Saturday, 17 April 2021

Unlocked and Uplifted

Hello, thank you for calling in.  I have something exciting to share with you: for the first time since 2019 I HAVE BEEN AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 






This is the second week of our Easter school holiday and as the covid restrictions were due to relax a bit on Monday the Best Beloved and I planned to take a few day trips but on Tuesday last week, when the Welsh government confirmed that the border would be opened to visitors from outside Wales on Monday 12th April, the Best Beloved suggested we go to Anglesey for a few days.  I got straight onto our favourite glamping site and booked us in for two nights.  

We began the day with breakfast in the park because the cafe was putting out tables and chairs for the first time this year.  To be honest, I was a little disappointed as there was no china or table service so it was basically operating as a takeaway with seating, but the sun was shining, the food was good and my spirits were high at the thought of going to the seaside.  Whoop whoop!  We went back home and I threw a few things into my bag: knickers, woolly socks, gloves, sunglasses, book, map, crochet project, fairy lights...what else does a girl need for a couple of nights away??  We decided to drive the scenic route and enjoy the journey, and it was a treat:  the sky was blue, the mountains were snow-capped and the fields were green and full of lambs, lots and lots of lambs, possibly thousands of lambs.  We arrived on the island at about 2pm and drove straight to Waitrose to buy some provisions - not our usual grocer but we wanted to indulge ourselves after so many months at home.  (This branch of Waitrose used to be a Co-op but Waitrose took it over...after Prince William and Catherine Middleton moved there in 2010!)  We arrived at the glamping site at 3pm, as arranged, and settled in to our pod.

On Tuesday the sun shone again and after a leisurely breakfast of poached eggs and smoked salmon on toast we drove out to Traeth y Gribin where we stayed for the afternoon.  After a walk along the strand line with my head down (seaweed, little dead crabs, cockle shells, limpets and painted top shells) I sat down to watch the light on the water change as clouds drifted across the sky, read my book and watch the birds.  As the tide receded, mudflats were revealed, punctuated by the small rocky ridges which give the beach its name as "gribin" means "serrated ridge", and to my delight, wading birds appeared.  Meanwhile, the Best Beloved went for a longer walk and then took a nap.  It was a perfect afternoon, even though I was wearing my big coat, a scarf, gloves and a hat.  This is exactly what I had been longing to do for months, you can stick me on a beach in almost any weather and I'll be a happy bunny for hours.  That evening we had fish and chips for dinner and watched the sunset through the glass doors of our warm and cosy pod. 

 

We left the pod at 10am the following morning.  The owners allow five hours between each occupancy to enable the pod to be thoroughly cleaned and we were asked to strip the bed and leave the doors and window wide open.  The communal kitchen is closed but a toaster and microwave oven had been added to the pod, which already had a kettle and a fridge, and we took a small, portable camping stove with us.  We were entirely self-contained and I felt very safe.  If you'd like to have a look, click here to see where we stayed.  

Before leaving the island we went to another beach.  Again, the sky was intensely blue and so was the water but it really was too cold to sit out so we sat in the car for an hour or so and enjoyed the view, carefully storing the memory in my mind because I don't know when I'll get to the sea again.


I really needed this break.  I was feeling very low beforehand, almost as flat as a pancake, finding it difficult to drum up enthusiasm or energy for almost anything at all.  This lockdown has significantly depleted my mental reserves but Anglesey air has blown the cobwebs right away and cleared the fog from my brain.  I was sad to leave the island behind but I have brought home with me a spring in my step, a smile on my face and some beautiful memories.  I am ready to face whatever the next few weeks bring. 

See you soon.  Stay safe and take care.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x 



Wednesday, 7 April 2021

A Happy Easter

Hello, and Happy Easter, whenever you are celebrating!   According to the Anglican church, Easter is a season rather than a weekend and lasts for about seven weeks so my greeting isn't late at all, and some of you may not have celebrated Easter yet if you follow a different church tradition, but I'd like to share with you how I spent the weekend itself.

Good Friday is alternatively known as Hot Cross Bun Day in our house.  I ADORE those sweet, spicy, fruit-studded buns but I never eat them before Good Friday, when I shamelessly eat as many as I can get away with.  When I was young my father used to go to the bakery first thing in the morning and bring home a bag of them for our breakfast, still warm from the oven.  Mmmm!  When I was first married I expected the Best Beloved to do the same but it turns out that he doesn't like them so I was disappointed.  Frankly, HXBs are so important to me that it's amazing we are still married.  I made them myself once, more than thirty years ago, but there seemed little point in all that kneading and proving if he wasn't even going to try one so we reverted to shop-bought buns and later, the children and I would eat them for breakfast before going to the Hot Cross Bun Service at church and eating one or two more.  For many years now we have watched Jesus Christ Superstar during the afternoon of this holy day, it's the perfect day for it, and a tear or two has usually been shed.  We have the 2000 film version on dvd and I find it emotionally draining to watch, it's really quite harrowing.  I need the comfort of another toasted hot cross bun afterwards.

This year I discovered that my friend would be leading a digital Hot Cross Bun Service during the afternoon of Good Friday, preceded by an online hot cross bun bakealong during the morning, and having read many bloggers saying that homemade HXBs are so much better than shop-bought, I decided to join in.  We began at 10am and my friend had cleverly chosen a recipe which requires no kneading and only one prove - you'll find it here if you fancy it.  So we measured and mixed while she told us the bible story of the day and we chatted about our own Good Friday traditions.  I enjoyed it, and at the end of the session I had eight bun-shaped balls of dough on my baking sheet.  All I had to then was leave them to prove and another friend had given me a tip: she told me to turn my oven on to any temperature, leave it on for thirty seconds, turn it off and then pop the dough in.  I was scared that thirty seconds wouldn't be enough so in fact I left it on for sixty, but I shall do thirty next time.  An hour and a half later my balls of dough had risen into glorious buns.  I piped the crosses onto the top, baked them and glazed them as soon as they came out of the oven.  I felt as pleased as punch.  I am desperately trying to avoid using the word "smug" because it's not very nice.  At 2pm I split one of those buns, buttered it and joined the online service.  That bun was delicious.  I may never buy HXBs again.  Afterwards, the Best Beloved and I settled down and watched Jesus Christ Superstar and while it was on my Guernsey daughter sent me a photo of a packet of HXBs with the message that she was just about to watch the film too.  We hadn't discussed it in advance, she just wanted to maintain our family tradition.  I cried even more than I usually do.  

On Saturday I ate a couple more hot cross buns.  

On Sunday I got up very early and went to my friend's garden.  I think the sunrise service on Easter Day is my favourite church service of the year but as no local churches were holding one we had decided to celebrate together in her garden.  We lit a fire, the traditional symbol of the triumph of light over darkness, read some verses aloud (quietly, so as not to disturb her neighbours), drank tea and ate hot cross buns and chocolate mini eggs.  It felt just right.  The birdsong was louder than our voices and Mrs Blackbird kept travelling through the garden to an ivy-covered wall just beyond with beaksful of nest-building materials.  A buzzard wheeled overhead.  As I drove home I noticed the blossom-covered trees, swathes of daffodils lining the roads and a sweet grey squirrel on the verge. The sky had turned blue.

The Best Beloved and I spent the rest of the day alone.  The sun shone and in the afternoon he mowed the lawn while I was indoors as he, the non-lover of HXBs, had asked me to bake him some scones.  As I carried them out to the summerhouse I looked up and saw a heron flying over.  We ate the scones still warm, with cream and jam and accompanied by a pot of Earl Grey tea, while we watched a few bees hovering in the sunshine.   He was very happy and I felt all caked out, although it felt really good to be living outdoors again. My day was made complete when the Best Beloved told me about the evidence of fresh hedgehog activity which he had cleaned off the patio earlier!

On Monday it snowed!  I sorted out the squares I had crocheted during Lent and packed them up ready for the Best Beloved to take to the Post Office.  They are on their way to Woolly Hugs, a charity who will turn them into blankets for people who are unwell.  

May I just mention the weather?  You know how I like to.  A week ago the temperature here was 26 degrees and I had to cover the tiny people in suncream and jam sun hats onto their heads before we went into the garden.  I almost melted.  On Easter Sunday the temperature was 16 degrees in the sunshine and today it is 6 degrees.  Snow fell on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and my grandson is confused because he thought that winter was over and he is too young to have worked out that April can be capricious.  Here is the view from his window this morning.  This is why British people talk about the weather!

See you soon.  Please stay safe.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Friday, 19 March 2021

A Moment of Brightness

Hello, thank you for calling in.   I don't write anything for weeks and now there are two posts in four days!  I have something which I find I am bursting to share with you. 

I had an unexpected doorstep visitor last Saturday: the new vicar called to introduce himself and to give me a posy of daffodils for Mothering Sunday.  The parish church always gives out these posies at the Mothering Sunday service but as the building is currently closed, the church apparently decided that its men would deliver them across the parish to all the women on the electoral roll as well as some others.  Isn't that lovely?  I was surprised to have been included as I left the church more than four years ago and have no intention of returning.

I was also touched that the vicar wanted to meet me.  He took up the post last summer, the previous incumbent having left in 2018.  Said incumbent was a bully who spent as little time as possible with his parishioners, taking Saturday as his day off and so legitimately avoiding most of the church's social  and community events.  A few months after his arrival in the parish in 2013 he wrote on Facebook, "Can anyone unstick me from this fracking church?" and later, after he had driven out a significant number of people, he wrote, "I am an ecclesiastical enema removing the blockages in the Church" and as he hadn't enabled any privacy settings, the whole world was able to read his opinions of us.  It was a damaging experience and I hope you can see how an unexpected visit from a vicar who wanted to meet me and bring me some flowers was surprising, charming and a moment of brightness during lockdown.  


I think I'll leave it there.  There is much more I could tell you but I think that's enough for today.  

Please stay safe and take care, coronavirus hasn't gone away.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x


Tuesday, 16 March 2021

So That Was February

Hello, thank you for dropping in here, you are very welcome, as ever.  I haven't been here for more than a month, for which I am sorry, but really, I didn't think I had anything interesting to share with you; I certainly haven't been anywhere interesting.  However, this week I suddenly have lots of things I want to write about so I thought I should start with February and when I looked back over the month it seems that some things did happen.

Birthday

I celebrated my birthday at home with the Best Beloved and a bit of a tear in my eye because the day marked a whole year since the last time I saw my younger daughter. The Best Beloved did his best to make sure that I had the best possible lockdown birthday: he gave me smoked salmon with a poached egg on toasted homemade bread for breakfast, we had croissants for elevenses and he went to Marks & Spencer's food hall to buy a treat for dinner. I made myself a birthday cake because he's really not up to that. During the afternoon we lit the fire and watched a film together, a rare occurrence because we don't like the same kind of films, but I was allowed to choose (gasp!) so we watched The Dig, a film about the discovery of the Anglo-Saxon treasure at Sutton Hoo. (Some of you may have read Simon Stone's novel on which the film is based, but I haven't.) We both enjoyed it, him more than he expected to. In the evening I really enjoyed a video meeting with my sisters and parents, during which I wore a tiara and drank champagne - after all, it was my birthday!  The following day was a babysitting day and I was able to celebrate all over again with The Teacher, Tom Kitten and Cottontail and even though I had to cook the dinner myself this time, it was super duper to be with them.  They had even made me a cake, which was a big deal because The Teacher doesn't enjoy baking and she had borrowed the equipment from a friend, which of course made it all the more special.  She's a good girl.

Valentine's Day

The Best Beloved really isn't interested in Valentine's Day so I gave up hoping and bothering several years ago.  However, I did receive a card - from somebody else.  The Mental Health Collective organises a card exchange several times a year and this is the third time I have participated - I was given a name and address and somebody different was given mine.  We are asked to send a card or letter with encouraging words to our recipient, that's all, and the theme this time was Love, goodwill rather than romance.  It's not terribly onerous but I really believe that it can make a big difference to the recipient.  I received my card a couple of days early, before the posting date, and I was bowled over because the sender had obviously spent some time and effort making it, even though I am a complete stranger to her.  I wanted to pass on that kindness in a similar way so I set aside the card I had bought and instead spent an afternoon making a card to send.  Here is the card I received.  It's still on my mantelpiece.

Shrove Tuesday

Well, I didn't go to be shriven of my sins but I did eat pancakes.  I had decided that this year's pancakes would be Scotch rather than traditional or American so I made up the batter before we ate dinner, ready to cook afterwards.  The Best Beloved then decided that he wanted to do the cooking - I don't know why, this task always falls to me and I'm not sure that he has ever cooked a pancake of any variety before, but he was quite sure.  He went into the kitchen, instructed me that I was to stay outside and closed the door firmly.  Well, obviously I couldn't help myself and I quietly crept in and snaffled this photo without him realising.  I couldn't stop laughing - it's the smallest pancake in the world!  He told me that it wasn't his fault, that my batter was too thick (how very dare he!) and would not accept any advice or information about the niceties of pancake batter.

I was shoved sent out of the kitchen, the door was firmly closed again and a little while later he presented me with these.  I was very polite and appreciative (and stifling laughter).

Vaccinations

My 'phone rang one afternoon and even though the call was from an unknown number, I answered it, which is unusual.  I am very glad I did because the call was from my GP surgery, offering me a covid vaccination two days later.  I was very surprised, accepted the invitation and asked if the Best Beloved could also be vaccinated at the same time as we fall into the same category.  We were given consecutive appointments and two days later, the deed was done.  I was very impressed with the whole set-up, we were given appointments in May for the second dose and neither of us suffered any side effects.  The Best Beloved was relieved because it meant that by the time he would return to the classroom, he would be almost three weeks post-vaccination, long enough for it to provide him with some protection.

Reading

I finished reading A Suitable Boy on 26th February, so it took just over seven weeks.  I smile when I think about this book and I miss it already because I enjoyed it very much, all 1,474 pages of it.  James Wood reviewed it in The Guardian as "vast and amiably peopled" and that's one of the things I liked about it, almost all the characters are likeable.  I also found it very visual - the clothes, jewellery and gardens are vividly described and painted beautiful pictures in my head.   This book isn't difficult to read, it's all storytelling and there's no need to read between the lines, it's just long, but hey, we're in lockdown, I had little else to do but read, and I am glad to have read this.

Knitting 

I am still slowly working on Tom Kitten's jumper but at the beginning of February I discovered that my cousin, a teacher, has to spend all day at work with the windows and doors open (to reduce the risk of covid infection) and that by the time she gets home she is frozen so I knitted her a pair of woollen socks to keep her feet warm.  She has very dainty feet so they didn't take as long as usual and I used some lovely Drops Fabel in Salt and Pepper (shade 905).  I was very pleased with them and so was she, it is lovely to be able to make people happy.


Now here we are, halfway through March and less than a week away from astronomical Spring. The Best Beloved returned to work when the schools reopened to all pupils a week ago and on the Sunday evening he had a shave, ironed a shirt, polished his shoes and put his face shield, mask and hand sanitiser into his briefcase. The following morning I wondered aloud if I should take a photograph of him on the doorstep, the way we used to do when our children returned to school on the first day of the new school year, because that's how I felt. I am now allowed to meet one friend in a public place for a chat so that's what I am planning to do on Thursday and I can't bloomin' wait. The world is still turning. 

Take care, stay safe and see you soon.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Friday, 5 February 2021

Imbolc, Brigid-tide and Candlemas

Hello, thank you for dropping in.  Firstly, I'm sorry that the font changes halfway through this post, I know that it's annoying but I have tried and tried but I can't do anything about it.

Everything here feels very wet.  We have had a lot of rain over the last couple of weeks - the Best Beloved says that he has never seen so much rain - but we have also had sunshine and snow.  Fortunately we live far enough away from rivers that we have not been flooded but our weekly drive to The Teacher's house takes us past lakes where fields should be and rivers which have burst their banks.  (I should explain that the lockdown rules allow us to form a childcare bubble with her family so we go to her house when she and her husband are both working and need essential childcare, usually once or twice a week.)   We are glad to have had snow, it feels like a real winter.

In ancient times the Celts celebrated Imbolc on 1st February.  Halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, with longer, lighter days and the birth of the first lambs, they regarded it as the first day of spring and honoured the goddess Bride.  When the Christian church took over the pagan celebrations it gave the day to St Brigid of Kildare and her story became entwined with that of Bride.  In the sixth century the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I declared that Candlemas should be celebrated in churches on 2nd February, forty days after Christmas Day, which meant that celebrations began on the evening of 1st February.

In the church calendar this date became The Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and remembered the day when the infant Jesus' parents took him to the temple so that Mary could receive the ritual of purification and the baby could be presented to God.  Although I have read that this is a Jewish tradition I'm sure that the purification is also a Christian tradition as a few weeks after my elder daughter was born my friend's mother, who was born in Yorkshire in the 1930s, was surprised to hear that I had been out before I had been "churched", which should have been when the baby was six weeks old.   The old Churching of Women service has been replaced in the Church of England by a service of Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child and quite right too as far as I'm concerned, I find the notion that a woman needs to be purified after giving birth to be repugnantly misogynistic.  After the Reformation, the Protestant church shifted the focus of the day from Mary to Jesus and it became the day to celebrate The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.  Anyway, to return to this story, an old man called Simeon recognised Jesus as the son of God and declared him to be "a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”  From this text Jesus is described as the Light of the World and so it became the day on which people would bring their candles to church to be blessed alongside the candles which the church would use over the forthcoming year.  So, as far as the Church is concerned, it's all about light and candles but the people still celebrated in their homes and had a bit of a party, placing lighted candles in their homes and giving candles as gifts on this day.

More than any other year, I wanted to celebrate Candlemas this year and I'm not really sure why but as I read more about it I felt the attraction of lighting candles to dispel the metaphorical darkness of living in a global pandemic, using them as a symbol of hope now that the vaccination programme really is underway in this country.  Reading about the ancient practices, I really understood the longing for spring - please don't misunderstand me, I'm an astronomical kind of gal and I know that spring will come with the equinox in March, but half the winter is behind us now and I am ready to look ahead towards the spring.  My celebration would have to be something I could do by myself and looking around the internet I found a Forest Church video entitled "An Outdoor Celebration for Brigid-tide and Candlemas".  It looked just right for me.

The introductory video told me that I would need a bonfire to burn my Christmas tree, a candle in a lantern or jam jar and a wassail -  a warm, mulled drink of beer, cider or apple juice.  Well, this might have put me off because for the first time EVER, the Best Beloved chopped up our Christmas tree and put it out with the recycling weeks ago and he informed me last weekend that both our garden incinerator and fire basket disintegrated at the end of last summer.  Harrumph!  Secondly, I did not have any of said beverages to mull.  However, I decided that as I was a Girl Guide in my youth, I know how to be resourceful.  I found a small foil tray in the kitchen cupboard and put some tealights in it to make a substitute bonfire and I poured the last of my homemade blackberry vodka into a jug with a cinnamon stick and heated it up in the microwave.  I was ready.

I sat in the garden by myself and played the video.  I lit my tealights and fed my little fire with dried stems of lavender pulled from the bush.  At this point I realised that I shouldn't have used so many tealights because with such a lot of melted wax, the fire blazed and grew and I almost burned down the wooden table.  Almost.  I sang loudly and merrily.  I lit my candle and in the absence of fruit trees or bushes, I drank my blackberry vodka and wassailed the lavender.  I sat quietly and looked around at the new, living green shoots.  It began to rain but I stayed outside until the film, and my celebration, was over.  I came indoors feeling more connected to nature, to the rhythm of the seasons and to God.  I also felt more hopeful and more myself.  I think my equilibrium has been restored.

While reading about Imbolc in preparation for writing this post I discovered that the bramble is sacred to St Brigid and that its leaves and fruits are used to attract prosperity and healing, so my blackberry vodka wasn't out of place, after all.  I shall have to make some more this year because I would like to celebrate Brigid-tide and Candlemas next year in a similar fashion...but with other people and a bit of a party.  

Stay safe and take care.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x


Tuesday, 2 February 2021

So That Was January

Hello, I hope you and yours are all safe and well.  The rates of infection are running so high that I fear you may not be.  These are scary times.

I am not coping as well with this lockdown as I did last year.  Last March the Best Beloved and I found a good routine within a few days but this time it's harder, largely because we can't use the garden.  It's simply too cold and if it's not too cold, it's too wet.  He has been furloughed so we are both at home together, indoors, and I have flumped about in a listless fashion, drifting from one thing to the next in an unstructured way which really doesn't suit me.  January is a month in which we usually celebrate several family birthdays and the fact that we can't get together at the moment has been hard to bear.  This unhappiness was compounded by the fact that I have spent a large part of the month trawling through eighty years of family photographs and remembering wonderful family holidays and parties, which really rammed the point home, although I continue to find something positive in every day which really is saving my sanity.  So, here is most of what I have been doing this month.

Lighting up


January really is a month for being cosy indoors so every evening I light up the candles and lanterns on the mantelpiece and enjoy the glow.  All over social media people seem to be looking for spring but it's not spring, it's winter, and I learned a few years ago that if I accept that fact and embrace it I'm going to feel much better about it.  In a few weeks' time I shall be looking for daffodils on the mantelpiece but right now, candles are what I want.

Reading 

At the top of my stairs, in the small space we rather grandiosely call "the landing", there is a bookcase and A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth has been glaring at me in a challenging manner from the second shelf for about fifteen years.  Every time I climbed the stairs it reminded me that it was waiting for me.  This book is 1,474 pages long which is why it has been on the To Be Read shelf for so long, I'm not a fast reader and I simply couldn't face it.  When I decided to read longer books in 2019 I planned to build up to this one towards the end of that year but my resolve crumbled when I got there.  However, at the beginning of January I decided that I felt ready to tackle it and if it's the only book I read this year, that will be fine.  I started reading it on 2nd January and I am enjoying it very much.  I'm more than halfway through and hoping to finish by the end of half term on 21st February but if I don't, I shall just carry on enjoying it until I reach the end.  

Knitting


I am knitting a jumper for Tom Kitten.  It won't fit him until next winter so I'm not working to a deadline and I'm really enjoying the relaxed pace.  It's ages since I've knitted anything like this and I'm not the best knitter in the world but the yarn is a merino and cotton blend which is a dream to knit with (I bought it in a sale last summer).  I have remembered that I like knitting cables.

Making


I have made some gift tags out of the Christmas cards.  It's a very simple but very satisfying thing to do.  When I was young my sisters and I used to sit around the dining room table together doing this, with pinking shears if my memory serves me right, as my mother crossed the senders off her own Christmas card list and this is the first time I have done it for many years.  With something good on the radio to keep me company I spent a very happy afternoon.  I am also enjoying the eco-virtuous glow of upcycling.  

Baking

I very rarely bake these days but the baking tins came out twice this month.  Firstly, I decided that it was time to introduce my Salopian grandchildren to their county dish, fidget pie.  It went down very well and Tom Kitten was delighted to see that I had adorned the pie with their initials.  Obviously, he had to have a slice with the T.  Cottontail wolfed hers down in about five seconds flat and I shall definitely make it for them again.  The second bake was a special cake, a streusal layer cake, my father's favourite baked in his honour because on Sunday we were

Celebrating Dad's 80th Birthday


Lockdown birthdays are difficult but Dad assured me that he had a lovely day.  During the afternoon thirty-four of us gathered on Zoom to celebrate with him and my mother - all of his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and associated in-laws as well as my aunt and uncle.  Some of us had baked birthday cakes and made special desserts, there was fizz and one of his grandsons had prepared a quiz.  I felt very emotional afterwards because we should all have been together physically rather than digitally and I may have had a little cry.  I also ate cake, and I have eaten cake again today.  It is a delicious cake.

So that was January.  Yesterday morning I woke up feeling strangely energetic and I put away my crib and Christmas decorations.  Today is Candlemas, the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox and I have a little plan to mark the day.  

Take care and stay safe.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x



Monday, 11 January 2021

Epiphany Traditions

 Hello, thank you for dropping in.  Well, it's been a bit of a week, hasn't it?  On Sunday 3rd January I watched the Prime Minister on television telling us all that the primary schools would definitely be reopening the following day, and secondary schools would be open to all pupils a fortnight later, so that evening the Best Beloved ironed a shirt, got his "uniform" ready and set the alarm for 6.30am in case his services would be required.   The following evening, after many pupils and staff had spent a day in school, sharing whatever they had caught from the people they mixed with during the holiday, I watched Boris on television as he told us all that we were going into lockdown again and that schools would only be open for vulnerable children and the children of keyworkers.  Here we go again.  Later that evening the Best Beloved suggested that we leave the Christmas tree up until Candlemas on 2nd February!  I was very surprised as I've been light-heartedly proposing this for the last eight years or so, ever since I discovered that it was traditionally proper, and he's always dismissed the idea out of hand.  We usually take the tree down on 5th January but this year, we didn't.  I was delighted - and at a bit of a loose end, locked down and with little else to do, but we spent the day talking things through and trying to formulate a plan to help us through the coming weeks.

Wednesday was 6th January, Epiphany, the day to celebrate the visit of the magi to the holy family, and I duly placed my little wooden figures in the crib and we chalked the door.

Do you know about chalking the door?  I didn't until three or four years ago.  I did it for the first time last year and I felt that it placed a satisfying full stop at the end of Christmas.  


The letters CMB have two meanings: they are the traditional initials of the magi, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, and they also abbreviate the Latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat: “May Christ bless the house.” The “+” signs represent the cross, and the “20” at the beginning and the “21” at the end mark this year.  The format is the same every year and once I had written the figures, I said a short prayer asking Christ to bless those who live in or visit our home throughout the coming year.  In some churches, sticks of chalk are blessed during the service on the Sunday before Epiphany and given to the congregation to take home and use to chalk their doors but I've never been to a church which does that and I thought that God wouldn't mind if I used unblessed chalk.  According to a report in The Telegraph there has been a rise in the practice this year and I wonder if that's because we feel more in need of blessings during the pandemic?

During the afternoon I made a willow star using a kit I bought online just before Christmas.  It felt appropriate for Epiphany.  All I needed to supply was a pair of scissors and a bit of sticky tape and I spent a very enjoyable hour or so at the kitchen table.  Once I'm ready to take it down it can be easily dismantled and packed away ready for next year.



On Saturday we decided that the Christmas tree really couldn't stay up until Candlemas because it had become very dry and with an open fire in the room, it was a fire hazard.  I took a fond photo.  One of my favourite things to do at Christmas is to sit in this room in the evening with a glass of wine and watch something good on the television in the glow provided by fairy lights, firelight and candlelight.

On Sunday I slipped out of bed while the Best Beloved was sleeping and began to take off the decorations and pack them away.  Surprisingly, the task didn't make me feel as sad as it usually does.  I had been very half-hearted about this tree from the outset, the Best Beloved had bought it by himself, ignoring my request and buying a tree which was bigger than I wanted, and I resented the tree a little for its size.  More than that, I hadn't placed The Mathematician's own, special decorations on the tree because she was unable to come home for Christmas and I couldn't bear to have them up without her being here, although then I missed those decorations and the tree felt incomplete without them.  I  mean, how can it really have been Christmas without the Christmas Dragonfly she made when she was a Brownie, or the silver snowflake she made in a D&T class at school???

Things feel a little strange today.  The front room feels bleaker without the Christmas tree, although we have kept out all our tealight holders and lanterns so there is still plenty of Christmas cheer, and the willow star is shining.  Perhaps some wise men will turn up?  I think our Prime Minister could do with their help.

I wish you all a happy and hopeful new year.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x