Merry Christmas and

Happy New Year!

I’ve written a new song for Christmas. You can hear it here! And watch my new collage of Victoriana video here

An etching of Londoners in front of the Bank of England
Jeni Hankins with the Hickling Family Band – Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, A Christmas Song
A small nativity scene

I’ve always loved this matchbox pocket nativity which my friend Fiona Daniel gave to me several years ago on one of my first tours in Britain. It’s been perfect for a traveling folksinger and a person living between countries and houses. I love setting it up each year and thinking about the season of lent, the differently colored candles, and the liturgy when my Dad was the assistant minister at the First Presbyterian Church in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Many people of Scottish and Irish descent attended our church. The women wore their best tartans and the men their best tweed and corduroy. The church smelled of cinnamon, mothballs, and damp wool. I got to wear my knitted hat with a pom-pom on top and all winter I lived in fear of losing a mitten. My scarf always worked its way around my neck and trailed down the hall behind me. Apple juice was served hot and called cider. We sang carols in the brick foyers of tall red-brick apartment buildings. We made wreaths from pine cones and glitter with Girl Scouts. And I looked up at the stained glass window in the nave of the church where Jesus knelt in the garden of Gethsemane and sometimes I fully expected him to step out of the glass and speak to us all.

The carols we sang always reminded me of pictures I’d seen in books of England. England – this far off place across the ocean where people had a different accent and there was a Queen. Carol singing sent my mind wandering to words like wassail, midwinter, and bleak.

Now, I live in England and we, like people all around the world, have been feeling our way through political landmines and pandemic pitfalls in 2020. For some part of every day, I listen to BBC Radio 4 which is the news, information, and education radio station here in England. The stories I’ve found most moving tell about people living alone, isolated in their homes, unable to go out for fear of dying – because that is the risk. Loneliness or the risk of death. So, to preserve their lives, they remain solitary, but in being solitary, they face loneliness.

I’ve written a song about this – a Christmas song, the first Christmas song I’ve written, which is more uplifting than you might expect given the stories which inspired it. My friend and collaborator Alfred John Hickling, aka Stringbean Slim from York’s King Courgette, co-wrote this song with me across the miles from Yorkshire to Lancashire and London. Our heroine is the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street – a woman who stands for many people across the world, but hers is also a colorful name that British people give to the Bank of England. The Bank, having had its own challenges this year, stands austerely in Threadneedle Street in the Old City of London. From The Bank of England you can hear the sound of the Bow Bells – the bells which ring in the tower of St Mary-le-Bow Church. If you can hear these bells, you are standing in the true heart of London. If you are born within the sound of Bow Bells then you are a true Cockney Londoner.

This year, the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street has no guests for Christmas and sits very much alone “counting out the pennies which must last another year.” But the sound of carolers outside her door gives her hope of better days to come. That is the feeling I always had singing carols in the narrow foyers of apartment buildings in Brookline, Massachusetts – that next year would be even better, that somehow our voices raised together unified us into a whirligig of sound, wonder, and jubilant expectation.

“Star of wonder, star of light, star of royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.”

I wish you Happy Hanukkah,

Merry Christmas,

and a Happy, Healthy, and Hope-filled New Year for 2021.

I hope you enjoy this song and video.

Your American friend in England,


Purchase this Christmas single for your Holiday mixtape here. I do have many things for sale in my shop including music, handmade pillows and rabbits, tote bags, t-shirts, and art prints. Though they won’t make it to you in time for Christmas Day, perhaps you’d like to use your Christmas money from your grandmother on something fine.

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