It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas. The high street shops are busy (so I’m told), fairy lights are quietly materialising all over our village and this poem appeared on my radar recently.
Liz Berry is a poet steeped in the local culture of England’s West Midlands. The area where she grew up is called the Black Country because of the smoke and soot from the coal mines, coking plants, iron foundries, glass factories, brickworks and steel mills that operated there at the height of the industrial revolution. There is little left of those industries now but much of the working class outlook on life from those bygone days has remained. The area also has its own regional accent and dialect words, which Liz uses to embellish this literary depiction of the day before Christmas in the urban streets on the southern outskirts of the Birmingham conurbation. You can find all the words here, although some of the references may be obscure to anyone living more than 50 miles or so from Brummie land. This little extract is clear enough, though.
… the tower blocks are advent calendars,© 2015, Liz Berry
every curtain pulled to reveal a snow-blurred face.
From: Black Country
Publisher: Chatto & Windus, London, 2014
Cerys Matthews may be better known to Crotchety readers. She is a singer, songwriter, author and presenter of her own show on the BBC 6 Music radio station. Cerys also has a lifelong love of poetry and often features poets in her radio broadcasts. Liz Berry and Kate Tempest have both made guest appearances there.
Regular readers of this blog will need no introduction to Hidden Orchestra. They topped the Crotchety charts in 2016 and are still ranked among my top two favourite bands. They provide appropriately atmospheric background music for the video.
Liz Berry, poet
Cerys Matthews, musician
In thinking about this post I wondered how the Biblical Eve would have celebrated Christmas. She would have spent it with Adam, of course. She didn’t have brothers or sisters, parents or grandparents, uncles, aunts or cousins. But she wouldn’t have felt lonely. All the family she had would have been with her. And I’m sure she would have marked the occasion in some way – decorating the trees in the Garden of Eden with holly berries, perhaps.
In these 21st Century days families gather together to eat, drink and enjoy each other’s company. Too often, though, we end up bickering over the figgy pudding or slumped, uncomfortably bloated and semi-comatose, in front of the TV. Those relations we invited to amuse and entertain us just won’t give us any peace and our goodwill drains away like leftover gravy poured into the kitchen sink. None of that would have bothered Eve; Christmas came much too late for her. But for us, as Liz Berry says …