Saturday, 19 December 2015

Happy Christmas! and Højt Fra Træets Grønne Top, Housing and Malta ...


Oh, oh, Christmas nearly here!!  I'm really looking forward to it as all the family will be here this year.  But K, T and I have also been spending a lot of time thinking and writing about the Housing Bill,     We have close relatives who will be affected  but also I think it will be  bad for London and Londoners, even if they are not in social housing.  (Yeah, festive, eh?)

Politics is in mess and I'm not much of a practical activist.  But far reaching legislation shouldn't be sneaked in over Christmas, it just seems dishonest. So I've decided to attend a demonstration outside Parliament at 1 PM on 5 January. It's only the second demo I have ever attended.

The first was when millions of people asked Tony Blair not to invade Iraq. An amazing experience being in such a massive crowd of people filling every available space in the street.  Here's one of the photos I took at the time, the Strand was so packed you really had to walk at the same speed as everyone else, and it stretched like this for over a mile.


 So peaceful, so many people from all walks of life


But it didn't do any good, as we know.  So I doubt that me, rent-a-crowd and a few others hanging around outside Parliament on Jan 5th will have much effect either!

Despite spending time on this, I'm really enjoying the run up to Christmas and this year I have a Danish Christmas carol running through my mind.  A friend who died a few weeks ago, after an unbelievably cruel illness, was  Danish,  and on her last Christmas Eve, we visited them. We ate traditional pork and red cabbage, and her family in Denmark skyped to show they were walking round their Christmas tree singing a Danish carol that I recognised.

Wow! The carol was  "Højt Fra Træets Grønne Top"  and hearing it pulled me right back to my teenage years in Malta, where I was friends with a girl called Marianne. At Christmas, Marianne told me that her Danish mum got them all to walk around their Christmas tree,


holding hands and singing this carol. I thought that was a nice idea, and in our cool ironic teenage way we got to play that carol quite often when Christmas approached.

So watching Skype in London of people in Bornholm, I was REALLY thinking about Marianne's villa in Malta, with all the amazing Maltese Christmas cribs and decorations and churches... (not my photo, sorry it's all blurry)


....with bougainvillea growing all the walls, the Mediterranean sun shining down outside, with December roses blooming in the garden,and Danish flags all over the place...

Thinking of my friend, I think of the carol and I think of Marianne and me and Malta all those years ago, and so it goes back....

 I wish you a good holiday season, wherever you are and whatever your traditions, and hope you will enjoy this amateur film of Højt Fra Træets Grønne Top, when the kids look just as baffled as they always do when expected to join in some tradition, and the pastor is keenest of all.

Merry Christmas!



79 comments:

  1. Demonstrations are good; they make leaders take a deep look and hopefully a visceral understanding of the effect of their leadership. I'm not steady enough on my feet to join a crowd of demonstrators these days, but I admire the commitment.

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    1. Yes, some of us still believe in democracy though I think we're getting fewer every day :)

      Have a good Christmas, Joanne.

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  2. Prayers for the loss of your friend and for all those suffering in the world.
    Around the Christmas tree is a wonderful tradition. Here in America most trees are up against a corner or window. But if its pulled away far enough, then people can pass through and around. I really like this tradition.
    Happy Holidays to You & Yours!
    Stay safe during the demonstration

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    1. Happy Christmas to you too! The words of the carol are apparently about walking round the tree, I don't know if this is generally a custom in Denmark.

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  3. British housing policy is a disaster, and it just gets worse - over-priced houses people can't afford, sky-high rents people can't afford, new houses with absurdly small rooms, new houses that not only aren't energy-efficient but cost a fortune to heat. And the new Housing Bill can only create yet more problems.

    I'd never heard of the tradition of singing carols while walking round the tree. I wonder how that strange tradition started?

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  4. If you follow the link in my piece you will get to the Shelter blog, which covers a number of issues. I just heard last night that certain London council estates have been reclassified as "brownfield" and can therefore be redeveloped without planning permission, in the usual mix of overpriced rabbit hutch homes for sale and partly for "affordable" housing (i.e. 80 percent of market rent). In our area, this is no way affordable for the average working/professional person who keeps the city going. Market rent for a 3 bed flat with no garden STARTS at c. £35,000 PA, - with a garden or with bigger rooms it would be more, to be paid from taxed income. The homes lost do not need to be replaced like for like, the builders could simply do loads of bedsits as the "affordable" component. And... well, it's basically an attempt to destroy social housing, I suppose for idealogical or financial reasons. Worse still the bill is being rushed through so will be law by the end of Jan without debate of some of the most contentious issues. I am astounded that so little attention has been paid to this in the press, and I think the reason is probably that it has been done so quietly, with last minute amendments yesterday to be buried in the Christmas rush, and then almost immediate implementation as soon as Parliament gets back. There just isn't time for people to think about it.

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    1. I would add that I have not had time to check the figures myself since I only heard about them last night, and, like everyone else, I have lots of Christmas things I need to do.

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    2. Thanks for that. As you say, the media are paying scant attention to the bill, and Labour likewise. It'll be rushed through parliament without any serious debate while the media is busy covering the latest celebrity wedding or some Strictly Come Dancing blunder.

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    3. I've been wondering if it is the fault of the media for being too spineless, but they weren't that much better years ago, were they? ! Sigh..

      Still, itnt it nice to have a time of year when we can legitimately put such concerns onto one side? I hope you and Jenny have a lovely Christmas, and a great 2016!

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  5. A very Merry Christmas to you and your family. I participated in March against the Vietnam War and I learned that the government will do what it wants, our opinion really doesn't matter.

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  6. We have this tradition as well - walking around Christmas tree and singing a song :
    "little fir tree was cold in the woods,
    we brought it in your house,
    decorated it and walking around the tree
    we enjoy Christmas"
    It actually is not a carol but everyone here knows it from childhood.
    I put the Christmas tree in a corner in a seating room so I can't walk around it but can sing this song :0)
    Sorry your loss, good friend is nor often in our lives.

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  7. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas! How brave of you to fare the weather and participate in a demonstration. Every photo of a demonstration I've seen, always seems to be happening in the early morning, in frigid conditions--though, I know that's not true. :)

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    1. I hope it is not too frigid, although rain is even worse. January is definitely NOT the time for demos! Have a lovely Christmas, Anna!

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  8. Our world is truly in a mess, Jenny. I hope this protest is more effective. Unfortunately, politicians are shameless.

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  9. P.S. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Jenny. The world may change but His light has not dimmed.

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  10. Happy Christmas to you and yours. I feel ashamedly ignorant of the Housing Bill, but I do remember that political advice about how to bury bad news. I will do my homework.
    I love the rather solemn trudge around the tree with the splendid growly voice leading proceedings. During my Orthodox Russian Christmas the family sang a charming song to thank the tree for coming to light their home.

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  11. Demo's are never the place to be as you know not who is behind them. However at the second attempt to close pits, under Hesaltine, I joined the one as it passed near me in Bayswater Road. It failed also.

    Traditions are strange things, especially Christmas ones, if you look into that one it will go back well into pagan times, like Christmas trees and other things do.
    Malta at Christmas is a tradition I wish I could get into however, sun, sea and warmth suit me at Christmas!

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  12. Merry Christmas to you and your family.
    Yes,go out and march...mark your disapproval. Try not to be kettled.

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    1. I always get kettling and fettling a little bit mixed up with whittling, but I will do my best! :) and a very merry Christmas to you too!

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  13. Love the video. Such fun experiencing the customs of others. Take care and Happy Holidays.

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    1. The same to you Stephen! I will look forward to continuing with your interesting posts in 2016.

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  14. How sad that your friend is gone, and how sweet that you remember the tradition and the song. Having the whole family there sounds like the makings of a happy time, and i do hope the demonstrations do some good.

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    1. Thank you Jackie, I guess this is always a time of slightly mixed emotions, isn't it? But overall Christmas is a happy time for most, and I am glad it is so. I am wish you and your family a great festive season and wonderful New Year!

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  15. This piece sure hits home. For we received notice earlier in the week that we may be homeless in a couple of months.

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    1. Jerry, I am very sorry to hear this, and also to learn (on your blog) that you have had other misfortunes at this time. I surely hope that you will find another home, and one that you love.

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  16. What fun, watching the children at Christmas. We always enjoy the festivities through the eyes of a child, and really look forward to having our six year old grandson with us this year. Good for you, go to the march, it is important in a democracy. This week in Brisbane hundreds came out and demonstrated re another matter, involving domestic violence and associated laws. Merry Christmas to you and your family, Jenny. Love your blog :) x

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    1. Thank you, Patricia! I hope you (and Little Aussie of course) have a wonderful Christmas, and I look forward to reading all about it. I am encouraged by the number of people who have written about democracy, it is so good to know it is flourishing all over the globe. All the best for you and yours over Christmas and New Year, and beyond.

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  17. Being one who hates crowds of all shapes, forms, numbers and for any and all reasons, I don't envy you being amongst the crowd in January. Stay safe.

    Have a very Merry Christmas with your loved ones, Jenny...enjoy. :)

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    1. Thank you lee. And enjoy your hot Aussie Christmas ! I still find it hard to believe you're all out there on the beach and in the garden! :)

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  18. Happy Holidays to you and your family. Lovely Pictures!

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    1. Thank you, and I hope your festive season is peaceful and cheerful!

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  19. I majored in Political Science so you'd think I'd have participated in being active like that, yet I haven't. I'm sure I will at some point though.

    I've never seem kids singing around a tree like that before. My family always put the tree in a corner so we couldn't walk around it.

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    1. Yes, it must get in the way if it is in the centre of the room, unless you have a really huge room. Perhaps they pull it out specially to walk round in Denmark! :) Have a good Christmas!

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  20. I never heard of this Danish Christmas tradition, but it's very charming and I liked the carol (and pork & red cabbage sounds good to me!). I hope the housing bill demonstration in January will be peaceful and productive. Whether it helps or not, it's very important for people to voice their opinions.

    I hope this holiday season will be a joyous one for you and your family, Jenny, with warmth and blessings.

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    1. Thank you Jon. Yes, the pork and red cabbage is very good, I rarely eat pork and it was a real treat. I feel that it is no bad thing to exercise my democratic right even though I don't have too many hopes it will make a difference. Have a snug and happy festive season, and I hope 2016 is a wonderful year for you!

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  21. I'm glad this is back. I tried to comment yesterday, but Blogger told me the page did not exist when I trid to post it. Merry Christmas Jenny. Being one who also experienced years of Christmas in the heat, I can imagine Malta. I hope the march has some impact at least!

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    1. Thank you Val. I don't know what the problem is, but I didn't see an earlier comment. I appreciate this one.Have a lovely Christmas!

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  22. I was there, too, marching against the invasion of Iraq! Demonstrations are important - they remind the government that we voted for them and they are meant to act on our behalf. I really hope you get media coverage - this bill is being slipped in under the radar, and the mainstream media are letting them get away with it with barely a comment.

    Have a wonderful Christmas - we have an interesting definition of 'tradition' here at the moment (where did Black Friday come from) and so it's great to remember that the important things - being together and singing - are still practised, and still important.

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    1. Yes, indeed. Black Friday - huh! I hear it wasn't as popular this year as last and hopefully will die out. Have a lovely Christmas, Jo!

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  23. Such a nice tradition! I am sorry about your friend's affliction. We can look forward to a hot end of December here in south Florida, thanks to El Nino. Happy Holidays!

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    1. Thank you! Have a good holiday, and I will look forward to more of your fantastic photos in 2016.

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  24. I don't know anything about your housing bill, but I applaud your activism. Even if the politicians don't listen, you will know that you spoke out and tried to make a difference.

    Have a wonderful Christmas and, hopefully, a miracle will happen and the world will be a kinder place to live next year.

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    1. Yes, that is what I am hoping. Although since they didn't listen to the millions against Iraq I don't have too much hope. But we have to do these things and I am glad we live in a democracy, the alternatives all seem much worse! Have a great Christmas!

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  25. The film of the carol made me smile, I love the keen vicar and the gently muddled children. Christmas does make you think of lost friends and loved ones and the important things, such as Peace as well as all the fun and sparkle doesn't it?. May you and your loved ones have a very Happy Christmas.

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    1. Thank you Jane, and the same to you. "gently muddled" - I like that description!

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  26. Wishing you a happy and peaceful Christmas.

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  27. I applaud your participation in the demonstration. I've only walked in one or two demonstrations myself (my memory is hazy), but I'd do it again if I felt strongly enough about an issue.

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    1. Yes, that's pretty well what I think too. I do really feel strongly about this...

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  28. I read your post just after it was published and I've been giving a lot of thought to the housing bill aspect of it since. My interest is partly because of a past professional interest and partly because the whole subject of housing has become such a nightmare that there seems no way out of the present situation those who need social housing or those who are first time buyers find themselves in. On a secondary point which only probably interests me amongst your readers (because of my one-time interest in British Constitutional Law) the ever increasing amount of retrospective secondary legislation and the ever-increasing reliance on secondary legislation to do the job of primary legislation with little or no realistic parliamentary control, should be totally anathema to all right-minded people.

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    1. I agree with you Graham, and I find this reliance on secondary legislation very disturbing too. Politicians probably haven't changed an awful lot, so I wonder why it is more prevalent now - any thoughts?

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    2. I think there are many reasons Jenny why secondary legislation is increasingly used for 'primary' purposes. One is the lack of thought, time and scrutiny that goes into primary legislation which in turn is partly due to its ever increasing complexity: I think there is a "We'll sort it out later" mentality. Another is, unfortunately, a result of a legacy of Mrs Thatcher and, at the other end of the political spectrum, Liverpool's Derek Hatton, of partly politicising the civil service and local government administration which would at one time have been an independent check on the excesses of non-accountable political interference with legislation. Those are two of my thoughts Jenny. Obviously there are many more reasons but I suspect few of them are democratically good.

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  29. Happy Christmas and New Year, Jenny and best of luck with the demonstration. You are right that politics is a mess but that's all the more reason to go. I hope things go as well as they can for your friends/family in terms of housing.

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    1. Thank you very much for these kind words. Have a good Christmas and a lovely 2016!

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  30. Seems like all of my adult life I have been demonstrating and protesting, for naught but my own sense of satisfaction for being on the side of right. However, it also seems that , in this country, we are gathering grassroots influence and the election will be interesting. If it does go to the evil party, there will be an exodus, I am sure.Happy Christmas, Dear Jenny! Have a lovely warm family time! xxxooo

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    1. It is so strange what is happening about politics, isn't it? Sometimes these days it is like some kind of a weird fictional story, you can't believe it's really happening! Still we will hope for better things. I hope that you and yours have a lovely Christmas!

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  31. I agree with you 100% on legislation being passed under the carpet so to speak. Alas, Cuba made me inured to demos, including the Iraq one (and I felt very strong about that, too! :-) ). So many useless demonstrations I attended when I lived there that I can't muster the energy to join a meaningful one here.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours and a Happy New Year! :-)

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    1. I think the Iraq demo did a great deal of damage, although it wasn't obvious at the time. It showed that the government really didn't have any respect for democracy. Irrespective of party politics, I feel that Blair opened the door for a lot of bad stuff. On a brighter note, I hope you have a great Christmas! :)

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  32. I'm not sure if blogger ate my comment or if it's awaiting verification but I'll try again! I'm with you on the sneakiness of legislation during the holiday season -- talk about unfair! And I hope the demonstration is a successful one and makes at least some impact. It's been a long while since I've been on the demonstration lines. Best of luck.

    Your story about the Danish carol made me smile. Isn't it a gift that certain things -- a song or a sight we might see -- can so remind us of someone or something from our past and in all the best ways? I can very nearly feel and smell Malta in your words. Sometimes it is like an unexpected gift from an invisible visitor.

    A very Merry Christmas to you and to your family, Jenny. And lots of wonderful wishes for a good new year. I'm pleased to have been part of the past year here at your blog (and having you at mine!).

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    1. Thank you so much, Jeanie! I have really appreciated your blog and your emails and look forward to continuing our conversation. I have been away the last few days and will be visiting everyone's blogs before Christmas Day!

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  33. Happy Christmas and an Oogie Boogie New Year.

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  34. Totally agree with you about politics, and that housing bill. Seems they make laws that harm the many just to snag the few who ought to be dealt with quietly instead. BUT - have a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. x

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  35. Dear Jenny!
    Merry Christmas to you and all your family!
    I wish you good health, many travels, to meet interesting people, real friends!

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  36. Hi Jenny,

    Not one to go too political, but I believe our government is the most evil I can recall.

    Have a peaceful demo and yes, a peaceful Christmas. Here's to 2016 showing a positive change on our beleaguered planet.

    Gary

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  37. We have a number of demos here too, and although perhaps the impact is negligible towards the cause we're fighting for, I salute those who exercise their right and their stand for it.

    Happy Xmas to you and family Jenny!

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  38. Happy Christmas to you, Jenny! Wishing you all the best in 2016.
    Love,
    Kay

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  39. You are so fortunate to have celebrated various culture Christmases. Trees in Denmark must be placed in the middle of the room instead of against the wall or in the corner.

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  40. I love odd Christmas traditions ("odd", of course, being defined as anything with which we are unaccustomed.)

    Merry Christmas! May the New Year find you abundantly aware of His blessings in your life!

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  41. Dear Jenny - So sorry to hear about your loss of a friend by the cruel illness. Danish carol reminds you of your friend; I think it’s a nice way for her to be remembered. In Japan, there has been large scale of protest rallies against secret protection bill and Japan’s defense policy gearing for change. However, both were railroaded through the Diet. Our democracy is name only. Our PM's saying “collective self-defence is proactive diplomacy for peace” sounds to me "peace through wars". I wish your protest demonstrations will get media coverage and take effect.

    Thank you for the lovely Christmas card. Hope you had a joyful Christmas of family together. I also received an email which I will reply in the next year. Please wait patiently.

    Yoko

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  42. I am sorry for being late. I wanted to be by much earlier. "Stuff" happened, but I hope you are still having a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

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  43. Listening to children singing Christmas carols is one of the best ways to get into the Christmas spirit! I hope you and your family had a nice, peaceful Christmas.

    Sometimes you have to demonstrate and voice your opinion...even if (sadly) it doesn't produce the results we hope for. But if we keep doing it, it may lead to changes eventually.

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  44. I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas and that 2016 will bring you health and happiness.
    It seems that so much is the same in the US and England. Sad.

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  45. I do know how frustrating politics is, when it feels like no one really listens to the people. We have that here too. I enjoyed the video and your reminiscences about your friend. I had not heard about York flooding. I bet our B&B along the river got flooded! We too climbed to the top of the minster in 2007. It was snowing that day. Cold, but amazing views.

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    1. I thought the views were particularly wonderful in some cases when they were framed in that beautiful stonework which you normally don't get the chance to see close up.

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    2. I thought the views were particularly wonderful in some cases when they were framed in that beautiful stonework which you normally don't get the chance to see close up.

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