As we move to the end of an exciting term, there is a real buzz in the air! Yesterday’s inaugural Holiday Bazaar was a triumph and I know many of you will be gifting a wealth of WPNY merchandise over the break – branded umbrellas, teddy bears, travel mugs, blankets, and a range of Chef Nancy’s culinary delights (Feliz Navidad and Winter Wonderland Blue Sugar Cookies, the ‘Sienna Mia’ and ‘The Sophia Ann’ farm to table quiches and French Chef Alain’s smoked salmon, to name a mouth-watering few). Congratulations to the festive Bazaar Team – Amy Storr, Chef Nancy and Jean Monaco who, I am sure you will agree, did an absolutely fabulous job. No matter how you celebrate, there was something for everyone.

Ever since I was small, I have always looked for ‘stories’ in the places I have lived, and if you look and listen closely enough, there are many to be found that add meaning and joy to our personal hometowns or cities. When I was at university in Edinburgh, one such story could be found in the statue of a 19th century Skye Terrier dog, called Greyfriars Bobby, located on the corner of Candlemaker’s Row and George IV Bridge in Edinburgh. This is a touching story of unfailing Scottish loyalty and do let me know if you know it! The statue of this dog added so much value to the grey corner of this city street and is famous across the world.

Last week, here in our New York City, the lights on the famous Rockefeller Tree were turned on, as is the custom each year. However, ahead of this, a little winged stowaway was discovered in the branches of the 75-foot Norway Spruce which had come from Oneonta, upstate New York. This young owl was nicknamed, ‘Rockefeller’ and where many mistook him for a baby, he was actually identified as an adult Saw-whet owl and these are the smallest owls in the region, thus its size, about the height of a soda can, according to the Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology. He was taken to the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center and released in the grounds after recovering. Another touching story which makes the lighting of the tree the more memorable this year, at the end of 2020.

In 2006, I can remember when a female northern bottlenose whale swam up the River Thames in London. The whale appeared to have been lost, as her normal habitat would have been around the coasts of the far north of Scotland and Northern Ireland, and in the seas around the Arctic Ocean. It was the first time the species had been seen in the Thames since records began in 1913. A touching story became very popular, followed by the nation eagerly and then turned into a beautiful children’s book, written by Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by the famous Christian Birmingham, called ‘This Morning I Met a Whale’ – do read it if you get the chance, as the story is charming and the illustrations are beautiful. Those of you who know me well, know that I have a framed set of pictures of the Albert Bridge in London in my office and this fine bridge is wonderfully illustrated in the pages of this book.

And now for a bit of New York Trivia…. Did you know?

The Rockefeller Center Tree has been put up every year since 1933. A typical tree is around 75 feet tall, but the 1999 spruce was a record 100 feet. To find the perfect seven-story spruce each year, the Rockefeller Center conducts aerial searches by helicopter. The ‘Swarovski Star’ that has topped the tree since 2004, weighs 550 pounds. The tree branches are lit with approximately 50,000 LED lights, which need nearly 7 miles of electrical wire. The first televised tree lighting was in 1951 when ‘The Kate Smith Show’ broadcast the event. But, in 1944, during the World War II, the Rockefeller Center trees were not lit because of the blackout rules designed to ensure that the silhouette of American ships could not be seen against Gotham’s glow. And for the past 18 years, the tree lighting has been broadcast on NBC’s ‘Christmas in Rockefeller Center’. Our WPNY Eco-Warrior Team will be pleased to know that the tree went green in 2007 using energy-efficient LED lights. The decorated holiday tree remains lit at Rockefeller Center through January 6th every year. On average, the tree gets 500,000 visitors a day, with a total of 18 million holiday visitors during its time. After the holiday season, the tree is cut up and given to ‘Habitat for Humanity’ as lumber. I hope you get the chance to safely visit it this year and create your own story around this magnificent tree (and little Rockefeller…)

We are officially on the countdown to the holidays and we look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at our Final Festive Family Assembly on Wednesday 16th December at 9.30-10.30am, on Zoom. Holiday sweaters and Holiday Hats are mandatory for everyone – See you there!