Tuesday, 27 December 2016

on the feast of Stephen

It took me decades to discover that St Stephen's Day and Boxing Day were the same day.  The Feast of Stephen had to be some time in winter, because the snow lay deep and crisp and even when good King Wenceslas looked out, and it was presumably sometime around late December as his story had got appended to the mass of English carols, but it was only when we got a copy of Thea Gilmore's Strange Communion, a Christmas album like no other, that I learned the two days were the same and one, from the track The St Stephen's Day Murders, a rousing ditty about turning on your appalling relatives and slaughtering them all, and featuring a vocal contribution by Mark Ratcliffe sounding as though he had been gargling with gravel.

I switched on Radio 4 when I woke up and it was playing pop music.  That's always a bad sign, but since I didn't recognise the song I had to wait until it finished to find out who was dead.  Poor George Michael.  I was not a Wham! fan, but he was good at what he did.  And he was younger than me.  The Systems Administrator was surprised as the day went on that his death got quite so much coverage, having not thought that George Michael was that big, but he was.  It was just that our tastes ran more to rock and indie.  If you were to play me Wham!'s greatest hits I'm sure they would make me quite nostalgic for the pubs and parties of yesteryear, while I still wouldn't have been able to name a single song or tell you it was by Wham!.  They were part of the background noise of my youth.

In the middle of the morning we rallied ourselves, and the Systems Administrator cut some more logs while I cooked the chicken with just plain mashed potato and carrots and sprouts.  There were no trimmings, partly because I couldn't be bothered and wasn't that hungry, and partly to make it clear that it was not pretend delayed Christmas lunch.  I thought some hot food and plain digestible proten might be good for us.

By late afternoon we were fading badly, and I distracted myself by looking through Presto Classical's top 100 albums of 2016, imagining which of them I might buy while they had thirty per cent off.  2016 appears to have been a good year for Brahms recordings, which is fine.  I like Brahms.  Occasionally I looked things up on Google.  Sonata form denotes a piece of music in three sections, exposition, development, and recapitulation, in which two themes or subjects are explored according to set key relationships.  Rubato is the temporary disregard of tempo to allow for expressive quickening or slackening, usually without altering the overall pace.  That will be what Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill do playing Irish reels, and why it is so annoying when people try to clap along with them.  Rutabaga is the American name for a Swede.  I had to get to that answer backwards, since Wikipedia told me that rutabaga was the Engish swede or turnip, and since turnips or swedes are two different vegetables that didn't help, so I Googled swede and confirmed that Americans call it rutabaga.

By eight we we both exhausted and went to our separate rooms, where I slept badly and had to get up at half past four to let Our Ginger in because he was howling outside the door.  He was not a cooperative visitor and spent quite a long time clawing at my scalp and trying to lie on my head or work his way under the duvet.  When I woke properly it was ten past eight.  I switched on Radio 4 and it was a discussion about dementia.  Good old BBC, there to cheer you up when you need them. I thought I had better get up to feed the cats and let the hens out of their house, and then realised I could not see Our Ginger.  I looked under the bedclothes and under the bed, and began to wonder if I had imagined letting a large ginger cat into the room in the small hours, and then the SA stuck his head round the door, looking like Death would look if he were wearing navy blue trousers and a pullover from Marks and Spencer, and said he had done the chickens and the cats and broken the ice on the pond and might go back to bed now, and it was he who had let Our Ginger out, when he looked in twenty minutes earlier and I was asleep.

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