Christmas is a time to filter thoughts and reflect on what’s important – not what’s on sale. It’s an annual marker stone enabling us look back at the past, recalling lost faces and smiling eyes, hearing again, old tunes and warm happy stories told by roaring log fires. Remembering childhood times when presents were bigger and Christmas mornings filled with mince pies, socks, and magic. It’s still a time when imagination and faerie lights can carry you far away from mundane realms – dare you let them. But mostly it’s a time to take stock – think of who we actually are and what we really want, as individuals and collectives in this great moving forward we call life.

Back in Christmas 1980 I was serving in the British Army. Christmas Day saw me on guard duty in chilly drizzle, with nothing but a lukewarm hot-toddy for company. Dipping back there briefly I see a different world set to a simpler theme. Well maybe – as memory fades the grey of doubt fades with it. The past reads like a old book and we remember what we choose to. Based in West Germany, I recall strolling through lamplit evening streets, alone and lonesome. I was 19 years old and immersed in the stagnant bullshit comprising The Cold War. Just a month earlier I had ventured through the Brandenburg Gate and seen first hand the drab dour reality of East Berlin. Aside that radios announcing news of John Lennon’s shooting blurted metallic noise from steaming bratwurst stalls, often followed by Bryan Ferry’s version of JL’s ‘Jealous Guy‘ and Lennon’s own definitive evocative ‘Imagine.’ It was a somber time: no WiFi, email, or cellphone to connect with loved ones overseas. Only a scruffy letter sent to some old girlfriend with faint hope of a reply. And yet it was a poignant time. I remember walking into a grotty bar in the midst of ‘der Teutoburger Walde‘ and hearing this strange eerie song that I felt had been written specifically for me.

Jona Lewie – Stop The Cavalry via @YouTube

Together with Kate Bush’s ‘Army Dreamers,’ Lewie’s anti war theme seemed oddly relevant to my stark world back then. Not your average jolly jitty or Xmas tune, and a million miles away from Maria Scary. Funny how some song lyrics linger in your mind like smoke fading from a damp bonfire, returning again every year and taking you back to that time and place. I was lucky, serving my country when gloomy superpower stalemates ensured status quo. Hard to imagine back then – the craziness and random freaky violence surrounding us today. How did things ever get so nukking futs? My thoughts go out to those valiant guys and gals serving abroad this Christmas. Yours is a tougher gig than mine was back then.  This short post is dedicated to all you military folk serving far from home. Hopefull the day will come again we can ‘play the pipes of peace‘ as Paul McCartney once sang. Merry Christmas one and all!

The wintry image at top is Roger Garland’s ‘Ship crossing Ice’ which features in my forthcoming novel: The Reluctant King. For news on that and other things visit   J.W.W