Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Past 2011, 6

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I wake, my eyes still dim from sleep. The first thing I see is my breath rising slowly from my mouth. I pull my covers up a little higher. It is freezing. I can see frost on the window glistening, small shapes from the sunlight streaming in. 

I see slight flakes of snow falling from the sky like the sugar you put on cakes. I feel a ping of delight move quickly through my whole body. I smile. It's Christmas.

I sit up and feel the cold hit me properly once the warmth and safety of the sheets have fallen off my body, no longer protecting me from the harsh winter cold. I step out of bed and begin to smile. I think about what the day has to offer - cheer, merriment, a fantastic Christmas turkey stuffed to the brim, gravy sliding off it, a platter of roast potatoes. My mouth begins to water.  Then I think of the most obvious thing that comes to any child's thoughts at this time: presents! I feel excitement gorw as I think about tearing into the delicately wrapped boxes of pure joy. I say out loud to myself "This is going to be a good day." 

One of the most memorable Christmases of my life was in 2004. I was at the coast in Kenya with friends for the holiday. Our house was right on the beach; the sound of waves crashing at night was deafening. Christmas Day itself was relatively normal. I don't remember any details from it.

It was the day after, Boxing Day, that was incredibly eventful. We were all sitting around the breakfast table when my Mum's friend got a text. It was from his friend in Sri Lanka. It read: There is a 200-ft tsunami coming yr way at 300 ks per hour. Get to high ground. This should have scattered us in panic, but I think the surreal nature of it caused us to stay sitting, and start a conversation on the topic "If you had to choose three things to pick up and run with from the tsunami, what would they be?" There were plenty of silly answers, including my brother's: "I'd take a fridge that is always full of food. And my stocking." 

Eventually, one of the adults brought us back to reality by saying, "I think we's better get a move on, then." We did, and grabbed more sensible items such as passports and money. We got into three cars and drove up to the hills, telling everyone we passed to get their families and do the same. 

We got to the top of a ridge and sat there for about half an hour with binoculars aimed at the seashore, trying to spy the incoming tidal wave. For some mad reason, then we decided we didn't want to miss it, and proceeded to drive right back down to our house. This was certainly not the most intelligent thing to do, and could have earned us all Darwin Awards.

We waited until the end of the day in expectation, but the wave never came. Later, it turned out that the tsunami had actually hit us during our pre-breakfast swim, but the reef out at sea had prevented it from making any impact. 

I support you could say we were just incredibly lucky.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Past 2011, 5

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My memory of Christmas is when my younger cousin, Aidan, said that he wanted to leave a mince pie and a glasis boy was tws of milk out for Santa Claus. Bear in mind that this boy was twelve. Twleve. I giggled nervously and hoped that he was just joking. I turned around to see him looking at me inquisitively, wondering why I was laughing. I said to him sceptically, "Aid, you do know Santa's not real, yeah?"

At that moment, Aidan's face drained of all colour, his eyes filled with tears and his shoulders slumped forward as though he was carrying a heavy schoolbag, and he ran out of the room crying so hard. He sounded as though he was in real pain. The guilt I felt may have been the worst feeling I've had in my life.

The drawing room. The place where it all happens, the room that has that Christmas smell,'t
the room that is Christmas.

I can't describe that smell. That foresty smell you get from the tree. The smell of burning logs, the smell of crisp paper. And the strong smell of my Granny's Chanel perfume.

The sound of the crackling sparks on the fire. The sound of my grandparents talking to Mum about something she has no interest in. The sound of my Dad hysterically laughing about something, having had a few too many glasses of wine. The sound of my brother blabbering on about the latest rugby match, and the sound of my sisters gossiping about celebrities. The sound of paper being torn in desperation to see what surprises await them. The sound of my dogs playing with each other and their claws scraping on the carpet.

This is Christmas to me.

Old toys you once craved
Now lie still in the attic,
White dolls, grinning faces,
Matte with dust.
Boxes of lights
Green, white, now left for nothing,
Not used since times past.

Get them out if you must
And hang them downstairs
So the neighbours will think that
This year, you'll pretend that
This Christmas
You'll care.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Past 2011, 4

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Many thanks to @irasocol for this contribution:-

I'll never forget when I learned that Santa Claus wasn't real. I was in the fourth grade eating lunch when a classmate stated quite emphatically that there was no such thing as Santa. He wasn't real. It was just a man dressed in a Santa's suit. I wasn't especially fond of this red-haired girl, so using my indignant fourth-grade voice, I spouted back that she was wrong because last year Santa walked by our house on Christmas morning. She continued to insist that it was someone dressed in a Santa costume When I demanded to know who put our presents under the tree, she promptly informed me that our parents did.

As I walked home from school, I thought about what she told me and knew I could find the truth about Santa from my mother. I knew that she would definitely agree with me. However,  after listening to her answer, I realized  that Christmas would never be the same for me. It lost a little bit of magic and the hardest part was I had to pretend he was real because I had two younger brothers!
I'm just glad the magic lasted until the fourth grade.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Past 2011, 3

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I remember the snowfall. Particularly the depth, and wondering if it was possible for anything to keep growing underneath the frosty white blanket. The last Christmas to be spent with her. I remember the fire blazing and the early darkness of winter days. I remember her house on top of a hill, and the heart of it spilling onto the frosty lake a few metres below.

She reminds me of more winters and Christmas and memories, and how carols and lights and the beautiful season always ignite your soul.

The night before Christmas in the year 2002. I woke up in the middle of the night. Finding it hard to sleep because of the excitements about presents. Since I was up I went to check the tree to see if there were any presents. But there were none. So I went to my parents' bedroom. As I opened the door I could hear paper crumpling and people talking. I opened the door and there I saw my parents wrapping presens. We stood standing for seconds.

And I just left.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Past 2011, 2

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Last Christmas I didn't have 'Christmas'... We were snowed in for a week and a half leading up to the day, so my Dad was unable to get the turkey. My brother and I robbed a tree from a nearby plantation, and not a single present was exchanged. And spaghetti bolognese followed by icecream replaced Christmas dinner. And although we missed out usual Christmas traditions, like going to church and then on to my grandparents' house, the day still felt special. Just in a different way.

Glimmering, twinkling, rocking, candles set the centrepiece like little stars. Eggs, little obscure moons, sit sprinked with sweet herbs. Green, ugly, peeling sprouts lie like monsters within the shimmering bowl. Hot, steaming, brown gravy is at the top of the table, its smell intense, rich, warm and loving. The vegetables lies upon their magnificent platter, an array of wonderful colours - oranges, reds, yellows, browns. All warming, all rich.

The most fantastic, colossal beast of a bird sits stuffed, golden brown, crisp, juicy, wonderful. It lies on its golden platter, lemons where its head would have been. Succulent rivers of juice ooze from its flesh. Oh, what a magnificent feast this is!

It's not always been pleasant: the bitter and touch Geordie weather and people saw to that. I remember our car got broken into in the town centre while my mother did the Christmas shopping with me in tow. It was snowing at the time, so it was unlikely we could drive with smashed windows, and being the 24th of December it was even more unlikely that we could find anyone to fix them. However, your luck doesn't stay sour for ever, and we managed to find a mechanic, and we were on our way.

I think back now and realise why the smash and grab must have taken place. My mother had left a wrapped brown parcel in the footwell of the passenger seat. The area we were parked in wasn't the nicest either, so when this man saw a brown parcel in a type of car normally used by drug dealers, his heart must have leapt. I only wish I could have seen his face when he opened the parcel to find knitted baby clothes.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Past 2011 1

Last Friday we had our third Everybody Writes day on the theme 'Christmas Past': every pupil in the school wrote for 10/15 minutes on this theme, mostly anonymously. Over the next week we'll be posting some of these. They could be by anyone from VI formers to Primary.

Click here if you'd like to join in...

There are certain smells I can only associate with Christmas, just as there are a few emotions that are only shown at Christmas. That happens at my house every year when I kiss my granny's cheek and take her coat. This particular smell fills in the house, and everywhere you go you know Granny's here.

We turn on the Christmas tree lights and the candles, and we're all ready to begin. The fireplace is lit and all of us sit around it. I love to observe my family. I look at them and all I can see are smiles and laughs. All the rest that seems to be present throughout the rest of the year is forgotten on Christmas Day, and I wonder why don't we all make this effort for the rest of the days of the year?

Our Christmas tree is always massive. It reaches the ceiling in our hall. It isn't colour-coded or anything like that, but instead is full of things we have collected through the years. We have the star made out of uncooked pasta that my sister made when she was in primary school, the bauble that my brother got for his christening with his name on it, and loads of different-coloured tinsel and lights.

To be honest it looks like a bit of a shambles, but that is why I love it. My favourite thing is what goes on top: when my parents had no money, my Dad made a Santa  out of a can, with red fabric for his clothes and cotton wool for his beard with two eyes drawn in black marker. The reason I like it so much is because of the way my parents look at each other every year when it is taken out of the decorations box.

The room filled with laughing children and gossiping adults. The black sooty fireshield guarding the crackling fire going up the chimney. The carpet beside burnt with black stains from floating ashes. The large Christmas tree taking up one end of the room with an angel on top with its head touching the ceiling. The fairy lights wrapped around the tree glowing and shining on the hanging decorations. Beneath the tree are all of the gifts - wrapped in polka dots, stripes, with Santas or in plain colours, each tied neatly with a ribbon and a bow. Outside the decorated windows is the snowman that was built by the neighbourhood kids earlier today. But he is slowly shrinking due to the sunlight's warmth, his carrot-nose falling off, bending down beside his raisin mouth. The dogs in the kitchen glare up at the freshly-cooked and seasoned turkey sitting on the counter-top. Even from the hallway, you can smell the Yorkshire pudding, swimming with gravy and peas.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Christmas Past 2011

In December 2008 and 2009 we had an 'Everybody Writes' day, when all the pupils - and many of the staff - took 15 minutes in class to write a short piece on the topic 'Christmas Past'. Most were done anonymously, which seemed to liberate many writers in expressing all sorts of feelings about the theme. The best of these were then posted on this blog. Last year we took a rest, but are repeating the exercise across the whole school on this coming Friday.

This year, 2011, we are inviting visitors to SCC English to join in. Just spend between 5 and 15 minutes writing your memory, a poem, your wish, a fantasy, anything you like on 'Christmas Past' and we'll blog the most interesting/vivid/funny/moving responses. Now click here - enjoy!

'The Comedy of Errors' review

Konstantin Behr & Robin Fitzpatrick
Shannen Keogan reviews the recent Shakespeare Society production of The Comedy of Errors:-

On a dark wet evening on Saturday 19th of November, in Saint Columba’s College, there really was no better place to be than sitting in the buzzing Big Schoolroom listening to the classic tunes of the 70’s and dancing in our seats whilst we all anticipated this year’s Senior Play, The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare.

If we didn’t think the blaring 70s beats were good enough, suddenly we were graced with the presence of the one and only keyboard extraordinaire Lingfan Gao, looking as some would say “Elton John-esque” in what really was the sparkliest jacket of gold and silver sequins that I have ever seen. When the lights dimmed and the sweet and sombre sound of Lingfan’s keyboard began to play the mellifluous tones of Catie McGonagle's voiceover introduced the story.
The story itself is a complex one and I thought that Patrick Tice who played Egeon did an excellent job of trying to explain the utterly chaotic plot in the first scene of the play. He informed the ruler of Ephesus (Kezia Wright) of how he and his wife had a pair of twin babies both called Antipholus who were separated on a sea journey in a storm. In the storm Egeon is separated from his wife and one of his sons. If that wasn’t confusing enough, on the exact same day another set of twins had been born to a local poor woman who Egeon bought to grow up as servants of his twins. These servant twins were both called Dromio. So the story begins with Antipholus of Syracuse (Zach Stephenson) and his loyal servant Dromio (William Maire) setting off to find their long-lost brother.

Now, a Shakespearean comedy really just wouldn’t be a comedy if it didn’t have a crazy over-dramatic and completely confused woman in it and this was Adriana who was played fantastically by Opeline Kellett. She, along with her sister Luciana (Bella Purcell) are baffled by the peculiar actions of her husband Antipholous (Robin Fitzpatrick) and their slave Dromio (Hamish Law). But the most confused characters of all were definitely the Antipholus twins (Robin and Zach) and the Dromio twins (Hamish and William). These four have to be commended on what really were flawless performances on their parts.

Not only was the acting of an incredibly high standard this year but so were the stage production and costumes. With the use of some new modern technology, a beautiful tower clock, very colourful garments (organised by Ms. Hennessey) and great music, the comedy sense of the play had without doubt been fulfilled in a most professional manner. And with some hilarious acting from the local police officer (Konstantin Behr) the local courtesan (Rachel Rogers) and many more, I never ceased to stop giggling throughout the performance. All of this of course was due to the 19 performers who put months of hard work and effort into preparing their roles under the direction and guidance of Mr. Girdham and Mr. Swift, who have yet again left us with another exceptional drama production, and for this they must all be congratulated.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Edublog Awards 2011

The shortlists for this year's Edublog Awards are now out, and we'd be delighted for votes in the categories Best Use for Audio/Video/Podcast and Best Individual Tweeter. Just click on the badges to the right by Tuesday 13th December.

Do also please support our Art colleagues at SCC Art in the Best Class Blog category.