A hearty start to the week with a delicious treat of a meal out in a local Beefeater restaurant to celebrate a birthday. At least we had earned this with an early morning swim on the same day.
Tuesday saw me reach ridiculous levels of excitement when, at long last, the issue of a magazine, ‘Yours’, was out containing a story of mine. It had quite a high profile as the story was part of a Marie Curie campaign to highlight their work. I felt very proud. And excited. Ridiculously Excited.
A couple of days at work soon calmed me down and brought me back to Earth though.
Upon meeting an old friend, I was struck by the difference between two emerging groups in this strange Post Pandemic world. Those of the Fearless and the Fearful. My friend was reluctant to commit to agreeing to meet indoors although had been on a cruise. Other friends are similar in their illogical approach to life. I feel saddened and a little bit adrift in this new world. So much has changed in the last couple of years in everyone’s life as well as in the world around so it will be a while before we are all adjusted to the so-called New Normal. It is going to be different for different people for a very long time.
At last, the skies cleared for a view of the stars, with a bonus fleeting glimpse of a meteor. However, my enthusiasm was dampened by the brightness of the Moon…
Joy of joys! The snowdrops are out once again. And many more bulbs are peeping through the soil.
What better way to start the new year than with a dip in the sea. There was a real feeling of camaraderie when I joined in jumping the somewhat rough waves with a group of people already enjoying the sea. I must confess to being somewhat alarmed when a big wave knocked me off my feet and the breath out of me. Nonetheless, I left the beach, damp but happy. My poor husband was also damp as the tide came in a bit too far, too suddenly, catching us by surprise as I was changing. It gave the onlookers something to enjoy! Thankfully, the annual Viennese Concert was able to be performed in front of a live audience. I love this annual feast of colour, music, dancing and flowers.
The new year continued to get off to a good start with an outing to the cinema to enjoy the new version of West Side Story. Stephen Spielberg has gone a great job! The lead characters were amazing and well cast. The costumes, dancing and music surpassed expectations and the whole story was told in a darker, more authentic way than in the 1961 film, yet still exuberant. Every second of the film counted and was not to be missed.
And the week included for me a return to work. It felt good. I am not ready to retire although it was hard to get out of a warm bed when there was ice on the car windscreen….a challenging return. I came home feeling revitalised and young from having ‘been to work’. Interesting.
The ending of this first full week saw a return to swimming in a local pool and a walk on Dartmoor. This latter was as wet as the pool from the recent heavy rain resulting in streams where once were footpaths. Hopefully, these glimpses of normality will become normal once again.
It felt good to enjoy a life affirming dip in the sea a couple of days before Christmas. This was followed by a hearty lunch with Roy and his son. I was amused at being escorted to and from the beach by two hulking rugby men while I was the one who braved the waves in a swimming cossie…We had all been to the beach a few days prior to this final swim of the year when Roy’s son kindly treated us to a pub lunch (I appreciated being able to change in the pub’s warm facilities before lunch though!). End of year dips to wash the year away.
Christmas Eve saw the arrival of my son and the world was at rest for a day or so. The roads were quiet with people out walking or driving to collect relatives. I collected Mum and had a quick breath of sea air after I had returned her in the evening. The Queen’s Christmas speech was one of her best – I totally agreed with her comments when she remarked that many people say Christmas is for children, yet it is for all of us, for the child inside us, to be childlike in our enjoyment of family, friends and fun. Personally, I love to see trees in homes decorated with lights and ornaments old and new.
Arriving home on Boxing Day from a delicious lunch with friends, I was surprised and delighted to find a bag hanging from the front door containing a gift of a replacement Maldwyn. My clever friend also had made a delightful companion for the little mouse.
The short spells of daylight and the unpredictable weather together with not many places open mean more time indoors, sitting. Weekends with loved ones at any other time of year include outings, sitting outside, visiting places not intense visits from one sitting room to another. No wonder it is stressful and tiring. Everyone has different tastes in music, films, and widely differing views on the issues of the day to boot! Left to our devices, no doubt many would hole up with a good film, or music or book and a big mug of comfort.
However, I am delighted to say that my own experience was one of warmth and love, with visits to and from family, friends, in-laws and exes. Highlights include an evening listening to Stephen Sondheim’s music which brought back happy memories of all the shows my son had been involved in while at university and a walk and shopping trip with my daughter.
Cake of various sorts featured a lot this week! At each final session at work there were mince pies…although, interestingly, these were left in favour of biscuits (homemade) or chocolate log and mincemeat muffins. These latter are a great favourite of mine and seemingly becoming a firm favourite addition to my repertoire.
At last, the Stella Maris Trio were able to perform once more with my cakes being proffered as refreshment at the end. The mincemeat muffins disappeared swiftly while people chatted about the evening. As ever, the Trio were magnificent in their skills, presentation, professionalism and, above all, their friendliness towards each other and the audience. It made a welcome interlude amidst all the pandemic panic and a gentle introduction to the week before Christmas. Not that all the music was thoughtful – Sam’s new compositions were a lively rendition of some familiar themes. Iryna performed some powerfully emotional pieces from the Messiah while Vicky showed us how much her studies had improved her already awesome soprano voice. The conversation and refreshments after the performance are part of the event and greatly enjoyed by all. It was lovely to see some familiar faces. The previous concert had been in January 2020. The wait for this next one has been a long one for all of us. Cake and Music – what a great combination 😊
In the dark days before Christmas, there seems to be a preponderance of articles about the joys of Christmases past filled with people and fun. Like me, many of these columnists and writers are missing the busyness of family life and relatives long gone. I dreamed of my Dad not once but twice this week. I find myself unable to write in my usual style of blog. There is a lot of uncertainty in these ongoing pandemic times. The usual emotional ups and downs are underscored by the turmoil in the news and events around the world. Last year was tough. This year there was hope and it is that that makes this Christmas particularly important. Christmas is a celebration of love and hope. We may not be able to party like it’s 1999 but we can still meet, eat and enjoy the company of others. And remember those who have no others to meet.
One of the highlights of this week, was catching up on the excellent drama ‘Mrs Wilson’ based on real events. Was Mr Wilson a spy? I hope Mrs Wilson’s family find the answers they are seeking. What I found intriguing, was that the programme reminded me of a job I had working for the Department of Industry back in 1979. The bright lights of London had seduced me out of my country life and I relished walking past shops filled with the latest fashions and being amongst the throngs of commuters rushing for a train. I must admit to feeling a bit bemused though when I saw the might Thames emptied by the tide. Sadly, I had no time to visit the Tate Gallery on my lunch breaks, which was next to the office in which I worked. The Official Secrets Act binds me still yet what I learned is on the Web. The file on Mr Wilson is still under wraps. The unknown unknowns haunt us all.
What to do? Buy flowers. Bright flowers, perhaps the early daffodils from Cornwall, and adorn the home with colour. Celebrate the Solstice, the old Saturnalia and the newer Christmas. All are symbols of hope. Love and hope.
Monday Motivation was achieved by marching along with the Clangers to some wonderful Clangery marching music. I’ll try anything to keep moving and motivated when it’s too chilly for my evening walk. An exercise video from the Clangers would be fantastic!
Upon stalling at traffic lights one morning, I was reminded of the benefits of the old manual choke facility. The choke process would alert you to the fact that your engine was still cold whereas the modern automatic system lets the car ‘switch off’ at traffic lights thus meaning you have to take off from cold. And thus prone to a stalled engine. Some may say prone to driver error as I should have realised it would take longer for the engine to respond to the compression on the clutch.
With a break in the cold weather on Friday, I took the opportunity of plunging into the sea…up to my waist. It was soooo cold. The recent storms had shifted the deeper colder water to the top. Reluctantly, I did not have my much longed-for swim and enjoyed an extra paddle. The air was humid and mild which meant meandering around in my swimsuit was not unpleasant. In fact, it was less cold than the previous time I had swum, although on that occasion the water had been bearable.
However, I soon warmed up with the excitement of receiving an author copy of a book by a fellow astronomer containing a chapter written by me. To say I was beside myself with excitement, is an understatement.
Bravely, I went into the local library and introduced myself to the new staff. A Friend of the Library had chatted to me on Saturday about the talks I used to give and wondered whether I was still available. It is hoped to run some talks in the new year.
The wild windy weather dominated the end of the week and we holed up indoors while it raged outside. Having been woken in the night by the gusts, rest breaks were needed.
Sunday morning saw me up and out early to take my mother to her local church for the Advent Service. This was interesting in that I had not been to a real church service for some time. I love ‘Lo, he comes with clouds descending’ and sang out gustily…into my mask which muffled any untoward sounds I made. It was difficult to take deep breaths and sing properly, and the sound of the congregation singing was greatly muted as a result.
The day was rounded off with a meal out with friends. We talked and ate but not late into the night. Some people had booked for the Festive Menu and were supplied with crackers. I had not thought of that, so we enjoyed the excellent normal menu without frills. A mini pudding was treat enough for us.
A somewhat chilly sea swim helped with the emotional rollercoaster of a week in which the sadness of stillbirth affected a friend. The horrendous nature of this and the immense grief can only be imagined. ‘Thinking of you’ says you are not alone. Inadequate as it seems, it is an important message.
Emergence from the water into pleasant sunshine helped assuage the chillness in my toes. If only I could wear warm waterproof socks! The next day was chilly and damp and there was a cool, brisk breeze today. There were some stalwart swimmers in bathing suits, but the majority wore wetsuits to swim further out in the bay.
A Winter Market enlivened the local area on Saturday with a great atmosphere of warm friendship and interest in what everyone had created. I was there with a range of my books and enjoyed conversing with people I had not seen for ages. Everyone seemed elated at being outdoors and with people once more. Fantastic entertainment was provided by the Exeter Taiko Drummers.
While enjoying a repeat of a programme from the Proms Season, the heady days of Honiton Pantomime were relived in my mind as I sang along to “Another opening to another show”. ‘Kiss Me Kate’ had been performed as part of the Proms and was an exuberant performance.
And the evening ended with an email responding positively to a book submission.
In November around the 17th, the Leonid meteor shower is worth trying to see. It comes from the comet Tempel–Tuttle. This is a comet with an orbital period of 33 years and passes through the constellation of Leo at this time of year. It was independently discovered by Wilhelm Tempel on December 19, 1865 and by Horace Parnell Tuttle on January 6, 1866.
Attendance at a recent one-day Writers’ Workshop provided a welcome boost to morale regarding my short stories when one came third in a competition, while another entry attracted a lot of stickers, placing it in the top third of entries for the ‘first page of a novel’ competition. Next January, the fortnightly magazine, ‘Yours’ are publishing a short story about dementia and have also sent me a shopping voucher for my letter about the joys of discovering ravioli in the 1970s.
In contrast to last year’s birthday celebratory sea swim, I spent the day at work, bolstered by a supply of cakes. I was planning on a swim the following afternoon while I was in Exmouth but the sea was choppy, the breeze was chilly and I was chicken. Exmouth sea front has been revamped beyond all recognition since I was last there. There were lots of water sport places and places to eat. I do not say cafes because I do not know what the places are like. The main beach café where you could pop in trailing dogs, children and sand has gone, as has the boating lake and model railway. Where the sand dunes once were is now a wide promenade for walkers and cyclists. The overall impression was one of bleakness.