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Monday, December 31, 2007


To start the new year with a 'duh'...

If you have not yet lit your fireworks, take this tip from an idiot:

If you nail your Catherine Wheel to your fence, it will scorch your fence.

This is because you set it on fire.

Amazing, really, that this did not occur to me until after I'd done it.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


Anyone making any new year's resolutions?

Having previously written in a scatty manner for most of the year, I've suddenly hit a routine that suits me, so my resolutions are mostly to do with that. Here they are:

- Get to bed early. If you start work early enough in the morning, the horrors of time pressure recede tremendously, but it doesn't work if you're half asleep. No late nights; I shall do my socialising at weekends.

- Floss my teeth every day.

- Give up alcohol, at least for a while. I don't drink much anyway, and it would save explaining to be able to say 'I don't drink'.

- Never again internet-search my name. It puts too much attention on what happens to the fiction after I've written it, and my attention should be on what I'm writing now.

- Decorate the blank wall in my study.

The thing about these resolutions, of course, is that they're all things I want to do anyway. Last year I didn't resolve anything: I couldn't think of any particularly useful resolutions to make, and if I made some up just for the sake of it, I knew I wouldn't stick to them. Resolving to do something you're not motivated to do is pointless. To my mind, the best way of making a resolution is to think of something that's an act of self-care rather than self-flagellation, and just determine on it to give yourself a little push in the right direction.

What are your views on resolutions? Making any? For 'em? Agin 'em?

Happy new year, anyway.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


Hey guys, guess what?!

I've finished my new book! La la la, in your face cruel world, I have FINISHED a first draft of the new book!

And, to my own disbelief, I have even finished it in time for the deadline. This is truly remarkable.

I am also profoundly relieved that I will never again suffer from secondbookitis, because it nearly killed me. I've already started on a third book, and am feeling much better about the whole business. Boy do you learn a lot writing a second novel.

I shall have some thoughts about that in due course, but I wanted to ring the bells right now, at least. I got up early this morning, and wrote the final three thousand words still wearing my jammies. This is an advantage writing has over office work, of course, and I figure, if it's good enough for Balzac - who wrote in a dressing gown - it's good enough for me, when the occasion demands.

Look, Balzac. The great sculptor Rodin was commissioned to portray him, and when he turned in the sculpture - as happened more than once with Rodin's work - it was rejected as offensively irreverent towards its great subject. I think the commissioners had in mind something classical that represented the artistic principle. Rodin turned in a sculpture of a fat man in a dressing gown.

But it's a great sculpture of a fat man in a dressing gown. It doesn't represent the artistic principle, it is an artistic principle. Rodin rocks.

So, to retrieve my mind from whence it's wandered, I had a pyjama party with my book today, and I have now finished a first draft! Hooray!

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Disney's politics

Well, it's Christmas, Kit has a writing deadline which she's been struggling frantically to - well, to approximate. This has led to me watching Bambi in an exhausted moment of down-time.

And you know what? It's got me thinking about politics.

It's a curious thing. Walt Disney himself was an anti-union old crust who turned in various employees to McCarthy during the Communist scare, which hardly makes him a guiding light of progressive thought. Yet I was watching Bambi , as I said, while collapsed on the sofa, and something struck me. It had to do with The Lion King.

In concept and general story, The Lion King is more or less a re-hash of Bambi: young prince in wild setting grows up, loses a parent (in both cases during a scene that involves an animated stampede of herbivorous beasties), finds love, and finishes with a family of his own, a king in his own right. Yet despite Bambi being a favourite of Walt's, and Walt being ferociously anti-Commie, when you compare it to The Lion King, it's positively pink.

To say that The Lion King is authoritarian to the point of being proto-fascist is, to some extent, stating the obvious, and I'm certainly not the first person to say it. The reasons are fairly simple: the lions are the undisputed lords of creation, to the point of being worshipped by creatures that they bloody well eat. The rightful king is stabbed in the back by an effete, liberal-preachin' scumbag, and, without the rightful heir in his place, the land itself sickens, and can only be revived by the return of the True Leader. Women are more or less useless - they certainly make no attempt to evict their bad king, despite outnumbering him vastly and knowing he's a disaster; and, I say it again, zebras and antelopes are delighted at the idea of a new king who's going to bloody well eat them, and the fact that lion corpses fertilise the earth (the 'circle of life' explanation that Ole King Mufasa gives to explain why they don't mind) makes no sense at all: elephant corpses fertilise even more ground, and they have the added benefit of being vegetarian. Most importantly, the 'circle of life' philosophy is treated as mystical and sacred: rulers rule, subjects submit, destiny is pre-set, land and king are one, and anyone who disagrees is Evil. A grand leader heals the decadent nation by restoring it to its true heritage. All hail.

It's notable that the film explicitly portrays the villain as a Nazi, but when you listen to his ideas, his primary ideological fault is his desire to collaborate with lesser races. There's an element of projection here. I've recently been shown a long and interesting essay called Rush, Newspeak and proto-Fascism: an exegesis, by David Neiwert, which I'd recommend; in it, Neiwert remarks:

...one of the lessons I've gleaned from carefully observing the behavior of the American right over the years is that the best indicator of its agenda can be found in the very things of which it accuses the left.

This is known as "projection." One of the first to observe this propensity on the right was Richard Hofstadter, whose 1964 work The Paranoid Style in American Politics remains an important contribution to the field of analyzing right-wing politics:

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this enemy is on many counts the projection of the self; both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. The enemy may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, even of pedantry. Secret organizations set up to combat secret organizations give the same flattery. The Ku Klux Klan imitated Catholicism to the point of donning priestly vestments, developing an elaborate ritual and an equally elaborate hierarchy. The John Birch Society emulates Communist cells and quasi-secret operation through "front" groups, and preaches a ruthless prosecution of the ideological war along lines very similar to those it finds in the Communist enemy. Spokesmen of the various fundamentalist anti-Communist "crusades" openly express their admiration for the dedication and discipline the Communist cause calls forth...

Kiddie movie though it might be, The Lion King is a stark and clear example of this - and the fact that it was planned as a small movie and became a surprise smash suggests that it struck a chord in society. I worry. I'm not particularly arguing, as some have, that The Lion King is racist because of the villain's black mane or the non-Caucasian hyena voice actors. The hero's father is voiced by James Earl Jones, who's no whiter than Whoopi Goldberg, and the dark mane seems more like simplistic colour-coding than a racial overtone, more equivalent to a black hat or a black horse than to a dark-toned face. The movie does have the quality common to a lot of US children's movies, to wit, presenting the wild world as if it were an American suburb - the kid is raised in his nice neighbourhood, runs into criminals when he goes to the bad part of town, leaves when he shouldn't and has to stop bumming around and come back to run his dad's business when he grows up - which tends to be a white narrative, but its main prejudices are more to do with conventionalism than race. The bad guys are not so much black or brown as unwilling to defer to their social betters.

(If anyone thinks it's reaching to see ideology in a work of children's fiction, I point them towards C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman, and G.P. Taylor, and, oh, Aesop, and the phrase 'the moral of the story is'... There are stories with didactic ideological morals, and there are stories with ideological worldviews that come out unconsciously; I'd put The Lion King in the second category, but the fact that it's for a young audience does not mean it has no socio-political standpoint.)

Bambi, on the other hand, is surprisingly similar-but-different. Bambi himself wanders through the forest encountering new things much in the way Simba wanders over the veldt, but there are some big changes.

The first is simple: Bambi is no threat to the creatures of the forest. He eats grass, he attacks nobody during the entire course of the film apart from a mating fight which he didn't start and a battle with some dogs - invaders, sent by Man - who are attacking his girlfriend. And, notably, he has a capacity to leave people alone. Everyone else in the forest, he meets and greets; he's occasionally shy but mostly friendly; he's nice enough to address a skunk as Flower; he takes advice from his friends and doesn't mind being teased or criticised. He is, in fact, a nice, gentle boy. Conversely - nobody really comments on this, but it's a fact - Simba is a horrible kid. His primary entertainment is playing pranks on other animals, all of them subjects of his father, which means they really can't do much about it if he bothers them. He's arrogant, self-regarding, and anticipating kingship because it'll mean he'll be 'free to do it all my way ... everywhere you look I'll be standing in the spotlight'. (A sentiment no different from his wicked uncle's plan to 'be king undisputed, respected, saluted and seen for the wonder I am', it's worth noting: the only difference between them is that Simba is supposed to be entitled to kingship and Scar isn't.) The film-makers seem to regard this as charming exuberance, but I doubt they'd see it like that if they had to deal with their own employer's son acting that way. Being the boss's son, Simba doesn't have to take discipline from anyone but his father, and his father spoils him: the result is an unbearable brat who'd benefit from a good clip around the ear but never gets one.

The next is subtler, but perhaps more important. Bambi's father is not a prince because of some mystical natural law. He's referred to as the prince because he's older and wiser than any other deer. This is to say, his princeship, such as it is, is largely a matter of meritocracy. He was smarter than the other deer, has thus lived longer, accumulating wisdom along the way, and hence is respected because his abilities have raised him in status. Bambi himself is seen standing by his father as a fellow-prince only when he's survived a full year: he may be referred to as 'the young prince' in his childhood, but if he wants to be seen standing silhouetted in full glory, he's got to learn how to manage. Royalty, in fact, is seen as a matter of adulthood more than anything else.

And - this is the most important - adulthood involves learning how to survive your environment. The Lion King, as I've said, involves a mystical relationship between king and land. When the right king is there, the land thrives; when the wrong king rules and the true prince is away, the land sickens. A prince in exile, Simba's only real job in the film is to go home; the only lesson he needs to learn is the lesson of his own importance. Wouldn't it be lovely if life were like that?

The whole of Bambi, on the other hand, shows a character who is absolutely and vitally smaller than his environment. The forest is beautiful, but it's also indifferent. There are thunderstorms that get you wet and scare you with their noise, winter that provides little food and leaves you hungry, fires that sweep through and can only just be outrun, hunters that shoot at you - and, terrifyingly, they strike at random. Mufasa's death recognises his importance in the cosmic scheme of things: he's killed because he's important, by a diabolical plot. Bambi's mother, on the other hand, is struck down wantonly and unexpectedly. It could have been anyone who gets shot; it's just Bambi's tragedy that it was her. The universe is indifferent to the little faun's feelings, and the fact that he loves his mother gives her no immunity from bullets. Adulthood and survival depend not on grandly claiming your throne within the world, but on learning how to move through it while avoiding all the dangers that are not about to move out of your way just because you're you.

This shows up in small ways. Bambi is a dramatic film, but it's far less bombastic. The famous Circle of Life opening to The Lion King is spectacular and has lovely African music, and it would be churlish not to acknowledge what great film-making it is, but compared with the 'Wake up! It's happened' greeting of baby Bambi (which YouTube doesn't seem to vouchsafe, sorry), it's pretty ideological. Bambi is similarly greeted by a crowd of animals interested to see the new prince, but rather than hailing him from beneath a cliff, they gather around him at ground level and coo over him, more in the manner of an extended family than of a political rally. There's an emotional upshot to this: Bambi being greeted has far more the air of a child who's being liked for himself. Everyone fusses over him, introduces themselves, makes friends with him - at an eye-to-eye, one-to-one level. If somebody hails you while you stand on your balcony, the odds are it's your position rather than your personality they're saluting; meeting on ground level is altogether more personal. Again, there's more of an element of democracy in this: princeship is characterised by good relationships with those around you, rather than a delight in lording it over them.

Bambi is also something I think would disgust many fans of The Lion King's viewpoint nowadays: to wit, environmentalist. Markedly anti-hunting, for one thing - that's somebody's mother you're shooting at! - it's also just highly aware of the impact human beings have on nature, and not as a positive thing. Simba is cheerfully unaware of human beings; for all we know, the movie might be set before people ever evolved. The primary reason for this is that Simba and his gang are altogether more human than animal; they live in a nuclear family, the harem element of lionhood is rather glossed over, as is the fact that a lion cub would eat a meerkat sooner than befriend him, and so on. Bambi, on the other hand, doesn't live in a nuclear family. He admires his father from a distance, but the guy really isn't around much - because, y'see, he's a deer. Bambi fights for a mate, eats bark in the winter, and is profoundly frightened of human beings; Simba is a human being, and people conveniently stay out of his movie to keep things from getting confusing. The upshot of this is that Simba no more has to consider the influence of people on his environment than a human being does in a climate-controlled mall: the only thing that causes an environmental problem for him is the presence of a bad king. (I know they say it's over-hunting, but for Pete's sake, even the weather is off when Scar is king. They certainly don't acknowledge that hunting leaves orphans behind, because that would involve condemning the lions.) There's a lot of fudging of the ecosystem at the heart of The Lion King. Bambi, on the other hand, is very clear that human beings are a disruptive force within it. The environment is suffering far more from human intervention now, in The Lion King's day, than it was when Bambi was a recent film, but to acknowledge that would be to assume a position other than that of the rightful lords of creation who can only benefit the world by assuming our power as fully and domineeringly as possible.

It may seem like a small thing to be fussing about - I'm exhausted and really not up to watching anything challenging - but there is something important at play here. We begin orienting ourselves in the world because of the stories we hear in our childhood. Now, one of the stories I was told when I was little was that human history is an inexorable march of progress. Science discovered more and more as history progressed, human knowledge increased, and people got freer. It was presented more or less as a matter of fact: politics is a historical one-way street, pointing towards endless improvement.

This is why it's disturbing to see a fairly recent film for children that's wildly more authoritarian than a film produced five decades earlier, produced by a McCarthyist. It feels like a little pebble tumbling down the mountain, reminding me of the fact that the Dark Ages came after a time of enlightenment. Human history isn't an inexorable program of improvement, it's an inexorable process of change - and that can include change for the worse.

Monday, December 24, 2007


Happy Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007


Who has an inner imaginative animal?

[Kit surfaces briefly, blinking in the light]

Possibly it's the effect of a deadline, but I've come to a conclusion. For the moment, at least, my artistic spirit animal is a rabbit. Freezes with fear if circumstances get too overwhelming; preoccupied with outrunning things that scare it; happy hiding underground (or in nice cosy study); capable of great bursts of speed when the occasion demands; a nice creature, but highly nervy.

I drew a picture of it, or rather several, as you can see above.

What's yours?

Friday, December 14, 2007


I have a deadline

... and in all honesty, I don't know if I'm going to make it or not.

However, I'd like to get within hailing distance of it, at least, which means my head is going to be very firmly in novel-space for the next few weeks. One result, I fear, is that I have fewer thoughts to spend on blogging.

So, if anybody has an topic they'd like discussed, please feel free to suggest it and I'll get round to it when I can. Other than that, I'll be surfacing at intervals when possible - but if you don't hear from me, or hear from me and I don't say anything very interesting, I haven't been kidnapped by rogue reindeer, I'm just trying to grapple my book over the finishing line.

Sorry about that; normal service will be resumed, um, at some point.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Overrated virtues

New Year's resolution time hovers on the horizon. I've got some resolutions on my shortlist, but in the meantime, here's a point for discussion: which would you pick as the most overrated virtue? Which virtue would you least like to see on everyone's resolution list?

I'm going with bluntness. All those people who pride themselves on speaking their minds - you know the kind, people who consider it very honest and earthy of them to be rude whenever they feel like it? That's a quality I'd personally like to see crossed off a lot of lists come the new year.

What would you pick?

Saturday, December 08, 2007


A Christmas mocktail for the non-drinkers

Christmas is traditionally a time for swilling around the mulled wine and whiskey, and while I hope everyone is enjoying that, personally I'm not much of a drinker. (I get hungover easily, have a tendency to go straight from relaxedly tipsy to confusedly tired with no happy drunk part in between, and fret about damaging my writing by pickling brain cells.) However, it's nice to have a good drink that won't leave you feeling the worse for drinking it, so here's a recipe I've adapted from somewhere else: a ginger mocktail. I don't know what the etiquette is about renaming cocktails you've adapted, but for some reason I feel like calling it a Ginger Nib.

Ingredients to serve one a fairly generous measure:

200 ml clear apple juice
1 medium-sized pear
1 generous teaspoon ginger jam
A splash of ginger beer, something fairly spicy for preference (I used Old Jamaica; you may want to add a bigger quantity if you're using something mild).

Peel and quarter the pear, and remove the core, then chop into bits small enough to fit into a jug. Pour the apple juice into said jug, add the pear pieces and ginger jam, and whizz with a hand-held blender. (A jug blender would do instead.) Add the ginger beer; probably you'll want to add more if your local shop failed to furnish ginger jam.

Serve in tall, narrow glasses, which can be garnished with an apple slice. The pear oxidises quickly, so drink immediately.

An advantage this mocktail has, especially if you use a strong ginger beer, is that has a nice kick that tastes as if it might be alcoholic (though without that raw burn that alcohol sissies like me tend not to like), so it's nicely festive.

Anyone else got any festive mocktails?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


How to write when you're not all right

I've long wanted to call shenanigans on a particular writing myth, but have feared to do so for a very simple reason: it sounds amateurish if you say it. However, on reflection, there's no law against looking amateurish if you want to, so here goes.

The discovery itself is a fairly simple one. Unpublished writers call that vicious little nay-sayer in their head the Inner Critic or the Inner Editor, but I've discovered something interesting: there's a published writer version of him. He's the Inner Professional.

Writers, you see, are supposed to be resilient. You're having trouble in your life? Escape into your writing! You don't feel confident today? Pull yourself together! Something's bothering you? Ha, Kafka said he was nothing but literature, 'nothing but a mass of spikes going through me'; proper writers turn their problems into art and nothing stops them producing masterpieces!*

This is the voice of the Inner Professional. Once you've sold some work, you see, you have a contract you can wave at the voice inside your head telling you that you aren't any good and will never write anything publishable. That one is dead and gone. The inner voice has to change tactic. (Give up? Ha! It never gives up. You think it'll give up if you get published? That's what it's telling you now, but take my word for it: it's lying. This is because it hates you.) And a simple method for the little beggar to adopt is the following one: now you're a writer, you're supposed to live like one! So pull yourself together and be one!

Having seen Sin City, I find that the Inner Professional sounds like nothing so much as a Frank Miller character. That guy who's crawling along with, I think, some serious injuries and a heart attack on top, telling himself, 'Keep it together, old man!'? That's what the Inner Pro thinks you should be: you should man the fuck up and take it like a man, keep going, just keep crawling... The trouble is, of course, that it doesn't work. Because I'll tell you a secret:

It's hard to write when you're not all right.

Nobody expects a dancer to dance on a sprained ankle; if a painter breaks his hand, he takes a rest till the bones knit. But writing is intangible. The writing bone is invisible; it is, therefore, hard to get any sympathy when it's aching. That includes getting sympathy from yourself: most writers are conscientious people who struggle hard to prove themselves, and if you can't show them a concrete reason not to beat themselves up, many of them will grab a stick and start whacking. In order to write fiction, you have to draw on your emotions and your imagination. But if your emotions are all disordered because something's wrong in your life, and you're trying to use your imagination either to work out how to fix it or, less positively, to imagine that things aren't as bad as they seem really - denial is a terrible drain on creativity - then you're in the position of a singer with an overstrained voice. The part of you you need to write is just tired.

It's easy for people to sit on the sidelines and say, 'Put the stress into your work', but it's seldom helpful advice. For one thing, a writer's feelings wind up in their work will they nill they, and deliberately putting them in is likely to produce a more mechanical rendition of something that would have happened naturally anyway. For another, putting stress into your work isn't always a good idea. If you're feeling hopelessly discouraged and unable to solve anything, giving those feelings to your brilliant sleuth is going to create some serious plot problems. If you're feeling misanthropic and alienated, giving those feelings to your romantic leads is not going to lead to the hearts-and-flowers ending the story needs. If you're feeling weary and lacking in drive, giving those feelings to your high-octane action hero is going to produce a pretty dull book. Emotional exhaustion, given to fictional characters, tends to create fictional characters who don't want to do anything - and that's a book that won't go anywhere.

This can be a vicious circle, because not writing is depressing and makes you less all right than before. In situations like that, the best thing to do is usually to make an effort to relax; to look after yourself, work out what in your life is causing the problem, try to create a safe space for yourself and have some no-pressure fun with writing. A silly little flare of imagination, even if it's just a one-page ramble about a grape-juggling mouse or something equally inconsequential, can lift your spirits tremendously - which makes you far better able to carry on writing.

But the Inner Pro, which doesn't like you, has worked out a clever trick. Rather than letting you relax and take care of yourself, it starts haranguing you for feeling discouraged, stuck, doubtful or anxious. Which doesn't cure those problems at all. It simply adds a sense of guilt and inadequacy on top.

I've said before that getting published doesn't necessarily make life any different. What I've been noticing recently is that it can actually give your inner demon a sudden advantage in the battle. If its main tune has been You're no good because no one will publish you, it's a painful thought, but at least you'll build up years of experience ignoring it. Once you do get published and that thought explodes, the demon has to regroup. It comes up with something else - and the biggest weapon it has to hand is You have to be a professional now, and you can't hack it. Like an evolved virus, this new attack hits your system harder than the old one, which you'd at least built up a degree of resistance to.

This, I suspect, is a big cause of secondbookitis: having cleared the old disease out of your system, you get hit with a new one, and it takes quite a while to develop antibodies to that. And when you start a second novel, there's a big area of 'not all right' for the Inner Pro to get to work on: inevitably, you're worried about whether your second book will measure up to your first. Result: the Inner Pro hits your system like measles hitting a hitherto-undiscovered civilisation, and a disease that's really not so bad once you've built up some immunity - which, if you can survive, you will have done by Book Three - tears through your self-confidence like an epidemic, laying waste all around it.

I'm telling you this so the published writers who've encountered this will know they're not alone, and so the yet-to-be-published writers can at least be forewarned and start building up some antibodies in advance. Anxiety about your second book, combined with a guilty sense of incompetence for feeling anxious, can magnify each other tremendously. But here's the thing: it's okay to feel worried. Everyone does. I've heard stories about writers who never worry about their work and produce tremendous amounts; I've even edited a couple. Good for them. But they, my friends, do not speak for the group. Neither are they necessarily the better writers; I can think of at least one writer, now deceased, who was extremely prolific and apparently carefree, and you know what? Nobody on the staff wanted to edit that writer, because nobody liked the books.

And here's another thought: everybody wants to put the best possible face on their work. You had a crisis of confidence halfway through your novel? Are you really going to tell an interviewer that? Interviewers have to write interesting articles, and nothing livens up an article so much as the glimpse of a weak point. Remark that after the first ten chapters, say, you had a massive rethink and had to change everything, and the interview will report it, readers will look at your book with a critical eye, spot all the things that went wrong around chapter ten, lose all respect for you, never buy your books again, and you'll have to spend your life mopping floors in a fast-food restaurant. That's the thought process. You think I'm exaggerating? I'm really not. An interview isn't a heart-to-heart, it's a performance; even the nicest interviewer is a human being, and therefore inevitably more concerned about preserving their own career than yours. It doesn't make them bad people, but it does make you weigh your words. Hence, many a writer, answering interview questions, is going to evade, fudge and outright lie in response to questions about how difficult the work was to produce. There's a reason why we use the word 'interview' both for job applicants and media types.

So next time you hear about a writer who's never slowed down by a personal crisis, a loss, a bad patch, a temporary block, an illness, or a massive pink tyrannasaurus eating his dog and then exploding right on his front step while the writer just typed away, lost in his work, here's what to do: class that writer as a fictional character. Talking to the public via journalists is not the same as talking to a therapist, and there may be all sorts of issues that writer is just not telling you. They're constructing a character that happens to have the same name as themselves. The real writer that you know is you, and you're best off being kind to yourself about that.

*There's a logical flaw to this one that's obvious when you think about it - and yet somehow, writers seldom do. 'Nothing stops great talents from producing art' is entirely untestable. You can't prove a negative. If there were talented people a hundred years ago who, given the right circumstances, could have written masterpieces, but were held back by lack of opportunities, emotional problems, financial pressures, ill health, self-doubt or any of the other things that prevent you from writing ... we won't find out about them, will we? Because they didn't write anything. The great talents that were stopped from producing art didn't produce any art. Of course, nobody wants to join their melancholy ranks, but if you think of it that way, it at least stops being a reflection on your inherent abilities if you have a bad patch. It doesn't mean you're untalented, just that you're having a bad patch.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


Riu, Riu, Chiu

Happy advent! Here's something nice for the season: a choir singing the beautiful carol Riu Riu Chiu. From the camerawork, I suspect the owner of the video's son is either the tall blond boy with glasses or the short, dark-haired one in the middle, as the view never wanders away to any of the other choristers - and why not, after all? It's his camera, he can point it wherever he likes. Anyway, it's a lovely carol, and a really rather good choir.

Or, indeed, you could listen to the Monkees sing it. Seriously, they sing it really nicely.

For those of you who haven't heard the carol before, the lyrics translate thus:

Riu, riu, chiu (nightingale's sounds)
The river bank protects it,
As God kept the wolf
from our lamb.
The rabid wolf tried to bite her,
But God Almighty knew how to defend her,
He wished to create her impervious to sin,
Nor was this maid to embody original sin.
Riu, riu, chiu, etc.

The newborn child is the mightiest monarch,
Christ patriarchal invested with flesh.
He made himself small and so redeemed us:
He who was infinite became finite.
Riu, riu, chiu, etc.

Many prophecies told of his coming,
And now in our days have we seen them fulfilled.
God became man, on earth we behold him,
And see man in heaven because he so willed.
Riu, riu, chiu, etc.

A thousand singing herons I saw passing,
Flying overhead, sounding a thousand voices,
Exhulting, "Glory be in the heavens, and peace on Earth, for Jesus has been born."
Riu, riu, chiu, etc.

He comes to give life to the dead,
He comes to redeem the fall of man;
This child is the light of day,
He is the very lamb Saint John prophecied.
Riu, riu, chiu, etc.

Now we have gotten what we were all desiring,
Go we together to bear him gifts:
Let each give his will to the God who was willing
To come down to Earth man’s equal to be.
Riu, riu, chiu, etc.

You can read a parallel text here, which is where I pinched the translation.


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