Sunday, 30 December 2012

A Suffolk Christmas

My sister's 'pet' pheasant.

December, normally one of my happiest months, has been so overshadowed this year, that it seems to have passed me by. But Christmas itself was lovely - truly lovely.
The In-Charge and I flew to England to spend four brief days with my parents, my sister and my brother-in-law, and it was the best thing we could have done.
For one thing it forcibly removed us from the axis point of our very real grief.

They all live in Suffolk, a part of England we have loved for many years - even before first my sister and then my parents moved there. Some of my father's family originally came from Suffolk, and he has happy childhood memories rooted in the county.
When I visited in the spring, it was a dust-bowl that had received only 8mm of rain in three months.
No longer.
The flooded fields visible first from the plane and then driving East from Stanstead were a sight more familiar in the Emerald Isle. My parents, who live in a charming 500 year old weaver's cottage, are fortunately located at the highest point of their village, so water has not been an issue, but my sister, whose own delightful house is probably of similar age, lives in a picturesque country lane beside an ancient ford. Fortunately the building is also raised out of harm's way, but the ford - through which she and others have to pass in order to commune with the outside world - has been in full, and deceptive, spate. In the last few weeks it has seen off not only her car, but also at least two others whose owners mistakenly thought they could cross unscathed.

'Earth cares for her own ruins, naught for ours' - cars included.

We have only spent two other Christmases in England in the last 19 years, and it was lovely to do so this year. A balm - a much needed balm - to our sore hearts.
And to my delight I found these creations nestling amongst the presents under the Christmas tree.
They were not there as gifts but have apparently - in my extended absence - become part of my parents' yuletide tradition. They were made some years ago by my aunt, my mother's twin.

Oh how I do love knitting!

I don't suppose they quite qualify as guerrilla knitting, but I'm very willing to make an exception!
Although, now I come to think of it, in the politics of the time, I suppose this lot were pretty much all guerrillas!

Especially these guys.

I particularly love the black and white lambs - but then that's not really surprising, is it?

On Boxing Day, or Stephen's Day as I've learned to call it in Ireland, we went for a long walk - on the safe side of the ford - and ended up at the tiny Church of All Saints, lost in a copse of trees in the best Meaulnes tradition.

Built in the 14th and 15th centuries, it was a gem and a delight, decorated throughout with bunches of holly for the recent candlelit carol service. The church was apparently restored to its original medieval glory in 1862, when the changes made in the 17th and 18th centuries were rectified. The whole church was beautiful, from its hammerbeam roof and painted coat of arms to its stained glass windows, but the bits that pleased us all the most were the poppyhead pew ends, each carved with different leaves and fruit. I particularly like knowing who carved them (and everything else in the church) 150 years ago - James Wormald and William Polly. What pleasure it must have given them to create so many beautiful objects.
Some of them are decidedly Christmassey.


And, of course, ivy

And the pear tree, although I didn't see a partridge lurking amongst the leaves.

Works of art, each and every one - quite beautiful.

There may not have been a partridge on the pew, but there is a crow perched on the top of the little spire. Apparently it was put there when the church was renovated again in 2004.

The day was just fading and rain beginning to spit as we arrived back at my sister's house, the pretty lights in the bushes around her windows shining to welcome us home. We sat around the fire and ate far too many delicious mince pies and slices of cake for tea, all washed down with mulled wine or a cuppa according to taste, while Tilly, her new cat, went from lap to lap to be stroked and admired.

What a perfect way to spend Christmas.

Tilly being admired


  1. After your desperately sad December I am so glad you were able to spend a happy and beautiful Christmas with your family.
    What a beautiful church....and the carvings......oh how I miss........
    May the new year bring you peace of mind and heart. x

    1. Thank you Helen. It was lovely to be back in Suffolk, I must say.

  2. Lovely post Lorely. I am glad you had a good Christmas. Where was Model Dog? Love the knitted figures and Tilly cat looks a fine animal. Is she a rescue too?
    Before my mother developed dementia we used to drive out on summer days when I visited and explore the wondrous churches of Suffolk. We went to some wonderful places. Your post brought back some of those happy memories.

    1. Hi Isobel. Model Dog went to our wonderful kennels. I was a bit nervous about leaving her for the first time, all on her own, as she had been abandoned before she came to us. However, all was - of course - fine! She adored playing with all the other dogs (they take them all out to play in their huge field), particularly the owners' wolfhounds. They said she liked 'being the hare'!! She was over the moon to see us, and after making a huge fuss of us both rushed back to make a huge fuss of the kennel owner before leaping into the car - very sweet.
      Tilly is indeed a 'rescue' - from people who loved her but could no longer keep her for different reasons. She was very nervous when she arrived, but has settled very happily. Not surprisingly, she has well and truly landed on her feet!
      I'm so glad the little Suffolk church brought back happy memories. What would any of us do without those?

  3. So enjoyed this post this morning. That nativity is darling. Good thing I am not anywhere close to your Mom and Dad because I believe they would find it missing.. :)
    I have to say you have so been on my mind.

    1. Thank you Pix. Isn't the nativity fab! I very nearly stashed it away in the bottom of my suitcase when we left!
      Thank you for all your thoughts. I can't tell you how much they are appreciated.
      Happy New Year to you. x

  4. Our local church was too 'restored' in the mid 1800s. the old pews were replaced with neat matching ones, the rude screen ditched, floor mosaiced, the tatty carved wooden angels which held the timbered roof were replaced with very victorian ones all wholesome and smooth, you can see some of the wooden ones at the back of the church, they appeared in a London sale room and were confiscated, some others ended up in the Burrel collection in Glasgow...he at least knew a good piece of 11th century carving when he saw it.
    Much love for the new year, must away to see what is keeping us awake rumaging in our attic. It kept our 'in-charge' awake till 4 am last night so he has phoned from afar, to remind me to 'set some traps!'
    He does not do such unpleasent things but has offered to shoot what ever it is if I catch it/them!

  5. Glad getting away for Christmas did you good. Here's to the New Year! Blessings!


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