Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sparkly December

What a month of weather!

December has been a month of -

Torrential rain

I have got used to the noise of the wind buffeting the bungalow at night and the rain lashing in gusts at the window.  We've had so many storms lately that I now seem to sleep through it rather than lying there worried that the glass in the windows will smash.

Loved decorating the tree with Ez (and I didn't move ANY decorations once she was out of the way - promise!).  We like to collect decorations from most countries we visit if we can (the turquoise bauble is a cheat - my parents gave it to us).  Here are a few of my favourites -

China, Norway and South Africa

We have been very busy this month driving up and down to Poole in dire weather to practise singing Handel's Messiah (and carols).  Our dinner for three consecutive nights consisted of a cheese topped bap and a bag of crisps.  I have to check for food debris when we get there.  I'd forgotten that the audience stand for the Hallelujah Chorus though and thought they were leaving en masse!  We had a great conductor called Christian Curnyn - I loved him.  He wanted us 'strong and wrong', he wanted 'feeling', he wanted 'more Celine Dion'!  Yes!  We had a near disaster when we got to Poole for the concert and Sarah had left her score (in sensible bag with zips) by the front door but luckily she borrowed one, phew. Just wish singing for long periods with heavy score in hand didn't give me 'singer's shoulder blade'.  

We have managed a few little jollies, squeezed in (I can clean next year).

We saw this train (The Royal Scot) on the station a while back whilst waiting to go to Basingstoke to see Madeleine Peyroux in concert.  I decided that this is what I want to do for my next big birthday (swallow).  I was annoyed that I didn't have my camera because it looked so cosy, lit up in the dark, all the people eating at their little tables by lamp light and the train decorated for Christmas inside.  It made me sigh with pleasure.  One day.....


We stuck our little pinkies in the air at the Christmas drinks and nibbles/Salisbury International Arts Festival/pre launch/meet the new Festival Director thing.  Tip - don't try eating a warm, crumbly mince pie with one hand whilst holding a glass of hot mulled wine in the other as the result is massive crumbs stuck to your lip and no free hand to wipe them off.  Not a good look if you are trying to look suave, arty and at the same time desperately sucking your stomach in.

This is where it was held - The Banqueting Hall in Salisbury Guildhall.

The Guildhall lit up behind the Christmas market



Many important guests have been entertained here over the centuries from King George III to Lord Nelson to the current Queen and Diana, Princess of Wales.  There are supposedly three ghosts who haunt this room.  I was too busy trying to look cool to notice any paranormal activity.

Another impressive building (and freezing cold, glad I wore me vest) I have studied this month is Sherborne Abbey.  We sang our carol concert there with brass from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the church organ (phwor).  Not much room for our scores, lots of paper shuffling and clashing of folders but it was wonderful - Christmasy, atmospheric and fun.  All the great and the good were there to do readings - authors Philip Pullman and Tracey Chevalier.  Sumptuous.

The amazing fan vaulted roof at Sherborne Abbey

Some say it is the Cathedral of Dorset and it has the heaviest peal of eight bells in the world.

Before the congregation arrived.  Sarah got told off for trying to pinch a programme off one of the pews!

Outside the Lady Chapel where we could panic before the concert (Oh, no, that's just me)

We've grabbed as many walks in the daylight and in the dry as we can.

Our friend Patsy in the village must have a lot of cooking apples!  She gives us her grass clippings in exchange for vegetables

Big Dog admiring the view

The scent from the Viburnum outside the back door is heavenly

Christmas shopping in Salisbury 

Not the most enjoyable shopping trip.  I had a cold so my nose was continually running, I parked too close to a wall in the car park but didn't have the energy to move the car so had to squeeze out of the driver's door (whilst sniffing), the self service machine in WH Smiths told me I needed assistance but I was so hot and bothered that I just abandoned my shopping!  Oh, and this was all topped off by a box full of rolls of wrapping paper falling on my head.  Agh!

Sarah made Christmas buns - they were sooooo yummy

One day I discovered I had company at my usual 'top of the hill thinking spot'

A reindeer carrying boy from Norway, a nisse doll from Denmark that my Grandmother gave me when I was little and a gnome from Bath

The 'nisse' is a creature from Scandinavian folklore where they are known to help out with household chores & taking care of the animals on farms - I could do with one of those. Apparently it is a tradition in Denmark to bring a warm rice pudding to these Creatures on Christmas Eve in order to show their gratitude and to keep the temperamental and vindictive Nisse happy and helpful!

When the kids were younger we one day found that a yellow interloper had gate crashed the nativity scene so it is now tradition, along with the one eared donkey.

Grandpa Simpson waiting for the baby to arrive

Most recent decoration - Ez brought back from Loch Ness in Scotland

Interesting fact - I didn't know but there is more water in Loch Ness than all the other lakes in England, Scotland and Wales put together!!

Stockings on the stairs

I have a soft spot for my wobbly reindeer

Sarah made several batches of mincey pies (I dusted them with icing sugar)

We've played Cluedo (my favourite), cards ........

and Jenga

It's been so nice to have time to watch lots of old films like 'White Christmas', go to the panto (Dick Whittington) and get the Downton Abbey jigsaw puzzle out from last Christmas (at last!).  Frank likes to help Sarah by sitting in the lid of the puzzle and playing with the pieces.  We know how to live!  Mind you, so does Big Dog. When we got back from the panto the other night there was MY new, unopened (and saved) packet of Thornton chocolates on her bed, empty, next to a very sheepish looking dog......  Grrrrr.....

The girls decorated their nails for the season

Oliver wore his Christmas hat with the ears for a sunny dog walk

I was very excited to find some fungi whilst furtling about up the hollow on my own one day

Jew's Ear Fungi

Lots of Old Man's Beard

Slimey Beech cap

Big Dog walking back down the hollow past one of my favourite bright pink berried Spindle Trees

We were forecast one decent day this week so we rushed down to the coast and walked from Portman Ravine to Southbourne.  It was so good to get some sea air under our tails.

My hair growing experiment is going well.  I just hope I can get through the 'Bradley Wiggins' phase that I appear to be in.

Who are those two old country broads?

We've seen signs of storm damage on our village walks.

This barn was missing a huge piece of roof

Glad I wasn't around when that flew off!

No, that isn't a lake - it's a flooded field.

The river Ebble has burst it's bank

Sarah trying to cross a bridge in the field!

Sandbags outside a cottage

New Year's eve in Grovely woods today - happy, happy, happy 

And lots of fungi!  Coral and Antler fungi on the left and bottom right a jelly fungi we have never seen before - 'Jelly Tongue'.  Very exciting end to the year.

Anyway, must dash - doing something different this New Year's eve and going to a concert in the Medieval Hall in the Cathedral Close (bit different to the usual debauchery in the pub!) and at the moment I am wearing a festive jumper (acrylic won't do) that smells of beef casserole.

Happy New Year!!

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