This year things have not gone the way I like them to. I like to try and keep Advent quiet of extra things so we can focus on preparing for Christmas. This year I have been ill and had lots of extra training to do for a new job. Many of the things I like to do, including not being rushed, have not happened.

Some of the good things though have been:

Going to a folk festival with great friends, I loved The Young Uns and Edwina Hayes (we heard her on the Introducing Stage and she was great). We were also brave enough to sing at the sing around – first time we’ve done that at anything other than one of the local little folk nights here on the Island at The Hideaway, we opted for our attempt at Beth Rowleys’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine

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 After the folk festival I had a week of training for a new, and only very p/t, job. This meant lots of trips to the mainland, dashing too and from the Red Jet, being in a not quite as warm as I would like swimming pool and this was not good for my cough, so I went downhill rapidly the week after and had to cancel loads of things I was planning to do – most notable the Learning Zone Christingle. However I was just well enough to manage to do the advent meditation i had planned for church and it was lovely I was really pleased I managed to get this done it was probably the highlight of the advent period for me.

However I was well enough to contribute to the cookie exchange and one of the joys of having older kids is that they can make their own cookies without help too and Jonathan took them to the meet up and distributed them and came back with a mountain of yummies from other home ed families.

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I was too ill to sing carols with any gusto which I felt very sad about but did manage to get out for a cocktail with some friends and we managed to:

decorate gingerbread houses

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Get the Christmas tree put up – the girls did it the Monday before Christmas when Rebekah came home from uni.


Get my driftwood tree up and the potato advent wreath made


make a very plainly decorated Christmas cake

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Jonathan managed a large star for the window


and we played some games


Our Christmas Days tend to follow a standard pattern each year.

1. Stockings – in our bed.

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we all had to make something home-made and i was really pleased that the minion wrisites I had made went down well!


2. Then it’s off to church, relatively early as we usually do the music and open up the church on Christmas Morning – great time, everyone was in good voice so the singing went well.

3. Back home and a starter of dips, veggie sticks and crisps and a glass of bucks fizz.



4. Time to open presents.



5. Time to prepare the dinner and play a game while it cooks.


6. Dinnertime – not a traditional turkey roast but toad-in-the-hole with cauliflower cheese and roast potatoes!


7. More games – Rebekah was delighted and some what surprised to win a game of Blokus and think we all won a various games of Articulate.



8. then some cheese and crackers and settling down to watch Doctor Who on the iplayer


Ruth and Jonathan have been working hard at Wight Stars this term. This afternoon we watched the Wizard of Oz with Ruth playing Glinda and Jonathan being a very posh tree and an Oz man.





It was a great performance by all the cast and Ruth did brilliantly to overcome her mic cutting out.

For the last few years we’ve run a singing group with The Learning Zone leading up to Christmas, we’ve learnt some folk carols and enjoyed singing some sea shanties and silly songs as well. We performed Sweet Bells, Hail Chime On, The Wexford Carol and While Shepherds Watched (Lyngham) at the Newport Churches Carols in the Square. We were in between The Salvation Army band, puppets, gigantic pass the parcel and various other bits a pieces. Our grp did really well and they had worked so hard to produce a lovely sound. You can get a little taste of it here:

Rather than do a concert with the songs we had learned this year I opted to run a Christingle service where we could sing the carols we had learned and some more traditional carols too. We had loads of people, everyone made their own Christingle and there is something so beautiful about singing carols in the candlelight. Unfortunately as I was busy running it I couldn’t take photos during it but here is a snap just after of the girls and Caleb.


We followed the Christingle with another favourite Christmas tradition the annual Learning Zone cookie exchange.

We made 110 cookies at home and packaged them up into 11 bags with labels. When the kids were small it was ever so difficult to make so many cookies – with the “help” of little children – but now everyone does their own thing so it’s only a moderately large batch each.


This year we all sat round in a circle and handed out the cookies explaining who had made what and giving some details of the cookies.


We ended up with 110 cookies of all sorts of shapes. styles and flavours. We always spread the cookies out when we get home and examine them decide if any can be put in the freezer for closer to Christmas and which one must absolutely be eaten immediately. Then we sit and have a cuppa with a selection of the cookies.

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I’m not one for “celebrity” and certainly not one to “get” the displays of grief fans show when a celeb dies. Just because we’ve seen someone perform on stage or on the telly doesn’t mean we know them. And yet today I find myself feeling genuinely saddened by the death of someone I don’t know.

While the Fisherman’s Friends aren’t exactly going to make the Forbes list they have achieved a modicum of fame in recent years, playing festivals including Glastonbury and getting radio and TV airtime. Today the death of one of their number, Trevor Grills, was announced, following an accident on tour which also claimed the life of their tour manager.

Just a week ago I was listening to Trevor and the rest of the FFs performing and this could be part of the reason I feel the impact of his death in a way that is not part of my normal personality. But as I think about it I believe there is more to it than that.

The first time I heard the Fisherman’s Friends was at the Bristol Folk Festival. I didn’t know a lot about them, but they sang Sea Shanties. Hmm… wasn’t sure what to make of that. But when they took to the stage they had such an energy, an honesty and a feeling of a bunch of mates having fun together that it was hard not to be swept along (if you’ll pardon a nautical pun).

A holiday in Cornwall last year afforded a chance to see them again, this time at the Minack theatre. Again, I was impressed and the venue just enhanced things. Staring out to sea listening to The Last Leviathan was a moving moment in between the raucous singing.

The following week we stayed in a cottage in the heart of Port Isaac. As we wandered round the village we couldn’t help but pass by FFs about their everyday work. No sign of the Record Contract changing lives dramatically. We had a chat with Cleavy as we bought some stuff in his shop and through the week got just the briefest taste of what Port Isaac is all about and how it might inspire the FFs.

After the holiday I read their book. This really gave some insight into what makes these guys – and the village that binds them together – ticks, and it underlines what they are about, and why they sing. Singing is good for you, it brings people together, anyone can do it and you don’t have to be perfect. When the FFs sing they each lead a song. Not just the best singers, all of them – even if that means the end result isn’t as polished or perfect.

For me they epitomise Folk Music. They sing together because they enjoy it. They want to keep traditional songs alive and maybe contribute some of their own. They would sing even if no-one was listening. They have inspired us to sing Shanties with the Learning Zone, and they have brought “new” songs to us that have inspired, moved us and made us laugh and have a good time too. And their motivation appears to be principally a desire to add some colour to life. Doing it for the sake of doing it.

In a world where music has been turned into an “industry” this is just so refreshing. In a life where everything gets its “value” assessed but we so often miss the things that have real value what we have is ten friends having a laugh and singing for all they’re worth. Except now there are only nine. One of their friends has been snatched from them in an instant. And that strikes me as a loss for all of society, not just Trevor’s friends, family and village, though their loss and pain is simply unimaginable to me. The world is richer for the input of Trevor and all those like him who decide to give their time to doing something that just kinda seems like something good to do.

Heaven may just be finding itself rocked by shanties tonight, but heaven’s gain is the world’s loss.

“For all the small people, and the tall people
For the dispossessed and the observers
For all the broken-hearted, and the recently departed
And the unwashed and the unheard.

Mother Nature don’t draw straight lines
Broken moulds in a grand design
We look a mess but we’re doing fine
We’re card carrying lifelong members
Of the union of different kinds.

For all the lonely faces in those empty spaces
For the unloved and the denied
For the little wheel, turning bigger deal
For all dreams that bloom and those that die.“

(Lyrics by Rupert Christie and Tom Gilbert)


I am so far behind with blogging but really really want to put up these clips from our Sing For Fun group’s Christmas concert. We sang sea shanties:

Video 1 – John Kanakanaka

and Christmas carols:

Video 2 – Sweet Bells

Everyone seemed to have a great time and we exchanged 100s of cookies in the break – fantastic 🙂

More detail might or might not come later!