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Monday, December 17, 2018

Christmas Eve 1968

17th Dec 2018

One Christmas long ago when we sisters walked to Midnight Mass.
We were happy to be out in the snow, in the dark.
Every year we would pray that it would snow for Christmas . It very rarely did.
So this was special and It felt quite magical.


Christmas Eve - 1968

Three sisters – 
exhilarated, excited, eager,
giggling, gabbling, gibbering,  
clad in cozy, coats,
warm,  winter, woolly  hats 


Image result for pictures of churches in the snow
 furry,  frost - free mittens  
and  wellies, in khaki  green-
step out from over-heated   house
Three sisters –
 leave behind,
 and don’t mind,
the atmosphere,
they leave it there
They are out, in the
 cold, crisp night.
 Christmas Eve.
 Snow stars sparkle 
underfoot
 crystals, luminescent in rays of moon.
Soft flakes flutter down,
 like dancing angels
 melt, on upturned faces.
They trudge on slowly,
Perfect white beneath, 
crunching, crackling
leaving foot-shaped indents
heads held high ,
 they are free,
 for now.
In the distance -
 lights of the church,
 draw them onward
the singing of carols 
brings some joy 
to sisters,  sad,  souls
they forget, 
for a while 
what’s left at home, 
at that house.
they find their seats.
they are here for
 Midnight Mass





Sunday, December 9, 2018

St Nicholas


Image result for picture of st nicholas

9th Dec 2018

We could hear the drums before we left the car park. Following the noise we found huge crowds gathered in the square, all there to celebrate the Feast of St Nicholas. A large man dressed as St Nicholas in red robes with a mitre on his head and a crozier in his hand, sat in a makeshift, decorated carriage waving gently to all who passed by.

Children from many of the schools around Canterbury were there dressed up in costumes such as bishops and angels and carrying placards with encouraging words on or  lanterns . Such a colourful sight. Some of them were part of the music team, giving renditions of Little Donkey and O Little Town of Bethlehem among others. 


This was yesterday afternoon and I was with my daughter and four grandaughters. The little one's looked this way and that , dizzy with the spectacle. 


After ten minutes or so the procession started with us taking a middle position in the group, musicians  in front and behind.   I was impressed as we walked through the city that the streets were lined with onlookers cheering and waving. 

Slowly we made our way to the Cathedral, stopping for a while outside to gather the people together. 
The singing and drumming continued as we drifted in . We managed to find seating near the front and settled down as we waited for the schools to take their places. 
After Carols, prayers, readings and a sermon, we ended the afternoon drinking hot chocolate ( handed out freely) in the Cathedral grounds. 



I add my post from last year. 


6th Dec 2017

Aren't the days moving swiftly through December ??? We'll be in January before we know it and Christmas will be just another one of the many that we've celebrated over the years.

I want to share two blogs with you. I hope you take the time to look at them as I think they are wonderful. They are by two of my daughters, one of whom says that I am biased. Well, of course I am, but that doesn't take away from the fact that there is some great  content there.

They write very differently ... well, you will see:

godwheresthemanual.wordpress.com

and

adventuresfromthesofa.wordpress.com

I hope you enjoy them. Please let me know what you think. Or, better still, leave a comment on their blogs.

Now, I'd like to tell you another story about a homeless man. The weather has been bitter these last couple of weeks, the nights being particularly icy. It was on one such night , last week, when the temperature was below 6 degrees c that a homeless man died on the streets in Birmingham . So, so sad...

But that is not my story. My story starts last Saturday morning in Oxford.

We turned up early for our grandaughter's confirmation at the Oratory, and,  passing a man sat at the gate, walked through to the big doors at the entrance where we got talking to a very jolly chap who was waiting to talk to the priest. It turned out he was going to be getting married later that day. I left my husband talking to him while I went into the church.
When I came out hubby was with the man at the gate chatting away.

I felt a bit awkward as I always do with homeless people . You know, not quite knowing what to do.
Anyway I was dragged into the  conversation which was about homeless shelters. This tall man, who was standing now, his long, tangled, matted hair falling over his shoulders ( a Billy Connolly look alike),  told us that they charged for them and he didn't usually have the money to stay in one . Well, I thought, what homeless person would, living hand to mouth on the road and all that.

Then he and my husband proceeded to tell me of the good fortune which befell him while I was in the church. How the chap getting married that day had asked him what size shoes he wore - unfortunately his feet were two sizes too big -and then what size waist he was. Ahh , better luck there.  And what about corduroy, did he like brown corduroy. Of course he did . Reaching in his holdall bag,  the  "soon to be married" took out a smart pair of trousers and feeling in the pocket found a ten pound note. "It's your lucky day," he said beaming and handing him both the trousers and the money.
As the man of the road told  me this tale , he also had a huge smile on his face.
At this point I took his hand in mine to see how cold he was. He was cold...

"Give him my gloves,"  said my husband . He had let me borrow his gloves earlier . I feel the cold more than he does.
And of course your man  was delighted to get the gloves too.

He wasn't there when we came out after the service and I just hope that he is still doing OK and that he will survive through the winter.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Twelfth Night

7th Dec 2018

We always try to celebrate the twelve days of Christmas finishing on the feast of the Epiphany - 6th Jan.
Here's a little memory of sorts from around that time:


Twelfth Night  
                                                                                                                     
“Careful Rob, they’ll break,” Mary takes the golden bauble from him and gently places it in its box.

“Actually, do these ones.” She passes him a small, carrier bag with a picture of snowmen on and puts a pile of soft, felt decorations in front of him.  He works happily, his little hands pushing hard down into the bag to make sure they go in. Big sister, seven and little brother, eighteen months are good friends and are helping take the tree down, it being the seventh of January. The activity won’t hold Rob’s attention for long. Later on, when he’s seven, he’ll be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a relief to me as I thought I was just a bad mother.

 I hear the others in the dining room, playing the new Manopoly game. That’ll keep them busy for while.  It’s our annual gift for the family, to mark Twelfth Night, our mini Christmas that ends our festivities.  This year, 1991, I’m glad to be putting everything away. If I don’t see another turkey till forever, that’ll be too soon and the puddings and cakes all gone – good.  With all that and looking after my mother in law, who is ill and living with us, I am looking forward to some “ordinary” time.

“Mum, where do these ones go?”  she holds up a red bell.
“In here,” I hand her the appropriate box.  
“Ninished,” some of the contents fall into my lap as Rob throws the bag at me and runs off to join the others.

I take the felt Christmas tree, put it to my face and remember that day in December, two years ago, when we sat at the dining room table – Kate seven, Mary five, Liz three and Joanna one and sitting in the high chair and spread before us, scissors, felt, glue , sequins , needles and cotton, card and crayons.  Jim, seventeen and Emma, sixteen were out, as usual, their friends being much more important to them, than their family. That day we’d just heard hat their nan had a tumor on the brain and with the prospect of taking responsibility for her long term (no idea how long) care, I was glad of the distractions of being creative with the little ones.
“I can do it myself, mum,” Kate grabbed scissors and green felt and started cutting.
“Look, I’ll just draw the shape for you,” she was fiercely independent, still is. She cut as close as she could to my line.  I cut Mary’s Christmas tree shapes, one green and red white.
“Here, sew the sequins on like this,” after showing them how, Kate takes a sequin and threaded needle and gets on with it. Mary pulls the needle through as I sew with her. In between times I cut shapes out of card for Liz and Jo to colour.

When a green and a red Christmas tree have enough sequins sewn onto them I put them together and button stitch around the edge to finish them off. Kate sews round hers with red cotton.

I sit pondering, the felt tree in my hand, wet with my tears.  






Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Uncles

4th Dec 2108

Last Friday I went to the cemetery to visit the grave of my mother and father. It was just me and my husband. My sister couldn't meet me there that day. I texted my uncle who lives nearby and told him that I was near. He said pop in for a cuppa.
I looked around in the area I knew their ashes were buried. Fallen leaves and other debris hid the spot and it took me a while to find the black stone plaque.
My husband went off to get water and cleaned the granite, which revealed the gold writing and rubbing the wet from my eyes, I whisper, yes, that's just right.
We say a prayer together, then I spend some moments in silence thinking of them and of how time doesn't take away the longing to be with them.
After not more than half an hour we left I walked to the car , my head jumbled with memories and the wish for more memories.
What an hospitable greeting awaits us at my uncle's. My aunt is there too, getting ready to go to work . She stops to talk with us . While we have tea and lemon cake , my uncle's favourite, he tells me, I quiz him about my grandfather, who was in the IRA. I find out among other things that he joined when he was sixteen. Just a lad, I think.
As we drive away a little while later we ponder on the importance of family.

And I was reminded of my uncle who lives in Ireland and who I wrote a poem about when he visited  Mum for the last time before she died.
Here it is again:


Oct  2015
This poem was inspired by a couple of hours spent with my Uncle going for a walk in North London.


Mid Morning Walk With Uncle

To the right or to the left,
New steps to take.
This way or that -go left.
A robin, friendly reminder, joins us,
Going before with joyous song.
We stop, admire the rich beauty -
A Japanese Red Dragon Plant,
Exotic,  glorious in Autumn sun .
But don't interrupt the story.

We walk on, uphill,  breathless
Slow our pace,
Enjoy sky - blue, clear
In still air,
words struggling to escape
And  reaching  the top, stop
Only for a moment,
To quiet the pulse,
But don't interrupt the story.

How far shall we go?
We'll see now, just keep going,
Maybe we'll reach the village.
All topics keep the
Conversation - the tale-  fresh:
The house with the huge gated driveway
Double fronted and double garage -
Double your money.
But don't interrupt the story.

The ruin of a Church left forlorn,
In the graveyard,
Seems right somehow.
Centuries of ordinary life
Witnessed by these stones-
We imagine ancestors.
The chap who bought four burial plots -
Just to make sure.
But don't interrupt the story.

At last we reach our goal-
The village high street.
Let's stop for a bit before we head back.
The pub or a cafe.
No, not Costa, not Costa...
Ahhh,  There, a sweet little place,
Hidden from view,
Cappucino £1,20.
Yes, that'll  do,
But Don't interrupt the story.