New Year:The Last Words Of A Sentimentalist

Well as conversations go, I couldn’t see the problem.

The end of the year seems to make all of us into philosophers and analysts, and my wife was in suitably reflective mood. Looking back on 2013, she considered the highs and the lows, the blessings and the challenges. She paused when thinking of loved ones lost. She talked of the things that she had found trying, the uncertainties of life that caused her to worry, but also the successes that brought her great joy. She talked of our growth as a couple, and as a family, the way our children were continuing to blossom, and looked forward to greater opportunities for us all in 2014.

Then she asked me to give my perspective on 2013.

“Well, the most emotional parts was Agnetha Fältskog coming out of exile, and Tom Baker appearing at the end of the Doctor Who anniversary special.” 

It was when I saw the look on her face that I began to falter.

“Erm….” (where was I? Oh yes-emotional) “James Herbert dying too….I loved his books when I was younger.”

She seemed to be waiting for something else, but I couldn’t fathom what, and as the silence grew between us, she then said, in a very clipped fashion:

“And what about plans for 2014?”

I didn’t feel, exactly, that she was testing me, but I did begin to feel uncomfortable, and thought that the best policy was honesty:

“Well, I am expecting City to win the league.”

Best Wishes to you all from North Manchester General Hospital. Hope the year is a good one for all of us single people.

We, At This Time

We, At This Time

A virginal shroud settles upon our abodes.
Fairy lights flicker in the long night.
Inside, all manner of songs and odes
are offered to acclaim our rite.
Those of us not overtly religious
indulge themselves out of tradition.
Those of us not openly pious
offer tacit prayers without petition.
But all desire to feel the joy
that shines forth from every child's eyes.
An augury, in innocence's employ,
that lifts the soul amongst the winter skies.
Though we partake in the gathered feast,
and survive the night imbibing wine,
we recognise, when all has ceased,
that part of man inherently divine.


When Is Holy Wholly Holy?

In three days it is Christmas Day. Of course you know that.

Christmas Day is considered a holy day in the Christian faith, holy because that is the day that the birth of Jesus is celebrated. So it is Jesus’ birth that causes the day to be regarded as holy. You know- the reason for the season. 

But what if the date is wrong? Would the day still be holy?

The thinking is that the date of December 25th, one of many suggested and argued about over the centuries, was chosen to coincide with the many non-Christian, pagan festivals that took place around this time. This made it easier for the people to convert, as they were used to observing ritual practice and celebrating around this time. It has been suggested that the actual day that Jesus was born could have been in summer, or autumn,  rather than in the depths of winter.

So if, say, December 25th is not the day that Jesus was born on, what about the actual day that he was born on? Is that day, the date long lost to us, nevertheless still holy? Even though we don’t observe it. Is it made so by Jesus’ birth? And would that mean that December 25th is not holy, even though we say it is?

Or is the day made holy, not by the act of the baby being born, but by what we bring to the day? How we regard it, perceive it? What the day stands for in our own perceptions, and how we accordingly act and respond to it?

The town of Bethlehem is considered a holy place as being the birthplace of Jesus. But there is also a train of thought that Jesus wasn’t born there, but rather in Nazareth, the connection to Bethlehem being made for scriptural reasons.

If, for arguments sake, we say that this is true, does that mean that Bethlehem is no longer a holy place? Despite the many pilgrims that visit at this time of year? Or is it the pilgrims that make the place holy, by what they bring to it? An attitude and perception? A faith of heart and mind?

I do not know the answers to the questions about Jesus’ real date and place of birth-there are far more learned people out there who you can find to counsel their opinions, numerous books and articles that you can read which argue the case both for and against.

But if we hold the idea that holiness is determined by how we approach life, by our attitudes, perceptions, outlook and behaviour, and it is what we bring to the day, and to the place,then no matter where we find ourselves in life,

every day is holy, and all ground is sacred.

photo (68)

This is a local tree, situated at the foot of a hill below
Alkrington Hall, decorated with what local children have
brought to it.

Twilight Time #3


Songstress of the twilight 
that follows your flight.
I am lost in your song;
on the dark of your wing.
Awash and away
from pale, new beginnings.

You lead in your dance
of shadow and light,
in the time-between-time 
you call into being.
We straddle the threshold
of worlds, you and I.

Foreseeing each birth
and all endings.



Twilight Time #1

I overheard a conversation today between two people. I didn’t intentionally listen, but they were sat behind me on the bus, and so I was a captive eavesdropper. They were talking about what their favourite time of the day was.

By favourite time, I don’t mean 2.34am, or 15.12pm. Rather, the portion of day that they preferred.

One announced that he was a morning person. The other snorted, claiming that he had always been a ‘night owl’.

As we carve up the year into seasons into months into weeks into days into hours, I suppose we cannot help but hold them to comparison and have preferences.

My favourite season is Winter. My favourite half of the year begins with Autumn. Or Fall, as they put it more poetically across the pond.

But what about my favourite time of the day?

I love twilight, that time when the daylight noticeably falters and fades. If I feel the need to get out for a walk, this would be my preferred time. There is a definite sense of the world settling down, of things moving at a slower rhythm. As dusk approaches, there is a welcoming of shadows.

We can get all technical about it. We can name and describe the different stages


But I don’t need to know this. It is more about experiencing the slowing of momentum, the effect on the senses, as the shadows grow, the air cools, and the blackbird greets the approaching night with its final song.

The blackbird is always the last bird that I hear.

The local herald that draws the line.

The Celts knew twilight as the time-between-time.

The time between time. I love that, a liminal time where boundaries blur.  A distinct hinterland where thresholds are crossed.

This is a time of magic where the raucous slips into repose. Where the senses of clarity are undercut by dark imaginings.

This is the time that I find the most inspirational.

But what about you? Early bird or night owl?

Image from Wikipedia

Claws For The Weekend:Rudolph Redeemed

I know what you are thinking:

“He’s lost the plot! Now he’s listing the lyrics to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

But bear with me.

My two youngest children were singing their own, inimitable, inharmonious version of the song. When they had finished their discordant ditty,charming though it was, a thought struck me. What happened next?

“Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer”

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose
and if you ever saw it
you would even say it glows
all of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names
they never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games
then one foggy Christmas eve
Santa came to say:
“Rudolph with your nose so bright
won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”
then how the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee (yippee)
“Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
you’ll go down in history.”
It doesn’t say what happened next. Just what was Rudolph’s response to that fickle, insular bunch?
I hope Rudolph told those other reindeer just where to go.
It’s the usual story, a cowardly clique gangs up to bully and cold shoulder the one that they deem different and not worthy of their friendship. But as soon as he is shown some recognition by the big cheese, and therefore becomes popular, they all want to know him and ride his train.
Well I hope Rudolph gave them the cold shoulder and told them where they could stick their boringly brown noses. I hope he remembered his roots and stuck with those who knew him when he was a nobody.
If it was a Hollywood film, he would turn on the sycophantic stags, wipe their faces in his reindeer droppings, spurn the limelight and return to the young doe that he had left behind. The one who had always loved him for being him.
Especially in time for the rutting season on Autumnwatch.
See if that makes his nose glow.
Write your own scripts this weekend.
See you on the flipside.