“Driving Home for Christmas” by Chris Rea is one of those pop songs – like “Mistletoe and Wine”, “Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart”, “Stop the Cavalry” and a few others – that are resuscitated every year and played on the radio and in shops solely over the Christmas period. It is relatively more low-key and meditative than most songs of this ilk, but still induces the appropriate warm glow of festive cheer and nostalgia. I heard it around this time last year, just before setting off on my own journey back to my home town, and it was the stimulus that led to my poem “Travelling Home for Christmas”.
TRAVELLING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS:
“Driving Home for Christmas”; a song, by Chris Rea,
celebrates a rite, enacted every year.
He’s cruising along, radio on; softly falling snow.
Tail-lights gently glimmer; he feels a warming glow.
1,000 memories, cascading in his brain.
He doesn’t mind the holdups; he’ll soon be home again.
Other drivers, just like him, gathered, all around.
Homing, like pigeons, to get their feet on holy ground.
I’m travelling home for Christmas, too; sitting on a train.
Dank air, grey sky, pouring down with rain.
Magical memories; Christmas as a child.
Little Baby Jesus; the lamb, so meek and mild.
Our annual pilgrimage, to mass at midnight.
Waking, to a morning brimful of delight.
Mother in the kitchen; festive table heaving.
Friends, neighbours, relatives, arriving, leaving . . .
My Christmas is less lavish now, more austere.
Numbers of visitors declining, each year.
On Christmas Day, there will be a total of three:
one brother, one reprobate uncle, and me.
We will sit down uneasily, our sins unshriven.
The reprobate uncle will smile, and be forgiven.
Our glasses raised, we will then commence to dine.
The food will be praised; tongues loosened by wine.
A measure of peace and goodwill will be found.
A fitting ceremony, on this holy ground.
Yes, we’re travelling home for Christmas; Chris Rea and I.
Flat fenland countryside; 1,000 memories flit by.
Rain teems down, from an unforgiving sky.