I love to grab a handful of holly-leaves, Pale and tender in the Spring, Before they’ve darkened, hardened, sharpened, Tanned their leather good and bent. I love to hug a branchful of holly-sheaves, Ere each shoot has gained its sting – To shakes its hand with good intent, To thank it for last Yule well-spent.
This year is the best year that I’ve ever had, And last year, that year was the best year too, But this year is a better year than that, And next year will be such a ballyhoo ! Sure, there’s always bad stuff comes my way, But what’s the use of crying useless tears ? I guess there must be slow and washed-out days, But they’re always nestled in the sunny years. And if I tell myself each morning, Working up my derring-do With not a trace of snark or scorn, I maybe can convince me that it’s true. This year is the best year that I’ve ever had, Cos if it’s not, then I must make it so. I know, I know, it’s hard to shrug the bad, But bad or good, the years still come and go.
Looks like we’re on our own this year, Just us and a million others, The eccentric and the volunteers, Cut off from our human brothers. Some in Antarctica, some in their cells, And some in their quarantine – In one-bed flats and empty hotels, With the world reached through a screen. For the rest of the year, there’s nothing wrong with it, It suits us fine, or we make the best, But when the world gets the holiday spirit, Then we’re suddenly nobody’s guest. Looks like we’re on our own this year, Remote from the thoroughfares. Let’s sing like nobody can hear, And let others fill our empty chairs.
When we were young, before we earned a good wage, Then presents were the thing. Whatever toy was all the rage, We’d write to Santa, page by page, While fully knowing, any age, That parents were the ones who gave the bling.
When we were young, and hoping for the good stuff, Then presents were the thing. We dropped our hints, we played it tough, We wanted this, and sure enough, They’d always get us something duff, From parents clutching hard to apron string.
When we were young, and pocket money spent fast, Then presents were the thing. We’d waited long these six months past, Our only chance was here at last – But no ! Once more we were harassed By suitable and sensible and bettering !
When we were young…but now we’re good and older, And presents are a chore. We pay our own way, we are bolder, We don’t need a toothbrush-holder. What we need’s a crying-shoulder, Not the same old ritual as before.
Now we are old, we buy throughout the year, Yet presents still want more ! What can you get me ? Dear oh dear, I have all that I need right here. Should I hold off acquiring gear To add it to a list you’ll just ignore ?
Now we are old, and hopefully we’re wise, And presents lurk in drawers. Let’s be honest, compromise, And save our gifts for the little guys – Let’s pay it forward, share the prize – Even though we’ll get it wrong, of course…
As the son of a dairy herd, My father told me secret words – On Christmas Eve, between ourselves , Our cattle knelt at the stroke of Twelve. “Can I see it ?” “No, too late, You’ll have to grow up first and wait. Let’s tuck you up, like the hens and geese, And leave the girls to kneel in peace.” But unlike Thomas Hardy, I Was not prepared to pass it by, And woke by chance at seven-to When bursting for the landing loo. This was my chance – I had to go, Or else I knew I’d never know – I creped downstairs, across the floor, To don my peacoat by the door. I left my slippers on my feet For I had destiny to meet !, Not a second’s hesitation Could be wasted with a lace-on. Lift the latch and out we go, Crunching softly through the snow, (Despite that day’s half-hearted thaw), To squelch across the muck and straw That filled the barn, those bovine halls, And peeked into the Winter stalls (And now I wish I’d worn my wellies) – No ! They’re all led on their bellies ! Some had rolled onto their flanks, And none had tucked beneath their shanks, And all their heads were on the boards, And none kept vigil for the Lord. Our ev’ry beast was heathen-born !, From Hyacinth to Meadowcorn, And Rosie, Daisy, Pansy too, They each and all just slept on through ! So distraught was I, so dead, I didn’t hear my father’s tread Until his hand was on my shoulder, “Seems tonight you’re growing older. I suppose I set this up, But never thought my little pup Would take my story at my word – It’s passed down with the family herd.” I tried to scream, I tried to cry But all that left my lips was “Why ?” “If you want to ask me that, It’s too late for a lengthy chat – So I will only answer once, Then off to bed and no more stunts.” “Then…then…I want to ask How deep is worn this parents’ mask ? Are all the rest a lie as well – Like Santa, Jesus, Tinkerbell ?” “Fair enough, the answer’s Yes.” “For which ?” I blurted in distress, But he just smiled, and shook his head, And carried me upstairs to bed.
Ev’rybody, listen well, It’s time to let the tellers tell – It’s time to tally, toll, and tot, To work out how much folks we’ve got. Ev’rybody, near and far, We need to count you where you are. Don’t move about, don’t clog the roads, We need you logged in your abodes. Get off those donkeys ! Park those asses ! Stop this movement of the masses ! We don’t care whose tribe is yours, Your genealogies are bores ! Whatever heritage you claim, You know, we’ll tax you just the same. So you’re descended down from David, Centuries years ago, hey kid ? But so is half the town, no doubt – You are aware he got about ? Ah well, I guess you’ve made it now, Let’s have your data anyhow –
You say you are a carpenter, And also you’re…a harbinger…? So would you be, may I enquire, Yet another Lord Messiah ? Oh, your son, you claim, not you ? I’ll put you down as Number II. But wait…I hear upon your tongue An accent…are you further-flung ?, A shibboleth upon your breath – You say you hail from…Nazareth ? You mean you live in Galilee ? Then why, by Jupiter, tell me ? Why can you Northerners not grasp, You pay your tax to Antipas ? Well yes, they all reach Rome, each load, But travel by a diff’rent road. Now please, go home !, our time is done, Now live your life and raise your son – But give to Caesar, nonetheless… So Hermes-speed, and Juno-bless.
Ev’ry year, they foist an austerity tree upon Trafalgar Square – Begrudgingly, they hoist it up with as few fairy lights as they can Just straight-up-and-down, with no helter-skelter, or swags, or laissez-faire, And only white, as if other colours fall foul of a bureaucrat’s ban. It looks a bit like a deep-sea comb-jelly, wilting embarrassed under our gaze. It even makes the Fourth Plinth look impressive – now there’s a paradox ! Haven’t we any goddam civic pride, or is that taboo these days ? Honestly, Oslo, we treat your heartfelt gift like a packet of socks. Thus the status quo avoids the threat of tinsel, and regulates ev’ry star, So the branches are bare of baubles, and of candy canes there are none. I guess it can’t outshine old Nelson, we need to remember who we are – For we are stoic, joyless Brits, and we mustn’t have too much fun.
As to how come there’s a tree in the Square at all, see here.
At the meeting of the streets And the corners of the road, So grows an unexpected copse No seed has ever sowed. It sprouts up overnight Like a fungus on the make – This squatter on the pavement, Brings the Winter in its wake. Its trees have all blown over, And its needles all have shed To the gutters and the breezes, Until even these have fled. Then suddenly one morning We shall find the corner bare, Save the grey of frost and concrete And the chill upon the air.
Come the Twelfth Night and the tinsel comes down – It’s time to de-decorate, if that’s a verb – The fairy lights lodged in a box in the loft, And the tree swiftly shunned to the kerb. But we always leave the poinsettia, She’s always the last to go – We purge the urge to scourge the spurge, As long as she’s on show. For maybe a little of Christmas lives on While her red and her green are in clover – But after a week, so she’ll wither as well, And that’s when the season is over.
And with that, it is over – The baubles taken down and packed, The tinsel and the fairy lights, The crib stowed with its Israelites, The cards recycled, tree exiled, The wilted wreath is rudely sacked. That time has passed, so let it go – The year moves on, the snowdrops grow.