Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Happy Christmas and a Wonderful 2009 to all!

A very happy...
and merry Christmas to you all...

Wishing everyone much health, happiness and much, much more in 2009!

Butterfly Christmas tree, Christmas trees and altar decoration photos all taken at the Lanercost Priory Christmas Tree Festival 2008 .....

here and here (Joan Thirlaway) and here (David Taylor) and finally here (Roger Clegg) for some superlative photos of Hadrian's Wall country and Northumberland throughout the seasons.

And to finish...the Romans celebrated Saturnalia at this time so...

omnia felicia et fausta (tibi sint)

(May you have) everything lucky and auspicious.....

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Living in Hadrian's Wall countryside

I had been thinking about blogging about this subject for some time when French Fancy stole my thunder, well, sort of, she blogged about living in the French countryside as opposed to....living back in the UK.

Here I can compare living in the UK countryside (yes, you know where) as opposed to living in a UK city...and I've known a few....Newcastle, London, Nottingham and Southampton to start off with.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I NEVER expected to like living in the English countryside. I always thought I'd end up living in the countryside in either Spain, Italy or France. (I speak each language: Spanish - fluently, Italian - semi-fluently and my French is a bit rusty although I'm confident that I could resurrect both the Italian and French back to a fluent level pretty quickly. I just love languages.)

We came here, by accident, as I wanted to have our first child near my parents. Since we'd been in Egypt my parents had moved from Jesmond, a suburb of Newcastle, to the edge of a small town, ten minutes away from here, known locally as "The Centre of Britain". I was very lucky to have both children at Hexham hospital where I received excellent pre and post natal care. (So good it could have been private!) We fully expected to move to Europe...probably Tenerife to open another scuba diving centre after the birth of our daughter who is now five years old. For the first year we lived with my parents and slowly fell in love with this area: Hadrian's Wall Country.

What do I miss about living in a city?
  • A variety of shops to hand.
  • Shops being open all hours of the day (here they close at lunchtimes, Wednesday and Saturday are half closing days, Sundays - the shops are always closed).
  • The library being open all hours of the day (our library closes three days and one morning and one afternoon each week).
  • The (open air) swimming pool being open in the Winter.
  • Being able to walk to shops, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, swimming pools, libraries, concerts, theatres etcetera.
  • Not having to jump in the car to go nearly everywhere.
  • Having a variety of public transport to use.
  • The availability of cappuccinos (almost at the drop of a hat...but even so the variety is questionable sometimes! Although M&S in Hexham does a marvellous one....)

What do I love about living in the countryside?
  • The sense of community (people are so friendly). I'll be walking down the high street and everyone will smile and say hello.
  • Continually bumping into people and having a chat.
  • People have time for one another and are more than happy to help.
  • Great neighbours and B&B competitors (basically we all collaborate!)
  • The amazing countryside and history on our doorstep.
  • Going for healthy, beautiful walks.
  • We can walk out of our front door, down through the village and along the cycle path to Hadrian's Wall or drive/walk to many places along the Wall. (Coasts are near and so is the Lake District. There are castles everywhere.)
  • Watching the mesmerising change of seasons.
  • Our little boy shouting "red tractor!" every time it goes past our front door (which it does several times a day).
  • Watching all the wildlife and animals in our garden, in the fields surrounding us. (Today I saw a red squirrel. There is a heron living in a nearby burn.)
  • Everyone knows each other at the school gate.
  • The fact that we have not got loads of multiple high street shops on our doorstep. There is still an individuality about the local high street. It feels like going back in time. We have two butchers, two newsagents (despite having Sainsburys and the Co-op) in the town. We still have a Post Office although the very local P.O. in the next village has got the chop (which is a huge shame...it is the only P.O. actually "on" the Hadrian's Wall Trail).
  • Everything can be bought locally and for more exotic items there is the choice of Hexham, Carlisle and Newcastle (all reasonably easily "gettable" to...by car, train or bus).
  • Fresh and tasty fruit, vegetables, local meat can be bought with ease.
  • Frequent farmers' markets to buy local produce.
  • We have a super chemist and local medical practice where you can get an appointment almost immediately.
  • No crowded, overheated shops, no queues.
  • Craft fairs (a lot of artists, writers and arty folk live out here).
  • Markets, fairs, agricultural shows (the last of which are a bit dangerous for this family!)
  • Quaint traditions still exist...there is a garage in one nearby town where you fill up with petrol (or they will do it for you)...you read the price from the pump and take it through to the office and shout for someone to come through and charge you!

There are a few downsides of course...we've had appalling weather for 2007, 2008 Summers yet the Summers of 2003 and 2006 were absolutely baking....and yes, sometimes, we do often get stuck behind a tractor but so what! we slow down and enjoy the splendid views all around us............................So come on, tell us....What's it like where you live?

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The spirit is willing but the blog is weak

Dear Debs,
Thank you extremely muchly for this award.
I will try to pass it on as soon as I am able.
Truth to tell...my blogging urge is a little faint a ce moment...purely because the other half is in Egypt on business all this week and half of next. The children are keeping me awake all night; have developed RSI* from writing out masses of Christmas cards; have presents to buy; have presents to wrap up; concerts and plays to attend; house to clean and tidy; floors to vacuum; walls to de-mildew; mountains (Eiger fulls) of washing and ironing to do; children to de-hype and de-yogurt...in short nothing that anybody else is not facing right now....
So I will keep this very attractive and chic award in my head as a little beacon of hope and will award it properly in due course.
I wanted to award it to all my blogging chums but perhaps that is a little lazy of me. So will wonder, mull, ponder, chew and select.....
Yours festively,
Hadriana x x
*Repetitive Strain Injury or Really Serious (lack) of decent (and publishable) blogging Ideas....
P.S. Dear French Fancy, you mentioned a good idea to me..the other week...but I do so want to do it justice so....it shall have to await a while. I think I need to recharge my blogging batteries!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

When shepherds washed their socks by night...

It has snowed again during the night (although it doesn't look it here...)
My daughter has got me up so I'm blogging in the middle of the night when I should be asleep or writing out Christmas cards (something else that I am putting off).

The family's favourite Christmas carol is "The Holly and the Ivy" only because they've been brainwashed since birth...read here what effect it has had on one of our children!

What I impolitely forgot to ask with my last post was: What is everyone's favourite Christmas carol or Christmas song? (Or least favourite...for that matter!)

Monday, 1 December 2008

"Snow had fallen, snow on snow"

In the bleak midwinter

"This exquisitely melancholy and evocative carol, imagining the Nativity in a snowy Northern landscape, was originally written by Christina Rossetti as a Christmas poem for an American magazine, Scribner’s Monthly, in 1872." (Quoted from here.)

(Photo of nearby Thirlwall Castle taken a couple of years ago...but feels and looks like that today. Brrr!)
"In The Bleak Midwinter" has been named the best Christmas carol in a poll of some of the world's leading choirmasters and choral experts (BBC report 27th November 2008). And I have to say that I agree with them wholeheartedly. I'm not an overly religious person but there is something about the ritual of church in combination with marvellous music which always sends shivers down my spine.
I think it was Colin Dexter who coined the phrase "high church agnostic" and I think I would put myself in that bracket. When we lived in Egypt it was incredibly fascinating hearing the call to prayer several times a day. There was a Christian Coptic church in the town but oddly I did miss seeing (and hearing) churches and church bells around me.
My family, when we were in South Shields, had a connection with the local Church of England vicar and his wife. Mrs. Talbot taught the girls (including me) piano and Mr. Talbot, the vicar, taught my father how to play the violin. (Nothing short of incredulous as my father declares himself to be a republican atheist.) I used to sing in the church choir for christenings and weddings as well (a good way of earning pocket money). I also used to go to a Catholic Girls School so I imagine that something (possibly spiritual?) has rubbed off onto me. Nevertheless I was quite taken aback by my yearnings for Church spires and the like whilst living abroad.
My husband adores all things to do with Christmas and is not of the "Bah, humbug!" variety. This leaves its mark on me too (I used to be of the latter persuasion). So when I heard that this carol had come up trumps I was absolutely delighted. All I have got to do is to commit the verses in their entirety to memory as I never seem to get past the first verse with its frozen still images in their icy magnificence. (The last verse, I suspect, has a particular resonance at the moment....)

In the bleak midwinter

Frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron,

Water like a stone:

Snow had fallen, snow on snow

Snow on snow,

In the bleak mid-winter,

Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him

Nor earth sustain;

Heaven and earth shall flee away

When he comes to reign:

In the bleak mid-winter

A stable-place sufficed

The Lord God Almighty

Jesus Christ.

Enough for him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,

A breastful of milk,

And a mangerful of hay:

Enough for him, whom angels

Fall down before,

The ox and ass and camel

Which adore.

Angels and archangels

May have gathered there,

Cherubim and seraphim

Thronged the air -

But only his mother

In her maiden bliss

Worshipped the beloved

With a kiss.

What can I give him,

Poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;

If I were a wise man
I would do my part;

Yet what I can, I give him -
Give my heart.