Hello 2022!

Happy New Year everyone! As I haven’t written since November this is a bit of a retrospective as well as looking forward.

Advent is one of my favourite times of year. I love singing carols, and the way that the winter nights are brightened up by Christmas lights. However for the first three weeks of December I had a massive amount of assignment-marking to do on top of my normal job: a great way to earn some more money (I’m saving up to take Bella to Paris after her GCSEs next summer) but when I still had 30-odd to mark and only 2 weeks left to do them in, I was getting rather stressed.

I bought my tree at Whinlatter forest the first weekend of Advent: it was a lovely fat tree but a day or so after I’d decorated it fell over. After that it lent against the wall rather drunkenly. But the build up to Christmas, for me, does not start – and should not start – until 1st December.

I was also singing the soprano solo, Pie Jesu, in the Faure Requiem with choir – possibly one of the most difficult pieces I have ever sung, as it’s so sustained and exposed. The good news was that the concert took place at Lanercost Priory (and still went ahead, despite increasing scares about Omicron – the entire audience had to wear facemasks). Lanercost has an amazing acoustic, which is really kind to the singer; and singing accompanied by a really good organist also helps the nerves. The organist playing for the concert plays at Carlisle Cathedral, and will also be Musical Director for the choir as this (January 2022) term. I felt I hadn’t sung it terribly well as I was so nervous, but the recording doesn’t sound too awful.

Once I’d got the solo out of the way, I then sang in two local carol services. Bella came to one of them and played the piano, which was lovely: it was also nice for her to see Andrew, a friend from school who is now studying singing and music in Wales. They were able to have a chat about classical music, which she says none of her other friends know anything about! On the way home she said “Christmas services are almost enough to make you feel you could be Christian”: I knew what she meant.

By 21st December I’d finished all my marking and although I was still working, I felt I could really relax and begin to enjoy the final lead-up to Christmas, and to having a holiday from work for the best part of two weeks (I’m conscious that in the States people are lucky if they get more than two weeks’ holiday for a whole year – I wonder if it makes people’s stress levels higher?). I watched Lucy Worsley’s history of Christmas carols (I’m not sure if this link will work for anyone abroad, and I think it’s only available on the iPlayer for about a year), which was fascinating, watched some silly Christmas films, and generally was in a joyful and excited mood. I really don’t think it matters whether or not you believe in the Christian god – for me the fab. thing about Christmas is having some joy at the darkest time of the year, and to end the year with a celebration: but I also think it’s important to be reminded to be kind to each other. I tried not to buy the children so many presents this year, as they have plenty of ‘stuff’ already: I love buying presents for people but we really don’t need thousands and thousands more Things.

Penny and I met up for a run at Whinlatter on Christmas Eve: it feels as if it’s becoming a bit of a tradition (I hope it is – it’s a really good one). Having had a bit of time off from running after doing the Dirty Double in November, it was good to do the 10km route with her when we bought the christmas trees and then again on Christmas Eve. We also had lunch in Siskins cafe, though we did wonder if we should have gone to the fab. cafe at Dodds Wood or the Threlkeld community cafe (both previously mentioned in this blog).

Christmas Day was spent at David’s house – my ex, with my three children, his new partner and their 5-month old daughter (who is cute), his parents, his sister and her three children, and one of his friends who I hadn’t seen for years. I ran in the morning before going down there, and after getting home in the evening went round to Mark and Laura’s for a drink and to play a new card game they’d bought. I can’t remember what it was called but it was really good – each card has a question on with a choice of answers, and you each have to guess which is right. It engendered some interesting discussions!

On Boxing Day Bella and I drove down to my sister’s, stopping off to see my parents en route. Bella was keen to spend her christmas money (and mine…) and we went to Sherborne, although a lot of the shops were closed. That evening we went to see the lights in the grounds of Killerton House – rather overpriced but really impressive. No prizes for guessing what my christmas cards next year are going to be…

As Ross works at King’s College Taunton, he sorted out being able to go in so Bella could practice on one of their pianos. Unfortunately she now wants to go to the school… It did sound good but unfortunately I can’t upload that particular file type (I think it’s probably been recorded on an iPhone so won’t talk to my laptop).

We also went up to stay with my parents for a day, and went shopping in Bristol, where Bella bought a new violin. The shop was fab. – it was serendipitous that they happened to have time to see us, despite us not having made an appointment, and that they had a few violins in stock which were perfect. She needed some new pointe shoes as well but unfortunately none of the ballet shoe shops were open: however we found one in Newcastle who fitted her in today (2nd Jan.). Again, a fab. shop which we’ll recommend to everyone we can: https://thedancerspointe.co.uk/

I’ve already run both days of this new year, my heart singing and the countryside I live in looking glorious. My immediate goal is a half marathon at the end of February. I’ve also started practicing singing again, working towards Carlisle Music Festival in March and then, I hope, taking my ATCL (Associate of Trinity College of Music London) later in the year.

And meanwhile it’s back to work on Wednesday. The festive season has been great.