Although I’ve attended a fair few Christmas carol services, Ashbourne Animal Welfare’s annual Celebration of Animals Service at St Oswald’s Church – taking place this year on 9th December – has so far passed me by. I’m determined to amend that as it sounds such good fun (if perhaps rather noisy), and on reflection animals have probably been involved in one way or another in some of my most memorable Christmases. My best-ever presents – so far! – have been a white rabbit when I was six and a Westie when I was 32 – both dearly loved (in the case of the rabbit you might say ‘smothered’ with affection) and now greatly missed.
On the down side were the two disastrous Christmases with my in-laws. The first was when a fox ate the goose intended for our dinner. The second was an occasion recalled every year afterwards by my late fatherin-law as soon as the word Christmas was mentioned. As often happened in those days, the men had gone to the pub while the women prepared the dinner. Unfortunately, my mother-in-law and I were having such a nice chat with a glass or two of sherry that we forgot about the goose sizzling away in the oven... We did just manage to retrieve enough for a slice each from the charred remains to go with our mushy vegetables – another sad occasion for a goose, which was well and truly cooked!
Lots of ingredients make a wonderful Christmas, many of which we’ve touched on in this issue – food, shows, events, gifts, decorations – and many people are involved in making it such a special time of year, but often it’s the small things and fleeting moments that catch an atmosphere and create memories that last. In the last few years Hognaston, a pretty village tucked away near the dam wall of Carsington, and Six Streets, an area of Derby, are two examples of communities that have come together to make something special. Each day in the run-up to Christmas at least one newlydecorated window is ‘opened’ creating an advent calendar that is quite magical to walk round as darkness falls.
Many of our beautiful parish churches, often struggling in these modern times to raise the funds for necessary repairs, also succeed in capturing something special at this time. This year churches in Hognaston, Castleton, Belper, Bakewell, Wirksworth,
Editor, Derbyshire Life01332 227861, [email protected]byshirelife.co.uk