The Eldest of the Darling Daughters has taken me to task for suggesting, in yesterday's Blog, that an advent candle would be less trouble than an advent calendar. How, she asks, could I possibly have forgotten
last year's drama of Eleanor and the Advent Candle?
Actually I do remember it well - although only at second-hand as I was not actually there to witness the catastrophe. As a result of a somewhat
over-enthusiastic blowing-out of her Advent Candle, our Eleanor, plus badly-burnt thumb, ended up, first in A & E and then in the Burns Unit of Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead.
is the place, you may remember, made famous in the wartime days for the pioneering work of Archie McIndoe, who developed new techniques for treating badly burned faces and hands. The flying aces of the Second World War who were treated there called themselves
The Guinea Pig Club, because of the experimental nature of McIndoe's work. Eleanor and sister Katie will probably view this as a somewhat sad coincidence because the Day of the Burnt Thumb was also the day their pet guinea pig went to the Great
Guinea Pig Heaven in the Sky. It was not a good day in the Swift household.
I think it is time we accepted that allowing Eleanor anywhere near a candle is not a good idea. While she (or
at least, her thumb) has emerged relatively unmarked by last year's horrible experience I still bear the mental scars from taking both the girls to a Christingle Service, some years ago.
A Christingle, as you probably know, is made out of a decorated orange, into the top of which a candle is inserted. I am amazed that Elf & Safety has so far not tackled the quite clear and present dangers inherent in the ancient tradition
of Christingles, though I imagine it is only a matter of time.
Anyway, there I was, in East Malling Church, having been trusted with the sole charge of Katie and Eleanor. Both
girls were armed (I use the word advisedly) with a Christingle, complete with lighted candle. We had been joined by about thirty other children, of varying ages, heights and ability to carry a Christingle safely. If all this was not alarming
enough to me, imagine my feelings of impending doom when it became clear that we were not going to stand still and sing (which might have been a little less dangerous) but we were to march in a Candle-lit Procession all around the church. Bearing
candles on the move, whether stuck in the top of an orange or not, is way up near the top of my List of Potentially Dangerous Activities.
Off we set, with Eleanor holding her Christingle
close to her chest, head bent, eyes fastened in fascination on the Christingle. I was thinking how angelic she looked when I noticed that wisps of curly black hair had escaped, wilfully, from her hairband and were dancing, wildly, in the light of
the candle. Disaster beckoned: "Hold it away from you - quick!" I yelped.
Eleanor is a Good Girl, then as now. She obeyed instructions immediately, thrusting her Christingle forward so that it
was at arms length - where it came into dangerously close contact with the furry hood on the anorak worn by the boy in front of us. He was even quicker off the mark than me: "Burn my hood and you're dead!" he informed us, belligerently. Whatever happened
to Peace on Earth?
I have managed to avoid taking anyone under the age of twelve to a Christingle service ever since. However the Eldest of the Darling Daughters is made of sterner
stuff and has once again this year bought Advent Candles for the girls to burn each night from 1st December. She also has a candle snuffer. She went out and bought one last Christmas
Eve. It's what you call advance planning...
Let there be light!