Monday, December 24, 2012

'This holy tide of Christmas all others doth efface...'

Best Carols from Kings we can remember, we thought.  Even a reading from Rilke (Annunciation to Mary, can't find a decent link, and it was a better translation than the Leishman I have), and some of those wonderful mediaeval extrapolations like The Cherry Tree Carol.  It's not the mawkish, emblazoned Victorian disingenuousness of Once in Royal, or even the lone chorister really that gets to me, it's the procession in front of the Rubens painting.  After that I'm sold, usually until it gets to the tuneless modern carol where I start to get bored, but which was blessedly absent this year, so I stayed sold. Brings out the reactionary English nostalgic wannabe Anglican in me, so I catch myself thinking: 'My brothers and sisters of the Republics of the Enlightenment, thanks for everything, your Declarations and Bills of Rights, your Liberty,Equality and Fraternity and your Pursuit of Happiness, your Bastille Day parades and your movie industries and all and all, but you have nothing to touch this.'


A sober looking letter from our DIY store this morning, which on closer examination concerned the heated towel rail we had bought and installed in the bathroom adjacent to my blue room, and used only intermittently, until this summer when we went to turn it on for visitors and found that it was malfunctioning, flickering on the display and generally not co-operating.  We cursed it as out of guarantee, and the receipt long-since lost, pulled the wires from the wall and abandoned it indefinitely.  Now it seems The Appliance (in its universal, Platonic sense) has been deemed unsafe, and on the presentation of said letter, and after signing an attestation that we will remove and destroy the appliance (in its specific sense of the one we bought) from our home, we receive a credit note for the original price and a voucher for 30 euros for our trouble.  It must be Christmas.


We had the chimney swept, not before time, the house was beginning to smell of sooty kippers.  The young man who came, at 5.30 pm, spent a good 45 minutes on the job, quietly and efficiently, and cleaned the whole hearth area, apologised several times for bringing a minimal amount of dirt in with him, and left the whole place smelling sweet. He charged a very reasonable amount, and had several more jobs to go to before he was finished for the day.  I often think there's a kind of quiet and modest heroism about people who do jobs like this.  Now it's like having a lovely new fireplace, which doesn't smoke at all.


The organic butcher we screwed up our courage and took out a mortgage to buy some of our festive eats from finds us a good-looking piece of pork skin for crackling.  We have to explain that we eat it ourselves, and how we prepare it.  One butcher thought we want it to put in some kind of rat trap or something. Another occasion gave rise to the dialogue which we have enjoyed in the retelling ever since

Butcher: You eat that? It's full of cholesterol!
We: So what do you normally do with it?
Butcher: We put it in the charcuterie.

This butcher seemed genuinely interested in the preparation of crackling though.


Some birthday cards before I took them down before Christmas.  Funny how often my birthday cards co-ordinate tastefully with one another.  This year's theme seemed to be black and white and rosy reds, including a couple of beautiful ones from people's own photos (the sweet-pea from the Fire Bird and the seascape from B the German Doctor), 

This one, from my Lovely Sister,

gives an impression of how I would like to spend this Christmas. 


Gnostic Angel has had Christmas transfiguration.


Best gift of all, Molly is still with us, short-sighted and hard-of-hearing (to put it mildly) and with sundry little elderly troubles, but basically well and happy and scrounging sausage roll pastry.


My guest stint curating at Clive Hicks-Jenkins Artlog for the Alphabet Soup exhibition draws to it's close.  It's been a blast.  I have fallen behind with posting links to it here, but do get over and look at it; there's been a dazzling array from Fluttering fairies to Meso-American myths to gruesome Greek harridans, culminating in Clive's own covetably delicious Hansel and Gretel.  

But I must say, after a week or so of groping my way inexpertly around a Wordpress blog, I'm much relieved to be back with Blogger, whatever it's shortcomings, it really is easier. And apologies for neglecting blog reading and commenting, which I look forward to catching up with.

And so to bed.  Merry Christmas to all.


Rouchswalwe said...

ein fröhliches Weihnachtsfest sweet Lucy and Tom and Molly! You kept the butcher on his toes, but did you touch the sleeve of the chimney sweep? I can't remember exactly why, but as a girl, I was urged to collect a bit of soot for myself when he came by to sweep. This usually ended with my cheeks, forehead, hands, and knees showing evidence of my dutifulness by the time the man finished with the job. Happy Christmastide! And pats for dear Molly!

Fire Bird said...

I actually missed the carols for the first time in years and felt a little liberated from the demands of tradition. But I'm glad it was a good un and I'm sure I'll listen again next year...

Happy Christmas dear!

christopher said...

What a lovely Christmas post. Merry Christmas to you, and especially to Molly, to whom I offer several metaphorical scratches on chest, and belly and behind the ears, and also that spot right in the middle of the forehead...

Zhoen said...

Taking care of our elderly lovely furry ones is (hopefully) inevitable.

I love your sister's postcard.

I cleaned the soot from our fireplace, which took several forays. So, while I was grateful to the fireplace guys who shored up the chimney bricking, added a cap, and installed a damper, I really never intend to use it. Breathed enough coal ash as a child. So over romanticism.

Coventry Carol is my favorite, minor key and dark.

Catalyst said...

Lucy, the best of Christmas wishes to you and Tom. I actually spent much of the day like the young lady in the photograph, reading "The Paris Wife" about Hadley Richardson Hemingway.

zephyr said...

Love your sister's postcard.

i love the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, and the both and new music. Our local Episcopal church puts on its version every year with exuberant, talented folks, including a brass quintet from the community...a very American, "robust" version that fills the small, 250 yr old church (you know, that's "old" in these here parts)as well as the body with glorious music.

i love the broadcast ffrom King's College...though i do get bored before it is over (deeply contemplative music satiates my appetite rather quickly...even heavenly voices) and the rest of the house is much more in favor of the American enthusiasm that spills over.

This year, i was introduced to a cd of "Gypsy Christmas Carols"...which is mostly traditional tunes played by Gypsy guitarists...playful, dancing and marvelously fresh for these old ears.

Roderick Robinson said...

The fact that the heated towel rail proved defective is less important than that you chose to acquire it. For guests, you say, as if, under normal circumnstances, you practise the British public school principles of self-mortification. I have been tempted - I won't deny it - but I never gave in. You did. I wonder if things are changed by this revelation. If they are I feel any differences are diminished by the fact that you "signed an attestation". That seems a very adult thing to do. Rather French, too. OK, you're off the hook.

I fear I must draw a veil over any potential discussion of King's carols. The guy in charge, who sails under the name of Cleobury and who I feel is a man I would instinctively dislike, allowed himself to be turned into a hostage to fortune in a Guardian interview. Explained his philosophy about what should and should not be played. Put us into a right strop which led to ten minutes grumbling discussion on the theme of Arid Elitism after the last notes had died away.

All I can say is your balcony speech which attempts to wipe the noses of your neighbours was surely based on the erection of Un homme de paille. If you're going to pick a fight about music let's forget the Rameau wafflers as a worthwhile opponent and take a few steps further east.

Pam said...

I hesitate to comment after that very erudite comment but - hope you're having a lovely Christmas!

Crafty Green Poet said...

good news about the universal unsafety of your appliance which allows for a free replacement!

I agree with you about chimney sweeps....

cholesterol isn't really quite the evil villain it's made out to be, one day the medical profession will realise that and stop demonising it - hope you enjoyed your pork crackling

Using Blogger and Wordpress both, I agree with you, Blogger is so much better despite its shortcomings...

Best wishes for 2013

Sheila said...

I'm so glad to hear this in favor of Blogger. I was on the point of sitting down with a professional web person (and probably still will, for designing a website) who had been trying hard to convince me that Wordpress was a better choice. I guess they make changes often enough with both systems that what might be better and easier at one point in time is not at another....but this is reassuring to hear, because I'm in favor of saving energy for more important changes.

Funny, I love "Once in David's," but maybe that's because I learned it in the context of being surrounded by little boys who were singing it, so its tone seemed appropriate for trying to find words that would connect with them.

I also really like Cleobury, no disrespec to RR intended. He came here and did a two-day stint with our chorus, and I got to sit with him over lunch, and he is just a delightful, caring, warm person with a good sense of humor.

Maybe the Guardian interviewer just picked and chose carefully and presented a collage that came across differently. Who knows?

But I don't like a lot of those modern pieces Cleobury commissions! Ugh!

That is hilarious what the butcher said. Kind of like my drinking milk with a rich, sweet dessert, hoping to offset some of the less-than-healthy effects of it.

From a later post, it sounds like you got to do a lot of what you'd hoped for over Christmas; glad for that! (That card is so cute!)