Another Christmas Day begins with the wind taking a breather outside and no sign of a flood. It is noticeable how often we have used the’ biblical’ to describe conditions this week. Somehow neither the colloquial nor the scientific feels up to the job. ‘Storm’ fails to convey the violence of the gales, rain and hail or the sense, abetted by previous incidents that these are the birth agonies of a new and less favourable order; while ‘extreme weather event’ wears a white coat when the dress code is defiantly party frock or gloomily sackcloth and ashes.

That people who regard themselves as atheists or agnostics can still make use of religious references is part of the cultural as opposed to meteorological transformation we have been going through. Regret is still voiced that the traditional pieties of Christmas have been lost sight of; and certainly their obliteration by the cargo cult of i-phones, tablets and the like is ugly to behold. This time, it seems Man really has bitten the Apple. But in many houses, including ours the things being celebrated are no less sacred, even though they are detached from dogma. Love for one’s family, generosity of spirit, the sharing of food in the harshness of midwinter, not to mention peace on earth and goodwill to all men – these have been hijacked by religions and made to seem inventions of some holy book but are in reality human values or aspirations arising from the experience of life. And if Christmas is the occasion when their secular nature comes to the fore that is only what Christians did with the pagan practices they overthrew, using the days, rituals and architecture they found in place to imbue new orthodoxies with old habits of mind and belief. What goes around comes around, I suppose.

Of course whatever new synthesis of past wisdom and present understanding emerges will in no time seem preposterous to some and in turn be superseded. That is the way of things. Meanwhile, until that new formulation emerges and an alternative greeting hits the spot I am delighted to wish anyone reading this (itself some sort of miracle) a merry Christmas. Now, where’s that turkey…