The weather has been bleak. Our James, Louise and Little Evie arrived Monday and within 12 hours we had all gone down with a stomach bug – on the plus side, they got to stay another day. James is the our youngest boy of three and the the first produce a grandchild. For various reasons, it seems unlikely that the others will follow suit. So, on this branch of the family tree, it seems likely the Down name will die out. My dad would have been disappointed – no longer a name to go down in history.
It is a surname people struggle with – when speaking it, particularly on the phone, I have a habit of saying “Down, D, O, W, N” – it’s short enough and helps reduce the number of misheard interpretations – they are many. Even people we have known for years will add an ‘e’ or an ‘s’ or both – Downe, Downs, Downes are the common variations. Oddly, the Good Wife, who inherited the name, gets more irritated by this than me.
Enough rambling – I trust everyone is having and will continue to have a great Christmas. Like I said, the weather has been bleak and this is reflected in the external images from the past seven days:
Sunday 19th December – The fog on the Tyne moved up the side of the valley.
Monday 20th December – Someone is looking sheepish
Tuesday 21st December – Little Evie and her two front teeth venture north
Wednesday 22nd December – More thoughtful than sheepish
Thursday 23rd December – More or less recovered from the stomach bug
Friday 24th December – the CCM Spitfire Blackout – another recent addition to the garage.
Saturday 25th December – A Christmas day walk to Beaufront Hill Head.
It is Christmas 1961 and I am, as ever, behind the camera. This was the year I was given a flash unit to fit the family Kodak Brownie Cresta. A sizeable attachment with a large reflector, it fired off one-time flash bulbs. Filled with fine magnesium wire and oxygen, a small current was sufficient to instigate the flash – all very satisfying to a boy who liked playing with fire..
You can tell I am responsible – it is taken from a low angle and the subjects tend to occupy centre stage. I had not yet learned the rule of thirds In the first image, dad is seated far left smoking one of the many Kensitas that would eventually take him. He is at the beginning of his forties while mum, sat next to him, is still in her thirties. My sister is too busy eating to take notice of younger brother’s antics but boyfriend Ricky is smiling keenly at the camera, also with cigarette in hand, possibly one of dad’s. A too well-presented eighteen year old, I knew big sister could do better.
Cigarettes were socially acceptable at home but there was little or no drink. My teenage smoking habit went undetected until I tried Blue Book, a brand for “the discerning smoker”. Each packet contained Turkish, Russian Egyptian and Havana blends. An afternoon smoking these with an equally discerning friend and the house smelled like a souk.
It is the end of Christmas dinner and house-proud mother has already cleared most of the table. The posh sideboard, table and chairs from Kendal Milne, Manchester; the Regency striped wallpaper; the Wedgwood dinner service; the Peter Scott print; the understated decorations – all in the best possible taste.
Ricky took his time to leave – another three years before he abandoned my sister and her life took flight. Now everyone has gone – empty clothes that drape and fall on empty chairs.
The ‘posh’ dining room
The living room – always coal fires burning
Big sister and boyfriend, Ricky – driving gloves and a too smart coat
It is time to sign off for the year – wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and all the very best for 2018.
And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!” Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Approaching Honningsvåg, Norway – 23rd December 2014 on the Hurtigruten Ferry.
It is the 7th January as I write and Christmas already seems long ago. The decorations have returned to the loft and it is as though it never happened. Except, sitting in the dining room/study/my playroom (note the evolution) the evidence is there for all to see – a half built Tamiya Monster Beetle which will eventually play host to the GoPro camera and, a stack of new books. As this is part personal diary, I will use this as an excuse to list them – they reflect my passions and tastes in a way that nothing else can. I am grateful to a well-informed Santa (and friends and relations 🙂 )
Alan Bennett’s Keeping On Keeping On – because I have read everything else he has produced;
John Simpson’s We Chose to Speak of War and Strife – as above;
Damon Hill’s Watching the Wheels – because his dad was a childhood hero and this most thoughtful of racing drivers promises an intriguing insight to his and his late father’s character;
Rick Broadbent’s That Near-Death Thing – Inside the Isle of Man TT – no explanation necessary;
Julian Ryder’s MotoGP Season Review 2016 – again, no explanation required;
John Berger‘s Here is Where We Meet – a late convert to this man’s fine work, I have some catching up to do;
Colm Tóibín’s Mothers and Sons – anyone who has read Golf in the Wild will know why this title resonates;
Robert Marshall’s The Haunted Major – a comic golfing story first published in 1902. This wasn’t actually a Christmas present but, ordered in August, it didn’t arrive until January 1st, thanks to the neighbour’s offspring – bless ’em 🙂
There is a vaguely amusing story attached to this last book. A friend who looks after the feet of the Newcastle United players loaned the Haunted Major to Kevin Keegan, explaining that it was the story of a sportsman who thought himself much better than he really was – “Are you trying to tell me something!” was Keegan’s immediate response. Within a week Keegan was gone from Newcastle, along with said book. Once read I should pass it on as compensation.
The one passion not covered by the above is photography but I tend to just do it rather than read about it. These are the Blip images from the first seven days of 2017:
This is the video used for grabbing the moon rising image – more fiddling about with the GoPro in the adjacent field. Keep an eye out for the good lady feverishly cleaning the porch – Spielberg would have fired her on the spot 😀
Must stop now, I have some reading to do and a Beetle to build.
This will probably be my last post until after Christmas Day so a very Merry Christmas to all my followers, many thanks for taking the time to like and comment on my ever random thoughts throughout the year and all the best for 2016.
Our plan had been to be lazy on Christmas Day and eat at the Boatside Inn, just over Warden Bridge. Sadly, especially for the owners, the building was flooded in the recent storms and will not open again until the New Year. Consequently we are eating at home and chef will be catering for five, possibly seven – my normal limit is two 🙂
This year’s Christmas card reflects my passion for hitting small balls with unsuitable sticks in wild places – hopefully the snow provides a sufficiently seasonal touch. This is the second at Allendale, a place you can now fly over at Aerial Golf Caddy. When you have a spare moment between the main course and the pudding, take a look; you may begin to understand my obsession with the place (two of the best ‘flights’ are at the 3rd and 12th, both par 3s).
Christmas does not arrive in November or at least it shouldn’t. If I ruled the world, any reference to the festive season would be barred until 1st December but I don’t, and it won’t. Governments are wedded to the strategy of debt –laden consumerism so nothing is going to change any time soon.
Fortunately my offspring are long beyond getting excited by Santa so I can only imagine the state of excitement induced in modern-day under-tens – come Christmas Eve they must be fit to explode. I just hope Santa gets it right, which reminds me of a sign in an Audlem shop window:
This year Santa, please give me a big fat bank account and a slim body. Please don’t mix those two up like you did last year. Thanks.
We are currently holed-up on the good ship Oakmere with a very slow and unreliable Internet connection, hence the lack of activity on WordPress. Yesterday we escaped to Chester and found this festive display in preparation in the Cathedral. I can only assume that Ebenezer has just seen The Ghost of Christmas Too Soon:
I need reminding that Christmas is approaching – the weather has turned dull, wet and distinctly unseasonal. To resurrect the spirit of Christmas Past, I am posting this card I produced in 2008 showing our kitchen window in more seasonal weather. The words on the card are from Dylan Thomas, A Child’s Christmas in Wales.
The story evolved over a number years from 1945, originally intended as a talk for BBC radio which was never broadcast. The final version was not completed until 1950 when Thomas sold the story to the American magazine, Harper’s Bazaar. It is full of memorable passages:
All the Christmases roll down towards the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs Prothero and the firemen.
As snow falls across this blog, only winter pictures seem appropriate but when I looked at the site on an iPad last night I realised that the snow isn’t falling in the world of Apple, nor on smartphones. Bah humbug!