Shopping Madness………

The nonsense in our shops today, based on the concept of Black Friday,  is surely very indicative of a sickness in our psyche. The sight of supposedly grown-up adults fighting and shouting over the acquisition of some ‘bargains’, does not lead one to the conclusion that we are civilised as a society or, in many cases, as individuals.

The bad example set to our children, the threats and trauma caused to shop-staff, police and other shoppers , the snub to those who do not have the money to join in the melee, and the damage caused to premises and stock, don’t really show any kind of appreciation of why we have this season.

Even those, who don’t accept the Christian significance, can still spend a considerable amount of cash and time, in purchasing gifts for their nearest and dearest. Much of it may be trivial, with gallons of after-shave and perfume, and numerous bits of technology, car accessories, clothes etc among the pressies. But this is how they express their friendships with people, and relations, and a good time is had by all. No problem with that.

But the thought that people will queue from an early hour, fight their way through crowds, physically argue with other shoppers and staff, just to get some goods at a discount seems out of synch with a season of peace and goodwill.

Maybe sometime they may think of the people who wait patiently in areas of deprivation and drought as they are handed bottles of water and basic food, and take that as an example.

……so America, you are welcome to take back the idea of Black Friday, and let us get back to celebrating our Christian Festival or Winter Solstice, whichever we wish.

…just a child again

Tonight, Lady of the House and I watched a film recorded over Christmas…..’The Polar Express’……and felt just like a couple of kids as we followed the exploits of the young Santa-doubting passengers as they headed to the North Pole to see the real Santa and elves.

Great fun, and much more heartening than much of the other so-called ‘entertainment’ to be found on the box at this time of the year.

Back home….

Young Lady of the House and I have just returned from a short trip last week to London. It was partly Charity Board Meeting and partly pleasure. The journey south was a 4 1/2 hour, on-time  journey by Virgin Pendolino Train, and thankfully you can specify a ‘Quiet’ coach, where mobiles are forbidden. Staff were courteous, and information helpful…to be recommended.

I had stayed at the Kensington Close Hotel  over thirty years ago, and it had retained its glory, even clad with scaffolding. Accomodation was adequate, but the continental breakfast was just not worth the extra money (not included in the rate)….it would have been better to have found a little local cafe, but of course we could not be bothered.

That evening we went walking on Kensington High Street, and found an excellent restaurant named Carluccio’s. The food and attention were excellent, and it was only later that we discovered it was owned by Antonio Carluccio, the TV Chef. A walk along to the beautifully-lit Albert hall and Albert Memorial finished off a lovely evening.

The meeting took up most of the next day and returning to the hotel found us caught-up in the problems of the Central Subway Line closed off with no real warning, and jammed carriages on all other lines. The evening saw us drawn to another Italian Restaurant but it employed rip-off techniques to extract a lot of money for an average meal…it was our fault, we should have looked at the prices outside.

On Thursday we booked-out and walked to the V and A Museum….free entry for a suggested donation. Too big to take in on one visit, but the beautifully-decorated restaurant is to be recommended. Along to Harrods, where we had to leave any cases or bags, at a charge of £3 per bag, and £1 per coat! We saw the lovely statue dedicated to Dodi and Princess Di (Subtitled ‘The Innocent Victims’), and then tramped through some of the famous halls, feeling distinctly scruffy and under-dressed! The amount of beautiful furniture kept implying that our house should be torn down and re-built with a new vision. The Arcade proved a bit of fun with a return to a childhood delight in large teddies, telephone-box savings-banks, pencil-cases, chocolate, t-shirts with views of London, and of course the famous Harrods shopping-bags. 

A superb pixzza at The Spaghetti House and another on-time trip north by Virgin trains finished an interesting if exhausting trip south……but it was indeed super to get back to the relative peace of North of the Border.

Christmas Cards

 

Funny how we love over the years, sending Christmas cards with snow scenes, children throwing snowballs and sledging, people out walking in deep-rutted snow, people skating on ice-covered ponds, and jolly red-faced men leading hoses through snow-covered valleys, and the hoped-for snow on Christmas Day…….

…yet now that we have the snow so early, we moan about the cold, slipping on ice, the slush, the problems driving, people falling into icy water, the general in-convenience, and the horrific fuel bills we will have in the new year!

…………..be warned about the consequences of getting what you want!

…………………however you manage….we hope you have a pleasant season.

Al…..ready?

santa with reindeer

Santa is alive and well,  I can report!….can Christmas now be far behind?

At least he is (in chocolate form), at a Sainsbury store in the West of Scotland, where we went shopping tonight. Can I hear the distant tinkle of reindeer bells, and the smell of real Christmas trees? …Of course not, let’s not be silly…..that’s probably being prepared for next week!

Can you beat that?

SEASON’S GREETINGS

star

One thing I love about coming to look at blogs from people I have never met, (having seen photos of only a few), mostly unaware of your religious beliefs or political persuasion, and not knowing your wealth or position, is that in some strange way I do know you all.

We are a cross-section of our civilisation, making the same mistakes, regretting them, hoping not to repeat them, and with all the same longings and hope for the future, as generations before us.

There are, no doubt, other groups of people with a quite -different set of references as to how they conduct their lives. We might call these references alien, and maybe they are, but at this time, when a great hope can spring from a tiny event, in an insignificant town in a far-away country, to lowly parents, maybe we can hope that in this coming year we can see or do something which might well turn the tide of history (even in a small way).

A HAPPY SEASON TO THOSE OF ALL BELIEFS, OR NO BELIEFS, AND A HAPPY (IF NOT NECESSARILY VERY-PROSPEROUS) NEW YEAR.

Singing in Hospital!

carol-singers

Last night, I joined with many others of our Church, and other Churches (in total about 40 folk), to visit a hospital at the west end of Glasgow. The event was organised by the Chaplaincy Centre, and involved dividing into groups and going round various parts of the hospital to sing carols.

You need music of course, and two other groups had a guitar, or, in one lovely case, a set of hand-bells, whilst your’s-truly brought along a keyboard for our group.

The only problem was that the keyboard did not have a stand, and was mains-powered, so at each of the locations (generally in a passageway), we had to find some flat surface to place the keyboard, a chair, and a mains-socket.

As most people realise, all of the above are in short supply in such a situation, as you can’t ACTUALLY push someone out of bed to set the keyboard down, so sometimes it was on a trolley, and sometimes on my knees! Also,  the risk of pulling-out some vital piece of life-saving equipment is always there so we had to do a lot of double-checking before getting power!

What came over to me was that there are a considerable number of people in hospital, all with their individual worries. It is something we only think about when we have to go into a hospital, or see a programme on TV.

In our general life we mostly see normal, reasonably-healthy people, and so it is easy to forget the pain, suffering, and anguish people and families are having to endure on a daily basis, and in an especially-poignant way, at this time of the year.

Does singing and music in general help in the healing process? Well, there is some evidence to show that people who sing regularly, and enjoy music, tend to have a happier disposition and a slightly-better average life. So maybe we did make a minute difference.

But it will be a long time before I will forget the look on some of those poor people. We obviously could say no more than platitudes…you sometimes just don’t know what to say.

Many of the serious cases may not make it past Christmas, but I suppose if we have raised a small smile of joy, or a glimpse of recognition of Christmasses gone past, then it will have achieved something.

‘What about Carol?

 carol-singers

 At this time of the year, our Choir (Angelus Singers……check the Link) are involved in Carol services. Thought you might like to know some facts you might not have known about Christmas Carols…you can always throw a few into a lull in a conversation or at dinner-party…:- 

  • Originally a Carol was not a religious song, but a secular dance, often in 3/4 time…..a bit like a waltz
  • The carol ‘In Dulci Jubilo’, when the words are sung as a mixture of English (from the German), and Latin, is an example of a ‘macaronic carol’. The melody can be found in a 14th century manuscript in Leipzig University.
  • The wonderful combination of Charles Wesley and Felix Mendelssohn gave us ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’.
  • The tune of the French carol ‘Whence is that Goodly Fragrance’ later appeared as the rousing drinking song ‘Fill ev’ry glass, for wine inspires us’ in John Gay’s ‘The Beggars Opera’ in the 18th Century. I remember well singing it with the Kirkie Players some years ago!
  • ‘Good King Wenceslas’ originally appeared in 1582, as a Spring carol. It was only about 150 years ago that the 10th Century story of Saint Wenceslas of Bohemia was told. After his father died, he encouraged Christianity in Bohemia, against the wishes of his mother, and was murdered by his brother Buleslav.
  • The Romans used Holly to decorate their houses at the feast of Saturnalia, which occurred in the winter season. Ivy was dedicated by them, to Bacchus from the idea that it warded-off drunken-ness!
  • The Coventry Carol (‘Lul-ly, lul-lay’) is one of the oldest English Carols. The original tune comes from 1591 and was sung in the Coventry Plays of that era.
  • There are several Wassailling Songs. The word Wassail means ‘Keep You Well’.
  • Czechoslovakia has provided a number of lovely quiet carols including the ‘Rocking Carol’, ‘The Birds’, and ‘The Zither Carol’. ‘Infant Holy’ is from Poland.
  • ‘We Three Kings of Orient Are’ was written in 1857 by Dr J.H.Hopkins of Pennsylvania, one of very few well-known carols from the USA.

 

So give a thought, when next singing over Christmas, that the words and music may have had a very strange history.