Gillian Monks

'Making Fairytales Come True'

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 3)

A Very Happy New Year!

Belated – but no less heartfelt – New Year greetings!

For me, 2022 has got off to a fairly rollicking start. It is an old belief that whatever you do on the 1st January will set the tone and pace for the rest of that year. Well! I had carefully planned the day to be more relaxed, a lot more flexible, with lots of lovely activities (watching the New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna in the morning among them) with an early, less formal dinner for

All was going well and I was thoroughly enjoying my day. Yet, as our meal ended, a very dear friend and guest who had joined us for dinner suddenly lost consciousness and gracefully – with assistance from my husband and son – slithered down off her chair onto the floor. It was just as well that my son is both a medical herbalist and  an Emergency Medical Technician – he was therefore able to begin treating the lady in question immediately.

There then followed many hours of phone calls, urgent conversations, oxygen cylinders and read-outs, paramedics, numerous cups of tea, coffee and soup, and finally, just after midnight, the arrival of an ambulance to transfer our dear friend (now well on the way to recovery) to hospital for more tests.

It just goes to show that you can never tell what might happen next – even when you are sitting in your own cosy, comfy, safe home environment around your own table enjoying a happy family meal!

I have deeper thoughts about this which I will share with you another time, but for now, please accept my love and best wishes for a marvellous new year. We shall be gently winding down our Winter celebrations as the month progresses. Already, the birds are singing and the indefinable quality of light has changed… spring is on its way.

Make 2022 a brilliant year of choices, new adventures, wonderful experiences and love for all that is… indeed, a very happy new year!

The Advent Calendar Wreath

Tomorrow is the first day of December when many children (and adults) will be opening the first door of their 2021 Advent calendars. Many of us already receive so much around Christmastime that I like to do something for Advent which involves all the family and giving of oneself to others.

This year, I have hit upon the idea of the Advent Calendar Wreath. It is a smaller door wreath made from natural willow and covered in holly and ivy to which I have tied 24 pieces of coloured paper which have first been written on then tightly folded and sealed. Each piece of paper is numbered, 1 – 24 and each member of the family will take it in turns to find the appropriate number for the day, open the paper and carry out the suggestion written there.

However, we are going to do this the evening before the date it falls due, so that the person in charge of carrying out that day’s task has time to make any necessary preparations. For instance, they might be asked to find three Christmas jokes and tell them to everyone else, find and play their favourite Christmas carol, organise a little Christmas afternoon tea – even if it is only a biscuit and a hot drink – organise a game for everyone to all join in with, or search for a small parcel wrapped in a certain colour of paper which is hidden in a particular room and share its contents with everyone else…. and so on. They are only small actions, but most are calculated to involve everyone and, at the very least, to bring some seasonal cheer and togetherness into our lives each and every day.

Alternatively, this could be adapted to cover the Twelve Days of Christmas instead, and keep the winter seasonal festivities and sense of sharing going past New Year and on into the beginning of January.

If you would like to try it for yourself, this is how I did it:

Cut as many pieces of coloured paper as you will need – they only need to be about 3″ or 8cms square. Write a suggestion or ‘command’ on each one and then fold it up so that it is a long thin rectangle and seal with a bit of Sellotape so that it can’t begin to open up again. Write the numbers 1 – 24 on each folded paper. Then, take a needle and a 6″ or 15 cm length of thread (preferably some dark colour) and run it through one end of the folded paper, removing the needle and leaving the thread ends dangling, ready to tie the paper on to the wreath.

To make the wreath itself, take several very thin willow whips, two – three foot in length, and bend them around into a circle 8 inches (or 20cms) in diameter. Weave them in and out of each other if possible and secure firmly with one or two lengths of green garden twine.

Gather a few little lengths of holly and two or three long strands of ivy, plus three or four florets of ivy flowers which are in bloom at this time of year, and arrange them around your wreath, tying them onto it securely with the garden twine. Decide which part will be the top of the wreath and add a loop of green string or coloured ribbon with which to hang the wreath up by once it is finished.

Lastly, tie all your paper ‘days’ around the wreath. (See picture at beginning of post.)Be prepared to get your fingers prickled but it is in a good cause!

Find somewhere to hang your Advent Calendar Wreath where it will be seen frequently by everyone… and don’t forget to open each day in turn, gently reminding others when it is their turn if necessary. You may have to volunteer for the first couple of days to set the tone and pace.

Enjoy – happy days!



Black Friday Antidote

My cosy corner for the evening.

Today, Midwinter has definitely been in the air – quite literally… it was hailing at lunchtime. Today has felt incredibly ‘Christmassy’. Today, I made my Christmas cakes!

While the mountains disappeared beneath blankets of cloud, rain pelted down, and windows steamed up, it grew steadily darker as the afternoon advanced and I had to switch the main room lights on. However, my kitchen grew increasingly fragrant with spices… rich mounds of sticky dried fruit appeared on my work surfaces… glowing glacé cherries were heaped waiting to be sliced in half… brown piles of nuts were ready to be chopped or ground, plates of golden butter and sweet, soft, dark brown sugar gleamed, the tang of grated lemon peel filled the air. Christmas carols played and the rooms became cosier and more inviting by the hour.

We were all busy today. My husband was sweeping both our chimneys – although with wood-burning stoves there is very little residue to clean away. My son was bustling about the house, too, and our friend (who sometimes does building repairs and jobs for us on the house) also called in, as did our next door neighbour. The kettle was set on the Aga to boil, (frequently), and the freshly baked lemon drizzle cake I had made this morning was generously cut into. There was a tangible buzz, a feeling of expectancy – almost of excitement – in the air. Anyone who passed through the kitchen at the critical moment was offered a chance to stir the huge metal bowl of cake mixture and make a wish…

I have thoroughly enjoyed today. Yes, it is quite hard work, but I wouldn’t miss the seasonal ambience, the sights, scents and sounds of this traditional winter alchemy which takes place every year in my kitchen around this time. In the past, I have suffered from long-term chronic illness, and just this autumn I am facing the challenge of cancer, so I do know what it is like to not have the strength or energy to do this type if activity. But even so, I still find simply going out and purchasing a cake from a supermarket shelf an empty, boring activity, with little to interest me and resulting in no sense of pride, satisfaction, or dare I say, pleasure?

I saw that one very famous London store was advertising ‘stir up Sunday’ (which actually occurred last weekend) as ‘put your feet up Sunday’ – but where is the fun in that? When you have put your feet up, what then? I am putting my feet up this evening after a busy but incredible day of music, laughter, warmth, creativity and loving friendship.

As I repeatedly remind everyone in my first book, ‘Merry Midwinter‘, sedentary past-times are all very well in reasonably small doses, but you only get out of a situation what you put in… what you contribute… what you help to create. It can be the most ordinary activity or chore, but approached in a positive and festive frame of mind, the magic of the season – of life itself – can be introduced into every mundane nook and cranny.

Try it and just see.

Meanwhile, the gales forecast for tonight are beginning to gather apace, yet the dense darkness of a moonless night is still feels oddly welcoming and benevolent. Inexplicable, unidentifiable but very real seasonal magic is almost crackling through the atmosphere. Perhaps these gales are partly created by the furious passing of Herne the Hunter, or Gwyn ap Nudd as they traverse the winter skies… or the flight of Frau Holle, or the slip stream from Father Christmas’s sleigh, out on a ‘practice run’? …

Thank You!!!

It is already a whole week since my birthday… I can hardly believe it! I want to thank everyone – family, friends, ex-students and readers alike – for all the wonderfully warm, loving and deeply touching messages, emails, cards and letters which I have received. It truly has gladdened my heart!

The centre of any celebration for me is my loved ones, near or far, but especially around the hearth, a dining table, the Christmas Tree…. wherever. Here I am, about to blow out the candles on my birthday cake, with the little wood burning stove roaring behind me and the Aga kettle (very decorative!) merrily burbling away in the background ready to top up the tea pot.

My sweet son and his equally sweet girlfriend had laid out the table, produced the delicious cakes and assembled all my cards and presents to be opened and by four o’clock, the fun was all set to begin! We did indeed have a wonderfully cosy tea and ‘together time’ which lasted far into the evening.

So, thank you, everyone, for all your kind and loving wishes and good thoughts. You ALL helped to make my solar return extra special with many precious memories which I shall treasure.

Happy Saint Non’s day!

Daffs and Welsh cakes

Daffodils, a leek, a plate of home made Welsh Cakes… and butter… the Welsh love their butter! There is nothing so delicious as a Welsh Cake hot off the planc, smothered in butter which melts into the fragrant fruit and nutmeg. All emblems of my beloved Wales.

The 1st March was Saint David’s Day, but today, the 3rd of the month, it is the turn of his mother, Saint Non, to be celebrated.

Born in the 5th Century in Pembrokeshire, Non was the daughter of Lord Cynyr Ceinfarf of Dyfed. She grew up to be a devout holy woman but was violated by lustful Prince Sandde of Ceredigion. Non became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy at Caerfai, just south of Saint David’s, in the middle of a violent thunder storm. Various versions of this tale recount how in her extreme birth pains, Non pressed her fingers into a boulder with such force that she left their impression in the rock.

When David was born, a brilliant light appeared, the rock was split asunder by a mighty bolt of lightning… and a spring gushed forth out of the ground. This beautiful clear water became know as Saint Non’s well and is reputed to heal those with mental illness.

Non brought Dewi up at Henfeynyw near Aberaeron and later they founded a nunnery at nearby Llanon together. We are all familiar with what happened to Saint David, but much less is known of his blessed mother. Later in life, Non moved on to Cornwall founding another nunnery at Alternon, where an ancient and beautiful church still stands today. However, Non ended her life in Brittany where she founded a third nunnery at Dirinon in Finistere. (Note the ‘non’ element in all these place names.)

Non means ‘nun’, and my middle name is Nonita, which is one of the Latin forms of ‘nun’. Therefore I have a double reason to celebrate today, for not only is it special to the mother of our patron saint here in Wales, but it is also my name day. People have long celebrated their name day across Europe, for they might not know the date – or even the year – of their birth, but they certainly knew their name and the protection and patronage of which Christian saint they were entitled to.

I am very lucky, for I have both birthday and name day… and my darling husband has just walked in bearing a box of chocolates for me!

Whatever your beliefs or genetic origins, I wish you all a very happy Saint Non’s Day – may she bring the nurture and support of a truly good woman and good mother to you all!

The Alternative Alternative Advent Calendar!

Making an alternative advent calendarI have a suggestion for an alternative advent calendar which is based on my book, ‘The Alternative Advent Calendar’ but is perhaps more suitable for children, or is something which the whole family can join in with producing and then following.

The idea is to make (or use) 24 little paper envelopes, which can be made from coloured paper, Christmas paper, plain file paper or even newspaper – anything you want. They can be decorated in any way you with too – this you can set the children  or the most artistic person in your household to work on.

Ready made envelopes can be used to save time, or pieces of paper simply folded in two and glued or sellotaped shut. I have made mine from red and green crepe paper. To do this:

  • Cut 24 pieces of paper, each 12 cm x 18 cm.
  • As in the illustration above, fold each paper almost in half, leaving a flap of around 2 cm.
  • Glue both sides together and then cut the top flap into an envelope shape and fold over.
  • Trim down both sides of envelope with pinking shears or decorative craft scissors, write a number from 1 to 24 on the front of each envelope and decorate as desired – I have simply stuck a smidgen of mini tinsel on the front of mine instead of a ‘stamp’!
  • Think of 24 things which a person can do to contribute to the preparations for Christmas, or to entertain everyone else in the household. For instance, find six jokes and tell them to everyone else; become someone’s ‘servant for the day/afternoon/an hour and agree to help them in whatever way they wish, or make everyone a hot drink… and so it goes.
  • Finding 24 helpful, seasonal ideas with which to fill the envelopes need not fall to you alone. Divide 24 by the number of people in your household and get each person to think of that number of contributions. Everyone needs to write them out separately on pieces of paper, fold them up and place them all in a bowl or some kind of container. Mix them up, and then randomly give everyone the same number of envelopes and allow them to fill with the folded suggestions from the container and seal them.
  • Then each person goes alone into a designated room – or you might wish to use the whole house! – and secretly hides their envelopes. Then the next person hides their envelopes, and the next, until they are all hidden.
  • On the 1st December, the youngest member of the family has to find the envelope with No. 1 written on the front and carry out whatever the message inside tells them to do.
  • On 2nd December, the next in age has to set off and find envelope No 2 and carry out the instructions which it contains… and so on.

Advent EnvelopesThis helps people to come together, share and makes sure that everyone is included, regardless of age or ability. It also helps to start slowly building the excitement, encourages everyone to join in and take responsibility for organising or performing some task or function but also helps to take a little of the focus off Christmas Day and spreads the activity, enjoyment and fun over the whole three weeks.

Many variations may be experimented with: each envelope may contain a joke or a quotation, or a riddle or the clue to a large crossword… whatever you can think of, so long as it is something everyone can join in with and enjoy the results of.

There is still time yet to get something organised before the 1st December on Tuesday – and it won’t cost a thing, except a little time and thought.

If anyone would like to try this out and then let me know how they get on, I would be absolutely delighted to hear from you. We as a family shall be using this idea for our ‘Advent Calendar’ this year.

Good luck – have fun!

Where Is Your Centre?

Fire and HearthIt is an extremely grey, wet, stormy afternoon in deepest autumn. With a second ‘lockdown’ just begun, the road outside is totally deserted. I have just popped into the dining room to look something up in one of my recipe books and am sat in a chair by an cold,empty, ash-filled grate. We do not light the fires in all the rooms every day and are gradually changing over to enclosed log burners anyway, but it seems a very chilly and sad prospect.

The hearth and living fire has always been the heart of my home ever since I can remember. This is traditionally the focal point of any room, where everyone comes to, warms themselves at, sits around, huddles up to, talks by, reads or sews besides and rests while they watch the T.V. or listen to the radio. When the flames dance brightly the whole room is brought to life. When the fire is out – as it is now – the room dies and becomes hollow, empty, soulless.

Where is the centre of your home? We all need a centre to turn towards, to make for, to represent having truly arrived. Perhaps it might be your favourite chair, or your kitchen table, or the corner where your television sits? The problem with making the television your focal point is that, although it constantly depicts humanity, it is, in itself, essentially dead. Wherever you decide, perhaps you need to enliven it further – stand a couple of house plants in that same corner, and add a candle or two (but not too near to the plants as they fear fire).

What other ways might you depict and furnish the centre of your sanctuary with? Photos of friends or family, perhaps? A stack of your current reading? Bag of handiwork… radio near to hand… biscuit barrel close by? (Naughty!) Think about it this damp, wild day while so many of us are shut in and thrown back upon our own resources, and decide where the centre of your home is and how you can make it even more welcoming and cosy, both for yourself and for others.

I also understand that, for many of us, it is the people who we are closest to who truly make our home the haven and comfort it is… the company, the spark, the support, the laughter… the understanding when there is tears. And perhaps some of you dear souls out there will have recently lost loved ones.

To illustrate just what I mean I will finish with a poem which I wrote after the death of my mother 16 years ago, when the cottage was standing empty and neglected due to my father’s illness when he came to live with us. That was an empty cold dining room too…

Sitting in the creaking chair I look around – you are not there;
You with your funny marvellous ways – only the ‘ghosts’ of ‘yesterdays’.

The room is dark, the hearth grown cold, candles guttered, lamps well out,
China dull and silver tarnished – I blink my eyes and turn about…

Laughter, warmth and dancing flames, steaming food and boisterous games;
Companions close in evening light, enwrapped in love against the night.

But night has come and entered here. Such times with you are now long past.
The group is scattered far and wide; for good or ill no time can last.

I shake my head to break the rays of dancing lights from other days.
Ashes cold – the hearth unswept, this then is death… and I have wept.

SO – bring new life into your home, your daily routine. Do not despair. Look forwards to new beginnings and leave the past where it belongs, in fond memory, but don’t allow it to pollute all the good things which you have now… this day.

With my love.

Walking With The Goddess in May

Beltane BranchesAt this troubled and challenging time of Covid-19, you are perfect for the task of helping to get us all out of this frightening mess… you are exactly the person we need to help heal us… you are the one who will be able to bring changes about and reorganise our society into a ‘new normal’ which is far superior to our old ‘normal’. We don’t want the old normal back again – it was never very good for us or the rest of the planet – we need to take all that is of worth bravely forward into a new and promising future. And for that, we need YOU!

Some might gain insight and strength from my monthly online module of Walking With The Goddess. For May, the focus is on early summer and the element of Air and the importance and inspiration which it brings into our lives. It is this profound necessity of our lives which is under threat now from the pandemic – the literal ability to draw breath into our bodies to sustain our lives. Journey into and with the wind… venture within yourself and seek out and experience your own intimate centre of love and compassion… and how you might use your truly wonderful, loving self to bring courage and healing to everything around you and to form a beautiful new world.

We need to take a deep look at ourselves and our relationship with All That Is around us. We need to seek the positive qualities within ourselves and nurture and use them to contribute towards forming a brave new world for ourselves and everything else which exists with us on the planet. To aid us in this, there is a journey to the god, Bran, mythical Guardian of The British Isles, and his sister, the gentle goddess Branwen. I know that you are up to the task because you are alive, now, in the year 2020 – therefore you are definitely equal to the challenge, whether you feel it or not.

We are ALL needed in the task ahead of us. We are all vital to achieving what must be done. We all need support and encouragement. This is what Walking With The Goddess brings to you. The Earth does not wish to punish us or annihilate us… but she needs us to find a different and better way of being which will care for and promote the well-being of all Life here and to this end she is prepared to give us all the support she can.

The approach and information which is contained in these monthly modules has been channelled from beautiful, wise sources. I offer each month – with unlimited support and back-up from me, and the opportunity of connecting to others who are taking part – for the very modest fee of £5… and even that is negotiable in these financially difficult times; just contact me and we can come to an alternative arrangement. Reach out. Do it today.

We are all broken in some way, but we are all capable of finding ways of mending ourselves… and each other. Whether you roll into action of your own or other alternative volition, or whether you take the plunge and seek guidance and support via this course is not important – just do something – our future is in your hands.

Dear readers, you are amazing and beautiful and all that is needed. May you all be well and healthy, brave and positive.

With my love.

How To Offend A Toothbrush

Gillian Spring EquinoxThis morning on Facebook I saw this very question. One lady was sad that the usefulness of her long-lasting toothbrush had finally come to an end and she didn’t want to offend it by using it to clean anything else before finally disposing of it. Another lady wanted to know how on earth you actually offend a toothbrush? I would have liked to answer her at the time but couldn’t stop to do it then – however, the druid in me can’t let it go – so here is my answer – see if you agree with it or understand what I am talking about. There are actually two ways in which we can ‘offend’ an inanimate object.

Firstly, everything resonates with energy – scientifically proven fact. Mental thoughts, spoken words and emotions also have vibrating energies – also scientifically proven fact, as illustrated in the many research programmes involving plant life and how it responds to certain actions being performed near to it or various emotions and/or thoughts being directed at it… sometimes from hundreds of miles away.

I acknowledge that a toothbrush is an inanimate object rather than a plant which ‘lives’ but it will still resonate with energy and still be subject to thoughts, (and the intentions they contain), so at some very low level of resonance it will react to the unharmonious thoughts being directed at it while its owner/user is contemplating throwing it way or otherwise destroying if.

For those of a more

Read More

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Advent candlelight in the dining room

Advent candlelight in the dining room

I hope that you have all had/are having a wonderful Midwinter/Christmas?

This Advent got off to a cracking and early start with my trip to Germany and the amazing Christmas markets – not to mention lots of time spent with Holger’s family. I have also been invited to more Christmas parties and gatherings than ever before. It saddens me a little that everyone celebrates Christmas in Advent and then, after we get to Christmas Day, there is nothing left to do. All the lovely carols and Christmas music played on Classic FM radio stops abruptly after Boxing Day and people start to talk about taking down their decorations. Some of our decorations were only put up in the last days before the Solstice. Perhaps it is because many put their decorations up so early – end of November and early December? That is what I mean about people celebrating Advent rather than Christmas.

Despite my great love of Christmas, this was actually the first time I have seen a Christmas tree lit with real candles – and I have to say that it was utterly enchanting! Holger and I attended a seasonal gathering for all employees and their families where he works at Trigonos and one of the directors had supplied her own living tree, with presents waiting beneath it for all the children. In true traditional custom, there was delicious food to eat, games to play which generated much laughter and good-natured silliness, and story-telling to quieten us down again. Then, in time honoured fashion, just before everyone went home, the lights were dimmed, everyone came to sit expectantly around the tree and the children were allowed to come, one by one, to light a candle each upon the living tree.  It was magical and the children’s faces were a real picture… as I expect mine was too!

Mince pies

This is what over ninety mince pies really looks like… and I made four dozen mini pies as well!

So far, I have to say that this Midwinter and Christmas has been as near perfect as is possible… and a very welcome break from the outside world into the bargain. With my last blog/Facebook post wishing everyone a happy Christmas, I stepped back from my computer and slipped into the wholehearted loving embrace of my immediate family.

Wreath Cake

Our Solstice cake, lighter fruit cake made in a wheel shape and decorated with fruits and holly leaves fashioned from marzipan.

We had some of our friends from the druid grove here for the Solstice on the 22nd and walked up the valley into the woods which have grown up around the old quarry and gathered among the trees there. As the daylight faded, we lit a small fire and held sparklers in our hands, sharing chocolate Yule log cake and beakers of hot, mulled wine. There is always something particularly special about this one time of late afternoon and dusk. There is something particularly magical about being present in the silent woods as the daylight fades and we find our way home in near darkness, singing and laughing, slipping and sloshing through mud and puddles as we approach the welcome lights of the village. this year, two owls accompanied our festivities with their haunting cries from one side of the valley to the other. Well, we are the Cylch Blodeuwedd after all!

Christmas parcels

Gifts wrapped in recyclable brown paper and decorated naturally.

Just two days later, on Christmas Eve, we gathered around the dining room hearth to share a German afternoon tea with sugary stollen and fragrant spice cakes and chocolate treats of every kind – the fire blazed and the thirty or so candles in the pyramids, flying buttresses and holders cast shadows from all the decorations. We had just paused in our carol singing and were pouring cups of tea while Dafydd was roasting chestnuts on the fire, when a new neighbour dropped in with a card and gift and I suddenly saw us as we must have appeared to him… almost a scene from  Victorian days or a Dickens novel, ha! ha!

This year, more than ever, I have really tried to follow my own growing beliefs about the preparation for Midwinter and Christmas celebration, although seem to have had even less time in which to do so. I made my own crackers for the Christmas lunch table (in which I placed sweeties and questions to ask one another around the dinner table rather than silly gifts which no one wants). I have  made some ‘fortune crackers’ for our New Year’s dinner table too, in which I have written ‘words of wisdom’ for 2020 and jokes to give us all a laugh and start us off on a jolly note! I made some of my own gifts too – hideously late finishing them and the evening of the 23rd saw me sat with my sewing basket expeditiously stitching away.

Fur hat and scarf

One of the winter fake fur hats and scarves I managed to complete.

I didn’t get everything made that I would have liked to, but at least I completed everything that I had started and everyone received something from me. We also tried out having a ‘pledge box’ for the first time ever and ended up opening it as a completely separate activity on Boxing Day (26th December) while we were having afternoon tea. Some very interesting and worthwhile pledges came out of that little box which was decorated and left in a prominent place in the hall a few days before the Solstice. It also struck me as so appropriate to open a pledge box on Boxing Day, when the apprentices and poor of the parish used to be given tips or alms for the year in boxes which had to be broken open.

As a family, we celebrate most of the twelve days of Christmas, which only come to an end with Epiphany on the 5th January. We actually only had our official Christmas Dinner on the 27th December, when close family and friends could join us and we could all celebrate together. I actually opted for the longer version of the meal this year, although as I juggled seven pans across the top of my aga and four roasting tins inside the ovens, I began to seriously wonder if I had finally bitten off more than I could sensibly chew! We began with chicken liver pate (with an avocado pate option for the vegetarians among us), followed by squash, coconut and ginger soup. The main course was roast turkey, sausages and chicken rolls with sage and onion stuffing, bread sauce and red currant jelly with all the vegetables and two kinds of gravy – vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The vegetarian main was a selection of winter vegetables from the garden, roasted and then folded with cheese into a wreath shape made from triangles of croissant dough, which is the lightest and butteryest dough imaginable! There was Christmas pudding to follow, served

Drawing Room

Our (smaller) Winter Tree in the drawing room

with sweet white sauce and dollops of rum butter. Dafydd ‘fired’ the pudding with ethanol from his herbal dispensary… pretty blue flames licked around the dark fruity globe upon the china platter until the tall sprig of holly stuck in the top also caught fire and everything then had to be quickly extinguished! A cheese board, mince pies, fruit, candied fruits and chocolates followed along with a tray of coffee, but these we took with us into the drawing room and gradually picked away at as we opened even more gifts from beneath our Winter Tree… in fact, we were still grazing among the remnants of our ‘Lunch’ at eight o’clock that evening!

This past few days, the games cupboard has also been raided and Holger and I have challenged each other to some games of draughts which I used to play with my father when I was a child but haven’t played for well over fifty years. I no longer had my original board and set so earlier this year I ordered a new one over the Internet – the toy shop in Caernarfon could only supply me with cardboard and plastic – so I found a lovely wooden board which folds into a box in which to keep the wooden draughts, chess and backgammon pieces. Needless to say, Holger won most of the games!  Holger and I went to the cinema one evening to see the new Star Wars film, ‘The Rise of Skywalker’, which I thoroughly enjoyed but found FAR too loud and had to watch some battle scenes with my finger stuffed in my ears!!!

And no, life isn’t quite so perfect… we found that mice had found their way up the wisteria into our loft and chewed a few of our seasonal decorations – the tallest section of wisteria was immediately removed! And our oldest feline member of the family (just turned twenty!) chose this Midwinter to make her journey and pass over into the Summerlands. But these are all a part of on-going life too…

Solstice fire Now it is New Year’s Eve. We might have a small bonfire out in the garden this evening to celebrate, weather depending. Wherever you are and however you might be celebrating this incoming new decade, I hope that you are well, comfortable and at peace with yourself and the world around you.

A very happy New Year to you all… as always, with my love.

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