Thursday, 31 December 2020

Year’s end. Not celebrating. Running. Tier 4. Walks. Schools. Leaving the EU. Being left-handed.

2020 comes staggering to a close. In Greater Manchester we’ve moved into tier 4, which might as well be lockdown. 


It’s very cold but, in a strange reversal of the normal run of things, we have almost no snow while friends in other parts of Greater Manchester are raving about how nice their gardens look in the white stuff. 


For the first time in twenty years we will not be seeing in the New Year at a friend’s house. Twenty years ago we celebrated his fiftieth birthday on Millennium Eve. After he died a few years ago we carried on, a bunch of friends getting together and drinking a glass to his memory. And along comes Covid-19 and tier 4 ... and the rest is lockdown!


So this morning I got up and ran round the village, a very quiet village, with amazingly few dog-walkers about even. The pavements were remarkably clear and un-slippery. The first millpond was half frozen and the hills were shrouded in fog. I just missed what might have been a fabulous photo of the heron taking off, reflected in the millpond; by the time I had my phone camera organised the moment was past! 




The muddy path round to the second millpond was not at all bad, largely due to the mud puddles being semi-dried up  or frozen. However, my access to the second millpond was barred by a new and huge overflow puddle. There was not even the remotest chance of tiptoeing gingerly around the edge of it.


So, reluctantly, I backtracked and eventually took the top path. Not one to run, this path, even though the churned-up muddy surface was not quite so soggy as it might have been, thanks to a bit of freezing. It was still mud-slippery in places and in the final stages turns into a deepish channel, maybe two feet wide and three inches deep, with occasional roots and large stones strategically placed to trip up a careless walker or runner. Even picking my way with care I slightly turned my ankle at one point. 

 

I did get some nice pictures looking down on the millpond though.


 

 

And so here we are in our tier 4, all of us wondering what we can and cannot do. I can go for walks with my daughter but not if Phil comes along. Or she can meet her oldest offspring, the one who lives independently, but not if the teenagers go with her, and she can’t drive her here to go for a walk with Phil and me. And do her two smaller children count to the total of who can meet outdoors? Bang go the family adventures and Diggle Chippy Hikes for a while.


We wait to see what happens with the vaccination programme.


And as regards schools, well that all sounds a little chaotic. By the sound of things or exam-year grandchildren -one GCSE and one A-Level - should be back in school on Monday 11th of January. Our daughter should be back teaching her primary school class on Monday 4th. But between today and Monday all sorts of decisions could be taken.


Mr Johnson is celebrating having got his deal thorough Parliament. Some people are proposing a minute’s silence at 11.00 this evening, which is midnight in most of Europe and so we leave the EU. Here is a link to a flashmob playing Ode to Joy in Sabadell, Catalonia, justbto cheer us all up.

https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.classicfm.com%2Fcomposers%2Fbeethoven%2Fnews%2Fbeethoven-9-flashmob%2F&h=AT2rsAWcsRKmcrtKhB82t93AFjjuKgA2JPNF_B1nr1S1fIrNavTbyrnahIxCOw


Moving on to other things, I read about the pop group East 17’s Tony Mortimer discovering the joy of reading during the pandemic. Until lockdown he had never managed to read a whole book, having had all sorts of problems at school. But stuck indoors he persevered and found a whole new world opened up for him. He’s apparently got through 70 books since then. He’s even taken to writing one himself. Now, I found this next bit of his story rather telling:-


“Mortimer is especially proud of his year of reading and writing because of where he’s come from: a working-class kid from east London, he was sent to handwriting classes as a young boy because his parents wanted to switch him from left- to right-handed. “I had to learn to control my letters and write all over again,” he says. “I was so messy. So there’s an irony in me becoming a writer. I hope it sets an example: don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t write.””


And I thought people had long since given up messing with children’s head by insisting that being left-handed was somehow wrong. No wonder he had problems!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Names. Attitudes.

They were talking about names on the radio yesterday. I think it was Jane Garvey on Women’s Hour, but I missed the beginning of it so I’m not sure. Anyway, presenter Jane and studio guest Jane were talking to various Janes on the phone or otherwise electronically, about how it felt to be called Jane. This included Jane Asher, who at 74 is one of the Janes so-named when the name was just coming into popularity. Nobody mentioned her cakes! The youngest Jane, whose surname escapes me, was in her twenties. Jane has slipped out of fashion now so both Jane Asher and this youngest Jane had met almost no Janes in their lives while the presenter had known loads and loads of them. 


Fashions in names are odd. I can remember back in the early 1970s having four Julies in one class of thirteen-year-olds. Highly confusing! One of the Janes told how she was once asked if it was short for Janet. Which is odd, as Janet must surely derive from Jeannette, the regular French diminutive for Jeanne, French for Jane or Jean. All the Janes objected to people spelling their name with a Y - Jayne. There is something very upsetting about people spelling your name wrongly. 


Even more upsetting is when they simply get it wrong. Our daughter, Ellen, gets cross at her name being overcorrected to Helen. I have grown weary of being called Angela and, more commonly, Andrea, or occasionally Althea. There was an Enid, a work colleague, who would regularly begin emails to me with “Andrea ....”, which was odd as the email address included my actual name. In rather petty and juvenile fashion, I would reply, beginning my email with “Edna ...”. Little bits of revenge!


I have met few Anthea’s in my life, one of them married to my husband’s cousin, oddly enough.


The discussion moved on to class associations and famous names in literature. They interviewed a couple of Traceys, all of them more than a little cross at being permanently associated with rather rough and ready Sharon and Tracey from Birds of a Feather. As they thought of loud, brash  Traceys from various books, I wanted to shout at the radio, “but what about Tracey Beaker?” Tracey Beaker was the heroine of Jacquline Wilson’s books for young girls, a young resident of a children’s home (this is probably a politically incorrect term nowadays - I expect it should be residential care centre or something similar)  who gets into various scrapes, a bit if a role model for young girls. No doubt there are some Traceys around who were named after Ms Beaker.


People often give their children the names of characters from books they have read. That is how I ended up with Anthea. Had my father not spotted and liked the name, I might have been just Margaret, one of the many in my cohort at school. However, nobody seems to have chosen to call their daughter after Titty from Swallows and Amazons, despite Titty being an excellent role model. And one of the presenters confessed to having trouble with Fanny, even though she is a character from Mansfield Park, by Jane Austin. 


Which brings us neatly back to Jane! 


Moving on to other things. 2020 has been an odd year. Yet some people think we will be better for it. Here’s something by the writer David Hart:-


“Notwithstanding this argument, I am an optimist about the crisis. I think it has also revealed attractive features of modern Britain, the high level of volunteering and the inventiveness of our medical-scientific infrastructure for example.

I have just written a book called Head, Hand, Heart about how we have allocated too much reward and prestige to the cluster of human aptitudes concerned with cognitive ability. So it was refreshing to see not only the “heart” work done in the public care economy, but also the key workers, mainly non-graduate “hand” workers, getting some of the recognition they deserve.

I think we will emerge from the pandemic a more decent society, more aware of our inter-dependence. But we also need to learn some lessons about emotionalism in the public conversation and accepting that with democratic authority, as with everything else, it is horses for courses. What works in normal times may not be right for a crisis.”


Let’s hope he is right and we emerge from our isolation into a more welcoming society. Others, however, are still expressing their fears that the whole Brexit business has made us more intolerant of differences, or at any rate less reluctant to express that intolerance out loud in public. 


Strange times. 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Out in the snow. Catching up and changing.

Running in the snow this morning, I thought it would be just me who was crazy enough to be out and about. But by the time I reached the crossroads, a few hundred yards, I met a former pupil from more years ago than I care to calculate, also running, with her husband and her dog. She is a much more serious runner than I am. Not only does she run faster but she takes part in marathons and wins prizes. I run quite slowly and just win my own self esteem. 


There were also dog-walkers, one with a huge full-sized poodle leaping around all over the place and a much calmer tiny miniature poodle - a curious sight. And I was almost mown down by a peloton of cyclists. All right, I exaggerate somewhat, maybe not a peloton but enough to be a Tour de France team. They seemed blissfully unaware of the runner who dodged out of their way as they commandeered the width of the bridle path, all talking nineteen to the dozen.


 

I chose to run along the Donkey Line again this morning as it does not involve any steep downhill stretches with the possibility of slipping and sliding. 

 

It’s a good job I knew where the various puddles were on the approach to the bridle path as they were pretty much snowed over. An unsuspecting runner or walker could splosh all unawares into icy water. 


There’s a particular sound to walking on freshly fallen snow. Wet ground or piled-up soggy leaves make a dull squidge-squelch noise but fresh snow squeaks. That’s a sound you miss if you walk or run with your headphones in and your tunes playing.


Later in the day the sun actually came out so we went for a walk up the hill to Dobcross. Sunny but chilly!  But by the time I took photos half way up the hill, the sun was behind the clouds again. We returned home with frozen faces!


Over the last few days I have been making or receiving catch-up phone calls from my sisters. One video-called me as I walked down the road. So she shared a walk with me. That was my English sister? I called my Spanish sister later the same day. Now, that was a curious experience. She has always had very short hair but it has grown during this pandemic crisis. In addition she has lost quite a lot of weight, including off her face, and for a brief moment I thought I had called the wrong sister. We three sisters have always been recognisably siblings but never identical and suddenly my younger sister had turned into my older sister. How very strange!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Monday, 28 December 2020

Snow ... or maybe not! Muddy walks and illuminated walks. Some consequences of Brexit!

There are newspaper reports of heavy snow causing disruption to roads and travel ”all over the country”. A friend who loves in South Manchester has been posting her delight at the fact that “la neve è arrivata” and another, in Stockport, declares that the snow is melting in her garden and that she cannot wait to see my pictures of the snow in Saddleworth. Which is very flattering about my photography skills but even the most expert at using the iPhone as a camera cannot conjure up snow photos when there is no snow. And apart from a brief flurry on Christmas Day, a flurry which failed to stick, we certainly have had no snow to speak of this winter ... yet!


Today is cold, damp and clammy cold as the cloud has descended on the area. I ran along the Donkey Line this morning, amazed and rather pleased at how relatively dry the surface of the bridle path is. The approach to the Donkey Line, in front of the ruined, burnt out mill building, remains a soggy, muddy, puddly mess but the bridle path itself is mostly fine. This is quite a relief as so many of our favourite walks are largely quagmire at the moment. 



I’ve already mentioned the paths at the top Lark Hill which have been churned up by wheeled vehicles of one kind or another. And then on Boxing Day we ventured onto what we now call the “Forest Path”, the path through a smallish wooded area just below Dobcross village. It’s a place that fills up with bluebells in the spring and where Phil has attacked some parts of the path overgrown with nettles throughout the summer and into the autumn. 

 

Some parts of the path were very slippery with mud, suggesting that maybe we need to leave this path alone until we’ve had some dry weather, or at least drier than we have had recently! 

 

In other places the path was surprisingly bare compared with the undergrowth (overgrowth?) that Phil hacked through earlier in the year.


Ignoring the weather, following the Scandinavian principle - no bad weather just bad clothes - we have continued to be out and about, snapping shots of the winter sky. 


 

 

And yesterday my daughter and some of her offspring and I did a twilight walk around Uppermill, sort of following an Advent Trail featuring the Christmas decorations. 


 

We were accompanied by the eldest granddaughter and her dog. At one point the youngest granddaughter, who has been decidedly, absolutely and totally determined NOT to like the dog, indeed to declare herself scared of all dogs, suddenly had a change of heart and leant forwards to say hello to the improbably named Magpie. Having broken the ice, she moved on to stroking her and then told us all, “I am not scared of dogs any more. I love Magpie. She is so soft. She is part of the family now. When the germs have gone she can visit my house.” Oh, what it is to be four years old. 


Meanwhile, Brexit deals seem to have been struck. And there are things like this going on as a result:-


“More than £100m will be spent on the post-Brexit replacement of the Erasmus exchange programme for UK students next year, it has been announced.

The Department for Education (DfE) said the Turing Scheme will provide funding for about 35,000 students to go on placements around the world from September.

The DfE said the scheme, named after Bletchley Park codebreaker Alan Turing, will cost £100m in 2021-22 but that funding for subsequent academic years will be set out in future spending reviews.


The government’s decision to end involvement in the European Union scheme has proved controversial, particularly as Boris Johnson had previously said Brexit did not threaten participation.

But the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, said: “We now have the chance to expand opportunities to study abroad and see more students from all backgrounds benefit from the experience.

“We have designed a truly international scheme which is focused on our priorities, delivers real value for money and forms an important part of our promise to level up the United Kingdom.””


Well, I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see but so far I am from from impressed. Money is being spent to create a scheme to replace a scheme we already know works fine! 


Some people are fearful of the consequences of Brexit. This is from somebody posting in Campaign to rejoin the EU:-


“I’m so scared right now.  Leaving my house to go to the shop and a man walking past jeered at me because of my Vote Remain flag in my upstairs window.  He called out to me saying that dream has been smashed but the triumphant glint in his eye and the emphasis on "smashed" while looking at my window can only mean that he intends to return later at some point and break my window.


This is where Brexshit has got us.  Honestly, they won't be happy until they have deported us all or put us in labour camps.”


Hmmm!


Meanwhile, over in the USA they seem to have identified the person responsible for the Nashville explosion. They now believe it was a man with a paranoid mistrust of 5G technology, believing it involved organised spying by or for the government, not to mention spreading all sorts of diseases. QAnon nonsense. So perhaps he was targeting the AT and T building. 


A different kind of craziness affects the other side of things. One of the police officers, who has suffered hearing loss as a result of the blast:-


“I just see orange and then I hear a loud boom. As I’m stumbling, I just tell myself to stay on my feet and stay alive.” 


He went on to add that he believed he heard God tell him to walk away moments before the explosion. Okay! It’s rather pity his God did not warn him sooner! 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Sunday, 27 December 2020

A Christmas Day Mystery!

Our eldest granddaughter, having resigned herself to the fact that her ex-boyfriend is not going to return her much loved Labrador to her anytime soon, has acquired a young border collie, one that was up for sale as she was too “energetic” - i.e. bouncy, boisterous, lively - for a household with a toddler. She seems to be a very nice dog, just in need of a bit of training, which our granddaughter has taken in hand. 


So on Christmas Day, when the aforementioned granddaughter was coming to lunch along with her mother, her siblings and her mothers’s partner, the dog came to visit too. We had to make sure she didn’t poke her nose in any of the food served on low tables at the back of the kitchen/dining room - we had organised a system of small extra tables there so that we could all be socially distanced - but otherwise everything went reasonably well. Not too much mess to clear up. 


When everyone was ready to leave, our daughter’s car loaded with people and dog, our granddaughter rushed back to look for “the dog towel”. It seemed she had brought an old towel with her in case the dog got her feet and legs wet and needed drying off to come into the house. Now she couldn’t find it. She hunted in the car. I hunted in the house. All to no avail. The towel was not to be found. 


Granddaughter Number One blamed her teenage sister who was apparently charged with carrying the towel into the house. Granddaughter Number Two denied all knowledge of this. Had it been handed to Granddaughter Number Two without her realising it and consequently been dropped in the road as they got out of the car? There was no sign of a towel in the road. I checked again on Boxing Day morning, just in case it had not been spotted in the dusk as they left. Not a sign of it. A mystery!


This morning I went to sort out washing from the rather overflowing washing basket. Among the various items I found a grey towel which I did not recognise. According to its label it came originally from Tesco. I had no memory of ever buying towels from Tesco, although that was not beyond the bounds of possibility. However this towel was very unfamiliar. Was it, perchance, the missing “dog towel”? If so, how had it ended up in my washing basket? Who had put it there? Another bit of Christmas mystery!


I thought back to Christmas day. Our daughter had arrived with her carload of people + dog, later than scheduled but that’s fairly normal as she always has so many to herd into the car. Maybe she could make use of the border collie’s sheep dog instincts! Car unloaded, she got straight back in and set off to meet her partner, my almost son-in-law, who had decided he wanted to run here, or at least to run as far as he could get before our daughter met him and licked him up. Would he be able to shower on arrival? But of course! Nobody wants to sit at a table with a sweaty runner. 


I was busy in the kitchen and so I asked Phil to organise a towel for the sweaty runner and make sure he had everything he needed. Some time later the now-not-sweaty-runner joined the rest of the party, we drank a fizzy toast to Christmas, to family, to better days ahead and eventually went down to the kitchen/dining room to eat. At some point my almost son-in-law commented that he had put the towel he used in the washing basket. Today, as I sorted the washing basket and discovered the mystery item, it occurred to me that he might have used the “dog towel”! Oh, no! Shock! Horror! But how had it happened? So I made some enquiries.


Yes, the “dog towel” was grey. No, Phil had not put a grey towel in the bathroom. Then my daughter told me that her partner had admitted that he had “found” a towel on the stairs and had assumed that this was for him and so had picked it up and taken it to the bathroom with him. He had been a little surprised that this was a smallish bath towel, not the kind of bath sheet size he had expected. Nor was it particularly soft and fluffy, not very good quality at all. But you don’t look a gift towel in the mouth and he was too polite to complain or even comment. He simply put the towel in the washing basket after use. When the “where is the dog towel? incident occurred later in the day he did not put two and two together. In fact, he was probably quite oblivious to the whole fuss and kerfuffle. 


Granddaughter Number One is making “yuck, how horrible!” noises because she says the towel was not even particularly clean! And it was a “dog towel”!


But ... Mystery solved! Apparently! Well, almost. Who brought the towel into the house in the first place? Who left it on the stairs? Granddaughter Number Two still denies all knowledge of it. The excitement of being allowed into the grandparents’ house for the first time in months was clearly too great for small details like what-is-this-in-my-hands? to be noticed. I think we’ll never find out! But the towel has now gone in the washing machine.


Life goes on! Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Saturday, 26 December 2020

And Boxing Day. Things could be worse!

 It’s Boxing Day. 


Do people still give “Christmas Boxes” to the milkman, the coal-man, the paper boy, the postman, et al? I doubt it. It’s one of those things I remember from  my childhood - my parents sorting out tips for tradesmen. But then you knew your delivery men; they weren’t anonymous Amazon drivers. I think some companies still give Christmas bonuses, although I suspect that these days the bonuses go mostly to those who are already quite well paid! 


It’s Boxing Day, all the sales ads are appearing on social media - online sales start today. In many parts of the country actual in-the-shops-sales will have to wait until non-essential shops are allowed to open again. And even where they can open, I don’t think we’ll see crowds of people pushing each other out of the way in the fight for bargains. Or maybe we will!


Enough cynicism!


Anyway, Boxing Day here is dull and damp and rather cold. Officially it’s a good 6 or 7 degrees warner (no, less cold) than yesterday but the damp makes it feel colder if anything. Still it could be worse! In parts of Bedfordshire people have been advised to leave their homes as there is danger of the Great Ouse flooding. Storm Bella is approaching! Just imagine! Coronavirus, Brexit, Tier 4, no Christmas ... and along comes a flood warning!


And across the Atlantic, in Nashville they’ve had an exploding camper van, fortunately with minimum injuries. As far as I know, nobody has claimed responsibility or offered an explanation. I am afraid that Phil and I both had the same black humour reaction; on hearing the news we looked at each other and both said, “Perhaps it’s Walter White!” (Breaking Bad character who cooked crystal meth in a Winnebago, for the uninitiated.)


It’s Boxing Day and I am off the make Christmas Dinner leftovers soup. A traditional Boxing Day activity. There was a lot of food yesterday, most of which was eaten but there is a strong possibility that we might be living on dessert for the next few days. Another traditional activity. So it goes!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 25 December 2020

Christmas Day!

So that’s another Christmas Day just about over and done with. It began with frost patterns on the windows - that’s how very cold it was! I didn’t get up and run. We had had a request from our daughter for an early lunch. If I had run, either around the village or up and down the Donkey Line, by the time I’d come back, showered and breakfasted it would have been time for lunch. 





As it was, time for lunch came, the food was almost ready and our daughter had not arrived. I should have known. This was a regular occurrence back in the time when we could do regular Sunday meals at our house. So everything was put on hold for a little while. They turned up not too much later. All was fine. The stack of presents under the tree waited until after lunch.


We had set up small tables at the far end of the kitchen / dining room to socially distance everyone. That seemed to work, although  the two older granddaughters insisted that they should sit at the “grown-ups’ table. 


Lunch eaten, stories told and gifts exchanged, our daughter and family took themselves off for a rapid drive to the other grandparents’ house. After today we can’t visit, we’ll be back in tier 3, unless someone moves us to tier 4. After their departure we went for a walk round the village before tackling the washing up. The down side of feeding the masses

 


But we had a good day, with a mad video chat to the Southern branch of the family, stuck in tier 4 until goodness knows when. Everyone seemed pleased with their various gifts. 

 

Among other things, I received a CD of Joni Mitchell at Carnegie Hall back in 1972. And back in 1972 she had already produced a phenomenal amount of amazing material. Such a talent!


We even had a flurry of snow at one point over lunch. Not serious stuff. And tomorrow Storm Bella is scheduled to arrive! Interesting times!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone ?

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Running around on Christmas Eve to sort things out!

Christmas Eve. It started with blue sky and sunshine. I ran round the village and admired the sun on the hill - it hadn’t reached our shady bit of the world yet. At the end of the track round the mill pond I did a bit of bird watching, seeing this fine specimen posing in a tree and not minding at all waiting until I got my phone out to take a picture of him.




I called in at the co-op for some last minute bits and pieces as they were closing at midday. I even stocked up on loo rolls, just in case, but not excessively. No kitchen roll though!


Late in the morning our daughter came round and we went out for  family walk up the hill. Only when we got back did the small girl comment, “You said this was going to be a short walk. It feels like a long one to me!” Little legs! But she kept going and kept up a running commentary to me all the while. I am amazed at the capacity for chatter that a four year old can have.


I spent a good part of the afternoon making preparations for tomorrow’s fancy lunch. I am assuming that nobody is now going to turn round and say we cannot meet for lunch, despite what the scientists are saying. And once Christmas Day is done, we shall see.


Lorries are moving from Dover. Some lorry drivers might get home to wherever they want to be in time for Christmas Day. Others won’t. Clean-up operations are taking place in Dover. 


On the radio news they are talking about the agreement with the EU. Will it be known from now on as The Christmas Eve Agreement or perhaps The Christmas Day agreement? Only time will tell.


That’ll do.


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!


Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Cold queueing! Christmas cards. Photos.

It was a cold ride to Uppermill market this morning. Well, really it was not a bad outward ride to the market but by the time I was riding home the rain had started and the wind was against me, so that was a cold, hard ride. What’s more I was already half frozen.


Almost certainly because it is so close to Christmas, and because most shops will close early tomorrow, Christmas Eve, there were queues everywhere today, longer queues than usual. First I queued outside the co-op, where they were very slowly processing people through only one check-out thus slowing down entry to the store. Then I headed up the side street to Alimentari Alberti, the Italian greengrocer’s, where I usually park my bike outside the shop. This morning, however, there was a long queue outside the greengrocer’s and outside the butcher’s next-door. No room to park my bike so I went and locked it to a tree, one of those trees in a metal cage, in the square where the market is set up. Leaving the bike securely locked, I went back to the greengrocer’s and set the world to rights with a lady behind me in the queue. Next was the bakery, where the queue had fortunately reduced a little but was still quite long enough for me. No queues at cheese and biscuit stall - where I collected the vacuum-packed chestnuts I ordered last week - or at the fruit and veg stall and only two people ahead of me at the deli. Unfortunately the single customer in the deli seemed to take ages and ages sorting out her purchases. 


By then I was beginning to feel rather like an iceberg. Although dressed in winter running trousers, a warm sweater and my waterproof jacket, I was not dressed for standing in a queue outdoors for ten to fifteen minutes at a time. So I had to entertain the others in the queue by hopping up and down, walking in small circles and banging my hands together to prevent the onset of frost bite. These antics also served to convince my Fitbit that I had walked some distance - as a rule my cycle-ride to the market and back only amounts to the  equivalent of a couple of thousand steps.


As I stood in my various queues, I thought of the lorry drivers lined up at Dover. At least my queueing was quite short-term and I would return home with my panniers full of  goodies. Later the radio informed me that some drivers had been told that ports were open again and headed that way, not understanding that they needed to go for a Covid test first. Another bit of chaos! Lorry drivers are understandably angry: no or few toilet facilities, sleeping in their cabs, running out of food, many faced with the prospect of not getting home for Christmas. I’m surprised there have not been more noisy protests!


More Christmas cards arrived this morning, including one written by our six-almost-seven-year-old granddaughter. For years we have received Christmas greetings from one of our oldest (in the sense of longest-standing) friends in the form of a family photograph, just a group photo with greetings on the back. As it somehow seemed rude to throw these away, now we have a sort of record of how the family has grown and changed over the years. One of today’s cards was another family photograph, this time printed onto a proper Christmas card, from another old friend. Ironically this came from a former girlfriend of the original photo sender, from our late teenage years. I would say she had outdone her old boyfriend in card production though. I have never been sufficiently organised to do such things but then we have never really been into documenting events in that way - no formal photos of our babies, especially not those with a new baby cutely posed in a basket! It’s not that I don’t take photos. It’s just that I prefer spontaneity. But I suppose I could arrange for the best of my family photos to be made into cards. Possibly!


Talking of photos, here are a couple from our walk up Lark Hill, aka The Quarry Road, yesterday. The blue sky and sunshine of the early morning had faded into cloud cover. It seemed that we might have discovered where geese fly to when they go noisily over our house in the morning: it looks as though it’s a field half way up Lark Hill!




The paths up at the top of the hill have been severely churned up and present a serious muddy challenge to walkers. The copious amounts of rain which have fallen recently have not helped. We thought the mess might be the consequence of trail-bikers on their little motorbikes but the local farmers also appear to have been driving their tractors around their, judging by the huge ruts. It was not entirely clear what activity they might have been up to though. Not to me anyway, but then, I am not a farmer! So it goes.


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Winter solstice. Pagan traditions adapted. Some gloomy thoughts.

So we’ve just had the shortest day. Lots of people were sending Winter Solstice greetings on social media yesterday – 21 December. 


Here’s a little info about the winter solstice, culled, of course, from the internet:-


“The solstice has been celebrated for thousands of years. The day was marked by Pagans as the festival of Yule. In ancient times, mid-winter was celebrated as marking the return of the sun, and people lit fires and came together to drink and rejoice. Others, including the Celts, used to set fire to a log to illuminate the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring good luck to their families. Many of these ancient traditions have been incorporated into Christmas; in fact, many people believe the Christian festival is rooted entirely in Paganism.

Some countries have particular celebrations to mark the solstice. In Iran, for example, it is known as Yalda Night and is typically celebrated with family and friends. Traditional foods include watermelon and pomegranate, with the red flesh said to represent the rising and setting of the winter sun. The festival has its roots in Zoroastrianism, which is practised more in Iran than almost anywhere else.”


All the mingling of traditions and religions makes me wonder if Divali and Hanukkah, both involving lights, might not also have something to do with the winter solstice. After all, so many beings in religion come from early people’s trying to make sense of the world around them. 


This year far more people seem to have pinned wreaths to their doors, part of the general lets-cheer-the-place-up feeling that is around everywhere. It’s led to a new branch of criminality: stealing expensive but poorly attached wreaths, sometimes filmed on security cameras! I’m surprised more outdoor decorations have not been pinched. Someone must be selling them on. But even legal sellers of outdoor Christmas lights and other seasonal garden adornments must be among the few doing well out of this time of lockdown.


Anyway, there are lots of wreaths around and, walking about, we speculated on the significance of wreaths, especially in pagan tradition. We knew about triumphal wreaths in Roman times but the ones on doors at Christmas are different. So here’s a bit of (internet provided) explanation:-


“According to Britannica Encyclopaedia, the wreath is an ancient status symbol. Wreaths were made of bay laurel, pine, herbs, and flowers. Each addition to a wreath had a specific meaning as a ritual or cherish symbol.

  • Ancient Romans wore crowns of laurel wreaths to denote power and were often donned by politicians and civil servants.
  • Roman soldiers were bestowed wreaths of honor when they returned from battle.
  • In ancient Greece, the cherished prize for an orator and poet was a wreath. Olympic winners were also awarded a wreath.
  • Ancient Egyptians sewed flowers onto strips of cloth forming head wreaths, often used to decorate statues of gods.
  • Early germanic cultures used a wreath table decoration and later added candles to the traditional winter solstice evergreen circle. The wreath was a winter reminder that spring would return and the Earth would once more turn warm.”


That last point brings us back to the winter solstice. So we’ve had the shortest day. The days will slowly start to grow longer but it always seems a long time before you really begin to notice a difference. It’s much the same with the weather: somehow we always expect winter to be at least half way over and done with when Christmas arrives but it’s not so. Usually the coldest time is still to come. I blame the Christmas carols - In the Bleak Midwinter and all that sort of thing. Goodness! I can remember us moving house early in the new year, a year when it snowed even as we moved our belongings, and the snow lay on the pavements until mid February at least. And no! I am not getting nostalgic for the snowy winters of years gone by.


We had a rather dismal chat on the phone with our son this morning, about the oddness of this Christmas and the general gloomy state of affairs. He lives in Buckinghamshire, which until last Saturday was in Tier 2. It moved rapidly into Tier 3 where it remained for 24 hours before rushing into Tier 4. With scarcely time to blink, they went from mild restrictions to almost total lockdown. He’s a resigned but not very happy bunny! And his six year old, he tells us, is in the odd situation of most children of her age; instead of being really happy to be on holiday from school they are all quite sad as it means they cannot see their friends. And parents cannot organise play days and sleep-overs. 


Such a topsy-turvy world. Queues of lorries stretching for miles. Some people with overstocked fridges unable to host the parties this was intended for and others understocked as they had plans to go elsewhere for Christmas. I’m rather glad our plans were modest to begin with. 


But that’s enough doom and gloom. Today began bright and crisp and sunny, but a tad chilly. Even though the cloud has moved in now, we’ll head out for a winter walk shortly.


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Monday, 21 December 2020

Corrections. Concerts. Christmas.

Oh dear! I stand corrected! It has been pointed put to me, by someone who knows, in other words my husband, who shares the same holiday memories, that when I wrote about the 1812 overture yesterday I really meant Beethoven’s 5th - la pince à linge - dah dah dah daaah! This memory lapse, confusion, call it what you will, has nothing to do with old age and decrepitude. As my daughter is often quick to point out I have always been known to forget or confuse names of actors, films, writers, books, and so on. I am, however, pretty good at picking up song lyrics!


At least my mistakes and usually small and insignificant. They don’t lead to long queues of lorries on the way to ferry ports or people having to change their Christmas plans.


I read that the Spanish singer Raphael gave a concert in a venue in he Madrid region on Saturday night, attended by 5,000 people. Like Cliff Richard and the Rolling Stones, Raphael has been around forever. The concert in question was to mark his 60 years in show business. The president of the Madrid region defended the decision to go ahead with the concert despite a recent surge in Covid-19 infections; the concert had “scrupulously” adhered to Covid restrictions, which oblige venues to operate at no more than 40% of their total capacity, she said, and photos of the venue do show the audience all nicely spaced out. But even so ....


I wonder if we will ever again be able to attend crowded musical events. Maybe the summer concerts in Hyde Park in London and in Castrelos park in Vigo are a thing of the past now. We shall see. But I notice that dates for concerts and festivals are popping up. Optimism still abounds. And, goodness knows, the music industry has been suffering.


 

 

Yesterday our family adventure took us up the hill to Dobcross, accompanied by our oldest granddaughter’s new dog.





And even by the teenage grandson who seems to have rarely come out of his room in recent months except to go to the kitchen in search of food and, of course, since September to go to school. We think it was the dog who tempted him out. 

 

There are plans afoot to have him call at his older sister’s house on his way home from school to take the dog out for regular walks. Killing several birds with one stone: big sister gets some work done in peace, younger brother gets fresh air and the dog gets exercised. 


On our way down the hill from Dobcross we saw further evidence of the approach of Christmas.

 



I need to start wrapping presents.


Today is dull and damp once more. I have run in the rain again this morning. We’ll see whether a window of opportunity arises for a walk up the quarry road later. 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!