Monday, December 31, 2012

God Send Us a Merry New Year

The old year now away is fled,
The new year it is entered;
Then let us all our sins down tread,
And joyfully all appear.
Let's merry be this holiday,
And let us run with sport and play,
Hang sorrow, let's cast care away -
God send us a merry new year!
From Carol for New Year's Day,

And that, dear friends, perfectly sums up my attitude at present. I welcomed in 2012 with enthusiasm and misplaced optimism, and what I got was a year full of struggle  and disappointment:

I have been looking forward to the new year for months now, and tonight, I intend to stay up til midnight, as I usually do, only I will not so much be welcoming in the year 2013, but ensuring that 2012 is properly dead and buried - ideally, burning it effigy, and burying its ashes at a cross roads with a stake through what is left of its heart. In reality, I shall probably just go outside at midnight, play a few pipe tunes, including Auld Lang Syne and, upon coming in again, partake of a bit of whisky, which is all very right and proper behaviour for one conducting a wake. After that, I intend to shake the dust of 2012 off my feet, and set my face bravely to the new year. Nothing like a bit of pipe music to help with that:

PS. You'd be surprised how hard it can be to find a non-cheesy version of this tune to post. My long-suffering sister put up with 2 hours of me listening to the first few measures of various clips, only to have me say, "Good heavens, NO!!!"  and go back to searching. She also put up with me dissolving into hysterical laughter over some of the more truly awful covers of it that I came across.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

This post is a little late in the day, but I am going to wish you all a very Merry Christmas anyway. I want to draw your attention to this very interesting site concerning Christmas constellations. I have not had a chance to look for any of these constellation, because snow has been falling here, snow on snow, which is very Christmasy, and lovely, but very bad for sky watching. Besides, much to my own dissatisfaction, I am not much of an astronomer. I can find Orion, as well as the Great Bear (aka, the Big Dipper.) and I can use the Great Bear to find the North Star, but that is about the extent of my knowledge. Still, once the weather clears up a wee, I think I might see if I can go out and become better acquainted with the night sky.

Here is a beautiful poem by G. K. Chesterton, and here also is a picture I painted several years ago as an illustration for it.

A Christmas Carol

by G. K. Chesterton

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all alright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold....

I have had the Misty Mountains song from The Hobbit running through my head for days now. I've lost count of the number of times I've listened to Thorin and Company singing it. I cannot seem to get enough if it. My only complaint is that it is not long enough. Two verses is not enough of such splendid music. It should be longer. Much longer. Ideal, I would love to hear Thorin and Company do all 27 seven verses of it.

This is not quite that, but it is the best cover of the song I've come across. And the video that goes with it tells a story too. One can almost imagine Thorin sitting and thinking, and singing like just like that, when he decided to retake Erebor from Smaug.

PS. I have just noticed that this is my  eleventy-first post! You may all may all now cheer me in proper hobbit fashion.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The World Did Not End Today

So, those of you that were hiding away in you Apocolypse-proof caves, it is safe for you all to come out
again now.

There was a great storm blowing in this morning, though, so I work to a red sky. I could see it burning through the twining black boughs of pine outside the window. Nerd that I am, I looked at it and thought, "A red sun rises. Blood has been spilled this night." The wind was sweeping down the mountains, and roaring through the pines.... So I have had this song stuck in my head all day:

I spent most of the day humming it to myself, and singing it in as deep a voice as I could manage. I sounded nothing like a dwarf, of course, but what with the wildness of the wind and the roaring of the trees, I wanted very much to run away from work, and go adventuring.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Spirit

I love Christmas, I really do. I love everything about it. I love the hymns and carols, and singing for Midnight Mass with my sisters. I love the Nativity scenes, and candles, and Christmas trees, with lights like stars tangled in their branches. I love the smell of pine, and the cinnamon-smell of baking. I love the snow - I am fortunate enough to live in a place which almost guarantees a white Christmas. I love the cold, and the cosy fires that banish it from the house, and chestnuts, and hot cider, and mulled wine.

That being said, I am now going to admit, a trifle shame-facedly, that I find this particular time of the year a bit frustrating as well. I am in love with the grand old traditions of Christmas, but I loath the materialistic frenzy that hangs about it these days. I detest the overwrought giddiness of the average holiday song, the songs that have nothing to do with Christmas, or any holiday at all, for that matter, but mention ice, snow, or the day itself, and therefore are played incessantly. And I take particular exception to the generic spirit of the season rubbish. Don't get me wrong. I believe there truly is a spirit to the Christmas season, but that spirit comes from the great miracle of God becoming man, and being born to us here on earth. Take out that, and the spirit doesn't really mean much. It is too vague to mean much. Miracles are worth celebrating. Generic feelings of good will -while good in themselves - are not. There is usually a point in the lead up to Christmas, in which I feel that I have had quite enough of all of that, and get a bit on the dour side.

I was at that point earlier this week, but I am over it again, thanks to a conversation I had with a grand old veteran Marine, who came into my place of employment yesterday. He had a stack of books to check out, and when I had helped him with that, I wished him a Merry Christmas. He grinned enormously at that, and fervently wished me the same. He also thanked me.

"Do you know," he said, with the air of man, burdened with grievance, "I was in the store today, and the lady at the counter said 'Happy Holidays'. Well, I told her 'Merry Christmas' and she said, 'No... Happy Holidays.'"

He gave me an incredulous look, "So I told her that if she didn't say 'Merry Christmas', I was going to leave my groceries there and I want my money back!"

He laughed, like a small boy who has gotten away with something. "I straightened her out!" he said with immense satisfaction, and went merrily on his way.

For some reason, that cheered me up to no end. So did this picture, which I found earlier today, when I was browsing about for something completely different.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

It Was A Hobbit-Hole, And That Means Comfort

Hip, hip hurray! The Hobbit comes out tomorrow! I am in the middle of re-reading the book before going to see the movie. It is such a delightful book. I always forget how funny Tolkien can be.

So I totally want to own a house just like this one here:


Granted, my own wee cabin is only about as big as this one, and it is quite cosy and rather Hobbit-like. It is panelled with honey-coloured knotty-pine, and filled with books, pictures and mathoms in true Hobbit fashion. However, the doors and windows are earnestly rectangular and the exteriour is Log Cabin In the Clearing style, and not Hobbiton. It is sufficient as a Hobbit dwelling, but it is not this house!

A few more pictures of the Hobbit House can be found here.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas is Coming

And coming quite quickly too. I am rather alarmed by its proximity, considering that I have bought exactly one gift so far. I intend to go out tomorrow and remedy the situation. However, since we are still, properly speaking, in the season of Advent, I am posting a carol suitable for this time of the year.

That is my sisters and I there. Last year, I mentioned a recording that we made for my dad for Christmas, and this song is from that same time. There is an English version of this called O Come, O Come Emmanuel, but we are singing the Latin version of it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

St. Nicholas Day.

Happy feast day to one and all! If any of you are looking for a reason to eat chocolate, or sugar cookies, or drink hot cider, or perhaps even mulled wine - if you dwell in a cold enough climate - then look no farther. Today is the feast day of St. Nicholas, and all the aforementioned goodies are traditionally partaken of on this day.

I have mentioned before on this blog, that I have a special affection for St. Nicholas. I like saints will a lot of character, and St. Nicholas was certainly that. What I particularly like about him, is that he is a complex, very human saint. I suppose the majority of the saints must be, but it comes through with particular clarity where St. Nicholas is concerned. He showed remarkable holiness from a young age. He endured imprisonment and torture for his Faith during the persecution of Diocletian. He was renowned as a wonder-working in his own lifetime. He performed great acts of kindness and charity to the poor and suffering. He was, in short, a very good, kind, holy man, who was much loved during his life time. However, he was also a staunch defender of truth and the right, who had a very low tolerance for falsehood. He also had a temper, as the story of St. Nicholas at the Council of Nicea shows.

It is a common misconception that that goodness and holiness are rather passive and boring. Nothing could be further from the case, as anyone who has ever tried to be truly good will tell you. There is nothing passive at all in performing good works, in praying when one would rather not, in staying true to a moral code, when it would be much easier to compromise, in putting God and others before yourself.  Goodness, and holiness are intensely active. Like soldiers locked in furious battle, one must give all and stand firm, for if any ground is given, it will lead to a route. The life of St. Nicholas is a perfect example of holiness that was anything but boring. He was a man who was fiercely good, and it was his uncompromising holiness that led to his legendary sympathy and goodness to other.

St. Nicholas is one of the most popular saints in the history of the Church. His feast day is celebrated all over the world. Here is a Slavonic carol in honour of him. (Listen past the English translation at the beginning. It is catchy.)

And here is my all time favourite Santa Claus picture, partly because it us just so darn Christmasy and cosy, but mostly because his study is absolutely packed with all sorts of bric a brac alluding to the life of St. Nicholas, and his role as gift-giver in various cultures around the world. I would love to poke around that room!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Quick Announcement

You might have noticed that the side bar now boasts a little bookshelf, with two books standing on it. I intend to start doing book reviews. Right now, I only have one review there, but as I read (or re-read) books, I'll start filling it out. Just so's ye know.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


First of all, while it is still November 30th, Happy St. Andrew's Day to all of you.

At present, I am sipping on a wee bit of single malt whisky, partly to celebrate St. Andrew's Day, and partly to celebrate completing Nanowrimo. If you had asked me how I felt about my chances of getting to 50,000 words on Sunday, I'd likely have burst into tears, for I was 8,000 words behind my count. Against all odd, I managed to catch up, and finish with 50,376 words, so I feel like I have earned a whisky. I also feel that I have bragging rights, so here. I've won: