This is the beech tree that I see out of my cottage kitchen window. In summer it glows coppery but in winter the sky fills the spaces between black branches. Standing at the sink I hear the church bell chime each hour, watch rooks fly in and out of the tower louvres, and see that thatched cottage snug behind the churchyard hedge. We have been fortunate in 2015, individually and as a family, but most of all I am grateful to have found a place of quiet in this cottage on the edge of Dartmoor.
Sunday 27 December 2015
This is MissM pretending to be a tree at Meldon Reservoir. Because when it is so cold and windy that you can hardly stand up straight you have to make your own fun. Shortly after this photo was take a gust of wind blew me over and I fell flat on my face in the mud. Another typical Boxing Day Walk. Never mind, straight back to the cottage for hot tea and saffron cake. The washing machine is going to be busy.
Must dash - lots of people coming to tea - mince pies to make. Back soon to reply to your lovely comments.
Must dash - lots of people coming to tea - mince pies to make. Back soon to reply to your lovely comments.
Wednesday 23 December 2015
I was in Windsor early in the morning last week and I thought that you might like a peep at this Christmas tree at the entrance to the castle. It had just stopped raining and the cobbles in the deserted streets were glittering like a pebble beach. It has been fun writing these December posts - thank you for your wonderful comments here and for sharing your Christmas preparations on your own blogs. We are drawing the cottage curtains now, lighting the log fire and getting out the special Christmas tea cosy. I wish you all a very peaceful Christmas, full of good things and happy memories.
Sunday 20 December 2015
The Little Boy Next Door was not particularly impressed by our Christmas tree. He said that he had seen it before, last year. I was a bit downhearted because I had braved the scrum at the farm shop, selected the tree carefully and then trimmed the trunk with a saw so that it was exactly the right height but it is possible that the absence of presents underneath might have contributed to his ennui. However, The Little Boy was very impressed by the tiny tree beside our front door which has so many lights on it that it is unable to lift off in the gale force winds. I was slightly mollified when he said it was the prettiest tree on the village Christmas tree walk (which consists of our tree and a blue flashing bush on the other side of the square). Later we admired his own tree and agreed that it was the perfect size and that the tinsel and baubles were quite beautiful. I saw a stripy stocking hanging from a branch which was a gift from his teacher and obviously from the Little Cotton Rabbits pattern. I wonder how many other children will have happy memories of those tiny stockings hanging from the Christmas trees of their childhood.
Friday 18 December 2015
On the umpteenth day of December MrM and MrsM went to visit MissM in her new flat to admire her Christmas decorations. She has the cutest little Christmas tree that you ever saw - a sparkly delight of baubles and tinsel - and an Advent garland of brightly coloured socks filled with treats for MissM and her flat buddies. MrsM remembered the first Christmas tree she ever bought and how tiny it needed to be because the first flat that she shared with MrM was so small you could almost stand in the middle and touch all four walls. MrsM was just about to get sentimental when luckily it was time for Christmas cocktails.
Wednesday 16 December 2015
Today was not a good day. It started off well when MrsM met MasterM at Honest Burger in Soho. MrsM had iced tea in a Mason Jar! MasterM had Karma Cola! MrsM and MasterM looked around and agreed that it was a very hip joint. But then MrsM and MasterM went shopping together in Regents Street. Quelle Horreur! MasterM needs clothes but could not understand why MrsM was suggesting sensible chinos and practical jumpers. MrsM was shocked by the adventurous colours that MasterM was selecting - why buy pale blue when there is a charcoal grey option? There was a frank exchange of opinion on the fifth floor of John Lewis. MasterM went home and MrsM had a cup of tea by herself. Then her phone died. Then all the paper bags collapsed in the rain. Quelle Désastre! MrsM decided that this was the day to have her first Baileys Latte. Suddenly all the street lights looked extra sparkly and MrsM knew she was on the slippery slope to Mothers' Ruin.
Tuesday 15 December 2015
MrsM and her best buds HelenandCaroline are having a Christmas outing and as a concession to the Spirit of the Season have invited their Spouses. It is an exceedingly jolly occasion and while the Spouses are reviewing the cheese trolley Caroline explains that she has booked the Gardener's Cottage at Hougoumont for a short holiday. MrM is very envious and launches into an analysis of the strategic implications of the Gardener's Cottage in the Battle of Waterloo with MrCaroline who is an enthusiastic military historian. MrsM nonchalantly mentions that she has just walked past the East India Club in St James's Square where Major Henry Percy, aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington, presented the Prince Regent with four captured French eagles and Wellington’s victory despatch. Helen is quite impressed and gasps "Alice! How do you know these things?" MrsM blushes and is forced to admit that she read all about it in "A Civil Contract", a Regency Romance by Georgette Heyer.
Sunday 13 December 2015
It is so long now since MasterM and MissM were at school and I don't feel sad at all about that apart from at Christmas when there is an empty space where the school Advent carol service used to be. The memory is woven through with the shock of frosty air after an hour in the cathedral, a smell of hot candle wax and the smoky taste of cloves in mulled wine. Every seat in the cathedral was taken by a huge congregation of pupils, staff and families, but there was a sense of community and perhaps that is what I miss most. I think I need to find a new tradition for our grown-up family Christmas.
Friday 11 December 2015
I am still in trouble for the time that I made everyone else go skating while I had hot chocolate and took photos so this is as close as I get to an ice rink these days. On that theme I have been indulging in some Vicarious Christmassing thanks to Blogland. Can't get to a Christingle? No worries - there is one at Ipsden Church with everything that you could possibly want - including adorable grandson in homemade jumper. Haven't got time to make a gingerbread house? Shoot off and share the fun with Eleanor and Geneva - there is enough icing for everyone. Worried about choosing a tree? Not me because mine is in the garden, but if you want that spruce smell Sam is on the case. On the other side of the world Diana has made an advent wreath with foliage from her garden - mine has more foliage miles and does not look quite so lovely. Christina is off to Peru for Christmas and leaving all the Christmas chores behind and I am afraid that Lucille's Christmas turkey is looking a bit doubtful but Monica has made a Christmas table runner so all is right with the world.
Thursday 10 December 2015
Does this count as a tree with lights? I don't know but I feel as though it represents the whole Christmas project which is spinning out of control this week. Planned work on our windows and doors was supplemented by an unexpected invasion of roofers. Downside : noise, draughts, dust, builders' mugs and biscuit crumbs. Upside : the wreath will look fab on the new front door and pigeons will no longer be able to fall down the chimney. In other news I have made the cake and bought the annual tin of Quality Street. We shall not starve.
Tuesday 8 December 2015
After all the family jollifications MrsM takes a moment to sit quietly in front of the tree in the Great Barn at Buckland Abbey. It fills the space with a simple elegance. She reflects on all that she has not done. It is a long list, a very long list. Cards, presents, cake, decorations. MrsM takes a deep breath and launches herself into emergency Christmas mode. Be afraid, shopkeepers of England, be very afraid.
Monday 7 December 2015
Here we are at the Skylon restaurant. All of us.
What's this purple thing?
It's a Heritage Carrot - treat it respectfully
Are you going to take a foodie photo for Instagram?
You can use the hashtag #fiftyshadesofcarrot
It's an international trend
You post photos of coloured carrots
Except grey...of course.
MrsM and MissM nod knowledgeably
Well!! You learn something everyday!!
Saturday 5 December 2015
Every year MasterM and I visit the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award at the Natural History Museum. We go past the dinosaur skeleton, turn right at the Pleiosaurus and plunge into the dark exhibition for a satisfying hour or so looking at photos of leopards eating impala and suchlike. It has a womb-like ambience, accentuated by whale music as background sound, which is appropriate because it is a birthday treat for MasterM in lieu of a homemade pirate cake. Afterwards we come out and admire the lights in the trees which never fail to thrill me. There is something magical about these huge trees lit up against the flamboyant facade of the Natural History Museum.
Wednesday 2 December 2015
I took this photo of the huge tree in Covent Garden last week before MissM and I went to the ballet to see the divine Marianela Núñez dance in 'Monotones', Frederick Ashton choreography set to music by Erik Satie. We met by the giant sparkly reindeer which looked as though it had escaped from a pantomime and it reminded me of the time I took MasterM and MissM to London Zoo just before Christmas when they were little. MissM couldn't remember anything about it which was a relief because we went all the way there to see the reindeer and there weren't any. It was so cold that we had to spend all afternoon in the snake house. It was one of my great failures as a parent.
Tuesday 1 December 2015
Walking to the bus stop tonight after a very good dinner I had a champagne-fuelled brainstorm for my December blogposts. (I can't pretend that I thought about it months ago and prepared everything well in advance. My Christmas preparations do tend to be somewhat creative - idleness being the mother of invention.) Anyway - I decided that I would have a Festival of Trees - which you must admit it vaguely gardening related without requiring anyone to get their feet muddy. My first tree - as I happened to be in Trafalgar Square at the time - would be the Norwegian Christmas tree. Unfortunately, at that exact moment the bus came and MrM started shouting in a most ungentlemanly way. So here is Tree #1 from the top of the bus. It's a miracle it is in focus. Actually, it is a miracle the tree is in the photo at all.