24 days of wonder (24): Winter Solstice

Midday on 21st December:  the winter solstice.


The winter sun hangs so low in the sky. Even at its highest point I had to search the streets of Sheffield to find it shining between two buildings. It’s easy to see why this was a time of celebration for people who lived without the luxury of artificial light – in these dark days the night is at its longest, but now we can know that the light is coming back.

Coming back to bring warmth and life.

Coming back to chase away the long dark night.

At the moment the days are still short – but now, after the solstice, there’s hope that the darkness won’t last forever.


And that’s it for my 24 days of wonder. We’ve had pieces of rubbish and multimillion dollar films, natural beauty and urban landscapes. I hope in amongst it all you’ve found one or two things that are wonder-full for you. More importantly, I hope you’ve been encouraged to open your eyes and see wonders in the everyday around you.


I will post some reflections on the process in the new year but for now may you have a peaceful, and wonderful Christmas.

24 days of wonder (23): Ice crystal rainbow

So very cold. I saw this beautiful jewel in the sky a few days ago (the picture doesn’t do it justice) . I’m no meteorologist but I think its formed from light refracting through ice crystals in the atmosphere to form the wonderfully named circumzenithal arc. (and circumzenithal will count as my new word for today).




24 days of wonder (21): Tower crane forest

There is a store yard by the M1 near here for tower cranes – it always looks like an industrial forest to me – some of the towers are higher than others and the mature cranes tower over the seedlings. I usually speed past at 70 mph but today there was a queue at the junction so I just about managed to get a photo of a small part of the forest as I crawled past.


24 days of wonder (20): Nativity play

At the other end of the budget and special effects spectrum but no less wonderful for that (perhaps more wonderful because of it).

I saw my two children as kings in their nativity play at church on Sunday. It was like being wrapped in a warm Christmassy blanket. The nativity story has become a kind of folk tale that has its roots in what the Bible says but has grown and evolved beyond that (which is not to disparage it at all). I think that is still, just about, woven into the fabric of our culture.

I was led to reflect on the innocence of the children’s play alongside the harsh realities of  the Bible story (some of which I considered as I painted the Annunciation). The more I think about it the more I want to look at the story from both directions, both are wonderful and true in their own right.


24 days of wonder (18): Christmas Tree

I know it’s an obvious one – indulge me and I promise to be more creative in the next few days – but I love it.


I love the ritual each year of going out to a big barn on a country estate near here where they grow the trees, there’s a log fire and the same man tells us what a lovely tree we’ve chosen and carries it to the car.

I love the needles that sprinkle over the car seat and leave a trail into the house.

I love the rigmarole of trying to get the tree to stand straight and decorating it with things that tell the story of Christmases gone by – a clay hedgehog my son made when he was 3, the star I can remember agonising over because I wanted a stylish one. 

I love the fact that every year I get one with roots and naively hope that I may be able to plant it out and make it last til next year.

I love the smell, bringing the outdoors indoors.

And I love the fact that my 7 year old says ‘Can’t we just get a plastic one so we don’t have to do this every year?’

24 days of wonder (16): Face at the window

Round the corner from my studio an empty industrial unit has graffiti and faces painted from the inside looking out. I guess it must have been used as a squat, or for a party or something. It’s like looking through the window onto another world and this face stares back reminding me of the different layers of community that we live amongst.


24 days of wonder (15): Gasometer

I love these industrial structures that so often seem to form the backdrop of our urban landscapes. There were two of them near where my grandparents lived and we would drive past whenever we visited so seeing one is always tinged with nostalgia.

They expand and contract so slowly with the ebb and flow of energy usage. I saw this one full to capacity, dwarfing the nearby houses. I love the spiral pattern and the orange rust.