Choosing a Word for 2024

Anne here, with the final post in our Christmastide series of short posts. As from next week, we’ll be back to our normal posting schedule. I hope you’ve all had a peaceful and happy festive season.The photo on the right is of dawn on a beach on the east coast of Australia.It was taken by my friend Fiona McArthur, and I’m hoping we can all celebrate the dawn of the new year.

For many people a new year is a time for making resolutions — you know the kind of thing: doing more exercise, losing weight, giving up certain bad habits, taking up new virtuous ones. I don’t do that any more. I tried it when I was younger and I felt I was always setting myself up for failure. These days I do something slightly different — I choose a word.

I learned this from a writers’ group I’m a member of, and these days it’s spread to other friends as well. We choose one word, not a “thou shalt or thou shalt not” kind of word, but a word to inspire us, motivate us, maybe to make us smile, and to have as a kind of talisman for the year ahead.  We wenches blogged about it in 2022.

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New Arrivals

Guide dog puppy Baden

Nicola here. It’s January 2nd, a new year and a new month have just arrived and it’s often a time when people look forward to what the future might hold. It’s not always a time to make changes or resolutions; it could be equally nice to embrace and continue the good things about the old year. I have no specific resolutions for this year but I do know that it is going to bring big changes, the first of which is arriving on Thursday. Yes, it’s time for our next guide dog puppy to arrive and 10 week old Wren is joining us in two days! We’ve been busy puppy-proofing the house and garden, preparing her cosy bed and choosing some toys for her. Rainbow is briefed on her role as guide dog mentor and we are set to go. Out of the dogs we’ve trained, three have qualified as guide dogs so far and we are hoping she will be the fourth.  (The photograph is of Baden, who qualified last year.) We’re going to give Wren’s training our absolute best shot and we can’t predict what will happen but we’ll do our best. Which is a pretty good metaphor for the year, really. There will be tough times (the experience of trying to wrestle a dead rabbit from the jaws of an over-excited puppy in full view of hundreds of people is one memory that will stay with me forever, as is the one of the puppy who “sang along” at the theatre) but that’s how it goes. So very best wishes to all of us for any resolutions, changes and new arrivals that may be coming our way in 2024!

New Beginnings

Christina here, having a quiet first day of the year. As is the custom, I stayed up late last night, but we had fairly low-key celebrations so I’m not too tired. Also, I’m a night owl and going to bed late (or early in the morning depending on how you look at it) is nothing unusual for me.

RiversideThe first day of the new year signifies a new beginning, a chance to start over or do things differently, but I’m not feeling the need to start right away. I don’t make new year’s resolutions, but I do have some planned changes, such as going on a diet, walking more, and having a good clear-out to make space in my house. It’s nothing that needs to be done immediately, though. Right now I still have family staying for the holidays and real life can take a backseat for a few more days.

This afternoon we’ll probably go for a walk – a relaxing way to start the year. We are lucky enough to live surrounded by fields and a small river. There are sheep in some of the fields, but they’re not too bothered by us. I love watching them mooch around, the bucolic scene is peaceful and calming. In contrast, the little river is fast-flowing this time of year – a combination of meltwater from the nearby Welsh mountains and all the rain we’ve been having recently. I find it soothing and mesmerising to stand on its banks and contemplate it.

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Wondrous Memories

Camel2022 is hurtling into history, and given events, will no doubt make a huge splash in future history books. My life wasn’t quite so momentous as world events, but our trip to Israel and Egypt is definitely one for my books, both fictional and real. What are your year’s wondrous memories? Do you have plans for more in 2023?

Here’s to peace, love, and joy for all in the new year!

Reasons to Like January

JanuaryNicola here. Sometimes I’ve been inclined to think of January as a long, dark, cold month without a lot going for it, but I was talking to a friend the other day and she saw the month in quite a different light.  “I love January,” she said. “I don’t spend much money and I get myself organised for the months ahead.” So as we approach Twelfth Night and the end of the traditional Christmastide, I thought I would muse on all the reasons there are to like January.

According to my Chambers Book of Days, the gemstone for January is the garnet and the birth flower is either the Feb 11th 2012 (48) snowdrop or the carnation. At Ashdown Woods the first green shoots of the wild snowdrops are already pushing through the ground. By the end of the month they will be starting to flower. The snowdrop’s Latin name is Galanthus, from the Greek for “milk flower”. In French the snowdrop is known as the “perce-neige” because it pierces the snow, and the Germans call it Schneeglöckchen, little snowbell, which are all such pretty names suiting its delicate beauty. It’s real reminder of spring on the way.

RainbowThis brings me to the weather. You may know the saying: “There’s no bad weather only bad clothing choices.” In my part of Northern Hemisphere it’s a time for scarves, gloves and hats and also waterproof layers. The rain may feel cold and raw but it’s also refreshing. And I love the sound the wind makes blowing through the bare branches of the trees. Darkness still arrives during the afternoon but the light lasts a little longer each day. My morning and evening walks give stormy skies and great views of the weather blowing across the Vale of the White Horse.

An old Celtic name for January was “the dead month” whilst the Anglo Saxons called it “Wolfmonath” which does send a Stencil.facebook-cover (3) shiver down the spine. It’s easy to see how January got its bad reputation. But there is so much pleasure in returning from a cold walk to a hot cup of tea, sitting down with a book whilst darkness falls outside, and enjoying the sense of new beginnings whether they are eagerly-anticipated TV shows or films, or a new course to join or a new interest to pursue.

What do you like – or even love – about January?