A pinch and a punch for the first of the month…a slap and a kick for being so quick!

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December! Really? How the hell did that happen? Only a blink ago it was the summer, then Autumn turned our gardens to a deeper shade of gold, now shop windows are frosted with aerosols, lights dangle overhead, brightly coloured trees sprout up like iced gems all around us…Chritsmas is upon us!

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Wow…

Well, although like most of us, the thought of another year passing, another year older, sends a slight shudder down my spine, I do LOVE Christmas. I love everything about it, it’s ridiculous optimism, that childish sense of magic in the air, over indulgent cupboards and fridges bursting at the seams, all those naughty treats you deprive yourself of, now suddenly tangible…you have the best excuse in the world for nibbling those crisps, those heavy fudge cakes, or sugary treats, hey it’s Christmas! Forget the diets, guys!

I find myself being a child again at this time of year. Yes, for me I HAVE to get my tree up on the 1st December, decorated and glowing and green…and although it’s branches are less green now and more than a little crispy, I adore every moment. LOVE IT!!!! 011

So, in the chilly air, we got our Christmas trees, one enormous 7ft 6″ leviathan for the living room, the bushiest tree I have ever seen – so bushy in fact it that it got stuck in the netting machine gizmo, where it took three of the tree guys to force it through! Then we have a smaller tree for the hall, looking cheerily out of the window to welcome all. Christmas 2013 022

Then it’s the yearly struggle to remember which ‘safe place’ we’ve snaffled the Christmas boxes in, messily taped up to try to contain the copious amounts of decorations in. It is true that I cannot throw ANY Christmas decorations away and for the last twenty years I’ve had a tradition where I buy one new Christmas decoration every year, so now I have loads!

After fiddling with stands and buckets, trimming tree-tops, pruning trunks, we had the trees up and looking proud.

Christmas 2013 011Lol, okay, I admit to a slight idiot move on my part…er…namely cutting too much off the top of our perfect tree so I kind of ruined the look of it, but, I’m nothing if not creative, so some wire, superglue & sticky tape later, and I’d reattached the top & stuck the star on to cover up my cock-up. Looks beautiful now! 003 (2)

Then it’s the usual tangle of fairy lights…it doesn’t matter how carefully you put them away, the little buggers will tangle themselves involuntarily! Amazing all lights were working…ahem, after a sale last year, I found myself facing over 800 fairy lights! 400 on each tree would look ridiculous, right? Amazingly we could have used more, they just seemed to disappear in the branches!

049Oh, but what lovely festive fun! For the first time in months I actually found myself laughing, an amazing feat given that I was so ill through November. But like a tonic, the Christmas spirit is definitely rubbing off on me and all those around. An easing of the spirit. Somehow, the challenges and difficulties of 2013, a year I shall never forget though I’d like to, seem to dissolve against such magical optimism. Problems may be large or small, but they CAN be overcome, they CAN be solved!

Positive thinking, right? Yes, yes, YES! 😀

Christmas 2013 052Anyway, advent calendar windows opened, dangling Father Christmas decorations up, decorations on doors, garlands over mantlepiece and up the stairs rails, and cheesy baubles on trees. LOVE it!

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One other lovely thing, that I will definitely make a Tallis tradition, is going around the garden with a pair of secateurs, taking branches of fir, spruce and holly. Why pay for a Holly wreath or bow, when you can make one?! SOOOO simple and satisfying to do, just a little wire to hold the branches together and a red bow, viola! One instant door decoration and so special as it’s from your own garden!

IChristmas 2013 032f you don’t have fir, spruce or holly available, confer branches would work just as well.

Then, of course, it’s the long process of Christmas card writing – which depending on your mood, can either be a gloriously relaxing affair, or a stressful nightmare! The worst, is drawing up your list, desperately wracking your brain over your second cousin removed and her new hubby whose name you can’t remember, hoping you haven’t forgotten anyone, grumbling over the cost of stamps as they increase every year, finding too many cards and not enough envelopes and writing the wrong addresses on the wrong cards, before rushing off to make sure you’ve posted all your overseas ones before the cut off! Manic? yes, but still lovely! 🙂

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Luckily managed to do all mine this year, including the overseas ones, with time to spare! Wow, that’s a first!

Yes…December has arrived in all its glittering shinyness and though I may miss the blissful heat of summer, nothing beats a crackling log fire and some hearty cheer!

So whatever you’re doing, whatever you’re plans, wherever you are, here’s wishing you all a wonderfully happy, magical and glorious Christmas and festive season!

😀 xxxxxxx

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Merry Christmas Everyone! 😀 xxxx

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Magical memories are made of this…

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We may not have the frozen pipes, blankets of white or the crisp beauty of frost on windows, crunch of grass under foot or the gasp of cold air…but this has been a wonderful Christmas full of magic and beauty.

SAM_2051Although the incessant drip drip of rain-soaked days threaten to dampen spirits, the whole mystique of Christmas remains the same as it did when I was a child.

SAM_2015Fridges and freezers groaning with food, fires blazing, candles lit, presents nestling like small children beneath laden Christmas tree boughs. The whole twinkling wonderment of it. Then the intoxicating smells – roasting chestnuts, spruce, the sweet zestiness of clementines, the smoke of coal and seasoned logs, the heady scent of Christmas itself…pure joy!

So, despite the downpours, wellies caked in mud, garden perpetually waterlogged, the drabness all around, the spirit of Christmas is well and truly alive. Family, friends, loved ones and the unmistakable air of magic…what more could anyone wish for? 😀

Hoping you all had a fabulous Christmas too! xx

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Treks in the wilderness…Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle and deepest darkest Dartmoor!

Just returned from a wonderful holiday down in Devon and my beloved Dartmoor National Park. Backpacks and suitcases are still unpacked and littering the hall. The dogs are going crazy over the strange smells they’re getting from my trainers…I’m hoping it’s the wild pony poo and the great outdoors and NOT my feet! So, as I nurse my various bruises, scrapes, blisters and insect bites, I find myself grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat!

Basking in uncharacteristic and glorious sunshine, I found myself lying on the soft golden sands of Bigbury-on-Sea, listening to the lapping waves, children playing and the occasional family disagreement! Under cerulean skies I watched the world’s only sea tractor cross the bay to Burgh Island, laden with passengers, to the island’s most famous landmark – the 1920’s Art Deco Burgh Island Hotel, haunt of such luminaries as Agatha Christie, Cole Porter and Noel Coward amongst others.

Agatha Christie wrote Evil Under the Sun whilst staying there, staring out across the cliffs and shifting sands, and it also proved inspiration for her novel, And Then There were None. You can easily see why writers from Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle to Du Maurier were drawn to Devon and Cornwall, it is simply breathtaking!

Leaving the coast though, I entered the magical mythical world of Dartmoor.

Ahhh Dartmoor…such a wondrous place. Wild, unspoilt, hauntingly beautiful. Drenched in rich history. Steeped in so much mythology and folklore you can practically taste it, not to mention the ghost tales…

My favourite ghost story, apart from the infamous ‘Hairy Hands’ that grab your steering wheel and send you careering off the road to your untimely death, is the forlorn and rather spooky tale of ‘Jay’s Grave’. There are various versions of the story, as is often the case with oral traditions.

Around 1790 a young girl, Mary Jay, later called Kitty Jay, left the Poor House to work as a servant girl at a local landowner’s farm. Once there, she quickly caught the attention of the landowner’s son who promised to marry her. But, when she fell pregnant he abandoned her and she was thrown out of the farm. With no where to go, no chance of employment anywhere else, and labelled as a ‘slut’, in despair Kitty Jay tragically took her own life. She was found hanging in one of the barns on the farm. The local church refused to have her buried on consecrated ground. The custom at the time was to bury suicides at crossroads, sometimes with a stake driven through their hearts to ensure that the restless soul of the departed could not return to haunt living, god-fearing mortals. This was the fate of poor Kitty Jay. She was interred at an intersection of a road and track high up in moors, just north-west of Hound Tor. The grave soon became known as ‘Jay’s Grave’ and it was not long before strange events were reported there. On some moonlit nights, a dark figure was seen kneeling beside the grave, head bowed, face in hands. But the phenomenon most associated with Kitty’s final resting place is the strange and daily appearance of fresh flowers placed on her grave. To this day, and no matter what time of the year it may be, every morning a new posy of flowers appears. No-one has ever been seen leaving them. Over the years many have tried to glimpse who may be responsible, even camping out all night to witness the event. Yet again and again, the mystery remains as the fresh flowers appear.

Being up on the moors myself, you can easily understand where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got his inspiration for his most famous work and possibly the best crime fiction mystery of all time, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Climbing to the top of a tor to survey the wild windswept moors below, is just a magical sight. Watching the weather play its own role in maintaining the character and mystery of the place. One moment bright sunshine, the next thick mists and fogs to ensnare the weary traveller. Every place, every rock, has a story to tell or a story to inspire. Certainly, years before, I found my own novel growing there, amongst the tussock grasses, gorse and bracken.

Very few places can fire the imagination that way, but Dartmoor IS such a place. Clapper bridges, ancient wizened oak forests, leafy glades, rushing rivers, dark foreboding dells and weather-beaten tors. If you truly want to step back in time and be transported to a magical land of fantasy and history…you MUST visit!

So, after my second exhausting hike, having negotiated the very uneven stepping-stones that cross the River Dart, I sat stretched out in the gusts that so often howl over the moors and watched Dartmoor’s wild ponies. Sheer bliss! 😀