Out of the one hundred or so houses on our street, there are only seven houses left with Christmas lights still up. Not everyone on our street decorates their house, but enough do, to make our little street feel festive. As I walked to meet Mr. Michie after work last night, the street felt so very dreary. Those seven houses were a welcoming glow in the dark.
Our little house still has twinkle lights up and the decorations are still hanging. They will come down soon, but I’m soaking every last drop out of them that I can. January is such a dark month, it feels that we need all the twinkle and glow that we can get.
Once the decorations do come down and the house is thoroughly cleaned, there will be more candles out and some tiny twinkle lights still tucked here and there. It in this sparseness of winter that I feel the most need to fill our home with light. It is something that I always notice when we are in Denmark. Candles lit in restaurants and coffee shops all day; peering in through windows as we wind our way back to our little nest for the evening and spying rooms a glow with candlelight. Even one little candle shines with a warmth and hue that makes even the darkest spaces feel cozy and inviting.
If my weather checker is correct it appears that snow is on the horizon for us near the end of the month and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for at least one good snow day. A day with no school and the streets are quiet and the sounds of sledding can be heard and inside there is candles, music, laughter, homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches and movie watching underneath a pile of blankets.
Quietly and gently, we entered into the last day of the year. Our morning pace had a nice rhythm. We split up to do our run, but ended up crossing paths, so I got a kiss halfway through my 5K. Always a bonus!
I ran past a favourite farm and my little herd of cows were outside eating their breakfast. I shouted my hellos and carried on down the road into the village. I took a brief break outside the church yard before turning around and running back up the hill, I had just so gloriously and speedily run down. Going back up was hard work. But, I did it!
Then I met Mr. Michie at our favourite coffee shop for breakfast. As I was reflecting on my run with him, I caught myself and started to laugh-out-loud. Sitting across from him, I was niggling myself over my running time. I managed to shave a decent bit off my 5k, but it still wasn’t as good as it had been a few months ago, before a minor knee injury.
As I laughed, I reminded myself that I was out there. Running! That’s the point!
Before I started this journey almost three years ago, I wasn’t much of a runner and the last thing I would have wanted to do was run 5K, let alone worry about the time it takes me to do it.
So, as this year comes to a close and I reflect on where I am, I’m happy. There are things I wanted to happen this past year that haven’t yet come to fruition. We’ve hit a lot of unexpected bumps in the road, but that’s life; we roll with the punches and keep on going.
But through all of it, running has been a constant.
I never thought that I would be a girl who got such a thrill out of running. I’ve always been a walker, but running – no thank-you! However, I have come to love it. It’s not just the physical side of it either (although that has been very rewarding), it’s the spiritual side too. Running in the open and being able to see nature around me is meditative. It restores the soul.
So as we enter this new year, I’m going to keep on running. Running through the woods, running down the lanes and past the fields, running toward my goals and running toward our dreams.
Yesterday, I had a long time wish fulfilled. Wishes being fulfilled are magical in themselves, but this wish was extra special. For many, many moons I have wanted to visit 18 Folgate Street, the former home of Dennis Severs. Yesterday, as a glorious ending to our Thanksgiving weekend and as a start to our Christmas celebrations we headed out to Spitalfields, in the biting Sunday morning air and joined the already formed line waiting to enter behind those coal black doors.
You are not allowed to photograph inside the home; the image above is my only snap of this building. The house belongs to itself, it is its own person, it has its own soul. Yesterday, was their first Christmas opening day. The gas lantern outside was bedecked with pine boughs and red satin ribbons. Christmas trees stood guard at either side of the entrance. It was charming and felt very Dickensian.
You enter into the house in small groups. As you travel through the rooms, you make your way in silence. Your journey takes you through time. The fireplaces are lit with wood or coal. The only light sources in the house, come from a combination of natural light through the windows and the flickering glow of candles.
Each room is its own experience. The smell of a fire in the kitchen, intermingled with the heady scent from the bowls filled with raisins and citrus on the main table, soon to be turned into something delectable by the cook, no doubt. The tapping of the faucet in the sink was a cheery kerplunk, as vegetables waited in a strainer to be washed. There was fresh bread, a slice already cut off, ready to be stabbed with a toasting fork and held over the fire. A gingerbread man garland was strung above the fireplace, their faces smiling out at you from the candlelight glow around the room. It was cozy, it was warm and inviting after waiting outside in the cold, it was the kind of place you would want to come and have a cup of tea and a chat, or simply curl up by the fire in a chair.
As you made your way up through the house, each room had its own sights, smells and sounds. I was even lucky enough to spy Madge, the resident cat. Who was sitting so perfectly still underneath a chair with the white winter light streaming over her fur, for a moment, I thought she wasn’t real. But, her ears twitched and I bent down to rub her silky ebony fur and was rewarded with a long purr before she dashed down the hallway.
As you enter each room, it is as if the occupants of that room have just slipped out a hidden door and you are trespassing into their world. A letter half finished on the table, the ink still wet on the nib, a cup of tea going cold or the sound of carriage wheels going by. Every element in each space works to create the perfect atmosphere for it to exist within.
The house has a motto: Aut Visum Aut Non!: “You either see it or you don’t.” I saw it. This house spoke to me in such a way. I understood her. I was fascinated watching others travel through the house, who didn’t appear to get it. Or maybe to them, they were getting it. But I think they were seeing, but not really “seeing”.
Etched into the wall of one room in particular is a pyramid. If you didn’t stand in the right place, you might have just missed it. There was a hole in the wall above it and as I peered through a glowing eye was looking back at me. No other person seemed to take that in. They seemed to move about with quick glances. Maybe it is the art historian in me that makes me stop and study? Each room was like a painting. It told a story. It was a puzzle to dissect.
The final room on our journey was the Victorian Parlour and it was so gorgeously decorated for Christmas. The strawberry red velvet curtains against the heavy floral wallpaper were the perfect backdrop for the tabletop tree that was bedecked with ornaments and candles yet to be lit. A box of glass ornaments sat patiently by, waiting for their turn to be hung. A holly and pine garland was strung over the mantel and along the walls. The green leaves with twinges of white gave the room an even more inviting warmth.
As we left the room, I noticed Dennis Severs’ baseball cap sitting on a little corner table, it made me smile. We made our way back down the entrance hall, that from one wall to the other was strung across with boughs of pine and red satin ribbons, that would dance in the breeze every time the door opened. We thanked one of our gracious hosts and out the door we went into the harsh winter light and as the door closed behind us, the spell was broken. Like Alice, in reverse we had stepped through the looking glass back into our world, but I wanted to step back into the world of 18 Folgate Street.
We took a moment to don hats and gloves and then made our way to Spitalfields Market. Everything was too loud, too many people; I wanted to go somewhere quiet to sit and think about all I had just seen. This house spoke to me, I’m still pondering it this morning. I think I will be pondering the magic behind those doors for a long time to come. I am utterly enchanted.
See images from inside the house via their Instagram account.
Mother Nature seems to be playing a game of hide-and-seek with us lately. She keeps giving us glimpses of spring and then just as quickly takes them away again.
We got one such glimpse last week and now we’re back to rain, rain, rain. I don’t mind it too much. It isn’t very fun to do my morning run in, because some of the puddles in our neck of the woods are more like lakes, but it is what it is. Rainy days call for copious amounts of tea and a good book. Both of which are in ready supply in our cottage.
And spring is still there if you look close enough. Daffodils are blooming all along the hills that roll down toward the train tracks and there are wild primroses springing up along the footpaths. So amongst all the raindrops are beautiful pops of colour. It’s like getting a hint of the joyful flavours to come. Not too much, just a little taste.
We’re on countdown in the Michie household for school to break up for Easter. One more day to go! So, we’re in the homestretch!
It has been raining here for what seems like forever and a day! The above photo is one I snapped earlier this week on my morning run. I was soaking by the end of it. I looked like I had gone swimming with my clothes on!
I was keeping my fingers crossed for a sunny Easter, but it looks like we’re gonna keep on having rain for days in our neck of the woods.
That’s okay, it will be sunny inside with candles lit, golden and creamy yellow coloured daffodils that have burst into bloom and twinkle lights glowing here and there. We’ll just make our own sunshine!
I live on an island that doesn’t always get a lot of sun. When the sun does come out however, it seems to make people go slightly crazy. No one pays attention to what they’re doing. I think they’re too enraptured by the sun and all the possibilities that it holds.
It was cold when I went for my run yesterday, but gorgeously sunny. And since the sun seems to create almost a manic fever in British people, I was almost hit by three cars, who weren’t paying attention! Later in the afternoon on my way to the grocery store, I had a fourth car almost hit me. He had his windows rolled down, singing along to a tune and he just decided that he would pull up on the sidewalk and stop, because that would be a good place to park. I quickly jumped out of the way! So, I’m going to chalk it all up to the sunshine yesterday and not them being horrendous drivers.
It was cold again this morning, but the sun rose while I was out and it was glorious. I made my way over to the train track footbridge and the cherry trees that sit on the hill have all started to bloom. The sunshine filtered through their delicate creamy white petals and gave the centres an almost rosey orange glow.
The breeze was swaying the branches, the clouds were playing peek-a-boo with the sun and for a moment, everything was perfectly quiet. No trains going by, no car sounds, no people. Just the robins singing, the sunshine, the cherry blossoms and me. It was heaven.
From Friday night until we went to bed late on Sunday, we were pretty much constantly being sprinkled with snow flakes. It would come down heavy for awhile, stick and a few hours later dissipate from the sidewalks and road and then start all over again.
After Saturday night everything had iced over and then it snowed on top of the ice, so it was hard to tell where you could walk and where you would start ice skating, when we headed out for a run on Sunday. After ice skating for a bit down the road, we decided to head to the coffee shop to warm up with hot chocolates. I made fast friends with a little furry girl, whose coat was so tight and curly, it was like running your fingers through an ebony shag rug. Her name was Roxy and I got lots of kisses.
It was 15°F when we got up yesterday morning and the ice was still pretty thick in places, so there was no run for me. I hate not being able to get out there, but it is better to take a day off, then six weeks off, because I’ve ended up in a cast with a broken limb.
I headed out early this morning and the air was so cold and clean. The ice had mainly melted, but you could still see it here and there in places. However, I did skate over the train tracks footbridge, as it had remained a solid sheet of ice. Snow still speckled the earth. Thicker in some places than in others.
I love how the snow changes the landscape. Things become more pronounced or softly hidden under a blanket of white. As I made my way to the woods this morning, I only passed one other person, it was so quiet. The birds were singing and I watched a magpie couple slowly build a nest. He flew back and forth carrying small sticks in his beak while she flittered about and helped.
Now, I’m home, defrosting with a cup of tea. The sky is pearly grey. I’ve got buttermilk rolls rising on the counter for dinner tonight and I had just enough buttermilk left over to make another loaf of my Nana’s Irish Soda Bread. Happiness is…
I absolutely adore the films that British Pathé produced. It is incredible to think that this footage still exists and beyond that has been saved and digitised. They are films that are a real piece of their time. You just can’t help, but to love them.