20 December 2022

24th December 2022

Along with everything else that happened in 2022, one of the highlights for Adam was getting a freebie from Rymans Stationers, just by sheer determination and Chutzpah.

We are please to introduce you to our new little friend, who lives in the hall, and has been given his own set of tinsel and lights. It's MR CLASSWIZ the giant calculator.

A very happy Christmas to you all!
Sarah & Adam xx

23rd December 2022

A few random things to fit in on the penultimate day:

As usual, the Swedish Royal family have a much better Christmas than ours. Princess Estelle, Prince Oscar, and their parents Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel are going behind the scenes of the ballet Cinderella, and charming us with their brilliant family dynamic.


Every year people work out the "Twelve Days of Christmas" inflation index, looking at the total cost of all the gifts mentioned on the 12th day. This year it has gone up by 10.5%.

Even the Three Kings would have been hit by 2022's record inflation. Their gifts of gold, incense and myrrh have kept their value in the commodity markets, reports Waitrose. Gold is around £1500 an ounce, up 40% on last year, and is used in phone technology as well as for jewellry. Incense costs £300 a kilo, harvested from the sap of the boswellia tree. And myrrh, from thorny commiphora trees, is £400 a kilo.


If you were horrified by the M&S Panettonut, or by Christmas Pudding flavour crisps (They. Are. Real.) then you may not like this next photo. It's a Nando's seasonal special:

Plus some extra present ideas - you've still got 24 hours to buy them!

1) Aesop hand cream - as recommended by Cantabkitty and Biltawulf, 2 of the finest tweeters you will find
2) Margaret Howell calendar of classic Isokon furniture. Only £15 and the profits go to Open City, a charity making cityspaces more accessible and equitable.

22nd December 2022

One needs to ask oneself the question - just because it can be invented, should it be?

This is the Marks & Spencer Panettonut. Yes, a donut that is a bit like a panettone.

AKA the donuttone.

When asked if she would like to have another one at any point in the future, Sarah said no.

20th December 2022

When our friend Heidi was tiny (we're talking 20 years ago) she had a toy vacuum cleaner that I was jealous of, because it was a Dyson and back then I couldn't afford a Dyson. It had little coloured balls that went round in the cyclone to represent the dust and dirt.

There's even one in the V&A collection of toys! 

Well nowadays Caslon, who specialise in reproductions of household items, have got an incredible range, some of which I'd never have dreamt of.

A Dyson hairdryer toy that really blows air! 

A toy washing machine from Zara with accessories, a soap drawer, and a handle on the back to make it turn round!

A John Lewis coffee machine, that is part of a whole range of matching kitchen accessories!

18 December 2022

19th December 2022

It's arrived!

I was forbidden from buying it, until Sarah could collect one from our local newsagents, The Bon Bon of Woking. Mr & Mrs Bon had been saving it ready to hand over with the Saturday Guardian.

    1. remove inserts

    2. remove the wrap-around front cover

    3. grab a Sharpie...

The Saturday shop also revealed a super little tree decoration from Sainsburys, only £2. It's a coffee cup with a heart on the top and an actual cardboard sleeve!

So because I seem to always be buying coffees for the amazing Music department (especially on Carol Service rehearsal day) I made a little drinks carrier out of card to present their presents!

Also in Sainsburys:

cursed snowflakes

and I do NOT recommend this cheese, especially the cranberry and pepper

biggest Christmas cash-in ever

21st December 2022

The Winter Solstice in 2022 in the Northern Hemisphere will be at 21:47 today. This is when the tilt of the Earth's axis away from the sun is at its maximum.. The Arctic has 24 hours of darkness, the Antarctic has 24 hours of daylight (poor penguins trying to sleep) and the Tropic of Capricorn is at the exact angle (23°27′) below the Equator so the noon rays are directly overhead (it's summer there, of course).

To celebrate the Solstice, my father the Esteemed Ken Creen, has come up with a Solstice Belles quiz. There are some picture clues and some word clues, but like all his quizzes, the answers all begin with the same letters.

You can download the quiz here. There are no prizes other than knowing you are as clever as my dad.

15 December 2022

18th December 2022

I've always been a fan of ghost stories, one of the first Puffin books I chose through the Puffin School Book Club (those little catalogues given out at primary school) was "Ghosts, Spooks and Spectres" edited by Charles Molin.

It had stories ranging from the classic (Monkey's Paw) to the comic (Canterville Ghost) and folk tales about boggins. And even though there aren't any M.R.James stories in there, I quickly discovered them too and devoured them.

M.R.James has been a mainstay of the BBC's A Ghost Story For Christmas series, running from the 1970s in black and white (Michael Hordern climbing over groynes) to the recent adaptations by Mark Gatiss. I prefer the classics, but I've always got time for an M.R.James adaptation.

This Christmas has Gatiss' version of "Count Magnus", a spooky story set in Sweden where an antiquarian (all of James' stories feature erudite but foolish antiquarians) is fated to meet his doom. Friday 23rd December at 10pm on BBC2. 

Gatiss made a documentary about M.R.James in which the writer was played by Roger Lloyd Parry, an actor who has produced his own live readings of James' ghost stories. One is being livestreamed for a £5 donation on Christmas Eve at 7pm, you can get tickets from https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-treasure-of-abbot-thomas-a-ghost-story-by-m-r-james-tickets-395013123887

Saturday March 12th 1938: the first ever dramatisation of an M.R.James ghost story on the radio:


17th December 2022

Who remembers vol-au-vents? I don't think I've seen one in the wild for about 10 years. It used to be you couldn't move for vol-au-vents and quiche at self-catered Christian weddings.

This thought was prompted by a display screen at Joe La Frite, a Belgian chip shop on the outskirts of Brussels.

£12 for a vol-au-vent.

Even Iceland do 2 for a fiver:

Sarah claims that I'm using the incorrect plural form of vol-au-vent. She says it's "vols-au-vent" like courts martial and attorneys general. Peversely I'm going to claim it's "vol-aux-vents" with a pluralised conjunction. Some websites say the plural form is the same as the singular, like sheep. What do you think?

PS a review of this website by a 94-year-old claimed that it was "thought-provoking". I hope today's entry continues to live up to this reputation.

16th December 2022

"Enchanted Balgone", a Christmas-themed event run by Enchanted Festivals, had been running at North Berwick in Scotland since the start of December. But like all the best "Winter Wonderland" events that make it into the media, it didn't *quite* live up to the promises.

A spokesperson for Enchanted Festivals said: "We are sad to announce the cancellation of Enchanted Balgone following disappointing feedback from some visitors on social media. While much of the event was wonderful, there were some shortfalls that we do not feel confident that we can address. Refunds will be issued automatically. Have a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones."

One disappointed parent said, "My two year old started crying but we have another event planned which we know will be fine. We're very lucky - for other families this must have been their big event and I know some could little afford it." Another dad said he spent £100 on the event with his wife and two daughters - £40 for tickets, and another £60 on food, drinks and rides.

So what went wrong? Here's some photos!

But it wasn't all bad. One member of the Scottish Parliament shared these photos:

Have you ever been to a dreadful Winter Wonderland event? Do send us your photos!

15th December 2022

It's time for a Christmas tree round-up. Normally we would post the Tate Gallery tree, but they don't seem to have one this year. In fact, the last one we can find is from 2016, an upside down tree from Shirazeh Houshiary.

So instead here are three trees from around Europe. First up is a 20-metre spruce pine donated to the City of Brussels by its owners in Raeren, in the province of Li├Ęge, decorated with 600 champagne-coloured baubles and 2 km of LED light garlands.

Closer to home, St Pancras always puts on a great display for arriving travellers, sometimes the tree is non-traditional - and this year it's a fantastical collection of hand-drawn London buildings, to raise money for City-Scape. Standing at 33ft tall the design shows familiar silhouettes of the London skyline spread across over 80 terraced houses, department stores, concert venues and more! It took over 60 hours to hand draw all the elements.

And finally our new favourite tree, at Waterloo - it's covered in GIANT HARIBO. Sorry there are none to eat.

BONUS BEATS: the V&A have gone for a fashion-shaped tree this year. Created by Sohee Park, the Korean fashion designer known as Miss Sohee, this year's tree “reimagines” the traditional Christmas conifer as an 11ft white couture gown, featuring a crepe de chine inner and silk chiffon cape embellished with Swarovski crystals.

If you'd like to see a gallery of 23 years of Tate Christmas trees, just click on the link here.

14 December 2022

14th December 2022

We haven't had a nativity scene yet! Here's one made by Dr Jen Shearman of the NCETM using those Cuisinaire rods that you probably played with in primary school when learning about number bonds.

13 December 2022

13th December 2022

As well as this year being the 30th anniversary of the release of The Muppet Christmas Carol (now on Disney+, with an EXTRA SONG!) it's also 38 years since the televisual marvel that is The Box Of Delights. Shown over consecutive weeks leading up to Christmas Eve, it's stayed in the hearts of everyone who saw it. There's amazing child actors, appearances by the great Robert Stephens and Patricia Quinn, a police inspector with a recipe for posset, and cutting-edge (for 1984) visual effects. The theme tune is The First Nowell from Victor Hely-Hutchinson’s Carol Symphony, and the whole thing was directed by Rennie Rye.

There's a new Guardian article from the director and child star about how it was made, and it's available on DVD from BBC Films.