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Showing posts from 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 C

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!

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.

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 Decembe

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

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 Liège, 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

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.

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.  

11th December 2022

In our travels this year we were able to pick up some region-specific Playmobil, models that you can't get anywhere other than the city or palace they were created for. Every region of Germany seems to have commissioned a Playmobil figure, and here's the ones we bought: MOZART GOETHE SCHILLER BACH LUTHER! FREDERICK THE GREAT!!

10th December 2022

Only one shopping weekend left to get all those presents, no pressure! The weekend papers are relentless in their gift guides, it's so easy nowadays because everything is online, but we remember back in the 90s when you had to make a special trip to London, and go all over the place to find things. A particular favourite was the King's Road in Chelsea, which in those days had a Habitat, a Heals, a Jerry's Home Store, and other little gift shops for things you might never see in any papers.  Here are some items under £30 that we recommend, taken from the Times and Guardian. Vitra are a great German design house with many international designers on their books. This is one of their most affordable items, now produced in recycled plastic in many colours. Available at The Conran Shop and Heals We love Chillys - the quality of their drinks bottles is superb. And this groovy little coffee mug is exquisite. Buy from Fenwick Stores because they have a great gift range online as wel

12th December 2022

There has been a lot in the news about an American author who held a book signing and only 2 people came. They tweeted about it and lots of famous authors like Margaret Atwood and Stephen King shared their own stories of book signings gone wrong. One of my favourite books is "Mortification" edited by Robin Robertson, who in 2003 asked lots of authors for this kind of anecdote. There are some great ones, usually involving staying over in a librarian's house in the middle of nowhere, or the drunk man asleep in the front row. But my favourite, which I present in its entirety, is about a poetry reading by poet Simon Armitage, and encapsulates every horror and torment undertaken by an author in the quest for self-publicity. === I am met off the train by an extremely nervous woman in a hire car who is generating a thermo-nuclear amount of heat and cannot locate the de-mist function on the console. In a cloud of condensation we drive to a local café, where she restricts my choic

9th December 2022

Everyone was a big fan of the children's carol book a few days ago so we thought we'd mention one of the stars of children's Christmas songs. Sydney Carter is probably most famous for three of his songs, "When I Needed A Neighbour", "One More Step Along The World I Go", and of course "Lord Of The Dance". But it's his Christmas output that we feature today. Carter was born in 1915, grew up in Horsham and studied at Oxford, was a conscientious objector driving ambulances in WWW2, and wrote poetry and songs for musicals and revues, including with Donald Swann (of Flanders and Swann).  "Every star shall sing a carol" is beautiful and wistful and gets close to the "aliens know who Jesus is" meme. St Malachy's Primary School Choir, singing at the Albert Dock, Liverpool, 2011 And then, like many of Carter's other socially aware hymns and poems, we have "Standing in the rain, knocking on the window on a Christmas

8th December 2022

It's time to start listening to Christmas music. Having now lost Harkageddon! six times due to choir rehearsals, let's go for something a bit more contemporary. Growing up, the US Christian singer-songwriter Amy Grant was always a favourite for her catchy tunes. Here's her first Christmas album, "A Christmas Album". What a great jumper. If we'd had time this year, the Creen Christmas card would have been a recreation of this with both of us. You'll just have to imagine. Her run of Christmas albums then included "Home For Christmas", "The Animals' Christmas", "Home For Christmas", "A Christmas To Remember", "Tennessee Christmas", "Christmas Memories", "Icon Christmas", "A Very Amy Christmas", "Grant Us All Thy Christmases", "Yet Another Amy Grant Christmas Album", "The Christmas Collection", ... Not all of those are real. But she has had more Ch