Rants and Observations

Dec. 4, 2017



Before Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus in December, North Europeans held a pagan festival, Yule, at the winter solstice. This prepared them for their cold dark winters.

They decorated with fir trees, Yule logs, holly, ivy and mistletoe. They had animal sacrifices, feasts and toasts to Odin.

 At that time, the birth of Jesus was an insignificant day in the Christian calendar. Crucifixion and resurrection were more important. 

Christian missionaries met hostile opposition in Northern Europe. Celebrating Christmas was part of the priestly plot, to win converts and postpone painful martyrdom. Unfortunately, by modern times paganism had vanished, or perhaps not.

Christmas Past – UK in the early 1950s

After WW2 the United Kingdom was bankrupt, due to the cost of war and responsibility for feeding a quarter of starving Germany.

The money available for Christmas celebrations was limited. Real fir trees and parties for family and friends survived. Christians had added St Nicholas. He morphed into father Christmas and was supposed to come down the chimney to leave presents. He travelled the skies on a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

I remember, being excited because of the expected presents. We decorated about four weeks before Christmas. Decorations were home-made from crepe paper and festooned the ceiling. We also had Christmas cards hung about on strings. Phones were rare and cards were how you wished relatives and friends a happy season.

The four weeks before was called "Advent". The nuns used to put up an advent calendar, at school. We opened a door each day to see a small picture of the annunciation and then other Christian events, saints etc. Nearer the day, people would come to the door to sing traditional carols. We gave them special pies, “Mince Pies”.

 The school had a nativity play. All the parents had to see their little darlings pretending to be Joseph, Mary, Angels etc. Later as a parent you experienced the full horror of being in the audience. Forced smiles all round.

On Christmas eve, we left a minced pie and a glass of port or sherry for Father Christmas. When we children woke very early, the first thing was to see if he had taken it and left presents.

Presents were often second hand. One year, I received a pedal car that my father had refurbished. Another year, there was an electric train. Sweets and chocolate were common presents.

The family would go to mass in the morning. About 3pm, we had a feast. In those days alcohol was very expensive, a week's wages for a bottle of whisky. Only later, did we get a bottle of wine for the entire family.

 If there was a TV, the family would listen to the Queen’s Christmas speech. Otherwise, heard it on the radio.

We would entertain ourselves and family friends with carol singing, playing instruments, board games, charades and other silly games. The celebrations lasted for maybe a week.

 Writing this made me sad. All the adult friends and family from those Christmases are dead. They were lovely people.

Christmas Present-UK 2017

 Now, the UK is a wealthy country. Few are practicing Christians, so very few go to church. Technology has changed everything.

Families are smaller and often live far apart. My daughter just skyped. Her daughter's school had real reindeer and a snow machine for their Christmas event

People drink lots of alcohol throughout the period. Decorations are bought and very elaborate. Few send physical cards, so there are less to put up.

Advent calendars cost $30 each. Instead of Christian symbols, they have chocolate or toys behind each door.

Enormous piles of presents for each child cost a fortune. You cannot move around the room for toys.

Apart for the meal, each child will be watching a different TV, playing video games or texting friends.

 Has the festival lost something? It has, but few care because everyone is drunk.




Dec. 4, 2017

Am I Chris Clarke or Aaron Aalborg?

I chose the pen name Aaron Aalborg to come first in any list and to avoid annoying people bothering me for writing controversial material. My recipes for cooking Trump and the British Royal Family are good examples.

Over time, I developed a Jekyll and Hyde, split personality. It can be fun, but is rather disturbing to others.

I decided to write a couple of books as Chris J Clarke. Aaron needed taking down a peg. He was getting too bumptious. Now, he hardly speaks to me and just glowers at me in the mirror.

Nov. 24, 2017

The first novel in the series “March Violets”, is about an ex-cop private investigator in Berlin in the 1930s. Initially, it seemed like Mickey Spillane meets Christopher Isherwood. The need to learn the anglicised vocabulary of 1930’s Berlin law enforcement seemed challenging. The payoff is that it helps to bring Nazi Berlin to life.

 By the time the reader moves on to “The Pale Criminal” in the WWII years, the full corruption and infighting of the Nazis has blossomed.

 The sleazy, dystopian regime and the tough and cynical lead character of Bernie Gunther are all too credible. The involvement of such nasty Nazis as Goering, Himmler and Heydrich works, but stretches credibility when he cheeks them with apparent impunity.

 In many ways, the third book, “A German Requiem” is the best. Gunther survived the war. Amidst the bombed-out wreckage of post war Berlin and Vienna he still has to deal with Nazis, but the corrupt and often brutal allied victors are added to the mix. The graphic descriptions of the continued brutality, murder, rape and pillaging are very realistic.

 The plots of the three books are standard private detective fair, but well executed. The apocalyptic settings and portrayal of the culture propel them into exceptional reads.

Nov. 24, 2017

It is well known that good writers read widely. Other authors’ love of words and language stimulates creativity and the richness of vocabulary.

 Writing reviews of books adds to the learning opportunities. The reviewer identifies what works and what does not. Ways to build tension, excitement, characters, scenes and credibility are revealed.

A writers' group advised that some reviewers share their reviews with the author of the particular work, with the intent of possible mutuality. My only attempt at this revealed that the author was extremely defensive against even the slightest criticism. My learning was that life is too short to seek reflected glory. Also, being averse to criticism blocks one's full potential.



Nov. 22, 2017

Illness can cause heightened and likely over sensitivity.

It's just a mild cough with aching joints, sleeplessness and a pervading sadness. In the depths of the darkness, despairing thoughts turn to all those betrayed in relationships. That must be nearly everyone. The worst part is that almost everyone has been a betrayer at some point too.

Guilt dominates the restless spirit. It’s just one part of life, but sickness conjures tears of regret and empathy.

Love may make the world go around, but its treachery is as devastating as an asteroid’s impact. In the night, the hopeless, emptiness and anguish of humanity’s countless broken relationships overwhelms. What damage have we done to others?

Wellness will restore the hardening of the carapace, so that life can continue, until it can't.