There is a cyclicality about the calendar that deflates the vanity of our earthly endeavours. We may feel we have reached rock bottom, our heads screaming for cold relief, party relief and release from the toad work, but guess what – we’ve just begun the long ascent to midsummer!
Last night’s Pension PlayPen party was a great success. Not the raucous sing song, more the polite cocktail party but for the 100 or so of us that made it to the Pepys, there was a time to be had! Thanks to all who bought rounds, pizzas and to our three main sponsors, the Demwells, James Briggs and Peter Shellswell!
If I sound philosophical, it is because I am about to make my way to Whitehall to meet with the DWP about how we manage the impact of the Pensions Scheme Bill and (unbelievably) on to Downing Street where I’ll be sitting in on a meeting between bright minds in the Cabinet office and First Actuarial’s Manchester think tank.
It’s getting better!
So I have the party remedies, the cold and flu remedies, but most of all I am reminding myself that we are clawing our way back to summer!
I read John Donne’s Nocturnal yesterday, written on 21st December
‘TIS the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s,
Lucy’s, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
The world’s whole sap is sunk ;
Keeping positive at this time of year is a triumph of will. Donne’s triumph is to bring light into the night, with the vibrancy with which he deals with decline.
We have the expectation of Christmas upon us, the long drives , the present wrapping, the last minute shopping, the meeting and greeting with our extended families and the inevitable tensions that over-indulgence brings.
Come on guys, we are on the long march to summer!
On Friday night, I will be making my way to a secret destination in Bermondsey to help out in a Crisis hostel. I’m going to spend Christmas day there and some time in the wasteland between now and the new year. I am both scared and excited.
The biggest obstacle is a cold which I don’t want to give to people who have more vulnerable health than me. My biggest fear is that I put my big mouth in it and make the Christmas’ of people who are guests, uncomfortable.
You get a little training, but not much, I suspect that many of the 11,000 people who volunteer for this each year have reasons for helping that start with the phrase “there for the grace of God..”, my family – as most families have – has members who might be homeless anytime. We are all only a few mistakes away from destitution. I will take with me the message that we are on a long ascent to summer!
The message of the church
I don’t think that I would have got enough outside my head (and the routine of the last 50 years) if it hadn’t been for me starting to go to church again. It happened this autumn, as a result of my partner doing some rehearsals in John Wesley’s chapel in City Road. She went and said I’d like it. I went and I did, it’s a fine church with a great group of preachers and a fine congregation.
At our party last night was Paul Budgen (Budgie to us all). Thanks Paul, your quiet witness has meant a lot to me this year.
Paul works for NEST, which reminds me – the chapel’s also got one of the finest Victorian toilets in London!
When I go, I never feel far from summer!
For many of us, today or tomorrow is the last working day of the year. There is an end of term feeling in the City, kids are off school, students back from college and there is the sound of canned music in the shops and live music in the stations , our many churches and at our parties. For me, re-connecting to the original Christmas story happened when our Minister, Lesley Griffiths , talked of the “winter service” he went to at a technical college close to his church.
He had originally been cross it hadn’t been called a Christmas service but as the various performances swung from rock , soul and gospel to traditional carols , it dawned upon him that the message he preached was in the hall. Summer is just round the corner, even if what you are watching is a messy birth in a messy stable in the middle of winter.
Watching the solstice ceremony yesterday (St Lucy’s in the Christmas calendar), I saw the sun on the TV come up over Stonehenge and the tipping point from decline to ascent become manifest. Like watching a birth in the middle of winter. Like reconnecting with a spiritual current I though lost, like going to #10 for the first time. It seems this morning, despite the cold and the hangover and the weariness with the toad work, that everything is new once again.
So I wish all those signing off today and tomorrow, a happy Christmas, a great break and a new year that ascends into glorious summer.
The ascent of Yeovil Town FC
Yeovil have had one of our best starts to a season for many years, we are not in the relegation zone at Christmas,
Ee-aye , Ee-aye , Ee-aye oh!
Up the football leagues we go
When we get promoted –
This is what we sing-
“We are Yeovil
We are Yeovil
Darren is our king!”