Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Is Second Time Twice As Nice?

Because the ensuing verses appeared a year ago, do I need to apologise for the repeat? Only two brave bloggers (Lee and Fletch) came to call, so now there's a chance more of you will get the picture. I could start from scratch, and churn out another little ditty on the same subject, but why waste a ready made poem which only needs a bit of dust blowing away before it looks as good as new?

In fact, it makes me giggle a bit, as I feel like Nurse administering a dose of unpleasant medicine. ('Open wide! Yes, you will swallow it this time!', as she clamps the jaws closed...) Only in my case, I'm attacking your eyeballs, before they become too bloodshot from an overindulgence at the New Year's Eve shindig you may be contemplating attending. ('Yes, you will read my words as I hold them under your nose for the second time.' Hehehe...)

Of course, there may be some who get no further than the word 'verses'; they may flee in haste to cower in a darkened room, muttering 'Oh,no!Not more versification!' as they hold their hands over their eyes before they get mesmerised into reading further against their will. In that case, I believe the relevant phrase is 'tough titty'.

I know we've only reached 30th December here at the moment, but as Blogland works on its own peculiar time scale, I think it's close enough to New Year's Eve to get this out of my system today, in more ways than one, if you follow my drift? If not, you'll only put it down to my oddball thinking, and won't worry as to what I meant. I know what I meant, and that's the main thing, no? No? Okay...I shan't argue. Here it is then, for the second time around.

New For Old

Seasons roll forward,
Earth spins onward
in its elliptical round.

Old Year to New Year,
time’s cogs change gear.
Bells herald it with their sound.

Flaunting its drab gown,
Old Year winds down,
greeting the year that’s to come.

Wipe all the slates clean,
then dream a new dream.
Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, 28 December 2009

That's It For Another Year Then, Folks!

Back To Reality

Santa's bells have all stopped jingling. Once again he's far away
unharnessing his trusty reindeer, brushing out his empty sleigh.
He can relax and put his feet up - for a little while, at least -
and tuck into his very late, but welcome, Christmas feast.

Soon, the busy tills start ringing, totting up the sales,
as shoppers grab at tempting bargains - often fighting tooth and nail -
to spend their hoarded Christmas money while the going's good
and all expensive, luxury items cost only half of what they should.

Scrooge would have been delighted to watch this money flow
into the merchant's coffers. But outside in the snow
are many folks who're destined for another sleepless night
upon the cold and icy streets, without a warm fire's light.

Still opulence and poverty go walking hand in hand;
an odd, double relationship that's hard to understand.
Each Christmas serves to highlight how the two stand side by side,
those who have, or have not, a happy Christmastide.

A quick, late, Tuesday post script - anybody reading the comments now on this post, might be puzzled by A Woman of No Importance; she it talking about the no-card card I emailed to many Blogpals for whom I have actual email addresses. If you are one of those still hiding behind noreply-comment @blogger.com, you can click here and see what you missed! She has cleverly posted the picture on her sidebar.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Not Quite Christmas Day In The Workhouse

Firstly, because at the moment it's only Christmas Eve, and secondly, Christmas Day In The Workhouse was the title of a poem written by George Sims, 1847-1922, that you may read at http://www.christmas-time.com/cp-work.html - providing you have stamina enough to wade through it's many verses.

I believe I encapsulated a more up to date view of the festive season, in this short offering I put before Blogland for the first time last December.

Noel, noel...

Festive wreaths all spiked with holly,
mistletoe and robins (jolly):
wassail cup all spiked with gin:
crackers with no bangers in:
smelly soap and stripy socks:
same old programmes on the box:
nuts and sweets and drinks free-flowing:
paper hats, balloons for blowing.
Tempers (short) and children (tired):
evening suits and dresses (hired):
office parties, too much drink:
Father Christmas on the brink
of chimney pots with central heating:
Christmas takes a lot of beating!

I leave my readers to ponder over the differing views of George Sims and jinksy, set as they are a whole lifetime apart. How times have changed; but for good or ill, I wonder...

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy...

Isn't everybody? I've certainly not had time to post anything for a bit, as the emails sparked off by all the recent commenters have kept me typing merrily away, with nothing to show for it on the Blogpage! PLUS - the Christmas card-making bug bit me at last on Sunday, and I turned into a mini production line. There are still a few paper offcuts at my feet to prove it - the ones small enough to fall through the holes of my woven waste paper basket.

Now I've assuaged that overpowering creative urge, I have time to play with you all again. It's coming up to the first anniversary of my moving to Blogland, and I think I may do a slight action replay of my first tentative steps into this wonderful world. How funny does this Boxing Day 2008 offering sound, now?

Having finally managed to set myself up as an OAP Blogger yesterday morning, I was then called to the kitchen by the knowledge that Christmas dinner needed to be prepared if I was to feed the inner man/woman even as the blog called me to feed the mind by learning something new...
At this point, the day took over and ran away with me, so it was not until this morning that I settled down to actually 'post' something. There is so much jargon to learn. I would have said simply 'to write something', but no, I have to get used to 'posting' sans paper, pen, envelope or stamp. It's only taken me about two hours to actually find where and how this very first post may be committed to screen...
All who read, pity me - it will come to you to eventually - the feeling of being overtaken by technology.
Undaunted, I shall plod on.

And plod on I have, ever since! I apologise in advance to my far flung family, who were the only ones who read and commented on this initial post, but old people are renowned for repeating themselves, so why should I break the habit?!

And it seems like the right time to include this in the mix, too, for sadly it is just as pertinent today as when I wrote it initially.

Celebration

Evening dark enfolds the waiting city.
Children dream, perhaps of Santa Claus,
while juke-box music churns its tuneless ditties
into the streets where nobody gives pause
to think of Christmas.

The midnight hour solemnly approaches;
a small group congregates in vacant pews,
their measured footsteps rhythmically encroaching
upon a silence echoing with the news
of that first Christmas.

Around the crib the candlelight is flickering,
but muted organ notes cannot compete
with raucous sound of angry voices bickering
from drunken revellers outside in the street.
Can this be Christmas?

Expectant landscape waits for welcome silence,
as moon and stars continue on their way
around a world beset with wars and violence
which needs the gift of Peace as much today
as that first Christmas.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Christmas Trees Past And Present

They have sprouted all over Blogland, all kinds, all shapes, all sizes. I started to reminisce. To my surprise, I had no memory of Christmas trees being around, until I was about eleven. Before that, we'd lived in the top flat of a three storey building which was simply a large house - not purpose built apartments.
The landlord and his wife lived in the flat below, and I can imagine they'd not have been too happy if great trees had been lugged up all the stairs - not that I can even remember trees on offer in the shops. In that department, my mind is a complete blank...Perhaps it was simply because, in a town like Portsmouth, trees had not arrived commercially. There certainly weren't any growing outside our doors, waiting to be dug up!

So, in the 1950's, when we'd moved to a larger flat with more room and even higher ceilings, tall Christmas trees became a yearly event to look forward to. The Aged P's, who back in those days were relatively young forty-somethings, did all the choosing, decorating and clearing up of the pine needles when the whole festive thing was over.

Through my teens, as I became more and more dubbed 'the arty one', I gradually evolved into decorator in chief. Then came the year when our large, extended family was scattered to the four winds; one cousin and family in Tunbridge Wells, the other cousin and hers, far away in Gibraltar.

Mum decreed there'd be 'No tree this year!'. She had a tendency to side with the 'Bah Humbug' brigade on the commercialised Christmas question. Many years later, after she'd died, I found the possible explanation as to why. I found a letter from an Army Officer to Ada, (Gran) informing her of the death of her son, Arthur Charles. The letter was dated 21st December 1918.
He was the brother closest in age to my Mum.

Be that as it may, my brother and I , after a whispered conversation about the state of our pocket money coffers, decided a tree was essential. Saturday morning, off we trotted to a local shop and for the princely sum of eight shillings, bought a six foot specimen; as pine scented, prickly needled, and bushy as could be. That Christmas, at least, was still going to have all the trimmings, if we had anything to do with it.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Last Minute Preparation Has Its Place, Too...

At least in my world. When it came to Christmas Pudding, Gran continued an old English tradition where the mixing of The Pud was a yearly ritual for every member of the family, and when I say every, I mean every. No matter how long it took to waylay both grown ups and small fry to stir the mix three times and make a wish, The Pud sat and patiently waited until all had taken their turn.
By the time a hand written version of her recipe came to me, it had been honed by the years, and the cooks of the family, into a pretty good pud-producing list of ingredients. Except for one. Beef suet. As family butchers morphed into impersonal supermarket meat operatives (!) it became harder to find chunks of this strange looking, slightly stringy stuff, and did we want to eat it, anyway? It used to take for ever to grate it into tiny flakes - I know, because it was often my job and it used to try my patience as a small girl.
Thanks to Atora, this chore faded in the mists of time, and even better, they began to produce something they laughingly call 'Vegetable Suet'. Be that as it may, it works fine, so my Puds have been vegetarian ever since.

One year I discovered Escoffier's recipe for Christmas Pudding, and was both amazed, and chuffed, to see how closely it resembled my Gran's. I think the only major differences were the amount of breadcrumbs he used in relation to the other ingredients, and the addition of allspice, which is quite different from the mixed spice found in Gran's.

But I seldom get to make The Pud until Christmas is nearly upon us, and the aroma of one steaming away on the stove has become as much a necessary Christmas smell as the pine needles I spoke of the other day. Those among you who lack either the interest or the culinary skill to produce your own, have been missing one of life's treats! Maybe this will spur you on...

Christmas Pud

Some people buy their Pudding,
but for true old fashioned feel,
I like to mix and steam my own;
that has the most appeal.

I used to use a recipe
that first came from my Gran.
But then I found Escoffier's
and Gran's an also ran.

His is light and airy
with a special touch of spice,
but not so much it spoils the taste -
it's really uber nice.

If this tempts anybody's taste buds,
then email me today -
and I'll pass on all my secrets
for That Pud served Christmas Day.

P.S. I have details that can accommodate different quantities, from a single portion to a mammoth family feast, so nobody need miss out on this culinary delight!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Preparation Is Everything!

With the festive season approaching with alarming speed, my thoughts have been centering around the subject of decoration, especially of The Tree. I used to adore the aroma of pine trees (Pinus Sylvestris) of my childhood; it scented the room with resinous anticipation that spelled Christmas.

Now, they've been replaced by other less fragrant varieties not so prone to dropping their needles at an alarming rate, but which deny the senses their yearly wallowing in the spirit of Christmas Past, for time was spruce trees were unheard of, and the Scots or Scotch Pine ruled supreme.

Because of their needle dropping propensity, though, my Mum, and later my Hubby, banned their entry into the house until, almost literally, the eleventh hour on Christmas Eve. I can remember my Dad, surrounded by at least two, and sometimes three, strings of lights, desperately trying to achieve one complete working set, when it was finally time to deck the tree, if not the halls! These days, cheap lights are almost two-a-penny, but back then lights were a considered purchase, and not to be relegated to the scrap heap at the flicker of a bulb. They were wired up in series ( I think I have the correct term, but maybe not - it might have been parallel) so that if one bulb blew, they all went out together, making finding the one dud bulb an absolute nightmare.

So it was with these happy thoughts in mind that I picked up pad and pencil this morning, and waited for the muse to strike. This was the result.

Oh, Tannenbaum, oh Tannenbaum...

It's time to get the tinsel out and check the Christmas lights,
the fairy and the baubles - all the seasonal delights.

The tinsel's looking tarnished. May be time to get some more?
And what about the holly wreath to hang upon the door?

It's only artificial, so should be fit to use…
Not so sure about the lights…I think they've blown a fuse.

I test them with a gadget which tells me they are good.
I only need replace a bulb - I rather thought I would;

there's always one that lets you down! Now, where did I put the spares?
I think they're in an old shoe box I've tucked away upstairs

inside the back room cupboard, near the plastic Christmas tree.
That'll need a lot of sprucing up - Ha! I said 'spruce' you see?

A crafty way to compensate for its not being real,
but merely pseudo needles in wire twists as tough as steel.

But once you've bent 'em back in shape, dressed branches one and all,
the tree will look a picture, when Old Santa comes to call!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Surprise, Surprise!

Even though it's heading towards my bedtime, I'm so excited, I had to do a 'mini blog'! I've just noticed, all your pretty pictures are back beside each comment, instead of only the first five lucky comers! Has Blogger seen the error of his ways, or has he decided to be kind to jinksy? It's a bit late in the day for me to begin dashing around visiting to see if you've been similarly blessed, but here's hoping, when I do, that the pretty pics will adorn each and every Bloggy Pal's Posts, as in days of old...
Let's hope it's more than a mere flash in the pan, and that you'll all still be in situ in the morning.

Oh, and while I'm here, I'd like to bring something else to everybody's notice:-

Very helpful advice that Braja kindly put in one of her blogcomments, which applies to so many of you whose comments arrive in our inboxes with the annoying 'noreply-comment@blogger.com' showing as the sender:-

"noreply-comment@blogger.com is the address that your comments are sent from. You haven't designated an email address so that anyone can reply. It blocks communication.
Go to your profile. Click on Edit profile, and then choose the third box down, Show My Email. Simple."

Your email address doesn't actually show on your blog, so you're not giving any secrets away, but it does allow an instant reply to comments you leave around Blogland. Here's to many more days of Blogland Fun & Frolic, folks...sleep tight - or sober, come to think of it...

A Very Late, Explanatory PS, following Crystal Jigsaw's comment:-

Well, if , like me, you ask to be notified when a comment is left on any of your posts, then you get an email showing it to you; you don't need to go back to your blog to read it. But if, also like me, you like to send answers back to the one who commented, that's where the problems begin. With some people (the ones who haven't ticked the box), when you check the 'Properties ' on the drop down 'File' list, you see the email came from 'noreply-comment@blogger.com'. If you click 'Reply', in the mistaken idea you'll be 'talking' to your Blogpal who left the comment - Wrong! Your reply will only be going into the wide blue nowhere! Once the box Braja mentioned is ticked, your replies actually get sent back to your Blogpal. I suppose it's only annoying to people like me, who always like to carry on a chat 'behind the scenes' when the comment is one I'm dying to answer, either with a funny quip, or a sympathetic sentence, or sometimes an answer to a relevant query. Hope this explains it better?

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

When Does Autumn Officially Become Winter?

I'd be surprised if anybody could answer the question with any degree of certainty. Here, I definitely think Winter flexed its muscles yesterday, for a cold and frosty morning turned the grass into a crunchy surface, as I dragged the Wheelie Bin across to the pavement, ready to be emptied. But today, it's back to wet and relatively warm, so it would seem Winter changed its mind after all.

As I've not inflicted any poems on you for a while, I thought I'd share one today - one I'm never likely to forget, as I got paid the princely sum of £5 when it was printed in a magazine. I hastened to photocopy the cheque as everlasting proof, for I doubt I shall ever reach such rumunerative heights again - especially since that particular magazine is no longer in existence. I think I'm safe in saying the Tax Man will not be knocking on my door any time soon as a result of my earnings...

End Of Autumn

The white-disc moon of daylight hours
hides briefly behind clouds whose showers
sprinkle drops of silver rain that glint
as sunshine slants again
across the land.

Through spiders' webs of crystal laces
peep holly’s bright red, berry faces.
Their glossy leaves sharp-pointed splinters
prod days of autumn into winter’s
frosty hand.