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Christmas 2008

This has been a busy year.  On the business front I launched myself into the local Arts & Crafts market scene.  The route from desert to marketplace is well trodden - hermits have always been pragmatic in engaging with God’s providence, but I do hope my forerunners had more commercial success than I did! In the face of all the contrary indicators, I cannot but be impressed by the inexorable optimism of my fellow traders, excited each new day by the conviction that this may be “the one”- but with midday spirits ineluctably waning, by pack-up time a resigned but resolute air has set in.  It appears the only way to make money at these events is to sell fudge!   Even so it has been great to get so much positive feedback about my work, and as a form of market research it has been very effective - demonstrated very pleasingly by a steady increase of sales through the website; simple really: ask the customers!  (& get your orders in early for Christmas …)

Rather alarmingly the bottom fell out of the examining market for physicists this summer.  As the exam boards have carved up the sciences once more, the physics option has been restored to its wonted place in the popularity stakes. Bottom! Clearly  (& with the launch of the Hadron Collider – how exciting!) this is of significant concern.  However it did give an opportunity for this ex-physicist to spend a rather less hectic early summertime in the vegetable patch, sowing & transplanting according to the seed-packet schedule instead of having to play the catch-up game of previous years. Some of the crops have been quite tremendous & I have been feasting on potatoes, sweetcorn, spinach and tomatoes, with leeks & cabbages on hand to carry the baton during the next few weeks.  The recent acquisition of a small apple press to process this year’s autumn glut has yielded excellent results, and rescued my kitchen from its annual apple sauce splat.  Rather disconcertingly I discovered on my arrival here that I am a social drinker, so the precious juice must remain unfermented, frozen, but truly delicious!

SCH finally goes Eco!  Heating can be a bit of an issue in the middle of a flat & windy Lincolnshire field, and the coal stove at SCH has always struggled to provide both hot water AND warmth.  Rising prices finally goaded me into action & I now have 14 gleaming solar water tubes affixed to the roof, & a new supplier of ready-chopped stove-wood to boost my eco-credentials (you can find my green balloon on Google).  The solar system comes complete with a computerised tally chart, so I can report that I have notched up nearly 200 hours of solar warmth since August, & am feeling so much the more toasty for it.

I was minded last year to note ruefully some words written by Sr. Wendy Becket OSB denouncing the role of animals as pseudo hermit companions.  The mice which had invaded towards the end of my 2007 newsletter had clearly paid little heed to her censure, so Easter 2008 saw a more hospitable invitation extended to Ethelfleda – my now (very) comfortably established resident mouse-hunter, chair warmer & aspiring psycho-therapist.  A chance encounter with the battery hen rescue people at a village fete resulted in the unexpected arrival of a trio of hens; henby, hensi & hende (henna was too much of a bully & had to be sent back).  They more than earn their keep as a source of omelettes & of unwitting comedy, but it must be acknowledged they are not the most intelligent of conversationalists.  I hope Sr. Wendy might be reassured.

It is very early, I know, but as the frosty nights begin to envelope us once more, please accept my best wishes for your autumnal & winter festivities, and every prayer for you & yours during these closing seasons.  I have been pondering much on the mysteries of the Incarnation this year – a largely interior conversation in which I have nonetheless had the benefit of engaging some of you – I am always grateful for your contributions & provocations!  The liturgical calendar allocates the seasons of Advent and Christmastide to the contemplation of this most profound of mysteries, but this year I find myself anticipating their blessings; in whatever now or circumstance you find yourself: God be with you.

Every best wish & prayer, Rachel HDN.