Marooned in the Modern World

In conjunction with my book "Swiss Family Suburban" this blog is from my diary; the diary of a wife and mum in a world where neither is valued highly. Beth Bill.

29th December 2010

I've heard of a Yuletide log before, but this year ours was in no way related to chocolate cake. David and I were driving down a lane near to our house, on our way home, when we found a huge branch in the middle of the road. We were in our little Fiat, but this didn't stop us pulling over and bagging the wood. A short time later with a chain saw and we soon had a roaring fire! We're no where near even attempting self sufficiency, but gathering the wood did leave a great sense of satisfaction. It's the small blessings along the way that we can either enjoy or take for granted. It's like the days we spent mending an old garden bench gave far more pleasure than just buying a new one.

Speaking of homely pleasures: I forgot to mention the Christmas table runners I made over Christmas. I love the Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker and 2m of Christmas Flower Fairy fabric made 4 table runners, which I gave to family and friends - as well as keeping one for myself. I really enjoyed making them and my friends and family loved having a home made gift. I'm so pleased I made the time to make them. (It's a shame I forgot to photograph the tassle detail!)

26th December 2010

This year I've really changed in my approach to Christmas. On the whole I don't thoroughly enjoy the season; there's too much pressure to conform to the whole present thing, and also there's such a lot of pressure to make sure nobody gets to feel left out. We always make sure we stay in touch with our family and do all we can to care, but it's a bit much when you've got to see to everybody all in one day - as everybody expects something of you on Christmas day. All in all the true meaning gets thoroughly fogged. This year we decided to not to the present thing at all but put the money towards the whole family going out for a meal (except we did buy the boys a new shirt and Em a little cardi/jacket to wear on Christmas day) - we've never done the big pressy thing for a variety of reasons. Em thinks I'm having a mid-life crisis, as in previous years we've really not bothered about the big roast dinner. Four generations met together for a meal, including my 88 year old Great Aunt and Uncle - it was worth it just to see Aunty H in her sparkly clip-on earrings again!

Not only that, but I completely broke with previous years taste and went for a black and silver Christmas tree theme in the lounge, whilst keeping everywhere else traditional. I don't like too many decorations but I was thrilled with our new design (in the sales of course). Jonti's girlfriend came for the day and the girls all set to designing and decorating, with Christmas music and mince pies to maintain morale. Jonti made our evening meal so we could stick at it. I was thrilled with the result. Even the dog's house had a couple of baubles hanging in it. My friend bought him a hat for Christmas day - not sure what he made of it?!

12th December 2010

Last night Em and I sang Handel's Messiah at the Victoria Hall. It was such a wonderful experience! I have sung this before (once with Ted Heath, ex. PM conducting) but I think this was the most enjoyable performance yet. Not only did having Em at my side enhance the experience, but having Oliver Neal Parker conducting our choir, the organist and the orchestra was so great. He is now our regular conductor, so we are accustomed to his conducting (and he knows our foibles well!) whereas we have previously had guest conductors take over for the final performance - which I always find a bit hairy. At one performance (mentioning no names) the conductor couldn't find the altos from the sopranos, nor could he find the down beat. I enjoyed last night so much. The organist is a friend of mine, he played at our wedding. He played Romance from Mozart's Eine Kleine Nacht Musik with his wife playing flute, and he played War March of the Priests as we processed out of the church. It's a vast and awesome sound from the Organ in the Victoria Hall - with an orchestra to boot!

I'm always impressed how Messiah has really become the music of the people. Apparently there was always a performance in the local chapel. I wonder how they did it? Nobody (or hardly any of the choristers) could read music and the conductor was self taught, but it always gained a good reputation. There's a phenomenon of "Random Acts of Culture" where they burst into the Hallelujah chorus in various shopping centres, with the choir dotted among the shoppers. Unfortunately our local shopping centre doesn't have a pipe organ at it's centre!

2nd December 2010

Today is Matt's birthday. We don't tend to buy big presents, or spend too much money - for obvious reasons. But we do have a tradition where we make a cake and David decorates it. In previous years, when the children were very small, we'd stay up late into the night to sculpt and craft 3D designs. David once made a cake of Frank the Tortoise from Aardman's Creature Comforts for his dad. We chose Frank because we thought it looked like he wore his dad's false teeth! However, as the children got older and stayed up later, and things got busier we simply didn't have the luxury of time and so David devised a quick way of getting an original design by simply painting on a Victoria sponge cake covered with Royal icing using paintbrushes and food colouring. The problem is coming up with innovative designs year after year.

This year David painted the bbfc logo, as Matt can now come and see 15 certificate movies, with PS3 Zombies from a 15 cert game. Sorted for another year!