The three ‘wise’ women?

Who’d have thought three women in saris would have caused such a stir on Christmas Eve….

As if there wasn’t enough excitement this year with all the family together in our new Devon home, some special Indian gifts were handed out on Christmas Eve. Our daughter, who had just returned from four months volunteering in Northern India, was hopping from one foot to the other keen to hand out her long planned presents.
“Let’s do the Indian presents now, before we eat?” She suggested.
Her brothers frowned… “It’s not Christmas yet…”
But she wouldn’t be put off and there was dressing up involved.

A few minutes later three ornately embroidered saris were laid out beneath the Christmas tree,  gold thread glistening under the fairy lights, amidst ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and ‘thank you – how beautiful’. The next step was for three of us to dress up in them, which involved a lot of careful folding and draping and fixing a few well placed safety pins. Some time later we paraded down the stairs in our finery and enjoyed a delicious meal together.

We usually attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve and this year we were planning to join the little parish church in the village. However, due to clergy staffing problems, the 11.30pm service had become a 9pm event and suddenly we were in a rush.
“We can’t go in saris!” Someone exclaimed as others pulled on coats and boots and set down half full glasses of wine.
“Why not?” said the driver – who does a lot of dressing up in uniforms for his day job.

And that was how it happened. Scooping up our colourful skirts, we piled into the minibus still slightly unsure about the wisdom of our attire on a dark December night in deepest Devon. On arrival outside the church we managed to negotiate the stone steps towards the lantern lit pathway to the church. Another family all wearing bobble hats arrived at the entrance at the same time and looked slightly surprised to see us in our finery.
“We’re Indians!” I said in explanation, which confused people even more and made everyone giggle (or was it just the wine?).

As we traipsed into the candlelit church and filed into pews, there were plenty of smiles and whispers of admiration.
“I didn’t know it was fancy dress…” Someone behind us mumbled.
Even the vicar announced she was looking forward to finding out about the mysterious costumes after the service and then spent the rest of the time dropping her books, announcing the wrong carols and searching for her sermon notes in a very thick bookmarked folder.

At the end of the service there just wasn’t time to explain to everyone why we’d worn saris, although our in-house chaplain had already announced we were ‘the Three Wise Women from the East’, which left people even more confused.

By Christmas morning the saris had long been folded away and we headed down to the beach clasping bottles of fiz and smoked salmon sandwiches to join in the traditional ‘Christmas at the Beach’ celebrations with the locals. As we met more of our neighbours in a huddle beside a ruined tower, sheltering from the wind, one lady said how much she had enjoyed the Christmas Eve service.
“But what was very strange,” she said, confidentially, “some people came dressed in saris. They looked lovely, but I don’t know what it was all about.”
It certainly was a mystery. And a much-discussed event for the village.
I chuckled into my glass, as someone sidled up and said, “It was you in the saris wasn’t it?”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some garbled explanation was begun, but minutes later another kind of costume became the focus of attention as some of our children and their friends stripped down to bikinis and boardies and ran into the freezing grey water. There were shouts and cheers from the Champaign swigging onlookers. There’s nothing like a Christmas Day dip in the sea!

Now, the big question for 2018 is, what shall we wear to church on Christmas Eve?



lost and now found

You know that awful feeling when you get off a train or a bus and realise, as it shunts out of the station or pulls into the distance, that you’ve left your bag/wallet/diary/top secret files/jacket on the shelf above the seat? We’ve all done it. That was exactly the kind of feeling I had last week.

Something was missing. I’d been telling myself they were in a box in a wardrobe for sometime. Then after a thorough search of all the boxes in the house, (because there are still some lurking filled with things that belong in an attic or a cellar) I had to admit what I was looking for was not in the house. As I lay in bed that night, I suddenly realised where they must be… the garage or one of the outside stores, of course. The next day it was raining so I put off the search until it stopped. The garage proved only to be hiding wetsuits, golf clubs and boxes of other ‘stuff’ – not what I was looking for. The outside stores also failed to deliver. There was still one other place to look and later that evening I persuaded someone to help me explore another room of stacked furniture where I assumed the missing boxes must be. After half an hour it was obviously a hopeless cause. I returned home heavy-hearted and offended by the twinkling lights on a neighbour’s Christmas tree…

Somewhere between Nottingham, Cyprus and Thorny Island two boxes of Christmas decorations had disappeared and that meant no olive wood crib scene, no wooden centre piece with candles and no pretty baubles and snagged stockings hanging over the fireplace. I felt so sad I almost wished I had left something important on a train instead.

There was still one small crumb of hope. Setting aside the possibility that they had been thrown out with the rubbish, I wondered if they were in someone’s attic. Strange idea perhaps, but we had left a few bits and pieces in the attics of family and friends… and there was a list. A list I had carefully made with items in the roof. If I could find the list and spot ‘Christmas stuff’ written down, there may be hope yet. But where was the list? Another hour or two of searching through papers and boxes and files delivered another big fat nothing. We were living with the uncertainty that the boxes might be up in Nottingham, but we had no evidence and no list to assure us. A few days later I rifled through another stack of papers on the desk and flicked through an old notebook. There was the list – written in fairly illegible scrawl – but it was the list and amazingly, ‘Christmas stuff’ was the fifth item on the second page! Hallelujah!


I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard the boxes had eventually been found at the back of the roof and I was more than happy to help unload them from the car yesterday after they had been picked up en route. Now Christmas can come and I can ice the cake and scrape crumbling mince pies out of their tins without that sinking feeling that something isn’t right because I’ve left my decorations on a train. I know ‘Christmas starts with Christ’ – but it also kind of begins with decorations… if that’s not too heretical?


how much seasonal sparkle?

We all need a bit of sparkle in our lives, but the trick is not to overdo
it…so how much glitter and bling is too much for the first Christmas party of the year?

The other day I read that women spend more hours planning their outfit for
the Christmas party than for any other occasion…I can’t quite believe
that, what about a wedding for instance? Anyway, there was a whole article
devoted to the perfect party dress and accessories. I am certain I’m not
among this set of highly researched women who spend weeks planning their
outfits, however, I did spend half of yesterday sorting out what to wear
last night.

This involved trying on a couple of dresses I already had, choosing the one
with most sparkle in it, then unearthing the highest pair of heels I could
find. It was a good start, but something was missing…the bling or sparkle
factor was pretty low. So I hunted round the house for something red and
shiny…found some small red baubles and attached them to some earring
clasps – hey presto, I was practically a walking Christmas tree. My next
mission was to find some tights that had a bit or sparkle to them and
something for my hair. I decided against sprinkling glitter onto an old pair
of tights covered in glue, so sometime later and several shops on I returned
home with some expensive tights with sparkles on the sides (shhh, don’t
tell the Major!) and glittery hair bits.

I thought I had got it about right, but you never know until you arrive how
other people are going to interpret the invitation to dress as glitzy and
glamorous as possible. Infact, I was pretty understated if I compared myself
to some of the party-goers….we had someone in a tutu, who really did
belong on top of the Christmas tree, others in very short shiny red and
sequins and then there was the very classy ladies in black with touches of
sparkle here and there. Some of the best accessories were the reindeer
headbands and the Christmas tree glasses…not forgetting the flashing Santa
brooch. Compared to all this glamour and bling, my red baubles and diamante
encrusted tights weren’t going to cause a stir…although they were
commented on, so I figured it was worth the trouble.

This particular party was unusual in that it was a fairly exclusively female
event…apart from the interval when Santa arrived, accompanied by two elves
and a supermarket trolley full of presents. There was ‘no comment’ to
questions about what had happened to the sleigh, presumably something to do
with the economic climate. The night also set the bar quite high for all the
other Christmas events coming up; with great food, good company, pretty
presents and singing, to top it all we each had our own bubble pots to add
to the sparkle in the room.

Following last night, there are a few essentials I am adding to my
pre-Christmas shopping list which will include an appropriately silly and
glitzy headband to wear to church on Christmas Day and a bottle of spray
glitter perfume, plus a lip gloss with a light and mirror on it. Thank you
ladies on my table for the inspiration! You may not be a fan of glitter and
sparkle, but I think Christmas is the one time when you probably can’t have
too much….now I am off to hunt down the tinsel and little lights because
it is actually starting to feel a bit Christmassy here, despite the

I want a donkey for Christmas

It’s started…I just saw a photo of the first Christmas tree that’s gone up in Nottingham. Oh dear, and even worse we are beginning to choose and practice Christmas songs in the Military Wives Choir – whatever next? I’m not really complaining though because I’m very used to talking about Christmas in September or even July, which is exactly what does each year, trying to help churches engage with free advertising campaigns. This time around they have some interesting posters as part of the established ‘Christmas Starts with Christ’ campaign, which aims to save Christmas from becoming just another secular festival – do check out the posters on and tell me what you think.
I’m not really thinking Christmas though because it’s not the right weather yet. We’re having blustery days and what Cyprus calls ‘storms’. This seems to involve lots of wind, some clouds, and a few big drops of rain, that never really become anything. It’s hot and sunny, so I’m still waiting for what we call rain and locals have promised it will come….but not for a few weeks probably.
In the meantime I’ve been finding out about wild life on the island ( No, I don’t mean Aya Napa). A trip across the border took us to some amazing ‘umbrellaless’ beaches of golden sand where the only competition for space to lay out the beach mats were wild donkeys! Yes, we’ve been having a lovely time with Eeyore and all his family. The donkeys were amazingly tame and very happy for us to stroke them, coming right out into the road and getting cars to stop, so that people could pat or feed them through the window. One little herd (google says they can also be referred to as a drove or pace) came and grazed on grass in the sand dunes by the beach. We even had our own donkey who called round each morning and evening at the beach hut we stayed in overnight. He particularly enjoyed cheese rolls, but not sure if he should have had them. We all thought he looked thin and in need of building up.
donkey pic
The only problem we faced were the ‘donkey terrorists’. I didn’t realise they existed until one evening we were driving through a very donkeyfied area of wild country and spotted a red van stopped on the road ahead with some blokes shouting and waving their hands at a donkey, as we approached we realised with horror they were trying to scare it and get it to make a noise and they even picked up stones to throw as it trotted away into the bushes. Words of disapproval were spoken from the car and we drove on – the offenders were fairly large as it happened. Later they passed us and hooted and jeered. Disgusted and somewhat outraged by their behaviour on behalf of the very gentle wild donkeys of Cyprus, we all wondered what should be done. Various sticky ends were contemplated some which involved clearing their vehicle from the road and others wanted some unmentionable ‘army-type’ solutions. Unfortunately, none of us were quick thinking enough to take down their registration and report them to the police or possibly give their position to the Typhoon pilots currently training out here.