5 New Year’s Resolutions!

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Beginnings follow endings, as sure as day follows night.

That’s the thing we often forget about endings, that they inevitably open a new door and lead us in a new direction. There is such possibility in the start of anything – the first day of a New Year, the first page of a new notebook, the first words with a new acquaintance. That wonder that only the unknown can bring, that belief that perfection is attainable.

This sense of possibility is why despite a record blotted with failure, I love the concept of the resolution.  My glass half-full nature, allows me to completely disregard all evidence to the contrary and believe this year is the year that resolve will translate to reality.

So what are my 2016 resolutions?

And by writing them down am I more likely stop them disappearing down a rabbit hole, never to burrow their way back to the surface of my life.

My 5 New Years Resolutions:

  • Stop taking criticism personally.  Recently, I have realised that I take too many people’s opinions on-board and to heart, even if I don’t fundamentally accept them.  This year I am going to try and very clearly keep my eye on the line between the personal and the professional and trust my instincts a little more. I am determined to try to weigh up how important other people’s opinions are, or should be, with a little more objectivity. Hillary Clinton expressed my resolution better than I could, saying :

“Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you. 

  • Exercise. Sport and general fitness has always had a huge role in my life.  I have played team sports to high levels, run a marathon and spent countless hours in countless classes.  This past year however, the lure of laziness was somehow irresistible. From tomorrow, that changes and 2016 will be more active.
  • Host a dinner party. I can cook, I may not be the most accomplished chef, but I tend to produce food that is non-fatal,edible, and on good days even tasty. More importantly, I love to cook. However, the very notion of cooking for other people makes me anxious, in a break out
    in a rash and turn into some slightly psychotic lunatic over the pattern on the plates kinda way. So I just avoid the neurosis by avoiding the situation. So my resolution –  before 365 days have elapsed, I will have invited friends for dinner.

  • Keep blogging.  Blogging is still a novelty to me. Although I have been a fan of blogs for a long time, the experience of writing myself was a new departure. It has been cathartic and rewarding, a pressure release valve at the end of stressful days. I may not have embarked on it without a little push, but I am resolved to stay committed to it for 2016.  Posting may not be daily but it will be regular.
  • Healthy Eating.  I love food.  Nutritious food. Junk food. Simple food. Fine dining. I like to read menus, hoard recipe books, read food blogs, wander around supermarkets, go out to eat, cook at home, discuss food, take pictures of food. You get the idea.  So I resolve to embrace what I love, but in a way that is good for me. Not obsessively or compulsively, but with a 60-40 balance at the very least. So expect to see some healthier, cleaned-up recipes on here in 2016.

So there it is, my great intentions for the year ahead.  I may or may not succeed, but I will at least try to take simple steps, that move me a little closer, to being a version of myself that I like the idea of.

And I suppose the most important thing about beginnings is understanding the need to let some things go.  Let go of fixed ideas, let go of bad habits, let go even sometimes of things you have loved.  Pablo Neruda, captured perfectly, how letting go and moving forward is not always easy but it is an inevitable part of the human condition.  Neruda says. “Love is so short, and oblivion so long”.  The phrase is equally apt if “Life” replaces “Love” in the line.  Life is so, so short. Never stop resolving to be who you really want to be and strive always to achieve whatever it is you dream of.  Just remember, that you can’t embrace the future, if you remain rooted immovably in the past xx

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example,’The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.’

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is shattered and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. Like my kisses before.
Her void. Her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, and oblivion so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

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A Christmas Beauty Box!

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The concept of beauty boxes was new to me until very recently but this year I subscribed to Look Fantastic for some cosmetic treats to be delivered to the door.

The first delivery was the limited edition Christmas box and it was so much fun to receive this little parcel of surprises.  I love the packaging, and gingerly lifting the lid and opening the tissue paper to reveal the mystery loot, brought me lots of pleasure.

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As for the contents… Firstly there was a set of Eylure lashes, but as I already have both freakishly long lashes, and a notoriously poor ability to follow straight lines, I will seek another home for them.

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These aside, almost everything else in this little box of loveliness, will be put to good use.  Some have already begun their trial.

There is a Molton Brown shower gel and a hairbrush for wet hair, that is so soft it seems impossible that it could actually detangle, but it does!!! There is also a shimmering eye pencil, perfect for the party season.

And then to the real treasures buried in the trove.

Firstly, an Eve Lom morning cleanser.  Having used this in the shower for the last few days, I just adore how soft my skin feels after it, no easy task in the depths of winter.  Personally, despite it being almost Christmassy, I don’t love the aroma of this but it is a small price to pay. The product is paste-like in the tube, applies to the skin like an oil, but rinses off beautifully, leaving no greasy residue in its wake. I need to give it a few more uses but I am impressed so far.

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Finally, probably the most luxurious item in the beauty haul, was the Codage Paris Serum No. 3.  While this is beyond my regular skincare budget, I do find a little goes a long way and it is absorbing beautifully.

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All in all, I really enjoyed my first beauty box and very much look forward to more such wonderfully packaged surprises in the future.

Hope you had a similarly treat-filled Christmas Day xxxx

 

Girlie Lunch from the Sea

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Can you really beat a girlie lunch, with friends who have been around for decades?  One of those  lazy lunches where you sit, giggle and gossip and catch up on all that has been going on with each other. Yesterday, I had one such lunch, with three wonderful ladies and the fact that the food was excellent only added to the afternoon.

We ate in a lovely little restaurant outside Tralee, Co. Kerry called Spa Seafoods.  It doubles as a fish shop, so the quality of the produce is never in doubt.

We started with shellfish in different guises.   There was mussels in a delicious, buttery sauce, with crispy French loaf for dunking purposes.  Prawns in a crispy tempura batter and a smoked salmon roulade.  All were devoured and thoroughly enjoyed.

Mains consisted of a seafood platter, a prawn and monk-fish curry, crabs claws and pan-fried sea-bass. Again, plates were cleared all round and each dish was executed well and presented beautifully. All four ladies opted for a side-dish of potato gratin, which was average but happily over-shadowed by the excellent seafood. Sparkling water and a house white wine were a welcome accompaniment and the meal was rounded off with some perfectly palatable coffees in various forms.

It is great to come home to a part of the country where fresh fish is so accessible and I would heartily recommend this seafood bistro to anyone spending time in the Kerry area.

Bubbles and Brussel’s Sprouts

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Another Christmas Day has elapsed peacefully, surrounded by family and enough food to sustain a small country. We are recovering by sitting around in our PJs, sipping steaming mugs of coffee and watching retro cartoons.

Yesterday, I took responsibility for the pre-dinner aperitifs and I was so pleased with how my seasonal cocktail turned out.  Festive in taste and colour, it would be equally apt for a New Year’s Eve drinks gathering.   The recipe is from Nigella’s Christmas and is called Poinsettia.

Poinsettia

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of Champagne or Prosecco
  • Cointreau
  • Cranberry Juice (well chilled)
  • Fresh cranberries (for garnish)

Method:

Pour a bottle of whatever fizz you choose into a large jug.  Add a half a cup of Cointreau and two cups of cranberry juice.

Serve in champagne flutes with a couple of fresh cranberries for decoration.  Enjoy xx

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While most people have to engage with the challenge of cooking large quantities of food for entire families, I simply had to sip fizzy cocktails and watch my mother-in-law do most of the work.  I was, however, tasked with looking after the Brussels Sprouts and in a manner akin to Pheobe’s commitment to cups and ice in Friends, I wanted my sprouts to take centre stage.  And while they may not have quite overshadowed the festive poultry, they worked out very well.

Sumptuous Sprouts:

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of sprouts
  • 5 Rashers of streaky bacon.
  • Butter
  • Black pepper
  • Half a cup of chicken stock .

Method:

Cook the bacon until it is crisp and set aside to cool. Remove the outer leaves of each sprout and shred/ grate them until they look like green ribbons. Cook the sprouts in the stock in a wide bottom pan, for about 5 minutes.  Keep the heat high to allow the stock to reduce. When the sprouts are slightly softened, remove them with a slotted spoon and discard any remaining stock.

Melt a generous knob of butter in the pan. Return the sprouts and season generously with black pepper. Crumble in the bacon and serve warm.

I enjoyed the melancholic sounds of the wonderful Sarah McLachlan whilst working on the lunch.  Wintersong is a personal favourite for this time of year.

The Emily Bronte poem, Love and Friendship, also feels very seasonal and conveys a strong message about the two titular concepts. Bronte considers the beauty of love, by comparing it to a wild rose.  And yet roses have thorns and love can hurt.  Love, she suggests, can also be a seasonal enough emotion and struggle to endure the difficulties of winter. Friendship however, the poem appears to suggest, can endure much more.  It is compared to holly, the festive bloom, that is characterised by beautiful red berries and extraordinary resilience. It is still there when summer roses have died. Friendship endures.  Prioritise it and it will get you through life’s darkest days.

Love and Friendship by Emily Bronte

Love is like the wild rose-briar,
Friendship like the holly-tree —
The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms
But which will bloom most contantly?
The wild-rose briar is sweet in the spring,
Its summer blossoms scent the air;
Yet wait till winter comes again
And who wil call the wild-briar fair?
Then scorn the silly rose-wreath now
And deck thee with the holly’s sheen,
That when December blights thy brow
He may still leave thy garland green.

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Sensational Seafood Chowder

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.”  – Cesar Chavez

Officially on holidays, I have relocated for the next couple of weeks, to a little village in Co. Kerry, that I am lucky enough to call home.  My hubby had gone on a few days ahead of me and so I arrived to a warm house with fairy lights twinkling, logs stacked for the fire and champagne chilling in the fridge.  A quick visit from my parents, just after I had parked up, made it feel like the festivities were really ready to get going. This summer photo captures the view from our front door, although it is decidedly more grey today.

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A lazy day lies ahead – finishing the gift-wrapping, visiting some relations and enjoying  a yummy seafood chowder lunch.  This recipe belongs to a good friend who has very graciously allowed me to share it.  It is comforting and delicious, perfect with some home-made brown bread and lots of local butter.  Don’t worry about measurements too much here, just trust your eye and taste regularly.

Simple Seafood Chowder:

Ingredients:

  • 5 or 6 Spring Onions, roughly chopped
  • A handful of mushrooms
  • A couple of knobs of butter
  • Smoked fish (I used two lightly smoked salmon fillets)
  • 2 pieces of white fish (unsmoked cod or hake)
  • A couple of handfuls of prawns
  • Some cooked crab meat
  • 1 carton of double cream
  • Milk
  • Frozen peas
  • Salt and black pepper

Method:

Place the butter, mushrooms and the spring onions in a wide bottom pan on a medium heat.  When the butter has melted and the onions and mushrooms are slightly softened, add the milk and cream. Season with a little salt and lots of black pepper. Quantities are best measured by eye, but generally about a pint and a half of milk. Let the mixture come to a strong simmer so the liquid thickens (you could add one diced potato with the onions to create further texture if desired)

Once the liquid is bubbling, add the white and smoked fish, removing any skin (you can use any type of fish you like, but the combination of the smoked and the white fish is what works best). Flake the fish gently as it cooks to form rough, bite sized pieces.  It will gently poach in the milk mixture.  When the fish looks like it is nearly cooked and the mixture is starting to thicken slightly, add the prawns, peas and crab meat and cook for an other five minutes or so.

Check the seasoning and serve with freshly baked bread. Perfect with a chilled glass of sparkling Prosecco and some great company.  Enjoy xx

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The Meaning of Christmas..to me!!

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…”  – Kipling

The last lazy Sunday before the festive season really gets going and I am tiptoeing into the day in stockinged feet.  It feels like an afternoon to try and keep calm as the madness of materialism is in full swing.

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Yesterday, I struggled to park in the mayhem, of the normally quite tranquil, local supermarket. I watched people “running blind”, to coin my father-in-law’s phrase, stressed and hassled in an urge to tick items off the list and I questioned, not for the first time, whether we have lost sight of what the holidays are really about.  Even if you are not religious, Christmas should be spiritual.  Even if you are not romantic, the season should be magical. No matter how independent you are, for the next couple of weeks, the people you love should be your priority.

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The indulgence of Christmas for me, is not about lavish gifts, but little luxuries like putting a dash of pouring cream or Bailey’s through your coffee after dinner. It is about a chocolate truffle where there may normally be an apple. It is about inviting friends to a dinner that might regularly just be for two.  It is about always making room for dessert!

At Christmas, kids movies are for adults. Frosty the Snowman forces a smile. Homes always smell of food. Walks become essential to survival; we need to move to make room to eat more. Mulled wine in pyjamas is acceptable and the heating is always on. Drinks have bubbles, music plays, doors are unlocked. Decadence doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag!!

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The moments that are major in our lives are not the ones that are budgeted for and choreographed. They are the ones that creep gently up on us, sometimes with such subtlety, we may not even remember them happen. How many of us have people in our world that own a little piece of our hearts, but we barely remember the day we first met them?

Christina Rosetti captures  it perfectly in this stunning, romantic sonnet:

“I wish I could remember that first day”

I wish I could remember that first day,
    First hour, first moment of your meeting me,
    If bright or dim the season, it might be
Summer or Winter for aught I can say;
So unrecorded did it slip away,
    So blind was I to see and to foresee,
    So dull to mark the budding of my tree
That would not blossom yet for many a May.
If only I could recollect it, such
    A day of days! I let it come and go
    As traceless as a thaw of bygone snow;
It seemed to mean so little, meant so much;
If only now I could recall that touch,
    First touch of hand in hand – Did one but know!
by Christina Rosetti
We will always miss some of the seminal moments in our lives, will always wish we could relive them, but maybe if we were a little more in tune with the things that really matter – people and experiences – we would miss a little less x

 

Winter Weekends xx

It’s been too long. In such a short time the whole blogging process has become quite cathartic for me, like releasing a little air in order to stay afloat. But the past ten days  have been crazy and I just didn’t find the time. I missed the release and I am glad to say – I’m back!

Busy as it has been, I am now officially winding down for the holidays and relishing the prospect of a couple of weeks of family, food, cocktails and books…and hopefully lots of blogging!

For my literary diet, I was given a copy of A Man Called Ove by a colleague, and if the reviews are anything to go by I am in for a treat.

There are also a number of books on this list of 25 Incredible Novels that have somehow slipped through my personal net, and I am hoping to at least partially address this. First off, Number the Stars, which sounds like a simple, emotional tale, told with a some wonderfully poetic prose (my favourite type of oxymoron).  “She fell asleep, and it was a sleep as thin as the night clouds, dotted with dreams that came and went like the stars.”

I am excitedly awaiting a delivery of some new winter boots to get me through the remaining weeks of rain and cold. This black, knee high pair from River Island, was reduced in their pre-Christmas sale and is currently winging its way to me.  They have a particularly attractive, almost worn-in looking, leather and just the right amount of height for the flatshoephobes amongst us.

While I was shopping I also indulged in a couple of simple, casual pieces, all from River Island.

Lots of things completely pass me by, fads and trends have often come and gone, without leaving the merest blip on my radar. But can someone please tell me how I completely missed Elf!!! I am not a big Will Ferrel fan to be fair but 13 years later and I saw this festive gem in full for the first time. I laughed and cried and just generally loved every minute of it.

 From my web browsing, I bookmarked this article about naming children, for my sister-in-law who is currently pregnant and going through the choosing and discarding names phase.

I was also inspired to live in the moment and stop wishing the days away by this post on embracing winter.

I marvelled at the beautiful photography on this blog.

Over the holidays, I am planning to create a simple blogging space/ workspace that looks something like this.

Finally today’s task, along with trying to defeat holiday packing procrastination, is gift wrapping.  And I am taking some inspiration from Katie’s tips and including a candy cane gift tag on each present.

Have a great weekend xx

5 Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep.

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O sleep, O gentle sleep,
Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down
And steep my sense in forgetfulness?
~William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 1

Shakespeare regularly knows exactly how I feel and can express it with far greater eloquence. And pleading with sleep, wondering what I did to offend it and wanting it to descend upon me, occupied far too many hours of my thoughts last night. But thankfully a night of insomnia, the kind of night where I toss and turn endlessly, is for me the exception as opposed to the rule.  And so not being able to sleep last night, led me to consider what I normally do to counteract insomnia.

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  1. Tea:   I sip chamomile tea as I am winding down and starting to think about bed. It is calming and hydrating and definitely helps me unwind.
  2. A cool environment:   I also turn off the heating so the room is warm but not too hot.  In warmer weather I often sleep with the window open slightly. I find a cooler room helps me sleep better, but whatever your preferences, at least make sure the temperature is comfortable for you.
  3. Ditch the screens:   I find that if I don’t look at my phone or laptop in bed, my unwinding process is far more effective.
  4. Read:   I read until my eyes won’t stay open any longer. Thankfully, this generally doesn’t take too long. I do find however, that some books are not conducive to falling asleep and so I avoid books that unnerve me in any way or are so exciting I don’t want to put them down.
  5. Routine:  I aim to go to bed at roughly the same time on weeknights and follow a similar bedtime routine. I like to go to bed about 10.30pm and wake naturally about 6.30am.

So these are my tips for a good night’s sleep.  Unfortunately last night I broke all the rules – think caffeine, alcohol, food too late, laptop in bed, no reading and a bedroom that was too stuffy.  The result was I lost count of the sheep long before I was able to unwind and doze off.

Tonight, I have learnt my lesson, so good night and sleep tight, it is time for me to turn off my screen.  But remember, “laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone”!!!!

Monday Morning Make-Up

For someone who would say make-up and beauty is not really my thing, I have a lot of products littering the dressing table (window-sill!!). I also have a fairly standard routine, that works fairly well for me. As I went on a bit of a beauty product splurge yesterday, I thought I would share a little of the old and the new.

Firstly, below are the products I use on a daily basis, pictured in the order I use them. Clearly, I am a creature of habit when it comes to makeup. Notice that I am also very much a Benefit Girl, although that is partly laziness and a few of these products I don’t think I will purchase again.

 

 

The Kiehl’s moisturiser I had read great reviews of but it seems greasy on my skin and I prefer it as a night cream to be honest. One of the items that will be swapped out when it is finished. On the other hand, the combination of Benefit’s Porefessional and Hello Flawless work really well for me, creating a natural day time look that lasts for hours. Perfect for work! The concealer however is another product that I will be looking for an alternative to when it is due to be replaced, I just don’t love it for a high end product.

My eye make-up also needs a shake-up, I am going to go for a different nude palette for 2016 and while I LOVE, LOVE the look of this mascara, removal is a little too challenging for every day make-up. Benetint on the other hand is a keeper. It is a favourite of mine to put a little colour in my pale Irish cheeks. Finally, to complete the look, the two Mac products are great and appear to last forever.  I am a lip gloss addict, so I carry numerous versions and it is the only element of my look that gets touched up throughout the day.

As for my newest beauty buys, I decided to address the fact that I am stuck in a bit of a rut and subscribe to the Look Fantastic Beauty Box scheme. I love the idea of a monthly box of treats being to delivered to my door for me to sample and review. Can’t wait for this beautiful December offering to arrive.

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As anyone who highlights their hair regularly will attest, battling to drag the hairbrush through the ends is simply par for the course. So I also made the long overdue purchase of a Tangle Teezer, something that seems to becoming a bit of a cult product. I look forward to seeing if it lives up to the hype.

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And in the spirit of loving my much abused locks, I also treated them to some decent Tigi products, in this cute festive gift set. Love the smell of the Tigi Bedhead range.

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So if you have any suggestions for switching up my daily make-up routine in 2016, feel free to offer them x

Do we experience too much?

 

 

The Sunday Poem: Advent by Patrick Kavanagh

As always, I have a little poetic offering for Sunday morning, poetry perhaps being my personal form of prayer. As it is officially December, I have chosen Patrick Kavanagh’s poem Advent. A poem that brings me right back to my school days.

Kavanagh was a poet whose sense of place defined his work and whose writing was characterised by his love-hate relationship with his rural, Catholic upbringing, in the small village of Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan.  His genius lies in his ability to see the epic in the everyday, the magic in the mundane. This unique skill has rendered him one of Ireland’s most respected and revered poets.

The double sonnet Advent contains one of my favourite lines from all literature. The phrase “through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder”, possibly has even more relevance today than ever before. Is it possible that more we know or think we know, the less of our innocence and sense of wonder and awe we retain?  The world is at our fingertips now, gratification is rarely delayed, we see little value in denying ourselves the things we want.  This is, of course, not entirely a bad thing, but if “we have tested and tasted too much”, too soon, is it not harder to find things that take our breath away?

Kavanagh, I think, is encouraging us to simplify things a little.  We do not need more experiences, more possessions, even more knowledge.  In fact we need less, a little self-denial to reawaken the senses perhaps. A mini-lent before the excesses of Christmas.

I think his message is simple; recalibrate the way we view the world around us, simplify our lives, look at little harder to see the wonder and newness in the ordinary world around us.   Maybe we should all take Kavanagh’s advice this week and look for the mystical and the magical tucked away within the bits and pieces of the everyday.

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Advent by Patrick Kavanagh

We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child’s soul, we’ll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.

And the newness that was in every stale thing
When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking
Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill
Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking
Of an old fool will awake for us and bring
You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins
And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.

O after Christmas we’ll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-
We’ll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we’ll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won’t we be rich, my love and I, and please
God we shall not ask for reason’s payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God’s breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-
And Christ comes with a January flower.