Last year when I wrote about Advent, I wrote about the 'Unexpected Expected'. I had been one term in a new post, and rushed off my feet to catch up, meet expectations, make the right impression and do the right thing. Advent, it seemed, followed on from summer. How different are my feelings this year. This year I am aching for the peace that comes with Christmas, and, of course, the Christmas holidays. Advent has been an age coming, and I know it will be an age in passing. After a mammoth term (8 weeks, then 7), we break late. Secular preparations are going to be rather crammed into the 22nd, 23rd and 24th December. Today, however, begins the New Year. All change.
The last few weeks of the school term will be busy - there is no doubt about it, but I am determined to take some time to just 'be'. Advent is a time to look at things and wonder.
Life never stops changing, and change never seems to come more quickly than at the end of the year. Instead of letting things creep up, Advent is a time to stop and look at what might come. It is likely that I will move house soon - heading to somewhere nearer school. I do not want to leave Oxford, but the daily commute makes me too sleepy, and there is little time to 'live'. I am beginning to look for a new town to make my home. I cannot believe that I find within myself the longing to 'settle down'. Since I was 18 I have never stayed anywhere more than about 3 years. I have been in Oxford just over four. To go somewhere new will feel like I am uprooting, but perhaps from that will come new life.
As last year I feel the need to be with those I love most when the days get dark. I long to find time to cosy up, watch movies and eat delicious dinners. Today I went out running in the cold sunlight of a December Sunday, and soaked up the precious short lived rays of the winter sun. Port Meadow was flooded. It looked beautiful. I stopped to say 'Hallo' to the horses that live there. To be out was bliss. Fresh air makes the world of difference, and is the perfect way to begin a new year.
My Advent resolution is to make time where I think I have none. I am planning on making my evenings time to prepare for Christmas. I will make those gifts for my loved ones I need to prepare; give time to marking to keep weekends clear; go out and sniff the winter air when jogging round the block; write cards, emails and letters to those I love and give some time to prayer in the mornings and the evenings to think about my path through the next few months. You cannot expect to see your way through it all at once. We are asked only to 'Light the Advent Candle One'.....
I have a recipe to share, but it is an experiment. I have dreamt about it, but I have yet to test it. I think it will be delicious, wintry and hearty.
225g/8oz minced venison
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 beetroots (raw), grated (use rubber gloves to prevent dying your hands pink)
1 celery stick, peeled and finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
125g/4oz smoked bacon lardons
1 tbsp mixed dried herbs
400g/14oz tinned tomatoes
150ml/5fl oz red wine
salt and pepper
Heat a non-stick frying pan and add half the mince. Cook over a high heat to colour the meat, breaking up any lumps with the back of a fork. Repeat with the rest of the mince and drain off any fat.
Heat the oil in another large pan and cook the onion, beetroot, celery and garlic until they start to soften.
Stir in the bacon lardons and the herbs and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and the wine and season well. Add the mince and simmer gently for 40-50 minutes until thick.
Serve with fresh spaghetti and grated parmesan.