On Sunday, for the start of Advent, I will turn on the paper star lights hanging in the windows at home. It is a Swedish tradition to hang lights in the windows in the winter months as a welcome gesture to passers-by and friends arriving for a visit. SO many people have been stars in this challenging year and I like the way the star lights will remind me of each of them when I reach home in the evenings. I have decided to make the little 'guiding star' that hangs on my Epiphany bracelets into a charm of its own this year so I could give stars to the stars this year!
One of the most wonderful discoveries of this second lockdown has been silicon spray. Spray it on curtain rails where the rings or track just don't glide anymore, wipe it over the edges of drawers that stick (and send you mad at midnight when you are trying to find the secretly hidden present in your desk that you need to wrap).
I have started to bring on my indoor bulbs. The guest room bath is now full of hyacinths and paperwhite narcissi. I love the innocence and simplicity of white flowering bulbs before Christmas. The great thing about keeping them all together like this is that they are much easier to manage, keep warm and watered. Then, when they are just about to flower, plant them up and keep them somewhere cool (in a corridor) until you want them in the sitting room. This weekend I am going to get all the pots and baskets ready with earth and gather some moss from the woods to put on the top.
One of my most gifted friends is Alice Archer who I have known since childhood creates the most beautiful clothes I own. Last Christmas she embroidered a black wool cape with a field of snowdrops, like the carpet of flowers in my parent's garden, and a pair of blue silk trousers with the ripest red cherries. Alice spent lockdown in Somerset and has created a beautiful collection of embroideries inspired by sea pink flowers and the dramatic tall Sea Squill flowers. If you are as mad about flowers as I am, you might want to treat yourself to Alice's wearable flower art (https://alicearcher.co.uk/) or ask Father Christmas for a voucher.
This weekend I am eating the Baklava I made on Monday evening. Baklava was first made in the Ottoman kitchens of the Topkapi Palace in Constantinople and it is a traditional dessert at Christmas time in Turkey. I always think it tastes better after resting for a few days, the honey seeping through the layers of pastry and infusing the chopped nuts hidden inside. If you make some this weekend, play a recording of the Messiah at the same time and rejoice that we can have orchestral music in our homes this Christmas.
One of the miracles of technology is that we can still enjoy carol concerts this Christmas, and support, even more, those charities we care so much about. I particularly love the Carols by Candlelight in aid of the Alice Martineau appeal sung by the Winchester College quiristers and recorded this year at Abbey Road studios with a message from the amazing Dame Judi Dench. There is a great photo of them in their red gowns striding across that infamous zebra crossing as the Beatles did in the 60s!
Photographer: James Brown
Happy Advent and happy carol singing…