And here is Christmas as busy as ever. My schedule is full: cards to send, presents to prepare, people to visit, social events to attend, things to pack for Italy where I will spend Christmas with my mum and my parents in law. Every year it seems crazy and exciting at the same time. I am looking forward to it but coping with all the deadlines is hard. Austerity looms on the horizon and Christmas seems to shrink in the context of the global crisis. I hope that the social and political situations will get better in the new year though inflation, the cuts on public spending and the cost of energy bills are expected to rise. The government doesn’t seem to give a positive solution as strikes hit and chaos approaches. Sometimes I feel the world is collapsing slowly and quietly. We grasp at some ephemeral certainties watching them failing and wondering if there is anything we can do to make a difference. Maybe we can in our small way. I care for my family, of course, and some dear friends. I try to save money in this crisis buying less of not-so-necessary stuff, saving on food more than what I used to do and saving on energy bills too, especially on heating. I wear extra layers at home and thick socks. Spending time with people has become a priority for me. I like to be present when I meet friends and family and focus on the time I am spending with them. There is so much to learn from others and ordinary events are important sources of inspiration for me.
On the news, not much is happening lately. Apart from the weather, which is getting colder as it is winter, and Harry and Meghan’s saga, newspapers struggle to deliver something really new and engaging. There are some protests but stagnation prevails. The only positive result I find is the fact that Donald Trump and his supporters did not win in the midterm American elections and the Republicans did not do as well as they expected. However, the after Biden is a question mark for the Democrats while the Republicans have a new candidate, Ron DeSantis that might beat Trump and run for the presidency in 2024.
praising Italian creativity that might make the difference in the economic recovery. But the left does not agree and thinks that the government is penalising the poor. On the whole, it is an unremarkable kind of time, an economic lockdown of sorts that reflects the aftermath of Covid. The message of hope and peace connected to the birth of baby Jesus in the Christian tradition seems to be silenced or even contradicted this year by the Ukrainian conflict and the economic crisis. However, I am looking forward to Christmas all the same. I wish to see friends and family, spend free, leisure time with them, binging on food and chatting, and I have new art and writing projects for the new year.
The World Cup has been a thrilling but also a disappointing experience. Italy did not qualify, then I supported Portugal and England and both teams did not reach the semi-finals. I didn’t like France and I thought it was unfair that it would win the World Cup for the second time in a row. I supported Argentina with the superb Messi. Somebody called him ‘source of hope and pride’, an inspiration. The whole team, and nation, relied on him as they did with Maradona. I was just worried that if he had got injured the team would have been lost. But finally, they made it! It was a spectacular victory; Argentina beat France on penalties after a 3-3 draw; Messi was the protagonist as ever.
https://www.myraschneider.co.uk/). She is one of my favourite poets and has been a great tutor and a source of inspiration for my writings. I will also be the new stanza representative for the Woking stanza group taking over from Rodney Wood who stepped down last October. The meetings will be on zoom once a month, on the third Tuesday in the evening at 7.30, starting from the 17th of January. The meeting will start with an introductory writing prompt and will be followed by feedback and comments on the poems that the participants are happy to share in the group.
I am planning to apply for art competitions and exhibitions in the new year and I will take part in the Woking Art Society’s and Surrey Artists Open Studios’ events in spring and summer. I will also be the artist in Residence for The High Window next year, an exciting experience in which I will explore the intricacies of textiles in poetry and paintings with examples from all over the world. ‘Only Connect’ is the theme of the Summer Exhibition 2023 at the Royal Academy, a perfect inspiration for my project. In the meantime, I worked on commissioned paintings of my British Mania series and sketched some textile-inspired watercolours for a large, commissioned picture I am going to complete in January.
Being in a Christmas spirit, here are two of my favourite Christmas poems:
by Alice Oswald
Various stars. Various kings.
Various sunsets, signs, cursory insights.
Many minute attentions, many knowledgeable watchers, Much cold, much overbearing darkness.
Various long midwinter Glooms.
Various Solitary and Terrible Stars.
Many Frosty Nights, many previously Unseen Sky-flowers.
Many people setting out (some of them kings) all clutching at stars.
More than one North Star, more than one South Star.
Several billion elliptical galaxies, bubble nebulae, binary systems, Various dust lanes, various routes through varying thicknesses of Dark, Many tunnels into deep space, minds going back and forth.
Many visions, many digitally enhanced heavens, All kinds of glistenings being gathered into telescopes:
Fireworks, gasworks, white-streaked works of Dusk, Works of wonder and/or water, snowflakes, stars of frost . . .
Various dazed astronomers dilating their eyes, Various astronauts setting out into laughterless earthlessness, Various 5,000-year-old moon maps, Various blindmen feeling across the heavens in braille.
Various gods making beautiful works in bronze, Brooches, crowns, triangles, cups and chains, And all sorts of drystone stars put together without mortar.
Many Wisemen remarking the irregular weather.
any exile energies, many low-voiced followers, Watchers of wisps of various glowing spindles, Soothsayers, hunters in the High Country of the Zodiac, Seafarers tossing, tied to a star ...
Various people coming home (some of them kings). Various headlights.
Two or three children standing or sitting on the low wall.
Various winds, the Sea Wind, the sound-laden Winds of Evening Blowing the stars towards them, bringing snow.
by Carol Ann Duffy
The year dwindles and glows to December’s red jewel, my birth month.
The sky blushes, and lays its cheek on the sparkling fields.
Then dusk swaddles the cattle, their silhouettes simple as faith.
These nights are gifts, our hands unwrapping the darkness to see what we have.
The train rushes, ecstatic, to where you are, my bright star.
And here is the link to the fabulous results of the Forward prize: https://www.forwardartsfoundation.org/forward-prizes-for-poetry/
Recipe wise, I had a go for a Panettone of sorts and to the Christmas yule log cake. Here are the recipes:
You need: 400 g of plain flour, one egg, 7 g of dry yeast, 50 g of melted butter, grated zest of a lemon, 100 g of sugar, a pinch of salt, 50 g of raisins and sultanas (or chocolate chips), some lukewarm water.
Prepare the dough mixing the flour, yeast, egg, butter, lemon zest, salt and sugar. Add the water and knead the dough until soft. Leave it to rest in a warm place for 2-3 hours. Soak the raisins and sultanas in warm water then squeeze them and add to the dough. If you do not like sultanas, you can have chocolate chips. Prepare some buns and set them on a greased tray, cover with a plastic film and let them rise for another hour. Remove the film and bake at 180C for half an hour or until ready.
Nuts and Cranberry tart
For the dough you need: two eggs, 200 g of self-raising flour, 50 g of melted butter, 100 g of sugar.
For the filling you need: 50 g of raisins and sultanas, 50 g of dry cranberries, 100 g of mixed nuts roughly chopped, the grated zest and juice of a lemon, 100 g of soft brown sugar, 2 eggs, some liquor. Icing sugar to dust.
Prepare the dough mixing all the ingredients and let it rest for half an hour. Prepare the filling soaking the cranberries, sultanas and raisins in the liquor. Beat the eggs and add the zest and juice of a lemon. Add the sugar and the nuts and finally squeeze the dry fruit and add it to the mixture. Roll out the dough and set it on a greased tart tin. Pour the nut and dried fruit mixture on it and bake at 180C for half an hour or until ready. When it is cool dust the top with icing sugar.
Chocolate yule log cake
For the cake you need: three eggs, 150 g of self-raising flour, 2 tbsp of cocoa, 100 g of sugar, 30 g of melted butter, a pinch of salt. Some parchment paper.
For the filling you need: 250 g of double cream, 2 tbsp of icing sugar.
For the frosting you need: 50 g of soft butter, 50 g of icing sugar, one tbsp of cocoa, 2 tbsp of double cream. Chocolate curls and sprinkles to decorate.
Prepare the cake mixing all the ingredients and spread it in a rectangular shape on an oven tray lined with parchment paper. Bake at 180 C for 20 minutes or until ready. Sprinkle some sugar on a wet tea towel and roll the cake in the towel. When it is cool whisk the double cream with the icing sugar for the filling. Unroll the cake and spread the cream on top. Reroll the cake and set it on a tray. Finally prepare the frosting mixing all the ingredients and spread it on the roll cake and decorate with festive sprinkles.
Have a lovely Christmas time 🎄🤶💗