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The turn of the year



Ben

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.  I crept down to Dorset a few days before Christmas to join Charlie, and his brother James, and our sister-in-law Anna, and their baby Charlotte – all over with us from New Zealand. As I write, they’ve been drifting back on that long, long journey to the other side of the earth, and will be arriving home in Christchurch very soon. How wonderful to have them all with us, especially this year.

D O R S E T

I got out of bed at last on Christmas Eve. The sunshine was beautiful.

Sibyl giving her best side-eye. 

Enid has a much more straightforward character.

And Mavis loves to look out at the bigger picture while the little ones scrap away. Maybe she can teach us all something?

It was a couple of days after Mum’s birthday.  I wandered down to the churchyard. One of the most amazing things really, of all, is being able to watch over her from our bedroom window – and knowing that she’s watching back.  That is her temporary grave marker, made by my brother Tim, bottom left of the photograph. 

Charlie and Charlotte at the Christmas tree that evening.

All was still and quiet. 

Christmas morning! Presents all round….

Charlie and I took the dogs for a walk on a breathtakingly beautiful morning. 

In the garden, spring bulbs are shooting everywhere.

Strange errant primroses seem to have been flowering all year, on and off. 

The sun streamed into the church that morning. 

And in to the kitchen, where we sat down to a heavenly lunch of roast goose, beautifully cooked by Charlie. A delicious and happy feast.

And we all stumbled in to bed early that evening, at the end of a quiet, happy, beautiful day.

On Boxing Day, it was, of course, time for the Annual Duck Race.  Edgar explained the rules, as usual, in the village hall. 

Down the waterfall.

Into the sheep splash, which is a great leveller of the first part of the race, and then released into the long stream in another mass of ducks. 

The entire village follows in pursuit. 

And then the finish line, for another hotly contested race. I’m afraid we didn’t win, but of course it didn’t matter. This really is a race where the taking part is what counts.

Watch this space this year. I’m beginning to plan some improvements to our village hall, and I have a suspicion that our fundraising efforts may reach the blogosphere.

S C O T L A N D

And then, via Oxfordshire, and Glasgow, we headed for a couple of days at the bothy – to show the others Scotland, and the madness we’ve been up to in the last year. Perhaps one of the happiest times of the whole trip. 

Time for Sibyl’s official second birthday photograph.

Walks and storms.

The firs view across to Jura is always thrilling. 

High tides and unfriendly seas – so different to our last visit, when this view was mirror-like, glass flat. 

L O N D O N

We had a wonderful few days, but all too quickly had to tear ourselves back down to London. On the morning of New Year’s Eve, we had a fantastic long walk on Hampstead Heath. Kenwood  quietly beautiful, as always…

The next day – a first for me, at least since I was ten. A revelation! The Natural History Museum. It is such an extraordinary and stunning building, with so many fantastic things on display. Really, curiously, not for children at all – or, at least, for children of all ages, a category into which I firmly placed myself that morning. 

I wish the museum would reproduce this giant drawing of a sloth, by George Sharf, 1842.  Well, maybe they do – I haven’t actually checked.  It was a dream. 

Incredible notebooks by Ehret, in the same gallery.

The fantastic moon, that I think has been touring the country last year. It was such an unexpected pleasure to come across it here. 

And exploring upstairs for mere minutes – we must, must come back. The minerals gallery beckons quite urgently, for example.  

We’ve had New Years Eve, we’ve had Charlie’s brilliant birthday party.  And then, on Saturday, we said goodbye to James, Anna and Charlotte, making their long journey home.  We dropped into Kew Gardens on the way home, to cheer ourselves up.  Another not quite first, but the first in a long long time.  Heavenly.  The Palm House glowed. 

We loved the Princess of Wales Conservatory too, a completely different vibe, totally of the 80s but good.

The first snowdrops of the year, big fat plump things. 

The kitchen garden put to bed, neat as a pin. 

The Temperate House. 

And perhaps most dreamy of all, the witch hazels, surrounding a tiny Doric temple built by King William IV. 

We’ve had a lovely London weekend, sorting ourselves, having a long lazy delicious lunch at Andrew Edmunds, walking the dogs, doing not too much at all.   And this afternoon, in Russell Square, we saw our first daffodil of the year. 

Our friend Amy Merrick wrote of them – in her beautiful, incredible book ON FLOWERS (which, if you don’t already own it, you must) – ‘Daffodils have impeccable timing – they bloom just when you cannot stand one more day of winter’.  I’m afraid these ones have arrived a tiny bit early. Because I know that there’s more winter on the way. But equally – don’t they also tell us – spring is coming, in a while, just around the corner.  Have you suddenly started noticing, already, that the evenings are getting that tiny bit longer?  The days roll on, the weeks roll by, a month turns, a season, a year turns, a decade turns.

The slow, gentle rotation of life carries on – and as I’ve thought for ever and ever now, some things get worse, most things don’t change that much at all, and just every now and again – some things really do get a great deal better. It’s easy to lose sight of that in the world in which we find ourselves.

Happy New Year.

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