Thursday, December 29, 2022

Blitzen Bids Farewell


Happy Twixtmas!  Hope your festivities were exactly as you like them.

We set each other a challenge this year to make one another a Christmas card.  I'm no artist, so wrote Gareth a poem instead.  In return, after successfully wallpapering the bathroom wall just in time for Christmas, a day later, I ventured into the bathroom and noticed something was just off.  See for yourselves.

We had a quiet one.  Just the three of us and remaining parents.  Mentioning no names, certain members of our family have a very healthy appetite!   Oh and spot the escaping teen.


Gareth excelled himself this year.  Everything was made from scratch and cooked to perfection...and everything, from gravy to stuffing, seemed to contain port (we lost the best part of a bottle in the process).  Mr Klaus was not impressed.  I had planned to make a fancy vegan trifle with spun sugar, but not wishing to waste anything, decided to put that plan on hold until the New Year celebrations.

With Gareth feeling under the weather soon after Boxing Day and the weather once again switching things up - this time with high winds and rainstorms, we have hibernated.  I actually quite enjoy  Twixmas.  I love not knowing or caring about the date or time and feel no guilt whatsoever about self indulgence.  For me, that doesn't mean over eating, but rather, enjoying my Christmas gifts, reading, watching films and setting myself photography challenges.

I'm loving my Christmas reads.  I've dipped in and out of Orlam and the Treasury of Folklore, Woodlands and Forests as they are books to savour and am looking forward to my first ever Philippa Gregory book!  The item I coveted at the Much Wenlock Christmas Fayre (a pashmina) provides the backdrop.        


TV viewing has included Gone Fishing (Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse).  Christmas for us also has to include a ghost story or two.  The festive episode of Inside Number 9 (written by Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, the natural successor to Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected) was excellent and has rekindled my obsession with champing.  

"Champing" if you've not heard the term, refers to the exclusive hire of a church overnight.  Beds are made up, you can take your own wine and refreshments and in return, are left alone inside a church with only the dead and each other for company.  It's on my list for 2023. 

A TV adaptation of a story by M.R. James, Count Magnus, starring Jason Watkins also featured in the mix, between sips of Advocaat.

Detectorists (possibly my favourite show ever) was a delight and left me wishing for more.

Films we've watched include Castaway (I waited 22 years to watch it, love Tom Hanks, but, as it turns out, not so in love with this film) and Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid - a cinematic gem of a film, based on a true story, beautifully shot and perfectly cast.  

It's more of a friendship film and contains one of my all time favourite scenes (see below).  It's a western for people who don't like westerns and a film I have watched a number of times.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) - Butch's BikeScene (2/5) | Movieclips - YouTube

As for photography, I've been enjoying my new to me 35 mm lens, which has a wider angle than the nifty fifty, is good in low light and perfect for portraits.  Here are a few from the Christmas period.  

My Father-in-law opening a present at his home on Christmas morning....

....and my Mom, reading and processing the cheesiest of cracker jokes.

I am respecting the wishes of the teen in not sharing the photos I took of him.

Instead, I have played around with in-camera double exposure photography (Blitzen at the top being one of my first attempts).  

Catching the wind.  Howling not included, but perhaps you can see why I had little interest in venturing out.

Not to leave out the diva, Lotte became my next subject of choice.  I snapped a couple of straight shots of her to warm her up.

She's been a little grumpy because she didn't like the treats in her Christmas cracker.  I have finally got the message that she is simply not like other cats and doesn't "go mad for Dreamies."  She was quite fond of her toy mouse, but still prefers Gareth to drag around a piece of ribbon for her to chase and pounce on and has been pretty vocal about that!  

I got the shot I wanted here.  You might just be able to see a piece of string dangling over the sofa.  This photo captured her movement and spirit - eyes everywhere, senses on alert.

Wishing for peace in 2023!

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

December Will Be Magic Again

I'm trying to talk myself into this title.

December has not been without its stresses, so a little recap of the good bits.

We visited Bob at Much Wenlock Christmas Fayre, kickstarted by alfresco mulled wine.  Outside only because we had my Mom in tow and with one of Bob's girls feeling below par, we needed to avoid exposure to seasonal bugs.

Making the most of our park and ride facility, we walked into the village, taking a shortcut through a field.  Luckily we knew the way!

The weather was, for once, seasonably cold, with sky the colour of pewter, forewarning snow.  Christmas is often a time when absences are more keenly felt and so it was when I spotted the vicar (far right) who gave such a wonderful eulogy for my friend Caroline, only a few months prior.

We passed a very Dickensian former sweet shop - now a 3 bed holiday cottage.

The market is always well attended with plenty of local produce and  artisan stalls.  One immediately captured my attention and after coveting a certain item, I'm secretly hoping to find it under the tree on Christmas morning.

The market spilled over into the churchyard and as the light faded, the brass bands struck up and the hustle and bustle of Much Wenlock's biggest annual event increased a notch beneath the broad boughs of trees laden with twinkling lights.

The lights from within gave the Grade I listed Holy Trinity Church's stained glass an ethereal glow.  Whilst the church dates back to the 12th century, its spectacular glass mostly dates from the 19th century, set into much older frames within mainly 16th century stonework.

The churchyard, being centrally located, is flanked on one side by the Guildhall, constructed in the aftermath of the dissolution of the monasteries and completed in two phases, the south end (the court room) in 1540 and the north end (the council chamber) in 1557.  The building was converted in 1869 with the prison at the north end dismantled and arcading of the central section to allow markets to be held.  Here it is in action.  I wonder just how many people have passed through this building over the centuries?

Back in the streets, the atmosphere was magical and the smells of wood smoke and roasted chestnuts permeated the air.

This museum piece of an RSPCA donation box caught my attention.  Don't forget they need our help too now, more than ever, as careless owners continue to abandon their impulsively acquired lockdown companions.  

William Brookes, the great under-achiever, lived here.  English surgeon, magistrate, botanist and educationalist especially known for founding the Wenlock Olympian Games, inspiring the modern Olympic Games, Brookes certainly made his mark!

Heading back to our car, we passed this beautiful doorway.  A good door is always worth sharing.  

The festivities continued at NT's Wightwick Manor, the Victorian manor house furnished in stunning Arts and Crafts style.

Those of you who don't embrace Christmas might want to avert your gaze momentarily.

Once inside, the kitsch factor was absent, replaced by the Victorian Christmas splendour one would expect, including A Christmas Carol installation greeting us in the property's hallway.

We wafted through, from room to room, absorbing the origins of what we now think of as Christmas - the trees with presents beneath... 

....Christmas greetings cards and paper decorations...

....and candle lit elaborate table dressing.

I could have lingered in this room for an hour, enjoying the low light accents.  The man in the background could so easily have gone unnoticed.

More low light in the atmospheric corridors.

Naturally, the servants' quarters were devoid of decoration with domestic drudgery being the order of the day.  Yes that is an Aspidistra leaf sticking out of the sink.

Vix, have you had your crochet hooks out again?

Back outside, I took a few photos in now plummeting temperatures, including the impressive window frame carvings.

Even the birds were working the Wightwick aesthetic - a magpie in flight.

Help!  I'm trapped inside a Christmas bauble; an unintentional selfie.

 The family will eat well this Christmas.  Look at the size of the puddings!

Arriving mid afternoon has its advantages.  We saw the lamp light and the very few people.

We also managed to squeeze in the De Morgan Foundation collection of paintings and ceramics.  My favourites included these P&O commissioned panels for use in the first and second class public rooms, William's peacock blue ceramics...

....and Evelyn's mastery of the canvas was breathtaking.  Venus and Cupid, painted by Evelyn when she was in her early twenties.

Venus and Cupid, 1878

Moonbeams dipping into the sea, oil on canvas, c 1916

I found the story behind this interesting, being slightly obsessed with light myself.  Evelyn was fascinated by electrical lights and how these changed the way the world appeared.  In the above painting, she used prismatic colour over nude female forms to experiment with the effects of light on skin.  There are also theories that the women could represent new telegraph lines which were being installed under the sea at the time.

There is another version of this painting at the NT Cornish property Lanhydrock.

We had a brief look inside the shop, where De Morgan Christmas baubles were on sale at £23.00 (beautiful, but I resisted), before heading back to the relative warmth of the car.

As anticipated, although a little early for the UK, the big freeze began.  On our favourite walk from home, we discovered that the canal had frozen in parts...

....beautifully illustrating Autumn's transition into Winter, the Autumn leaves littering the icy surface layer.

We were also rewarded with some beautiful sunsets as we neared home.

Last light, as glimpsed through the wood behind our house.

But the weather hadn't finished with us yet.  Before the week was out, we had a covering of snow and this time it stuck around.  According to the old wives' tale, if snow lingers, it usually means that more is on the way.  Here it is, captured on our walk over Enville, past the cricket club...

...down to the pond....

...and up onto the hills.

In fact, the snow lingered for over a week and greeted our old friend Jon, who messaged out of the blue to say that he was over from Canada and doing a Christmas catch-up road trip from his sister's house in Yorkshire to Heathrow in order to pick up his wife and kids, who were arriving a few days later.  Jon stayed the night and as a result of  travel disruption in Dallas for Lori and the children, was able to stay a little longer than anticipated the next day, so we headed to Kinver Edge for a festive walk and showed him the delights of the Rock Houses.  Considering Canada is now Jon's adopted home (snow tyres go on in October and stay on until April), even he commented on the cold - that very particular kind of damp cold that seeps into aching joints.

So there you have it, baubles, Christmas trees, snow and ice; all very festive.   But for us, it's the unexpected delights and enduring friendships that really count.

Have a wonderful Christmas!


It's been a curious week of unexpected connections, conversations, sights and sounds, underpinned in some shape or form by panic. I was ...