Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Monday, 11 December 2017

Advent Calendar XI

I find it very easy to get depressed, and the older I get the easier it is.   All of my life I have always been able to look forward to something, something that would make life better, maybe it would just be payday, or a holiday; maybe it would be something more dramatic, a pay rise, moving to a better home, or something totally life changing like getting married, or becoming a parent.

Every now and then I look at my current life, my little flat and micro business which just about keeps the wolf from the door, and wonder "is this it? is this as good as it gets?"   I can't see how I am ever going to earn enough money to make any substantial improvement in my living conditions, I don't expect to find myself in another romantic relationship, or indeed to have an "easier" life.   The life I currently live is not one I ever expected or anticipated, I suppose like most of my generation I expected more or less what my Parents had, or maybe slightly more.

Then I remember that Christmas is coming, and what that means to me. We celebrate the birth of Christ at the worst time of the year, when the days are short, the weather horrible, and there's little in the way of fresh food ~ traditionally before we imported everything it would be root vegetables and soft old apples. But after Christmas the days start to get longer, we start to look forward to the spring, planting the new crops, lambing, and new life. After Christmas we can look forward to summer, even now that is the time of year when we start to see holidays being advertised!

For me Christmas means that everything starts to get better ~ yes the days are longer and I can look forward to spring ~ but I am also looking forward to Easter, to being allowed into God's presence, to being freed, forgiven, and blessed.   Yes Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and without it we couldn't have Easter, we would not have the knowledge of God's love, of being adopted into His family, and of something better to look forward to.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Advent Calendar X

So now getting up to date, yesterday I played my final concert of the year on Tuba.   It was a genuine Christmas concert based on the Twelve Days of Christmas, it was great fun, if a little cold, and even gave me a chance to play some music I have never played before. Although my last concert on Tuba it was not my final performance by any means, next Saturday I will be leading the Croydon Brass Band playing carols in Thornton Heath; and of course next Sunday I will be playing trombone with the wonderful London Gay Symphony Orchestra, the first not really a concert and the second not really Christmassy!

And lunchtime today I was out with Cross the Line playing at St Christopher's Hospice we are a Christian Jazz/Blues Band who play for the Hospice, Churches and other organisations. Our music is a form of witness, as well as fun, I am hoping hat over the next year or so we will be able to take our music into more diverse environments
These days I rarely remember to get any photos to illustrate the blog, so I was very pleased that our Alto Sax player took this one while he had a bit of a break.

Advent Calendar IX

I am a day late, and still have to dash, more will follow but to keep you happy in the mean time here is some Betty!

If you want to take this as a hint ~ well, feel free!

Friday, 8 December 2017

Advent Calendar VIII

The Banquet of Henry VIII in York Place (Whitehall Palace) (1832) ~ James Stephanhoff

Whenever I see the number eight in roman numerals VIII I always think of Henry VIII, so I had a little Google of "Henry VIII Christmas" and found this

A Tudor Christmas was starting to resemble something we in the C21st might recognise even if there were some parts to a Christmas we would not!
The first record of a turkey being brought to Europe was in 1519. It was to be many years before this bird had reason to fear the Festive season. For the rich, the traditional meat on Christmas Day remained swan, goose etc as in a Medieval Christmas feast. In fact, in 1588, Elizabeth I ordered that everybody should have goose for their Xmas dinner as it was the first meal she had after the victory of the Spanish Armada and she believed that this gesture would be a fitting tribute to the English sailors who fought off the Spanish. However, it is not known how many of the poor of the land could carry out this order as goose remained an expensive luxury – though Christmas was seen as a special celebration.

More of that here.

At the moment I don't know what I will be eating at Christmas, or indeed who with or where.  I am quite certain that I will be sharing my Christmas with friends or family, I am also quite sure that I won't be eating swan or peacock

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Advent Calendar VII

I seem to have become unhealthily obsessed with my weight, I weight myself every week and would love to be half a stone (7lbs about 3 kgs) lighter, and yet I do little to nothing about it.   I weighed myself when I got home from my weekend away and thought it would be nice to get down to 12 stone (168 lbs 76 kgs) just to look nice in some of my "Party Frocks".   I wonder am I falling into the same trap that makes people want to have the "Perfect Christmas"

There was an excellent article in The Independent the other day suggesting that it's time we put a stop to the "Cult of Christmas".   I rather like Christmas not least because it's a bit of joy in what can be a pretty miserable time of year for me.   But I agree that there is way too much pressure on people who can't afford it to spend too much money, pressure to consume, to conform to a model of perfection that most of us simply cannot attain and should not aspire to.

I will enjoy some Christmas music, I will enjoy my concerts and a couple of meals out, I may even put up a few decorations, but I will not be striving for perfection.   Perfection can only be achieved through Christ, and we will not find it in this World, now that is something to look forward to.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Advent Calendar VI

It was way back in 2014 that I made my first Blog Advent Calendar, looking back through some of those windows (or are they doors?) I see that some things have changed dramatically, but much is still the same.

Indeed so much has remained they same that today I am copying here my post from December 6th 2014!

As yet I have failed to do any Christmas shopping, get in the Christmas mood, or put up any decorations.

Maybe it's because it's so easy to forget what Christmas is actually all about

But I do try to remember that Christmas is when we celebrate the transcendent being made manifest.   Christ was not born in the "Bleak Mid-Winter", it probably was not a "Silent Night", but it was the moment when God started his rescue plan for man, that's what we celebrate, with Christmas it all starts to get better.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Advent Calendar V

Last night we had a rather exciting evening at Croydon Brass Band, we played some different music, and had some interesting conversations over our coffee break.   We're looking at some new and interesting ideas for next year, ideas that I hope will increase the membership of the band and strengthen our bonds with the community we serve.   It's too early to go into any details yet, as we are still very much at the concept stage, but I now have increased hope for the future of the Band and music making in the area!

I'll only be playing in four more musical performances this year, one doing carols with the brass band, one on Saturday with the Linden Wind Orchestra and of course the one with the London Gay Symphony Orchestra.    I will also be playing next Sunday with my Jazz Band, but that's not really a Christmas concert.   This is very few by my standard of recent years, and surprisingly I will not be playing Leroy Anderson's Christmas festival at any of them! Somehow it just doesn't feel like Christmas until I've played it!

Wingates Band (Conductor David Thornton) Play Leroy Anderson's Christmas festival

Monday, 4 December 2017

Advent Calendar IV

Over the weekend I have been in Cardiff with my Daughter, visiting my Big Brother and my Mother, I have not managed to get down to see them for about a year and have been feeling guilty about it.  It was good to see them, and I will make much more of an effort to make the journey more often next year.   I won't go into details but as my Mother is very old and has quite advanced dementia we decided not to tell her about the recent changes in my life.

So, (just to annoy the grammar Nazis) lessons I have learnt this weekend
  1. 5 hours is not sufficient time to allow for a 3 hour journey on the M4 on a Sunday
  2. Pretending to be a bloke now feels a bit creepy
  3. Don't fall asleep during a rehearsal, even if there is 600 bars rest before the entry.
  4. Family can be wonderful.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Advent Calendar III

An Advent Calendar from 1903

Apparently Advent Calendars first came into use by German Lutherans in the 19th Century, but are now pretty widely spread around the Christian World, indeed I am sure that many are in homes that are in no way overtly Christian.   A bit like Christmas Trees and Father Christmas they seem to have spread around the World and got increasingly separated from the meaning of Christmas.

And something a bit more modern
I know that Yule was celebrated way before the birth of Christ, I know that Christ was probably not born in December, and that the early Church attached the festival of Christmas to the existing celebrations.   So maybe I shouldn't complain when people are celebrating with no thought given to Jesus, but I will be trying to remember him throughout my celebrations, even if I do end up with a tree or other gewgaws, eating and drinking too much and being generally self indulgent.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Advent Calendar II

Tomorrow will be the first Sunday in Advent and all around the World Churches will be marking the day by lighting the first candle of their Advent Crown, a display of five candle, four around the outside for each Sunday and then one in the middle, usually larger and a different colour which will be lit on Christmas morning.

As a child I always knew that Advent was due and Christmas on it's way when BBC's Blue Peter made their advent calendar, out of tinsel and wire coat hangers, I've never been too sure about the fire safety, and we never made one but they looked like fun ~ did anyone from John Noakes every make one of these?