Friday, 16 December 2011


You'll have gathered, I suppose, from the brevity of my last post that Thursday is a busy day for me. Yesterday was even more hectic than usual because there was a school disco in the evening. The school carpark was pretty icy when we left (before the end - Miss Mouse was up past her bedtime and had hit the Wall, metaphorically speaking) but it had started raining so I thought it was getting warmer. So I was bit surprised when I opened the curtains this morning to see the White Stuff again!

That would be my Optimistic Hollyhock

As the rest of the family appear to be asleep I shall enjoy this moment of solitude and witter on for a bit. The other day I was singing while driving (my best time to sing) and found that I was singing 'O Come All Ye Faithful' and I still knew a whole chunk of it despite not having been to a carol service since leaving school. I was three verses in before I had a blank - amazing the stuff that sticks. And I got to thinking about Christmas carols - I do like a good carol. They don't mean anything to me in a religious sense, I'm an atheist, but I do like to sing and they're crackin' tunes (well, some of them are). And then there's the emotional connotations of memories of childhood, singing carols at school, the build-up to the Christmas holidays, the barely suppressed excitement and so on. They're all mixed in with that.

I'd never have said as a child that 'O Come All Ye Faithful' was a cheery song, but now it's one of my favourites, perhaps because it's combined in my mind with really glorious Renaissance art - 'sing choirs of angels, sing in exultation' and in my head it's the inside of the dome of Florence Cathedral, mixed up with the puffy-eyed, sturdy angels of the northern Renaissance and their brightly-coloured wings, with a heft dose of Giotto thrown in for good measure.

A very weird Christmas carol is We Three Kings - it seems to start out quite jaunty (perhaps with the alternative childish lyrics running through my head - ' in a taxi, one in a car/One on a scooter pipping his hooter..'), but as it goes on it just gets more and more plodding and grim and depressing until you get to 'Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying', you can't help but feel that perhaps the myrrh wasn't the best idea, and even 'Star of wonder, star of night' can't get it going again. It's plodding out there with the Little Donkey for company, on the dusty road...

The Holly and the Ivy is a great one - bucketloads of pagan symbolism, lots of colour, mad rhymes, cheery tune. Can't go wrong with that!

The First Nowell's another good one. I've never really understood 'on a cold winter's night that was so deep' though - deep? It does hint at primary school poetry - 'Quick! We need something that rhymes with sheep! Deep! That'll do!' And that for me is part of its charm.

And of course While Shepherds Washed Their Socks.. we sang that so often at school that I struggle to remember the real words - it's such a vivid image! It's another one I imagine in a Renaissance style - shepherds on the hillside;
a wooden tub, half-barrel most likely; blazing stars in the sky; couple of rainbow-winged angels hovering with a washboard between them; and some rather elegant hand-knitted socks. And the sheep have wandered off. Sheep do that.

One we sang at school a few times was called something like 'Now Light One Thousand Christmas Lights' which as far as I can work out from five minutes googling is originally a Swedish song (the title seems to vary according to the translation). It was quite a nice tune and made a change from the very familar 'Away in a Manger' and the like, which is why it stuck in my head I suppose.

Enough wittering - wanna see a flock of owls? Well, three, in a tree:

This was taken yesterday. Today the tree is all frosty. The red and burgundy one is for one of Miss Mouse's teachers (she has two), the red and yellow one is for the Boy's teacher and the blue and brown one is for us. I'm halfway through the one for Miss Mouse's other teacher. It's all very soothing. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy handsewing, especially with felt as there's no hemming or Fear of Fraying.

Oh dear, I just yawned, hit a key at random and thought I'd lost this post. And the cat has reached his chewing the cables time of evening (it's a hint to feed him) so I'd better stop there!


andamento said...

I think The Holly and The Ivy is my favourite carol, I also like Oh Holy Night, Once in Royal David's City (if sung well), Personet Hodies, Still The Night (as opposed to Silent Night, being Scottish!), I could go on... perhaps I'll steal/borrow your idea for a post of my own. At our recent charity concert we played The Vaughan Williams Fantasia On Christmas Carols - by far the best carol medley (there are some atrocious ones out there), so much so I'm looking out for a recording of it now.
Your owls are looking great by the way!

Peeriemoot said...

I completely forgot about Still the Night! I do like that one too :-).

I've found the Vaughan Williams thing on youtube - will have a listen later when the kids aren't watching Scooby Doo!

Peeriemoot said...

Oh and thank you re the owls! They're so much fun aren't they?

blurofwoodsmoke said...

Oh Come All Ye Faithful is wonderful - I like it in Latin too although I never heard it in Latin till St Andrews so it's not so deeply embedded. It has a really great descant.

We heard Ding Dong Merrily on High in the car on the way down to Oxford this weekend - think that's my favourite alto line.