Friday, 30 December 2011

Oh Good, It's Whinge Time Again !

This horrible old fright is me.  Hard to believe I know, but sadly, true.

Since this has been, like all my recent Christmases, horribly lonely, accompanied by heavy cold this time, flu last year, and since the last time I actually heard a live human voice was Christmas Day morning (the taxi-driver who brought me home from the service) I am greatly looking forward to 2012.

Every year I tell myself, next year will be better, and next year i will have found something to do at Christmas.

Each year that looks less likely, but I am reliably informed, you only have to pray hard enough and believe strongly enough and it will happen.


Unable courtesy of  high temperature, running nose, sore throat and constant sneezing etc. to venture outside apart from feeding the birds, I had to resort to television.

My red eyes and sore swollen lids, are more to do with the latter than with the cold bug.

I have watched and absorbed "Tosca",  the ballet "Alice in Wonderland", several episodes of "Mastermind" (the celebrity version - if that is not an Oxymoron), and almost, it seems, the entire panoply of Charles Dickens greatest Hits.

I have also seen, as previously mentioned Narnia, Merlin and today, unbelievably, The Cat in the Hat, finally reaching rock bottom with "Pollyanna".

Now I wouldn't want you to think I was ungrateful, I am, but I wouldn't want you to think it, but there must be some other punishment I could opt for, even in my bug-weakened state, as payment for my exceptionally sinful life.

Don't say  read - my eyes are too sore, or clean the house - too lazy, or write letters - both the former reasons.

My throat is too sore to scream, and my hands are too sweaty to type much longer so if anyone has a suggestion sensible or otherwise I would be glad to consider it on its merits, (before rejecting it as unworkable).

Roll on 2012 it can only get worse!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Truth in the bottom of a glass

The picture on the left is only marginally connected with the large glass of old tawny port recently swigged by yours truly Daydreamer.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.  Is it just the intense loneliness of Christmas (my Christmas), or is it that enough (more than enough) days of my own company bring me closer to the 'edge' than normal.? 

Fleetingly, on the perimeter of my attention I caught a TV advertisement of a 'new' singer, singing "Without a song".

For anyone not of my generation, this will mean nothing, but for me it sent my memories spinning back down the years to my earliest childhood, when this song was part of my father's standard repertoire. 

There were others.  "Trees", and badly out of tune hummed or  whistled, Mozart's Eine Kleine Nacht Music.

We would groan at him to spare our ears, but were secretly quite pleased by his obvious enjoyment of the music of his choice.

"Without a Song" is the one piece I have never heard from those far-off days until today, so all the more nostalgic. 

Having blogged my heart out in recent days, due to the inordinate amount of time with absolutely nothing else to do, and with far less than the usual amount of response, comments etc. I have once again found a piece of  nothing of great importance to write about.

Amazing isn't it, how such dross can stir either immediate and tumultuous reactions, or elicit no response whatsoever.
Bye the way, my excuse for drinking a large glass of port half-way through the afternoon is that I have no excuse whatsoever!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Holy Smoke

At last week's Nine lessons and Carols we  were well rehearsed, in good voice and still relatively fresh.  (Not too many extra services so far).

We had, however, forgotten one important factor of this lovely service - candles.

We each had two books and several single sheets of paper to carry, plus the order of service booklet and.....oh horror, a candle.

Now I must admit that the church, tea lights, small votive candles and larger man-size ones in sconces is a very pretty sight, however, the choir must not only sing by a poorish light, inhale smoke and incense, turn the pages of the books and swap from book to sheet and back again, all while clutching in the other hand a candle, upright, so as not to drip grease everywhere.

This was further complicated by the musical director deciding to move us all over to one side instead of on either side of the chancel, for just two of the numbers.

Now, add holding up robes so not to trip over them (most of them are too long), and crossing the aisle clutching all the aforementioned paraphernalia.   Can you picture it?  A recipe for disaster.

This came in the form of one of the small choristers setting light, first to her papers and then almost, her hair.

Fortunately, it was spotted and dealt with quickly and no-one in the congregation noticed.

Last night, in addition to all the other candles we had tea-lights on the 'shelves' for want of a better word round the pillars near the high alter.

This was very pretty and added to the beauty of Midnight Mass,  until a few of us during the sermon spotted a  small conflagration among those extra tea-lights.  "2 or possibly 3 of them" had merged, and a small bonfire was starting before our startled eyes.

We somehow signalled to the musical director who was seated opposite us at the organ and once he saw what was happening he hopped down from his seat and proceeded to make the flame considerably larger.

He then returned to the organ, grabbed a hefty bundle of music and bashed the fire on the head, which, thank heaven, worked.

Once again, no-one in the congregation noticed and neither did the rector.

When we told him about it after,his response was, "they've had candles in churches for hundreds of years".

Nice to  know the choir have some value even if only as firelighters!

Needless to say we were waiting with baited breath to see what would happen this morning, but, while it was a lovely happy service for all involved,there was no cabaret.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Escaping from Dragons

Downstairs on this Christmas Eve is a dragon, a few minutes ago there was a talking lion and to preserve my sanity (fat chance), i am writing this.

After a lovely "Carols from Kings", always a part of my Christmas Eve, I had a brief break from interminable TV, switched back on 
and got hooked on "Narnia", followed by "Merlin".

Now I can suspend disbelief with the best of them but two giant helpings in one long, long evening is just too much.

At some stage I have to gather my wandering wits and tired body into chorister mode, leaving the house at 10.45 pm, when I ought to be going to bed.  Midnight Mass will see a bunch of tired, pale faced .......well, what would you call them (us)?

Christians? Some, revellers? a few, curious novelty seekers? maybe, but with one common purpose.  To welcome the birth of Jesus.  

Two years ago I attended my first ever midnight mass and was totally bowled over by it.  Last year, a member of the choir by now, I should have celebrated my first midnight mass from the 'operating' side, so to speak, but a dose of flu wiped Christmas off the map.  So this will be my first time as a member of the choir.

At this moment I feel as much like singing as climbing Everest in a bikini, but no doubt the necessary energy will arrive in time and the wonderful atmosphere will do the rest.

As I probably won't be in bed before 1.30 am and have to get up in time for the Christmas Day Eucharist at 10, I will take this opportunity to say to anyone reading this blog. A merry and blessed Christmas and a peaceful and healthy New year to you all.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Infiltration. Percolation. Information

The power (or not) of TV advertising, particularly at this time of the year seems more of a mystery to me than ever.

Millions of pounds are poured into the business of getting our attention with a huge variety of images being used as pulling power.

Every device available is cunningly employed to cajole, demand or try to persuade us that A, B, or C is the best, the most efficient, the must-have product 
to ensure our happiness on the planet.

But, just how effective is all this hype, high-powered hog-wash and manipulative mumbo jumbo? 

Of course, even the companies making their millions from this industry are aware that what may get one person's total attention will annoy, aggravate, or infuriate other people.

Does that matter?  No of course it doesn't.  Even if an ad' drives you mad that means it has gained your attention.  What is death to advertising is indifference.

I do not claim to be in any way superior to, or cleverer than the vast mass of consumers, and of course I'm aware that there are ad's which irritate me to screaming pitch while there are just a tiny handful which are so appealing and beguiling that they make me smile, even thinking about them. 

The odd  thing is that unless the name of the product is hammered home a dozen times, what is being advertised fails completely to engage my attention, while the image stays with me indefinitely. 

There is a horrible ad, with a greasy-haired, bulging eyed, green caped character whose mantra is "yer buy one, yer get one free",  He is my pet hate, not only because of the appearance unappealing in the extreme, of this man, but because he yells at the top of his voice.  What he is selling heaven only knows.

By the same token, there is a loo-paper ad which loudly proclaims that their product is recycled.

Recycled loo paper!!!!  Help, what kind of mental picture does that dredge up?

On the other hand, for me there are the few really alluring ad's,  the cats with thumbs, the lovely black grouse which appears strutting his stuff every Christmas, the lovely tabby playing first with snow, then big-eyed with the ornaments on the Christmas tree.  What the products are remain a mystery to me.

What I am trying to say is that even the ad's I love and would be prepared to watch endlessly still fail in their most basic purpose, since for me the product is always sublimated to the image.

Anyone know where I can buy a meerkat?

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Arms of Morpheus

This is what I'd like to be looking at, a blue summer sky with puffs of white fluffy cloud drifting by.

Instead yet another night dark, Winter Solstice, sky black and starless with sleep evading me yet again.

It is perhaps unrealistic to imagine there  will ever be a time when I will simply rest my head on the pillow and sleep.  This has never been the case and the more I've done in the preceding day, the less likely I am to get the necessary rest. 

Christmas creeping ever nearer is perhaps the root cause of this particular bout of sleep deprivation.  Not my favourite time of year even when there was something resembling a life to be lived and someone to share it with, and now, hectic carol services etc coming to an end and my 3 mornings in the church finished for this week, the yawning gap until Midnight Mass and Christmas morning service, followed by nothing is a prospect which fills me with gloom. 

Last year I had flu, so missed even the Christmas services, and the wait for the world to return to 'normal' seemed interminable, at least this year I've enjoyed the singing and brief companionship.

Each time November looms I think, "this year I'll find something to do, somewhere to go", and each time December arrives I realise it is too late and I'm doomed yet again to four walls for the duration.

Negativity is my middle name, and inertia lends its helping hand so the will to do anything positive cannot be dredged up from the well.

How on earth does one motivate oneself?

No amount of 'helpful' advice causes even a ripple on the surface of the dark pond of my self-absorbed morose perspective, and I'm well aware that the impetus has to come from within.

But at present I appear to be without a within if you see what I mean. 

What a load of dreary piffle. 

Putting it down in print has nothing to improve my mindset, but at least it has used up a bit of yet another night spent evading the arms of Morpheus.


Monday, 19 December 2011

Thanks. Mine's a double.

Have just arrived home from singing with the choir in a pub.

Well, there's a first time for everything.

Actually we sang very well, though I say it as shouldn't.

We had an excellent response from the diners and I'm told received a sizeable collection.

The downside for me, was not eating before, can't sing if I eat, and getting in too late to want to eat.

So I am sitting at the computer with a very large whisky and ginger and slightly blurred sight.

Have just realised that I wrote about rewarding myself with a whisky comparatively recently, but wouldn't want anyone to  think it was a habit as it's the first since then. (if you don't count the three glasses of mulled wine after last night's nine lessons and carols).

Is this the way down the slippery slope I ask?


Well, perhaps, but I'm willing to give it a brief testing period - say 15 years or so - and if it is, then at least I'll have deserved whatever gets me in the end.


Saturday, 17 December 2011

Short and sweet

This was what greeted me at 8.15 this morning.

A very hard frost, white everywhere except on the bird feeders,

The usual gang of blue tits and great tits and on the one isolated feeder, a great spotted woodpecker.

He was slimmer than the one pictured, and his red bits were much more red.

It was as if he was in some sort of trance.  He was totally motionless, very upright and had one claw loosely hanging on to the feeder, while he stared into space.  I ran  upstairs to get my camera and by the time I was  back down he was gone.

Probably not an unusual sight for some people but a rare visitor in this urban locality.  Lovely start to the day.

Friday, 16 December 2011

The Shape of Things to Come

This will have to be a pictureless blog since Google refuses to let me download the one I wanted.

This will not stop me describing (since I can't illustrate) the scene I encountered on my way round to the bus stop this morning.

A nasty sleety sometimes thick sometimes thin snow was coming at me hard and fast.  So, an umbrella being worse than useless in such weather, I pulled up my hood (fake-fur lined) around my pinched and frozen face and scurried in to the shelter of the bus stop.

The rooftops were white, so were trees, hedges and passing cars, the road wet and with white curbs.  Very pretty - if you're inside, looking out - less so if you are in the thick of it.

After a hard 2 hours brass cleaning - deferred to Friday courtesy of innumerable school concerts each day this week - I swigged a half pint of strong coffee and headed, fully armed for the great outdoors.

Lo and behold, glittering sunshine is everywhere, snow nowhere.  Good, I thought, library easy accomplished,Orange shop, slightly embarrassingly less easily accomplished.  They could not believe I'd only used £10 worth of calls in over a year!!

Boots, W H Smith and Sainsbury's all easy, quick and painless.

Out into the.......what happened to the sun, it's pouring and very cold, run to taxi, hampered by heavy bags,
fall gratefully into the back and get home 6 minutes later in ........sunshine.

Realising that grabbing my chance was a good idea I hastily put the shopping away, picked up a large and very heavy bundle of magazines and their Christmas card and walked round to the local surgery, only about a quarter of a mile but the busy A41 to cross and a freezing wind to combat,

Back home sun fading fast so grabbed the bundle of cards for the houses in the Close, and took them round each and every one.

By now the sun had gone it was clouding up fast and the bird feeders all needed filling.

That done thought, I'm hungry, must be lunchtime.  It was 2.30 pm. so fed my face and thought just time to write a quick post on the millions of tiny time-consuming activities which fill my day, then I can rest (anno domini catching up) and realised that it is of course, not Wednesday but Friday and I've got to get into town again at 6.30 for choir practise.

By that time it will undoubtedly be Winter again!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Gifts, visits and good intentions.

It's here again, that time of year when everyone thinks of family, friends past and present and whether anyone will visit or we will go to see someone perhaps unvisited for a long time.

As I've said before, Christmas is not a happy time for me, but I try not to let other people know how I feel, and just hope they won't ask me a straight question, face-to-face.

I can't look someone in the eye and lie, so avoiding the "what are you doing for Christmas"? question has become a well-honed skill.

Yesterday, I had a visit from a kindly, well-meaning fellow, an almoner from my late husband's lodge. (He was a freemason and a member of two lodges).  This man had come from the lodge with a gift of expensive chocolates and a pot-plant in a basket plus a lovely card for me.

When I protested that I "wished they wouldn't", while thanking him profusely for his kindness, he seemed at a loss to understand why.

It is difficult not to sound ungracious and I hope I managed, but, I really do wish they wouldn't.

I am not and never will be an admirer of freemasonry and find the avuncular attitude of its members to the 'widows' of their late members, patronising and squirm-making.

While I appreciate the kindness of the thought, I'd prefer it to stay just that, a thought.

Today, my middle brother (of three) came to see me.  The first time since John's funeral on 25th August 2009.  He had come to bring me a gift from his son and himself.  It is an Ipad 2.  Wonderful I can hear you say, and so it undoubtedly is.  Also extremely generous, but since neither he nor I were sufficiently clued up technically to get the thing up and running, it is at present residing in all its pristine glory in its box, where it will remain until I can find someone who can at least set it up for me so I can attempt to make use of it.

Years ago my mother who knew me better than anyone before or since, said "from now on every birthday and Christmas you will get a cheque, no-one could ever buy the right thing for you".

This is not really because I'm hard to please, I'm not, a spray of freesias from the local market would make my day, but I am not acquisitive or materialistic and don't need 'things'.

By the same token, my great nieces and nephews also get money with instructions to their parents to buy them some little thing they really want.

This is not laziness just that I hate waste, and so many Christmas gifts wind up being passed on to someone else that it is surely better to let the recipient choose.

As for visits, anyone who comes to my door empty-handed will be welcomed in for coffee and or a drink, but woe betide he or she who comes bearing gifts.

Signed  Ebenezer Scrooge,

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The truth about depression

Many times since i started this blog I have debated whether I would ever find the right time to write this post, but several things this morning have made me recognise that if I wait for the perfect occasion, it may never come.

Lately I have felt more than usually depressed and this weekend reached a low which I recognise from many years ago.

If someone tells you they are feeling depressed, or 'a bit down', or that Winter is dark and depressing, all these things may well be true, but they are not real depression.

When you feel yourself on the descending spiral steps leading down into total blackness, when misery is the state of mind in which you wake to greet the day (assuming that you have slept), and when nothing anyone says touches you in any way, then you are in the opening throes of true depression.

There can be a million triggers, or sometimes just one.  It can creep up on you when you think your are reasonably comfortable emotionally and knock your feet from under you.

You might find yourself in tears for no discernible reason, the feeling of being absolutely alone and friendless, no-one to talk to or more importantly to listen to you may be overwhelming.

You may feel suicidal and start to cast around for ways in which to accomplish your exit.

None of these things are 'over the top', or culled from some piece of romantic fiction, they are statements of fact.  Yes I am speaking from experience and yes the signs are there to be seen by a truly observant eye.

The facetious comments made by the despicable Jeremy Clarkson simply highlighted for me attitude of the disinterested and ignorant.

While for some, organisations like  'The Samaritans', may have a role to play in "talking down" someone in the uncertain stages of this state of mind,  for others the depression is too deep, the grip too strong to enable them to speak to anyone.

Yesterday I felt as low as at almost any time in my life and was very aware that somehow a way of climbing out of the pit was necessary before it became too difficult even to attempt.

After a night awake,  to get ready for church was nearly impossible, but, knowing it might just make the difference I did so,

The church was empty when I arrived, decorated for Christmas and looking beautiful and I hated it.  Felt like howling aloud but hearing footsteps quickly started to 'robe up'.  As more people arrived, and we had the choir run-through I thought, "I know the anthem better than I thought".

A tiny, tiny glimmer of satisfaction, but enough to get me through the service to half-way.

Then we sang a hymn which to my amazement, our lovely choir coach didn't know.  She said so, and I immediately revved up my voice a few notches and sang with more than usual gusto.  The feeling of satisfaction grew.

After the service, the woman whose husband has just died came to talk to us about the music she would like for his funeral later this week and suddenly I felt such warmth  and love for her that every other consideration vanished.

Reflecting on the huge lift in mood I realised that most basic of all lessons, that when we forget ourselves and put ourselves in other's shoes, however briefly, we are at our best, and that if there is any kind of antidote for depression it may have to to with divorcing ourselves from self-obsession.

Had the sleeping tablets or whatever been to hand when rock-bottom was reached, there may have been no way of coming back.

On a grim, but lighter note, I once read "The trouble with suicide is it plays havoc with your career prospects".