Norwegians insist on watching this “Dinner for One” sketch on the 23rd December every single year. However, they are not alone: I have German and Dutch friends who inform me that the same sketch appears regularly on their TV stations as well. If you actually do feel the overwhelming desire to watch this, press the play button above. I shan’t be joining you..
Such is the power of tradition that we do the most illogical things. Woe betide anyone who doth not understand this. I shall never forget the year I chose not only not to have the Norwegian hymn “Deilig er jorden” (“Lovely is the Earth”) when I planned a Christmas service, but not to place it in its obligatory place at the very end. No variation is possible, for this hath been handed down even from Jesus’ time…. That foolish mistake was back in 1995, and since I have come back to the same parish I can tell you that it was never forgotten! Needless to say, I have never repeated it either.
It is easy to scoff at the unreasonableness of such a thing. Yet I have only to consider the way in which Mark Damazer, the newly appointed controller of BBC Radio 4 got rid of a certain long standing tradition in 2006 before I too start feeling “hot under the collar”…
As you know, I grew up in the United Kingdom, and through my childhood (and more importantly in þe goode olde dayes of Adwick!) I would listen to the opening of that station. All through my formative years Radio 4 would open up with Fritz Speigl’s “UK Theme”. Indeed, on Sunday mornings I would wake up extra early at six o’clock to hear this before cycling off to Woodlands All Saints’. This was in those halcyon days of Adwick School, when the service used to be at nine o’clock. I could have laid in for at least an hour too, but such is the power of tradition. Every time I now find myself dragged out of bed at some God forsaken hour of the morning to play for a school service before Christmas, I think about what I put my poor mother and father through then. There is justice in the world….
I was not the only one to like this tradition. When Mark Damazer decided to end opening the station with this theme every day, he quite rightly incurred the wrath of the public. It went all the way to parliament. Sadly, however, it wasn’t enough to save it. Although he has now left the radio station, the “UK Theme” is now history. I shall never forgive him. In my opinion, the only reason it had to go was so that Mr Damazer could prove that he was the man in charge.
So I have to be careful about condemning others for traditions. Indeed I have them myself. Every year, on Boxing Day, I take a glass of port wine. This is now my very special way of remembering my parents. The only times I have not done this have been when my job required me to drive on Boxing Day (in which case I took this traditional glass the day after). The reason I do this also cometh from þe ancient dayes of Advicium.
Here beginneth the story that my dear mother was so fond of that she spoke of it till her dying day. Unlike here in Norway, where there often seems to be a taboo about alcohol, I was brought up with the idea of wine every Sunday dinner. My father made it himself, with varying results (although in the end, I have to say he became quite adept at the art). My parents believed that it were better to introduce children to alcohol at an early age, so they would know how to use and enjoy it properly. They believed that denying it until it were suddenly “legal” was the reason that many young people then went completely mad, and got drunk on it. So from about ten, I was allowed a very little drop of wine when we had our Sunday lunches.
When I was about fourteen (I cannot actually swear that I were either fourteen or thirteen, but it was one of those years, and if the later these events took place in þe olden time of Adwick School, which maketh it far better), my parents decided that I could try some port wine on Boxing Day that year. I was told that I had to sip it, and not to drink it like pop. Needless to say…. that I did what I was told not to do, and then had to spend about three hours on the sofa because I was so dizzy! My silly behaviour was later the subject of much mirth, and my mother would relate this story from year to year thereafter.
I should perhaps state that I was not drunk, and neither have I ever been drunk (not then, nor later in my life). The amount of alcohol I was allowed was not very large. Neither did the experience scare me off port. Some years later, when Adwick went into decline (during my years at the former Polytechnic of Huddersfield, I should lament seeing the slovenly condition of our once proud uniform when returning home on visits) a certain nostalgia for those bygone times spawned this my own very special tradition. Later, when my father passed away in 2001, this became my way of remembering not just childhood – but the family I no longer have.
That then is the reason that every boxing day, I take a glass of port. Ideally, I like to watch something entertaining on the TV, but these days that is becoming increasingly unlikely with the ever greater amount of garbage one sees there. Nevertheless, I do now sip my port, and I toast to my mother and father each time I sit back to enjoy it every Boxing Day!
For those who can read Norwegian, I wrote about my tradition last year on the Sister Blog. You can find that post at http://www.cqd.nu/blog/2012/12/17/ebeneezer-scrooge-kom-du-attende-alt-er-tigjeve/
Some photographs capture something “more”. On the face of it, this is but a picture of some trees. For us who went there, however, it is the grave of Adwick School. Here stood our senior wing.
There is a wistfull atmosphere. Black and white amplifies this. That maybe entirely subjective, but I am not the only one to pick up on it. There is something “more” to this picture than meets the eye.
Trying to define this something “more” is like chasing a rainbow. The moment you approach it, it moves further away from you. Yet I am not speaking of associations that only we who came here can know about; there is something more, that makes even those who didn’t, to describe it as “haunting”.
For me (qualifying therefore what I write precisely with feedback on my earlier post both from people who did know what used be here and those who have absolutely no personal association with the place) this is both unsettling and very beautiful all at the same time. “Haunting” would therefore be a fitting description.
I have recently received some pictures not only of what used to be here (and off camera in the likewise demolished main building further up to the right), but from our world and time that long have passed. Unfortunately I cannot post these, because they are not for further publication. However, I can tell you they are no less poignant.
Most of these pictures are in black and white. Yet that seems to highlight any associations one actually might have. I do not even notice the absense of colour: that something “more” seems to allow my brain to “see” what is not there!
I find myself transported backwards in time. Once our uniform was very smart and characteristic. Before its lamentable decline in the nineties it was very strictly enforced. As I see my uniform thus again, it is as though I am standing there among those pictured. It is so incredibly “virtual” an experience – to use a modern expression. Yet again the black and white picture but re-enforces this experience!
I am utterly captivated by the photography. This was the world I knew! Yet I cannot bear it too long. That something “more” is unsettling as well. It is a world that has forever gone.
With respect to the hauntingly beautiful, yet eerie picture shown above, we are looking at a graveyard. What now is but some trees and grass, was once our childhood world alas!
An allegoric poem from 1984, with some revisions. It is set to music. I shall publish the melody shortly after making some revisions to that.
King Summer now doth take Spring’s Throne
For years we longed to see this day!
And yet, as our Queen now retireth alone,
I beg that she do not go away!
Ye thought my rule so hard and cruel,
Yet now thou pleadest me to stay,
Despising my Laws whilst under my rule….
What wonder is this, good friend, I pray?
And now I go, nor can I stop!
King Summer reign must many years:
Yet hearken thee this – when the leaves start to drop,
Your Queen shall return to wipe thy tears!
What toil hath been to us since then,
When Spring so took retirement,
God speed her return to our land once again*,
In Wonders across His firmament.
*pronounced “a – genn”. This was written in Doncaster, and is one of the few demonstrable cases were that particular dialect can be seen in what I write.
or If These Walls Could Talk
Yesterday I felt a bit like someone working at a space agency. They’ll spend a fortune on electronic wizardry, send this up to some distant world – and then on the day that it arrives wait with increasing tension for the first pictures.
Yesterday two of my school friends returned to Adwick School. They had promised to take a lot of pictures, and to send them to me. Here at mission control (cleverly disguised as a three year old laptop) I awaited the first pictures from my school. I was not disappointed.
Yet it was a “bitter sweet” confirmation of what I have been writing about. One of my school friends had earlier remarked “if those walls could talk” when hearing about the decision to demolish our school. Thanks to Deborah Grace and Jill Jenkins, I was able to see places that I last saw over thirty one years ago at the age of sixteen. For all that I love the power of language, nothing can prepare you for seeing such images. As precious as I found them, they were equally unsettling.
The image that really sent shivers down my spine was this one. It is of a corridor on the top floor of the main school building. Looking at this is really “bitter sweet”.
The picture firstly disturbs me because this is not the childhood world that (we are feeling that) we have lost and are looking back upon when we visit the school. As I tried to say in my first poem, and article about the demolition of our school, that is lost in time and not in space. Therefore though you could “return”, you can never return, even if you stand in the exact place you left. This picture is therefore a little unsettling.
Then there is a pervading “darkness” to the image that I am not alone in sensing. Once again that is not something that I remember, nor would want to remember my school days for. Phillip Larkin expresses something of what I feel in his poem “Home Is So Sad“. Undoubtedly this is part of the story, but methinks there is something more. I say so precisely because I know that I am not alone in picking this up. The walls just might indeed be “talking”…
The picture above is nothing like, and yet exactly like my walk into school early in the morning. In those days you would come in from Windmill Balk Lane, and you would walk pass this point. Yet that was then. This is different – somehow. I am sorry if that sounds a bit like the “Saphire and Steel” science fiction series of the late seventies and eighties (I watched that as a schoolboy), but there is something quite spooky about the old school.
In an earlier generation, people would use one word beginning with “h” for what I am describing. Now that would be regarded as superstitious. So let it suffice to say that there is a certain oppressiveness to the place that cannot be conducive to education.
You certainly don’t need to look to the supernatural to explain it. The architecture of the school represents a different time as well, and expresses different ideals about society. Thus while my late father commented in 2001, that that place could not have had a coat of paint on it since I was at school, the “corridor” illustrates there is a limit to what you can do even if you had have spent a lot of money on it. It would still be that (by today’s standards) claustrophobic passage, and the classrooms would still fundamentally be those designed for the “top – down” approach to education where everybody passively sat in neat rows. This of course is a strong argument in favour of the rebuild.
On the other hand perhaps an objective explanation for the “dark” feeling cannot be found, and I have no intention here on speculating what else might lay behind it. For me it is enough that this is only the shell of where I spent my childhood. I want to remember my Adwick School as a very different place. Seeing it as it is now makes me feel that perhaps it is best for everybody that our alma mater now rest in peace.
The Place Is Different
Thirty-three years ago EXACTLY, on Sunday 9th December 1979, I was all exited and ready to go into Adwick School for my very first school day. At the end of that day, on Monday 10th December 1979, we queued up in this playground – which then opened up on to a wide field. Now it is completely “boxed in” by the new school buildings. Then I was happy and exited to be at my new place of education; now it is different, and whilst I still could have wished I could have attended yesterday’s tour, I think meeting my old friends would have been the high point. This place pictured is just “different”.
Since it is the anniversary day tomorrow, I’ll end this fairly long post here, and continue on the same theme for my next post. Thank you for the photographs Jill and Deborah.