Tuesday, December 18, 2007



A few nights ago it was the December meeting of my Bookgroup, and we did something a little different from our normal custom of all reading a chosen book and then talking about it. The member of the group who was hosting the meeting had asked us all to bring a book that that had the word Christmas in the title or that featured Christmas in some way. Our choices were very varied and as extracts from the various books were read aloud we were either reduced to tearful nostalgia for our childhood Christmases, or weeping with laughter at some of the hilarious writing people had tracked down. and I list some of them here.

It was a very successful formula for the meeting and every one left in extremely up-beat mood.

The Twelve Days of Christmas [Correspondence], by John Julius Norwich.

This little book, beautifully illustrated by Quentin Blake, consists of twelve thank you letters from a young lady called Emily to her adoring swain, Edward, who sends her all the different birds, people, animals etc as featured in the Christmas song. Emily starts off enchanted by his first gift of a Partridge in a Pear Tree, but by the time she has received nine Ladies Dancing (who she describes as “hussies wearing little more than lipstick”) she has had enough, the gifts are wreaking havoc on her garden and her mother has collapsed and had to be carted off in an ambulance. When the final gift arrives, the entire percussion section of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, she resorts to the law and her solicitor writes Edward a very stern letter informing him that Emily has taken out an injunction against him.

The book is an amusing whimsy and would make a great stocking filler for a Mum, Gran, or Auntie.


The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson

Most of us could remember being read this as children, but I for one, had forgotten just how poignant it was. Children's stories today do not tend to end with the death of a child, obviously the Victorians didn't think that reading of such a fate would cause long term distress to the reader.


Christmas at Fontaines by William Kotzwinkle. This book all takes place within a big department store, with all the hustle, bustle and tension of the Christmas period. There the reader meets a variety of characters who are mysteriously transformed in nature by a magical presence. One of them is the young man who is the buyer for the toy department, he has had enough, enough of children, enough of their parents, and enough of toys. He fantasises about massacre and mayhem with exploding toys. The book will remind anyone who has worked in the retail trade about how tough the festive season can be, and remind the rest of us – the shoppers – to be more civil and less aggressive to shop workers when doing the Christmas shopping.


A Wayne in a Manger by Gervaise Phinn, had us all laughing so much we could hardly hear what was being read. Gervais Phinn is a retired Primary Schools Inspector from Yorkshire, and in this book he has collected together anecdotes from some of the many school nativity plays he has sat through over the years.
Did the shepherds pick their noses whilst watching their flocks?
Did the third king cry when he couldn't hold the gold?
Did the innkeeper really tell Joseph to 'push off'?
Did Mary tell Joseph “ I'm having a baby - oh and it's not yours.....”?

If you have children or have ever watched a children's nativity play you will laugh yourself silly; a perfect little book to give grandparents, parents and teachers.


Our parliamentary representatives have just been issued with comprehensive instructions on how to clear up a broken light bulb.

‘The cleaning operative, using protective gloves and wearing a mask, should collect the main fragments of the light bulb and carefully place them in a sturdy box.

All splinters should then be collected using stiff card or paper. The area should then be cleaned using a damp cloth. The splinters and the cloth should then be placed in the box.

Once the area is clear and clean, the box should be sealed and labelled with details of the item.

The box should then be taken to the waste removal area in the loading bay and passed to the waste disposal contractor in an appropriate manner.’

Apparently such guidance from the House of Commons Commission was necessary because in the past someone put their hand into a waste bag and cut their finger….Ah diddums, we can’t have that can we?

No doubt there is another set of comprehensive instructions on how to apply a Band Aid or Elastoplast to digits injured on shards of light bulb glass.

You will either find all this very funny, or bloody irritating (or both) – what kind of nation are we becoming where our MPs require written instructions for such a simple thing, don’t they have common sense in the House of Commons? It is absolutely ludicrous, and producing such instructions no doubt took time and money from some budget or other that we fund through our taxes. Don’t they have better things to do?


I have become really fed up with Christmas shopping, the crowds, muzak being played at top volume in the stores, the tat on offer. Some years ago I decided that unless I knew exactly what to get as a gift for a particular individual I would only give books or something homemade. This
year, having moved house a couple of months ago, I didn't think I'd be able to manage homemade Christmas cakes or Stollen, but then I came across a magazine article about flavoured alcohols and hey presto this year's production was solved. It is absolutely terrific (and I say that as a confirmed G&T drinker) so next year, get out some bottles and give it a go, your friends will not be sorry!


1 litre vodka
4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
Peel of one lemon and one orange
25g each of currants, raisins, dried figs(cut the figs into quarters)

Extra lemon and orange peel and cinnamon sticks for the final bottling.

Sterilize a large glass container by washing well and then drying in a hot oven.

Combine all ingredients and put into the container. Seal and leave in a dark cool place for 2 weeks, turning the container occasionally.

Filter the liquid* and decant it into sterilized gift bottles.

Add a fresh piece of orange or lemon peel and a cinnamon stick to each bottle. Cap the bottles.

3 month drink by date.

Serve very cold.
Delicious over ice, or with tonic water and a slice of orange.

* Don't waste what you've filtered out. Remove the peel, cloves and cinnamon stick from the filtered residue and stir the boozy fruit through some vanilla ice cream - yum!


KreativeMix said...

i enjoyed reading this post :-)

sa lone pikin

nick said...

Somewhere the Commons must also have instructions (or even a comprehensive manual) on how to shut a door without trapping someone's finger or how to stabilise rugs so nobody slips on them. This must be how the government's achieved full employment - 1 million people are busy writing health and safety leaflets on every possible safety-threatening situation.

Bybee said...

The package arrived today. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Merry Christmas!

Jeffry said...

Thanks for this article, really worthwhile material.
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