Friday, 7 December 2012

7th December - Christmas Prayers

I was getting a bit worried this year as it looked like we wouldn't be back 'home' on Christmas Eve, and thus able to go to the Christingle service at my Dad's church.  By home, I mean back to our home county where both Stonell and Walker families live and where the rather splendid church at Bishops Cannings is, where my Dad sings in the choir.  It is a splendid church, enormous considering it's in a little village, but as the name of the village gives the hint, it was a Bishop's church.  Anyhow, as we won't be going up until Christmas lunchtime now, I was going to miss my chance to sing loudly in a confined area, but I am off to Nine Lessons and Carols at our local abbey instead, so I can get my Holy on in an appropriate setting.  Talking of getting your Holy on...

Christmas Prayers (1872) Henry Bacon
There isn't a thing I don't love about this picture, from the trefoil cut-outs on the pews, to the grate in the floor of the church and the people, each hinting at a little back story.  For example...

The little boy looks back at us, and he doesn't look very happy.  Mind you, his mother has seen fit to dress him in a sailor suit.  Poor moppet.  I assumed the lady to his right was his mother, in the brown and fur outfit, but maybe the lady in black on the other side is his mother, and she is a widow and his father was a sailor who drowned!  I might have been at the sherry again...I'll come back to him.

I love this couple:  he is devoutly and appropriately in prayer and she is checking out his manly thighs.  Sorry, I'm sure she is thinking of higher things.  Sorry again, I blame the sherry....I want her jacket and matching muff, that is just splendid.  You get the impression that she is in her best finery, in order to swank it up a notch and be noticed.  Sadly, he's a bit distracted by all the religion that's going on.  Typical.

Above them hangs some very jolly Christmas wreaths.  We have Faith (a cross), Hope (an anchor) and, oh, I was going to go with Charity, which is normally a heart, but this is just a circle.  In the past, the circular form of wreaths was meant to symbolise new beginnings, the continuation of life after the 'death' of the year, the winter, the darkness.  I wonder if these symbols are shown in the people below?  The young man praying is obviously Faith, the young lady eyeing him up might be Hope and the boy could be New Beginnings or a continuation of life after death.  I think the boy looks at us to see if we are praying or if we are looking around like he is, like the girl behind him is.  For all his prayers, the man in the pew behind is missing the human element to Christmas, the boy, the girl, the rather suspect looking urchins in the balcony.  Christmas isn't just about praying, the little boy seems to be telling us, it's about noticing the people around you.

I promise when I am in the Abbey, I shall have a peek at those around me, and I won't sing too loudly.  I can't promise on the last one though, I have an impressive set of lungs.  I just winked in a saucy manner, but that's quite hard to convey in type without resorting to emoticons...

See you tomorrow...


  1. What a really great painting

  2. Only you could make such a reverent painting seem cheeky. Higher things indeed... :D

  3. Sorry, sherry makes me filthy. So very ashamed. It is a lovely painting though.

    Thanks for your comments!

  4. Thank you for pointing out some very interesting things, Kirsty. Yesterday I happened upon your blog and now I don't even remember what I had originally been searching for. I've definitely bookmarked your page. I will learn a lot from you--cheeky or not.

    I live in the Southwest desert of the United States. My father is Britain-born and bred, immigrating alone at age 21 to the US in 1951.

    About this particular painting. It makes me happy to see so many people filling the church. I wish all churches were filled like this every Sabbath. Secondly, and I know it must have been the effects of the sherry, did you not notice the Japanese fan in the hymnal rack in front of the praying man? My goodness, it has the head of what looks to be a geisha painted on it! What do you make of that?!

  5. I did not notice that at all! What the devil is that all about?!

    Thank you for your keen observation, mine has been impeded by mince pies and Harveys Bristol Cream. I bring shame on my family...

  6. Maybe the lady in blue had the fan, and she's had to scoot over to accommodate the faithful chap, and is pondering how to get her fan back without touching him or doing anything that might look untoward. (It can get awfully stuffy in church when the place is packed, even if it's cold out.)It seems a concerning possibility that the faithful chap will trip over his own cane on exiting the pew. I'm only concerned because of the number of times I've tripped over my own coat, own parasol, own cane...

  7. I wonder if she has planted the fan there so she has to do a bit of gratuitous leaning and fumbling to retrieve it. Oh come on, like we haven't all done that...?


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx