Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Twenty five

Hessian tonight. Hessian for the babe in a manger. The shop keeper from Kurdistan says 'Merry Christmas'. Possibly the only English phrase he knows. R's other half joins us. Mine has already been to a midnight communion service. Well. Half of it. We share bread and wine and wonder how is it that Advent has slipped past so quickly once more. We took our kids to see the #BethlehemUnwrapped wall today. 8 metres high and as much a monstrosity in Piccadilly as it is in Bethlehem. We graffitied words of peace and a big star and went inside to see the art. All of us did a bit of a double take to find men sleeping on pews amongst the works if art. Then we went on to the carousels in Leicester Square. An Arthur Christmas movie before bed and its easy to 'forget the baby Jesus' in the words of that rather over familiar carol from school. The third time K came down declaring he was scared if Santa coming I went to sit with him and regaled that other story to keep his mind off nighttime visitors. How would Mary and Joseph got through the checkpoint from Jerusalem to Bethlehem? Would she had to have given birth at the checkpoint? She wouldn't be the first. 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Twenty four

A Hackney altercation and extremely inclement weather jolts us out of our bollard complacency tonight. Four of us are thrust from the cosines of candlelight and fire side carols around the tree. From the heart of huggile (Danish feelings of snugness and warmth while we've been celebrating Lille Yule Aften) into the depths of a windy/rainy night on Chatsworth Road with a fight in full flow. R phones the police and runs after the warring factions but by the time she is talking to someone the fighting couples have parted. A police car saunters up as we're painting a gold 24 on the bollard farthest away from the very shouty guy. They don't seem too bothered by us and we quickly part making our way back to our respective cosy homes. Glad that we have them. 

Twenty three

Carol services abound. Two today. A Christingle and a carols by candle light. The Christingle makes sense in theory and I'm a big fan of embodying symbolism but in reality the kids just maim and destroy some oranges which get left behind after church. Then an altogether more satisfying carols by candlelight that same afternoon. A good mix of traditional and light hearted and the visiting choir declare it to be the best carol service they've ever been to. Result. 

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Twenty two

The wrapping has begun. This is unheard  of. Usually wrapping starts around 1am on Christmas Eve after R and I have been to midnight service at and finished our last advent adventure. But M has been asking for a year now if we can get some presents under the tree before Christmas morning so we've pushed the boat out and done it. He will be beside himself tomorrow. And so will start a rather tiresome game where he'll push the boundaries and start doing a little bit of surreptitious peeling as well as shaking and feeling and we'll tell him not to about a gazillion times. I guess that's all part of the fun! So tonight we left a bow on the bollard. I salvaged this fabric from the bins at the Round Chapel after a Sikh wedding over a decade ago. I made 25 advent bags out of most of it to contain the play mobile figures which the kids open each day to make our nativity. So it's fabric that very much says 'Christmas' to me. Hope the punters at the market tomorrow enjoy it! 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Twenty one

Old curtains rear their satin head again. Proper vintage for Chatsworth Road. Don't hold your breath it'll probably be knicked by the morning and turn up on some swanky market stall on Sunday. R said she only went onto the second hand shop because her daughter was looking for something. Fatal. A couple of pairs of curtains is the least you can get away with in that situation. 

And V has done a rather lovely replacement for no. 12. See how long this cosy little number lasts. It certainly feels much 'righter' wrapping wool around. Maybe it's because the shape feels very neck like. Maybe it's the ways it gives and fills the spaces. Sort of comforting. And forgiving. 

Thursday, 19 December 2013


Twenty. Twentieth of December?? How did that happen? The kids' excitement as the Big Day grows closer mirrors my horror as the days count down. Too much to do too little time. I'm busy deciding which things can fall by the way side. Currently this includes finishing my Christmas bunting, making an Advent wreath, baking any more mince pies and sleeping. Still on the 'important' list is finishing sewing of presents, decorating the tree and cleaning the bathroom. Finding two 'winter wonderland' costumes tonight didn't exactly help me keep on track. 


Had to wake R again for this one. She had fallen asleep on one of our armchairs after a few sips of her mulled wine. This used to be the curtains in the bathroom  when we moved in. It's an old sari which appealed to my inner India-phile. But they rotted in the sun and now I only have little bits left. Next year, R's other half says, you should paint massive stars on the walks above the shops. Yeah right. Can just imagine him up a ladder orchestrating that! 



Bit rainy and horrid last night. We've list the cable ties and were resorting to needle and thread. The blue was frayed and a bit raggedy to be honest but R made a valiant attempt to make it look all thought through and on purpose. The knitted purple one from V has been swiped. What is it about the knitted ones? Who would object so strongly to a knitted one but is happy to let random fanrics adorn their local bollards?? 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013


Tonight is for Sue. We found out earlier today the crushing news that she has breast cancer. Just six short years since her twin, Ali, died of stomach cancer. Mark says, wryly, that Ali always said that breast cancer was the boring variety but that he is pleased that is the case. Boring and treatable, please God. 

Sue says she wishes she could share it all with Ali. 

This is a very short piece of yarn that was saved during the great big clear out of Ali's things. I think her mum bought it for her at some Country Living fair or other. Ali got someone to make her a fabulous jumper out of it. And a teapot cosy I think too. It's bright and colourful and typical of the sort of thing she loved. I'd been saving it for something special. 

Monday, 16 December 2013


"It's yellow again R!" I say, somewhat uncharitably. She was already in bed last night when I suggested we meet for 15 and instead I placed it with her lovely eldest daughter. Bit beyond the call of a regular babysit I would say. Anyway she's keen to make up for it and I am being disparaging about the fabric. "But it's the backing I used for J's quilt" she says plaintively. I'm not sure it's going to weather well - the soggy evening already has it looking splodgy as we tie it on. But a fitting choice it is as a testament to a mother's love for her daughter. Especially with the terrible news today that the investigation into Jaydan, the missing 17 year old from Oxford, has become a murder enquiry. I also read today in the paper about a mum who's written a book about her daughters 5742 days alive. She died at 15 after taking ecstasy. Her mothers only child. I can't begin to imagine anything so terrible. She says if her condition that there isn't a word to describe it. She needs 9 words to describe what she has become: I'm a single mother whose only child is dead. Maybe it's a good thing our language doesn't have a word for such a tragedy. I thank God every day for my good fortune in having had children and often find myself silently praying nothing awful will happen to them. 

Sunday, 15 December 2013


Oops. Seems that I forgot to blog 15. When R doesn't show up everything falls apart! 

Saturday, 14 December 2013


I have been wanting to make my own fuse plastic bag fabric for ages. I want to make a cycle seat cover which actually works, rather than the expensive one I bought from Paperchase that almost never worked. I've not quite realised this dream but the Great Advent Bollard Project has spurred me on to experimenting at least and I have managed to make a strip big enough to adorn one. It's made up of those ubiquitous blue bags of Chatsworth Road fame. With a bit of Coop heavy duty thrown in for stability and longevity. Marking school Christmas Fairs and rampant on-line shopping that has ensued this week. Only the totally impressive R remains free of the shackles of consumerism as she once again embarks on an almost totally homemade Christmas. She's got fudge and yarn coming out of her ears. Luckily she has 3 lovely elves to help her. Really. I don't know how she does it. 

Friday, 13 December 2013


13.12.13. We have officially entered the season of nativity plays. I do love them. I feel a bit worried that this year will be my last nativity year. No more babies coming up for year 2. It was K's turn this year and Mexico City class did so well. Loads of them had little solos and have lovely tuneful voices. It always makes me cry. K knew at least 30% of the words and looked bored approximately 63% of the time but still I cried. 

Then tonight the Crafty Ladeez met to make fudge. We also drank prosecco, ate fudge, mince pies and Amerretti biscuits. What a very nice evening we had. I am very excited by my first batch of fudge. Creamy, crumbly, melty. Yummy. It's nearly Christmas. And this is my Christmassey material bought on my first visit to Ikea approximately 20 years ago!

Thursday, 12 December 2013


A warm and cosy kitted scarf for number 12. For the freezing fog from today which kept me on my toes as I cycled down the canal before the sun came up this morning. The Yarn Bomb Queen (aka Valerie) made it a while back and we've been hoping she might join us to fix it on a bollard one night. But R and I seem to be getting later and later and she is an early bird. She'll have to make another now to do later in Advent!

Tonight we were joined by the Lovely Kate. And by the guy who's been hovering around the corner shop. 'I like' he says. We laugh and make polite British excuses for ourselves. 'I have little English' he says. 'I'm from Kurdistan. I see one two bollards. These ones I like. The others no'. We get his drift and feel glad of the warmth of his tone. Nicer than the guy I passed near our doorstep on Monday night, when he pushed through the four of us (me and the kids) muttering under his breath 'Bloody white middle class people taking over Hackney'. Charming. I am not sure whether it's one of our local, vocal, patients from the mental health unit, or a disgruntled guy feeling his neighbourhood is filling up with people not like him, doing things he's not into, and pushing up the prices of houses, food and everything else, in their wake. But it didn't feel very friendly. Gimme those layabout, foreign immigrants scrounging off the state any day.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013


'I've got an African fabric.' she says. 'For Madiba.' 'That's not African!' I say. 'Aren't they daisies?' 'Oh well it's earthy. And beautiful. And it was a lovely shirt to wear!'  

My head is full of shopping and Christmas No 1 singles. I am feeling about a million miles away from the ceremonies in South Africa. But some passionate singing from Friday night has rubbed off on Mr Middle and every now and then he belts out 'Freeee-eeee Nelson Mandela'. Keeping it current. Keeping it real. He asked the minister tonight if John the Baptist was a bit like Martin Luther King. I love my kids. And I love my church which produces a minister who basically agrees with him, not missing a beat as she hammers home the 'dreaming of new things to come' connection, trying to make a hairy, animal-skinned wearing, prophet come alive a couple of thousand years on. 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013


So, we finally do one for the next night.. if you get my drift. 10 will be ready for all to enjoy tomorrow, the 10th December and the 10th day of Advent. But tonight I am thinking this is Christmas embodied: all shiny and red and silver and sparky and a bit out of control. We went to hear K sing in a UNICEF carol concert which, as last year, was a fantastic mix of kids singing, a brilliant choir (the Joyful Company of Singers) and a chance to belt out the favourites. It's the only chance I get to pretend I can do the descant - none of the other services I get to will have enough voices to drown me out!! But double bonus this year was that it was by candlelight. Despite a rather horrible incident at our own church's candlelight carol service last year I do rather like them. (NB for all those intending to join The Round Chapel's Candlelit Carols on 22nd Dec at 5pm, we're working on improved H&S this year!)


Thinking about Helen who's in the Homerton tonight. One missing from the Monday Night Meal-ers. R brought green felt to think about hope. Fresh new hope. 

Lara's family are going to Rushmore tomorrow to put their decorative tiles with the ones done by her 5 year old class mates around the tree by which her short life is remembered. I read today of a new book prize, Oscars Prize, to find the best pre-school book each year. It's been set up by a dad whose son of the same name died a year ago. '"My son died"' he said 'are the 3 saddest words I can think of.' I am not sure how you cling to hope in those times. But I guess our Advent waiting points to hope for all. I hope I would cling to that if I ever had to inhabit those terrible words. 

Monday, 9 December 2013


Still running slightly behind as we decided it would be better if we did the one for the next day the night before... If you get my drift. So that each morning the hoards (!) would see the correct number for the day in Advent it is. 

But no. 8 is for golden days of fun and friendship. R has been with old friends in Bristol and we've had a weekend full of meals and get-togethers. What a wonderful life. 


Seven is a bunch of strips of cloth which I have rescued from a Lent installation at church. (Ye hay linking up the Christian seasons!!). We wrote names of people who had inspired us in our faith journeys and who'd paved the way and then weaved them into a panel of twigs for an installation hanging from the ceiling. 

So adorning No. 7 bollard is a 'cloud of witnesses' or the people who've pointed the way to God for us. Like John - who we remembered t(hanks to Rod/Gerry and the Pilgrim House songs) as Johnno today in church. Johnno the baptiser. Pointing the way to God, paving the way for Jesus. Something tells me we'll need more than our bollards to point people to God this Christmas. 

Sunday, 8 December 2013


Ooops. Six was late. Only six days in and I forgot to do one. R was away and we had friends over so I was a bit distracted. Went out last night instead with 6 and 7 and one of them didn't even fit. So we're still trailing a day. But I have to say that I went down to the market today which was in full seasonal swing and they're so tricky to spot, unless you're about the height of a 5 year old, that I don't suppose there'll be an out cry.

6 is for all those cyclists (myself and many loved ones included) taking their lives in their own hands each time they cycle in London, and particularly those 6 who died in two weeks in November. Over a thousand brilliant cyclists staged a 'die-in' outside the Transport for London offices last week in protest. I wish I had gone with them. It's really time to improve the lot of the cyclist in London. I'm sure if they didn't feel as though they were cycling for their lives they would obey the road rules more regularly. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013


This is for Madiba. No time to find African material so R has constructed a narrative around a favourite piece - with bars to represent the incarceration, purple for mourning, grey for old age, but with all that colour coming through. I am watching rolling BBC news and they're dancing in the street on Soweto outside his old house. It seems right even if Huw Edwards seems confused by it. What is there not to celebrate? He achieved perhaps more than any other human being in recent history and he's died at home in the presence of his family aged 95. What a relief that Africans have a much better sense of perspective on death and mourning. Only sadness I feel is that I haven't heard from Tutu - the only person no one seems to have interviewed yet. Perhaps he will be following in his friend's footsteps soon? 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Another homey one tonight. A piece of what R tells me is Sanderson fabric (how she holds all this info
in her head beats me). It's from a dressing table stool my Grandma had in her bedroom - no doubt lovingly recovering it in the most contemporary style she could muster in the 1980s. When Mr M and I pulled it all off to recover it once more we found the original pale gold silk, rather worse for wear, which had been there back in the 40s. I was thinking today about my daughter's namesake, who lived until her 100th year, who had been a Crafty Ladee in her own generation.

E had a friend round today from school. I can't tell you how delighted I was. First new friend for a play date. Phew. And she was loverly! Double phew. But she talked about having 3 great grandparents still alive and they are only 84 (the age N's dad is)!  I did some quick calculations so at least I was prepared for the super young looking mum who arrived to fetch her home. But she can't be more than about 6 or 7 years younger than me... It's just weird the way the generations work like that. Anyway. I am trying not to put the poor girl into a box which says 'bosom pal for life' but it was nevertheless really nice to have her over. 


Three is for home. For family. For mums we should ring more. R provided some curtain fabric which was in the manse when her family moved there in 1974. It hung there until well into the 1990s. I think they may still hang in their London lounge - I am sure she said she got the piece when they had to trim the curtains when they did the bay. They nearly as old as me those curtains! Seen a lot of people come and go. A lot has happened in the presence of those curtains. This year it seems to be about the fabric. Two terribly sentimental middle aged women do yarn bombing. Come back Valerie all is forgiven!!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


I felt as though I was making some sacrifice today for the bollard. I wanted to have something to suggest a wedding. This is netting which we used in out wedding decorations 17 years ago. I only have a couple of bits left and I always like to have a bit in case a crafty project presents itself. Tonight one of those bits went on number Two. It's for Claire and Nigel. Two people I have never met but who are friends of a friend of mine. 

I have been thinking about them a lot today. They wanted to get married but had put it off. Only a short time ago Claire found out she had advanced stage cancer. She died today having not been able to realise her wish of marrying Nigel.  They had been denied by the local registrar who said since she was on morphine she couldn't be said to be in her 'right mind'. Has Nigel's Advent, his waiting time, finished? Or just begun? A small sacrifice of something sentimental for me somehow seems fitting. Nice to bring back the gold stars to Chatsworth Road too. 

Sunday, 1 December 2013


It was a struggle to know what to do this year. Think R secretly wanted to go back to the spray can. I wanted to do something bigger and with more people involved. We decided upon neither of these things. The over abundance of street furniture does rather cry out to be beautified so we're planning 24 mini yarn/fabric bombs coming to a bollard near you. Or 25. We couldn't quite remember which we've done in the past. Somehow tonight doing a shiny Advent purple for One seems a bit 'late' now that the hoards from Chats Rd market have been and gone this first of December. 

Anyway. She talked about hope coming out of hard times and 12 year old birthdays. And maggots in Den and Eileen's carpet. This morning in Sunday school we talked about turning swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks. And how many uses we could find for a wooden dagger. Advent. A waiting time.