dousing a burnt match

Candles at ChristmasI’ve had lots of opportunities to light matches this Christmas.  Tea lights, and candles more widely, are lovely flickering points of interest which (just as equally) match our ways of seeing, doing and being at such a time.

Warm colours and senses.

Ever in movement.

Distracted by sudden draughts and currents of waylaying conversation.

Candles belong to this season – as do we, in our relaxed and unfocussed manners.

But there’s something rather more focussed I also always do – quite despite the season, the flickering points of interest and everything else that may excite, interest or dismay me.

So you light the first candle or the first tea light, and the match burns out before you can light a second.  So you find a place for the burnt-out match, and light another in order that you may proceed.

You end up with perhaps three or four of these matches, burnt out; often still smouldering – though almost imperceptibly.

You have them in an abandoned tea-light cup for their own protection.

You take them, then, to dispose of in the rubbish.

And I, in my focussed, quite-despite-the-season way, find myself first going to the sink and running a careful tea-light cupful of water in and around the burnt-out matches.

Only then do I feel comfortable enough to throw them in the bin.

A bit OCD, I suppose you’re going to accuse me of being.

Maybe so.

Maybe I am.

Who knows?  It would explain a lot.

What I do know is it’s in the genes.  Or maybe the folk memory.

I discovered, recently, on mentioning the fact to a family member, that a dearly departed relative used to do exactly the same, all her life.

She lived in another country, thousands of miles away.  I never recall having seen her do this – though that doesn’t mean, either, I didn’t witness the act.

But if I didn’t, how do you explain it – if not by genetics?

How you explain it – if not through folk memory?

Or do you also douse matches before you dispose of them?  Even during Christmastime …

Is it something people of my generation do quite unconsciously – even in today’s virtual disconnected-from-the-real-world-ness?

in a room with another person

Clattering keyboardI’m in a room with another person.  The other person is (like myself) reading.  (Unlike myself) reading a book.

Not watching the tele.

Not streaming a YouTube mix.

Not listening to a radio channel on a mobile phone.

I can hear the sounds of this room.

This room with another person.

First and foremost, a little too assertively I must say, the clatter of my keyboard as I write these lines.

Second, every so often, the swish of a page being turned.  That swish which includes the memory of a very pale brown paper; its gentle roughness like the tongue of a lover.

In the background, meantime, the tick-tock of the clock.  (You do know even battery-powered clocks can tick-tock their way through the day, if you listen hard enough.)

In the kitchen, down the hall, the gentle and occasional clack of implements on pans.  The shush of water as it pours out of a recently boiled kettle.  The distant laughter from the sitting-room of a happily engaged young adult.

Punctuating the quiet now, two offspring begin to momentarily bro-convo the silence away.  They have fulfilled a familial obligation as the snow fell heavily.

They need to let off steam just a bit.

(As that kettle recently suggested!)

The noise levels rise a little.  The keyboard no longer so assertive.

The marble-like falling of frozen peas into the empty cazuela.  (This is a bilingual household, by the way.)

(Just so you know for future reference.)

For some reason, I need to doublecheck the word.  I get a reply.  But the book-reading continues.

The light of my hard drive flashes Christmas-like on its nearby cardboard box.



It only needs the silent night of a Christmas tree.

Meanwhile, outside all this unexpected, uncalled for and yet entirely welcome quiet, the embrace of slushy sleet – becoming sodium light-tinted white – serves only to collapse the outlines of an evening like this.

In a room with another person no one can avoid treasuring; in a flat with three other people none of us can avoid loving; at the end of a hall too crowded by any measure; in a space where books invade our ability to resist (their) final temptation.

All we need to awaken from the foolishness that is modern life is to remember the ancient sounds of reading.

Everything else will then silently fall into (its) place.

December 26th 2014

apart from being together before midnight

Before midnight on Christmas Eve 2014

It could be any midnight.  It just so happens it’s the midnight that serves to divide Christmas Eve from Christmas Day.

We’re a four-fifths Spanish family, estranged – sadly; inevitably – from the Spanish side.  But whilst the mother and children are entirely Spanish, the father is half English and half Croatian; and whilst the Croatian and English sides have also had their problems over the years, the love for place and time has never been lost in either case.

Neither, for that matter, in the Spanish context; although reasons plenty are there for the situation to be quite otherwise.

It was a long wait tonight.

As it’s now 12.09 am, perhaps I should say it was a long wait last night.

Middle son was doing a nine-hour shift.

We couldn’t in all honesty not wait.

We couldn’t in all love not resist the temptation.

He was grateful for us finally waiting.  Of all of us, he ate the best.

Hardly surprising, after a nine-hour shift.

The three children, no longer children, men and women in their own gorgeous right, laughed and joked and had the best of times.

The parents were a little tired after the day’s running around – but oh so grateful that the family was together after a challenging year, and at its tail-end.

We count ourselves lucky to be together.

More than anything, being together counts so much.

There’s not much left, actually – apart from being together.

“Apart from being together…” – well … that does sound weird!

An oxymoron sort of weird.

A pleasurable weird.

This sort of stuff, this sort of pleasure, this kind of delight in silly wordness … it comes of living between cultures.  Of being neither one thing nor the other.  You’ll see yourself, one day you’ll see, if you ever have the honour of living between cultures yourself.

In the meantime, just delight in being together before midnight …

Even as you never forget that apart from being together before midnight, there’s little else which offers so much love.

The end of the post