May the Peace and Love of Christ be with you throughout the New Year
Saturday, 24 December 2011
Sunday, 11 December 2011
In our town there’s a specialist chocolatier. The shop window is always full of the most exquisite and delicious looking chocolates of all sorts and sizes. If Heaven were made of chocolate then this shop would surely be it.
The chocolates are hand-made by the shop owner and his wife and three employees on the premises behind the shop. I remember once visiting their little workshop with a friend of mine, the shop-owner’s niece, and it was a marvelous experience seeing them make all these chocolates with so much care and passion.
Every so often they make different seasonal chocolates like rabbits and chocolate eggs at Easter, special selections on Mothers’ Day, or Christmas specialties.
One Christmas Eve we were in town late, just before going to Midnight Mass, and I decided to visit the shop to get something nice. I left the rest of the family to do some window-shopping and went there alone as a special surprise.
I’d intended to buy a chocolate Father Christmas just as they had in the picture in the shop window. Sadly all Fathers Christmas had been sold. Reindeers too! As well as Christmas tress or any Christmas decorations made of chocolate. In fact it is fair to say that the shop had sold out of any chocolate model relating to Christmas.
The shop assistant looked at me forlornly and suggested a selection from their wild animals’ series would make a good present. “They’ll look good in the Nativity scene beside the Christmas tree …” she said hopefully.
“Hardly …” I said somewhat dejected, “no one would believe that the three Wise Men came from the East on a turtle! It would have taken them ages to arrive. Or that shepherds watched their giraffes at night when the Angel appeared with Good News!”
“They are beautiful though …” she continued encouragingly.
“Yes … they are. But it’s not the same … a chocolate crocodile near the crib would frighten all the sheep away …”
I hesitated for a while. The animal models looked good enough to eat … in fact any chocolate is good enough to eat as far as I’m concerned, regardless of its shape. But this was not for me. This was a present and ideally I would have wanted a Father Christmas, or an Angel … a Christmas tree … it’s the festive shape of the chocolate that matters on this particular occasion. And a rhinoceros or a kangaroo is just not the right shape; even though it might taste just as good when you eat it.
After a lot of soul searching I decided to buy the giraffe. It was big and with such a long neck it meant there was even more chocolate for everyone to share.
“Could you gift wrap it please?” I asked.
As the shop assistant was wrapping my purchase I heard a little girl beside me say: “I want the giraffe … just like in the picture over there!”
“I’m sorry … the last giraffe has just been sold” replied the shop assistant to the girl’s mother.
I looked at their sad faces and knew how they felt.
Now … the right thing to do in such cases is to take my purchase and get out of the shop quickly before my conscience has had a chance to wake up.
But I’m stupid that way and somewhat slow … in my slowness I asked the assistant to sell the giraffe to the girl’s mother instead.
“We have some left-overs from our Halloween series” said the assistant to me after the other customers had gone, “I can let you have two for the price of one!”
That Christmas our Nativity scene was visited by Frankenstein’s monster and a zombie. And the sheep were not frightened at all.
Tasted good too!
Thursday, 8 December 2011
Last summer our young priest thought it a good idea to take some youngsters, aged between 16 and 20 from under-privileged families, for a day out in the forest at the edge of town. The idea was to go out on Saturday, have a picnic lunch and return early evening about 5 o’clock in time for evening Mass.
Somehow, he managed to convince me and a few other adults to go with him and help with supervision and also to provide transport there and back.
We arrived at the forest at about 9 in the morning and we parked our cars on the edge of the forest. Everyone was excited and well prepared. They all carried haversacks filled with all sorts of picnic foods and drinks, and cameras, binoculars and all kind of other things that are considered necessary for a day out in the forest. They were all dressed appropriately of course. Shorts were the order of the day and big thick boots and hats. Even the young priest did away with his white collar and wore a multi-colored open necked shirt and a large hat.
I wore an old pair of khaki short trousers I use when gardening and I brought with me my large cowboy-type hat; the one with the large feather. I had an open necked shirt, so no need for the turquoise bow tie with pink flowers!
I brought with me some sandwiches and small drink in a plastic bag, and most important of all six large bars of chocolate. You need chocolates when out for a long walk; it helps keep your sugar levels well under control if you get tired. Six bars should be enough so I can share them around with the rest of the group.
To save me carrying the chocolates in the bag I put them in the back pockets of my khaki shorts. Three bars in each back pocket. They fitted perfectly.
They all moved eagerly ahead into the forest with the priest leading the way and a few adults interspersed every now and then. I chose to be the last one in the long queue of people, which would give me an opportunity to stop and take a rest every now and
then. I’m not into long walks, especially in the forest.
On and on they walked and they sang as they walked. “Sing Halleluiah to the Lord … Our God reigns … Seek ye first the Kingdom of God …” and several other hymns led by the priest at the front and echoed by the rest all the way back to me.
Pleasant it was. But tiring too! Where exactly were we heading? Searching for Dr Livingston or the treasures of the Inca?
It was getting hot … very hot under a punishing sun which you don’t often get around here. Even the feather in my hat was the worst for wear.
After what seemed miles of walking I felt a trickle down my legs. I stopped and to my horror discovered that the six bars of chocolates had melted soaking my short trousers and dripping away leaving a tell-tale track of brown behind me.
I felt my face go red as panic set in.
What am I to do? I pulled out the empty wrappers of chocolates from my pockets, for that is all that was left … empty wrappers. Each bar was 600 grams; so that’s more than three kilos of chocolates melted down my pants and on my legs with embarrassing visual results that would be almost impossible to explain away.
I tried to wipe as much as possible with my handkerchief which soon became soaked anyway and of no use. I hid the handkerchief under some leaves and forest debris. No point in putting it back in my pocket is there?
I scraped as much of the chocolate off my legs but they still looked embarrassingly brown, as indeed was the back of my trousers.
I could see the rest of the gang well away in the distance. I must catch up with them if I’m not to get lost.
I took off my jacket and wrapped it round my waist by the sleeves just like trendy people do when they pretend they are hot. Well … I was hot all right … with embarrassment, panic and fear of getting lost.
I hurried and caught up with the rest of the team just as they were settling down in the woods for a picnic lunch.
I whistled nonchalantly as I arrived and sat on a log some distance away so as not to over-power them with the sweet aroma of melted chocolate.
The young priest said “Grace” and they all started eating their picnics.
Now, why is it when things go wrong for me they continue to go wrong?
As I sat there considering how best to hide my situation for the rest of the day I heard an ominous buzz around me. I’d inadvertently sat on a wasps nest in a hollow in the tree trunk I was on.
Now … they have the whole forest in which to nest … why choose this particular tree trunk?
Pretty soon I was up on my feet and dancing in a panic, tapping on my buttocks and legs as I did so.
Wasps up your short trousers are no fun I tell you.
Everyone stopped eating and turned to me wondering what I was up to. Then they realized and a few adults came to my rescue shooing away the wasps with their hats and napkins.
Once the wasps had gone a pleasant young lady helper offered me her chair and the young priest got me a drink of white wine from his haversack to calm my nerves.
The young lady saw me shivering and said I was in shock. I should take the jacket off my waist and wear it to keep warm.
Well … I could hardly do that? Could I?
The sight of my chocolate stained brown trousers would have sent her into shock as well!
I sat there calmly for the rest of the day and when it was time to go home one of the men helpers offered to drive my car back as I was not in a state to drive … so they said. Although they did not know the real reason why!
Needless to say, I did not join them to Saturday evening Mass but drove straight home for a quick shower and change of clothing.
I hate chocolates. I hate picnics. And I hate forests. Wasps too!