Advent Project – An extraordinary story…

Ordinary people, in an ordinary place… an extraordinary story…

A few years back, I helped produce a project that portrayed people from a local village, relating them to characters in ‘The Christmas Story’.

‘Ordinary’ people in their ‘ordinary’ place – we are perhaps all part of an ‘extraordinary’ story. 

Recently, Jill Marsh the District Mission Enabler for Northampton Methodist District commented on the project and suggested we might help produce similar for others. It’s a simple idea that could perhaps resonate in YOUR community…

A local church chose nine nativity characters and nine corresponding pictures of people from their village life. You can see the original project here: Ordinary People. The project was printed as posters and displayed in a local shop window for shoppers and passers by to see. 

You could do similar in your community!

If you like the idea, I’d be happy to artwork and supply graphic poster images for you*. I can arrange cost-effective printing and delivery of A2 posters for you to display, and/or supply your images for online social/media use. *For a small donation to cover my time.

Using your images of the people around your community, it perhaps could help people think about what the nativity story means today. 

All you’d need to supply is nine quality images with captions, (it’s important to obtain consent for them to be used), and supply any local / logo and details etc. 

Images used previously were:

  • ‘Guiding Star’ – Guiding eg. a crossing patrol person
  • ‘Choir of Angels’ – Singing eg. playgroup school class
  • ‘Shepherds’ – Working eg. work men/women
  • ‘Mary’ – Expecting eg. mother to be
  • ‘Magi’ – Bringing eg. visitors
  • ‘Bethlehem’ – Waiting eg. village sign population
  • ‘Census Officials’ – Organising eg. parish council officers
  • ‘Inn Keeper’ – Hosting eg. barman/lady
  • ‘Angel Gabriel’ – Messenger eg. post-person

Let me know if you are interested, and if I can help. Contact me here Jules Richards 


Or do it all yourself…


Who needs Angels?

AngelsHappyChristmasJEAP888Who needs Angels eh?   Happy daze, chin chin, ding dong merrily; did you see thingy on the telly; Happy Christmas and a merry New Year! Ain’t milk brillyunt; God, I’ll never be able to eat all that Toblerone; let it snow, let it snow; where did I put the Jameson’s? Chris Tingle. If it doesn’t fit you’ll have to send it back; nuts! Last Christmas I gave you my heart; did you buy crackers?  Well, the kids enjoyed it… 

Perhaps we all might benefit from remembering ‘angels’ after the show…

Last Christmas I pondered ‘angels’…then the angel departed’ *.

When the angels depart; after the expected bright lights, illusions, melodies and stories; I hope we can cling on to some form of new hope and promise that might be found somewhere amongst the salty riches and cloying delicacies that accompany the obligatory celebrations.

We’ve all experienced after-show emptiness, and the New Year will no doubt promise plenty that might smother any voids that appear.


Back to angels…

“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” says Saint Augustine.

Thank god for angels.

Those who have kids will know that the little imps also have beautiful heart-rending angelic moments. We all know that we can learn a lot by being reminded about humility, honesty, and those childlike tendencies that all too early can get smothered, blurred and forgotten in the race towards grown-up-ness.

I could also name a good selection of ‘friends’ that constantly radiate angelic attitudes, and then there are the strangers that we pass who briefly lighten the load with a kind word, a smile, a helping hand or some timely advice or support.

There are angels in our world and I suggest we all can benefit by simply acknowledging them if not embracing them.

We can also benefit from trying to learn from their virtuous, generous, respectful attitudes.

Popular culture fuels bling, pride, selfish discrimination and shallow sensationalism, but if we can get past the indigestion and dis-ease that this creates, a dose of angelic humility and praise might be just the tonic.

Thank god for angels.


*Coincidentally at the same time, Caracticus Potts suggested one has to see things as they really are; one “has to learn to put those dreams to some practical use, not just sit around and think about them all the time.

‘Tis the season!




And when the angels leave…

Then the angel departed
Before Christmas I was asked to read a short reading at the local church as part of their annual Carol Service. Not something I have done often recently, unlike my earlier days when reading in church was commonplace. I was initially quite underwhelmed by the fantastical reading I was given; from Luke 1:26-38 ‘The Birth of Jesus Foretold’ “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent…‘Do not be afraid, …you have found favour with God. …the power of the Most High will overshadow you… For nothing will be impossible with God… ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed.”

The hills are alive
As a treat this Christmas we took the kids to see ‘The Sound of Music’ at Leicester Curve. A remarkable show! It’s a refreshing re-presentation of something we all think we know well. But I recommend that you review presumptions and supposed familiarity.
For me the unexpected resonance came in the pull between religious peace and worldly distress, and indeed religious distress and worldly peace.
Coincidentally the backdrop to several abbey related scenes was a powerful ~20 foot square representation of the fantastical Annunciation, by Botticelli. On the painting’s original frame is’s written in Latin “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.” Coincidentally from the reading above.

Hope in a story
During holidays (once holy) we might encounter so many other tales and stories of truth winning over doubt, hope overcoming loss, the innocence of a child’s view washing worry and prejudice aside. I’ve just sat teary eyed through The Railway Children, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and we’ve still got Watership Down, E.T. and Babe still to watch.
In our annunciative occasions above, both Mary and Maria are given situations in which they find glorious beauty amongst tiresome disease.

But after the show
If you’re privileged as we are to have ‘time off’ over Christmas; If you’re privileged as we are to have the warmth of a Christmassy sunday sofa, snuggled children, cold meats, cheese and a sneaky dandelion n burdock; we come out of a dark month of advent, a time of pregnant anticipation and we’re dazzled by lights, reflections, impressions, illusions, projections, melody and chorus. The nourishment we find at this time of year is swamped in salty riches and cloying delicacies that might cause indegestion and even dis-ease. The obligatory celebrations that accompany the turn of the year are yet to come…

But as Maria, Mary and Caracticus Potts came to realise, when the angel departs, one has to see things as they really are, after all one “has to learn to put those dreams to some practical use, not just sit around and think about them all the time.”?



An impromptu Silent Night…

An impromptu Silent Night… Happy Christmas everyone…

J, E, A and P.


Christmas Fudge

2014-12-17 18.17.54OK the only thing Christmassy about it is that it’s being made near Christmas time.

This year we’ve forgone the Mini Meat Pies, although I heartily recommend them, see here. But we have had a quick play in the kitchen and some Christmas Fudge is on the menu…

Cut to the chase man! Here’s the recipe:

  • 250soft butter
  • One tin (397g) condensed milk! Yum – no licking!
  • 175ml milk
  • 2 tablespoons syrup
  • glacé cherries (chopped in half)
  • 800 sugar
  • 2-4 vanilla pods. (My sister gave me mine for my bday in Nov.) Ta sis.

Line a 30cm tin with foil and lightly grease. (Prepare a glass of ice cold water)

Stick all of the above except the vanilla into a solid saucepan and bring to the boil.

Now, it’s vitally important that you keep an eye on it and stir it constantly. If the bottom get’s to hot it will stick and burn!

Boil  the mixture for 15-20 minutes, stirring all the time until it’s gone a light golden colour.
You can test it by dropping some into the ice cold water and it should turn solid but remain soft in the middle.
You’ll know when it turns – keep an eye on it cos it’ll happen all at once.
Depending on the pan’s size and how aggressively you boil it – it could take 10mins or could take 20mins. #patience

It will be very hot so no kids, dogs or mobile phones around to distract you!

When it’s ‘turned’, carefully take the pan off the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Using an electric whisk, whisk for a few minutes, the fudge will thicken – don’t over do it*.

Mix in the halved cherries, and pour or push (*depending on the consistency) the mixture into the tin.

Cool it in the fridge for a few hours then cut into squares using a sharp knife.

Cool further in the fridge.

Enjoy!     Mheeeery Chrimble!



Advent of…


Once upon a time…


Advent week 2…

AdventWeek2View post

A Joy and Wonder that flows from our own sense of release,
a startling revelation of ancient beauty…

An infectious smile at the heart of life that changes everything,
might slip through our fingers like mist…

Embrace it “the Joy of true life is your strength”,
it flows through us and from us…

Recognise that you are part of the beauty you see…
but look, what joy! Why now, Why me?

With a view of spring, accept and appreciate your wintering…
It’s natural, it’s physical… it’s wondrous…


This is the second Advent post, as I follow this year’s seasonal musings of  Brian Draper. I can heartily recommend sharing his reflections if you so feel inclined!

It’s probably different for you but for me, Advent is not a nice “happy daze”, “everything will be alright” jam!  For me Advent might be about waiting for stuff, pausing before, refocusing, stirring the sediment, brushing away the tarnish

Yes we all recognise fleeting glimpses of beauty in our lives, we try to capture it in photos, stories, and other creations. I usually fail to hold onto it, share it and feed off it. I struggle to hang onto beauty in our world…

I thought [tweeted] this week that “even the most rotten in nature has a beauty to it, I struggle to find beauty in the rot in humanity…”
and “as my human rot is recognised, I aim to nurture the sprites of joy and wonder that shoot and grow towards light…”

Suspend disbelief might be a way forward.

Never would I have imagined as a child in the 1970’s, as I absorbed questionable traditional Carols (with a Cornish Methodist twang) that I would be singing them to children in Sainsbury’s in Melton Mowbray and turning with a tear in my eye as they wished me a Happy Christmas with smiles that would light up the darkest of hearts! 


Advent week 1…


‘the Word became flesh’ and walked the earth…
Walking, respond physically to ancient ground beneath our feet…

From my head to my fleshly heart…
Gratefully “Like a craftsman, planing wood, to the glory of God…”

Each step like a candle burning in the night…
Sharing grace… sharing gratitude…

Learning to walk again, easier than you might think…
Love came down at Christmas…?


Advent… what are you waiting for?

OK we all do the calendar thing – well those with kids in the house probably do.

But what can ‘Advent’ do for us?  …and I don’t mean the Religious, candley, purpley rituals – although they have their uses. 

Waiting at the lights, waiting in line in Alidil, waiting…    I have to admit it, I am working on it but, I am not very good at really waiting… finding extra patience and tolerance… and over the coming month it’s likely that we’ll be waiting in a Christmas-infested queue, a seasonally longer queue at the pumps or tills, or just waiting for it all to be over!


The period Advent is about waiting… from Latin adventus, arrival. Waiting for the arrival of something…
Entertaining the experience of waiting for something. Finding a chance to slow, stop, and consider our place, can be a gift!  Stop all the clocks…

Perhaps we might use the experience of waiting this December as an Advent reminder.
Back in the day, the Jews were waiting for a Messiah.

What are you waiting for?

PS: Have you eaten all of the chocolates behind the doors?   …and it’s not started yet!!


Seasonal Sounds 2013…

If you enjoy a little advent-urous, a capella, acoustics – a date for your diaries:
Saturday 14th December – Melton, St. Mary’s…


Flyer image can be shared found here: GIF or PDF  – do share!
Pies and wine too, all in a good cause!