Min Hu Għajri?

Samaritan

Kelma helwa hi bħal żejt fuq il-feriti…

Kelli għalliema li kienet tinsisti li naqraw l-hekk imsejħa “kotba klassiċi”, biex ‘iżjed ‘l quddiem’, jiġifieri issa, meta xi ħadd jagħmel referenza għlihom, ma nibqgħux ċassi għax inkunu nafu minn fejn ġejjjin xi kwotazzjoni, jew xi incident partikolari.

Wieħed minn dawn il-kotba kien Pilgrim’s Progress ta’ John Bunyan, li, niftakar, kull meta kont naqbdu f’idi kien jaqbadi nagħas kbir u bilkem kont inkun naf x’qed naqra; eżatt kif kien jiġrili meta nipprova naqra War and Peace.

Imma id-dehra, xi frażijiet weħlu, għax dan l-aħħar ftakar fih meta attendejt Seminar li kien imfassal fuq il-parabbola ta-Ħanin Samaritan, spejagata tant tajjeb mill-qassis żagħżugħ Dun Bastjan Caruana.

Għalkemm hawn min jgħid li din it-tagħlima, meta nagħmluha allegorija, hija ftit jew xejn esaġerata, lili għoġbitni, u bil-permess tiegħu qed naqsamha hawn…

Id-Dun spjegalna kif is-Santi Padri taw tifsiriet speċjali li kull dettal tal-istorja. San Ġwann Kriżostmu jgħid li din l-istorja tgħin li fiha nsibu stampa tal-misteru kollu tas-salvazzjoni, u turija tal-imħabba t’Alla.

Mela, raġel kien nieżel minn Ġerusalemm għal Ġeriko; l-Adam, mimli bill-fiduċja fih innifsu minnflok f’Alla, qabad it-triq tan-niżla, waħda u sew, għax Ġeriko qiegħed 825 pied taħt il-livell tal-baħar. Attakkawh il-ħallelin; għax meta l-bniedem jitbiegħed in Alla, ikollu l-għadu jsus warajh.

Ħadulu l-ħwejjeġ: il-libsa li kienet kieku tintitolah għall-eternita. Telqu u ħallewh għal mejjet – suġġett għal dnub u l-mewt ta’ dejjem. Il-Levita, il-qassis, qasam it-triq. Rajt ma rajtx, gedwed waħdu. Fl-aħħar wasal is-Samaritan. Ħass għalih, infaxxalu l-feriti wara li dewwih biż-żejt u bl-imbid. It-tagħlim huwa l-faxex, iż-żejt iffarakrna fidlik tas-Sagramenti, u l-inbid fl-Ewkaristija…kollha meħtieġa biex aħna nfiequ.

Lil tal-ħotel, tah żewġ dinari u qallu, “Ibża għalih, u meta nerġa niġi, inħallsek il-bilanċ.” Fiha x’tifhem, din. Naraw kif il-ħajja tal-Knisja hija maqsuma skot il-karattri ta’din l-istorja: l-morda, dawk li qegħidin ifiequ bi-kura, u dawk – il-qaddisin – li diġà fiequ. Naraw kif is-Santi Padri ma jikkategorizzwx lin-nies f’tajbin jew ħżiena fuq il-bażi tal-liġijiet materjali, għax din hija xi ħaġa superfiċjali. Il-morda fil-ruħ jinħtieġu l-purifikazzjoni, u d-dawl. Hemm bżonn sptar spiritwali biex jgħin lil kull min hu batut.

U aħna? Nibżgħu li jekk nagħmluha maz-zopp, f’għeluq is-sena, insiru bħalu? Jew nitniġġsu mill-arja ta’ madwar dawk li telqu l-fidi għax ġratilhom xi traġedja? Ninjoraw lil min ikun jixtieq kelma ta’ faraġ, għax hekk jaqbel, ma jmurx xi ħadd jarana miegħu u jittimbrana bl-istess titlu, bħal mal-qassis u l-Levita beżghù li ma jibqgħux indaf, skont il-liġi Testment il-Qadim? Skuża taba li ngħidu li aħna (ovvjament) m’aħniex il-papa, u li jekk iridu jafu fejn hu l-bieb ta-knisja.

Is-Samaritan ma staqsiex fejn kien il-qassis, jew fejn telaq il-Fariżew, jew fejn staħba l-għalliem tal-Lhud. Is-Samaritan intebaħ li kien hemm il-bżonn, u għen kif seta’, b’li kellu dak il-ħin.

Kelma helwa hi bħal żejt fuq il-feriti ta’ qalb mimlija uġieh.

Mort Coffee Morning – U Funeral

Christmas Coffee

Inzertat ġurnata tal-Erbgħa u ħsibt li la ma kellix daqstant x’nagħmel, nitla’ sas-suq ta’ Birkirkara.

Mela kif ħriġt mill-bieb eżatt, iċempel it-telefon; kienet ħabiba li kont ilni qatiegħ ma niltaqa’ magħha. “Ġejt f’moħħi!” qaltli. “Għax ili biex inċempillek. Naf Ii mhux ħa tieħu għalik jekk ngħidlek li għandi biljett żejjed għal High Tea…” “Meta?” “Illum – jekk trid, nofs siegħ’oħra ngħaddi għalik għax sejrin minn hawn bil-Coach. Tibżax, nerġa nwasslek id-dar wara…”

Bdejt nidħaq, u għedtilha li għal ftit sekondi laħqitni.

Sakemm wasalna fejn il-Coach, ma waqafniex intaqtqu. Il-familja, ix-xogħol, nies li konna nafuhom it-tnejn… għax din waħda minn dawk li m’għandiex paġna fuq Facebook.   Insomma, f’kemm ili ngħidlek irrakuntajna bi tletin sena ġrajjiet.

Introduċietni mal-ħbieb tagħha; u hawn aħjar ma ngħaddix kummenti iżjed għax kulħadd ikun jaf għal min qed ngħid.

Ħabibti qaltli li dan l-avventiment kien għall-ġbir ta’ fondi (għax issa hekk moda), u flok Coffee Morning sempliċi, għamluh iżjed elaborat.

Wasalna fil-Hotel, u anqas domna ħames minuti b’kollox nistennew, għax mill-ewwel bdew ġejjin dixxijiet kontra dixxijiet imburġati bl-ikel delikat u delizzjuż, li soltu jittiekel fis-sular ta’ fuq waqt dawk l-episodji ta’ Upstairs, Downstairs.

Kien hemm xi ħames tipi ta’ tè, u tlieta ta’ kafe. Sandwiches ċkejkin, gidma kollox, mimlija bis-salamun affumikat, jew ħjar imqatta’ trasparenti, jew taħlita ta’ isfra tal-bajd u mustarda; pasti żgħar bil-ġamm jew bil-krema; kejkijiet liema bħalhom… u kulħadd induna li kien hemm min ma kienx bi ħsiebu jiekol f’nofs inhar… u kien hemm min deher ideffes xi ikel f’borża tal-plastik, ukoll… u ħabibti ittini f’ġenbi, u ċċaqlaq ħuġbejha, u bla kliem tindikali ‘l dik u lill-oħra.

Kienu qorbu l-ħdax u nofs… u kien sar i-ħin għat-tombla. “Hawn aħna…” Iżda ġara li dik li organiżżat il-ħarġa qalet li min ried, eta’ joħroġ barra jagħmel passiġġata… u ħabibti qaltli li kienet tipretendi li min jagħmelhekk jagħti donazzjoni ta’ almenu kemm jiswa’ ġog wieħed.

Ħallasna – u tlaqna ‘barra.

Mela ġara li nzertajna funeral ta’ “xi ħadd importanti” li sa dak il-ħin ma konniex nafu min hu, f’waħda mill-kappelli. Għedt importani għax kien hemm għadd ta’ nies li isimhom u wiċċhom u leħinhom huma familjari mal-maġġorranza tal-Maltin.

Ħabibti qaltli li kieku għadhom moda, kienet toħroġ l-autograph book – u fis timlih (għax din waħda li ssegwi d-dinja tal-medja sew). U bit-twila u bil-qasira, billi l-coffee morning kellu jdum almenu siegħa oħra – “Filkas żgur iċempluli…” – ssibna postna fuq il-bankijiet.

Fit-tnedijiet tal-imwiet, tisma’ kultant li huwa mitlub li ma jintlibisx iswed għal waqt il-Quddiesa. Iżda hawn, kulħadd assuma li l-iswed huwa sinjal ta’ rispett – u li kellhom iswed, libsuh. Jekk kiex ġins; libsa trasparenti jew imqaċċta (minn dawk ta’ bla ċingi li l-ħin kollu trid tirranġahom għax inkella ikollok wardrobe malfunction); dublett qasir; libsa qisha tal-baħar, b’żewgt ixquq l fuq mill-irkoppa fil-ġenb… kien hemm varjeta sħiħa. Imma stenna’ ftit – forsi libsu dawn il-ħwejjeġ għax huma nies li jżommuha, u saħansitra f’funeral riedu li ma jidhrux qishsom sejrin funeral? Min jaf. Forsi għalhekk dawk it-tkaken, ukoll.

Inzerta li ta’ warajna ġew tard. U dehrilhom (kif smajnihom jgħidu) li kienet għarukaża li aħna ħadnilhom posthom; każ ta’ ‘injoranza grassa’. Kemm domna hemm, sirna nafu min ma kienx hemm għax kien imsefer, u fejn, u għaliex; min qiegħed ma’ min; x’kienu ser isajjru; kemm ġabu t-tfal fl-eżamijiet, eċċ, eċċ.

Anqas il-qassis ma ħelisha. Meta beda’ jirreferi għall-mejjet b’ismu (kif kien fuq is-santa li tawna wara), waħda minn dawn qalet “Imma kemm hu ridikolu… ma jafx li kulħadd [#] kien isejjaħlu…”

Ħriġna mill-knisja, u x-xufier tal-karozza bit-tebut iddejjaq jistenna’ biex jaqla’ (għax it-traffiku kien ġejn min-naħa l-oħra u ħadd ma ċeda, għalkemm raw li kien hemm funeral…x’rispett, rispet…).

Mela, fettillu joħroġ ftit iżjed, u f’daqqa waħda isib trakk daqshiex qudddiemu, li kieku ma ġibidx il-brejk, probabbli li kien iħallih tal-kolp. Dawk li kienu għadhom hemm għamlu kjass. Min jgħajjat max-xufier tat-trakk għax imissu jistħi għax dan funeral; min ilum lil tal-karozza tal-mejjet; min jgħid kemm żdied it-traffiku…

U aħna? Għaġġilna lejn il-Hotel, għax cemplulna ħa jaraw fejn konna ħrabna.

Għaliex Meta Nagħtu…

Making Bracelets

Leħen is-Sewwa 24/05/2015

It-tfal tal-Klassi 3.2 tal-iskola primarja ta’ Birkirkara fil-Kulleġġ Santa Teresa, flimkien mal-għalliema tagħhom Miss Claudine Slater, jafu sew xi tfisser din il-frażi mit-talba ta’ San Franġisk. Bil-ħidma sfieqa tagħhom, bejn bl-insiġ ta’ brazzuletti, bejn bir-riklamar għalihom u l-bejgħ tagħhom, irnexxielhom itellgħu s-somma ta’ €1070 li ngħataw lis-Sorijiet tal-Ursolini ta’ Tas-Sliema.

Din kienet opra li ma bħalha; ħidma li wriet li t-tfal jafu jħossu u jħobbu, u li lesti jaqsmu dak li għandhom ma’ ħaddieħor.

Kemm-il darba nisimgħu il-frażi “ma nafx x’naqbad intih”, meta niġu biex nagħtu xi rigal lil xi ħadd. Ħallik li dan iż-żmien l-għarajjes itaffulek id-dilemma għax jordnawlek biex tagħtihom flus, biex żgur jixtru dak li jridu, u mhux teħles minn xi remiżolja li tkun writt mingħand in-nanna.

Sfortunatament, hawn min jonfoq ħafna flus fir-rigali; jew biex jiffanfra, jew biex jippika ma’ min ikun se jagħti rigal lill-istess persuna… jew biex jeħles minn dmir, u mir-responsabbiltajiet li suppost li jwettaq mal-persuna li lilha jkun ta r-rigal. Rigal mhux rigal jekk ma jiġix mill-qalb u jingħata bilfors. Rigal mhux rigal jekk ma jferraħx, u jekk min jirċevih ma jkunx jippreferi l-preżenza tiegħek aktar mill-għotja.

Kulħadd jaf idaħħal idu fil-but u joħroġ karta tal-€50, “għax it-tifel jieħu gost u jixtri li jrid”. Imma int lest li mal-€50 tqum minn hemm u tmur tixtri kaxxa żgħira Ludo, u tqiegħed il-flus fiha, biex turi li almenu għamilt sforz li ssib xi ħaġa li hi għal qalb it-tifel? Hawn rigali oħra li jiswew ħafna, iżda ma jissarfux fi flus, jew fi flus li jingħataw f’daqqa.

Forsi wasal iż-żmien li flok irroxxu l-bżar, nużaw il-ħxejjex aromatiċi wkoll.

  • M’hemm xejn ħażin Ii rigal ikun “użat” – fis-sens li jekk il-ħabiba tiegħek qaltlek darba, darbtejn, bis-sinċerità kolha, kemm hu sabih dak il-flokk, int forsi jfettillek tagħlaq għajnejk u ttihulha. Jew jekk taf ħabibtek tħobb taqra, tmur sal-bażar u tixtrilha basket kotba.
  • Kultant, il-ħin jiswa mitqlu deheb. Frosi xi ħadd għandu bżonn jgħid kelma, jew ftit għajnuna fil-faċendi, jew li xi ħadd joqgħodlu mat-tfal. Dak rigal li ma jinxtarax.
  • Hawn min jippreferi għadd ta’ rigali żgħar, minflok wieħed kbir. Tkun idea tajba li kieku tibda tfaddal “rigali” flok “flus” meta tinzertahom. Kull meta tisma’ lil xi ħadd jgħid “kemm nixtieq kelli…” ikteb x’qal fuq karta.
  • Tinsiex li iżjed ma tixtri affarijiet, iżjed se jkollok x’tiżbarazza, xi tnaddaf, u xi tkisser. Naqqas mix-xiri tal-affarijiet bla sugu.
  • Ir-rigali jistgħu jkunu, ngħidu aħna, qoffa mimlija ikel, bħal ma jagħmlu l-hampers tal-parroċċa. Imma hawn, tagħżel l-affarijiet int u timlieh ftit ftit.
  • Rigal jista’ jkun kors taż-żfin, għawm, jew tisjir, jew li tikteb lil xi ħadd f’xi rivista dwar xi suġġett li jinteressah.
  • Jekk ikun ġej xi kantant Malta, tista’ tagħti biljetti għax-show tiegħu jekk taf Ii dawn jinżlu tajjeb.
  • Hawn min japprezza li għal jum wiehed, int titlaq kollox u tgħaddih miegħu – jew toħroġ, jew tbajjadlu, jew issajru flimkien, jew tagħmlu xogħol tal-idejn, jew tħitu… li jkun jixtieq dak li jkun.
  • Bħalma tkun lestejt hamper għall-kbar, tista’ tagħmel wieħed għat-tfal… mimli lapsijiet, kuluri, karti, kolla, pinen tal-kaligrafija u linka ta’ kuluri differenti

U bilħaqq, jekk ikollkom ġiżirani mqatta’, jew m’għadkomx tilbushom, tuhomlna rigal, biex nagħmlu iżjed affarijiet sbieħ biex jinbiegħu għall-karità. Tistgħu tħalluhomlna fl-uffiċċju ta’ dan il-ġurnal. Nirringrazzjawkom bil-quddiem.

Sex Appals

Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 12:10  

The other day, Welsh international footballer Ched Evans raped a teenager. His friend, Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald had sex with her.

Is there any difference between the terms, seeing that both men claimed it was consensual? Does it make any difference that she was drunk at the time, and that she has no memory at all of what happened, perhaps because one or more of her drinks (allegedly wine, double vodkas with lemonade and a Sambuca shot)  had been spiked?

The Court held that Evans was guilty of rape, and sentenced him to five years in prison; McDonald was deemed ‘not guilty’ of rape.

Sheffield United player Connor Brown sought to ‘defend’ his friend by calling the victim ‘a money-grabbing little tramp’. He then went on to use bad English and worse words in his Twitter account to insult the girl, but later removed his posts.

The aura of the rich, the powerful, the handsome, the popular, and those who consider themselves above the law, sometimes translates into these wannabe studs (correctly) thinking they can pick and choose women for sex. Some go even further and expect the women to think they are being done a favour, and, hence, no type of compensation to her would be due.

This, essentially, means that any girl who decides to complain – or, heaven forbid – press charges later, will automatically be branded a bitch, a liar, or  a  gold-digger, and sometimes all three at once.  

Consider, for a moment, the current crisis assailing the American Secret Service.

About 11 Secret Service agents brought prostitutes back to their rooms while they were preparing the venue for President Obama’s arrival for the Summit of the Americas. Although such doings are illegal, the police in the area have some ‘tolerance zones’ – which apparently are both in the concrete and in the abstract.

However, as it happened, one of the women refused to leave the premises after 7.00am, as is the praxis. But she had a reason; she had not been paid adequately for services rendered. And this is, basically, what lit the fuse that exploded the bomb that blew the story open.

There will always be  teachers who will try to din into students’ minds that ‘sluts’ (read a girl who has sex before she is married, with one person or more) are merely fornicators with a more modern name.

There will always be people like Albert Locher, the Sacramento County District Attorney, who actually arrest rape victims to make sure they are present to testify against their aggressors.

But the worst thing of all is that there are a whole slew of myths, masquerading as reasons, why many people do not accept that rape would have happened.

We are asked to believe that it’s not rape if the woman:  didn’t put up a fight;  had been with another man twenty-four hours before or after the attack;  had no signs of violence on her body; has an active sex life; is a prostitute ‘anyway’;  is old, and ugly, and might not otherwise have had sex; is a lesbian; is young and  attractive, and therefore a temptation;  did not know what was happening anyway; ordered, tempted or dared the man to have sex;  uses birth-control; was dating the man; was dressed indecently; was drinking to make herself lose her inhibitions; was not supposed to be where she was; or went to his place of her own volition.

Moreover, if “her no obviously meant yes”; if the sex was consensual, and / or the man used a prophylactic; or of the act happened in her house or a neutral place, we are supposed to think that the woman is crying wolf as well as rape.  

These conditions nicely cover just about any situation, do they not?

As far as I am concerned, a “slut” is someone who uses sex-related accusations to lie about a man for her own ends – when no sex at all would have taken place.

Yet it remains a sad fact of life that in most countries, sex crimes are treated differently from other types of crimes.

If you sell stolen goods, you are guilty of that.  If you help someone hide a murdered body, you are an accessory after the fact. In a nutshell, if you aid and abet someone in a crime, you have to pay the penalty.

Just because someone entices you to commit murder, fraud, theft, or perjury, you do not just play along willy-nilly. Whether the issue involves stealing a car for joy-riding, beating up someone, robbing a house, doing drugs, or jumping off a cliff, it cuts no ice to tell the judge that “peer pressure” made you comply.

Yet sex between consenting adults is sometimes considered all right; especially if it is the word of one person ‘with a reputation’ against an abuser who may or may not be in collusion with other witnesses.

Incidentally, most women who have had unwanted sexual relations, inclusive of rape, usually go home to scrub themselves physically clean from their emotional trauma. 

This, too, may count against them – because they are ‘supposed’ to hie off for an examination that would document evidence of any kind available. 

Pigging Out for Prosperity!

December 30, 2009

An Austrian New Year’s Eve celebration would not be complete without the traditional pink pig-shaped biscuits. A Sylvesterabend (Eve of St. Sylvester) dinner also includes actual pork. If it’s not a ham hock, it’s sausages – which, being fatty, connote fattening wallets. If the past year was unlucky, then the part of the hog to cook was the jowl, supposed to bring about a reversal of fortune. Germanic people tend to pick beef short-ribs as lucky foods.

Italians combine the pork with lentils. In other countries, the legumes of choice are black-eyed peas. This is because during cooking both swell and look like coins; in some cultures they are combined with rice or cereals. Strictly speaking, one ought to eat 365 lentils, black-eyed peas, or grains of rice, in order to “qualify” for a lucky new year. The Italians eat cotechino (boned, stuffed trotter) con lenticchie just after midnight.

Counting, for the Spanish and Portuguese, and their former colonies such as Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru, is a matter of months – they pop a grape for each stroke of midnight, and if a grape turns out to be bitter, the month it represents will be so, too. Peruvians insist on taking in a 13th grape for good measure. Rumour has it that this tradition was deliberately begun in 1909, when there was a surplus of grapes in the Alicante region.

Saint Sylvester is credited with having baptized Constantine the Great; and this means that not only is he the precursor of a new year, but also the vanguard of a new Christian era. It is traditional to toast one another with a typical punch on this night.

Dollar bills are called greenbacks and cabbage in slang. This idea is also transposed to the dinner table – and therefore, eating green leafy vegetables (kale, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, or, to stretch a point sauerkraut or coleslaw) that are torn, as opposed to being cut with a blade, is supposed to bring luck for the forthcoming year. The Danish sprinkled their stewed kale with sugar and cinnamon.

Germans have been known to place fish scales, since they look like shiny coins, in their wallets for good luck. By association, eating herring on the stroke of Midnight on New Year’s Eve will bring health, wealth, and happiness. Herring is eaten either as roll mops (marinated and rolled around a pickled cocktail onion) or, when it is of portion side, whole, with salad.

If the very thought of pink biscuits makes your tail curl, you can follow the Greek customs and put some coins into a plain cake – cheating to make sure that there is one in every slice, perhaps.

The pig, however, remains a prime candidate for New Year’s Eve dinners, perhaps because of its corpulent body, a symbol of opulence. In many American states, it is traditional to eat Hoppin’ John, which combines all three principal ‘lucky’ ingredients – pork, beans and greens.

As with minestra, Christmas Log, and other dishes, everyone insists that there is only one correct recipe – his – for Hoppin’ John. If the dish is going to be cooked like the Italian risi e bisi, must the rice and the peas be cooked separately, and combined, or must they be allowed to simmer together for the flavours to mingle better? Should tomatoes be added to the pot, or must they be purred into a pouring sauce consistency? Or must they be chopped, and raw? Must the peas be mushy, or must they have bite? Is it wrong to use a Dutch oven, a wok, a pressure cooker, or anything else except the traditional cast-iron skillet? If you are using chitterlings, must they be cooked separately, or should you begin with them and then add the rice, and later, the peas? May one use processed peas? The questions go on – and on.

Why Does NORAD Track Santa?

December 28, 2009

Once upon a time, there was CONAD (The American Continental Air Defence Command). Since 1958, this has been known as NORAD (The North American Aerospace Defense Command).


Included in the nitty-gritty that was part and parcel of the workload of the former, passed on to the latter, is literally and figuratively a flight of fancy.

NORAD is responsible for tracking Santa’s Flight across the skies. This will take him past Mount Fuji , 100 times faster than a 500 series Shinkansen bullet train, and also to Britain, France and Switzerland – but for some reason he does not fly across the Mediterranean. This began through whimsical happenstance. There was a Sears Roebuck and Company advertisement with a typo in it. This gave the number of the agency rather than the Santa Hotline one it had been supposed to give.

When a little girl saw the advertisement, in a Colorado Springs newspaper, which said “Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct and be sure and dial the correct number.” She obeyed the instructions. Yet she got through to Colonel Harry Shoup, the Director of Operations on duty on December 24, 1955 at the time. He happened to be the right person in the right pace at the right time. Rather than being officious and telling the child she he had a wrong number, the Colonel, perhaps touched by the innocence of the child, decided to ask his staff for the radar readings of the whereabouts of Santa’s Sleigh. The children who called later were given updates – and so a cute tradition was born.

In 1997, Canadian Major Jamie Robertson took over the programme, and went on the www with it. The idea remains to track Santa as he travels across the skies to deliver presents – not only through the original radar, but through satellite systems as well. Thousands of volunteers staff computers and telephones at Cheyenne Mountain and Peterson Air Force Base in order to answer phones and provide Santa updates live – to children, adults, as well as the media.

This tracking scheme has now achieved cult status; this year, Google introduced its own 2D and 3D Google Earth maps, which indicate Santa’s position on lifelike maps. The NORAD Tracks Santa website www.noradsanta.org offers a service in seven languages – English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.

This year, new videos of Santa flying over Zurich, Switzerland; Toronto in Ontario, Canada, and Mexico City, Mexico were added on You Tube. Like all the others, it features a voice-over by a member of the NORAD staff, indicating Santa’s location, and showing the sleigh, complete with Rudolph’s hooter at full brilliance, approaching the city and then slaloming in the air currents over it, accompanied by the familiar jingling bells.
Those who were after a more personalised service, however, could email his team at noradtrackssanta@gmail.com and get updates sent directly to their inbox. There were also several social networking sites offering the service – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and TroopTube.tv.

You can watch Santa’s message here www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZ-YkFOfITc, and the one by General Renuart, Commander of NORAD, here www.youtube.com/watch?v=hipMSF5vpA0

Play It Again, Sam: Re-Gifting

December 17, 2009|

You can use the bars of scented soap on your lingerie and stockings. You can use the cheap towels as dishcloths. You can never have enough designer ballpoint pens. You can use the wine for cooking. You can add the jewellery to the tree decorations.

But there are some things that you simply cannot utilize. There is a fashionable third alternative to donating such things for to the nearest charity shop, or dumping them into the closest skip. However, re-gifting is a potential mine-field.

• All re-gifted items must be in perfect condition and unused. Seals of scents and toiletries must not be broken, since this would mean you are giving what you did not like.

• Always check boxes, inside and out, for old cards, scrawled-on dedications, and receipts.

• Anything re-gifted must be in the original packaging. Forget about spraying a chocolate box with metallic paint and filling it with fewer toffees than were contained in the original, bigger one!

• Hand-made items are usually one-of-a-kid and re-gifting them will probably lead to questions about their provenance. Would you bluff it out and say you ordered them?

• If someone discovers you have re-gifted his present, his feelings may be hurt – unless he would have re-gifted it himself, in which case he’d understand.

• If you are re-gifting a heirloom, make sure you indicate this; otherwise a person might think it is simply “old stuff”.

• If you know where your unwanted gift was bought, you may be able to exchange it for another in the same price range, and the re-gifting is then virtual.

• In some cases, such as when you know someone collects certain objects(white soft toys, books by a certain author, angel statuettes), it is perfectly permissible to re-gift items that are bought second-hand, as long as you disclose this before the gift is opened.

• Ironed-out, old wrapping paper shrieks “re-gifting”, especially so when the gift-tag is an out-of-season card cut down to size.

• Never feel obliged to use something, or to keep it in a conspicuous place, because of who the giver is. This attitude trains you how to re-gift with panache.

• Partially-used gift cards are never to be re-gifted. Ask the shop whether they will make out a new one, even if you have to add something to make it a round sum.

• Re-gifting works with some things but not with others – if you are re-gifting personalised stationery or monogrammed handkerchiefs make sure they are suitable for that person.

• Remember that if you are re-gifting because you do not like something, the chances are that the recipient will not, either.

• Some gifts, especially the white elephant type, are easily recognisable; it is better to be safe than sorry when someone gives you a Venus de Milo with a clock in her stomach.

• Sometimes, people re-gift things because they could not be bothered to choose a present. Try and include a re-gifted item, such as a tiny figurine, with your gift-card.

• Think about whether you could sell your unwanted gifts on eBay or to a local shop that takes unwanted gifts, and use the money to purchase new gifts instead.

• Unless it is s known and accepted practice (and something of a joke), always re-gift outside your family and social circle.

• When it comes to books, always go through each page, to remove bookmarks; never re-gift a book with even one dog-eared page.

The Christmas Concert

The Christmas Concert

December 20, 2009|

The hall sounded as if there was the gathering of the clans of chipmunks.
The children could be heard twittering behind the curtain. The faces of a few of the more audacious ones occasionally peeked from the side of the closed stage curtains; if they were lucky enough to spy their parents, they called out.


A scream rent the air in two. One of the girls had sneaked a look – and, seeing the sea of faces below her, was stricken with a dire case of stage fright. Imagine the embarrassment of the parents of this little girl, when they were called over the PA system and asked to go to the back of the hall.
The tot, globules of tears travelling down her cheeks, insisted that she was “too shy” to sing in front of the “thousand people” present. Until that moment, her parents had not known that she had been singled out on account of her perfect Maltese diction.

The show must go on, so the teacher allowed the child to sit on her mother’s lap “for a bit”, hoping that she would pluck up enough courage to join the group later.

The procession of Mary, Joseph, and assorted shepherds had already begun moving up the aisle towards the stage. The hindquarters of the donkey were apparently a day late and a dollar short; the back legs kept moving out of sync with the front ones, and the font legs appeared to be trying to kick the back legs.

The audience sniggered – and the donkey suddenly became a dromedary. “She stinks!” exclaimed the child who had by then been pulled out of her costume. It was a toss-up between the two girls’ mothers to see which of them was the ore embarrassed – but at least, the front half of the donkey was still anonymous.

Of course, by the time the concert had reached the end, the rumour mill had ground far faster, and far more coarsely, than that of God.

The main party, accompanied by hordes of angels (the choir) who had streamed out from the sides of the stage took their positions inside the carefully-marked circles. All went according to plan, until “Gabriel” forgot his lines. “Hey, I’ve got news for you!” he said to the audience. “Christ, Our Saviour, is born in Bethlehem!” The audience, however, only heard the first sentence – they were doubled up in laughter at the second one.
The teacher and her assistants thought they were going to have a collective fainting fit. Things could only get better – or so they thought.

A pool of liquid (unseen by the audience) was quietly but surely collecting at the feet of one of the shepherds. The one beside him pushed him away; and since he wasn’t expecting this, he tumbled against the little girl next to him, who, in her turn, toppled her neighbour, domino-style.

One of the assistants rushed out to take the boy who had wet his pants inside – but this was his first ever fifteen minutes of fame and he wasn’t giving it up easily. There was a slight scuffle, during which he bit the young lady. She yelped, and then lifted him bodily up and took him offstage.

The little girl who had refused to take part in the concert, and had been fast asleep in her mother’s arms, suddenly woke up and, seeing her friends on the boards, for some reason thought that her turn had come. She yawned, rubbed her eyes, and began singing her part.

The teacher grabbed her chance… and going down to the girl, led her gently up the few steps. The closing notes of the song, thought the teacher, could well close the concert.

But this was not to be. The parents all got up to give the team a standing ovation, and the teacher had to open the curtains again and again for no less than four curtain calls – complete with the children who had left the stable scene in the proceedings.

Those of us who were there know it was the best Christmas concert we have ever attended.

Rock On! Who do you say that I am?

Every so often, television station air series such as This is Your Life or, the latest, who Do You Think You Are? These programs trace the genealogy of the protagonist, researching family backgrounds, ancestral homes, surnames, coats of arms, and anything that could have had a bearing on making the person who or what he is today.

These programs have a solid fan-base, because people tend to be curious about the lives of others – however private they may want their own affairs to be.

Sometimes, it turns out that personalities had convicts, or scientists, or suffragettes, or royalty, – or even lion tamers – in the lower branches of their family trees.  This is what makes episodes of the program interesting; for nobody wants to read about generation upon generation of skullduggery.

Be that as it may, we also use Who do you think you are? as a sarcastic question, when we feel that someone is getting too big for his boots.

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’”

Jesus turned the tables on this query when He asked His disciples these two important questions – what people were saying about who He was, and what they thought, themselves. This was an issue they could have been taken for granted – but now, it was time to consider it deeply.  The second one a make-or-break question – it was either that they believed in Him, or that they denied Him and His teachings

Thinking deeply about these questions, we would realize that our replies have a bearing on our values, our lifestyles – and our Hereafter, too. Jesus told us that He and the Father are one. So – we know that He is God incarnate. He was not a guru, or a philosopher, or a prophet… or even a madman, as some would have us believe. Ironically even Satan and his demons believe in the true God.

We cannot cut-and-paste our own views of what He is, on Jesus.  He told us, often enough, who He is. Even as He wrote in the sand, He was showing us that He is The Way, The Truth, and the Life.

Jesus told us that He is holy, when He called for us to be holy, “… for I am holy.” The Bible tells us that Jesus is the Savior, the righteous Judge, the sovereign Lord, and the Living God. John wrote in his Gospel that Jesus was God made flesh.
Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus told Peter that he was blessed, and enlightened by God the Father. This, so soon after Jesus had called him a “man of little faith” when he wanted to set up three abodes for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

Jesus said that He could forgive sin; this is something only God can do. Just in case anyone doubted that He could, He followed this up with a miracle.  Again, only God can do miracles, and this showed that Jesus was God. However, religious leaders accused Him of blasphemy.

And after the humiliation, suffering, and death on the cross, Jesus rose from the dead, and proved, once and for all, that He is God.

The Interview

https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/56/submissions/31092/

“You’re hot!” he said, placing his open palm just millimetres away from my face. I moved back involuntarily, and nearly fell backward over a dog that had loped into the room.

He reached out to steady me, and I knew I would feel his grip for a long time.

“Yes… there was an accident at the crossroads, and a traffic snarl-up… I didn’t want to be late, so I ran all the way down the avenue, since I did not want to be late; I’d love a glass of cold water please.” One sentence. The News Editor would have had my head if he’d heard me.

I blushed and put my hand over my mouth. This was the second time I’d met him face-to-face, and the first time I’d been to his house. I hoped he didn’t think I was too forward.

But if I was to ghost-write his autobiography, in the little time he had left, it was as good a way as any to break the ice… “I don’t drink water. I only have orange juice and white wine in my fridge. Which would you prefer?”

I had regained a bit of my composure. “I don’t drink on the job…” I smiled, thinking that if I were the flirty type, I would have said “… maybe later.” But I didn’t. Even young, I was an old fuddy-duddy.

Carefully—too carefully—I lined up my pencils parallel with the edge of the table. My spiral notebook, however, I laid at an angle. I’m left-handed, and I find I work better like that.

Peter came back with a beautiful cut-glass tumbler of chilled orange-juice for me, and a mug of white wine for him. My sharp intake of breath must have registered my surprise—because matter-of-factly, he explained that “since the diagnosis” he preferred to use glassware with handles, “just in case.”

I winced. Yet again I was proving that I didn’t even have to open my mouth to put my foot in it. But surely he wouldn’t want intimate details like this to get into the book? I shivered involuntarily as his fingers touched mine. I flipped my notebook open, put the glass on the first page, tore off the thick cover, and placed it on the table, as a placemat for the glass.

“Well, young lady”—he said this with an old-fashioned courtesy and yet a half-smile that stripped it of all formality, “Shall we begin? And if so, where from?”

“I’m easy!” I said, showing off my knowledge of slang, and all too late realising what it meant in “good” English. “I mean, begin from wherever you want and I will edit later. Just tell me what comes into your head. In any case, with your permission I’ll switch on my tape-recorder so I’ll have back-up if I can’t read my own handwriting.”

“Please do. But first there’s something I want to know. Do you listen to radio?”

“Sometimes,” I replied, wondering what this had to do with the interview I was supposed to be doing.

“Typical reply from a person of your age, I guess. How old are you, what, 23? Let me put it another way—what would you be listening to, if you hadn’t come here?”

I glanced at my wristwatch. It was 8.15p.m. “The Chase and Sanborn Hour, definitely. I love Charlie McCarthy—sometimes it’s like he’s the ventriloquist and Edgar Bergen is the dummy! I’ve even bought the Big Little Book! My Mom loves it too, and we try never to miss an episode.”

He smiled. “But today it’s different, isn’t it? I’m sorry you missed it because of me, but there’s something else on, which might interest you. In any case, your Mom’s sure to fill you in. Are you fond of science fiction?”

I had always found Little Green Men—or Huge Slimy Creatures—intriguing, and I said so. “Well, then, this should please you”—and he twiddled the knobs until some music came on. “Listen! That’s Ramon Raquello and his Orchestra…” and sure enough, seconds later the announcer confirmed it, saying they were playing live from New York’s Hotel Park Plaza. Actually, they were playing in a CBS studio, but the acoustics were really good; I mean bad enough to make you think they were in the open air. “This is partly my idea—it’s the Orson Welles’s Mercury Theatre On The Air group adaptation of The War of the Worlds…”

“Oh! I know that story. But that was written over 40 years ago by H.G. Wells, no? We have the book; it used to belong to papa.”

“Indeed? Orson and I were at school together. He bounced the idea of resurrecting it on me, and I suggested some things… Listen to him; he has exactly the right sonorous tone of voice for the ominous news…”

My brain told me there was no question of the “huge meteorite smashing into a New Jersey farm” being true, because I knew the story already. But the broadcast was so realistic that I almost accepted what I was hearing for fact. The purported newscaster was telling us that the aliens did not walk—they crawled….or wriggled, to be more precise, out of the spacecraft. “It glistens like wet leather. But that face – it…it is indescribable.” Those were his exact words. Brrrr

And then it began. Someone tooted a car horn. In an instant, the air was filled with a cacophony of drivers blowing their horns. There were sounds of shouting and panicked screams, and cars’ headlights made it look like day again.

The penny dropped. “I think people are really believing what they are hearing on radio!” I said.

I didn’t even realise, at that moment, how privileged I was, not being one of them.

It is said hundreds of people required medical treatment for shock and hysteria, and that many died in the stampede, or of heart attacks. Not everyone joined in the exodus, however. Some people hid in cellars, taking down blankets and food and those emergency radios that work with a dynamo that has a handle, rather than batteries…as well as loaded guns.

We must not forget that not everyone knew how to read at the time, and so radio was welcomed by people, especially in the rural areas, for whom it was their only means of discovering what was going on in the world around them.

Back then, radio was not an incidental background noise like it is today. Radio sets were big, bulky pieces of equipment, sometimes incorporated into furniture. People sat facing them, rather as one sits facing a television set today.

Newspapers later reported that many people—like us—had tuned in after the announcement that a radio play was going to be on—and they got the fright of their lives upon hearing that “the Martians had landed”… the show was that realistic. I still have cuttings that tell how people jammed the emergency lines, asking what they could use as gas masks (and whether soaking towels in water and tying them over their faces would be any good), and which cities were safe, and whether there would be emergency transport.

The newspapers, of course, considered radio an ephemeral parvenu. So they tried to ride on the wave of popularity engendered for it by this show. In order to boost sales they churned out exaggerated reports, with as many “eye witness” accounts as possible.

At the same time, they took the opportunity to pontificate about how irresponsible of CBS Radio it was to have broadcast the play. They wanted to eat their cake and have it.

I asked Peter whether I could use his phone to call the Exchange so Barbra the Operator could contact Mom to tell her I was okay. “Feel free,” he said, “but judging from the ruckus outside, I suspect you might not get through.”

He was right. In my entire career as a journalist, I never had such a weird experience as this. What was supposed to be a routine interview had turned out to be a surreal adventure in which I was practically under siege. “I had thought I would be catching the 10.00p.m. bus home… Mom will be worried sick” I faltered.

“I had already ordered you a taxi. But I doubt whether he’ll turn up.”

 “Oh, how embarrassing! I usually take the bus because…”

“I know. It’s much cheaper. I’ve been there, you know.” How perceptive of him. Actually, I did know that about him, as I knew several other things—such as that he had been a professional dancer. I also knew that his wife had died in a skiing accident when she was with her lover, and that he had a daughter who had inherited his feline grace and teal eyes with gold flecks, pale skin, and good looks. She was a model much in demand in Europe.

Documentaries and books have been written about that night. They even made films and television series. Historians and sociologists admit that the verisimilitude was flawless. Radio would actually work like that in an emergency, with all regular programming aborted, and musical interludes interrupted for official announcements.

Only, these statements were not authentic—but so cleverly done that people thought they were genuine.

And there I was, in the same room as one of the people behind this sensational hoax…which Conspiracy Theorists say was not one at all, and that the alien invasion in Grover’s Mill really happened. Some, these days, still actually believe that what happened in 1938 was just the tip of the iceberg – that the Martians who did come to earth were the vanguard evaluation team for the main taskforce.

Their mission was to assess how far we had progressed physically, mentally, and technologically. “Proof” of this is that the Grover’s Mill Militia had a complement of 38 men in the militia in 1938, of whom only four remained alive in 1988. And there’s more. These people insist that aliens have been visiting Earth for the last 2000 years. The mind boggles.

I read somewhere that the “offspring” of those Reconnaissance Mission aliens, today, still have the innate ability to create technological stuff from ordinary household equipment. That way, they will never raise suspicion by shopping at a hardware store for components of their gizmos. They just buy a food processor and dismantle it to make a radio receiver. You know— the highfalutin’ version of E.T.’s phone—or the device you can make from a computer and a particular device, should you want to commit suicide.

Someone later came up with a theory that the ‘bodies’ of these aliens are structured like those of jelly-fish, and as such, they can osmose into humans, and that in the second, main invasion that happened in 1953, this began happening all over the world.

But of course, all this came later. The broadcast continued. I only caught what I thought was one incongruity, and I asked Peter about it. Why would aliens not target the White House? “That would have cut the story short. What was needed was something that would stretch out the plot and make it more credible.” Ah.

Peter told me that he had suggested that the introduction of the War of the Worlds broadcast on CBS Radio specifically mention that Orson Welles and his team had previously dramatized novels such as The Count of Monte Cristo and Dracula, and that what would follow would be something on similar lines. But people who tuned in late had no way of knowing this. It was scary. It was exhilarating. It was fun.

Later, Michele Hilmes, a communications professor at University of Wisconsin in Madison, wrote in Radio Voices: American Broadcasting, “Audiences heard their regularly scheduled broadcast interrupted by breaking news,” and that, according to him, had been indispensable for the ruse to work. Also, science fiction was a relatively new genre—a sort of glorified Steampunk—and it was gaining popularity. If Mankind could send rockets out to space, couldn’t alien civilizations be doing the same, from their sector of the universe?

Every so often, we heard what sounded like a flip-switch being pressed, some static, as if the power supply was going to go out, and the voice of a “live” reporter bringing us up-to-date with what was happening. It got better—or worse, depending on whether you had swallowed this hook, line, and sinker. Because quite soon, even the radio studios themselves were ostensibly under attack. This, while testimonies from astronomers were read out, indicating that there had been several explosions of “incandescent gas” on Mars. Peter kept cranking the handle of the phone-box, trying to get through to Barbra, and he finally succeeded. He knew the script of the radio-play by heart, anyway, and left me to listen to it, enthralled. He passed me the receiver and I explained to Barbra what was happening. She told me that her switchboard was a Christmas tree, and that it was a good thing that I had called because Mom was all but tearing her hair out.

I could hear a zillion bleeps and buzzes in the background; people kept hoping to contact their loved ones through the Exchange, as I’d done. At the time, anyone who mentioned the possibility of mobile telephony would probably have been taken to the sanatorium!

As it happened, I began spending most Saturdays at Peter’s flat. But for the life of me I cannot exactly pinpoint the first time he kissed me, though heaven knows I have tried.

I’d looked up from my notebook, because he had paused, and for the millionth time my eyes registered the infinitesimally tiny scar at the left of his upper lip. His face moved closer, and my life changed forever.

We shared two glorious, poignant years… His autobiography was published some time before he died; he was housebound by then, and it was only because I knew him so well that I could tell when he was uncomfortable or in pain.

Peter taught me a lot about world politics. He was more au courant of what was happening than I, I am ashamed to say—my only excuse is that I covered national news. In March Adolf Hitler had given an ultimatum to Chancellor Schuschnigg of Austria to resign and allow a new Chancellor of Germany’s choosing to take over—failing which Nazi troops would march into Austria.

Schuschnigg kowtowed, and puppet Dr. Arthur Seyss-Inquart replaced him. He immediately ordered the Austrian army to cede to the German troops when they invaded. Thus, Hitler achieved the Anschluss he was after.

People were on tenterhooks because of this issue, and the developments following it.

So, the icing on the cake was that the War of the Worlds broadcast reminded people of how the Munich Crisis had been covered…. thereby lending it a further aura of truth. People do tend to hear what they want to hear, and some listeners never even realised that the show was about aliens—they thought Hitler had attacked, and assumed that the stuff falling out of the sky came courtesy of the Luftwaffe.

Those of us who have worked in radio will tell you that its pictures are more potent than those of television. This broadcast was in the right (wrong) place at the right (wrong) time to indicate how the media manipulates public opinion. It’s a wonder that people ever brought themselves to trust the news bulletins again, after this happening.

I’m 91 years old now, and I thought it was time you lot knew that not all the things that happen on the eve of Halloween are scary!

One Crow—Sorrow?

The headlines said “One is the Loneliest Number”

But what do the headlines know?

They have never loved and lost.

Just because the song was on Top of the Pops

And someone liked the sound of the words

And hummed the tune

As they two-finger typed the article,

That does not make it true.

Two is lonelier by far.

I know.

I’ve been there, done that

And bought the t-shirts…

One of which still bears his smell

Because he was wearing it

When he died in my arms.