To our good lives!
..and death. In February 2018 I was considering Life's Bigger Questions.
I'm also considering my word for 2019 with the help of Susannah Conway's free five day course. My word for 2018 was Gently and it served me well on many occasions.
Holding on yesterday, looking back today - all in preparation for a leap forward into 2019.
I thought I would link back to favourite blog posts of 2018 for a few days.
Do you have a diary/journal/calendar/photos or blog that you look over at year's end?
A beautiful snowy day is my January choice and this time I managed to upload the music!
...to that hygge feeling!
Since the photo on the previous post which was taken as I sailed across the Firth of Clyde to spend time with family and friends, the weather has been murky and dank, with some ice and some thick fog, so my guests and I have hunkered down and let the world go on without us for a few peaceful days....
Sloe gin, red wine, a favourite old jigsaw and listening to Simon Callow's wonderful A Christmas Carol (twice). Oak logs on the fire, candles and cards and lots of good food. We had a truly relaxing Christmas.
I hope you did too!
(A Christmas Carol is still on BBC iPlayer - what a brilliant story-teller Simon Callow is!)
The town was sold out of Christmas trees.
What to do?
Maybe I should just not bother with a tree this year.
But I have never not had a Christmas tree. A real Christmas tree.
Then I remembered this one!
I hesitated but a moment - after all I was worried it was getting so big it would topple one windy day, onto the treasured cornus controversa beneath.
Nature's gift indeed.
And the prickliest tree i've ever known.
It smells wonderful in the study.
And the fairy likes it.
My Artist Date this week was to look through my Christmas posts - there are a lot! (See sidebar).
Here are some of my favourites. This one about waiting for snow reminded me of how I felt just the other night, this post made me think I am calmer now about Christmas than I was in 2013.
There are a lot of posts about childrens' Christmas books especially in the early years of the blog. This was one for older children. And in this post I describe a very special memory of a child just beginning to read.
Many happy memories and I shed not a few tears that Barry is not here to share this Christmas.
The last Christmas card he gave me however has a very special message, which I try to keep in mind.
,,for the picturesque.
Catherine's description (yesterday's comments) of her shopping day in an English market town made me homesick for England and the charm of so many of it's towns and villages and especially it's cathedral cities.
When I first went to York at Christmas time I thought I was in an old fashioned Christmas card. I love that what you are looking at here is the real thing! The medieval streets and many of the buildings have been changed over the years and some almost completely rebuilt I suspect, and a city the size of York has all the city problems of current times, but I still find it very romantic and consider myself so lucky to have lived there.
is there a place you find romantic?
That might be a good word for next year....
I'm going to avoid the slippery slopes this year - both actual and metaphorical. The road outside is so icy this morning - like glass! - that I will stay home again though I'll take a walk to the shore, the grassy path will be safer I hope.
The other slippery slope is the one that finds me eating as if it is Christmas Day from about mid-December. Some people start sooner - as soon as late October when the Christmassy treats start appearing in the shops often at half price to tempt us further! Of course you eat them before Christmas and then buy more at full price.
I'm not falling for it.
A couple of months of indulgence then a hard time in January trying to lose the weight and regain the hard-won fitness I achieved through the year? No thanks.
So here's my strategy.
Starting today I will get fit for Christmas. I will drink more water, move more and indulge less for the next 7 days. Then I will feast for 3 days (and by feast I don't mean stuff myself!), live super-healthy for another 5, feast for 2 then get active and eat wisely for all of January because i have a very special plan for February and I want to be fit enough to enjoy it to the full..
Fit for Christmas starts today. In my head I am already there, in reality I am still in my cosy dressing gown at 10.30am by the woodstove writing this - but I am drinking a big glass of water...and have put the FitBit on charge.
9pm and feeling good!
Went for a walk, drank lots of water, ate lightly but well, stacked wood and did some housework. I think I did about 5000 steps but the FitBit stopped and went back to zero as it wasn't charged up enough. About 4500 steps more than usual though. Will do 15 mins of Louise Parker's exercises (really hard!) then have a hot bath and hopefully a good sleep.
I'm going to enjoy this.
Well, I enjoyed it today.
NB Even more folks have said Hello in Friday's comments - what fun it's been.
An unusual day.
Waiting for snow which didn't come till after dark, but messages came all day long from all parts of the world and I imagined you all - in summer and in winter, in cities and villages on mountainsides and at different times of your days....isn't it amazing?
Waiting for the promised snow made me uneasy and restless - a bit like the tension I sometimes feel waiting for a storm to break. I got ready to take the bus to town as I need a few more Christmas cards, but it was so grey, the rain suddenly got heavier and the wind was getting up and the bus was late so I came back in to the fire and my books and my blog.
I think the snow will be gone by morning so I togged up and went out into the garden for a wander in it - only and inch or two....
Thank you to everyone who commented and to everyone who reads.
It means a lot to me.
As I said it's been am unusual day - I have stayed home and been all round the world!
..or would-be minimalists!
Flowers, wine, food, lunch or dinner out with you, theatre tickets, concert tickets, vouchers for any of the preceding, days out at a quieter time of the year, music or books of their choice (Amazon Wish List is very useful here!) a donation to their favourite charity (my favourite gift to both give and receive) with a tiny token something...part of trying to live more simply.
It can be really awkward to go against the trend and say you don't want anything for Christmas or to 'make demands' by asking for certain types of things. Only you can assess how to approach the subject, if at all! Also it's a bit late for this year. It might be best broached in late autumn when it's likely to be less emotionally loaded. and the presents are less likely to be already purchased!
Sometimes you just try to be gracious.
My Uncle John at the bottom of the amusing invitation he composed for his 90th birthday party and ceilidh wrote 'For God's sake no presents!'
Bigger donations and smaller gifts is the trend in our family.
Being together is the real gift and the most fun if you are as lucky as I am with lovely friends and family.
For yesterday's book group reading I found a passage in A C Grayling's The Challenge of Things under the heading Darkness which covered, briefly, the history of winter celebrations. This point was one I had not really considered before....
And paradoxical as it might seem, winter darkness was traditionally a time of plenty - the harvest had long been gathered and stored, the pigs slaughtered and their flesh salted - and the austerities of spring, when supplies were used up and the year's hard work had to begin were far off. The dark part of the year was therefore a welcome season of holiday.
..is the generosity and talent of all the hospital staff and friends who for 40 years have been holding a beautiful carol service to raise funds for the care of children with cancer and their families.
An uplifting annual event I wouldn't miss - meeting up with old friends, staying over with my friends who sing in the choir and joining in singing all the old favourites. It is the only time in the year that I actually sing come to think of it...
Do you sing in or attend a carol service?
Friends from York have just been to a Scandinavian Sankta Lucia service in York Minster which they said was wonderful.
i did once go to Stockholm for Sankta Lucia Dag - a magical memory.
i love these winter celebrations.
We can send spaceships to Mars but we can't have Christmas lights that last from one year to the next!!
Plugged in. switched on - nothing. I summoned all my patience and read the instructions for changing the bulbs - they assumed that some were working so didn't quite make sense..
Brought them downstairs and put on some music expecting this to be a long process, plugged in, switched on and Lo!
Are your lights working?
..that a few drops of grapefruit seed extract in water two or three times a day takes away cravings for sugar?
At least it does for me.
So useful, especially at this time of year.
The freedom of being able to take it or leave it is amazing to me.
This Jubilee jug by Pat Culpin was the first thing I ever bought from an art gallery, and I can't help but compare the experience with my most recent purchase which was online. (Click on photos for full view.)
It was at a private view in a little gallery in the Ochil Hills near Stirling. I had a painting in the show and was thrilled to be showing in the same gallery as the artist Bet Low. The atmosphere was friendly and chatty, there was wine, there was a buzz about the place as the red dots were going up, and I thought this handsome jug would look very fine in our old cottage and we agreed to splash out.
I was very excited by it all and when we went back at the end of the show to collect it we were told that the Duke of Buccleugh had wanted it, but we were in front of him in the queue!
Buying from eBay was a very different experience. (See this post.)
I was confident I would like the print because I know the artist's work so well, and it was quite exciting to wait and watch then make my offer, but I did feel I had to jump through hoops - open an account, create passwords, navigate the site, and communicate with the seller only through eBay for security reasons. Part way through eBay decided that my email and password didn't match. I tried a new password. Still no success. Apparently it was the email address which was the problem (although they were still sending me emails - lots of them). To use the helpline I had to log in - which required my email and password. I was at the same time getting quotes from Shiply for carriage which ranged from £93 to £364 and meant lots more emails.
Thanks to the patience of the seller with whom I finally found a way to communicate directly all ended well, but the security aspects - and I fully appreciate the necessity for them - removed the pleasure of the face to face personal communication, the social side, of the gallery experience.
I have just sold the jug to a potter friend who came to the house to see it. We had coffee and a great chat about our favourite potters, being an artist and buying and selling our art.
I love this video of slipware maker Clive Bowen (20 mins).
An artist seeking a simpler life - (but not too simple!)