Saturday, December 24, 2005

They look-ed up and saw a star
shining in the east beyond them far..

These are the figures that I mentioned a day or so back that were sent to us by Chela and Veronica from Mexico DF- well, Benny sent them (muchas gracias compadre!) but Chela made the kings, star and bird and Veronica made the two reindeer. They are made of tin and you can find traditional Mexican Christmas ornaments like this but it is so special to have some that have been made for us. We have a tradition of exchanging ornaments but always we also keep a matching set for ourselves so that even when we cannot be together at Christmas- which is most of the time- we know that we are sharing a bit of it through these decorations. These are very special though as they are the first handmade ones and especially because Veronica (who is just 8 and whom some of you have read about here ) made the deer from her own drawings. For next year I will make a much better setting for them.

Anyway, that is it. Like all traditional Advent calendars, this one is stopping on December 24th. I am going to take a short blog break but will be back with news from our trip here early in 2006. A very merry Christmas to all my readers..

Friday, December 23, 2005

'Twas the night before the night before Christmas, and all down the street, you could see whose Christmas illuminations were complete..
(I know, but it is the best I can do at this time of night, okay?)

It starts off quite gently

with a bit more as we go further along..

this was a hard one to capture in its full moving glory

so you need to imagine Santa swinging to and fro.

But then around the corner the real Lickey illuminations come into view..

these next three speak for themselves, I think.

The road is quite narrow at this point and without climbing into the bushes I couldn't get far away enough to get the whole lot in one shot. I suspect this can be seen from outer space..

I had to wait till it was completely dark to take these because of the problem with my camera flash I mentioned a while back, so I was excited to read here about a new Fuji that can be made to work in natural light. The Fuji F11 is the big brother to my current camera and so very tempting, but not a digital SLR.. it is so hard choosing new toys!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ho ho ho...

Did you see Jonathan Ross tonight? If so you will know that the US airforce escort Santa and his sleigh as they enter US air space and that you can track the progress of said sleigh via NORAD. This link tells you how.

This is a very short post as I need to go and wrap presents.. tomorrow I hope to bring you the amazing illuminated house round the corner from us.. and/or the beautiful decorations we received today which were made for us by our amazing Mexican compadres and ahijada.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


One dog dancing..

It may not be in the carol but it ought to be.. This was a highlight of the staff Christmas do- I have not got pictures of the more innovative moves (lots of dog going back and forth through human's legs) and you have to imagine that you can hear Dancing Queen playing full blast.. you too can learn this skill here.. The dog also wanted to join the group playing Jingle Bells on ocarinas:

We know how to party at the bearpit.. just like these dancing dogs here do!
(Yes, I know. I missed out Tuesday in my Advent blog calendar. I was busy having a massage and a haircut and moving from the work bearpit to my home pit. Here is a special treat to make up for that. )

Monday, December 19, 2005

Bah, humbug?

This pretty tree is just one of the decorations in our finance department windows. I can see them from my office and today I finally went past with a camera. I had been going to say something uplifting about how even the finance team were demontrating the spirit of Christmas.. but.. the shadowy figure you can see through the window is Steve, Head of Finance in the Bearpit.And where was I going with my camera? the after-Christmas-dinner entertainment. And where was Steve? back at his desk.. clearly it takes more than a bit of turkey and a performing dog (wait for tomorrow..) to get Steve to neglect his job.

Speaking of finance- this website is for my bank. One of the things I like is that they run little online polls and you can also comment on your answers. So which was your moment of 2005? any of their choices or something else? (And which was your photo of 2005, and have you sent it to the Guardian yet? I would include the link but can't find it. )

Sunday, December 18, 2005

It's no good, I can't resist saying it..

Look at this Christmas quacker.. sorry, I did try not to use that but in the end just couldn't resist. It does glow in the dark, though, so well worth a picture. The slightly crowded composition is due to my having been involved in emptying several of the glasses you can see around the duck.

We have spent the weekend catching up with people we won't see over Christmas, and I am now very full of some excellent food. I read in the paper that the best way to avoid gaining weight is to weigh myself every day so I am going to try that. Not convinced but I will report back after Christmas!

And in case you haven't got enough decorations, go here for an extra one to make. I remember making angels this way a very long time ago.. but they didn't look like Peggy Mitchell..

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Christmas lights

Tonight we went to visit friends and drove through quite a lot of Lincolnshire and North and North-east Lincolnshire. In all the villages and towns we saw houses like this one. I fell to wondering why some of us like to have decorations like this outside our houses, with running reindeer, skating penguins and climbing Santas whilst others want just little white lights over everything or nothing at all. I have always quite liked outside lights and remember that my dad and I used to look for trees with lights on when he drove me home from work on a Saturday, but we never dreamed of where it would lead..

Meanwhile the office lights and decorations of our nation are being researched here, by the Guardian. I really like the one where someone's whole desk, chair and monitor have been gift-wrapped. How does your workplace measure up?

Friday, December 16, 2005

O tannenbaum..
We are a bearpit of many many Christmas trees.. everywhere I turn. This artistically blurred tree is in my office ( the artistic blurring being to hide the original blurring which comes because I still can't work out the flash settings on my camera so either have daylight brilliance or camera shake). This tree is because last year when we had lights on the tree outside people tried to steal them so this year we have lights inside the windows on the front of college. It is actually quite nice to go into my room each day and see the tree with its lights, especially when I sit there signing the corporate Christmas cards. Slightly more surreal when I am trying to focus on real work!

Talking of surreal-today I circulated a document for comment and one reply included this site. Try it. I am Frosty Dancing-Cracker...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

One last night shot..

So for the last time, a picture from last Sunday's outing. Tomorrow I have to do something different! (memo to self, take camera to work..) This tree is the one outside the cathedral which has lights on in memory of people, I guess others have a similar thing near them- it is called Light a Light and it is organised by our local hospice. I think I posted about it earlier in Advent.. One of my favourite things in Lincoln is the cathedral at night.

One of my other favourite things is the different student entertainments at this time of year. Last night I went to the second year music students' ensemble (assessed performance) and they did this amazing Japanese drum thing, among other stuff- it is called taiko and you can hear a bit of it here. It is very spiritual, and visual too, with lots of dramatic arm movements and chanting. It was very loud! They also did some schmaltzy Christmas stuff including Rutter's Jesus Child which we are also doing for the staff carol service on Monday. Then tonight I have been to see our Year 3 drama in the community students doing their studio practice pieces- these are short plays/extracts where the Yr 3 students have to direct using Yr 1 students as their actors etc. We had a real range from an amazing version of the Selfish Giant using a mix of actors and different puppets (rod, shadow etc) - lots of weepy students in the audience at the end- through some much harder edge stuff to a v funny version of Aladdin set in the East End. Of course I had a million other things I needed to be doing but am v glad I went to this instead!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Lincoln Christmas

Once the sun had gone down a bit the other night I took this shot of the top of Steep Hill in its Christmas finery. Down this hill on the right is one of my favourite shops so today's link takes you there. Enjoy..

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Forty trees
There was a special display this weekend in St Mary Magdalene which is the church by the cathedral. It was of forty Christmas trees, each decorated by a different shop from Bailgate. So we had a post office tree:

and several cute gifty shop type ones:

and the Thai restaurant one.

My favourite for weirdness was the ice cream parlour one.

It is also one of my favourite shops as I like their frozen yogurt.

So today's link is to a singing Christmas tree.. which is very appropriate as I have been talking about trees and have just come back from the student carol service and Christmas dinner, at both of which there was a lot of singing. (I would have liked to take photos of both, but I was singing in the choir for the service and then on the top table for dinner so taking pictures would have felt a bit like taking pictures at the zoo..) We still do a formal dinner for first years (they don't have to dress up though) and the choir sing the college grace and the Boar's Head Carol to start us off. We used to have a real boar's head but apparently the vegetarians didn't like it so now it is virtual. We also do the college chant ( I will share this with people in meatspace one day!) and tonight the students sang Little Donkey and We wish You a Merry Christmas too.

Monday, December 12, 2005

December skies
Last night when I got back to Lincoln from Bromsgrove the sun was just setting. I walked down to the cathedral with my camera and took these shots:

Shame about the powerline, or shame I am too idle to Photoshop it out anyway!

Yes, that is the castle in silhouette..

Skies like this just take my breath away. After that the light went, but there are some great shots of the Christmas lights to follow this week..

Anyway, I didn't know what to put as the link tonight so I typed Christmas Surprise into Google and found this. Don't know if it works- I decided trying it would spoil the surprise.. let me know what you think!

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Christmas music
I am a sucker for Christmas music of all kinds so today here is a picture of the steam organ that was at the Christmas Market to celebrate the annual getting out of the Christmas CDs. I listened to John Rutter and part of the 'Best Christmas Ever' CD on the way back from Bromsgrove then to Maddy Prior when I got here. Even better are the live bits of music such as our candlelit carols this coming Tuesday.

And for those who prefer a more interactive Christmas, try this game with haggises.. my top score so far is a shameful 70 and I am sure you can beat that..

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Advent lights

I thought you might like to see one of our Advent lanterns in a slightly better view - this is the Advent wreath, now sitting on the chapel sanctuary to add to the seasonal atmosphere. It is amazing, especially at night with the main lights off. Even now it is hard to show scale- as a rough idea, this is at least as tall as this small bear, possibly slightly taller.

A weird thing happened yesterday. Some of my earlier posts multiplied mysteriously and appeared several times- it felt like each time a comment appeared the blog reposted the original too. I have risked deleting the duplicates but that was scary...

Anyway, it is the weekend so how about a game of bar billiards as today's surprise behind the window? Enjoy.

Oh no, I missed Friday!
I just didn't get round to Friday, sorry. This is the picture I would have posted... so try and imagine it was yesterday..

This window was one of the first signs on campus that Christmas is coming. This is the window of our art studios. Our art students are very cool, very mature.. their final exhibitions have lots of amazing stuff and a high proportion of black paint and meaning .. but here we see that if Christmas is coming, they cut out snowflakes and stick them on their window! Bless..

Thursday, December 08, 2005


So is it really this cold outside the bearpit?
Many of my very wise blog companions (look here and here and here ) are talking about authenticity at the moment. So I began wondering about real and fake with regard to the pictures I am posting. I have been trying to create an illusion that all these Advent Calendar pictures are very contemporary. Well, most of them are. But how would those of you outside Lincoln know? do you check our weather often enough to know? it is certainly cold out tonight.. but have we had snow today? or even this Advent? And when I tell you this tree is just outside my front door, how do you know if that is true? (The answers are no, this is a snowy day two years ago, and yes, it is outside the front door. But I could of course be making that up.) And in this context does it matter if I am telling the truth?

Anyway, enough of that. Even if you don' t usually bother to follow my links you simply have to check this out, also this, passsed on to me by our e-learning co-ordinator. (Thanks, David! )In a way they also are about authenticity- will identity cards help us know who people really are? But they are both also very good pieces of parody.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Scooby Scooby Doo, where are you?
In vast numbers on a stall at Lincoln Christmas market, that's where. To win one of these you had to win a darts thing so I still only have my Scooby-Doo socks. (Oh, and I do have a luminous Scooby Doo from a serial packet which is very comforting at night. )

Now bearing in mind DrJoolz's post tonight about authenticity, is this site genuine? While you think about that, I need to sleep..

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Jingle all the way

The Christmas Market also had real reindeer, who seemed pretty unfazed by all the attention. There were two donkeys too which the children could feed. Four-year-old Samuel, who was our excuse for visiting the animals, had a string of questions for his dad (in Spanish so this is a rough translation)- when were the reindeer going to be working? was Santa getting ready to go out now? when would he load the sleigh? were these all the reindeer? what would the route be? and so on.

I have just come back from the chaplaincy Christmas party where the games included 'pin the red nose on Rudolph' and a quiz with a question about how many reindeer do pull the sledge- leading to some heated debate about whether Rudolph took over from one of the others or was an extra. If you want to help choose this year's team go here and you can also help find Santa.

But maybe don't try and take a picture of Santa and the sleigh on Christmas Eve to sell to the papers. Following hot on last week's story about professional photographers being made redundant by all us enthusiastic digital photographers comes a story about the ways the press exploit amateur photographers and pass on the risk re libel etc. (You may not get to it from this link as it was in yesterday's Media Guardian- by Emily Bell- and I had to go through the most ridiculous registration performance to get to the media section online. ) Belll was also raising the issue of copyright- if I take a picture of a famous statue, then apparently that picture might breach copyright if I publish it.. I'd be interested to know what people think about that.

Monday, December 05, 2005


Reindeer Ride
This was one of the rides at the Christmas market. It was sold as a reindeer ride but some of the more cynical among you may spot a close resemblance to a horse wearing clip-on antlers .. and the scenery, as you will see, has rather more cacti and cowboys than might be expected at the North Pole... Four-year-old Samuel was dead impressed though. So tonight the surprise link is about reindeer. See how you do in
this quiz.. or with these games. There may not be many cowboys there though..

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Big wheel keeps on turning..
I know, you are thinking why is this a Christmas picture? Well it is because it was a ride we went on at the Lincoln Christmas Market today. Although we had really good views, the perspex round the little cage thing we sat in had lots of condensation on so I couldn't take pictures except upwards, like this. The whole thing felt slightly scary and I was glad when we got back on the ground safely, but I do quite like this picture.

It has been a very busy weekend- our very good friends from Venezuela came to see us with their four-year-old son Samuel. We haven't seen them for about four years so it was great but now I am very tired, having been to the market twice and cooked and done lots of things like that. So tonight's surprise site to visit is a Lincoln competitor Advent calendar. See if you have any more luck winning chocolate than I have had so far.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Advent, Christmas, Christmas, Advent..
If it is Advent then at work at least it must be time for Christmas decorations. These lights appeared on one of our trees on campus while I was in London yesterday afternoon, and were there twinkling away to greet me when I got back. Aaaah!
In the supermarket today the two women on my checkout were talking to each other about Christmas shopping. They had both done all their present shopping and most of the food.. I haven't started but if I was buying for me then this or this might be on the list. But perhaps not this coffee....

Friday, December 02, 2005

And behind the second window is.. yes, a candle..

I am working this Advent calendar thing out as I go. Next year will be slicker.. as you can see the picture without opening the little card window, there needs to be a surprise. But first.. this is our chapel Advent wreath. Did you know that there are all kinds of significances to be read into the choice of candle colour? When I was growing up, with a middle of the road Anglican vicar as my dad, we had red candles with a white one for Christmas. Now I am Catholic, in the years when I get round to making a wreath for home, I do what you'd see at mass and we have three purple candles (Advent is a season of penitence, not as heavy as Lent but still penitential, and purple is the colour of penitence) and one pink one for Gaudete Sunday which is the third Sunday of Advent which is a touch jollier. (And still a white one for Christmas Day.) Our new Anglican chaplain has used four purple candles. I haven't asked her why. It could be as symbolic as that is what Dunelm Mills had.. or it might be a bit high church but not actually Anglo-Catholic. If I find out I will report back..

Anyway, here is your surprise. If you go to this link you will find what I think is quite a funny website.. enjoy.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Advent Calendar Blog
I have decided to try and do an Advent calendar blog. In theory I was going to take a picture a day just for this purpose but today there wasn't a moment to get my camera- there were some possible pictures but I shall take them tomorrow and save them up for later in December. So here instead is the Advent candle lantern that the children made with the Sheffield lantern makers (they made them in a school in Lincoln but the lantern makers are from Shefffield, Dr Kate) - they called it an Advent wreath but it is a bit linear for a wreath to my mind. Until they added the yellow tissue paper everyone thought it was a four-masted galleon. And because it has four candles there were a lot of re-runs of the Ronnie Barker fork handles gag.. Anyway, here is picture number 1:

In the foreground you can see one of the bird lanterns, then the candles are reclining gracefully against the front of the van. Clearly you are not seeing this wreath at its best - I couldn't take pictures during the service- or even really watch the lantern procession- as I and the other 70-odd members of the choir were concentrating on singing Hanacpachap cussicuinin which you can hear on this and watching our choir director.

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