A lot of rain recently has made outdoor activity rather unnattractive. Happily the programme of local events has provided a pleasant alternative. The Bookcase put on an unusual seasonal talk, starting with a potted history of the Christmas Tree, and its introduction to the festive scene in Britain. Not surprisingly, as it was a feature of German festivities, it appeared in the royal household, at the time of Queen Victoria. From there it was quickly adopted by the general public and has remained, ever since, an essential ingredient of our Christmas decorations. The remainder of the afternoon was given over to showing pictures of unusual baubles, mainly glass, but some in other fabrics, collected by the speaker, Peter Smith, over a period of years.
With a collection of over 200 to choose from Christmas in the Smith household must be a daunting undertaking every year.
Writing about Christmas decorations reminds me that our holly trees, which were thick with berries a few weeks ago, have now shed most of them, making a carpet on the ground beneath. This happens nearly every year and I should really like to know why. It may be the few windy days we have had; it certainly is not lack of water. Oddly enough the birds do not seem interested in them. The blackbirds prefer the fallen apples and have now been joined by flocks of fieldfares. A sparrowhawk is to be seen regularly hovering over the long grass in the paddock before swooping down on some small mammal; what amazing eyesight they must have. Another welcome sighting has been the barn owl, flying low along the hedge in the same paddock. The tussocky.grass provides a good supply of voles which are a favourite source of food for the barn owl.