November

9th November

Firework 6

Taken in Chiddingstone

 

"Remember remember the fifth of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason why gunpowder, treason

Should ever be forgot..."

 

As a child, Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes, was one of the most mysterious nights of the year. The anticipation of going out dressed to the nines in warm waterproof clothes. Putting on woolly hats, stripy scarfs and knitted gloves to dress up warm against the encroaching darkness. Walking over muddy and rain-battered ground to the Sports field. Buying the latest glow stick item, whether a bracelet or necklace, and being full of excitement at the array of 'glow in the dark' products on sale. The smell of the bonfire mixed with the acrid smoke of the gunpowder and the bangs of the fireworks combined with the crowd's oohs and aahs. Although communal fireworks are a big event in the village calendar, my favourite gatherings are between two or three families and take place in a back garden. Here you can write your name with a glowing wand of spitting fire and relish each colour and dancing shape.

16th November

Poppy 6

Taken at Waterloo Railway Station

'The Poppies of Waterloo'

 

This week on the 11th day, of the 11th month, at 11 o'clock, Armistice Day was commemorated for the 97th time, to remember those who fought for King and Country – past and present. It is particularly poignant this year as we commemorate so many conflicts - from the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo to the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Although the way war is fought changes with new technology, the reason people sign up to join the army is always the same – to sacrifice their lives to protect their country. As some conflicts get nearer to being consigned to history books, it is important to remember that soldiers aren't just a name on a memorial but people, who continue to live in the memory of their loved ones. At this time of year, leading up to Remembrance Sunday, poppy sellers are positioned to remind us of the sacrifice that the soldiers made and continue to make. At Waterloo this year, there was an art instillation which sprung up among the crowds of commuters and tourists. Man-sized poppies were among the people going about their lives.  Soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice, giving up their lives so that we can live ours. We must remember them.

23rd November

Nuremberg

Taken in Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany

'The Nuremberg Trials at 70'

 

70 years ago last Friday, the War Crimes Trials which brought the most prominent Nazi leaders to account in a Military Tribunal, began in Nuremberg. It was a milestone in the way guilty leaders were brought to account, and continues to influence the way leaders are tried today. Nuremberg itself is a modern miracle. From the bombed city of the Second World War, it has now become a thriving hub of metropolitan Europe. However the Germans have not forgotten their past, and since the end of the war have taken it upon themselves to teach their young people its history. One of the curators of the permanent exhibition now housed in the former Nazi headquarters told us how school children had seen photographs of their grandparents in SAS uniform for the first time, bringing them face to face with their past. The city suffered bomb damage but has been rebuilt to bring back its' former charm. This scene is one of my favourites. It's one of the many bridges over Pegnitz river and shows the beauty of the old city.  

30th November

Tree 5

Taken in Platz Kleber, Strasbourg, Alsace

'Anticipation for Christmas'

 

The Christmas season is very nearly upon us. Christmas anticipation is almost better than the event itself as you can dream away your days, thinking through Christmas lists. This year Christmas seems to have come earlier than I have ever known. Since November 5th, shops have been full of Christmas lights and tantalizing delights, enticing customers to buy even earlier than they normally would. However, with so much material distraction, it is easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas. Being a Christian, and having spent much of my life singing at Southwark Cathedral,  for us Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ. Over the centuries, traditions have grown out of that religious celebration to make the festive period what it is today.  But in our increasing secular society, the meaning behind the presents, decorations and food is forgotten. Christmas markets have been a large part of our celebrations in Europe for many years. Strasbourg has the oldest in Europe. First established in 1570, it was called "Christkindelsmärik" (market of the Infant Jesus). Today, it continues to spread the Christmas cheer, combining tradition with Christian celebration. I took this when we visited Strasbourg in November, and although not everything was ready, there was a spark of anticipation with builders manoeuvring the enormous tree into position. So I think traditions are very important and make Christmas what it is, as long as we don't lose sight of why we are celebrating.