Monday, 14 December 2009

Present joy

This Sunday was Floss's third Pause in Advent, and I am now taking a pause from my partying to address the issue.

No, there wasn't a party in the polytunnel, unfortunately, but yes, the party frock and the two-dollar earrings had an outing, Pomona's cottage is looking quite festive, and has been the scene of festivities, too. It might have been grey outside, but inside was a warm glow of bonhomie and candlelight and firelight in spite of winds blowing ENE.

The first Christmas lunch of the season has been cooked, and the Head Chef and I were the proud producers of it all. I am sorry that I only took a picture of the parsnips, but the carrots, cabbage, garlic, onions, squash and potatoes were all homegrown and delicious. And the pork, of course, but I would rather not dwell on that. My dearest Head Chef excelled himself on the culinary front, and we realized that it is a big mistake to send two teenage boys out shopping for supplies unaccompanied by a ten-year-old who understands the  gravity of domestic issues in a supervisory role.

We haven't decked the hall with boughs of holly quite yet, because the holly is still drying out next to the Aga, having been soaked and battered by torrential rain and hail today (hence the welly chic), but presents have been wrapped and decorations arrayed about the house.

And I have been thinking further along the line of presents, under the influence of the eminent Professor Waldfogel, and before I present you with a little Advent reading upon which you may meditate at your leisure, I will also present you with a little Scroogenomic disquisition.

The Professor's little book, as befits one by an economist, goes into great detail regarding his research as to the actual value of presents to the receiver, as opposed to the price paid by the giver. According to him, although a present given by someone close to you is likely to hold 90% or so of the monetary value, there is generally some loss in value.

So I thought about all the presents I had received over the years, which merge together in a stream of forgetfulness, and one or two stand out particularly, presents which I still have, presents which hold a value surpassing all things monetary, and where I to this day remember the occasion when I was given them.


 And for those of you anxiously searching for the perfect present, I must tell you that neither was bought particularly for me, the giver gave something of herself as she passed these artefacts on to me, and one of them was handmade, and quite imperfectly so.

One of these most special presents is my grandmother's cotton reel holder: at our last Christmas together, when she knew that she was gravely ill, my official present was my Cath Kidston workbox, which I had chosen for myself. Then, almost as an afterthought, she sent me upstairs to a distant and dusty cupboard, a repository for a miscellany of disused objects, to find the cotton reel carousel, saying that I might as well have it, for I would be sure to make use of it. So its value resides in the poignancy of the memories associated with it, and my relationship with the giver, and this simple object symbolizes both what came before and what followed the giving of this gift.

I had always been fascinated by these denizens of old ladies' windowsills from my childhood, and had always wished for one, but had never ever seen one in a shop. So it was also a gift that money could not buy; it remains one of my most precious possessions, and I am always using it. For the economists amongst you, the value created by this present is way beyond any possible purchase price, and so the world is a better place for that gift. My only wish that modern cotton reels would fit on those brass spool holders - will I one day use up all those cottons, and such a useful object become merely ornamental?

I will save the sight of my other special presents for another day, and give you, dear readers, a special present of your own in this little collection of words, words which have been special to me since I was nine years old, and won the Library Prize at school. Some things never change: this was for the person who had borrowed the most books from the library, and I think I am still in the running for the Library Prize.

My prize was a book called Take Joy by Tasha Tudor, a beautifully illustrated collection of Christmas stories and poems and carols, which also described the impossibly idyllic Christmas celebrations of her family in rural America, all unimaginably talented and creative, and I dreamed of being an inmate of that roseate and glowing domestic circle. It is a book now out of print and long-gone from bookshelves, but remains in my memory in a nostalgic glow of Christmas past.

Somehow Christmas in England in the 1970s could never quite live up to that snow-filled, hearth-glowing, candlelit dream of a celebration, but the words which gave the title to the book are a piece of wisdom that I have remembered and rewritten over the years, and a lesson for all of us yearning for perfection and dreaming of somewhere over the rainbow.

Princess Bunchy and I have been discussing the meaning of these words for us but following Floss's example this weekend, I will merely present you with the words as they stand, and leave you to look into your own heart and find your own meaning. And perhaps they may make your own shadows flee away - I hope so.

I salute you!

There is nothing that I can give you which you have not;
but there is much, that, while I cannot give, you can take.

No heaven can come to us,
unless our hearts find rest in it today.
Take Heaven.

No peace lies in the future,
which is not hidden in this present instant.
Take Peace.

The gloom of the world is but a shadow;
behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
Take Joy.

And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you,
with the prayer that for you, now and forever,
the day breaks and the shadows flee away.

Fra Giovanni (1513)


Lola Nova said...

I am taking pause to absorb your lovely post. I love, love Tasha Tudor and have always wished I could away to her garden. It was she that started me wild crafting for medicinal and useful herbs in my teens. Thank you for the memory of her inspiration.
My mother has mentioned that someday I will inherit my grandmother's cotton reel, such a fascination I had for it when I was young...I am so pleased that it stayed in the family.

Thank you again for sharing the gift of your wonderful words.

TheMadHouse said...

What a fantastic gift you had from your Gran. I never knew either of mine, but do feel that the Gran and Granddaughter relationship is very precious. I agree on the gifts that mean the most often have a small monetary value.

I am really enjoying all the pause for advent posts

jus said...

Well, if that photograph isn't an advert for 'gumboot chic' then I don't know what is? x

Frances said...

I think that you have captured the very special spell that this season can cast.

It is easy to rush about, and be caught up in the stage directions that media or even friends or family might set.

Yet, this is a time to remember all that is most sweet in human nature. Follow that impulse.

(I am making all my gifts this year ...think that most folks who open the packages will see the love that has been wrapped with the gift.)


marigold jam said...

I just love that piece - how true and let us hope we take heed of it this Christmas and always.

Lucky you to have had a grandmother something I always wished I had but never did! That spool holder is beautiful.


Pipany said...

Now if you would just post every morning and provide me with a thought for the day I would be most grateful Pomona. Beautifully written as ever and a sentiment with which I heartily agree. You are a star m'dear xx

Lululiz said...

The story about your grandmother and her gift reminded me so much of my grandmother and her gifts to, it made me cry. I miss her so much.

Chrissie said...

pretty frock .... and sensible footwear! I love the poem, really struck a chord for me.

Isobel said...

Lovely dress and a very beautiful post!
I love coming here to read you.

Gillian said...

Thanks for this lovely post, Pomona, and the beautiful words (take joy). It is so true that often the monetary value of the gifts we treasure is not great, but it is the love, feelings or memories bound up in the item which make it so valuable to us. I think my most treasured gift of all is a little jug my Dad hand-painted. I have always loved it, and even more so since he died 6 years ago. I do, however, use it every day - jugs are meant to be used! ( I have taken some photos of it, just in case of breakages).
BTW, your party dress is really lovely.

Florence and Mary said...

Oh that cotton reel carousel is wonderful

Victoria xx

...Miss...Maddie's... said...

We all must dwell in a place of Joy or we shall become distraught, disheartened and lack the ability of compassion... our lives are full of moments of Joy some shared by others, some a personal exchange intimately shared with oneself.
So you call your treasured gift from your Grandmother a cotton reel holder... here it is a sewing stand, both for a piece to be treasured for the memories it holds...
X Susan

whoatemycrayons said...

Oh no, now I have bobbin reel envy, even though I can just about sew a button on. Those old wooden reels are just charming, so much better than the new plastic tat.

Michela said...

Great post and such lovely memories about your dear granny.
..You don't look as you told me a little while ago, you've got a very smart posture! Your new dress is trés chic!

jennyflower said...

Thank you for sharing that lovely piece. It reduced/elevated me to tears this morning and I had to take time before leaving a comment. You have a supreme talent for calm which I very much appreciate you sharing. xx


Nice dress! Just the thing for polytunnel parties!
I too have some of my Grandmothers sewing bits, its so nice to still have that link with her.

Vicky x

Menopausal musing said...

You look lovely in that dress and cardi and how lovely that the cotton reel stand has gone to YOU, someone who loves it. I'm making a lot of my presents this year as I am finding the consumerism in the shops almost obscene.

The Garden Bell said...

Such a great post today. Lots to take in. Love the holly and new frock.

Greedy Nan said...

I love your frock. Unfortunately, because my name tells everything about me I'm afraid it would never fit!
What a co-incidence - the word veryfication today is b-u-n-c-h ... said...

firstly, I love that bobbin reel holder!
Secondly, you look rather wonderful in your party dress and wellies, I think it is great!
Thirdly, I love you post as always, so well written and wonderful to read! suzie. xxx

Carol said...

Lovely, moving post, thank you.

Anonymous said...

My maternal Nan was a seamstress and I have a little cabinet that contains thread, buttons and thimbles etc. she used way back in 1905.
She was old when I was born so I hardly knew her but I take the things out from the cabinet and feel a real connection with her. We are truely honoured to be guardians of such homely, simple things.
Nice wellies by the way!
Maud xx.

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

A thoroughly enjoyable post - love the photos too.

Such gifts, as those from your Gran, help retain links with the givers, because whenever they're used or your eye lights upon them, the person who gave or the person who owned them is recalled and associated memories return - which is a great comfort. Bye for now. Lesley

silverpebble said...

I was so moved by your Grandmother's gift Pomona. It really is priceless. What a wonderful post and thankyou for the verse at the end.

periwinkle said...

love the carousel , grans always had lovely things ...

JuliaB said...

Pomona! Where is your head?? xx

Kelly said...

What a lovely poem! Thank you for sharing it with us xxx

Farmgirl Cyn said...

"Take Joy!" is one of my favorite books, and always one I take from the library every December. The drawings are so beautiful and the sentiments and stories are ones I continually go back to.
Lovely post!

Julies knitting corner said...

You have packed so much into your post it was a joy to read. Thoughts of your Gran is something I too can relate to, I have allot to thank her for she taught me everything she could, about knitting and a little sewing. best wishes Julie.C

elizabethm said...

i love everything about this post including the dress and the poem. excuse the absence of capitals. i am typing this with my 3 week old grandson sleeping on my left shoulder so am a touch restricted.

Kate said...

It's a lovely post Pomona and you look utterly glamorous in your outfit. Aaah yes, the carousel ... sigh!

sarah-jane down the lane said...

Simply beautiful x

Sarah x

I have "Ganny's" cotton reel, I love it so.

cathleen said...

You look quite elegant in your sweet little dress. And I adore your grandmother's gift to you. I hope my granddaughters will always remember me with such love. The poem is sweet too. Pomona, you are quite a fascinating read. Are you a writer because you have a really lovely way of expressing yourself?

susan said...

Please pop over to Brympton Towers it's all happening in my substitute real world, I need you on board please.
Happy xmas Susanxx

Wendy said...

What a truly beautiful post.
Thank you, as Christmas presents go, your sentiment and sense of sharing is all that I dream of receiving this Christmas.
I also love the gift from your Grandmother - how special.
Last year my family and I decided to make gifts for each other and it was one of the best ever!
I sincerely hope you and yours have a peaceful and happy Christmas.

Cathy said...

So much to read and digest in your post Pomona. Love the party frock and the classy wellies. We are snow bound today so I have been wearing my old red wellies. I loved your grandma story. They are very special people but sadly mine have been gone for many a year. Like you I still have beautiful and sustaining memories.

janie said...

I just wanted to stop by and say Merry Christmas and tell you how wonderful your blog is. I am probably the least "crafty" person around and do not sew, knit, crochet or make anything besides food, but I certainly can recognize talent and you have it! I hope to meet you at your front door someday when I make it back to Faversham. Have a wonderful holiday!

Duchess of Tea said...

My darling I wish you and yours all the joy, love, hope, blessings, peace, laughter, miracles, good health and boundless wealth during this holiday season and always.

Love & Hugs

Rowan said...

You look lovely in your party dress, it actually goes very well with the wellies:) Your grandmother's spool holder is beautiful and the kind of thing that money can't buy because of the memories it holds for you. I'm a Tasha Tudor fan too, there are a couple of videos called Take Joy and Take Peace (probably DVDs by now) that I bought from the Tudor Family site some years ago. You'd love them I think.

Katie said...

Have a WONDERFUL Christmas! Katie x

sequingirl said...

Happy Christmas from Sam at the Picnic.

alice c said...

Just dropping by to wish you a wonderful Christmas. I am so glad to have met you this year!

Michela said...

Hi Pomona, you've been very quiet this week, hope all is well with you and your family. Wishing you a fabulous Christmas and a very happy New Year! xxx

Duchess of Tea said...

Darling, I thank you for your love and support this past year when I needed it most. Your kindness has left me feeling blessed. You have made my first year of blogging a memorable one!! I am certain that 2010 will be an amazing year for us both. Enjoy the last day of the year and have a marvelous 2010 full of good health, happiness, prosperity, love and blessings.

Love & Hugs

Duchess of Tea said...

Darling, I thank you for your love and support this past year when I needed it most. Your kindness has left me feeling blessed. You have made my first year of blogging a memorable one!! I am certain that 2010 will be an amazing year for us both. Enjoy the last day of the year and have a marvelous 2010 full of good health, happiness, prosperity, love and blessings.

Love & Hugs

Houdini said...

Beautiful and interesting blog - many thanks ;-)

Happy New Year to you and yours

Houdini Al x

Duchess of Tea said...

Hello darling, glad to know my condition has a name...Januaryitis, good to know. You and I belong to the same club. I am going to follow in your steps. Darling, I do hope you had a wonderful time ringing in the New Year and that 2010 turns out to be the best year of your life, followed by many more. Thanks for all your visits and sweet comments; you are a dear friend...a treasure.

Love & Hugs


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