A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

A tale of tales.....

Christmas wreath courtesy of Animation Factory."THE WIND thumped at the door, so that the latch rattled, and cried sadly as it tried to listen to the tale. The flames licked round the bars and held their breath as the old words dropped peacefully into the room.

'And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.'

Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem on a dark night to pay their tax, and there was no room for them at the inn. How cold it was, snow everywhere, and perhaps wolves prowling round, thought Susan, as the wind howled under the kitchen door. They walked up and down, up and down, till they found a stable, and she thought of them walking across the fields stumbling against rocks and trees, in deep snow, to the stable in the cobbled yard underneath the weathercock.

There Jesus was born and put in the manger. The ox and the ass stood watching and Joseph had a lantern to look at the little Baby Boy. But afar in a field some shepherds were minding their sheep and they saw a star. Susan knew which one it was, it shone through the fir tree across the lawn.

The star moved, just as the moon moved when it brought her home through the wood in winter, and the shepherds left their sheep and followed it.

The sheep were not lonely that night because it was like day with that big bright star in the sky, and a host of angels floated in the air, singing, 'Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.' The sheep stopped eating to look up at the angels, but they were not afraid.

The shepherds followed the star till it came above the stable, and there it stopped, in the branches of the elm tree. The stable door was open, and the little horseshoe in the upper door shone in the starlight, and the brighter light from within came streaming out to meet them. It was warm inside, with hay and the animals' breath, so the Baby and Mary sat cosily in the manger. Mary's feet were tucked up so that she could get in with the Holy Child, and bits of hay and straw were sticking to her blue dress.

Susan could scarcely keep the tears from her eyes, she was so excited over the story she knew so well. If only she had been there too, a little girl with the shepherds, she would have seen the Wise Men ride up on their camels, through the gate into the yard. They carried gold and frankincense and myrrh, yellow gold as big as a lump of coal, and myrrh like leaves, smelling sweeter than lavander or mignonette, and frankincense, something, she didn't know what, something in a blue and gold box with red stones on it.

Then Mrs Gardland put a little embroidered cross in the Bible and closed its pages reverently. She took off her spectacles and laid them on the table, and they all knelt down to pray.

They prayed for the Queen and Country, for the three doves, Peace, Wisdom, and Understanding, and they thanked God for all the blessings of this life.

But Susan's head began to nod, and she rested it on the hard chair. When the others arose, she still knelt there, fast asleep."

[Christmas Eve, from Chapter 11, 'December', in Alison Uttley's magical The Country Child (first published by Faber & Faber in 1931). American readers will find The Country Child here. The lovely Christmas wreath illustration is courtesy of Animation Factory.]

May Peace, Wisdom, and Understanding be with You and All the World this Christmastide. Philip.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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