Monday, 30 November 2015

Advent Hopes

Day 1 (Tuesday 1st December 2015)

Number One London – the informal address of Apsley House,
the townhouse of the Dukes of Wellington. 

It was lived in by Wellington, who acquired the house off his brother, 
after the Battle of Waterloo (which celebrated its 200th anniversary in June)
It gained its name because of its being the first house passed by travellers when
entering London via the toll gates at Knightsbridge.

It stands in dignified isolation amongst the chaos at Hyde Park Corner.

It is the first day of Advent. Welcome to the 2015 Advent Blogs Series. It is both a privilege and pleasure to host this annual event for a second year and I can promise you some wonderful blogs over the next few weeks. I appreciate that a few people found this year's theme of "Comet Tails and Coal Dust" challenging, but the thought and effort has paid off. New and experienced writers have interpreted the theme in a variety of ways. I hope you enjoy reading these wonderful posts; they were written for us as a seasonal gift and have become a tradition within a broad community. I always find the Advent Blogs a wonderful time for reflection, sharing, celebration and making new contacts - 2015 will be no exception.

The first post in this year's Series is written by my good friend and occasional work associate, the inspirational consultant artist, Simon Heath. As many of you are aware, due to Simon being a popular contributor on Twitter (his handle is @SimonHeath1 ) where he speaks openly about his past, Simon had a successful career within commerce - culminating in being Head of Operations for a number of significant financial services businesses - before taking advantage of redundancy to follow his heart and step into a new, more creative career. He founded Speech Bubble EQ in January 2013 and is now recognised as a leader in his field, providing pithy and witty illustrations for conferences, senior leadership and training events and the communication of crucial messages. He has the knack of appreciating the importance of what is being said by others, his commercial grounding helps, and is capable of turning thoughts and words into memorable and impactful images. Today he has done something different and used his creative talents to write a poem around the Advent Series theme (of Comets and Coal Dust) that encapsulates much of the festive excitement of children and families in the lead up to Christmas.


Trailing through the winter sky

The comet spotted up on high,

Brought Shepherds out to gaze aloft

With toes and fingers firmly crossed

‘Twas Christmas, see.  And at that time,
People up their trees did climb,
To put on top the shining star
They’d seen across horizons far.

And children out, all bundled up
While parents steaming glasses cup
Faces turned towards the sight
Of stardust lighting up the night.

All Advent hopes dispel the fear
That in the night no one would hear
The jingle bells, the “Ho, ho, ho!”,
The crunch of footsteps in the snow.

At the Pole, the patient elves
Turned once more to fill the shelves,
Hoping that the job was done
As in the East, appeared the Sun.

The turning handle, stopping banter
And in the room comes striding, Santa!
Then by the sight all there were cheered

Of dabs of coal dust on his beard.

Thank you Simon, the countdown has begun....

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Advent Invitation

Twelve months have passed since I sent out a message similar to this, asking for contribution posts for the 2014 Advent Blog series. Over the past couple of weeks I have made requests, via social media, for people to come forward to be this year’s curator. I must confess that I have been humbled by the response, so many people have complimented me on the job that I did last year and suggested, with surprising insistence, that it would be good if I was prepared to host again. Thank you! I was happy to pass on the baton, and will be doing so next year, but I am flattered by the kind words and am genuinely pleased and honoured to host the series again in 2015.

It is such a privilege being the curator, you get to: 
  • encourage hesitant new bloggers to publish their first post;
  • catch up with friends and make new contacts, many of whom are globally respected bloggers and well known experts with a huge following;
  • share the trails and tribulations of others’ years before the wider audience read about them;
  • be able to congratulate people on amazing achievements and see the celebratory responses when their post becomes public;
  • post certain pieces anonymously, as certain individuals wanted their thoughts known but dreaded repercussions if others knew that they were the author;
  • have a chance to interact with friends and contacts from around the world; and
  • sustain what has become an annual, treasured tradition. 

All credit and thanks to Alison Chisnell, the Advent Fairy, who was the original creator of this amazing series, and who retains an active interest and involvement. I proposed to her a selection of potential titles/themes for this year. We have agreed on one that we both hope will give people sufficient scope and which might spark imaginations and memories.

So, here I am, calling all you High Fliers and those of you who have toiled hard or even felt yourself trapped in the dark over the past year – people from around the world enjoy the Advent Blog series every year. I know that they would like to read about your experiences or indeed any post that you choose to write based on this year’s theme: 

”Comet Tails and Coal Dust” 

Comet Hale-Bopp (1997), which possessed two distinct tails -
a dust tail (white) and an ion tail (blue)
Traditional Advent calendar windows start being opened from the 1st of December, with a new surprise being revealed daily. The Advent Blog series is the same, in that a new blog is published each day. However, despite being called the Advent Blog series, these blogs are not a religious countdown and the series is not limited to just 24 posts. In recent years the contributions have continued well into the New Year, with people contributing posts from around the world and from a mixture of backgrounds and outlooks. All authors are welcome. Please check out the posts on my blog for December 2014 and January 2015, if you want an idea of the kind of things that people write. I will provide introductions and illustrations as I did last year. Contact me if you have any questions. I very much hope that you will decide to join in.

I know from people’s comments that the Advent Blog series has become a treasured tradition but it doesn’t happen without your involvement and help.  Please spread the word and encourage those who are nervous. It is fun and it brightens up the end of the year for so many of us. I can’t wait to see what this year brings.

Please send your blogs to me, as soon as you can, my email address is  I look forward to hearing from you.