Monday, 21 December 2009

Shortest Day - Longest Post

Today is the shortest day of the year. According to WikiAnswers, historically, Christmas Day was set by the Roman Emperor Constantine. When he converted from Paganism to Christianity, he identified Jesus with the Pagan Sun God. The Winter Solstice is when the days start to get longer, and may thus be regarded as the birth of the Sun. Who knew?

We had sunrise at 8:29 am and the sun will set at 3:38 pm. It is icy here with a sparse snow on top. I'll be headed for the beach to run on sand instead of slick pavements.

Holiday Tidbits (over here they say ‘titbits’). Lots of good things have been happening here, little things but, to me, great fun.

===> The day after Thanksgiving, one of Bill’s new found cousins, Ann, and her husband Mick dropped by for a chat. We've just missed them on their previous trips up here from Coventry, being in foreign parts. Her father was the youngest brother of Bill’s paternal grandfather, a brother he didn’t know existed until she contacted him through Ann very kindly brought half a dozen old family photos to give to Bill. I’ve selected her parents’ wedding picture, as it dates from 1927 and I love the outfits. Ann and Mick were lovely and we had a great visit. They talked about their travels in Europe by mobile caravan (that’s an RV over here), something we’ve considered on occasion. I shall look forward to being in touch with them and seeing them again sometime, perhaps when Jane is around.

===> We went to the flea market at the Tynemouth Metro the next weekend to start our Christmas shopping. Bill’s mouth watered at all the heart-clogging delicacies available in the French Farmers’ Market. Lots of young women were also enchanted with the men’s accents. I found it amusing they walked around between their stalls carrying glasses of red wine. A marketing ploy, perhaps?

Also, Bill knew there were re-conditioned Dyson Hoovers vacuum cleaners to be had for only £30-40 (They call vacuum cleaners Hoovers over here just like I used to say Xerox for photocopy). We bought one of the older upright models for the upstairs to save lugging the other one up and down. I loved our first Dyson but the next one Bill got was the big ball and stick kind and I hate it. Can’t believe Dyson designed such a monstrosity. Have his amazing hand dryers made it to the US yet? Or perhaps he started them there, can’t remember where he lives now…

Anyhow, the other brilliant thing we got at the flea market was a coat rack, something I’ve wanted for absolutely ages. Bill keeps thinking there’s a man standing in the hall and jumps every time he comes out of the kitchen, but he’s learning to live with him it. This, too, saves trips up and down stairs to put guests’ coats away. I must be getting really lazy in my old age.

===> I met up with K for a coffee and some shopping. It was lovely to see her looking so happy and confident. I was on her PhD committee – seems like ages ago now – and she was always a bit unsure of herself back then. She now has a research post at Durham University and she seems a whole new person, very self-assured. I love watching her grow and am so honoured that she wants to keep in touch. Even though it wasn't 'in my job description', the time I spent mentoring her is probably about the most satisfying thing I did in my worklife over here.

We poked around in the Raspberry Bazaar, had coffee in the cafĂ© at the Land of Green Ginger and then popped into the funny little boutique, Gaf. I had a great afternoon just looking, as usual, though I did buy a couple of Christmas decorations for £1.50 each at RB.

===> I got a thank you note for the Thanksgiving evening on the back of the picture half of a recycled card from one of my wealthiest friends. I absolutely loved it! She understands the fun of the game!

===> Another friend, a former colleague from the University, who came to Thanksgiving invited us to attend a choral presentation from the Gilbert & Sullivan Society (I'd link you there, but the website doesn't work). The director of TGSS is also a former colleague (I don't think he needs much sleep). It was in a nice old church, easy to get to, and so we went.

It was titled Christmas Feast and they sang all songs about food, not necessarily from G&S. They served shortbread and minced pies at the intermission. I quite enjoyed it, in spite of it being a long time to sit on a wooden pew and too chilly to remove my coat. I mostly closed my eyes and let the lovely sounds wash over me.

The audience was invited to sing a couple of Christmas carols with them and I was reminded that Bill has a tolerable singing voice, which runs in his family. In between songs, the director read ‘olde-worlde’ snippets from Mrs. Beeton, which made me think of the previous post.

===> Of course I chose the day with the worst weather – wind, sleet and snow --

to go into Newcastle for Christmas shopping.

Funny thing was, as everyone else was screwing up their faces and clutching their coats I felt quite happy.

I realised then how very much I miss snow at Christmas time. It was lovely to see it fall, even if it didn't stick.

As I said earlier, I dropped into the Lit and Phil library that day. Whilst sitting at the table a man struck up a conversation and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Before I knew it I was getting up and going next door with him. I shall tell you all about it next year!

I also took some snaps of Fenwicks department store windows.

My camera does do videos, which would have been more appropriate to capture the animation, but I didn’t think of it at the time

and I’d have to figure out how to put the video on the blog.

I’m sure it’s not that hard, but that challenge will also have to wait until next year.

Fenwick's Christmas window displays are a part of the season here

as much as perhaps Macy’s parades on a smaller scale. I

thought of my Uncle Pat when I took these photos, thinking

he would appreciate knowing that in this secular country

there are still some who realise that ‘Christmas starts with Christ’.

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