Christmas is Coming

And just to add to the stress levels at this time of the year – click here to see the countdown to Christmas. Here in New Zealand at 5.40 pm, I see that the countdown is 6 days; 6 hours; 11 minutes; 22 seconds.

So thinking of Christmas, and as my son will tell anyone who cares to listen that his mother is a fount of useless information and just in case you play trivia over the holidays, Did you know?

  • Decorated evergreen trees have been part of December celebrations in Europe for many centuries reminding everyone that spring is just around the corner.  The decorated Christmas tree became accepted in the UK when Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the children were depicted in the “Illustrated London News” standing around a lavishly decorated Christmas tree.
  • Christmas was cancelled in England in the 1640s when Puritan law forbade churches to open on Christmas Day and banned home decorations, celebrations, carol singing and the creating of Nativity scenes.  December 25 was declared a day of everyday work and fasting.  The outraged populace made Christmas observances in secret until the Monarchy was restored in 1660 and King Charles II restored Christmas.
  • Clement Moore’s 1823 poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was the catalyst for the reinvention of St Nicholas into the jolly, fat image of Santa we now know?
  • Also invented by Moore, Santa’s travels are invariably connected to reindeer.  In the poem they are pictured charging through a winter sky complete with strong, elaborate horns.  But in winter reindeer lose their horns so are Santa’s reindeer all female or are they castrated males?
  • Moore omitted to tell us that St Nicholas was Turkish.  He was real and was born in Patara, Turkey.  He was an early Christian and in the 4th Century he became bishop of the district of Demre where some of his bones can still be visited.  Little fact is known of him, only oral legends relating to his goodness and kindness to children.
  • Nobody knows when Jesus was born or died. For many centuries people in the northern hemisphere celebrated the winter solstice, the shortest day and the turning point in the long, often hard, cold winter.  Some 300 years after Jesus’ (guessed at) death date, Pope Julius I announced that 25th December would be the date to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  As Christianity spread around the world, this date took over the existing festivities and became “Christmas”.  The word Christmas didn’t come into being until 1032 AD.
  • Another poem, this one by Frank Baum (who wrote The Wizard of Oz) told that Santa lived in a valley called Ho Ho Ho.  American marketers quickly picked up on the poem and Ho Ho Ho became Santa brand’s catch cry.
  • The song Jingle Bells never mentions Christmas and has no connection to Christmas.  It was originally composed for America’s Thanksgiving festival in 1857.
  • And everybody’s favourite – Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”.  There have been 14 versions of this story.
  • The bible doesn’t say that three kings visited the baby Jesus but refers to “Wise men from the east”.  They may well have been astronomers (they did follow a star) or Zoroastrian priests and the fact that the three gifts, Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh are mentioned is the possible basis for assuming there were three visitors.
  • And the gifts they brought.  Gold and Frankincense would be acceptable but in ancient times Myrrh was very expensive and used in embalming dead bodies and was burned at funerals to disguise the smell of bodies that hadn’t been embalmed.  Why would it be brought to a newborn child?
  • The use of X as in Xmas is not at all invalid or disrespectful.  The word Christ was never part of Jesus’ name, it is a title assigned by later worshippers in Greek meaning ‘the anointed one’.  In ancient Greece, the letter chi was written with a symbol very like an X and the title assigned to Jesus was Xristos and was frequently abbreviated to just X.  So writing Christmas as Xmas has been considered acceptable for some 1000 years.  Note early publications were charged by the number of letters so using X in Xmas was encouraged.
  • Four Calling Birds in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  Originally it was four colly birds, colly being the ancient word for black (as in collier and coal) so colly birds were blackbirds.  As time went by colly fell out of use and didn’t make sense so people started saying four calling birds.  This doesn’t make sense either.
  • The wassail ritual was an ancient pre-Christian custom of drinking a toast to the sun after the northern mid-winter approximately 25 December and hopes for a bountiful harvest in the coming warmer months. Hence the song ‘Here we come a-wassailing’ was a gathering of friends drinking a toast.  “Waes hael” in ancient English means “Be healthy” and the usual drink was a mixture of spices, apple juice and eggs.  (Give me a G&T any time).

And from Mary Oliver

“Hello, sun in my face. 
Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…
Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.” 

JB Sunny afternoon in Wellington, NZ
December 18, 2022


Time Flies and Times Change

The bad news is time flies.
The good news is you’re the pilot.”
Michael Altshuler, American Author and Speaker 

October 31st and it seems like no time at all since we were celebrating the birth of 2022. Soon it will be 2023 and then later in that year, we will be making the same comments.

Today has been another day with no thought on what to write. Those days seems to be getting more and more often these days.

So I looked back on some of the posts I wrote in my early blogging career. And I found one that I particularly like.

As an introduction, I must say that we thought we had no relatives in New Zealand apart from the four of us, the children’s spouses and their children.

That changed in about 1985/86. Christmas morning. My DYS (Dashing Young Scotsman) was preparing Christmas lunch/dinner for the family and friends who were on their own at this time of the year. Yes, he was the chef in our family and I was the backup person. He made and served the food, and I served the wine. It worked so well for us over all the years in which we were married.

Anyway, on this particular Christmas morning, I was in the shower, having dressed the tables, put the wine in to be chilled etc. There was a phone call. “Larry is on the phone for you” called my husband. “I don’t know any Larry” was my response. “He seems to think you do” I was told and so began a reignited friendship that began when we were both very young during our growing up times and until we each married and moved to other parts of the world.

We spoke on the phone regularly from then on, at least once a week. We put the world to right; we seemed to agree on most things. Later, Larry came to stay on a couple of occasions and my grandsons all thought he was fabulous. Unfortunately, this came to a sudden end. I got a phone call from one of his wife’s granddaughters. “Pop” had his dinner and then as was usual, went into the living room with his coffee to watch TV. When his wife came in after tidying away the dinner things, he had quietly drifted off.

So I would like to share some memories of my cousin with you. If you are interested here is the link to a post I wrote 9 years ago. When he died he was 88 years old, so go in peace dear cousin, fly high, breathe easy.

JB Wellington NZ
October 31, 2022


In a recent post, Chris showed us a yellow door that caused many comments from our followers.  I have always loved doors and door decoration and Chris’s post got me thinking about the many doors I have looked at and wondered about in my very long life.

Several years ago, whilst visiting my sister in London, we took a day to visit SallyAnn of Photographic Memories who lived in Oxford then.

Amongst the things we saw was this Narnia Door.  Most of us know the story of The Lion, The Witch and The Broomstick by C S Lewis and The Tales of Narnia on our tour around Oxford SallyAnn took us to see The Narnia Door.  But I still wonder what is behind that door.

And years later after the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit were a worldwide success, we took a friend to Hobbiton, a village set up to copy the village of Hobbiton.

 And then, of course, there was my adventure to Florence.  Many interesting doors and so many photographs were taken.

Six years later this appeared on the calendar page. I wonder what’s behind that door.

So Chris, thanks for reminding me of doors.   

JB Wellington NZ
August 3, 2022

A Friend in Trouble

Friendship is a rainbow
between two hearts

Judith Baxter

Sometimes you have to put aside your plans for the day when a friend needs you. Today was such a day.

I had a call at 8 am to say that a friend had been told by an organisation, he knew not who had called him having been half asleep. at the time. The gist of the conversation and thus that which I received, was that another friend had a car accident last night, had broken her leg and was in the hospital. No further information was available except that it was close to a construction site.

Oh dear me. Chinese whispers. After many phone calls (none of the friends who live close by had even heard the news), the retirement village management was not aware of this, although it transpired that in the accident, she had driven through the main complex gates and shattered them. Anyway, I eventually tracked her down in the main hospital. She had dislocated her hip and was resting and I could pick her up shortly and take her home.

So today has been all about this friend. Taking her home, making her comfortable, making sure that one of the friends who live closer than me (I am 50 km away) could call in on her tomorrow.

So why am I telling you all this? Because I eventually arrived home at 6.30 pm needing food (missed lunch completely) and I hadn’t even considered what I would write about today. So please forgive me if I reblog a post from June 2012. it was a good day, all those years ago. My faithful companion Lotte, was still with me and all was well with my world,

To read the post entitled What a /difference a Day Makes, please click here.

So from a tired and weary blogger in Wellington, NZ who is planning an early night-

JB, June 17, 2022

Sharing on Saturday

On Friday I promised No More Talk of Weather, so I will just let the photo speak for itself.

From Joanna’s Balcony

I have a longtime friend who is finding life very difficult since her husband died. She has four children none of whom live near her. Yes, she sees them from time to time and all are in touch regularly. So we meet for lunch from time to time.

We have a lunch that we tell nobody about. I pick up KFC and we eat it in splendour at her fantastic apartment. We have done this twice and both think it a great lark.

So to yesterday. – Saturday. Queen’s Birthday weekend, and as we were both alone we decided on KFC lunch. This is always accompanied by good wine (not that purchased in the supermarket as at my place), served in crystal glasses, imported crockery, and fine silver cutlery.

But all did not go to plan. I tried to have the KFC delivered – no delivery until 5 pm. Click and collect was not available at that store so I could not pre-order it, So the cab driver took me to the store and because of the traffic had to leave me to pick it up. The deal was that I would call him when I was ready. Meantime, he had obviously picked up another passenger and there were no cabs in sight as I left the store. “Oh well. It’s not far to walk” I thought and set off.

No, it wasn’t far but before I left the store, the package fell off the end of the counter. Fortunately only the wooden cutlery pieces fell out and a kindly man came over and picked up the package, rolling the top of the bag so that I could carry it.

Then I was off. After crossing over two pedestrian crossings I was stopped by a young man. He had seen me drop my phone (lesson here make sure the purse is properly closed) and after returning it to me and checking that I was alright, he took off. Only a few minutes later I dropped the phone that I had been holding in my hand and a pleasant young woman retrieved it for me.

By this time as you can imagine, this elderly woman was totally discombobulated. I staggered on until I reached my destination. The glass of wine was well received and we sat and chatted until it was time to eat.

Lunch finished, the sun came out and it was warm enough to sit outside. And then a call from a mutual friend. He had a bottle of champagne to bring to Joanna for a recent birthday. There’s nothing better than a glass of Roederer Champagne and three long time friends to share it.

Some six hours later, I was taken home by the same taxi driver. Thank goodness I had decided to leave my car at home – I wouldn’t have been able to drive after the copious amount of wine I had consumed.

I love everything that’s old, –
old friends, old times, old manners,
old books, old wine.
Oliver Goldsmith

JB June 5, 2022

Five Word Friday

Come join us in this new challenge. You know what to do. Describe your life now in only Five words and then go on to tell us more. Remember to link back here when you are done. Alternatively, post your thoughts in comments.We would love to hear from you.

My Five Words?


I was at lunch with three friends in one of their houses. It is acceptable to meet in people’s houses during our current Covid rules.

We had just sat down for lunch when I received a text message from my daughter, Cate. Her text – “Don’t panic I just tested positive for COVID. You need to self-isolate for ten days…” So the planned mah jong game with three friends didn’t take place. Hurried lunch finished, I took off for home.

I had planned to go to the garden centre for more plants. Having been away recently for seven days, the indoor plants suffered from the heat and no watering, so that was my plan. Something to put on the back burner for now.

Then various telephone calls. Cancelling hair appointment, audiologist and telling various friends of the news. I also had to cancel an appointment on Monday afternoon with a subcommittee that I am part of. I had to advise the members of our Writing Group that I wouldn’t be there on Monday, and another friend who was to come here for lunch on Tuesday had to be advised. Oh and the library because several of the books I have on loan will reach their return date during the ten days.

I wonder what I will do with all this time I will now have.

 “There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” — “
Calvin and Hobbes” by Bill Watterson

But of course. Think of the hours now available to read those books in my TBR read and on my kindle.

As Bertrand Russel said –

“There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it .”

And Mary Oliver says –

“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” 

JB March 4, 2022