‘Happy Xmas’ and ‘Happy Holiday’ from Gill Ward

Our Poetry Editor, Gill Ward, reports: ‘I am now allowing myself to say Happy Christmas because it’s December.

As there has been controversy in the media about this, I’m saying ‘Happy Holidays’ to people of other religious or non-religious groups too. 

I often hear people saying it seems funny having Christmas in the summer.

Dear Old England and Lights on at 3.30pm

I lived and worked in England for several years and thought it was odd with Christmas lights on in the streets at 3.30.pm.

I taught in Stepney in London’s East End for a year; and another teacher and I hired a bus and took our classes to the West End to see the lights at 3p.m. when it was getting dark.

I heard one girl (of 15) saying to another, ‘We are going to Souf-end to see the lights.’  Some of them had never been to the West End.

She fell asleep in the bus when we came back an hour later.

Those were the days when I used to walk to school from the underground to see people sitting around a fire in a bomb site, passing a bag around with a bottle of meths (or something ) in it.

I used to think how they looked after each other. And now I wonder what they did on Christmas day?

That area that I knew has long been gentrified and there would be no place for little groups of not young people to sit around a fire and comfort each other in their own way.

I am remembering A New Zealand Christmas by Eileen Duggan. The nuns taught us this at school and I loved the recurring theme: Had we but one footprint of His little feet!

One of my favourite poems is e e cummings’s poem, little tree. Here is the first verse:

little tree

little silent Christmas tree

you are so little 

you are more like a flower

Do look this poem up online it is beautiful and moving. I dare not quote the whole poem. Copyright laws do my head in!

Recently I was lent a book that I liked so much I had to own it. I went online and found a copy and I am delighted. If you ever get a chance this book is Now and Then, by Robert Hass (Counterpoint Press).

Hass was A former poet laureate who wrote a newspaper column every week, Poet’s Choice.

Initially, it was in the Washington Post Later it became a nationally syndicated column that quoted a poem and commented on it.  I loved these short essays in the collection from 1997 -2000.

Our saviour airline Chatham Air has a little story. In December 1951 Duncan Campbell, a reporter with the Evening Post accompanied by a man dressed as Father Christmas flew to the Chathams aboard the Solent flying boat Awatere.

More than 400 (80% of the population) came out to greet Santa.

Now The Chatham Islands have their own airline and it flies from Kapiti to Auckland twice every day.

This story comes from a beautifully illustrated account of three centuries of Kiwi celebrations from the Alexander Turnbull Library, A New Zealand Christmas by Sarah Ell (Godwit  Book pub Random House2008). 

One can’t help suspecting that the greatest boon provided by the Booker Prize is to those who suffer a collapse of information when it comes to Christmas shopping

Julian Chancellor ‘Bringing the Glittering Prizes to Book’ in The Wordsmith 1986.

 Wishing you all calm and kindness,

Gill

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