On the twelfth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me:
Twelve broken tree lights
Eleven grinning selfies
Ten turkey curries
Nine gastric ulcers
Eight toxic cocktails
Seven drunken uncles
Six yelling children
Five trolled tweets…
Four soggy sprouts
Three wrong texts
Two Facebook likes
… and a cartilage in a sore knee!
Now this is incredibly special! Our deal of the day, a luxurious throw in faux mink, comes in colours of aubergine, teal and alpine sage. Only 59.99 and you won’t find this in the shops. Imagine snuggling down in that. There could not be a more beautiful blanket for Christmas!
Now we actually have here one of our most iconic products, the Natural Synergy Anti-Ageing Oil. Yes it’s back but we only have 12 in stock. Yes 12, it is literally running out! So get on the phone ladies, or gentlemen, call us on 0800 131217. This is bliss in a bottle, made with organic rose oil handpicked at dawn. And it absolutely works. Use this for four weeks and see the difference. People will be telling you how well you look! They’ll stop mentioning that perhaps you are too old for this job… It literally turns back time and that’s what we all want, isn’t it? Get on the phone now – only 59.99 for two bottles. Your Christmas miracle.
And now we have – Pick of the Day! Oh. Now this is really useful. A multi-function product – you won’t believe the value that you’ll get out of this amazing, er, device. A window vac, ice scraper and snow brush all in one with telescopic pole. What could be more… exciting at this time of year? Only 59.99 free postage and packing, call 0800 131217 now to get your hands on this without delay. With the telescopic pole you can reach those hard-to-reach windows and clear them of ice and condensation. You will see clearer than ever before. An absolutely ideal present for, you know, a mother in law…
Highlight of the Day now and I can’t tell you how excited I am about this! It’s our solitaire gold ring. For that someone special in your life gentlemen, or ladies. Yes – an out of this world solitaire Diamondette stone in a specially designed silver-gilt ring, looks just like gold. Only 59.99 for the up front payment and other payments can be made over the following months. Or years. Almost indistinguishable from diamond and to let you into a little secret I received one of these myself last year and it made me feel so… special.
Now if you want to deserve a Diamondette solitaire, ladies, you need to get yourselves into shape and what better than the iconic Twist’n’Shout exercise system. Exercise in the comfort of your own home with this incredible, er, thing. Tones your arms, abs and thighs. In six weeks you’ll have those firm buns and shapely legs. Literally turns back the clock. So if you’re looking for something that will reshape your life, I mean, your body, get on the phone now. Only 599. And 99 pence. Easy terms on flexipay as usual.
Now in the next hour… oh one last item. Just – er – landed. And what could be more iconic than a Christmas snowflake. Each one gorgeously crafted in pure ice by… by who? Look at the workmanship, it’s out of this world. Each one practically unique. Actually. Unique.
And with the whole snowflake collection you will be blanketed in white. Time will stand still. But each flake lasting no time at all…
So get on the phone now, tap the app, see the website! Don’t miss this astonishing offer! And all at only… Actually there’s no price on this snowflake. Have we got the ticket on this?
Oh. There’s no price. It’s priceless.
Yesterday is history
Tomorrow still a mystery
But today’s a present, heaven sent
Unwrap it to find that inner content.
Yesterday is made of ‘Why?’
Why did I kick the cat, or tell that lie?
Or spoil another’s day of fun?
So many things I wish undone.
Self-flagellation is counter-productive,
Although living gloomily is very seductive.
Tomorrow is ‘What? What dire event?
Will it be an accident?
Will the roof cave in, will there be a fire?
Or someone I know about to expire?
Yesterday can be made of praise:
Thanks for friends, joys of holidays.
Thanks for the sunshine, thanks for the rain,
Thanks for the flowers, for fields of grain.
Praise can invade our histories,
Which can then help us face up to life’s mysteries.
And Tomorrow’s mysteries we take on trust,
Resting on faith and hope as we must,
Definitely needing every assistance
To survive in this crazy, mixed up existence.
Remember that heaven-sent present of Today.
Today is the day for making our choice:
Will we choose to travel the gloomy way?
Or find little details to help us rejoice?
Will we choose those options creative and positive,
To make the most of the Present
In which we all live.
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas: the crooning tones of Bing Crosby floated across the room to Izzy’s ears. She knelt on the window seat gazing through the leaded panes and absentmindedly drawing doodles in the condensation from her breath. Outside, the sky was a bleak, monochrome grey that reflected her despondent mood. The lowering clouds presaged the early onset of the December evening. Silhouetted trees formed a trellis of eerily distorted skeletons beyond the garden, casting long shadows across the dank grass and lifeless hedgerows. No sign of life apart from the odd, dead leaf fluttering across the lawn in a sudden gust of wind.
The words of the song resonated through Izzy’s head. Everything outside was so dull and lifeless: no colour. Even the holly lacked berries this year. At least a covering of snow might make the scene a little brighter.
Over her shoulder she viewed the disarray of presents, paper, tags and sticky tape scattered across the living room floor; her mother carrying out her annual ritual of wrapping while watching ‘Holiday Inn’. It was one of her favourite films and helped set the festive mood she always said.
‘I wish it would snow,’ Izzy complained. Maggie looked up, scissors in one hand, tape in the other, and smiled at her daughter.
‘Well, you never know, it might…’ She sounded bright and optimistic.
‘When was the last time it snowed at Christmas? I mean, actually on Christmas Day?’
‘Oh, I don’t know - can’t remember,’ Maggie mused. ‘Must be years, probably before you were born. I remember times when we had lots of snow but I think that was after Christmas, not actually on Christmas Day.’ She turned back to her wrapping and Izzy turned back to the window.
‘If it snowed lots, would we get snowed in?’
‘It would have to snow really hard but I suppose we might.’ Maggie looked at her watch. ‘Your Dad will be home soon.’ And humming ‘White Christmas’ to herself, she gathered up the presents and wrapping equipment.
Izzy strained to see through the gathering darkness, hoping to glimpse the first beams of headlights. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day and perhaps, just perhaps if she wished hard enough, it might snow. She closed her eyes and imagined a single, soft flake drifting past her eyeline and landing on the narrow sill outside, followed by another, then another.
Now, standing on the doorstep, Izzy could hear the church bells chiming their Christmas morning call. She opened her eyes and surveyed the crisp, white sheet covering the driveway, gradually becoming aware of the bag of presents in her hand and her husband’s voice urging her to ‘hurry up’. In less than an hour they would be at their daughter’s house watching the grandchildren open their lovingly-wrapped presents and eating mince pies. ‘I’m dreaming,’ she murmured, and smiling, she stepped carefully through the soft inches of snow to the waiting car.
It is today and I am tense because
I love you and I give you a present which I hope you like.
I am continuously in the present as I am giving you a present because I want to show I love you.
Am I a passive voice if I think I am loved because you give me presents too?
The presents are perfect and you continuously give me presents which I love but does this mean that you continuously love me?
I wonder if my presents are conditional? If you give me presents unconditionally, does this mean that your love is unconditional too?
I would give you a present now for no other reason that it makes you happy.
Would you do this for me?
I have given you presents ever since we fell in love all those years ago.
Would you be giving me presents now if you still loved me?
Present-giving makes us happy,
But now I am tense as you are giving me my leaving present,
I do not like this present.
This present is past now, and I have only the future.
So what is now when now is then?
There is time to start but who knows when?
The past has passed and the present is here
But now that’s gone the future is near.
If time is real then the clocks all lie
And life comes first before we die,
If we look back and try to see
What was that point in history
When all the stars were born in space?
And why we have a human race.
It’s called a race ‘cos it happened so fast
Some say it was caused in a big blast.
As the days slip slowly through our fingers
And the nights fall into the abyss,
My thoughts are drifting with the shadows
As I wonder what's the point in all this?’
If you want to know the future
Then maybe we should all start looking at the past.
‘Cos if it is nature that we learn from
Then our time will never last.
One day you will read this poem
Then you'll know the presents here,
Because each and every time you read it
You will see time can be our biggest fear.
There could be a solution to the problem
If you live life with love not hate,
But you better hurry as this time thing
Said he will not wait.
‘And so, this country has voted to overturn the 1974 referendum and has voted to Leave the EU…’
‘What is the majority David?’
‘Oh, one-minute, I’m going to have to look at this piece of paper… 1 vote. 16,525,101 voted leave and let me see…16,525,100 voted to remain…’
‘…And 1 vote is the majority and as this referendum goes to the biggest vote. Every vote you remember counts, so Leave are the winner.’
Boris, privately to Gov : ‘We were only meant to blow the bloody doors off, not actually win.’
Boris looks sad and confused as he thinks of his friend Dave and how he opposed him to settle an old score over a girl at the Bullingdon Club to humiliate him by winning. What was that old score? He struggles to remember and can only remember a pig’s head. Christ, Dave might even resign tomorrow and that would give me a chance to go for PM. Not all bad then. Some bloody Remainer is going to say I had written an article supporting Remain and that I’m a liar for campaigning on both sides at different times. Oh well being a bit of a liar is OK nowadays. Look how I got away with the Big Lie on the bus… well it seems to have worked unless it was old Farage’s whopper on that immigrant poster. Or maybe mine about being flooded with 70 million Turks. Sorry Grandad about that one. I know we wouldn’t be in the UK if there were strict immigration controls in those days.
David’s assistant rushed in and proclaimed, ‘Will Straw just called. Remain want a recount.’
The recount was completed and showed Remain still losing by 1 vote. ‘It’s the will of the people to leave the EU!’ screamed the Daily Fail as their headline shouted more abuse at migrants from the EU. ‘But our fields will be strewn with unpicked fruit,’ moaned the Remainers.
‘It’s the will of one person who truly represents the British nation. We must find him – or her,’ proclaimed Jacob. ‘He – or she – is the saviour of our nation.’
‘It’s me,’ claimed Charlie Jones from Lincolnshire. ‘I couldn’t make up my mind, but I was in the polling booth and as I was putting my cross in the box my hand was moved by an invisible force to the Leave box and it’s as if Rule Britannia was playing in my ears.’
‘No no it’s me,’ said Tracy from Basildon, Essex. ‘I googled to find out what the EU was and then saw in the Sun they were undemocratic, so I thought well stuff them, this is democracy.’
With Remainer Teresa Mayhem in power she quickly switched to Leave and fended off all criticism with great catch phrases just like Bruce Forsyth on a good night at the London Palladium. ‘Brexit means Brexit’ she said, not sure of what Brexit meant. And breakfast means breakfast, but it could be French like a coffee and croissant or a full English?
Nigel proposed that Tracy from Basildon had the best claim to the casting vote and should be honoured with an OBE. The Queen replied by wearing a hat designed by the EU with stars on a blue background at the opening of Parliament. The Sun failed to report this apparent heresy.
‘A mandate for hard Brexit,. Peter Bonehead and Jacob said as they held the PM down in her office, threatening her with a red hot poker made in Sheffield. ‘Yes, yes Jacob, Peter. Hard Brexit, Hard Brexit. But we’ll go over the cliff,’ she wailed.
‘There is no cliff except our glorious White Cliffs which will keep Johnny Foreigner out,’ exclaimed Jacob. ‘If only King Harold had our luck, he would have kept out the French in 1066...’
‘What about the Irish border?’ whimpered Teresa.
‘The DUP will support us on that and even if we have a hard border that seals us off from the EU for good. Couldn’t be better. We don’t want migrants sneaking in with the Guinness do we?’
‘But how much will Brexit cost us?’ simpered the PM.
‘Don’t worry about that we won’t have to pay a membership fee anymore will we? And we shall make such a fortune out of avoiding this new tax law the EU want to bring in I could always chip in what I make on that,’ said Jacob, smiling his most engaging smile as if posing for a photograph in 1830.
Then came the bombshell. A couple found a discarded metal box on Bodmin Moor as they had been having a romantic tryst. ‘Oh, what’s that digging in my back?’ complained Lorna as she lay down on the rug she had had the foresight to bring with her. The box turned out to be a ballot box from Truro containing uncounted votes in the referendum. The box had probably been buried by a Leaver working at the counting of the votes.
When the extra votes were added they turned the tables and gave Remain a resounding victory of 99 votes more than Leave.
‘The best present we have ever had!’ exclaimed the newly ecstatic Remainers as they found their depression turning to joy. No one could understand why the Cornish had voted for Leave as they got all that EU cash. So, it’s a happy Christmas present for Cornwall.
‘And now we can spend the £40bn we don’t have to pay for the divorce on the NHS,’ said a surprised Chancellor.
Thoughts on present, and being present...
2017 has been a very hard year for me, and I’ve spent many nights glued to the news on YouTube. Every time I see ‘Breaking News’ appear on Facebook, it feels as if another piece of the world is breaking.
In the UK, we’ve had terrorist attacks in Westminster, Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Borough Market, as well as the Grenfell Tower Fire. Universal credit is already being cut, and all the while Brexit hangs over us all like a shadow – or a shroud.
However the rest of the world has been hit badly too, and everywhere there is fear and tension. There have been terrorist attacks in Barcelona, New York, St. Petersburg, Baghdad, Kabul, Mogadishu, Damascus, Gao in Mali, Sehwan in Pakistan. In Egypt alone there were a number of attacks in the Sinai Peninsula and bombings on Palm Sunday attacked churches in Alexandria and Tanta.
There have been ongoing wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
There is major unrest in Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia and Venezuela.
In Myanmar, the Rohingyas are being persecuted.
In the USA, there’s President Donald Trump, Charlottesville, Roy More, #MeToo and serious threats of nuclear war with North Korea,
The record for the deadliest mass shooting in US history was broken in Las Vegas, Nevada, where 58 people died and hundreds were injured. This broke the record set last year by the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people died. Another mass shooting in 2017 happened in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 27 people died, which currently ranks as the fifth most deadliest mass shooting.
Storms have raged across the Caribbean this year, with multiple category 5 hurricanes, Harvey, Irma, Jose, Maria, flattening Dominica, Barbuda, Puerto Rico, St. Martin, the US and British Virgin Islands, parts of the Bahamas, Anguilla and St Barthelemy, and causing major damage to cities in the USA, particularly Houston.
Look at any of these stories and you might feel hopeless and boxed-in...
But there is a hope. A present hope...
This is message of Christmas, a gift of hope
A sign of light in dark times.
The political climate in surrounding the birth of Jesus was tense.
Israelites were living under Roman occupation... hopeless. Many wanted a liberator – a Messiah – who would free them from the yoke of Roman oppression.
Mary was a teenage girl who was engaged, but still unmarried when she became pregnant. She could have easily been accused of adultery and stoned to death as punishment. Only the actions of Joseph, her new husband, saved her from this fate...
Roman bureaucracy forced Mary and her husband Joseph to travel south to Bethlehem, on bumpy roads. As a pregnant woman riding on a donkey, Mary’s progress was slow and she would have been an easy target for bandits...
In Bethlehem, with all the inns full and no close relatives to turn to, Mary and Joseph were forced to stay with the animals in a grotty stable. Even by the standards of the time, this was not a good place to give birth, and childbirth was very dangerous. With no trained midwife around, Joseph may have had to deliver the baby himself...
King Herod was a puppet ruler, propped up by the Romans to enforce order. Paranoid that he would be overthrown, he executed several members of his own family, including his wife Mariamne. When three scholars told him that they had seen a sign that a new, powerful King would be born in Bethlehem, Herod feared for his throne and ordered the massacre of all baby boys under two years old. Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus were able to escape, but they were forced to flee for their lives and live in Egypt until Herod died.
At the time of his birth, Jesus was:
Surrounded by the poor and by foreigners
This story, for all of its darkness, is seen as a good thing. It is a gift; a present for us in the present, the hope of a better future to come, both in this life, and beyond... As such, the Nativity tableau, seen in thousands of different forms, is a moment frozen in time, but it’s a moment of light that blazes in the darkness that surrounds it.
The shepherds, the first people to visit the newborn child, were poor and isolated from society for most of the time, tending to their sheep. They had nothing to give the baby Jesus but themselves. They had no presents, but they were present.
The message of Christmas allows us to break out of the boxes that surround us and be filled with the gift of life...
The gift of a future and a hope, a present hope...
The gift of unconditional, relentless love which knows no bounds, and a peace which passes all understanding, no matter what our struggles are...
To me this, is what Jesus represents in this story – when all around seemed dark and desperate, light came into the world – a Messiah.
I present a hope, a present for the dark days ahead, that this too shall pass. In the darkest part of the year, Christmas is celebrated on December 25th, only a few days after Midwinter, when the hours of daylight slowly begin to grow again – and in the far north, light creeps back slowly, slowly, into the darkness that surrounds the North Pole all winter – providing light, burning in the darkness like a candle – its light showing the way forward while the heat drives away the cold.
Sometimes we have nothing to give but ourselves.
The greatest gifts cannot be bought or sold. These are not worthless, but priceless.
Hope can be found in all kinds of places, if you know where to look.
You may also be the hope that someone is looking for. You just need to be present.