open the curtains

and take a look out the window if you want to know what the weather's like



As an antidote to the drawing in of the days and the arrival of midwinter (which is what the festival now known as Christmas was originally all about) here is an alternative advent calendar celebrating some of the best of nature’s decorations that I’ve seen this year, with one new flower, fruit or seed for each of the twenty four days of advent. 

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A Journey in the Dark

“There is no difference between Time and any of the three dimensions of Space except that our consciousness moves along it.”   – H. G. Wells ‘The Time Machine’ (1895)


It was a dark time of year. Here in the Northern Hemisphere we’d just passed the Winter Solstice and the nights were about the longest they could be. The weather, although not seasonably cold, was fairly grim too. I could think of better things to be doing with a stormy Boxing Day evening than sitting for eight hours on a bus from London Heathrow to the bottom of my road in my Cornish hometown.

Night travel is different. There is a sense of dislocation induced by the surrounding darkness. Continue reading

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Effigy of a Country Churchyard




A vignette from the archives on theme of churches.

As it was set in early January I could only connect church with Christmas.

So I wrote about cake, as you do.


Two days until Christmas and the snow is just the icing on the cake.  Literally.  Outside the snow has mostly melted away or compacted to a slippery brown fudge, much less festive than the sugar and egg-white idyll of the traditional family Christmas cake.  The scene is set with a plaster polar bear peeping out from frosty model trees at the foot of a marzipan hill.  The hill is crowned with a two-inch plaster effigy of a church with a red brick square tower and bright stained glass windows in a creamy rendered nave.

A couple of miles away stands the real thing, postcard perfect on its hill-on-a-hill, though thankfully without any bears in the woods.  Continue reading

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So, Christmas Tree: How Green Are Your Branches?

The tree is easily my favourite part of Christmas, and has been since childhood. Since I left home I’ve always had a small one in a pot, the second of which, having already done two Christmases, was doing really well up until about three weeks ago when two-thirds of it started to go brown. The time had come to replace it if I were to have a tree at all in my own home this year.

I’ve always preferred real trees to the artificial alternatives, partly because we always had a floor-to-ceiling Norway Spruce in our lounge when I was little. It smelled delicious and shed characteristically all over the presents every year. However a friend of mine suggested the better option for me now might be an artificial one, as I wouldn’t have to worry about nursing it through to next year, they never drop needles, and they are much better for the world than real ones (that aren’t in pots) as you keep re-using the same one instead of cutting down and disposing of a new tree every year.

I did feel a pang of guilt: Christmas is an incredibly wasteful time with 3 million extra tonnes of rubbish produced every year in the UK. Continue reading