Holiday Part II – Free Day

On the Monday, when some people went home and others arrived, those of us who were staying had a free day.  After writing my postcards I went into Storrington to buy stamps and post them.  As it was pouring with rain and I still had some time on the parking ticket, I also found a cafe/bakery and had a coffee.  By the time I had finished the rain was a bit less, so I set off for my intended target – Bignor Roman Villa.  This was reasonably easy to find but the last part was along a lot of narrow and winding roads – with a fallen bush partly blocking one of them!  I did manage to get passed that and arrive in the rather muddy car park.

The building was under the care of a young lad – although there did seem to be one or two others – almost equally young, I discovered later.  He sold me a ticket and directed me in the right route to take.

The ticket!

The ticket!

There was a model of how the villa had (probably) been; it was very big by the end of its life, with a large enclosed courtyard and buildings on 4 sides with a gateway.  Most of this is now back as farmland but the original bit has been enclosed and is in a building – which I was in!  There was a display of some of the pottery and other finds and I found it very interesting to look at the difference between the fine ware and the course ware.  This was something I had read about during two of my online courses and looked at the pictures, but seeing the real stuff made the differences come alive and was very interesting.

I then moved on through the rooms, which had their mosaic floors.  We were walking on the edges, where there were no pictures, but still where the original owners would have walked. Wow!

One mosaic floor

One mosaic floor

Can’t remember what the pictures were supposed to represent – they did have signs to say, so I didn’t get a guide book.  You can see the sign on the picture above, but I can’t read what it says!P1010346

This one was not a mosaic, but one can just about read the sign (well, the main title).

Part of a larger floor mosaic

Part of a larger floor mosaic

I liked the men across the bottom of this – I think they were warriors or maybe gladiators?

Top of the previous mosaic

Top of the previous mosaic

This is just a bit more detail from the top of the previous one.  The blue on the birds was apparently blue glass.

After looking round the main building, including seeing some of the original lead pipe-work and parts of the underfloor  heating system, I saw a coach full of children arrive.  (Glad I didn’t meet the coach on the approach roads!)  I therefore decided it was time to have lunch and as it had stopped raining, went and sat outside on the picnic tables provided.  I then saw that there was another enclosed building and after lunch went to have a look – it was part of the bath house.

Sign by the bath house mosaic

Sign by the bath house mosaic

The mosaic

The mosaic

I then went to the cafe area of the building and the lad made me a pot of tea and I chatted to the coach driver and another couple who were there.

It was then time to make my way back to Abingworth Hall so I could join with the new arrivals for tea and cake.

After dinner, there was a “village fete” type activity.  We either were in teams or were put in a team as we arrived and then we played games like roll-a-penny (the old pennies!), how many pegs can you collect from the line before you drop one, hoopla, bouncing a ping-pong ball into plastic cups etc.  We got a score for each and these were added up – our team apparently didn’t win, but we weren’t last either.

So was it a good day?  Yes – I really enjoyed the villa and looking round at my own pace and relating it to the on-line courses I had done.  The evening activity was fun, too.

Holiday Part 1 – Jane Austen, Life and Times

As a change from a straight walking holiday I decided to do something different – although still with hf holidays.  I chose a Leisure Break from the Heritage section on “Jane Austen – Life and times”.  This was a good excuse to re-read all six of her major novels.  I spent the previous few months doing this, fairly slowly and saw and understood quite a few things that I hadn’t done earlier.

On arriving at Abingworth Hall, I found a pack of information on the bed.  This included a quiz and a booklet for each day including readings relevant to where we were going.  After the usual cream tea and briefing about the house there was time for a short guided walk and then dinner before we had a talk explaining what we would be doing in the next 2 days.

After breakfast and collecting lunch we had to be on the coach by 9.30 for our fist day.

Folder for the first day.

Folder for the first day.

We headed first for Chawton and the cottage where Jane Austen wrote or re-wrote her major novels.

Chawton Cottage

Chawton Cottage from the road

We had some time there to look round and although there have been alterations it was interesting to see the size of the rooms where she lived and slept (sharing a small bedroom with her sister).  I especially liked seeing and touching the table where she wrote and seeing the amber cross that a sailor brother brought back for her – using some prize money c.f. William bringing Fanny a topaz cross in Mansfield Park.

Chawton Cottage from the garden

Chawton Cottage from the garden

Sadly we did not have enough time, so I couldn’t spend as long as I would have liked or explore the gardens properly.

We then went on to Steventon where she was born and her father was rector.  The rectory was pulled down and all that is left is a field, but there is a steepish bank behind where the rectory was, so maybe Jane used to roll down that as a child, like Catherine Morland (Northanger Abbey)?

What remains of the rectory where Jane Austen was born!

What remains of the rectory where Jane Austen was born!

She would have worshipped at the church, but I believe this has also been altered, with the steeple an addition since Jane’s day.

Steventon Church

Steventon Church

We then went on to Oakley Hall, where we had cups of tea or coffee as it is now a hotel.  In Jane Austen’s time it was the home of the Bramston family, friends of the Austens.  Jane apparently walked there often and she and her sister Cassandra were often invited to share the Bramston’s  carriage when invited to balls.  She also enjoyed dancing at Oakley Hall.

Oakley Hall

Oakley Hall

One of the other places where she was invited was Deane House, then owned by the Harwood family who were also friends of the Austen family.  She danced there with Tom Lefroy, a young man who was called home to Ireland by his parents as they feared an engagement – neither Jane or Tom had enough money for that to be a realistic prospect in those days!

Deane House

Deane House

Tom was staying with his uncle, the Rev. George Lefroy and his wife Anne, at nearby Ashe Rectory – another place where there were private balls which Jane and her sister attended.  Mrs Lefroy was apparently a close friend of Jane’s, even though Mrs Lefroy was over 30 years older – maybe a model for Lady Russell (Persuasion)?

Ashe Rectory

Ashe Rectory

Having visited all these places, we drove to Winchester, passing through Overton (Jane was sent to a wet nurse there as an infant) and Whitchurch (the Austen family did shopping there).

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral

In Winchester we went to the Cathedral to see the tomb and memorial window.

Memorial sone over jane Austen's tomb

Memorial sone over jane Austen’s tomb

Some of us also went on to see the house where Jane and her sister stayed when Jane was very ill and being treated by the doctors.  She died there.

House in Winchester where Jane Austen stayed when she was very ill

House in Winchester where Jane Austen stayed when she was very ill

Blue plaque on the house

Blue plaque on the house

There was again not much time in Winchester, before we had to get the coach back to Abingworth Hall.

After dinner our group leader gave an illustrated talk:  “Jane Austen’s Shin Bone – 10 facts about Jane Austen”.  The illusion comes from a quote from Mark Twain – “Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone”.  It was fairly amusing, as you might guess from the title!

The second day, Sunday, we again had to be on the coach by 9.30.

Folder for the second day

Folder for the second day

We initially drove to Westhumble to see the house where Fanny Burney lived.  Jane Austen was supposed to enjoy her books, so that was the link – too tenuous for most of us!  We then drove on to Leatherhead to see Thorncroft Manor – now used as business premises.  This was possibly the model for Hartfield in “Emma”.  Jane Austen is supposed to have told her nephew that Leatherhead was the model for Highbury, but our leader was suggesting Great Bookham instead.  Leatherhead has changed so much it is hard to see it, but it is possible if I look back 50 or so years as I knew it then.

We then drove up to Box Hill, as that was the setting for a scene in “Emma”.  As I know it fairly well, I did my own thing, which was mostly do “The Hill Top Stroll”.  This took me passed Peter Labilliere’s grave (he insisted on being buried head downwards), to the top of the Burford Spur, up which Victorian tourists walked to visit Box Hill.

The Burford Spur

The Burford Spur

Then on to the Old Fort, apparently built in the late 1880s as one of 13 supply centres for tools and ammunition storage in case of invasion by the French.  I don’t remember seeing it before.

The Old Fort

The Old Fort

I then went back to the view point and on a bit for a quick and early lunch – we were leaving at 12.00!

View from Box Hill

View from Box Hill

We drove on to Great Bookham, to the church, as Jane Austen’s godfather was the rector there and so it was somewhere she visited fairly often.

Church at Great Bookham

Church at Great Bookham

The rectory from Jane’s time has been pulled down, I believe.

Memorial to Jane Austen's godfather

Memorial to Jane Austen’s godfather

Our leader’s theory that Great Bookham was the model for Highbury is based on of The Crown there, which is the name of the Inn in “Emma”.

The Crown - Great Bookham

The Crown – Great Bookham

We then drove on to Loseley Park, as the BBC used it to film parts of Sense and Sensibility (Barton Park) and Emma (Donwell Abbey).

Loseley Park

Loseley Park

We were provided with tea and excellent cakes there and had time to admire the gardens.  The rose garden was probably nearly at its best and the scent was amazing.

Rose garden, Loseley Park

Rose garden, Loseley Park

Our final stop was at Chawton House, where Jane Austen’s brother Edward Knight had one of his homes.  He had been adopted by the wealthy Knight family as they had no children.  It is now a library for women’s literature, I believe.  We had the chance to look round and see some of the places where Jane and her sister would have been when visiting their brother when he was staying there.

Chawton House

Chawton House

It was surprising to see how short the “Long Gallery” was, especially as this is where women would have taken their exercise in bad weather.  Apparently women were not supposed to take much exercise!  Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) walking to visit her sister would (probably) have been unusual for someone of her class, hence the comments of Bingley’s sisters?

Part of the garden at Chawton House

Part of the garden at Chawton House

It was then time to drive back to Abingworth Hall where, after dinner, we were told the answers to the quiz.

First page of the quiz

First page of the quiz

I got most right, left out a few and got a couple wrong!  The leader had got one of the questions wrong and, looking it up on the internet and in the novels when I got home, gave two incorrect answers!  However I did better than most people, many of whom had not attempted any of it.  I must admit I enjoyed the challenge, though.  Our names were all then put in a hat and one drawn out to win “Jane Austen’s Ring”!  It was my name that came out – so I won the ring – or rather a fridge magnet with a picture of it.

Jane Austen's ring (fridge magnet)

Jane Austen’s ring (fridge magnet)

So was it a good holiday?  Yes, I enjoyed it and the scope it gave for my imagination.  Also seeing the links between Jane Austen’s life and some of the things she wrote in her novels.

Celebrating a 50th Birthday

A friend reached her 50th birthday on the Friday and she had been planning a party for months.  She has not been at all well, so her sister took over most of the organisation – putting the plans into action.  As the sister lives near Cambridge, a few of us who live locally were also involved in the local parts.

So on the Friday, there was a lunch at a local pub for some of the close family and 3 friends who had done local organisation.

Family at the birthday lunch

Family at the birthday lunch

Unfortunately, one brother and his family didn’t make that part as they got totally stuck on the M25!

Friends and family that did make it at the lunch

Friends and family that did make it at the lunch

The younger members of the party went outside to play in the garden when they got bored – supervised by their older cousin.

After the lunch, the birthday girl was taken home to rest, and most of the others went to “granny’s house” for a swim and to meet up with the very delayed family.  The rest of us gathered at SP2, where the party was to be held and prepared the rooms for the next day.

Upstairs rooms for initial drinks and nibbles

Upstairs rooms for initial drinks and nibbles

That included moving tables and chairs, arranging the balloons and banners and setting the tables for the meal…….

Tables prepared on Friday evening

Tables prepared for the meal.

…….and the table for the bar.

The party day several of us were there quite early to finish setting out the tables, with flowers (arranged by some of the family) and water……

Tables ready

Tables ready

………set up the “bar”……..

The "bar"

The “bar”

……and prepare some food and collect and set out more.  As some people arrived they brought food, which was also set out, with some kept in reserve to replace what was eaten.

Food set out

Food set out

When people arrived they were directed to the top floor for drinks and nibbles.

Some of the "bar people" (nieces and nephews) were quite young - but father/uncle/brother was supervising!

Some of the “bar people” (nieces and nephews) were quite young – but father/uncle was supervising!

Drinks, greetings and chat

Drinks, greetings and chat

When the last people had arrived and had time for a drink and to greet the birthday girl, the food was served – starting with the disabled, then the frail elderly, then the children and finally others!  We put out replacements as plates were emptied – notably the salmon, the meat platter and the Coronation chicken.

Everyone sat down to eat and chat – collecting seconds as required.

The children.  Where was Alice?  Collecting more food?

The children. Where was the other one? Collecting more food?

Church people

Friends, mostly from church

Family

Family

Church people and family

Church people and family

Again when the youngsters got bored their older cousins took them back upstairs to play.  I am very impressed with these older cousins and the way they take this responsibility.

When everyone had eaten enough of the first course, we cleared it away and tidied up and started the dishwasher – brother in law was noted as being very helpful!  The cake and desserts were then put out.

cake

Cake

It was decided that it wasn’t safe to light the “candle” on top of the cake, because of the proximity of the balloons, so it was placed by the side and lit there, while everyone sang “Happy Birthday”.

Lit "candle"

Lit “candle”

My friend’s father then gave a short speech and we drank a toast to her.  She then did manage to reply, without getting too emotional.  Everyone enjoyed desserts and more chat, then people gradually had to go, especially those who lived some distance away.

That left the clearing up to do!

So was it a good and successful party?  Yes, I think so.  People seemed to enjoy it and the birthday girl was very tired, but seemed to think it had been good.  Big sister is especially to be praised for ideas, decorations, hard work, ordering and collecting food and especially organisation – bet she is a really efficient administrator!

Going to the Theatre

As a thank you for taking her to various places (and as a treat for both of us), a friend bought tickets for “Singin’ in the Rain” at the local theatre.  Neither of us had been to the theatre for years, but we thought this might be fun.

We arrived early so we could pick up the previously ordered/paid for tickets and my friend could have a drink.  We sat at the table outside as it was a very mild evening.  We gave ourselves time to use the loo and then went to find our seats – on an aisle of the third row.  We noted the plastic ponchos over the front row seats and didn’t really worry until we found that no-one was in the seats in front of us!

There was a bit of time to look at the programme before it started.

Front of the programme

Front of the programme

The performance was great, right from the start – fun, full of energy, amazing to watch.  The performers could all sing, dance, act and play an instrument – and then they moved all the props, too.  Some of them were also tap dancing (in parts) and doing somersaults and such like, too.  It could make one tired just watching – how did they do it every night and with matinees, too?  They must have been really fit.

Cast list and skills!

Cast list and skills!

Have you ever seen someone dancing while carrying around a double bass?  Well, the girl who played it was doing so and I am sure the instrument was as big as her.  They sang all the traditional numbers to illustrate the story – very light hearted and amusing.

The numbers

The numbers

There was real rain in the appropriate number, with the actor ending up very wet the first time, but they had umbrellas and macs the second time.  He made sure that his dancing splashed the water around, too – hence the ponchos.  He did just manage to get us on the third row both times they sang it – but not very much.  I can see why they provided the ponchos, though!

There was the usual interval – drink for my friend, ice-cream for me.  One of my friends from my school days volunteers at the Playhouse and she was the chief usher the night we went and helped my friend carry her drink back to her seat.  She also sold me my ice-cream.

So was it worth going?  Yes, definitely – one of the best evening entertainments I have seen.  It was great to see my friend enjoying it too.  Other people who went on different nights enjoyed it equally and many said it was the best thing they had seen at the Playhouse for ages.  We obviously made the right choice to go, but anything we choose to go to in future is likely to be a disappointment!

 

Pentecost in the Park

Pentecost Sunday saw our church having a celebration in Queen Elizabeth Gardens and baptising people in the river!

The idea for this came form our rector, apparently, some time ago.  He managed to rope in the suffragan Bishop of Ramsbury; so they did baptisms, renewal of baptismal vows, confirmations and combinations of these.  They chose Pentecost Sunday as that is apparently a traditional time.

Programme for the afternoon.

Programme for the afternoon.

It apparently started at about 12.30, but I arrived at about 1.00.  Everyone was having their picnic and chatting and having a good time, as it was dry and mostly sunny.  There was an awning and stage for the music group, 3 tents for the people involved in baptisms to change in (male, female and Bishop!), shelters for SP2 (drinks and cakes) and for the barbecue and a bouncy castle for the children.   People sat on the benches, chairs they had brought, blankets….. I had my lunch and then wandered around talking to people I knew.

The actual programme started at 2.30.

Programme for the afternoon

Programme for the afternoon

It started with a traditional opening and then there were worship songs that could apparently be heard more clearly in Harnham than in the park (wind direction).  This was followed by testimonies from 2 or 3 of the people involved – the others were in the programme.  Unfortunately, it was not easy to hear what was being said – people who are not used to it speak too quietly and too fast, however good the microphones.

There were then readings and they were followed by a sermon from the bishop.  He pitched it about right in terms of both length and content.  This was followed by the traditional questions and answers and the signing of each person with the sign of the cross.

While a song was sung, everyone went towards the river, and the bishop (in shorts), the rector and the youth leader waded in.  The bishop prayed over the water (the River Nadder) and the candidates went in one at a time and were baptised by full immersion.  Only one person exclaimed at how cold it was going in, but most did on the way out!  What a pity that I forgot my camera.

More songs were sung as the candidates and clergy changed and then the bishop lined up those who were being confirmed and laid hands on each one in turn.  There was then a final song and a blessing and the service was over.

So was it a good idea?  Well, it was a good service and it was great to see so many people out and enjoying themselves, which was helped by the sunny weather.  Lovely to see 16 people wanting to come forward and be baptised/confirmed very publicly and to see a bishop in purple bishops’ shirt and shorts in the river!

 

Changes!

New managers at the Coffee Shop/Community Centre and at the Charity shop – both within a month!  Mind you, the Coffee Shop had been working with only one part-time manager for a month and the Charity shop has had an acting manager and assistant manager for about a year, so the changes were not unexpected.

The Coffee Shop lady is only part time and is young and competent – but not “our Lucy”.  She has a different style but as she has worked there longer she has become more relaxed and is starting to talk more to the customers and get better known.  She seems to get on OK with the other manager, as far as I can tell, but it is all early days yet.  She is getting married soon, so will have some time off – so we will see how things change after that!

I met the Charity shop manager one week when she was still training with a manager from another shop.  They were both working in our shop for a couple of days, having previously been doing training in the other manager’s shop.  Then, when I went in the next week, I didn’t recognise the place!  It was tidy, one could walk along the aisles without tripping over bags – and I couldn’t find anything!  Not sure I can cope with this……  The style of working has changed too, so we put less on the tags and put things that are ready in crates, for pricing (except the things that hang up).  Most of that is because some people were making too many mistakes.  As I have got to know her a bit more she also is relaxing a bit and getting more chatty, which is good.  I think she is competent in ways the previous managers haven’t been, but maybe needs more experience on what will sell and what won’t?

Another change is my hairstyle.  It is either so close to what it was before that most people haven’t noticed or they don’t think it suits me so haven’t said anything!

I have also got a new (to me) car as the other one was about 11 years old and I had had it for 10  years.

So are the changes good?  I think we will have to wait a bit longer to see.  All change is difficult, so it is a matter of getting used to it and if I decide I don’t like it or can’t cope then I am only a volunteer so I can give up and do something else and change my hair back.  New car is not so easy to change again!

This and that

So what have I been doing?  This and that!  Usual weekly activities – charity shop, choir, community café, church, gym (but not much/enough of the last).  Also “helping” with a “Community Alpha Course” (Youth Alpha adapted for adults) and now “Christianity Explored”.  Extras like coffee with friends and progress on the jumper I am knitting.

Did another on-line Course – “In the night sky – Orion” – which was fairly basic astronomy, but quite fun.  Seems to have inspired one of my friends into more star gazing after I gave her a star wheel which shows which constellations are where and when.

Star Wheel

Star Wheel

Totally failed in my attempt to take a photo of Orion – can’t work out how to leave the camera shutter open for as long as I want, so couldn’t get enough light and street lights and such don’t help.

Orion?  Well, the street lights show!

Orion? Well, the street lights show!

I am now starting a new course on “England in the time of Richard III”.

Have also been doing quite a lot of visiting a friend, first of all in hospital and then at home, where she is temporarily stuck upstairs until they get all the rails and supports needed so she can get downstairs safely.  I can’t believe how long it is taking.  Carers come in 3 times a day, but half an hour at lunchtime is not enough to make a proper meal, so I have made a decent one a couple of times.  Some of the carers are really good and have started to prepare a meal in the morning when they know they are in again at lunchtime, but others cannot even wash up properly.  One tried putting mashed potato in the microwave with the paper wrapping still round it and the without piercing the film lid.  Apparently all she can do is microwave “Wiltshire Farm Foods”, where one doesn’t pierce the film lid!   Another problem is getting my friend up (and breakfast?) at say 11.00 then the next carer coming in at 12.00 for lunch.  Good thing that she frequently doesn’t have breakfast anyway and that she can make coffee upstairs and has fruit and a few other bits if she wants them.

Not done much dog walking recently but have been given quite a lot of flowers – first for my birthday and then as thanks for the visiting etc. which has been lovely.  Still collecting leaves from the autumn, and still probably got another bin full to go……  Have even managed a bit of cleaning(!) lots of ironing and the usual domestic tasks.

So?  Life goes on ……

Family lunch

As my nephew and his family were over from Spain for a fairly short time, it was decided to have a family lunch so everyone could meet up and see them.

Well, that is 3 of the 4......where is the other one?

Well, that is 3 of the 4……where is the other one?

A venue was decided on which was not too far to go for anyone – a problem when Cambridge and Bristol (with a bad traveller) were the furthest starting points.  Newbury, was the final decision – in fact it was Highclere  near  Newbury and my sister booked a table for a large number!

The weather was horrible – misty and raining – when I set off and didn’t improve on the way.  I managed to get there with only having to go all the way round one roundabout to find the right exit!  Mine was the third car to arrive, so those of us who were there went in and bought drinks and the others arrived soon after.  My brother only brought one daughter, the other being away at university and wife and son having too much work to do, but all my sister’s family were there.

We went to our table and when everyone had arrived were chatting and choosing from the menu.

Chatting and choosing.

Chatting and choosing.

Some of the younger members of the party were doing colouring as well.

Disturbing the colouring to choose what to eat.

Disturbing the colouring to choose what to eat.  (There is the 4th one – hiding behind the menu!)

Between courses there was some gap as it took a while to produce food for so many.

Talking was enough for adults.....

Talking was enough for adults…..

.....but some younger ones got bored!

…..but some younger ones got bored!

I left before the final course, so there was a different place to enjoy the colouring!

Niece and great-nieces colouring.

Niece and great-nieces colouring. (Giraffey looking on.)

I got fairly lost going home – heading back the way I had been going at one point, I think.  Andover has too many roundabouts!  Did still manage to get back before it got dark, though.

So was it worth it?  Yes – good to see the Spanish branch and catch up with others.

Too much cake!

So – it was my birthday again…..on Saturday.

The Tuesday before, in the charity shop, I was given, among other things, an individual  cake with a candle on top.

On the Thursday, I was given (along with cards, flowers, a plant) a sponge cake – with one candle on top.  I took it home as there was no-one who wanted cake in the morning.  I should have left it there, as there were more people who would have appreciated it in the afternoon!  Instead, I took 3 slices to have as dessert when I had lunch with a friend and her husband on Saturday.  She had intended to make another cake, so I managed to stop her in time,  BUT we had éclairs with our morning coffee!

Then on Saturday afternoon I had tea with a friend and she provided 4 cupcakes.  As she doesn’t eat them I had one and left her one and she told me to take the other 2 home…..

That was 3 cakes (or pieces) I ate in one day!

With over half a sponge cake and 2 cupcakes, I decided that I would never eat them all before they went off, so took a large chunk of sponge cake to the “family meet up” and gave it to my niece to share with her husband and children.  In fact I think her children didn’t get any but her brother and partner got some instead.  Still got quite a lot of cake left, though.

Cake left by Sunday afternoon.

Cake left by Sunday afternoon.

I got even more cake (as well as a card and roses) the next Thursday from someone who had not been at the café the week before.  She seemed to think that a fairy cake would be least appropriate for me so got that one!  I did give quite a lot away this time though, to friends who came in.

Cake left at the end of the day at the cafe.

Cake left at the end of the day at the café.

Can one have too much cake?  Yes!  But I did actually appreciate the thoughts behind and effort involved in producing it.

Celebrate Christmas

This started with the bhf shop Christmas meal, held on the 16th December, at the Avon Brewery pub this year.  We had a……

.......long table......

…….long table……

……set out with our place names (and on the back what we had ordered).  Some people had 3 courses, but I only had 2 – duck then a panna cotta with raspberry sauce – both good.  We had crackers…..

....with hats....

….with hats….

….and jokes and a plastic toy.  My jumping frog was made to jump too far onto the floor and got lost!  At the end the acting manager told us how the shop had done this year and gave out the “Certificates and badges of appreciation”.  Those of us who had contributed selected a “Secret Santa” present and then it was time to leave the rubbish and go.  A very special occasion though as Kirstie wore……

.....her Christmas jumper.....

…..her Christmas jumper…..

……which isn’t her normal black!  Will she ever live it down?  My “Secret Santa” present was a tin of ginger thins and we were all given some chocolate but I swapped my unwanted Ferro Roche for a chocolate Santa.

"Loot" from Christmas meal.

“Loot” from Christmas meal.

 

The next events were the carol service at church on the 13th December when I was on “Welcome Team” and the “sing-along” Christmas carols in SP2 Café on the morning of 18th December, the day it closed for a Christmas break.  Quite a lot of people there and joining in.

The next event was not really Christmas but always happens then!  It was my great-nephew’s birthday party on the 19th (birthday on 24th, poor lad!) so I went across for lunch and to deliver birthday and Christmas presents, but didn’t stay for the trampolineing!  The draughts/chess set was a good thing (not sure his granny thought so though!).

Presents and granny and Christopher playing draughts.

Presents and Granny and Christopher playing draughts.

Little sister had a notebook and multi-coloured pen as a consolation!

Holding pen but thumb about to go into mouth!

Holding pen and looking for plain paper – but thumb about to go into mouth!

The evening of the 20th was the second carol service at church, which I went to just to enjoy.  I thought both Carol Services were going to be the same, but there were different people doing the readings, the testimony and even the talk – which naturally made the talk different.  I think the carols were the same, but the second service was candle-lit and I am not sure the first one was.  The collection was for different things, too.  Good service, 5 “SP2 regulars” plus the community worker sat in a row and 2 more behind.  Lots of others there – very full service, even with the other one the previous week.

Then on Christmas Eve I headed for Cambridge to my brother’s house.  Trains not too busy and my sister-in-law picked me up from the station.  The next two and a half days were spent enjoying the company of my 2 younger nieces and my younger nephew, my brother and my sister-in-law.  My brother did all the cooking and produced some excellent meals – it is a pity that my carving of the turkey was not up to the same standard!  Christmas afternoon was the time for opening presents as in the morning my niece was sleeping after night duty as a nurse and my brother was cooking.  The dog…..

....opened her present.....

….opened her present…..

 

......was handed the interesting bit.....

……was handed the interesting bit…..

......and proceeded to squeak  and destroy it!

……and proceeded to squeak and destroy it!

After opening the presents…..

Opened presents.

Opened presents.

……there was the usual…..

....chaos of wrapping paper, presents, boxes etc.

….chaos of wrapping paper, presents, boxes etc……

…..and we admired presents, chatted and my elder niece went back to bed!

My sister and brother-in-law also came on Boxing day so there were more presents, more food and more chat.

I went home on the 27th – not such a good journey as the train to London was over-full.

So where is the real meaning of Christmas in all this?  Well, in the carols and the talks at the carol services, but also in the giving and receiving of presents which is a reminder of God giving us Jesus, I suppose.