Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Random Post-Christmas Thoughts.

Well, that's it over for another year ! Christmas, I mean . The mistletoe has lost all its berries, the wine has all gone and if you hear that bloody Cliff Richard song one more time you will scream. The recycling bin is over -flowing with  'holly and robin'  wrapping paper and we won't even mention the glass box ! Well, actually, yes lets mention the glass box,  because its so full of bottles that you are  embarrassed and have already done half a dozen trips to the big glass bin in the supermarket car park just so the binmen, not to mention the neighbours, won't realise what a dipsomaniac you have become.
 The Christmas tree is past its best and now leans drunkenly to one side and there are more needles on the floor than on the spindly bare branches . Even the fairy on the top has a squinty, glazed expression  as she teeters precariously at the top of the tree, her wand now missing its sparkly star, which fell off when the cat chased an imaginary mouse through the branches, scattering baubles left and right.
The fridge is full of leftovers, which nobody wants but you can't waste because there are starving people in the world and the turkey gazes at you accusingly, there seems to be more left than when you first cooked it. You have forgotten to wrap the cheese in cling film after last nights drunken snack and now the smell of ripe Stilton has filled the fridge and filters out into the kitchen everytime someone opens the fridge door and mixes with the aroma of over-cooked sprouts and sage and onion stuffing.
 The sideboard still groans with bowls of nuts, they were mixed nuts but now there are only a few walnuts and hundreds of bloody Brazil nuts, which nobody can manage to crack without a hammer and chisel or the stamp of a hob-nailed boot  ( what IS a hob-nail ?)
Boxes of chocolates litter the surface too, each one containing just  two or three of the most hated  centres.......in my case , treacle toffee ! All the scrummy centres have been eaten.
 Fractious children, over-tired and bored, bicker endlessly over whose turn it is on the Wii or Playstation , their new toys strewn across the floor and many already broken or discarded because it wasn't the 'in' thing and 6 yr olds whine and cry because they didn't receive a BlackBerry or iPhone like little   Wayne down the road.
 Grumpy in-laws, visiting for the  'festive season'  flop in easy chairs, feet sprawled out, snoring at 2 in the afternoon, but waking swiftly should someone dare to change the channel on the TV. Scowling at the childrens  behaviour and giving each meal or mince pie an autopsy because it  "isn't the way I used to make it ".
 Hubby is sweating in the over-heated sitting room because he has to wear the hideous jumper lovingly knitted by Grandma, the jumper that is two sizes too big and  knitted in at least 6 colours too many !
 The dog is being sick in a corner after being force-fed a diet of chocolate log and tinsel by little Tommy  and you are skulking in the kitchen, swigging sherry at 10 in the morning and trying to think of interesting ways of disguising left-overs  again  for lunch..
And everyone is heartily sick of the sight of each other, cooped up together since Christmas Eve, with too much food, too much alcohol and far too  much enforced jollity.

Is any of this familiar, do any of you recognise this scenario, isn't even just a  little  bit of it true ?

But didn't we have a lovely time and wasn't it all worth it ? And won't we all do just the same next year ? We will decorate the house and trim the tree and buy enough provisions for a small country and spend more than we can afford on gifts for everyone and invite the in-laws and indulge the children and sing the songs and pour the wine and toast each other and watch the Christmas Specials and eat and drink ourselves into a stupor. And some of you will remember the religious meaning of the celebration and go to church. We will visit friends and relations and spread a little joy and festive spirit. We will remember the last Christmas and  vow that, this time, there will be no arguments and near-divorces and everyone will be happy. And , if we should wonder why we go through this every year , we will smile softly, feeling a warm glow inside and say to ourselves ,
                                 " Well............... it's Christmas.............isn't it !!! ? "

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that all your wishes came true. I have had a truly special Christmas time, basking in the warmth and love of my family and friends.  I would now like to wish you all a Happy New Year , may it hold many magical moments , you all deserve it !!

Friday, 16 December 2011

The Meaning of Christmas.

What does Christmas mean to you , in this multi-cultural country, this internet led, celebrity obsessed , twittering, face booking, commercial, attention seeking society ? Does it still have the same wonder and magic of your childhood ? The same warmth and love and religious meaning ? Or is it just a time to indulge oneself, to eat far too much and drink far too much and rack up the debt on the credit card buying gifts no-one needs and toys for children who already own more than an average  Toys ' R ' Us ?
I was brought up in the Christian faith . A  Protestant, Church of England, whatever you wish to call it, until I was around 12yrs old.  Then my parents told me about other religions and faiths and pretty much left me alone to come to my own conclusions.  I will always be grateful for their openness and honesty and I believe that helped to give me the open mind I now possess. I went through the usual transitions and idealistic beliefs, the  'child of the Universe' hippiness of the '60s and  the complete denial of anything greater than myself in the selfish , teenage years. And I finally came to the conclusion that I was an Atheist, but extremely tolerant of other peoples beliefs. ' Each to their own' has always been my motto ! However, throughout all the changes, the one constant was  Christmas and I have always loved this time of year.
So, why, when I no longer believe in the  'Virgin birth', the trip to  Bethlehem and the over-booked inns, the wondering shepherds and the wandering  Magi ?  Why do I love this time of year so much ?
Could it be that it reminds me of my childhood ? Those happy years in the bosom of my family, when everything was simple and no-one had ever heard of The X Factor and Amazon was a river in South America. When we spent weeks making paper decorations and Christmas cards.The fun of the school nativity play with tea-towels round our heads and 'Mary' dropping the 'baby Jesus ' and breaking off one of  'his' legs.  Wrapping up warm, muffled in scarves and hats and wellington boots and carol singing in the snow. In those days we sang the whole carol too, not like today, where you are as likely to get a note or two of the latest Lady GaGa  hit and then a loud rattle of the letterbox or elbow on the doorbell. Could it be the memory of waking in the early hours and crawling to the foot of the bed and feeling in the darkness for the stocking you had hung up at bedtime , which was now filled with crayons and 'jacks' and golden coins in nets and the ubiquitous tangerine?Then the excitement of unwrapping our main present ; yes, children of today, we only received ONE present each !!! We would then  produce our gifts for our parents . This was my favourite part, I loved to watch them unwrapping the little trinkets, so lovingly bought with pocket money and carefully wrapped in thin paper and tied with one of my hair-ribbons.
Time passes so quickly and I now recall Christmas in my teenage years. Shopping for gifts for family and special friends, running back and forth between the stores, trying to decide on the perfect present. Parties and fun with groups of friends, all laughing and happy. Walking through frosty streets in mini skirts and  'fun-fur' coats with paper party hats on our heads and a song in our hearts, arm in arm in a long line across the pavement and calling out to chums across the road. Then falling into bed as the day dawned and rising late to enjoy Christmas dinner with the family and  Morecambe and Wise on TV , pretending I was far too  'cool' for such things, but secretly loving every minute. Pulling crackers with my younger siblings and playing  'Charades' and  'Twister' and laughing at Grandad's jokes.
Then, when I was married and eventually had my own family there was the excitement of the preparations once again. The striving to make everything perfect for my loved ones, so that their memories would be as happy as mine. Searching for the special gifts, making sure everyone was happy. The joy of seeing their faces on  Christmas morning when they peeped around the sitting room door to ask,
" Has  Santa been ? ",
The arrival of family and friends, all eager to share this special day. Presents just an afterthought as we hugged and laughed and caught up with the latest news. All together, safe and loved.

And now I think I get it, I think I know why I love Christmas so much. It is because of the happiness that seems to overshadow all the troubles of the year. The feeling of love and togetherness. For some it is a religious  celebration and I respect this, but for me it is an expression of love and caring, the one day when rivalries and differences should be forgotten. In this cold, impersonal world, with family and friends flung far and wide around the globe, when no-one knows their neighbour and doors are locked all day. When people live in fear and loneliness , Christmas gives us an excuse to hug , to say  "Merry Christmas" to complete strangers, to take a box of chocolates or biscuits to the old lady down the road. To laugh and be silly and to visit family and friends we never usually see.  I have always been a  'hugger', a spontaneous chatterer who will talk to anyone, anywhere. Isn't it a pity so many people need Christmas as the excuse to be the same ?

So, dear reader, shall we all endeavour  to be like Scrooge in  'The Christmas Carol' ?
"WHAT?"  I hear you say , but no, not the  "bah humbug" Scrooge !!  Oh no, I mean the Scrooge that emerged after he had been visited by those three spirits, the kindly Scrooge who " knew how to keep Christmas well" and keep it in our hearts all year long .

And so, I wish you all a Wonderful Christmas time,  Happy Holidays, regardless of whatever God you worship or belief you have,
                                  " Bless us, everyone ! "

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Lucy's Christmas Story.

Last night my dear friend  Lucy  Greenfield and I were emailing and BBMing  our usual rubbish and silliness and we lamented the absence of our weekly Countdown word game. So, Lucy  laughingly decided to  challenge me to write a Christmas story without using any of the accepted Christmas words, eg; Christmas, mistletoe, fairy lights, tree, presents carols, tinsel, etc., etc., Well we laughed about it and said we seriously needed to get a life and no more was said . However, today I have thought about it and, never one to shy away from a challenge, I thought I would give it a go. In fact, I have come up with two stories in the hope that at least one of them will please my friend. So, dear reader, here we go ........ I have only used the word Christmas in the titles.

                                                             A Gift for Christmas

Marie pulled her ragged shawl tighter round her thin shoulders and shivered against the bitter wind. Her flimsy, well worn boots were full of holes and wet snow seeped between her toes and melted into icy drops around her tiny  feet. She was about a hundred yards from her small wooden shack and she had found hardly any kindling or logs for her meagre fire. The snow had fallen steadily for hours now and everything was covered in a thick blanket of  icy white, that glittered in the fading light.
Down in the valley, Marie could see sparkling coloured lights and the sound of beautiful music drifted up the pine clad hill.  She peered and strained to see what was happening and in the distance she saw people scurrying hither and thither, grasping hands , exchanging packages and embracing everyone they met.  Horses gaily pulled carriages of happy people and they all seemed to be heading towards the  church in the square.
No-one in the valley gave a thought for the poor disfigured girl up on the hill. Orphaned at birth, she had long been cast out of the community, her wizened and twisted features deemed to be too hideous to be seen in the town, where she may frighten small children.
Marie sighed and wondered what was happening down there, it was obviously some sort of celebration, but one to which she was most definitely not invited.  She turned away from the happy scenes and stumbled and fell and dropped her basket spilling the few sticks she had managed to gather. Her ragged clothes were now wet with snow and she was even colder than before.  The snow was very heavy now and Marie lay on the freezing ground and wondered if it was worth the effort anymore. All she had to go home to was a cold dark shack, a meal of berries and her own, ugly self for company. No-one ever came and she couldn't blame them. she had caught a glimpse of her face once, reflected in a pool. She knew the fire would have died long ago and surely she would never live through the night, so bitter was the air. Should she just lie here and gaze at the sky and go to sleep ?
She wearily lifted her head one last time and gazed towards her humble home and, as she did, a bright light illuminated the clearing and a pathway cleared of snow ....... a pathway leading to her door ! Startled, Marie picked herself up and shook her clothes , then she proceeded warily along the narrow, grassy path. She was afraid and excited and could hardly believe what was happening. A bright star hovered above her cabin and her windows were filled with a golden glow.  Slowly she pushed open the ricketty door and what a sight greeted her . The fire was burning brightly and a stack of logs sat by the hearth. Her old rocking chair was covered with a thick warm blanket  and new clothes were folded on top of her little cupboard and , oh, could that really be new boots placed neatly by the fire ? Her table groaned with the most enormous feast of venison , bowls of steaming hot vegetables and fresh, plump fruits. An enormous pudding, finest wine and delicious chocolates completed the picture and all were served on silver platters which glinted and shone in the light of dozens of creamy candles in ornate silver candlesticks.
Marie couldn't believe her eyes and touched everything gingerly to make sure it wasn't a dream, but, no, it was all real, it was a miracle ! She picked up a silver goblet and marvelled at its decoration. In the candlelight, her reflection shone back at her and as she gazed at her face she saw the most wonderful miracle of all; she was beautiful.

                                                           A Gift for Christmas

Rosie sat in the hairdressers chair and smiled at her reflection in the huge mirror.  The casual chatter of the stylist faded into the background as she thought of her family, all safely at home. She was determined that this year would be different, this year it would all be her choices for a change, her decisions, her treat !
Her husband and all the rest of her family expected the usual two weeks of togetherness, two weeks of being pampered and pandered to. In reality, for Rosie , this meant two weeks of bickering in over-heated rooms. Two weeks of cooking and clearing away dirty dishes, of breaking up quarrels and drying tears. Of endlessly finding more batteries and mending broken things and playing stupid parlour games and watching TV till her eyes ached . Two weeks of,
"Mum, where's the ................ ?"   " Mum, can you ..................?"  " Rosie, why haven't you.........?"
Two weeks of alcohol filled bodies sleeping on the sofa, of being taken for granted.  Ah, yes, that went on all year, actually, being ignored and criticised and taken for granted. But, no more !! How she had changed these last few months, she almost didn't recognise herself .  This year she had not shopped in the chain stores of her local shopping mall. She had come to London on the train  and pushed her way through the packed streets, scouring the stores for the perfect objects. This had proved difficult as all the shops seemed to have the same bright red items, many trimmed with cheap white faux fur, no , not what she was looking for at all ! Finally, tucked away in a little road just off Bond Street, she had found a lovely little boutique and now the expensive coffee and cream lingerie and the white  Brussels lace underwear,  the slinky jersey and silk dresses and cashmere sweaters were nestling in her suitcase.  This year she had arranged her own treat !
The stylist put down the scissors and comb and Rosie came out of her reverie. She swished her newly trimmed, long blonde hair approvingly and paid the bill.  Then she smoothed her new dress down over her hips , slipped on her coat, picked up her suitcase and strode happily out onto the street.  A short taxi drive and then............. there he was waiting at the railway station, bag beside him on the pavement, a huge smile on his face.  After a long embrace they gathered up their belongings and headed towards the trains and without so much as a backward glance, Rosie and her lover boarded the  Eurostar.  Yes, this year was going to be different.

So, Lucy, do they meet with your approval ?  I think I have avoided the forbidden words !!
In case any of you are wondering about my friend, she is to be found on twitter at @LucyMGreenfield and also has a marvellous blog at http://lucymargaretjane.blogspot.com so do visit her blog too !!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Freewriting Again.

This, perhaps is not the best time to do a freewrite with so many thoughts filling my head, vying for position. The big bullies elbowing the more gentle thoughts , stepping on their toes and pushing them to the ground. Its one of those days when I wish I could be less open and honest, turn back the clock and start the last 24 hrs afresh,. Have you ever wished that you could delete emails after they had been sent, that you could have one of those flashing light things that Tommy Lee Jones has in Men in Black. well i would like one of  those today, you know, it makes other people forget what has just happened and all is returned to normal no more thoughts of aliens , well in the film they were aliens if i am remembering correctly . i dont really know what I am thinking today , and there I go  making a space before a punctuation mark . one of my foibles dear readers and I am very sorry but a freewrite should flow and it breaks my flow if i make  a conscious effort to remember to do the damned punctuation mark before the space . so where was I , come on you lot are no help at all and the thought police will be watching and shaking their heads and frowning . oh yes i remember , turning back the clock and being silly again and ditzy and the only baggage being a cute little Louis Vuitton vanity case . So, to restore my sanity a little I decided to make some christmas cards. Well this proved to be a monumental mistake of epic proportions and i type this covered in glitter with sticky dots in my hair and  more cards and embellishments in the bin than in envelopes . Im sure those of you who papercraft will know the feeling . You are doing fine and the card looks great when you smudge it or get some ink on it and so it is scrapped and try as you might you just never achieve the same effect, so you try something else and the stamping goes well but the colouring looks like a visually challenged 2 yr old wearing boxing gloves has got hold of it and scribbled on it . Then i thought , ah well its christmas and i think i should try some glitter . Well you all know i love a bit of sparkle and too much is never enough ! well it is when you spill it over everything and then your dog runs through it and its everywhere.  All things considered its been a really crappy day and I think I should just hide away and thats one of the reasons Im  thinking of having a twitter break and probably a blogging break and sitting on the naughty step and crying till I cant cry anymore . Yes, I really wish i could turn back the clock . But I cant, can i and so I go on , mostly being silly and ditzy and happy and loving life , just not today.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Favourite Poetry Part 2 in an Occasional Series.

 I never cease to be amazed by the incredibly talented people I have had the pleasure of  'meeting'  on Twitter. There are some fantastic paper-crafters,  painters,  musicians, knitters, seamstresses,  bloggers and authors, Reiki healers, and raconteurs. It seems that so many are gifted in some way and they generously share their talents with the rest of us  'mere mortals'. Many have become good friends and I am proud to highlight one of them on this page. So, dear reader, I give you the multi-talented  Matt  Mascarenhas , musician, blogger, IT expert and poet.  I have been particularly moved by his poetry and I am delighted that he has given me permission to include some of his work in this series of poetry blog posts.

                                      I Wonder If, That Day Those Years Ago .                                                                               
                                                     Matt Mascarenhas

                                         I wonder if, that day those years ago,
                                        A sudden storm had burst upon the town,
                                        Or 'deadly' poorliness had struck me down,
                                         Preventing me from leaving my abode.

                                         But, no, alas ! that storm or poorliness
                                         Was not to come, and out I went to catch
                                         A bus, as every other day; and half
                                         An hour later I was walking, when,

                                         Approaching college round the back, it came:
                                         A wave of misery and dread did rush
                                         Upon my person, purge the breath of life
                                         Right out of me; and happiness was gone.

                                         Would it simply have struck another day
                                         Or may I now be blessed a different way ?

This poem breaks my heart with its honesty. Its perfect description of that moment when we succumb to depression, anxiety, ennui, the 'mean reds', or whatever you care to call it.

                                        "  A wave of misery and dread did rush,
                                           Upon my person, purge the breath of life
                                           Right out of me: and happiness was gone."

 How swiftly it comes, out of the blue and completely envelopes us and we are left wondering what we did , what was said , to bring this feeling of total despair. And how the hell we could have avoided it, if , indeed, we ever could.

                                       " Would it simply have struck another day ?"


  Are some of us destined to walk a slippery, narrow path, as if in some swamp or mire, with happiness on one side and melancholy on the other ? Will we forever be slipping one way or the other, reaching out for a branch or rock to cling to, but grasping only empty air and never finding a firm foothold, a safer , solid middle ground ?
I, luckily, rarely suffer from depression and when I do, I almost always know the cause and yet still I am asked by less enlightened people,
" What on  earth have you got to be depressed about ?"
Such a maddening question ! As though the knowing could ever be the cure ! I know that many of you suffer from anxiety and depression on a daily basis and my heart goes out to you all. There , but for fate , go many more of us .

If you would like to read more of  Matts work you can find his blog page on http://miblodelcarpio.blog.co.uk/
You can also follow him on Twitter, he is @miblodelcarpio

Monday, 5 December 2011

Countdown Word Challenge Number 13.

I find it hard to believe that it is a whole week since the last Challenge . You must be so tired of hearing me say that the time is flying , but it is . I must be getting old !!!
Well , you all know the drill by now and so without more ado I will just mention that the rules and words can always be found on Matt's blog page http://miblodelcarpio.blog.co.uk/ and you can follow Matt on Twitter too, he is @miblodelcarpio .
The words this week are ;


                                                          Beaulah , peel me a peach .

" And so,  Miss  Moronso . Have you enjoyed your first experience of  Pantomime ? ". The journalist tried desperately to gain the ageing film stars attention .  There were  hoards  of people milling around in the  First  Class  Lounge  at  Heathrow and slap bang in the middle of the melee was the flamboyant figure of  Lila  Moronso , sprawled on a chaise longue , stroking the hair of her new pet .
" Well, hello honey , gee it sure is naice ta see ya agin . Beaulah , git this young man a chair  !"
Old  Beaulah looked around and , seeing a spare bar stool , dragged it across the thick carpet  of the lounge  and the journalist perched on the edge .
" So, can you tell  the readers of  'Film World'  exactly what you have been doing ?".
" Why sure , honey !  Ah got me a new pet , as ya can see .  Ain't he just the cutest lil' thing in the world ?"
She held out a tit-bit and her pet  tasted it and then wrinkled his nose .
" Oh, babykins , dontcha like thayt ? Oh, cruel  Momma . Beaulah , peel baby a peach ! Oh, nah honey , where was ah ?  Oh yes , mah baby . Well, there ah was , jest walkin' along  Bond Street  when ah looked in this window and there was this gorgeous thing , being groomed . Ah said,  'Beaulah , ah jest gotta have me one of those !'  He really was the  perkiest   lil' thing ah ever did see .  Much purtier than anything  Marilyn ever had ! And let me tell you , she had every pampered lil' thing you can imagine , from all over the  world too . !"
The journalist sighed and tried another approach,
" So,  Miss  Moronso, did you enjoy your part as an  Ugly  Sister in  ' Cinderella' ? "
Lila  swirled  her many bangles around her wrist  and glanced at her scarlet nail  polish . Then she planted a huge kiss on the top of her  'baby's' head  and sighed ,
" Oh sure honey, it was so much fun , ya know . But it ain't no more than ah deserve .  It's like  Mr de Mille used to say  ' You'll only , kinda , er be  reaping whatever it is ya sow '  or somethin' like thayt .  Ah have given mah life to th' films , it was only right ah should git me a good part in the the-ater !  Beaulah, help me with mah shawl , will ya ?"
The faithful companion rearranged the silken piece of frippery around  Lila's heaving bosom and the journalist , averting  his gaze , tried one more time ,
" So , Miss  Moronso , perhaps you would like to tell us about some more about your new companion ?".
Lila  Moronso  donned a huge smile, leaned forward intimately and breathed ,
" Oh sure honey, ah thought you'd never ask !  Beaulah , go quit your fussin' girl , go sit down . Well, ah jist love him to bits . His previous owner spoilt him at first but then she treated him real bad  and abandoned him . Ah mean , how could ya ?  At first he didn't take to me at all , he jist looked away .  But ah jist  rattled ma jewellery and got the lil' guys attention  and he started to show an interest . Ah took him back to mah hotel and fed him and , oh ya know , pampered him a lil '  and ah soon had him eatin' outa ma hand . It's jist a matter of  trainin'  them right from the start , ya know and now he is besotted with me . Of course , there are some  queer folk , a certain  faction  who will say ah took him from his  Momma way too  young , but ah jist had to have him come back to the  States right now . Mah housekeeper is already hanging fresh drapes  and preparing for his arrival . His room is all ready , a couple of  Picasso  daubs on the wall , ya know , jist to mek him feel welcome !"
Just then an immaculately tailored  , airport aide approached the party ,
" Excuse me  Miss  Moronso , but would you care to board the plane , we will be departing shortly ? "
Lila  Moronso  rose from the chaise longue and , taking the arm of her young , tanned gigolo, she swept out of the room , pausing in the doorway to blow a kiss to the assembled press. The young man accompanying her also turned , winked , smiled and said ,
" I say , Beaulah , do hurry along old girl . I'm simply dying for a glass of   champagne "