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broodings from the burrow

December 18, 2015

advent: day 18
posted by soe 2:28 am

I first encountered Dylan Thomas in college, when we had to read his radio play Under Milkwood for a freshman-year English class I took. After college, I lived in a town where one of the performance spaces did a reading of A Child’s Christmas in Wales every year as their Yule production. I was instantly transported back in time and across the sea:

One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six. All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into the wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.

Reading Thomas’ words is lovely, but it’s even better to hear Thomas himself read them to you:

Thomas first wrote and recorded pieces of this story in 1945 as a radio play for the BBC and, five years later, expanded it to be text we now know, which was published in the U.S. as an essay in Harper’s Bazaar—”A Child’s Memories of a Christmas in Wales.” When Thomas recorded it in 1952, only a year before his death at age 39, he shortened the title to what it’s been known as ever since, A Child’s Christmas in Wales. It was first published as a stand-alone book in 1955 and has become Thomas’ most popular work here in the U.S.

I can offer no personal assessment of it, but should you want to give it a shot, there’s a mid-1980s, made-for-tv film version of the story that’s got positive ratings at IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. It features Denholm Elliott, whom you may remember from his role in Raiders of the Lost Ark or A Room with a View:

I’ll leave you today with Welsh musician John Cale’s 1973 song, “Child’s Christmas in Wales,” inspired by Thomas’ essay:

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half price, bus driver, and waxing
posted by soe 1:31 am

Three beautiful things from my past week:

1. Walking past the charity bookshop, I see they’ve announced a half-price sale on cds. Six new Christmas albums have been added to the collection for the whopping cost of three dollars and change.

2. Metro track maintenance work means if you’re traveling outside of rush hour that you may have to wait for quite a while between trains. I arrive trackside at my home stop to see the taillights of the train disappearing into the tunnel and a 20-minute wait-time for the next train (to reach a destination that is less than half an hour walk). My transit app tells me that a bus heading downtown will be at the far exit of the station in a minute (there’s a traffic circle involved, so I know I may have a little wiggle time), so I hustle my way out, only to watch the bus drive past as I’m approaching the stop. I nearly catch up at the next bus stop, when the light turns green. Resolving just to walk in the rain, I see that the driver has noticed me and stopped the bus so I can get on.

3. I’ve enjoyed watching the moon each evening, progressing through the week from a Cheshire Cat moon to a mandarin wedge. (It will be full on Christmas Day for the first time since 1977, in case you want to take a peek.)

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world this week?

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