Saturday 31 December 2016

Ring Out The Old, Ring In The New

Hello, thank you for calling in, it's lovely to see you here.  It's New Year's Eve, the seventh day of Christmas, and I am feeling rather wistful.  In years gone by I would have been fizzing with excitement by this point, looking forward to dressing up and going out to celebrate with friends until the New Year was ushered in and settled right down, but those days are long gone and tonight it's just the Best Beloved, the cats and me settling down by the fire with Jools Holland's Hootenanny on the telebox and a bottle or two of fizz.  Lovely.
You know, even after two lovely carol services I never really found my Christmas mojo this year.  Sigh.  I looked for it everywhere, but it never came out of its hiding place.  On Christmas Eve the Best Beloved told me that he was really enjoying Christmas this year and I pointed out to him that he had already been off work for a week during which he had been out for breakfast twice, been to the cinema twice, been to the pub and taken a lot of naps.  Of course he was enjoying his holiday, but there wasn't anything festive, was there?
That evening, we went to the most magical Crib Service.  It was supposed to take place in the parish church but with three days to go, the churchwardens told us that they didn't want us so we held it in a little garden instead.  Forty-two people squeezed in and found the real meaning of Christmas there in a "stable" full of toy animals - not just donkeys, sheep and cows but several bears, a leopard, a tiger, a cat, a dog, a fish, a monkey, a reindeer and a unicorn, too -  and fairy lights.  The little boy who was playing Mary got tired of holding the Baby Jesus so he laid the doll down in the manger full of hay and cuddled the monkey instead while the little girl playing Joseph looked on.  Adults who had always wanted to be in a nativity play squeezed in and we all sang Away In A Manger.  We all went home with love in our hearts but I still couldn't find my Christmas mojo.

Christmas Day was small with only three of us here but it was perfectly formed.  We went to church together, not our parish church but another, and found it full of joyful people.   We came home and opened our gifts, small things but well-chosen to give delight.  The Best Beloved and The Mathematician cooked a magnificent feast.  On Boxing Day The Teacher and Flashman came over and there was another feast.  We like feasts.  The next day, my clan gathered around my parents: all of their daughters, our menfolk and all the grandchildren, twenty of us altogether.  How blessed we are.  We went to the theatre in the afternoon to see Mary Poppins and came home in the evening to another feast at my sister's house.  Still my Christmas mojo was nowhere to be found.
Perhaps it's because my children are not here?  They are spending a few days together in Amsterdam and will return home tomorrow.  Perhaps it's the hurt caused by my parish church?  Perhaps it's because I can't find my nativity set?  We never had one at home when I was growing up but an elderly friend gave me one when The Teacher was small, it was hers but her son had bought her a rather grand one to replace it.  Every year I clear a shelf on the bookcase for it but this year, we can't find it and the room doesn't look right without it.  Perhaps it's the missing of those we have loved and lost?  The Best Beloved has felt very keenly the death of his father in September, following the death of his mother just before Christmas last year, and there have been moments when he has fallen apart.  We usually take our Christmas decorations down at Epiphany - apart from the crib because it seems such a shame to take it down when the Magi have only just arrived!  I leave that up until Candlemas at the beginning of February but obviously, that won't be happening this year because what doesn't go up can't come down.  Usually, I want to keep the tree up until Candlemas as well, I do love it so, but the Best Beloved puts his foot down quite firmly, and he is probably right.  Can you imagine how many needles there would be on the floor?!Last night I sat looking at the tree, twinkling away merrily in the firelight, and decided that I couldn't wait to take it down.

I really don't know what has happened to me this year - after all, I am the woman who some of my friends call "Mrs Christmas".  It's not simple Bah Humbug, I really have searched and searched, but the mojo went missing.  So for the first time ever, I am ready to leave Christmas behind, kick this dreadful year out of the door and sally forth into a new one.  This is the year which has seen my family overshadowed by illness since May, saw two deaths in September and the loss of my job in October when my employer suddenly went into liquidation.  No longer will any new works of David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Terry Wogan, Victoria Wood, Denise Robertson, Glen Frey, Caroline Aherne, Leonard Cohen, Greg Lake and George Michael be able to move me (nor Richard Adams, but he was 96 so I think that's OK).  We've had shocking results in a referendum in the UK and an election in the USA and children are still being placed into small, unseaworthy boats in the eastern Mediterranean Sea because their parents believe that they will be safer in those boats than on the land.  So, in that vein, I leave you with a few lines from In Memoriam by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

See you in 2017.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x










Tuesday 20 December 2016


In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
Hello, thank you for dropping in.  It's a busy time, isn't it?  There is so much to do in this last week before Christmas.  I have found it difficult to get into the festive mood, for several reasons.  I think it's partly because we have a number of family birthdays in December, the last one falling today, and so I could never feel ready to fully concentrate on Christmas until the birthdays had been marked.  It's also because a few years ago, the Best Beloved told me that he hates Christmas and that his favourite day of the whole year is Boxing Day because it means that there are 364 days to go until Christmas!  This news was like a dagger through my heart because, you see, I loved Christmas: the music, the lights, the bustle in the high street, the festive television programmes and theatre visits, the carol services, nativity plays, the decorations, the all-round jollity.  So now I tread on eggshells around him for the whole of December, not talking about the choosing of gifts or the writing of cards, wrapping while he is out, going to carol services without him and recording festive television programmes to watch secretly very early in the morning while he is still asleep.  Last week he dropped the bombshell that he enjoyed Christmas last year and I pointed out to him that his mother died last December so we didn't listen to any Christmas music, watch any festive television or films or attend any carol services and kept the whole thing very low key. Great Big Sigh.
However, I have now heard my Christmas word and I am ready to sparkle.  I often say that for me, Christmas begins when I hear the word "Quirinius" and usually, that is the Sunday before Christmas.  After all, when else do you hear the word "Quirinius"?  The quote at the beginning of this post is, of course, the beginning of the story of the birth of Jesus as told in the second chapter of the Gospel of St Luke and is probably read at every carol service in Christendom.  It makes me feel warm and fuzzy and tells me that Christmas is nearly here.  I heard it on Sunday evening in a candlelit Victorian chapel at a lovely ecumenical carol service organised by all the Christian churches in my community.  I heard it again last night at another, very special carol service - I do love a carol service!
Back in April I visited St Bartholomew's Church in Moreton Corbet and wrote about it here.  A young friend of mine who plays in a brass band read my post and told me that every year, on the Monday before Christmas, the church holds its carol service with mulled wine, mince pies and...the brass band.  I wrote it in my diary then and there and determined to go this year.  I have to tell you that The Mathematician and I had a wonderful time.  The wine and the mince pies were warm, the brass gleamed and twinkled, the candles flickered, the church was packed to the rafters and the singing was lusty.  When the preacher talked about the Christmas shopping and preparations and asked the rhetorical question, "What are we doing it all for?" a very small child at the front immediately answered, "For Jesus," and hearts melted.  When I visited in April I wrote that I had little sense that this church was a House of God but last night, as we sang about Glory to the Newborn King in the candlelight, I changed my mind.
I took some photographs - please excuse the quality, the lighting was low and the heaters, set high on the columns, gave out a red glow, so I'm afraid the pictures look warm and fuzzy, but then again, that is exactly how I felt.

See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Wednesday 14 December 2016

A Walk In The Woods

Hello, are you well?  Coping?  Thank you for dropping in here, I didn't realise I had been away for so long, and thank you for the comments you left on my last post, Anne and I are delighted that so many people now know Joe's story.
I do love autumn.  I love its colours and its fruitfulness, trees laden with conkers, acorns and chestnuts, fascinating fungi sprouting from trees and from the earth, walking on thick carpets of fallen leaves and beech mast, so when the Best Beloved said to me one Sunday last month, "Where would you like to go this afternoon?" I answered straight away, "To the woods."  They didn't disappoint.  The air was soft and warm, the leaves scrunched as we walked over and through them and all around us the squirrels scampered through the trees, gathering food for the winter and running down the solid trunks to bury it under the ground.  I sat on a bench by the pool and drank in the colours and the sounds, greedily feeding my soul in preparation for the week ahead. 

Since then, the temperature has dropped, the winds have blown, all the leaves have fallen and when I look out of my window I see the spiky tree skeletons outlined against pale blue skies.  Autumn's glory days have passed and, with frosty mornings, dark afternoons and hot water bottles at bedtime, we are nearing its end - yes, I know that the meteorologists like to fit the seasons neatly into the calendar year so that winter begins on 1st December, but if you have been reading here for a while you will know that I am an astrological kind of gal and in this house, it's autumn until the winter solstice on 21st December.

Out in the back yard, a large Nordmann Fir is propped up against the wall.  It's almost time...
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x