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Sunday, 15 November 2015

Celebrations and Remembrance!

So after having some lovely and unusually mild Autumnal weather of late, the last few weeks or so have definitely seen a change to more wet and stormy weather. Luckily in comparison to a lot of the rest of the UK we have got away pretty lightly since storm Abigail hit, and have only caught the edge of it receiving little more than the usual wet and windy weather that we would expect for late autumn. As a result though there are now very few leaves left on the trees, a sure signal that winter is on its way.

The change in the weather started to around the time of Halloween. Now I don't usually tend to make much of an effort for Halloween, having never really been bought up with it or ever wanting to go trick or treating, but as I got older and started going out on the town it has almost become a tradition for us to go out dress up and have fun. This year I made more effort than usual as it was our first Halloween in our new home, and an excuse for me to dress up the kitchen table that we never had space for in our old flat.

It had also been a while since I had seen my best friend so I put on a little tea party for us both, made a punch, then we both got dressed up and headed into town together. We had a fab night out and saw lots of amazing costumes, as many places were offering prizes for the best dressed.

Below you can see a few pics of my Halloween efforts and of our night out.

The Kitchen table all dressed up in the light and dark
Halloween cakes which were bought and unfortunately not made by me, and one of the Halloween cocktails that we had at a local cocktail bar
Some of the spooky but effective cobwebs and decorations in the cocktail bar 
A picture that was up in the cocktail bar. I just love the detail on this sketch and the way that the scary skull is actually made up of lovely things like butterflies, birds, and flowers
A skeleton that we saw in a local shop display on the way home, and the major fog that descended that night and did not clear for a good few days after. It was very apt for a Halloween evening though and looked very eerie as you can see!

Halloween was then followed by Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night as it is also known. For those of you that are not familiar with this tradition it is one that is celebrated annually within the UK, to commemorate the night on which Guy Fawkes was arrested back in 1605 for being an integral part of the gun powder plot. This plot was to blow up the then King James I with explosives that had been placed under the houses of parliament, but he was arrested whist guarding the explosives at the location and so the plot was foiled. Since then on the 5th November each year bonfires have been lit, and replica "Guys" are made before subsequently being burnt on bonfires as an act of thanks giving for the foiled plot. In more recent years this has been accompanied by firework displays to symbolise the explosives used within the plot, and torch led parades are often held prior to the lighting of the bonfire and burning of the guy.

Pretty much every year since I can remember we have either attended or watched the local firework display within the village where my parents live and I grew up. It has become a bit of a tradition over the years to watch them and then have my mum cook us hot dogs, tomato soup, and onion rings after.

When we were little neither my sister nor I liked going to the display because of the bangs of the fireworks, but we used to love watching them and eating our little bonfire feast whilst doing so. But unfortunately this year for the first time in 25 years the display was unfortunately not held due to the lack of volunteers, and the increasing bureaucracy of red tape. They are hoping to reinstate it in future years, and I really hope that they can and will as it was a shame not to have it. There were other displays about and one fell on our Halloween night out, but we did manage to see a bit of it from above the trees opposite our window as you can see below.

The pics weren't too bad considering that they were taken out of a window, but were not really in the same calibre as being there and taking them as I have done in the past at our our usual display.

Other displays were held on the weekend following Halloween but once again we were busy, this time at the surprise 18th fancy dress party of my hubby's step-nephew. The party was held at his step brothers' house and the theme was things from his childhood. Being that it was a bit of a random theme and that it was being held last minute my hubby and I had to get our thinking caps on for this one! I don't mind a bit of fancy dress but we didn't want to go spending a fortune so in the end we settled for a relatively easy James Bond dress up, which we linked it by the fact that Casino Royal had been released during his childhood. I went as Vespa and wore my sister classic black ball gown that she had worn for her school prom seven years previously (which luckily still fitted me,) and teamed it with a glam necklace, earrings, and a black lace bolero like in the film. Whilst my hubby wore one of his work suits and only required a black bow tie to jazz it up!

We all had a fab time at the party and it was lovely to see everyone as we don't all get to meet up very often. There were also lots of great outfits there including; wrestlers, a Teletubbie, Yoda, Shrek, Donkey and princess Fiona, as well as the birthday boy himself who was given a Mrs Doubtfire outfit to wear!

The following day marked Remembrance Sunday both here in the UK and in other commonwealth countries. For those of you that may not know it is an annual event which is commemorated on the second Sunday of November each year to coincide with Remembrance Day or Armistice Day as it is also known, which is held on 11th November each year. This is the date that marks the ending of the First World War and at the 11th minute of the 11th hour of this day a two minutes silence is held to remember the fallen servicemen and women that gave their lives for our freedom, both in the 1st and 2nd World wars as well as all conflicts since. The two minutes silence is also held on Remembrance Sunday at 11am. The silence is started by the firing of a gun to mark when the guns fell silent, and is finished by the sounding of a Royal marine Bugle playing the last post.

Prior to this parades of those in all of the military services, veterans, youth groups, and civil dignitaries march to war memorials throughout the country, along with military bands who play traditional remembrance day music. Once there they lay wreaths made from poppies and salute the fallen. The biggest of these parades takes place at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall London where the Queen, Prince Philip, the Prince of Wales, the Princess Royal, the Duke of Kent, and Prince Harry lay, poppy wreaths on the memorial and salute the fallen. This is along with the current and previous Prime Ministers and other politicians from all of the main parties, the commonwealth high commissioners, representatives from the royal navy, army, royal air force, merchant navy fishing fleets, and the civilian services.

After the two minutes silence a short religious service of remembrance is held by the Bishop of London and the queen's choir sing the hymn, "O God Our Help In Ages Past." The veterans then march to the horse guards parade where a salute is taken by a member of the royal family.  The whole of this ceremony and parade are aired throughout the country.

That evening the Royal British Legion (a charity who provides financial, social, and emotional support to service men and women, veterans, as well as their families.) holds their annual "Festival Of Remembrance" at the Royal Albert hall in London, which is attended by the royal family, government ministers, and the public.

During the festival each year a further two minutes silence is held during which hundreds of thousands of poppy petals fall from the ceiling of the building, which is an incredibly moving spectacle that I first remember watching as a child. Poppy petals are used for this, within the wreaths, as well as being worn by people throughout the country in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day, as they were the  first flowers to grow on the Flanders battlefields where so many soldiers fell. The money raised from the sales of poppies in the poppy appeal each year goes to the Royal British Legion to help others. 

These days are incredibly special in the hearts of the nation, and it is so important that as our veterans pass that we continue to teach the younger generations why we remember and that they should too.

I read a story on Facebook the other day about a military veteran who was selling poppies and asked a woman if he could reposition her poppy. He told her that women should wear poppy's on their right side, that the red of the poppy represents the blood of all those who gave their lives, that the black symbolises the mourning of those that didn't have their love ones return home, and that the green leaf represents the grass and crops growing future prosperity after the wars that destroyed so much. He also said that this leaf should be positioned at 11 o'clock to represent the 11th hour, of the eleventh month of the 11th day, and that he was worried that the older generation wouldn't be around much longer to teach the younger generation this. I don't know if this story is true or not, but even if it is just true to this veteran then I am happy to wear mine this way to carry on his tradition.  

Below you can see the gorgeous crochet poppy that I have been wearing with pride, which I purchased from out local Royal British Legion shop.

Remembrance Sunday also fell on the day that we went out for a meal to celebrate my Nanny's 75th Birthday and it was a lovely day to spend with our loved ones and her friends. We don't all get to meet up together very often and she had been so looking forward to it, to the extent that she had saved up her loose change all year to pay for it and refused to let anyone else pay! There were 16 of us in all and after the meal we headed back to hers for some tea and cake. She had a lovely time as did we all!

Below you can see her birthday cake that was a present made by a friend, and the balloons that we got her.

Thank you as always for popping by and reading my little blog. I hope that I find you all safe and well and that neither yourselves, nor any of your family or friends, have been caught up in the recent horrific attacks. My thoughts are with all of those affected, and I am sure that yours are too. Keep the flame unity, hope, and peace alight, and stay safe. x