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Sunday, December 23, 2018


No wonder the sun was seen as a god by the ancient races. Agriculture and life itself depended on its benediction. It was so important that, to mark is passage, 5000 years ago, a long forgotten people built Stonehenge. The alignments of the mid summer and mid winter solstices can be seen from the stones.

Many now believe that the mid winter one was seen as the most important to those peoples. The gradual darkening of their days towards winter must have filled superstitious folk with terror as the sun "left them." Thus that mid winter solstice must have been the cause of great celebration as the priests "recaptured" the sun and brought it back to them.

When the fledgling Christians decided to superimpose their feast days on the old Pagan ones it must have seemed natural that their most important one, the birth of their Christ, should coincide with that mid winter solstice.

I tend to experience SAD symptoms at this dull time of year, so the lengthening of the days after 21st December gives me a shot of pagan joy. Slowly at first but then quickening, the the light at mornings and evenings increases - over the next 6 weeks we shall get 33 minutes of longer daylight. It cannot lengthen fast enough for me!

So Seasons Greetings to my readers. These times seem somewhat stark, so I am signing off with not a pretty Christmas carol, but "Fairytale of New York", by The Pogues, with Kirsty MacColl. Its opening lyrics are:

It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me
Won't be seeing another one
And then he sang a song
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you.

Got on a lucky one
Came in at eighteen to one
I've got a feeling
This year's for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true.

They've got cars big as bars
They've got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It's no place for the old
When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me

You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced all night...


Dave said...

We love Fairy tale of New York, and it's played almost continuously over Christmas. I was very disappointed to find out that the NYPD Choir doesn't exist.
A "shot of Pagan joy" what a lovely phrase and yes the Winter Solstice is celebrated here too. All the best and lets hope for some drier weather and more cycling.

Avus said...

Thanks, and I concur about better cycling weather (in spite of my new winter kit) I would much rather be in shorts with the sun on my back!

Tom said...

All the best for Christmas, for you and yours - at home and across the seas.

Avus said...

Thank you. My very good wishes to Lucy, you and Effie. Hope your New Year is healthful and happy too.

Tom Stephenson said...

I am almost certain that Jesus was not born on the 25th of December, or not even on the Solstice. I hope he has a very happy birthday whenever he was born, but I don't feel the same way about evangelists all the time.

Avus said...

Apparently scholars have worked out that he was born sometime in our spring - but why spoil a good story? The Christians worked a fast one, taking over all the popular Pagan nature festivals to get more converts. They were always a wily lot! (I don't believe in Santa Claus, either!)
Have a good one, Tom.

Tom Stephenson said...

Yes, any excuse will do for me too. You too, Avus.

Jenny Woolf said...

Happy Christmas to you -and loved the song.

Avus said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. It's nice to have a new "face" in these "blog-arid" days. A bit late, but I hope your Christmas was happy and interesting. I see you are a writer and look pretty busy with all that. Saw a review of your Lewis Carroll book recently and thought it looked interesting. I shall have to work my Kindle buttons to see more!

Roderick Robinson said...

In welcoming the longer days you are, by implication, anticipating the shorter days. Forever paddling the meteorological treadmill. My personal solution is not for everyone: it is to ignore the weather, even if it means occasionally getting wet and/or cold. Wet! Cold! It's why we own houses - to shelter us. Not to acknowledge this is to put us on a par with those silly old Pagans whose foolishness caused them to build something like Stonehenge, thereby, I suspect, shortening their own miserable lives

The first step is to refuse to discuss the weather in any way. If weather-discussion is the only kick-off to a conversation then the chances are that that conversation isn't worth having. Occasionally the weather is so extreme that it cannot be ignored but the solutions can usually be reduced to wearing more or fewer clothes. Or of a different type. So reflect. You don't stride off down the High Street of a morning announcing to all and sundry that you're wearing new underpants, even though the reasons for doing so may be more important than donning a raincoat to shield you from rain.

Weather is always there. In conversational terms it is a banality. You do yourself - and your audiences - a service if you look for other subjects. To cling to weather as a topic is to suggest you are unaware of the world's infinite wonders. This may be untrue but by persisting you run the risk of being typed as a bore. Is this a risk you're prepared to take? Remember, many people are prepared to take us at face value, according to the assessment we make of ourselves.

I quite like The Fairytale of New York. Or did. Once it had shock value, now it forms part of endless audio loops played in supermarkets to hustle us into spending more than we should. If you want a Pogues' performance that has stood the test of time, try And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda. The subject - anti-war - is eternal. And Shane McGowan spits out condemnation in a way that is quite uncomfortable, unlike the versions sung by softer voices.

Should we wish each other A Happy New Year? Can't we take this as read? I would hardly wish you an unhappy New Year. So I'm wishing us more discoveries instead. Which we may share.

Avus said...

Well, it's not so much "the weather" as the "dying of the light" which gets to me. Alfred Wainwright, that dour Westmoreland hill walker, was fond of quoting, "There's no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing" (although it apparently originates from Norway). I try to follow his advice, hence my previous post on cycling kit.

My favourite version of the stark "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" has always been the June Tabor one (see; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEMcLcGJ79s). I had never heard The Pogues rendering before, but I grant that Shane McGowan brings out the essentially male meaning of the song - the legless old soldier in a world that has ceased to care or remember.

I diverged (as you do) when listening to your preferred version as I was curious about the London Irish group's name. They took it from "Pogue Mahone" — the anglicisation of the Irish Gaelic póg mo thóin, meaning "kiss my arse". Well, we need to know these things.

I liked your sign off wish - a bit different from the common run. To pursue your sentiment for 2019 I will quote the penultimate line of an Edna Millay sonnet, "Let us go forth together to the spring". I won't continue with the following line, since it is hardly apposite for us two elderly males!