Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Sherlock, Santa and the three Wise Men


(BI) Feedloader User

If the world did not end yesterday and you are reading this today, three days before Christmas, you have to thank your lucky stars, one in particular that has attracted and guided the holy and the wise since BC became AD and the great Roman Empire ended up as dead as the language that held it together for centuries.

When Dr Watson asked his friend Sherlock Holmes what school he attended, Sherlock replied, "Elementary, my dear Watson." Like almost every other West Indian child, I went to an elementary school too but in my case, because my first headmaster was transferred and my parents thought that I should follow him, and then we moved to the country, I went to four different ones. I experienced more primaries than Mitt Romney.

What all my primary schools had in common was that they were Anglican or English Catholic (EC) schools and so my education was based on the story and teachings of Christ.

In those days, the language of the Bible and Scriptures was that of the King James version. None of the subsequent translations can match the majesty of expression like, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." I believe that the simplicity of style that I strive for owes as much to this version of the Bible as to PG Wodehouse, Damon Runyon, James Thurber and all the Richmal Crompton "William" books I read. I believe that my belief in one God despite the multiplicity of religions dates back from then when as little children, black, white, yellow and brown in elementary school we recited our tables and our scriptures without questioning the value or veracity of either.

School was fun and Christmas was a treat. If Dr Watson ever thought of asking me what I loved about Christmas I would have said, "Alimentary, my dear Watson." Whichever school I attended we had a school treat.

Buns and soft drinks may not sound like much in today's world, but they were what we looked forward to from the time we got into December. No end of the world stuff for us. No Mayan prophecy or planet from nowhere blasting us out of existence.

Home at Christmas time was not just food, though there was much of it, and drinks, which flowed excessively, but gifts. There was what we called a "gun and sack" or toy gun with a holster. I got a leather two-gun set and a sheriff's badge.

I remember a train set which set me on the right track and is still evident in that I am very well trained although people sometimes think I am crazy enough to have loco motives. Then there were the carols. This was a time when church groups abounded and went from house to house singing Christmas carols.

Many years later, when in the middle of a Christmas Eve night of poker my neighbour Lake (aka Dadoi) decided to recoup his losses by pulling together a motley group of carollers to raise some urgently needed funds, our ear-shattering "Silent Night'' brought down many houses and considerable wrath. However, the more discerning and quick on the uptake paid us to stop and Lake returned to the poker game flush.

My favourite carol, which I had heard many times in my youth and even assayed briefly when a decision was made by a tone-deaf teacher to put me in the school choir because of my "bass" voice, was "We Three Kings".

I had started teaching in a secondary school and the new principal, a Presbyterian pastor, gathered the teachers together at his home where, prior to serving the turkey, he insisted on our singing carols together. I can carry a tune so far and no further. I either drop it beyond resurrection or take it to heights that my bass voice was not designed for. Despite this, the sheer belief of the three wise men, continues to fascinate and inspire me.

One Christmas Eve, waiting for an El Al flight, a traveller started talking to three of his fellow passengers. Even though the flight was late, they did not seem unduly concerned. "We do this trip every year," one of the men said with what sounded like a Spanish accent. "In some ways it seems we've been doing this forever." "Yes," said the other man, who was distinctly Indian. "Long before El Al we got there however we could. Field, fountain, moor, mountain— we crossed them all.

There was snow on the Khyber pass the first time I did it." The third, dark-skinned, added, "I first made it from Timbuktu and would do it again if I had to. It was worth it." Then after a pause, the first man said, "Looks like we'll be here for a while. Let me introduce myself. You can call me Felix but my name is Navidad. Feliz Navidad."

The second man added, "As you may have guessed, I am from India. I am Bada Din Mubarak Ho." The third man, said solemnly, "They call me Kuwa. My full name in Swahili is Kuwa na Krismasi njema." The traveller looked at them and laughed. Holding out his hand he said, "Pleased to meet you all. I'm Chris Kringle."

•Tony Deyal was last seen saying to those who doubt the existence of Santa or the Three Wise Men remember what Sherlock Holmes said, "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."