My first White Christmas! This is my last full day in London before flying home to Sydney (assuming Heathrow opens tomorrow, but I'm thinking positive), so I spent it celebrating Christmas - in the snow! This may not seem particularly unusual for Northern Hemisphere types, but for we Antipodeans it is quite a rite of passage. So what did I do?
Well, spent a cosy day indoors reading philosophy (Plato's'Symposium', which is nothing at all to do with Christmas, in fact arguably the reverse) and talking for a long hour to mi amigo en Madrid (íFeliz navidad!) I did venture into the St Pancras concourse to buy some Belgian chocolates from the Neuhaus shop, but found it packed to the gills with Eurostar passengers all trying to get to the continent. I scrabbled my way through, to the grateful welcome of the poor shopkeepers whose shop was all but inaccessible. They gave me free samples.
|Westminster Abbey in the snow|
We who had come for the service were directed behind the screen, where heady incense was burning in a brazier (they are C of E, but very 'high'). I sat in the choir stalls, which were historic (and as historically uncomfortable as St. Bride's). The lights were dimmed, and Dr John Hall, the Dean of Westminster, gave 'the Bidding'. Then followed what was billed as 'Music and readings looking forward to Christmas', and very ethereal and lovely it was too. And cold. I kept my down coat on through the whole thing. Well, it must be impossible to heat that enormous nave - it is 31 metres high: built between 1376 and 1517. The church itself began life as Edward the Confessor's Abbey, consecrated in 1065.
The plainsong was beautiful and slightly spooky:
'O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem...' and so on...
The readings were not exclusively Biblical. I was struck by a couple of lines:
'Life is not hurrying on to a receding future, not hankering after an imagined past...' (R S Thomas, 1913-2000)
'There is a hidden coming, like rain on fleece...' (Cyril of Jerusalem, c313-386)
I think it was an appropriate way for a philosophy novice to spend a Christmas service: in contemplation.
Emerging into the snowy night, I set off for Earlsfield, to find Kyle and Andrew's house (where I began my London adventure) transformed by its shroud of snow. Inside things were cosy and warm, and K & A cooked a delicious Christmas roast (lamb! it's been so long!) for myself and Rachel. Santa even left presents under the tree. We had mulled wine and pate, and pumpkin pie with cream (Kyle's Indiana roots showing..)
Tomorrow evening I am due to fly to Sydney on QF2. Heathrow was closed to most flights today. Let's see what tomorrow holds. Every day a new adventure!