide between fact and fiction.
Anne Perry - The Traitor Among Us. Crime Fiction (Published 2023) This is the 5th in a series that features Elena Standish, photographer and MI6 agent - as was her Grandfather in years past. It is 1934 when retired MI6 Agent John Repton's body is found near Wyndham Hall in the Cotswolds. He was known to have been investigating the ties that the Wyndham family have with fascist sympathisers. Elena's sister Margo is about to become engaged to the  Lady Wyndham's brother and unaware that her sister is a spy invites her to a house party. The atmosphere becomes tense as the party meet with the man about to be King and his mistress Wallace Simpson. Who is the traitor in the party?                                                                                                                        
Sadly Anne Perry died earlier this year so that will be the last of these really well written stories.

(Another "ending" this year was the last of the Dr. Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths - although she has other crime series to continue with.)

Nina De Gramont - The Christie Affair. Fiction.(Published 2022) Another story of what might have happened during Agatha Christies mysterious 11 day disappearance in 1926. Written mainly from the perspective of Nancy - Archie Christie's mistress. A good story and well written.

E. Arnot Robertson- Ordinary Families. Fiction. (Published 1933) This is a Virago Modern Classic reprint. Lallie is one of four children of the eccentric Rush family. Their whole life revolves around sailing and inter family rivalries at Pin Mill in Suffolk. As Lallie grows to adult hood she both loves and hates her ordinary family trying to make a place for herself in the shadow of her beautiful sister Margaret. Eventually she finds a man she wants to hold onto even though she may only be his second love.

Kristin Hannah - The Great Alone. Fiction. (Published 2018) 13 year old Leni is caught up in her parents tumultuous marriage. Her father Eart has changed since his return from Vietnam yet her mother Cora can't leave him. His latest crazy idea is moving them all to Alaska. Luckily  Matthew, the only boy her age at their small Alaskan school is the one person there who seems to understand Leni. The descriptions of the remote landscapes and wildness and increasingly wild and violent behaviour of Eart form the main part of the story. Then two tragedies tear Leni and Mathew apart.

Kristin Hannah - Winter Garden. Fiction. (Published 2014). Meredith and Nina Whitson are sisters and very different. Their mother has always been a mystery to them, she appears to be a cold Russian woman. When all three come together at their fathers death bed he has one last promise to extract from all of them. From the apple orchards of Washington State in the year 2,000 to Leningrad in the 1940's and the fairy story their mother tells them and then onto Alaska the sisters realise they didn't know their mother at all. A very good  wide sweeping story - sad in places.

Rory Clements - The English Fuhrer. Crime Fiction. (Published 2023) At the end of 1945 former spy Professor Tom Wilde has returned to teaching at Cambridge University and a quiet family life, until a phone call from a senior MI5 boss draws him back into the aftermath of war and the people who are still Nazis or Communists. There are rumours of chemical warfare and a Blacklist of people still to be killed. This list includes Tom and his wife Lydia who has managed to talk her way into training  to be a doctor in London.

Stella Gibbons - The Weather at Tregulla. Fiction (Furrowed Middlebrow Reprint 2021 Originally Published 1962). Una Broadbent is 19 and desperate to leave the "boring" Cornish countryside and get to London to start her acting career. The death of her mother means this isn't possible but her disappointment of being stuck working on her father's violet farm melts away with the arrival in the village for the summer of  artist Terence and his sister Emmeline. An interesting little story of life in the early 60's when even then the locals were moaning about the tourists.

H.E.Bates - Fair Stood the Wind for France. Fiction. (Published 1944). When John Franklin crash lands his Wellington bomber in occupied France in the Second World War, he has two things to concern him - the safety of his crew and his badly damaged arm. The family of a mill-owner risk their lives to hide him, find him doctors and look after him until he is well again. During that summer he falls in love with Françoise, the daughter of the family and together they have to escape as German patrols get closer.

Louise Doughty - A Bird in Winter. Fiction. (Published 2023) One day Heather gets up from a meeting in her office and walks out, not even going home before going on the run. The book goes back and forward in her life before this - eventually telling her story. She was in the army and then worked for the government as did her father before her. She changes her identity several times and reached Iceland before she feels safe - although that might be only temporary.

I've mentioned that several publishers are bringing back fiction from the first half of C20 but Little Toller Books are one of the few(? I think) reprinting Non Fiction with their wonderful series of Nature Classics. I've enjoyed these this year.........

Juliette De Bairacli Levy - Wanderers in the New Forest. Non Fiction (Little Toller Reprint 2023 Originally 1958). Know as the 'grandmother of herbalism' Juliette travelled widely researching and experimenting with herbal remedies. This book tells the story of her 3 years living in a small home in the New Forest and raising her two small children in the woods. Wild swimming, foraging and stories of the Gypsies who lived around her, this is a fascinating look at a way of life that would be impossible now.
Robert Gibbings - Sweet Thames Run Softly. Non Fiction. (Originally Published 1940) Gibbings was an artist and engraver and wrote this book about a gentle trip down the Thames taken in 1939/40 just before and after the outbreak of war. An interesting book of nature and anecdotes.
John Wyatt - The Shining Levels. Non Fiction (Originally Published 1973).  The authors story of his time working as a forester in the Lake District. The Shining Levels is about the early days, before the National Park when he is working for one of the landowners at coppicing, hedging and ditching while living in a small rough hut - which comes with the job. He became the first Lake District National Park Ranger.

I'm looking forward to two more of their books, firstly 'The Allotment' by David Crouch and Michael Morpurgo's  'All around The Year'. . The second is reserved at the library and the first I've asked them to purchase.

So........... it's time to start the new page - Books Read 2024. I wonder what book treasures I will find.

Thank you to everyone who has suggested books for me to read this year and to people who say they enjoy my library book photos and book reviews.

Happy Reading!

Back Tomorrow

Thursday 28 December 2023

What To Do When Plans Are Cancelled?

 My first thought on Boxing Day (when Youngest Daughter texted to say she had woken up ill and I'd started sneezing on Christmas Eve and had gradually got worse through Christmas Day  and Son texted to say Youngest granddaughter had an ear infection and DiL had tonsillitis) was to burst into tears!! ......I didn't!............ that would have been silly.

My second thought was OMG what to do with all the food that was ready for 5 adults and 3 children!

It was the meat things that were a problem as the vegetarian sausage wreath and Quorn loaf were still safely in the freezer. I cooked the pigs-in-blankets and suggested BiL popped over yesterday to pick up some of those and some of the cooked ham and the sausage rolls. (and I discovered when I tried to talk to him that I'd lost my voice!)
That worked well - he took away enough for 3 or 4 days. The rest of the ham was sliced and popped into the freezer.
I roasted lots of the carrots, parsnips and potatoes and divided into plated meals for three days and some into the freezer, the rest went back into the fridge for later in the week along with  the broccoli head re-wrapped in cling film  . The Brussels sprouts were pretty small anyway and, by eating lots, they only made a couple of meals for me. (Luckily they don't have THAT effect on me!)
I'd pre-made a bowl of bread sauce, mainly for Youngest Daughter who loves it,  so that went into the freezer - hopefully will be OK when defrosted and re heated. 
The Banoffee biscuit base went back into the freezer too and the Double cream. 

 A chocolate swiss roll had been iced with butter icing to make a Yule Log - That went into the freezer on its Holly and Ivy cake stand. The cheese straws, mince pies, Suffolk rusks and loaf of sliced bread  were only out of the freezer for an hour so went back in again.

The cheeses all had good dates on them so they are OK.

Think that means nothing has been wasted 

It's worked out OK after all....................phew.

Back Tomorrow

Wednesday 27 December 2023

Makes Blogging Worthwhile

 It's comments like this that cheer me up and enjoy writing a blog even more than before!

Merry Christmas Sue, love your Blog. It's the first Blog I ever read while recovering from illness last year and it's always the first one I read now. Similar life events in many ways so can relate. Love that there is no prejudice towards people who don't always agree with you as there is with some others, you are always just and fair and I will keep reading your marvellous Blog.

I need cheering up because we had to cancel our Boxing Day family get together at my house - everyone had really horrible colds. I could really do with not repeating the last two weeks.

Makes me even more determined to stay at home much of January! Perhaps all the gallivanting and mixing in crowds- although much enjoyed - isn't good for one's health!

Back Tomorrow

Tuesday 26 December 2023

Boxing Day.....................

.............................................isn't a holiday in most parts of the Lucky Us! 

 Boxing Day became a "thing" around the 1830's and the name comes from the custom of giving  "Christmas boxes" to servants and apprentices and the tradesmen who delivered to the house. 

December 26th is also St Stephen's day. Stephen was a Hellenistic Jew, appointed by the Apostles as Deacon in the early Christian Church. He was stoned to death around AD 35, and as he was one of the first martyrs he was given the day following Christ's birth as his feast day. Stephen is almost forgotten except for his mention in the carol "Good King Wenceslas". But Wenceslas was a prince in Bohemia in the 10th century and the story in the carol is just fiction. It was probably the practice of giving money to servants or the poor that gave John Mason Neale the idea for the Carol in 1853.

(information mainly from  the book 'The English Year 'by Steve Roud)

Thank you for all the Christmas Greetings.

Back Thursday (or Friday...... depending.......). with Books Read 2023

Monday 25 December 2023

Happy Christmas


A little child,
A shining star,
A stable rude,
The door ajar,
Yet in this place,
So crude, forlorn,
The Hope of all
The world was born.


 I hope you all have the best possible day. 

Back Tomorrow

Sunday 24 December 2023

December 24th - Christmas Eve

 Come and Join the Celebration.

This is the happiest carol of them all! It was written for children but grown-ups can sing it too.

I first heard it at Cotton Methodist Church in the 1980's where my late Father in Law had been a member since a small boy and was a preacher/lay reader in the Methodist Circuit.  Our two eldest children went to Sunday School there before we moved away and we always went at Christmas.

From wiki...........

Valerie Collison (born 23 March 1933) is an English organist and composer of hymns and carols.[1] Her best-known work is "Come and Join the Celebration" for which she composed both the lyrics and tune. This was first published in Carols for Children in 1972 and is now performed in services throughout the UK. She also wrote "The Journey of Life",[2] popular in English primary schools as part of the Come and Praise hymnal.

I hadn't heard this anywhere this year until I popped into the Co-op after my car boot visit last week and they had a small choir of about 8 ladies singing carols in the foyer. I sang it all around the shop!....quietly......didn't want to frighten the other customers.

When T was for Treats in November, I didn't mention another that sometimes happens - depending on circumstances................. A bunch of flowers for Christmas - something a bit bigger than the occasional £2 bunch from Aldi.

The pine cones, ting and fir-cone were from one of the pre-Christmas craft sales and they've been added to the Asda roses, chrysanth's and ornamental cabbage hearts etc. All in the biggest jug on the kitchen window sill for me to enjoy.

Thank you for comments yesterday, the home-made remedies have worked and I'm up to 99% now!

Back Tomorrow - briefly

Saturday 23 December 2023

December 23rd - The Best Laid Plans

Thomas Hardy managed to make this short poem rhyme and shows feeding the birds isn't a new thing.

Birds at Winter Nightfall

Around the house the flakes fly faster,
And all the berries now are gone
From holly and cotone-aster
Around the house. The flakes fly! - faster
Shutting indoors that crumb-outcaster
We used to see upon the lawn
Around the house. The flakes fly faster'
And all the berries now are gone.

Thomas Hardy 

The week has Not gone as planned. Due to the hours and hours of pouring rain from late Monday onwards I took Eldest Granddaughter home much earlier than planned on Tuesday - Luckily her Mummy was working from home. It took me over 4 hours to do the round trip that would normally take less than two to do . I had to go by main roads which is miles further (84 total instead of 54) rather than cross country but it was the only way to avoid serious flooding and even on the main A roads there were many places where the water was across the road. The extra traffic and roadworks didn't help. I got back just in time, as the flood water down the road from the bungalow had gone from a large puddle to nearly 6 inches deep in the time I'd been gone. 
(And yes you have read those times/miles correctly - it regularly takes 55 minutes to do 27 miles on our "wonderful", damaged, pot-holed, 30 mph limit, twisting, cross country roads between me and Leiston!)

I thought it was just lack of sleep - (don't usually mention health issues but the RLS prickly-ness has been much worse than usual) and having an energetic 7 year old here that had made me extra tired but after the 4 hour drive I was shattered and feeling very achy and worried about eldest daughter and the two grandsons coming up Wednesday evening as planned - wasn't sure how much flooding would be left and how I would be feeling. 
However H was determined to visit for a present swap so on Wednesday I dosed myself with my cold cure tomato and chili soup and Strepsils for the sore throat and lots of paracetamol, got the house back together and beds sorted and rested in between times to give me time to feel better.
They then came up early Thursday in daylight. Lovely to see my Surrey boys again, last time they were here was the summer holidays when everyone ended up sick. Since then the 7 year old has had hospital visits for some keyhole surgery and 2 year old  is now more of a little boy than a baby. Eldest daughter was full of cold - don't think she should have come up at all really and I wasn't 100% but luckily we all had a good nights sleep.

She headed away early Friday afternoon to meet up with her sister, sister in law and the other three children  before the horrible journey home to Surrey in the dark (worries me every time!)................ and I collapsed in a heap! .................before doing the tidying all over again while drinking hot lemon and honey and taking more paracetamol.

Between all the grandchildren stuff, house tidying, present sorting, cooking and list making for later, I managed to collect some greenery for the Solstice. From various places I 'stole' variegated Holly, ordinary Holly and Rosemary and from home Bay, Yew and Olive. I discovered the little spray of red toadstools in the Christmas decoration box but don't remember getting it. It was still labelled so I know it came from Smiths Packaging shop and cost me £1.59 presumably last year or the year before? They add a touch of colour as almost  all berries on the Hollies everywhere have gone this year.

I guess I'm not the only person still with things to do before more visitors, and other deliveries to make. I'm definitely hibernating in January.

Back Tomorrow

Friday 22 December 2023

December 22nd - The Solstice and The Ogham Tree Alphabet

The winter solstice 

It's been over a year  since I wrote a post mentioning the Ogham Tree Alphabet. The only native British writing system devised 2,000 years ago using various notches on sticks. Each letter also corresponds to a tree and a month or a day of the year. My first post about the alphabet is HERE  after I found the book by artist Karen Cater.

The tree for the Winter Solstice is the Scot's Pine and I've been collecting photos of them.

Firstly in the village. I can see this one from my back windows. There are two planted on a green area in the middle of the housing estate behind . They would have been planted when the homes were built in about 1983/4 and are getting rather large.

At Needham Lake. This is a smaller and much younger tree, photo taken on a foggy day back in the spring.

And at Sutton Hoo when we were there in the early Autumn. Growing tall on the sandy soil there

These are the pages from the book that explain it all.

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Thursday 21 December 2023

December 21st - St. Thomas

 Thank you to everyone for comments yesterday - things have been a bit odd here and I'll explain at the end of the week.

Today is one of the feast days of St. Thomas  and there are two old sayings for this day. Although the second doesn't quite fit for this year as the true Solstice is tomorrow early morning.

Look at the weathercock at noon on St Thomas's Day and whichever way the wind blows from it will stay that way for the next lunar quarter

St Thomas grey, St Thomas grey
Longest night and shortest day 

In the past St. Thomas's  Day was a excuse for 'gooding', which involved  begging for food in return for a small bunch of greenery. In some places this was called 'Doleing'. The dole given was usually some flour for making bread with the wheat donated by a wealthy farmer and ground without charge by the miller.

St Thomas was also known as Didymous and Doubting Thomas - one of the first apostles. Details of his life after his appearance in the gospels are uncertain . He is thought to have gone as a missionary to India and to have been martyred at Madras. His special day now is usually marked on July 3rd.

St. Thomas by Peter Paul Rubens
St Thomas by Rubens from around 1612

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Wednesday 20 December 2023

December 20th and a Winter Print Exhibition

I've been saving this post just in case of a shortage of time/ideas - that time has come! It's a bit of a Non-Post really.

 On the 24th of last month I had a trip out to visit a Winter Print Exhibition. This was being held in a Gallery near Sudbury in South Suffolk. Along with a miniatures painting exhibition.

It was in a different part of the county so some different artists to those who exhibit at the little art exhibitions I usually visit but it wasn't as big as I thought it would be.

Unfortunately only general photos were allowed, which rather mucked up my plan of sharing some of my favourites.

Third from the left below was a really good print of an allotment done in limited colours.

My favourite, which I couldn't do a close up of as I was being watched!, was a brown fox creeping through a snowy garden. Everything is black or white except the fox. It's the 4th from the left below on the top row, but impossible to see. I dithered over buying it but at £90 decided I'd better not and sadly the artist doesn't make greetings cards from her prints like some do - could have afforded one of those.

Bad light reflection on this excellent work below, which was on the stairs with no one watching me!

Loved the Goldcrest below

The gallery is in an old mill with the mill pond close by

Had to call in at a cafe/gift shop on the way  for breakfast - coffee and cheese scone of course! 
They had three Christmas trees in the cafe and lots of Christmas gifts in the shop, got Daughter some bamboo socks that she wanted for Christmas.

Picture of my cheese scone and coffee seem to be a regular thing!

I think I may have reached my limit for cheese scones for this year!

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Tuesday 19 December 2023

December 19th -Bits and Bobs and a Poem

There was a special one-off Christmas  car-boot sale at Needham Market on Saturday and I thought there wouldn't be many people selling - I was wrong. Lots of people there and many, many second-hand Christmas decorations and house clearance people. I went round looking for green things for the Christmas tree for next year............plenty of gold and red and some  not-Christmassy colours like pink and turquoise but no green. I was the last of the big spenders - a whole 50p on these four small snowmen and angels. They look like glass from a distance but are much safer plastic. I've put them away for next year which will be a silver, white and green  year - if I remember.

After the boot sale I called in at the Sue Ryder charity shop, where they always have a good selection of all sorts. I found this rather nice musical Nativity scene in it's box. Once sold by Lakeland - probably for a lot more than the £6 I paid for it. It plays Silent Night by winding the star and is made of sturdy Olive wood so will OK for small fingers. 

There didn't seem to be any Nativity Crib Festivals anywhere in Suffolk this year which was a shame as I enjoyed seeing them all in Felixstowe last year and in Grundisburgh back in 2018.


The only edible left in the vegetable beds are the Purple Sprouting Broccoli plants. Only one is upright, the rest are taller and leaning away from the fence. I picked every purple and almost purple shoots off the upright plant and just about had enough to eat. They were delicious. The plants that are leaning are way behind and should produce some shoots later. I'm hoping to buy a sprout stalk for Christmas although I heard on the early morning radio farming programme a while ago that there is shortage of decent size Brussels' Sprouts this year due to the weather and those I've seen for sale so far have been grape size. Good for people who dislike them but not so good for preparing them for people like me, who love them.


I've not been following Strictly very closely this year but caught up with the final and I'm glad Ellie won. A good finale I thought. The weeks seem to have flown by so quickly. The Christmas Radio Times arrived but I'm saving it to look at nearer the time. I heard that Olly Alexander has been chosen for Eurovision for next year, unusual for them to pick someone already well known. Hope he does better than second from last which was where this years very weak entry ended up.


And finally another poem from one of my Christmas books.

 Somehow not only for Christmas
But all the long year through,
The joy that you give to others
Is the joy that comes back to you.
And the more you spend in blessing
The poor and lonely and sad,
The more of your heart's possessing
Returns to make you glad.

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-92)

Back Tomorrow

Monday 18 December 2023

December 18th and Winter Reading

 Picked up from the library van last week were five books I'd reserved. Some others were on the way but hadn't arrived in time so they'll be waiting for me on the January visit.

I've already decided that January will be a quiet month at home in hibernation so these might only last me a couple of weeks but thankfully there's plenty to read on my bookshelves.

I'm so pleased that the earlier Donna Leon books are being reprinted as the library only had more recent publications until recently. I know I'll enjoy those and the other two crime novels but don't know about the Gabrielle Zevin book. 

Last month I  brought home these below and didn't read many of them. Just checked and it was actually only 3. Although I've used bits on the blog from the Christmas Carol book on the far right

The books read were the one by Ann Cleeves, The Castle by the Sea and The Memories of A Wartime Childhood. Why didn't I read the others? Well......... I started to read The Kitchen Front and it didn't sound right and after looking at the back of the title page discovered it was first published in the US - which explained the odd and wrong words. I got fed up with the one by Jessica Ellicott - it's written in a very weird pedantic way, like someone writing to a formula and the rest I just couldn't be bothered to get into them!

I eventually remembered how to get the DVD player connected up and watched Hope and Glory, which is a 1987 film about a boy growing up in wartime London. I really ought to watch some of my own DVDs again - maybe that's a plan for January.

Certainly no time for watching DVDs this week -it's a crazy hectic week with some overnight Nanna Duty, probably a visit from family and jobs to do including greenery collecting for the Solstice, presents to finish organising into bags and boxes as well as normal stuff like housework and shopping.

Many thanks for all the comments on yesterday's Joy To The World post . 
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Sunday 17 December 2023

December 17th - Joy To The World

 This is another hymn used in advent as it doesn't directly mention Christ's birth.

According to the book 'Best Loved Carols' compiled by Martin Manser, this was written by Isaac Watts when he was just 15 years old. After complaining to his father - who was a Deacon in a Southampton church - that the congregation seem rather lacklustre he was challenged to write something that would rouse their enthusiasm. The hymn is based on Psalm 98 which tells the world to prepare for the coming of the Lord.
That it was written by Watts ( who wrote many, many hymns during his life 1674-1748)is well known but most references say it was first published in 1719.
The melody is usually the 1848 arrangement by Lowell Mason from an earlier piece of music resembling G.F.Handel's  piece Antioch. Although other people disagree - the truth is lost in time!

This version is sung by a huge choir accompanied by an equally large orchestra. The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah

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Saturday 16 December 2023

December 16th - Christmas Tree Festival

 I didn't take many photos of the trees in the church at Stowmarket, there were more than usual and lots of people looking round. All were lovely and colourful. So many organisations in and around the town had decorated trees on the theme of Christmas songs and carols.

The church was full of school children when Pat and I arrived for the Osier café . They'd been brought in to see their tree and all the others. Just before we left someone started to play carols on the piano which was lovely to hear.

I always hang a card on the memory tree for Colin and it was absolutely covered with peoples memories of loved ones and the prayer tree too had hundreds of hearts with names of people who needed a prayer said for them.

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Friday 15 December 2023

December 15th -Just Another Winter's Tale

Just Another Winters Tale sung by David Essex is another favourite piece of music although it's only played on the radio at Christmas and not very often.
It was written in 1982 by Mike Batt and Tim Rice and was released in 1982 and got to #2 in the charts in January 1983.

This is borrowed from wiki  - Mike Batt explaining how it came to be.......

  1.   David Essex rang me late in 1982 - just after my return from Australia, and asked if I could write him a Christmas hit. It was already late October so we didn't have much time. I was due to be writing with Tim Rice the following day- and was hoping to develop my idea for a musical about the Aztecs...anyway so I told Tim about the David Essex request, and we started thinking of ideas. ... we wrote a bit of the chorus and two lines of the verse, and then when Tim had gone home I sat and worked on it, coming up with the finished chorus and the second verse lyrics.

I was a David Essex fan back in the day.

I think he still looks pretty good!

I can't sing along with this at the moment - too much talking with Rachel-in-Norfolk on Wednesday and yesterday with Pat C, my school friend from way back.

Today I'm at home alone  and will rest my voice all will be very, very quiet............

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Thursday 14 December 2023

December 14th - Portmeirion Holly and Ivy

My Portmeirion Holly and Ivy 'Not a collection' hasn't grown since 2020. The first piece was the best bargain and came from a car boot sale way back in the autumn of 2017 for just £2. It wasn't meant to be the start of a collection!

But then the same year I found another piece- a small dish on a pedestal -  in a charity shop, then the next year a tea-plate from a boot sale and butter knives for a Christmas present. A year later and I found a big centrepiece plate from a boot sale again. Finally in 2020 I spent a few more pounds on a small custard/gravy jug and saucer which were in one of the glass cabinets that charity shops have for their special things.

Since then I've not seen another piece for sale at car boot sales or anywhere else - which is probably a Very Good Thing!

Some comments I remember because they seem a bit "off" and I definitely remember someone commenting, when I wrote about the first piece, that having special Christmas china was a "superfluous and unnecessary trend coming from the US". And of course they used plain white all the time - with Real holly!

I had to smile when the same person (I'm 99% sure it's the same person) commented elsewhere recently that they were getting their pieces of "T'was the night before Christmas" crockery out of the cupboard.

They probably didn't bank on me sometimes having a good memory for slightly snarky comments! 

But as it's Christmas they are forgiven.

Many thanks for comments yesterday about memories of Christmas decorations. Seems we all had something similar.  Apologies for not replying.

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Wednesday 13 December 2023

December 13th - Old Decorations

 I have no idea where this Christmas tree decoration came from but it's old - they certainly don't make them like this anymore - it's exactly the same as those we had on the tree when I was a little girl.

I'm sure it didn't come from the time we cleared Dad's house - seems to have appeared more recently.

Back in the late 50's and 60's there weren't so many places to buy Christmas decorations - it was mainly Woolworths or the big department stores which we didn't have in small towns. Every year we would make those paper chains that loop one strip through another. They went from corners of the rooms to the light fitting in the middle. Then out would come the concertina/honeycomb paper decorations - a bell, a star and some round balls. They had to be clipped together with a paper clip to hold them open and folded very carefully on twelfth night. And there were always balloons.

We had a big beam across the middle of the room and as more things became available Mum collected some small sprays of artificial holly and silver leaves and similar bits and would pin them along the beam on each side. 
We always had a real Christmas tree which would start shedding needles almost as soon as it was brought in - shoved in a bucket of builders sand - always plenty of that in a builders yard. Mum had some very old tree decorations including clips that could hold proper birthday candles - although we never had them alight. There was always a problem with the lights - multi coloured- with bulbs that screwed in and had to be checked one by one every year to find out which one had failed.

I can remember how bare the room looked when the decorations came down but I expect Mum was glad to get them out of the way - she hated dust and old houses with wood beams and open fires produced plenty of that and once everything was put away she could get the the duster and polish out again.

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Tuesday 12 December 2023

December 12th - Winter Trees

 O thought I!
What a beautiful thing
God has made the winter to be
by stripping the trees
and letting us see
their shapes and forms.
What a freedom does it seem
to give to the storms.

Dorothy Wordsworth (1771 - 1855)

When the leaves were on the poplars and limes over the road I couldn't see the new homes being built on the far side of the burial ground. Now the trees are bare and I can see the first chalet bungalow growing, the roof is getting done -  they've had to work in some really wet weather. I'm glad they only got permission for two facing onto the road rather than a small estate of nine which was the first application. There are enough new homes being built on greenspaces everywhere without building next to an historic church and graveyard. They've actually stopped building on new estates in nearby Bacton village because they can't sell the ones they have built.

I'm disappointed that the unused part of the burial ground between the trees and the new bungalow has been tidied so much. There have been people doing community payback there every Saturday morning for months. Whereas once I saw  partridges, pheasants, lots of small birds and insects and even a muntjac deer in the long grass and under the trees now there is nothing. I'd love to tell them that neat and tidy isn't always good.

(Just finished a small quirky book with a good story and bits where you have to smile. 'What Hetty Did' by J.L Carr. Worth looking up . People will like it if they like quirky but others will say it's just silly. Same man wrote the more well known ' A Month in the Country')

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Monday 11 December 2023

December 11th - I Had a Quiet Saturday in Advent

December 9th was a quiet Saturday in Advent, which sounds as if it should be the first line of story but sadly it isn't!

Goodness, it was a wet day here on Saturday. Plans had to abandoned as the roads were awash again so it was a stay in and do not a lot day. I got a letter written to go off with a present and all card writing finished. 

Vaguely opening cupboards to think of something for my main meal........ the home made things in the freezer are down to a choice of aubergine and tomato pasta sauce, Thai fish curry or pizza topping and I'd had all of them last week.............I saw a small tin of value range tuna. Aha, I thought, tuna, pasta and broccoli bake. So I made a jug of white sauce, put the pasta on to cook, opened the tuna and looked in the fridge for the broccoli BUT there wasn't any - I'd bought a cabbage last week instead! I can confirm that a tuna, cabbage, carrot and pasta bake is OK but really nicer with broccoli. It made two portions - that was enough - although I have to say the second portion - reheated in the microwave was better than the first.

I finished watching the final Harry Potter film on Saturday night. It was the first time I'd watched all 8 all the way through. About time too after all these years. I'm glad I'm 68 years old and not 8 - I would have been terrified.

This was the most recent addition to tree decorations which came from the maker at a fair in the autumn  before all the November Christmas fairs. It dawned on me on Saturday

that there's another glass piece somewhere, because last year, from the same person, I bought a glass mistletoe's on the blog here.  I need to search for it among the bags...... in the box...... in the cupboard.

Here's another start for a story.................

Once upon a time when I had 3 children, animals and no time, I made a wreath for the door, Christmas puddings, a Christmas cake or two, the mincemeat and then the mince-pies and Christmas crackers with small presents inside specially picked for each person.
None of the above are done now. The front door is adorned with the swag thing I bought second-hand in 2021. I don't like Christmas pudding but made them because Colin, his Dad and brother loved them. Christmas cake is too sweet now - no one really enjoys it, half a dozen decent bought mince pies will be enough  and Christmas crackers can be found at car boot sales every summer.
Once upon a time I sent cards to many aunts and uncles, grandparents and parents - they've all gone - except for one Aunty. I bought 20 Christmas postage stamps and will have several left.

I'm feeling old!

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