Wednesday, 31 December 2014

St Cross to Winchester on New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve, the year is nearly at an end and frost lays heavy on the ground even this far south. Perfect weather for a winter walk from St Cross to Winchester.

The ground was hard underfoot as we set out from Five Bridges Road past the farm alongside the River Itchen.

The wintry sun sat low in the sky, just warm enough to slowly melt the morning's frost, drip, drip, drip from the skeletal oaks and beeches.

The Hospital of St Cross and Almhouse of Noble Poverty. ‘England’s most perfect almshouse’ (Simon Jenkins: England’s Thousand Best Churches).

He withers all in silence, and in his hand
Unclothes the earth and freezes up frail life.
~William Blake (1757-1827), "To Winter"

Mist still lay across the fields, yet to be burnt off by the pale winter sun.

The days are short
The sun a spark
Hung thin between
The dark and dark.
~John Updike, "January," A Child’s Calendar, 1965

Into Winchester and past the last home of Jane Austen.

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” Edith Sitwell.

Happy new year to all.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Earth stood hard as iron

Up country there has been snow, but here in the South we are enjoying a hard frost instead.  The ground in the garden crunched under foot and was covered in frost.  As I wandered down the garden I couldn't stop singing 'In the Bleak Midwinter' under my breath!

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

“December's wintery breath is already clouding the pond, frosting the pane, obscuring summer's memory...”   
John Geddes
 What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?
John Steinbeck

But frost, like the crystallized dreams of autumn, began to coat the clearing with its sugar glaze.― Victoria Steele Logue

Frost is the greatest artist in our clime - he paints in nature and describes in rime.
Thomas Hood
In winter with warm tears I'll melt the snow
And keep eternal spring-time on thy face
William Shakespeare

In the meantime we are keeping warm in front of our fire!

Thursday, 25 December 2014

And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'

We wish all those reading our blog a very merry Christmas and want to share a poem from one of my favourite poets
Christmas by John Betjeman
The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

A tale of four Christmas trees

The last week or so can be summed up in four Christmas trees.  Last weekend we visited family in Devon and went to one of our favourite National Trust places - Buckland Abbey.  The kitchen is generally worth it on its own!  Their tree was in the hall together with a display of a sumptuous Christmas tea.

Then on Thursday we were visiting the Vyne near Sherborne St John in Hampshire to see their Christmas decorations.
Then Mr C helped put up the tree in our local church just in time for our service of Nine lessons and Carols by Candlelight
Then the fourth tree is our tree at home.  We've finished work for the year now and are spending a lot of time at home organising everything for the Christmas festivities.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
How are thy leaves so verdant!
Not only in the summertime,
But even in winter is thy prime.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How are thy leaves so verdant!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure dost thou bring me!
For ev’ry year the Christmas tree,
Brings to us all both joy and glee.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure dost thou bring me!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!
Not only green when summer's here
But in the coldest time of year.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How sturdy God hath made thee!
Thou bidds't us all place faithfully
Our trust in God, unchangingly!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How sturdy God hath made thee!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!
Each bough doth hold its tiny light,
That makes each toy to sparkle bright.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy candles shine out brightly!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

The coming of the light

Today is Advent Sunday - the beginning of the countdown to the feast of Christmas.   In the church, in spite of all the chaos and busyness of the season, it is a time of quiet anticipation and expectation, a celebration of light coming into darkness.  This time of year sees us move from Autumn into Winter, when the trees shed their leaves, the temperatures drop and we move into the darkest part of the year. 

In John Betjeman's poem Advent 1955, there is a lovely passage about how it feels this time of year

"It’s dark at breakfast, dark at tea,
And in between we only see
Clouds hurrying across the sky
And rain-wet roads the wind blows dry"
Lighting a candle in the darkness signifies light, warmth and hope. The act of lighting a candle or even kindling a fire seems to stir something within us.  A candle makes us stop and consider, to be quiet for a while.  In this time of frantic noise and flashing electric lights, to light a candle slows everything down and gives us time and space.
It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Stir Up Sunday in front of the fire

We are sat in front of our fire on a wet damp Sunday afternoon, watching the fire flicker and feeling my knees warm up gradually.  I'm loving having a fire, it instantly warms up the room and makes it feel so cosy.

In the kitchen our Christmas pudding is gently bubbling and steaming away, its been on the hob for three and a half hours and will steam for another four and a half.  Today is stir up Sunday, the traditional day for making the Christmas pudding.

Yesterday I mixed up all the ingredients in a large bowl and left it overnight and so today it was packed into a pudding basin and covered
Later on tonight at evensong, the collect or prayer for the day will be this one from the Book of Common Prayer:
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may of thee be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Monday, 17 November 2014

A Sunday afternoon in November

The weather outside is frightful and its not snowing, its just raining incessantly.  We are making the most of this horrid weather by getting some jobs done inside the house.  I'm starting to plan Christmas as we have eight of us for Christmas lunch this year.  Next weekend will see me making the Christmas pudding, but this weekend I am checking the larder supplies...

We have a jar of Pickled shallots which will hopefully be ready for Christmas and a lot of chutney and pickle, of varying ages, some of which will be donated to the local church fete.  Most importantly I still have a large jar and a half of mincemeat.

Whilst I was fussing around the larder, Mr C was busy upholstering our dining room chairs.  We have been looking for some nice material for ages, and everything we liked was extremely expensive.  Then a few weeks ago we found some really good quality curtains in a charity shop...

So we cut up the material and Mr C got to work...

This material has reupholsted six chairs and we still have a lot left over.  And all for the princely sum of £6!

We now have our dining room chairs looking wonderful for Christmas.  We also found some lovely smaller wine glasses which will take pride of place on our Christmas table.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

We will remember them

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Friday, 31 October 2014

A strangely warm All Hallow's Eve

Today is the eve of All Hallows, or halloween, the night when traditionally the ghouls and ghosts stalk the land before the Christian feast of All Hallows (or All Saints) tomorrow.  We usually get a number of small children trick or treating so we always have sweets available.  Luckily there isn't any 'tricking' that goes on near us anyway, just small children with parents being very polite!

The weather doesn't feel right for the end of October.  It's very warm and we've had quite a lot of rain lately.  This does mean however that the funghi are having a field day at the moment.

Our lawn the other day, complete with funghi and aquilegia seedings

On the walk into work.  Possibly shaggy ink caps?
These three months of autumn into winter is my favourite time of the year.  As it gets darker and eventually cooler, I love wearing boots and layering up each day.  From October onwards, there is often a rush towards the bright spangle and glimmer of Christmas, but there are other festivals and celebrations and commemorations in the meantime to mark.  Halloween, Bonfire Night, Remembrance Day, Stir Up Sunday, and Advent are all part of our traditions and need to be marked. 

Talking of Remembrance, I made a poppy the other day which I'm rather proud of.  It wont stop me buying a poppy from the Royal British Legion, but it shall have pride of place in our home.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest

There is something rather special about a Sunday afternoon.  The house seems quieter, and there is something almost reassuring about cooking a roast dinner.

I know a lot of people who say that a roast dinner is too much bother or is too difficult, but I enjoy cooking a roast, as long as I can just be left to get on with it, and can listen to Radio 4 at the same time, I'm really very happy.
Home grown produce is always a fabulous addition to a dinner.

The whilst I'm waiting for things to cook, I can sit down and have a cup of tea and relax

Sundays have changed somewhat since I was a child.  Then very few shops were allowed to open, and there wasn't much traffic on the roads.  Most people stayed at home, some went to church, the rest washed cars or gardened.  Most people now rush into shopping malls and spend the whole day there.  I couldn't cope with that, I would much rather spend Sundays in a quieter manner.  Plus I'm not a great fan of shopping malls.  Or crowds of shoppers..

I'm already quite a home body, as this blog probably makes very clear.  I love pottering, spending time in the garden, watching old films, listening to old music, baking cakes, being at home.  Sundays seem even more a reason to stay at home to me and I always want to keep Sunday somehow different and special.

Home, the spot of earth supremely blest,
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

All roads lead to Autumn

I'm sorry we've been so terrible at posting on the blog.  Life and work has somewhat overtaken us.  I will be back properly very soon.  In the meantime, some photographs showing something of what we've been up to since we last posted.  The last time we posted it was still summer really, and now we are most definitely into Autumn, my favourite time of the year...

Finally finished my patchwork picture!
Watching the leaves change
A much needed holiday in beautiful Cornwall
Bought a new (old) vase
Helped with the church Harvest festival flowers

Made even more green tomato chutney

Harvested a pumpkin, some hazels and a glut of runner beans and tomatoes from the garden

Made amaretti biscuits

Walked through the mist

Lit our wood burner for the first time!
It is such  a wonderful time of year, the leaves change colour, mornings are often misty and are getting cooler each day.  Although the outside world is often frantic and busy, autumn is the time for being at home as much as possible and enjoying the change in season. 
The Danish have a wonderful word 'hygge' which basically means cosiness but sums up how I feel about Autumn.  It is tough to translate, hygge means creating a nice, warm atmosphere, being comfortable and cosy.  Lighting a fire, burning candles, eating and drinking with friends and family, contentedly are all part of hygge.