Tag Archives: Christmas

The Polar Express (the train of life)


I’m not the first to look for the deeper meaning in the animated film The Polar Express. It is a wise film interspersing thoughtful conversation with high action – it would make a thrilling fast ride at a theme park.  The music is also wonderful – it would also make a great musical.


Faith, and lack of it, along with the innocence and loss of childhood, are big themes, but also the general challenges of life that we experience whether child or adult. There are some key one-liners from the train conductor (Tom Hanks) – I thought one might pop up “it’s not the destination but the journey that is important” but instead, better, it’s: “it doesn’t matter where the train goes, it’s making the decision to get on it that matters.”


It is a risk for all the children to jump on the train but they do and discover aspects of themselves that they either didn’t know they had or find they needed confirmation of the qualities they did have. On the journey they are challenged, but also helped, by Doubt – the spirit of the dishevelled, teasing spirit of a man who appears on and off in various parts of the train – also played by Tom Hanks.

This pairing of these two characters (conductor and spirit man) could be seen as theological – Hope (the conductor) and Doubt (the dishevelled, teasing spirit of a man) are two sides of the same coin. We experience one with the other in most cases, but with friendship, empathy, and our own individual reflection, we can get through them.  Three of the children become good mates – one boy struggles particularly with the concept of Christmas (we’re not given details but we assume he’s had a tricky home life, is lonely, and certainly doesn’t come from a wealthy background) but he is valued by his two friends.


Materially the children are on the search for presents but learn a great deal more about the gifts they already have within them and also what they need to learn and do to maintain hope and faith. The conductor makes a passing but key comment ‘sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.’

Holding onto the unseen is the challenge in life – the symbol of the bell in the film personifies this. Doubt says you must see to believe.  Hope says you sometimes have to believe in order to understand, and to see.


Happy Christmas.


Christmas Thoughts


It feels like ages since I wrote – I’m aware my themes are sometimes similar and I’ve been lacking fresh ideas in the last few months; you’ve probably given up on me!

The John Lewis advert I think is delightful – it is simple in its message on one level but on another reminds us of the power of the imagination: the boy projects onto his toy penguin a real emotion, thus making the toy penguin live as a real penguin. What the unreal/real penguin desires is companionship – a very real need.  However fantastical the advert is, its deeper meaning is universal. And, when the penguin gets this companionship, his other friend – the boy – is as happy as he is.  Happiness gives happiness.

John Lewis

Places of 2013 – the beauty of Oregon


It’s been a topsy-turvy year for me and I’ve not been able to write as much as I would have liked.  I’ve also realised that it’s sometimes nice to write about something that is outside of yourself, so that is what I am going to do now.

I visited Bend, Oregon, in October and November of this year.  It is amazing landscape – expansive, at times mystical and bleak, and at other times epically uplifting – especially where there are llamas concerned!


The area is known for its mountains and sleeping volcanoes.  To visit an area that has been an area of active volcanoes is to feel that you are at the end of the world; it is the land that time forgot or rather a land that has been left as it was when the eruption happened:


I was really taken into the emotional heart of Bend when I visited the High Desert Museum, which features wonderful insights into the wildlife, geology and people of the area.  I was particularly moved by ‘Snowshoe’, the rescued Lynx.  He was found wondering starving and close to death in California.  He had been taken in by people wanting to use him as a pet, and to make him harmless they had de-clawed and de-toothed him.  They got tired of him and realised he wasn’t what they were looking for so released him back into the wild (with no teeth or claws to survive).  I don’t know whether to call this ignorance, evil or stupidity, or a combination of all three.  It is certainly glaringly obvious that wild animals are wild animals, not for domestic use.  The museum now keep him in his own natural sanctuary – since he is now unable to look after himself in the wild; keeping him safe and fed in an enclosure is the kindest act humans can now do.  Visitors to the museum are generally disgusted and sad at how he was treated in order to fulfill someone’s need of a pet – he is now an exhibit but only because humans left him that way.  He is now at least admired and respected.



I have seen many sunsets in America – they can be beautiful anywhere in the world.  Here is one above the city of Bend:


Finally – for this area of central Oregon, I adored Smith Rocks Park.  It’s one of those places you could stare at forever and you wish that you didn’t have to face the world outside it:

Smith Rocks

All my memories of Oregon will stay with me; I’ve seen a great deal of it in recent years – here are some other photos from other areas of it:

Florence, near the coast of OR

Florence, near the coast of OR

Again, the mist here made me want to throw myself into it and not come back out into the world.

Oceanside, another amazing place on the coast of OR

Oceanside, another amazing place on the coast of OR

Oceanside in the day

Oceanside in the day

Columbia River Gorge, OR

Columbia River Gorge, OR

Painted Hills in Eastern Oregon

Painted Hills in Eastern Oregon

Downtown Portland, OR

Downtown Portland, OR

The city of Portland is vibrant, bohemian, exciting, historical and beautiful.  And, it has the added bonus of nestling within the awesome Mount Hood.

Happy Christmas to all and thank you for reading.



The Significance of ‘The Snowman’


I love the Christmas animation, The Snowman, by Raymond Briggs.  I think it is a family event for some families; the kind of event which encourages people to sit together and watch at home, especially if there are children around on Christmas Day.

As a child, I loved it because of its magic.  Wow!…this snowman came to life and flew with the boy who built it.  Maybe this could happen to me if I build one.

flying snowman

As an adult, I love it because it holds memories of how easy it was to be transfixed by make-believe as a child – the memory is sad because life has taken over since and reality, which I find increasingly hard,  is not something we can run away from.  And if we do have the chance to run away for a brief moment, we are reminded that happy moments don’t last forever.  As with the snowman, he melts.


But I do love it also because it does present that moment we have either within imagination or within real life, to escape – and learn from it – or even be changed forever by it.  The boy invites the snowman into his life to share some part of his human life:

Xmas lights

The snowman finds a motorbike – a novelty of the human world –


and uses it to share some of ‘snowman world’ with the boy, when on their flight they drop in on a snowman party –


I guess again, I am making the point for good entertainment having a point to real life – since much of the time it is about real life.  The Snowman is about the need to imagine.  In the real world, imagining opens us to other worlds and other poeple.  In the case of this story, both snowman and human are able to live in each others’ worlds for a little.  There is always a risk when we open our minds – but most of the time it is because good moments are had, and good moments don’t always last – but the memory does and the morals learnt are not forgotten.  The risk is that we will be sad to lose something we love, but we will be likely better off for the experience.

cuddle snowman

The working animals that keep the humans alive


As Christmas is in the air, let’s not forget those for whom there will be no magic, no glitz and in some cases, no food.  I’m talking of the humans, but I’m also talking of the animals who are the lifeline for them.  They are their transport, their income, their companion, and often not treated with any respect or empathy – either out of ignorance, or out of cruelty.

There are thousands of charities asking for your help through buying their Xmas cards, gifts, donating and many other things.  Many of those charities are run by one person trying to make a difference to lives elsewhere – one of those charities is

The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust www.gambiahorseanddonkey.org.uk

This is an amazing charity.

Many peoples’ responses to charities is that it’s a drop in the ocean – well, it takes many drops to make an ocean and if everyone had that attitude there would be no ocean.

It’s very easy to make a difference if everyone does something small – you can’t change the world but you can change the world for one person, or one animal…or both, if you understand how one needs the other.