It is getting lighter!

Christmas is over and a new year is almost upon us. Traditionally this is a time for reflections and resolutions but for me this is time out. I’ll reflect and resolve as best i can in January. It’ll help take my mind off the cold and dreary darkness. Did you enjoy your Christmas? I enjoyed mine, but then i almost always do. Some part of me returns to childhood at Christmas, and while i don’t regress as far as actually believing in Father Christmas, i do get that same thrill of anticipation. It feels as is anything could happen.

This year i stayed at home in London, instead of trekking up to North Wales as i usually do. On Christmas Eve, with all the food bought and my presents arranged round the Tree –  a real tree this year! – i settled down to watch (and of course listen to) carol services from Cambridge and Llangollen; and later watched Midnight Mass from Westminster Cathedral. Carol services make Christmas for me, but i can’t sing so i prefer to observe them from afar where there is no danger of being “invited” to participate. Afterwards, i took myself off to bed, glancing sadly at the Christmas Tree on my way. Every year the same thought: if only it were possible to have both the magic of the gifts round the Tree AND the gifts themselves. Never mind, at least i’ve got gifts.

In the morning it was time to unwrap and marvel at all the things i’d received, especially the books. There were over twenty of those ranging from a bilingual selection of poems by the Bangladeshi poet Shamsur Rahman to a biography of the actor Claude Rains and Joe Sacco’s graphic novel Palestine. My favourite however was a book of facts and photographs about the place where i grew up. It was written by a local historian and my mum went to a great deal of trouble both to source the book and then to get it signed for me by the author. About half way through the book i found a photo of my old headmaster, he of the beige everything.

I also got a CD containing a reading in the original Anglo-Saxon of the poem Beowulf. I am very excited about this but am waiting for the companion present to arrive which is the bilingual Anglo-Saxon/Modern English edition of Seamus Heaney’s translation of the poem. I want to be able to follow the text as it’s being read. And i got jigsaws: three in all. Equally pleasing, the presents i bought for friends and family all seemed to go down well. Panic over.

Later in the day i walked over to a friend’s for tea and chat. Christmas Day is a wonderful day to go walking as hardly anyone seems to leave their house. The snow had all melted. Only on the way back, walking along the river, did we encounter ice. After that it was two days full of a cold and feeling sorry for myself; but once that passed i was able to go out walking again and journeyed across London to spend a very pleasant day with friends. It was just a shame that making that trip meant i had to meet commuters who were working through the Christmas period. It rather spoilt the magical feeling that time had been suspended. Again, never mind. Good friends are a treasure – and, anyway, there’s a limit to the number of times that even i can sit watching The Sound of Music.

Now i am home again and waiting for the New Year. Unlike Christmas this depresses rather than excites me. I think i am always aware of how little i have accomplished. But it’s also because once New Year’s Day is over time starts flowing again. The spell is broken. By Monday i’ll be back at work and hoping that, for once, January – that interminable month – will fly by. I comfort myself with the fact that we have now passed the darkest point in the year. It is getting lighter! Remember that.

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My daily life: buses that don’t turn up

Looking at the posts to my blog it occurs to me that most of them fall into three categories: examinations of ‘issues’*, reminiscences and poems. Why so few posts about my daily life you ask yourself**.

The reason is simple: my daily life consists of waiting for buses that don’t turn up, sitting on trains that have broken down and struggling to breathe on tubes which are stuffed with at least twice as many people as they were designed to hold. In my free moments i delete emails, do jigsaws and feed the cat. Oh and blog i suppose. 

So there you have it. I am not trying to conceal evenings spent enjoying exotic dancers or an exciting career which takes me all round the world and involves meetings with film stars and world leaders.

I don’t write much about my daily life because there’s nothing much to write about. Unless you really want to hear about my awful journey to work…?

No, i thought you didn’t.

* Or rants about same.
** You do. You know you do.

In defence of jigsaws

Jigsaws can teach you about the beauty of the world and about its complexity. For example, try putting together a puzzle which shows a picture of a forest and you’ll learn that no matter how similar trees look they aren’t the same. If you persevere, you’ll learn what those differences are and how to find the pieces you need.

Jigsaws teach you how to look. You learn to identify connections and similarities in a jumble of tiny fragments. You see details in a photograph you never noticed when the image was whole: light falling on a wall, making a little patch of it brighter than the rest. The shape of a petal, the change in the colour of the sea as it recedes to the horizon.

You learn to be flexible and not to rely on a single approach. The challenges of monochrome are different from those of colour. A repeating pattern requires a different strategy than the one you might use for a landscape. You learn patience!

But the other important thing you learn, if you embrace a hobby like putting together jigsaws (or anything similarly unfashionable), is to be true to yourself and your own interests. Don’t waste your life doing things to impress others. That’s probably the most useful lesson of all.