Snow upon snow and please God, more snow upon snow was always my prayer as a little boy as 5th November approached. I recall standing in our next door neighbours back garden in my pyjamas and dressing gown, watching and waiting as my Dad tried in vain to light the bonfire drenched in slush and water. I cannot remember now whether or not he managed to light it, but I do remember the fireworks. We didnt have many, but they lit up the garden and the endless darkness of the sky. Huddled together to keep warm we all gazed and went ooh and ah and wow and look at that and wondered and hoped that that was not the last one.
We rarely huddle together these days; there is no need to. We are nervous of each other, and also we rarely gaze into the wider world and ooh and ah at anything. There is little sparkle. News from abroad is disturbing. The world is getting warmer and humanity gets colder. We distance ourselves from the heat of the fire because of policies and regulations, and our response to each other can be sterile. Spontaneity is left to reality TV and we crave it.
Surprise and wonder
Snow upon snow and, please God, more snow upon snow was always my prayer too as 25th December approached. Huddled in a stable: I wanted to be there. I imagined the weary family trying to keep warm in their pyjamas and dressing gowns, gazing upwards as the sparkle of the star lit up the endless darkness of the sky. I suppose they must have gazed in surprise and wonder. Were they fearful of the cold and needing each other? No policies in place here. No protection from the outbreak of foot and mouth or bluetongue. No international outcry at the cruelty of a puppet king.
But someone else managed to light the fire! I remember now. It smoked and crackled and leapt into life.
Every time the autumn comes I look forward to someone lighting the fire. Whatever the weather, the depth of cold or the weight of snow; whatever the burden of depravity, and emptiness, and the futility of life in the shadow of existence, I rely on the warmth of the huddle and the fire. So I gaze once again as I did before with my ooh and ah and the sparkle of the star. But I know something now I never knew before; the star is my light for another next-door, another garden, another fire and another shore.
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