Brummie fun – wot so funee?

Another week has flown by and another week of hilarity in the toddler/preschooler language department it’s been. Apparently Andrew is quite the expert at various activities/ subject matters these days: “No Mummy, Joel’s not the expert, I’M quite a bit of an expert at Peppa Pig!” Oh yes sorry of course you are! He’s also our resident sliding down the slide in funny positions expert, eating ice cream expert, throwing frisbees expert and many more experts, all by his own admission.

So whilst he is an expert at all these things, I, apparently, lack the expertise that it takes to give him and Joel a bath. One day last week, Daddy was late home from work because the trains were delayed. This hasn’t often happened since he started commuting that distance, but as it’s him who does the bath time normally, we missed him that night. As we were heading up stairs and I was explaining that Daddy wasn’t going to be here for bath, Andrew looked most upset and said: “I don’t want a bath with you mummy, you’re not very clever at baths!” So I may have a PhD but running a bath, washing them and playing with them is beyond me. Thanks!

Since Andrew gave up his nap a few months ago, we’ve been encouraging him to still have a rest and just sit quietly for an hour or so because he really gets very tired by tea time otherwise – but that’s easier said than done when you’re a wriggly 3 year old! He’s got quite into watching a DVD, which seems to be the best way to keep him still, though he still flits off and plays with other things every now and then whilst watching. Until Granny bought a couple more DVDs the other day, Shrek 2 seemed to be the only one he wanted to watch, and after watching it quite a few times, he started to pick up some of the lines and anticipate them whilst watching it, which is really quite funny to listen to. I had to laugh when he told me what was happening: “Prince Charlie is riding a horse, look Mummy!” Ah, that would be Prince Charming 🙂

A routine that the boys have become used to now is going in to Granny and Grandad’s room for half an hour or so in the morning whilst they get up and ready for work. The TV is often on, and one programme that they have all got into is Q Pootle 5. I haven’t watched much of it myself, but what I have watched is definitely on 2 levels: the kids see funny space aliens being silly, and the adults understand jokes and references on a whole other level. All the aliens have various regional British accents, as you might expect (?!), and the favourite in our house of course has to be Eddie the Brummie. In one particular episode he comes out with an absolute classic sentence for highlighting his Brummie accent: ‘Look at the state of that bunting!’ (just what you’d expect an alien to be saying isn’t it?!!) So we’ve been joking about this ever since they first saw it, especially when I made some bunting the other day for my sewing business. Stay with me, this isn’t the funniest bit yet, it’s just a long preamble to explain where the next bit comes from. We’ve been going to a few groups over in Birmingham and Solihull – nappy and sling meets mainly – to try and get to know people over there. Last week was the first glimpse that I had of Andrew recognising that many of the children we’ve met over there have accents different from his own. He was playing alongside a boy a little younger than him, and after a while came up to me and said very softly: “That girl is talking like bunting….like Eddie.” I tried not to laugh, (a) because actually I was quite amazed that he’d picked that up and could express it to me, and (b) because the girl was actually a boy with long hair. He’s still not figured that one out, despite me giving him the example several times that Uncle Pete has long hair and he’s a boy. I tried to suggest quietly that actually ‘she’ was a boy, but that was met with a our and indignant: “No it isn’t, it’s a girl!!” I think his mum may have overheard that one, whoops! I suspect that the boys will grow up with some degree of Brummie accent, so he’ll get used to it.

And now to finish off, we turn from Birmingham to a couple of references to the boys’ city of birth – Cambridge. When we were in town the other day, a lady shouted across to someone she knew standing not far from us: ‘Andrew!’ Of course my Andrew immediately said “Yes?”, and I then explained to him that she wasn’t talking to him but that there was another Andrew near us. His response was: “Ah there’s 2 Andrews…. no there’s 3 Andrews, there’s fireman Andrew in Cambridge as well!” This was something he remembers from quite a while ago, when he went out with Daddy one saturday morning and they got to see inside a fire engine which was stationed at some event somewhere, manned by a fireman called Andrew, which he didn’t quite get at the time when Daddy tried to explain!

One evening this week when the boys were having a bath, Andrew asked Daddy where the ‘pink water’ was. Daddy looked puzzled and asked him what he was talking about, so he explained a little more and Daddy then understood that he was talking about an old flannel that we used to have quite a while ago that was a deep red colour but when you put it in water it made the water go pink, which Andrew used to love in the bath. We don’t know what made him suddenly think of it again recently. Daddy explained that this flannel was from a long time ago when we lived in our old flat in Cambridge. Andrew pondered for a few seconds and then came out with: “Where is Cambridge now Daddy?” He had to laugh, and tell him that Cambridge is still in the same place that it’s always been, it’s just us that’s moved away. I still wonder if he thinks we’re just on one long holiday at Granny and Grandad’s house!

Wot So Funee?

Cambridge tour

As this was our last week in Cambridge before we move to the Midlands, I thought it would be nice to do a short tour around some of the sights of Cambridge, to show the boys and take some pictures. There are so many lovely things to see, and living in a place often means we take for granted what’s on our doorstep – I’ve heard it said that you can tell a Cambridge resident if they walk/cycle up King’s Parade and don’t turn their head towards the rather large and beautiful building that is King’s Chapel – and although I try and admire our surroundings, it’s definitely true for me that I often forget. Some of the places where we stopped to look at something and take a picture are the common sights where all the tourists stop, and others are places that have significance for me or us as a family. So take a seat and hold on tight for this whistle-stop tour around the beautiful city of Cambridge…

First up are actually some pictures from our walk home from some friends’ house last Sunday – we stopped at the flats where Tom and I used to live just before Andrew was born, and then we headed across the common that we have walked through several times on the way home, including past the Cambridge United Football Stadium in which the floodlights fascinate Andrew. He never got to go to a game when we lived here (though Granny and Grandad went to watch one not long after he was born), so maybe one day we’ll come back and he can watch a game with the rather large crowd of local loyal supporters that the team attracts considering it’s non-league.

Cam tour 1 Collage

Now onto the central tour. We started by walking down Downing Street. Yes Cambridge has a Downing Street too, not just London! I don’t think anyone that famous lives here at the moment though. We passed the Downing site (bottom right picture), which is where I used to work and where lots of Cambridge University scientific research has taken and is taking place. Further down the road, which then becomes Pembroke Street, we passed on our left the college where Uncle Matt studied (top right picture), and a lovely German cafe on the right. At the end of the road we crossed over at the pedestrian crossing right outside the famous Fitzbillies cafe – this started many years ago as a bakery, which became famous for its amazing Chelsea buns, and when it had to close down in the recent economic crisis, some new owners bought it and carried on the tradition of Chelesa buns and other yummy cakes. Across the road we went past the Pitt Building (bottom central picture), home of Cambridge University Press. I worked for CUP for a short while, though I was based at its out of town offices near the station, but heard some of the history of the press and about the central building. Then we turned right down Mill Lane, where various university buildings are located, including the infamous Board of Graduate Studies (as it used to be called when I did my graduate studies in Cambridge, it now has a new name, it’s the bottom left picture) – or ‘the BoGs’ for short, which many a student felt was an appropriate title when it came to the administration of their Masters and PhD courses and theses.

Cam tour 2 Collage

At the bottom of Mill Lane (not to be confused with Mill Road by the way, as I’ve heard happen) is a very Cambridge sight: punts on the river. If you’re not familiar with the term, a punt is a long, thin boat which is propelled through the water by someone standing at one end and pushing on the river bed with a long pole (the Cam isn’t very deep), a bit like a Venetian gondolier. There wasn’t much happening at the punt station on a cold December’s day, but there was a guy touting for business as they usually do. We used to get asked by these touts all the time when we first moved here if we wanted to go punting, but now we must give off an air of ‘we live here’ as we walk past them because we’re rarely asked any more.

It was at this point that I remembered that my new phone can take photos at the front, so I managed to snap a few with Joel who was on my back in the sling. Behind us as we stopped and looked at the punts was the river heading towards Granchester and the meadows that surround it (bottom right picture). That makes a lovely walk, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to do everything, so we didn’t head any further out of town along the river. I have good memories of walks to Granchester in the summer, and sitting outside in the famous Orchard tea rooms.

Cam tour 3 Collage

We then headed up Laundress Lane, luckily we had no carriage or horse with us (top central picture), and came to the bridge which gives a good view of the so-called mathematical bridge in Queens’ College. Andrew was fascinated by the maths bridge, and wanted to walk across it, but I had to tell him that unfortunately only people inside the college get to walk across it, though we did once when visiting the college to look around for a possible venue for our wedding reception.

Cam tour 4 Collage

After I persuaded Andrew to stop looking at the bridge, we scooted round the back of Queens’ College and started our walk along ‘the backs’ – a lovely walk in which you get to see the back of a few colleges that are set beside the river, the most famous of which being King’s College with its chapel the size of a cathedral. We will always remember King’s because that’s where Daddy worked for 3 years before getting a new job in Birmingham to take us back to the Midlands. We have good memories of various events like the staff Christmas party, the family fun days, and going for lunch with Daddy in the Great Hall. Just at the start of the backs walk we found a metal plan of all the central Cambridge colleges, which Andrew was keen to look at and I pointed out a few that were special, like King’s and Downing (my college as a student). He was also interested in the various college gates that we walked past, probably because they are very grand.

Cam tour 5 Collage

Then we got to the point where the path along the backs crosses the lane that goes up to the University Library. This is where I spent a fair amount of time looking for books and occasionally reading them (if I couldn’t take them home or to my office) when I was a Masters and PhD student, and I will always remember the maze of book shelves and just how jam packed it was, even with many floors and long corridors –  and it’s even home to a copy of my PhD thesis. We decided not to walk up to the library itself, but you can just about see the tower through the trees in between the left set of traffic lights and the white lamp post in the left picture below. Instead we headed back into the centre with Trinity College on our right – the central picture below shows the Wren library in the college.

Cam tour 6 Collage

Up a steep bridge and back over the Cam we went, stopping at the top to wave to a sole punt whose passengers were brave to head out on the water on such a cold day. And then we saw an empty punt moored by the bridge on the other side.

Cam tour 7 Collage

After walking through some old lanes – Andrew loved walking on the cobble stones, or ‘bobble stones’ as he called them – we came out into the central streets by the Senate House. This old building is where all students graduate in a very Cambridge-style ceremony, most of which is still to this day in Latin. I’ve been in there once for each degree ceremony, once in summer and once on a freezing cold winter’s day when it wasn’t much warmer inside than out. In fact Andrew has been in there once – as a bump for my PhD graduation! It was at this point in our tour that Andrew announced that he needed the toilet, so we raced to the shopping centre which is where I could think of the nearest toilets.

Cam tour 8 Collage

Once out of the toilets. we stopped to look at one of Andrew’s favourite sights in Cambridge – the big ‘potato’! This is his name for the large rock with a maze of lines carved into it which stands outside in a courtyard by one of the shopping centres (bottom right photo below). It also happens to be outside one of his favourite places to have lunch – Carluccio’s restaurant where he is in pasta heaven (bottom left photo – you can also see the Corn Exchange in the background). We then walked out into the market square, and stopped by a sculpture that was recently placed outside the Guildhall on one side of the square (top left photo below). It is a tribute to someone whose name I can’t remember who was famous in the city for doing street entertainment here until he died. Just a bit further round from the market and we walked past our church, Holy Trinity, which is where we got married and where we have been most Sundays for the past 7 years since living in Cambridge.

Cam tour 9 Collage

After all this walking around, we’d worked up an appetite, so stopped at our favourite cafe for having lunch at when it’s just the 3 of us – Living Stones. The reason we like it is the play area, which has a play house complete with kitchen and fireplace (hence Andrew’s name for the cafe – ‘The Cafe House’). The boys are kept nicely entertained whilst we wait for the food, which is very good value and they do children’s portions of everything on the menu. Andrew always goes for beans on toast, and Joel often has a jacket potato and cheese. A friend, who was coming out of the cafe as we were going in, kindly took the photo below for us outside.

Cam tour 10 Collage

There was just enough time before heading home for a nap for Andrew to play on the park in town. Joel was very tired so didn’t get out for a play. This particular play area is probably Andrew’s favourite and has been great for him and Joel from about 9 months to nearly 3 years.

Cam tour 11 Collage

So that was our little tour of the city that we’ve called home for the past 7 years and where the boys were born. They probably won’t remember it in a few years time, but I’m glad we have lots of photos to show them in the future where they lived as babies and toddlers. We’re sad to go, because we love living here, but we’re also sure that we’ll have many more good times and memories to make in our next home city.

Mill Road Winter Fair – #CountryKids

We’ve lived in Cambridge for over 7 years, and 3 years of that was near Mill Road – a lively road with lots of shops, cafes and bars that give a real multicultural and independent atmosphere to the area, so much so that there was much opposition when a Tesco express and Costa Coffee opened up on the road. However, I have never made it to the Mill Road Winter Fair that runs on the first Saturday in December every year. Tom went last year and the year before with Andrew, but I’d decided to have my usual peaceful and restful Saturday morning about the flat. But as this year was my (and Joel’s) last chance before we leave Cambridge to experience the atmosphere of the fair, which Tom highly recommended, I thought I’d give it a go and we all went as a family.

Mill rd Collage 1

As with most events these days, we were up and about much earlier than it started – we arrived at one end of the road at about 10am, but things weren’t due to start up properly until 10.30am. So we stopped at the park for a while, and had a run around with the ball, and Andrew went on the playground. We could see that some stalls were ready, so we went over slowly and walked through some tents which had all sorts of local crafts on display, and some great Christmas present ideas. We decided to buy some homemade biscuits, and as we walked over to a space to stop and have our snacks, Daddy told us that this particular bit of road was where the fire engine was meant to be stationed.

Mill rd Collage 2

There was no sign of it yet, but just as Daddy walked around to see if it was further down the road, it pulled up! Andrew was most impressed, and we stood there watching the fire-fighters get their stall outside the engine ready as we had our snack. They told us we had to wait until the road was closed to traffic at 10.30am before they would let people see inside the fire engine, so we wandered on and came back 10 minutes later to look inside. Andrew got to climb up into the cab and put on a fire helmet, whilst the fireman explained what the breathing apparatus was behind the seats that he was sat on.

Mill rd Collage 3

We then wandered down the road a bit more, and passed various stalls outside the shops on our way. There was food from all over the world, live music from various types of musician/band, and other entertainments and activities, including a jester that Andrew was fascinated by. The boys love listening to music, particularly when it’s live, so we had to stop and listen/dance several times. Apart from the inevitable music stops, we were also shown how to make a simple angel decoration for the Christmas tree at one stall. Another attraction that grabbed Andrew’s attention was the free red helium balloons that they were giving away at one of the churches on the road. The first one he was given flew away within about 10 seconds (see the sky photo below – I don’t think he quite understood that it wouldn’t come back if he let go!), so he was kindly offered another and kept hold of that until we tied it onto him.

Mill rd Collage 4

Half way down this long road is a railway bridge, so of course we had to stop and look at the trains going in and out of the station for a few minutes, until we persuaded him that there was more interesting stuff to see and do further on. More helium balloons could be spotted in the distance, purple ones not red this time, but first we had to navigate through a crowd of people watching the Morris dancers in the middle of the road! That was fun to watch for a while, as was a drumming band and a flute quartet.

Mill rd Collage 5

As we neared the end of the road, which Andrew had keenly walked all the way down, and Joel was on my back most of the time, they were both clearly getting tired from all the activity. There was just one last thing to stop and look at: a bike hooked up to a generator which powered an amplifier system so that when someone pedalled the bike you could hear a band play! Daddy thought this was very clever, though Andrew was more concerned to say hello to a giant penguin who was walking round giving out treats from his stocking.

Mill rd Collage 6

We didn’t get chance to stop and look at everything or do all the free activities for kids on the way, there was just so much going on. The atmosphere was amazing, so good to see such a lively and friendly community spirit, with people from all different walks of life sharing their talents, cuisine and Christmas messages. I’m glad Joel and I got to go to this fair before we leave Cambridge, I will definitely remember the fun we had, even if he doesn’t!

Linking up with #CountryKids again, because outdoor fun can happen anywhere, in the middle of a city as well as in the countryside 🙂

 

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Moving on

Blogging has fallen to the back of my mind recently with everything else that’s going on. I mentioned in a few of the posts that I did get round to publishing recently that we’re moving cities soon, but unless you know me in real life and have seen me recently, you won’t know much more detail than that. So I thought I’d share what we’re up to, and at the same time getting some thoughts down ‘on paper’ (so to speak) will help me think through things myself! With everything going on and all that I have to do, it’s hard to take time to step back and think.

For a while we had been thinking that at some point we would move out of Cambridge. As much as we love living here and the place has A LOT going for it, especially for young families, there are 2 major downsides for us: 1) it’s not very near our family, especially Tom’s side; 2) it costs an absolute fortune to buy a house here! We were very grateful to our parents who helped us get on the property ladder when we bought our small flat here a few years ago when house prices weren’t quite as crazy as they are now, but we knew that with me choosing to not work (for money) until at least Andrew is at school, there is no way we could afford to live anywhere bigger within the city. Our flat is actually OK for now, but we couldn’t imagine living here in much more than about 2 years time.

From Cambridge...
From Cambridge…

So Tom had been ‘passively’ looking for a job at a university in the Midlands – not spending too much time on it, but signing up to a few job email alert systems, to see if anything came up. After quite a while, when he saw one come up at the University of Birmingham that looked perfect for his skills and interests (time-tabling – he has that kind of mind!), he thought he might as well go for it, even though we weren’t thinking of moving right now. To his surprise, he was offered the job, and had 2 months notice to work at his current employer, which ties in neatly with starting the new job on the first Monday of the new year.

Now we have lots to sort out before Christmas, including packing and selling our flat. Thankfully we can live with my parents for a bit until we find somewhere to buy in Birmingham, and the commute won’t be too bad for Tom in the short term. This means we can wait until we have the money from our flat sale before going for anything at the other end, which makes things easier in terms of house moving chains and deadlines etc. We were told that the market in Cambridge is very fast at the moment, and sure enough within a couple of days of going on the market and after our first viewing, we had a good offer, followed by a higher one the day after, and more viewings until we said ‘no more!’ We and the people offering are going to make a decision on Monday, but if all goes to plan (I know that’s a big ‘if’ in house buying/selling!) then we should sell it soon and start the process of all the legal stuff.

So far packing hasn’t been too bad – I’ve been doing bits and bobs when Tom has taken the boys out and when they’re napping, and it’s amazing how much I can get done when I have no little ones around, I’m very productive! I’d already done some sorting over the past few months as we didn’t need everything that we had in the flat, so I feel like we’re starting at a good point and only packing stuff that really needs to go with us.

When I first heard that Tom had got the job, I didn’t know how to feel, and for a few days I was mostly upset at the thought of leaving everything that we love about living here: friends, church, groups, parks, distance from town, cycling/walking everywhere etc. But after the initial shock, I realised that of course in the long run there will be lots of opportunities just like these in Birmingham. And the main points are that we will be nearer family so (great) grandparents get to see grandkids with less of a trek, and we can more comfortably afford a family house, neither of which we can get here.

... to Birmingham
… to Birmingham

On Friday I had my first experience of saying goodbye to friends that we have really valued since being in Cambridge – in fact without them I’m not sure we would still be breastfeeding, so that means a lot to me. It was the last LLL Cambridge meet that we can make before Christmas, and it was sad to leave: I still very clearly remember walking into our first ever LLL meet in exactly the same room when Andrew was just 4 weeks old – here I was walking out with a nearly 3 year old Andrew and a 1 year old Joel. This is the first of many sad farewells that we will be making over the next few weeks.

It’s also been hard to think about handing over the voluntary roles that I do here in Cambridge. I started Nappyness library and meet-ups less than a year ago, before we knew that we’d move so soon, and if I had have known this, I don’t think I would have set it up. But I’m glad that I’ve been able to help some families in that time, even if I can’t help here in the future. I’ve just had an offer from 2 lovely mums who are happy to take Nappyness on, so I’m very pleased that this will still be available for local families to benefit from. I’ve also been in touch with a few ladies who started a library in Birmingham around the same time that I started Nappyness, but haven’t had chance to do much with it yet, and would be grateful for help when I get there. So that’s an exciting thing to look forward to as well. I’m also leaving behind my Editor position for the local NCT magazine, which has been a wonderful experience for various reasons. As nobody has yet come forward to take over from me, I think I’ll be helping out at a distance for a little while yet, with lots of help from the other existing team members.

For me this blog post is a record of what this time was like for us, and something to look back on when we’re all settled with a new life in Birmingham. We both believe that this move is what God wants us to do, and that He will guide us through it all, even though it may be stressful and upsetting at times. He’s done it in the past in our own individual lives, and as a couple, and now as a family, and we can look back at how well His plan has worked so far, which gives us confidence for the future. Jesus doesn’t promise that following His way is easy, but He does promise to be with us, and that is an amazing truth to hold onto in unsettling times like this. I felt particularly comforted when we sang these words at the women’s midweek Bible study group this week:

Faithful one, so unchanging
Ageless one, you’re my rock of peace
Lord of all I depend on you
I call out to you, again and again
I call out to you, again and again

You are my rock in times of trouble
You lift me up when I fall down
All through the storm
Your love is, the anchor
My hope is in You alone

King’s College Family Fun Day – #CountryKids

There are many perks of working for King’s College in Cambridge as Tom does. One is of course that he gets to walk past the amazing chapel every day as he goes into and out of his office in the old building next to it. Another is the free cooked lunch that he is entitled to every day. One that we all get to enjoy is the Family Fun Day, which takes place on the Sunday after exams finish in June every year. This year it happened to coincide with Father’s Day. It starts at 1pm and goes on to the evening with a barbecue and music.

KCFF 1 Collage

It’s organised by the JCR – the undergraduate student committee, a kind of college-based student union – and they invite all the students and staff of the college. There are several bouncy castles/ inflatable games (suitable for both big and small people), giant games like Jenga and Connect 4, face painting and ice creams during the afternoon. Last year Andrew was still a a little young to really appreciate it, but this year he loved it!

KCFF 2 Collage

First up were the bouncy castles. As we came to the lawn, where for once we were allowed to walk, we saw the big inflatable fun things and immediately Andrew decided to run towards one shouting “It’s a bouncy castle!” excitedly. Daddy dutifully followed and took their shoes off, and that’s where they stayed for the best part of a couple of hours, running between the different ones. I do think it looks slightly incongruous to see big red and blue bouncy objects in front of the historic buildings that are King’s College with Chapel, but I also think it is lovely that for a few days every year the college are not afraid to do this kind of thing (there is also the May Ball where this kind of thing is allowed).

KCFF 3 Collage

Meanwhile I sat on the lawn and had a rest while Joel was napping in the buggy. Once he’d woken up, we went and joined the older boys and had a bit of gentle bouncy fun. I even went on a few times with Andrew while Daddy had fun with Joel. I particularly liked racing Andrew along the assault course inflatable – he was actually far better than me at climbing up the cargo net to get to the slide at the end!

KCFF 4 Collage

We then spotted that the man who was doing face painting had arrived and west up and was starting to paint some faces – there was a chart queue of girl students who wanted various things done from pretty flowers to a dalmatian dog! Andrew decided that he would like a face paint too, and he wanted to be spot the dog. So we waited in the not so orderly queue, half hoping that one of the girls would take pity on an impatient toddler every time one of them got up with a finished face, but they were all too keen to get it done.

KCFF 5 Collage

Spot then decided that he liked the look of the ice cream cart that had arrived when we were queueing for the face painting. We had been thinking that it was probably about time to go home, but as Spot saw more and more people flocking to join the queue for a Toni’s Ice (famous around these parts), he insisted that we should get an ice cream. And it wasn’t too hard to persuade us.

KCFF 6 COLLAGE

So we got the boys back in the buggies and got an ice cream each (except Joel) to eat on our way home. We’d had a great time, but Andrew was getting tired and Joel (as usual) had refused to feed when out so would soon get grumpy. We weren’t as hardcore as the student revellers who would stay until it got dark (and who probably wouldn’t be woken up at 5am the next morning). Sure enough, Andrew dropped off after he’d finished his ice cream and Joel fed enthusiastically when we got home. It really was a family fun afternoon for us all.

Linking up with #CountryKids over at Coombe Mill’s blog again this week 🙂
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Christmas is coming

It’s that time of year again. For several weeks now, especially after Hallowe’en was over, the shops have gradually been increasing the amount of red, gold and sparkly-packaged products they have on sale. Special foods adorn the aisles of supermarkets, whilst toy shops are crammed with the latest ‘in’ things for kids; in fact it seems there is no kind of shop which escapes a noticeable change in stock at this time of year. Decorations hang both inside and out, with twinkly lights illuminating even the most dull of concretised city centres (I know this, I was brought up in Coventry!) Of course, it’s the run-up to Christmas, or, as it’s more traditionally known, Advent.

As I’m sure you’re aware, the word ‘Advent’ is still used these days, but mainly in conjunction with ‘calendar’. An Advent calendar is a tradition which I believe started in Germany quite a while ago, and is obviously going strong in the UK today (just walk into any supermarket and you can’t fail to notice the offers like ‘3 for 2’ on the chocolate ones). In our family, we had a couple of traditions as my brother (Matt) and I were growing up – one pair of grandparents always bought us a chocolate Advent calendar each, and as a family we had a ‘Peanuts’ one (of Charlie Brown and Snoopy ilk), in which the story of the first Christmas was told a little bit each day, as we opened each door to reveal a short rhyming verse. The next generation of Advent fun has now begun, as Mum passed the remarkably resilient Peanuts calendar down to me, and Andrew can start being part of the tradition. Oh and I can’t forget the famous (in our family) video clip of Matt and I arguing about whether there were 17 or 18 doors open on the particular day in Advent that we were being filmed. (Incidentally I was right, but Matt was generally good at arguing that black was white… “18, see!” – this won’t mean much to most readers I’m sure.)

Snoopy dressed as a shepherd is getting ready to help tell the Christmas story
In days of old by royal decree, news was sent to Galilee....a message was sent to every home, to pay the taxes owed to Rome....Joseph and Mary were told that they, must go to Bethlehem far away....

So here comes a linguistic bit (2 paragraphs into the post isn’t bad going for me)…. Advent comes from the Latin word ‘adventus’, which means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’. Christmas is what’s coming, right? Of course, but I like to think of it as Jesus is coming, because for me, that’s who Christmas is about. It’s a time of year that I (along with other Christians of course) prepare to celebrate the arrival of Jesus who was born over 2000 years ago. His wasn’t a grand entrance to the world – his mum gave birth in an animal shelter because all the accommodation in the town they were visiting was full, and she wasn’t a ‘celebrity’, so no 1st century equivalent of the paparazzi were clambering to scoop an exclusive story. But as he grew up, those who lived around him saw that he was an amazing person, who did some amazing things. I’ll go further into that in future posts; for now I’d like to stick with the topic of Advent. Opening a door on a calendar each day from 1st to 24th December (a 25th door seems to be a modern addition, at least since the time of Charlie Brown) helps me to remember why I’m looking forward to Christmas. It’ll be great to spend time with family and have some time off work, yes, but the most important part is doing all this whilst celebrating Jesus’ birth.

Writing this has made me realise just how close Christmas is now. Living in Cambridge, we’re already experiencing Christmas events that have been going on for the past week at least, as the undergrads go home soon so they squeeze these in at the end of November. I’ve just put up our Christmas tree (‘up’ being a common theme this year – up on a table, out of the reach of little hands), which will be a nice surprise for my boys when they get home. So, roll on 25th December!

Up on the table out of the way of little hands!