Santa’s elves?

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I’m not generally a fan of Santas, not at all, but in this case…

I’d recently returned to London, from the far east, with my three youngest daughters. We’d been shocked to find the money we’d brought to rent a house and manage till I got a small business set up wasn’t enough. Not only had rents soared, but now they did credit ratings and required references from a UK landlord. My perfect bank records and glowing references from Asia counted for nothing. We were camped out in my eldest daughter’s living room, faced with a seeming impossibility.

Then “Santa” phoned. (I must explain this “Santa” was a Christian friend in children’s entertainments.) He’d heard we were back in London and asked if we’d found a house yet as his old landlord was looking for tenants. Things moved fast! In true Asian style, the landlord said no credit check etc. was needed, my friend’s recommendation was quite enough. Within a week we’d moved in and my poor son in law (who worked nights) got his kitchen-living room back.

However, it took almost all our money. Again “Santa” came through. He’d been given the running of Santa’s Grotto in a famous London mall and, knowing we were short of funds, offered us all Christmas jobs. My 17 year old became one of his fulltime elves and the rest of us worked at home wrapping Christmas presents for the grotto. He even passed face painting engagements my way to help kick start my business.

As an extra blessing, the 5 year old daughter of my eldest, (who had sacrificially put us up) got a lift to school from “Santa” (in full and glorious regalia) when on his way to work with his “elf”. She was the talk of the school by lunchtime lol!

So, God can even use “Santa” it seems.

bitter sweet.

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Contrasts wring my heart today. Hidden beneath the seat of one of our boats are another batch of eggs, while proud parents walk their gosling brood across the jetty to explore the spring. In contrast I take one who has served, now aged, recovering slowly from a life changing operation. He cannot remember now, he tells me with a touch of sadness, how to sail. As I take him slowly out on the lake contrasting his former lifelong abilities with my incompetent navigation, it begins to return.

“Loosen the starboard line, just a wee bit, see, let it catch the wind…” I see the joy of sailing kindle in his eyes, but he is no longer the teacher, the one who takes the disabled out on the boats. The tide has changed, we all fuss over him with hugs, tea and cakes and sailing…

I sense his time drawing nearer as the goslings is beginning, life’s circle coming to an end, volunteer becoming sailor. He keeps a smile but it’s hard. I’ll take him again, we all will, his investment has grown dividends of love and friendship, what he has given he will receive.

“Fine”

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With just one word you have said so much and yet so little…. Wrapped up in those four letters is everything I wanted to hear and yet nothing at all.

You toss it out like throwing pennies to the performer on the street, knowing it’s not all I’m worth but giving you a way out in the immediate.

That one word does not suffice me. It does not tell me what oceans you swim in now. It does not tell me what mountains you have climbed or how far you have yet to go. It does not tell me of your heartache or of your joy. It tells me nothing.

Still, those four letters have told me everything. They have told me that you are sailing the oceans and not drowning. That you have survived the mountain and continue to climb. They have told me that your heartaches are your own and your joy is shared with others. They have told me everything.

But I haven’t stood by your side all these years only to be given the same fleeting smile and handshake you would give a total stranger. I haven’t been the friend that held you when you cried only to now be given the same scraps from your table that you would give to your dog.

And so the next time I stand beside you and see joy dancing in your eyes, the next time I hold your hand and feel the pain trembling therein, the next time we hug and you linger that little bit too long, the next time I ask how are you, please, I beg, allow me the honour of being a friend and give me more than just:

“Fine.”
(Taken from a young friend’s writings.)

A friend “moves on”.

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The pain didn’t make her bitter; instead it seemed to kindle a fire within, an almost tangible glow. She’d always been kind and concerned. I recall her compassion when I was once far from home in a desperate situation, she didn’t just talk she did, she was always like that.

Her life, though often touched with joy, had not been easy, she’d had to fight many battles and the last (with cancer) took away her strength. Yet as power ebbed away something more pure filled the vacuum.

I can understand why God called her home, something so beautiful belongs in Heaven, though she’ll be sorely missed here.

Meeting with an old friend.

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wine

How delightful is the wine of friendship shared once more, full and sweet upon the tongue. It has not bittered, its fermentation only adding to the strength and flavour. I tasted its purity long ago when it was first cast, a new vintage fresh upon the palette. Its long years matured in English oak, the winds and rains, the sunny smiles of Ireland have mellowed the flavour yet it still remains unique, priceless, a draft to be savored.

A LIVING FAIRY TALE. (a year ago today)

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(My beautiful daughter and wonderful new husband)

Perhaps it was the setting, a castle dating back 2000 years, the 11th. century turrets with their hidden stories, gothic arches spanned by fresco, the Barouche décor of the chapel or perhaps the vista from a mountain’s edge overlooking miles of tiny salmon hued houses and church spires. There was the décor, pastel shades of white and pale pink roses, crystal chandeliers and lace, and the violinist’s mellow tunes against white stone and sky blue background. But all this I knew can be bought with a bank card.

Perhaps it was the guests in glimmering 20s attire, stunning make up and twining curls, handsome, dark Italians contrasting pale, blond English or the bride herself managing somehow to outshine the other beauties (of which there were a number).

Everywhere I looked all was perfect, choreographed by wedding planners and the bride herself. Yet I knew behind the scenes there had been chaos, incompetent make up artists and florists, hitches and problems that kept the bride and groom in a constant flurry till the moment they appeared seemingly calm and unruffled.

No, it is not these things that make a fairy tale, though it may appear so in pictures.

The real fairy story began with the chapel vows, a tiny jewel escaping the bride’s immaculate eye make up as pledges were exchanged. Gems followed gleaming among the congregation reflecting on their story. Two precious hearts spurned and abandoned finding each other and overcoming impossibilities to be together. Tiny gleaming diamonds were quenched by furtive thumbs and sweated by a groomsman, tattoos smothered in a stifling suit because “It was THEIR day”.

Gold had echoed first that day in the dust of slippered feet as a bridesmaid, clad in a dressing gown, ran the gauntlet of a staring foreign wedding party to escort a photographer when wi fi failed. Other toes, iron clad but smiling, stood firm all morning guarding the soft hearted bride from all but the most urgent requests. A final gleaming dust had sprinted to the chapel as the bride’s insistent stilettos delayed her triumphant entry for the friend who’d used her prep time to take over the make up.

These offerings were but the beginning. As crystals on a strand they began to form again at the dinner speeches as stories were recounted, gems of love and appreciation recalled and strung to the thread of their story. There was a gush of tender rubies as a young girl confessed, through garbled tears, her love for her new step mother, a flood echoed on the faces of her audience who understood why.

Such jewels have no price tags they cannot be bought or sold, each priceless in its sincerity. There was the beauty of a wedding that would rival a celebrity’s but in the end these things pale as paste settings beside the jewels I glimpsed in secret. These are what give the unreal fairy tale quality. I witnessed a true love story not manufactured by Hollywood or publicists but the genuine article, the reality of true and sacrificial love between bride and groom, echoed by family and friends. I feel honored and blessed to have partaken.

Real Love.

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Yes, that’s real love!

Sickness, misfortune (and simple grouchiness) soon tell who your real friends and loved ones are, hay from stubble, dross from gold. I’ve always found that a consolation in difficult times seeing the gold come out in those I care for.