Like every other date that passes in the calendar, the Winter Solstice leaves no physical evidence in its wake that anything is any different than it was on the day before. The weather remains just as wet and blustery on the twenty second as the twenty first and there is very little light to share throughout the daylight period on either day.
But psychologically, of course everything is different because the mere passing of the day signifies that Spring is on the way with the evenings due to get lighter marginally as each one passes. Time passes so quickly; only a moment ago it seems we were mourning the loss of Summer as the leaves began to fall. But now the bare sticks of Winter bud, indicating a natural productivity that is to come. Nothing ever dies; energy is just transferred.
So it was with a particularly optimistic heart that I journeyed to Brighton by train on that special day. It was a long way but I was warm both physically as well as spiritually as I sped across southern England in the bosom of my overcrowded railway carriage.
Arriving at Brighton I needed to wait for only a few minutes before my son Rupert’s train arrived. Here on the top of the hill, it was blowing a strong gale and we could see that the seas beneath us were blown completely white with spume, while the flying spray reduced visibility at the surface to nothing.
At the station since the rain was beating down with a distinctive taste of salt mixed in it, Rupert and I caught a taxi down the steep hill into the valley then up the other side to the little terraced house of Millie and my granddaughter Delilah-Rose.
Rupert, Delilah-Rose and Millie awaiting the procession
Later on the weather had eased slightly as we walked down the hill, past the brightly illuminated Pavilion to watch an event that in spite of its leanings towards ancient folklore, was first instituted only as long ago as 1993. Because of the atrocious weather not as many people as usual had turned out to watch the parade of paper and willow artwork carried in procession by very valiant volunteers through the city.
The festival of ‘Burning the Clocks’ is to celebrate the passing of the Solstice and when the army of illuminated paper statues and masques have arrived at the beach they are burnt ceremoniously on a bonfire, while there is a celebration of fireworks, lots of music and dancing. A carnival atmosphere ensues and everybody has great fun.
Last Saturday however, because of the rotten weather conditions, for the sake of safety, the latter part of the programme had to be cancelled, so when the procession arrived at the beach destination, though the massed drummers did their utmost to send out a heady beat most enthusiastically for sometime to accompany the pretty dancing girls, who despite the wearing of ample body stockings beneath their skimpy costumes, must have been very cold and though the dragon on the prom did his best to warm us all up by breathing lots of fire, the event fizzled out in the end rather like a wet squib and everybody quickly went home.
Fire breathing Dragon on Brighton Promenade
However my stay there overnight was wonderful and it was lovely to see Millie and Delilah-Rose again as well as Rupert of course. He and I travelled back to London on the same train on Sunday before shooting off home in our different directions; he to Bristol and I to Warwick.
Sociably this last week has been busy for me right through, for last Tuesday I caught another train, this time to Swindon and from there I caught a bus to Cricklade where my other son Alex lives with his wife Catherine and daughter Penny. My granddaughter is nineteen months old so it was particularly lovely for me to see how much she had grown up in every way since I last saw her. She is a beautiful little girl and though every grandparent must use the same cliché; she seems to be so advanced for her age.
She was a delight to see anyway as were her parents who made me feel very welcome while I stayed with them till Thursday.
And tomorrow is Christmas Eve; in the morning I go by bus to my brother’s house for another few days to enjoy good company and celebrate the season enthusiastically.