Visit an Archaeological Dig

I have been doing a short Future Learn course produced by the University of Reading called “Archaeology: from dig to lab”.  The first week of this described their work in the Pewsey Vale, between Stonehenge and Avebury, where there have been digs for the last two years and again this year.  On further investigation I found that one could visit the site.  The first time I thought I would go it threatened rain and then for the Open Day I had a horrible cold and felt very unwell.  So the Tuesday after that I managed to get there!  It turned out that they had about 700 people on the open day, so I am quite glad I didn’t make it.  When I went they didn’t have many visitors so students could give me individual tours.

The first part of their “field school” was on Marden henge.  They use the field school to train their archaeology students how to carry out digs.  I managed to find it without difficulty – the instructions on the website were good and a search on Google maps also helped – along with my 1999 road atlas of Britain!  Having left just before 10.00 it took about 45 minutes.  There was a field with a few cars and some portacabins which, having parked, I approached.  A young man carrying a camera came towards me and offered to show me the site.  He was one of the students and his job for the day/week(?) was filming, but I think he wanted a change!

Marden Henge is a very large henge.  I had to look up what is meant by a “henge” and it seems it is a Neolithic earthwork  that features a ring bank and ditch, but with the ditch inside the bank rather than outside. As an enclosure with an external bank and an internal ditch is not very good for defence they are believed to be for ceremonial purposes.  We walked across the field to approached where they have dug trenches this year.

Trench at Marden Henge

Approaching the trench at Marden Henge

In fact the call for a tea break went just as we arrived, so most people downed tools for a bit.  They were excavating the inner henge and had found floor level and post holes.  It is all very subtle and relies on slightly different soil colours.

Floor level and post hole

Floor level and post hole – note the sort of steps on the left

The infill from the post hole or a ditch is a different colour and texture and sometimes these infills are sent back to the lab so they can be more carefully examined for “finds” and also maybe for things like pollen so they can find the type of crops growing at the time.

Further along the trench

Further along the trench

On the “cut” behind it is just possible to see differences in soil colour.  Each is given a “context” number so finds can be related to these.

Context numbers marking the different levels

Context numbers marking the different levels/contexts

I was shown some of day’s “small finds” which included some pottery (Neolithic?) and a tooth and an animal jaw.

The animal jaw - sadly out of focus!

The animal jaw – sadly out of focus!

They were all in a tray marked with the context number so they could be carefully recorded later.

Small finds in tray marked with the context number.

Small finds in tray marked with the context number.

We then went back to the portacabins and looked at some of the pictures.  They had done a lot of geophysics – resistivity and magnetometry – partly to find out if the river had been in a different place in Neolithic times and partly to see if there were any other changes in the soil, which might indicate something of interest.  I can’t say I could interpret the photos though!  I was then taken to the “finds” hut, where another student was recording the finds.  She showed me several things including a tiny broach – which even had the pin and I think she said was Saxon.  There were some flint scrapers and a beautifully made flint arrowhead and a decorated piece of bone which probably was part of a comb.  There were also 2 trays full of pottery, all decorated in the same way so probably part of a large pot.  There were loads of other things but too many to show.

I was then given a map to the other part of the field school dig – at Cat’s Brain longbarrow.  I managed to follow the instructions and get there without any problems.  This link (I hope) shows an aerial photo of the dig site.  The dark areas show ditches which surround the central part of the barrow.  The entrance is where the gap occurs and they thought that the rest was a semicircle, but are finding that at the opposite side there might not have been ditches so it might just have been 2 parallel ditches.  That is part of what they are investigating and one place where they are digging now.

Cat's Brain longbarrow site

Cat’s Brain longbarrow site

They were again finding post holes, which would have had wooden posts to hold up the roof, and these are being excavated.  Much of the soil from the ditches is being removed for sampling and to search more carefully for “finds”, as ditches are so often where rubbish is thrown – and yesterdays rubbish is today’s archaeological treasure!

Containers for soil to be taken for sampling

Containers for soil to be taken for sampling

The chalk that seems to have been used for the mound and the ditch infill material are at least clearly different colours!  It was suggested that the chalk was fairly local, but had to be brought in and the white colour would have shown up – in the same way that the “white horses” cut into the hillsides do today.

Investigating part of the ditch

Investigating part of the ditch

It was all fascinating, but needs a really good eye for detail – the changes in soil type are sometimes quite subtle.  I hope that what I have written is correct – but it is quite hard to remember all the detail and there was more, I think, that I don’t remember!

It is interesting that they have to finish digging by Saturday – and there is still a lot they hope to uncover.  The final week is for “back-filling” – putting the soil back so the farmer can use his fields.  It is a good thing I didn’t wait another week before I went!

So did I enjoy it?  It was fascinating.  I have done several Future Learn archaeology courses, but this is the first time I have seen a “dig” in real life.  I don’t think I would be very good at the practical stuff – hard physical work, in hot sun or rain and looking for details I would find it hard to pick out!  Could quite fancy working on the finds and classifying them maybe?

I think this counts as one of my “holiday” days – days out instead of a holiday – even if it was only half a day.

Faint…..

Having been told I had a bloodshot eye one evening, I foolishly looked at it first thing next day.  Even more foolishly, I then thought about it – I am very squeamish about eyes….. I then thought that I was feeling sick……  Next thing I couldn’t work out what way up I was or where I was!  I realised I was on the bathroom floor…..

Having sorted that out I got myself back to bed, having vaguely noticed that there was blood on the knob at the bottom of the radiator.  When I had rested a bit I turned over – and noticed there was blood on my pillowcase…… I then had to consider what to do, as I was still a bit groggy.  I decided to phone my friend K, who has my key and is a nurse (even though she no longer does everyday nursing).  She was concerned enough to come over.  She looked at me and mopped up the blood which was on my shoulder just below my neck – not on my head, which would have bled a lot more.  She also phoned the doctors, who said that a doctor would phone back.  Meanwhile I had some breakfast and K had a drink.  When the doctor phoned back she decided she ought to see me, so made an appointment for 12.00.

K went home and I washed and rested and pottered a bit until K picked me up and took me to the doctor, who looked at me and asked me questions – like had I knocked myself out?  How would I know? I would not have been conscious whether I had fainted or knocked myself out and I had no idea how long I was on the floor.  She took my blood pressure and decided I ought to have an ECG, so we had to wait until a nurse could do that.  The eventual result was fine, but my pulse was low as is my blood pressure – but not as low as when I had my health check earlier in the year.  The doctor also thought I should have an X-ray of my neck in case I had cracked a bone in it!  That had to be done at the hospital and not until late afternoon.  K took me home again and I found someone else to take me up to the hospital – I was very grateful to K but she had already done a lot and was also trying to sort out her mother who was moving into a care-home.

About 3.30 the friend picked me up and she knew where we had to go for the X-ray.  There is sometimes a long queue, but it wasn’t too bad and moved quite fast, so they took 3 photos at different angles and said I would be told if there was any problem.  Then I was taken home again.

I had been feeling a bit groggy for part of the day, but by the evening I decided I was well enough to walk to the polling station and vote – not that it made much difference in this constituency.  I decided that I was back to normal by the next day – but avoided looking at my eye!  I also removed the dressing from my shoulder/neck as it was not bleeding and was better with the air at it.  I think I probably knocked my head on the radiator as there was a sore bit when I washed my hair next day, but I am glad I wasn’t aware of that before or it would have been hours in A & E!

A week later I bought 2 lots of flowers and delivered them to my friends as a thank you for taking care of me and giving me lifts to doctors and hospitals.

The scabs on my shoulder/neck came off but it is still quite itchy where they were.

So?  Must remember not to look if people tell me there is something wrong with my eye – they can tell me when it is better or if I should take it to the doctor!  I suppose I could look if I am sure there are only soft things to fall on…..

Visit Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Having failed to book a holiday this year, as I wasn’t up to thinking about it, and then realising I wouldn’t have the energy anyway for my usual walking holiday, I decided to have a series of days out, instead.  There was the trip to the Hawk Conservancy, of course, but that was giving a friend her birthday present, so I am not sure if it counts.  Anyway, I decided that I had heard a lot about “The Mary Rose” but had never been to see it so that should be one of my trips.

I then worked out that it was almost half-term and during that week it was likely to be busy and after the holiday schools often take children on educational trips, so it could be full of children.  That meant that the week before half-term was likely to be best, so it became my first trip.

It is an easy train journey down to Portsmouth Harbour, so I got the 9.33 train – so I could use my senior railcard and get a day return.  Taking a book to read on the train, I had a very easy journey down and it is less than 5 minutes walk from the station to the “Historic Dockyard”.  There were bag searches at the entrance and then I decided to get an all inclusive ticket for the dockyard which includes all the museums, a harbour trip and can be used again at any time within a year.  By the time I got my ticket and got in it was only a short time until the next harbour trip so I decided to wait the 10 minutes or so and do that first.

The boat for the harbour trip

The boat for the harbour trip

The boat was “The Jenny M” and as it was a lovely day we mostly sat outside, but under the shade of the awning.  We sailed down the side of the harbour, keeping the regulation distance from the destroyers, which were in port.

Ships and cranes in the port

Ships and cranes in the port

We also saw some of the ferries that sail from Portsmouth – for Spain, France and the Isle of Wight.

One of the ferries.

One of the ferries.

We then sailed back, closer to the other side of the harbour, looking at the marinas and the hillside beyond, then across the mouth – after we had waited for several ferries – they were bigger than us!  Some of the forts beyond the mouth were pointed out.  I think they said they were being turned into hotels for holidays?!

Fort beyond the harbour mouth

Fort beyond the harbour mouth

We sailed passed the Spinnaker tower and it was explained why it is blue, rather than the red Emirates colour, even though they are the owners. (All to do with football!)

Spinnaker Tower

Spinnaker Tower

We dropped some people off at Gunwale Key and picked others up there, before going back to the dockyard.  The trip was supposed to take 45 minutes, but was actually about an hour.  We got off the boat near HMS Warrior, which comes from the late eighteen hundreds – something to visit on another day.

HMS Warrior

HMS Warrior with Spinnaker tower behind

I then thought it was time for lunch, so had that in one of the cafes – but it took a while as there was a queue to get food and another to pay.

After lunch I set out for the building holding “The Mary Rose”, which is at the far end of the dockyard.  On the way up one passes what I think are figureheads from ships.

From the Admiral Benbow

From the Admiral Benbow

Then to “The Victory”, again something for another trip.

The Victory

The Victory

This is undergoing restoration work and the topmasts have been removed as they think that the weight of them is pushing the masts through the hull!  There is another figurehead near there – “The Trafalgar” I think.

The Trafalgar

From the Trafalgar

Then it was on to the Mary Rose building.  There is first an introduction to the ship and its history and a short film representing the ship sinking.  One then passes on to the museum.  What is left of the ship itself has been reconstructed and one can view it from several levels.  One enters at main deck level and on the opposite side of the room to the remains of the ship, a replica has been made to show what would have been there.  Later on one moves to the lower decks and then to the top.

At the ends are the artefacts found with the ship – the number is amazing although less than half of the actual ship still exists.  They are mostly displayed in themes, such as the chief carpenter and what he owned,  wore and used.  There are loads of explanations and I found some of the belongings quite fascinating – like the shoes of various people and how different they were and different sizes.  They had provided stools to take round to sit on and I wished I had taken one as there was so much to read.

The Mary Rose building

The Mary Rose building

About half-way round I got tired and wasn’t taking in what was there although some of the things on the archaeology looked really interesting.  I decided I would do better to come back another day to see the rest – especially as I got caught up near a group of noisy school children!  I walked through to the end of the “visitor route” taking only a cursory glance and went and had a cup of coffee in the cafe.

It was then time to go back to the station and catch the train home.

So was it a good day out?  On the whole, yes, and the good weather helped!  It was tiring but I look forward to going back to see the rest of the Mary Rose display and the Victory and maybe HMS Warrior – although I know nothing about the latter.

Prepare things for “Samara’s Appeal”

Samara’s appeal has been running for several years now and some people from our church are registered collectors and have been taking clothing, blankets etc to Brighton to send to Iraq and Syria.  Last year or the year before, I spent a long time sewing up squares that (mostly) other people had knitted, to make blankets.  There were so many I had to give some to others to do and said I would never do it again!  I have also previously used Nectar points and Boots points to get some of the things on the list.

This time I started knitting after Christmas with some wool a friend had given me and made squares (in autumn colours) and then bought a couple of extra and used some half balls of wool to make a blanket.

Blanket - mostly autumn colours

Blanket – mostly autumn colours

By the time that was finished and sewn up I was bored with squares and knitted a jumper from a pattern I have had for years.  The neck was a pain, so I bought a pattern with an easier neckband and managed to complete another jumper before the deadline for collection.

Blanket and jumpers

Blanket and jumpers

Meanwhile, I was also collecting things to complete a “Dignity bag* which was described on the website.  I ordered the bags and the shampoo bars from the sites suggested and printed off the sheet which explained in English and (I assume) Arabic what the shampoo bar was and how to use it.

Contents of the dignity bag with shampoo bar at front right

Contents of the dignity bag with shampoo bar on the right

The other items were obtained locally and mostly with Boots and Nectar points again.

Contents of Dignity bag

Contents of Dignity bag

I also printed and completed a “tick list” of the contents – again in both English and Arabic – to include for checking and to explain what was there.  Everything was put in the bag.

Complete bag

Complete bag

Then it was just a matter of handing the knitting and the bag in at the right times and right places.  Since the knitting went to a friend, I also got a cup of tea and a view of her garden when I took it!

Is this something worthwhile to do?  I hope so and the knitting keeps me busy – providing something to do when listening to the radio.

 

Visit the Hawk Conservancy

A friend, T, had a birthday in January, but I didn’t know what to give her.  From some discussion we had I thought she would like a day’s experience as a falconer, at the Hawk Conservancy but that was too expensive, so instead I gave her a voucher – looking something like this:

This voucher entitles

…………………………………..

to a day out at

The Hawk Conservancy

with entrance fee payed

Her name was filled in at the top.  I then had to redeem it!  We decided we had to have a decent day and when they were running the summer programme but before there were hoards of children there, so we decided on the day after the May day bank holiday.

We took another friend, D, who needed a day out but she was a little slow getting ready to go (fell asleep again!) so with that and having to go back for the forgotten cigarettes (!) we arrived a bit later than we hoped.  After getting our tickets the first priority was coffee so by the time that was finished we had missed the beginning of the Wings of Africa flying display, so had to wait at a distance until the fish eagle had finished collecting his fish.  We were then let into the seats.

The highlights of the display included:

Tolkien, an eagle owl

Tolkien, an eagle owl

Dr Know, a secretary bird

Dr Know, a secretary bird………

……..who demonstrated “killing” a (rubber) snake by stamping on it and again when it was a “cobra” and rearing up.

"Killing" a snake

“Killing” a snake

There were then vultures (now much endangered) showing their flight.

A hooded vulture (I think)

A hooded vulture (I think)

And for the finale they had yellow billed kites (or were they vultures?) flying over smoke where they usually catch insects (too fast to photograph) and then water and then sacred ibis and storks and (right at the back, on the rocks) were meerkats.

Stork, sacred ibis (and meerkat?)

Stork, sacred ibis (and meerkat?)

After the end of the display it was time to go and “Meet an owl”.  This was Troy, a tawny owl, who had been picked up and looked after before being passed on to the conservancy, so had been “imprinted” and thinks he is a human (or that humans are his parents?).  He can’t be released as can’t fend for himself and is forever like a teenager.  We were later told he had no head for heights and had to be trained to go into trees by one of the keepers climbing trees to encourage him!  My friend, T, decided he was her favourite of the day!

T with Troy

T with Troy

As most people then went to the restaurant we waited a bit and looked at some of the birds and then went for lunch when the queue had gone.  I had a very nice sausage baguette!

T and D while looking at birds.

T and D while looking at birds.

It was then time to go and see the “Valley of the Eagles flying display”, which started with a merlin, the smallest British bird of prey, I believe, flying to the lure.  He had to swoop down lots of times before he was allowed to catch and eat it.

The merlin after it had finished.

The merlin after it had finished.

We had vultures flying above our heads – except Butch Cassidy who was around our feet looking for food!  Butch had discovered that visitors had sandwiches etc. and being a scavenger, like all vultures, would go looking.  We were warned about him before they came.  Sundance Kid and their two friends were much better behaved.

Two of the vultures - not Butch

Two of the vultures – not Butch

Another larger bird of prey (not British) was then flown to the lure…….

......after being displayed for us to see.....

……after being displayed for us to see while still wearing his hood…..

……but didn’t have to fly so many times before…..

.....being allowed his reward.

…..being allowed his reward.

A very large eagle was then flown from some distance.  They told us where it was, but I have to say I didn’t see it until it arrived.

Arrival - apparently from the tree in the far distance.

Arrival – apparently from the tree in the far distance.

The black kites flew for us for a finale – but they were much too fast to photograph.  Even better, two of the local, wild red kites came to join them and one was really joining in and catching some of the meat thrown up for the kites to catch.  I assume they have learned where and at what time to get an easier meal.  It was a brilliant display – lovely to watch.

We then had a chance to “fly” a Harris Hawk – well, let it land on our gloved arm.  There were not many adults wanting to do this so T had two goes.

T with Harris hawk

T with Harris hawk

D was too shaky and unsteady (unwell at the moment) to try but I had a go.  I gave T the camera to hold……

.....but she was not supposed to use it!

…..but she was not supposed to use it!

After this it was time to go to see the Woodland Owls Flying Display.  We met Troy, again and another eagle owl called Cinnamon.

Was this Troy or Cinnamon who came and sat just in front of us?

Was this Troy or Cinnamon who came and sat just in front of us?

One of the larger owls displayed flying between two people, with a gap between them less than its wing span and they demonstrated how they enabled Troy to overcome his fear of heights!

I think this was a long-eared owl

I think this was a long-eared owl

My favourites were the barn owls, who were released from the tower of a pretend chapel.  The male was very well behaved and did what was hoped, but the female was around for a short time and then went off hunting for herself!

Male barn owl

Male barn owl

I just love the way they float silently across the woodland.  It is no wonder they were considered ghosts.

Barn owl taking off

Barn owl taking off

After the owls we had another look at some of the birds and then went for a cup of tea before going home.

So was it a good day?  Yes, definitely and the good weather (just look at the photos) really helped.  And we will probably go again as T wants a “Day with Birds of Prey” experience for her birthday next year.  We might go again anyway as she so loved the owls!  Taking photos of birds is hard though – they don’t stay still.

Make Lime Marmalade

I really like Roses Lime Marmalade, so I have been thinking of trying to make some, but there hasn’t been much time (the Future Learn course “Gravity” was quite challenging and took a while to work through) and limes are quite expensive.  Then I saw some limes going quite cheap on one of the market stalls so I thought I would give it a go.  I bought two bowls of limes (£1 each) and another bag of sugar and was pleased to find that the limes were just over the weight needed for the recipe.

I initially found it hard to remove the pith from the skins, but got a sort of knack of doing it after a few tries.  The trouble with limes is that they are so small that there are a lot to remove the pith from and cut up.  I did that on the Saturday and then made the marmalade on the Sunday afternoon.  I left it to boil for a little too long so a bit too much water had boiled away, so I adjusted that and added the sugar and boiled some more.  It seemed to reach setting point so it was skimmed and left for a while so the peel wouldn’t rise in the jars.  I got involved with something else so left it longer than usual, but it didn’t seem to matter.  It was potted up and labelled and left to cool and the washing up was done…..

Finished and washing up done.

Finished and washing up done.

It made just over 5 lbs, I think – I had hoped it would be a bit more.  I am not sure that it has set too well – seems to move a bit too much in the jar.  The jars are full of peel, though, unlike with Roses, which doesn’t have that much.  I was a bit concerned about that to start with – until I considered and realised that the peel takes up a lot more of the volume in limes (because they are smaller) than it does in oranges.  Also the Roses is more of a greeny yellow and mine is just normal marmalade orange colour.  I wonder what they do to theirs?

My marmalde

My marmalde

Mine seems to taste OK though – I think!

So would I make some again?  I might do if there were more cheap limes, but I would need to concentrate more when cooking it, I think.  It is not cheap, but quite satisfying to make ones own.

 

New glasses and tiny piece jigsaw

Having had my eyes tested I ordered and then collected my new glasses.  The close sight in my left eye has got so bad that the NHS contributed to the cost of them – all of £37-40!  When I got them they didn’t seem quite right, but the girl persuaded me that it was because of the change and it would just need getting used to.

After a weekend when I could only read by letting them fall down my nose, I took them back on Monday and got them adjusted so they were higher.  I could then read but they hurt my nose!  Having taken them back twice more they don’t hurt my nose but maybe are not quite level.  I can keep taking them back until they are right…….

Only two people noticed the change, but they aren’t very different.  I suspect those two were just looking out as I had said I was getting new ones.

Not very different!  Old on the left, new on the right.

Not very different! Old on the left, new on the right.

Meanwhile I had decided to start one of the jigsaws that I got for my birthday.  It has 1000 pieces, but is only just over a foot in length each way  – 42 by 29 cm actually.  This obviously makes the pieces very small, so apart from the problem of dropping them, as they are very fiddly and the fear of losing them, as they are so small and will fall down the sides of the sofa, I was also having problems actually seeing them clearly!  I did manage to make a start though.

Jigsaw started with ruler to show size.

Jigsaw started with ruler to show size.

The one advantage of the small pieces is that one can put out a lot so picking out the right ones is easier – maybe.

Lots of pieces to look at

Lots of pieces to look at

But I suspect it is going to take a long time – especially if the weather continues nice so I am wanting to go out to work in the garden.

So?  I expect the glasses and jigsaw will settle down and get sorted – I hope!  It is bound to start raining and get cooler again.

Keep up with Sudoku!

I was given a Sudoku book for my birthday with one to do each day – so I have to keep up!

Birthday present

Birthday present

There was about a month to catch up with first, so I did the right day and then managed to do extra, so within a week or two I was up to date.

They come in various levels of difficulty – Easy, Moderate, Nasty, Cruel, Deadly and X-Deadly.  I seem to be able to do all the levels – except the X-Deadly, which usually leaves me stumped at some stage…….

Pencil and rubber ready, but up to date

Pencil and rubber ready, but up to date

So – is this a good thing?   I don’t know, but it keeps me fairly amused.  I guess I might have a problem if I go away or get extra busy…….

A quick family visit

My oldest nephew, being in England from Spain for 2 weeks and on the way from Bristol to Chichester, asked if he and his family could come to lunch as I am sort of on the way and a good stopping point.  I naturally said yes, as I haven’t seen them for a year and then it was with a lot of others.

I spent the morning cooking, doing a bit of cleaning and a lot of tidying up so I was moderately childproof, so long as there was someone around!  They were due to arrive between 12 and 1 and they did!  My great-niece (who is 5) came in and said hello and things, although she admitted that she didn’t remember me – but daddy was around so it was not too scary!  She now has glasses and a patch on one eye (camouflage on the day they came to me) to correct long-sight, a slight squint and a lazy eye.  She is quite tall for her age.

Glasses and eyepatch

Glasses and eye-patch

Great-nephew, however , was initially not happy – strange house, strange person, mummy went out and back to the car to get warm socks and daddy took his shoes off.  This was on top of having a slight cold.  Once we got food on the table he was better, but it took a while for the vegetables to cook as I hadn’t wanted to put them on until I saw them.

Bit better when had some food

Bit better when had some food

The children played between courses – great-niece makes a very good and patient horse!

Horse and rider!

Horse and rider!

When we found second course was fruit we weren’t hungry – until we found there was cake as well!  The fruit has to be eaten first before we have the cake though and we did quite enjoy that too, really.  (Kiwis and mandarins.)

Cake is good......

Cake is good……

Cake makes us happier, too.

Cake makes us happier, too.

After lunch we did some drawing and colouring and my great-nephew found that he could play with me after all.  He understands Spanish and that is what he speaks, but he understands what he wants to of English!  My great-niece is fluent in both languages with only occasionally having to ask for a word when she only knows it in one language.  Very impressive!

They left sometime between 2.30 and 3 and I then washed up and put the house back to normal i.e. got all my junk out again!

So did I enjoy seeing them?  Yes, it was lovely – and to catch up with the children and with some of the adults news, too.

A different Christmas

As I still have shingles and my 17 year old nephew has not had chicken-pox, it was thought better not to spend Christmas with my brother’s family.  Chicken-pox when you are older and working hard for A-levels is no fun!  So I stayed at home.  This has several advantages, notably that I get to go to my own church at Christmas.  They also seem to be having fun with the trains – doing “improvements” to the lines – including in London, which I would have to pass through, so I avoid what is usually a bit of a problem journey at Christmas anyway.

Setting the scene for Christmas

Setting the scene for Christmas

I started by bringing in the Christmas tree – probably a bit early, at the beginning of December.  It is last year’s tree which was in a pot and has grown on, as it was kept in the garden (and watered in dry weather).  It is perhaps a little too large for the number of decorations that I have, so might not do another year.  I decorated it over newspaper, which I then removed – but put back a couple of days later when I discovered the tree was drooping sticky stuff onto the carpet!

The Christmas tree

The Christmas tree

For food, I thought about what I liked about Christmas meals and decided that one thing I enjoyed was “pigs-in-blankets”, so I bought a pack of 12!  On the 23rd I just had some of them with potatoes and vegetables.  Then on Christmas Eve I cooked a chicken and had that with roast potatoes (another favourite) and veg, so that on Christmas day I had cold chicken, pigs-in-blankets, roast potatoes and parsnips and baby corn and mangetout.  I followed that with raspberries (frozen from the summer – and I remembered to defrost them!) with ice cream.  All very enjoyable.

Christmas Eve was the Nativity service at our church – definitely one of the highlights of the year, with a real donkey and a real baby!

The donkey - Jasmine

The donkey – Jasmine

It was, of course, noisy and chaotic – but that adds to the fun.

Joseph, Mary and Jesus!

Joseph, Mary and Jesus!

The main characters are played by adults (except Jesus, who was female and just over 2 weeks old!) and the children are encouraged to come dressed as a character and come and join in at the appropriate times.  The worship leader had acquired a beard and was dressed as a shepherd and the keyboard player was an angel in white jeans and t-shirt with wings and a halo.

The nativity scene with all the characters

The nativity scene with all the characters

Even the rector had a robe (angel?) and a halo.  The birth of Jesus was explained, with breaks for carols.  Jasmine the donkey behaved very well and was led down the aisle, joining Mary and Joseph and stopping to be petted!  (One could have a photo taken with her at the end of the service.)  The big sister of Jesus was an angel – and sat with Mary and Joseph – pulling off Joseph’s headdress near the end as she got a bit bored.

The holy family - with 2 Mary's!  One was the pregnant one (just a cushion) and one was "Jesus" mother.

The holy family – with 2 Mary’s! One was the pregnant one (just a cushion) and one was “Jesus” mother.

 

The Christmas day service was equally noisy and chaotic and very full – extra chairs had to be added.  There were the usual carols and a reading and short talks and a video.  We also had party poppers which we pulled at the end after singing “Happy birthday” to Jesus.  It was then home for lunch and to open presents.

On Boxing day, I had booked a table at the local Harvester – The Old Castle, opposite Old Sarum.  I picked up a friend and made her go for a walk in Victoria Park first before we went on for our meal.  We had a very pleasant lunch – steak for her and gammon for me followed by ice cream  sundaes – before returning home.

The following day, 27th, the same friend and I were invited to another friend’s for a meal.  We exchanged presents and then had an excellent meal with pork and dauphinoise potatoes and beans and carrots followed by chocolate log.

Cards

Cards

On the 29th another friend invited me for what I thought was a cup of tea, but turned out to be afternoon tea, with egg sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches (both with the crusts removed!) and a cream filled Victoria sponge!  I had spent the morning finishing the cardigan I was knitting for her as a late Christmas present.  She had bought the wool and pattern but got stuck, so I did it for her.  She seemed to be pleased with it!

On the 30th, I took down the Christmas tree.  I know it was not twelfth night but there seemed to be insects and things coming from it and I was tired of chasing the wildlife.  I will leave the cards up until January 6th (or is it the 5th?) though.

Most of the cards

Most of the cards

So was it a good Christmas?  Yes, but now I need a rest and probably to go on a diet!