Welcome to 2013!

The first of January 2013, and a gorgeous day, crisp, bright and sunny. Blue sky and sunshine. Could this be God’s metaphor for 2013? I’d like to think so, as an unblemished year free from sorrow, anxiety and worry would be terrific. Unlikely, but terrific!

We decided to start the new year as we mean to go on, with a walk.

1st January 2013

Note the sinister shadow following on behind…

…but a little further on…

1st Jan 2013

..and the ubiquitous shadow is less apparent. Perhaps another metaphor signifying better health in 2013. Let’s hope so.

And finally, just to show how beautiful it is here in Norfolk even in winter…

Norfolk New Year's Day 2013

Wherever you are, whatever the weather and whatever your circumstances, a very happy and healthy 2013 for you.

Christmas Markets

Just back from a great couple of days staying with our daughter in Belgium, where we went to visit mainly her, of course, but also the Christmas Markets.

She took us to the Christmas Market in Brussels on Tuesday, which was quite an experience as neither Ian nor I have been to one of these events before. Masses of stalls selling a huge variety of products loosely – or otherwise – related to Christmas, gluhwein (hot mulled wine to us Brits) flowing freely,

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hot roasted chestnuts, pancakes, and all sorts of goodies including Welsh cheese! I fancied my chances on the ice rink, but was dissuaded as we had no insurance. I learned later that the E111 (which we did have) would have been quite sufficient for any broken bones. Naturally we also found time to visit a chocolate factory, and that evening Becki took me to a chocolate cafe, which produced all varieties of chocolate drinks to die for. Well, you have to if you’re in Belgium, don’t you?

The Christmas Market opened in Leuven (where Becki lives) the following evening. Throbbing with people, especially young people, and vibrant with energy and colour. Smaller than the Brussels market, but much larger than I expected. I loved Father Christmas’s rooms – a number of log cabins, each one set out as a different room in Santa’s house, kitchen, bathroom, lounge, bedroom, and of course, the workshop.

Leuven, which is a small city similar to Norwich in character, goes to town with its Christmas lights. Mostly small, white fairy lights and immensely effective, adorning the trees and streets. There are two wonderful, large deer in lights just outside the railway station, and further along in the city square outside the cathedral is a large stable, complete with the Holy Family and live sheep.

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All this adds to the party atmosphere, which was enhanced by the entirely unexpected and superb firework display just as we were leaving the market.

It was very cold in Belgium, but equally cold here in the UK when we came back today via Eurostar. We loved it all, and I’m definitely booking again for next year.

Stories and competitions

I’m delighted to announce that my latest foray into the world of writing is now available from Amazon in both Kindle format and paperback -Poisoned By Yew. This is a collection of short stories written over the years, light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek and ideal for that holiday moment or for picking up on the plane or train.

Now that those wonderful Olympics are over for a couple of weeks (until the paralympics arrives in full flow), my thoughts turn to other types of competition, namely writing competitions. I’ve unearthed a few free-to-enter competitions for you, which leaves you with no excuses for failing to put pen to paper. Go on, give it a try. You’ve nothing to lose.

Healthy Living magazine is looking for bedtime stories to encourage sleep – so no monsters under the bed, then. Your story needs to be between 1500 and 3000 words in length, any genre except children’s stories and erotica. Click here for details. Competition closes on 31st October, so you’ve [plenty of time to get thinking and writing.

If you can write a complete, interesting and exciting story in six words, then this competition is for you. Closes on 30th September, and first prize is an astonishing £100 or a stay in the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan.

This next one is for fresh, original stories on any subject, up to 2000 words. Closes on August 25th, but you still have time. Prize is mainly publication and promotion of your work. Click here for details.

And finally, this competition is for stories of no more than 1200 words, and you have to use one of the organisers openign dialogues. You get to choose from three possibilities. This one closes on 30th August. Click here for details.

Needless to say, all your entries must be original. Why not get writing? It could be fun.

Trinity College Choir

Wow! What a scoop by Dickleburgh Church. They have the Trinity College Choir – ranked the 5th best choir in the world – giving a concert on Sunday evening, July 1st, on the eve of their tour to America and Canada. Trinity College Cambridge are patrons of the church, and very generous in many ways. If there are any tickets left, I think I shall have to go. Anyone want to come with me?

Talking about singing and choirs, I’ve just invested in an online singing course, which you can find at The Singing Zone. It’s expensive, but if lesson 1 is anything to go by, well worth the money. It’s done by videos, so that it feels just like a one-to-one lesson with the teacher, Per Bristow. I’m already excited by it and looking forward to the future lessons.

Of course, singing is nothing much to do with writing, but as I’ve just finished an assignment for Redemptorist Publications, I felt justified in a little reward! Hence the singing lessons.

And it’s only money, so onwards and upwards, hopefully in good voice!

Diamond Jubilee

It’s been an amazing weekend so far. For me it started on Thursday afternoon, when along with a couple of friends, I enjoyed a Jubilee afternoon tea produced by the catering department students at Norwich City College. Tiny sandwiches, scones piled with jam and cream, and delicious shortbread biscuits, together with as much tea as I could drink. Excellent! While there, I took advantage of the table decorations to snaffle a cardboard union jack, which I pinned to my red blouse on the Saturday afternoon.

That occasion was a Jubilee party in Brundall Rectory garden, complete with fun and games, cream teas, and three local choirs. Our choir was on first, and most of us were dressed patriotically in red, white and blue. The weather was kind to us, and all went well.

Yesterday afternoon Ian and I watched the river pageant on the Thames. Well, watched it on television. It was a great spectacle. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh stood the whole time – goodness knows how, at 86 and 90 respectively – and looked to be thoroughly enjoying every minute, even though the Queen looked really cold. It reminded me of the coronation sixty years ago, when I received a book – Elizabeth Our Queen – at primary school, and our family trooped next door to watch the coronation on Aunty Esme’s brand new, tiny, black-and-white television, bought especially for the occasion (and the first television in the whole street. It was another ten years or so before we had a television.)

In the evening I sang with the Brundall church choir at Brundall’s lovely Jubilee service, giving thanks for sixty wonderful years on the throne, and this afternoon Ian and I strolled around the village, admiring the bunting Uploaded by Photobucket Mobile for BlackBerry


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and cheering on the families engaged in a local Jubilee treasure hunt. Tonight we shall watch the concert from Buckingham Palace – again on television!

It has certainly been a terrific weekend, one to remember, and a fitting tribute to our indefatigable Queen. None of us alive today will ever see a sixty year reign again, and we thank God for our Royal Family and all the (often hidden) work they do for our nation.

Three thoroughly British cheers for Her Majesty and long live the Queen!

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