I’m not a Christmas cynic; I’m cynical about what it’s become

 

I love Christmas; getting excited about being with family, choosing which silly games we’ll play and which of our favourite movies will get played for the umpteenth time. I love how quiet the towns are on Christmas day, how everything seems so peaceful and serene. I love going for the traditional walk on Christmas day, after eating more than I should, and admiring the amazing surroundings of where we live.

I’m not a Christian, and consider myself non-religious. I do, however, love the sense of family that comes with Christmas, and as such, have always enjoyed the celebrations. However, as I age and become more questioning (some might say cynical), I don’t like what Christmas has become for many.

It feels like a competition, which you may not have actually signed up for but you’re in it anyway. As gifts become more extreme, with families buying the latest electronic upgrade for their children’s phones and game-stations and couples getting in to debt to out-shine their friends in the “you’ll never believe what he got me this year” stakes, it all strikes me as nothing like what Christmas is really about.

When did Christmas stop being about giving your time and become about giving an indication of how successful you are? When I watch people giving expensive gifts, I have to ask whom are they really doing it for? Is it for the recipient, or, is it more for themselves; a way of announcing, “look how well things are going for me. I’m so successful I can spend loads of money on generous gifts for those I wish to impress.”

I will always remember the first year my brother and I were working, full time. We both still lived at home and that Christmas was a perfect example of my theory. Did we save the money we’d earned in our first few months of independence? No, we spent most of it on gifts for our parents, grandparents and each other. Looking back, I see it was our way of saying we had grown-up and were playing with the adults now. Naïve if well intentioned.

This year, after several challenges for all our family, and some dear friends, we had a quiet Christmas day. Our daughter cooked and hosted us and her Nan (my husband’s 80 year old mum) and the day was a real joy. We exchanged a few gifts, mainly little things we’d spotted that we knew were needed, but the main thing was that we were together. A family, with memories shared of those who were missing, and laughter at many of the memories. A precious day.

“Imagine if people stopped thinking Christmas involved giving gifts” Hannah remarked this morning. What a wonderful thought. Perhaps we’d return to the idea that Christmas is about giving just one gift: your time to the ones you love.

Here’s to a positive, joyful and family time over the week ahead

Dinah

November Myddfai Musings

I’ve been reminded this week of the first time we saw North Lodge in Myddfai, now our home for almost three years.  It was a rainy day at the end of October 2014 and we knew we belonged here before we got through the gates.  All our previous homes have “spoken” to me long before we’ve reached the front door, and getting that sense of belonging was the first indicator that we’d found our forever-home.

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“If we think it’s beautiful on a cold, wet, grey and miserable day, then we’re going to be amazed by it in the spring” John said, as we sat discussing our offer in the car after just 20 minutes in the woods and even less time in the cottage.

And as I look out at our garden and small woodland, through a typical November drizzle, I still find myself overwhelmed by the beauty of this place.  We’ve found a little piece of our long-term dream and we’re making it work.  I watch the variety of birds coming to feed as the sun sets, getting the last nibble of the day before the bats come out.  I listen to the stream running full thanks to the rain, and still find it one of the most restful sounds I’ve ever heard.

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I am hugely grateful that we took the plunge and decided to follow our dream, and start a whole new way of living.  It’s hard work living this way, using our own coppiced woodland to provide fuel for heating, cooking and hot water.  Looking after a woodland and wetland and bog garden, of around two acres, requires every available hour of daylight and some serious wet-weather clothing.  And we’re learning as we go with the vegetable patch, expanding into poly-tunnels next year (we hope).

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Every evening brings us to the Rayburn, slightly soggy and smiling, covered with aches, wood shavings and clay.  We’re always proud of what we’ve achieved during the day, and mostly knackered but happy.  We’ve found our happy place, our next chapter.  We’re learning, day by day, to let go of the old way of doing, and focusing on being.  It takes time.

Dinah x

 

A bad case of wind!

As I was sitting in my new office, writing blogs, I became aware that autumn had brought a bad case of wind with it!  My new office, you see, is an old caravan, parked between our garage and our woodland, so when the wind arrived, I found my writing room shaking from side to side.

Wales certainly knows how to do weather; whether it’s wind or rain you’re after, this autumn is already producing plenty and as we’ve found as we settle into our new home, every aspect of the British weather seems to be on steroids here!

We’re learning how to work, outside, in the pouring rain; apparently, complaining about soggy bottoms simply makes it more obvious we’re really ‘Townies’, so we’re learning to reply ‘Tidy’ when asked what we think of the weather, which is always greeted with a chuckle and a nod.

The main upside to all this amazing weather? Our surroundings.  We have trees showing every colour from green to gold, hedgerows filled with birds loudly complaining about the weather and celebrating moments of calm.

We’re loving the autumn here, and if a bad case of wind is a consequence, well, I can live with that!

Dinah x