I have yet to decide what I am doing tonight, I will be meeting some friends for an early supper this evening, before they go to play in the New Year with a different band.
As it stands at the moment I will then be on my own. I have always felt that New Year is one of the most over inflated festivals, but at the same time it might be nice to mark it. I may pop into a local hostelry or something in the centre of town, if I do it may be an opportunity to dress up for the occasion.
So by now most of you will have finished the turkey, worked through the pudding and will at least have made a decent impact on your Christmas cake. I am now looking forward to the New Year, rather than back at Christmas, however that does also mean assessing how the year has gone. Last year I tried not to make any resolutions, just some rather vague aspirations, I think I did quite well in many ways. I didn't manage everything I wanted to but I did manage many of them. Mostly I am generally content with my lot, and none of us can really ask for more than that.
Of course 2016 was a pretty lousy year for many people, not least because of all the deaths, elections, natural disasters and stuff. On a more personal level I suppose we have all had our challenges, family issues and I have not been immune to all of those. But I have decided to look forward to the future rather than regret the past. I cannot guarantee that this will be my last reflection on the past but over all I do want to be positive and so I am looking forward to 2017, I may not like the idea of leaving the EU, I may be worried about the new US President but there is still plenty to look forward to.
For one thing I no longer have to explain myself to any people who matter, all my friends and family are quite aware of my situation, and the vast majority are not only accepting but positively encouraging. This means that I can just get on with life being honest to myself, without too much concern over what others may think.
But I want to do more than just be honest, I want to stand up for what I believe in, in politics, in human rights, over equality, and creativity.
I want to do more, see more, play more music, of course I would also like to lose weight become incredibly attractive and win the Premium Bond (I don't do the lottery), but maybe I will just carry on as before and continue to muddle my way through life.
I woke up this morning feeling quite distressed! I have deliberately taken some time off work to rest and recuperate from all the stress of the last few months. As a rule I sleep pretty well, and if allowed quite long, I have never really lost the adolescent gift of indefinite sleep, so allowing myself a lie in every morning for pretty much a whole week should be absolute luxury.
Trebah, not Dulwich!
This morning though, I woke up suddenly, feeling confused about where I was, when I was and even to a certain extent who I was. Unusually for me I had had a very lucid dream. I was in a landscape I recognised (although on waking I could not place it) where I met the family of my first fiancée, they were welcoming and friendly (which should have tipped me off that this was a dream!) I was very much in gardener mode ~ I have memories of taking hydrangea cuttings during the dream ~ discussing and planning innovations within the garden they appeared to own (although again the garden bore more resemblance to Trebah in Cornwall than anything seen in Dulwich)
When I met my former fiancée she was just as she had been when I last saw her around 1980, I however was as I am now, yet somehow she still smiled her mischievous smile at me and made me believe that our romantic attachment was still a viable option.
So when I woke up, cold, alone, in my tiny studio flat, in the middle of winter, I was quite distraught.
What this all means I suspect is nothing, but that thought does not completely console me.
So it seems as though 2016 hasn't finished with us yet, waking up this morning to the news that Carrie Fisher has had a serious heart attack, I pray for her survival, please do not let us lose another. It is beginning to feel as though all the stars or influential people I grew up with are either dead or in prison!
I was very good yesterday, I now have all of my presents wrapped, and all of the cards that are going to get written, written. Most have been delivered, and the remaining ones will be very soon. I have made some chutney (by way of therapy) and cleaned the kitchen. I have sufficient food and booze laid in to see me through to the new year, so now I can sit back and relax, and let others do the work.
I did make the mistake yesterday of "Popping out to the supermarket" to pick up a couple of things, traffic was appalling, parking challenging and the shop itself was heaving. My heart goes out to all shop staff at this time of year, generally they seem to be cheerful yet so many customers are rude, rushed and selfish, why do we all panic and buy so much food, the shops are only shut for a couple of days?!
So now we have got to the point of only one sleep before Christmas Day! we have sent cards to people we either love, or feel we ought to. We have bought and wrapped presents for close friends and family. In this day and age we have probably put up a post on Facebook (other social media are available) explaining why we haven't sent cards to other people. We have bought too much food, we have probably got a little drunk at least once and are now looking forward to a blow out day tomorrow and then a pleasant restful few days off afterwards.
I wish you all joy at Christmas and throughout the coming new year. But today the last word goes to The Meaning of Lila
Well we only have two sleeps to go before Christmas! So I hope you are all better prepared than I am, I haven't bought all of my presents yet, and the ones I have bought aren't wrapped. I have cards still to deliver, and bizarrely work still to get done. I am so glad that once again I don't have to worry about catering this year, I will be spending Christmas day with a good friend so can put aside all concerns about turkey, puddings and mince pies.
Worrying about what to wear?
It does seem as though whatever my situation, occupation, or state of transition this is always a busy time of year when I struggle to get everything done that needs to be done.
It has been a very rare year when I have not been wrapping presents after Midnight Communion! So my plan is to devote myself tonight and tomorrow to buying wrapping and delivering. Only then can I start to worry about what I'm going to wear and do my nails.
When our Daughter was younger we had a cloth Advent Calendar in the shape of a Christmas Tree, it had a little pocket for each day at the beginning of Advent we would put a little treat, usually chocolate, in each pocket for her to find that day. I used to love the way she would look forward to finding the treat, the build up of excitement as we got closer to the great day itself, and then the total mayhem of Christmas morning. She would come into our bedroom with all the gifts Santa had brought during the night, bouncing on our bed with excitement.
After breakfast we would all go to Church, it was only when we got home afterwards that we would open the gifts from under the tree from each other.
It was my wife's drive for the perfect family Christmas that brought me back to Church and then both of us to faith, in the process without even realising it we actually had the perfect family Christmas. Maybe not the one that John Lewis and the rest of them try to sell us, but it was perfect for our family!
Now my Daughter has grown up, I no longer live with her and my wife, the house is somebody else's, my Mother is in a nursing home and I'm broke. I see a lot of people saying similar things to this, "I've lost my family, my home, my job ~ I can't carry on!" Well the good news is that you can!
I know for a lot of people Christmas is a tough time, especially if you are feeling lonely, abandoned, or desperate. It can be hard to see the way ahead.
The point of Christmas though is that we are never alone, never abandoned, and the way ahead is prepared for us. There have been occasions over the last couple of years when I have experienced all of these negative emotions, but it has been the knowledge of the love of God that has kept me going.
It is the healing power of God at work in me, just as much as the hormones and the attentions of the London GIC that is now making me grow into the person I was made to be. It has not always been easy, but knowing that God is with me has meant that I have not felt like giving up. Well not since I've known Him, I did think about it (and even try once) before then.
I'm sorry if this is a little heavy for you, or if you don't recognise what I'm expressing, so here's a picture of cat in a Christmas tree to cheer us all up a bit!
Today is the winter equinox so we were a bit short on day light, as from tomorrow the days should start to get longer, and I can look forward to not having to stop work just after four due to lack of light.
Having said that I only had a couple of hours working outdoors in a garden today, my main job for the day was a couple of phone calls, and trying to construct a six month budget for a small business. It is a long time since I have spent that much time working on a spread sheet. Unfortunately I couldn't come up with the answer we wanted, but I don't think is my figures that are wrong, we will now have a lot more work to put in.
When I finally got home and had a chance to relax and check in to Facebook, I found that one of my friends had left this picture for me ~ do you think my friends are beginning to work out that I have a bit of a thing for Betty?
My final Christmas performance is now in the past, with the Sunday evening Carol Service, and yesterday's social concert now gone I have no more playing to worry about. This has multiple advantages, I have been struggling for the last week or so with some midge bites on my lip and across my face, which are very uncomfortable, now they will have a chance to recover. I will also be able to pause and contemplate on the season.
A couple of years ago a Pastor asked the question "What does Christmas mean to you" my glib answer is that it is when we celebrate "the Transcendent made manifest"; a little more contemplation brought me to the conclusion that it is at Christmas that every thing starts to get better.
Each year it is at Christmas that the days start to get longer, the worst of winter, the shortest days when I have least work, or enthusiasm for what I do have are in the past. After Christmas I can start to look forward, I can start thinking of spring, of longer, warmer days. More work, more light, more money. Things start to grow, even though it may be cold and frosty bulbs are coming to life and so am I.
In the same way it is with the coming of Christ that things start to get better, after Christmas we can start to look forward to Christ's ministry, His passion and His resurrection. We are no longer looking back to Moses, David, and Abraham, we are looking forward to taking our place with Christ beside the King.
Having said all that I have a very difficult day tomorrow, and I hope and pray that my efforts on behalf of my customers company will bear fruit and they will survive. This is one of those rare occasions when the "side line" takes precedence over the "day job". I need to be alert, analytical and incisive, ~ maybe I should go to bed.
Will 2016 please just STOP! I know that there's not a lot of it left but somehow it feels as if this has been the year of deaths. Today I woke up to the news that Lionel Blue had died, I will miss his pearls of wisdom, his faith and his confusion both simply expressed. I will miss his humour, indeed even his voice. It is strange that this has been a year of losses, losses of people who are in some way precious to us yet in most cases they are people we have never met.
Maybe it is something about our modern lifestyle where with social media, radio on TV celebrities come into our homes and become part of our lives.
Maybe it's yet another death, maybe it's because I'm having to wait in all day for a new electric meter to be fitted, but I am having a bit of a grouchy day, so I am going to share a few Grinch like cartoons today.
You could take these as a reminder that the meaning of Christmas is not presents, maybe as a reminder that however bad it may seem, after Christmas everything gets better; or maybe that we all need to have either a change or a rest.
Oh Dear, Oh Dear, Oh Dear, I've done it again, I managed to miss posting on time. My excuse ~ life!
EL Greco 1603
Yesterday was the forth Sunday in Advent, so it was the day when we really did have Four Candles. We had a communion as part of our main Sunday morning service (we don't every week!) and our special Carol Service in the evening. During communion I was put in mind of a post my friend (I was so tempted to type "Pal") Joey put up the other day about communion at his Church. Well we are good Anglicans and so do it a little differently, we are given little broken pieces of white bread which we eat and then we drink the wine from a chalice, some will save the bread and dip it into the wine, but most of us parade past the ministers taking the bread and then the wine.
Christ on the Cross, Eugene Delacroix,1853
Catholic Churches will adopt a similar process but use wafers rather than leavened bread as the host (I assume that this has something to do with transubstantiation). Baptist Churches will pass out the bread and then the wine in small glasses so the congregation can all drink the wine at the same time. However, it struck me that although we may have slight differences we are all very much united by this practice of sharing bread and wine. It is the one bit of our services that unite us all. This is what I think of when I say I believe in the Communion of Saints.
All over the World at 12 O'clock on Saturday night Christians will be meeting together and sharing bread and wine, as we remember not only the birth of Christ but also His death and resurrection. Not only that He came to Earth fully Human, but also that He is fully God and that He has made our sins forgiven and won us eternal life.
Yes Christmas is great, but without Easter it is meaningless..
After getting the van back yesterday I still had some work to do, by the time I had completed that and got rid of the waste I just about had time to get changed fed and off to a rehearsal of the Jazz/Blues band I play in. This year we will be playing on a float in the London New Year's Day Parade, which is great! Not so great is the PA equipment that will be available to us, as it will only have three inputs and we are using an electric keyboard that will only leave two for the singer, the harmonica and me. So I will be playing the tuba rather than the electric bass.
I am quite happy to play the tuba but I was amazed just how ignorant some of my fellow band members of my band when it comes to other instruments. I might have been less tolerant than usual as I had a horrible head ache all day, and now despite a good lie in I still have it this morning. Before dashing off to a rehearsal for tonight's concert with the lovely Linden Wind Orchestra.
This will be the first time I will have played with them for many, many years but there are still quite a few friends playing and it will be great fun.
Then I only have the Carol Service at Church tomorrow and one further social concert on Monday!
I know I'm late, but yesterday it all got a little complicated. Yes, I had one of those days. One of those days when there is simply to much to get done, and too little time/energy to achieve it all.
The good news is that Dannie's home. The problem was actually the alternator, rather than the water pump either way it still cost me a lot of money and I was without a van for a week. Working with the car rather than a van definitely took a lot more time and effort, so in many ways I was hit with a "Double Wammy"
This has made me realise a couple of things, first is that I am better off working with this size van, it often crosses my mind that I would be better off getting a big estate car and only having to pay one lot of insurance, road tax etc. but having a van is not only more professional it is also much easier.
The other is that is that I must be making some progress, I was complaining to my Brother about the van breaking down at the worst time. Juts as I had spent some money on a new stereo, and had started pulling my bathroom apart ready for a re-model, I would now have to use money earmarked for the bathroom for the van; but as he pointed out previous years I would not have had any money for anything! So although it still hurts I suppose I must be getting there!
I sometimes wonder why Christmas is such a "Big Thing", of course in many ways that is purpose of Advent, to contemplate on and prepare for the festival that starts with Christmas day. Of course for Christians we are celebrating the birth of Christ (not the anniversary of his birth!) but what has that got to do with trees, the exchange of gifts, the over eating and over drinking.
Over the last few years, or should that be decades, I have become increasingly aware of what has become known as the Party Season, and many of those parties are simply there because of the time of year. For those of us who are dependent on hours of daylight it is the time of year when we pass the shortest day and start to move towards spring, which something worth celebrating ~ if we have anything left in the store houses. It was also the time of the Roman Saturnalia and Germanic Yule. Somehow, as a society, we seem to have parts of each of these celebrations without the meaning of any of them.
So, I will accept holy wreaths and Christmas trees, I will exchange gifts, and I will be celebrating with friends, but I will try not to forget what, and why I am celebrating. And I will try not to return myself to penury in the process!
The other day I had a little rant about Christmas songs that have nothing to do with Christmas, maybe I am a bit of an old curmudgeon, but I suspect it has more to do with just how many of these I end up playing each year. So far I have had five seasonal performances and there are still three to go, indeed this week I will be out every evening, mostly rehearsing or playing. With all of this it is quite easy to forget exactly what it is that I am celebrating.
So behind today's door we have a couple of nativity scenes, to remind us about just how the creator of all decided to enter into creation. I like this one as it shows the exhaustion of Mary, the awesome watchfulness of Joseph, no cute sheep, no angels, just two tiered people and baby.
Managing to get todays post up a bit earlier than yesterday's, YAH!!! It was a pretty hectic weekend, indeed at this time of year they do tend to be for musicians, even us amateurs. Yesterday was something of a high though, despite my stupidity I did enjoy playing with the Tuba Carols, and the evening concert with LGSO was simply Fab. So behind today's door I have a couple of not very Christmassy tubas
I felt a little under rehearsed for the symphony, Sibelius 2, but I think that our ever growing string section managed to cover up any of my slips. On the other hand Gershwin's American in Paris is a real treat for Tuba players and I thoroughly enjoyed playing it, and if I say so myself I nailed the big solo!
Yesterday I said I would share any videos from Sunday morning, quite a few have been put up on Facebook, but I don't seem to be able to plant them here, so just follow this link and you should be able to enjoy the full joy of 30 tubas!