Snow family

While other things are going on, here is something I made earlier.

snow family

The Offspringses were colour-coded as children so they all knew whose was which flannel, toothbrush, sunhat etc. Here we all are as snowpersons. Sigoth is a huge Dr Who fan so he got the cool scarf because I didn’t knit a fez and bow-tie this time around. Maybe next year…because bow-ties are cool. As are fezzes.

Happy holidays!

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Yule greetings

My dears, the season of mid-winter is upon us (in the Northern hemisphere at least) and so my heart turns to blessings and for the new year. You may celebrate it on 1st January or on 22 December, whichever you prefer. You can go the full Wicca if you like, and remind me that new year was on 1st November. It takes all sorts, and thank goodness for it.

This year Sigoth and I will be celebrating more pagan roots by burning a traditional yule log at mid-winter before welcoming the Offspringses back for Christmas festivities. We’ll have any celebration going at the dark of the year.

So it’s time for the Wassail Cup, my dears. The traditional Wassail is derived from the Old English phrase “wes hal” meaning “be you hale/well.” It’s like “farewell”; they tended to say it as a goodbye.

With that in mind I wondered if you might care for a little traditional reading, taken from the Anglo-Saxon Bible? It turns out that Luke vs 1-20, the traditional Christmas story, sounds rather lovely in the old tongue, and I discovered I could mangle it onto a recording for sharing with you.

I apologise now to scholars for my terrible pronunciation. Let’s call it dialect, shall we? Yes, let’s.

So now for a little journey back in time to a 10th century church in the English countryside, and a well-known story.

Happy New Year  to you all. Peace on earth and goodwill to all beings.

Namaste

Happiest time of the year

 

 

 

summertime

 

Ah, Summer! As the sultry July days count down to August splendour, naturally I was overjoyed to receive my first charity Christmas catalogue in the post yesterday.

 

Bad enough there were cards in the shops even before the children had broken up from school. Bad enough that the restaurants are already advertising their special menus and group bookings for the December festivities. Bad enough one the shops I regularly buy clothing from sent me an Autumn/Winter clothing catalogue. I could just walk away, averting my gaze and muttering a Hail Mary under my breath like a lost monk in Soho.

 

This one mugged me though. This one was in an envelope promising other goodies. Sigoth and I recently signed up to be members of a particular charity and here was our shiny handbook, detailing places of interest to visit. Our dreams of weekends spent traipsing along cliff tops were rudely interrupted by the advent of, well, Advent. In July. In a heatwave. I do not live in the Southern hemisphere, so it was just wrong on every level.

 

Still, I don’t want to be all Scrooge about it. Who doesn’t like a jolly winter festival with feasting and frivolity and fat men stuck in chimneys? If I’m going to have repetitive tunez inflicted upon my eardrums in shops I would prefer Noddy Holder over some Lounge Lizard any day of the week, or indeed, week of the year.

 

So bring it on. After all, I make the cake in September so it can soak up the brandy goodness for a few months. Not long until September really.

 

With that in mind I’m starting my Christmas list, and I’m going to share it with you so you know what to get for my stocking.

 

  1. A chocolate orange. No stocking is complete without one of these in the toe end. The option of a genuine satsuma or clementine may be laudable, but let’s get real here. Chocolate is the way to go during the holiday season.
  2. A pair of black socks. Not those stupid socks with cartoon characters and dodgy slogans which you can’t wear to the office for fear of offending the receptionist. A decent pair of black socks which will actually be useful for the rest of the year. Otherwise I would feel bad for the slave labour that created them.
  3. A notepad and pen. Just in case I want to write down a phone message from someone who can’t work out how to use text or email. Because there are still lots of those people left in the world.
  4. Soap. Apparently there’s a rule at Christmas that says we all have to use our own soap instead of the perfectly serviceable soap in the bathroom.
  5. Chocolate liqueurs. See (1) above, but with added alcohol for the real meaning of Christmas.
  6. A magazine. This is a tricky item because I have to forswear magazines during November and December just in case someone gets me one I have already read. Alternatively you could get one of those rip-off Best of the Year style volumes, which just include all the stuff they already printed in a new issue. Because recycling is good, don’cha know?
  7. A small toy or novelty item, ideally as repulsive as possible. Christmas is about meaningless tat, so let’s start the day as we mean to go on. A sparkly vampire keyring, a furry dice or anything from a Pound Shop is ideal.
  8. A small gift the giver and the receiver both actually care about. This is the apology for most, if not all, of the above and says “I love you really.” Which I suppose is the essence of Christmas.

 

Have a marvellous summer.

 

Namaste.

Christmas Story

Well my dears, Christmas looms upon us and I wish you the merriest of times. Father Christmas is already underway to the East, wise man that he is, and children off all ages are waiting with bated breath to find out if they have been judged naughty or good this year.

I wanted to share the Christmas story with you in a new format (or rather, in an old one!). I am not a Christian myself but I do like the story as a reminder of our need to give thanks for the world we live in and for the love we all receive daily, be it from family, friends or the universe herself.

Back in the period colloquially, and wrongly, known as the Dark Ages, the people living in southern Britain were converted to Christianity, and their leaders temporal and spiritual were keen to share the teachings of the Bible with them in their own language. King Alfred the Great was called Great for many reasons. He was a great warrior, who defeated the Viking invaders when all seemed lost. Never mind Leonidas and his Spartans; Alfred’s victory from the marshes of Somerset was pivotal to the evolution of our nation. But here at EBL Towers we purse our lips at stories of military derring-do and prefer to focus on other aspects of Alfred’s greatness. If you are interested and want to know more about him and his amazing daughter and grandson I can do no more than recommend Michael Wood’s recent three part series, of which at least two episodes are available on YouTube.

Episode 1 is here: http://youtu.be/0L2fYvguLL0

Episode 2 is here: http://youtu.be/huRPB10ghd8

For Alfred was also a great scholar and translated many key texts from classical authors, including parts of the Bible. I don’t think he worked on the gospels of the New Testament himself, preferring to keep to the Pentateuch and Psalms, but nevertheless others did. What I want to share with you today is the Christmas Story from Luke ch 2 v1-20 as read in many a church at this time of year. It was also read to the faithful in those days and in these words, and that very thought gives me the shivers. I can connect much more closely with Old English texts from 1000 years ago than with those from classical antiquity. The language is the root of my daily speech and it feels like home.

So here is the story, with the King James version underneath to aid reading. If I had had time I would have read it aloud for you but sadly I ran out of days.

Lucas II

Þis sceal on mydde-wintres mæsse-niht, to þære forman mæssan

To be read as the lesson on mid-winter’s night mass

1 Soþlice on þam dagum waes geworden gebod fram þam Casere Augusto, þæt eall ymb-hwyrft wære tomearcod

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2 Ðeos tomearcodnys waes aerest geworden fram þam deman Syrige Cirino.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3 And ealle hig eodon and syndrie ferdon on heora ceastre.

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4 Ða ferde losep fram Galilea of þære ceastre Nazareth, on ludeisce ceastre Dauides, seo ys genemned Bethleem ; forþam  þe he wæs of Dauides huse and hirede

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 Þaet he ferde mid Marian þe him beweddod wæs, and wæs geeacnod.

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 Soþlice wæs geworden, pa hig þær wæron, hyre dagas wæron gefyllede þæt heo cende.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And heo cende hyre frumcennedan sunu, and hyne mid cild-claþum bewand, and hyne on binne alede ; forþam þe hig næfdon rum on cumena-huse.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And hyrdas wæron on þam ylcan rice waciende, and niht-wæccan healdende ofer heora heorda.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 Ða stod Dryhtnes engel wið hig, and Godes beorhtnes hym ymbe scan : and hig him myclum ege ondredon.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And se engel him to cwæþ : Nelle ge eow ondrædan : Soþlice nu ic eow bodie mycelne gefean, se biþ eallum folce.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 Forþam todæg eow ys Hælend acenned, se ys Dryhten Crist, on Dauides ceastre.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And þis tacen eow byþ; Ge gemetaþ an cild hræglum bewunden, and on binne aled.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger

13 And þa wæs færinga geworden mid þam engle mycelnes heofenlices weredes, God heriendra, and þus cweþendra :

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Gode sy wuldor on heahnysse, and on eorþan sybb, mannum godes willan.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And hit wæs geworden, þa þa englas to heofene ferdon, þa hyrdas him betwynan spræcon, and cwædon : Uton faran to Bethleem, and geseon þæt word þe geworden ys, þæt Dryhten us ætywde.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And hig efstende comon, and gemetton Marian, and losep, and þæt cild on binne aled.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 Ða hig þæt gesawon, þa oncneowon hig be þam worde þe him gesæd wæs be þam cilde.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And ealle þa þe gehyrdon, wundredon be þam þe him þa hyrdas sædon.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 Maria geheold ealle þas word on hyre heortan smeagende.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 Ða gewendon ham þa hyrdas, God wuldriende and heriende, on eallum þam þe hig gehyrdon and gesawon, swa to him gecweden wses.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Soþlice.

Amen

So now I wish to you – Glad Geol and Gesælig Niw Gear

Santa made me cry

Saturday night in front of the telly and my evening’s viewing was disrupted by a noise outside. I put my glass of wine down carefully and tweaked back the curtain. It was the Lions’ Christmas float, cautiously inching past the cars on the bend in the lane and blaring out carols while people in high-vis vests ran about with buckets to collect money. There were lights and music and cheery greetings, and goodness me, there was Father Christmas, taking time out from his busy schedule to parade through our hamlet. The elves must have everything under control back at base while the wily old gent scouts out the terrain ahead of the Big Night. Mind you, the elves are pretty experienced and the wily old gent has been doing the rounds on floats for as long as I can remember.

Sometimes he sub-contracted.

If you are a big devotee of Father Christmas and write him imploring letters every year, do not read further. It may be distressing. If you are not sure what to do, check with your mum or dad and take their advice.

Meanwhile, all I can tell you is one of the sub-contractors was my own dear papa, and in fact this is why as a child I never believed in Father Christmas (although I do believe, perhaps more foolishly and childishly, in peace on earth and that Christmas tree smell; my eyes are still full of tinsel and fire).

Rotary Float in 1967

My Dad was the local Rotary Club’s Santa. His costume would be hanging up to dry in the kitchen throughout December and I knew that Dad was all there was (it was more than enough) and other kids were deluded. I didn’t tell anyone though; it would have been unkind.

So he would go out on the float at night, and when I was a little older I was allowed to go too and help with the collections. I always got a good haul because people were sentimental about a small child lisping her way through the spiel about raising money for the poor and elderly of the locality. It also meant I got to go on the annual coach trip to the seaside with the old dears, who spoilt me thoroughly with toffees and boiled sweets.

me as santaI even wore the costume on Christmas Day to hand out the presents.

It might help to explain what happened when I saw the float on Saturday if I tell you a bit about my week, or rather my Thursday. Recently the nurses found that my mother’s blood tests were indicating a lack of iron. As she has a good and varied diet the doctor decided she was bleeding internally, although he didn’t know why. She seemed well and was eating and drinking without problems. So we stopped her anti-coagulants, which would be exacerbating any bleed, and waited a bit. Her blood results have been improving steadily so she is no longer bleeding. Excellent news.

Except she is no longer taking her anti-coagulants, which means she is at increased risk of stroke and as she has vascular dementia, at increased risk of more vascular incidents which will further melt her brain.

The doctor and I talked it all through on Thursday. The bleed may have been a temporary problem highlighted by the anti-coagulants thinning her blood; it may be caused by some disease of the bowel; or it may be bowel cancer.  To find out would require difficult, uncomfortable and potentially inconclusive investigations, which she would find inexplicable and terrifying because she can’t understand what is going on. Even if they found the cause, which is not guaranteed, we would then be faced with a decision around whether she is strong enough to take any treatment, such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy or surgery. She isn’t, and even if she were, the trauma could be either damaging or fatal by stressing her too far.

So I decided we would let her alone. We’ll restart the anti-coagulants when her blood tests indicate she is back to normal, hoping she doesn’t have a stroke or vascular incident in the meantime (it should only be a couple of weeks). If her blood tests then get worse again, we will have to decide whether to risk stopping them or not.

So it had been a stressful Thursday.

There I was 48 hours later looking at a Christmas float pass by and waving to Santa, who waved back and boomed out a “Merry Christmas!” and I fell apart at the gate, in the dark and cold, where no one could see.

Because last year my mother saw the float and we remembered how Dad used to be Santa. She cannot now.

Because I wanted my dad here to help me. He cannot now.

Because whatever the blood tests tell us, nothing will be good or beautiful or gentle. Yet I must choose.

So I cried silent self-pity in the dark and cold where no one could see, then wiped my eyes and went back into the warm house and sat with Sigoth by the fire.

Because I have joy as well as sadness.

On Joy & Sorrow

Then a woman said, “Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.”
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Namaste.

Five Years

I was thinking about updating the blog, just to let you all know I am still alive, when this popped into my notifications:

5 years WPWell, knock me down with a feather! I have been lurking on WordPress for 5 years! I only started being more active about a year ago, when I decided to try out NaNoWriMo, and wrote up progress each day.

You see, I was thinking yesterday that now my major projects are nearing closure, I can get back to working on the work-life balance project. It’s the Big One for me, even more than OJEU tenders and new product developments.

So thank you to all who have flown with me (to coin WordPress’s phrase) and please now settle down as we continue to cruise, with possible turbulence at unpredicted intervals.

Here’s what I was doing rather than blogging or working.

DSC_0013Firstly I was making the Christmas cake. I make it in October and top it up with brandy regularly until Christmas so that by the time we cut it and eat it, it’s more a thick drink than a cake. In fact, designated drivers have to take their slice home in party bag. People like it. They tell me it’s very moist, usually giggling as they do so. I don’t allow seconds for at least an hour.

Shawl in close-upThe other thing I was doing was knitting furiously. By which of course I mean “as fast and hard as I could”. I wasn’t cross at all, quite the contrary. I wanted to finish a couple of projects to tidy up my knitting pile. As any knitters out there know, they do build up a bit. So this weekend I finished a present for a friend, and moved onto the end game for the Danish wool scarf. I will post a picture when that is completed too because the wool is Gorgeous with a capital G.

That only leaves me with the Norwegian Rose sweater which is the practice sweater prior to knitting The Killing pattern. That has been two years waiting so it will now be prioritised rather than all the other knitting for friends and relations. Finally.

Now I’m off to help the Local Offspring with packing stuff into boxes to move into the new flat.  I hope you are happy and busy and bright (or calm and content and quiet if that is your preference). What I mean is – love to you all!

Namaste.

 

.

 

 

 

B4Peace: Hey Nick!

Dear Father Christmas

I have been a very good and helpful girl this year and my Mum says that she is proud of me. Well, actually, she asked me what the weather was like, but she meant she was proud of me.

Christmas candles

I know it’s a bit early to be writing but I saw some Christmas candles in a shop today and they made me think of you. Then I thought that because I was going to ask for a really Big Thing, perhaps it would help if I let you know early. So you can gearing up the elves and extending the workshops and so on.

You might be thinking that just because I have been a good girl I expect to be treated like something special. Well, mon Père, we both know it doesn’t work that way and that it really only counts when you are good anyway and not just for Christmas. I would like to take this opportunity to reassure you that my being good was not with this ultimate request in mind; I have only thought of it today when looking at those candles.

This is a gift for myself but also for my friends, for Kozo who put it in my head, and for everyone on B4peace; for my family and friends in meatspace and colleagues and neighbours; for the people of my country and every country; for the people I don’t like and the people I am rude about and even for the politicians and bankers, whom I really am not at all keen on.

No, really, I mean it, mein liebe Nikolaus, even them. Perhaps especially them because it seems they need it most of all.

It’s this thing that is something and nothing. You can’t touch it with your fingers unless you close your eyes, and then, sometimes, it is there. You can’t build it with your hands, only with your heart. You can’t wrap it in tinsel or paper, but you can wrap it in love, which is the best of all.

At the risk of sounding like Rolf Harris, do you know what it is yet?

Well, here we go. My mouth is a little dry and my hands are a little wet and sweaty. But I’m going to ask you, Father C, can you give me Peace in the world?

If anyone can do it, you can. You can break all kinds of Laws of Physics, visiting every part of the globe (except maybe Antarctica – although there too if there were children waiting for you) faster than the world spins. You can make reindeer fly, which is quite a clever trick. You can fit down chimneys even in houses that don’t have one. You can eat endless mince pies and drink endless glasses of sherry without losing control of your sleigh or your good humour due to indigestion or intoxication.

Can you? Can you?

Anxiously awaiting your reply…

EBL (51 years and 2 months)

This letter is part of July’s Bloggers for Peace and you can read other thoughts here:

http://everydaygurus.com/2013/06/27/monthly-peace-challenge-peace-begins-with-a-letter/

http://sarahneeve.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/julys-b4peace-peace-begins-with-a-letter/

http://yaussiechick.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/dear-dianna/

http://lauriesnotes.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/b4peace-monthly-peace-challenge-a-letter/

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/kozo-cheri-asks-that-you/

Namaste