Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas at the Kilns II

December arrived and tours lessened a bit. We all welcomed author Greg Bourgond who prepared and actually wrote his second book while here. He even wrote during our scholar Christmas party--a dress-up Narnia Christmas party. While Mr. Tumnus was one of our very own, we also had Lucy, Edmund, Susan, Mrs. Beaver, Prince Rilian, Reepicheep, and many more. Another crowd of 30 or so guests! This time I only did minimal baking and the scholars bought or made the goodies to eat. The house looked warm and inviting in contrast to the cold and snow outside. Lots of pleasant conversation and more tours of the house took place. Greg returned home on the 23rd and the scholars drifted off to homes and friends to celebrate Christmas day. I "happened" to get invited to the best-known cook in the neighborhood's house for Christmas dinner. So, after a lovely morning church service I joined Robert and Dierdre's family for a traditional English Christmas dinner. We had crackers (not food) at the table, wore crowns and told the riddles that were in the crackers, and had real Christmas pudding (and the traditional brussel sprouts ...). Several of us went hiking in the snow after lunch and then returned for a full Christmas tea with trifle pudding. I returned home sufficiently stuffed and having learned much about English Christmas traditions! Skype phone calls home made the day wonderfully complete!

Christmas at the Kilns

Along with celebrating early in November, we had Christmas parties in November as well. Since the term lets out the end of November, the Oxford CS Lewis Society held their Christmas party at the Kilns. I decorated three mantles with lites, holly branches from the woods, and pine cones. Candles burned in the fireplaces and pine branches strewn on tables gave a festive yet natural look. About 30 people turned up and all had the cookies I had made (I hadn't stayed up baking Christmas cookies since my kids were little!)plus mulled (spiced) punch and other goodies. We split up into 3 groups to tour the house and, Cole Matson, Michael Ward, and Walter Hooper and I led the tours. Walter was great--since he knew Lewis he had all sorts of stories to tell for each room. I think I had the best group:-)! Then we gathered for some poetry reading (yup, only groups like this one would thrive on poetry reading:-) while Cole and Michael recited poetry or read funny stories. Walter had to take the Mr. Popularity award as I have pictures of him with a dozen or so students all grouped around listening excitedly to his experiences with CS Lewis.

Christmas in Oxford

Well, Christmas in Oxford begins early--in November! We decorated the house by Thanksgiving as celebrations begin that week. There are wonderful Advent and carol services at numerous churches throughout the city with the boys' choirs lifiting hearts and voices in heavenly songs. I attended two such services--both at Magdelen College, where Lewis taught when he was in Oxford. I didn't at first know we needed to get tickets so I went to "turn up" and was given a seat outside of the chapel area. Upon entering the church, I met with the vicar and since I know him, he asked where I was sitting and then offered to "trade" a guest ticket that he had in his hand--so, I sat up the top of the chapel, right behind the choir and two seats from the vicar who was performing the service. I did get tickets for the carol service but too late to get good seats, and once again, one of the chapel staff moved me (and a fortunate friend) up to the front of the chapel area. We had a good view of the choirs and the services were in honor of our Lord. What a perfect way to begin the Christmas season!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

As Time Passes

Well, it's been a month since I last blogged! Time and circumstances caught up with me a bit but now I "think" I'm settling down into a much-needed routine. I'm finding foremost that there is quite a bit of entertaining with this position. Besides lots of small teas with drop in guests, we have had the CS Lewis Nature Reserve group meeting here--and my first time volunteering to help out in the Nature Reserve on their once-a-month work day. Well, now, that was an experience! These are what is known here as true "tree huggers"--I thought I would be picking up litter to help the reserve look nice, but they spent the day hauling logs, building bridges over bogs, and cutting down trees (not branches, trees . . . ). I made it through 2.5 hours and after carrying fewer logs than the 70-something lady, I made up an excuse to return home for an appointment--and yes, I had one . . . with the tub and epsom salts! The people are delightful, though, and I'm glad to have them as some new friends! One of our highlights was celebrating Lewis's life and works on the date of his passing, Nov. 22, 1963 (same as JFK and Huxley). We had a formal tea (pictures are soon coming) and read favorite passages as well as some of the journal comments from his brother, Major Warren Lewis (in Brothers and Friends). Then we went to Magdalen College in the evening for a service at Lewis's chapel in the college where he worshipped. A highlight was the Oxford CS Lewis Society's Christmas party they held at the Kilns. Christmas is celebrated early in Oxford and I frantically hunted down "fairy lights" and headed to the woods for holly and pine branches. Since the house has been restored to the 1950s then I made sure to decorate in keeping with the time period--understated, yet festive. I stayed up until 1:00 am baking cookies--an activity I have not indulged in since my children were younger! We had over 30 people and everybody got to have "nibbles" (treats), a tour with one of the three tour guides, and some poetry readings. We had lots of stories about Jack Lewis from Walter Hooper (he was on my tour) and Michael Ward read a delightful humorous piece. Today we're preparing the house once again for the scholars-in-residence Narnia "dress up" Christmas party--all attendees are supposed to dress as a Narnian character . . . until next time.