Tag Archive | christmas

Merry Christmas!

20161129_070415

A beautiful quiet is laid around the cottage this early pre-dawn time.

I open the curtains and creep back into bed to wait for the light to rise. Watching.

Beyond the steamy panes there’s a glow to the East. Light enough to show me the frost  whitening the field. From the other window the dark still sparkles with stars.

These crisp, clear, quiet dawns always put me in mind of Christmas and fill me up with peace. And love.

May your Christmas be as peaceful and sparkly as a starry sky and your new year as hopeful as a clear and promising dawn.

Merry Christmas.

Warm hearts and hearths for Christmas

Most people don’t want the bother of a real fire. dsc06135

It’s far easier and less time consuming to flick a switch than lug coal buckets, saw wood and clean up ash. Sometimes I feel I don’t want the bother of it either. But recently I’ve felt blessed with the presence of a real fire in the cottage. Most particularly since the boiler broke down again.

The word ‘cottage’ may sound romantic. But along with them come the quirks of their time; the insulation is none existent, the tiled floors feel arctic on bare feet and the wicked Easterly will inevitably find a way in. Which all serves to chill the crockery, clothes, furnishings and fingers to the temperature of the sausages straight out the freezer. The real give-away is the fact that they don’t defrost, even over a day!

But soon as the fire’s lit, all that seems bearable. We stack it up. Have dinner on knee in front of it. Let its soothing chatter calm concerns and melt muscles and bones braced against the cold.

Looking after it also keeps me active, so contributes to raising my temperature and my strength and fitness as well.

It’s ironic isn’t it, that all our labour saving devices, despite being so convenient, are not so good for our health. We’ve become so sedentary that we have to schedule in times to keep fit when the process of living no longer does so.

Watching the fire is as compulsive as staring at a screen but is better for my mental fitness, I reckon. It’s heart warming as well as hearth warming. Perhaps it’s because there’s something in us that draws us towards these natural elements, like the sun, something ancient in our genes that will never be over taken by man-made things. I don’t turn to stare at a radiator for peace of mind!

In new builds and work spaces maybe we need to take into account that we are natural beings ourselves. And as such consider that we do need a connection to other natural elements, like light which I talked about last time, to keep our hearts and heads as warm, healthy and fit as our bodies and muscles used to be when we were tending fires.

Wishing you warm hearts and hearths this season however you find them.

Short days and earth songs

The coming of today's dawn

The coming of today’s dawn

When it got to June I panicked. It’s because I then know it’s less than a month till the longest day when the daily dose of light begins to dwindle again. And light is important to me. It’s important to everyone in fact, but most don’t seem to feel it, or recognise it, as I do. Most manage city lives without this awareness of the earth’s natural rhythms.

I don’t reckon this is healthy. If we’re not aware of the earth we’re not sensitive to its needs as well as ours. When we’re not sensitive we can pollute and desecrate as if it didn’t matter.

What will we leave our kids then? The scenario from the Michael Jackson Earth Song video.

Understanding the earth is one of the most important parts of education surely. Far more important than Grammar or spelling, how many wives King Henry the Eighth had and in what order. We can live without knowing those things – we can look them up. We can’t live without awareness of the planet or there will be no food, no resources, no light, no kings and queens to learn about.

It’s essential our children respect the earth and to do that they need to be connected to it.

Connecting with it at this time of the year is not without its challenges.

But worth it, so get the gloves, hats and thermals out and get the kids out there. There is always something to be fascinated by, discover, experience. And you’ll enjoy being back inside all the more afterwards. (Here’s a site to explore) (And another)

And now it’s December we can take comfort from the fact that it will soon be the shortest day of the year. And a few days after that we’ll be blessed with more light hours each day – well – minutes to start with, but it will inevitably happen.

And it will continue to happen for as long as we are sensitive to the earth’s needs as well as our own – something to remember over Christmas.

For the most meaningful present we could ever give is remembering to be sensitive and respectful through all the present giving, dustbin-filling, wasteful practices and over eating! Help your children understand that our love for the earth is as important as our love for one another; that without it we would not be here.

Ask them how can they help it this Christmas?

Christmasses will come and go – only as long as the earth goes on forever. That’s down to us and our children and our children’s children and so on…and only if we’ve educated them to understand that the earth needs love and has its own song to sing.

Wishing you Happy New Year energy!

One for me - a landscape to look at on those wintry days I can't get out

One for me – a landscape to look at on those wintry days when I can’t get out

I get sick of words sometimes! Yea – I know I’m a writer but everyone gets tired of their job!

I often spend ages looking for the right ones, sometimes it takes a whole mile of tramping out in the wild to rustle up enough inspiration to even think when writing so depletes it. Let’s face it any work depletes it!

And finding the right words to express yourself is extremely difficult. Even great philosophers have a problem with language, because some concepts are so intangible and difficult to express the language can limit what you mean. It can be a barrier to pure thought. Certainly hard to write what we mean at times.

And we expect kids to do it?!

Anyway, sick of the linear form and released from the writing treadmill (yep – it can be as much a treadmill as any other job), I’ve been taking some time over the holiday to try and restore some creative energy, so turned my hand to more practical, hands on and visual forms of representing the things I love, or expressing love to others through making them gifts.

Several bags and cushions later I feel much refreshed. And practising some of the other ideas I’ve preached here throughout the year I bought nothing, just reused stuff we had, some of the fabrics dating right back to when the children were here and we’d collected materials from the recycling centre. So glad I didn’t pass them on as I threatened to do on several occasions I felt over cluttered!

And I was able to express my love for others, my love of textile, and my love of the land, in a different way from words, even if I did write this blog to tell you – the experience turning me back to writing and thus being just the refresher I needed.

I hope you were able to refresh over Christmas among all the other demands and now face the new year nicely rejuvenated.

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all my wonderful readers whose support means so much words still fail to do justice to it!

…And especially for the Home Ed littlies

WhosNIS xmas15 005Wanting a last minute present for a home school child or family, or just someone who’s inquisitive about it?

It’s so difficult to find books that feature home educating children but if you have a look at my latest book you’ll find just that. It’s a book for children about the adventurous Harry and what he and his family get up to in a typical home school week.

I say typical – but Harry’s probably not as typical in his thinking as first appears. Home schooling does, after all, make you think outside the typical! And nothing stretches your intelligence further than that.

The illustrations, by the talented James Robinson, give you and the children plenty of topics to talk about, particularly Harry’s antics and whether you think they’re appropriate or not!

You can check it out on My Books page or if you pop over to Amazon you can read the reviews. You can also buy it direct from the publisher here.

And look out for his new adventure later in the new year – it’s already in the making.

A Funny Kind of Christmas!

xmasbook 003In case you’re stuck for a book to give this Christmas thought I’d tempt you with a little Chrsitmassy extract from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ – the heartfelt story of our family’s learning days at home, featuring several Christmas times..

“…With it being our third year of kids at home full time around Christmas you’d think we’d have engineered a plan for secrets. We decided we’d try honesty and appeal to their mature natures now that they were eleven and eight.

“Your dad and I are just going upstairs for a while and it’s important you don’t disturb us. Have you got things to do?”

“What for?” There was a little twinkle in Chelsea’s eye as she asked which reminded me distinctly of mum.

“It’s a secret,” I said smiling.

“A Christmas secret?” asked Charley also grinning now and knowing exactly what we were up to.

“Maybe,” said their dad. He tried to be mysterious but the girls are too clever for him. “So you won’t disturb us, will you?”

“Maybe!” returned Chelsea copying him and Charley smirked.

We went upstairs and de-hid all their presents from our various drawers.

“Do you think they’ll disturb us?” said Charles, cutting paper on the slant and wrestling to find the end of the sticky tape.

“I don’t think so, but look, we’ll turn back the bedcovers then if they come up whilst we’re wrapping we’ll throw the duvet over everything.” You have to be inventive when you’re a Home Educator.

“Do you remember doing this when they were at school,” I said.

“Yea, life was easy then,” he said grinning and spitting sticky tape from between his teeth.

“What? You think tears and illness every day were easy?” We laughed. I wrapped. He stuck. If he was in charge of the wrapping all the presents would look like parcels of fish and chips.

“No, it was awful. I can’t believe we’ve done this as long as we have. It just seems so ordinary now. You should hear the others at work going on about homework and packed lunches and stuff. Not to mention Christmas concert practises. They’re complaining the kids aren’t getting on with their learning” He stuck my finger to the parcel.

I extricated it and reached for some ribbon.

“I can imagine. Do they say anything about ours then?”

“Only how they can see why we do it.” He put his massive thumb on the delicate bow I created, squishing it. I tied his thumb down.

“Not enough for them to have a go though!” I laughed. Then the stairs creaked. Charles leapt off the bed, smacked his head on the sloping ceiling but still managed to toss the duvet over the presents as I stuffed the paper under the bed. We sat there and listened. Sniggering was coming from the landing.

“Go away,” Charles called.

“We’re not coming in, we’re only going to our rooms.” The giggling got fainter. We exchanged looks. Charles sneaked a peek through a crack in the old planked door.

“What they doing?” I whispered.

“They’ve gone into their bedrooms but their doors are open.”

“Let’s carry on. I don’t think they’ll come in. They wouldn’t want to spoil their Christmas surprises. Besides, I think Chelsea’s becoming aware of other things that go on in bedrooms!”

Charles raised his eyebrows in glee. “In that case, perhaps we should make good use of it.”

“What? You think you could enjoy sex with giggling going on at the bedroom door and creaking floorboards?” We laughed like naughty kids but continued wrapping.

“What you laughing at?” came from right outside the door. We bundled the duvet back over everything once more.

“Never you mind. Go back downstairs,” I shouted. I crept over and peeped to see if there was any peeping coming from the other side the crack. None.

“Come on, let’s get it done before they come up again.” The rest were wrapped in haste and I fear my parcels looked like fish and chips too.

Charley looked shocked and uncomfortable. Her face was full of both thunder and distress and very red. Her eyes looked like they were going to fill up any minute. She turned her head away and would not look at Charles or me either.

Chelsea just folded her arms across her chest, adopted her most disdainful position and stated emphatically “If anyone asks; you are not my dad.”

Charles couldn’t help it. All the staff were told to dress up for the Christmas market for charity but the girls weren’t impressed. And Charley absolutely hated anyone dressed up in costume.  I got a bit of a shock myself seeing this large rotund red fellow with two cushions up his jacket and his face adorned with a mass of flowing white stuff. It’s very off-putting seeing someone who you are as familiar with as your own body parts taking on another persona. He was sweating so much the bits of his face you could see were authentically shining as Santa’s does in all the pictures. It did the trick. A good crowd had gathered at the store and money was being thrown continually in the charity bucket.

“God, I keep losing my trousers,” he said grabbing a handful of red bottom and hoisting it up. I couldn’t help laughing.

“I knew you’d laugh,” he said.

“Sorry, I’m not laughing at you, it’s just your trousers.” I tried to help. But grappling with Santa’s trousers seemed even funnier. Obviously everyone else thought so too as two more pounds went in the bucket. It’s not every day people see Santa being groped.

“Do you have to behave like that?” demanded Chelsea, standing holding Charley’s hand a little bit distant whilst we tried to control our hysteria. She still wouldn’t look at him.

“Have a sweetie,” said Charles holding out the bucket to her.

“No!”

“It’s only a bit of fun,” I said.

“You look stupid.”

I didn’t care, I was in the Christmas spirit. I had a quick snog with Santa and left him to his collecting.

“We’ll go look round the Christmas Market. See you later.”

“Okay. See you later girls.” They ignored him and pulled me away. But Chelsea called back over her shoulder.

“Save us some sweeties, dad.”

We bought a few Christmas presents and then had to get some new wellies for Chelsea. Charley just got the hand-me-downs but she was still at the stage where anything of Chelsea’s was revered. Wellies had taken on a new persona of their own in the shops. They were more pictorial than the efforts we see in the Tate Modern and a hell of a price. I refused to be ripped off, plus the fact we had tight budgets. But Chelsea ogled the bright ones wistfully.

“I’m sorry darling, these will have to do. The others are just too expensive,” I said picking up the plain green ones, the cheapest we could find. I felt a bit wretched about this. In order to Home Educate, time isn’t the only thing we sacrifice and all I ever seem to say is ‘we can’t afford it’. But she’s so intuitive she must have picked up on it.

“It doesn’t matter mum. I’ll paint my own with the paints we got from the recycling centre.”

I was so grateful for her magnitude I cuddled her up. “What a brilliant idea! And I bet they’ll be better than any in the shops.”

“Yea, and no one else will have any the same,” she said looking at a girl wearing some we’d just seen in Woolworths.

“Can I paint mine too?” asked Charley.

“Sure. We’ll have a wellie painting session. We could even paint your dad’s,” I said winking at them. They really liked that idea.

When we went back later Charles looked his normal self again. He opened his arms to Charley and she leapt into them with clear relief. Chelsea lobbed her arms round his waist.

“Is that better now?” he asked carrying Charley to the car. She inspected him slightly doubtfully. Chelsea smiled happily up at him holding the free hand.

“You did look daft, dad,” she giggled.

“Did you remember the sweets?” asked Charley.

He put her down and produced a packet from his pocket. Finally Charley grinned at him too. It was definitely better now.

“Mum! You can’t go out like that,” Chelsea said as I tied tinsel on my shoes ready for a Christmas party.

“Why not? It’s Christmas isn’t it.” I looked at her in feigned indignation. She’d got that suffering look on again.

“Doh! What do you look like?” She was getting to be a right Tweenager.

“I think you look nice,” said Charley clasping my leg in a cuddle from the carpet where she was building a structure with our logs.

“Well at least put some lipstick on,” said Chelsea still trying to make something out of me. She rummaged in a make up bag so extensive it would be the envy of Julian Clary. “How about this?” She produced something nearly black.

“Black?” I shrieked. “It’s Christmas, not Halloween.”

“It’s not black, it’s plum.”

“I’ll have some,” said Charley hopefully. She was ignored. I sneaked a look in the bag of sticky powdery tubs and jars and pencils. It staggered me how she loved it so, I wasn’t into it at all. But I humoured her and found a jar of lovely sparkly glittery gluey stuff with sequin stars in.

“Ooo, this is nice.” I opened the pot and smeared some across my chest. It made grubby stains as if I hadn’t washed for a week. “Oh!” I looked in the mirror, disappointed.

“Oh, mum, not like that.” Chelsea took over and I had the sense our mother and daughter roles were reversing. She wiped it about and the smudges disappeared leaving a myriad of glistening sparkles. Then she added the sequins.

“Can I have some?” asked Charley again, thinking her sister had softened her attitude.

“No!” was the emphatic retort.

“Can I have some then?” asked Charles.

“NO!” they both shrieked together. And give us their parents-are-prats look.

We finished getting ready.

“So do we look alright now?” I asked.

“Yes.” They smile united. But I couldn’t help a last word.

“You know it’s not how you look, it’s what’s inside that counts.”

“Yes, we know!”

They know too much, my kids.

Christmas continued sparkly all the way through.

The best thing about it was the painted wellies. They were works of art fit for exhibiting in The Tate themselves, with swirls and colours and rainbows. If I’d bought the coloured ones we never would have had such creativity. Being on a tight budget certainly makes you think creatively so maybe I shouldn’t worry after all. Charley painted gold stars on hers. But she painted straight over the mud so the stars had a brown tinge.

Charles and I used the ‘holiday’ from education to ignore the children and just live life. But it didn’t work. We didn’t want it to really. We were a family, we were a team. Life and education were as indistinguishable from one another as our family and love. I suspected it always would be.”

5 things I’d ask for Christmas

It’s too early for Christmas but my cactus doesn’t seem to think so.  cactus dawn 11.15 003

Nor do the shops. Nor the telly!

Far too early surely to have these endless tedious adverts as the supermarket giants try to outdo each other, or Radio Drivel blaring out of shops in town.

I don’t know how the staff stand it and it’s already been going on a while.

I’m increasingly uncomfortable about us being encouraged to climb onto this Christmas treadmill earlier and earlier, as if we have so much to buy we’ve no chance of fitting it into a week or two’s preps in December.

I have great difficulty marrying some of my values, those that uphold the value of the earth and our responsibility towards it, within a culture of Christmas that promotes nothing more than consumerist vandalism basically.

I know many families like us must be fairly easy to give presents to; we always have things we need not having the disposable income so many have. More difficult I find to give to those who have so much it’s generated a culture of satirical junk destined for the dump much of the time. Wish we could bypass this madness.

I love giving presents. But I’m not hoodwinked into believing that more is best or is a sign of more love. Something home made or carefully thoughtful fills me up, however little. Tasty treats we wouldn’t normally have are a delight.

But when I see stands and stands of pointless putrid rubbish, designed for the sake of buying for those who have so much it’s impossible to know what to give, it rather fills me with despair. Especially in the light of so many being in such desperate need, even for basics, even for a roof over their head. I know people who spend more on decorative trappings, to be binned after the season, than we’d probably spend on food in a week!

So I would ask as you do your Christmas preps to perhaps rethink this. To consider five things: –

  1. how much less you could buy this time,
  2. how much less waste you could create,
  3. how much less energy you could use,
  4. how you could make your Christmas more recyclable,
  5. and how you could give to those who have less than you do.

And I’ll do the same and see if we can come up with a Christmas that is less pollutive and truly based in giving more than having!

Do share your ideas in the comments – I always love to read them.