Saturday, 21 December 2013

The journey of the Magi and getting lost on the way home

Tomorrow will be a longer day. Today is the Winter Solstice.

Start the day thinking of the journey of the Magi and T S Eliot's poem - this is the dead of winter.
"A cold coming we had of it
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, such a long journey
The ways deep and the weather
The very dead of winter."

It seems like it in St Just - though there is a good fire in the King's Arms.

"Why did you go to Jerusalem?"
Because it's the centre of civilisation - western civilisation - Christianity and Christian thought is at the centre of western civilisation. You can't ignore Jerusalem.
"Judeo-Christianity, you mean. Remember the Jews have been around a lot longer than Christians."

Granite doesn't always lift the spirits. The church is grim in the fading light - but inside a revelation - a Reredos carved in Derbyshire alabaster, so delicately that the back light shines through and gives it the depth of a painting. On the left hand side are the Three Magi - the theme of the day. (The Church guide says this was presented to the church in 1896 in memory of William Holman, owner of a local foundry based in Tregeseal. The Holmans were - perhaps - based in Camborne.)

The gifts carried by the Three Kings not as interesting as their journey - I've always thought. The gifts were symbolic.... gold for a king and precious spices to embalm a dead body.  Charged with meaning - what gifts for a baby.

But the journey was dangerous.
They had to find an alternative route home. Any association with the new King of the Jews was already dangerous.
They were warned in a dream not to return to Herod: 'They returned into their own country a different way."
Love the idea of 'a different way'.
A huge flag is propped in one corner of the church - so huge that it fills the corner from ceiling to floor. It's not a flag, in fact - it's an ensign. It was given to the church for safekeeping by a famous son of St Just, Captain Russell Grenfell. It was the ensign of HMS Revenge and was flown on 31 May 1916 at the Battle of Jutland. A symbol flown at the start of another journey -  into battle.

On the way home get utterly lost in unknown country near New Mill - or was it New Bridge. Narrow lanes and no signs. Sat Nav is not working. Stop to ask a man in blue overalls who is washing his car in the dark. Behind him is a huge outdoors Christmas tree, festooned in lights.
"Well, if I was going to Camborne, I'd go straight up this road, along, turn right, go on, up the hill, down over the river, past the woods into Gulval ...." Such long directions -  he loses me. "Or else you can just turn around and go straight back to Penzance."
Retracing steps is never seems an option. It always seems a defeat - and tedious.

Reading and watching

  • Foot by Foot to Santiago de Compostela/Judy Foot
  • The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw at the Barbican
  • The Testament of Mary/Colm Toibin
  • Schwanengesang/Schubert - Tony Spence
  • Journals/Robert Falcon Scott
  • Fugitive Pieces/Ann Michaels
  • Unless/Carol Shields
  • Faust/Royal Opera House
  • The Art of Travel/Alain de Botton
  • Mad Men Series 6
  • A Week at The Airport/Alain de Botton
  • The Railway Man/Eric Lomax
  • Bright Lights, Big City/Jay McInerney
  • Stones of Venice/John Ruskin
  • The Sea, the Sea/Iris Murdoch
  • Childe Harold/Lord Byron
  • All The Pretty Horses/Cormac McCarthy
  • Extreme Rambling/Mark Thomas
  • Story of my Life/Jay McInerney
  • Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy