Yes, it’s that time of year again when we debate if it might not be too early to start buying Christmas presents or putting up some lights. When I was growing up, my mother used to decorate the Christmas tree on the 24th December and festive lights in people’s gardens were a relatively rare thing. This year, I am breaking with tradition and have decided to get a tree as soon as possible to avoid the crowds of people I associate with Christmas shopping. So last weekend, we went to St Bridget’s Nurseries to find ourselves a little live spruce in a pot. As you will know, we use public transport to get about and to the astonishment of the friendly staff we shouldered our Christmas tree, trotted to the bus stop, and heaved it on board. The driver and our fellow passengers were sympathetic – everyone had something nice to say about the little tree, and I am sure I did not imagine the driver being particularly careful to keep it upright. Carrying the little spruce through Exeter, a number of children remarked on the “Christmas tree with legs”… an apt observation, I must say. So, thanks to a group effort of encouraging words, humour and helping hands, the tree was brought home safely and is now acclimatising in the sitting room. You know, I had almost started to be a bit Bah Humbug! about the Christmas spirit in general but our little Christmas-tree adventure proved once again that at the core of what this festive season highlights is not the shopping and the crowded streets and markets but the community spirit you encounter and the good will and cheer we all need so much, maybe even more this winter than usual.
And I am lucky because I am involved in two other community projects. Did you know that the Co-op has a community engagement branch to their venture? The community engagers are called member pioneers and work in the local community as networkers to connect charitable causes and activities with each other. I have two stores and one funeralcare in my patch in St Thomas, Exeter, and it is amazing how many local causes there are which I was unaware of. The community garden in St Thomas Pleasure Grounds, for example, or the Flow River Orchard project. There is also the Co-op Community Fund which these causes can apply for – all money contributed by Co-op members, so it’s the community supporting each other. I experienced my first Celebration Day last week – the day when the local causes receive their huge cheques and celebrate their success. It’s a delight to be part of the Co-op team of member pioneers and see so many positive things happening and local causes supported.
The other organisation I am now part of is Devon Communities Together. It’s Devon’s community council and the organisation that looks into, assesses and addresses rural, urban and coastal communities’ needs, usually with funding from different bodies. One of the projects I’ll be working on is digital inclusion with the aim to help people with accessing online support and information. I’ve only just had sight of the project plans, and can’t wait to get started.
At St Nicholas Priory, Christmas is always a busy time with one event chasing the next. We have Children’s Christmas workshops on the 27th November to get into the mood, and our amazing Christmas show “HUMBUG!” is back, and already almost sold out.
What I am particularly looking forward to is… ta-da, a Tudor Christmas at St Nicholas Priory! Commotion Times, our re-enactment outfit, are coming back and this time to show us what Christmas would have been like in Tudor times. It’ll be all about food and drink, decorating and celebrating on 4th and 5th December! Do come along, it’s free for all, and our re-enactors are specialists in bringing to life these times gone by in all their historical detail. If you have been to our re-enactment days in summer, you’ll know what a rare treat these events are. If you haven’t been yet, don’t miss the chance to join us – it’ll be a most special weekend, with Sir Christmas in attendance and bags of good cheer for all!
Until then, stay safe and be in touch, Judith
Dr J Morgane, manager of St Nicholas Priory, Exeter