I’m all at sea this month, quite literally, as I sail from Bermuda back to Britain on the STS Lord Nelson. On board we keep a watch system, with four teams working a rota to keep the ship sailing and carry out the tasks essential for everyone to live together in such close confines. Our down time, plus the lack of distractions, gives plenty of time to get lost in a good book. So, here are my recommendations for seafaring tales to take on a sailing trip. Continue reading
There’s less than 3 days left to Christmas, I hope you’ve got the brussel sprouts on to boil. No? Never mind, leave it a day or so and you can get them started for next year, so the old festive joke about soggy, bitter sprouts goes.
But love them or loathe them, are brussel sprouts really an essential part of a Christmas dinner? Or are they punishment for being naughty over the rest of the year? I’m a definite believer in the latter, so tonight’s post is all about some tasty alternatives from around the world; things that I’d much rather see served up on the table than soggy sprouts and dry, bland turkey, followed by stodgy Christmas pudding with sickly-sweet brandy sauce. Continue reading
I started this series of posts after reading about a Santa Claus-like figure found in Tajikistan, and discovered that the tradition of mysterious Christmas visitors is quite widespread. Some are animals, most bring gifts, but some are just out to cause trouble. For instance, tonight homes in Iceland are due to be visited by Bjúgnakrækir, the Sausage Swiper, who hides in the rafters of homes and steals sausages hung for smoking over the next 13 nights.
Bjúgnakrækir is one of the 13 Icelandic Yule Lads (jólasveinarnir), who leave their rocky mountain home from the 13th of December and creep down into the towns and villages. Each night a new lad arrives, playing pranks and causing trouble for homeowners, until they return to the mountains. Icelandic children put a shoe on their bedroom window-ledge for each of the 13days leading up to Christmas day, hoping for a treat. Depending on their behaviour through the year, they might be rewarded with sweets and cakes or tricked with a rotten potato.
Apparently the Yule Lads were once a lot less benign, but they have been mellowed over the years to become harmless tricksters. Each Lad has his own distinctive character, inspired by the types of pranks he likes to play. The Sausage Swiper is my favourite, and there is also Hurðaskellir, the Door Slammer, who wakes people on 18th December with slamming doors and stomping feet, and Þvörusleikir, the Spoon Licker, who pinches food from mixing bowls.
Things are becoming considerably more festive at home now. This afternoon I picked up a Christmas tree from a nearby Country Park, then dug out the fairy lights and decorations from the loft. Now I’m sitting next to a twinkling, sparkly masterpiece (albeit sitting in a wastepaper bin held down with my diving weight belt), and picking pine needles out of my socks. Continue reading
This morning I read a report about a very festive extortion scam happening in Italy. Four alleged mafiosi have been arrested in Naples, charged with forcing shop owners to buy poinsettias for more than 100times the wholesale price.
The gangsters had been demanding as much as 100 Euros (£85) per plant for the past few years. Police said that business owners refusing the “special offer” had their shops vandalised and stock stolen or damaged.
Thinking about animals associated with this time of year, and there’s a few contenders that might pop into your head. Reindeer most likely, red noses or not; a donkey, the stable (hohoho!) of a school nativity play, not to mention the camels of the Wise Men; sometimes even penguins and polar bears appear in festive displays. And who can resist this compilation of cute creatures wearing Santa hats from the Top 10 of Everything?
But did you know about the Yule Goat? Continue reading
Thursday night was Halloween, and all things ghoulish and ghostly were out prowling the street for sweets and treats. Witches and black cats; teeny pumpkin twins; zombies; a Twilight vampire, heavy on the body glitter; Bob the Builder; the Pope, and his friend, a giant strawberry. Continue reading