Friday, December 02, 2016

It's Official - Winter is Upon Us

Yesterday marked the start of the meteorological winter in the United Kingdom. And just in case we would otherwise have forgotten, we have been subjected to sub-zero temperatures, fog, and heavy frosts in the morning. (Though I'm not complaining about the frost - a hoar frost is so pretty).

The very cold weather tempts me to stay indoors but yesterday was marked in the calendar for my first shared turkey, tinsel and Christmas pud event of the celebratory season (on the 1st December ! How many turkey meals can a body take?) so I was obliged to venture out. The event was the Nordic Walking group annual festive meal, which was preceded by a brisk walk around the park to whip up an appetite. Eighteen of us feisty pensioners sat down to lunch at Rumbles, the cafe on the park. The group likes to be supportive of the cafe, as it is a charitable venture that provides employment for people with learning difficulties, and several of our group are also Friends of Sconce and Devon Park.  Some of the group are also members of the Ukulele Happy Band. Never ones to miss an opportunity to perform, they suddenly whipped their instruments out at the end of the meal and played for a captive audience. We had a singalong in the spirit of abandon that is generally only seen in the elderly. Jingle Bells, White Christmas, you name it, we sang it!  Lovely waitress Lorraine signed along with some of the songs (just in case any of us are hard of hearing).

And we were treated to a moving duet of the lovely old Irish song Maggie by two members of our party, who sang in beautiful harmony. If the lyrics and wonderful melody of  this song don't bring a tear to your eye then you must have a heart of stone.

Foster and Allen sing Maggie


I wandered today to the hills Maggie
to watch the scene below
the creek and the creaking old mill Maggie
as we used to long long ago

the green grove is gone from the hills Maggie
where first the daisies sprung
the creaking old mill is still Maggie
since you and I were young

they say that I'm feeble with age Maggie
My step are much slower than then
my face is a well written page Maggie
and time all alone was the pen

They say we have outlived our time Maggie
as dated as the songs that we've sung
but to me you're as fair as you were Maggie
when you and I were young

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Three Cheers for St. Nick!!

Wikimedia Creative Commons Licence

It’s beginning to look at lot like Christmas – everywhere you go. What is it about Christmas? You will be pleased to learn that I'm past the grumpy old lady phase and am entering into the spirit of the event. Sadly, it can't be said for everyone. I hear rumours of a movement afoot to prevent those amongst us who aren't practising Christians from celebrating Christmas. The joyless spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge evidently lives on!

Don't you think that we each need a personal philosophy to carry with us through life? Well, I’m in a philosophical, you might think moralizing, frame of mind today, so I'm ranting about my attitude to Christmas. You’ve been warned.

Socrates "The unexamined life is not worth living"

Less than 2% of the British population attends Sunday church services on a regular basis. So why is the majority of the population going to celebrate Christmas this year? Perhaps simply because it’s an opportunity to let our hair down and party. A midwinter feast along the lines of the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia. But in a society that is largely affluent (with apologies to those amongst us who are JAMS ,(just about managing- I’ve been there and done it, believe me) most people seem to be leading a hedonist lifestyle on a fairly regular basis. So is there something deeper involved in our Christmas celebrations?

We could take as a starting point a view that Jesus is an iconic symbol of true selflessness. Jesus Christ  was one amongst countless, now forgotten, children born on that long ago day that we now celebrate at Christmastide.  He is remembered because his remarkable words and deeds, and his sacrifice, were recorded in the Gospels of his followers.  Jesus is up there as one of the great philosophers; an advocate of human kindness, who spread a message of hope for humanity. (Some academics might argue that he was a political activist, but that’s another story).  Yes, Jesus spoke of his ‘Father in Heaven’ but I try to interpret the term 'God’ as an intangible essence of life, the soul, that is carried within everybody. Perhaps it's the soul that leads people to acts of kindness towards humans with whom they have no family ties or personal friendship; that it's what impelled Good King Wenceslas to drive out in his sleigh on a cold, snowy night in the depths of Poland to deposit gifts at the homes of the poor. As for Santa Claus - we all know that Saint Nicholas was famed for giving secret gifts - he placed coins in the shoes that people left out for him.

I'm off now to try to locate a suitable pair of shoes. Three Cheers for St. Nick!!

If you stop to think, mindful giving of Christmas cards, gifts, and of sharing food, are expressions of love. As Christmas approaches, charities attempt to tap into our spirit of human kindness with appeals to give what we can afford for the less fortunate - the poor, the sick, and the homeless. What better time than the anniversary of the birth of Jesus to demonstrate our love for humanity.