Africa, Family & Kids, Nostalgia

Bullshit, Frankincense and Myrrh

Or biblically, gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold is valuable, frankincense and myrrh not so much. but BULLSHIT! Now, bullshit: Bullshit has made billions. Take how you were bullshitted and went Oooh! and Aaah! when you were told gold, frankincense and myrrh, even when you didn’t know what the hell they were talking about, and when you SHOULD have been asking WTF is that!? George Davie? Emma Morton? Anybody? What’s frankincense? would have caused an awkward silence, followed by whispers of ‘trouble-maker.’ Good children would go Oooh! and Aaah! and move on . .

So WTF IS ‘frankincense and myrrh?’

Smellies. Derived from tree sap, or gum resin, both frankincense and myrrh are prized for their alluring fragrance. Frankincense is a milky white resin extracted from Boswellia sacra, a small tree that grows in Somalia, Oman and Yemen. These grow to a height of five meters, have papery bark, sparse bunches of paired leaves, and flowers with white petals and a yellow or red center.

– frankincense boom leaves and flowers – Boswellia sacra –
– pic by Scott Zona https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5409339

Myrrh is a reddish resin that comes from Commiphora myrrha, a tree commonly used in the production of myrrh. It can be found in the shallow, rocky soils of Ethiopia, Kenya, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. It boasts spiny branches with sparse leaves that grow in groups of three, and can reach a height of three meters.

Commiphora myrrha

The processes for extracting the sap of Boswellia for frankincense, and Commiphora for myrrh, are essentially identical: Harvesters make a longitudinal cut in the tree’s trunk, which pierces gum resin reservoirs located within the bark. The sap slowly oozes from the cut and drips down the tree, forming tear-shaped droplets that are left to harden on the side of the tree. These beads are collected after two weeks.

– sap, saps –

It is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-pest and can be used for oral uses. It has been used as an astringent, antiseptic, anti-parasitic, anti-tissive, emmenagogue (huh?), and antispasmodic agent. It was commonly included in mixtures used to treat worms, wounds, and sepsis. And very helpful in fumigation. Hey! When your only tool is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail, right? Our parents had castor oil and guess what? They used it for a lot of the above.

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The lesson? Don’t ever say Oooh! and Aaah! Say WTF is THAT!?? And when precocious kids ask it like that, take them seriously and answer – or say I Don’t Know.

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Family & Kids, Life

Ho Ho Who?

I didn’t need the pillows. Once I had the red coat, flimsy red pants and gumboots on I looked round enough to fit the bill. Steve Angelos had asked: “Pete will you be Father Christmas? The kids all know me but you’ll be able to fool them”.

He was right. I was about fifteen years older and fifteen kilograms more substantial. It was a no-brainer as to who would be the more incognito Santa.

Earlier that year I had balked at going to another service at the Methylated Spirits. “I can’t stand another droning monotone of mournful half-hearted song where half a hall of ancient whiteys mumbles All Things Bright and Beautiful as a dirge”, I said to me dearly beloved. Well, unlike me, Aitch was Action Woman, so the very next Sunday we were in a school hall (a CATHOLIC school hall, did she know what she was doing to me!?) with cheerful people of all ages and all shades of mahogany and beige singing heartily while clapping and dancing. I swear, I must have really loved that woman.

Now it was the Christmas Party and there I was, red hat with cotton wool pom-pom, cotton wool beard, gumboots on in an African sub-tropical December, a black garbage bag full of gaily-wrapped presents slung over my shoulder. Bracing myself (where’s the gin bottle when you need it?) I stomped into the hall full of kids engrossed in the distraction provided to draw their attention away from the door and boomed out “Ho Ho Ho! Where are all the Good Children?” I had their attention instantly and they approached me excitedly from across the hall, “Father Christmas!” cried some, so I let out another “Ho Ho Ho!” upon which Jessie shouted out with complete certainty: “THAT’S MY DAD!!”

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And the lies! The LIES! Me, I’d have said “Of course there’s no Santa guys, use your noodles, who is more likely to give all the children around the world a present? Their parents or some mythical fat bloke who whizzes around the globe in a heartbeat, dashing down chimneys he’s too fat to fit into? Hello-o!”

But the hawk eyes were upon me, and under her fierce gaze she hissed “Don’t you DARE!”, I lied like my feet stink: ‘Santa had a lot of other calls to make so he asked me to do this party; He parked his sleigh here, on the hockey field; The reindeer didn’t make marks because they stayed up in the air, even the sleigh hovered;’

‘Santa uses a lot of helpers like me – eg. in shopping malls; No, the man you had your photo taken with . . . . what did Mom say? Well, then he was the real Santa that time;’

Lies and more lies to my own children who really wanted to know, and who trusted me. Shit, I HATED that. Very soon after this I negotiated a new deal: I won’t spill the beans, but nor will I lie to them.

That was a bit better: ‘Lots of people say there’s a Santa, I don’t think there is; Yes, they say you have to be good for him, but my advice is rather be good for your Ma n Pa just to hedge your bets; Be kind to your Dad, maybe its HIM what puts the presents under the tree; Be kind to Mom. She has a lot more say in your life than Father Christmas, rather work with her;’

Bloody hell!! Now they’re 16 and 12 and they don’t believe in that myth any more, thank goodness.

Except around Christmas time.

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