Days after Christmas are dull and lifeless, like snow when someone has walked through it. We’ve all eaten too much and didn’t eat enough so now we’re longing for turkey and bread sauce, honeyed carrots, sprouts with bacon, potatoes roasted in goose fat, pudding and brandy butter all over again… Nobody has any money, and the sales are prodding us, reminding us of all the things we never knew we NEEDED until they had 20% off. Months of cold, drab weather lie ahead with nothing to look forward to.
Thank heaven, then, for frost: turning spider webs to sheets of lace, tracing leaves with silver, and dusting everything with a delicious chill. I feel excited to wake and see my car frozen over. I enjoy never quite knowing if my next footstep will land me on my backside.
After the childish exuberance of Christmas I must be careful not to drift into melancholy. I have a tendency to it at the best of times, and it’s all so easy to mope and wallow in winter. What to do to avoid it? Embrace the dark. Enjoy how bright it makes any small flicker of light or heat. I turn off the lamps and my Angle Chimes hypnotise me as the glowing figurines circle the flames, striking the bells with their delicate faery tinkle. I look forward to winter evenings: the stars coming out early, lights out and candles lit, the pleasure of hot chocolate after a cold walk. After the busy mayhem of being with the family, as warm and rich as a Christmas pudding, it is pleasant to cosy up by myself.
Try going for a ‘run’ – I use the term loosely, as I am a beginner, unsure of my footing and flapping my arms like the turkey who got away – in the evening, the air so cold it hurts to breathe. Trees and windowsills are still jewelled with fairy lights; wreaths hang like a welcoming smile on doors. Baubles decorate crisp hedgerows and blink enthusiastically in bushes, reminding us that they are still glowing, still giving.
Thanks to Father Christmas and a few of his elves, my bookshelf are groaning with new books, each one prodding at my conscience, desperate to be the next discovery. I have time to do it. Library books are friends again, no longer wagging their fingers at me reminding me that I’ve renewed them several times and they still lie untouched. I’ve got the new Phil Rickman to devour, along with a biography of my hero Churchill by Boris Johnson (another sort-of hero) and a book on How To Be Well Read. In the meantime, this yuletide I’ve been enjoying:
Printer’s Devil Court by Susan Hill. Only I haven’t enjoyed it at all. I love Hill’s short ghost stories, but this one read like she’d written it in her sleep. The proof-reader should be shot: the errors, both typographical and editorial, were cringe-worthy and the story itself drifted into a fizzle like a match dropped into a pile of snow. I’m not linking to it. Don’t read it. I am cross that I did, especially when I was so looking forward to it. I don’t know why I’m even mentioning it. Still, it’s written now, and life is too short for the backspace button.
Little Egypt by Lesley Glaister helped me recover. Again another seemingly pedestrian story with a very dark, bitter edge, about two children whose parents disappeared to search for tombs in Egypt. One of those books you want to stay up late for.
I knew Charles Dickens and his Christmas books wouldn’t let me down. I very much enjoyed in particular The Christmas Tree, in which Dickens recalls toys of his youth. As he had a very poor childhood, I wonder how many of those were actually his, or belonged to his children; or that he looked at them in shop windows and longed for them.
I also enjoyed In The Dark by Deborah Moggach, which is about a family living through and recovering from WW1.
I bought a diary today. I used to write in it every day from age 6 until approx age 27, and I miss it. I’m hardly Pepys, and I doubt I’ll be recording anything of interest, but I seemed to write an awful lot more when I was in the habit of doing so, and perhaps I’d like one day to look back on what I wrote. Presently I can’t read my memoirs beyond the age of 16 without closing the book with a shudder, but perhaps things will be on the up. Life is what you make it, and I think my inner pudding needs a good stir and a shot of brandy. On that dreadful metaphor I shall leave. Happy 2015 to you all – all 3 of you 😉 and thank you for your continued enthusiasm and support for what appears to be not very much so far.