Restrictions are easing a bit here in England so sometime last week my husband Nathan made a plan for us to meet up with our friend Bob from The Haunted Generation. I wasn’t involved with the making of said plan, it was simply one of those ‘this is happening, are you up for it’ things. A walk up on the North York Moors? Well my default answer to that is always going to be a yes, but there was a potential problem.

Last weekend I had done a five mile walk on the flat and come back in a bad way. Existing issues on top of a year of not moving around very much at all, just about finished me off! I couldn’t move when we got home and two days later I could still only manage a short walk with a stick. I didn’t fancy my chances hiking up hill and down dale so I made the decision not to go. I really couldn’t face the thought of holding everyone else back or ruining the trip in some way. And then I changed my mind. Several times over the course of the week in fact. At the eleventh hour I made the decision to go and frantically threw some supplies into a backpack.

Dosed up on painkillers, I laced up my boots, grabbed my walking stick and we headed for the hills, my mentioning of the yellow snow warning seemingly falling on deaf ears.

On the drive over I could see that the tops of the hills had a covering of snow and briefly thought of that yellow warning. Oh well, I thought, can’t cancel now, I’m in too deep and besides the sun was actually shining and this trip was important. The first flakes started to fall as we parked up.

Bob, Nathan, myself and Megan the Border Collie set off, our destination clearly visible high up on the moor. We had begun our sacred pilgrimage to worship the god of all pre-digital broadcasting in the North East, the Bilsdale Transmitter.

Our outbound walk went okay considering I almost gave up on the ascent. The mast seemed further away every time I looked at it but at least the weather was now behaving itself. I looked at 14 year old Megan, an old lady by comparison and I thought, if she can do it then I can, ignoring the fact that four legs and a daily walk probably puts her at an advantage over me. We picked up pace a bit once we were up on the top and it was soon time for the flasks and sausage rolls to come out which meant I was suddenly Megan’s best friend!

We hung about by the mast for a bit and talked about ’70s dinner sets and ’70s sitcoms while I admired Bob’s unmistakably ’70s Thermos flask.

To give you an idea of scale, those are buildings you can see at the base of the mast where we sat for our picnic. It’s so tall, it has become an iconic landmark, it’s red beacon light hovering eerily above the dark hills at night.

The walk back was when things started to go less smoothly. It began with me leaving my stick where we’d stopped and Nathan went back for it while Bob and I stood waiting on the track. In hindsight, I should have gone back for it myself and kept my circulation going because a few hundred yards on, I got a Raynaud’s attack in both hands. It was about the same time we realised there was some serious weather heading straight for us so it was no bad thing that my solution to the circulation problem was to move faster! My hands came back to life and we made good progress, arriving at the top of the route down just as the snow started falling.

As we made our way down, the flakes seemed to get bigger and bigger until they were settling on everything, including us. By the time we got back to the cars it was a white out, the Bilsdale Transmitter lost in another world.

So my clever thoughtful husband looked to The Children of Green Knowe for his inspiration for my Christmas present but I also turned to some 80s children’s television for his present.

Just as we watch The Children of Green Knowe every Christmas, we also watch The Box of Delights. In fact a great deal of ceremony surrounds our viewing of the Box of Delights and the timings are very carefully thought out. Some years we time it so we watch one episode a night, ending on Christmas eve and other years we time it so we are watching one episode per week as it was originally aired. It is never just viewed on a whim! Like Bagpuss, The Box of Delights was one of those things that drew us together when we first met. We both owned a copy of the DVD and we both made a point of watching it every Christmas. I didn’t realise so many other people still remembered it from their childhoods and it turns out there is quite a cult following. They call themselves Boxers and they hang out in various Facebook groups, not just in the winter but all year round! Naturally I am a member of a couple of such groups and one in particular is called The Drop of Dew after the pub in the story where Kaye meets Cole Hawlings. This particular group is more of a social than a serious discussion and analysis of the actual television series or book and so here go all the ‘Boxy’ things that aren’t actually directly about the book or series. If something is Boxy it could be anything from photos of a snow scene reminiscent of a scrobbling on Bottlers Down to a vintage car that looks like a Caroplane-aeroplane. Sometimes it’s people showing off their Box of Delights themed Christmas tree and occasionally somebody has something Boxy to sell.

Well sometime during the first month or so of 2020 I spotted a post in The Drop of Dew sharing the work of illustrator Andrew Skilleter. His name was familiar because he creates Doctor Who fan art and I am married to a massive Doctor Who fan so these things often beep on my radar. Anyway, instead of Cybermen and Crazy looking Tom Baker portraits this time it was prints of a replica painting from The Box of Delights. If you are familiar, the one the second Doctor Cole Hawlings disappears through at Seekings after the Punch and Judy show.

Well just like that Mouse from Green Knowe I have often wondered if that painting was ‘real’ or created specifically for The Box of Delights TV series. Kaye just said his grandfather painted it which didn’t give me much to go on. Years later along comes Andrew Skilleter with a replica and prints for sale! I didn’t waste any time ordering one but I was concerned my scatty brain would forget all about it by the time Christmas rolled round. I didn’t and I even remembered to organise the framing in good time too! I wanted to put it in a frame as close to the one in the series as possible so sometime in October, I found myself sneakily watching the first episode for reference purposes. I settled on a frame and mount that wasn’t too far off the original and thankfully it arrived in time for me to frame it. I’m not averse to framing things myself as I frame my own textile work all the time so I just ordered it from my usual supplier and it arrived in good time. I was pretty pleased with the end result and it seemed to go down well.

Yes I know it’s February and the shops are full of Me to You bears but I thought you might like to see the lovely presents I received for Christmas. There was nothing flash or designer as that’s not how we roll here, but everything had a great deal of thought put into it. One of the gifts I received was a bit more special than the others, but I’ll explain why in a bit.

First there was this beautiful Hare brooch from my children. I love Hares and the folklore that surrounds them so it was lovely to receive something to reflect that and something that I probably wouldn’t have bought myself. He looked equally at home on my cardigan or on my coat. Yes that’s right, ‘looked’, past tense. Just moments after I took this photograph I unpinned it from my cardigan and dropped it on the floor causing the head to break off. I’m gutted and feel particularly bad for my children because they’d obviously put a lot of thought into it. I’m hoping I can replace it.

Secondly, my husband gave me a Laura Ashley biography (pictured in my last post) which I’d had my eye on for some time but just never got round to buying myself. I kind of knew I was getting it because he’d made a bit of a mix up with his original idea and he had to come clean, so the element of surprise was missing from this one. However! He well and truly redeemed himself with what comes next but a little bit of background is in order so that I can explain how special this present really is.

Every christmas since we met, we have watched the 1986 television adaptation of The Children of Green Knowe. I loved it as a child and I still love it now. One of the details of the story that I was always drawn to was a little wooden mouse. Tolly finds Toby’s old mouse in his bedroom and becomes rather attached to it, even pretend sharing his meals with it. I really wanted a mouse like that. I think it was the way it had been carved to sit perfectly in the hand and that it was a sweet looking little mouse, like a Dormouse from a storybook. Well I have spent hours and hours over the past few years searching Ebay for a little mouse similar to Tolly’s mouse. I kept my eye out in antique shops and charity shops but I never saw a single mouse that looked even a little bit like it.

Now here is the important bit of this mousey story. It was secret! I told nobody about it. Not one single person knew of my mission to track down a Green Knowe mouse. I had neither explicitly stated my interest nor had I made any subtle comment that might have indicated my wish. It was a very private thought that had stayed right in my head. So, you can imagine my reaction when I unwrapped the other present from my husband on Christmas morning!

An actual replica! An actual bloomin’ replica! How on earth? Where on earth? How did…? What the….? It was the most amazing surprise gift I have ever received! I mean a surprise birthday trip to Stonehenge in 2016 was pretty cool but this little mouse was something else. How on earth did he know?

It turns out my husband is not only an intuitive gift giver but he’s pretty resourceful too. When I asked him where he’d found it he said he’d emailed Mrs Oldknow herself and that she had sorted it for him. I’m still not completely sure how he got it but it has something to do with how he got the other bit of the present that was wrapped up with the mouse. This lovely book, The Patchworks of Lucy Boston.

Lucy Boston wrote the Children of Green Knowe book that the television series was based on. Not only was she a talented writer but she was a patchwork enthusiast, both collecting pieces and sewing her own. I’ve often noted the patchwork on Tolly’s bed but I was completely unaware of the connection until now. The book is written by Lucy Boston’s daughter in law, Diana Boston and there are some beautiful examples and descriptions of her work. I shall be accompanying the book with a few mugs of Darjeeling and a slice or two of cake. It’s definitely one to savour!

So that was what I got for Christmas. I’ll be back to show you one of the gifts I got my husband in another post. It seems we were thinking along the same lines this year, or maybe we just watch too much children’s television from the 1980s!