TCS: Not Burning the Clocks

  Good Morning!

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Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers
on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum,
so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in
your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.
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“There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”

― Leonard Cohen

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The hours of folly are measured by the clock;
but of wisdom, no clock can measure.

– William Blake


On December 11, 2017, I posted my first Burning the Clocks story:

“I was surfing the internet yesterday afternoon, looking for inspiration for this morning’s post, when I came across videos of an event in the English seaside town of Brighton & Hove, which has been held annually since 1995: Burning the Clocks. This Winter Solstice celebration is the brainchild of Same Sky, a charitable arts organization, financed by crowdfunding and the support of local businesses.

To participate, first you have to create your “clock,” using paper and willow to make a lantern – there are free lantern-making workshops for the disadvantaged, and advice for the craft-challenged. The clocks come in lots of sizes and shapes, limited only by the imagination and skill of the maker.

Then all the clock-makers join in a parade of lit lanterns through the town to the bonfire on Brighton Beach, and their clocks go to the flames, a symbol of the year that is ending, and a new beginning.”

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There are videos of this annual event on YouTube, but they are blocked from being posted here. But if you type “Burning the Clocks Brighton” at You Tube, you can see them there.

The last regular Burning the Clocks was in 2019, pre-Covid. Last year, they did a much-modified celebration that still gave a lot of people joy, but this year, Burning the Clocks has been canceled, another victim of the pandemic.

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All the plans had been made, and this year’s poster was already up:

Burning the Clocks 2021   ‘All Creatures’ by Graham Carter


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And then the announcement came:

“Following the Prime Minister’s recent announcement confirming England’s move to Plan B to slow the rapid spread of Omicron, we have cancelled this year’s Burning the Clocks parade.

“It is a decision taken in partnership with Brighton & Hove City Council and based on the Government’s Plan B restrictions due to the rapidly rising transmission rates of the virus. It would not be sensible to hold the event at this time, which has previously had between 10,000 and 20,000 spectators standing closely together to watch the parade, bonfire and fireworks.

“We are saddened to have to cancel this much loved Brighton event, but hope to return next year, as soon as conditions allow. We would also like to thank everyone who has supported our crowdfunding efforts this year – funding which is vital to put on the event.

“We’re keen to keep the spirit of Burning the Clocks alive this year and encourage anyone who has made a lantern to display them in their window and to share pictures on social media – please do tag us @sameskybtn. We’d also like to wish everyone in the city and beyond a safe, happy and healthy winter solstice and a peaceful festive holiday.”

 — John Varah, Same Sky artistic director

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Burning the Clocks has been a fresh take on the ancient tradition of defying the longest night of the year with bonfires and torchlight processions.

My wish for 2022 is that it will be possible for community events like this one to return safely, but I fear we are in for a lot more dark before the light comes back.

Burning the Clocks has always reminded me of Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “Burning the Old Year.”


Burning the Old Year

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.


“Burning the Old Year” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems – © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye (1952 –  ), born in St. Louis, Missouri. Daughter of a father who came to America as a Palestinian refugee, and a born-in-America mother. “I grew up in St. Louis in a tiny house full of large music – Mahalia Jackson and Marian Anderson singing majestically on the stereo, my German-American mother fingering ‘The Lost Chord’ on the piano as golden light sank through trees, my Palestinian father trilling in Arabic in the shower each dawn.” During her teens, Shihab Nye has lived in Ramallah in Palestine, the Old City in Jerusalem, and now lives in San Antonio, Texas, where she earned her BA in English and world religions from Trinity University.

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2014 finale of Burning the Clocks, on Brighton Beach

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About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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