The floristry students at Shipley College have decorated the windows of the old Dining Hall, now part of the College, as part of the Living Advent Calendar. I think they've excelled themselves this year, creating magical scenes that had me spellbound for ages, taking in all the details. They are on the theme of Christmas presents being delivered. Fabulous.
There have been so many wonderful windows this year, it's been hard to choose which to show. You can see them all on the Saltaire Living Advent Calendar facebook page HERE.
Lovely warm light in Roberts Park on a late afternoon in winter. These are familiar scenes and yet always fresh and different, very dear to me.
Sir Titus Salt was a successful businessman, a man of vision and apparently a very honourable man. No wonder they erected a statue to honour him. I'm sure he was proud during his life of the legacy he left us: his mill and his village. He might perhaps have been even more gratified to know it is still thriving in the 21st century (albeit in a different way). He died on 29 December 1876, 144 years ago today.
All Saltaire's Advent windows are special, designed and crafted by the village's residents with so much creativity and care. There are, however, some particular ones to note this year.
Six of the windows at the Victoria Road end of Salts Mill have been decorated and lit, as part of the Advent Windows trail. It's a commissioned work - 'Look Up!' - by Bradford artist Ben Holden. They have been inspired, I think, by the 1930s leaded and stained glass window and door panels you still see in some of Saltaire's houses, which were added after the housing stock was sold off by Salts Ltd in 1929. (See last picture yesterday.) The new owner-occupiers sought to add their own individuality to the properties and followed the trends of the time.
“Season’s greetings from the staff at Rydal’s Museum and the participants in Living Advent Calendar in the municipality of Mark, Sweden. For the second time we have arranged our own Advent Calendar inspired by yours in Saltaire. We are very enthusiastic to be part of this event. The windows are uplifting and very appreciated during this dark winter time. We, the staff at the museum have mounted a window frame to invite visitors to take selfies in. In the picture you see the staff at the museum, taking our own selfie.”
There is some rather lovely, delicate artwork in one of the windows down at the stable block, beside Saltaire's church. It commemorates the 70th anniversary of the publication of the much-loved children's classic 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' by C.S Lewis. It also beautifully echoes the Victorian street lamps that line the church drive opposite. I liked the way the artist has left a little hole: Daisy's window. I'm assuming Daisy is a cat (or perhaps a little dog) that likes to sit on the windowsill and look out.
As it happens, there's another Victorian street lamp featured in the window of a house right at the other end of the village, along with a view of Saltaire's iconic church. It's beautifully painted by one of Saltaire's professional artist residents, David Starley.
This is my spiritual home (well, this and the great outdoors). It's St. Peter's Church, Shipley, looking rather nice in the winter sunshine. Sadly the pandemic has caused mayhem with our regular worship pattern, though the staff team and many within the congregation have worked really hard to hold things together. Initially, during the first lockdown, they rapidly switched to services recorded in their own homes and delivered, by various magic tricks, online. It then became possible to use the church for recordings and then a small number of the congregation were able to gather for services, with very strict protocols. I haven't been attending, mainly because I'm so deaf that I can't tell a word anyone says when they are wearing a face mask - and of course the use of face masks has been mandatory. That doesn't mean I've been 'absent' though, since I've been able to follow the services online and I'm also involved in our church-based neighbourhood support scheme, which has of course expanded and been well used during the last year.
Many people, including our children's worker, have been active in taking church out to the community in various ways. As well as many activities online, a tree in the church grounds has been decorated over Advent in the old tradition of a Jesse Tree, journeying through the Bible stories in Jesus' family tree and hanging symbolic ornaments on the Jesse Tree.
There's also been a Nativity Trail for children to follow, which starts at the Vicarage and ends at church, with various characters in the nativity story being introduced.
The dedication by the sculptor says: 'This Madonna is not the meek and subservient figure portrayed in many Renaissance works, but a determined and intelligent young woman who understands the wonder and the importance of her calling as she dedicates her Child to the purpose of her Creator. She is also aware of the suffering that this will entail. The figure of the Madonna is integral with that of the Cross, the stark and terrible symbol at the heart of Christianity, which is an inescapable part of her existence. Her expression, however, is more of serenity than anguish. She is looking beyond Calvary to the Resurrection and the way in which she holds the Christ Child high suggests the subsequent Ascension rather than the immediate prospect of a sacrificial death.'
The sculpture came to mind as I thought about Christmas, aware this year that, for many families in the UK and elsewhere, there will be the anguish this year of empty places at the table, some temporary and some sadly permanent. It's been a tough year. Yet the promise of Christmas is Emmanuel: 'God with us', in all the beauty and messiness of our precious world. Let's not forget that and let us take comfort from it too.
Do have a listen to this beautiful song, the Angels’ Carol, by John Rutter, arranged and sung by members of my cousin’s amateur theatre group. I think it's sublime. Click HERE.
Wishing you and your loved ones every blessing this Christmas
There's an interestingly eclectic Christmas display in the window of Saltaire's vintage shop on Victoria Road. It's not the kind of thing I'd normally be drawn to but I found I rather liked the plaster figurine of the Virgin Mary with the 'baby Jesus' doll. We'll not dwell too long on the intimation of the cross (ornate and bejewelled). She also had a teddy on her right and a large Paddington Bear to the left - all are welcome at the nativity!
A little further along, Father Christmas had arrived, bearing gifts and holding his lantern high. I wonder what he brought? Perhaps the baby Jesus would be glad of a box of Lego or some colouring crayons. Much more useful to a kid than gold, frankincense and myrrh, I think.
It is really, isn't it, despite everything it's thrown at us this year?
Another simple, graphic and powerful Advent window from the village trail, referencing a classic and brilliant film (which, I note, is being shown on TV again - in the UK - on Christmas Eve afternoon, on Channel 4).
Giving thanks for all my wonderful friends: those I meet in the flesh, those I haven't seen for ages and those I'm never likely to meet except online. All treasured in different ways.
Once a week I deliver some newsletters from church to various people who can't currently attend services. There aren't many but they are rather spread out. I'm often tempted to use my car but then I give myself a talking to and remind myself that the exercise (almost four miles in total) is good for me. The 'talking to' had to be extra motivational on this particular day when there was a damp mizzle and low cloud hanging over the area. But there is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing (!) so I put on my waterproof trousers, boots and jacket, cosy hat and gloves and - looking less than glamorous - set off on the trek.
The mist obscured the usual view across the valley. It also has the odd effect, it seems to me, not only of muting the view but also curiously muffling sounds. I've discovered all sorts of little shortcuts in the past year of local walks. This little path ultimately leads to Gordon Terrace where most of the local shops are, and it's the back of the shops you can see. Saltaire is down in the valley, shrouded in mist. Normally from this point you'd be able to see right up to Hope Hill on the skyline but not on this day.
The playground at Hirst Wood was empty, apart from a few black-headed gulls careening about. You could just see as far as the trees that line the canal - and beyond that, a mysterious blank. I do like the way they've left the old stone gateposts at the entrance to the recreation ground, a relic of a time when this was just a field in quite a rural area.
I extended my walk with a loop through Hirst Wood. As so often, the fog seemed less pronounced in the shelter of the trees but there was nevertheless a pleasing contrast between the bluish tones of the trees and sky and the russet hints in the leaves on the ground, now mushed down into thick, squelchy mud. A lone young beech tree still had a few coppery leaves. I felt as though I'd stumbled upon a secret dancer, twirling in the woodland glade.
There seem to be quite a few of Saltaire's Advent windows this year that look just as good in the daylight as at night. The one above is one of them. At night it has twinkling lights that emphasise the 'snow globe' effect but when I passed by one afternoon I still really liked the simple and colourful design. Since it has been such horrid, wet weather most evenings, I haven't been inclined to go out with my camera and tripod on the slippery streets. Taking pictures of windows in the day means you can't avoid the reflections but on these two I don't think they are too intrusive.
Finally, you may recall I recently showed a photo of some ladies decorating a Christmas tree outside the Methodist Church (HERE). Well, it seems they made a pretty good job of it:
There's usually a community event in Saltaire to celebrate switching on the Christmas tree lights. Of course this year no such gatherings are allowed, since under the Tier 3 restrictions no more than six people can meet outdoors in public or private places. I wondered if they would bother putting up a tree but I see that they have done so, in its usual place outside the Victoria Hall.
I'm not feeling very excited about Christmas really and yet, I suppose, we need something to cheer us up!
To celebrate Christmas, a family on Bromley Road have erected a rather delightful homespun nativity scene in their front garden, with characters made by various members of the community from plastic bottles and other scrap materials.
Here are a few scenes that appealed to me from a recent wander along the river, on a chilly and misty morning. The water was unusually calm, with hardly a breath of wind to ruffle its surface, so that there was quite a peaceful atmosphere.