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Sunday, 22 December 2013

A Lovely Christmas Tradition

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AChristmas_Tree_Festival%2C_St_John_the_Evangelist_Church_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1622424.jpg
By Trish Steel
I've just been to a wonderful candlelit carol service at the Church of the Holy Jesus, Lydbrook, in Gloucestershire.  Over the past few years, the village has become famous for its Christmas Tree festival. People travel from all over the world to enjoy the spectacle, and it's definitely worth a visit. Among the many stunning displays this year there's a miniature automated alpine village complete with moving cable-cars and skiers zipping down the slopes, a Gruffalo hides in one of the trees, and you can write your own message on a white dove to add to a tree of memories. The festival was held on 13th, 14th and 15th December this year, although everything will be on view again during a mini-Christingle service at 3pm on Christmas Eve and again from 11:00pm that night, ahead of Midnight Mass. After that, there'll be another chance to see the wonderful array of decorated trees during the short, hugely enjoyable family service at 9:30am on Christmas morning.

You can see some pictures of The Orchard Trust hard at work decorating their tree here while Santa's enjoying a display straight from Narnia called Cold, Crisp, Frosty, Magic and Sparkle here!

The holiday season is all too often a time of stress, noise and bustle. It's lovely to take some time out to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas in the peace and serenity of a country church like this.  You don't need a star to guide you - just get up a bit earlier (!) on Christmas morning, set your sat.nav to GL17 9SH, and pop along to the 9:30am family service at the Church of the Holy Jesus, Lydbrook.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Mysteries on the Wye

This morning my OH walked down to the river as usual after escorting me to church. The lack of rain in the last few weeks means that the river level has been slowly dropping again so that the island (more of a gravel bank really) in the middle has reappeared. Along with something else...
 
Above is the island as it appeared in late summer. Most of it is visible along with the gravel spits at either end. The river in front has lots of ripples, as you might expect given that it was shallow enough to ground canoes. Now look at the photo taken this morning from roughly the same spot – the river flows from right to left in both pictures:
The river is still higher than it was when the first photo was taken, so I wonder what’s causing the mysterious standing wave? Obviously there’s something stuck on the river bed, but what could it be? I think we should be told!

Another mystery is what’s happened to all the moles in our garden? We don’t have lawns as such, just areas of something that on average looks like grass. Usually we have to spend some time before we mow just kicking down the molehills, otherwise it’s like trying to push the mower over the Apennines. Walking across the ’lawns’ is an adventure in itself thanks to all the runs underneath that make your feet sink a little every few steps. But lately – almost nothing.

We like to think that it’s all thanks to our cat, who (when not eating or sleeping) is very good at keeping down all the mice, voles and shrews in the garden and has been known to bring in – and up – the occasional mole. We’ve even found the odd squirrel carcass now & again.

Although OH thinks that there might be another reason, and that the two mysteries might be linked.
Along the river bank there were lots of molehills this morning, some of them quite fresh. OH’s theory is that the local moles have been watching too many documentaries about their cousins the North American beavers (we know they’re not really cousins, but the moles don’t…) OH thinks that they've decided to give the life aquatic a go and so the standing wave is caused by their first attempts at a beaver lodge.
Personally I think all that unaccustomed fresh air has gone to OH’s head!


After much anticipation we went to yesterday’s performance of the Nutcracker ballet by touring company Ballet Theatre UK. It was a wonderful production, made all the more amazing because of the limitations of our small local theatre – actually it’s owned by the local boys’ school to which Son Number One goes. He was studying the souvenir programme closely over breakfast this morning, so maybe he hasn’t given up on his old hobby altogether.

Being a professional dancer takes passion, determination and dedication as well as raw talent, but if he did decide to take it up as a career then we’d be thrilled to little mint balls!.

The local church I attend is in desperate need of repair, like all too many small parish churches in England these days. While he was waiting for me this morning, OH noticed a strange line of damaged & discoloured stones on the wall above the doorway. Neither of us could work out what might be causing the stones to decay in a gentle curve (from bottom left of the photo, curving over the window and ending at the top right). There are no gutters or gargoyles above, nor does it correspond to any structure on the inside of the wall. Does anybody have any ideas?

OH has been trying to develop a conspiracy theory involving the vanished moles, but even he thinks that might be a bit too far-fetched.