Old Twelfth Night, Wassailing and the ‘Christmas place’

It’s Old Twelfth Night, ‘Twelvey’, 17th January, the date of Twelfth Night in the old Julian calendar before they played catch-up in 1752 to reclaim those accumulated days that we’d lost through miscalculation, or was it just carelessness? This is the traditional day, down ‘ere in the West Coun’ry anyway, when we do our Wassailing – treating the orchard trees to a hullabaloo of singing and saucepan bashing to drive away the evil spirits, Continue reading


Twelfth Night Tales, 12: plus or minus a few

Anyone who’s followed these posts will have probably assumed there were to be twelve Twelfth Night Tales; although some included more than one item I only posted 11. There were a few more tales queuing up that I’d planned to tell, however, a few stories just didn’t make it for a variety of reasons. Here are some that got away or never quite arrived. Continue reading

Twelfth Night Tales, 11: Alebrijes – Mexican Mystery

This mysterious, Christmas-coloured creature was a present from our younger son brought back from a gap year visit to Central America when he was 18 In the early 2000s. Continue reading


Twelfth Night Tales, 10: Szopka from Krakow, Poland

This glittering souvenir, called, I have recently discovered, a ‘Szopka’, was brought back from Krakow in Poland by my partner when he visited the city for a theatre festival in the early 1990s. Continue reading


Twelfth Night Tales, 9: Provençal Santon

On a visit to some friends who live in Montpellier in the south of France we were taken to the extraordinary medieval village of St Guilhem le Désert where we visited a museum that included a 3D miniature landscape tableau. This spectacle was a closely observed Continue reading


Twelfth Night Tales, 8: family silver – fables, fakes … and foil

In the economically uncertain 1930s it seemed that if you were blessed with a little extra money you might begin collecting modest pieces of silver-plated tableware. Both my grandfathers (unknown to each other at this stage) had started their working lives (one aged 14) as lowly clerks prior to the First World War but after they were demobbed they resumed their occupations and Continue reading


Twelfth Night Tales, 7: The Nutcracker

A visit one early winter in 1984 with my young son to a performance of The Nutcracker ballet at Bristol’s Hippodrome (first ballet for both us) was perhaps over-ambitious, or just a tad premature for a 3 year old and left us both struggling with the complicated story (without the benefit of words at the ballet, obviously), a story which is also a little odd… Continue reading


Twelfth Night Tales, 6: Green Man

This chimerical mask is made from fired clay, created some years ago by my partner along with some companion pieces; he’s a permanent fixture on the wall above the fireplace, but as a result of a midwinter custom we invented, over the years he’s become a kind of homage to the Green Man. We accidentally initiated this custom out of (mild) despair about 25 years ago in the second winter of living in this house while it was being pulled apart by builders.

Continue reading


Twelfth Night Tales, 5: Adventures in Advent calendar-land

Ancient Oak Advent calendar, 2002; this main photograph and all the pictures under each window (see accompanying photo) were taken in one wood during one winter. Liz Milner

I realise it’s a bit sad, especially when I don’t even have any grandchildren to use as an excuse, but I love Advent calendars! I don’t remember when I was first given one, but I was quite young and do remember loving them from that point onwards as they signalled the paced build up to Christmas in our house, and my Mum was good at ‘doing Christmas’. They were just a picture with little windows you had to find amongst the scene that you would open each day to show Continue reading


Twelfth Night Tales, 4: Euro decs

Delft decs

For five years in the mid 90s I had the (mostly) good fortune to accompany some graphic design students to Amsterdam for a week in mid November. The first trip was also my first visit to Amsterdam and I fell in love with its wintery charms. Christmas was a big feature especially celebrating Sinterklaas, Saint Nicholas, Continue reading