Christmas on the County Roads

Dear Readers, it’s fair to say that Christmas has broken out all over the County Roads here in East Finchley, so, on a particularly damp and misty morning I went out for a walk to see what was going on. I am going to be away from home for Christmas for the first time since I moved here in 2010, and it feels a little strange: I haven’t put up the Christmas tree, the pink velvet reindeers are still in the box in the eaves, and several Father Christmases will be feeling very irritable if I don’t fish them out soon. But, somehow, I feel a need to let go of expectation and to simplify this year, and to that end I thought I’d enjoy what everyone else was doing rather than feel as if I had to do it myself.

The door wreathes, for example, are particularly splendid this year, and very varied. As with the Christmas trees, there are those who favour natural materials, and those who have an artificial one that lasts for many seasons.

  And then there are the decorations. I am very taken with the little glass creatures in the photo directly below.

But as I walked around, I quickly became aware that although much of nature is quiescent at this time of year, there is still a surprising amount going on. After all the snow I was surprised to see fresh spiders’ webs, bejewelled with mist.

And what is more festive than a shrub full of fruit?

The cotoneaster below was a mass of berries

The black fruits of ivy promise some respite for the thrushes if the weather turns cold again.

And I shall need a hand with this one, gardening friends. The fruit reminds me very much of spindle   but the leaves are different. Maybe it’s from the same family.

A relative of the spindle?

There is a strange beauty to the decay of plants. For example, I think I prefer the browning heads of the hydrangeas to the blooms in their fresher, more pristine state.

And in the insect-damaged leaves of mahonia and holly there is a flame of colour that the perfect ones lack. It reminds me that the beauty of a face that has been through trouble is often more profound than the picture-perfect features of someone who has not yet been tested by life.

And who should pop up when I was walking down Bedford Road but Bailey, the King of the Cats? He didn’t want to stop for a chat, but headed off down the road at a brisk trot, yowling all the way. He is a most determined puss cat.

To my surprise, some things are in flower, like the pink camellia and the clematis below. Although there are less blooms about at this time of year, the ones that there are seem all the more precious.

But what lifted my heart most today was not one of the more obvious things, but a tiny seedling. A few months ago, I captured a green oasis at the bottom of a wall along from Kentucky Fried Chicken. There were approximately ten species growing there, all ‘weeds’ to be sure, but tiny spiders were making their homes between the leaves, and there was even a caterpillar.

Then came the paving improvements, and, whilst the new paving slabs are delightfully even, there is not a blade of grass to be seen.

Until today.

I love that the natural world never gives up. Where there is a teaspoonful of soil, and a spot of rain, some plant will put down roots and throw up flowers. it gives me such hope to see that whatever we do, nature can circumvent us.

So, by the time this is published I’ll be heading off to Dorset for Christmas with Mum and Dad. It will be a different kind of celebration, but none the worst for that, and I’m actually rather looking forward to it. At least the parents will be snug and warm in their own home, and won’t have to worry about braving the Christmas traffic, or coping with the air quality in London. I wish all of you a peaceful and happy holiday, and hope that 2018 brings you everything that you long for most.





21 thoughts on “Christmas on the County Roads

  1. Fran and Bobby Freelove

    Once again such lovely photos, we were only saying the other day after all that snow how many bushes have been completely stripped of berries, it’s definitely worth planting them in your garden if you can. You are right about the Spindle, it’s Euonymus Japonicus, the Japanese Euonymus. Thank you from both of us for a year of interesting posts, and we hope you enjoy yourselves at your parents and find them both well.

    1. Bug Woman

      Thank you for all your support, Fran and Bobby, and yes, the berries are fast disappearing – a small flock of redwings were just devouring the berries on a small street tree that I passed here in North London, probably driven south by all the snow….

    1. Bug Woman

      Ah yes, it’s a member of the spindle family – we have a native one (Euonumus europaeus) with similar bright pink and orange berries. I have it in my tiny ‘hedgerow’ in the back garden, but it’s always the first thing to get eaten to death by bugs, and I sometimes wonder if it got the name ‘spindle’ because by the end of the summer it’s a ‘spindley’ wreck :-). I hope you had a good Christmas, and that 2018 brings you all that you hope for most.

  2. Sara James

    As I go out on my daily constitutional I’ve been admiring Christmas decorations too, Christmas tree decorations both indoor and outdoor. I only found your blog this year and have enjoyed it very much. Hope the journey today is not too fraught and you all have a very Happy Christmas.

  3. Liz Norbury

    Wishing you a lovely family Christmas, with good health for your parents, and for you, an inspiring nature walk in the glorious Dorset countryside.

  4. Veronica Cooke

    Some lovely wreaths and plants!

    I’m with you’ I love the hydrangea when it’s decaying; it turns purple and some of mine have turned a lovely burnt orange. I bring them into the house when they’re like this and dry them out to make permanent flower displays. Having said that it’s hard to beat a display of the glorious purpley blue hydrangeas – a common site in Ireland where I stay.

    Happy Christmas and New Year to you all.

  5. Toffeeapple

    Vivienne, I wish you and your family a joyous celebration of the festival and I thank you for all that you have taught me.

  6. ravenhare

    That must surely be a cultivar of spindle? (Not that we have them in this part of the world. It looks very like a fancy tree with spindle fruit.
    Have a wonderful Christmas, and thanks for your fabulous blogging.

    1. Bug Woman

      Thank you, Ravenhare, and yes I’m sure it’s spindle, though it’s the first variegated one I’ve seen. I hope all’s going well for you, and that the weather hasn’t been too awful….

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