Thursday, 26 December 2013

Things I made for Christmas

I don't make a traditional Christmas cake.  Previous attempts haven't been that successful - no one at home likes it except me and I can't really eat a whole cake myself. So instead we have started our own tradition of making a house cake.  We started off with gingerbread houses (see below for the 2011 one) but again I found that most of the cake was thrown out when the sweets had been eaten off it.  (Small boy nephews and niece did a good Hansel and Gretel job).  I don't like wasting food so we invented our own version using Mary Berry chocolate cake baked in a tray, cut into layers and then built up using butter cream with After Eight mint roof tiles and mini roll chimney.  Doesn't look as good and it kind of collapsed not long after the photo was taken.  But Kate and I had fun making it.  And we've eaten most of it.

I also made my sisters' Christmas presents this year.  I've talked before here about writing a memoir and when Dad died I kind of got on with it.  I enjoyed writing about our childhood in the 1960s and 70s, looking at the old photos and remembering.   I used Blurb bookmaking software and was impressed with how easy it was and the results were good even though I used photos of old photos rather than scanning the images in. Yesterday of course they opened the presents.  Although all four of them cried when they read the dedication, I think they liked it.  The picture on the front shows me and my sister aged 3 and 2 outside our house in Ballyronan in 1962. 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Cold Callers at Christmas

Cold callers, those strangers who turn up on the doorstep or on the phone offering their services or flogging their wares, aren't usually welcome here.  Part of my husband's job involves protecting vulnerable people from unscrupulous callers who con them out of money by fixing things which don't need repair or distract them and then steal their purses.  So he is always wary and often rude to any stranger who rings the doorbell.

So it was a good job I answered the door to the first cold callers we had last weekend, an elderly couple offering me a copy of Watchtower and drawing my attention to its message 'Do we Need a God?' I was polite; accepted their magazine but affected a busy, distracted manner to avoid engaging in further discussion. My faith in an eternal being, who could sort out the mess in this world and provide a happy afterlife for the chosen few, has long since evaporated, despite many years of Sunday school as a child.

Then on Sunday afternoon we had another caller.  A teenager on a bike carrying a green bucket.   Struggling a bit with his words, he offered a 'pay what you like' hand car wash. My first reaction was to send him packing: he looked a bit dodgy and might be checking to see if we were in before pinching something. But it was nearly dark and freezing; he had a nice smile and didn't look much older than my daughter. She was sitting in the warm on the other side of the glass watching 'Nativity' while simultaneously stalking her schoolmates on Facebook.  It was a real 'no room at the inn' moment.  So I got him a bucket of hot water and let him loose on my grubby car. Not much cash in the house: I'd spent it all on buying presents of chocolate from Thornton's for Kate's friends which they don't need or want much.  We managed to gather up £4.88, some of it in 5ps.  He was pathetically grateful.  And he'd removed a layer or two of grime from the car even if it wasn't exactly a professional job.

Am questioning my motivation for including this in my blog.  Am I trying to portray myself as some kind of Samaritan in a world full of greed?  No - I'm as selfish as the next person, walking past the Big Issue seller with only a glimmer of guilt on my way back from Thornton's to meet husband in Costa earlier that day.  But the whole Christmas greed thing does start to get to me at this time of year. The queue outside the Pandora shop on Sunday morning snaked right along the street. Past the doorways where it's not unusual to see a homeless person sheltering in the streets of this affluent town.  My first cold callers were right.  We do need a God. But where is he?

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Christmas Pinks and Blues

Inspired by beautiful skies and glorious photographs taken by Mairead in her blog As I Roved Out,  I got the camera out early one morning this week.  Can't match the quality of her photography but thought I'd share these pictures.

Pink and blue is also the colour scheme for our tree this year though I'm not that fussy really and we add things that Kate made at primary school too.  And love my little flying goose which I get out every year.

Happy Christmas to you all.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Christmas Carols with the Songsmiths

I haven't really felt much like preparing for Christmas this year.  I'm missing dad and as we are staying at home, it may feel a bit lonely with just the three of us.

But one thing has helped  me feel a bit more positive has been taking part in several performances with my choir, The Songsmiths.   Christmas is our busiest time and we've performed at three events in the last couple of weeks.  The first event was the Tree of Light Service organised by the local hospital for people who have lost friends and family.  It was a bit of an emotional occasion and I was doing fine, singing all our prepared choir carols, until we all sang 'Away in  a Manger'.  Must be the association with childhood.  I wasn't the only one who got a bit tearful, so it didn't matter so much.  Good to remember.

We also sang on the bandstand by the river in Chester last Sunday for the Santa Dash,  in aid of a local hospice.  Loads of people dressed in Santa suits waving as they went past. Then there was a charity carol service in a local church for the Countess of Chester Babygro appeal.  We enjoyed singing and our audiences responded positively too.  Our repertoire ranged from 'O Holy Night' to 'AWinter's Tale' by David Essex. Other favourites include 'Hallelujah' and 'Let it Snow'

It's a lovely choir - not too serious.  We have words, usually, rather than sheet music and our talented leader works out harmonies by ear.  We are loosely divided into Highies, Lowies and Tune.  I sing Tune, the easiest option of course.  I have no illusions about my musical abilities but absolutely love singing.  You can find us on You Tube by looking up Songsmiths, Chester.

Tonight is choir Christmas night out so I'm going to put on my new sparkly jumper from M&S and join the others for some food and wine and a bit more singing.

The Songsmiths performing for the Babygro appeal last year