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Advent – John Betjeman

The Advent wind begins to stir
With sea-like sounds in our Scotch fir,
It’s dark at breakfast, dark at tea,
And in between we only see
Clouds hurrying across the sky
And rain-wet roads the wind blows dry
And branches bending to the gale
Against great skies all silver pale
The world seems travelling into space,
And travelling at a faster pace
Than in the leisured summer weather
When we and it sit out together,
For now we feel the world spin round
On some momentous journey bound –
Journey to what? to whom? to where?
The Advent bells call out ‘Prepare,
Your world is journeying to the birth
Of God made Man for us on earth.’

And how, in fact, do we prepare
The great day that waits us there –
For the twenty-fifth day of December,
The birth of Christ? For some it means
An interchange of hunting scenes
On coloured cards, And I remember
Last year I sent out twenty yards,
Laid end to end, of Christmas cards
To people that I scarcely know –
They’d sent a card to me, and so
I had to send one back. Oh dear!
Is this a form of Christmas cheer?
Or is it, which is less surprising,
My pride gone in for advertising?
The only cards that really count
Are that extremely small amount
From real friends who keep in touch
And are not rich but love us much
Some ways indeed are very odd
By which we hail the birth of God.

We raise the price of things in shops,
We give plain boxes fancy tops
And lines which traders cannot sell
Thus parcell’d go extremely well
We dole out bribes we call a present
To those to whom we must be pleasant
For business reasons. Our defence is
These bribes are charged against expenses
And bring relief in Income Tax
Enough of these unworthy cracks!
‘The time draws near the birth of Christ’.
A present that cannot be priced
Given two thousand years ago
Yet if God had not given so
He still would be a distant stranger
And not the Baby in the manger.

Day 12 of 60 – Summer 2018

Cloudy, fog or heat haze? Not sure but no azure blue sky to greet me today. Turned out to be something that burnt off quickly.

Its Wednesday so it’s Friendship Circle! Today we are celebrating a 92nd birthday and being part of such a caring, supportive group.

Beautiful evening and had dinner at The Trickled Trout sitting in the garden. Great to catch up with travelling companion and discussing final arrangements: when I will pick her up and who is brining the hairdryer!

Day 2 of 60 – Summer 2018

It’s a beautiful day and am sipping green tea in the garden of our rented apartment in the center of old town Tbilisi.

Ahead lies a trip to the main wine producing area of Kakheti. Hundreds of grape varieties are grown here. I am not a wine lover but have been told on more than one occasion that I just haven’t found the wine for me yet. So I will willingly continue my quest for the elusive right wine (didn’t work out when in NZ…).

Day 11 of 60 – Summer 2018

A hazy sky this morning. It is a sad day, a day saying farewell to a very dear neighbour and friend. A brave lady who despite two heart valve replacements and all the other life effects of Lime disease still enjoyed good coffee and laughing.

Don’t cry for me now I have died, for I’m still here I’m by your side,

My body’s gone but my soul’s is here, please don’t shed another tear,

I am still here I’m all around, only my body lies in the ground.

I am the snowflake that kisses your nose,

I am the frost, that nips your toes.

I am the sun ,bringing you light,

I am the star, shining so bright.

I am the rain, refreshing the earth,

I am the laughter, I am the mirth.

I am the bird, up in the sky,

I am the cloud, that’s drifting by.

I am the thoughts, inside your head,

While I’m still there, I can’t be dead

Death is nothing at all.

I have only slipped away to the next room.

I am I and you are you.

Whatever we were to each other,

That, we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.

Speak to me in the easy way

which you always used.

Put no difference into your tone.

Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed

at the little jokes we enjoyed together.

Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.

Let my name be ever the household word

that it always was.

Let it be spoken without effect.

Without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.

It is the same that it ever was.

There is absolute unbroken continuity.

Why should I be out of mind

because I am out of sight?

I am but waiting for you.

For an interval.

Somewhere. Very near.

Just around the corner.

All is well.

Day 10 of 60 – Summer 2018

And another glorious morning. Even in summer in Scotland more than one day (even one day) of sunshine is a blessing!

I am now the owner of a new shiny passport with lots of pages to fill with new travels and adventures starting on Saturday. So impressed by the Passport Service, easy online application where you upload your picture (perhaps not my best decision to take the picture after two night flights and little sleep) and hey presto after paying the money your passport is waiting for you at your choice of appointments.

The top of the town seemed very quiet. One section of Sauchihall Street is still closed after the fire in March rendering the whole block unusable/unsafe. Meanwhile just a few days ago the newly refurbished Art School from a fire a few years ago is devastated again by fire.

My tourist sunburn from yesterday (triangle on my chest with necklace mark and in legs where shorts rose up when sitting) is still an alarming shade of lobster pink. Thanks to the magic of repair-all-cream there is no heat or pain. Just shows how good the factor 50 spray is…and also that I haven’t learnt anything!

Having arrived in Georgia knowing very little about the country, I thought I would do some reading about the Balkan states before heading there next week. Jason Smart’s Balkan Odyssey gave a flavour of travelling around. I gave up on E L Bono’s Who the Hell is Albania that may well be full of gens if information but reading it from the perspective of a plastic bag got old…quickly. The story of M Edith Durham’s journey in High Albania at the turn of the 20th Century will give a rich cultural background but not what I was looking for. So I have come across Adam Yamey’s Albania On My Mind detailing his life long obsession with this elusive state. However, the name Stalin keeps coming up in any book about the Balkans region and also in Georgia. So I am now reading Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Young Stalin. Talk pubout being sidetracked…but all links together.

Day 9 of 60 – Summer 2018

This morning the sky is an amazing turquoise blue with only the faintest signs of wispy clouds. There is a cool wind but in sheltered corners you can feel the full force. Been up to the local corner store to get some crispy morning rolls unique to this part of the country. Roast chicken is in the oven early so we are not eating lunch mid-afternoon as the plan is to head out with filled rolls and flasks of tea to enjoy the glorious weather. Head to the Loch or ‘doon the water’ to Helensburgh or perhaps not quite so far to Havock Road right on the Clyde at Dumbarton – still to be decided.

Decision was all of the above finishing watching the tide creep in and the setting sun shimmering on the sand flats of the Clyde.

Day 8 of 60 – Summer 2018

Awake to a cloudy morning after a very deep and peaceful sleep – two consecutive night flights are going to hit eventually.

However, am home in Scotland for a week before the next big summer trip. A bit of shopping to be done and a new passport needed. Appointment booked for Monday, online application done and three reminders from them.

Off to Clydebank for a bit of shopping. By no means the most glamorous shopping place around but parking is really easy and great shops for basics. There is also a restaurant that is a favourite with my mother – The Debra Rose, a ship that has never been anywhere and will certainly not be going anywhere. Built on the canal it serves fresh fish and chips, home made style steak pie and Scottish all day breakfasts (eggs, bacon, black pudding, beans, fried potato scone) and everything coming with a generous helping of real chips. The covered shopping area itself has some rather large areas of empty shops where stores like BHS and Dunnes have been. A big Asda and a cinema keep the area alive along with other smaller shops and a alarming number of opticians!