All is peaceful on Albert Terrace in Saltaire. The scene on this cobbled street at night probably looks little different from how it looked when it was first built in 1854. That's kind of comforting, I feel.
OK, some purist will point out that the lamps used to be gas and the mill chimney used to have a fancy top... but never mind! The sepia toning is entirely natural.
Another of Saltaire's Living Advent Calendar windows, in a house on Caroline Street, this seemed an appropriate image to remind us of the real reason for Christmas (not Santa after all!)
I heard a whisper somewhere (can't recall where) that there really was a new-born baby living at this house - and if that's true, then I wish the family every blessing at this special time of year. Enjoy your little one, they don't stay tiny for long. This time last year, my precious granddaughter was not much bigger than this. A year on and she's almost a toddler, and seems as happy and healthy as a child can be, for which I am thankful every single day. I'm going to really enjoy my Christmas Day with her.
Thinking today of all my family and friends: those I will see and those I won't, those I know face-to-face and those I know (and many I don't) who read this blog. Wishing you a very happy, peaceful and joyful Christmas, if you celebrate it, and a very good day if you don't.
'The star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him.' Matthew 2: 9-11
As a child, I would have loved this metal rocking horse. It's in the window of the vintage homewares shop on Saltaire's Victoria Road. Only the thought of the shortage of storage space at home prevented me from popping in to buy it for my granddaughter! Together with the traditionally decorated Christmas tree, it makes an attractive and nostalgic display, especially at night when the lights are on. It seemed an appropriate illustration for Christmas Eve, when every child in the country must be waiting with barely suppressed excitement to see what Santa brings and whether he read their wish list!
Another of Saltaire's Living Advent Calendar windows - this can be seen in the porch of Saltaire's United Reformed Church. It exemplifies the best of these window designs - bold, graphic, simple - and yet somehow (to me) it gets across a feeling of joy and exuberance, of angels trumpeting the good news of Christ's birth.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.'- Luke 2:13-14
Of all the Saltaire Living Advent Calendar windows, I think I like this one in Rhodes Street the best this year. It's different, it's amusing, it's bold, modern and colourful, beautifully executed and yet quite unfussy. 10 out of 10 from me!
I've been slightly disappointed that a lot of the windows have not come out very well on my photographs this year. Sometimes it's been a practical problem, a car or tree in the way. Though they all look very attractive to the observer (which is, I guess, the real point...) some are very pale or simply too detailed and intricate to show up well in a photograph. I have risked being run over standing in the middle of the road with a tripod but even so I have found that I need a longer telephoto lens for some. [It's on my Santa list but I don't think I've been good enough for long enough yet ;-( ] The Facebook page has pictures of all of the windows, taken by better photographers than me, so hop over there if you want more.
I guess most people enjoy peeking into other people's houses. I do. I've been known to go round 'show houses' that are for sale, just being nosey. I also get a magazine called '25 Beautiful Homes' to ogle the lovely interiors shown and glimpse the lifestyles that go with them. House-porn, they call it! I know lots of people blog about home decor too, and 'pin' pictures on Pinterest, so I know I'm not alone in this desire to see how other people live. Winter is the best time to peek into other people's rooms, when they leave their curtains open and the lights on. I've loved looking for Christmas lights, ever since I was a child, when it was a game we played on the journey to my grandparents' house at Christmas. So it was a delight to see this inviting scene, with its candles, wreath and Christmas tree, when I was out photographing the Advent windows in Saltaire. Sometimes 'an ordinary window' can look as attractive as the specially designed displays. It looked like someone had drawn a face in the condensation too, ha!
All of a sudden a little forest has sprung up in Saltaire! Christmas trees for sale, all lined up on the wet pavement outside the greengrocer's shop. I didn't bring one home, as my sitting room is too small - I can't fit a proper tree in anywhere, much as I like the look (and smell) of them. So I have a little carved and painted wooden tree that I bought at the German Christkindelmarkt one year. It's decorated with tiny wooden snowmen and bells, quite pretty. It wasn't until I looked at this photo that I noticed the florist's shop (Bouquets) has closed down. Another victim of our recessionary times.
Window number 16 of Saltaire's Living Advent Calendar can be found on George Street. It's a flock of doves, beautifully lit. This photo hardly does it justice. In these chaotic times it was good to feast my eyes on these symbols of peace, spend a few moments thinking of the world's troubled places... Syria and Newtown, Connecticut, amongst others... to reflect, too, on why we have Christmas at all.
They have made the most of those old 1930s stained glass windows that some of the village houses have. They are a legacy from when the housing stock, which had originally belonged to the Salts company, was sold (see more here) and people could opt to buy the property they lived in. A lot of people apparently started 'modernising' and personalising their homes with these leaded light windows that were very fashionable at that time.
Out in the evening with my camera on a tripod, the parade of shops on Saltaire's Victoria Road looked too enticing to pass by without a photo. I liked the different colours and warmths of the lights. The hairdresser, on the left, has sparkly chandeliers; the bakery always looks warm and inviting; the bar 'Don't tell Titus' has hot red lights that make it look like a haven in a storm. Further down, the jeweller's lights are appropriately diamond-white and the shops at the bottom of the row, which sell nice things for the home (oriental, vintage, art), have fairy lights - very pretty.
Although it's only a fifteen minute walk from Saltaire, the hamlet of Baildon Green always feels to me like a different planet altogether. Many of the buildings pre-date Saltaire (which lies further down in the valley, more or less at the end of the road you can see). The hamlet grew up as a small farming community; then the textile industry developed, firstly domestic handlooms, then a 'loom shop' attached to a farm and in 1840 a small mill was built. The open land was 'Common Land' (something Saltaire did not have) where people were allowed to collect firewood and graze their animals. To this day the grass on the right is grazed by goats and a natural spring forms a small pool. Baildon Green became famous for an annual Gypsy gathering. They say that over 5000 people attended in1881 but the tradition died out at the beginning of the 20th century. These days the area is a Conservation Area, so hopefully its character will continue to be preserved. (See also this early post of mine.)
Sometimes the dark and cold at this time of year starts to get me down. It's nice then to seek a dose of colour and sunshine on blogs from sunnier climes. It's even better to wake up to a sudden clear, crisp, sunny day. On just such a golden morning recently, I went out for a walk; not far, just up through Baildon Green, following the road because the footpaths were so wet and muddy. The route passes through what was once a quarry (where some of the stone that built Saltaire originated from, I believe). Looking up the hill, I liked the tones of blue, white and sandy yellow - in fact it reminded me of seaside colours! The trees and the grasses may be winter-dead but they are still pretty.
Yorkshire will host the 2014 Tour de France! The county has beaten worldwide competition in its bid to bring the cycling race, one of the world's largest sporting events, to the North of England for the first time. On the 5th & 6th of July 2014, the county will host the Grand Départ, the prestigious opening days of the iconic cycling race. The race will start from Leeds, probably touring up into the North York Moors and then from York through to Sheffield. The exact route will be announced in January next year but as well as starting locally it's likely that it will pass not far from Saltaire on the second day too. The Tour will then move south for a final stage, finishing in London, before moving across the Channel to France. Expect to see everyone go cycling mad. I'm excited already! All credit to those involved in putting Le Bid together - Welcome to Yorkshire (the tourism body) was the prime mover. Allez Yorkshire!
Window number 5 of Saltaire's Living Advent Calendar is particularly innovative. Created by Abbi and Craig on Constance Street, the window features this bear, wearing a very Christmassy sweater, with a robin in a party hat (so cute!) If visitors click the QR code in the bottom corner of the window with a mobile phone app, they can watch the window come to life in an animated version. (This may be a Victorian village but we're up there with the latest trends!) Happily, you too can see this delightful animation from the comfort of your own home - click here to watch it on Vimeo. It's quite jolly!
Another anonymous fan comment (ha!) : 'I'm a long time watcher and just thought I'd drop by and say howdy there for the incredibly 1st time. I severely delight in your posts. Many thanks. You will be my function models.'
Nice to be appreciated, isn't it?
(Though they do want me to look at their useful webpage: 'How to get fair skin naturally at home'. Bathe in milk, maybe...? Let me know if you want the link to look at it for the incredibly 1st time.)
Advent.... the expectant waiting for Christ's coming - a Christian season that I find really helpful and try to observe in small ways. I love the Advent carols we sing in church, I love lighting the candles, I find it a time for counting my blessings. I try not to spend the whole of December rushing around in a pre-Christmas frenzy; there's so much happening to enjoy. Like me, many people engage in the tradition of opening windows on an advent calendar each day, counting down the days - maybe anticipating the chocolate inside too, if you go for that kind of calendar!
In December in Saltaire, as regular readers of this blog will know, the village becomes a 'Living Advent Calendar'. Each day from the 1st to the 24th December, a window display is lit somewhere in the village. Glowing each evening from dusk until about 10pm, the lighted windows form a lovely trail as the month goes on, a chance to marvel at people's creative ingenuity. It's well worth a visit if you live locally. For those that can't visit, there are ways to share. I will be posting some photos on my blog as usual and there is also a Facebook page that features all the windows, as they're lit - click here.
This one - window number 6 - is the one in Saltaire Methodist Church Hall, created by members of Saltaire Art Club. They always make a good job of it and I really like this year's display. The strong colours and bold shapes have quite an impact.
I promised - so here it is..... Saltaire's Christmas tree, all lit up. Standing on the lawn outside the Victoria Hall, it has a bit of a hard job competing with the floodlights that illuminate this magnificent Victorian building. (See here for a daytime photo of the Victoria Hall). Nevertheless, it's quite pretty this year, with coloured lights that flash. They're a bit blurry in my photo as it was really windy at the time I took it.
In the church hall of Baildon St John's, someone had gone to enormous trouble to create this magical festive scene: snow, fir trees, polar bears, penguins and reindeer - and of course a sleigh. Isn't it lovely? I can feel all those schmaltzy Christmassy songs running round my head... 'I'm dreaming of a white Christmas'.... Actually, one is starting to look a distinct possibility. It's freezing cold here and sleeting.
Inside St John's Church, Baildon, as part of the village's Christmas festival, they had a display of festive wreaths. They ranged from traditional foliage wreaths to very modern ones made of unusual materials, and from elegant to quirky and humorous. (See below: sparkling snowflakes, brussels sprouts and dog biscuits!) It was a very innovative idea and well worth viewing. The church itself is small but not unattractive, with wooden pews, an elaborate metal rood screen and some stained glass windows.
Baildon's Parish Church, St John the Evangelist, was built in 1848 with the tower added later, in 1928, to commemorate those killed in the 1st World War. It is not very big inside and when it was first built it was not a parish church, being then part of the parish of Otley. It is linked with St James, a pretty church I showed on my blog some time ago, and St Hugh's down in the valley.
There was pre-Christmas fun in Baildon last weekend. The village (a couple of miles from Saltaire) held a festival, with lots of craft stalls, music, dancing and of course plenty to eat and drink. There was a great atmosphere, with crowds of people enjoying the bright sunshine, even though it was cold.
One way of beating the cold is to get your clogs tapping, which is just what Saltaire's very own dance team, Rainbow Morris, were doing, dancing here outside Baildon's Ian Clough Memorial Hall and adding lots of colour to the scene. (Ian Clough was a Baildon man, a skilled mountaineer, who was sadly killed in 1970 climbing Annapurna in an expedition led by Chris Bonington.)
I had to call at the Post Office parcel delivery office the other evening on my way home from work, to pick up a parcel from Amazon. I've done nearly all my Christmas shopping online this year, which may or may not be good for the overall shape of the British economy but has been very good for my stress levels! Anyway, that meant a trip through Shipley market place, so I took a quick snap of the LIT Christmas tree on my iPhone. It's much prettier at night than it looks in daylight... the downside being that far more people get to see it during the day (see here or scroll back to Monday) than at night. I still prefer a real tree. The glowing red thing in the background is the clock tower in its festive garb.
From the steps of Saltaire's Victoria Hall, looking across Victoria Road towards the nicely symmetrical old Factory Schools (now part of Shipley College).
You get a sense from this photo of the glow at the heart of our village on a chill winter night. The public buildings have warm-toned floodlights illuminating the stone work. Along with the street-lighting, which is not too harsh and modern, it makes it all seem really cosy.
No doubt, as a gran, I shall get more acquainted with this type of thing... Enterprising traders had set up pitches selling these light sabres and wands, outside the Victoria Hall. The children were really enjoying running around with them and I must admit they looked rather fun and pretty, flashing and glowing in the dark. I was quite amused to see one little lad - about four, I guess - whose parents had obviously not succumbed to his pleas. He just walked over and helped himself to one and ran off with it! The stallholder did spot him though and went and retrieved his stock - quite gently, I might add.
Saltaire, unlike Shipley, has a real Christmas tree, on the lawn outside the Victoria Hall. It's not very big (or maybe it just looks small against the huge building) but it is REAL. People gathered on Sunday to see the switching-on of the lights. There were a few Christmassy stalls inside and plenty of mulled wine to drink. Hall Royd Brass Band played carols. Everyone stood around and got cold.... In fact I got so cold I went home before they'd even switched the lights on. Tch!
I will go back one evening and take a proper photo, I promise.
When Gattina (Writer Cramps) shared photos of the very avant-garde Christmas tree in Brussels this year, it reminded me of the one in Shipley's town centre. They used the same idea last year and most of the time it didn't even seem to be lit. This photo was taken in the daytime - the lights are on, but you can't see them. Even a bit of lens flare doesn't really cheer it up... Nul points and a definite thumbs down from me, Shipley, sorry!
Beside the railway line, right in the centre of Shipley, is a scrap metal merchant's depot. It's huge but fairly cleverly hidden in a valley, so you hardly notice it from road level, though from the train it makes a fascinating and surprisingly colourful sight. I took this photo from the railway bridge. There are hundreds of skips full of scrap, all perched rather precariously on top of one another. I can't imagine what becomes of it in the end.
Every time I see this building it makes me feel sad. It's in Windhill, on the main road from Shipley towards Leeds, not far from the Dock Lane cluster of buildings that I showed on Thursday. Built in 1905, it was one of many libraries built with a grant from the Carnegie Trust. Unfortunately it is poorly positioned on what is now a very busy road junction. It's a long time since it was used as a library and it also had a brief incarnation as a dance hall before becoming disused and now boarded up. There was a plan to turn it in to flats, but that appears to have faltered. (I'm not sure who'd want to live right on the junction anyway.) Sadly you can see it degenerating, year by year. The windows are broken, there are trees growing through the masonry and I imagine it is damp and decaying inside. It's unfortunate that it stands in a prominent position on the way into the town and gives a terrible impression. It will no doubt end up demolished, a shameful end for a once fine building.