This morning I had every intention getting up reasonably early, running the long way into the village to buy the paper, then returning home for to shower and read the paper over a leisurely Sunday morning breakfast. And then I looked out of the window to discover that White Christmas had come a week early. Around two and a half inches of snow lay on the pavements, the road, the shed roof, everywhere. So a radical re-think was called for. Earlier in the week I had read an article about running in the rain and snow and although it was full of good ideas somehow this did not seem like the moment to put the advice into practice.
Instead I did the indoor exercise routine, had my shower and read my book over a leisurely Sunday morning breakfast. Sometime later in the morning I put on an extra pair of socks inside my boots, wrapped myself up in coat, scarf, hat and gloves (two pairs) and ventured out, camera in hand, to walk the long way into the village to buy the paper. It was well worth all the wrapping up as the sky was a wonderful clear winter blue and the views were rather fine. Here is a selection. I was particularly impressed by the group of walkers in Santa hats.
On Friday I listened to Mark Lawson on BBC Radio 4 going on at length, and in quite an interesting manner, about Christmas carols. Part of his thesis was that we should be accepting of new arrangements of old Christmas carols and he played some pleasant variations on old themes. I am all in favour of such ideas but I had to disagree with a part of Mr Lawson’s reasoning.
One of his arguments was that we should welcome these new, fresh versions because everyone knows the old traditional ones as they are taught in schools. This was where I had to part company with him. The old traditional carols are no longer automatically taught in schools. Over the last few years I have been to a number of school Nativity Plays.
In fact I went to one on Friday morning and saw my small grandson play the part of an innkeeper who, on being asked by a small Joseph if he and the small Mary could stay the night, had to say, “No, we’re full!” He did it quite well, as well as you might expect from such a limited role, but I really felt that he would have been better cast as the shepherd who declared, as they sat around the campfire, “I’m BORED!” Now, this would have been the perfect part for our young chap as this is one of his favourite complaints. In fact, he has been banned from saying it in our house and has to resort to saying, “I’m B-word.”
Getting back to the rant in hand: traditional Christmas carols. In the various Nativity Plays I have seen over the last few years the only traditional carol I have heard is “Away in a Manger”.
In Friday’s performance, as Mary and Joseph and a small boy with an Eeyore head-dress walked to and fro across the stage, did they sing “Little Donkey”? Oh no, they sang something called “Plodding towards Bethlehem”.
While shepherds sat on the pretend hillside, the children sang a song about shepherds warming their toes and having a little doze by the campfire which went reassuringly, “Crackle, crackle, crackle”. What’s wrong with “While shepherds watched their flocks by night”? I ask you!
The reception class children were all appealingly dressed as stars. So, of course, they had to sing “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”. Now I seem to remember that “Little Donkey” has a chorus that goes something like,
Ring out those bells tonight
Follow that star tonight
So if they had sung “Little Donkey” the stars could have had their day and the children who jingled the sleigh bells in yet another new and unknown song could have done their bit too.
No, I haven’t got anything against new Christmas songs but they didn’t even manage “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem”. And you can’t even tell me that small children can’t learn the words to the old songs. I remember being an angel (what else?) in a Nativity Play and singing “Oh. Little Town of Bethlehem”. It’s mainly that the new songs the children sang all seemed a little bland and anodyne.
Now, our grandchildren go to a Church of England primary school where they are taught a fair bit about religion. My Phil has been heard to mutter about them "ramming religion down their throats". Even as a non-believer, however, I think they should learn the Bible stories. They are part of our heritage after all. But the old traditional Christmas carols are also part of our heritage.
And besides, if they don’t know the original versions of “While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night” and “We three Kings of Orient are” how on earth are they going to appreciate these variations on old themes?
While shepherds washed their socks by night,
All seated round the tub,
The Angel of the lord came down
And gave them all a scrub.
We three kings of Orient are,
One in a taxi, one in a car,
One on a scooter,
Blowing his hooter
And smoking a fat cigar.
These too form apart of our rich heritage!!