Wednesday, 31 December 2014

What was top of the heap...

New Year's eve, a time for retrospection of the year gone by, with a little help from Google Analytics these are the posts that got the most attention in 2014.

Again these are only the posts that were written in 2014 - there are some old favourites that still beat these in the running, the top five are (and why for some of them is a mystery to me!):-

Back to 2014 though. These posts were the most popular reading.

1. Around and About
This post was made the first Sunday after the long running Sunday Social had ended. I attribute its popularity to the Sunday Social readers and the diverse text which might have brought readers from search engines.

2. #IChallengeMS - Tour 1
#IChallengeMS took up a lot of my time (and energy) in September. To raise money for the MS Society participants were asked to pick a challenge. Mine was visiting the churches of the City of London. I was going to do a post after each batch but it didn't quite work out that way as it was often so tiring that I didn't get much else done that weekend! 

The Just Giving page is still active should you wish to donate to this cause (close to my heart as regular readers know, because I have MS).

This post probably got a lot of traffic from the hashtag when it was tweeted!

3. Tower of London Poppies
The Tower of London field of poppies was the installation of a field of nearly 900,000 poppies each representing a British fatality in the First World War which in 2014 we remembered 100 years since the commencement of hostilities.

I attribute the popularity of this post to the popularity of the installation itself (which was stunning to see).

4. Sunday Social (117)
A Sunday Social post about loves and hates. I'm not sure how this one got so popular, perhaps because it mentions Amazon?!

5. Sunday Social 119
Another Sunday Social - this one about favourites. I can only suppose that the wide topic range in the post captured the attention of the search engines?! It did mention the World Cup so that probably helped!

6. Occasional Tourist
Not even really a post, just a link to a post on my Occasional Tourist blog! It must be the mention of Grosvenor Square and Greenwich (two popular London destinations).

7. #IChallengeMS - what is having MS like?
After my fundraising efforts there were a few more posts (with the same hashtag) to try and further raise awareness of MS.

In this post I explored ways people could try and replicate some of the symptoms MS and I deal with on a regular basis.

If you don't know anyone with MS you probably don't know much about how it affects people.

8. Sherlock Holmes
The popularity of this post is undoubtedly due to the enduring popularity of the two TV shows 'Sherlock' (UK) and 'Elementary' (US) not to mention the enduring popularity of Sherlock Holmes and the exhibition at the Museum of London which the post describes.

9. #IChallengeMS - I did it!
Having failed in the regular updates of my #IChallengeMS endeavors I finally finished a post on the total journey.

What a journey it was; I saw the beautiful churches and other bits of the City too, I walked miles, hopped on and off buses and had coffee in churches!

10. #101in1001 - Nr. 27
Starting a post title with a popular hashtag means that it attracts traffic from Twitter when it gets syndicated.

The Day Zero project is a great way to focus yourself into not idling your time away! You can read about mine on the page at the top of this blog.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

We're Going on a Bear Hunt!

Yesterday I went with my cousin and her children to The Albany in Deptford. Mere minutes away from my journey to work every morning this is a little hidden gem in South East London which I never knew existed!

Until 7th January 2015 you can catch the Little Angel Theatre's presentation of "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" and adaption of Michael Rosen's book (although I remember it as a word game from Brownies!).

The Albany itself is enchanting; rather like a miniature version of Shakespeare's Globe. In this lovely setting you are spirited away by a family of charming puppets (and their dog) on a bear hunt - through the grass, the mud, the water, the forest and the cave to find a bear... "We can't go over it, we can't go under it, we'll have to go through it!". There are moments when the cast (and puppets) mingle with the audience and some audience participation when Bertie gets lost in the grass (rather like the pantomime "he's behind you!"). Obviously aimed at children it will still delight the inner child in any adult with an enchanting score, beautifully crafted sets and engaging characters.

The Albany, Deptford

We're Going on a Bear Hunt!

Waiting for the Show

A Bear snuck in!
Found a Bear!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Christmas Television and Movies

Christmas has more and more become a time for favourite TV repeats and movies and less and less a time for quality original programming.

I get my own copy of the Radio Times (courtesy of Husband). I comb through looking for movies I haven't seen or interesting looking dramas, or comedy specials. Generally I end up with a collection of "Top 100..." (or whatever number) populated with clips and talking heads. If things fall right it will inform me for one of our TV traditions "The Big Fat Quiz of the Year".

We have a heap of Christmas movies that get fitted in; Bill Murray in 'Scrooged' and James Stewart (just had to check with Husband to make sure I wasn't confusing him with James Cagney or Gregory Peck!) in "It's a Wonderful Life". I don't mind throwing in any of a whole batch of other non-Christmas related musicals either.

When I was growing up you could rely on the whole range of BBC comedy shows having Christmas specials... and of course the now infamous "Morecambe and Wise" which still, thirty years later, gets trotted out for repeats.

To this day I will never forget my father falling about laughing at Morecambe and Wise with Andre Previn (shown in 1971 so already on repeats)...

Nothing tickled my father more than Eric Morecambe's statement delivered with such conviction "I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order"

We've seen some passable Christmas movies over the last decade or so, but none that (so far) want to join the line up of Christmas tradition.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Santa Claus

6th December is the feast of St Nicholas so we're thinking about Santa Claus; Father Christmas if you'd rather.

In our house a large chunk of Christmas Eve was given over to preparation for the arrival of Father Christmas. Happy in the knowledge that we'd been good children and were on the 'nice' list; we'd leave out a plate of cookies and a glass of milk (or a dram of whisky depending on which parent was overseeing activity) for Santa. Outside the front of the house we'd leave a bucket of water and some carrots for his reindeer; we were mindful that pulling the sleigh must be hungry, thirsty work!

We didn't have a fireplace to hang stockings on; so we'd hang pillows on the end of our bed.

Sometime during the night the pillowcases would be filled with presents (although not if curious children tried to stay awake). If you did stay awake though you'd hear bells jingling as Santa made his rounds!

I'm sure I was older than most when I realised that Santa was in fact my parents... consuming the food, emptying the water bucket and using our little bell stick to make magical noises.

All the children I know (most of them are seven or younger) believe in Santa Claus, and today I was introduced to a delightful book "The Elf on the Shelf" a household elf who keeps an eye on the children of the house and reports back to Santa if they've been naughty or nice!

The happy memories and excitement of Christmas Eve and waiting for Santa, trying to stay awake but always falling asleep are something that every child should have. The concept of Santa rewarding good children and keeping a "naughty and nice" list is something that can help install a basic moral compass in children too.

The image of the jolly bearded chap in the red suit is something that is almost synonymous with Christmas and brings a smile to everyone's faces regardless of age.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Christmas Recipies

Cooking at Christmas is something that, from my childhood, was an immense task. Our family didn't live too far apart so often there would be a least a dozen (sometimes more) for lunch on Christmas day.

Dad serving up Christmas
Preparation started early (just imagine the size of the turkey for that many people).

My father was always king of the kitchen, although my Gran (his mother), and my mother (Queen of the roast potatoes) would also pitch in.

My other Gran would make a pudding (boiled in muslin old school) and a cake; shame these are things I've never been fond of.

When it comes to my own Christmas, I only have to cook for two; my husband and I. Mostly I buy ready prepared that just needs putting in the oven. Occasionally I make stuffing (although the pre-made stuff is actually nicer)! I don't bake cakes, pies, or puddings. The most cooking I do is scrambled eggs for breakfast (mine with smoked salmon). 

I do cook when my Mum comes to visit after Christmas, usually a casserole as it can be left to its own devices whilst you enjoy times with guests.

Sorry I can't offer you any recipes - even bread sauce and cranberry sauce come out of a packet and a jar!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Christmas Lights

I'm a magpie. Ask anyone who knows me. I love things that sparkle, glitter and glow. That puts Christmas lights near the top of my list.

Growing up my biggest memory is the endless untangling of the lights. Quite a large amount was required for the 6+ foot tree that graced our living room.

I don't remember if we had outdoor lights or not, they certainly weren't a big thing if we did. Growing up, lights weren't a big thing. Maybe that is why now lights are the biggest thing.

My husband lights up as many corners of the house that he can like Santa's grotto; and then surprises me on a dark evening when I come home from work with them all switched on. You can pretty much turn on the Christmas lights and get around our house in the dark this time of year.

I massively enjoy all the displays in London. When we were children going up to town for shopping/visiting Santa/seeing the lights was a Christmas treat. I'm sure the lights thirty odd years ago had nothing on today's displays - but they impressed us!

These are some lights, in my house and in and around London.


An album by TheMrsNatG
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2013-11-27 18.27.38009

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Christmas Music

For me Christmas music comes in two varieties; the sort in which you participate and the sort to which you listen.

I grew up singing in a church choir. Advent through to Christmas was the busiest time of the year for us. We'd have all the regular Sunday services and a carol service before arriving at Christmas.

On Christmas Eve the village where I grew up had 'Carols in the Square' - a local brass band turned out and the choir (there with their families) were expected to help lead the singing - it wasn't amazingly lit so there'd be torches, and even a few lanterns! After this it was off home for dinner and a nap before getting up and going back to church for midnight mass. After that service there would be just time to head back home again for some more sleep before getting up in the morning for the ten o'clock service. Duties discharged and home for lunch and family and presents.

I loved the carol service best of all. We'd start (the choir) processing down the aisle; the church would be in darkness and we'd be holding candles. The processional hymn would be 'Once in Royal David's City' the first verse sung by a treble or soprano... then the lights would come on and the choir and congregation would join in the rest of the verses. The other tradition was 'In the Bleak Midwinter' sung by the choir with one verse a solo by a treble/soprano and another solo by a tenor.

I don't get to sing carols often now, except when I get invited by my mother to the carol service of her Livery Company.

I do like a few contemporary Christmas tunes (not many it has to be said). I struggle to think of any of many; mostly certainly not recent (you'll find most of these on YouTube):-

  • Stop the Cavalry
  • Silver Bells
  • Carol of the Bells
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  • Do You Hear What I Hear
  • Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy
The list of songs I'd rather not hear is very lengthy and largely banished from my iTunes!

Aged about 13 in my choir robe

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Christmas Cards

Christmas cards are one of the lovely/chore bits of Christmas. I love sending them and receiving them - but given my terrible handwriting and desire to add notes to each card means writing them out is the chore part.

I've always wanted to make my own; but my rubbish numb fingers make craft very tricky. I do admire the ones that I receive that have been made with love and care.

The best bits now are the fact that lots of my friends' children are making their own cards now - guaranteed to get a smile!

A card for charity by the daughter of some friends

My first Christmas card to my Husband

A card from my Brother-in-Law and family

...and his cats

A card by my God-daughter

My first Christmas card from my Husband