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Christmas Nights

Bright Christmas Tree designAs a child the most magical of times were the nights before Christmas. The Christmas tree with its multicoloured lights, I imagined had a thousand places within its boughs where tiny arboreal people lived, the wall decorations cast sparkling reflections from the open fire and bedtime was less of a chore as each sleep got me closer to ‘the night’. Christmas Eve itself was succession of wakenings so that I could reach down to the bottom of my bed to feel the long woolly sock. This was of course in expectation that Santa had been to fill it. Time and time again the garment was disappointingly empty. Then… then as if by magic, it felt fat and heavy and above all crinkly with the small presents inside. Sleep was gone for ever as the woollen sausage was hauled up and item after item retrieved from its innards. Sweets, toy cars and once a flute were unwrapped and put to usually noisy use. In some ways this little gifts were more looked forward to than their bigger companions hopefully below the tree itself . It was as if then these were gifts in dreams rather than of dreams.

 

But what now of the Christmas nights in late adulthood? Well, it has to be said that most are too similar to those of the rest of the year to get much notice. But from time to time, the old spirit of excitement wells up. And for an instant there is something special about them. For if we are open, there is a whiff of wood-smoke mellowness, a sense of a deeper hope and an intangible feeling that this year things will be different. In fact, strange as it may seem, at the end of the year we can sniff a new beginning.

 

However, unlike childhood’s desire to rush towards the big day, now we want to walk to towards it slower and to linger in each minute of carolling waiting. We want to stop the clock.

 

Needless to say we can neither hurry this time nor decrease the pace of its passing. On the other hand, we can relish each second as it passes, open it as the presents they are and savour the thought – the thought as to how we could make the next one bigger and even better.

 
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Posted by on 21/12/2014 in christianity

 

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Going backwards with Starbucks

As I sat in the Starbucks today I had a sudden realisation. For a quickA_small_cup_of_coffee glance around confirmed that I was the only ‘leisure’ coffee drinker in the place. Since in this coffee house outside the Metro Centre in Newcastle, the customers were all surrounded by laptops, netbooks and phones. Business meetings predominated but singletons tapped furiously on keyboards surrounded by A4 pads creating undoubtedly the next… Starbucks

 

It seems then that these specialist coffee outlets have rediscovered the Georgian Coffee House. Actually the first coffee house in England was established in Oxford in 1652. However the idea soon spread to London. In time they became business hubs with no less than Lloyds of London, the London Stock Exchange, Christies and Sotherby’s all having their origins in these establishments. Whether they had the same bored and surly staff that I encountered in Starbucks today history doesn’t make unclear.

 

However, the earlier Restoration coffee houses had another clientele; because in that turbulent era they were the centres of political agitation and dissention. So much so, Charles II was all for closing them down. A reputation they were to reinvent in 19th Century Europe where they brought artist, writers and intellectuals together for discussion and debate. Now if Starbucks and its ilk were do that, we may indeed see a revisiting of something else – fresh thought to go with the fresh coffee.

 

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Here and Now

Picture courtesy of Rome.info

panorama_vatican

This week will see an ever increasing attention on Rome by the world. Since Papal conclaves naturally fascinate the faithful and the unbeliever in almost equal measure. More to the point for today is that the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church will have a global influence on the future of the whole Christian Church not least in the way that those outside see it.

From that viewpoint, I have been more observant of the news than usual. Yet this has thrown up some surprises. Not least a Catholic priest in St Peter’s Square, on being asked about possible changes the new Pope might bring in, claimed that such possibilities would not happen as they were not of God. Next day, a Channel 4 commentator made clear that  without changes the Roman Catholic Church and, by inference, Christianity would fizzle out.

Both speakers seemed intimate with what God thought! Yet who can? For the last lines of Minnie Louise Haskins’ often quoted poem – I said to the man at the gate of the year – are much less repeated. But they contain a warning for they are:

In all the dizzy strife,

of things both high and low

God hideth his intentions.

Let us then put our hand into the hand of God, look after the now and trust Him to take care of both the past and future.

 

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Ghost on Royal Deeside

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There can be no more beautiful stretch of country in Scotland than Deeside. And there, presiding over its eastern end, is the ancient fortified tower of Castle Crathes. With its estates almost ‘check and jowl’ with those of Balmoral and one of its rooms still displaying the splendid  bone horn given to the family by King Robert the Bruce after the Battle of Bannockburn., this is indeed a ‘royal’ district.

Yet despite its ‘bonny surrounds’ the mightily built fort holds a dark secret. For high in its bower, is a small room with roof beams adorned with quotations from Proverbs and Bible scenes.  And it was this chamber that once was occupied by a lady who had a child  by a servant. The servant was banished and the woman and the baby vanished to an unknown fate.

Many years later, the Castle was occupied by a Laird had a ‘boodie fear’ – a mortal terror of ghosts. Well, you’ve guessed it, he was the first to the see the ‘Green Lady’. Apparently, she has walked the castle ever since.

Here then is proof of more than every old house has its ghost story and even that in beauty there is ugliness.  Instead maybe we should pick carefully what we fear – for it might just bring it about!

As to the legend, is there any truth in it? Well, when the National Trust for Scotland ,who now manage the building, was restoring the infamous Green Room, they made gruesome discovery. Because under its flag-stoned floor the builders found the remains of a small and unknown child. The lady however has vanished!

 
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Posted by on 23/06/2010 in britain, history, psychology, scotland, UK

 

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The scale of the problem

P5241432a On Saturday, I watched a Vulcan bomber zoom around the sky performing some pretty impressive aerobatics. Not I admit, the full sized bat winged warrior from the Cold War. Instead it was hugely impressive model. I say impressive as this replica of an iconic British aircraft had the wing span of a light aircraft and guzzled fuel at a more gluttonous rate.

However, as the model looped and spun about overhead, it was very easy to mistake it for the real thing. In particular, when high in the sky with nothing to give it scale you were sure that this off-stage spectre of the Cuban Missile Crisis drama had come to life literally with a roar.

But the point is anything without a sense of size – an indication of scale – grows to fill the mind’s open space. Certainly that’s true of our daily problems. Now that is not to trivialise the mountains people we constantly meet are labouring over. Yet most of have our normal niggles are genuinely set to nought, say,  against the scale of the drought in Niger; a looming catastrophe likely to cause the deaths of 400,000 children under age 5 alone.

The old adage then that you only solve your problems by looking at those of others is trite and doesn’t always work but, for many of us, it surely helps.

 

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Art is God’s Creation too!

Kellie Castle, Fife

As a devout Roman Catholic, the Scottish Sculptor, Hew Lorimer, believed that an artist’s work was just an extension of God’s creativity. At his studio at Kellie Castle, Fife, is written his quote:

I came to see that human is not what is paramount in the creative process; what is paramount is ‘The Creation’ and He who created it and that what the true artist is expressing is not himself but his response to the eternal process of creation.


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