Saturday, 25 December 2010

One of my favourite carols

Part of "The Virgin adoring the child" by Pietro Perugino
So, as it is Christmas Day (and a very Happy Christmas to you), I felt it appropriate to share with you a small part of one of my favourite carols, "It came upon the midnight clear". This is a relatively recent favourite for me, but one which I feel has an enormous relevance and resonance for us today.

"Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing."

If only we could hush the noise.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Sparkling frost

Braving the minus temperatures in the mornings to put the bird food out, I can't help noticing how beautiful the frost makes things look. Yes, it is literally freezing and not nice to have to spend much time outside, but the odd few minutes is all you need. The flowerheads on Hydrangea Arborescens Annabelle looked magical, outlined with the frost, with the muted colours highlighted and enlivened.
I am sure that I am not alone in wondering whether any of my plants in pots have survived this awful weather. I did insulate most of them, but I have a feeling that this will not have been enough. I would be sorry to lose those large plants which I have nurtured and grown on, but until Spring, I won't know how many have succumbed. There is a positive, in that there will be more spaces in which to put new plants, but this is not much of a consolation. I'll just have to wait and see. Patience, patience, patience.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Pink hearts

These photos show a present for my god-daughter in Canada. She is getting very grown up now and so I hope she will like this decoration. She used to like pink a lot, so I am hoping she hasn't grown out of that yet! The heart has two different shades of pink with an angelina fibre heart stitched onto the centre of each side. The photos really don't capture the lovely sparkle of the angelina, but the effect was very pleasing.

I have emailed her mother, giving instructions that she is not to let her see it on here, but somehow I doubt she would be that interested in the mundane ramblings of her godmother anyway. Once it finally reaches Canada (the way the weather is going here, it might just get there by her birthday in May), I hope she will like it. Fingers crossed!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Clogs and folk dances

Got their clogs on ... (left to right) Tiny Taylor, Laura Connolly and Fiona Bradshaw perform clog dancing in Newcastle. Photograph: Stuart Wood/BBC
Clog dancing - not my usual train of thought for my blog. However, I was totally transfixed by the programme on BBC4 last Friday night; 'Come Clog Dancing', where Charles Hazlewood, the noted conductor, attempted to get a flash mob style clog dance together in Newcastle. The dancing was fantastic, the music infectious and it was a real feel-good programme that made me itch to join in! However, having attempted tap dancing in the past and finding that I could either manage feet or arms, but not together, I know that it is much harder than it looks. There were professional dancers as well as novices and the end result was great. The programme also featured various other dancers and was a real revelation. The Guardian review can be found here .

Following on from that, today I watched a programme celebrating folk dances from around England - 'Still Folk Dancing after all these Years' - where two clog dancing and folk singing sisters went around England during the summer months, following various folk dance festivals. This was fascinating and shows that despite pressures to ignore our heritage, thanks to some groups, it is still live and kicking (or should that be dancing?), and long may it continue to do so. A link to a review is here:

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Finished felt piece

Hoorah! I have finally finished this sunset felt piece. It has been hanging around for ages and then I added some embroidery and stopped. I wasn't sure how much more to do, so it got left on the side, until I saw it again last week and finally got it sorted. Knowing when to stop with embellishments is the most difficult thing, I think, but hopefully I have got it right this time.
The piece is based on a really dramatic sunset I saw earlier in the year, with fiery oranges and yellows contrasting with gray and black clouds. Nature is a constant inspiration...

Saturday, 4 December 2010

At Home with the Georgians

(Photo courtesy of BBC)
I enjoyed the first episode of the new series 'At home with the Georgians' presented by Professor Amanda Vickery. It gave an insight, through predominantly male diaries, of the way the home was thought of as an important part of attracting a wife. Yes, Professor Vickery used a style that would appeal to most viewers, for instance describing a particular woman as a cross between Margaret Thatcher and Nigella Lawson(!) However, this was an enjoyable and informative hour and, as I am particularly interested in social history, a perfect programme for me. My heart went out to one lady who was living with her wealthy brother and was regarded as a hanger-on, dependent on him for everything. She had just her cat for comfort and kept to her room most of the time. Her diary entries were very poignant.
My one niggle was when Professor Vickery found a portrait of one of her 'heroes' and was less than impressed with his jowly appearance (although I am surprised she didn't comment that the portrait showed a wealthy middle-aged man, rather than the young man she had imagined from his letters). I felt this to be a very emotional (and I have to say, female) reaction and I hadn't expected this in a balanced analysis, but I suppose as presenter, having lived with the diaries during her research, perhaps it was a genuine disappointment to her.
I have read a couple of reviews of the programme, one good, one less so, but isn't that always the way? I found it to be a fascinating programme, allowing lost voices from the past to be heard. I look forward to the next two in the series.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Christmas reading

I know that it is a bit early for proper Christmas reading, but what with all the snow and freezing temperatures, my 'inner child' has been quietly nudging me to re-read various excerpts from some of my favourite books, both childhood and beyond. So, I gave in to temptation and have been re-acquainting myself with Mole and Badger's cosy warm homes; Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy's heroic breakfast donations; Christmas parties at Dingley Dell with Mr Pickwick; Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy in Narnia and Tolly's adventures at Green Knowe. Each is like an old friend who doesn't criticise you for not visiting as often as you should, but welcomes you wholeheartedly and makes you feel as though you have never been away.
Of course, the quintessential Christmas story has to be 'A Christmas Carol' which I have read this morning. The book is so much better than any adaptation for TV or film, no matter how good they are. It has a wonderful humour to it as well as amazing descriptions of a Victorian Christmas at Fezziwig's and nephew Fred's house. There are mouth watering descriptions of Victorian shops, overflowing with succulent fruit and treats - how can the reader not be drawn in? The redemption of Scrooge is the central theme, naturally, and Dickens lays before his reader the whole of Scrooge's life, explaining what led him to become the miserly old skinflint and how this cold veneer was eventually shattered. In this freezing snowy weather, what could be better than to allow these stories to send you a warm glow?

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Snow, snow, snow!

Like just about everyone else in Britain at the moment, we have had a load of snow. In fact, in the seventeen years we have lived here, this is the worst it has been. Although it is very beautiful to look at, it causes havoc when people have to get to places and farm animals can't be having a great time either. The garden looked very different this morning and I didn't recognise my plants at all. I am going to find a good book to read, get the fire lit and make myself a cup of tea. Depending on how lazy I feel, I may even do some embroidery. I shall admire the landscape from inside...