Silent night, holy night.
All is calm, all is bright.
Well not in this house it isn't.
Christmas Eve was the usual hectic time, firstly welcoming visitors and then along with my music group, to play and lead the singing at our carol service, followed by the first Mass of Christmas. It has been wonderful, welcoming the new-born Lord Jesus into our lives. I came home spiritually renewed and refreshed, walking on air, althoug a little croaky in the voice department.
As I have been leading the singing at the Christmas services for more years than I care to count or remember, (I would run out of fingers and have to take my socks off and start on my toes), I am no stranger to this vocal phenomenon. And neither is my spouse and therein lies the rub.
If I was disposed to be uncharitable towards him and how can I during this season of goodwill to all men and this must, I suppose, include my spouse, I would hazard a guess that he looks forward to this annual event. A wife with no speaking voice, how lucky can a man get?
How do I know this? We are hardly out of the church door when he pats my arm with pseudo-concern, trying valiantly to suppress a seraphic smile, saying 'you mustn't talk my dear, you rest your voice.'
For me it will be a very silent Christmas Eve night and Christmas Day. My family will talk all around me, smiling, laughing and sharing jokes. The moment I attempt to join in with my cracked and strained vocals, my spouse is on it in a nano-moment, that horrid little smirk hovering at the corners of his mouth and suppressed glee lurking at the back of his eye.
Silent night, holy night.
All is calm, all is bright?
Hmmm. Maybe for now Mr PC, but just wait 'till you go down with a serious dose of man-flu. I can wait .....
In the meantime, I wish everyone a very peaceful and happy Christmas and hopefully, not as silent as mine.
Spouse and I recently spent a few days with our friends on their farm in south-west Scotland and on my return, I realised how I had seen things with fresh eyes, things that I had witnessed for years but had come to take for granted.
My friends are not only country dwellers, born and bred, but also true stewards of the land and the natural world. Not only is their land tended with love and care, but also every living creature around them.
Their cows are pets, nurtured in warm strawed out byres in winter and turned out to green pastures for the summer. Cherished into their old age they depart only when they attain their natural life-span.
A small herd of Shetland ponies roam the home paddock by day and are tucked up, snug and warm, in their strawed pens by night.
Sheep wander up and down the hillside, well-fed on the lush grass, so abundantly available to them.
There is no need for a dog to round the animals up on this farm. They are all so intimately connected with their owners, they come at their call.
For many years three feral cats have been fed in the front garden of the farmhouse. They do not wish to come into the house, but prefer the snug beds provided under shelters that have been made for them outdoors.
The wild birds are fed and even the mice that live in the dry stone wall have breadcrumbs put out for them twice daily. What a joy it is to watch them cautiously peeping out and then like lightning, whisking the bread away.
Best of all is the performing crow. He does an acrobatic act to attract attention when he arrives for his breakfast and supper. Somersaults a-plenty are performed and then a song. Who would not reward such endeavour?
When the first rescued pony came to live with them I commented that he had come to paradise. He had been rescued from the other end of the country where he was living in a dark shed and fed only on carrots. He made the journey home with them in a large dog cage. He would not fit in it now, as he is well grown, sleek and extremely lively.
This farm is a little patch of paradise for all the creatures, however large or lowly who have the privilege to share their lives with my friends.
Once upon a time, long long ago, a woman married a man and this man had a friend who had a wife whom he called ‘The Dragon’. Every proposed social meet-up, every decision to be taken, every appointment was always back-heeled - ‘I’ll ask The Dragon.’
Now, the first man, who for the sake of argument we will call spouse, was very much impressed with the notion of ‘Dragonhood’ and complimented his friend on his descriptive powers.
‘Why aye man,’ quoth the friend, for he was a native of the North-East of England, ‘why aye, and she lives up to her name I can tell you. You divvent want to cross her, she might incinerate you, bonny lad.’
Spouse decided his young wife should be named ‘Trainee Dragon’ as her years and lack of experience befitted her for the junior post.
So, the years went by and the young wife and her swain lived in harmony together. Except … spouse would still call his lovely wife the ‘Trainee Dragon.’ This was a mistake, as for some long time the ‘Trainee’ had matured into a fully-fledged Yorkshire dragon, possibly an even more fearsome species than her North-Eastern mentor, only spouse did not notice.
Like his friend had, years before, he continually referred to ‘asking The Dragon’ … ‘I’ll check that with The Dragon’... ‘See what The Dragon thinks.’ There were jokes a-plenty at her expense. ‘We don’t need an oven, my wife just breathes on our food’ … ‘Snow never lasts on our drive, The Dragon breathes on it’ … ‘I save a fortune on central heating, she sits in the corner like a little flame-thrower.’
But the spouse could only push at this cave door for so long. Remember, a Yorkshire dragon lived within. And one day, which happened to be their wedding anniversary and spouse fondly recalled the birth of the ‘Trainee Dragon’, something snapped inside the the Yorkshire dragon. She reared up in all her fearsome glory, eyes blazing and flames of orange fire shooting from her mouth. In a moment spouse was gone ... ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
It’s a pity he only heeded the first part of his friend’s tale of ‘The Dragon’ and forgot about ‘she might incinerate you, bonny lad.’
A cautionary tale indeed. Never forget … there be dragons.