Thursday, 23 December 2010

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

Herewith a little ditty I penned for Christmas (John Betjemen need not worry yet! - though he may turn in his grave) which some of you may empathise with. Just a bit of fun at a hectic time of year:-


The Merry Go Christmas Round

The halls are decked,
The tree is up,
It’s time to make the Christmas cup:
Pour in the cider,
Pour in the wine,
We’re going to have a fine old time!

Blue lights flashing
everywhere,
Anymore and I’ll go spare:
Blow up Santas,
Golden sleighs,
Let’s have a party, weh hey hey!

Big fat turkeys,
Ribs of beef,
Christmas fayre is such a treat.
Where’s the stuffing?
Where’s the pud?
My, oh my, it tastes so good!

In-laws coming,
Out-laws too,
Let’s cook up a turkey stew.
All those presents,
All that booze,
Time to go and have a snooze.

So that was Christmas
Don’t you think?
Too much time at the kitchen sink.
Roll on New Year
Roll on fast
Bloomin’ heck that’s another year passed!

Bah Humbug!

And my Christmas gift to you all (wait for it...) .... is a new Fridge Food post (hurrah!) which may give you an option if you're looking for an easy, but hearty, meal over the Christmas and New Year period when you're feeling fed up with cooking anything even vaguely demanding. And if you're fed up with bloody turkey and ham. Click HERE if you are interested.

Ok, that's all folks for now! Have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS if I don't get here again (folks are driving up the motorway to land on me as I type - AND I'M NOT READY!!) and I've a drinks party to prepare for tonight as well. So...

....start popping the corks!
x

Ps: my blogging and Purplecoo friend, Tattie Weasle, has written a far better ditty over at hers. Click here to read it for some more Christmas merriment!

PPS: my father sent me an email with a YouTube link called 'The Digital Nativity'. It had me crying with laughter. Click here if you fancy a giggle.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Reflections on a Funeral

A week has passed since the funeral of our farmer and I am looking back and reflecting. One of the hardest things about any funeral service, or service of remembrance, is listening to the eulogy. You often learn so much more about the person in that one speech than you might in a lifetime of acquaintance. Even with good friends or relatives, the people who have lived closest with them, on a daily basis, are really the only ones who know the person well. I always end up feeling slightly cheated, that I wish I had spent more time with them, that I wish I had asked them more questions, had more conversations. But suddenly it is too late. Time has been called and you've missed your chance.

We learnt some details of the farmer's life and character that we hadn't known before: the fact that his farm and farmhouse was the very same in which he was born and brought up; the fact that his own father died at 64 (just one year younger than himself) and how devastated he was and how, at a young age, he took on the work of the farm full time. We heard the stories of him as a lad, more interested in the sheep and the dairy herd than in his schoolwork; how he would hide in the meadows and do almost anything to avoid being locked in a classroom. We heard tales of mischief and tales of his dedication to his own family and close friends: how he would take his own son around the daily duties of the farm just like his father before him; how he loved nothing better than cooking and eating in his own farmhouse kitchen with those he loved most around him; how he relished his Sunday roasts and freshly shot game (if you were a vegetarian at the wake, you would have gone hungry); how he loved his horses and traps, his rare breed sheep and all the traditional, old-fashioned methods of farming. He could be a rascal and a bit of a bugger too, but always with his pipe in his mouth and a twinkle in his eye. It was no surprise, then, when it came to lowering his coffin into the frozen ground, it wouldn't fit. They tried every which angle, but to no avail. As his widow said, it was as if he was shouting 'I'm not bloody going in there!' and in the end she was reduced to shouting out 'Has anyone got a crowbar?' before suggesting stamping on it herself. Humour to the end. What a fitting tribute.

In sadness, joy can usually be found, if you look hard enough. As I have driven up and down our lane this snowy week, passing their farmhouse at the end of it down by the village pub, I have often thought of the family left behind. Yet though a huge part of it is missing in person, the spirit is still there. The son is taking on the farming duties around his job as an electrician - as he has been doing anyway throughout his father's illness. He surrounds himself with his mates who come and help him when they can - a bunch of lively young lads who stumbled out of the pub, slipping and sliding in the snow, on the way to the church laughing and saying 'You'd never believe we're going to a f****** funeral'. Death is not something the young usually fear even if it brushes close by them. Even if you have secret worries about it (as I have done from the age of 13 - an unhealthy preoccupation with the passage of time), you can reassure yourself that you've probably got a few years left yet and can shove those darker thoughts to the back of your mind. But the truth is, none of us know when our number will be up. For that reason alone, it is so important to try and find joy every day - in the simple tasks of life, in the world that surrounds us, in our family, and in our friendships. For me that is perhaps the truest definition of 'living life to the full'. Every day we wake up and see the sun rise is a bonus, every day we see the sun set is a blessing. The rhythms of life will go on long after we are gone. While we are here, we should simply try and enjoy them. The farmer enjoyed his life and there is much we could all learn from his simple priorities: family, food, farming, fun. It was a kind of no-fuss life as far as I can see, and a wonderful tonic in a world that, in these modern times, too often spins too fast.


Thursday, 9th December 2010

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Eternity

I am sitting at my bedroom windowsill looking out over the fields and hills that I loved from the moment I first set eyes on them. The sense of eternity embraces the valley in a way that I find hard to put into words. Perhaps it is the fact that the rock and mineral that shapes the landscape has been here for millenia more than us, pre-dating an Ice Age which we can never imagine (although perhaps more easily today in the blanket of snow which covers us). This horseshoe valley was shaped later by glacial erosion and left behind the vista we see before us now.

A weak sun illuminates the scene from time to time, warming gently from on high. The fields in front of me are empty of sheep, the gate swings open and tractor tracks pattern the snow on the lane. My mind is wandering around the corridors of memory, searching for images of the farmer whose sheep filled the land in front of me. His was the old Land Rover which passed by on the day we first came to view the house, locked into the rhythms of rural life, of tending flock and pasture.

In an hour or two we will be at his funeral. He prematurely left this life in mid November on the day my late father-in-law was born. His presence in this valley has been slight since just before lambing time, his life ebbing away as new life was born. His family have farmed the land for generations, they are part of the historical framework of the village. Black and white photographs in the pub bear testament to the characters, once in abundance, who shared the burden of rural life in these hills and valleys. As each year passes they become fewer and fewer, their spirits absorbed into rock, moor, stream and meadow.

As I look across these frozen fields today I see only a man standing ruminatively with flat cap on his head, pipe in mouth and sheepdog by his side, watching over his flock. It was a real image, one day when I opened the curtains; now it is just in my mind's eye.

But the time has come to step out into the softly falling snowflakes, into a landscape suffused with peace, to commit this well-loved man to God and earth. To eternity.

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