What it is that so inestimably prompts the gusto of the season is not as easily related as it is perceived. I suspect each of us – given the differences surrounding our respective pasts – has a unique story, some no doubt melancholic, others unforgivingly indulgent, some perhaps merely suggestive like the picture of a sleigh ride in powdery snow through a muffled forest. I am confined today by natural overtures. There is a soft snowfall beneath a mournful grey sky. Granted it has succeeded to contaminate my daily habits of cycling and driving but I am prepared to relinquish such repetitive custom for the more ephemeral conversancy. Besides the chilling rawness of the outside enflames the reddish-brown warmth of the interior. As a mark of my conviction – and to capitalize upon the transient thrill of winter – I am sporting my new cravat (though admittedly with less than the noticeable aptness of outwear).
Contrary to former tradition our exposition of seasonal festivity is limited to a teddy bear which I lately purchased at Antrim Truck Stop in the hardware store attached to the bakery and restaurant. It was an unlikely place for a teddy bear but he (or she?) has been well received. And the markedly tolerable price eliminates the regret of impulse.
So shamefully am I dedicated to the medieval hymnal classics of the season that after much consternation and persistence I have figured out how to employ the Noise Cancellation feature of my Bose Headphones. Compact as we are in the apartment the APP enables me to appreciate maximum audio without conflict. The sometimes tiresome “Christmas classics” are conveniently replaced by the more pagan – and frankly less monotonous – carols of Europe. Plus they’re a welcome distraction from the Hollywood favourites like Bing Crosby and Mel Tormé.
Already we have aligned ourselves with a universal element of the season; namely, the feast. We have ordered from Loom Bistro (formerly Heirloom Café) now located in Rob Prior’s Riverside Inn in Judge James Knatchbull Hugessen’s former residence a Christmas Eve dinner of 2 soups, 2 porchetta, 2 frangipane galettes for pick-up at one o’clock. It is a profound occasion because not only have we historically dined at Heirloom Café when located at the former woollen mill on Mill Street but also at Judge Hugessen’s residence with him and his late wife Mary (coincidentally of Rosamond woollen company fame) in addition to my parents having formerly lived next door to Rob’s parents in Ottawa.
The acceleration of time is a common complaint particularly among old fogeys such as I. This at least is how I prefer to excuse my unstoppable volubility. Sometimes I enlarge the scope of my long-windedness by imagining that my nieces (to whom obviously I am related by the impenetrable bond of blood) may one day gather some resource or amusement from this poppycock. No matter, the greater truth is tenably no more than my personal and equally undeniable bluster. As I have always so rightfully maintained these writings of mine are merely cathartic, hardly of any historic value; and certainly they’re unlikely to shroud the relentless indulgence of my nattering.
Amidst the burgeoning global disfavour of the much maligned vagaries of distinction between humans of every stripe there is as well a new avenue for expression and sharing. Perhaps it contributes meaningfully to the real strength of Good King Wenceslas.
Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gathering winter fuel
Words: John M. Neale (1818–1866); first published in Carols for Christmas-Tide, 1853, by Neale & Thomas Helmore. Neale may have written the hymn some time earlier: he related the story on which it is based in Deeds of Faith (1849). The historical Wenceslas was Duke of Bohemia.
Music: Tempus Adest Floridum 13th Century spring carol. First published in the Swedish Piae Cantiones, 1582.