December 1st – the day my Christmas preparations begin. It will be a simple Christmas for us this year but already most days on my calendar up to the 25th are spoken for….not sure how that happened!
I have started my Christmas countdown, not with an advent calendar – (we are sparse on those here this year – so I will find my little homemade one from years ago to put out on the mantelpiece), but with a Christmas treat – a day out. We actually went yesterday because we had a free entry voucher and it was the last day to use it. Many of the properties are closed now for the winter season but we found that Quarry Bank Mill in Styal, Cheshire was still open and not too far away.
We took homemade mushroom soup in a flask with chunks of bread and cheese. It was a very cold day so this made a good warming start to the visit. It is a fascinating place showcasing what life was like for the cotton mill workers in contrast to the affluent mill owner and his family. Styal village cottages were built for the mill workers and are still lived in today. The family home was originally a holiday home that they then lived in full time when the mill was built next to it. The complex is in a wonderful setting and quite different to many of the mills set up in grimy Manchester at that time.
The family were Unitarian so the house itself was very plain and simple compared to most National Trust houses where wealth is most certainly on display. I just adored this beautiful little writing desk.
We spent a pleasurable four hours there wandering around the house, the mill, the gardens and the village and afterwards dived into the cafe to warm up with a large cup of hot chocolate. As they close quite early we had to skip the Apprentice House but we have been round there before – I remember it was very bleak and cold inside and was set up to house orphaned children that worked in the mill and many ran away.
As we had a free entry voucher it seemed only right to donate something by buying a few things from the National Trust shop. It was hard to decide on just what as there were some lovely things on sale. In the end I chose a pack of National Trust Christmas cards and two fat quarters of the cotton fabric woven at the mill and printed locally. I intend to make a Christmas stocking with it – maybe not this year – time is feeling a bit on the short side already.
On our way home we called at John Lewis in Cheadle to order the TV table that we had decided on. We have quite a few vouchers for John Lewis so it cost us nothing. We bought the TV quite a while ago – it was bigger than our old one and has been balancing on the IKEA children’s table we bought for the grandchildren to play on when they come. Delivery will be next week. I am trying to persuade DH to also buy the little cabinet that I saw and is part of the same range….watch this space.
Today we have to go to town to pick up a few parcels from Next. We have been invited to a party on Saturday night and I really don’t have anything to wear. We have very few dress shops in our town now so to save having a trip out to Meadowhall, our nearest shopping mall, I ordered a selection of garments online which I have never done before for myself. I am keeping my fingers crossed that something will look OK and fit.
I have a present to buy too – it is a 30th birthday and I am not sure what to get – I am hoping for some inspiration when we get into town.