Last night, I thought I would install the new flat-ribbon aerial I had just purchased from our local radio and television shop. This apparently simple job has its complexities as it involves putting the arms of the ‘T’ in the top corner of the room. I tried a variety of methods first involving drawing pins and then masking tape until I achieved the results I wanted. But the end result was no better and in some ways worse than the very simple and inconspicuous aerial wire I had purloined from another system. So I pulled the wholly erected edifice down and surmised that I was better off using a simple wire aerial that worked rather than a more complex and extensive aerial that did not. As a sort of compensation, I seem to get almost perfect fidelity on ‘ClassicFM’ to which I listen the most with the minimum of FM hiss (but reception not quite as good on Radio 3 and Radio 4) So after all my exertions of last night that came to naught not to mention the rest of the day’s activities, I was somewhat tired this morning and could easily have spent a bit more time in bed but as our domestic help was to arrive quite shortly, I leapt out of bed and got myself showered. When she arrived, we thanked her profusely because, in or absence last Wednesday whilst we were up in Yorkshire, she had put out some Christmas decorations for us and finished dressing the silver Christmas tree. Meg spent a bit more time in bed so after we had breakfasted we popped down into town, picked up our newspaper, made a lightning visit into Waitrose and then decided to go to the park for a quick walk around the lake before we returned home for lunch.
This afternoon was a quiet afternoon in which I busied myself writing the Christmas cards for local friends and neighbours. I then realised late on in the afternoon that I had to put the bins out and took the opportunity to hand deliver the Christmas cards to our immediate neighbours. Later on tonight, I need to do a little bit of labelling up of supplies of damson gin and vodka which will be distributed as little Christmas presents during the morning. Tomorrow, I need to get up fairly early and get myself outside the supermarket the minute it opens for a weekly shop necessarily enhanced by all of the extra Christmas shopping that needs to be done. Today is the date on which we experience the winter solstice which is when the earth’s tilt away from the sun is at its maxium and hence the year’s longest night and shortest day.I console myself that once Christmas is well and truly over, it starts to get lighter by about a minute or so a day. I was always fascinated by the way in which our very earliest ancestors managed to compute when the winter solstice was experienced so that the mid-winter festival and feasting activities could begin. Incidentally, I seem to remember that at some point in the 1950’s there was a concern about the increasing commercialisation of this festive period and a campaign slogan, used across the front of the mail that we received, was an imprecation to ‘Put Christ back into Christmas’ Whilst this sentiment is understandable, it is undoubtedly the case that early Chrisianity somehow commandeered Christmas and the Christmas story was superimposed upon earlier festivities. Christmas owes its roots to the ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia, which was a pagan festival which was celebrated from December 17-25 each year. This custom was altered and absorbed into Christmas, and this allowed early Christians to gradually erase these old pagan holidays. Whilst the tradition of Christmas trees owes much to the Victorians and particularly to Prince Albert, there has always been a much older tradition of bringing green branches into houses and decorating them. I did know but had forgotten that in the Middle Ages, Advent like Lent was a period of fasting and self-restraint, all of which came to a glorious end on Christmas Eve and midnight mass. As we were coming home from the park at lunchtime, we passed some of our Irish friends who had their grandchildren with them, taking them for a walk. I asked the grandson who is aged about six if he knew how many ‘sleeps’ he had to count before Christmas day itsef and the answer of ‘four’ sprang immediately from his lips. I engaged in that adult thing of sustaining and reinforcing the Christmas myth by asking whether he and his parents had a ready supply of carrots ready to feed to Santa’s reindeers. I also pointed out that Santa appreciated a good big class of sherry to be left out with the carrots and the grandfather almost gave the game away by observing that if Santa did not appreciate a glassfull of sherry, then the adults in the household most certainly would. I reminded my fellow Pilates class members that when I was very young, I used to shout up the chimney to indicate my desires for Christmas presents but what to do if one lives in a house without a chimney, I am at a loss to say.