My Christmas Message

Well my friends and readers, here I am writing this Christmas message in Amsterdam and looking forward to being back in Shrewsbury before Santa knows I have gone. However, I was thinking of you and wanted to send you a very merry Christmastime wish and I wanted to thank you personally.

For me, this last tenth months or so have been a joy. I feel like one of the luckiest men in the world. I get to go to shows and then get to talk about them to you, my loyal friends. It has been my privilege to get to share my observations and opinions and I hope that you have enjoyed my work and maybe I have given you a different perspective of theatre and what it is capable of.

So, here we are again, the last twelve months have evaporated in a mist of happenings for us all. Some good, some bad; but we have made it. Whatever your feelings about Christmas are, excited, ambivalent, fed up and non-plussed, it can be a very special time if you make it so.

Christmas does mean so much to so many. It can be time for family, time for feast, a time for Carols and mulled wine, a time for ghosts and Dickens, a time for warmth and wishes and a time for fun. It can however be a time of debt, a time of ludicrous spending, maybe even a time for gluttony; but in this entire melee it is important that you find a time for you.

I send my Christmas wishes to my friend here in Amsterdam. He is approaching 53 and sleeps rough on the streets of this mighty city. As he gets older his body is failing him and he aches most of the time. He had some prescribed drugs but when he takes them he can’t breath. Yesterday he had to throw his sleeping bag away, it was a top quality feather one that soaked up so much moisture he could neither dry it nor carry it. He has another one but it is like a nylon one that one picks up for a fiver or so. Hold it to the light and you can see right through it.

He tells me the worst enemy is the rain. His sleeping bag is no defense from the pervasive water and soon he is soaked through and shivering. The night offers no comfort in this situation and instead compounds it by its bitter cold and driving rain.

Last night he asked for my empty coke bottle as he could get twenty five cents for it. “Four,” he says, “and that’s a euro, four of them and there’s a beer.” I said he was a womble and we laughed but inside we both knew the gravity of his situation. Convinced he is owed some money by the tax man he waits in hope as his file keeps finding its way to the bottom of the pile because he failed to provide some certain document or other.

He told me stories and I taught him a card game. He told me how he is living day to day and finds sleeping so hard that most nights he stays awake just lying in the cold wet street trying to get to his frail and punished body rested.

As we said goodnight the other night, he was heading off for who knows where. We stood at the Nieuwmarkt and looked across the square towards a beautiful Christmas tree alive with myriad of tiny blue lights; the tree itself was breathtakingly back-dropped by the 16th century market hall. Juxta-posed by the plight of my friend, we together felt a silent sorrow for his situation and parted.

There is never a right time to be in that situation but to be in it with reminders of celebration all around strikes as rather cruel. He made it through the night and got wet. He was trying to get his bag warm and dry when I saw him next.

A few weeks ago he was beaten as he slept the assailant broke three of his ribs. On hearing his tales I focused my thoughts on how life can be so cruel. I know these things are happening on such a grand scale around the world and I know that we can feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem and feel we can’t do much to make a difference. That’s fully understandable and anyway perhaps this is a European guilt hopefully one day Europe might see this and harness its energies towards finding answer forever.

I feel lucky that I am not in that situation and lucky to know that my Christmas will be warm and fun with the ones I love. Catastrophe can lurk down the road for all of us as we unknowingly follow the life’s path.  We chose direction and maybe we can avert such horrors; for some that isn’t possible for as many reasons as there were lights on the tree that we both stood by saying goodnight. If I had a wish, a real wish for Christmas it would be to help anyone in this terrible harsh, unloving and unforgiving mess. I would wish for an end to homelessness and an end to unnecessary suffering. I would wish we might build one less missile and use that cash, instead, to help those who need it. This Christmas I am thinking of all those on the street and hope and hope that one day there will be an answer. That would make a merry Christmas for me.

Have a great Christmas yourself and find whatever you wish for this advent. I will see you next week where I will review the year passing and marking out my highlights and low lights over the shows that I have reviewed. Happy Christmas and it goes without saying, have a great new year.

Owen Lewis
 

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

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