Gillian Monks

'Making Fairytales Come True'

Category: Out and About (Page 1 of 3)

Just Ambling Along

Yesterday I went for a walk, out into the autumn sunshine among the browning bracken and the gold and copper-coloured trees. We left home in low cloud and drizzle, but on leaving our slate valley (which attracts moisture like a sponge!) we drove out onto sunshine.

The magical hill of Dinas Emrys

The path we took follows the River Glaslyn from Craflwyn to Llyn Dinas, passing the ancient hill fort of Dinas Emrys on the way. Legend tells how it was here, aged little more than a boy, that Merlin first flexed his magical powers by identifying the battling red and white dragons which lived beneath the pool on top of the hill.

Llyn Dinas also has its legends and stories – one in which the local community would build a raft at the time of Beltane (beginning of May) and using it to transport their chosen May king and queen across the water to the opposite bank where an ox would be slaughtered and great feasting and celebration take place.

It all looks so placid and tranquil now. Yesterday I was content to sit upon the rocks and simply ‘be’… to absorb the heat of the sunshine, the warmth of the soft breezes, the beauty, space, silence and peace of the place. That is, until a walking party began to approach down the hillside. Loudly talking all the way I could hear them from quite a distance. Unfortunately for me, they decided to make brief temporary camp at the end of the lake where I was, still loudly talking all the while.

The path home

I suspect that they were missing a vital part of their experience by taking their human busy-ness and gregarious sociability with them as they walked. What greater wonders might they have experienced if they had quietened and simply stood or sat for even just five minutes to allow themselves to absorb their surroundings via all their senses on every level? The fact that by the time they reached me I was standing stock still in an inch of lake water, eyes tight shut, with my hands raised to the sky perhaps might have given them a clue.

I recently read in the newspaper that English Heritage have launched an initiative this autumn whereby visitors are encouraged to spend the final hour of opening in silence – switching off their phones and other devices, finishing conversations and deeply entering into the peace of their surroundings in a more contemplative day. What a marvellous idea! After all, what has initially prompted these people to visit such venues in the first  place? A different backdrop from which to send their texts, emails and play games from? Surely not.

The problem is that folk tend to immediately jump to the conclusion that if they are asked to be contemplative they must dive into some deep, difficult, mystical form of meditation which they don’t know how to ‘do’. All it needs is a little stillness and silence; to take the time to look about one and absorb one’s surroundings as best one can… look, watch, smell, feel and taste where you are with appreciation and gratitude… and so we begin to more deeply connect with our wonderful world and our own unique life.

Through the woods besides the Glaslyn

I once suggested a little exercise to my Earthwalking students whereby they were to stop every hour – just for a minute or two – and look about them. (I also advised them to set an alarm to prompt them not to miss the hour.) It didn’t matter where they were or what they were doing – on the bus, in the middle of shopping, eating a meal, at work, bathing the kids, hanging out the washing, (not driving, of course, unless they chose to pull over and stop). I asked them to then take that minute or two to look about them and really see where they were; touch, smell, listen to their surroundings, and be thankful for them…

By the end of one day doing this every hour, most of them felt much calmer and far more engaged with their ordinary mundane surroundings – some even began to see how lovely they were and feel joy and thankfulness for them. Try it and see for yourself. You don’t have to go and sit besides a gorgeous lake in the mountains, anywhere and everywhere is magically beautiful. It just depends on how you choose to see it.

Can I Get To Number One???

Amazon RatingIf you have bought or read my new book, ‘Spring In Your Step’ and enjoyed it, could I ask you to do something in return? Could you please go and leave a review on Amazon? Just a few words will do – and you don’t even have to have read the whole book. the more reviews ‘Spring In Your Step’ receives, the more notice and exposure Amazon will automatically give it.

So far it is selling very well and over the weekend it reached No. 2 in the category of Festivals and Celebrations… it would be brilliant to get it to No.1! I also feel that reading my springtime suggestions and reflections might be of real assistance to so many of us who are not only combating the usual ‘January blues’ but also having to cope with Covid-19 lockdowns.

Thank you for reading this – thank you for your continuing support, without which my work would be meaningless. And if you haven’t already got a copy, please do take a look.

The Call Of The Wild

Festive trees in car park 1 ‘You’ll never guess what I’ve just seen?’ My husband came rushing into the room upon his return from walking our dogs, ‘Someone has decorated all the trees in the car park!’ Last Saturday was a lovely day with clear winter-blue skies and blinding-bright sunshine, so I decided to take a walk down to the Canolfan at the bottom of the hill and go and have a look for myself.

Festive Trees in carpark 2The winter sun lit up the dozens of balls and decorations which had been daintily dangled from each branch-tip low enough to reach with a small ladder, or wound around the trunks of the trees which grow across the middle of the car park. It utterly transformed a rather grey and utilitarian space into something festive and magical. I could hardly believe my eyes! I wandered around from tree to tree – at least seven were bedecked, as were some of the lower shrubs and bushes. The sheer random unexpectedness of it all makes it doubly special – I simply stared, grinning… then got out my camera… then began to gather the rubbish.

Festive trees in carpark 3Wind is often responsible for redistributing old empty wrappers and plastic bottles – but the human inhabitants must also take some responsibility too – some of the items I pulled out had been  forcibly and securely  stuffed down between stems where they couldn’t possibly have got to themselves. It is a habit of mine to pick up litter whenever I am out . So, what is it to me?

Well, in this particular instance, this council car park is a part of my village and the space I live in, the space I call ‘home’. Some dear soul(s) had elected to take it upon themselves to decorate this space and make something joyful of it. I deeply appreciate that. The least I could do was to tidy it up of all the rubbish. In the end, my husband had to bring some black bags to stuff it all into.

Festive trees in car park 4The whole decorating of trees in the depths of Midwinter possibly stems from customs and rituals to do with the sacrifice of animals and and the adornment of trees with steaming entrails for the benefit of the woodland deities and starving wildlife in harsh weather conditions. It reaches back into the dim mists of our  human prehistory. The observation of activities similar to those long-ago actions brings us deep ancestral satisfaction and a sense of rightness.

This whole uplifting and inspiring experience reminded me of an incident which occurred around twelve years ago (documented in my first book, ‘Merry Midwinter’). My son, then in his early twenties, was stayinging at my childhood home, the cottage of Drybones in Lancashire. It was mid December and he had taken his dog out for his morning walk. On the way across a fallow field which was rapidly re-colonising with birch and oak saplings, he suddenly spotted a wispy little tree covered in sparkly baubles and garlands. At first he couldn’t believe his eyes and thought that it must be the result of something he had eaten! Unusually, he had gone out without his phone, so he hotfooted it back across the fields and through the woods to retrieve it – he felt that if he didn’t have photographic evidence no one would ever believe him.

Festive trees in car park 5

The sun was so bright that these siver decorations don’t show up very well, but they are very pretty.

Just as he got back to the tree, a lady appeared carrying a bag and proceeded to begin hanging more baubles. As she and my son got talking, she told him that, choosing a different tree every year, it was something which had become one of her own festive traditions. When asked why she did it, she replied that it was a seasonal surprise to cheer other walkers on their way. Amazed that something so delicate and vulnerable should be left unattended and survive in an area where vandalism and thoughtlessness was in daily evidence, the woman commented that she had never noticed any loss or damage to the trees.

The memories of our ancient rituals and traditions run extremely deep and cannot be denied.

Nor can the heart warming effects of spontaneous actions and selfless service to one’s community.

Happy decorating!

Interview On Radio Lancashire

Silver birch treeFor those of you who wish to tune in on your radios or via the internet, I shall be chatting about my book, ‘The Alternative Advent Calendar’ on the ‘Breakfast Show’ on Radio Lancashire tomorrow morning around 9.20.am..

After that, I hope to toddle off to a very tiny but special local Christmas Fair being held out of doors in someone’s garden – free cups of tea and coffee included!

With advent wreath making and Stir Up Sunday as well, this promises to be an altogether very Christmassy weekend, especially as it is sunny and frosty here!

I hope that whatever you are doing this weekend, you enjoy yourself too.

Happy days!

It’s Here!!!

Third Book PublishedI recently celebrated my birthday, but yesterday we were celebrating another very important ‘birth day’ in my life – that of my third book. ‘Spring In Your Step; Discover and Celebrate the Magic of Springtime’, was officially published on the 10th November.

I might be a writer, but I do not possess the words to convey exactly what it feels like to physically hold something which you have poured over and worked at for the best part of a year. Perhaps it is like watching an ephemeral dream suddenly take form and become physically real. Any book is created from the spun sugar of ideas, thoughts and dreams and woven into the finished tangible article of candyfloss on a stick in book form, all ready to eat, or in this case read. (Please forgive my epistolary flight of fancy!) But after all, I am positively fizzing!!!!

Yesterday evening, my son – who is also my publisher! – filmed an interview with me  talking about ‘Spring In Your Step’. It will need editing but will soon be available for you all to watch, and I very much hope that you enjoy it.

It is available from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spring-Your-Step-Celebrate-Springtime/dp/1916339670 – or any good bookshop.

Feedback from beta readers and the few who pre-ordered from Herbary and received their books a couple of days early is all very positive and heart-warming. If or when you buy your own copy, please do let me know what you think of it – I genuinely love to hear from my readers!

A Very Special Day

Me with cakeYesterday was my birthday, and I have to say that I had a wonderful time. As readers of my first book, ‘Merry Midwinter’, will already know, I traditionally spend my special day visiting our local garden centre to see the display of Christmas decorations – this is also usually the signal for me to begin singing carols, playing Christmas music, and generally getting into the seasonal swing of things. But here in Wales we are still in our short ‘firebreak’ lockdown, so no garden centre for me this year. Besides which, the weather was absolutely gorgeous and far too nice to spend indoors.

Craflwyn WoodsInstead, my husband and I took our two Labrador dogs out for a good long walk. We went to the woods at Craflwyn, just the far side of Beddgelert, which are owned by the National Trust. I had hoped that all the family might go together, but my medical herbalist son had a whole batch of medicines to deliver locally and his partner was off out on her own woodland exploration.

Craflwyn are deciduous, native woods and are very beautiful, spreading up the steep slopes which eventually lead out onto the foothills of Snowdon. We passed little waterfalls and crossed many clear, gurgling streams as they raced down the hillside. I hadn’t walked here for quite a number of years. One particularly lovely spot is the ‘Giant’s Chair’ where we stopped to share our flask of coffee and munch on spicy ‘soul cakes’ left over from Calan Gaeaf… and the dogs had a nibble too!

Gill in the Giant's Chair

No, I haven’t suddenly shrunk – I am sitting in the Giant’s Chair.

From here, we came out of the more densely growing trees and the views of the valley and surrounding mountains, with the now dwarfed hill of Dinas Emrys (of Merlin and the white and red dragons fame) well below us, were absolutely stunning in the late autumn sunshine.

 

Dinas Emrys from CraflwynThe sun was rapidly sinking down the sky as we drove home again… approaching four o’clock and, I thought happily, just in time for ‘tea’. I don’t usually bother making myself a birthday cake, although I had quite fancied trying out a new recipe for a squidgy chocolate cake, but in the event, I hadn’t had time. Still, I thought, there was the rest of the ginger cake left over from Bonfire Night the previous evening – that would go well with a by now much needed cup of tea.

Gill entering the drawing room

My son also caught on camera my reaction when I walked into the room and saw everything laid out for tea.

However, when I got home, I was in for a surprise. My son and his partner had returned home before us and had been busy, and when I walked into the drawing room, there was the table, set for afternoon tea, with an array of fancy cakes, a birthday cake full of candles, and a pile of intriguingly wrapped little parcels!

Here we spent a couple of very happy hours together, the log burner blazing away, the candles lit and casting cosy shadows… drinking far too many cups of tea and consuming far too much sugar and calories… but enjoying it all immensely all the same. I opened my cards and gifts and read all my messages on Facebook which I found deeply touching, very kind – and sometimes downright hilarious!

Later, unable to go out for a meal we set the smaller dining table at one end of the drawing room with candles and wine and ordered in a set Chinese meal from our local takeaway. Five main dishes and lots of sides and rice – it was all delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed a right royal feast!

Later, I ended my day by watching a Zoom film made by two of my oldest and dearest friends, whom I haven’t seen for many months. They spent nearly half an hour chatting away, bringing smiles and happy tears to my face in turn.

My celebration was quite simple- nothing fancy at all – but in a place and with people whom I love so much, and shared with so many friends across the electronic miles… precious words and memories which, altogether, went to make this my very special day.

What’s In A Seed?

Kale Seeds

Amazingly there are approximately 5,000 magical little parcels here.

I was harvesting seeds today – the last plant of dwarf curly kale from last winter’s crop which I had allowed to go to seed purposely so I could do this. The seed pods have to be allowed to fully develop and then to dry out or else the seeds inside them might not be fully matured. After harvesting I still leave my seeds for a few days in the warmth by the Aga to make sure they are absolutely dry, otherwise I might open up the airtight container in which I have stored them over winter and find a horrible mouldy mess!

Harvesting seeds from one’s own plants makes a huge amount of sense. For one thing, you don’t have to keep on paying several pounds for each new packet of seeds you buy every spring. Perhaps more importantly, keeping your own seeds from year to year allows you to develop your seed which is bred to thrive in your particular soil and weather conditions. It makes absolute sense. (Just be aware that if your plants are F1 Hybrid they will not come true from seed harvested from them.)

Sitting outside my backdoor listening to Classic FM on my little battery-powered radio while I crushed the dried pods and shook the seed free, I was suddenly aware of the huge and absolute potential in each tiny, compact, round ball. Each one represents a whole plant, two and a half feet tall or more, bearing many crinkly, vitamin-rich green leaves which will stand through the worst frost and snow of winter providing precious fresh food for numerous meals. How amazingly wonderful is that?

As my bowl of seeds began to fill, the thought suddenly struck me that perhaps – if such events are allowed to take place next spring – I could packet up some of my harvested abundance and take a little stall at Conwy Seed Fair next March. It is always great fun to attend, whether as a trader or a customer.

And then I thought to myself, why confine my little green garden offerings to one fair – why not resurrect our village artisan market which we supported for five years but which faded without trace about seven years ago? Perhaps in this time of greater need for outdoor, local, ethical and environmentally friendly produce it might once again be successful and appeal to a wider section of society?

In my mind’s eye my vision began to fill with crowds of happy faces, laughing and talking across open air stalls as all manner of local foods and goods change hands. I see similar little markets popping up in every village and area of larger towns and cities. Perhaps we could have a swaps stall and another area where people simply offer to donate their time, effort, or particular skill, or another stall where people offer to work in exchange for what is on sale so that money does not have to change hands… my mind was really racing now… and then I saw all the other local gardens where my saved seeds had been shared and were growing and flourishing to help provide good, fresh, healthy and sustainable foods for other families…

Here, indeed, is to sowing seeds… magical seeds full of dreams, inspiration, endless possibilities and positivity… seeds to charm us all into opening our hearts to each other and the land around us in mutual support and true community… so my little kale seeds whispered to me today as I glimpsed a wonderfully vivid new future…

The Garden Of Hope

Herb Garden

My herb garden!

As the saying goes, we live in interesting times! One – among many – blessings of having to stay at home is that I now have enough spare time to venture out into my much neglected garden. My herb garden in particular has been abandoned for at least five years, first while I helped to look after an elderly neighbour and then laterly when I became so involved in my writing.

Herb Garden

This is certainly not ‘gardening’ for the faint hearted… more a form of jungle warfare?

Perhaps it is because of the menace of Covid-19 that I now feel the call of this sunny little corner, wedged into the right-angle of two protective boundary slate walls. I first designed and built it over twenty years ago when I was recovering from a long term illness. I was also having problems with my shoulder joints – commonly called ‘frozen shoulder’ – but discovered that, while small repetitive movements, such as peeling potatoes, would greatly exacerbate my symptoms, hauling slabs of slate around and heavy digging actually improved them.

As I slowly regained my health, my herb garden became my passion and my lifeline. I could be found out there, even in the cold and damp. If I wasn’t working in the garden itself – carrying a plastic chair about with me so that I could regularly sit down to take a rest and recover my energy – I would be sat in my little garden outside my backdoor – another link in my recovery… a story for another day – sowing seeds or potting up seedlings. When I was too weak, or the weather too bad to get out into my garden, I would lie in bed and gaze at the poster-sized picture of my garden in the sunshine which I had hung on the wall opposite me and dream and plot and plan and enter into another world altogether.

The natural world is naturally healing and for those of us lucky enough to have access to a garden, allotment or land – even a balcony or windowsills – we can use these small spaces to connect to the wider world and all the growth and new life which is bursting through the old, outworn winter dross. Perhaps there is a parallel to be found here as we leave behind our previous lifestyles and enter new, uncharted waters? Here we can find inspiration and healing, for the soil itself contains enzymes which mend frayed nerve ends and uplift our depressed emotions. Here, some of us might be lucky enough to find the way out of the conflict of life before coronavirus versus the new regime now imposed upon us, and the crisis of emotion and fear which has resulted from it. As in the case of my own neglected herb garden, none of us should have abandoned Nature and now she  holds the key.

In my own time of need, I find myself reaching out for the magical little plot of land which helped me once before. There is something unique about what can be created when humanity and the natural world come together and harmonise in a symphony of mutual respect, effort and growth. It is quite different from the wild, untamed spaces, or the distorted and abused areas of mass agriculture. When humanity and nature listen to each other and connect in loving like-mindedness, then truly can we create heaven on earth.

Herb Garden

Ah, there it is… found it! This shot taken from exactly the same place as the previous photo.

As for my own recent endeavours, I was fortunate to have help with the clearing of my faithful little plot. Under a summer-hot sun but cooled – and buffeted – by strong, warm winds, we valiantly wielded saws and secateurs as we carved our way through the over-arching brambles and cut back the prolific ivy which had encased the walls in three feet deep lush green growth. I would normally try to avoid strip clearing in this way, but in this case, there was no sensible alternative. The nine foot long brambles, multi-rooted couch grass and other so-called ‘weeds’ have loved and protected my earthy space while I was busy elsewhere, and it is time for them to hand that responsibility back to me.  Now the plot is practically a blank canvas. Only my lemon verbena bush and lad’s love (both wildly leggy and misshapen) remain, along with some red veined sorrel, agrimony, a few purple polyanths,  a feeble acer and a cypress tree which began life as a forgotten seedling in a six inch pot and is now a tree of over ten feet tall!

Herb Garden

Slightly different angle – it is just possible to make out the outline of the old beds.

I assiduously sorted through my box of old seed packets last week and have sown lots of test trays and pots to see what might still be viable. I prefer to bring plants from seed – unless they really are difficult or more rare – I’m not very good at stratifying stuff in my fridge! If possible, I would prefer to ‘use up’ what I have left over from other years before I am tempted to seek new seed. I find that there is an odd freedom in not having so much choice.

As my own personal symbol of Life and Hope, I shall keep you posted as to how my reclaimed garden develops. Next on the agenda… getting to grips with digging out the roots!!!

First Harvest Of The Year

Tree Felling at Cae Non

Coppiced elder as sustainable fuel source, ready for cutting into logs.

Harvest can happen at any time of year and we are just in the process of bringing  in our first crop for 2020.

In these uncertain and worrying times, it is wonderful to be able to still participate – and write about – something normal and positive. This last two weekends, my family and I have begun harvesting our first ‘crop’ of sustainable fuel from our land at Cae Non. Due to the almost continuous rain this past few months it is much later in the spring than we had originally intended but, despite the hindrance, all is now going very well. Even so, we have been working under quite difficult conditions, wading about in a good six to nine inches of water, mud and slutch and regularly getting our feet firmly stuck fast. Mud and cold water have splashed everywhere and tool handles have had to be regularly wiped clean, too slick and slippy to handle without the danger of the them flying out of our hands.

Our much-loved five acre plot officially came into our possession in June, 2011. The following January I spent some interesting days out in the bitingly cold wind and rain/hail planting my first small stand of willow. I had no idea what I was doing and set the willow whips far too close together – lesson learned for next time! We also put in a small patch of alder at the same time and these have also just been cut for the first time.

I cannot say that it has not grieved me to see our first trees – which I have talked to, loved and encouraged to grow – felled to the floor, but I always knew that that was our plan. I know that they will rise again. Indeed they are already doing so! We have not clear-felled but left some of the trees so that the land and the wild life aren’t impacted too drastically. It will be another seven years before they are coppiced again and the landscape will flow backwards and forwards between sparsely dotted with trees and more heavily wooded; a constantly changing palette of colour, shape and texture.

Tree Felling at Cae Non

Car loaded up, plus fuel can, saw and the ubiquitous picnic basket with milk can sticking up – my menfolk need their teas and coffees!

In the meantime, my son has been wielding a nifty little petrol-driven chainsaw; otherwise it would have taken us all week to fell, trim and log our first crop. We shall transport the logs back to where we live a car-load at a time. The first lot arrived yesterday. The car was not as full as it could have been but once my menfolk noticed the bulging tyres, (green alder is a very dense and heavy wood) they decided that they had packed in enough!

Meanwhile, I was left back at home to clear out a part of our very ancient greenhouse where the firewood is to be stored. Over the summer it will dry out naturally to a certain degree, to be finished off to a kiln-dried consistency later in the year in our Aga ovens. (Agas are simply wonderful! They fulfill SO many domestic functions – apart from cooking – mine is like having an extra member of the family in residence.

It was a glorious spring day… washing was flapping animatedly on the line, the blackbird and robin were conducting a duet from the top of next-door’s fir tree, I spotted my first bumble bee of the year and the blossom on the cherry tree is just beginning to emerge.

Tree Felling at Cae Non

Beginning to stack the first load – there will be many more to come.

Of course, there is always a downside to everything. In this particular case, I was so enamoured by the energy and beauty of the natural world reawakening that I didn’t pay enough attention to what I was doing. Suddenly, I found myself doing a brief pas de deux with a knobbly stick which had become entangled in my skirts and the next thing I knew, I had fallen flat on my face on the unforgiving concrete floor. I will not dwell upon the loud groaning noises which I made for a while before the pain and nausea subsided and I was able to pick myself up. Suffice it to say that today I have knees which are an impressive grey, yellow and red, an arm wonderfully grazed and I feel as if I have been hit by a bus.

But the first of our logs are in! A little insurance and assurance against the possible freezing temperatures of next winter. Meanwhile, I shall thoroughly enjoy concentrating on and enjoying the spring. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope that you can stay well and do the same.

 

The Very ‘Hairy Child’

Front of Bryn at SunsetMisbehaving moustaches, inventive costumes and props, imaginative sound effects and a very supportive audience. All successful children’s nativity plays have a team of hard-working and dedicated adults behind them. Our own Christmas celebration at the Quaker Meeting House yesterday was no exception.

Our Meetings for worship are usually largely silent, but once a year, just before Christmas, we break with tradition. Each year a theme is chosen. This year it was the turn of the lowly shepherds. Interspersed by periods of reflective silence we gustily sang shepherd-related carols, (in both English and Welsh), listened to beautiful music composed by Schubert and played by one of our members and heard a poem by Welsh writer R.S.Thomas about welsh hill shepherds read aloud.

However, the highlight of the whole proceedings was surely the children’s dramatic contribution! Based on a mediaeval mystery play entitled ‘The Hairy Baby’, the story was of shepherds guarding their sheep and the daring – and very desperate man – who comes and steals one of the lambs with which to feed his starving family.

The enterprising thief had disguised himself in a voluminous black cloak and recalcitrant paper moustache which persistently floated to the ground, only to be pounced upon by one or other member of the cast and unceremoniously slapped back into place on the hapless young actor’s face. Gales and winter storms were conjured by use of a long plastic tube which was periodically flailed around the head of the pianist causing the Master of Ceremonies to cringe and duck for fear of getting a clout around his head.

The action took place across the whole of the Meeting Room and we, the audience, sat bemusedly in the round as irate shepherds with a varied assortment of ‘sheep’ – including a large woolly seal and a little lamb which had been sewn to his shepherd’s sock – dashed off amongst us in hot pursuit of their stolen lamb. I am not quite sure how even weary and simple-minded men were supposed to mistake one of their own animals for a remarkably hirsute human child! Eventually the true identity of the baby is revealed and the luckless family left empty-handed as the thief is discovered, only to be saved in the nick of time by the appearance of an angel, come to announce the birth of a much more important baby in a stable nearby. Drama was added to the action by the syncopated and regular sniffs of some of the cast who were recently recovering from heavy colds.

The enthusiasm and flamboyance with which our young members delivered this simple story was highly entertaining but also thought provoking. It was pointed out that here was the nub of the whole message of Christian Christmas. That the inspiration for kindness, humility and love had been presented in a way that everyone – even the lowliest and most humble shepherds – had instant and unquestioned access to. That this humble birth of a carpenter’s son represented a universal hope and entitlement that is as fresh and valued today as it was two thousand years ago.

So I give great thanks to the children of my Meeting for reminding me of this fact… and to their dedicated parents who made it possible. We all had a good chuckle and I am sure that we all were well entertained, but more than anything, I hope that we were touched by this blessed message – that of universal equality, hope and love.

Happy Christmas!

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