Christmas can come and go, as far as I am concerned. One of the great satisfactions of living here is that one isn’t bombarded with mindless advertising, ‘Jungle Balls’ and ‘Frosty the Ruddy Snow Elf’ from mid-October. A friend last year had inflatable snowmen prominently displayed on her balcony for several weeks, complete with neon fairy lights, flashing intermittently. Had there been a roof available to her, she would almost certainly have had reindeer and sleigh, plus sound effects. There is, it seems, a chink in my bah humbuggery, however. I have been asked to think up something to do for Midnight Mass and came across Steeleye Span’s incomparable “Gaudete” from 1972. One of the best folk voices of the 1970’s, Maddy Prior runs Stones Barn, an artistic retreat for singing, poetry and folk music near Bewcastle in the North of England. Memories. What a rush.


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