Thursday, November 15, 2018

Jacob's Room is Full of Books - November

I came away from reading the November chapter thinking how much I like this woman. I so like learning what she thinks about all sort of things. This month began with a mention of a hymn, For All the Saints. If you don't know it, here is a version with the words. I'm not wild about the pictures, but the videos from church services didn't offer words.

Personally, I like it sung just a wee bit faster!

Susan Hill writes:
'For All the Saints.' One of the best hymn tunes. As with the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer, you do not have to be a Christian, or even a believer, to appreciate and be uplifted by hearing a church full of people singing something out of Hymns Ancient & Modern. Modern hymns are awful. I don't know why they bothered. If they felt the words were outdated, and so of limited appeal to the young, it would not have been beyond the wit of an Anglican subcommittee to write new ones to old tunes. But no, the baby went out with the bathwater and we got slush and soup and sentimentality.
And to this, I say Amen! This is a subject very dear to my heart. Changing the hymns, changing The Book of Common Prayer, changing the old and beautiful language and for what? Did they really think that young people would come to church or stay in the Church if the language was different? I just don't get it. I grew up in the Episcopal church. I was a child, a teenager, a twenty-something. I never thought, oh, I wish the language was cooler, more colloquial, more relevant, whatever that means. Let's change the language of Shakespeare or Yeats or Wordsworth or Wodehouse so the proverbial young will understand it better. I'll get off my soapbox, but it was nice to hear someone speak about this.

A very funny section that I loved.
There is a shorthand, shared among people who have read the same book more than once, and mostly they are parents. Once learned, the words of the stories stay with you for a lifetime. In the doctor's surgery, I sat near a mother reading to her 3-year-old. 
'So Chicken Licken, Henny Penny, Cocky Locky and Drakey Lakey, scurried off to tell the King that the sky was falling in.'
She turned the page.
'You've missed out Ducky Lucky,' I said, beating the 3-year-old to it by a nanosecond.
A friend made a comment on Facebook about someone's new dog. 'It looks like Bottomley Potts,' she said. 
'All covered in spots,' someone chimed in at once.
Someone else contributed, 'Hercules Morse ...'
'As big as a horse ...'
We had finished the entire book in the time it takes to drink your morning coffee, (Facebook being the solitary writer's social break in the middle of work.) How many people know Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy as well as our little gang?
I wanted to raise my hand and say I do! Well, I don't remember all the words, but we read it in this house, and I walked around frequently saying Bottomley Potts. I wonder if the kids remember? I might get a copy for the little ones.

Living on a hill, and not near water, I was amazed to read
There have been morning mists, beautiful soft mounds of it lying over the water, but today there was a dense fog. Apparently, ambulances were not able to go out last night, it was so thick - visibility down to a few yards in places.
Susan Hill, who is in her seventies, writes something all of us who have a few years on us can surely appreciate.
Snow in Yorkshire. Snow forecast nearer here. I hope we are going to get a hard winter. Today the advice of those non-medics employed to nanny us is for the over 65s to keep warm in cold weather, by eating hot meals and drinking hot drinks and wrapping up. I wonder if they ever sit back and ask themselves to whom they are talking? Those of us who lived through the years before central heating, who were not sent out in the morning without having eaten a bowl of porridge, who wore liberty bodices for Heaven's sake, and a vest and a school skirt and a cardigan and a coat with a lining and long socks inside of boots and ... Meanwhile, I sometimes pass school bus stops on bitterly cold mornings and see all the teenagers waiting to be transported to school, without coats and the girls in skirts reaching only to their thighs, hatless, bootless ...
Toward the end of the November chapter, she writes about Christmas lights. Actually this is another thing I have quite a strong opinion on.
The Christmas lights switch on. Always fun, always too early. The lights themselves are hideous, as they all are now, because they are the starry bright white halogen sort, and do that insane chasing round and round. What with that and the electric blue ones, it's enough to give anyone a migraine and epilepsy combined. The churches' lights are always pretty, though, softer, slightly golden - and theirs stay still.
So, you might ask, what does Nan object to in the current Christmas lights? Well, I should begin by saying I am a Christmas traditionalist. I have a real tree. I put it up after Thanksgiving. I have a creche. I play only Christmas music in the house. But most importantly I use the big, hot, primary color Christmas lights. To me they say Christmas. All the other lights I see are small, neon-ish in color, and yes, some of them do chase. I avert my eyes and shake my head. I'm not sure what she means by the "starry bright halogen sort." We have white lights that hang along the porch year-round. We've always called them "fairy lights", I suppose from some reference we read ages ago.Those I love. Not for my tree though.

In light of the news today from England, I thought I'd try and find out if Susan Hill was for leaving or staying. I had a hunch it was leaving. I found a little piece she wrote here, if you are interested. To an American, this divisiveness is much like it is over here between people who are for or against the president. Personally, I don't choose my friends based on their political beliefs. Our very best friends, the people we love best in the world next to our kids, are polar opposites to us when it comes to almost anything political. But it doesn't matter. They know us and we know them. We accept each other, period. No judgement. Just love. (I feel like I'm channeling Gladys Taber here.)

There is only one more month for this book. I'd be very sad if I didn't have The Magic Apple Tree to look forward to.


  1. This book sounds like a delightful and positive guide for the year. I am about the author's age and can relate to what you share in this post.

    1. Thank you for coming by. I've certainly enjoyed it. I'm pleased you can connect with her.

  2. She really struck a chord with me when I read the bit about whether people are believers or non-believers they can love hymns. This is me... a non-believer who loves hymns and carols and ancient churches and cathedrals and books about sleuthing vicars and so on. I always thought I was a bit odd until I read in a book that it's much more common than people realise. My favourite hymn - I Vow to Thee My Country. They sung it at The Festival of Remembrance on Saturday night and as usual it brought me to tears.

    Yes, SH is a leaver as am I. And I read about friendships ending because people are leavers or remainers, they support Trump or they don't. It's more sad than I can say, like you people's political beliefs have no bearing on whether or not I like them and want them as a friend. You can learn so much from people who feel differently to you and it's sad that these people will not get that chance.

    1. I had thought Ralph Vaughan Williams wasn't religious, and I just looked it up to be sure. He was indeed an agnostic. And look at all he wrote! Some of the most amazing church music ever! So, I absolutely agree. I don't know the one you mentioned. I just went to youtube and it is very lovely. I love what you wrote. It is certainly a judgmental time. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

  3. I will miss Jacobs Room too. I am also looking forward to The Magic Apple Tree.

  4. Like you, I want a real tree for Christmas at my parents' house (I have not yet had my own Christmas tree - maybe that will change in the future). It is only put up and decorated on the morning of Christmas Eve, and it HAS TO have real candles. No better light than that! Even when my sister and I were babies and toddlers, and later when we had up to three cats in the house, we never had anything happen with the candles, but we always had the most beautiful light for Christmas Eve.
    As for politics... some of my closest friends also have very different political views from my own. In my Yorkshire family, there is a 50:50 share of leavers and remainers; the leavers' view has nothing to do with them having a German relative, and the same is true for the remainers.

    1. I so envy the real candles. I've never seen them on a tree. Is it quite common in Germany?
      Wow! Think of a family being split like that! I wonder how they talk about it together? Or maybe they avoid the subject.

  5. I agree with you about everything here! As for what is happening in the UK right now, ever since the Referendum I have understood for the first time how civil wars break out. The divisions and the nastiness are just awful. I suppose it's the same over there and that we agree about both these issues as well :-)

    1. Very interesting about the civil war idea. You're absolutely right. It was very like this in the late 60s/early 70s here. Once we were in a movie theatre and some drunk behind us pulled Tom's long hair. There were places that hippies didn't go because they could be beat up. And of course that has always been the case with people who weren't white or straight or whatever. Won't people ever get it. What I've heard on the radio that the whole leaving thing wasn't explained very well. People didn't know the ramifications. And today I heard that Teresa May's plan is 500 pages long. Can anyone read that? Whew. So complicated. I must admit that I follow your news more than my own. I can't take my news!

  6. With you on "translating" the old hymns and services and Shakespeare. Heaven forbid one should expand one's vocabulary to accommodate art!
    With you on the blinky lights. Migraine here we come.
    With you on still loving the people who differ politically -- (long comment written and deleted, here's all that remains:) but I do grapple with whether supporting some current people/policies/methods is a moral failing (friendship-ending) or just the latest ugly version of "politics as usual" (forgivable).
    Thanks for a lovely and varied post!

    1. There are actually signs up now when there are flashing lights or strobes to warn people with epilepsy. And there is beginning to be some talk dealing with concerns about LED lights. I hate them. They hurt my eyes.
      Yeah, there is a lot to think about on this whole subject.

  7. Hymns, singing, I love it. And I'll say that I do love the old hymns, but I also love some of the newer ones we sing. Yes, they are a different sort, but like some newer books, today's new is tomorrow's classic. My mother-in-law hates the new hymns and calls them 'camp songs'. I like the fact that many of them are literally scripture with music - literally. Like the 'Psalms' - songs. So, I love the old and I love many of the new.

    As to the holiday lights - well, I remember my maternal grandmother's silver tree. She had one of those color wheel things that turned and reflected on that 'foil-like' tree. I thought it was amazing when I was a little girl. I was allergic to the 'real' trees and was almost always sick all across the holidays until my folks learned that the tree was part of what was making me sick. So, no real tree for me. That grandmother, she liked her tree so much that she left it up year round. LOL

    1. We used to sing psalms, back in the old Morning Prayer days of the Episcopal Church. I grew up in a church that had communion once a month and Morning Prayer the other weeks. But now it is communion every week. One of the many, many changes. I love your mil's word!! And I have heard some very beautiful new ones, but not as many as the old ones.
      A silver tree. There are no words. Ha! Are you allergic to every kind of evergreen? I thought it was only cedar. I should have said not only do I 'have' to have a real tree, but it has to be balsam fir. Again, ha!

  8. I'm amening your Amen, Nan. The old anthems and hymns will come back, surely. For such beauty to be lost is sad.

    We do live near water, our neighbor's pond at our kitchen door, and the view draws me every morning when I let the dogs out into their pen. There are many heavy mists hanging over it from August on through the winter but I can't imagine ambulances not out on the streets. It makes me think of that Doris Day/Rex Harrison film Midnight Lace.

    2015 was our last year for a real Christmas tree. As a child of a garden center owner where Christmas tree season was my favorite time to be at the store, this was a hard decision to make but moving to a downsized cottage from a big farmhouse means that the skinny champagne colored tree that used to be in my dressing room is now our main tree--pre-lit but no dancing lights! This second Christmas here though will see a change. No room for a real tree inside so we're putting one on the kitchen porch where I can enjoy it through the glass door during all the hours spent cooking and washing dishes. Where there's a will there's a way!

    I'm saving The Magic Apple Tree for January too!

    1. I just watched a preview for Midnight Lace because I had never heard of it - scary!!!! Oh my gosh, as I was reading along, I was thinking, how about putting a real tree on the porch, and then I read you are doing that. Great minds, again, my dear! I am going to begin reading the book on the first day of winter!

  9. I love the old hymns. When I am pianist for church I often vary the harmonies and cord progressions from verse to verse, but only if there is no one 'singing parts' or playing an instrument. My son, who grew up in our church involved family, seldom attends now, but he enjoys recordings of traditional hymns. He doesn't care for 'contemporary Christian' music although his wife has long been part of a small group who performs and has even recorded this type of music.
    Our church hymnal includes a few Gaither compositions--they are lustily sung by the congregation, but to my mind have been over exposed.
    On a similar note, I grew up hearing the KJB read in church--nothing equals the majesty of the phrases, but I have come to prefer the New King James which keeps the eloquent prose but is easier to read aloud--eliminating the cumbersome 'thee and thou' and the 'th' endings on so many words.
    As to the lack of winter clothing on the younger generation: I can't imagine how anyone can enjoy being outside without layers of warm sweaters and jackets.
    I think I may need to order Susan Hill's book.

    1. Thank you for sharing this. I so enjoyed reading about your thoughts and experiences. We still joke with Margaret that she never wore boots in high school!


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