Writing for Christmas

In the two years previous to this Christmas I found myself writing poetry for Newport Girls’ High School Christmas Carol Service.

The reason was that my English teacher knew that I could write, and she wanted poems for the service. So I was cornered in the corridor and asked very nicely if I could write something. These are situations where I find my mouth saying the word yes before my brain can really think out the implications of taking on the task at hand.

Anyhow. The second year I was asked again, and my last acceptance made sure that there was no way out. I had written the previous year, and written something rather good, so why not repeat the feat?

I will tell you why not; Christmas poetry is a pain in the derriere.

I have a personal phobia of be over clichéd, unless I’m being ironic, but that is something completely different. My original point is that Christmas poetry is difficult to write without being repetitive, or clichéd, or saying something that is so cringe worthily cheesy that it would make me wince to write it.

So for the second year I wrote ‘Home for Christmas’. This year I’m writing a short story though it is not quite complete yet. When it is finished I’m debating self-publishing, and putting copies up for sale on the blog, only a few mind you.

Anyway, I can think on that when the story is complete. For now, here is last year’s poem.

 

Home For Christmas

December’s sleet and sludge to stain rare snow grey

And blank the windscreen dark as tight stretched nights.

These howling winds batter at my moving tin box,

Creeping slowly home down ice clad roads –

 

Here lies Cold’s treacherous claws,

Here we shall mourn safe passage.

 

Yet orange squares still yawn cheerful.

Fixed closed,

Shut to the winter’s eve outside.

 

Behind them is laid the table

Silver glints, laughter waits,

All beneath warmest light. 

 

Cold tries to sneak in with me,

To curl tendrils through the threshold,

But I snap the door shut too quick

And it is left to whine around the house.

 

I shed the layers, coat and scarf,

Set them by upon a hallway peg

And blow on gloveless fingertips,

To melt the frozen blue from them.

 

I shall sink into the mundane chatter

That only comes with Christmas

And the familiar kitchen din and clatter

Of best plates placed upon best table cloth,

Servings of food too great to finish

And bangs of crackers with rattling toys.

 

Among this old hands encase my own.

They pull me into loving arms

That age but can never truly change.

Always is given the same embrace

No matter the time passed since the last.

 

Here are paths which divide, twist and bend,

To be pulled together by half forgotten strings,

Awoken in pine sap scented rooms

Where crumpled papers crinkles in flames

And the fire dances in its flickering heat.

 

Later, chatter fades to sleepy murmurs

Of Grandfathers dozing upon armchairs,

Conversations switch from past to future

Or same time next year?

Perhaps a change of scene?

Will Aunty Flo still bring the mulled wine?

And as for the rest,

Well we shall wait and see

What the year will have to hold

Before plans are set in concrete.

My Family Ring

2012-09-08 10.26.18

There are numerous items in my room which have some special meaning, or a story to go with them. Picking one to talk about is not an easy challenge, and at eighteen, my lifespan hasn’t yet reached a point where my belongings have been around me for any great length of time. So I’ll have to write this post about the ring that has found it’s way to me from the Scottish branch of my family.

As far as my family goes, we’re a strange bunch. My mother’s relatives claim that we can trace the family back to the doomsday book and the Battle of Hastings, where out ancestor, William Swinnerton came over as one of William the Conqueror’s knights. It’s a pretty diluted claim, but still one that has somehow survived.

My father’s side has less respectable claims about our history. Apparently, my grandfather on this side of the family would reply to questions about heritage with the answer of, “descended for sheep thieves and cattle rustlers.” That is supposed to be the Forrester side of the family, which was originally from the McDonald clan. (No fast food jokes! We have a family crest and kilt! McDonald was Scottish well before burgers and fries.)

The last branch, I’ve heard signed off as simply nutters, but when speaking about my family as a whole that seems to cover just about everyone so it doesn’t worry me too much. But all in all, it leads to me, a writer with both Celtic and Norman blood and my one Scottish heirloom. If you believe the family history.

Moving onto the actual point of this post, in my family, heirlooms are not that common. At least I haven’t seen that many, but that could be down to long lifespans and both my parents being second born.

The heirloom I have is a silver ring with a stone set into the top. My grandmother gave it to me as a gift and said that it was found in a box when they cleared out one of my grandfather’s Aunt’s house after she had died. It’s now living back in a box but I’ll come onto that explanation later.

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved it and wore it for quite a bit. I have ridiculously slender fingers, which bend naturally in weird directions, and refuse to conform to normal ring sizes. The ring stayed on my left hand until my other grandmother turned around and commented on what a lovely opal it was.

For those of you who have not heard the superstitions, opals are supposed to bring bad luck to those who wear them. However I shrugged it off, laughing in the face of bad luck, and continuing to defy my surviving Grandfather’s claims that wearing rings would lead to the loss of fingers. (He seems convinced that I work around heavy machinery despite me following attending sixth form at the time of me wearing this ring.)

The ring went into the box on request of my mother. With my A levels looming she thought it was “better safe than sorry” so had me pack it away and promise not to wear it. So I did as I was asked, even if I did do it with raised eyebrows and sceptical mutterings.

I don’t often give credit to superstition, and I certainly did not give credit to opals for bringing bad luck.

That was until I stopped wearing the ring.

I passed my A Levels, and got into my Uni and overall, the weeks following without the ring were a significant improvement of the previous. What was strange though, was that I hadn’t noticed the trail of bad luck following me around until I looked back in hindsight.

The ring remains in the box where I put it before the exams and I haven’t had the urge to bring it back out just in case my change is luck was a coincidence.

Normally I like to think that I’m not superstitious. The ones I do follow are down to my mother and her drilling into me not to cross knives, or that broken mirrors must be buried to ward off the seven years of misfortune. This time though, I might follow my relatives example and let the ring sit in a box until my descendants decide to sort through my possessions. I will still treasure it, I shall just treasure it from afar.