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Showing posts from December, 2015

Poem for a rainy (New Year's) day

I'm normally asleep when the year begins, and up and about before the rest of the world has quite recovered from revelling...

NEW YEAR'S DAY At 6am on New Year's Day
While next door's lengthy Hogmanay
Was resolutely still in play
I wearily arose.
My brain was buzzing, anyway,
Too much to much doze.  I dressed, and found an old cagoule
(Remembering the forecast squall)
And stuffed it — an ungainly ball —
In my fleece pocket.
Then crept down to the downstairs hall
And made my exit.  The streets were dark; it felt like night
The more so for the frequent sight
Of homeward-headed revellers, tight
And waxing verbal.
One stopped, and asked me for a light
For something ‘herbal’…  I drew the odd uncivil jest
From trendy cliques in party best
Who were distinctly unimpressed
By my appearance;
I scowled, and scorned “such shallowness"
With silent vehemence.  Towards the centre of the town
Were several nightclubs of renown
Where people were still ‘getting down’
And stumbling o…

Here Comes Santa Claus

The 'real' Saint Nicholas was a 4th century Bishop of Myra associated with many miraculous events of varying historical attestability. My favourite of these for sheer exuberant oddness has to be the one about the three young boys, murdered by a butcher during a time of famine, chopped up (chopped up!) and pickled in brine for seven years (seven years!) before being miraculously restored in answer to the bishop's intercessory prayers.

16th century French song on the St. Nicholas Centre website tells the tale in the good old bluntly gruesome way of good old-fashioned folk rhyme. Meanwhile our modern songs have tragically watered down the contemporary hybrid Santa character beyond recognition, blandly censoring all of the most interesting bits of his biography. Well! I for one won't stand for it a moment longer ...


          Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
          Riding over the plain;
          Reaches a copse wit…

Morning (a sonnet)

In which I manage to say about Christmas a lot of the stuff that I most want to say about Christmas...

MORNING It was dark before the dawn; the night Reached back as far as memory, made a myth Of day, a wish-fulfilment dream of light, And shadows, all, of kin and ken and kith. We went on shadow foot, each step more slow; We climbed the hill and turned, and strained our eyes To see the shadow valley sunk below The creeping pallor of the blank slate skies. No chirping chorus prophesied the break Of morning; all those brooding mutterers Were silenced by the cold. But in the wake Of wind, the fallen leaves made susurrus Of something sought, and fled, and close at hand, That darkness cannot overcome, nor understand. Carolyn Whitnall, December 2013.

NOTES Isaiah 8-9 "And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the te…

A feminist by any other word...?

I've been writing sporadically about my dawning realisation that patriarchy really is a thing and that we need to be intentional about resisting it. But there's a word I've been avoiding, a label that I duck away from like a conference-goer trying to dodge the smiley person with a roll of stickers:


So ... am I? Do I need/want that sticker?

I know I didn't used to be. I used to be, I'm sad to say, the archetype of an internalised misogynist. Women were tiresome; inequality hardly surprising given our inferiority; feminism just one big petulant fuss. I've written elsewhere about my serious re-think. Still got a lot to learn, of course (a lot). But I have very much come to recognise the strikingly sexist nature of human-on-human oppression. And I feel a growing burden to find ways to actively oppose that (starting with myself!)

That certainly sounds like what it means to be a feminist ... at least, as I understand it.

I have some reservations, though. S…