27/12/2020

Rural Norfolk

Chris Gates, Norfolk UK

23rd Dec 1667

Up betimes, and to a breakfast of sorts: a chop left from last night, some toasted bread with marmelos spread upon, a small portion of plum pie, eggs with anchovies and other kickshaws, a piece of cheese and a glass or two of port, chased Deb around the kitchen (she easily caught) then to Norwich by carriage with my man Rich for to collect a Turkie. 

We have hitherto had good Norfolk Goose at Christmas but my Dear Wife having declared that we should follow the fashion I have little option but to go. Lord! what confusion we find on arrival, a Great Crowd pushing, all claiming some prior arrangement an odde thing it was for me to be in such a crush of people, here a footman, there a beggar, here a fine lady, there a zealous poor papist, all come to see the show. I was afeard of my pocket being picked very much, but using Rich to good effect made a way to the stalls where I was yet forced to raise my voice above the clamour to attract the attention of the vendor of choice, who readily agreed to supply but was close about the price.

Expecting something like 7/6, it was not until I was against the counter, aided by Rich, that he revealed he wanted half a guinea for a most average fowl and would not budge. Whereapon and to Rich’s evident & inappropriate disapproval for which I would normally have boxed his ears, I insisted we move to another stallholder also barking that he had fine Turkies a few yards distant.

 

When we got there, somewhat dishevilled and roughed we found that he, despicable rascall, would relieve me of upwards of a guinea for those Turkies he had remaining - which being the remainder were not of any great merit, so we repair to the original man an his disagreeable stall, only to find that he has now sold all.

 

Unable to bear the crowd any more, to the nearby Rampant Horse to reflect upon my misfortune, expected unhappy reunion with Wife and to toy miserably with some oysters and porter, a mutton chop and then a little broth, a measure of brandy and a serving girl while sending out a pasty and a jug to Rich and Coachman. By and by I engage with a charming fellow who claims to be a Merchant Grocer with access to a butcher who would have Turkies aplenty and of superior quality, he supplying Court. 

If I would venture a Guinea he will send his boy, who waits without, to the Butcher and procure a fine bird for me. This I do and he leaves the company to send the Boy on his errand. I, somewhat suspicious follow to the door, but do see indeed he dispatches a Boy who is with Rich and others around my coach. It is snowing. 

Reassured, I resume my bench where Grocer rejoins me and we indulge somewhat in a measure or two of brandy and candied fruits.

By and by he ventures he should look for the Boy and leaves, I the while have more brandy until, losing patience I go outside, a little befuddled, and find Rich with the other rough sorts laughing tho’ they quieten as I approach. There is, of course no sign of the Grocer, the Boy or my Guinea. It is now snowing heavily. 

 

What am I to say to my Dear Wife? I decide to send Rich home to deliver the news there are no Turkies in all of Norwich and I have been detained at the Office. I get Coachman and Rich from the comfort of the carriage with some difficulty and Rich, saucy fellow, asks half a guinea for a chaise, it being snowing etc etc tho I know he will walk. It is the price of his complicity.

The meantime I take carriage to the Two Mermaids for an afternoon’s sport in consolation and perchance a little supper...as a bawdy house it has little equal. Tho the girls are of a rough, rural sort they are remarkably cultured, presided over by an dignified Old Man of some learning and his comely Wife.

 

When I get home, all is dark and quiet, and I’m startled to find the form of a Turky slung from the ceiling in the kitchen away from the cats that form a circle below. A label attached to its neck simply reads “Master Richard, Norwich” which, of course, everyone in the Household has seen. 

I rouse Rich from his sleep for an explanation, he being curled in his usual ghastliness under the stair. He has, in one fashion saved the day by anticipating the course of my adventure and resolving to wait at my Office, having slipped the Boy sixpence on his own account to bring the bird to him there. In another he has set me a problem: 

There may be Honour among Thieves, but why I wasn’t there to receive it myself, where I have been for the afternoon? In the few minutes it will take to climb wearily to my chamber I can devise an explanation, surely?

And so to bed.

27/12/2020

Thin Air

John Mole, St Albans

THE CHRISTMAS ROBIN

 

Neither on a gatepost

nor the handle of a spade

 

this robin shows no interest

in being picturesque.

 

With an almost imperceptible

twitch of its feathers

 

and practising

a pointed fearless gaze

 

it settles on one branch

then leaves it for another.

 

Keeping me in view

it offers seasonal companionship

 

with avian indifference

to my pottering

 

and I give thanks for that

before it leaves the garden.

27/12/2020

A View from Crazy Town

Chris Dell, Washington, D.C.

Two stars, one bright and obscuring the other, appeared together in the evening sky over Crazy Town this week. No, not Jupiter and Saturn. We speak of Dear Leader and He Who Shall Not Be Named, of course.  

 

But, first, we must observe that perhaps there's something to this astrology business after all, as our very own Christmas miracle occurred under the baleful gaze of the giant gaseous heavenly bodies - the U.S. Congress actually managed to act responsibly, passing a COVID relief bill and federal budget. OK, "responsibly" is a relative concept.  No one actually read the 5593 page document before voting for it, and among its timely, relevant provisions to address the worst public health crisis in a century are a call for respecting the wishes of the 14th Dalai Lama in selecting his successor (hey, you gotta cover all the bases, just in case) and prohibiting funding for a no-long-extent activist organization called ACORN, as well as setting aside 93 acres for a Teddy Roosevelt presidential library in North Dakota. Clearly a burning issue that had somehow been overlooked in the previous one hundred or so Federal budgets since the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918. Why North Dakota, a Gentle Reader might inquire? Good question.

 

All unseasonable, Scroogely carping about a wasted billion here and there aside, after nine months of partisan gridlock a grateful nation welcomed the promise of relief from the economic pain of the pandemic. Except, well, Dear Leader had something to say about it. Emerging from his bunker, where he'd been hunkered since the Day of the Great Betrayal, our Dear Leader belatedly pronounced himself displeased with what Congress had wrought. It seems that having passed through the dark night of His own Dickensian soul, He has decided more liberal spending was in order. Which is where the Great Conjunction was to be seen: He Who Shall Not Be Named also called for more spending. However, he proposed doing so in The After Time, or as we call it here in C. Town "A.D." (after Donald). This unpleasing reminder of what the coming winter holds, sent Dear Leader scurrying back to his bunker, the shadow of He Who Shall Not & etc. having the same effect on him as the sun does on Punxsutawney Phil every February 2.

 

Fortunately, our Dear Leader was not left alone, bereft and friendless in his burrow. No, He was surrounded by the warmth and friendship of the craziest cast of Misfit Toys assembled since Burl Ives was around to entertain us. Several have appeared in these pages previously: Sydney Powell and Michael Flynn have been stalwarts at amping up the Crazy. Both were fired by Dear Leader, but His Generous Spirit has allowed them back. And so moved was He by His own magnanimity that Dear Leader decided to pardon twenty others of the cast around him too. But we digress. The really important news, the exciting prospect of Ultimate Apotheosis was raised again, reviving the faltering spirit and flickering flame of hope in Dear Leader's breast. Seize the voting machines! Declare martial law! Get the military to re-run the elections until those turncoat states get it right.

 

The darkest hour and all that jazz. Just when things looked their worst, a new star rose in the Crazy Skies over the Dear Leader bunker in the person of the newly elected, yet-to-be-seated junior senator from Alabama. Tommy Tuberville (no relation, other than linguistic, to the founder of You Toobin) announced he was prepared to lead a revolt on 6 January when congress meets to count the electoral votes. Senator-to-be Tubes will challenge the electoral votes cast for He Who Shall Not & etc. The good Senator, whose previous political experience was limited to coaching college football teams (serious bidniss in 'Bama), has been boning up on the Constitution and functioning of the guv'mint. He discovered, for example, that the Founding Fathers in their wisdom had created three branches of said guv'mint: the Senate, the House of Representatives and the White House. And Tommy's gonna bring good common sense to all three by orchestrating the political equivalent of the Wishbone Offense that served him so well at U of 'Bama all those years ago. Or something. Watch this space.

 

Sadly, all this turmoil is taking its toll on the Party of Lincoln. Dear Leader has been forced to remonstrate with the apostate governors of Georgia and Arizona for failing to support His attempts to overthrow the elections. Dear Senate Leader, just recently recovered from his bout of purple hands, has let it be known he does not approve of Senator Tubes's plans. Even Billy "Bad Ass" Barr has refused to play nice, instead quitting as attorney general. The Army chief of staff announced that soldiers don't decide elections, which novel constitutional theory marred excessively the color of Dear Leader's greatness. When the history of this age is written, after historians have spent the better part of their lives mining the archives of Twitter for a definitive account, perhaps no 240 characters will prove more prescient than these from a long-time Republican operative in Arizona: "...slightly terrified of where this crazy train goes next... We should know by now there's a bottomless supply of crazy." Q.E.D. 

 

P.S. did someone say "pandemic?" Spoilsports.

27/12/2020

Thoughts from the Suffolk coast

Harris G, Suffolk

Merry Christmas!

 

This year the unappetising commercialism of “the season to be jolly” seems to have crumbled away like the icing on an overcooked cake. The words of Boris on Saturday - albeit given “with heavy heart” - just flattened the mood of an already disappointed nation. We now have four tiers of restrictions to contend with and a rapidly spreading virus mutation that is exacerbating the existing fears and misery. Is another major lockdown on its way?  We all seem to be in a pared-down state of socially distanced apprehension - questioning what we should do for the best.  The news is bleak, the weather today even bleaker. I am determined not to be too maudlin but for me - like many - it is a time for reflection. So:

 

Follow me in merry measure

Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la

While I tell of Yule-tide treasure

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

 

GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST

 

I have been thinking of my childhood Christmases again and my excitement back then. Oh I loved it. The pleasure in all the preparation - making paper chains, blowing up balloons, decorating the tree, eating goodies that weren’t usually available (no year round satsumas then) and drinking fizzy drinks that we weren’t usually allowed - things like Tizer and Cherryade. There were nuts in a bowl - walnuts and hazelnuts and others. Heavy nut-crackers sat by the bowl and there was a pot for the shells (they’d later go on the fire). Oh yes and of course sweets - a tin of chocolates wrapped in bright, shiny, squeaky cellophane or foil wrappers. Whatever happened to the lime barrel? It was my favourite! 

 

We often went to stay at my grandparents’s house in London over the Christmas period. Sometimes my parents dropped us off a week before (they probably needed a break) and we would take our dog. I have two older sisters and before I make it sound like an episode from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, I must say that they probably felt resentful at having to look after me - the annoying brat. At the time I am recalling, they were in their teens while I was still under 10 - so it was an age difference that would have been significant. Yet if they did mind, they didn’t let it show. 

 

My aunt lived with my grandparents and we loved her dearly. Going to stay with them was good because of my aunt. Unlike my rather Victorian granny, she was such fun. She made us laugh.  She spoke with us - rather than at us and she listened. Days out with her were super because she knew the things we’d enjoy. She seemed to bring delight even to the ordinary, everyday things. Her presents were always so well thought out too - she bought things that made the girls feel like adults and gave me things that were - well, just perfect. She would walk the dog with us and in the evenings we would walk along the streets, looking up at the windows of the tall houses and see the lights going on - the Christmas lights on trees and paper chains criss-crossing the ceilings. Which house is the best she would ask and the fact that she cared about our opinions made it so important. What will you do when you grow older? What do you want to be? What present are you dreaming of?

 

The gift I was dreaming of back then was a children’s toy called a Space Hopper. I think they’re known elsewhere as Hippitty Hops but basically they are rubber balls with handles - a sort of exercise ball that you sit on and bounce! They’re made to look a bit like kangaroos (I’ll attach a photo).  I had friends who had them and I wanted desperately to join them for space hopper races. My dad said no. He insisted it would be a five-minute wonder. A waste of money. No educational value. No, no, no. Forget it. You’re not having one. Please, please. NO! Let that be an end to it. Stop whining. No.

 

My parents arrived on Christmas Eve and I watched as bags and boxes of presents came through the front door. Avaricious eyes. Christmas morning came and in our best clothes, we went into the best room at the front of my grandparent’s house (I think it was only ever used for Christmas) and there was a fire alight in the grate and the tree was lit up. As children, we had already opened a few presents - not exactly a Christmas stocking - just those we opened in bed. However, bigger things were saved for mid morning. At the appointed time, everybody  took turns in taking and opening one present from under the tree. Lots of “oohs and ahhh” and cheer. Merriment!

 

When everything had been opened and the dog had chased the rolled up the wrapping paper and we were just about to go for lunch, I remember my dad saying something like “oh there’s a big box behind the sofa - I wonder who is it for?” He beckoned and I went over to see just the biggest box and to find when it was opened that there - after all - was the much longed-for Space Hopper!  Oh the joy! The happiness! Cheers! Squeals of childish delight! It’s wonderful! Thank you, thank you!  It’s wonderful. Oh you spoil that boy .... Ah but sadly, the story doesn’t end there. You see, I climbed on the Space Hopper and four or five hops later, I bounced on a sharp object (a piece of walnut shell me thinks) and tore a hole in the rubber ball! No more bouncing that Christmas. Had to wait until after New Year to buy the bicycle tyre repair kit. You know, somehow the appeal was lost. I never did join those Space Hopper races. Never did win. Never bothered with it much after. A whim. The Space Hopper sat deflated for years in my dad’s garden shed. A reminder of his wisdom. A reminder of my foolishness. Let that be a lesson, eh? 

 

GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT

 

We will have a very quiet Christmas. We had planned mince pies and a drink in the garden with local friends one afternoon soon but the weather isn’t really right for it and everyone is crying off anyway. People we know are generally worried about everything. Brexit. Lorries at Dover. There are queues at the supermarkets like there were back in March. Concerns over future food supplies. 

 

I am trying not to sink into this gloom too. I’m going to keep busy. I enjoy making a Dundee cake and shall begin shortly. We have a small tree and a few decorations out. I think there may be some good films to watch on the television. A puzzle to do too (came from an American friend). Lots of people to telephone. May go for a walk by the sea on Christmas Day. Usually go to Dunwich and walk with family while lunch is cooking. Let’s see what the weather brings. Doubt we will have snow.

 

It is Lucy - the new dog’s first Christmas. Have to say she’s settled in so well. Very playful. Explores constantly! Ah and she’s teething. So lots of biting! Needle like teeth! Ouch! But she seems very happy and is good exercise for us! 

 

THE GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS FUTURE 

 

So what will Christmas 2021 be like? Will we be in frenzied joyful release and extravagance? Will we all be vaccinated and Covid safe? Will shops be reopened and business booming? Peace and goodwill spreading like wildfire? The home fires burning? Glory, glory Hallelujah! 

 

Ah well, we will see! 

Until next time,

Stay safe and well and enjoy Christmas as best you can x

 

Fast away the old year passes

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Hail the new year, lads and lasses

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Sing we joyous, all together

Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la

Heedless of the wind and weather

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

 

(From Deck the Halls,

Originally written by Thomas Oliphant in 1862).

27/12/2020

View from the Top of the Hill

Linzy Lyne, Pateley Bridge

Well, here we are, two days before Christmas and looking forward to another lockdown. The new variant of the virus has caused great concern and mayhem and Britain is now being forced into mass self-isolation. There are over 8,000 lorries in and around Dover, trying to get across the Channel and a testing programme is being rolled out by the Army so that the lorry drivers can get home. It's doubtful they will all get across by Christmas and any who test positive will be self-isolating in local hotels. Not a very happy prospect for them and it's understandable that their frustration is spilling over into scuffles with the police. I was glad to hear this morning that the Sikh community is helping out with hot food and that the Salvation Army has mobilised too, trying to make up for the dismal efforts by the local council, who gave each driver a cereal bar and a bottle of water yesterday. There are no toilets open in Dover, it's appalling. The drivers have blockaded the exit from the port which is preventing the testing teams from getting there. Now there are drivers lying down in front of lorries. Not good. I am sure some of us are thinking, this is how Brexit will look, it's just come early.

 

I have just watched a select committee asking questions of the scientists about the new strain of the virus. It seems that children are more susceptible to transmitting this than the original one, so I wonder what this will do to plans for schools returning in the New Year. My cousin, who teaches in a primary school, tells me that the measures her school have in place have been so effective that they have not had to close. Apparently, cleaners come round wiping every surface constantly. This sounds like a very good way of handling things. I wish I could say that this was the case in local shops, where there are hand sanitisers and masks but not a lot of evidence of cleaning. When you see news items from China and Taiwan there are teams of cleaners hosing down every surface in public areas. I do have reservations though about disinfecting the roads and wonder if that's entirely necessary. Can you spread the virus on your shoes, like with foot and mouth when we had to disinfect our wellies all the time?

 

Trump has knocked back the hard-won Covid relief bill, causing disbelief in Congress. I wonder what will happen now. He seems to have gone for the popular vote by demanding that payments to individuals are increased, funded by a cut in the proposed overseas aid budget. I guess they could always vote through what he wants and negotiate it all over again when the new administration comes in, assuming he does actually leave the White House on the 20th, I am fully expecting him to come up with some cunning plan to stay put.

 

Congratulations Peter on getting the vaccine. Perhaps we should start sending celebratory greetings cards to people who have received it!

 

Can I again wish all here peace and joy for Christmas and the New Year. Let's hope it's a good one without any tears.

27/12/2020

Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk

23rd December 2020

68307 Deaths 

Well in a word, we're all f....d!

Ports are closed, hundreds of poor lorry drivers have been parked up on the M20 and 3800 HGV’s are on an airfield near Dover for 3 days with no facilities or food. I think there is one loo and no washing facilities. This is the place for future Brexit chaos! It is a giant car park. Charities are beginning to bring them snacks and apparently the sikhs will bring them food. It is always the sikhs who take care of people. Bless them, they do so much. Dover is gridlocked with freezing cold hungry, angry people.

The lorries won’t be able to cross the channel until they’ve had negative Covid tests. It will take days. Poor people.

England is closed.

You can’t even post an international parcel as I found out the other night when I tried to send something to fellow journalee Shirin.

The country is in hock for a gazillion trillion trillion.

The virus is on a feeding frenzy, mutating happily.

Christmas has pretty much been cancelled and then Brexit. Oh my God, as I said f….d!

 

You can meet your bubble for one day on Christmas Day if you’ve got one that you can get to and back from in one day. I had already decided not to go to Dorset, I thought the roads would be a car park and too risky around my mum but I couldn’t go now as 500 miles in a day with the rest of the GBP would be pushing it. Probably would get as far as Norwich!

No bubble for me, only pink ones. Last year when I went home for Christmas arriving on Christmas Eve, my mum said Oh we’ve done Christmas, we had the turkey for lunch… I won’t repeat what I said.

Several times my mum and I have been to Goa for Christmas which was lovely, seems a world away now. One of the Kashmiri textile dealers we always haggle with sent me some photos this morning of pristine empty beaches, No one there. I wish we were there.

 

I think a lot of people will be on their own this year and they are not used to it so will be very sad and miserable. I’m not bothered in the words of Catherine Tate but I am bothered about not seeing Mummy but would rather see her when she’s had the vaccine.

Normally I’d be in the shop on a Friday so am quite looking forward to a sit down watching Singing in the Rain but I’ll probably end up hoovering and cleaning the house. It is a tip. 

It is like cleaning the Forth Bridge. The “office” at the end is impassable and I just looked in a dark corner in the sitting room and there was a crevice of bodies. Huge giant mosquitos come in in flocks every time I open the back door. Masses of their bodies were in the dark corner, remains of dinner for all the spiders and daddy long legs. I’ll probably get malaria.

 

In reality my upset neighbours whose plans are completely ruined will come and have an illegal cup of coffee in the garden. I was going to meet various friends for various meals in the garden at some stage but yet again illegal. I was wondering about taking the roast chicken to have Sunday lunch with my friend Carolyn and her daughter to the shop and making her buy something for a pound and then we can sit on the floor and have lunch, slightly less illegal. 

I have seen loads of people in Verandah but it’s probably getting more risky by the day with the mutant virus.  The GBP have been better behaved and nicer in the last week or two. Maybe because half the customers are my friends. The shop is looking denuded as we’ve been so busy. 

Earnie and Whitty and I will have our Christmas lunch, probably a turkey leg or something and the trimmings. I don’t eat potatoes as they are nightshades but I thought I might have 1 small roast potato as I’m a rebel.

My friend Ali aka Staff made me 2 huge Paleo Christmas puddings. My other friend the Imposter made some paleo chocolate cakes in a Fortnum and Mason tin so I had something in a F&M container that I could eat. There’s one left. So that’s where we’ll be, on the sofa with Christmas puddings, a bottle of pink bubbles and 2 pots of booja booja ice cream. Happy Days.

 

Anyway I just wanted to wish you all a happy Christmas and a merry, yes merry New Year.  Thank you lovely Margaret and the ever patient Sheila (I’m always late with my piece) for all your hard work. The journal has probably kept me sane and has been a joy. Thankyou for sharing all your tales and day to day happenings and I hope we have that party next year.

I hope you all have a lovely day where ever you are. Stay safe.

Love from Annabel and Earnie, Whitty and the chickens xxx

27/12/2020

Clean, sort, tidy

Lily, Camberwell, London

Wednesday 23 December

 

The plan was that my sister, her husband, my niece, Mum and my friend from over the road and her family were going to do Christmas with us. My friend and I had done our lists, who was getting what, who was cooking what. She has had a rough time recently and I think us sharing Christmas felt like a good way to feel festive. It was also going to be the limits of any socialising. 

So the sudden fall in to Tier 4 was a punch. 

There have been several more positive tests around us. But as I have been noticing my perception and awareness for what is happening feels very small. I watch the news, listen to the news, read the news. But it’s hard to know how Covid is hitting apart from how it effects our personal plans, constant postponement of work commitments, the shutting of bars etc locally, the expectation of the children not going back to school in January.

Unlike my Mother and father in law I don't believe in any conspiracy theories. But I do believe in mistakes and selfish decisions. And I believe there are better kinder, more sensible choices that could have been made. 

 

On Saturday evening we felt very blue. But also resolved quickly that we could make the choice to make the best of it, whatever that could be. 

My mother decided she would still come to us on Christmas day. And I’ve been having at least one phone conversation with her each day where she questions this in order to confirm that no one is going to stop her from coming. And since she is on her own and in need of attention/care we can legitimately have her as our household. My sister and I spoke at length about what is best to do. She and her family have pretty much not been anywhere or seen anyone in the last week. And neither have we/will we. And so we are taking the decision that they will come over on Christmas day. As an extra check on our risk-assessment I took a test and am awaiting the result. My friend and her family will stay in their bubble.

 

There was a report this week that ancient humans may well have hibernated in winter. I am trying to follow this tradition. My sleep has been very bad for months so I am making all efforts, since the children broke up from school, to fall asleep early and sleep late, already I feel so much better. I encourage everyone to hibernate. And to go out for a walk every day. 

 

We have spent the last few days decorating the biggest tree we have ever had, the window (large shop window) is decorated with lights and baubles, Christmas cards are hooked over the paintings, the house is hoovered, the kitchen floor is clean, as are the inside of the fridge and kitchen cupboard (so satisfying). I have sent several Christmas cards which is something for me to be proud of. The presents are almost all wrapped. Veg is delivered and we wait to see what my friend can bring us from the posh butchers where she is working at the moment. Will we have Christmas dinner with something roasted? 

 

My street neighbours are connected through a WhatsApp group and the chat is filled with photos of queues from the local posh butcher on the way to Peckham, that snake around the street for a 2 hour wait time. A Christmas Eve carol sing along had been planned under the coloured lanterns decorating the end of the street. Hopefully we will still achieve it, maybe on door steps. 

 

The boys are now watching Elf. That's our Christmas film. And I am going to finish the wrapping. Then I want to bake something. Maybe. Or I will go lazy, and not bake.

27/12/2020

Then and Now

Peter Scupham

A Christmas Lantern

 

Since I am essentially a child of the North and the Dark, I have always had a passion for small lights in dark places: the shooting star, the lancet of stained glass in the darkened nave, the new moon... As a child of the blackout, this passion was aroused by night-lights, candle-sticks, the wavering beams of searchlights — and especially this Christmas lantern.  

 

Every year I put it back together, though it is no more than eighty years of cellophane and cardboard. It was certainly bought for us, my sister and I, before the war, and I associate it still with the sound of bombers going over and the bursts of anti-aircraft fire which seemed the background to my early wartime years in Littleover, Derby. There are four scenes to yearn for, to inhabit, to wander in, each scene with a starry sky above it.

 

The lantern itself was, I am sure, from Woolworths, then the threepenny and sixpenny stores. When my sister and I shared a bedroom, our parents hung us the lantern and turned a different face to us each night, and we would count the number of stars we could see from beds at opposite sides of the room... Here is the poem that belongs to it.

 

Christmas Lantern

 

Such flim-flam: a hutch of crumbling card

And the light’s composure. Still talisman,

 

I think of nights your licences beguiled,

While the house rocked to the soft, blundering guns.

 

I set my heart upon your heraldries

Where snow lies faultless to a cobalt sky,

 

Counting your shaken stars, adrift on paths

Diminishing among your vivid pines.

 

Frail monstrance, with an old anticipation

I set you here above my sleeping children:

 

The branched reindeer at the huddled bridge,

The simple house, offering her candled windows.

 

For their eyes now, your most immaculate landscapes

And all the coloured rituals of love.

27/12/2020

From the Editor

Margaret, Norfolk

I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the journal since it’s inception in March, whether you are still contributing or not. It has been a pleasure to read all you have to say, and to feel in so touch with so many.

A real comfort and inspiration.

 

Earlier this week I was quite bemused by a statement on the gov.U.K. Website:

How support bubbles relate to other types of bubble.

A support bubble is different to a childcare bubble and a Christmas bubble. Being in a support bubble does not stop you from forming a childcare bubble or a Christmas bubble.

 

Oh, how one wishes for Monty Python or That was the week that Was or dear Victoria Wood to turn it into high satire. But I do realise that we on the journal have built a sort of virtual bubble of our own over the weeks and months since March. It defies borders and tiers and lockdowns, it floats free of all that. The one good thing about the virtual bubble is that it’s COVID proof, non contagious, doesn’t require masks, or PPE, or even vaccination.

And, as one enters Tier 4 here in Norfolk and the South of England, I do feel that, sad as it is to be unable to meet friends in the flesh, virtual meetings can be very good. We had a lovely conversation on Christmas Eve with our friends Mary and Simon in Devon by FaceTime on our IPads. It felt really real and really delightful. Talking to faces is good. And FaceTime is much better than zoom or WhatsApp, and iPads are the perfect way of doing it. 

Old Hall in Summer. Thank you Phoebe.

But of course we all look forward to a world in which we can travel, visit friends, be visited, without masks or socially distancing or hand sanitiser. May that happen in 2021.

Keep writing, keep reading, keep going. Keep bubbling. There are twelve days to Christmas. Enjoy them all.

Note from Sheila: Submission deadline back to normal now: 3pm Friday. Thank you all - see you on the other side...

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