Alexander Averin

Monday 28 December 2009

From a train, lightly

From a Train, Lightly

Sentinel trees hold sway
standing watch through back-lit mists
across the anonymous valley.
Emerging from the white fog
the outline of a black farmhouse,
I am half expecting
a troubled Cathy or
an emotionally disturbed Heathcliffe
to emerge from the door.

The unseen river
divulges its presence
by a meandering, fluid cloud
of pale grey.
Flat flood-mirrors
grip leafless trees against
a pink-silver streaked sky
as the rumour of a sun becomes clear.

Dawn, ageless beauty, exits
a la droit
as startled sheep again scatter
from the nant’s edge.
We are speeding now towards the light
still hidden by the ubiquitous hills.
A lonely, lost heron mistakes a puddle
for a breakfast pond.

©Christopher Challener December 2009

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Once in Royal David's City

The text that goes with this is in the next post, I had a job posting it.

Just a few seasonal thoughts

A Painting by Pollyanna Pickering

Dear Diary,

Once in royal Davids city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby,
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ, her little Child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall:
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour holy.

For He is our childhood's pattern;
Day by day, like us, He grew;
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles, like us He knew;
And He cares when we are sad,
And he shares when we are glad.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above:
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.

I’ve been thinking about Christmas, well you can’t escape it really can you? As I drove home from work last night I heard the carol Once in Royal David’s City on the radio, it was sung so beautifully by a choir, I forget which one. I found it very moving, a story plainly told with due relevance and reverence, it was all there. The line where a mother laid her baby has always brought a tear to my eye. Perhaps thinking of an unmarried mother, homeless in a strange land, reliant on charity is something close to my heart. I got to thinking about the story of the birth of Jesus, the nativity tale that we are told from childhood and I wondered again about its truth in historical fact. We know Jesus existed but how can we be certain about the circumstances of his birth? I believe he was a healer, a holy man, a mystic, a psychic, a prophet indeed , but not the only one that has walked the Earth amongst us. And what he preached was quite simply love and that is all there is. We should take heed of this all year, not just at Christmas.

There are things I hate about Christmas but when I started totting up I discovered that there were many that I love.

Shall I start with the negatives?

Things I hate.

The pressure on women.
The pressure on everyone to consume.
The element of competition that creeps in, the need for everything to be perfect just like in the magazines and now the TV programmes that have popped up with Delia, Nigella, Kirsty and even Rick Stein.
Music in shops (if you can call it music).
Tackiness everywhere you look.
The loss of its true meaning.
The hijacking of the Winter Festival by the Christians many many moons ago.
Enforced jollity.
The Queen’s speech.
Repeats on TV.
Crackers, far too expensive, always disappointing.
Pressure to conform, I have always resisted that.
Most of all I hate the fact that it all starts far too early.
The phrase Are you ready for Christmas?
The very people, the over-zealous types who start Christmas far too early are the very ones always moaning just after Christmas and cannot wait to take their decorations down! Don’t they know that Christmas starts on Christmas Eve and that is the proper day to bring in the tree and decorate the house?

Things I love?

Snow, a white Christmas is magical, I love it when it starts to snow on Christmas Day for the first time, alas that won’t happen this year but it might well be a white one.

Carols, their words are pure poetry and the music heavenly.

Red candles.

Fairy lights indoors and understated outdoor lights in trees, I am going to look for some solar lights today. I have fairy lights up in the parlour and will probably keep them up all year. The spirits love them as much as they love bright colours.

Evergreens, holly, ivy, laurel and pine.
Holly wreaths on doors.

Spicy smells. I had a lovely essential oil last year, a special Christmas blend, I must try and track it down.

Brown paper parcels, bright ribbons, hand made labels written out in beautiful italic script.

I love those nativity cribs, I don’t own one but one would look nice on the cottage windowsill.

I don’t send cards, I donate to a charity instead but I always pick a favourite from the ones I do receive. This year’s winner features a picture of a country kitchen with a Rayburn, below which is a sheepdog like mine and a tiny lamb curled up together. It is from a painting called Keeping Warm by Pollyannna Pickering, great name. The winner is usually an angel so this will be a change.

I would like to say I enjoy the alcoholic drinks associated with Christmas but I have had to give up the demon drink because of my migraines. I will so miss Baileys, sherry, brandy, whisky, mulled wine. Not all at once though…. I will be content with grape or cranberry juice or tonic water.

Same goes for chocolate but I will get vicarious pleasure from watching the men in my household tucking in to chocolates.

Christmas pudding I will enjoy, just a wee bit with custard as I shall be too full of roast dinner, rib of Welsh beef, Yorkshire puds, roast potatoes, parsnips, sprouts, carrots, horseradish. Yes I know I said I abhorred overindulgence!

Mince pies are nice too with a blob of cream.

Children make Christmas for me, I love to feel their excitement and see the happiness on their faces.
I miss Father Christmas, he used to visit when the children were small. That was the time I really loved Christmas because with children ‘therein the magic lies’ but sadly those days of childhood went too quickly.

I love watching others opening presents, that always brings me joy. But I would rather give spontaneously than feel it is an obligation at Christmas.

I don’t want any presents and have asked folk not to buy for me. I don’t need anything and am trying to simplify my life. Just lately I have been getting a good feeling from getting rid of stuff, I certainly don’t want to accumulate more.

But I am having the best present I could wish for this year - my fourth grandchild is due any moment, s/he was expected on the Winter Solstice. I can’t think of anything that will bring me more happiness than holding the new baby in my arms.

I wish you all great happiness over the Christmas period too and not just for Christmas, let’s keep the goodwill and the love going for each and every day.

Thank you for visiting my blog and if you have read all of these ramblings…..congratulations.

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Friday 18 December 2009

All Things Radio

Dear Diary,

I shed a tear this morning (I do so at the drop of a hat these days) because I caught the ending of Terry Wogan’s last programme on Radio 2. I bet I am not the only one.

Also on the radio theme.

I have been listening to Dear Granny Smith which is Book of the Week on Radio 4 this week; I haven’t been able to hear it all but what I have heard has been very moving especially if you work in public service as I do and can empathise with a lot of his experience. So much of it I understood and could identify with, working in public libraries as I do which are also under extreme threat.

If you want to break a civilisation you close libraries, it has happened in the past.
Just an aside here….something struck me as odd, interesting, infuriating (pick what word you like) when I heard we were giving Pakistan money to set up libraries for the people........????

I digress again forgive me, back to the Royal Mail, for which I have nothing but the highest praise.

Roy Mayall is a postman. 50 something. Lives down south and has been doing his round for "a number of years". Roy has the most fascinating blog detailing his working life and he portrays a wonderful view of life within the Royal Mail.

His book, 'Dear Granny Smith: A letter from your postman', is currently the Radio 4 Book of the Week. "A letter from your postman written by Roy Mayall and delivered by Philip Jackson; a heartfelt musing on the past, present and future role of one of the oldest British institutions, the Postie. Why postmen used to have the best job in the world, and why it's heading towards becoming the worst"

There is to be a discussion on issues raised by the programme on Radio 4 at midday today, I must try and catch it.

Also on Radio 4 this morning I caught Carol Ann Duffy on Woman’s Hour talking about poetry (of course) and she read this poem - I thought it tied in well with the postal theme.

Christmas In Envelopes

Monks are at it again, quaffing, carousing;
And stage-coaches, cantering out of Merrie England,
In a flurry of whips and fetlocks, sacks and Santas.

Raphael has been roped in, and Botticelli;
Experts predict a vintage year for Virgins.

From the theologically challenged, Richmond Bridge,
Giverny, a lugger by moonlight, doves. Ours

Costs less than these in money, more in time;
Like them, is hopelessly irrelevant,
But brings, like them, the essential message

U A Fanthorpe

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Wednesday 9 December 2009


The Other Elizabeth Taylor

Dear Diary,

You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.

Ray Bradbury

Once again it has been too long time since my last posting and I do humbly apologise. My computer has been very poorly, it went on an absolute go-slow and had to have a spell in a local hospital for computers with some expert intensive care. It is back now thoroughly rejuvenated and raring to go with faster speeds than it has ever had and with more memory installed. To think I thought it was on the way out and was ready to throw it out the window such was my anger.

Wish I could go somewhere and have similar treatment for today I am a wee bit slow and poorly myself as I have a very sore throat and have lost my voice. It came on suddenly so I guess it is the laryngitis type virus which has been doing the rounds. (Some may call it a blessing perhaps, my loss of voice? But I say that if I lose my voice it can also be to my advantage as I don’t have to answer people if I don’t want to).

There is not much news to report. The monsoon season continues and I think we are probably into our sixth week of rain, it could be more.

Thank God for books I say and music and Strictly on TV, all pure escapism that I am happy to admit to. I may not be able to speak but I can read , I can watch and I can listen.

I have been doing a bit more on M’s family tree and was very excited the other night when I discovered that he is related to Elizabeth Taylor, no not the actress but the famous novelist. Now I am envious because I have not found anyone quite so illustrious in my family and a writer to boot.

I thought I would seek out a biography of said lady and lo and behold, one of those coincidences, her first and only biography was published in April of this year by Nicola Beauman of Persephone Books fame and we have copies in the library service. All are out on loan but I have placed a request for it. I have always admired Taylor and know several other people who do as well, little did I know that M was related to her.

I am reading a new book written by another of my favourite authors, Susan Hill. It is called Howards End is on the Landing, great title eh?

The subject is books and reading - a year of reading from home - so for a bibliophile like me it is pure heaven. Once I finish this blog post I will retire to my bed with honey, lemon and paracetamol and lose myself in her words. If you haven’t ever read Susan Hill, apart from this one I would recommend The Magic Apple Tree, it is one of my top ten favourites and a must-read book.

So that’s all for today, I have no energy for much more.

But I shall sign off with not one but two poems by Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate. I watched the South Bank Show on Sunday night which featured Carol and was reminded again of two of my favourite poems.




Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims1 sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. 2 Grade I piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child's name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio's prayer -
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.

Carol Ann Duffy

A Child's Sleep

I stood at the edge of my child's sleep
hearing her breathe;
although I could not enter there,
I could not leave.

Her sleep was a small wood,
perfumed with flowers;
dark, peaceful, sacred,
acred in hours.

And she was the spirit that lives
in the heart of such woods;
without time, without history,
wordlessly good.

I spoke her name, a pebble dropped
in the still night,
and saw her stir, both open palms
cupping their soft light;

then went to the window. The greater dark
outside the room
gazed back, maternal, wise,
with its face of moon.

Carol Ann Duffy

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,