I have to remind myself you could be anywhere in the world when you read these missives. Wherever you’ve fought, disinfected and dealt with this year, promise that you’ll take a quiet moment to toast yourself on having survived 2020.
We’ve had Brexit, floods, a global viral pandemic, no bog rolls, lockdown, economic recession, protests & riots, a culture war then a second wave plus another lockdown – and you’re still here. That’s quite an achievement.
Perhaps we should all wake up each morning, open a window and smell the new day given just to us. I was tempted to do this recently but a couple of arsonists set light to an illegal tyre dump and the city stank for a week. Only in Bradford.
Everyone on the planet wants the next year to come galloping to the rescue of our sanity, with the possible exception of an undiscovered tribe in the Amazon who wrote the book on self-isolating which will be coming out next Yuletide on er…
Consequently Christmas started even earlier this year. Bah.
Sainsbury’s and Classic FM respectfully held off until the 1st of December but Noddy and the gang were in full effect in my local shopping centre before bonfire night.
I looked into the eyes of a check-out girl there recently but her glazed response and trembling hands confirmed a severe case of “Shaky”. This is an incurable condition brought about from constant exposure to a Welshman singing “Merry Christmas Everyone” all day every day. Scientists at Aberystwyth University say a vaccine is still a long way off but at least they can now spell the town’s name.
“Next year all your troubles will be out of sight” is a line from a modern festive tune which also drills into my head with its buoyant and annoying poignancy.
Inevitably this was written by one of our colonial cousins. Lyricist Hugh Martin became a Seventh Day Adventist. I imagine they have a few dentists who are Adventists. That could be confusing. My dentist has forgotten who I am. Hugh discovered if there was a Seventh Day when he passed away aged 96 in 2011. At the same time my opportunity to get his reaction also went west. I imagine he had no idea his words would become such an annual irritating ear-worm.
So as you can tell, each year I am less impressed by the same old modern festive songs and more drawn to the performances of choirs.
I was killing time in Leeds railway station recently after a raid on Debenhams as I felt sorry for Sir Philip Green who has a yacht and a knighthood but can’t buy his wife clothes from Topshop as strangely there’s isn’t a branch in Monaco.
The magazine section of Leeds’ WH Smith is well worth a browse as it has the most amazing selection of subjects rarely found elsewhere. Train-spotters are particularly well catered for, although I note the amateur gynaecologists section has now disappeared.
The embattled BBC produce a classical music magazine which I discovered there and would like to recommend. The December issue includes a CD “A Cathedral Christmas” which features festive choral music from 21 of Britain’s best cathedrals and abbeys.
Choirs have been particularly badly hit this year. Since March no-one has experienced a live one. But now is your chance to hear not just familiar carols beautifully performed but also new works that are remarkable – all performed by the best Britain has. Do find a copy.
Last year I had some email correspondence with the Dean’s Verger at King’s College, Cambridge. I asked if I could read a lesson. He replied that only members of the College and the local Mayor as a representative of the people get the chance.
At the time of writing King’s College will be going ahead with their Festival Of Nine Lessons and Carols at 3pm on Christmas Eve, although with social distancing. I suspect your chance of being in the congregation is about the same as my hope of reading there.
Lots don’t bother with church, the celebration of Christ’s birth or God in general. Others go because they feel they have to. This year lots of churches will not have services they normally would, but will simply allow those who want to come in to do so.
This then is the perfect opportunity for a non-believer. Even if Richard Dawkins is on your Christmas card list I would recommend this season above all others that you take time out to visit your local church and spend some time in quiet reflection.
I will admit a bias here. Calverley Parish Church where I sang as man and boy is atmospheric, full of memories and where my family are buried. So going there for me is not a trial.
But you won’t find me kneeling at the altar and genuflecting.
God and I have an understanding. I don’t bother Him and He doesn’t bother me. I don’t knock Him up on a Sunday morning and He doesn’t interfere with my conscience. Just occasionally I drop by and say hello.
I ask Him how things are going and He shrugs. I try not to ask the difficult questions. He quite likes I’m diffident. We talk about things falling apart and never being the same again. Of course they won’t He replies. Rubble is hard to crawl across. But from the ashes will come new life. I try not to look at my watch.
We part as we always do. Without a word. Just a smile.
Like the eternal optimists we are on this website, finding that diamond in the rough is just as important.
I’m grateful to Annabel & Grace for sticking with me and my slightly wonky ways this year. I’m glad they still think a loose male cannon works on their female ship.
I wish you a personal and peaceful Christmas. NM x
More musings from Northern Male can be enjoyed here