Friday, 21 December 2018

In the bleak midwinter

According to our Christmas cards I appear now to have a third reader of these scribblings. Most importantly I am informed that they also cheer him up. As a tutor at University told us many, many years ago, if something you've done makes somebody smile you can't really ask for more.

At the moment there do seem to be a plethora of negative and alarming stories out there beyond our little bubble of happiness here in the wilds of Norfolk, but I do wonder whether it was not ever thus. Our development of media and connectivity is such that we now feel more involved with bad news than our ancestors did even though that involvement is largely and fortunately, virtual.

The horrors of a hundred years ago were only too real even to those living in rural Norfolk, but the involvement was actual, with the loss of families and communities. Now our shock and rage is often focussed on events that not only are we not involved with but are not even genuinely affected by.  We love bad news and are somehow drawn to it. In the words of recently departed and wonderfully eccentric Baroness Trumpington, "Don't call for help, shout Fire! then they'll all come to have a look"

Anyway regardless of what our over-dosing on media might have us believe, nature is now turning positive. The earliest sunset was a week ago, the longest night is past and the Solstice is today.

The Solstice - the shortest day, today, when the sun reaches its lowest maximum height in the sky — after which light begins its slow climb back and night yields its reach.

Midwinter, yule, the year’s pivot, Earth’s rebirth, a dawn of hope.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Slow you down

It's probably age, but there are moments when it feels like we're increasingly out of control. We're only in the first days of December and apparently many have done their Christmas Shopping whilst the emails for spring ranges are increasing by the day.

It's not all down to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, for here in the village we were guilty of a very early Lights Switch-on seemingly weeks ago. They look great but when you think that when they are removed in January they will have been up for nearly 2 months - that's a sixth of the year. In our defence the date was driven by the tide. Not ours, but down the road in Wells, where Father Christmas arrives from the sea and can only so do when tide and darkness coincide.

At home we went and chose our Christmas Tree 10 days ago, but it's still happily growing with its friends in a local field and won't come in the house for another 10 days. You could argue that this diminishes its significance but it will be present for a week before plus the 12 days which I think is about right and actually makes that time seem suitably different.

Here in the gallery, I succumbed last weekend and following my normal pattern installed some suitably low-key and tasteful gestures towards the festive season. This is partly peer pressure - if everybody else has lights you are likely to be thought truly sad if you're the one who doesn't - and partly a commercial reality, for without a bit of sparkle one might be overlooked.

Historically, whilst sales of ceramics and - in the days of our Norwich gallery - jewellery peaked in December, paintings saw surprising sales after Christmas. This pattern now seems to be changing, with increasing sales of art as a gift. My reading of this is that in these days of uncertainty and growing antipathy to waste and pointless expenditure, paintings and prints are seen as a gift that is more than a token, a gift that requires thought and consideration and one that may give at least as much pleasure in the months and years ahead as it does when it is first given and received.