Monday, 31 December 2018

Not the best Christmas

Well, Christmas is over, accompanied by a huge sigh of relief.
I never really look forward to Christmas and this year particularly was never going to be good. With my mother's death still leaving a raw wound, and a couple of bouts of illness hitting me in late November, I was immersed in gloom, unable to plan ahead, and leaving present-buying and putting up decorations till the last minute. Then a Twitter friend reminded me of a conversation we'd had back in September - that grief is at its worst after about three months, and for both of us, that was lining up with Christmas - and things started to slot into place. Sometimes understanding what is wrong is halfway to curing it.

There were changes this year. Once my parents came over every Christmas day but it recent years that wasn't possible due to my mum's mobility problems so we'd have a lazy morning and visit them during the afternoon. This year my dad came over to ours, and our day had to fit round him - the times he likes to eat, actually cooking full Christmas dinner, not watching anything violent or noisy (or those nude scenes from Love, Actually) on TV. It was an odd combination of sad and boring.

A happier change was passing on a family tradition to the next generation. When they were younger, our daughters had The Night Before Christmas read to them just before bedtime on Christmas Eve, but this year we all went to the eldest's to hear it read to my grandson. He fidgeted a bit, but hopefully will grow to love it.

There's so much pressure though to feel Christmas must be happy and fun-filled for every minute, and obviously in my circumstances it wasn't really possible. There were a lot of tensions and emotional moments, and I sometimes felt like all my small sadnesses were joining themselves up to make a huge overwhelming wave.

There have fortunately been good moments this Christmas. There's a massive amount of fun to be had just watching and playing with my grandson, but perhaps the best thing was having our youngest daughter home for the whole week, which was really special as since she left home in February we've only seen her for a couple of days here and there. Somehow she took me out of myself, changed my focus and I now feel like I've turned a corner, and the new year looks welcoming in a way I wouldn't have believed possible in the run up to Christmas.

This year the (rather pathetic) decorations will come down early - partly because I still don't really feel jolly enough to leave them up till Twelfth Night, but also because I'm impatient to get on with next year.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Nottingham - Christmas market and curious buildings

 A clear sunny, and, for the time of year, not too cold day earlier this week proved a good time to spend a day in Nottingham.

We started with a wander round the Christmas market and funfair held in the Market Square. As usual, there's an ice rink, helter skelter, traditional carousel and other rides, bars, and plenty of stalls selling everything from food to Christmas jumpers.

Walking past the entrance to Exchange Walk I spotted the tall decorated tree and couldn't resist checking out the rest of their Christmas lights.

Back outside, I found my attention drawn up above the modern shops fronts to the more interesting older upper storeys.

So often I've walked past these buildings without paying any attention to them, but I found myself wondering what their original purpose was. Were they built as houses and later converted to have ground floor shops or restaurants? I suspect so, but would love to find out their history. Maybe another visit is called for, but this time with less shopping in mind but more tourist inquisitiveness.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Once Upon a Time - Christmas at Chatsworth

Back to Chatsworth again this week for a second look at their Christmas display, Once Upon a Time.
It's a little strange that both Chatsworth and Haddon have picked a similar theme for their Christmas decorations, but they were very different.

We were welcomed by a huge sleeping dragon, and as we progressed round the house there were more, smaller, dragons to be found hiding among the displays.

Starting with Charlotte's Web transformed into glittery lights the trail leads on past Beatrix Potter characters,  Cinderella's coach, a mattress fit for a princess (though being slept on by one of the small dragons), Sleeping Beauty and Mary Poppins inspired displays.

A princess could still feel a pea under all these mattresses, but will a small dragon?

I'm not going to attempt to post photos of everything because then there would be no surprises left, though as I said this was my second visit and I still spotted new things to amaze and delight me.

For Haddon's very different interpretation, based more on fairy tales than books, of Once Upon a Time see here

Friday, 7 December 2018

Once Upon A Time - Christmas at Haddon Hall

 Earlier this week we took ourselves off through the mist and murk to Haddon Hall (just about visible as we approached over the bridge) to see it arrayed for Christmas

The theme this year is Once Upon A Time, with tableaux featuring favourite childhood stories.

Outside in the courtyard, we spotted Rapunzel's hair lowered through a tower window - though high in the tower she was barely visible through the mist!

Moving into the kitchens, Cinderella appeared to have left her position by the hearth

but the three bears were still seated at their table, trying to finish their porridge before Goldilocks arrived.

Their Christmas tree was appropriately decorated with wooden spoons and tiny bears

Here's the door to Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother's house. No cold callers, canvassers or big bad wolves it says on the sign, and the table is laid ready for tea, but whose are those large hairy hands opening the door?

We left quickly before the Big Bad Wolf could spring out at us,

and, following the rose briars climbing up the stairs and along corridors, we found Cinderella's coach and tiny glass slipper ... but still no sign of Cinders herself.

The rambling roses led us onward to the Long Gallery where nature had completely taken over

and we found Sleeping Beauty waiting in a flowery bower for her prince to waken her.

Beyond, in a small room, elves worked overnight to help a penniless shoemaker, and his wife rewarded them with new suits of clothes.

Haddon Hall itself is the real 'sleeping beauty' though - a manor house that feels untouched since Tudor times, with uneven small panes of greenish glass in the windows, warped and weathered doors, and thick stones walls to keep out the winter chill.

  I've visited in summer when the gardens are filled with roses but approaching through the mist gave a definite feel of stumbling on a forgotten castle, filled with memories of the past.

Curiously this year neighboring Chatsworth House has chosen the same theme of Once Upon a Time for its Christmas display. See here  for photos of their version.