1ngi: (friendship)
A glass case on a table in a draughty Elizabethan pile.

Inside, reverently laid open, is a large leather-bound notebook. The writing is tiny, much of it in green ink, some in blue. Crossings out and bits of paper pasted over unwanted paragraphs reveal refinements and the moulding of ideas.

As I lean over the case, my breath stops as I recognise some of the words.

Read more... )
1ngi: (Moonlight)
posted by [personal profile] 1ngi at 11:55pm on 25/07/2009 under
"The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank"
Attributed to Dante Gabriel Rossetti

I'll come back to this.

1ngi: (looks a *bit* like me)

24. Advent things

I guess it would be hard for me not to be into Advent given that my birthday falls on the 1st of December. If I don't receive an Advent calendar as a present I get rather sad - it doesn't feel quite like my birthday unless I get to open the little door marked with a number 1. This year, my best beloved bought me a truly fabulous calendar from Hotel Chocolat. The last delicious chocolate was happily munched this morning. I wanted to link to a picture of it but they are all sold out now and they've taken it down from the website.

Instead I've chosen a picture of a lovely bit of Swedish Christmas tat known as 'angel chimes' I have a set exactly the same and they come in a box with a little Swedish girl wearing her extremely blonde hair in stereotypical plaits. My sister and I had a set as kids when we lived in Germany. We would get enormously excited about the lighting of the first candle on the first Sunday in Advent.  This would be short lived as the heat generated by one candle was enough for the cherubs to meander round rather lazily but not enough for them to strike the bells.  We would always try and blow it faster like a windmill until forcefully warned not to. Come the fourth Sunday the heat from the four candles was enough to make the cherubs charge round like little brass midges and Mum would only be able to tolerate the repetitive 'ting-ing' for about five minutes.

The set I have now was given to me by my sister as a birthday present. I never remember to get it out of the Christmas boxes in time to mark the Sundays in Advent, so it just gets taken out of its box when I do the rest of the decorations. Like my mother, I now lose my enchantment for tinkling cherubs within minutes. With customary efficiency, my sister also bought me box of 20 little candles that fit the chimes, so I'm probably sorted for the rest of my natural life.

And so I come to the end of this Advent calendar. I'll be honest, due to tiredness and rushing about, there were one or two moments when I almost didn't post, but I've had quite a few people say to me how much they were enjoying this series, that I felt that as I'd started, I owed it to myself to finish. It was helpful to borrow old writings from this journal and my old diaries, but I guess it shows that I've been thinking about this theme for while now. This is the first writing project I've done for myself in quite sometime, so to get to the end is very pleasing. Now if I can just learn to do things without having to have a deadline...

Happy Christmas, and may 2009 be less harsh than you fear.
1ngi: (Default)

23. Wrapping gifts

I'm not a hoarder, but I will squirrel away scraps of ribbon, tissue paper, posh paper bags, last years cards, and biscuit tins. I bought two sets of round nesting boxes about five years ago knowing that they would come in handy. This year they got filled with fudge, lebkuchen and bath bombs (not all in the same box).

I've got caught up in the trends over the years - including wrapping Christmas presents in copies of the Financial Times with string! One year I did all of them in brown paper with gold-edged tartan ribbon. That ribbon is still doing the rounds ten years on. In fact this year, I manged to wrap a Scottish friend's present in a page torn from an out of date road map, depicting the western isles - and I there was still tartan ribbon to reuse on it!

Actually, old road maps are fantastic to recycle as wrapping paper. If possible you choose a relevant location and decorate the wrapped gift with bright red curling ribbon, which picks out the B roads nicely. Green and gold ribbon work too but I think red is the most festive against a cartographic background. I raised my parents-in-law's eyebrows with this one. They seemed to have gone through a phase of passing their old maps to Sion every time they bought a new one. This meant that we had a huge collection of road maps several years out of date - they have become utterly useless for navigation around any reasonable sized town as the roads have all changed, I speak from experience. So Sion requested an up-to-date one for one Christmas, and I gleefully laid into the 1996 one with a pair of scissors. I'm not sure they were entirely happy when they got their presents given to them wrapped up in one of their old road maps. Well - what else was I suppose to do with them? Getting a little more use out of them prior to recycling seems highly sensible.

I've gone through phases of making sure that all my mum's gifts are wrapped in one colour, and all my sister's in another, and so on. That was quite a boring phase now I come to think of it. I'm currently in a 'how do I convert this shop-branded paper bag into a gift bag' phase. Tonight saw me trying to find an old Christmas card big enough to cover the massive Bravisimo logo splashed across the side of the otherwise very smart pale green and purple bag complete with ribbon handles. The solution came in the form of a pair of Christmas cards that had the design running on to the back of the card. So I stuck them on, insides facing down, and the bag looks smashing. Just hope they don't fall off.

I went through all the old cards and reserved the nicest for labels for Sion's presents. So now his presents have a somewhat pussy-cat theme. Actually I was quite surprised at the amount of festive cat designs represented. They seem to have taken over from the robins in recent years. Perhaps they've been eating them.

Anyway, I've done them and the Christmas tree does indeed look very handsome and proud guarding its generous pile of presents. Time to wrap myself up in a duvet.
Mood:: 'cheerful' cheerful
1ngi: (Default)

22. Decorating the tree

I'm decorating the Christmas tree. I've reach that tricky point where I'm not sure if I should stick more baubles on or not. The picture above is of our tree from last year. I'm a bit sad because we are not having a real tree this year due to the large grey thug-like kitten creature. Teasel would just see it as something to climb and the resulting toppling over and breaking of glass ornaments will end up in nastiness for small paws.

I also had a bit of a sniff when I discovered that my favourite bauble, the largest in the picture (bottom left) had broken inside its packing. It was one of the ones my mum and sister bought me to replace my decoration collection that didn't get returned to me after my divorce.

My mum tells me that at Christmas time, when I was a little girl I would get out of bed in the middle of the night and go and switch on the tree lights. She would find me curled up on the sofa gazing at it all by myself. I'm not sure that I've really grown out of that. 

I don't normally put up the decorations until the last weekend before Christmas, a hangover from living in Germany perhaps. For me it stops the decorations getting tired and boring before twelfth night. I love the way a newly dressed tree stands proudly guarding its pile of presents and I always think it looks a little forlorn on Christmas evening after all the presents have been opened.

Anyway, I started to feel all cosy and Christmassy and had to go tell Sion how much I was looking forward to our holiday at home together.
Mood:: 'loved' loved
1ngi: (far from the sodding crowd)

A strange choice for a secular temple? I don't think so.

Cut for obvious triggers... )

I chose the picture above, with a child flying a kite to remind myself that this is a beautiful landscape and should be treasured as such.
Mood:: 'uncomfortable' uncomfortable
1ngi: (far from the sodding crowd)

20. The Westonbirt Wishes

I went back to Westonbirt this Autumn. And while looking for the Acer Glade to get a greedy fill of seasonal colour, I suddenly noticed that we were standing under the cedar tree that acts as custodian for the Westonbirt Wishes.

I've written about the wishes before, and mentioned that on my last visit that I wondered if people would continue to make wishes there:
    As we walked round the Old Arboretum, we came across a huge woden plinth topped with a bronze bolus sculpture. It was the cast of a shape left by 4000 ribbons containing wishes that had been pasted round the branch of a tree. Apparently the artist, John Newling, had set up an instalation of a ‘bureau’, a filing cabinet atop a desk, and people were invited to write out their wish and place it in a drawer ready. The wishes were then stuck round the branch and later cut away for casting.
   The space was near one of the most magnificent cedar trees in the country and I was transfixed by this bronze cast. The idea that all those people had wished for something in that one spot unexpectedly moved me. So I silently wished for something too and we carried on with our walk. I’m certain that others find themselves doing the same.

So imagine my delight after creeping up to the sculpture and peering in to the hollow interior I saw the shapes of many pieces of paper that had been folded up and pushed inside.

We are strange and wonderful creatures - to be able to ascribe such meaning out of very little.
1ngi: (fruit)

19. Making festive stuff

This December I have been making bath bombs, Nigella's pistachio fudge, and lebkuchen.  I bought some star cutters from the kitchen shop in Bath just so I could bake mince pies topped with stars, and I'm going to do some spiced nut mix - also from a Nigella recipe.

The lebkuchen I'm particularly pleased with as they are made with the 'Nürnberger' recipe that is essentially eggs, sugar, ground almonds and ground hazelnuts. Growing up in Germany, rather than mince pies, Christmas meant lebkuchen and I do miss them. My favourite kind are chocolate gingerbread heart varieties that have a small blob of apricot jam inside - I hope one day to discover a way to do a wheat-free version.

As I was walking home, I popped into Sainsbury's and found myself buying a big pot of sprinkles that I can throw on the lebkuchen after they've been iced. Fiddling with food is not generally an Ingi thing, I'm more likely to heave a casserole onto the table than arse about with petit fours, but I am starting to find that I quite enjoy faffing and prettifying fancy things and putting them in cellophane bags and tying them up with a bit of Christmassy ribbon. I did go through a phase years ago of making lavender and rose waters as well as 'gentleman's cologne' (which was basically 'bergamot water'). I bought silver and metal leaf and adorned coloured glass bottles with it before filling them with the smellies. I tell you, it is amazing how much a wayward plastering of silver leaf will transform a garish glass bottle from a pound shop.

I like the idea that this gradual, quietly worked towards acquisition of seasonal treats is a such a long way removed from shoving a huge tin of Quality Street into the shopping trolly and feeling guilty about the extravagance. However, it brings its own form of extravagance in terms of time and effort. When you add up all your little projects, you suddenly realise that you've accidentally moved into 'high maintenance Christmas zone' and the panic does start to rise a little. I tell myself that as I don't eat wheat and I'm a bit fed up of buying eye-wateringly expensive substitutes that have all the texture and taste of sugary sawdust, that this is a good way of making sure that I get to have some yumminess too.

I'm enjoying it really. Just need to calm down a bit.

Mood:: 'tired' tired
1ngi: (Default)

18. A vase of flowers

In the garden in a jug filled with water sit together five stems of waxflower, five red berried stems of St John's Wort and three giant stems of deep red amaryllis. I'm hoping that that keeping them outside will stop the amaryllis from opening too soon. They are still half wrapped in their paper from the florist for a bit of protection. Though as I write this I'm suddenly concerned that our goth squirrels might decide that they make a good breakfast.

The amaryllis heads were over five pounds each but I wanted to get something really fabulous to decorate the home with. It is our first Christmas together, just the two of us, since with met as well as being our first Christmas since we were married.
Mood:: 'sleepy' sleepy
1ngi: (Default)

17. Throwing coins into water

I always marvel in mystification at pools in shopping arcades that are full of coins and wonder why anyone would do that. I'm sure we do have a cultural hangover of when we used to make offerings to the gods by putting things in water - the rivers and fens around Ely have yielded hundreds of finds that show how well established belief in water offerings used to be. Indeed we have one such offering immortalised in the Arthurian myth - the return of Excaliber to the Lady of the Lake. But why, if when there are no 'coins in the pond are given to xyz charity' sign would you bung in a quid into a plastic water feature?

So you can colour me a little surprised when I found myself throwing my first coin into water just two weeks ago - when visiting the Roman Baths. The circular plunge pool (pictured above) is dimly lit, and has a film of 'roman bathers' projected around the walls. The light and shadow of the projections play on the surface of the azure water and for a moment the pool took on the appearance of planet earth, but set in a tiled frame like it was one great big jewel. I leaned over the railings and squinted my eyes. I could see clouds streaming above the seas and saw the continents glistening in the shape of thousands of glittering coins. It was magically surreal.

I threw in a coin, with similar devotion to how I might light a candle, and watched the ripples travel over the metal land masses.


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