Steve recently finished what I shall tactfully describe as a "gruelling" work contract (and yes, that is putting it mildly) which took a toll on both of us, and we decided that we were owed a little break before getting into the fun of preparing for Christmas and trying to figure out where our life goes next.
Given a free choice of anywhere to go, nine times out of ten I will pick the Eden Project (the tenth time I will beg to stay in bed and be brought cups of tea). In the last year we've been to Cornwall three times, and on each occasion we've visited the Project for two or three days, and I still always feel sad to leave.
Last time we went was in May, when it looked like this:
In November, even inside the Biomes, it's more like this:
I still get a great sense of peacefulness and well-being from the Project. And the access. Oh, the access. No being sent round the back, no staff tutting at you if you can't keep up, no "special"
As he tends to, Steve took hundreds of photographs of all sorts of beautiful plants, flowers, sculptures and suchlike, and I'm sure soon he'll load them up to his Flickr stream which will be much better than me trying to describe. But he's let me pop a few onto my own Flickr stream so that I can blog this.
The second day of our stay, the Friday, was the beginning of the winter celebrations at Eden, which they call the "Time of Gifts". There is, of course, a Father Christmas with a cohort of elves and a stable full of actual reindeer, much of which is centred around the Sami people of Northern Europe. I was more interested in the goings-on within the Mediterranean Biome, though - storytelling, music and craft activities particularly. There are definitely worse things to do on a Friday afternoon than to sit and make Christmas decorations and chat with a bunch of friendly strangers, listening to live music and surrounded by the gorgeous smells of Mediterranean plants. As it got darker, Steve returned from his photography spree and brought me a hot chocolate to warm me up while we listened to the evening story and music.
Then it was time to leave the Biome and get ready for the lantern parade. There were large sculpture lanterns being carried mostly by staff and volunteers, but anyone who wanted could join in the parade with a pyramid-shaped lantern on a stick, with a candle inside it. Anywhere else, I'd have assumed I couldn't participate. At Eden, no one batted an eyelid. So here I am, in front of the big Christmas tree outside the Core, carrying a lantern wedged between my legs and my wheelchair, waiting for the parade to start:
And modelling my own handknit hat by the light of my lantern:
The procession began with large sculpture-lanterns coming down the ZigZag path towards the Core building, where we were waiting. It was an impressive sight, although with a slightly hairy moment as a nearby child forgot to pay attention to his own lantern (my reaction of "excuse me! please don't set fire to me!" made me realise just how incurably English I can be). As the sculpture-lanterns and their accompanying drummers came past, we were filtered into the procession. It was quite a strange experience to be actively participating in something like this, being one of lots of little bits. There was a very carnival atmosphere.
The procession wound around the gardens outside the Biomes, lit by flame torches with occasional groups of non-participating onlookers. It ended by a gazebo of fairy-lights, where the Eden Choir were waiting to perform. Since the wheelchair makes me an honorary short person, I was ushered to the front with the kids so we could see.
Listening to the Eden Choir was lovely, and some of the drummers joined in ad lib. Then there was a short and unexpected burst of fireworks which sent Steve whirling around to try and catch a shot:
Finally, this lovely piece of fire art, lit while the choir sang, reminded me very much of the Paralympic closing ceremony which meant that in a strange way it reminded me of summer again.