January 2020 : Carols at St Paul’s Cathedral and a Christmas jumper for a 6 year old


It has taken a long time to get back into blogging mode this year, probably in part because the general election ate into so many people’s energy reserves that even a generous Christmas break hasn’t recharged batteries yet. The small people had badly  missed their mummy. Her days away mounted up as her caravanserai followed the red road of political instability west – east across England. The smallest person took to poignantly intoning “mummy gone”, looking into the mid distance, eyes glazed over and focused on some elusive outside otherness.  Ever eager for mummy’s return, the child was so excited by a mannequin in a Gap store wearing a pink sweater – twin of the one recently bought by mummy – that she rushed over to hug it, triumphantly trumpeting “My mummy, my mummy”!

Fair Isle band (No 191 in Mary Jane Mucklestone’s 200 Fair Isle Designs; 2011 Search Press)

Mummy’s reappearance brought a change from the minor key “mummy’s gone” into the major key, ” mummy’s back”, though aunty/nanny’s newly acquired name “When?” has not yet been abandoned. Having arrived home when the smallest person was already in bed, daddy gallantly advised mummy to swop her usual bed side in case the smallest person pursued her middle of the night routine of walking round the bed and thumping the usually mummy-less space – potentially breaking the all too embodied mummy’s nose.  Morning broke and all noses remained intact. We hope the new routine of starting nursery will assuage the sharpness of separation now mummy has gone back to work. These things are never easy.

Small person modelling jumper while still in Christmas pyjamas (last Christmas’s pyjamas)

Beginning our London stay with the carol service at St Paul’s Cathedral was a good idea – and no less a good idea even though the smallest person never quite made it to the beginning of the service. You have to get there early for these things, but as soon as we got off the bus we could see a queue of people snaking along the North side of the cathedral and coming back on itself through the passage between rows of shops and into Paternoster Square, where yet more snake like coils of people wove to and fro. Fortunately, unbeknown to us, being associated with the cathedral school we had special tickets, were plucked out of the queue and directed to the most southerly of the western doors. With more than half an hour to go till the service began and being a rather small sapling in a forest of sturdy maturity, the smallest person was getting restive and could be contained neither in her buggy nor in her seat.  Setting off on a mission of discovery – mummy 6 paces behind –  she had  marble in her sights. First she tried out the floor, enjoying lying full length and doing the action for snow angels, like in ‘Little House on the Prairie’ but without the snow. Attention then moved to the marble statues, of which there are many, and these she sampled one by one, stroking each with much pleasure to both hand and cheek, for all the world as if the cool silken hardness of unyielding marble was as comforting to the touch as the fur of a domestic cat. When marble lost its fascination her gimlet eye threatened interest in places no adult could follow. Just in time before breakaway she was cajoled  to return to her family. Rebellion was in the air. Things threatened to become vocal. Daddy took over as senior handmaiden. They were seen in the cathedral no more. By the time the rest of us got home (5 adults, 1 child + empty buggy in a black cab – well done that cab driver!) dinner was practically ready. Next year the smallest person will be 3 1/2 years old; we may try again.

Fair Isle band (variants on No 191 in Mary Jane Mucklestone’s 200 Fair Isle Designs; 2011 Search Press)

Meanwhile  the second youngest person did very well in a building where the acoustics are not what they should be.  The Journal of Sound and Vibration 22 Jan 1984  says of St Paul’s, ” Speech intelligibility is poor and articulation tests showed that in the middle of the nave only 20–30% of words are understood.” Sadly, this was also true for some of the choir’s singing. (Much the best acoustics are during Evensong when you can sit nearer the choir, or even in the chancel itself. Then the singing is clear and bright, The sound system for the readings is, however, just as terrible.) Thank goodness that the choir did a bit of processing while singing, it does make a big congregation feel a bit more involved. Nevertheless, in spite of such criticism, there were moments of wonder and delight and I think our small person intuited something special was going on – whether as a little cog in a large crowd which swung from silent to noisy with a strange sense of togetherness or whether, caught up in slivers of tingling sound, he felt his his spirit freed to explore the otherness of something outside and away from the self. At the very end of the service the organ pipes at the west end (until then silent or subtle) bust into a fanfare of triumphant glee as if rather naughty angels were let loose after the end of term. As one, the congregation jumped, surprised by the sudden sound at our backs, or maybe, as C.S.Lewis would say, surprised by joy!

Note to self: Pattern knitted for age 7-8 years with 2 cms length added to back and front (making 34cm) before starting on  decreasing for the raglan shaping.

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  1. Nella Logan
    Posted January 8, 2020 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the charming descriptions of the smallest person, Mary, particularly her adventures in St. Paul’s. Your beautiful Fair Isle knitting has prompted me to purchase Mary Jane Mucklestone’s book for myself. Thanks for your efforts in “getting into blogging mode” which I’m sure takes lots of energy and enthusiasm. I really look forward to reading your posts which are always enjoyable and usually informative too.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted January 9, 2020 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      Nella, I turn to Mary Jane Mucklestone all the time – it’s such a great source book. I hope you’ll be happy with it. It is so good to know that you enjoy my blog posts – thank you for letting me know.

  2. Posted January 8, 2020 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    The service does sound quite magical, even if hearing the words was tricky!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted January 9, 2020 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      Lots of people in a splendid building having a good sing along – not done every day or even every week so really quite special!

  3. ceci
    Posted January 9, 2020 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Magical sounding holiday service, and the atmospheric pictures of the big brother in his wonderful sweater are very effective. I hope you are storing up reserves for the next onslaught, what ever it may be. Thank goodness for Aunty/Nanny When? too, eh?


    • Mary Addison
      Posted January 9, 2020 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      Yes, Ceci, I feel after a prolonged time over Christmas away from sewing, I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in.
      And we do thank goodness for the multi-talented Aunty/Nanny/When, though we do hope the littles person will revert to calling her by her own name soon!

  4. Amara Bray
    Posted January 10, 2020 at 5:08 am | Permalink

    That just breaks my heart hearing about the missing of the mommy. So sad. But thank you for detailing a little of the St. Paul’s experience! Having the two organs must have been spectacular.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted January 10, 2020 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      Yes, we all felt very inadequate in the face of such woefulness.
      Whatever’s amiss with the acoustics of St Paul’s, the organs certainly had no problems!

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