Christmas Lights Display at Melbourne Town Hall

I only know about this brilliant display of Christmas lights because Leanne Cole blogged about it and later posted this video. What makes it even better are the crowd noises off camera and the passing traffic. You feel as if you’re there. So thank you, Leanne, and I hope you don’t mind me using the video.

A Victorian Christmas at Dingley Dell & A Christmas Carol

Dingley Dell XmasFor many people, Simon Callow has become the face and voice of Charles Dickens for our time. I first saw him play Dickens in an episode from season one of Doctor Who, where he gave a public reading of A Christmas Carol, interrupted by extra-terrestrial ghosts. Callow has also given readings, as Dickens did, and performed in theatrical adaptations of the story.

The Guardian, in another manifestation of Yuletide Spirit (see their Nutcracker), offers a reading by Callow of the Christmas episode from Pickwick Papers. I’m ashamed to say that, tasty as it is episode-by-episode, I’ve never managed to work through the entire novel. A new resolution, possibly. Here’s the podcast:

Simon Callow reads the Christmas episode from Pickwick Papers.

And here’s Alastair Sim’s 1951 take on Scrooge, one of my favourite versions of A Christmas Carol.

Zen and the Art of Recycling

I’m all in favour of recycling as much stuff as possible. I’m also lazy. Given that the nearest recycling bins are behind Tesco, five minutes walk from the flat, this means I recycle assiduously but none of it gets turned back into useful materials.

As part of my Yuletide present to the world…no, that’s not true. Because someone is coming over tomorrow to look at my leaky shower, and the rotting boards beneath, I decided to have a purge of the accumulated recycling, which covered almost half the floorspace in the bedroom.

I’m brilliant at making plans, scheduling things, making charts and timetables. Think of me as Arnold Rimmer, with his revision plan for the astronavigation exam. My plan involved getting up 6:00 am, taking all the recycling out in the morning, and having a thorough clean-up of the flat in the afternoon.

It did not turn out that way.

I slept late, faffed away the morning, and didn’t get out with the first load until early afternoon. Six loads later – 28 plastic bags full of tin cans and milk jugs, plus a little paper and glass – and the afternoon gone. Still most of the paper left.

You know, I learned something today, in my best Stan Marsh voice. It’s not what you do, but how you do it that matters. First trip out was horrible, gale force gusts of wind from the loch, so the milk jug bags were like sails holding me back – three men overboard and I didn’t go back to rescue them. I chose a different route next time. Even so, I was sliding into a fetid mood. But a startling thought occurred to me – why not try to enjoy this?

Which meant not rushing, walking at a steady pace, paying attention to my surroundings, and being one with moment. Well, no, didn’t manage the last bit, but I did focus on the act, and listened to the clank of the cans and crash of the glass. I tried to be there, rather than furiously thinking of something else in the hope that the present task would magically go away. Sometimes it worked.

And then it got dark. In Tesco afterwards, there was a child singing Jingle Bells on a loop, which gave me a warm feeling, while at the same time being glad I wasn’t her dad.

I’ll put the remaining paper in the trash.

For no other reason than I like it, here’s the Arnold Rimmer song.

It Mayan’t Happen But In Case It Does

Awesome Apocalypse

Are you still there? Whew! Oh, but wait, it’s not midnight yet…at which point I will be raising a glass of Kilkerran Single Malt to celebrate our continued survival. So cheers to Us for getting through the Apocalypse, and I hope you’ll join me in the celebration with the beverage of your choice.

Coincidentally, and beautifully so, today is also the winter solstice in the North and summer solstice in the South, respectively the shortest and longest days of the year. A real time for changes and new beginnings. The big thing for me is that I’m now committed to selling my flat and moving out of Campbeltown, probably Scotland as well. I’d tell you where, but nothing is nailed down yet, and a remnant of magical thinking doesn’t want me to jinx the move. Suffice it to say that, if all goes well, Beautiful Railway Bridge will be coming from Somewhere Completely Different by my birthday in March (the 10th, since you asked). Life is too short to spend it in a place where I have failed to thrive, and been quite unhappy. It’s time for a leap in the dark, a leap of of faith that life can be good again.

Uncoincidentally – I’ve been rationing posts over the last week to make it happen – this is my 1,000th post since June 16, 2009. Thank you to everyone who reads and comments on this blog, and particularly to the people I now consider friends (you know who you are). You’ve helped me find a voice when often I didn’t feel like saying anything at all, and that makes a huge difference. And you’ve opened up so many different worlds in your blogs.

Finally, a couple of photos of such a deeply disappointing apocalypse/winter solstice sunrise that I had to tart them up with some handy rushes. Fortunately, the boneyard was next door, and I got some worthwhile photos there. They will appear in due course.