Thursday, 20 December 2007

The Worst Christmas Carol Ever...?

I have just attended our staff Christmas carol service (don't worry, the pub comes later!), and was yet again struck by how godawful the words of this old chestnut are (see below), completely falling apart in places.

Observe if you will the complete absence of scanning in the highlighted verse (to the extent of being embarrassingly impossible to sing in fact!). In addition it is utter nonsense, aside from being offensive to any singing virgins! I firmly suspect John Francis Wade was rather drunk when he penned it in the mid-18th Century. Thank goodness someone tacked a decent enough tune on, though you would have thought they might have edited the lyrics while they were about it (Mr Wade being deceased beyond litigation by then).

O Come All Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful, Joyful, and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, Born the King of Angels!

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

God of God,
Light of Light,
Lo! He abhors not the Virgin's womb;
Very God,
Begotten, not created.

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens, of heaven above!
Glory to God, in the highest!

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, Now in flesh appearing.

O come, let us etc

O come, let us adore Him with better words than these!

Or can anyone think of a worse one?

Merry Christmas to you all incidentally - I'll be taking a blogging break for a week or so now, as I suspect many of you will too. Some people still insist on communicating in the old-fashioned way it seems, and they all want visits at Christmas!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Christmas Tags

You win, Bloggertropolis, here goes!

When People Say 'Christmas' You Immediately Think

Oh no! I can't handle this again. It's too soon. People will expect me to do stuff. I'm a girl!

Favourite Christmas Memory

Watching '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' starring James Mason and Kirk Douglas when I was about seven. My presents were unusually decent that year as I recall and I spent most of the Christmas holiday wearing my new unconscionably fluffy dressing gown over my clothes in our freezing cold house, cradling one cat hot water bottle after another (we seldom had fewer than three fluffies on the go)

Favourite Christmas Song

Sorry but Mariah Carey's version of 'All I want for Christmas is You.' That woman's got a 'rare paira lungs on her' as we Irish would say and she gives it all the welly she's got, which is at least two. Anything I have trouble singing along to impresses me, and the bigger and more OTT the number with bells and whistles, the better.

Favourite Christmas Movie

Another cheesy choice. Would have to be a tiebreaker between 'The Sound of Music' for all the breathtaking scenery and my childhood crush on Christopher Plummer and 'Whistle Down the Wind'. It never fails to make me cry when the children on the remote farm discover the fugitive hiding in their barn is not Jesus, but 'just a bloke'. The disappointment on their little Northern faces is more than I can bear. Surprisingly John Mills' wife Mary wrote it and their daughter Hayley starred in it and no one was from Yorkshire, except a few extras. I also ADORE The Return of The Pink Panther, but don't get me started as I'm a hardcore Clouseau fan.

Favourite Christmas Character

Absolutely all of them from A Christmas Carol! Surely the most perfectly crafted Christmas story ever. Unusual for a commissioned piece, but Dickens got it so pitch perfect. Every sentence is lush as a rich slice of fruit cake and all the ingredients for the perfect Christmas story are there - the misery, the ghost, the fear and suspense, the moral, the revelation, the transformation. And the Christian moral is obvious without being laboured or overty signposted. Dickens was wise enough as an arch storyteller to get the message across via the subtler vehicle of power of plot & employing the 'spirit of Christmas', where many Victorian writers of the time would have used a righteous sledgehammer to crack this particular nut!

Favourite Christmas Object

I adore decorative Christmas lights! To the extent that I have decorative lights in my house all year round as I find them so mood-boosting. I can't believe all the angels and stars and dragonflies and flowers you can buy nowadays. And I love the ice cubes and lights that change colour too. In fact the only lights I don't particularly care for are the standard boring ones.

Plans for Christmas

Once I get the last of my Christmas post out the way, I like to just sit back and relax. I don't go too crazy about stocking up on food (the shops are only shut for three days after all). I do like to have plenty of films and choccies in the house though. This year I will spend half the holidays in the Midlands where my partner lives and half in Oxford, barring a couple of days on the south coast to catch up with relations there. I never fly at Christmas and can't understand people who do. Far too much of a flightmare and you'd need another holiday when you came back! Also doing a spot of cat-sitting for a friend who will be away and having a crack at writing a comedy script.

Is Christmas your favourite Holiday?

I don't know. It's a funny time of year as my birthday comes three weeks before it. It's a sad time to reflect on everything I haven't achieved that year, but a hopeful time when New Year comes round and you start thinking about how to make the next year more successful. In some ways I find Christmas Day a bit of a damp squib after all the ridiculous build-up and over, almost before it has begun! The best thing about Christmas is the long holiday off work (for those lucky enough not to work in the retail industry or emergency services) and opportunity to catch up with old friends and relatives. I love the way that it's the best excuse to get in touch with people you have been embarrassingly remiss about keeping in touch with, or they with you. So many dinners and catch-up drinks lately - it's great! I'm also starting to really welcome just about the only consumer-free day we have all year as we enjoy so few of them. When I was growing up and everything was shut on a Sunday except the Newsagents (which also closed at midday), no one even thought about shopping for that one day a week. Life was lived outside the mall. Now there is hardly ever a break from consumerism and thinking about what products we need to buy next and it gets very wearing, even if it is occasionally useful.

I now pass the Christmas quiz posting baton on to;

Small Beds and Large Bears
Oliver's Poetry
Henry North London

Friday, 14 December 2007

More Tales from Northern Ireland

Every afternoon at around 3.45pm, our town bus station became a hub of Protestant/Catholic relations as we all disgorged from our respective school buses to await our destination buses home.
As a rule we tended to separate into our little cliques, the odd elastic band-powered missile or bit of abuse hurled from time to time between brick bus bays.
As a timid first and second year I didn’t tend to stray from my ‘tribe’, no matter that I was just there to make up the numbers as far as they were concerned with my grey, red and white school regalia standing for what was right and good/god.
The moment the 105 to Martinstown swung in, there would always be a mad dash between we Prods and the Catholics to get on first. When the driver finally opened the doors, whichever faction managed to scrabble aboard first commandeered the back of the bus, lording it over the losers, and for the next half an hour the ‘Troubles’ were won.
As time went on, and I often failed in my personal battle to sit anywhere other than in the middle, between the two, I noticed that the ‘Fenian bastards’ were really not as bad as I’d been led to believe and didn’t often tie ones’ long hair to the back of the seat rail either.
Further time elapsed and I found myself slowly gravitating towards them and joining in with the odd Fenian joke or bit of banter.
Naturally I suffered a few sneers for my treachery, but since my ‘tribe’ didn’t exactly like me anyway (what with my being all these things beyond their ken such as English, athiest-familied, vegetarian etc), I wasn’t about to lose too much sleep over them. Or at least, no more than usual.
One day I found myself idly gazing at dreamy-eyed Josephine with her long shiny hair in her St Patrick’s uniform, sitting on the bench seat facing me, as the bus huffed up a particularly large hill, and realisation slowly dawned. She and her friends had glowing cheeks, bright eyes, glossy hair, no braces, no spots, laughed a lot and were markedly nicer than us. I then looked round at my fouler-mouthed Protestant brethren (still crowing at their back-of-the-bus victory that day). Braces, spots, pallid skin, lank hair and NHS glasses abounded.
Suddenly it all clicked into place. Catholics were the chosen ones!
Of course I kept this profound revelation to myself, and from then on found myself proud to consort with ‘Fenian bastards’, ignoring all jeers and catcalls, and even secretly hoping that some desirable Fenian qualities might rub off!
Over the years since I’ve been amused to note my Catholic boyfriends have tended to outweigh any Protestant or CofE considerations, though sadly one or two didn’t turn out to be such great tributes to their creed.
About five years ago I was reunited with one of the few friends I retained from my Protestant school. During the course of my visit I asked K about a mutual friend whom I had also lost touch with after moving to England as a teenager, and was shocked to hear ‘Oh, no one speaks to Angela anymore. She married a Fenian.’ I was genuinely aghast that such prejudice would still exist in 2002 between two factions which were supposedly both Christian. Not to mention now adult! And this from an individual who’d just been out to Africa to help at a mission for the poor, (albeit a Protestant one of course!)
Naturally I didn’t let on to K that I’d been out with at least four Fenians and nearly married one myself!

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Old England in the Fall

With Christmas a mere two-and-a-half weeks away and the cold snap growing worse, Winter denial is getting harder, but here's some Autumn I pickled earlier...

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

If you go down to the Sudan today...

With all the fuss over British teacher Gillian Gibbons (left) being initially jailed for 15 days and threatened with 40 lashes for allowing her Sudanese pupils to name their class teddy bear 'Mohammed', I wonder why the pupils themselves were not jailed and threatened with 40 lashes for actually choosing to NAME the bear 'Mohammed', since it was not Ms Gibbons' idea - she merely sanctioned it.

Surely these children must know their own Sharia law better than a Liverpudlian teacher ever could, including the stipulation which states; 'Thou shalt not name thy teddy bear 'Mohammed', or else'

Makes you wonder, did the kids do it deliberately to get their teacher into trouble...?

Though why the Sudanese should need a Liverpudlian teacher MORE than the mean streets of inner-city Liverpool beats me.

And it's very odd that it's ok to name human beings 'Mohammed'. I mean suppose they grow up to work in HR! Notwithstanding, could any mere mortal possessing all the failings and vanities of a mere mortal ever live up to being named after a godhead?

Monday, 3 December 2007

Tales from Northern Ireland

It was the week before O-levels began. Arriving at school unusually early I was propelled into assembly by a teacher who evidently neither knew nor cared that I was excused assemblies on account of my parents being devout atheists.
A hymm was duly mumbled through as we stared at our scuffed shoes before the 'special guest' ascended the stage to deliver his address. Some ilk of protestant minister who evidently idolised the Reverend Ian Paisley down to the horse hair suit and hanger-left-in-his-jacket shambled on and commenced in hectoring Londonderry monotone.
'Good morning boys and girls'
The Headmaster motioned frantically behind the Ministers' back to elicit an obedient chorus of;
'Good morning Minister'
'Now your Headmaster tells me that you are all busily preparing for your O-level examinations'
We nodded unenthusiastically.
'But have any of you given any thought to the biggest examination of all, which could happen to any one of you at any time?'
We looked up at him expectantly.
'Yes DEATH. It can strike any one of us at any time. Are YOU ready for it? Are YOU ready for the greatest examination you'll ever face? Will YOU pass? Or will you be condemned to the eternal damnatory fires of HELL???' he thundered, with what sounded (in hindsight) suspiciously like relish.
We shifted about uncomfortably, our polyester uniforms suddenly even clammier than usual. For some reason I now forget, the Minister had a stuffed crocodile about his person to illustrate his point, which went on for some length.
Six sleepless months obsessing about death, morning, noon and night followed, where I trudged about with unsmiling frozen features (doubtless looking like the living dead myself) as I was plunged into my first near-breakdown at the age of sixteen. Every human being from the Breadman to my mother I recall busily calculating how long they might live, and wondering how they could be so calm about their impending doom. Each morning I awoke with a sense of surprise, but with no appetite for life, or indeed food, except we didn't obviously have such exoticism as 'anorexia' in Northern Ireland in the late 80s.
Sometimes I wonder how many other pupils' O-level results this Minister affected with his motivational addresses as badly as mine (well what was the point if we could all drop dead at any moment?), multiplied by the number of Northern Irish schools he was invited to. Though to be fair, an unwise Stephen King phase at around the same age probably made me more susceptible to suggestion than I should have been.
Notwithstanding, is it too late to sue my old school for never having become that nobel-winning scientist my parents bred me to be..?