Sunday, 20 December 2020

20th December - Advent Photo

It was lovely weather here early afternoon yesterday, sunshine but breezy and not cold so I threw doors and windows open and let the wind blow through the house. It felt good. And then at 3pm it started to rain Yet Again. Ho Hum..................... too much rain in my opinion


Today's Christmas book is a very small book of just 50 pages that's been around on my shelves for years, it was published in 1984 and comprises of carols, poems and Christmas writings from years past.


This book was where I first read the John Betjeman poem 'Christmas'

Christmas by John Betjeman
The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine

I've a version of this set to music on a CD called Words/Music which is poetry of Betjemans set to music by Mike Read and sung by various artists. I tried to find a youtube version but couldn't. Just a 30 second sample HERE   (And this link may not work anyway  so the site is ...... )


 Also in this little book is a letter from General Robert E Lee writing to his daughter in the middle the US Civil war in 1861


I wonder what he sent that was 'vile dross'?

Another poem in the book

"Fetching of Grans" something that always used to happen when I was little but no "sherries or gins" or "corks making pops"!

Back Tomorrow


  1. I love the Betjeman poem, and in other years have often read it at Christmas events. The "vile dross" was a small amount of money. Sadly this year there won't be "fetching of grans" for many families. It's going to be really hard for lots of people. My good friend from Norfolk, Lesley Nelson, is on the BBC news website this morning, speaking about the impact of yesterday's announcement.

    1. Ah yes - I see about the money in the General Lee letter now I've re-read it.

  2. It's a favourite of mine too. I love the contrasts in it.

    1. It's really good set to music too - sorry the link doesn't work and I couldn't find it anywhere on line

  3. I love that Betjeman poem. I think he's greatly underestimated as a poet.
    The only other reference I know to a tortoise stove is in the Miss Read books, where Mrs Pringle is obsessed with keeping the stoves shiny and hates them to be used!

    1. I agree about him being underestimated - people are sniffy just because he used rhyme and wrote about the ordinary.
      We actually had a tortoise stove when I was a very little girl - a bit like a woodburner but shaped like a little house with domed top - the tortoise? and burning coal or those round nut things. It went when we had a parkray and central heating

    2. Well he was Poet Laureate for 12 years so he was well thought of and appreciated once and a very good Poet Laureate too. I think anybody that wants to be snobby and sniffy about him is showing their own ignorance. Philip Larkin rated him as one of the greats and kept his poetry with him at all times. I like the Christmas poem and I like to hear it read by Betjeman himself. He also made wonderful tv documentaries in the 1960s. His voice always a pleasure to listen to,

  4. Sue, today for 2 or 3 days, LTA on their web site or LTA YouTube, showing the latest Battle of the Brits. Starts at 10:00. Also on BT Sport.

    1. Oh - that's good news - thank you I shall have a look. I think when I move I'll have BT sport on TV

  5. That little book looks a delight Sue.

    1. I've had it so long - Another similar one in 2 days time.

  6. That is the first time I have read the Betjeman poem, I rather like it.

    1. According to my book of Collected Betjeman poems it was published in his book called Chrysanthemums in 1954. And coincidentally I was watching a programme today with Ben Fogle on Greenaway beach in Cornwall. Greenaway is another Betjeman poem that was also set to music for the Poems and Music album.

  7. I have never read the Betjeman poem before so thank you for sharing. What have I been missing! It's wonderful, as is the Christmas Day poem in the book.

    1. Betjeman wrote so many brilliant poems. I love his poem Myfanwy also set to music and sung by David Essex

  8. I, too, have never read the Betjeman poem. It's lovely. And the letter from General Lee is so moving, especially the last sentence. Thank you for sharing. xx

  9. The little book is full of interesting Christmas writing and illustrations

  10. And is it true ? For if it is ... [nothing] can with this single Truth compare. Christmas as it once was.

  11. What a lovely little book, and I like the simple cover.