Christmas present T shirts – an orchid mantis


T shirt with orchid mantis appliqué (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

The Christmas present production line is still whirring, albeit slowly and in something of fits and starts. Hours of natural daylight for embroidering are at their lowest with the winter solstice just 10 days past and although I do sometimes embroider with a good light at my elbow in the evenings there are some colours which are indistinguishable unless seen in daylight. Sometimes I let the different shades remain on the basis that no kilim rug or Persian carpet ever looked the worse for even quite dramatic colour changes uncalled for in the pattern, but at other times I can’t bear the visual jolt and end up unpicking the previous evenings work. The gloriously strange insect on this T shirt is an attempt of a front on view of an orchid mantis. In real life they’re much paler but on T shirts I go for a loose interpretation rather than botanical accuracy. I sent this and the stag beetle T shirt (see previous post) for the small person’s Chirstmas present. His immediate family (of 4 plus an uncle doing the driving) had escaped to the  Lakes from London somewhat hastily being demoralised by escalating Covid infections in the capital and, in the rush, some presents sent to London were left behind. Fortunately I had sent the two T shirts for the small person to the Lakes. (The smallest  person – showing admirable fortitude in the face of missing presents, diminished treats and especially her inability to play with cousins she can hear having fun two floors below – will have to wait for hers until they get back home.) Sweetly the small person had only discovered one of his T shirts as he assumed the other package was for his birthday on the 29th, so it was fun to have him open the other package while I was on the phone. (I’m still working on the birthday sweatshirts!) He too misses his cousins below with all the fun alone of the usual shared bedroom, romps in the garden and party games but stoically he just plays more ping pong and works his way through his Christmas Lego sets on his own (possibly with help from his sister).

Detail: T shirt with orchid mantis appliqué (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Christmas Covid woes in the Lakes kept multiplying. Just as Daughter No 1 was testing to see if she could leave purdah in time for Boxing Day with the downstairs family, her husband tested positive to her negative. He had no symptoms and felt perfectly well. A few days later, the small person tested positive – on his birthday! He is also well. Meanwhile mum and the smallest person were negative. Another week of quarantine will add up to nearly three weeks in all. What a Christmas to remember. I can’t remember anything from being 4 years old but I’m certain the small person will have vivid memories of the last two years of her life from 2 – 4 as she formed bubbles including her nanny aunt and another aunt stuck mid way between Iraq and Cambodia, experienced mummy and daddy working from home, had Granny Mary for nearly 6 months Monday to Friday while mummy tried to recover from her leg injury and then experienced a second Christmas – which, like the first – was different from any other even the adults had known!

Detail: T shirt with orchid mantis appliqué (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

My husband and I have been very quiet here. Even our neighbours with two primary school children seem to have vanishingly few visitors. We do a walk every day. Before Christmas the town did its best to appear lively and cheerful. Cheltenham has two fine parks which we pass by or go through on our journey to the shops on the High Street. One has a temporary ice rink (de rigeur now it seems at Christmas time everywhere, including outside the Natural History Museum in London) while the other is more sedately Victorian (except when filled by the tents of the literary festival every September) and in true Victorian style has a very fine    bandstand. Nearly removed in a flush of zealous modernism in the 1970s (Cheltenham’s only tall building, The Eagle Star Tower of 15 floors was built in 1968) my husband was one of a group who pushed to save the bandstand from demolition, so it was a joy to see it graced by a full brass band playing  a selection of Christmas carols. That same day on the paved pedestrian part of Promenade in the centre of town  two teenage boys busked classical music, their unamplified  violins harmonising and lifting the spirits of otherwise head down, bustling Christmas shoppers. Carols around the red post box at the top of our road led by the local curate in full regalia was a welcome surprise as I dashed out for something forgotten on Christmas Eve. We have yet to get back to physically going to church as we feel we just want to see what happens to Omicron, the new variant in the next few weeks.  If Daughter No 1 can have a bed confining bout of Omicron after 3 jabs, I’d rather not chance it.

Delicious insect art in this 1930s book of Insect Oddities illustrated by Helene Carter

My favourite inspiration at the moment – haven’t read the text but love the insect drawings.

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  1. Mary
    Posted December 31, 2021 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Lovely colours in the appliqued shirt. Finding just the right colours without good, natural light is definitely a challenge. Glad you were able to get it to the recipient and be on the phone as it was opened.

    So very sorry about the continuing virus issues for the DD1 family. To be isolating for so long with young children over the holiday period is really awful. Especially difficult when the house has other children who are unencumbered by a quarantine. A real test of nerves and patience for all concerned. Hope things improve for them very soon.

    Quiet here over the Pond. Numbers are very high so even though I’ve had my three shots, I’m not inclined to–nor must I–go anywhere. Glad I’m retired. Hope 2022 is a better year for you and yours. Take care.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 31, 2021 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      Good and comforting to hear from you as we all sit in our tight little worlds hoping the angel of death and disaster passes over. We are cosy and happy.
      It does seem the Omicron variant is more infectious but it also seems it is less effective which is a good thing and may even indicate a waning of the virus’s effectiveness. Time will tell. You are absolutely right that quarantine is most difficult for those with young children and for slightly older children themselves.
      Glad you like the T shirt and thanks for saying so.
      Best wishes for you too Mary in the coming year.

  2. ceci
    Posted December 31, 2021 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations on finding (and creating!) beauty even in the midst of worrisome family news. I’ve never heard of an orchid mantis but am very fond of our local preying mantis. Need to do some research.

    Thank you for this lovely note and so many others. Hopefully the next round of family events will be happier.


    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 31, 2021 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

      Such a nice and uplifting thing to say Ceci. Thank you.
      The thing I love about your comments Ceci is the way you add things like I “am very fond of our local preying mantis”. In the UK the preying mantis is very exotic and the only place I’ve seen is on the television.I think you said something similar about locusts too and these I’ve only ever encountered in the Bible!

  3. Posted January 1, 2022 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    I think the Mantis is a very fine fellow who is sure to be popular.

    And my word, yes, the small persons who first encountered the world in this period are likely to have what the rest of us will see as very odd memories. Although I’m sure I had a very ordinary childhood, and occasionally a memory of something pops up, filtered by 3-year-old understanding of what I observed, and I feel I daren’t mention it, lest people think I’m even more peculiar than I really am!

    That said, I can’t be the only child who “heard” the last response of the Mass as “Thanks, Peter God”, and came away convinced that a) they knew God’s first name, and b) rules about politeness to God appeared not to be the same as the ones to adults!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted January 2, 2022 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      You are very kind as usual,Rachel. Thank you. The small person does love his mantis (even though he has already received a more simple version of the creature in silhouette!).
      It’s difficult with the memory isn’t it. I couldn’t be sure my early memories aren’t based on things like photographs taken at the time – of which there were very few. Although I do remember dressed in a pink rouched swimming costume standing in an enamel washing up bowl – the closest we had to a paddling pool at the time – and there are no photographs of that … I think! My more reliable memories seem to be associated with people I liked appearing from time to time and I’m sure they are real and that I think is the nub. If in general very little happens in childhood, it’s difficult to have much of a memory except when something exceptional happens and then it sticks like glue as it’s so different from everyday life. My children’s and grandchildren’s lives are busting with people and memorable events and that’s why I think the enforced strangeness of lockdown might be more memorable that their normal bustling everyday life. Who knows?
      As for your memory of church services, that strikes an interesting cord and has brought into my mind all sorts of vague memories of my own childhood churchgoing – the wearing of a royal blue sailor coat and matching matelot hat which I think I would only ever have worn to church. (Curiously the spellchecker doesn’t like ‘matelot’ at all!). I also remember being very alert at the end of services when the priest started out on ‘The peace of God which passeth all understanding…” as the end was nigh.
      Love your mondegreen “Thanks Peter God).

      • Posted January 9, 2022 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

        I remember a blue coat and red trousers only because of the photo, but the blue swimming costume I recall because the wretched thing grew with me and I didn’t manage to outgrow it until I was eight!

        • Mary Addison
          Posted January 9, 2022 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

          That rouched pink swimming costume I mentioned also seemed to be around for years. But as I grew the rouching elastic got slacker and slacker and I liked it less and less! I think in my case the memory started with a photo but I, like you, remember being fed up with having to wear it year in year out.

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