Tag Archives: CHRISTMAS

Advent Calendar Day 22: Snow!

English: Dry stone walls in the snow - on the ...

Dry stone walls in the snow – on the edge of Erringden Moor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Snow and Snow

 

by Ted Hughes
Snow is sometimes a she, a soft one.
Her kiss on your cheek, her finger on your sleeve
In early December, on a warm evening,
And you turn to meet her, saying “It”s snowing!”
But it is not. And nobody”s there.
Empty and calm is the air.

 

Sometimes the snow is a he, a sly one.
Weakly he signs the dry stone with a damp spot.
Waifish he floats and touches the pond and is not.
Treacherous-beggarly he falters, and taps at the window.
A little longer he clings to the grass-blade tip
Getting his grip.

 

Then how she leans, how furry foxwrap she nestles
The sky with her warm, and the earth with her softness.
How her lit crowding fairylands sink through the space-silence
To build her palace, till it twinkles in starlight—
Too frail for a foot
Or a crumb of soot.

 

Then how his muffled armies move in all night
And we wake and every road is blockaded
Every hill taken and every farm occupied
And the white glare of his tents is on the ceiling.
And all that dull blue day and on into the gloaming
We have to watch more coming.

 

Then everything in the rubbish-heaped world
Is a bridesmaid at her miracle.
Dunghills and crumbly dark old barns are bowed in the chapel of her sparkle.
The gruesome boggy cellars of the wood
Are a wedding of lace
Now taking place.

 

[Because my flat is the tiniest flat, most of my books – especially childhood books – are at home in Stratford-upon-Avon. This Hughes poem has been one of my favourites since I was little; it was in The Puffin Book of Christmas Poems (1990). I had quite a few children’s poetry anthologies; this was by far the best. It’s with me as I type. It may be out of print now but ebay certainly has copies…]

 

Advent Calendar Day 21: BBC!

The BBC doesn’t share its website comedy collection, but today’s offering consists of two brilliant Christmas clips, both with a slightly office-y theme. This is because today is Friday, the last working day before Christmas for many in mysterious office jobs, and thus I fondly imagine everyone photocopying their anatomy and engaged in heroically drunken snogging. This is probably because I’ve never properly worked in an office.

Anyway, first up is Gavin and Stacey, when Gavin, promoted to a new job in Cardiff, goes to see Santa. Also starring: Neil. The Baby.

The second is the original (by which I mean “one true”) version of The Office: the final episode. The Christmas party. Tim and Dawn. Martin Freeman as the adorable prototype of every character he would ever play, and Lucy Davis as Dawn, who deserved better but never got it. Until this clip. Merry Christmas!

Advent Calendar Day 20: Mantegna!

Adoration of the Magi (1462) by Andrea Mantegna.

It’s rather early for Magi, but we* here at Clamorous Voice Towers refuse to be bound by convention. When this painting was sold at Christie’s on 18 April 1985, it cost £8,100,000, making it (at the time) the most expensive painting in the world. The artist, Andrea Mantegna (c. 1430-1506) was born near Padua, married into the Venetian Bellini family, and received his first important commissions to paint frescoes for Padua’s Eremitani Chapel. However, he spent much of his working life in Mantua, including several years as court artist there. The Gonzaga (Mantua’s rulers) knighted him in 1484.

The painting dates from about 1600, and is distemper on linen; a closer view of where the linen has become visible through the paint is visible here. You can see Adoration of the Magi at the Getty Center, Los Angeles – or, indeed, online, which is why digitization matters.

*Obviously, Clamorous Voice Towers is nothing more than my mind palace.

Advent Calendar Day 19: MacColl.

Yesterday marked twelve years since the (heroic, tragic) death of Kirsty MacColl. Above, MacColl and everyone’s favourite Celtic punks sing “Fairytale of New York” (MacColl at her absolute best), which is (in turn) everyone’s favourite tale of embittered alcoholics and singing policemen.

Advent Calendar Day 16: Quiz!

This image is marginally relevant to the quiz. One of the things I really enjoy about life is that wherever literate women gather, you can always find someone willing to scream with you about Jo not marrying Laurie.

Earlier in Advent, the fragrant Jem Bloomfield described this month’s project as my “literary Advent Calendar”, coincidentally slightly before I started posting clips of 70s sitcoms and much-loved puppet shows. To reinforce the high moral tone, therefore, I offer you a lovely Christmas books quiz from the Guardian website.

Christmas, games and quizzes obviously go together like cheeseboards and heartburn. I love games and quizzes. I am pathologically incapable of not playing to win. This has encompassed the very nasty Scrabble game I played between Oxford interviews (I was convinced it was a subtle, informal form of testing; I’d like to confirm now that it DEFINITELY WASN’T), the Shakespeare board game with E’s mother in which my competitive streak led me to trounce EVERYONE, and the daily Bananagrams tournaments which embroil my mother and me in psychological warfare.* In the spirit of taking part meaning absolutely nothing against the joy of a Monopoly game won (even if your victory is by default following your opponent’s death or sleep), do enjoy the quiz.

 

*I looked on Amazon for seasonal variations on Bananagrams, to expand the family game horde. All the reviews consist of people screaming NOT AS GOOD AS BANAGRAMS in the allcaps of addicts. The tiles are addictive.

Advent Calendar Day 14: Wenceslas!

In this clip, performers from the BBC Horrible Histories show debunk the myth behind one of my favourite carols. You can also see them do something similar for the medieval wassail.

Advent Calendar Day 13: Austen!

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait b...

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait by her sister Cassandra, 1810 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Below is one of the happier Christmases in Austen‘s novels, and perhaps one of the happier moments in Persuasion. Whatever our feelings about the Musgroves, I love them here:

The Musgroves came back to receive their happy boys and girls from school, bringing with them Mrs. Harville’s little children, to improve the noise of Uppercross, and lessen that of Lyme. Henrietta remained with Louisa; but all the rest of the family were again in their usual quarters.

Lady Russell and Anne paid their compliments to them once, when Anne could not but feel that Uppercross was already quite alive again. Though neither Henrietta, nor Louisa, nor Charles Hayter, nor Captain Wentworth were there, the room presented as strong a contrast as could be wished to the last state she had seen it in.

Immediately surrounding Mrs. Musgrove were the little Harvilles, whom she was sedulously guarding from the tyranny of the two children from the Cottage, expressly arrived to amuse them. On one side was a table occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were tressels and trays, bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies, where riotous boys were holding high revel; the whole completed by a roaring Christmas fire, which seemed determined to be heard, in spite of all the noise of the others. Charles and Mary also came in, of course, during their visit, and Mr. Musgrove made a point of paying his respects to Lady Russell, and sat down close to her for ten minutes, talking with a very raised voice, but from the clamour of the children on his knees, generally in vain. It was a fine family-piece.

Anne, judging from her own temperament, would have deemed such a domestic hurricane a bad restorative of the nerves, which Louisa’s illness must have so greatly shaken. But Mrs. Musgrove, who got Anne near her on purpose to thank her most cordially, again and again, for all her attentions to them, concluded a short recapitulation of what she had suffered herself by observing, with a happy glance round the room, that after all she had gone through, nothing was so likely to do her good as a little quiet cheerfulness at home.

— Jane Austen, Persuasion (1817), Chapter II, vol II.

Advent Calendar Day 12: Global!

Decorated trees, lit buildings, and Father Christmas in Beijing, China.

A woman wearing a niqab is photographed alongside a shop selling Christmas decorations in Cairo’s Shubra neighbourhood. Photograph: Odd Andersen, AFP.

An underwater Father Christmas in Malaysia, 2010.

The Bolshoi Theatre at Christmas, Moscow, Russia.

A Nigerian woman prays on the beach at Lagos, Christmas Day 2011. Photograph: Reuters.

The Apollo Theatre, 125th Street, Harlem, New York, illuminated for Christmas.

In Chandigarh, India, little schoolchildren dressed as Santa Claus sing Jingle Bells (and do the actions!). Photo: Reuters.

Advent Calendar Day 11: Nativity!

I have considered becoming a primary school teacher purely for the Christmas play,* which combines my twin interests in small children looking cute, and disaster-ridden theatricals. My enjoyment of The Royal Wedding was also greatly enhanced by the presence of Tiny Goblin Fifinella Unimpressed-DeSmythe, or whatever she was called. I am thus delighted by the above clip. In the opening moments, watch for the miniature angel who smacks the little boy in the face with her wings.

She is about to become a musical sensation.

 

 

*not quite. Other important considerations would include the opportunity to build the best Home Corner the world has ever seen and ensuring that nobody is ever forced to finish their lunch.

Advent Calendar Day 10: Carrots!

I understand that you’re feeling confused. Disturbed, and perhaps a little excited. Here is a place and a way of life you never knew existed.

The World Carrot Museum may be mainly virtual, but as this image shows, curator John Stolarczyk has taken at least part of his passion into the physical world. This Christmas tree is in Skipton, UK. We too will thither bend our joyful footsteps, or at least follow the link and (as Mr. Stolarczyk suggests), discover the power of carrots. After all, the carrot has long been associated with the Christmas festivities.

I am 99% certain this is neither a big sectarian NOR a phallic cult. Happy Christmas, Rudolph.