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!