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Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

Hoping you had a very Happy Christmas

Here we are, a year round and our first Christmas in our own house in Ireland. I don’t know about you but we had a very happy day. Last year Jacqui scrambled and juggled and somehow made a special time for us. This year we had a bit more time and a bit more space. There were still hiccups of course. An Post seems to have gone AWOL over the last few weeks and letters and parcels I posted up to 3 weeks ago have not arrived. The electricity is decidedly dodgy at the moment and we were cooking in Stygian gloom at one point last night. We’ve had no snow (hooray) but a goodly amount of rain (how unexpected).

This year we can be really festive!

Overall though I think we did quite well. The tree went up, complete with some of our favourite decorations. We followed Irish tradition and strung lights around the front gate (and are planning more for next year). Jacqui made a wonderful Christmas cake and I iced it. Last year she was worried we might not manage a cake and my callous reply was “We’ve got some extras – we could just ice a pudding”. It didn’t go down well. And dinner was a triumph of course.

This is what has destroyed the wood

We took the opportunity of a break in the rain to walk around the wood for the first time. We thought it would be two years before we could do that so felt very happy with our progress. It is still very rough and uneven underfoot and there are many little stumps now. A lot of them show evidence of the dreaded Ash DieBack – scars on the bark, broken rings and black patches inside. We’ve a big job on our hands but we will bring it all back to life, though with different types of trees.

I’ve made this a shorter read than usual as I have some important work to do. One of my presents yesterday was a 17-note kalimba and apparently I have until June to reach concert standard. It is a little brother for the (at least) 50 year old Indian Banjo but I may be a bit more successful with the kalimba. Firstly the Indian Banjo is right-handed so I struggle as a lefty. Secondly Charlie either sings along or hates it so much he won’t stop barking. I’m not sure which but he’s not taken against the kalimba so I may get to learn in peace. For those of you unfamiliar with these instruments, I’ve attached a couple of pictures below.

The 17 note Kalimba
The Indian Banjo

And I have a wonderful new jigsaw puzzle board. I had to leave my old one behind. It was very old and didn’t close properly so the bits slid around and fell out. A confession – I found it abandoned in the alleyway in Saltburn and it was a bit knackered even then. I’ve several lovely new puzzles I’ve not been able to try – a 1,000-piece jigsaw and three lively dogs do not mix. And the only surface big enough is the dining table that I can’t monopolise for days on end. So I will be very busy – and very happy until at least New Year.

I’m probably going to change these blog posts to every 2 weeks next year though if I have news of the new book or the TV project I’ll post that at once. I am also resuming the podcasts from the blogs in January and will post the link. Many, many thanks to you all for your support and friendship this past year. I have loved sharing the journey with you.

Wishing you all a very happy New Year.

Christmas is a big deal in Ireland

We hadn’t expected much of a Christmas. We had moved in December and were mainly confined to our cottage but Christmas is a big deal in Ireland.  When we arrived on our first evening there were fairy lights around the Ingle nook.  We had scarcely got inside before our friends’ young daughter was demanding we decorate the tree.  Yes, the cottage provided a Christmas tree and a collection of red baubles with lots of pine cones.  It was only December 9th but I lacked the will to resist.  We decorated the tree.

Finding the two boxes of our own Christmas stuff in the store room (thank you Lynn!) meant we had no excuses. We had to “do” Christmas.  Our decorations are less designed and more eccentric than those supplied.  Some were purchased with our tiny budget in our first house, some inherited from parents and relatives and some given by friends returning from their travels.  We have a camel on our tree!  Most of them are old but along with the strings of battery powered lights they looked rather festive. 

The next week we looked out of the window to all of the cottages outlined in twinkling coloured lights, including ours.  Suddenly the dark nights were less depressing as we walked the dogs round the green.  It was still cold though, a deep hard cold that froze the grass and struck up through the stone floors.  There was a significant gap around the front door and most of those inside too. Jacqui found an old pillowcase and made a couple of draught excluders and we circled the furniture around the ever-burning fire. 

A second visit to the storage facility provided a few more DVDs,  extra rugs and dog bedding but no sign of my clothes.  I was walking around looking like a scarecrow (my own fault) and with so few clothes I needed to wash them often.  Unfortunately there was no dryer in the cottage, no laundry in the village and anything put on the line outside came back just as wet and half frozen too.  Resorting to the internet – reluctantly as there was no password on the wifi – Jacqui sourced a low-voltage drying rack.  She also persuaded me to order some new jeans.  I was reluctant as delivery was already patchy and signs of disruption apparent.  I am so glad I did as it was three months before we finally got into the storage boxes.

Much to our surprise we began to receive cards sent by friends and relatives to our new address.  It was such a lovely feeling, knowing they had thought of us and made the effort to keep in touch.  We could not go to the Post and had no access to stamps or cards but we have resolved to send cards next year.

Released from self-isolation a few days before Christmas we headed for the nearest town and picked up food for the festive season.  The oven in the cottage was small and rather temperamental but we were feeling more optimistic and wanted to make our first Irish Christmas memorable.  Our friends dropped round and we exchanged presents (from a safe distance) and we had each chosen a few gifts to bring with us.  With our tree, lights and cards and the fire blazing away the main room looked quite lovely.  The meal, cooked by Jacqui, was of course exquisite and we had some of our “saved from Saltburn” wine and a home-made pudding. 

That night we walked the dogs, the ground crunching under our feet.  It was very quiet. Only one other cottage was occupied and the pub and shop were closed. The future was still uncertain, we were desperately cold and I still had hardly anything to wear but it was Christmas.  We had made the journey, we were sheltered and fed and we’d even managed our own little celebration.   Looking up, my breath steaming in the cold air, I could see the Milky Way stretched overhead and for the first time in months I felt a sense of peace.

Yes, Christmas is a big deal in Ireland and this one was very special.