Saturday 26 December 2015

Downton Abbey ~~~ No Spoilers ~~~ Just That Life Will Never Be The Same Again

Gentle Reader ~~~ I am suffering from media emptiness, but please, be assured, this does not contain any Season Six spoilers, and I ask of my British readership, should you choose to  leave a comment, please respect that many of the readers are international and have not yet seen Season Six of our beloved Downton Abbey, so do not leave any spoilers.

It is over. How did this ever happen? Five blissful years of an Autumn series followed by the Christmas Special each December and now it is ended.

I know there will be those out there who could not give a fig, but I feel as if I have lost a very dear and old friend.

The last time I had such a feeling of media emptiness was at the close of the 1995 television adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice starring Jennifer Ehle and {which brought to our attention the incomparable} Colin Firth.  As a nation, man, woman and child, sat glued to their television sets every Sunday afternoon, week after week, greedily devouring each riveting episode. Who will ever forget the 'wet shirt' scene of Mr Darcy emerging from the lake at Pemberley?  Up off your fainting couches ladies!

The questions that burned on my lips then were, "What was going to fill Sunday afternoons?" and "Would we ever find anything to replace it in our viewing pleasure?"

Time passed and programmes came and programmes went. Occasionally, a little nugget or gem showed promise, but nothing came close to rivalling the on~screen miseries and tensions of the Bennett family and Mrs Bennett's mission to secure successful marriages for all her daughters.  Until, five oh! too short years ago, on September 26th 2010, a new programme emerged, and overnight the void left by Pride and Prejudice was filled with a new addiction ~~~ Downton Abbey.  It came with much hype and hoopla, with many lavish trailers and teasers, and again a nation sat glued and waiting for the start.  I believe I was hooked before it actually aired and when Series One ended I could barely wait for Season Two, but thankfully there are such things as re~runs and dvds with which to occupy the time.

So, Autumn after Autumn, already my favourite time of year, had an added attraction to fill the cooler Sunday evening as the nights drew in as a nation, and later the world, tuned in to ITV3 for an hour of pure delight as we watched the lives of the Crawley family and their servants unfold with drama, elegance, wit, injustices and hardships, and the acerbic one liners of the Dowager Countess played by the indomitable force of stage and screen, Dame Maggie Smith.

I don't have to tell you any more about it, for, like Marmite, you either love it or hate it,  If you hate it, you will not be reading this; if you love it you are a kindred and understand. If you have never heard of it, where have you been? Dvd sets are available on Amazon and I believe there is something called Netflix.

I lived, blissfully, in Cloud Cuckoo Land, never thinking that Downton Abbey could ever end. Then, one painful day reality struck as I read an article in which Kilwillie {aka Julian Fellowes} announced that it would end. He did not see how it could be otherwise and he certainly did not want it to become Emmerdale, which, as he said, would be the only possible route given the historic changes to the aristocracy and their homes, especially after the Second World War.  In some ways I understood what he was saying. In others I just wished he could keep spinning it out, forever, as we took our weekly voyage of insight into the lives above and below stairs in a world mostly long passed from existence. It was a comfortable part of my life, something I could dip in and out of and feel as if I belonged, had never left, like meeting that old friend who you haven't seen for years yet slip comfortably back into conversation with as if you had never been apart.

Resigned, I hoped for a few more years, but no. We were already at the end of Season Four, and eventually it was leaked that there would be two more series at most. Pass the tissues.

And so, it came to pass that, last night, Christmas 2015, just over five years since the first blissful episode arrived on our screens, Downton Abbey left with hype and anticipation just as it came into our lives.  Yes, we can watch, and re~watch each treasured episode over and again, revelling in it as and when we please, but nothing will ever replace the anticipation of what will happen next in each of the story lines and threads; the reaction to the beautifully acerbic one liners from the Dowager; Carson's raised eyebrow of disapproval. Will Barrow ever get his comeuppance? Will Tom ever fit in? Will Bates' conviction be overturned and justice served? Who will be the next love interests of the bickering sisters Lady Mary and Lady Edith, and will either ever find happiness again?

~~~ not to mention, how brilliant the make up was. How different the characters look in reality, Mrs Patmore, Mrs Hughes, Dr Carson, and Daisy to name just a few, who are unrecognisably transformed from their real selves by make up  ~~~

~~~ and the costumes and cars ~~~ sighs ~~~ I was born in the wrong era ~~~ of this I am unquestionably certain ~~~

I now wait with eager anticipation for my American friends to see Season Six. It isn't long now, and then I won't have to keep quiet any longer ~~~

For many of us, media emptiness descends, and life after Downton Abbey will never be the same, so now we must wait and see what comes next, if anything can, for these are awfully big shoes to fill ~~~

Until next time

Sincerely yours

Monday 21 December 2015

Winter Solstice Blessings!

Gentle Reader ~~~ I bring you

Greetings for a 
Blessed Winter Solstice

Today, December 21st, marks the Winter Solstice ~~~ the official start of Winter, and in the northern hemisphere it brings the longest night, but I offer grateful thanks that tomorrow the light begins its slow and most welcomed return as, minute by precious minute, the days will start to lengthen ~~~ it is a most important day in my year, one of two Solstice days that govern the light and dark ~~~

In a few days it will be Christmas Day and the moon will be full in the sky to brighten the night. It is a rare occurrence for a Full Moon on Christmas Day and this year is a time of especial magic as the full lunar phase is at precisely 11:11 a.m. GMT on December 25. This full moon is known as the Full Cold Moon because it occurs at the very start of the Winter season ~~~ the coldest season of the year {or it is supposed to be!} ~~~

The Christmas Tree brightly lights the Village Square ~~~

The Cathedral waits the Christmas Processionals and services that will follow in the coming days ~~~

So, Gentle Reader, I wish you a Happy, Blessed, and Joyful Winter Solstice

Until next time
Warm Winter Wishes
Deborah xoxo

Thursday 17 December 2015

Once Upon A Time ~~~

Gentle Reader ~~~ Once Upon A Long, Long Time Ago in a quaint and curious village nestling by the ocean deep and blue, once there came and once there was a miracle called Snow ~~~

The narrow roads of this bucolic village by the sea were lined with rows of quaint and quiet cottages; chapels, churches and farmsteads dotted and spotted the highways and byways; pretty, high~hedgerow flowered lanes ran hither and thither; and ancient ruins lie among the green and fertile fields; while salmon leapt in the rivers and lobsters swam wild in the sea. Where the great Atlantic Ocean and wide white sandy beaches stretched out along the feet of high cliff tops and sheep and cattle safely graze, the village sat gazing yonder to the west, over the big, blue ocean in all its moods of quiet peaceful calm and wildest fury thunder.

Then, one day, the sleepy, gentle village folk awoke from their night time slumber to see the green and pleasant land they knew so well quite strangely changed, dusted all in white, as if some giant hand above had shaken finest icing sugar all across the fields and furrows, the hills and valleys, and all that lay therein and round about.  All was white and muted and all glistened with a fine crystal dusting of snow ~~~

White flakes of snow fell slowly, steadily, silently, sifting and drifting down from the grey cloud brim full sky overhead and soon the dusting grew thicker and thicker; settled the snow all around on the ground until all was a blanket of white.

Children, woken early by the softly strange new light that only comes from snow, flew from their cosy and warm beds in eager anticipation of adventures ahead. Bowls full of hot, creamy porridge were devoured as fast as they could; feet wrapped in thick warm socks were pushed quick as a wink into waiting Wellington boots; woolly scarves, hats and mittens that had waited so patiently all the year long on the hat stand in the hall were donned; front doors flew open wide; muffled and bundled children, barely able to walk from the layers of clothes, poured forth into the slippery, snow covered streets eager to form battle lines ready for games of snowball fights, or to build snowmen, and even take a tin tray, or sled if you were lucky enough to own one, to the nearby hill to spend the morning sliding up and down, down and up, until it was time for lunch when homeward bound they trouped ready for a bowl of warming soup ~~~ Round Two to follow in the afternoon!

And all the while, the white flakes fell and drifted ~~~

So, Gentle Reader ~~~ As I sit in my living room looking out at an unseasonably warm mid December scene with murky grey sky and rain, I am reminiscing of a day, now five years past when we had our last decent snowfall ~~~ I long for snow; I live for snow; I am in love with snow; my heart cries out for snow; when I lived in Iceland we had plenty of snow from October through to March and even longer. I was one very happy snow bunny. Since I have returned to the west of the United Kingdom, we have only had snow once on our tiny peninsula that juts out into the Gulf Stream and this is why we seldom have snow that hangs around for more than a few hours. Overnight is a rare thing, but to have snow for more than a few days is very rare indeed.

The last time this very rare event happened was on December 21st 2010 and, of course, I went out with my camera. The light is magical when there is snow; the familiar becomes strange and all looks alien.  There is much fun to be had capturing the snow in images, as much if not more fun than when I was a child. I know I've shared these before, but begging your pardon I am sharing them again. After all, they instil much happiness as I dream of a White Christmas once more ~~~ it is unseasonably warm, and even in mid December the heating is off for most of the day. A rare thing indeed.

A Snow Angel

A typical Pembrokeshire tree transformed with snow

Dramatic clouds looking as mountains, stand behind the nearby outcrop

The furrows left by the plough in Autumn make a lovely pattern across the field

Miniature Alpine scene ~ just a few inches high ~ the sun setting in the west

A frozen gorse bud melting in the sun makes a magical ornament

The snow lasted for days and days ~~~ well over Christmas and into the New Year. It was a real treat for someone like me who loves snow so much.

Until next time

Sincerely yours
Deborah xoxo

Saturday 12 December 2015

Help!!! I've Arrived at Old Almost Overnight!

Gentle Reader ~~~ with deepening concern over the past few months, I have to accept that I am getting old. I don't feel old, in fact there is a raging twenty something, or maybe she's a thirty something these days, on the loose inside this decades older body of mine ready to party hearty and boogie all night long. {preferably to Duran Duran or Spandau Ballet and dressed as a New Romantic as I did back in the day when the intensity of hangover was commensurate to how good a time was had}  ~~~ in my dreams, or maybe these days in my nightmares!

I won't give in, I am not old, at least not until another grey hair or wrinkle arrives; or a muscle is pulled while washing the dishes; or arthritis starts to twinge as I turn a page of a book; or particular genre of television shows seems suddenly unappealing, or even begin to show more than a passing interest in Songs of Praise or the Royal Variety Show {I've always loved Mastermind and Gardener's World, so they don't count in my case}; I'm no longer adverse to a quick forty winks on a Sunday afternoon; and now I look in utter horror at how the youth of today walk around scantily clad even in the depths of winter; I whinge about change ~~~ None of these mean I'm getting old, do they? ~~~but then a few weeks ago, as night time temperatures started to drop, the evil spawn of a cruel and painful thought crept into my unsuspecting, possibly napping for a moment, brain.  My guard had slipped and in came the thought, barrelling it's way into my normally very secure and sound reasoning youthful mind ~~~ a thought so dreaded and feared that resistance is futile.

Have you noticed how the country is being run by pre~adolescents and teenagers?  I swear the policeman plodding the beat the other day was a Boy Scout.

To me, getting old means a lot of things, none of which I feel I have experienced or achieved yet, so don't take any notice of the last paragraph! 'Old' is what my Grandmother was when I was a small child, yet in reality she was just a few years older than I am now. You wore a twin set and pearls before they became fashionable vintage items; you wore your Sunday Best if you were going 'to town' for the day; you had a quarterly perm and a weekly shampoo and set because both were de rigeuer, and a blue rinse if your hair was white or silver; you wore make up only if going out for an evening; you listen to 'old' music {okay, maybe I have that one under my belt}; you became less active; you watched "Coronation Street" because you related to Ena Sharples and Minnie Cauldwell and found Uncle Albert attractive in a worrisome way {although today, admittedly, Corrie and Eastenders appeal across the generations, and I do not watch soaps at all}; you go to bed earlier, you get up later; you go to Day Centres where there are 'suitable activities for the elderly'; Bingo was not a fashionable gambling activity that everyone played but the domain of the elderly in those Day Centres; your slippers were tartan with turn up ankles and red pompoms; you tut tut tutted the 'younger generation' saying things such as "In my day ~~~" {yikes, maybe I also have that one on under my belt too}; you sucked on boiled sweets and enjoyed jellies {soft fruit sweets, not those dreadfully uncomfortable plastic shoes}, a 'night on the town' meant a Port and Lemon or a small, sweet sherry in the Snug at the local pub, never the main bar, and only if in the company of friends, never alone.

I never gave getting old more than a passing thought every once in a blue moon ~~~

So, there I was, happy as Larry {whoever Larry is} first thing this morning over visiting on Guillaume's Vraie Fiction {which I implore you go and take a look, using this link, to see a most beautiful picture of early morning England} and having a moment or two to spare I hopped along to Octoberfarm following my curiosity to find out what exactly is an Inside~out Ravioli only to discover that the author addresses a similar feeling. Things that only seem to happen when we are OLD ~~~ you can read her story too, following the link and I think some of you will relate to it too: you have been warned!

So, what was it that happened to me to bring on this sudden awareness that I am old?  {speaks in whispers}

I like to read in bed.  Now, that is nothing new, for as a teenager I was listening to Radio Luxembourg or Radio Caroline while I read Bunty or later on Jackie. However, two years ago a tiny doubt about getting old crept in when I treated myself to one of those big, fluffy, supporting, triangular cushions to give me more comfort than just a pile of pillows while propped up reading into the wee small hours ~~~ it did not go unnoticed by my brain that this was not something I would expect a "young" person to own and use, much less be as thrilled with it's presence and usefulness. However, all thoughts were quickly dispelled as I snuggled into the incredibly comfortable hug given by the generously amply pillow that wrapped itself around me offering such support to my back, neck, and arms.  Suddenly, this became one of my best purchases ever. I had been very silly to think as I had done. Hadn't I?

Time passes, and with that thought gone, I was a happy bunny, warm, relaxed, and completely cosy, as I wandered through the realms of alternate realities with the amiable, sometimes not so amiable, companions and adventures provided by my choices of reading material ~~~

Until earlier this month when the night time temperatures started to drop to a chilly, late Autumn average. Now this is not a new thing, it happens at some point around this time every year. Except. This year that dreaded thought of the most dreaded thoughts arrived ~~~ late at night when your guard is down and the black shadows prowl outside your window sometimes sneaking in between your ears, and the wind moans like a banshee down the chimney, and the rafters are creaking wildly as rain lashes against the window panes, and you find yourself nodding, half awake, half asleep, into your hot cocoa drink


There it was ~~~ there it came ~~~ from nowhere ~~~ that tiny voice that whispers in the night ~~~

"Wouldn't it be lovely to have a nice, cosy 

That's it. My youthful days are over. No point in trying to disguise the fact that I am not that far away from my Free Bus Pass {of course, much is happening in local government and the qualifying age may well be upped, or the Free Bus Pass even done away with before I get there} I have become my Grandmother. Next stop, Marks and Spencer {I'm too old now, I can no longer call it Magic and Sparkle} to the bed jacket department it is, no longer can I hold my head high and walk into River Island or even Dotty P's ~~~ I'm holding off, for a while at least, on the tartan slippers with pom poms and thankfully, I still don't care for Sherry!

You'd be amazed how toasty warm it is sitting in bed still reading at one o'clock in the morning wearing an old sweatshirt ~~~ maybe I can postpone the bed jacket and impending old age for a few more years then?

Until next time ~~~

Sincerely yours
Deborah xoxo

Wednesday 9 December 2015

A Quick Hello ~~~

Gentle Reader ~~~ nothing much is happening here at the moment, well, plenty is happening but nothing I feel you would want me to share, so I have generally been quite quiet.  I'm sitting here today trying to unfrazzle myself from a stressful, pear shaped morning, gathering my thoughts while sipping a mug of my favourite Constant Comment tea, and nibbling Lindor limited edition Orange ~~~I'm in heaven as orange is a favourite flavour of mine in anything ~~~ chocolate, Cointreau, tea, cakes, trifles, juice, even shampoo, soap and bubble bath, not to mention the real thing peeled and juicy, freshly dripping segments.  So, here I sit and thought I'd just type a few words to let you know I'm still around, mainly having a quick read of other journals drifting in the ether and leaving a scattering of comments ~~~ This poem just about sums up me and the weather at the moment ~~~

The Sky Is Low, The Clouds Are Mean
by Emily Dickinson

The sky is low, the clouds are mean,
A travelling flake of snow
Across a barn or through a rut
Debates if it will go.

A narrow wind complains all day
How some one treated him;
Nature, like us, is sometimes caught
Without her diadem. 


The weather is cruel now. The winds have blown almost relentlessly for the past three or four weeks now and suddenly winds of 20 mph seem calm by comparison. The rain when it falls is torrential and drives sideways.

So far, in less than a month, we've had Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, and lastly Desmond. Today's map has the all too familiar big, white arrows again ~~~ Just look at the wind speed today {the black circles, below} and this is fairly typical. Some days it is easier, others much worse. Bah Humbug!  I'm fed up with this now. As for the poor people in the north of England, my heart goes out to them ~~~ I should not complain about my weather ~~~

Every morning now I open my laptop to my Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar to see what magical delight is ready to greet me, even distract me for a while as there are many activities, such as designing a snowflake, or decorating the grand tree that stands in the Square in the Victorian village ~~~

I have been doing a little more painting and reading some new books, most recent of which is Bill Bryson's latest release, "The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island" which is a jolly good laugh and a pick me up guaranteed to make you smile as he writes in his inimitable style. I was fortunate to be able to secure a signed copy too ~~~

Here are my latest Folk Art attempts {only my second effort at this} and I have to say I'm very happy how they are turning out ~~~ I'm getting the hang of this distressing technique that is quite the rage these days with the favouring of vintage ~~~The Eiffel Tower isn't finished yet, I have to work out how to make it stand up or turn it into the Leaning Tower of Pisa ~~~

For those of you who are my friends on Facebook, I have disabled my profile. I do not know if this is a permanent move or a temporary one. Let's just say 'until further notice' and I'm getting a lot more things done since I've made this move. It is a very distracting activity, and I don't think I realised how distracting until this last week or so. I confess I am severely lacking in self discipline {I think it is that free spirited inner child and the artist within} and I am easily led astray with distraction activities ~~~

The freezer is emptied, defrosted, cleaned, and now reset and filling up with goodies for Christmas, and to see us through the Winter months ahead. I feel happier with it full at this time of year just in case the weather turns really bad and deliveries cannot get through.  My dry store cupboard is due to be turned out later this week and have it's quarterly sort through.

The rest of this week I will be baking cakes and mince pies for the freezer and finishing off and labelling jars of Raspberry Jam and Cranberry Jelly I made earlier this week.

Did I mention previously that I won £50.00 of Lakeland vouchers? Well, I did, and this is what I spent it on ~~~ a lovely hamper of treats. I decided to treat myself and not spend it on mundane necessities ~~~

Doesn't it look scrumptious? And, there is a lovely wicker hamper for picnics later on too ~~~ I could tuck in right away but must be good and keep it for Christmas ~~~ The bag of fudge is particularly endangered!

Here is somewhere you might like to visit Susan Branch's latest blog "On with the Dance!" It's a real happy place to visit and there's snow ~ and you can sign up for the "Cookie Jar Willard" too, arriving in an inbox somewhere near you any moment now ~~~ I'm over there reading right now, see, I told you I am easily distracted ~~~

On that note, Gentle Reader, I must fly ~~~ I have never been so behind in the run up to Christmas, there are cards to write, there are jobs that are waiting my attention and I cannot keep putting them off just because I don't want to do them ~~~

Until next time

Sincerely yours
Deborah xoxo