The year closes

I can't be doing with all those big retrospectives for the New Year: the highlights of 2011, whether the big news stories of the year or the nation's favourite television.  And yet there is something about the closing year which makes one pause.  Partly it is the sheer swiftness of the passing of time.  How can I have just dated a letter 30th December 2011?  That is a whole year gone in a whirl and a blur, a year older, possibly a year ever so slightly wiser, a year closer to the grave.  Not that I feel remotely sad or morbid.  We have just had a lovely family Christmas full of all the things which I love (family, food, feasting) and entirely free from the angst and stress and consumerism which seem to colour so much of the journalism in the lead up to Christmas, when we aren't being sold a perfect, unachievable, sentimentalised dream.   Ours is a simple Christmas and maybe that is why it generally (not inevitably mind) works.  I can give you the recipe if you like:
  1. Take one Welsh farmhouse (or any house or flat really, the venue is not crucial)
  2. Add a bit of preparation so that there are some things in the freezer, the presents are bought and there is not too much last minute panicking to be done.
  3. Don't spend too much.
  4. Bring in your family.  If they are easy and lovely they can stay a while.  I think you have to have family even if they are cussed and awkward but in that case they should either be briefly visited or brought in and taken away by car, by you, for the shortest possible time.  Spend the most time with the people you love the most.
  5. Be nice to each other.
  6. Don't try to spend every waking minute of every day together, in fact everyone should have bits of every day with a little time to him or her self.  
  7. Add a couple of dogs if possible which will produce a requirement for groups of people to go out walking and alter the pace of the days and blow the cobwebs away.
  8. Add a small child or two to make you laugh.
  9. Ideally have dishwashers of both the mechanical and the human kind.  I am lucky enough to have Ian for whom washing dishes in our new kitchen is practically a hobby.
  10. Eat well.  Drink moderately but well.  Laugh a lot.
  11. Be aware of how lucky you are.
So the year is ending much more happily than it began.  New Year's Day 2011 exploded in our faces with the bombshell of my brother's stroke.  It takes time to adjust and his life now is very different to his life before the stroke but things settle and change.  The terror and the fear and the sheer unknowability of what is to come settle and fade and a new life and a new pattern emerges.  There has been much bravery, even heroism, from him and his family, which is not mine to talk about here but which I can only admire.

My father in law was newly arrived here at this time last year, still needing quite a lot of help and uprooted from the town which had been his home all his life, except for a few years of war service in the Orkneys.  As the year ends he is happy and settled too, far more mobile about the house and enjoying the additional family company which comes his way as a result of living with us.  That has been a different sort of challenge, learning to share your time and space with someone else again, but the right thing to do, a good thing to do.

My parents are just about to downsize and start a new phase of their lives and my father is not as well now as he was at the beginning of the year which saddens and worries me but they seem to be going into 2012 with their customary determination and good cheer.

Life might not be easy all the time (when was it ever?) but it is good. 

And the wonderful thing about gardening is that there is a whole new year to plan and dream for and to get it right in, or parts of it!

Happy New Year to everyone who reads this blog.  I am very glad to know you all, in whatever way, large or small, real or virtual.  I wish you all the very best for 2012.


  1. I'll save that recipe, Elizabeth, because a good recipe will always come in handy.
    As I read the title of your blog I had a flash of all that has happened on your Welsh hill in the last year. You seem to have weathered it all with grace and humour. I wish you and your family all the best of 2012 - do you realise that we're coming up to 5 years of online friendship? Amazing!

  2. What a lovely post. I agree wholeheartedly that you do not need a fanfare to mark the passing of the year, yet it has a significance that cannot be ignored. Very best wishes to you and yours for the next twelve months. X

  3. I always think young children make Christmas. Like you I abhor the commercialisation of Christmas and I had to be quite strict that my mother wasnt to spend loads. I managed this year to have the Christmas we wanted for the first time in years which was a huge achievement.

    I have to say I admire how you have coped with yoru father in law moving in with you, I know I would have really struggled and I know from our chats what a sacrifice it was.

    Hope you and yours have a good 2012

  4. Thank you! I wish you and your family a very happy and healthy new year! I look forward to reading more in 2012.

  5. A lovely recipe, Elizabeth. Wishing you a wonderful year to come, with many of the same ingredients to gladden your heart.

  6. Happy New Year Elizabeth.
    A lot has happened on that welsh hill of yours this year and I am glad that the year is ending on a happier note than it began for you and your family. Your recipe for Christmas sounds wonderful .... especially no's 9 and 10 - the only thing that I would add is Damson gin made by a friend .... delicious, thank you :)

  7. Pondside - what a very kind and lovely comment. It seems amazing that I would never have known you without blogging. We must identify a year in which we can finally meet!

  8. Sue - and my best wishes to you. I am having a quiet evening here of the kind you mention in your blog and loving it. Hope you are enjoying yours too.
    Helen - I am glad you had a good Christmas. Perhaps you have set the pattern now!

  9. So glad your year has gone well and things seem to have improved. The new kitchen must be wonderful to work in.

    I like your recipe for Christmas. Unfortunately, we were just the two of us this year and the weather has been atrocious - thunderstorm last night - hopefully we will be back to summer again soon.

    Wishing you and yours all that you would wish yourselves for 2012.

  10. I'll count my blessings and wish you a Happy New Year.

  11. and a very Happy New Year to you and yours

  12. I like your recipe, Elizabeth. It is full of practicality and good sense!

    Happy New Year to you and your family!

  13. HAPPY NEW YEAR Elizabeth!! Wishing you warm thoughts over on the other side of the world! I like the Christmas plan you laid out oh so very much :) ~Melissa

  14. Very good wishes for the year ahead. Hopefully, we are all wiser and more contented having experienced both the happiness and pain of the last year. Many thanks for your wonderful writing which so often inspires

  15. Marsha - thank you and thank you for reading. I would return the compliment but my Italian is not up to it!
    Rachel - and the same to you. Continue to enjoy your Somerset life!

  16. Sounds the perfect recipe Elizabeth. May the new year treat you and those you love kindly and may all your flowers and crops flourish xxx

  17. Wonderful recipe; taking notes! Happy New Year!

  18. What a wise woman you are.
    Happy New Year to you all.

  19. that recipe is full of very wise words, may the year ahead bring you happy times x

  20. A splendid recipe for a good Christmas. I hope that 2012 brings you health and happiness and that your father's health improves.

  21. Karen - I am glad you liked the damson gin! we have been drinking our way through ours and very yum it is too.
    Susan Heather - Happy New Year to you too. Hard to imagine you in summer down there.
    Nora - I hope you have a very good 2012 full of all the things that make you smile.
    Patty - and to you!

  22. Dimple - thank you! Practicality is an underrated virtue I suspect so I am delighted to be told I have it. Mind you my husband who is the super practical one round here might be a tad surprised!
    Melissa - so glad to have met you and that you enjoy the blog. Happy new year to you too.
    Liz - thank you. That's a lovely thing to say. I am honoured.
    Anna - I love the gardener's blessing - may your flowers and crops flourish! Perfect.

  23. Tattie - not sure about taking notes! Hope your 2012 is all you wish for.
    Dobby - now come on Jane, you have met me! Wise would be good, if unachievable!
    Driftwood - and to you too!
    Rowan - thank you and for your good wishes re my dad.

  24. Happy new year to you too :-)

  25. Happy New Year, Elizabeth! I am so glad I found your blog and really look forward to watching your garden come alive this spring from my concrete jungle here in Seoul. Just returned from Thailand and have two short days to unpack and re-pack before getting on the next plane to take son#1 back to the US for uni. I have no idea why I thought this timetable would be a good one when I made the original plans!! I'm sure I'll be reading your first posts of 2012 from airports and hotels across the world!

  26. I hope next year ends happier too - that's a good trend to have.


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