Advent windows of Greenwich, part 3

My final set of photos includes a particularly bad snap of window number 17 at 32 Hyde Vale, which was one of my favourites but those houses are so grand and their front gardens so expansive that I couldn’t get close enough for a good shot. You might just have time to get along there yourself before the end of the day, but if not you’ll have to take my word for its being one of the best of all. (You could, of course, also go and look at the official photos on adventwindows.com.)

I don’t have time to go for a walk today because we have to squeeze in all the Christmas TV we haven’t caught up on yet, and finish all the Christmas food. Tomorrow, though, in a belated “new year, new you” bid, I am going for a swim at Charlton lido. Wish me luck.

Advent windows of Greenwich, part 2

I have a cast-iron excuse not to go for a walk today, because I am awaiting the arrival of a dog (only for the afternoon; in this case a dog is just for Christmas, not for life). In the meantime I am vaguely contemplating taking the tree down before it gives up the ghost completely and all the ornaments fall off, but I think I can eke it out until Monday, which is the day before I go back to work and therefore the proper day to take the decorations down and fill the house instead with early spring flowers – a tip I got from Richard Madeley, of course.

So today I think I’ll use up the Christmas cheeses on a Hawksmoor-recipe macaroni cheese (I have experimented with various recipes and this one is the best, although I will be using different cheeses from theirs and a mix of semi-skimmed milk and double cream rather than full-fat milk, because I have some of both to use up and it’s Christmas so everything should have double cream in it) and catch up on the TV Christmas Specials I have missed. If you don’t have anything more pressing, I suggest you do the same, but either way it’ll take you mere moments to enjoy advent windows 9-16, with apologies for the peculiar angle of day 10, which I couldn’t get closer to because an angry man was parked in front of it.

Advent windows of Greenwich, part 1

I was planning a new year’s day walk, but it’s just started to rain and there’s something on ITV called “Britain’s Favourite Walks” so I have decided that watching that, while writing this, also counts. I walked a lot in December; partly to try to regain some basic fitness after Covid left me unable to walk up a flight of stairs without getting breathless, and partly because every year St Alfege Church in Greenwich organises a series of advent windows, where a combination of residents, schools and businesses around the parish each decorate an outdoor window on their premises, with a new one “opening” each day from December 1 to 24, and I’ve meant to go every Christmas that we’ve lived in Greenwich and never gotten around to it until now.

My photos don’t do justice to all of the entries, but you’ll get the idea – and during a Christmas when we couldn’t meet up with other people or go to carol services or gather in the market with mulled wine and mince pies, it was a good way to feel a part of something communal, especially when I arrived at a window at the same time as someone else and we’d do the social-distancing dance.

If you are local you still just about have time to do the trail yourself, because the decorations will stay up until Sunday 3rd, but if like me you’re happy to stay warm and indoors and look at the evidence of someone else’s walk, here are days 1-8 of the windows, with the rest to follow in two more parts (probably over the weekend, but I don’t like to over-promise).

Advent activity #23

Today is our last BREAK day, which is good timing because everyone needs a break from time to time and I definitely needed one today, although I woke up feeling bright-eyed and cheerful for reasons I can’t necessarily explain but am not going to interrogate too deeply. Take it where you find it, that’s what I say.

And where we find it today is with everybody’s other favourite band: the wonderful Erasure, who have never done anything that wasn’t brilliant and perfect, and this rendition of Gaudete, a track previously featured on these pages in a better-known version by Steeleye Span, is no exception. Even better, it’s taken from a 2013 Christmas album, Snow Globe, which I can’t really believe I didn’t know about, but I also don’t think I did, and now I’m going to listen to the whole thing for the rest of the day. Rejoice!

Advent activity #22

In sharp – and if you are a believer in a supreme being, clearly intentional – contrast to yesterday, I had a horrible day today. But about halfway though it a wise friend reminded me that, as Tom Hanks advises us, this too shall pass. And it has, or at least the feeling-rubbish has passed, even though the situation that prompted it (which is very boring and money-related) is not yet entirely resolved.

I think I may have left it too late to MAKE CHRISTMAS CARDS FOR MUM AND DAD but I did post them one. I’m never sure whether the sending and receiving of Christmas cards is a thing that us Generation X-ers are supposed to be over, what with us all having multiple ways to talk to each other already and the obvious waste of paper, but it’s still magical to get something through the post that is hand-addressed to you and that isn’t boring, and so I am still doing it. If I didn’t send you a Christmas card this year it’s either because we don’t know each other or I don’t have your address, and in either case if you send it me I will gladly add you to my list for next year.

Anyway, at least we can have an on-point song here from formerly-biggest-star-in-the-world Jim Reeves. It even has bonus crackling vinyl noises, for additional old-timey pointage.

Advent activity #21

I was struggling a bit this morning, what with the relentlessly doomy tone of the news and the feeling that while it’s OK to feel blue in general, the last week before Christmas has always been my happiest time, even when I was generally doing badly, and feeling blue this particular week was NOT FAIR.

And as I was sitting feeling sorry for myself the doorbell rang and it was a neighbour whom I last saw when he was in the middle of a combined mental health and housing crisis and I almost didn’t recognise him, not just because he’d had a shave and a haircut for the first time since I’ve known him but because I’ve never seen him outside his front door before, his agoraphobia having prevented it for just over six years. I got to know him during lockdown #1 because I started shopping for him, so he had come round not just to drop off a Christmas card and a bunch of flowers, but to ask me whether I needed anything from the shops, which he was so pleased to be able to do that I conjured up a need for lemons just to be able to join in. (I always need lemons, more or less.)

So now I am feeling buoyed and every time I look at the flowers I smile, which is excellent timing because today’s task is to MAKE PRESENTS FOR MUM AND DAD, which I am going to suggest you interpret as an instruction to give something – a cup of tea, a phonecall, the gift of having hung out the laundry before they remember to do it – to someone important, because it might make them smile like D’s visit has me.

And if you need a smile yourself, here’s Doris Day:

Advent activity #19

This is late because I accidentally spent most of the day asleep – which is what happens when you are still post-viral but pretending not to be during the working week in order to seem competent (this is just my latest trick in this line). This means that as I write this Boris Johnson has already cancelled Christmas, making it a slightly harder ask to bring comfort and joy, but Edie comes to the rescue here because today’s task is to EAT MINCE PIES, and if there’s one thing we can all agree helps, it’s edible Christmas treats. I don’t have mince pies because I’m fussily making them myself even though there’s only the two of us here, but I have just eaten half a bag of chocolate coins, which I think counts, and for supper we are having roast chicken with pigs in blankets, and I suggest you do the same, or whatever version of it perks you up the soonest.

It also gives me an excuse to include the lyrics as well as the video for today’s song, because they are perfect for today:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away

Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were near to us
Will be dear to us once more

Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

Advent activity #18

Some of us may have already started on today’s job, but in case you haven’t, this is your official dispensation to EAT LOTS OF CANDY, which also means I finally get to share with you the advent calendar that my dad has made for my mum this year, using the set of drawers that for the other eleven months of the year is employed as a storage space for screws, categorised by size and type. (Everyone’s dad has or had one of those, right?)

I am not keen enough on chocolate to need or want a chocolate advent calendar, but I have been enjoying my daily piece of cheese; never more than yesterday, when I had a piece of Mexican cheese studded with jalapeño pieces that made my eyes water in a good way. I should like to update you on today’s species of cheese, but I haven’t opened it yet and Alciona the cleaner is downstairs which means I am banned from going down. Sorry.

Instead you’ll have to make do with Perry Como, who if you listen carefully is singing here about candy canes, which makes him the perfect accompaniment to today’s gastronomic-indulgence-of-your-choice.

Advent activity #17

Today is another BREAK day and coincidentally it’s also another birthday, so I got birthday girl Georgia to pick today’s song, and since as a generous and loving parent she recently spent two hours – in the evening! – at a virtual school Christmas concert I thought she would definitely enjoy this crowdsourced rendition. I miss carol concerts and school plays, don’t you? A Zoom nativity is not the same thing at all, however hard it tries, especially in a year when for the first time ever a Morgan has been given a STARRING ROLE, as Joseph.

Best bit of this: the DUM-DUM-DUM at 1:46 (which is repeated at the very end, which is how all Christmas carols and probably all songs should end), and the key change right after it.

Advent activity #16

If you didn’t get a chance to MAKE UP NICE STORIES yesterday, don’t worry because today you get to DRAW NICE PICTURES. Or, if you’re not in the mood for that, you can instead look at nice pictures from three of my favourite Twitter art accounts:

Tiggy Chadwick draws and paints to order, as well as her own fabulous stuff, and has an Etsy shop here

Patrick Onyekwere draws stunning portraits in biro

My old university mucker Ella Johnston is a magpie, creating art inspired by everything from birds to rice paper (she is the only artist whose work features three separate times on my walls), and has a whole website here which you should also visit on your afternoon coffee break.

The closest I have come today to making a nice picture is spilling some pink nail polish on my leggings, resulting in an interesting tie-dye effect, but again, if you are six or thereabouts I think you should go right ahead and make a nice picture of your own.

I can’t think of a song which is even slightly related to making pictures, but I am Christmas Zooming with my schoolfriends this evening even though we have all admitted to being slightly too tired and stressed for it. So to cheer them, me and you up, here’s Mariah.