Tuesday, January 07, 2014

*Merry Christmas

Harold regarded the Christmas tree thoughtfully. The eight-foot spruce dominated the Great Hall and if one was very lucy, one could still find a hollow chocolate lantern or a crème-filled chocolate bear amongst the tinsel and baubles, even this late in the season. “Should we take the decorations down?”

Jasfoup snaffles a chololate snowman. “No hurry, is there? It's cheerful and you're not superstitious about twelfth nigh, are you?”

“Well...” Harold grimaced. “Mum always took it down on the sixth and it's the seventh today.”

“Just pretend you're Welsh.”

“Welsh? Why?”

“They still reckon by the Julian calendar. They don't take their trees down until the new year, and since the Julian calendar is thirteen days behind the Gregorian, that's not until the fourteenth.”

“Excellent.” Harold unwrapped a chocolate santa. “Nadolig Llawen* .”

Sunday, January 05, 2014

1969

“Mummy, look! A princess.” Harold pointed to the horse-drawn cart rumbling past, a queue of traffic behind it. The dray had been decorated with white sheets and racemes of hawthorn and cherry blossom. On a garden bench sat a young woman, dressed in a simple white shift and a wearing a crown of ox-eye daisies and candytuft.

“Yes love.” Ada stood behind him to watch her trot past. “It's the May queen, off to give herself in honour of the Oak King.”

“What do you mean, 'give herself'?”

“It's symbolic, Harold. The Oak King will ravage the maiden and plant the new sun in her, then she'll give birth to it in six weeks time.”

“I thought it took nine months for a baby?”

“So it does, love. Nine long, arduous months. But a sun takes only six.”

“Were you hoping for a sun?”

“A daughter, actually.” Ada looked down. “Not that I'm not happy with my beautiful boy.”

“What does 'ravage' mean?”

“Making a baby. Or a new sun, in this case.”

“Mr Atkins says it's all superstitios rubbish.”

“That's your form teacher, isn't it?”

“Yes. He's ever so clever. Much cleverer than any woman. He told us. He says it's hardly even worth teaching the girls anything other than cooking and housekeeping.” He shut up then. He could feel his mother's fingers digging into his shoulders.

“Right, well, Mr Atkins believes a lot of rubbish himself and we know better, don't we? He'd be the first to complain if the sun didn't come up in the morning. Where are you off to?”

Harold looked round. His mum's friend, Mr Jax was pulling on a long green coat covered in rags and tinkling with tiny bones.

“I've a meeting to attend.” Mr Jax winked. “Don't wait up, eh?”

May Queen image by Emily Soto

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The Morning After

“How do you feel?”

“Like I've been blown by Royce Gracie” Harold winced. “Thrown. Thrown by Royce Gracie.” He cradled his head and rested his elbows on the kitchen table. “Never again.”

“That's what you said last year.” Jasfoup filled the kettle from, Harold could only assume from the noise, the Niagara Falls in his kitchen. The hissing of the kettle sounded like gravel being dropped on a corrugated iron roof.

“And I meant it. How was I to know that old bloke would be mixing the drinks? Who would have thought to put saltpetre in the Martinis?”

“That's an alchemist for you. They can't stop tinkering.”

“I thought alchemy went out with the fifteenth century.” Harold gestured to the cupboard over the kettle. “Hand me the effervescent salts, would you?”

Jasfoup opened the cupboard. “Alka-Seltzer?”

“Them's the fellows/” Harold held up his glass of water. “Alka me.”