For a Library.
My soul is like a book;
woken in the morning by the Jolly Postman
and nurtured in the loving arms of Enid,
amid the snows of Narnia.
Looking out into cold reality it saw
hope and endless possibility;
because it found Charlie’s golden ticket and
saw the green world through the eyes of Mole
on that first Spring morning.
Like Bilbo it rushed out without a clean hanky
and made windows with Stig out of jam-jars,
but always came home for tea at Mister Tom’s
because it had a place to belong.
“I see you’re looking at our statue. Nice, isn’t it? Perfect, so they say. Aye, it was perfect where it was, if you ask me. Stood here for well over 150 years, it has, and then they pluck it out of the ground to move it a few metres up the hill – and why? – so they can squeeze more market stalls into the square. Makes you wonder what’s more important these days, doesn’t it. All they seem to care about is making money; hundreds of years of history can go and take a hike.
But I described it as perfect, didn’t I. See that man sitting on the horse, all decked out in his hussar gear? He wasn’t even from round here. It’s a story in itself how he ended up as a statue in Durham. To cut a long story short, the guy owned some pits round here and founded Seaham port. So I guess it’s fair enough.
“There’s no question about it, there’s no answer to it other than people were greedy and they took advantage of a system. That is what happened. And they disgraced themselves. What annoys me is that they disgraced the Parliament that I have tried all my life to cherish and fought hard for.”
Former Speaker of the House Baroness Betty Boothroyd comments on the continuing expenses scandal among MPs, one of which was imprisoned this week
Here’s a simple test. Answer yes or no to the following questions.
1. Do you have a tendency to collect technically worthless objects?
2. Do you crave any kinds of food that could be described as ‘hearty’?
3. Do you live in or near places which include the words ‘borough’, ‘ham’, ‘bourne’, ‘shire’ and ‘bury’?
4. Have you ever eaten a family meal at a local public house?
5. And finally, does the above picture in any way resemble your mental image of the country in which you were born?
Don’t you just love it when you accidentally stumble upon an amazingly beautiful song?
Holy Island is a track from the 2007 album Traces of Silver released by New Zealand legend Andrew White; a totally underrated artist in my opinion. Despite having worked with artists such as Karen Matheson of Cappercaille and Michael McGoldrick of the Afro Celt Sound System, White remains mostly unknown in the country in which he was born.
I first came across Andrew White’s music during a random search on youtube and bought this album on the strength of the first song I heard, the magical title track Traces of Silver. He has an arresting voice and wonderfully tender style of guitar playing, and there’s a refreshing sense of honesty and raw beauty in his lyrics, too.
“On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me
a partridge in a pear tree.”
So goes the first verse from one of England’s most well-known carols, the Twelve Days of Christmas. The twelve days of Christmas begin on St. Stephen’s Day (26th December) and continue until Twelfth Night; the evening of the 5th January and the night before Epiphany. Epiphany (6th January) celebrates the coming of the Magi and marks the end of the Christmas season, a tradition dating from medieval times.
You may be surprised to learn that the Twelve Days of Christmas was first written down in 1780. It was included in a children’s book named Mirth Without Mischief, and probably intended as a memory forfeit game to be played on Twelfth Night. The players would each recite a verse from memory and the first to make a mistake would be subject to a forfeit.
Picture the scene. It’s the week before Christmas and today is bitterly cold. Even though it’s not yet evening, darkness has well and truly fallen. If you braved the wintry weather tonight, you would soon see the stone walls of a church by the sea. Warm lights shine out invitingly from the windows and make patterns of the churchyard trees on the new-fallen snow.
Then, suddenly, the lights go out. If you went inside right now, you would see people of all ages lining the walls of the church, each holding an orange with a lit candle. The tiny lights show little else but the face of each bearer. And they all begin to sing.