Tag Archives: Christmas

Some Christmas Thoughts

On the evening of 24th December 1914 hundreds of thousands of British, French and German soldiers left their trenches and came together in No-Man’s-Land to celebrate Christmas. That night a ceasefire was observed across much of France and Belgium, in blatant disregard of the official German and Allied policies of non-fraternisation. It was a time for men to swap cigarettes, food and souvenirs; to mingle and sing carols; to collect and bury the dead.

The First World War had been raging for 5 bloody months. It would continue for another 47. What had begun as a nationalist movement in Serbia finished as the world’s first global industrialised conflict. By the end of hostilities on 11th November 1918, nearly 20 million people had been sacrificed to the fallacy that war ends war.

Viewed in such a context the Christmas truce becomes a defining moment in human history. Men, who in November had been hacking each other to pieces for control of the Belgian town of Ypres, risked everything to wish each other a Merry Christmas just one month later.

When I reflect upon those extraordinary events, I am reminded of a line from John Sullivan Dwight’s carol, ‘Oh Holy Night’ – “A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices.”

The world is weary, now as it was then. There is hate and there is violence; this may never change. Yet there will always be a case for hope.

So as we celebrate Christmas this year, perhaps we might spare a thought for the soldiers in the trenches, who somehow found a sense of fellowship in the bitter depths of war. Perhaps we might remember 24th December 1914, and rejoice that the guns of the Western Front fell silent, at least upon the night the Angels sang.

trucemirror2

Merry Christmas everybody.

I’m sorry I haven’t been around this past year and I hope to get back into blogging soon.

Ed

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Round Robins

I know I promised to leave you alone until Friday but I couldn’t sit on this one. I just couldn’t. Yesterday morning, as I staggered downstairs at 10am, clutching the dressing gown I’ve worn since my youth tightly around my bosom, my reluctantly waking eyes were greeted with the unwelcome sight of five strangers looking up from an piece of paper on my kitchen table. The dreaded Round Robin. Unaware at that early hour of what vicious mayhem would ensue, I picked it up and gave it a read. How I wish I hadn’t. Ever since it has caused such an itch in my mind as cannot be satisfied, no matter how severe the scratching.

It was written, as you might expect from any advertisement, with scant regard to truth. The cliché was heavily employed as a literary devise and the arrogant tone of the piece bothered me so much that I felt compelled to bother you.

What are these horrible things all about? Since when has shameless self-congratulation been a part of Christmas? Christmas cards are about the other person – you are supposed to be hoping they had a good year, not rambling on about how great your family’s year was. Nobody cares.

In the spirit of the festive season I have decided not to deconstruct in this place the object in question, highlighting areas of particular notice and generally being a prick, which I would have with efficient brutality in any other mood. Instead I have written a Round Robin of my own along similar lines, together with a less flattering self-evaluation. You will find the original offending article at the bottom of this post. I have blurred the details, I don’t know why. Finally, I would like to apologise to any of my readers who send Round Robins of their own. I’m sure yours are of suitable quality.

Fantasy:

Ed, 23 has really gone from strength to strength this year. After graduating from King’s College London with a degree in Philosophy, he returned to his job at Barnham Broom in order to fund his expansive travelling plans. Having already been all over the world (or so it seems to his poor parents!) this time he went to Australia, Fiji, for the first time, and to New Zealand and Thailand again! It’s alright for some! Apart from travelling (and football!) Ed has decided that writing is the career for him. It’s a difficult path alright, but he seems to be taking it into his stride with his usual enthusiasm. Let’s face it, if anyone can do it, he can! He has already written one novel (for which he is represented) and eight shorter stories. He’s not Hemingway yet, but he’s halfway there! He is now in the midst of preparation for a Masters in British Modern History, which he hopes to begin in the summer. Watch this space! Did I mention how proud of him we are?

Reality:

Ed, 23 is in his fifth year at Barnham Broom, and still on minimum wage. You might have expected him to have been promoted by now, but we can’t all excel now can we? He narrowly missed out on a 1st from King’s College London last year, graduating with a 2:1… the same degree as everybody else. In a desperate bid to forget his troubles, he launched himself across the other side of the world, and came back, gaunt and starey, several thousand pounds worse off than he’d been before. He’s got the memories, though. We hear they last a lifetime – unfortunately it looks as though the same is going to be true of his student debt! Ed decided some years back that writing was the career for him. We all thought he was joking, but in spite our most anxious advice to the contrary, he has tried to ‘live the dream’ (as he would say on a good day) and has plugged away admirably for the better part of a year without success. In the absence of any real alternatives, he has now began preparations for a Masters in British Modern History, having found himself soundly wanting in the outside world. Did I mention he lives at home?

The Real Round Robin:

My family's well too, thanks for asking.

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Getting My Christmas On

My Christmas sock has a hole in it. This simply will not do.

I love to get my Christmas on. Like it’s not even natural, that’s how much I love it. Given that I am a rabid atheist my admiration for the festival might come as a bit of a shock, but there we have it.

It is a curious thing indeed that certain occasions seem to bring to mind correlating feelings. There is a way in which Christmas is supposed to feel, so much so that one can let one’s self down if one does not feel it in the right way. I find that it is the same with Halloween, albeit to a lesser degree.

It is impossible to describe the Christmas feeling, but I believe most people understand what I’m on about – I’m sure they yearn for it as I do. Indeed, I seem to spend this time of the year in vain search for that elusive Yuletide high. On my calendar and on my board in my room I have allocated certain days to the vague activity of ‘getting Christmassy’. Below are some of the steps I will be following to get myself in the groove. If you have any of your own please feel free to share. Then I’ll leave you all alone until Friday.

1. Watching cartoon christmas specials – in particular Futurama, The Simpsons and Southpark. I think this is the most important one on the list.

2. Listening to Christmas Carols – I recommend The Kings College (Cambridge) Choir for that hair rising on the back of the neck experience.

3. Attending Carol Services – yes, at Church of all places. I try to ignore the way the light of the candle scorches my pagan skin.

4. Wondering aimlessly around Norwich, the self-entitled ‘fine city’, gazing at the Christmas offers, the Christmas lights and, all being well, basking in the pale glow of the softly falling snow.

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Fun Friday Fact #5

The production of Advent calendars was halted by wartime shortages.

Christopher Hitchens is dead and suddenly the world is a much more gloomy place. But life continues and it’s that time of the week again. We must carry on as best we can. We’re looking at a Christmassy one today, it being the season and all that.

It’s a haunting image, isn’t it? The Advent calendars I mean. All those long dark days of despair. But war is tragedy, my friends, and tragedy comes in many guises.

The Advent calendar is a German invention that began in 1851 with a Mr. Gerhard Lang, whose festive mother used to mark for her son each day of Advent by attaching little candles to pieces of cardboard. In an effort to cling on to this childish high, or at least to profit from it, a now adult Mr. Lang created a calendar of his own.

After the war, the production of (German) Advent calendars (as I understand it the only serious kind of Advent calendar around at the time) resumed in 1946. Eisenhower is generally credited with the popular spread of the tradition across the United States, although it is safe to say that the calendars we enjoy today probably bear little resemblance to their more stoic German predecessors

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Adverts Again

Love Christmas, hate Christmas adverts and you’ll get far in life. At least that’s what I’m told…

My position on this matter should not come as a surprise to you, even those of you drifting off at the very back, seeing as I loathe almost all adverts of any kind and have publicised this fact in three posts to date (see related articles for more information). Today I decided that Christmas adverts merit a post all to themselves. This is because if your average advert is irritating, then there is a sense that your Christmas advert is on a level unto itself.

There are so many awful examples to chose from – the Boots adverts are a particular bone of contention for me, as I struggle to unearth the supposedly apparent comedy from behind the startlingly unfunny ‘here come the girls’ campaign – but I do think the Toys-R-Us adverts compel particular notice.

So here we go:

First things first – the tune is not catchy, so don’t you dare say it is.

Moving on, if you weren’t content with the windowed version and pursued the video to Youtube itself for the ‘real experience’ the first thing you might have noticed (other than how crap the advert is) is that comments have been disabled. This is a worrying sign. As I noted in earlier posts it at once displays an awareness on the part of the uploader – this time Mr. Toys-R-Us himself – with regard to how the video could be received and an astonishing willingness to upload in any case. One might go as far as to say that, as Mr. T sees it, Toys-R-Us will get noticed, by Hook or by Crook (for origin see here).

Shameful acts of self-publising aside there is an important point here. Or at least there was… I’ve lost it now, so I’ll settle for this – wasn’t it a bit unnerving that the song was sung by a grown woman, or at least what sounded like a grown woman? I mean, if the ambition  is to appeal to a new generation of Toys-R-Us kids (the old generation, of which I was once an avid member, now being all but halfway to middle-age) why on earth wasn’t it sung by a child, if it had to be sung at all? You don’t get adults modelling children clothing, or singing about them for that matter.

You might say that the above is a clumsy analogy (and you’d be quite right) but I think that it works on a deeper level, by virtue of the fact that its very incompetence is itself analogous to how dreadful the Toys-R-Us campaign really is.

Perhaps, after all, it is supposed to be a child singing the song. That would make sense, given the content of the lyrics, because who else would sing a song about not wanting to grow up other than a child who doesn’t want to grow up? However the water is muddied at this point by the fact that the song contains the lyric ‘ooh baby’.

What we have ourselves here is a diachotomy. If, on the one hand, the singer is a child, then who on earth could they be identifying as a ‘baby’. Have things really progressed that much since I was a lad? Do the more adventurous four year olds now meet by the sand box to exchange a shy glance or two and  drool on each others’ clothing (a much more satisfactory ending to a date than many I have attended, it must be said)?

On the other hand, if the singer is not a child one wonders why they are singing the song in the first place, and, more pertinently, why they are singing it to their girlfriend/boyfriend. Quite frankly they should be ashamed of themselves. Some things aren’t meant for sharing; that you want to remain a Toys-R-Us kid is one of them. We can’t play with our lego forever friend, however much we want to. 😦

Either way you look at things – whichever path you take – the advert does not make any sense at all. I was once a Toys-R-Us kid; I am a Toys-R-Us kid no more. And this has as much to do with this advert as it does with long decaying passage of time.

Related Articles:

The Halifax Adverts

Am I The Only One Who Finds It Embarrassing When Adverts For My Bank Come On The Television

Are You Listening Halifax? This Is How You Make An Advert

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Oh Holy Night

WordPress is snowing; Christmas must be upon us once more. I’m a softy for these kinds of things and to that end I would like to share with you what I think is a particularly fine rendition of one of my favourite carols, ‘Oh Holy Night’, by Celtic Woman, staring Chloe Agnew.

PS: When searching for this video on Youtube I found that I had typed in Oh Holy Night, Angels. I suppose, in many ways, that’s what they are! Anyway, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Or, if that’s not to your liking, how about a slightly different version, courtesy of Eric Cartman? (I love the way he counts himself in).

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A Christmas Truce

Pale winter’s sun with her sweet dwindling light, 
To bed crept she and hid her weary face,
Whilst fell around her darkness bleak as space.
What madness might have met that fateful sight,
But for one faint and gentle spec of white?
A single flake of snow with God’s good grace,
Untouched as yet by death or human waste,
Did fair remind the world of wrong from right.
Now to this ghost both friend and foe gave chase,
With haste across the lines that had been set,
And in each other’s hearts they found a place,
To rest, amidst a merry Christmas fete,
So true the violent times could not erase, 
The mem’ries of when warring brothers met.

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Filed under Beyond The Grave, My War Poetry