Sunday, December 28, 2014

Season of peace ...Happy Christmas ...

Happy Christmas 

I've always found it fascinating that the English and German soldiers had a ceasefire at Christmas in 1914, sang Silent Night and played a game of football. It struck me more this year on the centenary. Again, I ask, why so much fuss in the world over the 25th of December, so important a feast that it would cause the war to cease even for a short time.
When we have a birthday, isn't it true that we do something to celebrate. And sometimes we might make more of an effort  - when it's a "special"  one, 21st, 40th, 60th, for instance. We feel the need to mark the fact that we were born, that we live. So, with the 25th of Dec, we also mark a special birth, the most special birth in History, when God Himself was born into the world and became man.
And that is why people can't help themselves . We all feel the need to live this very special time.
We have rich food, give presents, get together for parties and generally make merry.
Our house this year was no exception. I told you in an earlier blog how we were preparing for the family to come and have Christmas with us.
Well, today,  the first moment of relative peace has descended as we said goodbye to my son, the last of the visitors . I cooked him a nice meaty dinner with the left over meats, warming it all in an onion gravy and serving with mashed potatoes, mashed swede and peas. We followed that with warmed up Christmas pud and custard ( I had cream, can't help myself). Husband and son enjoyed it enormously. I was a bit sad as we said our goodbyes, waving him off with the sky blue in the background,  knowing that it would probably be the last time Christmas happened in this house.
Although we had twenty one people for dinner, there was a calm atmosphere that I was most grateful for, due mainly to the preparation and planning done beforehand. We didn't have to vacate the lounge to accommodate the eating area,as we had in previous years. The table was set up days before - such a good idea.
How did the three meats work out you might ask. And no we don't have a catering oven or an aga. We cooked the meat and then kept it wrapped and sealed while we spent another couple of hours using the oven for the potatoes , parsnips and heating the yorkshire puddings. And, guess what, when we came to cut the meat it was as hot as if it had just come out of the oven.  So with all this, along with cabbage, carrots, broccoli and three different gravies the time came to dish up. We had decided, for practical reasons that we would plate up and serve as opposed to having multiple dishes on the table. And therein you have the "stressful" five minutes while five of us frantically plated twenty one dinners before they got cold. Phew !!!!
that was not easy. But it was delicious and everyone enjoyed it.
Wine, fruit juices, Christmas pudding, cheesecake, custard, cream etc etc..... Another Christmas dinner over for another year.
After dinner and after singing Away in a Manger round the crib, we have the opening of "secret santa" presents - always an interesting event. This time the children (who'd had their morning presents earlier) had their own, where they all spent (with parents help in some cases) £2 on a little gift for one of their cousins ( or brothers or sisters, depending on how the names fell) . It was a pleasure to see how keen they all were to see what everyone had and whether or not the recipient of their particular gift was happy with it.  It was a all very impressive.
The adults also had their secret santa with a £10 limit. Amazing what some got for their money...
Family games take us through to the evening ... A great day  xxx
Happy Christmas ...

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Birthday Celebration

I have always found it odd that people celebrate Christmas even though they don't believe in Jesus.
I found this little piece and thought I'd share it with you:

Mary's Christmas Dream
I had a dream Joseph. I don't understand it, but I think it was about a Birthday celebration for OUR SON.
I think that was what it was all about. The people had been preparing for it for about six weeks . They had decorated the house and bought new clothes. They had gone shopping many times and bought elaborate gifts. It was peculiar though, because the presents were not for OUR SON. They wrapped them in beautiful paper and tied them with lovely bows and stacked them under a tree. Yes, a tree, Joseph, right in their house. They decorated the tree also. The branches were full of glowing balls and sparkling ornaments. There was a figure on top of the tree. It looked like an angel might look . Oh, it was so beautiful. Everyone was laughing and they were happy. They were excited about the gifts.
They gave the gifts to each other, Joseph, not to our son. I don't think they even knew Him. They never mentioned His Name. Doesn't it seem odd for people to go to all the trouble to celebrate someone's birthday if they don't know Him? I had the strangest feeling that if Our Son had gone to this celebration, he would have been intruding. Everything was so beautiful Joseph and everyone was so happy, but it made me want to cry. How sad for Jesus not to be wanted at His own birthday party. I'm glad it was only a dream. How terrible , Joseph , if it had been real!!!

And it finishes: "Let's put Christ back into Christmas"
For then there will be peace on earth for all  ...

I hope you all have a great Christmas. 

We have got lots of the family coming and will have twenty two round the table(s) for Christmas dinner.
Someone asked me yesterday what size turkey I would have to get to feed that lot. The answer is no turkey at all. Instead we are having three meats - beef, pork and lamb. 
They will start arriving early on Tuesday and the last will leave probably 3rd or 4th of Jan

We are really looking forward to it, especially as it will be the last time in this house. 
I wonder what future years will bring. 

What are you all doing for Christmas?????
Do share your stories ...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

I love Christmas

Well , we are going to celebrate Christmas 2015 in our new home. I have no "plan" as yet  and will probably not decide until the 1st of December, or even later. There are so many options to be considered. And exactly a month today it will be the eve of the big day and all our preparations will be over.  So, i wish you all a happy and fruitful month of looking forward to Christmas. I will, of course have a little more to say before it all happens.

I love Christmas.

In two weeks the mad Christmas festivities will be slowing down . It's not that I'm not looking forward to it all but I'm also looking forward to it all being over. We have got a houseful coming and will be very busy on Christmas day itself. They are all staying for various lengths of time, so although at the height of the madness we will have twenty four we will have some days when it's only eight,ten or twelve.
We had to get a real tree. The husband wasn't happy that as we were "doing" Christmas for the last time in this house that we get out the faithful plastic version that, with a bit of imagination and helpful decoration has been perfectly adequate for the last couple of years. Anyway, the five foot Norway Spruce looks quite majestical taking up the whole corner of the room and I am, after all, rather pleased that we splashed out.
As another part of the preparation we went to get the meat yesterday. No, not a huge turkey. We did used to have turkey, mainly because they were given to us , but as no one likes turkey we have gone for other favourites. We were going to have a choice of two meats but again couldn't come to an agreement on which two so have ended up with three - lamb, pork and beef - pleasing everyone. I only hope the poor oven will cope.
This mad buzz will calm down as I say and we will just be left with memories. And that's what I want to concentrate on, making good memories, the sort that are brought out in years to come and discussed between family members, probably when we have gone to our eternal rest.
When I was small, maybe eight or nine, we had a goose sent from my grandmother in Ireland. She couldn't be with us but in a sense she was, as we ate the goose - I'd never had before or since- and talked about her and wished her well. If ever I think of geese I find myself in the cottage in Ireland, with its beams, rickety stairs and range (aga like cooker), having tea and Marie biscuits with my dear Nan. Although nearly twenty five years have passed since she died and many more since the last time I saw her I can still conjure up her odour of smoke from the fire mixed with old age and be comforted by it.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Present ....

Love this poem by Mary Oliver. 

The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-- the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life? 

Well, what will you do with your one wild precious life??? Live in the now. It is after all the only time we have. The past is just that, past, nothing to be done about it, the future is unknown and uncertain - all we have is the present. Now is the time to.....

Thursday, December 11, 2014

My View ...

Today I am sitting at my computer, looking out at a beautiful view of the sea. The sun is shining on it creating many colours - I think If I listed them I've have to name every one.  There have been some ships passing and the windmills on the horizon must be producing lots of electricity as they are busily turning .
There are birds  - mainly seagulls, but some others I can't name - gliding and dancing on the wind.  In the middle of my canvas the old pier head sits, majestic no more, rather a sad memory of good times past, like an old, yellowed and frayed photograph of people that no one remembers anymore, but who once had a life and meaning.
I know it sounds odd , but I am trying to place this scene firmly in my mind, to take out and enjoy when, in a few weeks time I will no longer be able to see it for real. I have taken it for granted these last thirteen years. It's just there, in front of me. I can see it whenever I like. But with the prospect of not being able to see it, somehow it's attractiveness is highlighted and it beckons me to take note...
The movement of sea and sky means that the landscape is forever changing - like us really, a mirror of our moods and feelings.
I never noticed the arc before. I know as we all do that the earth is round but have never seen for myself until sitting looking out of this window, it becomes obvious. It was a surprise to me - I know , I'm a bit slow - but to see the arc of the horizon clearly visible as the horizontal edge of my window captured it was a delightful discovery.
Last year, whilst looking out, I saw what appeared to be bubbles on the surface of the water. It covered quite a significant area and was fascinating. I later found out it was mackerel coming near to feed .Just amazing, I thought.
As the clouds reflect their shapes on the ocean, I also reflect on the ocean of my life . The tides have come and gone regularly. Storms have past and stillness makes its occasional visit. But with all the variations I am still the same.

Catch me tomorrow for some more ramblings...
Bye for now...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Moving On

Eleven Syllables to Eat - Oh, And A Christmas Pudding

Being constrained when writing sometimes helps creativity. In this exercise we had to write a poem with exactly eleven syllables on each line, which I found really difficult. I did one with nine syllables too. Both are reminiscing a little about Christmas traditions

Eleven Syllables to Eat – Oh , And A Christmas Pudding.

From grandparents, grandparents this tradition,
Has come down to us in the family today.
We take it very seriously, this task
Everything executed in the right way.
Stir up Sunday is the day it all happens
Christmas puddings to make using many hands.
Mums, dads, aunts, uncles, children, babies gather
At grandma’s house, bringing bowls, fruit, suet and
Stout – it has to be stout- not Guinness or beer.
The tin bath, now kept only for the puddings,
Makes its appearance as it does every year.
Once it was used every week on a Friday,
After halliborange and cod liver oil.
All take turns, having a stir, making a wish,
It takes some time but is the important bit.
A silver coin is secreted, when done,
Deep within, good luck for the one who finds it,
At our Christmas dinner – it will be such fun.

Nine Syllables

With the number nine I’ll start again
And tell you another tradition
If you all get bored or fall asleep
I’ll have failed in my little mission.

Out we step on a cold, windy night
Clad in gloves, scarves and strong walking shoes.
On our way round the houses singing
Christmas Carols and bringing good news.

We’ve done the same thing year after year
We know who will give us a welcome.
We also know those who slam the door
In our faces before we are done.

Sometimes they give us some sweets to share
And they still put money in the tin.
Others offer soup to warm us through,
Then they end up inviting us in.

Once a family came out and joined us,
Full of the Christmas spirit they were.
And boy could they sing and make some noise-
Our melody taken much further.

The money we raise usually goes
To children who might not celebrate
No money for food , pressies or toys
If we help them a little that’s great.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Warm Stew

I look for jobs to do around the house. Yes, the hoovering, that will warm me, stop me shivering. I have to remind myself It's the beginning of December, not summer anymore. That carpet, plain , awkward , time consuming is a treasure today. We work as hard as each other, my good friend Henry and me, going thoroughly through all the rooms,moving beds and chairs, paying attention to nooks and crannies. After an hour of this manual labour, I reward myself with a cup of hot chocolate, sit with paper and pen and plan my ?next battle against the elements. The temperatures registers below zero. Can that be right? Well, it certainly feels like it. This could be it now for the next twelve or even sixteen weeks. Not a pleasant thought. No wonder so many people move abroad to sunnier climes - who can blame them? I shut myself in the kitchen - the warmer part of the house - and decide that a chicken stew would go down well for dinner.It will heat us from the inside out. After washing up the breakfast things, in water that's much too hot, I put some chicken breasts in a pot, cover them with water and leave to boil, while I slice, then add onions, carrotts, swede and parsnips. Oxo cubes - vegetable and meat, complete the mix for now. When it's cooked I will thicken it with Gravy mix. As my stew simmers away, I retreat to my blanket and catch up on my emails - still sitting in the kitchen, of course. It's funny how just the smell of the cooking creates a toasty flush that seeps through to my bones. I see my own mother making dumplings and popping them on the top of her own stew - usually lamb. I never did follow her in that ritual. She was always, and still is at eighty one, the great feeder. When it's cooked I take it off the heat - to reheat later. As I'm still felling the chill I go for a walk to get the blood moving more quickly round this old frame. Although I wrap up well the wind gets through and after thirty minutes or so I'm glad to be back, the door shut behind me and in my blanket. Oh, and with another cup of chocolate. Later, they come home. What's that lovely smell they say, what's for dinner, looking in the pot with gloved hands, scarves wound round their necks. Mmmmmmm, we all enjoy the hearty stew. It's one of those meals that wrap us round each other as we're all happy to share time at the table together. A loaf of bread mops up the tasty gravy - almost like soup. There are some compensations in this ghastly weather.