Friday, 30 December 2011

A cosy fireside

In a pair of socks, a work in progress. Fawkes socks knit in Violet Green's Socrates Supersock, colourway Duchess. I'm enjoying knitting these, watching the colours and pattern interacting. To me the colours are like looking into the heart of a fire, a good wintertime activity.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Little Donkey

Aren't the weeks and days leading up to Christmas manic? Though my "manic" is probably most people's fairly ordinary, but that's par for the course. I have socialised, wondered why I don't do this more often as it's really fun, then spent the next week slowly realising why as I gradually recover (still not quite there and it's been more than a week now). I have baked, since naturally it is not Christmas without home made gingerbread, among other things. I have done a lot of finishing on knitting projects, knitting is just delayed sewing, it gets you making the fabric, then the sewing sneaks up on you. I have yet again discovered that much as I adore choosing and giving presents, I'm no fan of wrestling the wrapping paper into submission. And I have helped rescue a fallen down Christmas tree, among other Christmas preparations.
There has been so much I have wanted to do but been unable to manage and I have found it hard telling myself to slow down and stop and admit that there are things I just can't do. I haven't made it to a single church service which is disappointing and even dozed through most of the "Carols from Kings" on the radio. This is the struggle I live with day to day but somehow it is twice as hard at Christmas. In an ideal world I'd like to hold a huge Christmas with a table full of family and friends, while I cook up a storm in my perfectly decorated house. Reality can be so different sometimes! Though not necessarily worse, I am trying to learn to celebrate what I have got and make the most of the present momentI think I must be a slow learner because I'm shattered and have had the same headache (from over doing things) for a good week now. Today I cracked and took the good headache pills so I can at least have Christmas day headacheless (I hope!). I am doing better than earlier in the week, when I had made myself so stressed and anxious that I could not sleep.
A number of times in all of this I have looked up at the little wooden decoration a friend sent me a couple of years' ago which shows Mary and Joseph travelling with their donkey and it has refocused me on the why of Christmas, which I find easy to loose in a welter of anxieties and preparations. Thanks to that reminder, a number of times I have been able to say that it does not matter, whatever it is I am worrying about, Jesus matters. He came and stooped to meet us and because He came we all have hope: hope for now and hope for the future. I will do my best to focus on that hope this Christmas and for the future and be glad that at least my Christmas does not involve a seventy mile donkey ride.

I wish you and your family a peaceful and joyful Christmas. I'll leave you with this lovely and local carol:
"Then why should we on earth be sad,
Since our Redeemer made us glad:
When from our sin He set us free,
All for to gain our liberty...

"All out of darkness we have light
Which made the angels sing this night"

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Sing Muse...

... of the frustration of the knitter, who having embarked merrily upon a project involving a great deal of duplicate stitch, did find that this duplicate stitch did tax her heavily, until it felt like a saga to rival anything by Virgil or Homer.

I, gentle reader, am that knitter. With insufficient forethought I embarked upon Argyle Socks by Veronik Avery; partly because my father had admired them in the past when looking through her beautiful book Knitting Classic Style and partly because they looked easier than knitting "proper" argyle socks, with all their attendant hassle of intarsia, knitting flat and bobbins caught in a merry tangle.
However, I had reckoned without duplicate stitch. The socks themselves I knit up with comparatively few mistakes and thoroughly enjoyed myself, the second sock in particular went very fast. Then came the adornment. Duplicate stitch is essentially sewing, an art with which, even in the enlarged surroundings of yarn and tapestry needle, I am not entirely comfortable. Thus this duplicate stitch has become a true saga, after two weeks' I am almost finished but it feels like it has been far, far longer. I could have adorned a third sock with all the stitches I have had to take out and do again. Nonetheless this project will have left me fully conversant with duplicate stitch, faster and neater in my work, though my socks will not bear close scrutiny!
So on the saga continues, one weary stitch at a time, while my knitting needles sing their siren call reminding me how I miss their company. At least I have hopes of finishing in time for Christmas on current progress and I should avoid a 3am on Christmas morning finish. Dad will have more of the socks he loves, because he is worth it and I have gained fresh understanding of the phrase "a labour of love". And we shall all live happily ever after, or something like that.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

There's no such thing as a perfect Christmas

My past couple of posts have been very upbeat about Christmas, this reflects my own excitement at its approach and love of all things sparkly. However, I am aware that Christmas is not entirely positive, for some it can be a horribly difficult time of year, when loneliness and sadness are intensified by the sense that everyone else is celebrating, or a time of family tension and argument. Christmas is held in that same tension as everything else on this earth between good and bad, it is as flawed as we are.

It was always so, some aspects of the original Christmas cannot have seemed too wonderful to the protagonists, especially Mary and Joseph. I doubt many NHS birth plans involve a 70 mile journey on a donkey in the last month of the pregnancy, followed a birth in a stable, surrounded by animals. Neither would a straw filled manger fulfil any of the health and safety criteria required by a modern (first world) baby's crib. Though sadly for a great many women across the world child birth is still not an experience too far removed from Mary's.

Therefore if even the first Christmas, with its angel choirs, miraculous conception, congregation of magi and shepherds and a guiding star, all so carefully arranged by God, was not perfect*, can any Christmas be perfect? This lie, peddled by a thousand magazines, newspapers and shops all desperate to get a sale, means that we can place ourselves under so much pressure for everything to be right. Exactly the right dress, the right present, the right turkey, cooked the right way, the right family gathering, the right décor, the right relaxed festive atmosphere in which the air sparkles with quiet joy. No Christmas is ever perfect or ever has been, just as this earth is not perfect; if everything were perfect there would never have been need for a Christmas.

Indeed, why having the perfect Christmas is held up as such an ideal is beyond me - imagine it, no Christmas would ever be as good again! Far better to let off the pressure and aim for a peaceful, fun Christmas, your Christmas, different from everyone else's, even if there are so many elements in common. Most of all this Christmas I personally want to remember why Christmas exists and remember that Christmas contains the greatest reason to celebrate we will ever know, whatever our circumstances, in the person of a tiny baby in an imperfect crib, come to perfect an imperfect world.

*At least not perfect in human terms that is.