SUNDAY – FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT
I love this reading from Micah 5:1-4. It is so dismissive about Bethlehem.
“But you, Bethlehem, Ephrathah. The least of the clans of Judah, out of you will be born for me the one who is to rule over Israel.”
A busy day: it is Natalia’s birthday party but first we go with Albert to the Prince of Wales Theatre to see the Book of Mormon. It is ridiculous, disrespectful, and of course no one would ever dare write such stuff about Muslims. But in the end the Mormons come out quite well out of it. At least they believe in something. The song “I Believe” is powerful. In the evening we all sit at a long table hired that morning after a drive to Rayners. It is fun to sit there with Natalia’s friends. Mary has worked herself to the bone preparing everything and everybody else, making the table look beautiful.
I travel down to Gosport: a grey windy breezy day. Even so, nice to cross the harbour in the ferry. I transfer all my kit from poor decaying old Naomi to Greenfinch – my charts, lifebelts, bits of crockery, a couple of small wine bottles, the heavy life-raft and small outboard engine and the tank is done.
Both boats are in the yard, Naomi at the far end. Beyond here the boats are abandoned, decaying. At the end of this trying work, I sail in Greenfinch and have a whiskey outside. It is extraordinarily mild so I sit at a café eating a jacket potato and look at the deserted marina.
The tiny changing room of the swimming club at the Serpentine is packed, everyone is getting ready for the Christmas Day swim. I worry that the handicap they have given me is too good: I don’t want to win under false pretences. We do a bit of shopping at Peter Jones. The tea is welcome.
In the morning I go to Mass. The two large trees are up but no lights yet.
“The father asked for a writing tablet and wrote ‘His name is John’. And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe.” (Luke 1:57-66)
THURSDAY – Christmas Eve
I like Christmas Eve daytime. It is basically my one day of shopping in the whole year. I go shopping with Natalia to John Sandoe books in the Kings Road where I buy most of my presents, not least for myself. This year: Robert Massie’s Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War. And then to Peter Jones to buy the remainder, and then lunch, more shopping with Mary, and then waiting for Midnight Mass, getting there by 10:30 to get a seat, two-thirds of the way back and then Matins starting at 11.15. We are in church for three hours, one of the best moments of the entire year. I love listening to the sung proclamation: “When all the world was at peace and Tiberias emperor in the X Olympiad…”
I was worried at the Serpentine race but in the end my handicap is not too generous. By half way I have overtaken the very slowest but I soon try and aim in the last ten yards to overtake more and just miss out on third place – so glory exudes me.
I love the opening of the stocking, although all our children are now over 18. I go to the last moments of the Mass in the chapel on Horseferry Road, just to pray at the shrine to the Blessed Virgin there which I love. And then a quiet lunch at Abingdon because Natalia visits Sophie we only open our presents at 11:00 after Downton Abbey and finally see out Christmas Day at just after Midnight.
FEAST OF ST STEPHEN
I enjoy going to the 10:30 Mass in the Cathedral on Boxing Day. The Christmas trees are up, flowers on display, but the great crowds of Midnight Mass gone and after the day of rejoicing, immediately after, we hear of the first martyr.
I love it that as they stone him, Saint Stephen says ‘Lord Jesus receive my spirit!’ What calmness…