I love the days in between Christmas and New Year. They are so quiet and peaceful after all the rush of the week before. There is no pressure to go anywhere or do anything. Each day we have had a long walk to blow away the remaining cobwebs of two days spent at home eating, watching TV, listening to music or reading, interspersed with telephone calls from and to friends and relatives and quick trips into the garden to replenish the bird feeders and topping up the cat’s bowls indoors.
Tuesday we walked in Consall Forge Country Park taking our usual route along the canal past the station and the pub and back again by the lakes. We passed one or two other hardy souls on the way but not many people were out and about and the car park had only about five cars parked there.
Wednesday we ventured out to Lichfield. We parked easily and wandered into the town which was briskly busy with shoppers. After coffee and croissants we made our way to the cathedral and went inside. It was blissfully peaceful and warm and welcoming and we sat a while and looked at the sunlight streaming through the windows over the chancel and the way the shadows danced in the light above the delicate, filigree rood screen. We moved silently through the aisles and read some of the memorials, admired the nativity sculptures and watched as children lit candles for loved ones. We found the memorials to Erasmus Darwin, (whose house, which stands across the close, is now open as a museum) Samuel Johnson, (whose birthplace is now a museum in the town) and David Garrick; all famous men of Lichfield. We didn’t find the one for Anna Seward, Swan of Lichfield though, how did we miss it? We drove back through Kings Bromley, Yoxall and across the A50 to Rocester and back to Stoke along the Roman road.
Yesterday afternoon we walked round the lake at Trentham. It was completely frozen over and the trees and bushes on the islands were like massive ice-sculptures. Almost everything was white with frost and we were gradually covered with the wet ice blowing from the trees as we walked underneath them. We had a warming cup of coffee at the little café on the boat jetty halfway round and then wandered back and looked in some of the shops and the garden centre – my pre-Christmas determination not to step into a shop until after new year didn’t quite last I’m afraid – but at least these were small specialist shops and not the big city centre ones or, God forbid, the dreaded supermarket.
Well, everything is done now, cards posted or handed out, presents swapped and under various trees across the midlands, larder full, house clean and tidy - so now for our treat. We headed up to Hanley expecting it to be really busy, heaving, in fact, but no, it was quieter than a normal Saturday. We set off to purchase our treats with the large amount of £2 coins I had been saving up for the last couple of months. Each year we choose a CD, DVD or book each for our Christmas entertainment. There were plenty on offer but after careful consideration I chose a DVD, 'The Hours' and a CD, KT Tunstall's 'Eye to the Telescope' and P chose his DVD 'Cosmic Jam' (Bill Bailey live) and his CD, Katie Melua's 'Piece by Piece'. We then saw Robbie Williams's Greatest Hits for £5.97 so that went into the basket as well. Then we wandered down to the Museum where 'Reels on Wheels' were showing 'Wallace and Grommit and the Curse of the WereRabbit' - great fun.So now we are safe at home, the twinkling lights on, the cats all in and curled up in the warmest parts of the house. A bowl of pasta, a glass of wine and a good book - what more could you want.Peace and Happiness to All.
Busy day today. We were due at my sister’s house in Chesterfield for about 11.30a.m. so we set out early and stopped at Arkwright’s Mill in Cromford for a leg stretch and a cup of coffee. We also buy our flour there for bread making when we can’t get as far as the mill at Rowsley. We had a lovely lunch with J & R and swapped cards and presents. J wanted P to re-install something on her computer so R to us to the Nursing home to visit Dad. This was, of course, the most difficult part of the day. I had last seen him in the Summer and J had warned me that he had changed for the worse, he had lost so much weight and was very gaunt around the face. As usual he had no idea who we were but we took him cards from the family and sat with him for over an hour. When we last visited in the late summer he chatted away about something – we never know what he talks about – sometimes he is back in the 1920s when he was a youngster. This time he couldn’t speak very much without a huge effort. When we left him he was drinking tea and eating biscuits. He will be 92 in February but we both wonder if he will make it. I got home feeling very emotional and can't as yet express how I feel.
Set out very early this morning to make sure we got over to Nottingham and parked up before half past nine. It usually takes us about an hour to get there and the roads were fairly clear so good progress was made and we were sipping lattes and munching toast in one of those Costa/Nero/ Starbuck type places by 9.30a.m. We then set out to wonder around the centre of what is probably my favourite city (although York comes close). Every corner I turn has a little memory waiting for me – perhaps I may write more on this later. Today, of course we were concentrating on the purchase of those last few presents before 11.30 when we were due to arrive at S & R’s house which is just off the Derby road not too far from the QMC. Amazingly we managed to achieve our goal and got to their home on time. Then we picked up S and drove over to the Geological Survey at Keyworth. They had opened their shop for Christmas and S wanted stones and gems for jewellery making. We spent about an hour and got back in time for R’s wonderful lunch and a lovely afternoon of chat and laughter and the comfort of being with friends you have known for a very long time. We didn’t even have to worry that the cats would be hungry as our good neighbour popped in and fed them and closed the curtains and put on the lights.
Today we popped up to Little Moreton Hall where they were having an Elizabethan weekend. It really is the most atmospheric place and when it's decked out in its seasonal glory it is even more wonderful. We took some photographs of the outside of the building, photography isn’t allowed inside. We were entertained by Piva to some rip roaring early music and even joined in a sing song at the end of their set. Great stuff to get the festive juices flowing. Next week its back to the tawdry (I love that word), plastic seasonal commercialism that is today’s world. I still have presents to buy and no inspiration to buy them - help.
Set off early on Saturday morning to take a holly wreath to put on mother’s grave. As we drove through the grey mist and rain I felt a pang of guilt because this was only the second time this year I had visited her grave. I consoled myself with the thought that when she was alive we would visit quite often and that I wasn’t really letting her down by not visiting the grave more often because she wasn’t really there but here with me in my heart and memory. She is buried in the lovely churchyard of Scarcliffe in Derbyshire the village she and I moved to when she re-married many years ago. It takes about an hour and a half to drive there from here and we took our time and had a pleasant break on the way.
Along the A50 into Derby and then the A38 to junction 28 of the M1 where we stopped at the McArthur Glen Retail Park for coffee and the hope of being inspired into actually starting the Christmas shopping. We had coffee under the twinkling tree and watched whilst Santa and his not so little helpers handed out hats and flags to all the children. Here we did find inspiration to buy three of the 12 presents we have somehow to purchase between now and the 25th. Then it was a quite drive up the M1 to junction 29 and down towards Palterton and Scarcliffe. Then we drove over to Cresswell to see what was happening at the Craggs. The Centre was closed but we were interested to see all the alterations taking place and the diversions going in so that the road which now runs between the caves can be closed and the site preserved.
We headed back to Bolsover where we had a late lunch at the Castle which was in the midst of a Christmas extravaganza of 10% off Christmas stock and a hunt the reindeer game for the children. There was a lively atmosphere in the visitor centre and the food was lovely. We drove back home via Clay Cross, Matlock and Ashbourne arriving back in Stoke just as the last rays of natural light were disappearing and the street lights were taking over. Three hungry cats were awaiting our return.