The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 9 (December 1, 1936)
The Miracle Month.
December! The season of sorcery, the birth of mirth; the witching weft of wizardry—the month of miracles
For the age of miracles is not past. In December the magic of the month works miracles in the minds of men and—lo!—where there was moth and rust there is mirth and roist, where there was drudgery there is drollery, where there was “pip” there is “pep.” The heart bowed down is buoyed up, the lame-in-spirit shake a leg, the “broke” are mended, the “groper” is a flying-fish, the down-hearted are upended, and over the face of nature is spread a smile that hurries on from horizon to horizon. Human capacity for food and frivolity extends beyond belief. Throat and heart are opened to give and to receive.
What is this magic that has bewitched the minds of men so that their eyes are opened and they see that there's wisdom in folly and rebirth in revelry?
What thing is this a' happening while we gaze
Through eyes that blink and flutter in amaze,
What magic has encompassed all mankind
And wrought such transmutation in his mind?
What wizardry is this that, in a flash,
Has bent his thoughts from barter, bills, and cash;
And torn his nose from grindstones rude and rough—
What is the magic meaning of such stuff?
What makes him skip as though his thews and bones
Were made of springs from clocks and gramophones?
What meaning is there to the circumstance
That there's a lilt of laughter in his glance,
That something seems to light his words with wit—
Although, of course, we don't suggest he's “lit”?
What jovial germ has lodged within his pelt,
To make his armour-plating thus to melt?
What magic is it that, as we remember,
Transmogrifies his ego each December
Until, instead of what he is, we see
The kind of cuss he always ought to be?
If your blood-pressure is so high that it blows off your hat, if your heart feels as strong as a sailor's thirst, if your head is as light as Bluebeard's love, if your temperature singes your eyebrows—don't rush to a doctor! It isn't appendicitis or peritonitis or liveritis, it's Yuletitis. If your pulse dances to a hot harmony jazzed on your heart with a goose's “drumstick,” if your red corpuscles are telegraph boys on motor cycles whisking tempestuous tidings from soul to soles, if your whole interior is a cauldron of simmering sunshine—soup from hat-hanger to trotter-cases—don't be anxious! Your condition is not serious; it calls for levity rather than gravity. You are elated, inflated, and all “lit” up. You have been bitten by the bug of ballyhoo; you glow with frivolity, you burn with the fever of folly, like a fire-fly with heartburn. You will do things that are sanely mad and things that are madly sane. You will commit all those wise futilities that familiarly never stales. You will undo all the futile expediencies that familiarity has staled beyond belief. You will unship the shackles of “shop” and shake a leg into the wide open spaces. You will kick carping Care into the middle of next January. You will challenge the Demon Dyspepsia with “eat, drink and be merry, for to-morrow we diet.” You will over-eat and under-sleep. You will be unwise, but happy. You will send all the wrong gifts to the right people, and will receive even as you give.
And, of course, there will be a picnic on Boxing Day. No, no! We said a picnic—IN A TRAIN; not one of those home-away-from-home excursions, in a car, where you take gas-lamps and folding chairs and collapsible tables, and everything except the piano. We mean a PICNIC—a good, old-fashioned, back-to-nature, lunch-with-the-twigs-in, smoke-in-the-tea, free-for-all, smash-and-grab excursion. We mean the sort of picnic where father carries a bag with the blunt end of a lunch-sausage protruding from one end and Winnie's water-wings and Annabelle's striped bathing suit from the other. We mean the sort of picnic where little Sebastian carries the kettle indifferently concealed in newspaper; where Uncle Henry watches, with loving care, a bundle of rugs with something hidden in its core that clinks; where mother carries a biscuit-tin under one arm and the Infant Samuel under the other. Where Aunt Hettie remembers that it was at just such a picnic as this that she met Uncle Henry, and Uncle Henry looks at her as though he would say, “Why remind us of that on such a nice day?”
We mean the type of picnic at which all the things happen which have endeared picnics to us from time immemorial. We expect the Infant Samuel's rusks to be left in the train, and we expect the Infant Samuel to sit up and take vocal notice. We expect father to lead us—even as the Israelites were led—to the “Ideal Spot.” Ten minutes later we expect to be expelled from the “Ideal Spot” by mosquitoes and to be conducted by mother to another spot not nearly so “ideal”—but much pleasanter. We expect father and Uncle Henry to disappear into the scrub with the bundle of rugs that clinks, and to emerge twenty minutes later with four sticks of firewood in their arms and an expression of profound content on their faces.
And we shan't be disappointed if we do the thing properly and leave all gadgets and thingamybobs at home and boil the billy over the traditional fire. For the fire is the soul of the picnic. Every father has always known where and how the perfect picnic-fire should be lit—and every mother has always advised better places and better methods of lighting it. From a nest of seed-cake and sandwiches she has never failed to broadcast sound advice on ways and means of producing the Ideal Fire. It must have been primitive woman who discovered fire in the first place. But father affects deafness. “Sebastian!” he orders. “Fetch four big stones. No—not those. We're building a fire, not a business block. Norman!” he shouts. “The sticks!” and “Winnie, take your rubber duck out of the kettle at once.”
“I would build it against the log,” pipes mother.
“Who's making this fire?” asks father. “Draught is what I'm after—natural draught. You won't be able to get near it in a moment.”
To cut a long and painful story short, the wood will not burn, the kettle falls into the ruins, Sebastian gets his ear thumped, Winnie is accused of sabotage, and then it is discovered that Uncle Henry has boiled the billy down by the river. But of such stuff are real dyed-in-the-wool picnics made. No picnic is a picnic if father doesn't dive into the river and strike his head on a stone, if Sebastian doesn't sit in the jam, if a bull doesn't look threateningly over a gate, and a bee doesn't sting Auntie. No picnic is worthy of storing in the Museum of Memory unless we return by train with our noses peeled, lumps on our legs—tired, relaxed, languid and lulled on comfortable seats. Yes, siree! That's a picnic.page 32