Friday, 24 December 2010

Advent Calendars

December has galloped by and I've said almost nothing here. I've been in the grip of what I can only (but rather pretentiously) describe as an experience of gnosis. For most of this month I haven't known who I was, how to relate to the world around me, or what on earth to say here.

Fortunately the spiritual dust is settling now, and so, full of seasonal bonhomie, I thought I'd tell you about my advent calendars.

I have two calendars, which I've owned since I was a child. The first came from a National Trust shop in, I think, 1980. Here it is:

It's very battered and the tabs that held its roof together are floppy and largely useless. There's some dry, flaking Sellotape where once I stuck the roof together. Some of the doors are ripped and there's brown card and scratches on the pictures inside from the year I decided to glue the windows flat:

Much of 24 is torn and Joseph is almost entirely erased, poor man, except for his rhubarb pink face and custard yellow hair:

The calendar has a lovely seventies psychedelic look about it that reminds me of my mother's book on astrology from around the same period. Even Father Christmas looks like he's been taking fly agaric:

Perhaps most of all I love the pink and red fish scales on the roof and the curtains at the windows:

The second calendar comes from my mother's Woman and Home magazine in 1981. Every year for some years the December issue included an advent calendar that children could cut out, stick on to a cereal packet and get excited about thereafter:

The pictures inside were ink drawings only, so they could be coloured in. I'm still impressed with the care my brother (then eleven) and I (nine) took to do this: we've barely gone over the edges:

There are a few oddities, however, such as the spring-green antlers on the reindeer:

and the pink berries on the mistletoe:

but by and large it's a delicate beast with an unusual twenty-five doors:

The calendars are a link to my younger self. I feel the same excitement when I open their doors and I have the same favourites each year. I always buy a new one too, but it's never as magical as these two.

One day I suppose the doors will fall off, or the calendars will be damaged beyond repair and I'll have to let them go. There's a chance that they might survive me, in which case I'll have to find an appreciative/unfortunate young'un to leave them to.

Any one interested in applying to inherit them can write to me care of the World Tree, where I'll be hanging upside-down with a kitten in each arm, hoping for further gnosis.

Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Mountains by Alice Oswald

Something is in the line and air along edges,
which is in woods when the leaf changes
and in the leaf-pattern's gives and gauges,
the water's tension upon ledges.
Something is taken up with entrances,
which turns the issue under bridges.
The moon is between places.
And outlet fills the space between two horses.

Look through a holey stone. Now put it down.
Something is twice as different. Something gone
accumulates a queerness. Be alone.
Something is side by side with anyone.

And certain evenings, something in the balance
falls to the dewpoint where our minds condense
and then inslides itself between moments
and spills the heart from its circumference;
and this is when the moon matchessly opens
and you can feel by instinct in the distance
the bigger mountains hidden by the mountains,
like intentions among suggestions.

***I don't know how Alice Oswald manages to be so good, to 'go so far, so fast,' as Plath puts it. This piece comes from her collection, The Thing in the Gap-Stone Stile. Read it and squeak.