Hot chocolate and ginger cake

December 7, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

It is the indulgence season. There are lots of different reasons to dine sumptuously and, with luck, with dearhearts, friends and family. It is incumbent on us, at this rolling time of the year, to share our own bounty with those souls who have less or nothing. Not to share in these weeks is to sin profoundly.

The dog has spread herself across her blanket, satisfied with her breakfast. The cat consumed all that was in her dishes – tuna in one and biscuits in the other. She has retired to one of the beds or perhaps tucked herself away in a secret corner. There, she can pretend she doesn’t hear me when I call or just ignore me if my reasons are not adequate in her opinion to disturb herself.

The weather network has delivered dire promises of ice and fog and a whole regional bowl of cold, sour soup, enough to make me want to join the cat, cover my head and wait for spring.

Metaphorically, we have those options. The cat’s secret place is warm and safe, better by far than the tents one sees in the city parks, in which are huddled folk less fortunate than the cat. Not to mention they have even less than a tent, with a cache only of cardboard, carefully folded to go under and over a person’s body. This meagre shelter is often at risk of being pushed out from such poor accommodation by the force of feelingless authorities.

Dickens wrote all about this 170 years ago when the wealthy strode past beggars’ children singing Christmas carols for alms, telling them to “get away!” He wrote at length about the “disparity” [our present catchword] between the rich and the poor in Victorian Britain. Traveling to America did not find things better, but Dickens noted the inexhaustible vulgarity and “sharp practices,” which he detested there.

Well, one can read writings and evidence many centuries before Dickens to demonstrate the early and unabated distance between kings and subjects; between lords and their serfs.

“‘Twas ever thus,” one might say and “The poor will be with you always,” a great leader told his disciples.

And that still doesn’t mean it is okay that cheap billionaires should flap about in private jets and shoot their rockets into space but disparage and disdain the world’s millions who are starving and being displaced by senseless battles, storms and crazily cruel despots.

Politicians and benefactors of NGOs huff and puff; they wring their hands at conferences held in places of luxury; they talk about money and about aid, yet the starving die of hunger and the displaced end up nowhere but in desperate camps, where hope comes to also die.

A relative few might be scooped up and delivered with all ceremony to new lands, where they will contribute to an existent housing crisis and wonder how to manage a year later when government support ends.

It is so lovely to enter this season of indulgence. All those rich meals, with their flow of the best gravy of the year and bonnie stuffing, so-called for its myriad of ingredients and the way it is cooked within the cavity of the star at the table – a mighty bird, crisp of skin and grand in aroma. In soup kitchens and church basements, good folk do what they can with careful donations to feed those who come and take a plate.

The great writers of Rome told such tales; as did the Greeks before them and even earlier than that, the Egyptians, the Assyrians and back and back to the cave walls, which also portrayed battles and subjugation; power and servitude.

“Twas ever thus.” As though that makes it alright that some should have so much and so many should have so little. Don’t pretend it is hard work, discipline and an aura of deserving wealth on the one hand and laziness, bad planning and an impoverished background’s predilection to fail on the other.

Nowadays, it is terrifyingly clear that great fortunes have been made at the tragic expense of our planet and the creatures upon it, that there is plenty to feed us all and that the battles are primarily sinister land grabs but costing fortunes in lives and misery.

Ah, the joy and cheer of the lights and the hum of familiar tunes in the shops; ah, the pleasure of anticipation of meeting those we see often or infrequently as we gather to celebrate our festivals and the reasons they give for happiness and the chance to think of others in our hunt for considerations and gifts.

We are mistaken when we decide this is the time of year, most especially, to care about sharing, when want is most noticed and the impulse to give is high. That is nonsense. There should be no time of the year when we are not caring for those in need as a daily concern for all of us who can.

Says the Ghost, “We do not carry Christmas in our hearts one day of the year but on all of the days of the year.”

So should this be said of all of us. Do we have our own worries? Maybe. Yet, there is likely someone worse off than we are, and any time is a good time to do something about that, however small.

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