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Monday, 13 December 2010

Monthly Musing - December 2010 - We Three Kings of Orien Tar

I love the build up to Christmas, which is just as well as small daughter has been practising the Christmas songs that she will be singing in her class assembly for some weeks now.  Now that big daughter’s at high school, the days of watching her doing the actions to The Twelve Days of Christmas are long gone, so it’s great to get another chance to watch them all over again.  Having said that, it is rather unnerving to listen to small daughter singing with her best friend’s strong regional accent, but nonetheless, it’s lovely to hear them sung with such gusto.  I can still remember my frustrated class teacher insisting that it was ‘We Three Kings of Orien –T Are’ not Orien Tar, as if we expected several heavy plant vehicles to rumble into the school hall.

My favourite time must be Christmas Eve.  Everything’s bought that needs to be bought, and if it’s not then it’s too late.   The reindeer food has been sprinkled on the grass.  And the path.  And any other place where Rudolph might possibly spot it, though not as one friend did, on the carpet in front of the fire place where it sparkled for the rest of the year and evaded her best attempts to vacuum it up.  We’ve been watching the Track Santa website (www.noradsanta.org) to see where he is and if he’s in Russia now then he’ll be here any minute so it’s definitely time for bed.  Big daughter is not so easily fooled but usually she’s headed upstairs by the time he’s reached Germany.  My Dad has come over to spend the night with us, the cats are curled up in warm places and the door’s locked.  It all satisfies what my husband laughingly calls my inner sheepdog – I like to know that everyone’s rounded up and safe.

Of course, this isn’t the way Christmas is for everyone.  One friend without family spends his Christmas at a homelessness shelter with others that he sees as less fortunate than himself.  Other friends seem to spend all their time avoiding their families.   Christmas for many can be a stressful time of over-hopeful expectations and financial worry.   I’m not sure that Christmas was any less stressful for Mary and Joseph, struggling to find somewhere to stay and then delivering a baby to the world in a stable. (Unlike the Mary and Joseph in an infant nativity play who were told by the innkeeper that they could s*! off, they weren’t staying in his stable because he had wanted the part of Joseph!)  But despite the modern tensions and bickering over the TV remote control,  Christmas is a time of hope and new beginnings and the New Year just around the corner offers a whole year of opportunities undiscovered.

I hope you have a peaceful Christmas and a New Year full of wonderful possibilities.

Monthly Musing - November 2010 - Lost and Found

My husband lost his watch the other day.  Not just any old watch, this one had belonged to his Dad who died whilst my husband was in his early twenties, so the sentimental significance of the loss was huge.  We turned the house upside down, went back to all the places he had been when he last wore it, even put up notices offering rewards for its safe return.  My husband spent the day kicking himself for being not being more careful with it, its loss even overshadowing the business of his work day as he tried to remember what he might have done with it.

Losing something so personal is heartbreaking.  The moment of realisation that it has gone is like a physical blow, knocking you sick as you try to remember the sequence of events leading up to the disappearance.  Fortunately, we don’t have many moments like this and although we often misplace things - keys are my favourite - they usually turn up somewhere in the house.  Sometimes they turn up a place that we are convinced we have already searched and we wonder how we could have overlooked them.  It’s at this point that we accuse each other of “looking with your eyes shut” and instead usually like to blame a deceased relative - “Oh look, your Grandad’s pinched your keys again” because it’s surely not possible that in my panicked rush to find my keys (which of course is always five minutes after we should have left the house) I haven’t looked properly in the most obvious place that they could be.  It stands to reason that there’s no other explanation than that a mischievous grandfather would have kept the keys in his ghostly pocket until I wasn’t looking and then return them while he hooted with silent laughter.

My Mum always used to suggest asking St Anthony, the patron saint of lost things, whenever something disappeared.  Whether it’s got something to do with freeing your mind of the panic of the loss so that you can actually remember or St Anthony really is spending his time recovering lost items, I don’t know, but more often than not, whatever it was would turn up.  “There you go,” my Mum would say, as if she expected nothing less.  “Remember to say thank you!”

I have to say that I thought it more than a bit hopeful with my husband’s watch that St Anthony would be around at just the right moment – keys in the house are one thing, but a watch that could be anywhere?  Still, it never hurts to ask, does it?

My husband returned from work with a sad smile, still berating himself and distraught that he would never see the watch again.  I wondered how soon it would be appropriate to suggest that I might buy him a new watch which of course could never replace his Dad’s but might go some small way towards it.  He went to get changed.

“Look what I’ve got,” he said, minutes later, appearing in the doorway with the watch and a huge smile on his face.  It had been in the pocket of the pair of trousers he had been wearing on the day he lost it.  “But I’m sure I checked that pocket.”

So was it “looking with his eyes shut”, St Anthony, a ghostly joker or just good luck?  I don’t know, but I’m very glad he’s got it back.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Monthly Musing - October 2010 - Age is all in the Mind

I was speaking to a friend on the telephone the other day and she told me that she’d given up her university degree.

“That’s such a shame,” I said, as I knew she’d put in a lot of hard work.

“Well, it was too stressful and I decided that at my age and my time of life, I don’t need the aggravation,” she replied.

My friend is forty-two years old.  Admittedly, this friend has had a lot to put up with over the last few years and I can quite understand why she feels she doesn’t want to continue with her studies, but “at my age and my time of life” sounds to me as if she’s decided that there’s nothing else for her to discover.

When small daughter left pre-school to start big school, her teachers told me that she was forever asking questions about how things worked or why they worked in such a way.  I’d like to take the credit for that as I like to know why things are the way they are (as the tradesmen who visit our house can verify!), because I believe that if you don’t ask, then you don’t know.  Of course, this also applies in small daughter’s case to whether today’s the day she can have a new toy or an ice cream, but there is a definite truth in “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”, and I think the more you find out about life, the more you want to know.  My Dad is in his seventies but is still taking on new challenges and even usually remembers to fit visiting us into his hectic schedule as well!  He gets offended when a doctor or a dentist tells him he’s doing well “for his age” because he forgets that he’s bus pass age, even if he zips about on his bus pass and his senior rail card more than most!

It’s a phenomenon that most of us have noticed that time seems to slip by faster and faster in our regular routine – but if we do something different then time seems to slow down.  Over the last few school holidays we’ve tried to split them up into a few days doing one thing, a few days doing another, and we’ve noticed that the holidays have felt much longer than if we’d just stayed at home or done something familiar.  It’s a trick of the brain, apparently, and I think it’s a pretty clever one.

So is age really to do with our birthdays or is it all in the mind?  Personally, I think is that it has very much to do with how you are feeling, and I really hope that in the future, my friend finds herself feeling younger.