Archives For Christmas

Happy Holidays

December 24, 2014 — 89 Comments

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It’s been lovely relaxing at home with family and catching up with old friends that I miss when I am up living in Glasgow.  It is also a great opportunity for me to spend a little time connecting with my friends here on my blog, Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  During term time being able to read your comments and advice is so helpful and can be a real boost.  2014 has been a good year for me and I want to thank you all so much for being part of it.

I wanted to record a Christmas Carol to share with you all and pass on a little bit of love, joy and my very best wishes.  I have chosen to sing ‘The First Mercy’ by Peter Warlock, it is not as well-known as many of the carols that you hear at this time of year.  It is a lovely carol whose lyrics portray the nativity through the imagined eyes of the animals in the stable.   I do hope that you enjoy it  🙂

 

I wish peace and joy to you all and whatever you believe in, or celebrate at this time of year, may the coming days bring you good health, love and happiness.

 

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My Dad and two brothers have always been keen football fans. When we are all home for Christmas it is a tradition for us to all go and watch a match together.  It is something we used to do quite a lot when we were younger and living at home but now it takes a lot more organising.  One of the things I enjoy about Christmas is that you can inject a tiny little bit of glitz and glamour into any occasion. It was great way to spend the afternoon with my brothers especially as Manchester City won.

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Here in the northern hemisphere the 21st December brings with it the shortest day of the year. This marks the mid-way point of the winter months; with the promise of a new year and with it the beauty of spring and the warmth of the summer.

If this is the shortest day, I wondered why the mornings did not start to get brighter. My brothers explained that this was due to the tilt in the earth’s axis and the gravitational effect of the sun on the speed at which our planet rotates. Apparently we spin faster when we are closer to the sun and slower when we are further away. This causes our clocks to appear to be slightly out of sync with the solar day and so the mornings still seem to get darker as we play catch up.

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Anyway enough of the science, I wanted the reason to be all mystical and magical. Perhaps with a princess or two somewhere in there and maybe a dragon who was stealing the suns powers, trust science to bring that all crashing to a full stop.

The solstice has always intrigued people over the centuries and the strong emotional feelings that it provokes have made this date an important date throughout history.  For many people over the generations the winter has marked a period when little could be done as the weather worsened, the days grew shorter.

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Sunlight On Earth, During The Winter Solstice

There are many legends surrounding this time of year. The Norsemen who saw the sun as giant wheel whose rotation changed the seasons would light bonfires and gather around in the warmth to tell stories and drink sweet ale.

The ancient Romans celebrated this time year as the birth of the new year in their festival Saturnalia which ran for seven days from the 17th December. Which coincidently is my dad’s birthday! Spooky! During the festival it was common to turn convention on its head with men dressing as women, masters dressing as servants, the giving of gifts or presents and houses being decorated with greenery to celebrate the arrival of the new year.

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Our Yule Log “Colin The Caterpillar”

The Druids who are understood to have started the tradition of the Yule log did so as they believed that each year at this time the sun stood still for 12 days.  To overcome the darkness they would select a log and set it alight to banish evil spirits and welcome in the new year with the hope that it would bring with it good fortune.

It really is amazing to see just how many of these older traditions have been incorporated into our celebration of Christmas.  This is a special time of year to so many people of different faiths and cultures from all corners of the world. This festive season I believe that whatever you celebrate, do it with love in your heart and kindness in your thoughts.

 

Following my concert on Friday with Les Sirenes at the Mackintosh Church in Glasgow, I had the pleasure of performing alongside Troon chorus at their Christmas concert yesterday.

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Troon Old Parish Church

The concert took place at Troon Old Parish Church which the audience filled with Christmas spirit. Troon is just a 45 minute train journey from Glasgow, I had been asked to perform the Benedictus solo in the Haydn mass along with three Christmas songs by my friend Sam Prescott who is the conductor in residence.

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I Loved The Christmas Spirit

I love this time of year! Christmas spirit and sparkling lights illuminate Glasgow in the evening.  I love walking around the city with the happy bustling crowds and Christmas decorations.

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Glasgow has plenty to do and see this time of year including the Christmas market on Argyle Street which brings a wide selection of gifts, themed bars and fast food outlets bringing a European feel to the Scottish streets.

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George Square comes alive as darkness falls and the Christmas lights sparkle and twinkle. You can even put on a pair of skates and take a spin on the temporary outdoor skating rink. All the music and laughter that you hear in the square this time of year fills you with joy and hope for the New year despite the cold temperatures.

 

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I hope that you’re having a happy day 🙂  I have just finished the final touches on the “Twelve Days of Christmas” cards ready for posting.  I’m closing the competition tonight at midnight.  I’ve entered all the commenter’s names to-date into a random selector ready to make the selection.  Here’s a picture of the complete set.

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With my boiler working again I started to unpack with my Mum and tried and get my flat looking straight again for the new term.  Finding proper homes for all my most important things took a little re-organising but it is looking loads better this evening.

I always knew where I wanted to film today’s verse, right opposite the RCS is the National Piping Centre for Scotland and I thought that it would be just perfect.

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We walked over to the centre just after lunch as there was a break in the weather and as we walked down the steps opposite the centre I could see that the centre was closed 🙁

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The National Piping Centre, Glasgow

We tried several times during the afternoon but there was no sign of the centre opening at all.  I talked it through with my Dad and we decided to go back after dark and film outside on the steps.

As we walked back towards the centre it was still bathed in darkness but literally as we arrived on the steps outside all the lights went on inside and someone opened the doors 🙂

We went inside to try and persuade them to let us film inside but there was a wedding on and the bride and guests were due any minute but if we were quick we could film on the steps,  All the staff on duty wanted to get involved and I asked them to get together for a picture 🙂

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We went outside and filmed today’s verse and finished by taking some pictures of the centre.

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So here it is “Eleven Pipers Piping”

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My parents both went back to work today so I packed up Christmas at home for them because they’re taking me back to Glasgow after work tomorrow and will return late on Sunday.

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I don’t like packing suitcases but I hate unpacking them again and putting everything away even more. I’ve had a de-clutter and taken out all the clothes I no longer wear and books I’ve read and won’t read again to give away. We do this every year and used to get old unwanted toys too.

My youngest brother finds it hard to get rid of things though and Mum tries to persuade him every year to put ‘Match’ magazines and ‘Nintendo’ magazines in the recycling bags or to pass them on to someone new. Mum says he’ll end up like Mr Trebus,a famous hoarder, because he’s still holding on to his transformers, cars, etc. Then again I can’t say anything, I can’t part with my dolls house or beanies 🙂 Every year my Mum threatens to get rid of our rocking horse and all three of us say “NO”.

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Packed up and ready to travel back to Glasgow.

There was just one last thing to do tonight and that was to record today’s verse, “Nine Ladies Dancing”. However after constant nagging from Mini Me to get in on the act I finally gave in and let her take the spot light for one night 🙂

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Well here we are at the beginning of a new and exciting year. Thank you so much for all your lovely messages it has given me a fantastic start to what I hope will be a wonderful and eventful year for us all. I had a fun filled evening with Ellie last night and I hope it is a taste of what 2014 has to offer.

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Ellie & Me

 

I love the idea of looking forward to the what the year is yet to uncover and wonder at every twist and turn that it presents me with.

I try to learn from my mistakes, reflect on past achievements and plan for what is to come, though you can never second guess fate, you can enjoy each moment as it happens and appreciate every opportunity that you find as the year unfolds.

I am not sure what 2014 will bring for me but I plan to meet it head on and relish every second of it 🙂

To kick start the year here is the eighth verse of my “Twelve Days of Christmas” challenge.

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Today I was invited by one of my best friends, Ellie King, to join her and her family for a New Year’s party in North Wales. The evening was to start with a meal and be followed up by a some dancing, which I was looking forward to.

I thought the arrangement was to meet at my house at 3:30 pm and then I was to travel with Ellie’s family to the hotel. Unfortunately I got the times mixed up and when Ellie arrived at my house it was 2:15 pm and I was still travelling back from the hairdressers 🙁 Luckily they said they would wait and so my Mum finished packing my overnight bag with Ellie’s help and found the dresses I had left out to take with me as I could not decide which to wear.

It was a fast turnaround once I arrived and after saying my farewells to my parents I dashed off. Shortly after I had left, my Mum sent me a text to say that I had left without recording today’s verse. I had completed the drawing in the morning and had intended to record my verse just before leaving for the party.

When I arrived at the hotel Ellie agreed to film me on my phone but then the next problem was getting the recording to my Dad to upload for me. It took ages to sort out a WiFi connection and luckily it seems to have worked, so I hope it turns out okay 🙂 If not I will record it again tomorrow.

I also managed to take a couple of pictures when we arrived at the hotel, here is one of the rooms for the party tonight 🙂

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We set out this morning to attempt our family walk through Delamere forest, the weather did not look very favourable but as my older brother will be leaving to travel back to London tomorrow it was our last chance this holiday.  We normally go on Christmas day but this year the rain put paid to that.

Anyway, as we got closer to the forest the heavens opened and the rain came down again, though we had umbrellas and boots the wind was driving the rain sideways and there was no way we would be going into the woods as the trails get too slippery 🙂

Undeterred we decided not to go home but instead we drove to Cheshire Oaks ( not a forest unfortunately ) and take a walk around the outlet shops and check out the festive decorations. I saw the tree and just had to take a picture as it was huge.

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It was billed as the UK largest Christmas tree and for a small donation to charity you could take a peek inside, so I did 🙂

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It was all twinkly and sparkly inside and so I took another picture but it does not do it justice but I still wanted to share it with you.

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I tried to record today’s video inside the tree but the noise from the carousel outside made it really difficult for my Dad so we had to move on.

When we left Cheshire Oaks the weather was a lot brighter, the rain had stopped and so we headed back to Delamere forest to see what the paths and trails were like. We parked up and had a great time just walking through the trees and enjoying the quiet stillness of the forest at this time of year. On the way back to the car we stopped and recorded today’s verse.

So here it is and I hope that you enjoy it, don’t forget to leave a comment if you haven’t already. It has been as much fun to read the reaction of all my blog friends to my challenge as it has been to perform it.

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Today we decided to go “Sale Surfing” at the Trafford Centre near Manchester.  The idea was to have a good look around and see what bargains we could bag 🙂

We started in the John Lewis store but we were unimpressed with the selection. The clothes that we found were sized a little oddly and the cut priced items that were left in the formal or evening dress wear selection were not in my size. It is a shame that due to my illness I had missed out on the best bargains at the start of the sale 🙁 as I do love the selection designers available in store.

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Then we checked out a number of stores as we searched for those elusive little gems, the real sale bargains that are usually hidden on the rails or tucked away at the back of the shops, but we did not have a great deal of luck.

In Selfridges I was in my element when I found a concession called Angel’s Face.  It stocked all the clothes I would have worn when I was little and in particular a lovely little tutu caught my eye.  On closer inspection the sizes were most definitely not for me although I was so tempted to try one on as it would have looked great on 🙂

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After several hours we called it a day and left as it was getting too busy to remain enjoyable.  Not many real bargains to be had this year so back home empty handed but as the pleasure is in the hunt I am not too upset.

I completed my drawing for the day back at home and recorded the next instalment for you. It has been great to see everybody joining in my with my little challenge and a special thank you to mareymercy for sending me the link to an electronic random picker 🙂