24 Mondays to the longest day of the year!

As always at this time of year, those last few weeks of December hurtle by – even without any late nights and too much drinking as normal – and then suddenly, beautifully, magically, time come to a halt.  Christmas!  It doesn’t matter now many years pass, it doesn’t matter how cynical old age or the state of the world makes me – there is something so simple, so pure, so beautiful in its message that when that moment comes when the world briefly stops and pauses and renews…. well, it always makes me catch my breath.

This year that moment was coming home from a long cold day on site and finding that Charlie had decorated the Christmas tree.  We had the quietest Christmas ever. I am guessing, you will have done too; and in some ways, because we were not missing parents or grandchildren, across the generations, I’ll admit – it was one of the nicest Christmases ever.

Lots of walks….

It was cold, so you needed to dress up warmly. 

Christmas tree close-ups by daylight for the curious. 

Christmas Eve was bright and clear after days of rain. 

Charlie’s new garden is beginning to look amazing.  Watch this space…. 

AND most exciting of all. His Christmas present was a new green house – which our friend Mike & team managed to install just in time. 

The veg garden is looking so beautiful at this time of year, even if Storm Bella blew over all the sweet pea stakes the next week. 

Christmas Day was bright and clear too – astonishing and beautiful. 

Very few people made it to church, that morning; one prays for full pews and people feeling safe enough to come to church on Christmas Day 2021.  But sunlight streamed through the windows and all felt well.  Back home for Christmas lunch for two.

Or three.

In the afternoon we took ourselves out again, and the hills and trees glowed in a beautiful golden light.

Boxing Day was bright and clear and cold. 

And the days followed with more walks to start each morning, and I caught up on writing a bit of the book, and Charlie gently pottered in the garden, planting the last bulbs and mulching the dahlias. 

The cold air moved slowly south and we hit the freezing snap; day 1:

Day 2:

We made trips to the coast, too, watching astonishing murmurations of the starlings as dusk fell….

And on New Years’ Eve, the most beautiful sunset of all.

2020 is a year that many have despaired of, for understandable reasons, and I think we’ve all been touched by that sense of despair. But in amongst it all, it was a year that brought its own gentle qualities too – the qualities of kindness, of staying still, and of thinking hard about our place in the world: about why, as well as what?


2021 dawned cold and bright and clear – the most beautiful morning, as we woke early. 

I can’t help feeling it will be some time before things revert to ‘normal’, whatever, exactly, normal means.

I’ve just been reading back to this same blog, this same week, a year ago – here – and I was of course struck by a little sentence at the end of the third paragraph….

Are you reading this at the beginning of the first day back to work?  I’ve called this blog the turn of the year, but of course, it’s the turn of the decade too.

If you have read the blog for a long time, you’ll know that I’m honestly more into the idea of gentle continuity than radical change. I’m not even hugely into the notion that one day is greatly more significant than the former. Are we really in for a decade, as a keep on reading, of the Roaring Twenties, a hundred years after the first?  Is that the correct reprise?  Maybe it is.  Maybe it is more appropriate for our times than how the 1820’s described themselves… although I, for one, would be jolly happy if it turned out that two turns on the century dial led to another Era of Good Feelings. Wouldn’t that be a turn up for the books? (Incidentally, did you know about the Era of Good Feelings? I’ve got to confess it was new to me, but I was happy to read about it).

Well, that all said, it’s been a wonderful Christmas and New Year, although one where I was laid low for some of the times with what really wasn’t more than a cold,  but a foul enough one to put me quite firmly in bed for a few days.  

In retrospect I do wonder about that cold now…. the dry, hacking cough, the aches and pains, the fact that I (and my bother in law James) was laid low in bed for days and days.  Who knows?

And then, I’ve looked back to the year before, to New Year 2019, here…. our visit to New Zealand, and then to Scotland…. and without realising, at that moment, that this was going to be the time when Mum and then Dad would both die.


There’s something about this time of year, these short days, when I like to both look back as well as forward, to reflect on the sadness as well as the happiness.   Time, and memory, is what connects us to the past and allows us to anticipate the future.

And are you, like us, suddenly noticing already that the mornings are ever so slightly brighter than a couple of weeks ago? And the evenings a little longer?

24 Mondays to the longest day of the year!!  Let’s make the most of them!  That’s my message for 2021.



An absolute joy as always. Thank you for sharing these lovely photographs, and very best wishes to you both for a happy and successful new year! x

Helen Anderson

Happy New Year, Ben and Charlie! Sending wishes for a calmer, saner, more rational New Year for us all. Thanks for the timely doses of beauty and reassurance. Loved the Christmas tree.

Timothy Van dam

ohhhh, dearest dearies Ben, Charlie and all of the sweet furries, we are blessed to have you as our guiding light towards all things
bright and beautiful with your magnificent blog! we thank you grandly……. bonne année a vous!

odl bauer

loveliess abounds. esp. beguiling = the pups – but WHERE is Mavis ? Happy New Year.


Happy New Year, Ben and Charlie – and those wonderful animals. Thank you for another set of incredibly beautiful pictures to start the New Year. All the very best to you. Jane

Jane Leonard

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