Marking the passing of the year. (Martin Mellor)
As I write this, I have just returned from a trip to Hunstanton.
My father and I have not been away on holiday at all this year, for obvious reasons, and I had a yearning to see the sea. As I drove back this thought started to formulate itself in my mind.
In our lives we all have significant days that trigger memories or are part of the yearly cycle marking the passing of the year. Birthdays, Anniversaries and the like, but what about those less obvious but still nonetheless important, Holidays, Harvest, Bonfire Night, Remembrance Sunday, and All Souls, Christmas Fair, Carols round the Tree. I am sure you will have many others.
When I started singing in the choir, the first major service we sang for was Harvest. We used to sing a full Choral Evensong on Friday evening at Burbage, and there would be a guest preacher. The church was decorated, and I can still remember the smell of autumn flowers and apples gently warming on the heating pipes. On Sunday morning all the Sunday School and others bought baskets of produce which were spread out around the High Altar, then in the evening we sang Evensong again, but not fully choral. The following weekend a bus (or as Rev Grimwood would announce, a Motor Coach) would leave Burbage to go to Aston Flamville on the Friday evening, where we would sing a full Choral Evensong again. In those days a choirboy was responsible for pumping the bellows for the organ, I did that a number of times. On the Sunday afternoon, the choirs boys alone, would get on our bikes, weather permitting, and cycle to Aston for a service of Evensong at 3.00pm. From those days on, Harvest Festival has always been important in my life. As an aside, I had my first pint of pedigree at the age of 17 after a Friday Evensong at Aston, nearly 40 years ago!
Another such time was Bonfire night. All of Sapcote Road knew we held a Bonfire on the nearest Saturday to 5th November, and in the run up we would get people offering rubbish, old furniture, hedge trimmings and wood for the fire. Four families were involved on the night, all friends from school. We knew all the parents as Aunty or Uncle so and so, even though of course they weren’t proper Aunts or Uncles. Each family was responsible for one particular thing. Aunty Muriel Bonfire Toffee, Uncle Edwin Hot Dogs, Aunty Megan Jacket potatoes. Mum provided warm drinks and soup.
Dad and Uncle Alan would let the fireworks off. We would have proper Aunts and Uncles and cousins would be invited to come along too.
All in all a great family occasion. After the fireworks were finished we would all stand round the fire and reminisce and talk about all sorts of things. As we left we would all say “See you at Christmas” the next family gathering. On most occasions when we got home the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance would be on the Television.
I could go on with so many other stories of past days. This year, it has dawned on me, that, as a result of the situation in which we find ourselves, I am not going to be able to mark and remember these significant days in the same way.
I must say, the thought of this has made me feel quite at a loss and a bit depressed. So, what am I going to do about it? Well, get on with life, of course, and create other memories for one thing, after all we are now in the new normal.
Changes in life at the moment are quite momentous, we are not able to do things as we used to. Change in one form or another is always happening to us, it is how to deal with it that becomes the issue. Are we Ostriches who stick our heads in the sand and hope they will go away? Do we confront them and fight against them, change what’s change? I prefer to go along with them, no matter what, as life nearly always seems much better in the end.
Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications and prayers, and dispose the way of thy servants towards the attaining of everlasting salvation; that, among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, they may ever be defended by thy most gracious and ready help; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
In these times, let us all accept change and create new memories. Hopefully one day our descendants will look back and wonder what it was their ancestors did during lockdown.