Saturday, 2 January 2010

As through a glass darkly

I have pretty much missed Christmas this year. A day at my brother's for Christmas, and the rest has been work, work, work. I'm looking ostensibly fatter, not through over indulgence but as a result of my sedentary profession which keeps me chained to desk, computer and library shelf for many hours at a time. My one consolation has been ploughing through the first season of The A Team which I picked up for a song at HMV (and, no, I've never been asked to sing before in a shop. Very odd). Somehow it's not as good as it was twenty-five years ago.

I'm not complaining. There are much worse ways to spend your Christmas after all. At least I didn't spend mine in a stable. And whilst nobody gave me gold, frankincense or myrrh, the pressies weren't half bad either (John Martyn and Martha Wainwright CDs, fine whisky, some wine).

Still, I'm always struck by that image from Eliot's The Wasteland about laying out 'food in tins'. If he'd have written it another seventy years later, I wonder if Eliot would have expressed the same sense of dislocation through the image of frosted double glazing. I know I am not alone in feeling that everything surrounding Christmas these days drowns out the carols, makes it difficult to catch the sense of wonder and drama that hides within the nativity, leaves one feeling as removed from the mystery as one is from the cold snow on the window ledge outside. I'm sure that is why I resent New Year so much, and why I would rather go to bed before midnight. No Scrooge I. No killjoy neither. But what on earth does New Year mean without Christmas? It is 2010 of what exactly? Of what exactly ... if you think Christianity is a myth? And so I, a believer, baulk at the implicit hypocrisy of it all. To the public mind, it's about as significant as May becoming June (a moment we know to be thick with meaning, but that is for another post).

Of course on the other hand it is precisely the inconsistency of the human being, our ridiculous inability to remember ourselves from one end of the week to the other, that excuse these omissions. Of all the images of Christmas the one I feel closest too at this stage in my life is the straw. And in all the vulgarity of the Xmas season, in all the Crimbo-tinsely-sparkling empty chinging of the tills, and the silly countdown to another calendar year, the amazing thing is that there is still the chance to press one's nose against the frosted double glazing and watch and glimpse the truth beyond the pane.


  1. It breaks through if you give it the slightest chance. A recently widowed atheist wife of an atheist who had "celebrated" an atheist funeral service for her atheist husband was taken short by seeing the crib on the hearth in our house instead of on the mantelpiece: "Why have you moved it?" she asked. "Because we've moved the plastercine crib ((the one our son made 15 years ago)) into the dining room" we answered. "Why? Let me see what you've done" she demanded, and we toured the religious artefacts of the house, and something of the journey, and something of the wonder of what happened in Bethlehem was thrust - by her - into her own face, and over the cup that cheereth and inebriateth, rather than the one that misses out on the latter, we talked about why we'd changed.

    Gosh! "Change ican be good" as well!

    Happy Christmas, and happy new Year as well.

  2. In vino veritas!

    You too, Ttony!