December 2010

Books read:

  1. A Conspiracy of Kings, by Megan Whalen Turner.
  2. The Act of Roger Murgatroyd, by Gilbert Adair.
  3. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.
  4. The Christmas Mystery, by Jostein Gaarder.
  5. The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett.

Yes, that may or may not be the third time I read A Conspiracy of Kings this year. It’s just so good. And for the grand list of books read in 2010, may I direct your attention: here.

It somewhat feels as though 2011 has been trying to sneak up on me: I’ve lost track of days somewhat being on holiday with the Dimerys + Kerrys, and we won’t be returning back up to Scotland until after the new year. It’s refreshing to wake up each morning and look out the window to see trees and the green of growing things, for it is so damp here that most things have a thin layer of moss growing on them: trees and dry stone walls alike. The fog has been thick across the moor, and on the slopes of the Pennine hills the fog clings to the tips of the tree branches, settling into pools deep in the valleys. Today we went to ride the steam train in Haworth: we drank tea in our carriage, the windows frosted over, the tracks went clickety clack beneath us and the steam streamed past in billows. At each station the guard would blow his whistle twice, and at the second time Charlie exclaimed, ‘Again!’ I don’t think I had quite as much fun as Charlie did, but I did enjoy myself indeed.

As for the new year, I’ve got Plans for it. It’s going to be a Prime year, I can tell you that.

The angels say

From The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder, which has quickly become one of my favourite Advent and Christmas books:

Elisabet was confused by all the strange names but the angel [Ephiriel] explained, ‘The angel watch shows that 602 years have passed since Jesus was born. At this time, and throughout the Middle Ages, the Christian church had two different capitals. The one is Rome, and the other is Byzantium at the entrance to the Black Sea.’

‘But didn’t they believe the same things?’

‘On the whole, yes, but they showed it in slightly different ways. People have come and gone, and church traditions and services have come and gone too, even though the start of it all was something that happened one Christmas night in Bethlehem, the city of David.’

Impuriel ruffled his wings and said, ‘Yes, indeed! For there was only one Mary and only one Christ-child. Since then many millions of images of Mary and and the Christ-child have been painted and fashioned, and none of them are alike. For even though there was only one Christ-child, every person’s imagination is a little different.’

Elisabet hid these words in her heart. But Impuriel beat his wings and came right up to her.

‘God created only one Adam and one Eve as well. They were little children who played hide-and-seek and climbed the trees in the Garden of Eden, for there was no point in creating a lovely garden if there were no children who could play in it.

‘But these two children ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, and then they grew up. That was the end of playing in the world, but only for a short while, for soon grown-up Adam and grown-up Eve had children, and then grandchildren as well. So God saw to it that there would always be plenty of children in the world. There’s no point in creating a whole world if there are no children to keep on discovering it. That’s how God goes on creating the world over and over again. He will never quite finish it, for new children keep on arriving, and they discover the world for the very first time. Yes, indeed!’

And that is just a sample of how splendidly Gaarder describes the wonders of heaven spilling over into the world (and how wonderfully Elizabeth Rokkan translated it into English, too).

Christmas Eve Eve

Ros would say that it was beginning to look like Christmas in our house since the second week of December, but with the last couple of parcels I got in the post, it’s really beginning to look like Christmas…

Even the menagerie are getting into the Christmas spirit:

(That’s Cristabel, Jeffrey, and Seamus, just so you know.) I also cooked up a Christmas dinner this morning. Casey kindly took a picture of me when I finally sat down.

There was also pie, but I think I’ll blog about my forays into baking later. Instead — tomorrow is Christmas Eve! That’s when it’s ‘really’ Christmas in my head. So pause, and think, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people.’


Today is the shortest day of the year. This morning I woke up before the sun and climbed up onto the window ledge in our spare bedroom to watch the earth’s shadow slowly swallow the moon. I had never seen a total lunar eclipse before, and I got up to watch it from the beginning until the end. I thought of early medieval folk beliefs, half-understanding how if you didn’t know that it was simply the earth casting its shadow across the moon that it wouldn’t be too hard to believe that the dear moon was under attack, and you had to shoot arrows at it to help ward off the monsters that were attacking her.

For my particular place in the world, the lunar eclipse was also a selenelion: the eclipsed moon setting just as the sun was rising, meaning that for a brief time both were visible above the horizon. The last time a lunar eclipse fell on the night of a winter solstice happened toward the end of the medieval period. Maybe some of the people I’m reading about saw the last one. I saw also a falling star streak past the eclipsed moon, perhaps it was one of the rare Ursid meteors.

I say I watched the eclipse from beginning to end. I suppose this is not technically true, for the moon was entirely eclipsed when it set; I did not see the end of the eclipse. Even so, how fitting it was, that the moon faded into the dawn on the day that marks the sun’s return. The long night of winter has reached its zenith; the sun has stood still, and soon will return the day.

For the beauty

I, er, took the long way to the library today…




And, the long way back from the library, too…


Though, this sight on my way into town just made me smile: the Holy Trinity gargoyles had icicle beards!

More snow

I woke up this morning and the world was once more covered in snow. Even so, I had a good day today, with visits from friends and talk about choir and church and Christmas. There was tea and freshly baked pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. One visit was expected, the other was not; one was with someone four years older than me, the other four years younger, yet both were welcome and good and fun.

It’s been a good day. Tomorrow, I think, will be too.


One of the things I have been praying for lately is serenity. Serenity is running errands in town after lunch; realising that I’ve gone back to being on a rather low dose of pain killers for the past several days; noting how the brass band in Church Square echoes off of the Town Hall building. Serenity is noticing the soft quality of winter light, both golden and cool, as it falls on the world, with the ruins of the cathedral standing in silhouette at the end South Street and the hills south of town dusted with snow. Serenity is opening my mouth to sing, and have the first words to come be, ‘For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth, over and around us lies…’

I am thankful for these glimpses of serenity.

ETA: It’s starting to feel like Christmas, with watching Love Actually while making ornaments in the light of the Christmas Tree, and the snow falling outside.

Just a few things

It still amazes me how clear the air is here, that not even a three-quarters moon can cast discernible shadows.

Our concert tonight could have gone either way. Fortunately, it swung the way of the choir singing in time together. The Josquin was lovely, the Ave Maria was delicate as it was supposed to be, and we danced through the Guerrero carols. ‘Porque el niƱo puede dar reinos, vida, gloria y cielo.’

Snow is in the forecast again, and it is so very cold outside. I know several people traveling this weekend, so I hope the snow is light for their sakes, but I also would like snow for Christmas. There have been very few white Christmases in my adult life.