Yesterday was Martinmas, the festival of winter's beginning; the day when German children carry lanterns in procession through the streets following St Martin, a very good and kind-hearted man, riding a white horse to the church, where they come upon a poor beggar shivering on the church steps. St Martin, with a great flourish, takes off his warm cloak, draws his sword and cuts the cloak in two and throws half to the beggar, who receives it gratefully and wraps himself up. It's a lovely story which I have told elsewhere and quite a profitable one for children. Not only do they learn to be kind to those in need but they are also rewarded handsomely with a bag full of delicious bonbons, chocolates, apples and biscuits.
In the UK Armistice Day was commemorated and Valley's End had donned a suitably mournful mantle. the whole day remained grey, with very low visibility, the mist dripping steadily, sadly, as if nature herself wept despairing tears over the endless slaughter which mankind inflicts on itself and will no doubt continue to do, no matter on how many solemn occasions we stand and bow our heads in sorrow.
On such a day it is best to gather friends around you and spend a happy evening talking by the fire. A pleasant meal, a bottle of wine, a large dog to lie by your chair, who doesn't mind your stockinged feet warming themselves on his belly, and good-natured conversation, most of it undemanding, and getting more so as the evening progresses and the contents of the bottle sink to the kind of level where it's best to open another one, and perhaps another one after that. The kind of evening where you plan good things for the place you call home, where members of the community depend on each other and where warfare is something brought to you via TV. One of you mentions that the church roof is leaking badly and needs urgent repairs and perhaps you start to discuss means of fundraising. A Safari dinner seemed a good idea, they always go down well and raise large amounts of money. Somebody else mentioned a christmas party for children of the local Infants School, to be organised by ladies of 'a certain age' rather than young mums, who are too busy to to do more than buy small presents for Father Christmas to distribute. A party which children remember as part of their growing-up years and look back on with pleasure.
Our plans grew in the certainty of being able to call on the goodwill of others in Valley's End; very little financial outlay and 'many hands making light work' would guarantee success, we were certain of it. Perhaps I promised a little more than I might want to do in the cold light of another misty morning, but a good deed is a good deed and a promise is a promise.
Besides, I am sorely in need of blogging material.