Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

It’s that time of year again when everyone eats too much, drinks too much, exchanges presents, gathers around the television to watch mindless rubbish and, if they’re really lucky, spends time with loved ones. I will, of course, be doing at least some of these things and I genuinely hope you are too.


But, in a world where so many wish to spread hatred and fear, where someone can say “an armed society is a polite society” and have other people agree, where people fleeing for their lives and for the lives of their children are referred to as cockroaches and treated without humanity, what I hope for most is that there actually is some hope for all of us.


And I just hope I’m not the only one.



I hope that the world stops raining
Stops turning its back on the young
See nobody here is blameless
I hope that we can fix all that we’ve done
I really hope Martin can’t see this
I hope that we still have a dream
I’m hoping that change isn’t hopeless
I’m hoping to start it with me
I just hope I’m not the only one
Yeah I just hope I’m not the only one

I hope we start seeing forever
Instead of what we can gain in a day
I hope we start seeing each other
Cause don’t we all bleed the same?
I really hope someone can hear me
That a child doesn’t bear the weight of a gun
Hope I find the voice within me to scream at the top of my lungs
I just hope I’m not the only one
Yeah I just hope I’m not the only one

Louder, I cannot hear you
How can things be better left unsaid?
Call me, call me a dreamer
But it seems that dreams are all that we’ve got left

I hope that we still have a heartbeat
I hope we don’t turn to stone
At night when you turn the lights off
I hope you don’t cry alone
I hope we stop taking for granted
All of the land and all of the sea
I’m taking a chance on loving
I hope that you take it with me

I just hope I’m not the only one
I just hope I’m not the only one
I just hope I’m not the only one

Hope – Emeli Sandé


Every Christmas I make a charitable donation. This year I’m supporting Save the Children, in particular their Syria Crisis Appeal. If you wish to make a donation too, you can do so here:

Save the Children – Syria Crisis Appeal


Sending you all lots of love and wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, hopeful and peaceful New Year.


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He was never Santa in our house, always Father Christmas and he came every year until I was eighteen and left for University.

When I was little, Father Christmas brought me a large sock filled with fruit and nuts, a sugar mouse, pencils, pens and other small things. He also brought me a big pillowcase full of presents. My brother and I left the pillowcase and sock at the end of our beds when we went to sleep on Christmas Eve.

When I woke up on Christmas morning, probably at some ridiculously early hour, I would usually lie in bed and savour the moment when I would move my feet under the covers and feel the heavy weight of the filled pillowcase and sock. I would listen to the delicious rustle of the paper-wrapped presents inside and think about opening them. There was no better feeling. I think sometimes I waited for my brother to come charging in wanting to know what I had before opening anything. The anticipation was the best bit!

Once the present opening began we would go back and forth between our rooms and our parents’ room making sure they knew exactly what Father Christmas had brought us.

For some people Santa leaves his sack under the tree or somewhere else but that always seems strange to me. The memory of that weight at the end of my bed is one of my most vivid and exciting childhood memories and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

May your Christmas be merry and bright. And wherever Santa leaves his sack in your house, may it be filled with joy.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

[Unable to edit this to my satisfaction and add a pretty picture as my computer is still in a box after moving house a week ago and I’m writing this on my iPad.]

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Is it Christmas already?


A few months ago I told myself that if I was still out of work by Christmas I would really need to start seriously worrying. Luckily for me I’ve been spared that trauma and I could not be more grateful. Inevitably though I’ve had to neglect this blog while I settle into my new job and try desperately to catch up on sleep because it turns out that working is exhausting. How did I forget this?


Being in a school at Christmas is a joyful but very busy time. We had a kids’ Christmas party, two carol concerts with the children performing, one staff panto (oh yes!), a secret Santa of epic proportions, one fancy staff lunch, a sausage sandwich and far too much chocolate. Before anyone asks I didn’t have to dress up for the panto, I just had to hide behind a cardboard Christmas tree. And as for Secret Santa, every member of staff, over 130, was included, plus every child received a personalised gift! I was seriously impressed.


All that being said Christmas seems to have crept up on me rather quickly. It tapped me on the shoulder at the end of last week and frightened the life out of me! I am woefully unprepared this year and no amount of Christmas carols, secret Santa gifts and chocolate has made me feel festive. I went out on Sunday and finally did some Christmas shopping. I’m never that organised when it comes to buying presents but this year I really let the side down. I did manage to do it all and am hoping the postman delivers the final one today otherwise it’s going to be rather late – independent sellers on Amazon are a bit unreliable on the delivery front.


I did make a vat of spiced red cabbage on Monday which is as much cooking as I’m doing this year. I love it and it’s my alternative to sprouts which I hate! And a vat is no exaggeration. My casserole holds almost 7 litres and it was full to the brim with cabbage before I put it in the oven. Two and a half hours later it had reduced by half but there is still enough to feed five on Christmas Day with leftovers and a further 7 portions in the freezer for me to enjoy over the weeks to come!


So, I have to pack a bag for a couple of days away at my parents’ house so I shall leave you with the promise that I will be blogging properly very soon. I have several posts on the go and just need to find a bit of spare time. I’m hoping that after the New Year I will be less tired and feel more like writing in the evenings and at weekends.


Wherever you are I hope you have a lovely Christmas and wish you a happy, healthy and peaceful 2014.

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On Christmas Eve my family and I will settle down to our biggest and most well-preserved family tradition.  We’ll sit around a candle-lit table and tuck in to plates of bangers and mash.  This may seem like an odd tradition but my grandfather assured me a long time ago that sausages, mashed potato and fried onions have been eaten by candlelight for Christmas Eve supper in the Dobson family for over 100 years.  My grandfather was not known for over exaggeration or stretching the truth so I’m confident that this truly is a time-honoured custom.

My particular family unit have now added baked beans to the equation, and for several years now my dad has insisted on there being a light on somewhere as he claims he can’t see his food without it!  This of course always provokes groans and jokes about old age…so now it’s candlelit with some background lighting!  We’ve had variations on the bangers and mash theme over the years, such as cheesy mash or onion gravy but we always return to the old favourite and knowing that my ancestors have always eaten the same meal on this special evening, for me, makes it feel more important to continue with the tradition.

The bangers and mash are followed by my mum’s homemade mince-pies.  She’ll tell you that they’re nothing special but in that regard she is very wrong.  In my opinion her secret is that she makes her own mincemeat and extra special rich pastry.  Sadly, having a wheat intolerance I have to restrict my mince-pie eating to a bare minimum which of course makes me appreciate them all the more.  Now a mince-pie in my family is not complete until you have prised open the lid, put a dollop of rum butter inside and then replaced the top before taking a bite.  Inevitably the pie collapses and rum butter drips down your chin but it’s a family tradition not to be missed.  My brother takes this tradition one step further and on Christmas Day after he’s eaten his Christmas pud (homemade of course), he prises open a warm mince-pie and fills it, not only with rum butter but also a piece of pudding.  It is very messy but, he assures me also very delicious!  When asked why he does this…he’ll tell you that it’s traditional!

Christmas morning when my brother and I were little was of course a frenzy of upending pillowcases and emptying football socks to find out what Father Christmas (never Santa in our house) had brought us.  My brother used to drag his pillowcase and sock into my bedroom and then we’d run backwards and forwards between my room and our parents’ bedroom to show them what delights Father Christmas had seen fit to bestow.  Of course with no young children in the family anymore this is one tradition that has sadly ceased…at least for the time-being.  Somewhere in the sock, amidst the satsumas, apples, monkey nuts and other small pleasures there was always a sugar mouse.  A homemade sugar mouse no less!  Over the years this has developed into a chocolate mouse with a fondant filling and now, all these years later, my mother continues the tradition and still buys us each one of these every Christmas, although it’s now handed over rather than delivered in a sock!

It’s still traditional in my family to go to church at Christmas.  Some of us go and some of us don’t but my dad always sings in the choir at the Midnight Eucharist.  As children, going to the midnight service was a real treat as it meant bedtime was delayed and the church lit by hundreds of candles, was a sight to behold.  On Christmas day there was always a loud clamouring from my brother and I to be allowed to open one present each before church as the main event wouldn’t happen until much later.  As I recall, this begging was usually indulged and the present was often taken to church and duly showed off to various members of the congregation.

Present opening in our family was and still is done long after most people have cleared away the debris of paper and ribbons that’s left behind.  As children this no doubt prolonged the excitement and although I don’t remember any I’m sure there was begging and whining.  Now, we wait patiently for there to be a suitable break in the cooking for everyone to gather in the living room with alcoholic aperitifs and nibbles.  Presents are then duly dished out and opened.

The main event is of course the dinner.  In our family we have no unusual traditions but my mum and I insist on bread sauce with the turkey.  No-one else likes it and even though I’m not supposed to have it, I still spoon it liberally onto my plate because after all, it is Christmas and bread sauce is traditional!  Brussel sprouts are also traditional fare at this time of year but sadly I have never liked them.  As tradition dictates sprouts should be eaten, every year I carefully place three on my plate and then proceed to eat approximately one and a half before giving up and leaving the rest.

Before the pudding can be brought out the curtains have to be closed and the lights turned off.  Once we’re in darkness, the pudding is brought forth awash with blue flames, having been doused in something suitably flammable such as rum.  This seemed much more exciting when I was a child but it wouldn’t seem right not to have a flaming pudding.

As I’ve got older and developed a real dislike for cream I have found that something else I really don’t like is really good when served with the pud – custard!  None of the posh stuff for me made from cream and vanilla pods.  No, it has to be good old-fashioned custard powder and milk.  Christmas is the only time of year I’ll eat it but, poured over the pudding together with some rum butter, it really is perfect and now, in our family, something of a tradition.  Eating Christmas pudding always reminds me of my Grandma.  Sadly she has long since departed this life but I will never forget how she really liked a tiny bit of pudding with her cream!

After dinner there will of course be washing up to do and this used to be the one time of year my brother and I were not expected to help.  My dad would surprise us by donning an apron and helping instead.  Of course, the roles have now reversed although unlike in previous years, there is now a dishwasher which I will be happy to help fill!  The washing up is one tradition I will not be sorry to lose.

In years gone by there used to be some festive singing around the piano but this has long since been replaced by snoring and television watching so, from me to you, I’m including a link to a Christmas carol that has always been one of my favourites and is one I used to sing as a child.  Apologies in advance as this is me singing!

Whatever your own traditions, I wish you all a very merry Christmas filled with joy and happiness.

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