I think that might *just* be the longest title to a blogpost ever. But it had to be done.
Last night (the 14th, yes, I’m writing this blog retrospectively to post it with a backdate and fiddle with time myself) I settled down to what I’d planned to be a very Me evening. After a lovely online chat with Ami of Simply Needlecraft Haberdashery in Swadlincote, the Husband was heading out to football, the sons were occupied in their man caves (as they are most evenings) and I had, as I thought, an evening free to Be Me.
I haven’t had one of those for ages: when the children were little and Peter went to football, I used to love getting them fed and bedded as early as possible, with a time limit on how long they could read for, before getting downstairs and snuggling down with a drink, a book or a film. Just. For. Me. You could do that when they were 13 and under: teenagers are less amenable, or want to sit with you, or see their Dad’s absence as a chance to watch a superhero film. I’m not complaining: life goes in seasons and we make the most of the season we’re in. I loved the family evenings together, the treats and sweets we shared, and the fact that sometimes the film or the activity was a front for talking about school, life and welfare. I miss checking up on them now. The opportunities are far more limited.
But last night, with my Dear Daughter at University and the Sons, as I say, staking out their territories upstairs, I figured I was safe.
Food-wise, I ate the Real Ragu Bolognese from Comfort by John Whaite. I reviewed the book on the blog, and so far I haven’t made a dud recipe from it. The ragu went well with tagliatelle and broccoli for the lads earlier, but I simply had a couple of bowls of it as stew, with a tablespoon of couscous added. Delicious. Mixed spice isn’t an ingredient I’ve added much to savoury stews, but it’s definitely one I’ll be adding again.
And my entertainment was definitely chosen with just me in mind: I’ve been reading A Fugue In Time by Rumer Godden, and loving it. It’s like a novel that slips between time zones, all set in one house, and with one family. I know I’ve never read the novel… the only Rumer Godden’s I’d read before were her children or young adult ones… and I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast the 1940s film version, Enchantment. I love watching old black and white movies, especially those made during the 1940s. It is a completely different world now, isn’t it? One that will never return.
And as I watched, I realised that I had seen this movie before, at least 40 years ago, on a wet Saturday afternoon with my Grandmother. She was born in 1915, and went to watch all the films on original release after working on a Saturday morning. My Mum would wait outside the Hospital where Nanna worked for the chief psychiatrist, then they would take the bus into town, buy a Pimm’s Pie to take in with them and spend their afternoons watching the whole programme.
By the 1980s, Nanna was in or near her 70s, and we used to sit and watch the same movies together, often on Saturday afternoons while my Mum and Dad went grocery shopping. No pies, this time, but we would suck Nanna’s favourite mint selections. Mint Imperials, Mintoes, Buttermints: Nan liked them all.
There is a scene in the movie where two of the characters read a poem together, Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold. I didn’t remember the rest of the film, not David Niven, nor the story which has been slightly simplified from the original book, nor the ending which I haven’t reached yet in film or book version… just this scene, the picture and the words in my head.
And just like that…. “Ah Love, let us be true to one another….” and I was in my parents’ house, with my Nan (dead 21 years this month) and crying in the present day at the memory of a time long gone and a loved one still missed, and thinking about the coincidences of it being this month, these weeks, when she was in a nursing home and, as we know now, already losing her bodily functions with her mind already slipped away, and this film that I chose because the book appealed to me.
Do I believe in spirits? I don’t know. Yes. No. Perhaps. But I do believe in synchronicity, in coincidences that make a difference. And I definitely believe in the power of books and movies to act as time machines, and as ways to see the world through other eyes and at other times. Perhaps subconsciously I chose the movie as a link with my Grandmother? Perhaps she is getting in touch. Perhaps when I’ve finished I’ll see a message in the book and movie to take away with me. Whatever. For a brief, shining moment last night I was simultaneously in 1948 watching in the dark, in 1984ish with my Nanna sucking mints and in 2021 grasping revelations.
Did I finish the movie? No. The football was cancelled due to floodlight failure and I ended up switching off to watch a programme with the Husband. But I know the time machine is waiting for me and sometime soon I shall take myself back for an hour with Nan. This time, I’m bringing the Murray Mints.
I’ve decided to have one header for the whole season of small things: it’s one of my favourite pictures by Alex Geerts on Unsplash. I love the whole colour scheme, which just makes me feel so autumnal. I love the socks, the book, the blanket, the tea, the leaves and pumpkin. There are so many small pleasures in the picture, it’s like my ambition for this whole series in one simple shot.
How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. It always feels good if you get a book back in return for some money. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better. August is like a pause before real life begins again in September, so it’s a second chance to set up rituals and rhythms that boost happiness and work for you.
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.
On the principle that it’s never too early to start thinking ahead, really, and that Christmas is always on us before we know, how about Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas? Christmas is about the small things in life, much as hygge is, and establishing what you want from Christmas and then being able to say no to the excess is important. The book has hints and tips that hopefully will help you enjoy what is, too often, a frantic season.
Available as just an ebook, and a short, sharp read, is Enjoying a Self-Care Christmas: Easy Ways to keep the Joy of Christmas, and your Sanity, intact. It’s an easy read, with ideas and hints to keep you sane through the season. The self-care advent calendar is one I’ve followed for a few years now, and it really is a small daily dose of calm in a manic month.
And on the basis that we may well find ourselves in Lockdowns or unable to enjoy an absolutely normal Christmas under Covid regulations if numbers spike, why not read and plan alternatives? Celebrating a Contagious Christmas was written in response to the pandemic last year, and will need updating soon, but it is about celebrating whatever the situation, and does have good advice on stocking up an emergency cupboard, celebrating when travelling to relatives is impossible and putting the heart of Christmas back into the heart of the celebrations.
If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it or save it so others can enjoy reading, thinking about and living hygge as well, and read the other posts in the series, too.
My September of Small Things:
Day Three: Plants, Naturally
Day Four: A New Magazine that Really Suits Me
Day Five: Autumnal Decor Ready for the Harvest
Day Eight: Life Lessons From the Roadside
Day 11: Autumning Up My Planner
Day 12: A Brief Pause in a Very Busy Day
Day 14: The Moment You Realise that a Movie is a Time Machine