Sunday, 14 December 2014

'A Perfect Christmas' by Kev Milsom (written 2003, re-edited 2014)


T'was Christmas time up in Lapland,
old Santa stood wiping his brow,
'I hope Farmer Giles will be pleased' said he,
as he finished gift-wrapping a cow.
But working nearby in the corner, stood
a young elf named Fnarg Applepip,
who sighed loud and then shouted in anger,
'I can't get this bottle into this ship!'
In his rage he picked up the tangled wood
and threw it hard, along with the glass.
The ship's maiden voyage was a sail through the air,
before it docked, deep in old Santa's ass.
The helpers all started to panic
and poor Fnarg went as white as a mint,
while Santa uttered some very bad words
as his rear went a shocking, red tint.
His helpers, they rallied and started to tug
but, although their pulling was frantic,
protruding from Santa could clearly be seen,
the propeller and two funnels of 'The Titanic'.
Mrs Santa was called to the scene of the crime,
where she screamed and fell down to the floor,
screaming again as she fell on some marbles
and even louder as she rolled out the door.
'I'll fix Santa's wounds!' said Norman,
as he jumped down from a very high shelf,
'Thank heavens for that!' the helpers all cried,
'For Norman, the National Elf'.
But now they all had a big problem,
for Santa's trip of twenty-four thousand miles
could never take place with a ship in his bum,
which was playing merry hell with his piles.
'It's your fault, you steaming great numpty!'
The helpers yelled at Fnarg, in a rage,
'We're now running forty-five minutes late,
he should be dashing over Spain at this stage!'
So Fnarg was hustled and bustled,
as they squeezed him into a red suit,
then glued on some wool for a fluffy, white beard
and finished him off with black boots.
'You've got to get going immediately!'
Said an elderly gnome named Ray,
'Santa's having extractive surgery,
so we need you to leave right away!'
Just then a door opened and in walked a pixie,
Herringbone Twang was his name,
his eyes rolling madly with panic,
his arms full with toys and games.
'Things look bad' said he, with a frown,
'The kids' presents aren't going well at all,
all the bicycles have got square tyres,
the 'Swingball' is all swing and no ball...
Barbie's  totally drunk in the kitchen,
singing a very loud, vulgar song,
while Action Man watches her clapping,
Shoving Monopoly cash in her thong...
Ken's in the cupboard with Sindy,
they're all over each other,' he groaned,
'The Pokemon are all playing 'Russian Roulette' 
and Winnie the Pooh just got stoned...
in the toy hospital it's total chaos,
beds all full of sick Beanie Babies,
they're all screaming and frothing at the mouth,
I'm starting to think they've got rabies...
The Playstation 4's have all gone on strike,
Bob the Builder's gone gay,
Noddy's doing a ram-raid in Toytown,
all in all, it's a hell of a day!'
Now in everyone's life, there comes a time
when we have to stand up and be brave,
so they found Fnarg hiding in a flowerpot 
and frogmarched him to the Santa Cave.
There, down in the grotto, his eyes fell upon
a pure vision of Christmas delight,
for the walls were all covered with magic
and the floors shone with sweet, rainbow light.
There, in the middle, stood a sight to behold,
a huge sleigh of gold, steel and wood,
ready to deliver gifts to all girls and boys
who've been good all year round, as they should.
There the magnificent reindeer were:
Dasher, Vixen, Comet and Dancer,
Blitzen, Donner, Bernard then Cupid
and eating a cream bun, brave Prancer.
At the head stood Rudolph the Red Nose - 
so handsome and quick to the last!
Behind him was Bernard the Brown Nose - 
just as speedy, but can't stop so fast.
'Now listen!' Said Herringbone Twang to Fnarg,
'We don't have time for any twaddle.
It's late and we're really up a certain creek...
and we don't even have any paddle.
So, you go out there and do your best,
I know there's no presents to give out,
but there's enough fairy dust magic for one last wish...
this is YOUR fault, you stupid, great lout! 
For, with Santa disabled, the toys have rebelled
and all of their magic's gone bad,
so you've got this small pile of fairy dust,
I want the best Christmas we've ever had!
Let's see billions of happy smiles
and people with no worried care...
if you don't then I'll rip both your arms off
and feed them to Paddington Bear!'
So Fnarg was thrown in the back of the sleigh
and Rudolph's red nose twinkled bright,
as the reindeer and sleigh swooped skywards,
up into the starry, clear night.
Young Fnarg stared hard at the fairy dust
and wondered quite what he could do,
just now he'd been putting ships into bottles
but now he was deep in the poo.
With just enough magic for one big wish
he thought hard about what he should say...
perhaps he could aim for bringing world peace...
or make hunger and famine go away.
Fnarg looked out and saw twinkling lights,
as far as his eyes could see
and said 'Just make Christmas a perfect time,
make it joyful, as it really should be.
Take away all the stress throughout the world
and all things that make Christmas unpleasant,
put an end to pressures, worry and greed
and ban the giving of presents.'
From the sleigh there came a flash and a bang,
then suddenly nothing but quiet.
'That was perfect' said Rudolph, turning his head.
'I hope so,' said Fnarg, 'had to try it.'
The sleigh turned east and flew through the air
as it returned to the chilly North Pole.
'No more presents?' yelled the elves, when he told them.
'Oh great, we'll all be on the dole!'
On Christmas morning over six billion people 
awoke with huge smiles on their face,
then each closed their eyes slowly
and said a prayer for the whole human race.
Not a thought was aimed to wrapped presents,
or the size of the turkey they had,
instead everyone thought of their loved ones
and sent prayers to the sick and the sad.
No-one homeless sat on the roadside,
those without were invited inside,
the world rang with torrents of laughter
and everyone's heart shone with pride.
People forgot all religious division
and the colour of one's skin at birth,
for the first time people truly listened
to their brothers and sisters on Earth.
They danced and listened intently,
while smiling for all of the day,
meaning all hatred, fear and ignorance
began melting and fading away.
In the evening as darkness descended,
a pinpoint in the sky grew bright
and all who watched the hovering star
knew that all was perfectly right.
'How long will it last?' said Fnarg Applepip,
to Santa, who stood by his side,
both watching the light in the sky grow in strength,
their eyes and their mouths open wide.
'A day...a month...who can tell?
At least they're not living in fear.
In theory, it should be forever...
if not, there's always next year.
You've given them hope and shown them peace,
in short - now they have a new start.
It's their lesson to become even closer,
instead of finding ways to keep them apart.
Let them feel the joy of unconditional love
and let them find their true way.'
So ended an important day for all humans.
The most perfect of all Christmas days.

Kev Milsom © 2003

New Year - New Frame of Mind.


2014 has been an odd year. 
In truth, the last few years have all been a little odd.  Being slightly of the 'odd' persuasion myself, I'm well used to a bit of 'odd', here and there, but it has to be said that currently the levels of oddness are showing a definite increase on past years.  

A part of this is entirely down to that favourite old chestnut - 'What do I want from my life and how can I make it happen?'
Never an easy one to tackle, especially if one is totally unsure about a) 'what one wants from life' & b) 'how to make this happen'.
In terms of my writing, the last few years have followed an often new and exciting (if slightly meandering) direction.  In positive terms, this has meant taking university study in all forms of creative writing - something I absolutely adore.
On the not-so positive front, this has meant studying other subjects alongside the creative writing, in pursuit of a fabled trophy known as an 'honours degree'.

With the benefit of hindsight, I took on this quest partly for myself and partly out of respect for my mother.  When she passed away in 2009, in the aftermath of dealing with her painfully-slow, physical demise, I convinced myself that this was a sign for me to do something new...something she would be proud of.
I took the fact that I was fast approaching the age of 50 as another golden sign.  Yes, this was definitely a turning point in my life...the omens were clear.  I could get my degree and become a teacher. After all, I had spent the last 12 years home-educating our daughters.  The curriculum was still fresh in my head.  I could find square roots of anything, while understanding the molecular structure of objects, our position in the vastness of the universe and - more importantly - when to correctly use a semi-colon.  
With a feeling of being 'reborn', I began designing a tattoo involving a phoenix bravely rising from the ashes, to symbolise my 'newness'...until I remembered my lifelong fear of needles...but still, dammit, it was a sign!  Verily, I gathered my finest sword, took my first step on the metaphorical road to success to smite the fire-breathing dragon of uncertainty at the summit of Mount Destiny.  
This was to be my moment and I was ready.

It started well.  My first few steps - purely to see if I could handle the pressures of such an educational challenge - were firm and reliable.  My first ever university module in digital photography, during which I would often pause with, camera around neck, and gaze up to the clouds, as if to say, 'Look Mum...I'm at university!' went better than planned.  Needing 40% to pass the course I weighed in with a hefty 94%.
My sword, now twice as long and six times as sharp, rested against my thigh - awaiting the next challenges.
Modules in the Arts and Creative Writing followed.  Each duly dispatched by my sword, who now screamed out, in wisps of fiery breath, to have its own name.  
Duly, it was appointed 'Cecil - Vanquisher of all University Modules and Slayer of Academic Essays.'

For two years, Cecil (VoaUMaSoAE) and I blazed a brave trail through the misty trails of uncertain university modules. 
Delicately, we dodged several pools of despair, tiptoed gingerly through minefields of referencing/bibliography and battled ferociously through the forests of wtf-is-going-on.  
Once the creative writing parts had been conquered, mapped and learned, the next stage of my quest began.
In order to pursue this 'holy grail', I would need to complete my degree with 'other stuff'.
Here, the path took a much steeper turn.  Learning about things we like is a lot easier than poring over huge lists of potential modules and picking a pathway through.  
What to study?  
Should I delve into history - another passion?  Not according to the feedback from former students who had vainly fought thirty-headed beasts and fallen on the muddy fields of battle - leaving 'Beware This Path' signs as their final deed.
The university - at first a charming collection of helpful smiles - also began to show a different face.  Modules of vast interest began to disappear from view, as if extinguished by a cold and merciless hand upon the light switch of fate.  (OK...a bit melodramatic yes, but you get the point).
As study paths sank within the vague, forlorn mistiness, surrounding the Isles of Uncertainty...(OK, I'll stop it now) options became fewer. I found myself pondering over such questions as 'Could I learn Welsh in a year?'  It would have got me to Level 2 and from there I could...well I could find get to Level 3 and my glittering prize.

Purely to complete Level 1, I took a module in sociology.  In truth, I knew more about the feeding patterns of the Arctic Tern, but I picked it because it was preferable to Welsh...or Ancient Greek....or a whole wave of nasty-looking foes of which I knew even less about.
From knowing bugger-all, I secured a good pass in sociology and finally sheathed Cecil in his summer hibernation until I would need him again in the autumn of 2014.  Hurrah!  The end was in sight...well, still at least some years away, along with thousands of pounds...but an end nonetheless!

Yet now, a new fear approached and stalked me...namely, the enemy known as weariness.  The original plan had been a noble and worthy one.  Get a degree, take a teaching course, become a teacher.  A fine and noble plan which would have indeed made my mother very proud. However, sometimes time has a way of unpicking the worthy threads of noble intent and scattering them spitefully into the twisting tornadoes of torment.  (Sorry, I promise that's the last one...scout's honour). 
Since the onset of my chase for a degree, certain things had transpired.  Firstly, my age was in doubt.  A year into my degree I made an enquiry to a local, Gloucestershire college which offered teacher training to graduates.  At the question, 'how old are you?' my honest answer of '47 and a bit' had created an ominous silence.  It was then explained to me that 50 was the usual maximum age at which teachers were trained.  Might I complete my degree quicker?
The honest answer to that was 'no'.  It was taking all my finances just to remain doing any sort of 'fast-track' was out of the question.
Problem #2 then emerged.   I had heard from various sources that the teaching profession was in urgent need of teachers...not just that, it was desperate for MALE teachers.  Being firmly of the male persuasion, I took this news initially as a good thing - if there was a shortage then I might find work quicker than I had imagined.  In hindsight, I may have found some of the reasons why male teachers are in short supply.
I approached several local schools and offered my services as an unpaid volunteer - explaining my degree path, my past experience in home education, etc, etc.  
Not a single sausage of information came my way.
I tried again - using a volunteer website to strengthen my application.
When I tried the direct approach, the looks of horror I received were demoralising.  In my head, I was imagining myself as a bold, confident student, with the noble intent of helping kids to read, sums...learn about the world.  All that stuff.
In reality, what I believe the staff saw was a middle-aged man with greying hair, asking if he could 'get to know the kiddies'.  It dawned on me slowly that while I was asking questions, the teachers would draw the children closer to them...just in case I might be 'one of those' men...the type you read about in the Sunday papers.

Suitably disheartened, I cancelled my planned university studies in education and sought another option.  Surely I could use my degree for something worthwhile?
By October of this year, my army was weakened and my trusty Cecil (VoaUMaSoAE) was starting to think of his retirement home, hanging above the mantlepiece against an oaken board.
It took months to pick out a module to complete my Level 2 studies.  In the end I went with religion.  I like religion - not from an internal, theological aspect, but certainly from a psychological, sociological angle - why do we believe?  Why do we have faith?  What makes us take one spiritual pathway and not another?  All that.
The course was fascinating...but...academically, I was done.  
I was also fighting the idea that the 'holy grail' of my honours degree was, in reality, worthless.  Had it gone to the Antiques Road Show then it wouldn't have made it to the televised part.  
'Sorry mate, I'll give you 50p for offer'.

To top everything off, the uselessness of writing constant academic essays, in pursuit of something which would look nice in a frame on the wall, but in truth, meant nothing, was having other negative effects. It was stopping me from doing what I loved....namely writing.
Despite being published in total 6 times, since 2012, (something my mother would also have been extremely proud of) my ideas and plots for new stories had became nothing more than scribbled notes on my word processor, or scattered bits of paper littered over my desk.  
By the time I realised that I was following the wrong dream, I already had notes for 9 complete novels, 16 short stories, at least 2 books of poetry and several non-fiction books.
The game was up.  I'd tried my best and done OK - my modules have scored between 74% and 94%.  I was even still in line for a 'First' had I continued with my studies.  I know a part of me will regret not continuing, but I had to be honest with myself.  The road was going nowhere.  I needed to be true to who I was.  I believe I'm a's taken me 51 years to realise that snippet of information and - in many ways - this has been what has held me back...or more importantly I've held myself back.
Net lesson learned:  we should go for what we want in life...what makes our hearts burst with energy, inspiration and pride...not always what is expected of make us feel 'normal'.
I wish I'd learned this sooner...but better now than when I'm 93 and terrorising the staff in an old folks' home with my off-key singing and deranged plans to invade the Isle of Man with an army of armoured hedgehogs.

I've made plans to complete my university studies - for a Higher Diploma of Education - over the next two years.
More importantly, I've given myself some time to chase a dream.  not only to chase after it in vague, pitch-patch steps, but to bloody well go for it, my Cecil in hand and screaming like an enraged Viking warrior. resolution for 2015 is as follows:
(a) Write.
(b) Keep writing.
(c) Write every day.
(d) See (a)

My writing goals for 2015 are as follows:
(I)   Add at least 100,000 words to my first novel, 'Age of Bronze'
(II)  Completely finish 5 of the 16 short stories on my list.
(III) Finish at least one of the books of poetry.
(IV) Complete at least 3 non-fiction articles on parapsychology, metaphysics or the paranormal.

New year, new objectives, new challenges.
Most importantly, as I take this new path, this time it genuinely feels as if the sun is finally shining on my face.
Wish me luck.   :)