Sunday, 4 April 2021

Happy Easter!

 For the first time ever, I made Hot Cross Buns for Good Friday. 

They may look a bit wonky, but everyone liked them, I'm glad to say, so I'm going to make them again.  I don't do much yeast cookery but if you have the time to let the dough rise and time to knead it, I've realised, it's somehow very satisfying. 

I've had my second vaccination and feeling good about that, too.  I didn't get any of the threatened side effects from the Pfizer vaccine, although I felt a little limp and tired today.  But I just sat and read a book my younger daughter had lent me - Francis Spufford's new novel "Light Perpetual."

 The first few paragraphs of this review in the TLS tell you the idea behind of the book. Even though it's behind a paywall. I've linked to it because of the striking photograph.  Thank God those prams are not all full of babies. 

  The story tells of the might-have-been lives of five people who were killed as infants in an air raid during the second world war. The air raid was real, but Spufford's characters are not based on any of those who passed away. He has created them entirely from his head, and also created the premise that the raid did not, in fact happen.  And yet the book is so convincingly written and so true to life, that I ended up believing these five people simply must have existed, and also mourning the death of those tragic real children who never had a chance to live.  

His earlier book, "Golden Hill" about pre-Revolutionary New York, had this quality of almost painful realism, all the little details about daily life seemed to transport the reader right back to that unfamiliar (for me) time and place.  This is the cover of "Golden Hill", and if you spot it, I can only suggest you take a look and see what you think.  

He is a non-preachy Christian, so obviously he looks towards the light after death rather than the darkness, even though there is no explicit religious message in the books and even though his characters suffer terribly at times.   After the stress and strain of the last year, I'm glad to have an engaging, positive book to read, and I'd love to hear your views if you have read it too.  

Last week, England's lockdown relaxed just a bit, and we're now allowed to meet up to six people who aren't in the same household, so long as we are outside. So we went for a walk with S. who is in his first year of university studies ... except that he's at home doing university on Zoom when he ought to be 400 miles away at a real place with real people.   There's nothing he or any of his friends can do about it but I know it is a bit hard on them all.    

Anyway, we began on the South bank of the Thames, and he took T and me northwards for a mile or two to see the London home of the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, perhaps Agatha Christie's most famous creation.  

Poirot is one of S's favourite fictional characters, and he is one of mine too. David Suchet seems synonymous with Poirot, and I love everything about his long-running BBC series, from the brilliant 1930s style titles, to the acting, the settings, the wonderful costumes, and ... well just everything.   

In the BBC series, Poirot lives in an art deco block of flats which would have been the latest thing in the 1930s.   You can see the block at about 2.20 on this episode.... I found myself watching the rest of the episode, too!

It was surprisingly exciting to see it in real life, and find that it is in Charterhouse Square, a corner of London when many really old buildings survive.  (One of the things I am going to do when London reopens, is actually go round The Charterhouse, which I have never done.)     

So here is the block of flats. 

As S. pointed out, the cameramen in the Poirot series had to be rather careful with the camera angles so as to avoid the Brutalist concrete blocks of nearby Barbican.   It would never do for Poirot to have the backdrop of the architectural masterpiece on the right, which was begun in 1960 and not finished till the 1980s.  

After ambling around the eerily deserted Charterhouse precincts, we continued onwards through Smithfield, the old meat market, which is scheduled to become home to the re-built Museum of London. This looks like a great project.(here).

As of now, though, Smithfield's interesting in its brightly painted, semi-derelict glory, with a good selection of red phone boxes - I hadn't realised they came in different designs, but as you see, they do.

On our cycle ride home, we passed through a little back street near London Bridge, called Roupell Street. It was built about 1830 and I thought that 50 years ago would have been illustrating newspaper articles about slum clearance. Because it's exactly the kind of place which was knocked down all over Britain from the 1940s to the 1980s, Nobody wanted to modernise the little houses, and it was felt, quite rightly, really, that the impoverished people who lived in these dark, old little places (often infested with bugs and rats and without indoor sanitation) were entitled to something a bit better.  

Interesting that these little houses, indifferently modernised, are now sold for about one and a quarter million pounds.  If you look at the link, you'll see that the estate agent's particulars include a photograph in which you can see a railway arch, and it is extraordinary to think that Gustav Doré's famous picture of the slums of London is thought to have been based on the district directly adjacent to Roupell Street. 

In Doré's time, of course, it's certain that Roupell Street did not boast a fancy cake emporium in that little corner shop shown in my photo.  

T and I have been watching an episode of Grayson's Art Club every evening.   Grayson Perry is such a good ambassador for the power of art, which he believes helps us become more ourselves and deal better with whatever life throws at us.   (Here's a post I wrote about him in 2012. Gracious! Nine years ago!)    He's prodigiously original and talented, and is also probably now very rich, but he has humility, and appears kind and approachable, and he does not mind if his guests are famous or not  We also like that the programme offers glimpses of him working, as he does, in so many different media and shows how his ideas spill out of him.

 And, as always, I am happy it is Spring.  I am enjoying my Spring bulbs on the balcony this year, and so I should. I managed to put in two orders of bulbs with the supplier, and so have more blooms than can really fit on the balcony, although I have put some in the front garden and on the front steps.   It cost a fortune. I don't know if it was worth the money, but it is done now,  and I am very happy to make the most of it.   

 These are this year's favourite narcissi.  Behind them is a very large cherry tree at present covered in bright white blossoms. When the sun is on it, it looks as if there has been a snowfall.  Even the twins were impressed, and both of them gazed at it for a while.

Now I'm hoping that the freezing cold weather here in London will warm up a bit tomorrow so we can have a picnic with K, F and the twins in their garden.  We are not yet allowed to meet anyone else indoors, though it seems rather silly to me, if people have been fully vaccinated. Still, I'm going to stick to the rule for a while yet, and see how the infection rates go. 

Have a happy Easter Day, everyone! 

Sunday, 21 March 2021

So I Had to Write a Post Today!

My old friend Adullamite gave me a prod the other day to write something, anything. And I agree he is right, though to be honest,  I have always thought of this as a travel-related blog, and, of course, going anywhere or mixing with new people is exactly what we're now constantly being told to avoid at all costs. Still, we had an exciting event in our communal garden last week. Or at least it was exciting to me. Do you remember that story about the woman in New York who found another apartment behind her bathroom mirror?   Well, we found a secret building in our garden!  

We live in a flat in a large Victorian house which is built around a 3 acre garden square, (or, in fact, a rectangle.)  It is behind the houses, and it is quite invisible from the street, and it slopes down the hill from top to bottom. 

At the top of the hill is what used to be a gardener's compound, with a shed and glasshouses. The glasshouses have long gone, and the shed is full of garden equipment. Next to this compound, for as long as I can remember, has been an ivy clad brick wall in poor condition, accessed by a locked door. It appeared to belong to a nearby mansion block. 

But actually, it doesn't. Someone in the block took it over without permission years ago and gained what I believe are known as "squatter's rights".      Now, our garden chairman is working with the local Lord of the Manor (I kid you not) to reclaim it, and, last week, I was able to walk through this door, and have a look. 

There was a brick building dating from about 1910, with a little courtyard and a passageway leading round the corner and onto a neighbouring street. The whole area had been neglected and choked with rubbish for years, and definitely needs total renovation, but now the main building has been cleared to reveal a fairly spacious room with a blocked up window, and a smaller room off it.  The legal situation is still unclear, but various possibilities are opening up. Conservatory, storage, residents' meeting place?  Who knows?  We can't do much until the legal situation's fully resolved, but it's something to think about, and strangely exciting.


T and I have been busy.  After we received our first vaccinations, we home-schooled the twins till schools returned on 8 March.  They'd been quarantining since early January, with online Zoom classes and work to be done at home. We had to supervise this, and found that Zoom is a terrible way to teach.  Pupils of all ages seem to struggle, mainly because there's none of the give and take of normal school life. As the twins held their wobbly pencilled work up to the screen in bright sunlight, it was clear that teacher wasn't going to be able to read much they'd done, let alone give useful feedback.  

After they'd finished their schoolwork each day, we taught them things we thought they'd like to know, practised reading and tables, took them out and played with them... and we also made a movie.  It was supposed to be three minutes long but somehow turned into an exciting adventure to which they contributed lots of dialogue and ideas, and ended up at eighteen minutes.   

It was all fun and we generated far more noise than usual - not just shooting the film, but playing, dancing, shouting, racing around - with me editing the sound track of the film into the night, and we did worry a bit about what the Persian couple living downstairs might be thinking, since the place is not that soundproof.  

But they said they liked the sound of children bringing some life into lockdown, and were, in fact, very nice about it. So I thought I might buy them a card for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which is this weekend.  And that meant a trip to the nearby area of Kilburn, where I'd heard a Persian shop or two had opened up. 

It's about a mile walk to Kilburn High Road from here, and in all these years I've never found it to change much - a busy, slightly shabby place with heavy traffic and many immigrants. It's okay, with some nice shops and cafes, a good cinema and theatre intermixed with pound-stores, bookies, slot arcades and pawnshops, lots of dust and grime. 

There are always plenty of bits of Kilburn that seem to have seen better days  - like the Red Lion pub (above) here, once a glittering Victorian gin palace, now a sad sight with steel security doors and broken windows.

You can see by the huge mosaic plaque built into the space between its chimneys that this pub was once really proud of itself, announcing it was established in the year 1444...

...and rebuilt from this - below in 1890.   The pre-1890 Red Lion looks charming to me, but no denying that the rebuild was on a much grander scale and this little Regency building no doubt seemed pathetically small and outdated, specially if the owners were were planning to compete with the Black Lion down the road, which supposedly dates originally from the sixth century, and what's more has a magnificent Victorian interior - read more here about the Black Lion.  

For centuries, both Lions, and all the other pubs of Kilburn High Road have done well.  That noisy dirty thoroughfare around which the place is built is in fact part of Watling Street, the incredibly ancient road which leads from the Southeast of Britain, all the way to Wales in the North-West. Most of it is still in use today, suitably modernised.  I find that amazing, considering the Romans paved it around the time of the birth of Christ.   You'll find more about Watling Street here.   

Kilburn must have had so many inns because travellers on the road would have been seeking a place to eat, drink and stay for centuries.     Just across the road from the Red Lion is the Juniper, known for most of its life (since the 15th century) as the Cock Tavern, possibly because it provided entertainment in the shape of fighting cocks.  Nice.  It has only recently changed its name, when it was refurbished, only to find that lockdown hit. Its website isn't functioning, and I don't know if the business has survived. (I think those are plastic flowers hanging outside, so they don't signify much).  We should find out before long. 

I am not alone in in wondering how our towns and cities will change after more than a year of being closed down most of the time.  In particular, it's hard not to wonder what will become of London (not just the pubs but the property prices) after this pandemic.  But if 2020 taught me one thing, it was that I can't foretell the future, so I don't bother worrying too much. Strangely liberating, that. 

Anyway, when T and I arrived at the southern end of Kilburn High Road, we found that it had come up in the world so much that it almost didn't even look like Kilburn any more.   There are some fine new buildings, including a library, lots of apartments for sale, a brightly-coloured bit of architecture that's a new school, and, in the middle of it all, a section taken over by some Persian shops and cafes - a bakers, a supermarket, restaurants and a beautiful lounge selling all varieties of cakes, including big red rose meringues decorated with gold leaf. I am afraid I had to take photos on the phone, which is not really up to the job, so my picture doesn't show these cakes in their true splendour, glowing in their lighted cabinet in a dimly lit lounge.   

The supermarket and its adjoining shops were all so busy with people shopping for New Year that I didn't take many photos, nor did I buy anything.  (Instead, I asked my daughter V. to pick up something at her local Persian shop in Southeast London, "Persepolis,"  which has a more covid-compatible layout. Here's Persepolis's website, and when things get back to "normal," (whatever that is) I recommend a trip to their nice shop and cafe when in Southeast London.     

Back in Kilburn, I snapped these bowls of sprouting grass, "Sabzeh" for sale outside the supermarket. This signifies renewal, and I am told that sabzeh is one of seven items, all of which start with "S" in  Farsi, which are used in celebrating the new year.  

Another indication that this bit of Kilburn is going up in the world is a piece of street art I'd never seen before - a sundial where you yourself point to the time.  The months of the year are incised around a north pointing line on the coloured square shown below, (take a this picture on Flickr shows it much better). This was the exact moment when the sun obligingly came out (for about a minute) in the whole day!

  Public artwork like this suggests that someone is taking an interest in the area, so it was good to see. 

On the way back, we passed an early magnolia in full bloom, shining out under the dull, dark sky. (I have lightened the picture considerably to show the magnolias better)

On arriving home, I decided to treat myself to a Japanese sweet, the last one left in a box that was sent to me by a friend last Autumn.  I think they are made of bean curd and most of them contained tiny jelly models of autumn leaves, but this one contained a fish. It didn't taste of fish at all, but the pale blue-grey jelly is clear and perfect, and when you start to eat it, the reflections of where the jelly has been broken, make it look as if the fish is swimming in water.  

I thought it was almost too nice to eat. 

V did get a card and small gift of chickpea cookies at "Persepolis" so I cycled into central London to collect them and to have a little stroll around with her.   We couldn't believe we had missed this memorial to Agatha Christie, the detective writer, (shown below) specially since we'd spent about half an hour standing around exactly that spot, in Great Newport Street, just a few weeks ago.  Despite its large size, it must be one of the most unobtrusive monument in London!  I assume that is a lifelike bust of her. 

It was put up in 2012 and contains biographical information and lots of little images, plus a list of her books, which continues on the other side of this double-sided monument.  Several have their titles in Braille - a nice idea.   

We bought a takeaway coffee at Orée, just off Bow Street, and I couldn't resist buying a charcoal baguette too.  It is totally black inside, and looks intriguing.  It tastes good, too. I've had charcoal biscuits before but never charcoal bread, though apparently it is good for the digestion.  

And, as always in Spring, Nature is its usual eyecatching self. 

Early spring is one of my favourite times of year, and the willows, heavily pollarded last year, are now exploding with new leaves. 

Well, Adullamite, will that do?  I hope so!    I am glad that you encouraged me to write a post. There was quite a lot to say, after all. 

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Buried But Not Forgotten

Everyone I talk to has a tale to tell of how being buried in the lockdown is getting to them.  What effect are restrictions (if any) having on you? It's making me less communicative in writing, I think - it's a struggle these days to even do Facebook, and, although I love to read your blogs I'm not writing here much either.  Are you doing Zoom chats with family and friends? I'm certainly doing that more.  

In general, we're okay though. We've both been vaccinated and we are managing day to day, but we have friends and relatives living in countries where vaccines are in short supply or even unavailable, and every day is an incredibly anxious one for them.   Yes, we're lucky. 

My first vaccine shot was two weeks ago. I haven't a date for the next one yet but they're not booking much in advance.  Below's a (blurry) photo of inside the vaccination centre. We were in a gymnasium, sodium lit and freezing cold, with people filling out consent forms, all muffled up against the cold, with volunteers running around sanitising chairs and vaccinators working full stretch in the little white booths at the right.   

Afterwards, I felt liberated,   though I know I won't be properly protected for a while, so mustn't be over confident.  I'm glad the vaccine rollout has been fast, but it needs to be.  A relative works at a big NHS hospital and is flat out helping staff who are at the end of their tether, so we both want to avoid doing anything that puts even more pressure on the NHS. 

For this reason, we've sadly decided to miss the twins' birthday party this week. They've been planning it in detail, food, games, etc. all ready for the guests, who will be their teddies. 

More obedient, good natured friends than the teddies are hard to imagine, but I'll be glad when the twins can get back to school and see their real live friends.  
Nothing fazes Nature in London at the moment, it seems. The shoots of the spring bulbs are starting to appear on schedule. I was thrilled to see how one little snowdrop had pushed some flowers through holes in a leaf which had fallen on it and been shading it all winter.  

 And T. and I have been litter picking. It's great to leave a place looking better than you found it. We've been spending more time than usual around the church of St John-at-Hampstead, which is on our regular exercise route.  It's a popular and welcoming spot but does get litter.  We keep hoping we'll find some ancient treasure while poking about under the bushes and behind tombstones, but the most interesting thing so far was an unopened tin of tomato soup, a nail file, some unopened jam and some scissors. I spent quite a while wondering what the story was behind that little hoard!    

We've also been exploring the old overspill Burial Ground next to the church, and over the months we've seen its flowers and wildlife change with the seasons, and noticed some of the striking or quaint  memorials.  I took this photo in the early summer, after this fine magnolia had finished flowering

A very prominent tomb is that of a carpenter's-son-turned-clockmaker who solved the problem of longitude in the 18th century.   This may sound a little academic, but until John Harrison invented a clock that kept accurate time at sea, the only accurate clocks had pendulums, and, these do not work at sea.  By enabling accurate navigation, Harrison transformed the whole business of sea travel and trade,  and, of course, saved countless lives.    

The Mark 4 portable chronometer, which he spent his life developing,  kept time to within three seconds a day.   I looked it up and found it resembled a huge pocket watch which ticked at five times a second and this picture below shows what a beautiful piece of work it was. The image is from the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, which is proudly selling great big prints of this and other beautiful instruments in its gift shop, (or would be if it was open, as I hope it soon will be again).     
I also discovered a lady called Eliza Acton buried at Hampstead.  She was the author of one of the best known cookery books of the 19th century, "Modern Cookery," which was only overtaken by Mrs. Beeton many years afterwards.  She also wrote a comprehensive book on bread, "The English Bread-Book."   Goodness know if there is such a thing as a historian of bread, but if so, then she's it.  I've linked to a facsimile here.  

I've looked at her recipes and am considering adding powdered ginger to my next loaf. That is because I like ginger, but she says a ginger loaf can be helpful for people with delicate digestions or upset stomachs, and was particularly useful for "coach journeys,"  apparently.    If you've ever been inside an 18th or 19th century coach, you'll understand why settling the stomach might have been needed. Just the idea of being crammed up inside one as it lurched endlessly over muddy, rutted roads! Ugh!  

The churchyard is also the burial place of Peter Llewellyn Davies, M.C. original inspiration for J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan."    Below is an illustration from my rather battered copy of the original book Barrie wrote about him as a baby. (This is long before Wendy came on the scene, and introduced the Boy who Never Grew Up to the world).   In "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens," Peter is a baby who believes he can fly. Because he believes in his own ability so firmly, he can really do it. Full of confidence, he flies to Kensington Gardens, only to learn from a crow that he is not able to fly after all....

Peter Llewellyn Davies'  life was a difficult one, and perhaps he might have been happier if, like Peter Pan, he'd never had to grow up but had lived a happy life somewhere away from the real world.  His parents both died before he was fourteen, and he brought up partly by J.M. Barrie, who was perhaps not the easiest of people to deal with. 

In the first world war, Llewellyn Davies was decorated with the Military Cross for bravery, and after the war, he established a successful publishing house. So he did his very best, but he had been badly scarred by his wartime experiences, and later developed a drinking problem.  Sadly, at the age of 63, he committed suicide after his wife and three children were all found to have inherited a devastating fatal disease.    He is buried near both his parents and two of his brothers. 

He was a cousin of the writer Daphne du Maurier, who is also buried here.  Daphne was the author of many extremely popular books, of which the most famous is probably "Rebecca" which Alfred Hitchcock made into a terrific film (I see it has also just been remade for Netflix by the amazing Ben Wheatley, which should also be worth watching). 
"Rebecca" is the story of a grand house and estate overshadowed by the still-felt presence of the deceased first wife of the owner, Mr. de Winter.  The second Mrs. de Winter does not find this to be an easy situation, and, naturally, nothing runs smoothly.  If you haven't seen Hitchcock's movie, here's a clip.  I must say I'd forgotten how well crafted his films were, so I am going to re-watch the whole thing. I'm going to re-read Du Maurier's novel, too.  

Another writer buried at Hampstead, and a big contrast to Daphne, was Eleanor Farjeon, a really, really familiar name in my childhood. Her huge output included not only original children's stories but also retellings of legends and old tales, poetry and verse.  (She was also friendly with many celebrated writers, including Robert Frost and D.H. Lawrence).    I saw her unusual name constantly at school, for she is associated with school for me, and always liked the things she wrote.  My favourite is a children's hymn,   "Morning has Broken" which she put with an old Scots Gaelic tune. Every time we sang her words at Assembly I relived the happy feeling you get on waking up on a summer morning in the holidays, with the feeling that the day belongs to you....  

In the 1970s, the hymn was taken up and became associated with 1970s singer Cat Stevens, but I prefer this version by folk singer Mary Hopkin,  Even better, I'd like to hear it sung by a group of little kids.  What do you think of the words?

If you're into great actors, there are several buried here.  One of the most celebrated is actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree, grandfather of Oliver Reed, father of Carol Reed and one of the most famous theatrical figures of the Victorian age, specially for his interpretations of Shakespeare. It's hard to over-estimate what a towering figure he was on the Victorian and Edwardian theatre world.   Among his many achievements he founded the stage school RADA, which has trained many people you're going to have heard of.  (And even I have heard of, given that I have a terrible memory for that kind of thing) 

Gerald du Maurier, actor-manager, philanthropist and father of writer Daphne Du Maurier is also there, as is the Austrian actor Anton Walbrook, who fled to Britain in 1936. Walbrook is seen here in Stephen Fry's introduction to the British "Gaslight" film, (which is very interesting in itself.)  

Several artists also lie in this surprisingly small area of land.   In a far corner, this peaceful,  almost oriental figure stands by an old, ivy-clad wall and holding a fresh flower.  It commemorates the artist Randolph Schwabe.  

As the inscription says, Schwabe was for years a professor at the famous Slade School of Art.  His long career included quite a variety of artistic work,  including designing for Diaghilev's ballet company, book illustration and several years as an official war artist.

 One of his war drawings, above, shows the area around Coventry Cathedral after the devastating air raids of 1940.  Doesn't it just show up the primitive, childish, pointless nature of war? The destruction is in such contrast to the careful skill of the drawing.  

There's also a beautiful stone commemorating Arthur Watts, an accomplished illustrator who died in a plane crash in 1935. I really love his illustrations, (some shown below) for their clever viewpoints, delightful use of colour and surprisingly contemporary feel. 

But the most famous artist interred in this burial ground has to be John Constable, who revolutionised landscape painting in the early 19th century. He lived in Hampstead for the last ten years of his life, even though he's usually associated with "Constable Country" the beautiful area of south Suffolk where he was born and raised.  Perhaps the most famous of these large works is "The Hay Wain,"  which most people in Britain seem to know.    If you are interested in art, here is an amusing talk by Colin Wiggins of the National Gallery about it which will tell you more about Constable.  

While he lived in Hampstead, Constable was raising his seven children alone and doing many outdoor landscape sketches from life on Hampstead Heath.  One shows a view which is instantly recognisable and very familiar to me. It is a vista of the valley between Hampstead and Highgate, with the distant skyline punctuated with the spire of St. Michael's church in  Highgate village. 

The photo below is taken very near to the viewpoint of the painting, although further down the hill  (and, at dawn).  We take this gravel track every time we travel from Hampstead to Highgate village and back.    Of course the trees are different now, and the photo was taken nearer to the hedge on the right than Constable's viewpoint.  

   Both villages are both around 450 ft, so first we have to climb up one hill, then go down across the valley to get to the other hill, and then back.  It's not exactly the Tour de France but it is reasonable exercise and Highgate is a nice place to look around.

When we go to Highgate on a sunny day, it's usually a nice little treat to have lunch on the lawn outside the cafe of the old mansion at Waterlow Park.   Here's a photo taken only last summer, which is set on the hillside and has a very interestingly designed garden stretching around it in all directions. 

It seems a long way away right now, in freezing cold, lockdown London!

 Still, now the vaccines are here, I feel more optimistic that it won't be long before we will be able to go back to that cafe again. They do great smoked salmon bagels and good coffee.  Fingers crossed. 

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Happy Christmas!

It is a growing mystery to me why I have less and less time when I should have more and more.  (Quite a few people have said that.    Have you found that too?) 

Anyway I wanted to wish you Merry Christmas particularly as it is a bit of a strange one this year for many of us, And I have a heap of gifts waiting to be wrapped and some cooking to do and some emails to write (seem to have sent all the cards anyway. Phew).  We will be spending Christmas alone as requested by the government, but will be connected to our family by Zoom.  I've an idea that many people will have that plan too, so I hope that the Zoom system doesn't break down in dismay.   

I've looked through some of my files of Christmas past and picked out some images I liked, so here they are with a note of where they were taken, and I hope that you will enjoy them! 

The first picture is appropriate- it shows brussels sprouts, the traditional Christmas vegetable.  I love them and in winter when they are in season I keep a stalk of fresh ones outside. They love the rain!

Breugel -inspired street decorations in Amsterdam, Holland. 

This food market in Munich was full of traditional Christmas delicacies and a fantastic place to wander around as the night started to fall. 

Interior of the Wilden Mann hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland, a very ancient inn which I heartily recommend decorated for Christmas in colours which just so happen to match the wonderful old painted ceiling. 

Still in Switzerland, the Zurich chocolate shops were a sight to behold, very elegant & expensive. 

The annual York Panto - it was held at a shed at the National Railway Museum so the stage was long and thin, as you would expect - about the size of two railway lines side by side, in face. And they ran through the middle of the audience.  It is a brilliant panto, justly famed throughout the North of England. 

Cinderella driving away at the end of the Hackney Panto in London, one I usually take S and A to. I've  REALLY missed going this year. 

Santa having a cuppa in a cafe in Stoke Newington, London. 

A snoozing polar bear in Tokyo with her baby snoozing on her back. . I like the reflections.  There were buttons outside the window and if you pressed them the polar bear woke up. 

Fortnum and Mason, the famous gourmet food store in London, usually has elaborate window displays. This one was Alice in Wonderland, you can just see a bottle of wine in the left foreground because she was, of course, surrounded by nice things to eat. 

Santa parading up Hungerford High Street, Berkshire, at their wonderful annual Victorian Christmas - another casualty of Covid this year but I hope it will be back. I considered adding the startling picture of Reading Pipe Band marching along in full Scottish costume, but decided instead to leave you with.... 

A moonlit scene as the Christmas Market in Coburg, Bavaria, packs up for the night.  You could spend all evening standing around chatting and drinking Gluhwein at this market, as indeed we did. 

Happy Christmas!

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