Sunday, 13 December 2009

COUNTDOWN TO SOLSTICE AND CHRISTMAS!! we go! It's Sunday evening, 13th December though it is after midnight so its really the 14th; we have 7 days until the shortest day, the Solstice. People don't always realise, in their weekender and Glastonbury 'Experience' part time hippyness, that the Solstice itself is NOT at dawn on the day in question, but at the sun's highest point on Midsummer's Day and lowest point on Midwinter's. The traditional Winter Solstice is however traditioonally celebrated at dawn on the day after the shortest day because in olden times when people did not understand why the sun rose/set, they realy thought the days were getting shorter because the sun was going out. They would leave fires burning all night in the hope of persuading the sun to come back,,and next morning, when it inevitably did, one again, rise, they were so overjoyed that they had persuaded the sun to return that they partyed big-time. Most cultures and religions have some kind of Lights festival at this time of the year, we need it to get us through! Then along came the Christians and said we don't want you celebrating these Pagan beliefs any more, but we know you need something at this time of year, so we'll brig Christmas forward a month or so and you can celebrate it on the 25th , just after the old Solstice. Of course, the Pagans still continued to celebrate the anual return of the sun and so that's why we still have lots of candles and lights and so forth. It has nothing to do with Jesus. As for Santa, well, yet again we have the wrong date! As we in this family know, Saint Nicholas - Sinterklaas - comes on the 5th of December; but we have got him mixed up with 'Father Christmas' (who is not really Santa at all) Father Christmas may well come down the chimney but he is not Santa Claus!

So what are we celebrating in any true sense of the word? Well, we are not Christian so we are not celebrating Christ's birth - Christ Mass. We may celebrate the Solstice in that it means the days, from then on, are going to get lighter (even though it is not that obvious) and I have always liked the house being full of candles. I like to think of it as marking the begining of a new cycle, though of course it isn't the beginning of Spring yet. So think what it is that we celebrate is being together, the fact we all belong to each other, which of course so many people do not have. a chance also to reflect on how fortunate we are compared to the vast majority of the world's population; and eve how lucky we are compared to so many in our own country, a so-called civilised country in the 21st Century which still nevertheless has great inequalities.

I won't go on about my socialist beliefs; as I've said before this is not a political blog, it is meant to be lighthearted. But most of the inequalities I refer to are caused directly by greed, which translates - because of the greed for money - into capitalism. So many people face the festive season with nothing, while so many have more than they can ever use.

We have a warm, comfortable home - it is a real home with a feeling of contentment and love, There are Animals lounging about, content that they do not have to go outside in the cold and happy that they have a warm lap to jump onto.

There are young adults, boys who have turned into men and not too badly either and I am partially - if not mainly - responsible for the fact they are happy, well-balanced, bright, articulate, compassionate individuals, they are good to be around and Christmas with them is a time of year which feels special. so for us, Christmas has to be about Home and Family and being thankful for the small things we have that make life just a little easier than it is for so many.

So...the countdown has begun. a week til Solstice, just under two til Christmas. This year, Christmas day is a Friday, which means all the boring days that comer after are got out of the way over the weekend and so it is little different from a normal Bank Holiday weekend. The worst years are those with a mid-week NOT get me started on those!

I am rushing to meet the deadline for posting parcels to the Netherlands, so the Uiterstegrachters get their dododjes in time! The hold up is that I have yet to finish Sara's sjaaltje, though it is a matter of a few rows and of course the tassels for that end (as I have already attached the tassels for the top)

Every year at this time - usually this exact time actually; about ten days before Christmas because a week seems like it's pushing it and besides there are the crowds to think about and two weeks means you have too long to wait afterwards - I have my annual trip to IKEA!! The usual purchases are small rugs, lamps, light bulbs for non-English lamps, scented and tea light candles....bits and bobs......last year it was a new sofa and futon, plus lots of lampshades and I almost bought a new rug....This year Rob came with me and we chose a new rug; I had planned to buy a Vitten but they were out of stock so I noticed and bought a large Flokati which is smaller than the Vitten but the same size as our current rug, so that's fine.

For the catses, their very own sheepskin rug, a beautiful soft thick pile of fluffy warmth for them to sleep on. I bought a cover for the sofa and a larger throw for the futon; cushions - which, back home, Josh pronounced to be 'gay' but Rob and I like them - for the sofa; thick cotton rugs for the kitchen to replace the long one I dropped the appelgebaak on a few weeks back and has never been the same since (plus all the spilled cat food stains etc.....yeuch! I wanted to replace that very quickly!); clip-onto-bookcase lamps for the boys; anti-slip smiley faced puddle-shape mat for the bath; small chrome pedal bin for the kitchen; and the piece de resistance: an apple corer/segmenter!!

I really like going to IKEA but you have to plan it in advance, choose the right day and time of day, know what you want so you can completely ignore and thus hurry through irrelevant sections, and above all allow yourself a good few hours because time flies in there and you wil need a break halfway too. We were in there about three hours, and it was just right.

The best thing was, it all cost less than my original budget, because even though I bought many things which were not on the list, the rug we bought was half the price of the one we were going to buy. so I didn't need to use my checkbook, which I only took for emergencies anyway. Rob was keeping that for me with strict instructions not to allow me to go over the top and buy things we really really did not need, yet it was he who tried to persuade me that what the cats really need is a 7 feet high rattan climbing 'tree' with little perches and hooks to hang toys from. Yes, they really need encouragement to jump about at height, clawing whatever they are sitting any case the thing cost £67 so that prohibited the purchase anyway, though he almost had me convinced! While we were waiting for the cab to take us home Rob suggested that perhaps the cats' psychic abilities had been astrally projected, and that they were putting these ideas into our heads. how else to explain my decision to buy them a £30 sheepskin rug all of their very own?

So, once home I decided to put everything in its place apart from the sofa and futon covers, which I shall do on Tuesday before the party. I have put the old living room kilim rug - which I refuse to part with as it is a genuine piece of IKEA history (it was framed and on the wall when the place first opened, and later put into Bargain Corner) - in the kitchen; the gabbeh is now under the table and the tatty old striped kilim (el cheapo as it is cotton not wool) is being chucked. The new rug looks lush in the front room, and the catses loves their little sheepskin rug!

I have made a schedule for the next two days because otherwise I will do nothing. so tomorrow I will chuck out the rubbish and chuck in some laundry before I go to work (early start) I'll come home at 12 - thank goodness I live 5 minutes away - and take the washing out before going to do the shopping for the co-op Christmas party refreshments and also for us. That done, I shall clean the bathroom, which is actually clean but the shower screen is a bit watermarked. On Tuesday morning I'll hoover upstairs then I'll start prepping the food; after lunch I'll then put the covers on the sofa and futon, and hoover downstairs. By then it will be time for anyone who's coming to help with the food to arrive. Sorted. Having a written list is the only way I can get things done these days. So anyway, watch this space for goss from the party later this week.

I haven't blogged for a while, but there is so much to catch up- on, for instance my birthday, which funnily enough meant I became one year older in the space of one day! I got some nice presies, the usual, by which I mean nice usual: smellies, chockies, gift cards for Whatstoners.....Rob bought me a book I've wanted for a while, "Ordinary Thunderstorms" by William Boyd and it is brilliant! I also treated myself to gorgeous gorgeous merino from two Etsy shops: BFL fibre in 'Cassis' from Amy's Rainbow:

And Kettle-dyed Superwash Merino Tops from Shunklies in gorgeous purples and pinks:

Of course, these are not yet knittable yarn, but I have bought a spindle to spin my own yarn - hopefully not too thick! I am still going to be buying gorgeous laceweight merino and wool/silk/cashmere etc. blends for my lace projects; these handspun yarns will be to make things like scarves and gloves and maybe felted stuff.

So watch this space!!!

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