December Miscellany 2015

Just went to read my December post from 2014, it looks like I wasn’t very excited about Christmas. But it was all quite different this year. The ever growing collection of Christmas decorations in our living room made a big difference. Friends made an even bigger difference. When it’s dark, cold and rainy outside, we can enjoy a cosy time indoors with a turkey, cakes, board games and candlelight!

At the beginning of December 2015, we spent a weekend in Edinburgh. The main excitement was a concert of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto by Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Baiba Skride with her 1734 violin. Listening to Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in a concert hall was a dream come true for me.

December Miscellany 2015

The other two pieces of symphonies were less familiar to me: Three Cornered Hat, Suite 1 and 2 (De Falla), and Don Juan (R Strauss), but equally amazing.

The next morning, we also enjoyed an exhibition of Arthur Melville in National Galleries of Scotland. Arthur Melville was a Scottish artist. His travel to the Middle East was reflected beautifully in his watercolour paintings. It was also interesting to see how he used blobs of colour to depict actions, for example: markets, bull fights and battles.

The fun, however, started after the concert. We got soaked walking back to the Youth Hostel (a very good one) and I was woken up by the wind and rain lashing the window a few times during the night. The morning came; the storm didn’t stop. After the visit to the gallery and lunch, we moved into Edinburgh train station, and found out the reason why the return journey was three hours despite our outward journey having only been an hour and a half – the train was going all the way to Carlisle! An old gentleman overheard our conversation and warned us about the delay on the line due to all the flooding reported earlier this morning on the news. 5 minutes before our train arrived, the screen said it was delayed – not surprised at all. Half a hour later, it was cancelled indefinitely. We ran around panicking for a bit and thought Edinburgh and Newcastle never before seemed so far away. We also felt sorry for poor people who were going all the way to London!

We were directed onto a coach with a sign saying Newcastle in the street (still pouring), feeling very fortunate and relieved. I almost couldn’t believe how easily the situation was solved. The flooding on the A1 between Edinburgh and Newcastle was cleared magically as we drove down. We arrived at Newcastle in two and a half hours. Praise God! Jumping on a metro, we felt very happy to get home very soon (15 minutes usually). BUT! The metro train started to make a stinky smell and smoked like a chimney at West Jesmond station. After everybody was evacuated, the train wouldn’t move forward but only backward! So it blocked the whole line for about half an hour. We eventually arrived home after 6 hours of travel; a journey which would usually take 2 hours… Edinburgh doesn’t like me, she never did… We also heard the sad news that the bridge of Pooley Bridge got washed away by the flood. During the following days and weeks, Carlisle city centre was under water. York was flooded. I feel extremely fortunate to have a peaceful time where we are.

The Carols by Candlelight this year was a bit different. Actually it was historic: the first ever Carols by Candlelight in our brand new church St. Joseph’s, Benwell in the west end of Newcastle! I was very proud to sing in our new church building!

Carols by Candlelight 2015 at St. Joseph’s Benwell

Among all the planning, organising, present-shopping, present-wrapping, tidying, cooking, and partying, I gave myself an extra task to knit a scarf. Nothing fancy. But it’s quiet nice to feel needles and wool in my fingers again.

I finished reading The Lord of the Rings books. It was a bit slow at the beginning, but it did get better and better towards the end. I also watched all three films. The friend who lent us the films said it was like a tourist promotional video for New Zealand. I can see what he meant. But New Zealand really looked like an amazing place, especially the snowy mountains.

Atsu Hime (Princess Atsu)

I finally finished watching the whole series of the Japanese historical TV drama – Atsu Hime. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The story is about the life of Princess Atsu during a turbulent time of war and social revolution, how her devotion and commitment to her husband’s family and the nation greatly influenced the course of history of Japan. She could have been a happy princess in a wealthy family for all of her life. But she was chosen by history and she fought valiantly – for her humble family background,  for building positive relationships with many enemies along the way, for loving and mourning for her husband, for loving and mourning for her son, for pleading for peaceful transformation of the government, – and she shouldered the responsibilities gladly – to be the wife, mother, advisor of the heads of the nation, to protect the lives of thousands of women in Tokyo castle and to face a violent mob with grace, to become an ordinary woman in her old age, peacefully and joyfully. An amazing woman, an amazing actress. There wasn’t much love story going on, and a lot of political stuff. Even so, it was engrossing to watch.

Food wise, I made macaroons for the first time. It was alright – not great, but not disastrous either. We had an early Christmas celebration with eight friends. That was the biggest number we ever fitted around our dining table. There wasn’t any chance to record my sweet & sour ribs, chicken casserole, tiramisu or St Clement’s cake with a camera. They were finished off faster than I expected… we had a lovely evening at home. Our Christmas tree was lit beautifully!

The week after that was Christmas! A different group of fellow “homeless” International students came over for Christmas lunch. We couldn’t go out in the afternoon because of the rain. Maybe we should have been braver.

My plan for January is to have some peace and quiet before we go adventuring in February again, just to read and write a lot. Maybe I should try printing 2015 photos out? I remember that was my attempt this time last year…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

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