Day 26 (Tuesday 26th December 2017 - Boxing Day)
|26 December is known as Wren Day instead of Boxing Day in Ireland, the Isle of Man and parts of |
the United Kingdom, Spain and France. As Christian mythology would have it,
God wanted to know who was King of the Birds and hence set a challenge
to see which could fly highest - the eagle nearly won, but at the last minute the wren,
which had been hiding on the eagle's back, flew up and hence was higher and so
became King. Because of this supposed treachery, mummers, known as Wren Boys,
dressed in concealing costumes used to hunt down a wren, tie it to a pole
and dance from house to house demanding money from townsfolk as a ransom
to save the wren's life or to provide luck in exchange for a feather -
the money raised would pay for a party (a Wren Ball). It is probable that the tradition
originated in pagan times when there were animal sacrifices to encourage the spring to return.
The mummers would sing a variations of "The wren the wren the king of all birds/ St Stephen's Day
was caught in the furze/ Her clothes were all torn- her shoes were all worn/
Up with the kettle and down with the pan/ Give us a penny to bury the "wran"/ If you haven't a penny a halfpenny will do/
If you haven't a halfpenny/ God bless you!".These days a toy wren, as opposed to a live bird, is used.
It's Boxing Day. How are you feeling? I think perhaps I should not have eaten so much yesterday.
Outside the work environment (actually in and out the work environment) Simon is a delight to spend time with. He is a deep thinker and determined to do his bit to make the world a better place. Some of my best moments over the past few years have involved sitting, sipping a decent single malt, and chatting with Simon. He is a devoted father (with two talented children) and a loving husband and family man. This of us who know him are very fortunate.
Perhaps it's a peculiarity of having been born in England, heir to English weather, that a brilliantly sunny, brash, shouty and suddenly insistent dawn leaves me cold. I've much preferred my dawns creepier. Not breaking, but slithering smudgily over the horizon. I don't want some Riviera daybreak hammering impatiently at the shutters demanding a croissant and espresso, pronto. The house lights thrown abruptly up, breaking the spell of the cinematography. There are very few things more infuriating than being awoken by some well meaning soul flinging open the curtains with a cry of "Up and at 'em!". Better by far to gradually awaken as the gloaming begins to glisten with a silvery hue, shadows drawing cautiously closer in to their owners. And this time of the year is delicious in this respect. The days are fleeting. The dawns drawn out. And the descent back into darkness starts sooner.
Autumn brings the advent of the dark days. Days of galoshes and mackintoshes. The night expanding stealthily to fill the daylight saving hours. A sense of anticipation as, before a movie, the lights dim to let the dreaming begin and December beckons in the company of the ghosts of Christmas past. When I first heard the theme for this year's Advent Blog series, so thoughtfully and generously curated by my wonderful friend, Kate, I thought I'd struggle with darkness. My life is not touched by it to the degree that so many others are. My cares are more workaday and mundane. But then another friend, the kindly and wise Michael Carty, reminded me that darkness needn't be negative. And how right he is. So, I'll take this opportunity to share with you some reasons to be cheerful after dark. Things that, for this Englishman at least, simply wouldn't be the same under the mad dog midday sun.
A blanket-built fort in the desert illuminated by explorers' torches
The magnesium magic of children drawing dreams with sparklers
The "Oo!" and "Aah!" of Bonfire Night
The peaty perfume of a single malt
The exuberant pop of the celebratory cork
The cool side of the pillow
Stars as far as the eye can see (those billions of light years)
Our patient lunar companion
Motes of dust dancing in the projector's beam
The acid luminosity of be-glowsticked revelry
The reassuring warmth of familiarity of the sleeper beside you
The laser trails of tail lights
A doner kebab
Walking up the path to a house full of people who'll be delighted to see you
The sense of anticipation you get from that walk
The liquid joy of the carnival lights reflected in her eyes
The unseen crisp smack of a bat catching its prey
The bedtime story
My life is not a hard one. The grumble and grouse of the normal run-of-the-mill life. But like so many George Baileys, it is often only by standing in the darkness, looking in at the window of our life, at the warmth and joy within, that we get a true sense of our good fortune. And that's how I'll close. By wishing you all good fortune.