A Stonewall Certainty

Over here in the UK it’s Boxing Day, a day that is right at the forefront of the No-Man’s Land that lies between Christmas and New Year.

My Boxing Day plans have been ruined by the weather, which is another British certainty.

There are many people who go walking on this day (an activity that is also in the lap of the Gods), but I’d planned to go to watch my local non-league football team play but, alas, a waterlogged pitch has scuppered that.

Then I had a close call when my wife suggested shopping-but while she and my daughter brave the hustle and bustle I’ve managed to retreat into Costa with a book about Orkney. I’m surely due another visit. To Orkney, that is, not Costa.

Anyway, I hope you guys all had a good Christmas, and if not maybe we can navigate this treacherous No-Man’s Land together on the way to 2020.

Catch you soon. It’s raining in Orkney too.

Morning; Evening

A day bookended by two events: the final morning school run before the Christmas holidays, and a visit to Manchester in the evening for the last night of the Christmas markets.

It was like a lesson in irony, a blazing, ineffectual sun on a cold morning.

And more irony: for all of the times I have strolled through woods, along river banks and winding, countryside canals, in the centre of my town came a first – in a flash of fleeting blue I saw my very first kingfisher, skirting the edge of a fishing lake that lies adjacent to my son’s school. Not far from this frosted over short cut.

Later, night fell on us as we walked one of the Manchester’s deserted arteries, leading inevitably to its beating heart.

Laura’s place, at this time of year an appropriate light in the darkness.

Did I pronounce it correctly? Glühwein? Glüvein? Either way, it brought some welcome spiced warmth as my son clumsily devoured a Nutella pancake.

That juxtaposition again; light and darkness, in Piccadilly Gardens.

To be honest, though I’d been warned of swarming pavements and heaving roadsides, I’d seen Manchester much busier at this time of year. But, as the final Friday before Christmas, perhaps many had forsaken the outdoor markets for the indoor clubs and bars.

Outside Manchester Cathedral, surely the focal point of the festival.

The Cathedral was closed to the public this night as a charitable event was taking place, so I contented myself to take some photographs from outside. This is the Blitz window, looking into the chapel of the Manchester Regiment. The original stained glass was destroyed by the Luftwaffe bombing in World War Two.

Nearby – the blades on ice. Time was against us taking part, so I took this photograph before we set off for the car.

On the way back we stumbled upon this urban fox. Unlike the kingfisher that morning, this was not my first fox and, not shy in the slightest, it was probably the tamest of all of the wildlife we’d spotted on Manchester’s streets that night! With a tolerance that bordered on indifference, he went about his business as we returned to ours.

In The Pregnant Hour

This was Christmas Eve setting on the estate on which I live, viewed from the local church.

image

It is now 11.10pm, the frosting air punctured by flashing fairy lights and music spilling out from passing cars.

We are almost there. In this pregnant hour, from a deep Mancunian night, I wish you all a Merry Christmas, wherever and whenever this greeting finds you.

Thanks for flying with City Jackdaw.

Merry Car Boot Sale

Every year we are obliged to attend our children’s school Christmas Fair. There is a definite Christmas feel to them, the hall packed with festive crafts and all sorts of ruses to snatch away your money for school funds. Everybody goes and you get caught up in a slow moving circular tide of people, orbiting stalls, taking off warm coats while dodging appealing kids. I try my best not to make eye contact with every one of the teachers manning them, or my pockets would be emptied on that first clockwise circuit.

My daughter left that school to begin high school in September, and so yesterday we attended her first Christmas fair there. What a contrast! It was like a sparsely attended, poor man’s flea market. An unattractive collection of second hand goods scattered across tables, a car boot sale without car boots.

I spotted this book for sale on one of the tables, and thought it quite succinctly summed things up:

The Doctor Orders A Mexican

It was just a typically random conversation, walking into Manchester from where we’d parked the car.

“So, after the Dutch student leaves we’ve then got a Korean one?” asked my wife.

“Yes.”

“Isn’t their leader a bit of a bugger?”

“That’s North Korea. This girl is from South Korea.”

She thought on it a little. “Do you know any Korean words?”

“Nope.”

“How about Japanese?”

I’m not sure how she thought that would be of help, but answered “I know they greet each other with ‘Konnichiwa’.”

She looked at me in amazement. “How can you possibly know that?!”

I like her to think that I’m multi-lingual, so instead of explaining that I used to watch Shogun back in 1980, I tried to give an enigmatic shrug: “I pick things up.”

After traipsing around the shops for an hour or so we called into Chiquito for something to eat. We’d timed it right-early enough to avoid it being packed out, but not too late to miss a convivial, Christmas buzz about the place.


As she tucked into her enchiladas, Jen asked me “What about Mexican? Know anything in Mexican?”

I nodded sagely. “Arriba arriba, andale andale.”

She dropped her fork. “And what does that mean?!” 

“See how quick I am, watch me go!”

(I’ve just discovered it actually means something like ‘get up get up, let’s go let’s go’. Close enough.)

I didn’t mention Speedy Gonzales, just a casual “I just  picked it up.”

After basking in her admiration for a while, I nipped to the toilet to secretly Google translate something romantic, a painting on the stairs caught my eye.

This could be the Tardis, the nerd in me thought. Maybe a little battered from the explosive power of Capaldi’s (soon to be) witnessed regeneration.


Then, next to it: This could be the Tardis, given some TLC from the (soon to be) new Who incumbent Jodie Whittaker. Is that sexist of me? Thinking that the first female Doctor in the show’s history might start off with a bit of a spring clean?


I’ve tried not to go on too much about the impending Christmas special, knowing how trying I can be on my wife’s saintly patience, although with just four days left my excitement was building. I’d been trying my best not to ruin her Christmas though.

Remembering the mission that had brought me to this stairwell, I did a sneaky Google translate and returned to the table. I took Jen’s hands in mine, gazed into her eyes and whispered softly:

“El nuevo Doctor, ella viene!”

“I know,” she smiled, lovingly. “You picked it up.”

At This Time

From my poetry blog. Soon be Christmas.

Coronets For Ghosts

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.




©Andrew James Murray

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