Monday, 19 December 2022


This refrain from that hearty carol “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is all very well but there’s plenty to dismay us right now. An epidemic of strikes by those who never go on strike like nurses. Ambulance workers saying they’ll only attend heart attack and stroke incident emergencies where there’s a “time issue”….I  don’t like the sound of that one little bit.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Lyrics, Hymn Meaning and Story

These are disputatious times, quite unlike the festively, riotous prelude to Christmas I’m used to. Not least it’s very cold. I recall that magical poem of T.S. Eliot “The Journey of the Magi” the story of an endless freezing journey to confront the paradox of the Christian Story – of birth and death - with  that sense of discomfort and cold – surely no wise man would do this:

“A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.”

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I love that “very dead of winter” as I watch the winter-flowering Salvia in our garden giving up the ghost and withering in the face of the very dead of winter. Eliot’s poem is the much needed antidote to the vision of these jolly Kings on their sprightly camels (Eliot’s are galled, sore-footed, refractory.”) Christmas can be horrible – just ask yonder peasant, gathering winter fuel three miles from home – he probably won’t make it back through this cruel frost.

Fireplace With A Blazing Fire. Photo. Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty Free  Image. Image 42137793.


Yet there are things which signal the essence of Christmas. A few days ago as the wind howled and the icicles formed I lit the first log fire of the year. It crackled and burst into glorious flame (“Get a peasant to gather more fuel” I shouted before apologising to my wife, not amused at this in the current cost of living crisis.) The sound of Carols – great tunes like Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, Adam Lay Ybounden and the Sussex Carol “On Christmas Night All Christians Sing”. If they did the census in December there’d be new headlines in the press about the shock revival of Christianity in the UK. Somehow the sound, smell and mystery of Christmas binds us all together in a traditional Christmas culture.

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Our houses are festooned with garlands, wreaths, crackers and that special smell of Christmas food. The aroma of ginger and orange peel and the constant appeal of TV chefs advising us on perfect Christmas food because “let’s face it, this is the season of indulgence.” Who otherwise would we eat something like Stollen except now? But sadly this will not be a season of indulgence for quite a lot of people this year. Maybe, unlike many calls to our sense of charity, this Christmas will make more people reflect on things that really matter.


A few days ago I saw a thrush feathers pluffed up against the cold. Not a timid bird, no peasant bird, a bruiser, the sort from whom a cat would retreat muttering in feline “Sorry, something to attend to at home.” Like that doughty bird we need to pluff up our feathers and do our best to enjoy and bring joy. King Wenceslas is a good place to start. Or St. Rocco who was the Franciscan sainted for helping plague sufferers, refugees and travellers in Venice in the 14th century. 

Pin on SAINTS TO PRAY TO.....and other prayers we all need.....

In these current years of Covid, pandemics and of refugees I think we should look to see how they both got it so right back then.


Have a happy Christmas and, in 2023, a New Year to enjoy.


Richard and Kate Hall

Tuesday, 13 December 2022


This describes the misery of Viola in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. I‘m not miserable just mildly frustrated that we seem unable nowadays to be patient and wait to see how “things play out.” In a world of instant opinion and overcrowded media, waiting, watching and thinking is seldom the way we behave. It’s a world of yes and no not maybe, yet “maybe” is the seldom used but most useful state to be in when not all the information needed to make a decision is available.

Truth is not an absolute. My truth and your truth will be different. This is what makes it tricky trying to understand where, for instance, the war in the Ukraine will end.

Ukraine war: Fresh strikes, Russia 'a state sponsor of terror', and UK  sends first helicopter | Euronews

But what we can do is mentally assemble the chess pieces and try to see the likely way they’ll move. I’m wondering how the 34 million of Russians 15 -35 years old  are feeling and whether the reported migration of youth from the country represents a real trend.

Mission, Vision and Values - Youth Agenda | Making the Youth Factor count

As we’ve recently just seen in Iran and China youth can help change politics, even in these most autocratic regimes. I suspect how this plays out may be the most significant factor in the removal of and selection of a successor to Putin. I had a conversation with a wise man I’ve known for many years saying I thought this would play out sooner if the Russian military failure deepened. He delved back into history and foresaw a five-year struggle. Rather than fight over who’s right we’re both thinking about it. 

My thinking is that increasingly the young will influence the world and push things in specific directions, helping them “play out” favourably in creating a world in which they’ll be more comfortable. A greener world. A fairer world. A less aggressive world. A world where constant travel and sharing of ideas in a norm. A world of creativity and innovation.

This is not always going to be world I readily and constantly understand but it was ever thus. As a friend said to me recently “you were opinionated and radical once too.” I belonged to a coal-mining world where supermarkets and new restaurants were a novelty. A world where the cold war was the norm and every -ism you can imagine existed and was tolerated. 

The History Girls: FIFTY YEARS ON: The Hang Down your Head and Die Reunion.  by Adèle Geras

This world today is a much better one and the abolition of obscenities like capital and corporal punishment are things we drove away with influential musicals like “Hang down your head and die” and “Oh what a lovely War” -  the products of young minds. Just as the world today is being steadily shaped by new generations.

Social media has taken a bashing recently but not wholly deservedly. Ideas, events and jokes are widely and quickly shared. Big players like Facebook and Snapchat are declining and being usurped by TikTok and We Chat and  new unheard of platforms. Innovation, novelty and surprise are increasingly the currencies that score. 


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Qatar is a famous place now despite many misgivings, but I wonder if the rulers there quite understand what trends could play out there going forward now the toothpaste has left the tube...and other metaphors like this which should be banned...sorry.

But social media has made many of us impatient. We live in a world of trending news. But how we deal with that is up to us. Too much choice doesn’t mean we have to choose everything.

In a world of quite surprisingly violent change  we need patiently to watch and think how things may play out. This is history unfolding, it’s not a race.

2,331 Exhausted Marathon Runners Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free  Images - iStock

Monday, 5 December 2022


 Where do you really come from?

This isn’t all about the unfortunate Lady Susan Hussey. She seemed to behave like an upper class Jeremy Paxman, the interviewer who demolished Michael Howard then Home Secretary, by asking him the same question twelve times. But that was in 2005. In 2022 you can’t behave like that. Least of all to Ngosi Fulani CEO of Sistah Space born in Britain and a British citizen. All was well at Buck House at a 300 person soirée until she claims she felt like a black gate-crasher when being repeatedly asked  where she came from by 83 year old Susan, daughter of an Earl and Lady in Waiting to the late Queen. No longer Waiting. She has gone. Retired hurt. Accused of racism.

Prince William's godmother Lady Susan Hussey resigns from palace duties  after asking black visitor 'where she came from' | UK News | Sky News

I mention her age because the spotlight shifted from racism to agism as, the day after the event, people asked why someone that old was allowed out and was in no position to understand the “real world”. Silly Susan and old Jo Biden. What a couple, the media laughed. But the problem wasn’t and isn’t age. It seems just rather surprising bad manners on her part. 

The Swimmers (2022) - IMDb

Enough. The big issue for me is refugees. It’s been a subject lurking in my mind which ignited recently when I watched the film The Swimmers. It’s the true story of two Syrian sisters who flee war-torn Syria.

They journey across Turkey, swim across the Aegean to Greece and then walk dangerously through Hungary to Germany. It concludes after their being coached as swimmers and qualifying for the Rio Olympics. 

Some reviews described it as dull. 

What idiots! That’s exactly what got to me. The hiding from police dogs, razor wire, crooked helpers stealing their cash, the squalor, the interminable waiting around, the bureaucracy, the ignominy of the question “where are you really from?” and the hideous sense of being displaced.

The Swimmers true story - where are Yusra and Sara Mardini now?

I began to empathise more vividly with refugees, with just what they must feel like. Nearly half of all refugees are women and children with nearly 1 in 10 being unaccompanied children. Crikey chaps, blockade the borders those kids are out to get us.

Before anyone starts getting cross about the unique immigrant problem in the UK ponder these numbers:

Applications for asylum in 2021:

UK                37,600

Germany   190,500

France       120,700

Which shows it’s less a problem for the UK than its neighbours if indeed it is a problem. We seem to be screaming political blue-murder over an immigration figure of less than half a percentage of our population. And we are short of skilled and unskilled labour from doctors to fruit pickers.

I like immigration. It enriches countries that encourage it. In the 16th century Venice’s population nearly doubled, its population became more diverse than anywhere else in the world and it became astoundingly rich in consequence. America’s population growth has been driven by its being seen as a land believed to be abounding in opportunities to succeed. 

California professors instructed not to say 'America is the land of  opportunity' | The College Fix

I’m beginning to make this sound like it’s all about money. Economic wealth is a side benefit to the moral issue.1% of the world’s been forced to flee from their homes in the past year. That’s bigger than the whole UK population.

It’s a pity it took a film to sharpen my vision. 

We need to open our hearts, wallets,  borders if we’re going to be a greater country. A history of immigration from the Romans, Vikings, French, Dutch and Germans  show none of us can be British true-bloods (sic) but all of us can be humane.

Where do we really come from? One world. 


Diverse crowd cheering - Stock Image - F014/6764 - Science Photo Library