A Christmas reflection

I always liked Christmas. Something mystical, magical and special about this time of year. But do we need religion to celebrate?

As I humanist, I am always aware that people might question why atheists and other non-believers celebrate Christmas a mixture of tradition and familiar obligations force people together at this time of the year. Sometimes causing tensions and arguments. Why would you want to spend a wonderful time with people you barely speak or have absolutely nothing in common?

I visited my old church and had lunch in their parish centre. People I have known for over thirty years sat and gossiped and chatted over their food.

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I began to realise that we have moved further away from the true meaning of Christmas that ever before. No room in the inn for the homeless, young, disabled and young people. Described by one church member of ‘teenage yobbos’ when talking about the youth that must have be behind the recent drone incidents at Gatwick Airport. Her predictions have been proved wrong so far.

My view of Christmas is based (like some Christian traditions) in pagan origins. The belief that the old year has ended and we celebrate the coming year with greenery, fire, food and celebrations. A celebration of Yuletide.

We look back at the year 2018. What a bad year for some and opportunities for others to create mayhem and mischief while those less fortunate are cast aside.

Attitudes have changed. Christmas has changed. I believe we should change and open our hearts and lives to those who are less fortunate than ourselves.

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2018

If you follow this blog I firstly apologise for virtually no posts in the last few months. It’s not that I have been away or felt like that I needed a break it’s purely on the fact that I didn’t feel like saying anything.

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It’s a new year. I am still looking for work and hopefully, with a shake-up of my CV and application process, I am hoping the new year brings new opportunities. That’s what I am hoping.

I look back on the last year and I certainly made sure that I wasn’t going to have another one like 2016. That was an abysmal year not surprising after mother had just passed away. I spent the who year, what it feels like, lying in bed.

The year started with protesting against Donald Trump and his ban on Muslims travelling from certain countries to the USA. It was seen by some as a futile gesture but Trump has certainly got the message that his divisive rhetoric isn’t welcome in the UK.

I spent a night and day in a hospital during to a rather nasty infection which I stupidly ignored. To me, a throat infection wasn’t a serious condition but the doctors and nurses of the NHS thought differently and took care of me in an exemplary manner. Proud of our NHS.

I had a number of trips away to London and Prague and it did me the world of good. Getting out and enjoying places I was interested was good not only for my physical well-being but my mental health. This was part of my bucket list where I was challenging myself to take up and take part in things I have never done. This year I took part in a watercolour course. Something I have always wanted to try since I abysmally failed when I was a pupil at school.

There was an end to a friendship. Someone I really loved. It couldn’t continue. It is a long story and it sadly came to an end. But there are reasons why these things happen. I am now looking forward to 2018. Let’s see what happens.

London again

Been away. Yep. Another time away for Philip. This time I am hoping when I come home I am not ill again. Just thought it was an ideal time to get a break from taking a break. This time I was a lot more relaxed and able to enjoy the sites and sounds of London.

London is crazy. The people are crazy. Every day I hear car horns blaring and a constant stream of emergency vehicles sirens screaming down past the hotel at all times day and night.

I was able to have a quieter moment in Green Park on Saturday afternoon as the weather had turned from nice to the Mediterranean. Coming from the northeast and unable to feel the cold it was a little unbearable at times especially travelling on the tube at temperatures that would have rivalled my oven at home. Plenty of water and patience.

I decided to have a less “touristy” visit and take in some of the bookshops that London has. It was a great time although my suitcase now looks like I have done a Hatton Garden on a local library.

The good thing as well is I don’t have to justify these purchases to anyone when I return. Why have you bought all those books? My mother would have asked.

It was a time of reflection given the horrible terrorist attacks on Westminster Bridge. Seeing all those flowers and dedications somehow made something I just saw on the news very very real. It was difficult not to shed tears for those innocent people who had been caught up in it and those left behind asking the question why.

I did make an important journey to Marchmont Street to the home that Kenneth Williams grew up in. It was an important pilgrimage. I cried uncontrollably for a while when the reality hit that I was in a place where he frequented. It was a place of heartache and sometimes laughter for him. I was moved by the fact that he was honoured with a plaque in 2009 commemorating the place.

I did stop by Downing Street where there was a Stop the War protest of Trump’s bombing of Syria. I made conversation with a lady as I wanted to get their point of view on the matter. Her simple message was forgotten all the complications and points of view and see the violence for violence as not the solution. That’s a standpoint to start from. I saw her simple view as intriguing as well as frustrating. What is the solution?

Time to come home after a great few days away. I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life. Looking for work and moving on from the past few years.

First Christmas

I know a lot of the people who are my friends aren’t big fans of the Royal family (more Royle family). I always listen to the Queen’s Christmas Day broadcast. It was the Queen that did mention that it can be a difficult time for those people who’s first Christmas it is spending it without a loved one.

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When you have spent every christmas, bar one, with your own mum it does become a little strange for her not to be here. She would have been falling asleep after dinner when I was tidying up. Except it was me that was falling asleep about 5pm after I had eaten and my food had settled. I think the mulled wine played it’s part wonderfully.

I spoken to a few people who have gone through the same. You expect them to walk through the door or someone to give you a phone call. Mum a few times used to set a place for dad at tea time ready for him coming in from work.

I think the worst bit has been waiting for my phone to ring to say I needed to go up early morning as they were having getting difficulty getting mum out of bed or the district nurse would call to say that the needed me to pick up something from the local pharmacy for mum.

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The phone has stopped ringing and sometimes it was ring three or four times a day, some days even more. I didn’t mind it because that was I was there to do it. I was her carer and her son. But you don’t know really how you miss something now that it is now long there. You cannot miss something you have never had or experienced.

So I have the first christmas over. It was the same when dad died. After a few years you get into a difference routine and and different place. Your plans change. So what ever happens next year I will see. If I spend it on my own again that will be up to me. Or if I get invites like I did this year I might take one of the them up. Who knows? But I won’t forget those who have passed. You never really lose them entirely as you always have the memories you made with them.

Monday

Cyber Monday, Black Friday, Pink Wednesday and Green Sunday. What is going on in the world? Companies desperate to get us to part with our money or credit even in the run up to the biggest shopping time of the year Christmas.

My good friend Gregory and I only ever once stood in a queue in the cold to buy the new iPhone 4s. Now things have changed you can have then delivered to the comfort of your own home and not have to wait in long cold queues.

I sat at 11pm last night and did some Christmas shopping in the comfort of my living room. But has the time for going out to the shops in decline? I would always thought as much when online shopping really kicked off. I thought there would be less people on the streets things would be lovely quiet but how wrong I was on Saturday afternoon at a local out of town retail park. I even waited until 4pm thinking it would be really quiet. Not at all. Still obnoxious people and screaming children.

We are encouraged each year to spend and people do go out just for the sake of saying that they did buy something. Regardless if they actually really wanted a certain item in the first place.

Some people need to take a serious look at their lives. Finding the the difference between our wants and needs has been blurred for decades.

Good Friday

I have had an interesting day. I decided that I would have a look down at the service in the market place. This is a christian service of witness which takes place each year on good friday. It is begins with a  walk through the main shopping street and ends in the market place. I used to take part in this which I was a church goer a number of years ago. My abiding memory is getting told off by someone for talking while we set off on the walk.

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The service end but I had something else planned for the afternoon. Most people know that my education is in religion and I have followed an organisation for a number of years called Hope not Hate. This was set up to counter the extremist groups such as the BNP and others and to educate those about their BNP racist agenda.

During my year in Oxford training to be a teacher I visited various places of worship including two of the main mosques in Birmingham. I have always be interested in religion and thought it was about time I spoke to some muslims about their views of various racist groups and their outlook on the continuing attacks on Islam.

I set up a meeting with someone from the Islamic Diversity Centre in Newcastle and spent time discuss my concerns and getting their perspective on life. It was certainly an interesting discussion. It was good to hear that their work is to break down the various misconceptions about Islam. They regularly speak to various groups in the north east and part of their outreach is to provide services for the homeless and elderly; something even I wasn’t familiar with.

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I was given a small gift which contained various literature about Islam. I hope that I will be able to learn more and get to know a few of the muslim population here in the north east. I attend to visit a mosque and hopefully gain more understanding of this religion.