Monday, 23 December 2013

Almost Here

Christmas is all but upon us.  For those that celebrate it,  there is much to take us away from the routine of 'normal' living. 

The preparations can start many months in advance and inevitably come at a cost.  Yet for most,  the time,  cost and effort is worth every bit the doing on the basis of the positive time it can bring in the coming together of families and friends. Traditions vary from family to family,  town to town,  country to country,  so mine will be different to anyone else's. 

I guess my early memories of Christmas living in an old Victorian three storey house with frost on the inside of the windows in winter (no double glazing or central heating) are seen through rose tinted glasses. 

Christmas days were spent in the front room which wasn't used for the rest of the year.  A coal fire roared,  a real Christmas tree stood as tall as the 10 feet high ceiling,  toast was prepared on the fire using a toasting fork my dad made and Chestnuts on a pan under the red hot coals tasted gorgeous.  The extended family often visited,  Turkey was always the order of the day (more than once cooked upside down) and the Queen's speech always reigned after the meal. 

Evenings were taken up with games and special television treats like Morecambe and Wise with their brave celebrity guests appearing in Ernie's plays.  It sounds opulent and idyllic,  in truth,  both my parents had to work hard to maintain that draughty old house and support me and my grandparents who lived with us. 

I do understand why people are concerned about the commercialism of Christmas.  Every year I hear the awareness campaign by many to remember the true meaning of Christmas.  However it does seem that our younger children do get this education at school.  Nativities are done and  carols are still sung,  not just number one Christmas chart hits.  The secret is the balance between commercialism which helps maintain the expectations of a lot of people and the origins of Christmas and it's true meaning. 

What us it's true meaning? Although the time and date of Christ's birth is uncertain to say the least,  the celebration of his birth is a catalyst for something greater. 

Charles Docking wrote several different works around Christmas including the most famous Christmas Carol,  and the story's message is one of the best examples of what we should aspire to.  I've written many times about neighbourliness and good citizenship in thus blog.  I don't think it takes anything else to be honest.  The unsolicited good deed,  the kind thought,  the "thank you",  going the extra step for someone else's sake. 

On the television in the background while I write this is Oscar Wilde's Canterville Ghost.  I've never read the book,  but the kindness and sacrifice of the young girl to seek out the story of the restless haunting ghost and allow him to seek eternal rest by putting her own safety at risk is a human compassionate thing to do. 

So whatever he Christmas period holds for you,  I hope you enjoy the time whether working or not,  whether you are with your family or not,  I hope love and peace knocks on your door and benevolence shakes you by the hand.

Chat soon


Monday, 9 December 2013

All Change

I decided I needed to exercise,  so on my day off,  I used the morning to walk around my childhood village of Cottingham. 

The day was chilly but bright and calm,  but I got wrapped up and set off at a reasonable pace.  Cottingham is a pleasant and friendly place a couple of miles north of Hull and several people who I passed wished me a good morning. 
I walked along Priory Road,  a country road between Cottingham and Hull.  A single magpie flew across my path and I saluted it,  although I'm not sure what the motorists though as they passed me,  but at least I didn't spit and turn around like some do.  There were many horses busily grazing in the fields,  some with horse blankets,  some without. "Do not feed the horses,  they bite"  signs are abundant on the ranch fencing.  A bunch of pretty plastic red roses were tied to an elder tree,  in tribute to a loved one killed in a road traffic collision there some years back. 

My mobile phone exercise application informed me I'd walked a mile,  so I turned round and headed back and into the village centre.  A quick coffee and a couple of texts and I meandered through the east of the village.  Childhood memories came flooding back,  Hallgate where I lived looks familiar but in truth,  everything has changed. 

The old fashioned butchers which had sawdust on the floor and half cows hanging from the ceiling is now a deli.  Cottages are now a pub.  The long demolished vicarage is an old folks home.  I passed by St Marys church,  largely unchanged and along the snicket passed the tiny village hall,  the charity cottage bequeathed to the village in the 1700s and the even smaller church hall.  Another cottage along the snicket,  now restored and modernised was where I used to buy free range eggs as a child. The chickens no longer roam the area.

Continuing along Hallgate, I passed my childhood home  which now has a blue plaque to recognise Jacob Bronowski,  humanist,  scientist and broadcaster (The Ascent of Man) who lived there in 1942. Rounding the corner into Beck Bank,  the huge gothic and dark house called Cherry Garth has gone and now replaced by a modern set of flats with the same name.  The original house was so large,  it had a ballroom at the back which is where I used to rehearse when I belonged to the Cottingham Dramatic Society (CDS).

The large wide beck which carried water from Cottingham to Hull is all covered in and hides where we used to play as kids.  A tiny park at the end of the road which was really just a patch of grass and a few trees is still there.  My adventurous and country brought up dad used to climb to the top of the chestnut trees hunting for conkers for me. 

So,  2.5 miles walked,  fresh air and an enjoyable experience starts off what I hope will be a positive and pleasant week. 

Chat soon


Friday, 6 December 2013

"Dodged a Bullet"

Hornsea Mere, East Yorkshire just before sunset
I've posted three pictures I have taken this last week or so as the mellow late autumn weather gave us some lovely entertainment with its spectacular sunsets and early morning views across the countryside.

This is in stark contrast to the weather we have experienced in the UK on Thursday 5th December 2013 which brought devastating storm force winds and surge tides last night across most of the North Sea and parts of some other coasts.

A lovely sunset over West Hull, this scene attracted photos from all over the city on social media that night
Because I am on rising ground to the Wolds, the surge waters did not affect me and the high winds seemed to have caused little substantial damage, I was lucky. Others have not been so. In the village where I live, properties on the front of the Humber have been badly flooded by unprecedented high tides accompanied by a surge over and above the tide caused by storm winds and low pressure down the east coast of the country pushed water over barriers and embankments which would at any other time cope admirably.

Misty fields near where I work one chill morning last week.
Major roads into Hull which run parallel to the Humber were washed out, city centre streets in Hull were under water resulting in much disruption, traffic chaos and of course deep upsetment to individuals whose property has been devastated by muddy, foul water. Other areas around the Humber Basin in Lincolnshire too were badly affected with whole villages being evacuated.

Unlike the rains that affected most people in this area in 2007, this was different and more unsettling. This was mother nature at her most forceful and there was nothing anyone could do. The power of the sea is unrivalled.  In recent years, flood defences have improved in most places and without this, the effects would have been multiplied many times over.

But it could have been worse. The phrase "dodged a bullet" was coined by a local BBC radio Humberside presenter this morning who rightly observed that the effects were close to having been a  national disaster were it not for the work of the emergency services and local agencies and the public's good spirit. A second predicted damaging tide this morning did not produce any more flooding thank goodness.  BBC provided local information on the radio that was both useful and the reporting was powerful and frightening at the same time - but at least the public were informed.

Chat soon