Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Scythian Beasts, Stealth Folk Songs, A Pass on the Third Day, and the Trouble with New Year's

Every year about this time I learn about some after-Christmas treasure Kathleen has found on the bargain shelf. Last year it was a mountain. I never got to see the mountain until this year. I had this idea of something big--maybe three feet by four feet. But it was just a little mountain for our nativity set--something the Magi could pass by on their journey. It was perhaps ten inches square. This year, Kathleen said she had bought a pair of Scythian beasts. They were stainless steel deer whose antlers were candle holders. And they may very well have been inspired by the 5th Century B.C. Scythian deer in the Hermitage. Her degree in art history may not give her a lot of employment potential, but it does give her amazing insights.

One of my favorite Christmas carols is "In the Bleak Midwinter." I first heard it on WFMT Radio's "Midnight Special," which is basically a folk music program. (WFMT Chicago syndicates it, so you can hear it on many stations.) So I figured it was a folk song. This Christmas, the handbell choir at St. Matthew's, Bloomington, played it, and I looked it up in the hymnal. Christina Rosetti wrote the lyrics, and the music was by Gustav Holst. Not exactly a folk song, but it still brings shivers up and down my spine when I hear it.

I'm afraid I never even learned the selection for the Third Day Book Club until January 3. I've been spending a lot of December working double shifts and "rest" days. And while I'm getting a lot of overtime pay, there's not much time for reading. It looks like January will be a lot like December. An agent in Champaign suffered a massive stroke. Thankfully, his chances for recovery are improving. But since he was six months away from retirement, he won't be coming back. For me, that means being held in Bloomington-Normal longer than I expected--probably until two more agents are hired. I hope that by February I'll be able to make my transfer back to Indiana, but I'm not holding my breath.

Kathleen and our daughter Sarah decided that the trouble with New Year's is that it has only one song. Actually, it has at least two. Along with "Auld Lang Syne, there's "Come Fill Up Your Glasses, by Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl. It's another song I heard on the Midnight Special." It even includes a toast to railroaders:

Here's to the drivers and firemen and the rest of the team,
Who keep the stock rolling by diesel and steam,
To the cleaners and shunters who work night and day,
And the track laying gangs on the permanent way.

It's a little archaic, quaintly British, and there's nothing about ticket agents. Still, I'm impressed that railway workers get mentioned.

There probably are other New Year's songs, though few that measure up to those of Robert Burns and Seeger-MacColl. Best wishes for the New Year for all who visit here.


Peter said...

One of my favorite Chritmas carols this year is a medley on the Cambridge Singers' Christmas Day in the Morning CD, which I've had for years. Listening to it made washing dishes special this past season.

I like your medley of subjects here. It all flows.

Patry Francis said...

Thanks so much for pre-ordering the novel, Steve. Happy 2007 to you and Kathleen!

Susan said...

Steve, I love the bleak midwinter carol too. Have you heard Shawn Colvin's version? I could send it to you if you wanted!