Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.
His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"
Thursday, 22 December 2011
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Wednesday, 21 December 2011
Monday, 19 December 2011
Sunday, 18 December 2011
I finally felt like getting ready for Christmas today. I texted my decorator and he came straight round. He likes to be left to get on with it his way, so I made myself scarce and sat in my bedroom by the window reading Will Self's Walking to Hollywood. Harry's signature decorating style includes the rather postmodern draping of my furniture in table cloths of various sizes and colours. He likes tinsel and fairy lights, but not - unaccountably - Ruby the veteran Reindeer (who sings and jiggles her head around when her batteries are in) or Ded Moroz - Grandfather Frost - the yellowing Russian folk figurine of even earlier date.
Saturday, 17 December 2011
Thursday, 15 December 2011
Wednesday, 14 December 2011
Shakespeare & Co was Sylvia Beach's Paris bookshop, made famous in the 1920's and 30's as a meeting place for writers such as Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and Ezra Pound ( 'il miglior fabbro' -the master wordsmith - in Eliot's dedication to him of The Waste Land). After Beach's death, the bookshop moved to new premises where it was eccentrically run for 60 years by George Whitman, who has died aged 98. Whitman famously allowed aspiring writers to stay, sometimes for up to seven years in one case, in exchange for working in the shop and reading a book a day. Breakfast pancakes were served every day to all comers, and wodges of cash were hidden in the shelves. The shop continues under the more conventional management of Whitman's daughter, another Sylvia. The US Bill of Rights was adopted on this day in 1791, guaranteeing freedom of speech, religion, the press and other protections for the citizen. Edna O'Brien, born Dec 15 1930, was inspired, by hearing read out loud the first few lines of Hemingway's A Farewell To Arms, to write her own first novel, in three weeks, The Country Girls (1960). A later, similarly semi-autobiographical novel, The Lonely Girl was made into a movie The Girl With Green Eyes starring Peter Finch. Her first book was publicly burned by the priest in her home town in County Clare, and all her books were initially banned in Eire. There is to be a Hollywood version of Milton's Paradise Lost. Lastly, it was on this day in 1939 that Gone With the Wind starring Vivien Leigh and Clarke Gable opened in Atlanta, Georgia. Due to the 'Jim Crow' regulations in force at the time, the black members of the cast were not allowed to sit with the white ones for the screening. I saw the movie, aged 13, on two parts on successive nights, from the dress circle of a converted theatre in Malmo, Sweden, where we had anchored to dry out during a sailing holiday in the cold, wet summer of 1957.
Tuesday, 13 December 2011
Saturday, 10 December 2011
The Statistical Account of that year also praised the way that townsfolk spoke: "Their language is among the best samples of English to be found in any Scottish village."
It goes on: "There is hardly any smuggling or poaching, and low and gross acts of immorality are seldom heard of in Moffat."
It includes facts about daily life in the town, such as:
curling, bowling and billiards were popular sports
a subscription and circulating library operated locally
there were two daily newspapers
no houses were uninhabited
There was no manufacturing industry but the town could boast plenty of services, ranging from 50 weavers, six shoemakers, six tailors and eight merchants, to one watchmaker, two bakers, five masons, six wrights and one surgeon.
And it was also a popular tourist destination, thanks to the location of the Moffat well.
According to Graham's Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century: "In spring there meet round the little wells of Moffat a throng in their gayest and brightest from society in town and country, sipping their sulphur waters and discussing their pleasant gossip ... city clergy, men of letters, country gentlemen and ladies of fashion and the diseased and decrepit of the poorest rank, who had toilsomely travelled from far-off districts to taste the magic waters." (reprinted in Moffat News Dec 8 2011)
175 years later, in December 2011 a letter to The Scotsman confirmed:
Your article on successful 'themed' towns in Dumfries and Galloway omitted a notable example: Moffat. Our theme, admittedly as yet unacknowledged as a brand, is 'hospitality' – we have the greatest number of pubs, cafes, restaurants, B&B's, and hotels of any town in D&G. Plus, remarkably for a town of our size (2,499 residents), we have virtually every other civilised amenity on or just off our high street: a bank; a library, two GP surgeries; vet; churches; chemist; deli; co-op; ironmonger; convenience store; clothes shops; gift shops; hairdresser; butcher; baker; book shop; blacksmith; garages; garden centre; newsagents; post office; beauty parlour; physio/osteopath; jeweller, a cottage hospital and a police station. Many of these are housed in a magnificent collection of Georgian buildings associated with the finest flowering of the spa, which spanned three centuries from the 17th –20th century. We were also once the reserve venue for the Wimbledon All England Championships – the real ones ie croquet not tennis.
Wednesday, 7 December 2011
Tuesday, 6 December 2011
Monday, 5 December 2011
Friday, 2 December 2011
My daughter went to Glasgow yesterday and reported that the shops were heaving. Will history divide our lives into BC (Before the Crunch) and AC (After the Crunch)? I have visions that, whereas we are being encouraged to feel relatively protected - cushioned as we are by sterling from the euro crash - , there is a darker scenario: democracy disappears from Europe in favour of the coercive rule of technocrats, the worst possible combination of French and German bossiness. How near the surface are lingering resentments and regrets following the outcome of WWII? Is Nicholas Ridley's Spectator prophecy to come true?
(From Wikipedia: On 14 July 1990 Ridley was forced to resign as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry after an interview published in The Spectator. He had described the proposed Economic and Monetary Union as "a German racket designed to take over the whole of Europe" and said that giving up sovereignty to Europe was as bad as giving it up to Adolf Hitler. The interview was illustrated with a cartoon depicting Ridley adding a Hitler moustache to a poster of the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. While Ridley was not one of the most powerful government members, he was regarded as a Thatcherite loyalist and his departure was a significant break in their ranks. Margaret Thatcher herself had to resign four months later. Some commentators point to Ridley's resignation, its manner, and the European issue at its core, as leading indicators for the next decade of Conservative Party politics.)
Lunch yesterday at Brodies to discuss progress on the Moffat Book Events Sept 2012 conference. I had done a Jeremy Clarkson (ill-advised use of irony) by prefacing an email to my lunch companion: 'No! No! No! No!' - a quote from Margaret Thatcher whose biopic starring Meryl Streep is being promoted on TV. Clarkson's scripted sally on The One Show was delivered quite clearly and deliberately in two parts: first, he said how blissfully quiet London was because of the strike, restaurants empty therefore easy to get a table etc, then 'in the name of BBC balance' he went into the rant about taking the strikers out to shoot them. End of.
The house in south Lanarkshire where I lived until I moved to Moffat two years ago overlooks Watermeetings, where Sir Henry Irving and his partner Ellen Terry, giants of the Victorian stage, used to stay with their entourage: Eleanor Marx (daughter of Karl, Ellen Terry's secretary who ran her fan club, thought to be the world's first), Bram Dracula Stoker, Henry Irving's secretary and Ellen’s children, her daughter and illegitimate son Edward Gordon Craig (surname plucked whimsically after his mother saw Ailsa Craig the volcanic core rock nicknamed Paddy's Milestone, one of the world's two sources of curling stone granite, sitting off the coast of Ayrshire) whose portrait can be seen hanging in the foyer of the Moscow Arts theatre. Craig was the most celebrated theatre designer of his time. Their presence as a touring theatre company in Scotland was directly due to religion. Severe post-reformation Scotland abjured theatre, (indeed Christmas itself was first celebrated only in 1947 as a public holiday in Scotland, when shops such as Jenners began tentatively to put Christmas scenes in their windows) so the only theatre was provided by touring companies such as Henry Irving’s.There is also quite a lot of talk in the film about Findhorn, the eco community in northern Scotland. There is a comical aside by Gregory about a university production of The Bacchae that brought to mind a tragi-comic episode in my own life. Towards the end of my second marriage, on the occasion of our wedding anniversary we booked tickets to see a play at the National Theatre. When I arrived, my about to be ex-husband broke the news to me that for some reason that play had been cancelled and we had been offered (and he had accepted) tickets for The Bacchae instead. Connoisseurs of classical drama will know that the plotline of The Bacchae is the savage pursuit and dismemberment by enraged female spirits (the Bacchae of the title) of the protagonist. Ahem.