As another year comes to close, we are all anxious to make good resolutions and plans for the new year. It is difficult to find a quiet corner to clear your head and reflect on hopes for the year ahead. However, for me, spending a couple of moments of a busy day in a peaceful church, gives me the strength to face the challenges ahead. Walking into a church is like taking a long drink of water when you're thirsty. The beauty and comfort surrounds you as you walk in. Candles burn in memory of loved ones and bring a warm glow to the cold stone structures. Sitting in peace brings inner solace to the soul and gives you clarity of mind. This feeling comes particularly from churches that have been there for centuries, giving solace to people throughout the ages. I am going finish the year of photography in the way I started - in Towcester. In the middle of a field, is a tiny chapel-like church. Looking closer on the church walls, there are ancient etchings of religious stories which although faded remind us of the history of our faith. I took this photo on a crisp afternoon last year. The icy ground reflected the light into the church and shone through the latticed windows. As we look forward we can have hope in what the new year will bring and what things we can get done and enjoy. New Year, New Life and New Hope!
'Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree!'
For me, the Christmas season begins with the arrival and decoration of the Christmas tree. Ever since I was very little, it felt like the start of the anticipation for Christmas and made me very excited. The whole journey of the tree is magical. It begins with choosing the best one. Bushy? No, Thin and Silver! No, the biggest one EVER! Next bringing your chosen tree home in the car and knowing you have done so for the next couple of weeks as you find multiple needles between the seats and on the floor. Finding the perfect corner for it to shine during the run up to Christmas. Whether in the hall or in the main room. Unravelling the netting. And possibly trimming the top to fit the star. Then the joyous unboxing of all the familiar decorations. Checking the lights and discovering one has burst and stopped a bundle of lights working! Finally the grand turning on of the lights and the decorations sparkling into life. One of our family traditions is to clap the tree when it's decorated, so join me in celebrating the joy of the humble Christmas Tree!
'Softly in flurries falls the snow, at my feet, a thousand tiny crystals glow...'
There is little peace in the run up to Christmas. In the manic rush to make the special day perfect, everyone gets consumed by present wrapping and buying, tidying and clearing for relatives and preparing every little detail. However, people sometimes forget to stop and enjoy the time together. Of course, the weather can change that feeling instantly. A sudden snow storm interrupts plans and causes us to slow down. This can be frustrating but there is something magically serene about the fall of snow. Watching from inside you would be forgiven for thinking that you had been transported into a huge snow globe and that the scene was made for you to look at. There is no sound as the soft white flakes fall from the sky onto the carpet of feathers below. Even picking it up you might think it might disappear in your fingers and back to water. A white Christmas is often thought to be the perfect Christmas ideal, but maybe it's partly because it stops everything that is happening around you in its' tracks and makes you look outside and enjoy every moment. Here is a picture I took a couple of years ago when we had snow and here's to a peaceful, if snowless, Christmas this year!
At Christmas, there are so many delicious delicacies covering the tables of families around the country. For many, the Christmas season is an excuse to eat rich and extravagant food and enjoy the treats of the season. Sultanas, Walnuts and Dates grace tables as a sign of by-gone extravagance. Warming and comforting spices waft through the air, creating a festive atmosphere, evoking the Three Kings and their precious gifts. I love Christmas baking. It is a joy to use ingredients that aren't used throughout the rest of the year and put them together into one cake. Bejewelled fruit and exotic spices evoke mysterious magic like that of the Arabian Nights and using unusual and expensive makes the celebrations extra special. As baking is a time-consuming and labour intensive activity, it shows you really care to those you are baking for and makes them feel loved and spoilt. Here is photo of my Christmas cake from a couple of years ago...