Mary’s Story

Mary’s Story

by Anne E Thompson

“I travelled to Bethlehem in a small cart. Every bump (and there were many) was agony. As I was jolted along, I was racked with pain. The baby’s time was near, you see and the pain was almost unbearable. Later, they would sing songs about a cute donkey carrying me. Nice thought! I don’t think there’s any way you could’ve got me on a donkey. As each contraction cramped every muscle in my torso, I huddled up like an animal, and prayed for it to be over.

I could see Joseph, watching me as he walked alongside. He really didn’t have the first idea what to do. Oh, how I wanted my mother. I yearned for her to be there, holding my hand, telling me everything was alright and would be over soon.

When we arrived at Joseph’s uncle’s house, the women folk came and helped me inside. The room was crowded. All Joseph’s male relatives from miles around had come to the house, for shelter and food. The women were busy cooking supper and the men were drinking wine and comparing stories. They all told Joseph how much he resembled his grandfather Matthan and laughed at old stories from years ago.The smell of fish and fresh bread was nauseating. I was so tired and so uncomfortable.

Joseph knew I was suffering and asked if there was somewhere quiet that I could go. There was no chance that we would get a place in the inn, they had filled up days ago. Somewhere quiet, in a little house packed with relatives? There were some fraught discussions, and then his aunt suggested that going down, to the lower floor, with the animals, might be best. It wasn’t terribly clean, but it would be quiet and private and at least it wouldn’t smell of fish!

Joseph helped me go down, and a couple of the women came too. One of them examined me and told me the baby was a long way off yet, first babies always take their time in coming. This was not great news but I felt better having her there. I felt that she knew what was happening, had seen this before and it took some of the fear away.

I was frightened you see. I was horribly afraid that somehow I would damage my baby. My baby and God’s. I knew he was going to be special, I knew I had a great task ahead of me but it all seemed to be going horribly wrong. I trusted that God was still in control but He felt so far away. Could the baby not have been born in a palace, surrounded by comfort? Would these poor beginnings really be part of a plan? Could they really make this king accessible to the people? I had no idea. I was a mere girl, I had no education and my memory of scriptures was often fuzzy. To be honest, at this present moment, I didn’t even care. I just wanted this baby OUT! Special or not, my body was tired of carrying him, tired of being stretched and pushed, of fitting something inside that was now too big to be there. I needed this baby to be born and I was too exhausted to wait much longer. How I longed for sleep.

The pain in my back was terrible. Great waves of cramp that seared through my body, making me oblivious to everything else. I was vaguely aware that someone was sweeping the floor and moving the animals to a far corner. They had laid out a mattress and blankets for me to rest on but I couldn’t lie still for long. I felt better standing, rocking in time with the pain, trying to remember to breathe, in out, in out. Someone offered me water but I couldn’t drink. I wasn’t thirsty, I just wanted this baby to be born.

I could see Joseph with his big anxious eyes watching me. He didn’t know what to do. Someone suggested he should go into the house to eat and I nodded in agreement. There was nothing he could do and the poor man must have been tired too. He had endured such an emotional time lately. First there was his fear and anger when he first heard about the baby (now that was a difficult conversation!) Then he had to endure the smirks of his friends when the pregnancy became public knowledge. He never complained, but I know he felt embarrassed, wished that God could have chosen a different girl.

We had been travelling for five days, with hardly any rest and the last couple of days had been more chilly. I know he felt the burden of caring for me, watching for bandits on the roads and wondering if we would make it to Bethlehem in time. If the baby had come early I don’t know what he’d have done – left me with strangers on the road somewhere I guess, and come to register on his own. One didn’t mess with a Roman decree…

The pain eventually became almost constant. Joseph had eaten and rested, but I continued to sway in discomfort in the little cave of animals. Every so often, one of them would poop, and although the women with me cleaned it up quickly, the smell pervaded the atmosphere. I could hear the musicians gathering outside, someone must have told them the birth would be soon. That gave me hope, maybe soon the baby would arrive.

Then at last, in a final searing pain, the baby was born. I looked down at his blue waxy body as he wriggled on the blanket and I knew that he was mine. One of the women wiped him down with oil and salt and I held him in my arms while they looked for the swaddling bands in our luggage. How beautiful he was. His indigo eyes would soon turn brown and they gazed at me trustingly. I loved him with my whole being.

Outside, there was the sound of music and singing as the musicians heralded the arrival of a boy.

Joseph came and took him from me. He held the tiny baby in his giant carpenter’s hands, hands that spoke of hard work and safety. Then the baby started to mouth for food and Joseph passed him back. The women showed me how to feed him, but he was soon asleep. Then we gently wrapped him in the swaddling bands, securing his tiny limbs so he would feel snug and secure and his bones would grow straight and true. He was so beautiful. It was hard to remember what the angel had told me, that this was God’s son too. I began to wonder if I had imagined it, if it were all a dream. This baby did not look like God, he was a baby. My baby.

“If it’s true God,” I thought, “Let there be another sign. He is so little and I love him so much. Remind me again…”
I too needed to sleep. Joseph fetched fresh hay and put it in the animal’s manger, covering it with a soft blanket. I didn’t want him to put the baby there, I wanted to keep him on the bed next to me, but Joseph was worried I might roll on him in my sleep. Then he laid the baby down and told me to sleep.

He looked deep into my eyes and brushed my collar bone lightly with his fingers. “Soon you’ll be truly mine,” he whispered. I knew what he meant and felt myself blush.

I was so tired, I thought I would sleep for a week.

I actually slept for about two hours! I was abruptly woken by loud voices, and a draught of cold air as the door was flung open. There, standing uncertainly in the doorway was a group of youths. Their clothes were dirty and exuded the strong smell of sheep. Joseph was with them.

“Mary? Are you awake?” he asked.
It would be hard not to be with all the noise from outside.

“These shepherds want to see the baby. They were told by angels where they could find him and they have come to look at him.”

I nodded and they trouped into the room. They seemed so big and clumsy in such a small space, I was worried they might hurt the baby. But they didn’t try to touch him, they just stared for a while and then one of them knelt and they all followed suit, kneeling before the manger, staring at the baby.

Then they told me their story, how they had been in the fields and an angel had appeared. They had thought they were going to die, to be struck down right where they were. The angel had reassured them, told them that a saviour had been born, the Christ who we’ve all been waiting for. They would find him lying in a manger. Then suddenly there were lots of angels, all praising God and saying he was pleased with people on earth. After the angels had gone, finding they were still alive after all, the shepherds decided to come at once and see for themselves. It was as though they couldn’t quite believe what they had seen and heard, they needed to actually see the baby with their own eyes.

I felt so humbled, and so cared for. God had heard my thoughts, He was reassuring me. I felt tears prickle my eyes, and blinked them back, tried to look serene. But I was shaken by how much He cared. It was all His plan, not some terrible mistake. We were meant to be here. He even knew about the manger! I listened and smiled and treasured my thoughts.

The shepherds left as noisily as they came. I could hear them in the streets, shouting their news, telling everyone what had happened. They were so excited! A few people shouted back, telling them to be quiet – I guess not everyone was pleased to hear the news, they had other things they wanted to do (like sleep).

The shepherds had of course woken the baby, who was now crying with a thin wail that jarred my nerves and was impossible to ignore. So I fed him some more and then we both slept. A tired, contented sleep borne from exhaustion and wonder.”

xxx

Continued tomorrow. Why not sign up to follow my blog so you don’t miss it?

anneethompson.com

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So, Mary Rode on a Donkey. Right?

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  The Nativity story is always told at Christmas time and you probably think you know it well. So, to test your knowledge, and because quizzes are fun, here is a Christmas Quiz.
Read the statements below and decide if they’re true or false, using what we know from the Bible accounts. It did of course happen a long time ago, so using our historical knowledge of that period, some answers will have to be “probably true” or “unlikely”. The answers are below……Can you get them all right?

 An angel told Mary she would have a baby.

 Angels have wings.

 Angels have magic wands.

 Joseph was pleased and excited when Mary told him she was having a baby.

 Mary and Joseph were married when Mary had the baby.

 Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth.

 Mary rode on a donkey when they travelled to Bethlehem.

 Joseph knocked on lots of doors, looking for somewhere to stay.

 All the hotels were full.

 The baby was born on the night that they arrived in Bethlehem.

 The baby was born in a stable.

 Mary put the baby in an animal’s food trough.

 Mary wore a blue head shawl.

 The new baby was wrapped in swaddling bands.

 Shepherds were told the baby had been born, on the actual night of his birth.

 The shepherds were scared of the angel.

 The shepherds visited Jesus the night he was born.

 The shepherds told people what they had seen.

 The shepherds took a gift of a lamb.

 Angels told wise men that a baby had been born.

 There were 3 wise men.

 We know the names of the wise men.

 The wise men visited Jesus the night he was born.

 When Jesus was a baby he never cried.

Christmas Quiz Answers

 An angel told Mary she would have a baby. True Luke 1:31

 Angels have wings. Probably, sometimes. They are described as having wings in Revelation. However, they were often mistaken for men and therefore must not always appear with wings.

 Angels have magic wands. False. Angels are real. They are NOT fairies!!!

 Joseph was pleased and excited when Mary told him she was having a baby. False. Matthew 1:19. He was rather shocked, as they weren’t yet married (see below) and so he assumed she had been unfaithful and planned to ‘divorce’ her.

 Mary and Joseph were married when Mary had the baby. False. Luke2:5. They were betrothed – or promised to be married.

 Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth. True. Luke 2:4

 Mary rode on a donkey when they travelled to Bethlehem. Unlikely. There is no mention of a donkey. Ask any woman who has been pregnant if she would want to ride a donkey and she will say no. Just trust me on this. Joseph was a carpenter, he probably made a cart for her to ride in.

 Joseph knocked on lots of doors, looking for somewhere to stay. Unlikely. Joseph’s family came from Bethlehem. As there was no room in an inn, they would probably stay with relatives (though with so many people returning to Bethlehem it was probably very crowded.)

 All the hotels/inns were full. True. Luke 2:7 11. Hence a lot of family, all being forced to arrive at the same time to register, would make for very full houses.

 The baby was born on the night that they arrived in Bethlehem. 
 Probably. However, not necessarily. The Bible does not say when Jesus was born but Nativity plays always show him born that night – because it makes for a good play.

 The baby was born in a stable. Unlikely. They were probably staying with relatives. The houses would be teeming with extended family who had all arrived, and there would be very little space. Therefore, in order to have some privacy, Mary probably gave birth down in the lower floor of the house, which is where people kept the animals.

 Mary put the baby in an animal’s food trough. True. Luke 2:7 14.

 Mary wore a blue head shawl. Unlikely. Although this is how she tends to be depicted on Christmas cards there is no reason why she always wore blue. She was a normal teenage girl and would have worn similar clothes to her friends.

 The new baby was wrapped in swaddling bands. True. Luke 2:7. This was a traditional way to keep a baby warm and safe in those days. They were wrapped snugly in strips of cloth.

 Shepherds were told the baby had been born on the actual night of his birth. True. Luke 2:11 17.

 The shepherds were scared of the angel. True. Luke 2:9. In those days it was believed that if you saw an angel you would die. so, the poor shepherds were terrified!

 The shepherds visited Jesus the night he was born. True. Luke 2:15 19. (And I have to say, as a mother, that after giving birth, I did not think, “Oh, I would love to now be visited by some smelly noisy strangers.” )

 The shepherds told people what they had seen. True. Luke 2:17 20.

 The shepherds took a gift of a lamb. Unlikely. They were working men off to see a new baby. They probably did not own the sheep they were looking after as it tended to be the special temple sheep that grazed on the hills around Bethlehem. (Also, how often do you take a smelly sheep when you go to visit a new baby?)

 Angels told wise men that a baby had been born. False. They were star gazers and saw a star that signified the birth of a great king. Matthew 2:2. It is interesting that as astrologers, they ‘read’ the stars and knew an important person had been born. They then followed the star to Jerusalem, and nearly got him killed. Which shows, I think, that astrology is not really to be trusted. It wasn’t until someone bothered to read their scriptures, that they discovered that the baby was to be born in Bethlehem.

 There were 3 wise men. Possibly. The Bible does not say. They gave 3 gifts, so people assume there were 3 men, but they may have brought the same gifts, or none, so we cannot be sure.

 We know the names of the wise men. False. They are named in a song, not the Bible.

 The wise men visited Jesus the night he was born. False. They came from the East, and started to travel when he was born (when the star appeared.) It probably took them months to travel to Jerusalem. As King Herod killed all boys under the age of two, it is likely that Jesus was a toddler when the wise men visited.

 When Jesus was a baby he never cried. False. This idea is in “Away in a manger” not the Bible! Jesus was fully human, so would have done all the normal baby things that you did, which includes crying.

***

 So, does it matter? Some aspects don’t matter at all, they just make for a good story/children’s play/Christmas carol. I love a good Nativity Play, the shepherds wearing tea-towels on their heads, Joseph with his runny nose, a doll thrown into a cardboard box.

However, the danger is that we forget what really happened. We sometimes put the Nativity story into the ‘children’s story’ box and we forget that it did happen and that it is meant to still have real impact today. If we dismiss the Nativity as ‘a nice story’ then we miss the point. The point is that God thought you were special, and he came so you could include him in your life. That is big, it is not just ‘a children’s story’ and it demands a response from us. Maybe that’s why it’s more comfortable to tell ourselves that Christmas is for children…

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Thank you for reading. You can follow my blog at: anneethompson.com

Anne E. Thompson is an author. You can buy her novels from Amazon or bookshops (and they make very good gifts!) Which ones have you read?

 

 

 

How to NOT do Christmas

(Reposted because it’s that time of year again.)

How to NOT do Christmas

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by Anne E Thompson

Okay, so it’s that time of year again, when I look around and everyone seems terribly competent, with beautiful houses and cards sent on time. Or are you, like me, still struggling to clear up stray socks and find the floor under dog hairs? Here are some helpful hints for those of you who need to decorate the house, send cards to the correct people, produce a mound of wrapped gifts and cook that all important dinner; whilst also keeping the house clean, the animals alive, and do all the other jobs which fill your life and don’t disappear at Christmas. Hope it’s helpful.

The Tree

Everyone loves a Christmas tree. Here are some things to beware of:
If you take a man with you to buy a real tree, he will lose all sense of proportion. This is true. Crude jokes aside, it seems to be some strange male trait that they always want to buy a tree that is much too big for the space in your home. They always forget the bucket and top decoration adds extra height. And they always forget that you might want to live in the room where they plan to put it – and if it’s too wide everyone will have to scrabble through the branches to communicate. So my advice: do not involve a male of any age in choosing the tree.

You cannot however, avoid them being present for the annual family discussion on where the tree should go. Now, we have lived in our present house for many years and every Christmas we discuss (heatedly) where the tree should be placed. Every year it always goes in exactly the same place.

If you buy a tree in late December, your family will constantly tell you everyone else has theirs already. If you buy a tree in early December, it will probably be bald by New Year.

If you decide to ‘plant’ your tree in soil, over time, as it is watered, the soil becomes unstable and the tree will gradually fall over. If you follow the shop’s instructions and “treat your tree like the living plant that it is” and stand it in water, then after a while, the warmth of your house will have turned the water stagnant and everyone will be asking you what the funny smell is. If, on realising this, you then add a drop of bleach to the water, the tree first gets very pale looking and then dies very quickly. A dead tree will droop and all the ornaments slide off the branches. Your lounge also smells like a public lavatory.

If you ever want a tasteful tree, you must NEVER allow the children to put on their home made ornaments. Every year I produce those faded photos in plastic frames, the robin that sheds paint. I even have the clay angels that my sister made one year, which look like they slept in a puddle after an especially hard night out. It is true, they bring back lots of special memories, but I can now never not put them on the tree, so my tree, whilst full of precious memories, is also incredibly tacky.

If you do not water your tree, do NOT leave the lights on it and go out for the evening or it might burn down your house. (This did not happen to us, but it did happen to a neighbour in the US. A dried pine is incredibly flammable.)

If you have an artificial tree, you can spend hours sorting out branches and colour codes. My advice is: tell someone else that they are in charge of putting up the tree because it is too hard for you (this works well if you have males in the family, who will actually believe that you are incapable of matching colours.) They will also be keen to supervise the taking down of the tree because they will know how impossible it is to put up if not stored carefully.

Decorations

Do NOT believe that everyone who helps decorate the house will also help tidy up after Christmas. Every year I say, “Only put out the ornaments that you will put away afterwards”. I may as well not bother. I know this is true because one year I was ill, and we had a Nativity scene on one window sill all year. I find family members are very keen to decorate all sorts of random places, and not at all keen to tidy them afterwards.

Gifts

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Do NOT buy gifts too early and if you do, do not forget where you have hidden them. It is annoying to find winter nightclothes for your daughter in June.

If posting gifts, do not forget to name each gift so the recipient knows who they are for (you would be surprised at what has happened in our family).

Do NOT assume you will know when your child stops believing in Father Christmas (sorry if this is a spoiler). When I asked one of my sons on his eighteenth birthday (okay, so he wasn’t quite that old) if he really still believed in Santa, he informed me that he had not believed for years but hadn’t liked to disappoint me by letting me know. This was a huge relief for the whole family, as we could now stop worrying he was completely thick, and it also meant that I could give the children their ‘stocking gifts’ the evening before Christmas. Which meant that we all slept much better Christmas Eve.

Do NOT forget to check that either your husband has bought his mother a gift, or you have bought one for her yourself. Really, I cannot stress enough how important this one is……

Food

Unless you are a very organised person, do NOT buy a large frozen turkey. They take days to defrost – and where will you put it during that time? If you leave it in the utility room, the cat eats it. If you put it in the garage, the mice eat it. If you leave it in the oven to defrost, you are sure to forget and turn on the oven to preheat – melting plastic over poultry is not a good smell, trust me. If you place it in a bucket of brine, as was suggested one year, what are you going to do with the salmonella-infected brine afterwards, and how will you stop the dog licking it? If you put it in the fridge, you cannot fit in any of the shelves, let alone other food. Trust me, big frozen turkeys are a bad idea.

Do NOT forget that supermarkets are open other than on the bank holidays. I always do this; I try to buy enough food for the whole holiday period, which is a military operation in an over flowing supermarket, with insufficient parking, and queues the length of the Nile . Then, soon after boxing day we always run out of something essential, like milk, and I go to a beautifully empty supermarket (which is now selling all the food that is decomposing in my fridge for half the price.) Being overly prepared is always a mistake I feel. Just buy enough for the Christmas Day dinner.

If, like me, you have a problem with chocolates, when you buy the family tub of chocolates, do NOT forget to also buy tape. Then, if by mistake you open them and eat lots before Christmas, you can buy a replacement, add the ones you don’t much like and reseal the tub. Your family will never know. Honestly, every year my husband tells me that there are a surprisingly large number of green triangles in our chocolate tin.

Important Things

Do NOT forget to go to a carol service. Actually, I do not especially like carols, unless they are sung by a choir. They are mostly really really long. A lot of them also have things in them that are very European and nothing to do with the actual account in the Bible. But I do like carol services, full of excited children, and people in thick coats that they don’t have anywhere to hang. One year at our church we even managed to set someone on fire. (It was an accident, I should add. She leant against a candle and she wasn’t at all hurt, just ruined her coat. The following year as a safety precaution the candles were suspended above us. Unfortunately, they weren’t the non drip variety and we all made polite conversation afterwards with white wax in our hair.)

Do Not forget to build some family traditions of your own. On Christmas Eve, if my children are in the house, awake before noon and sober (I assume nothing these days) then they still like to help prepare the vegetables. We all sit round, peeling sprouts and remembering how we did it every year while watching ‘The Lost Toys,’ and the year that the youngest removed every leaf from his sprout and then declared, “Mine’s empty!”

Most importantly, do NOT forget what is important. Christmas is not about family or tradition or nice food. Actually, it’s about a God who thought you were special enough that he came to this dirty smelly earth as a baby. Even if you don’t believe in him, he believes in you. And he cared enough to come, so that you have a chance to change your mind if you want to. So spend a little time trying to remember what it’s all about. Look in Luke’s bit of the Bible, and read the account of what actually happened – no donkeys, no inn keepers with tea-towels on their heads, no fairies or snow. Just a simple story of something special.

xxxxxx

Thank you for reading.

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If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy Hidden Faces by Anne E Thompson, an easy-read, feel-good novel, set in an English infant school. Why not buy a copy today and read something to make you smile?

(Also an ideal Christmas gift for your mother, sister, aunt, or anyone who has ever worked in a school.)

hidden-faces-final-cover-6-july-2016

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Wandering in New York City

We decided to walk from the bottom of Manhattan up to Central Park.

The weather was clear and bright, we were still on UK clocks, so after a 6am breakfast in Westway diner (614 Ninth Ave) we hailed a cab and set off.

There was some confusion when we tried to explain to the taxi driver where we wanted to go. I wanted to start at ‘The Charging Bull’, so we gave the street address, which he didn’t recognise. I remember being caught out by this before – in London, a black cab driver knows every street in London, but in NY, you sometimes need to give directions. Eventually he worked out we wanted the “Wall Street Bull” (even though it isn’t on Wall Street) and we were taken to the right place. He was then quite chatty, and suggested we walk across Brooklyn Bridge.

Although we have visited New York many times (we used to live here – though that was about 20 years ago now, which I find slightly scary) we have never walked on the Brooklyn Bridge. (We did most other things, and visited the World Trade Centre and Liberty Island about 1,000 times, because all our UK visitors always wanted to go there.) So, we set off. We walked past Seaport, and after a slight David-detour, we found the pedestrian access to the bridge. It was still early, and lots of keep-fit types were running across the bridge, looking very intense with their fitness apps and running gear. We tried to keep out their way, and wandered across. Brooklyn Bridge has some of the best views of the island, so was worth visiting just for the photo opportunity. Though some people do take an incredibly long time composing their photos, even when it’s just taken on a phone (just saying).

We then walked up the island, through the different districts. I love doing this, as you get a real flavour of the cosmopolitan place that is New York City. Past City Hall and Foley Square (very like city of London) through China Town, into Little Italy, up through NoHo, to the Flatiron building. Then we got hungry, and went back to a very crowded Westway diner for lunch (everyone else was eating breakfast). According to my phone, we walked 18km.

 

 Lafayette Patisserie is a nice place to stop. I hope you like the hat. It got a surprising number of comments, all from Husband, all derogatory. Have put ‘new hat’ on Christmas list. NY is cold though, you need a hat.

 

 

 

 

The next day we walked the length of Central Park. We could have spent hours in there, wandering around, it’s huge. In the past we have taken a boat out on the lake, or visited the zoo, and when the kids were young they used to climb over the Alice in Wonderland statue. It brought back lots of memories. (And was 15km.)

My last day, we decided to walk across the island, to see Roosevelt Island. On the way, we passed a large glass window, into a large room with about 20 dogs, and a girl throwing a ball for them. It was a doggy day-care centre. I’m not sure Kia would be impressed, but it looked okay actually if you have a sociable dog.

We walked past the United Nations Building, which I remember as a completely different building, so think I must’ve labelled some old photos wrongly. It all looked rather foreboding, with lots of security.

We also saw a giant inflatable rat, which the unions put outside buildings that they deem to have bad working conditions.

We saw Queensboro Bridge, which goes over Roosevelt Island, but doesn’t stop on it. There was a cable car, but I hate cable cars and refused, absolutely, to go in it. Husband was understanding. In return, I went into Home Depot with him (used to be his favourite shop when we lived there. It’s full of man-stuff). We walked passed Carnegie Hall, along E59th, along the bottom of Central Park. We bought coffee and bagels for lunch.

I flew home the next day. I love New York City, it’s a city you can visit many times, and usually find something new to discover, or an old memory to revisit. There’s always lots to do, shows to see, galleries, museums, restaurants….but best of all, I think, is simply to wander around.

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Thank you for reading.
You can follow my blog at: anneethompson.com

xxx

New York in November

 

The day after Thanksgiving is an excellent time to arrive in New York. The fares are cheaper, you miss most of the shopping frenzy, and everywhere is beginning to get ready for Christmas. New York decorates very beautifully for Christmas.

Husband was working in Manhattan, so I joined him for a few days. I needed to get home in time for multiple Christmas Fairs (great time to sell books) so I decided I would keep to a slightly late English clock. This worked brilliantly, as New York at 6am is fantastic. You can wander along empty streets, all the shops are shut (am not a shopper) and there are enough diners open so eating is easy (I am an eater!)

 

We mainly ate at Westway Diner, 614 Ninth Avenue. It has a plaque up, saying it is the birthplace of the Seinfeld series, but mainly it’s just a great New York diner. I got used to this when we lived here, and I love coming back, and slipping back into the easy routine of eating whenever I want: comfy booths, constantly topped up coffee, huge portions of comfort food, fast service. Nowhere in the world does pancakes, bacon and maple syrup quite like New York. Or cinnamon bagels with cream cheese. Or waffles with bananas and pecans. Or blueberry pie and cream. Really, I come to New York just to eat.

The decorations are good too though. As I said, 6am is the best time, as later there are queues of people lining up to see the displays in the big shops. Saks on Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Cartier – not places I would enjoy entering, but beautiful displays for Christmas. Outside, the Salvation Army ring handbells and collect money for charity. Even the banks make an effort.

There are lots of little parks, with Christmas markets (not that they call them that – they are keen to remove all religion, so they are “Winter Markets”. But everyone knows they are for Christmas.) I especially liked the one in Bryant Park. Early morning, you can wander round, looking at all the wonderful stuff which is great to look at, but you wouldn’t want to actually own it, and no one hassles you to buy.

People are very friendly in the mornings – lots of cheery greetings from the bin men (and homeless people)! New York generates a lot of rubbish, so there seem to be piles of it awaiting collection on every street. You can also, if bored, play a fun game of “spot the rats”.

The main thing to remember in New York, is to look up. At street level, many of the buildings look like boring offices, but several storeys up, they have wonderful carved facades and decorations. Husband assures me this is because when touting for work, architects make models, which are viewed from above, so all the fancy bits are where they will be seen by prospective buyers but are never noticed when the real building is actually built. Not sure if that’s true or not.

You should also visit Trump Tower. Whatever you think of the man or the politics, you have to agree that his tower has the cleanest, fanciest public washrooms in New York. And finding public washrooms you want to use is quite hard in New York.

We also popped into St Patricks Cathedral. They have a Nativity scene, which includes a dog. Not entirely sure this is at all accurate, but it’s sweet to look at. There is also a sign, assuring you that if you donate money, you will receive more in the future. Am sure this is not accurate and was slightly shocked by the gall of it. But it’s a nice building to visit.

We stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton, on 40th between 8th and 9th. It was a great position for seeing things, as it’s just down from Times Square and an easy walk from Westway diner. However, it is not the nicest area. You can do a Google search for ‘safe places in New York city’ and there is a map, which shades areas according to how safe they are. Our hotel didn’t score too well – which, as it’s behind the bus station, sandwiched between the Probation office and various sex shops, was understandable. However, whilst I wouldn’t have walked outside after dark on my own, it was fine. And the hotel inside was clean and comfy.

Unfortunately, there is an Apple shop, and Husband was keen to look. Apple shops are very boring, and have a weird queue system, whereby the very long line of people are ordering the new iphoneX, and if you want to buy anything else you have to ask the man in the red fleece, who will put you on a list. However, if you write a blog, there is hours of fun to be had, making every display model look at your blog – which does wonders for the number of views you receive in a day! (But don’t tell anyone, is probably not very ethical.)

 

We decided to walk from the bottom of Manhattan to the park. I’ll tell you about it in a later blog. Why not sign up to follow my blog, then you won’t miss it. anneethompson.com

Thank you for reading.

Here are some more displays, for those of you who like pretty Christmas stuff!

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Christmas is coming, and books make great gifts. So much nicer than yet another scarf for Aunty Joan… So, why not buy one of my books? Available from an Amazon near you.

  

 

xxx

The Charging Bull in the Financial District

Here’s something to think about. I popped to New York (husband on a work trip) and while there I went to see the sculpture of a charging bull in the Financial District. It’s big, raging, and impressive. It has also caused some controversy.

Apparently, bulls have long been associated with the stock market. A rising trend in the markets is known as “a bull market” and a falling trend is known as a “bear market”. Which is why you tend to have The Bull and Bear pubs situated near old markets in the City of London. The Charging Bull, however, was meant to signify something else. Charging Bull was sculpted by Anturo Di Modica in 1989. It was after the stock market crash of 1987, and he wanted to create a symbol of the “strength and power of American people”. The bull is twisting and turning, full of unpredictable energy and strength. I like it.

Now, Di Modica wasn’t commissioned to make the bull, nor was he paid for it. He had the rather clever idea of making five bulls, and placing one in New York (for free) and hoping to sell the other four. As a self-published author, I can relate to his feelings – you just want people to notice and appreciate your talents, then you hope the sales will follow. (Not sure a book placed in a park would work as well though.) Initially, NYPD impounded the bull, but so many people liked it, they were compelled to return it to the street. There are now bulls in Shanghai and Amsterdam (which I assume were paid for). So Di Modica’s gamble paid off. Sort of.

The problem arose later this year, when State Street Global Advisors had a clever marketing strategy of their own (possibly inspired by the success of the Charging Bull). They commissioned Kristen Visbal to make a sculpture of the Fearless Girl, and they placed it in front of the bull. Now, the unleashed power and strength of the bull appear aggressive. The placing of the girl has completely changed the image of the bull. Di Modica is rather annoyed by this, and I guess as he owns the bull, he might come and collect it one day. Alternatively, I think he should make another sculpture – of a calling mother shouting towards the girl. Then instead of being a brave, ‘fearless girl’ she would look like a defiant, stupid child. But then that could go on forever, and probably Wall Street doesn’t want hundreds of sculptures, each one changing the image of the other. (Would make for a good exhibition though, someone should do it.)

Now, what I want you to think about, is this. One thing can very much change in the light of something else. I remember, not so long ago, when the news reports were full of fleeing Syrian refugees, and most people felt very sorry for them. People made big statements about the world needing to help, that our country should allow them in, famous people even announced that they would be willing to house a few families in their mansions. Which were all good, well motivated, human responses.

However, today my local authority is discussing plans to build lots of new houses. No one wants them. No one is discussing who will live in them (and probably it won’t be Syrian refugees, but it will, I assume, be people who do need houses) but no one wants them. Not in our fields, not where we walk our dog, not within sight of our house. You see, the view of meeting the housing needs of others changes. As perhaps, do people’s views about everything. Whenever we make a statement, we need to be aware that unless we see the whole story, our views are likely to change. The strength and power of the American people can look like an aggressive charge against a defenceless girl. And a brave girl can look like a naughty child being stupid. It depends what else is in the picture.

 

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Thank you for reading.
You can sign up to follow my blog at anneethompson.com.

 

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Christmas is coming, and books make great gifts. So much nicer than yet another scarf for Aunty Joan… So, why not buy one of my books?

  

 

xxx

Are you a Country Bumpkin or a Townie?


Yesterday, Husband told me he was bringing home a team from work for a planning meeting. Something of a shock. He had asked, ages ago, if it would be okay, and I assured him that was fine. But I never actually wrote a date in the diary, and I had assumed he would remind me about a week in advance. I had assumed wrong. Which means the last few hours have been a frenzy of cleaning. Don’t tell anyone, but I really hate doing housework, and my house, whilst hygienic, is not the cleanest house in the world. Which is fine – I don’t think a dirty floor will kill anyone – until we have visitors who are Townies.

So, what is a Townie – and are you one?

I first heard the term many many years ago, soon after meeting husband for the first time. He was this tall, blond, slim boy with very tight jeans. I kinda liked him. So when he invited me for a drive (in battered old Beetle) I was keen to accept. I wasn’t expecting we would stop for a walk. And I wasn’t expecting that the unplanned walk would be through woods. We had recently moved south from Letchworth. They don’t really have woods in Letchworth. My (very pretty) stiletto heels weren’t really up to a hike through a muddy wood. Tall slim blond boy told me I should’ve worn wellies. I told him I didn’t own any wellies. He was flabbergasted. And called me a Townie. I took it as a compliment.

So, the first question has to be, do you own wellies? If so, are they expensive, designer wellies or ones with a pattern on? A true Country Bumpkin would never own such things – where’s the point in wellies covered in dots when said dots will be covered in duck poo within a day? I now pretty much live in wellies. They are extremely dirty, but essential for how I live.

Next question is, when it’s hot, do you open windows? When you live in the country, you can only open windows if the fields nearby don’t have cows in them. A field full of cows is also a field full of flies, so if you open windows, your house will also be full of flies. It also means you will wake at dawn every morning, because the cockerels are extremely loud at that time.

Does your house have carpets throughout? If so, they will either be grubby, or you live in a town. People who live in the country tend to have animals. Animals tend to bring a lot of the countryside inside with them. So carpets are not terribly practical. You need at least some areas with hard floors that can be washed occasionally. My house has mostly floor tiles (and dog hairs and the odd lump of mud). People have been known to walk through my house in wellies, which I don’t encourage, but when they do it doesn’t ruin anything, it just means I have to wash the floor.

Do you notice poo smells? People tend to think of the countryside as far reaching views across fields, birds singing, lots of green. Which it is. But it also smells of poo much of the time. Cows and horses smell like – cows and horses. Sheep are possibly the smelliest animals alive. Fields of wheat are spread with muck, and said muck tends to travel, especially on windy days, into gardens and lanes and open windows….I can’t say I’m keen on poo smells, but I am sort of used to them.

Do you drive a low profile car? When we moved here, I had a very beautiful Mercedes Coupe. It was lovely to drive on roads, not so great in country lanes. Lanes are narrow, so if another vehicle comes you have to drive up onto the verge. They also get really muddy when the tractors use them. In the Winter, if there’s too much rain, the streams flood them. If there’s snow, the lanes are the last to be cleared and are never salted. I now drive something a bit higher, so I get stuck less often.

When you go for an evening stroll, can you see the stars? Country lanes don’t have street lamps. You don’t need them, it is rarely too dark to see where the hedges are, and I love to walk through the black of night, listening to the owls, watching the stars. Whenever we stay in towns and cities, the thing I notice most is the yellow nights, when street lamps colour everything. Night isn’t scary unless you’re not used to it.
So, Townie or Bumpkin? Or maybe something inbetween. I think my husband still thinks I am a Townie, though I can’t remember the last time I wore stilettos (and the whole world is thankful he no longer wears tight jeans!) I guess the important thing is to be happy wherever you live. I know I am.

 

Thank you for reading.

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Christmas is coming, and books make great gifts. So much nicer than yet another scarf for Aunty Joan… So, why not buy one of my books?

  

 

xxx