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013Receding bank of cloud

I took this photo a week ago when, for an hour, the thick pall of cloud that had been over us for a week or more receded towards the coast and we saw the sun. I was amazed to see how deep the cloud was.  The cloud returned shortly after I took this picture.

We are now in the second week of Advent and Christmas is looming fast.  I like Advent – at least I like Advent in theory, if not in practice.  I wish time would go a little slower so that I could fit in all the Christmas preparations and still have opportunity for quiet reflection.  i wish to appreciate and enjoy anticipating Christmas.

There used to be a children’s programme on TV when both my girls were younger called ‘Bernard’s Watch’ in which a boy called Bernard had a special watch that could halt time, stopping everyone in their tracks, while Bernard rushed about trying to catch up and put things right.  I want Bernard’s watch!

Unfortunately, this time of year is so full of doctor’s and hospital appointments, check-ups at the optician and dentist, visits to relatives, trying to remember last postal dates and ordering of meat and wreaths, that the really nice bits are side-lined and fitted-in to our schedule almost as an after-thought.

007Advent Crown (640x480)

Our Advent Crown with the first candle alight

At home we make an Advent Crown with evergreen and candles, we have an Advent Candle and Advent Calendars.

006Advent candle (480x640)

The Advent candle

While E and I make the Crown and also a table-centre decoration as well, it is traditional for us to play an ancient tape that we have had since my eldest daughter was little.  It is the most horrible of tapes with what my daughters describe as ‘cheesy’ Christmas songs on it.  If R is around he complains very loudly when we put the ‘music’ on but I don’t think Advent Sunday would be half as much fun without it.

004Elinor's Advent arrangement (640x480)

My daughter’s table-centre arrangment

The Sunday before last (30th November) was Advent Sunday so the day before that, R and I went to Rumburgh Church to make sure all was tidy and in order and to put the church Advent Crown together.  There are plenty of evergreen trees and plants in the churchyard so I gathered a selection of good looking cuttings and arranged them as best I could around the candle holder.

001Rumburgh's Advent Crown (640x480)

Rumburgh’s Advent Crown



While I was wandering about the churchyard looking for greenery I saw this…

004Primroses (640x480)

An extremely early primrose.

…and this.

005Coral fungus (640x480)

A coral fungus. This was very small as you can see by comparing it to the pea-shingle next to it.

I also saw this…

007Holly (640x480)

Holly with berries. If you look carefully you’ll see the mildew on the shiny leaves. It has been so damp this autumn!

…..and this

009Church gate (640x480)

The wooden churchyard gate has turned green too

010Gate to path leading to churchyard (640x480)

as has the gate to the path which leads to the churchyard. Our church is not visible from the road.

We have no church services at Rumburgh for the whole of the Advent and Christmas period this year but we do have a couple of carol services, the first of which was last Sunday, 7th December.

We had travelled up to Manchester on Saturday 6th December so that we could visit my in-laws.  R had driven up from Gloucestershire in the West Country where he had been working and E and I had gone on the train from home.  Because of the new franchise there is no longer a direct train route to Manchester from East Anglia.  The quickest and cheapest route was to travel south to London, cross the city from Liverpool Street Station to Euston Station and then take the pendolino train north to Manchester from there.  My poor mother-in-law is still very unwell but has left hospital and is now in a respite care-home for a few weeks.  Since moving to the care home she has caught a chest infection which has added to the problems she has with breathing because of a faulty valve in her heart.  She also fell and broke her thumb so has her hand in a plaster cast.  We stayed with her for about half an hour at most and then left when we saw that she was tiring.  We then drove to a restaurant and met my brother-in-law and his partner, his son and his partner and their two-year-old daughter and had a meal together.  R’s nephew, nephew’s partner and daughter had all had the chesty cough and cold but my brother-in-law was still suffering with it and we have since heard that his partner has become ill with it.  This does not bode well for us!  We returned to our very basic hotel and had a restless night before driving home on Sunday morning.  We set off shortly after 9.00 am and got back home just after 2.00 pm.  We had a short rest before going to the church to get it ready for the carol service.

008Rumburgh church (640x480)

The interior of our church. R is starting to get it ready for the service.

There are many candles to be lit and the mince pies and mulled wine to set out before the congregation start to arrive.

009R lighting candles (480x640)

Here is R lighting the candles on one of the window sills. R is 6′ 3.5″ tall and even by standing on the pew and stretching he can only just reach!

013Mince pies and mulled wine (640x480)

We set out the refreshments on the table at the back of the church and covered them for protection

011Flowers round font (640x480)

Floral display round the font

 This service is called Carols and Capers and is organised by our local folk groups and Morris dancers.  (A caper is a skip or jump and is used in Morris dancing).  Unfortunately, this year we didn’t have as many people in the church as in past years, probably because of a number of other events going on in the area.  I usually make my own mince pies to bring to the service but I had been much too busy and so I brought bought ones.

010Church filling up (640x480)

The congregation began to arrive

014Advent crown (640x480)

The second candle was lit on the Crown

The service went very well with a mixture of communal unaccompanied carol singing, dancing, solo singing, recitation and instrumental music.  Three of us from church were asked to do some readings from the Nativity Story and the Rector gave us a Bidding-prayer at the beginning, an amusing talk on ‘Christmas Words’ and sent us home with a Blessing.

015Gallimaufry (640x480)

Gallimaufry are a dance group who specialise in Medieval and Tudor dances

016Gallimaufry (640x480)



018Pearl in the Egg (640x480)

Pearl in the Egg are a couple of very talented young women who play period instruments. Here they are playing the music for Gallimaufry to dance to.

020Pearl in the Egg (640x480)

Pearl in the Egg then sang and played to us. This is my favourite part of the evening. According to their web-site, Pearl in the Egg (Perle in the Eghe) was the name of a real minstrel, a blind harpist who performed for King Edward I in 1306. He performed along with the Minstrel with the Bells, Matilda Makejoy and Reginald the Liar.

022Pearl in the Egg (640x480)

Pearl in the Egg describe themselves as Historical Musicians and they perform in many places including in churches, at fairs and at schools. They give talks and presentations and not only perform Medieval music but also Tudor, Victorian and 1940’s as well. Pearl in the Egg was a term used to describe cataracts in Medieval England.

023Rumfolk (640x480)

‘Rumfolk’ then sang to us

025Rumburgh Morris (640x480)

And Rumburgh Morris danced for us

A most enjoyable evening rounded of with the mince pies and mulled wine and lots of talk!  Our next carol Service is on Saturday 20th December.