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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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Pennies from Heaven

It’s strange how memories flood back with the smallest of provocations. One from childhood spirited itself up when I was trying to find a new idea to centre my Sunday worship’s children’s talk upon. One suggestion was to get the kids to play a real fruit machine. In other words they get handed a bag of mixed fruits and the have to draw out three lemons – or whatever.

In Britain fruit machines, or gaming machines as I suppose they are now called, are usually referred to as ‘one-armed bandits’. A reference to the very high profits these devices generate for their owners. Well, my first encounter with such contraptions was as a small boy going on holiday to Cornwall. In those days, the late 50’s, there were neither motorways or service areas (a possible blessing I hear you say). So the journey from the central belt of Scotland was a two day affair with stops wherever refreshments could be found. One morning, we had stopped at what was then called a ‘transport Cafe’ – not much more than a wartime hut – and I begged 1p to put in the inviting chromium monster in the corner. To my delight, I must have hit the jackpot for I remember laughing uncontrollably under a cascade of copper spewing from this most reluctant of payers.

 

Of course, a penny then was  but 1/240 of a pound. Not a king’s ransom I agree compared to bankers’ bonuses yet each one bought a trip to the loo!

 

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Peter Pan must die!

My first visit to the theatre was to the King’s in Glasgow on a night with a pea-soup fog. It was to see J M Barrie’s still magical Peter Pan. And when it came to the point that Tinkerbelle briefly expires, the mist seemed to seep across the stage. For when Peter asks – where’s Tinkerbelle? A lone child’s voice was heard to whisper through the gloom – She’s dead.

Well if his spark-like fairy did temporarily wane, the fame of Barrie’s play has not. For despite him writing other scripts, it is Peter Pan that still bestrides stages, films and books. Yet some years ago, when visiting the playwright’s childhood home in Kirriemuir here in Scotland, I bought a copy of Peter Pan. And it was only then did I realise how many adult nuances it has. After all, there can be no greater adult temptations than to wish never to grow old; never to lose youth’s courage and never to face the real world.

It is ironic then that a play, quintessentially connected to childhood, can only be fully savoured when the eternal boy Peter has to die and not Tinkerbelle.

 

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