Sunday 13 December 2015

Lifting the December gloom

Scratchwoods on a gloomy December afternoon
Christmas will soon be upon us. One of the gifts of dog ownership is the fact that rain or shine, you have to go out for a walk every day. At this time of year, this can be challenging. We have two reasonably large dogs and our preference is to take them somewhere that they can run around off the lead. In the summer a favoured destination is Arrendene open space, but at this time of year it is simply too muddy to be a practical option. The passages between fields are virtually impassable.

A better option is Scratchwoods, as the pathways are generally better. Today was a gloomy day. There was a mild mist and a chill in the air. to be honest it isn't much fun, but the hounds enjoy it. To me December is a strange month indeed. Public transport late at night can be a rather unpleasant experience. Trains are full of completely smashed individuals and over the years I've seen many a puker on these journeys. Some of these drunks are friendly and some are less so. Pubs tend to be busier, in town often full of people out for firms Xmas parties. This tends to mean that your normally civilisd watering holes become busy and full of people who don't understand pub etiquette.

Then there are the shops. Special Christmas ranges are rolled out and often you simply can't find the things you normally buy as the shelves are full of mince pies and pigs in blankets.Everything also seems a bit more expensive.

The thing I find interesting is just what a strange festival Christmas has become. Perhaps the strangest thing is that the British establishment have developed an aversion to calling it Christmas. It seems that this has been done out of fear of offending Jews, Hindus and Muslims. I have many friends of all of these creeds. I've discussed this many times and the only  thing that offends any that I've spoken to is the concept that they would be so stupid as to be offended by the use of the term Christmas. In fact I know members of all communities who have trees, eat mince pies and give each other presents. I was talking to one Muslim friend who told me that he always had a tree and gave his children presents. His view was that Christmas is a time of joy and anyone who rejected happiness is likely to be a bad person indeed.

Then there is the Christmas Story. You know the one. Santa comes, pulled by a bunch of reindeer and comes down the chimney to give good children a bunch of presents. Of course you have to believe in Santa to get any. Oh sorry, that isn't the story of Christmas is it? Nope, the story of Christmas is that 2,000 years ago a virgin gave birth to a baby in a barn. Shepherds saw an angel and came to see what was going on. A bunch of wise men from the East also turned up bering gifts. This was where the tradition of Christmas presents originated. They also gave the babys parents a stark message. Get out of town quick because the King Herod is coming to chop your baby's head off. So the saviour of the world began his life scarpering to Egypt to become an asylum seeking refugee. To celebrate this, the British government have sent the RAF to the region to ensure that the tradition of refugees is maintained. Rather strangely lots of rather right wing people who profess allegiance to the teachings of that baby (peace, love, non violence, turning the other cheek, looking after the poor) don't want asylum seekers, call people who want to see peace and profess turning the other cheek "appeasers". They label the poor as benefits scroungers. In the period running up to Christmas, churches have specific readings. Todays readings in Catholic Churches tell us that John The Baptist told Tax collectors to collect no more than they were due, he also said "if you have two cloaks, give one to someone who has none". Interestingly enough George Osborne has devised a strategy of a budget surplus, which means collecting £10 billion more than he needs. As to the sharing of cloaks, there's been huge tax cuts for the rich, whilst the poor get harpooned with all manner of clobberings.

How many of us will spare a thought or some change for the homeless this Christmas as we tuck into our festive feast? How many of us will spare a thought for the Yazidi Christians in Syrian, who have been there since the early followers of Jesus first took the journey up from Jerusalem. We spend billions on sending bombers to "Save them". What a strange world we live in.

If you are a Christian or follow any of the main monothiest faiths remember this God not only sees everything you do, he understands your motivation for everything you do. I have no idea what is in store for you after you die, but one has to presume you will be called to account. Will your story be a good one? If you are an athiest, the question is far simpler. The world works better when we are nice to each other. If we look after our less well of brothers and sisters, the world will be a better safer place. Whatever you believe in or don't, we will all be safer and happier if we treat each other with kindness and respect. The weather may be sad, cold and miserable. Tht doesn't mean our hearts have to be. That is where we need to start if we want to lift the seasonal gloom.

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