“His birth was foretold by a swallow, and heralded by the appearance of a double rainbow across the sky over the mountain and a new star in the heavens”. Seventy years later his dead body was put into a glass coffin, like Snow White, to complement the grotesque life of a terrifying political leader of North Korea. On the other side of the world, in a small central-European country, another political leader died. Vaclav Havel had made his name internationally recognizable as a man who peacefully overpowered communism in his homeland, and greatly contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The funerals of each of them gathered huge crowds. Yet in North Korea, enslaved people gathered because of fear, while in Prague free people assembled to pay well-deserved respect to their hero.
The first signs of the approach of Christmas appeared the very next morning after Halloween; seasonal shelves in supermarkets had been emptied of scary masks and accessories, and had been filled with new items; their packaging had subtle but easily recognizable symbols on them: snowflakes, stars, reindeer, a white-bearded man’s face. A race for customers started that very day in the world of commerce; on the home stretch, Christmas is overwhelmingly omnipresent. Our ‘advent’ in fact lasts two months and sadly is rather commercially orientated. Even an Indian restaurant, run by Muslims, welcomes its clients with a big flashy ‘Merry Christmas’ on the door.
In the parish house in Buckie where I happen to live there is one window extremely inaccessible from the outside. Quite likely it hasn’t been touched since it was installed. For all those years dirt brought by rains and dust raised by winds covered the glass with a relatively thin but highly noticeable layer of filth. I’m not blaming the window cleaner – all the rest of windows are crystal clean as they are regularly washed off.
The door bell in the parish house in Elgin had quite a delicate gong, hardly audible in my flat when the radio or music was playing. A couple of times I didn’t manage to meet people who had made an appointment with me; it happened for one silly reason: I couldn’t hear the doorbell. Personally I hate failing people I promised to meet – for me it’s a sign of disrespect and disregard. I had to learn the lesson. Every time I expected someone who had announced his or her visit I turned down or even turned off the radio or music and tuned my ear to hearing the door bell. Of course it was pretty inconvenient as I like listening to the radio or music while working. But since then I haven’t missed any appointment in my place just because of the unheard door bell.
A week ago I replaced my tyres with winter ones. It cost me a small fortune, but I did it being certain that was cheaper to do that than replace a car after a possible crash. Since then the temperature has hardly dropped below 10 degrees Celsius. Well, actually it has, but in Elgin and Inverness, not here. It seems I’ve just wasted money… Moreover there are many people around thinking exactly the same. A year ago, someone down in London thought the same way and as a result Heathrow Airport was closed for almost a week because of an inch of snow – and I couldn’t come back home after visiting my mum in Poland. Recently, managers of the British airports proudly announced how well they are prepared for winter this year. I guess it will be a relatively nice and warm winter. Just because we are well prepared.
Once in my parish a group of young talented people gathered together to play music. Each one of them played their own instrument well; individually each one of them was brilliant. But while they played together as a band they produced unbearable cacophony of sounds. Every one of them was certain that his or her instrument had to dominate and to be the loudest. Luckily I could invite my friends, professional musicians, and they taught my band how to produce music instead of noise. The solution turned to be quite simple: limit your own ego and involve your talent in a greater project. Very soon their talents blossomed and our local church started filling to the brim for masses they played at.