Sunday, 20 December 2009

Cold Comfort Forum

Unless we can think peace into existence we
- not this one body in this one bed
but millions of bodies yet to be born -
will lie in the same darkness and
hear the same death rattle overhead.
Virginia Woolf (Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid)

A FEW DAYS OR NIGHTS AGO I dared the snow to come. And it did, with considerable enthusiasm, particularly in the southern half of Great Britain. Northumberland seems to have had a good deal, but it has turned to ice and the temperature has not been above freezing in almost a week. It is minus ten Celsius this evening. Damn!

Yesterday I managed to take Cailean for a walk in town, and even though he was wearing his winter overcoat, when we paused while Gavin got a Lotto ticket at the newsagent's, within seconds Cailean was shivering in the doorway with me, and trying to climb up my leg to be held where he thought it might be warm. We were standing in the ice. Cailean rather likes soft snow. Not the ice. I imagine it hurts his foot-pads. My nose was burning in the cold, my eyes watering, and my knees seemed to be colder than most of me.

Will this weather last another five days? Will we have a white Christmas? Will the Eurostar trains return to service in the Channel Tunnel? Will airports run on time? Will little children get to Euro-Disney for their holidays? If this week remains snowy, icy, all the rest may suffer. Can you have your cake and eat it?

There's been an over-hyped con-fab in frozen Copenhagen recently to discuss Global Warming. As one wit put it, "A good thing we haven't got Global Cooling, or we'd really be fucked!" He was looking out the window, I'm guessing. Or trying to find a public transport vehicle that was able to run, or a highway that wasn't clogged with stalled Lorries waiting to cross the Channel.

A word about Copenhagen. What a waste of time and money. Well, that's seven words. The non-result will be subject to so much spin control that we'll think that Obama and Brown have saved the world. Obama doesn't get out of bed to do less. I'm not sure that pollution is the main factor behind this supposed warming of the atmosphere. I'm not even convinced that our atmosphere, in total, is warming. Over decades and centuries and millennia, we have all sorts of climate changes. An active volcano can make a huge difference. A volcano in the Philippines is just about to pop its top. There's something satisfying about an event that the Americans cannot possibly say they can fix.

We won the wars for you, and now we're going to put a great big bung in Mount Mayon.

Population control may well save the planet. The Catholics and the Mormons and every other faith that promotes breeding without feeding need to get real and encourage birth control. Bombing villagers in dusty foreign lands and adopting polar bears ain't gonna save the world! Get real! Get real!

I'm enjoying the run-up to Christmas this year, even if the cold makes my nose run and my snot freeze on my moustache. It's like a holiday with Roald Amundsen or Ernest Henry Shackleton … More fun than Disney!

The earliest Christmas memories I have are of faces of Father Christmas drawn on paper, cheeks coloured red, and bits of cotton pasted where we thought a beard should be. My sisters and I each had one of these paper Santas and they hung on our trees for several years, along with lights that were filled with some liquid that came to a boil after a time (which frightened me, probably with good reason), and a decreasing collection of brittle ornaments. One year my mother could not afford to buy a tree, and this was before fake firs, and she cut a branch off a casurina tree in the garden. It was a total disaster, but the annual treats from family friends (Quality Street choccies) slid under the casurina.

I hated those Christmases. I hated the Christmas Eve dinner with my mother's family, even when I moved up from the small table to the big one. The food was always tasteless, and bought on a shoestring budget. If I never see another tinned ham running in jelly in this lifetime I'll be happy!

I hated the whole business of gift-giving, and I learned why many years later. If our gifts were piddling and small, and perfunctory (underwear and a new school tie perhaps), we children did not have the funds to buy gifts for those we cared about. One of life's great pleasures for me is to hunt out a gift that I think somebody special would enjoy. I cannot afford anything too grand now, but I've learned that a few pounds can provide a treasure if the digging is done in the right place.

I have a small fibre-optic Christmas tree. It has not come out too clearly in the picture, but rest assured that it's a bit of an out-of-sight light show. In a darkened room with music playing, it's a trip.

Cailean has his Christmas gift already. I'd bought him a very lightweight, but super-warm blanket. Came the ice, out came his gift. He's asleep under it, below my desk, at this very moment. Better to be toasty on the 20th December than to shiver for days and nights just to be precise about a gift-date. Heck, Mount Mayon might rumble and it could be palm trees in the courtyard by the 25th December. Make hay …

I bought myself something rather brilliant: The complete, stereo, digitally-remastered, box-set of the Beatles CDs. Absolutely fantastic. On sale at a considerable savings at Amazon.UK. I've been tripping back to the Sixties. You see, I didn't wait till the 25th for my gift. Mount Mayon and all, I might be out sweating in the heat in the courtyard on Christmas Day. These past few days, however, I've been listening to all the Beatles CDs, hearing things I never heard before, while lying on the sofa, facing the window to the High Street, watching the snow sweep down. And saying aloud: This is magic! Absolutely magic!

If you got a gift from me, you probably could guess that it was a book or CD or DVD. Shapes of things. Things I hope will turn you on.

As we had a postal strike looming and happening in the UK, I decided not to get Christmas cards printed this year, but cards with Cailean and I snarling at the world, as we do, with gentle teeth and not with our eyes, with love really, and the word PEACE. Inside, a quotation from an essay by Virginia Woolf. The words head up this blog entry.

From Amble in the Ice, we wish you the best for the holidays, and let's all come to our senses in 2010, or at least enough of us to drive out the tyrants, warmongers and saviours.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

All Things Bleak and Beautiful

Alack, the night comes on, and the bleak winds
Do sorely ruffle; for many miles about
There's scarce a bush.

William Shakespeare (King Lear. Act II, Scene IV)

ONE CAN NOW COUNT CHRISTMAS in days away, and carded greetings have me thinking of family and friends as close as this block of flats, and as distant as Australia. My fireplace and mantelpiece look like the high altar in a church in Spain, bright and pleasantly garish. I've been playing the music of Hildegard von Bingen, performed by Sequentia, which seems perfect when our few hours of daylight are dulled with rain, and when there is frost on the moss that has covered paths, walls and fences and tree trunks in the months since the sun sank to the horizon.

Yesterday I went to my first Christmas dinner, at midday, of the season. About twenty-five of us had booked the Penny Black eatery in the old post office building in Alnwick. Three courses for £15.05, Christmas crackers and streamers included, beverages not. We had been to Penny Black a year ago, and had all been impressed. I'm afraid I was not quite so bowled over this go round, mainly because a man, possibly the owner or manager, seemed to think that he owed us entertainment over and beyond some gentle, seasonal muzak. Before the pudding was served, the manager interrupted our quiet conversations with some god-awful Christmas popular tunes from the hit parade at a volume that had me wondering when my brain would start bleeding out of my ears. I had a splitting headache before I finished my profiteroles. I don't (and didn't) drink alcohol, though I'm not necessarily a cheap date with lemonade at £2.40 a glass, so I feel certain the loud music was to blame. I decamped before coffee.

As I'd been picked up at my front door to go to Alnwick, I'd not dressed against the cold. I'd not fancied dealing with a scarf, gloves, hat, overcoat; I'd not even worn a sweater, the better to display my cheery tie (Trevor asked if it had a volume control…) When I left Penny Black, which had been plenty warm enough, no faulting the management over that, I immediately realised that it was not so much chilly as freezing outside. The Alnwick bus station is second only to Verkhoyansk when it comes to the title of Pole of Cold, and that's in June. My short socks suddenly seemed even shorter. So I quickly walked to the menswear shop I favour and bought a scarf and a sweater, both on sale fortunately. I figured my feet would thaw on the bus.

The 518 and 420 buses are usually dodging back and forth across the region, and only pause in Alnwick for a few minutes to discharge passengers, and reload for the return to Newcastle or Ashington. That means, even if the driver is finishing a shift, the bus is only switched off for a minute or two, and is warm inside. Yesterday I found a completely empty bus at the station in bay number 4. It had been sitting there for some time and had shed any heat it might have had. I boarded an icebox! Worse, when the heat did start to build up, it came from overhead vents, and my feet remained frozen.

This is, I suppose, a genuine excuse for a bout of depression and misery, but as we slid off into the grey world (it had been too dim for vehicles to go without their headlights the whole day) I tried to distract myself from my physical discomfort by studying the landscape outside.

I was surprised at how many coniferous trees and evergreens there are in Alnwick, all would have been planted intentionally. Most of the trees were leafless; a few of these had fairy lights in them, to encourage tidings of comfort and joy. Once we rolled across the A1 overpass, there were few trees, and nearly all barren. The fields were green enough, with a great many sheep huddled near windbreaks; a few horses wearing blankets stared out at us and I wondered if they slept indoors.

Quite a few of our passengers left the bus at Alnmouth Station. Bus meets Train, is the plan, though I've not found it to work so well. One long-haired and scruffily-dressed lad leaving us looked like a beatnik or hippie, complete with a bit of a pointy beard and a knapsack; he was also carrying a laptop computer in a case. Probably an astrophysicist, or a Facebook addict. He jogged down to the railway station where, almost certainly, he'd have to wait an hour for Bus to meet Train. It occurs to me that the platforms at Alnwick Station are colder than the Alnwick bus station when the wind is out of the north (and it was). Poor bastard.

The River Aln was running high, and the tide was in in the Aln Estuary, and all the rain had flooded the tidal marshes and fields as we dodged into Alnmouth Village looking for passengers. The North Sea was fairly calm, no sign of the beaches. The marshy end of the Alnmouth Village Golf Course was looking more like a lake, complete with waterfowl. All was submerged.

Once on the Coast Road, I appreciated how much rain had fallen recently, with fields well-puddled, some even flooded, and the road resembling a canal as we ploughed through water deep enough to splash up and over the bus's windows on the front and sides. Mostly-brown hedgerows and the green fields were turning brown as the already weak light vanished outside. The canopy of leaves that makes the drive in and out of Warkworth on the north side so spectacular was missing, making the roadway appear to be surrounded by gigantic thorns, which was beautiful in its own way.

Lots of Christmas lights in Warkworth, its pubs and restaurants seem to be surviving the recession better than those in Amble and Alnwick. Warkworth is a tourist trap, Americans and Japanese come thousands of miles to pose for pictures in its street, below the Castle. Swans are found on the River Coquet, underneath an ancient bridge, at any time of year. Might they be mechanical? (The former head of Disneyland Paris, a Frenchman, has been hired by the Duke of Northumberland to turn Alnwick Castle and Gardens into some sort of theme park … And the Frenchman says he'd like to include the town of Alnwick too … And I'm wondering about robotic swans, peacocks and deer, and the townsfolk hired on to dress like serfs, to re-enact the good old days of 1348.)

The Coquet Estuary was swamped, the tide as high as I've ever seen it, only feet from the road between Warkworth and Amble. Amble's few lights reflected in the water. Barren trees after the Welcome to Northumberland's Friendliest Port sign. Black slate roofs running with rainwater which is guttered onto the pavements, rather than under them. I've started to warm up after my half-hour ride home. My headache from the Holly Jolly Music is easing.

Cailean was awfully glad to see me, but not pleased when we went back outside briefly for him to pee. Inside for good, I drew the curtains, for the world outside was quite dark by then, and made the coffee I'd missed at dinner. Cailean slept next to me on the sofa while I read. The electric fire, fake coals in a small furnace, was a nice way to wrap up a surprisingly pleasant day in bleak mid-winter.

My neighbour just called out: "It's supposed to snow!"

Bring it on!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Are People Peeing on Front Street?

I saw someone peeing in Jermyn Street the other day. I thought, is this the end of civilization as we know it? Or is it simply someone peeing in Jermyn Street?
Alan Bennett

THE FIRST MEMBER OF MY FAMILY washed up in Bermuda in about 1880. John William Eldridge was a carpenter with the British Army and was posted to the encampment above the old town of St George. I do not know if the weapons resting on the gun carriages maintained by my great-grandfather's younger brother were facing out to sea, or whether some might have been pointed at vital places on the narrow strip of land making up the archipelago.

My great-grand uncle John married a local girl, Marian Elizabeth Florence Thomas, daughter of James Thomas, a warder, in St Peter's Church, St George's, in 1882. Marian was only 16, and a daughter, Ada Florence Eldridge, was born and christened in Bermuda in 1883. This is all in the Bermuda Government Archives, and I have turned the appropriate pages there.

John, Marian and the newborn baby left Bermuda and returned to England. As far as I can tell, John's family were somewhat unsure about that Bermuda marriage, and the couple were wed again, in London, in October 1885. They never returned to Bermuda.

My father arrived in Bermuda in the summer of 1943. He would have been about 18. Technically in the Royal Navy, my father was an assistant in the on-shore canteen in Bermuda. He was not off sinking battleships and submarines.

My mother's parents, the Lancasters, had originally set foot in Bermuda in the first week of August, 1925. They returned to England a few times with money saved in Bermuda, hoping to make something of themselves back home. My grandfather misjudged the times, or simply didn't have any luck, and lost their nest-egg trying to sell furniture near Blackpool during the Depression. They went back to Bermuda once and for all not long before the Second World War, my grandfather working for the British Forces in the NAAFI. I believe my father worked in some capacity for my grandfather.

I am the result of the unhappy marriage of my British parents. My father remained with my mother (conveniently) for seven years, claimed his Bermudian "status", and that was happy families over and done with. Just in case you thought I was clothed in celestial glory.

Adding up the days, weeks, months and years, I have spent most of my life in Bermuda. I remember best the first twenty years, 1950 to 1970, when Bermuda was a fairly simple place: green landscapes, pink sand beaches, pastel-coloured cottages, and exquisite turquoise waters swirling over purple reefs. Party politics, organized government that took itself too seriously (if nowhere near as seriously as it would thirty years down the road), and the destruction of all that was charming about the landscape in the name of wider roads and broad vistas soured my view of Bermuda. The oleander hedges that had cast blossoms onto the narrow lanes (narrow enough to naturally restrict speed) were ripped up, and outlooks installed. Then buildings were erected to fill the former natural spaces. And now you could conveniently see all these blots on the landscape clearly!

Older hotels, charming and, delightfully, of another world, making them unique and attractive, were pulled down (I watched two of them, the Hamilton Hotel and the Bermudiana, burn down in the 1950s) and hideous cartons were put up in their place. American-style holiday units, horrific anywhere, were encouraged. Within twenty years some of these were already empty, home to vagrants and addicts, stinking of piss and shit. In the past ten years most of the hotels have been pulled down, and condominiums and small clubs have been built or planned. Grand hotel schemes have been touted by Bermuda's current Leader, who also handles tourism and transport, with promises made and broken on a monthly basis.

Even the cottage colonies are closing down. Golf courses and clubs have closed. The City of Hamilton's Front Street was once considered the window of the world (and the British Empire) with fine goods in beautiful shops, with polite and knowledgeable staff. The better shops have shut down, many famous fronts have been demolished and boxy office blocks have filled the gaps. Government decided to ignore the laws about the height of buildings and suddenly ten storeys is not too tall. Even the tourist souvenir shops in Hamilton are closing as Government is catering to maxi-ships which can only come alongside at the former Royal Navy Dockyard. Simply, the cruise operators bring their own hotel (and catering and entertainment) to Bermuda, filled with its own guests, staffed by its own employees. Thousands of tourists who are on these all-inclusive sea voyages (so not inclined to buy much more than a postcard when they reach a port) pour into the Dockyard at once, some, perhaps, wanting to go to a beach. However, the roads and public transport are not up to this.

The little (historic) Town of St George where my great-grand uncle John was stationed is closing down too. And green Bermuda has been paved and concreted over.

It is the business of hotels, like colonies, to be one step behind the times.
Alan Bennett

I recall crime in Bermuda, of course. However, I do not recall living there in fear of my life as gunshots ring out. In 2009, so far, there have been 40 gun-related incidents, 14 people have been shot, and some have died. There have been other murders using machetes and knives. It is gang warfare. The Bermuda Government had refused to admit there were gangs in Bermuda for years. This year the word "gang" is everywhere. Yet nobody, somehow, sees anything. Dozens can clearly observe the murder of a boy at Elbow Beach, yet nothing is seen. Violence on the fields at sporting events is obvious, sometimes it is even on film or caught on mobile phones, but there is no witness.

The gang violence is, apparently, over "turf". The many gangs have carved up a narrow strip of land totalling about 20 square miles. Who the hell wants to sit in his few acres, proud as hell, shooting at anyone who comes onto it, afraid to step out of it? Drugs have rotted the minds of these gang members.

To be right up to date: Many people who attended the Christmas Parade in Bermuda recently felt so offended by the vulgar, violent dancing, language and behaviour, and unseemly costumes of the young girls marching that they hurried their children away and headed home, saying: "Never again!"

Who are these young girls? Who are the young boys in the gangs? They are the children of children in many cases. They are children without proper family backgrounds. "Your daddy's not your daddy, but your daddy don't know…" was an amusing calypso song when I was younger. It's a way of life. The grannies and aunties who raised these boys and girls are church-going, narrow-minded women. They are religiose, rather than religious, seeing evil in gays they don't know, but not seeing evil in their family members that they should know. Bermuda tends to be a matriarchal society at home (so many of the men are simply missing), battling an angry, mostly-male Government. Could the angry men in charge be horribly embarrassed by the boys on the walls? Or is it politically convenient to have an underclass to blame on the British and old history? It is better to have perceived blame than to dispense wisdom?

Bermuda's Ministry of Tourism has the motto "Feel the Love" … I'm not sure that many Bermudians are feeling it these days. How many tourists feel it? I dare a tourist to pause after a Bermudian snaps "Good morning!" at him. My English master used to walk into our classroom and say: "Good morning! The usual insincere wish!" He got that right.

Bermuda is a divided country, ruled by a minority. It was divided and ruled by a white minority when I was a boy. That was quite wrong. It is still divided and ruled by a minority because the Government wants one thing for Bermuda, independence from Britain and an American-style leadership by an individual (not surprising considering the current Leader was an American citizen, and may still be in his heart of hearts), and the people, apparently, want something else. The Leader himself has said that they had to fool the people for their own good. Orwell wrote: "Ignorance is Strength". So, it is wrong, don't you think, to promote ignorance?

"This is your Raja speaking," the excited voice proclaimed. After which, da capo, there was a repetition of the speech about Progress, Values, Oil, True Spirituality. Abruptly, as before the procession disappeared from sight and hearing. A minute later it was in view again, with its wobbly counter-tenor bellowing the praises if the newly united kingdom's first prime minister.
The roaring of the engines diminished, the squeaking rhetoric lapsed into an inarticulate murmur, and as the intruding noises died away, out came the frogs again, out came the uninterruptible insects, out came the mynah birds.
"Karuna. Karuna." And a semi-tone lower, "Attention."
Aldous Huxley (Island)

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Street Life: A Little Death & A Little Parade

Dim all the lights sweet darling
Cause tonight it's all the way
Turn up the old Victrola
Gonna dance the night away.
Donna Summer (Dim all the Lights)

I FOUND THAT PHOTO ONLINE. I wanted to illustrate this entry and really had no intention of returning home for my camera after spotting a used condom on the pavement of our second street here in Amble. How the hell does one casually take a picture of such a thing, close-up, I suppose, without coming over as a real pervert? Somebody did take a picture of a used condom, convenient for my needs, and I just Googled it. Perhaps the photographer set it all up, provided the thing and placed it carefully on a flagstone on his back patio. Excuse me while I cringe.

I was walking Cailean yesterday and we went first down Queen Street, Amble's main (and only) shopping district. I might add that about a fifth of the shops are closed and boarded up, or are hardly open … on shortened hours or showing no signs of life (like having the lights on). Rough year or so here, and it's the off-season. Once we reached the Town Square, with its bare flagpoles and its concrete benches growing moss for the winter, we turned back and crossed over to Church Street, and headed west, eager to get home as it was, as the little children say, fuckin' cold.

There it was, on the pavement outside St Cuthbert's Parish Church: A used condom. It was a pale green colour, and I've since wondered if it was luminescent. One should probably not think about that sort of thing too much. It might send a message. There is a wall outside St Cuthbert's, with no indentations, no roofed area, no trees, and that continues for some way in both directions, though the church gives way to terraced houses flush with the pavement. The street is a No Parking zone on both sides as well. It's all wide open.

One must assume the condom was removed from the gentleman's appendage pretty much where it was dropped on the pavement. Chances are the act that came shortly before this took place there too, en plein air, on our second street, where the 518 and 420 buses collect us to take us to Alnwick or Newcastle, or to Ashington. I'd like to think this all happened on Tuesday night, or in the wee hours of Wednesday. It was a bitterly cold night, with the icy wind howling down Church Street. Truly a knee-trembler! Let's hear it for the randy British male, eh?

I'm not really complaining. In fact, it is rather uplifting to discover that our lads are using birth (and/or) disease control. Taking it to the streets. However, Cailean is a curious dog, and he very nearly picked the glowing latex tube up. Achtung! I jerked the leash back just in time.

At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows.

William Shakespeare (Love's Labour's Lost. Act I, Scene I)

I DID NOT TAKE THAT PHOTOGRAPH either. I was going to take a picture of Amble's Queen Street Christmas illuminations tonight, but I'd have to walk about a hundred yards in the frosty night, and this year's display is on a smaller scale than other years. With many shops closed down, the lights on the buildings that have the power switched off are not plugged in, or switched on. Just unlit bulbs. The brightest spot on Queen Street is probably the Europizza take-away; we seem to eat that Eurotrash no matter how the recession bites.

So, that's last year's bright lights in the picture, courtesy of Google.

We had the town's Santa Claus Parade on the Sunday before last. It was well dark at five o'clock when a surprisingly large crowd gathered at the top of Queen Street, waiting for a knot of entertainers to emerge from the parking lot of the (closed down) Wellwood Arms. I decided to take Cailean with me, thinking he might be afraid of the noise from a parade if he were home alone.

We'd had rain that Sunday afternoon, but the sky cleared shortly before 5.00pm. That meant the temperature dipped, we were all bundled up. There were no shops with open doors radiating heat out onto the pavement, only Europizza seemed to be open, and they had their door pulled to. Eastern Europeans must find Britain cold.

Suddenly, the last thing I expected or wanted: A sky-rocket. It must have been set off in the space in front of Olive's Tea Room (which was closed). A whoosh and a loud bang, then red sparks. Cailean jumped and wound the lead around my ankles. And the overhead lights crossing Queen Street, and some of the lights on the buildings, suddenly lit up. And that was rather nice in a very modest way.

About a dozen Hell's Angels … or the Amble equivalent … leather clad blokes on heavy motorcycles, with their birds riding pillion, shot down the High Street from the Wellwood Arms, and onto Queen Street, at considerable speed, with no obvious concern for the many small children who could have stepped out onto the single-lane, partly-cobbled street. Where was Health & Safety?

Then two ladies carried a banner reading, I think, AMBLE SANTA CLAUS PARADE 2009. It was not illuminated. Behind that, a few dozen children carrying paper lanterns, most of which were not illuminated, a few of the children had (battery-powered) torches.

Then the music: Quite a few people with snare drums, and some African or Caribbean drums that might be right at home in the Copacabana. A rat-a-tat-tat sound, a lot like the beat that the Gombeys in Bermuda jiggle about to. Not exactly Away in a Manger; not Jingle Bells; The Little Drummer Boy? Not even.

At this point it got what I'd call peculiar … considering this was a Santa Claus Parade. I know we cannot have anything remotely religious nowadays, I was not expecting a virgin on a donkey (as if) … About seven or eight people dressed in costumes made of, I think, wire and tissue paper, some lit from underneath by torches. There was a Cheshire Cat, a Mad Hatter, and a White Rabbit, Alice in Wonderland, a Playing Card, and a Chess Figure. Perfect for a Lewis Carroll Appreciation Society do, but odd (don't you think?) for Christmas.

The last entry in the Parade was a flat-bed truck loaded with small children and somebody thin in a Santa suit, and a stereo playing, possibly, holiday music. I couldn't make it out clearly with the snare drums going not twenty feet in front of it. Excluding the Hell's Angels, it was a very compact Parade. Our two Community Police Officers in fluorescent yellow vests, the brightest things in the Parade, brought up the rear.

The spectators at the head of Queen Street walked into the street itself and followed the Parade down to the Square. Cailean had had enough by then, all five minutes of it, and it was clouding over. It rained not long after we got back to the flat, but the Divinity that shines on Wonderland Parades had been kind. I would think the tissue costumes would not take a dose of rain or sleet very well. Saved for another year. Or the next parade, whatever it might celebrate.

It's not a bad thing, the small-, really-small-, town parade. I saw quite a few people, and dogs, one Scottie in costume, that I recognised. A fair bit of waving and smiling. The lights are put up by a dwindling team of now aged people, the costs of new bulbs covered, in part, by a fair at the Co-op Mortuary. The Amble Parade is not beholden to advertisers, and there are no competing preachers, and there was nothing vulgar. Old men, eighty years from now, may remember, fondly, the glowing tissue-paper Wonderland sort of Santa Claus Parade of 2009.

I read in today's Northumberland Gazette that persons unknown have since stolen all the spare bulbs.

Are they really unknown? I'm thinking they are those who would prefer the bitter darkness of December to a little magic. I'm guessing they are not really happy people, and that Christmas, the real Christmas, is just another day off. Turned off. Sad bastards.