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

Raglan jumper with Fair Isle band, knitted from Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino Bk 6 Two colour raglan sweater

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 surprised by joy as, C.S.Lewis would say.

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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Best Wishes for a Happy Christmas, 2019

Never have I been so behind for Christmas on the present making front. At the moment I shall probably have made just 2 presents – a cardigan for the smallest person and a jumper for the rapidly growing next smallest person. Ideas for handmade gifts for adult members of the family flew out of the window a couple of weeks ago and though for a few nights recently I lay in bed unable to sleep in the early hours and used the time to think through the making of a couple of Christmas stockings, I know nothing will come of those either. Daughter No 1 has commissioned an advent  calendar for next year, so at my current work rate I should probably start that at Easter!

2019 Christmas card Angel, taken from Duncan Grant’s mural of Christ in Splendour, Berwick Church, near Brighton (hand embroidered and appliquéd by Mary Addison)

I just managed a Christmas card. This angel is the pair to the one I did 2 year’s ago and is taken from Duncan Grant’s painting of Christ in Splendour on the chancel arch in Berwick Church near Brighton. (More about the painting and the first angel on my blog here.) The first one I did is much better than this year’s – I’m not pleased with the head but there you go, it was either this or no Christmas card.

We’re off for a London Christmas, my first with the smallest people, so it should be great fun. Paddington Station is closing down completely for four days or so over Christmas, and after that will only have limited services, so we shall be staying for 10 days until the New Year. We’re just hoping all goes well with the trains tomorrow as we have a carol concert at St Paul’s Cathedral to get to for 3.30pm.

Meanwhile have a lovely Christmas, whether it’s quiet and ruminative or boisterous and exhausting, both of which can be equally enjoyable depending upon what has gone before.

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