All wrapped up....

Happy New Year Everyone!

Gosh! It's hard to believe almost a whole month has gone by since Christmas already!
We here in the UK, as you probably know,  were blanketed in snow for much of January and we got to enjoy a real white Christmas for once. I say 'enjoy' but it was freezing most of the time and it made life very difficult, if not impossible, for most, up and down the entire country.

My elderly father, who lives alone, took this picture from his bedroom window.   He was snowed in for several days and I couldn't reach him but thankfully his wonderful neighbours went out of their way to look out for him and often turned up unannounced on his doorstep with bags of groceries and even bowls of piping hot soup! My faith in humanity is completely restored, some people are just so kind!!

But looking through my photos again today, it was undeniably very beautiful too and, as all my time and creativity was taken up in the preparations for Christmas it left precious little time to paint. I did take plenty of photos though so I thought I'd share some of them with you this time instead.

We'd been invited to spend the holiday with friends down in deepest Oxfordshire so on Christmas Eve,  cars  packed with to the hilt with family members and plenty of festive goodies we set off, leaving behind our warm and cosy home in London just as the snowflakes were beginning to fall:

  As soon as we left the comparative warmth of the city behind we found ourselves completely immersed in the winter wonderland that was to become our home for the next few days and it was magical - in every way.
We had real trouble finding our way through the maze of tiny country lanes that were by now completely hidden under several feet snow and the drive was, out of necessity, very slow in such hazardous road conditions. So it was very late and completely dark by the time we finally arrived. And freezing cold. But once everyone had arrived safely and we'd all thawed out a bit, we gathered in the kitchen where a 'light' Christmas Eve supper (a  feast!)  of baked Wiltshire Ham, salads, cheeses and copious amounts of mulled wine and hot mince pies greeted us.

It was deliciously warming and very welcome after such a long and arduous journey. After an excess of food, wine and constant chatter, eventually everyone, totally exhausted but completely content, settled in for a long peaceful night  (so deafeningly quiet compared to a night in the city, I could hardly sleep!)

But the following morning, Christmas day, I was up bright and early. I threw back the curtains and blinking furiously, was dazzled by beauty of the scene that greeted me: the sheer brilliance of the white landscape stretching into the distance as far as the eye could see:

It was a perfectly clear and gloriously crisp winter morning and I couldn't wait to wrap up, don the boots, get out there, breathe in some still country air and make my mark on the virgin snow.
I tiptoed quietly down the stairs past the beautiful tree with all the presents underneath, wrapped and ready:

and, on reaching the front door, I found our hostess had had the same idea. So off we set together, before anyone else in the household stirred, sneaking out into the eerie silence like a couple of giggling schoolgirls. 
Dotted all over the snow were the tracks of all manner of wildlife: deer, birds,squirrels and rabbits mostly:

We trudged our way slowly and with some difficulty,  through the knee-deep snow towards the barn, to check on some young calves.

They seemed just fine, protected as they were from the elements in their warm byre surrounded by piles of steaming straw. They were very shy and not a little startled by our sudden, silent appearance out of nowhere!

We continued on our way, not realizing till we looked back, just how far from the house we'd ventured:

We climbed over the stile and into the forest:

and continued walking for an hour or so, soaking up the beauty of our surroundings, enjoying the peace and tranquility. The sun began to shine and eventually, thinking it was time to start heading back, we made for the rear garden:

passing the frozen pond

we reached the house and taking a last look behind us

and feeling totally exhilarated (London seemed a million miles away!) we went in, happy for the rest of the day to see the snow but through the windows -  from the comfort and warmth indoors.

We were met by our now assembled families, all up, dressed and eager for the day's festivities to begin.

With three generations all living so far apart these days, and each of us caught up in our own hectic lives, having the chance to be together again and really enjoy some quality family time altogether, is what made this Christmas such a special one for us all - it really was a magical and most memorable time........I hope yours was too....

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