Category Archives: Seasons

Seven swans a-swimming

…on the seventh day of Christmas (and New Year’s Eve).  I feel as if I am a bit like a swan at the moment… paddling furiously beneath the surface. There is much to relate (mostly non-translation related) but I do not have the leisure to do so. I have already broken one of the new year resolutions I thought I might make…(it relates to next year…and so counts as an advance breaking thereof, if you see what I mean) in an effort to carve out more time… so as you see, things are going well!

I hope all my gentle readers will enjoy the rest of Christmas and I wish you all “einen guten Rutsch”*  and hope that I will have the pleasure of your company in 2011.

*the general idea is that you slide/slip seamlessly into the new year… not that you lose your balance and damage your limbs… which is what an English friend of mine thought I meant!!

Happy New Year

and Happy New Decade!

It’s only just recently occurred to me that we are entering a new decade. I can hardly believe that it is 10 years since I stood on London Bridge on Millennium Eve watching fireworks with several million other people and tramping home with a few hundred thousand.

Time is a funny concept – I’m not sure I’ll ever understand its elasticity. It isn’t helped by the fact that on 21 December when I popped into the local Tesco to find some portable provisions for my journey to the frozen north of Denmark, there was a huge display of those seasonal favourites – hot cross buns. Yesterday I was in the same shop and was arrested by the sight of a display of Cadbury’s creme eggs.

The Pa-rent doesn’t really hold with the idea of celebrating New Year. He asserts that every day is the beginning of a new year – it just depends on where you start counting from.  However, I think Tesco hasn’t quite got the hang of the meaning of a movable feast.

The beginning of a new (calendar) year and a new decade (if you are following the accepted Christian calendar) makes me feel as if I should be marking their advent in a significant way. I haven’t really started thinking about momentous resolutions/life improvements/goals/ yet. Perhaps these will develop with the help of a glass of wine or two.

In the meantime, while I await inspiration, I wish you the compliments of the season and all the best for a new decade.

Glædelig Jul

to all my readers!

The title should give you a clue as to where I am this festive season*.

Wishing you peace and joy, now and for the New Year.

*At least, where I hope to be! At the time of writing, I am still in the ARC which has caught up with the rest of the country. We had a fall of snow just after the Christmas carol service on Sunday and while friends were at a little soirée chez moi, sipping mulled wine.  If the weather here – and the weather in Denmark permit, I shall be ensconced with my Danish relatives, eating, um, rice pudding…. which is their festive fare. I haven’t mentioned that I don’t actually like rice pudding…I have an English Christmas pudding in my suitcase 🙂

Echoes and reflections

Today I received an email from someone I have never met. But it made me ponder.

It was quite short and ran along the lines of “I’m writing to you because you have been in contact with my sister, M, in the past. I have the sad duty to inform you that M lost her battle last week with cancer which recurred recently. I thought you should know.”

M was not a friend of mine, she was a passing acquaintance really. I had had no idea she had been so unwell.  I simply participated in one of her creative writing courses three years ago.  One particular memory of her is that one evening she took the class out to look at our surroundings with “new eyes”. M gave us some pointers about how to look afresh at familiar surroundings (so that we could then write about them later). One thing I remember noticing was how the willow trees reflected the shape of the railway arches, near which they were growing.

In many ways, this is very unremarkable, except that I have remembered this shape and when I walk down that way at this time of year, I admire the willow trees and the arches again. And I remember that evening, the class and the tutor. And wonder again if the trees were planted deliberately with their shape in mind, or if it is a happy co-incidence that this harmony exists.

It is just a small influence M had on my life and yet one which now I am unlikely to forget for a long time…and perhaps I will now be even more conscious of the juxtaposition of the natural and built environment.

M has made a small contribution to my life – and no doubt much more significant contributions to others’ lives.  It reminds us that we all have the opportunity to make positive contributions to the world and these do not have to be major events. They are much more likely to be on a smaller scale and yet no less significant for that.

It seems very cruel that M’s life should be cut short at the age of 52 – and yet I have reason to be thankful that our lives coincided for a few evenings three years ago.

RIP, MP.

Der Rumtopf ist alle

On Friday evening, I finished the last of the  Rumtopf (which is not strictly speaking a Rumtopf because I make it with brandy). I made a mental note to look out for cherries on my next trip to the greengrocers to start the next one off.

In a case of perfect timing, I found cherries for sale the next morning. So, faster than you can say’ der Rumtopf ist alle’, I was on my way to the shop to stock up on brandy.

There is something very satisfying about following the seasons, isn’t there?… Although it has not escaped me that just as Spring is getting into full swing I am already preparing for Christmas….

The AGM season

It’s never really struck me before but it seems that late April is the season for AGMs.

I attended the church AGM and as in past years was reminded of just how much work goes into running a church of the size of ours. There are people involved in every aspect from dusting the pews to making sure the roof doesn’t blow off from over our heads (or perhaps more accurately, ensuring that lead thieves do not make off with most of it), from running the children’s groups to running the seniors’ groups, from arranging the flowers to updating the website – the list goes on – and then there are the extra activities such as putting on concerts and so on.

I also attended the German Society’s AGM – and found myself elected as chair for the next three years.  I’m not sure that I welcomed or embraced the role completely unreservedly for I felt a certain amount of duty/obligation. But now that I’m in the post, I shall do my best to ensure that the Society continues for the sake of its members. Any achievements beyond this will be a bonus. The Society is small and populated by elderly members – you may be treated to further discussions in the future.

Yesterday I popped along the train line to a neighbouring town for a spot of networking with the local German-speaking congregation which was holding its monthly service – and, you’ve guessed it – AGM.  I was surprised to spot the (now former) chair of the German Society in the congregation. I had no idea he was involved with the German church so I wimped out of my third AGM in as many weeks and tasked him to report anything of mutual interest back to me. I’m afraid even the thought of the Kaffee and Kuchen were not enough to entice me to stay!

Spring

The weather has been delightfully glorious of late here in my corner of the world.

The cherry blossom is absolutely delightful – and put me in mind of this poem.  I always associate Autumn with a certain amount of melancholy but this poem also evokes it for me – particularly as I first read it when I was 14 or 15 – and thought that age 20 was really quite grown up and “old”. Now that I have passed by the half way mark of my “three score years and ten”, it seems a little sad that even Spring shows that time is slipping by.  Oh dear! This was not supposed to be maudlin – it was supposed to be a celebration of something lovely.

The Cherry Tree – by A E Housman

Loveliest of trees, the cherry, now

Is hung with bloom along the bough

And stands about the woodland ride,

Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my three-score years and ten,

Twenty will not come again

And, take from seventy springs a score

It only leaves me fifty more.

And, since to look at things in bloom

Fifty years are little room,

About the woodland I will go,

To see the cherry hung with snow.

Reflections on Mothering Sunday

Just a few random thoughts on Mothering Sunday – which this year is bathed in glorious sunshine. I have been in my little back courtyard marvelling at the signs of new life springing up.  Some plants have indeed succumbed to the frost and are unlikely to recover but others have managed to hide far enough down in the earth.

I guess there’s quite a lot of symbolism one could draw with Mother Earth, the Spring, the onset of new life and Mothering Sunday.  The definite origins of the British tradition of celebrating mothers on this day is a little lost in the mists of time.  But the general consensus seems to be that this was the day upon which young people in domestic service would return to their mother church (or cathedral) for a celebration. It was therefore an opportunity to see their families whom they might not have seen for months and flowers were a traditional gift for their mothers.  And the church can also be seen in the role of a nuturing mother – providing guidance and sustenance and a degree of family life.

As a child, I remember making mother’s day cards and posies…I can’t remember if I made them in school or possibly Sunday school (or maybe both). These wonky, squashed and inept offerings would be presented and exclaimed over with joy and no doubt a wry smile.

When older, I found it touching to see young children present their mothers with similar items and how delighted their mothers would be.  But Mothering Sunday is not always a day of joy – as some on the Wibsite have already noted.  It can of course be associated with bereavement  – perhaps for a mother who has passed on, or the reminder that a mother for whatever reason gave up her child for adoption, or for those who have not been able to conceive much wanted children, or for a child who has passed on before the parents.

Some of you will know that Jack the Lass and I both attended madchurch. Despite its madness, this was one area where there was acknowledgment of the potential pain of Mothering Sunday  so to be more inclusive all the ladies in the congregation were given a small posy of flowers.  It’s a tricky situation though, because although the intentions are honourable, the emotions of the “bereaved” are nonetheless evoked. Those tears in the corner of a woman’s eye may not be tears of joy but  of deep grief.

But can it be right to ignore the festival for fear of the pain? It would be tempting for some.  I have a friend whose mother died on Mothering Sunday – so the day is doubly painful… and today I have heard that Jade Goody* passed away at the age of 27. Her two young sons will have similar pain to bear as each year the anniversary rolls round.  Somehow, we, the Church, must learn to be “mother” and supportive to those for whom this day is one of difficult emotions.

Whilst in my little garden, I was also thinking about the Lenten series I have been sharing with you.  It struck me that we are half way through – and the theme has become somewhat repetitive. I almost felt like apologising to you for inflicting the series on you – but realised that these little summaries of life as a Christian in other countries are merely a tiny reminder – of two things:

1. that life is tough for Christians in countries where their religion is not welcome… not just on the day I write about it but every day.

2. that I need to be reminded more often of the immense privileges that are mine from living in a democratic affluent country (in spite of the financial crisis this is still one of the most affluent countries in the world), where free speech is taken for granted as is freedom of worship.

And so how does that fit in with Mothering Sunday? Well, in a way you could argue that we must nurture and “mother” (not smother) our fellow Christians in other parts of the world.  How can we do this? It’s a big question and there are no doubt many different answers (financial donations.. sponsoring a child…diplomatic intervention…) – but continuing to pray for them wouldn’t go amiss.

So I shall continue to post the daily country bulletins (unless I am required to return to the Land of No Internet Connection to look after the Ma-rent). And rather than view the exercise as repetitive, I shall be glad that I still have as much time again to do something, however small, to support people in far-off lands.

*Note for non-British readers. This is a young woman who became well known following her appearance on the Big Brother reality TV show. She then courted the media and became a celebrity for being a celebrity. She was loved and despised by the public in equal measure. Whatever one thought of her, everyone must surely agree that to die of cervical cancer at the age of 27 is a cruel blow that no one should have to face.

Alle Jahre wieder

kommt das Christuskind…

The presents are wrapped, the cards written, the round robin letter sent, the carols have been sung (only had to wing it in “We three Kings” for which we hadn’t been supplied with the words – so sang it more or less correctly from memory…), soirée has been hosted, advertising document – about…. hair loss(!) – has been completed, other last minute translation requests have been done, bag is packed – and I am cream crackered!

I’m off to the frozen hamlet in wilds of the Midlands tomorrow morning – the land where there be dragons and dinosaurs and no internet access (I can feel myself getting jittery already at the thought of 6 days without modern communications) – so I would like to take this opportunity to wish my gentle readers a very peaceful and joyful Christmas. And God bless you all!