Notepad on Life

December 28, 2016

An opportunity missed, Church of England

Filed under: Christmas,Church,Religion — - @ 5:25 pm

Pic courtesy of Rondo Estrello

For an organisation whose attendance figures would reduce your average Non-League football club to sympathetic tears, this is Day One of the January sales and Black Friday combined.

Teatime, Christmas Eve. A candlelit carol service and the church building packed like it’s 1829 with a captive audience to die for. Eager kids and attendant parents and grandparents. People who might otherwise not enter a church without pallbearers beneath them but do so because they’re with relatives and don’t want to be seen as the sourpuss. Atheists, agnostics, sceptics and ‘lapsed’; all there because of the pull of family or of childhood echoes that refuse to die.

Once a year, the church gets this chance. Surely to God, between the crib, the candles and endless verses of Little Donkey, there is the chance to take 10 minutes and reach out to those people in earnest from the pulpit? Remind them (or maybe make them aware for the first time ever) that whatever they might make of his mission statement and brand management, this Jesus was no myth, but a real person. That Christmas Day was but a curtain raiser for a message and mission that changed the world.

Ten minutes in which to let everyone know that this ancient building is not just open on Christmas Eve, but on most days of the year, welcoming those who wish to pray, reflect, cry their hearts out, or even the most committed non-believer who just wants to enjoy the music or brief respite from a tumultuous world. To reassure them that there will be no pressure or hard sell on such occasions, just a warm welcome and as much or as little evangelism as each of them seeks.

But you didn’t do it, Reverend. You just trotted out the same old Nativity clichés and Christmas niceties, let the same old carols roll by and then beamed politely as everyone filed out afterwards. Your one moment of gravitas in 60 minutes the health and safety announcement for when it came to us lighting our candles. Another year, another golden opportunity gone begging. I just wish my faith in spiritual osmosis matched your own.

“Excellent”, you beamed at the regulars afterwards. “No-one got burnt.”

Indeed not. Figuratively speaking though, I doubt anyone was set on fire, either.


December 11, 2016

Dejected by Christmas, ejected from cricket

Filed under: Christmas,Consumer,Sport — - @ 11:12 pm
Tags: ,

A week in which I learnt of a shopping centre that is now offering hypnotism for shoppers overcome by the terrifying ordeal that is Christmas, and that players of cricket – once “a sphere of wholesome discipline”* – have finally reached the point where they are no better than footballers.

This thing we call Society: we’re all satisfied that it’s still moving forwards, yes…?


Christmas worship – it’s a jungle out there…

Filed under: Christmas,Church — - @ 9:25 pm


Intriguing and slightly ominous parentheses when I scanned the Christmas dates in the church notices this morning.

Sat 24 Dec: 11.30 Midnight Mass (NB incense will be used)

Made it sound like tear-gas…

[pic courtesy of Thomas Hawk, via Flickr]

December 6, 2016

Muslims redefine Christmas, in a good way…

Filed under: Christmas,food — - @ 11:01 pm
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I’m swift to criticise the more belligerent adherents of their faith, so it’s only fair I flag up this great story from Sidcup…

‘A Muslim-owned restaurant in London is offering a three-course meal to homeless and elderly people on Christmas Day so that “no one eats alone”.’

The restaurant, Shish, can be found here and I’m probably not the only person who’d be minded to buy a meal there sometime soon, were it not so far away. May their more local paying customers be plentiful over the Christmas period, to reward this fine gesture.

December 11, 2012

Christmas every day? Beware of what you wish for…

Filed under: Celebration,Christmas,Consumer,Seasons — - @ 12:30 am
1914 Santa Claus in japan

1914 Santa Claus in japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

December has arrived more welcome than ever in this house.

Not because it’s a sign my Christmas shopping is done or that I’m recapturing my childhood but because I can finally hear Christmas music on the radio without my teeth grinding.

The convention that radio stations back off with the Christmas playlist until the second week in December; to where did that crawl away to die this year? One day last month saw me stuck in traffic tailbacks from the M62 with Christmas still six weeks off, my personal hell completed by Yorkshire local radio churning out festive numbers as if Santa Claus was already loading the sleigh.

We all know why shops would start Christmas in July if they thought they could get away with it but what excuse do the rest of us have:  commercial radio or those people whose Christmas tree goes up even when the scent of stale fireworks still hangs on the autumn air? Is this mere eccentricity or does it hint at something deeper and darker? At lives so shallow that every excuse for glee must be lunged for at the earliest possible moment, like drowning men grasping at driftwood?

I sometimes wonder if this is why Halloween has burgeoned into something much more than the bit of fun for the kids that it once was, or why Brits are latching onto the baby shower concept with increasing gusto. One more excuse for a bottle of wine and the chance to forget.

I believe this writer has it right. Much more of this seasonal gatecrashing and there are going to be many people who reach December 24th already sick of the sight of Christmas. And what an indictment on us all that would be.

January 5, 2011

On the 12th day of Christmas…

Filed under: Appearance,Christmas,food — - @ 6:17 am
Tags: ,

Eighteen stone.

Eighteen bloody stone.

And 12 ounces.

January 3, 2010


Filed under: Celebration,Christmas — - @ 7:36 pm
Tags: , , ,
Fireworks fired to celebrate the new year on t...
Image via Wikipedia

I thought it was perfect. New Year’s Day and then another two days off afterwards.

I was wrong. The weekend has been flat and anti-climactic, the festive season deflating painfully across 48 uncertain hours. A vague notion of needing to get ready again.

Better the cold-shower lurch from New Year’s day to working day than this slow dribble back to normality.

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December 26, 2009

Women throw me

Filed under: Celebration,Christmas,Family — - @ 8:59 pm
Tags: , ,
Christmas gifts.
Image via Wikipedia

Defining Men-are-from-Mars moment as we open Christmas presents on arrival at the in-laws’ house.

Watching her dad tear clumsily at his gift’s wrapping paper, my wife leans towards her mother and whispers with conspiratorial pride, “It’s a chenille throw…”

Finally, pops gets there, triumphantly holding his present high in front of him to take it all in.

“Oh lovely,” he declares. “A rug.”

Indeed. A true bloke: straight to the point.

As Jim Royle would doubtless have put it: “chenille throw my arse…”Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

December 25, 2009

Midnight Mass – you thought the manger was rough…

Filed under: Christmas,Church,Drink,Religion — - @ 2:11 am

Given that it wouldn’t be Midnight Mass without at least one societal wild card in the congregation, do you opt for the drunk in the kilt and tam o’shanter who wets himself in the pew (2009) or the bloke who’s waited all year to tell the vicar how Jesus is related to Alfred the Great (2007)?

Just ushered in Christmas by mopping up celtic pee and I kind of miss the ‘Alfred the Great’ guy.

Merry Christmas from the front line…

[pic courtesy of Jim & Claire]
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December 22, 2009

Last day of term

Filed under: Celebration,Christmas,Kids,Nostalgia — - @ 1:39 pm

Amid the festive excitement, a brief moment of sad remembrance last Friday.

“And what kind of day do you have ahead of you?” a radio presenter asked a junior school headmaster during a phone-in.

“Not too bad,” was the reply. “It’s the last day of term, so we’ll probably play a few games, show some DVDs…”

And suddenly I was transported back 40 years to the most magical day of the the school calendar. The end of Christmas term.

No DVDs back then, of course, but we brought games in to play while mellow teachers wrapped up their admin, we had Christmas lunch and were ushered into the hall to watch movies on cine film.

Reality was suspended and an eight-year-old kid was probably just one of many struggling to get his young head around the fact that life could be as gloriously, relentlessly happy as this.

If I often reflect on the past it’s usually merely as a yardstick – the realisation of how far away it is and how fast it’s travelling. Now and again, however, the reflection is tinged with hankering: the flickering, futile desire to step twice into the same river.

And this was one of those times. For just a few moments, I ached to go back.

[pic courtesy of hockadilly]
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