24 December 2014

24th December 2014

Well, here we are at the end of another Advent Calendar. We hope you've enjoyed the pictures, and music, and anniversary memorabilia along the way. How better to finish than with a memento of Christmas Eve 1864, in a printed copy of "A Visit From St Nicholas" by Clement Clarke Moore. This was produced by Louis Prang, based in Massachusetts, and known as the Father of the American Christmas Card.

You can see the full-size one at SuperItch.

Wishing you, your family and friends, a very happy and peaceful Christmas, AND a visit from St Nicholas!

Adam and Sarah 

23 December 2014

23rd December 2014

Nearly there! We thought you'd enjoy hearing some Christmas jingles - these are from friend of the Advent Calendar, top educationalist, gifted author and average headteacher Geoff Barton. He's collected jingles from an early age and loves the close harmonies and perky pop of these mini-melodies. For Christmas he's loaded a new one every day and you can hear them all here!


And here's Geoff's life story in a jingle!

Follow him at @RealGeoffBarton and his website is at geoffbarton.co.uk

22 December 2014

22nd December 2014

So exciting that we have so many friends celebrating their baby's first Christmas - our little nephew Finlay Pearce, our god-daughter Beatrice Brookes, and baby Beatrice Creen in Canada, to name but three.

We were tickled by these cartoons from Kate Beaton, a Canadian cartoonist, all about "King Baby". Her website is at: www.harkavagrant.com where she also does adaptations of medieval woodcuts and satirical cartoons about Jane Austen characters. Check her out!

21 December 2014

21st December 2014

Here's just the thing to wash away the stress and nastiness of modern life. It's Princess Estelle, Duchess of Östergötland, and her parents Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel, from the Swedish Royal family.

Every Christmas, they release an official video and they are all so adorable.

Here's 2013:

20 December 2014

20th December 2014

Our third and final Saturday on the calendar takes us all the way back to 1864. This is the year that Christ Church, Ottershaw was founded by Sir Edward Colebrooke, and we have had a year of celebrations and commemorations.

So when looking for an 1864 theme for today, I was astounded to find this:
Cinderella, or, Harlequin and the Magic Pumpkin, and the Great Fairy of the Little Glass Slipper: A Pantomime written by the Brothers Grinn. 
London: Published and sold in the [Royal English Opera] Theatre, [1864]. First performed Monday, 26 December 1864. 
Cast: Hobgoblin, a discontented Demon who lives by himself and won't give up his Hermit for any quantity of spirits (Mr. Lingham); Papillion, a Fairy who's "beautiful as a Butterfly" (Miss Craven); Prince Ugolino, who has carried out the direction "laugh and grow fat" (Mr. E. Danvers); Grimguffin, his Private Tutor (Mr. Naylor); The Baron Pumpolino (Mr. W. H. Payne); Pedro, his head man and foot-man (Mr. F. Payne). Thisbe and Clotilda, the Baron's haughty daughters (Mademoiselle Parkinu and Douglasoni); Cinderella, the youngest daughter (Miss Clara Denvil); Squaretoso, the Grand Chamberlain (Mr. Dixon); Herald, with a solo on his own trumpet (Mr. Blowhard); Harlequin (Mr. Fred Payne); Columbine (Mademoiselle Esther); Clown (Mr. Harry Payne), Pantaloon (Mr. Paul Herring).
This is the first recorded pantomime version of Cinderella, which is, according to A. E. Wilson in 1949:
[Cinderella] is the most popular of the pantomimes. In 1948 alone, there were 37 different Cinderella productions in England.
And THIS is a photo of Clara Denvil, from the V&A Photography Collection:

Bonus beats:
  • W. S. Gilbert (of Gilbert & Sullivan fame) went to a London pantomime rehearsal on 10th December 1864
  • Bradford's Theatre Royal originally opened as the Alexandra Theatre on Monday the 26th of December 1864 with the pantomime 'All That Glitters is not Gold'.
  • Lewis Carroll's illustrator Tenniel produced the Punch's Pocket Book in 1864:

19 December 2014

19th December 2014

So many reasons to get that Friday feeling ... less than a week to Christmas, payday (for some), last day of term (for many), and it's nearly the weekend!

So kick back and chill to this power ballad version of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" from Rosie Thomas, her Christmas album was one of Rolling Stone's top 40 albums for the Christmas season:

18 December 2014

18th December 2014

More nativities: here's an update to one of the best, the 2010 Sausage Nativity. Everyone thought there was only one photo of it on the web. But here's a rare unreleased close-up of the Wise Men:

And we only found out about this today - it's the world's largest nativity, with 1000 people taking part!

17 December 2014

17th December 2014

Imagine a jigsaw made of 1000 pieces and 1000 colours. Using CMYK colour codes, the creators have made a challenging but ultimately beautiful picture. Watch the video at the link here.

16 December 2014

16th December 2014

Apologies to the 22 of you who tried and failed to see yesterday's calendar (web scripting error) and well done to the 3 who just changed the web address to '15' (sneaky hacker's trick for you there).

We've always been a fan of Percy Pig and his tasty sweets, now you can celebrate the season with this stylish Percy jumper with sparkling detailing. There's also a video you can watch at http://www.marksandspencer.com/percy-pig-jumper/p/p22336527 I think the thing we're most impressed about is that M&S managed to get Penelope Cruz to do the modelling.

15 December 2014

15th December 2014

by U.A. Fanthorpe (born 1929)

This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future's
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.

This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.

This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.

And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.

14 December 2014

13 December 2014

13th December 2014

Another Saturday, another anniversary. Last week we looked at the Radio Times from 1964, today it's 1914. While the Christmas focus has been on the battlefield football, there's a wealth of information about what was happening back home. First though, here's a 100 year old version of A Christmas Carol. No Muppets, no music. You'll just have to make up your own:

Anyway, back to the war at home. In his book, The Fateful Year: England 1914, Mark Bostridge describes how:
...the celebration of Christmas was considered a patriotic duty, the only concession to the war, now four months old, being the replacement of tinsel and paper chains with strings of brightly coloured allied flags. In London, the West End was thronged. In the suburbs, poulterers fairly bulged with geese and turkeys; happily, the cost of Christmas dinner would be only a touch more expensive than in peacetime. All the same, those who went out, baskets on arms, couldn't help but notice that this wasn't any old Christmas. According to the writer Katherine Mansfield, on Oxford Street the shop windows were filled with "khaki and wool and pots of Vaseline and marching socks". More poignantly, the department stores had baskets prominently on display into which shoppers could drop gifts for "Our Men at the Front". Among the more popular presents for soldiers were "tinder lighters with their natty little plaited rope and striker" and – oh, how the heart aches to read this! – "waterproof squares for trench seats".
Another story of the time I find fascinating is how paranoia led people to suspect German spies were everywhere:
The next delusion was that of the grateful German and the Tubes. The commonest form of the story was that an English nurse had brought a German officer back from the door of death, and that in a burst of gratitude he said at parting, “I must not tell you more, but beware of the Tubes in April (1915).” As time wore on the date was shifted forward month by month, to September, when it died of expectation deferred. We took the trouble to trace this story from mouth to mouth until we reached the second mistress in a London Board School. She declared that she had had it from the charwoman who cleaned the school, but that lady stoutly denied that she had ever told so ridiculous a story.
This early urban myth is from Chapter 4 of Basil Thomson's book about his work in the Police and Secret Service, and you can read lots more about popular delusions in my blogpost here.

12 December 2014

12th December 2014

This weekend sees the first of Adam's 5 carol services and concerts he's playing the organ in. The tunes from each have been going round in his head, even in his sleep, and the current winner is a beautiful anthem by John Rutter we are singing at ChristChurch Woking at 5pm and 7.30pm on Sunday. Do come along!

But who invited the monkey? And why is the host wearing a 1950s toupée? Oh, he's French :-)

Bonus track: another one we're doing is a little track I like to call "Mary, with the benefit of 2000 years of hindsight and theological interpretation, did you know your baby would be able to walk on water and annoy Richard Dawkins?"

11 December 2014

11th December 2014

It's time for a round-up of nativity scenes we have spotted in real life and on the web.

Who can fail to be charmed by this scene in an Southend shop window?

Meanwhile, Playmobil seem to get further away from the true meaning of Christmas:

OK, to be honest, that's an Advent Calendar, not a nativity. But it's still not very Christmassy. Try this one:

Let us know if you have spotted a nativity scene, good or bad!

10 December 2014

10th December 2014

Have you chosen what you are going to wear on Christmas Day yet? There seems to be a trend this year for taking traditional Christmas jumper patterns and putting them on all sorts of things.

So if you are getting a new bike for Christmas, why not try this:
on sale at RedBear

To add a touch of festive flair, why not wear:

available from Shinesty

And to help make your baby part of the decorations, knit them this:

pattern at Crochetville

Thanks to Miriam & Peter for the suggestion!

8 December 2014

9th December 2014

Where do you imagine the Capital of Christmas is? Lapland? Bethlehem?
Perhaps if we called it "Capitale de Noël" that might be a clue...

In fact, it is the beautiful city of Strasbourg, nestling in north-east France on the border with Germany. This year they are marketing themselves as the Capital of Christmas, and in addition to their usual beautiful architecture, storks, and European Institutions, they also have a range of Christmas markets.

Our friend Manuel and his family are our favourite Strasbourgeois and we had the pleasure of visiting them in April this year. We first met "on the internet" sharing our love of IKEA soft toys.

One thing that caught our eye on the Christmas website is that they are having a Belgian market. Waffles! Speculoos! Of course, but we hadn't come across cuberdons before. These are purple, cone-shaped, raspberry-flavoured candy with a liquid centre. We really will have to seek them out the next time we are Benelux-bound.

For more tourist information, check out our Strasbourg and our Brussels travel guides.

7 December 2014

8th December 2014

Thanks to Adam's father who came up with our first guest contribution to the Calendar - you too can suggest something you'd like to see by emailing adamcreen@hotmail.com or leaving a comment below.

In 2009 a large-scale recreation of the Mona Lisa was made with a staggering 3,604 cups of coffee, and 564 pints of milk. Measuring 20ft by13ft – nearly ten times the size of Leonardo da Vinci’s original masterpiece - it took eight people three hours to complete. It was created for The Rocks Aroma Festival in Sydney, Australia, and was seen by 130,000 people who attended the one-day coffee-lovers’ event.

6 December 2014

7th December 2014

It was weird for Advent Sunday to actually be in November before anyone had opened their Advent Calendar. Today is officially Advent 2, and many churches are having their Christingles today. Here an army of Christingles is massing to take over the world:

Photo by Graham @ramtopsgrum who I knew 20 years ago on teacher training, and who then popped up again organising the #notgb40 hashtag for Greenbelt absentees last summer. Thanks Graham!

In case you don't know what a Christingle is, here's the song:

A Christingle Song (Tune: Give me oil in my lamp) 
The Christingle begins with an orange, telling us of the world God made.
For creation is full of his glory; all around we see his love displayed. 
Sing Christingle! Sing Christingle! Sing Christingle, it’s the light of Christ.
Sing Christingle! Sing Christingle! Sing Christingle, light of Christ. 

Every year we give thanks for the seasons, and the fruits of the earth to share.
The Christingle is here to remind us that the love of God is everywhere.
Sing Christingle...
God of love, we give thanks now for Jesus; we remember his birth again.
But the red ribbon round the Christingle tells the story of his cross and pain.
Sing Christingle... 
To complete the Christingle: a candle, shining out in the darkest night.
Jesus promised to lead us and guide us; come and celebrate the world’s true light!
Sing Christingle...

6th December 2014

This year the Calendar is all about anniversaries, so let us take you back to 1964. The amazing website Genome has been launched by the BBC to catalogue its archive, including old Radio Times. So 50 years ago here's what the Christmas Day schedule looked like ... Penguins! The Great War! Welsh Singing! Repeats! Disney Time!

A German film based on a story by the Brothers Grimm 
Commentary by Johnny Morris

Words and music for this Festive morn with IVOR EMMANUEL, JACQUELINE DELMAN, OWEN BRANNIGAN and CY GRANT 
BBC Midland Light Orchestra Leader, JAMES HUTCHEON 
Producer: Reg Perrin
Produced By: Philip Lewis

10.30: The World of the Penguin
Whether they breed on Antarctic ice or African sand, the penguin's true home is the sea. Master swimmers, they cannot fly, yet some travel miles inland. Sometimes comic, sometimes graceful, to millions they are the most fascinating birds in the world.
Commentary written and spoken by Alan Gibson
Research by John Sparkes
Film editor, Betty Block
Produced by Christopher Parsons

Preacher, Dr. Howard Williams 
Organist, GERALD BARNES , F.R.C.O. 
Television presentation by Innes Lloyd

invites you to MEET THE KIDS in hospital at Christmas with Peter Glaze , Harold Taylor and The Bert Hayes Trio 
An Outside Broadcast from the Children's Ward of Hackney Hospital, London 
Produced by Robin SCOTT 
Leslie Crowther is appearing In Tbe Black and White Minstrel Show ' at the Victoria Palace. London

What does it mean? Does it matter? 
Sing it out, loud and clear, with a group of singers from Bangor, North Wales 
Meredydd Evans introduces Ivor Emmanuel and The Proclaimers 
Joining in the fun are some young people from Anglesey and Caernarvonshire 
Directed by RUTH PRICE

A Western film series starring JEFF HUNTER as the young Texas lawyer who finds action and adventure in his fight for individual rights and frontier justice

in Christmas Pig-tale with JIMMY THOMPSON as Asst. General, P.P.C.T.V. 
Presented by JAN and VLASTA DALIBOR 
We Belong Together words and music by NORMAN NEWELL and ALYN AINSWORTH 
Written by ROBERT GRAY Design by Stuart Furber 
From the North of England

14.30: COMPACT
A Surprise for Christmas 
Camilla has a surprise, Ian has a warning, everybody has a party, and David has a shock 
Film sequences made with the co operation of the staff and children of Dr. Barnardo's Homes 

15.00: THE QUEEN

A special performance for Europe from the ring of the world's largest tenting circus 
Frank Bough behind the bars of the big cage introduces 

Julie Andrews introduces this year's Walt Disney programme with the emphasis on comedy
Films by courtesy of Walt Disney
Presented by Richard Evans

who appeals for The Royal National Institute for the Deaf 

Adapted for television by EDDIE LESLIE and LEN LOWE 

19.15: Christmas Night with the Stars

BRIAN RIX presents 
Simple Spymen by JOHN CHAPMAN 

22.15: THE NEWS

A twenty-six-part history 
PART 11: Hell cannot be so terrible 
Written by ALISTAIR HORNE and GORDON WATKINS with the voices of SIR MICHAEL REDGRAVE as Narrator 

The Ballet Folklorico of Mexico in a programme of Latin-American folk dance 
Choreography by AMALIA HERNANDEZ 
First transmission on July 31
Producer: Patricia Foy

with The Rev. R. T. Brooks

23.50: THE WEATHER: Close Down

5 December 2014

5th December 2014

Two Advent Calendar traditions today - posting late so everyone up before 6am complains, and putting on a great music video for Friday - play it in the office and turn it up LOUD! It's Belle & Sebastian...

3 December 2014

4th December 2014

If you haven't got yourself an Advent Calendar yet, don't worry, it's not too late. For only £12,000 Harrods will sell you this little beauty:

It's a doll's house, made by Wedgwood, with 24 windows that open up to reveal:

Read more in this Daily Mail article:

The most amusing thing is that the Mail makes 2 glaring mathematical errors. See if you can spot them both!

2 December 2014

3rd December 2014

This year has seen our renewed interest in modernist architecture, and we had a happy weekend in Stevenage looking at the New Towns and Garden Cities of Hertfordshire. We can recommend John Grindrod's book Concretopia, and so we were delighted to find a blog combining gingerbread houses with Brutalist design. Check out the Present and Correct blog. Our favourite is the Vitra Design Museum in Basel, because we've been there!

Shout out to Shaun & Samantha Jordan, friends of Adam from school and college (who met and got married without knowing they had a mutual acquaintance in him), who were first off the blocks with their Christmas card which arrived today. How many have you received so far??

1 December 2014

2nd December 2014

You'll pleased to hear Sarah enjoyed the first chocolate figure out of her Carluccio's Advent Calendar. It was a small mushroom, made by Caffarel, a Piemontese chocolate manufacturer. Too much information?

Today's picture is of the mascots for the 2016 Olympics. Rio has done some great branding and promotion, and they want all of us to choose the names for their Olympic and Paralympic mascots.

Visit their website where you can take a selfie with them, find out more about what the Olympics stand for, and get exciting about the next Olympic Games!

Of course our favourite mascots ever are still Miga, Quatchi, Sumi and Mukmuk from Vancouver 2010!