December Reflections 24 (stillness) and 25 (today is…), and Week-end

Grey sea and grey sky fading into each other at the horizon
Discarded wrapping paper

The good

I am more or less over my cold and was able to sing most of the Christmas carols as I would have wished.

The mixed

Christmas with the family, the first time we’ve made it since Covid happened. It’s been good. Tag-team organised chaos. Missing Pa. Ended up in charge of two major meals. Slightly overreached myself with the Wigilia and had a cry midway through making the pierogi (need to get better at coopting minions, particularly when it’s just a case of following a recipe in a book).

The difficult and perplexing

Being ill has meant I haven’t been to nearly as much church as I normally would, and having melted brain and general fatigue has meant I haven’t been able to do as much in-depth Advent study as I usually would, and really all I could do was turn up at midnight mass and hope it was doing its thing somewhere deep under the surface.

What’s working

The shower! At least, better than it was before. I think I must have knocked the temperature control at some point.


I finished Bright Smoke, Cold Fire. Holy cliffhanger, Batman! I suppose I’ll have to read the next one now, but I disapprove. Picked up The Master and Margarita again; I continue to find it rather heavy-going. Started Sisters of the Forgiving Stars. And also Letters from Tove [Jansson], which I can see I’m going to enjoy immensely.


I finished the first season of Detectorists and enjoyed it. Quite a lot of skiing. And we watched a programme featuring Susan Calman taking a Christmas cruise down the Danube, which provided me with an opportunity to try to recognise bits of Vienna and Bratislava.


Almost an entire Wigilia (Polish Christmas Eve) meal, modified to account for two vegans and one vegetarian. I was particularly pleased with how the pierogi (three flavours – mushroom, sauerkraut, and potato, onion and ‘cheese’) turned out, even if it would have been better to make it in advance.

The barscz came out of a Tetrapak and the uszkas came out of a bag. I made a sauerkraut salad and a cucumber and ‘yoghurt’ salad, and got Tony to do a tomato one. Lidl ready to pan-fry sea bass for the carnivores. Stuffed tomatoes for everyone else. And I had made the cake ahead of time.

Ended up mostly in charge of Christmas lunch, too, until I got the timings out by half an hour and gave up with a howl of despair. There were plenty of other adults to take over.


See above.

In the garden

Finally got around to unloading compost from the Hotbin.


Arundel looking impossibly fairy-tale in the declining winter sun.


Family. Friends, not least the online ones. And the hovercraft coming back into service just as we got to Portsmouth, cutting an hour off the journey.


Other than Christmas presents, a lot of sewing thread.

Line of the week

From the verse of O Little Town that’s only in the New English Hymnal:

Where charity stands watching
And faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
And Christmas comes once more.

This coming week

More seasonal shenanigans.

If you’ve been celebrating Christmas today, I hope it’s been a very happy one. Otherwise, I wish you a nice peaceful day and hope it all doesn’t get too annoying.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

December Reflections 23: orange

Small citrus fruit and a perfume sample bottle on a yellow box

Actually, that’s a clementine, but close enough. The abundance of citrus fruit is one of the consolations of this time of year. I’ve gone off apples a bit recently, but oranges retain their joyful tangy appeal.

The perfume sample is Ffern’s latest, and it starts (for me) with a burst of friendly orange before the cooler notes come in. I’ve been enjoying experimenting with scent the last few years – working my way through discovery boxes, picking up a bottle of Molton Brown Recharge Black Pepper in the duty free on the ferry home from the Netherlands, spinning through the seasons with a Ffern subscription… And I often do end up liking the orangey ones best.

December Reflections 22: made me laugh

A business card from The White Horse at Woolstone, with handwritten text on the back:
15th August 1985
Kathleen's First Pub (inside)
(Fox & Hounds at Uffington - 10th August - outside)

It isn’t just family history that I’ve been discovering this year. One of the boxes that came out of storage was my birth box – new baby cards, newspaper announcements, and this little souvenir from my first (or second, depending which way you look at it) pub visit, at the age of less than a month. Which most definitely made me laugh – firstly, that I’d have been taken to the pub at that tender age, and secondly, that somebody (my father) would have recorded it. But then of course he would.

I’m thinking I ought to organise a return visit.

December Reflections 20: one year ago

Detail of a week to view engagement diary with the space for 20 December filled in with details of the day's activities

One year ago I was still at work. (Today I clocked off at lunchtime.) One year ago I was getting quite a lot done, by the look of things. (Today I got a reasonable amount done, but not that much.) Last year and this year both I suspect I was racing to get things tidied up before the Christmas break. Last year I apparently had the energy in the evening not only to do some writing of my own (Short Work was at that point the working title of the Romeo and Juliet thing) but to make cauliflower cheese.

Still, it wasn’t all unbounded energy and motivation. I see I took a nap on Sunday afternoon, and, rather than work all the way through until end of day Christmas Eve, I took a last-minute leave day on the 22nd and noted it was a good idea. Looking back through the blog, I thought I was tired then.

This is the great thing about these quick daily records. So often they correct my memory, give a little more context for actions and decisions that just become the way things happened. Assuming, of course, that I remember to look back.

December Reflections 18: handwritten

This is the last thing I wrote on any original fiction project, back at the end of November. Not as long ago as I’d thought, but it’s been a slow autumn. It’s been a slow year, writing-wise. I’ve had flashes of inspiration – the story on the left hand page there is now a complete first draft.

It’s not even that my writing brain has gone. When I sit down and talk with myself I can pull a plot together and work out who’s who and why they’re up to whatever it is. That process still spits up the first few gems that a story can accrete around.

But the wheels are stiff. I have to push and push and push to keep them turning. In fact, I have to push and push and push to do pretty much anything at the moment, and writing, which isn’t my main or even a significant source of income, never comes to the top of the priority list. Which is sad, but well, that’s just the way it is at the moment.

Anyway, shortly after I’d written that page I decided that this really wasn’t working, and if I kept on pushing I was going to end up resenting what’s usually a source of joy for me, and take the rest of the year off. Times and seasons. And even if this is a much longer fallow season than I’m used to, I still need to trust that it will come to an end and that my drive will come back.

December Reflections 17: I said goodbye to… (and Week-end)

Pa. Sort of. Incompletely. That’s the thing with an unexpected death: you don’t say the things that you might have done, otherwise. I would rather have it this way than the other, but I never actually said goodbye.

And that’s about all I feel up to writing about that, so on with the rest of the post.

The good

The snow was pretty? And not too inconvenient for me personally. I took the slow train to the office on Monday (nothing running on the fast line) and had a lovely time looking out of the window at white-blanketed Essex countryside.

The difficult and perplexing

I’ve had a horrible cold, which has run the gamut of symptoms (runny nose, nosebleeds, lost voice, cough, cough, cough, headache, exhaustion). This morning I woke at half past five or so and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I’ve been very tired and grumpy all day.

What’s working

Hall’s Soothers, a bit.


I finished The Fellowship of the Ring this morning and started The Two Towers after lunch. I’ve read quite a lot of articles on the internet this week, a fact that I’ve found faintly encouraging.


I started The Detectorists earlier this evening. It’s quietly enjoyable so far, though it hasn’t really grabbed me yet.


Finally got my act together and attempted vegan pierogi. The shells worked well; the filling, made with vegan spready ‘cheese’, lost all cheesy flavour when cooked. Also I need to be more careful about sealing them. I’m wondering about trying that yeast flavouring stuff, and/or vegan parmesan.

And pasta e fagioli from Tin Can Cook.


Other than the above, Thai green chicken curry, on my mother’s suggestion. Lebkuchen.


A fox loping across a snowy meadow. Blue tits and great tits and robins at the birdfeeder, with a woodpigeon prowling hopefully on the ground.

In the garden

Everything is frozen.


Sleep, when I get it. Dungarees.


Perfume – Ffern winter box came through this week. Haven’t opened it yet.

Line of the week

From Rejoicings in a Dug-out (a London Review of Books review of a biography of G. K. Chesterton):

His saintly lack of concern for practical affairs seems to have entailed not only a wilful failure to think about how his staff’s wages would be paid, but a deeper reluctance to address what he was avoiding and what he was clinging to – attachments that a life of prayer and self-examination are supposed to make clearer.

This coming week

One and a half days at work; a visit to Addenbrooke’s; and the last of the Christmas prep (I feel as if I’ve hardly done any).

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

December Reflections 16: treasures

Collection of objects on a wooden table: two letter openers shaped like lizards; a pair of opera glasses; tin containing a medal with the image of the Royal Albert Hall; metal chalet, horse, tree and dog

So many. The more we go through Pa’s stuff, the more we turn up. Some of them are old friends – I have adored those lizards since I was tiny. Some were completely new to us – I’d never seen the German village before. Some are of genuine historical interest – Sir Julius Benedict’s watch chain, for example. Some are genuinely useful – I have been using the opera glasses for their intended purpose. Some would fetch a few bob at auction, though probably less than you’d think, and indeed some have already departed in that direction. Some came from auctions in the first place. Some have been in the family for years.

And there are plenty more where those came from. The ones I’m enjoying most are the ones that tell me more about family I never knew. For example, we found a little piece of cardboard with a clock face drawn on in ink: this, it said on the reverse, was made by my great-great-grandfather for my grandfather to put on his sandcastle on Bournemouth beach in the early years of the 20th century (I forget which specific year). This more or less doubled what I knew about that great-grandfather, as a human being.

It’s a privilege. Goodness knows my husband’s grandmother, for example, was not in a position to collect little bits of cardboard of sentimental value and take them with her to Siberia. Sometimes it’s poignant. Sometimes it’s a duty and a burden. Sometimes it’s a chore. Sometimes it’s so interesting that you lose the rest of the afternoon. And we’ll be doing it for a while yet, and I’m sure there are plenty more treasures to be found.

December Reflections 15: journal/planner

spread from a week to view diary with tickets from various German transportation services and attractions stuck in

You get to see the journal. I spilt hot chocolate in my handbag a month or so back and it went all over my Filofax. Anyway, this is far more interesting.

I started keeping an agenda journal in 2017 after seeing the technique on The Soul of Hope, and it’s the only form of diary I’ve managed to keep up with any kind of regularity. I don’t make an entry every day, but to date I have been able to make an entry for every day. It serves as a repository for all the silly bits of paper that are too pretty to throw away and too silly to keep around, it serves as a record of what I’ve been up to and tells me when I last emptied the compost bin, and it’s fun. I’ve never yet got more than a week behind, and if I do find that I just can’t remember a day (or if it was just too boring to record in detail) I fill the gap with stickers.

This spread comes from the week we travelled down the Rhine – a most excellent trip, and one I’m glad to remember. This year’s journal is rather fatter than last year’s, although not so much so as I originally thought before I compared them.