Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. I love doing all the Christmassy things, from putting up the tree, with or without feline intervention, to packing presents at the last moment.
Homegrown Christmas Traditions
And I decorate the tree. Ah, my dear tree. Family tradition was to decorate it on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, while we listened to Carols from Kings on the radio. (It’s still available on BBC3, and also on BBC TV and probably I-player and podcast too.) It was ready, but without lights, for when my father came home from work.
The lights were A Man’s Job. At least one of the little bulbs would need be replaced and he was OIC technology.
Currently she is her Duchess of Malfi incarnation, at the instigation of a dear friend who channelled the Jacobeans a lot. My handiwork wasn’t quite up to the concept. She looks OK from a distance. If a touch inebriated.
Sadly, I’m not as good at fixing her in place as my father was. Pretty soon she starts to list to port. I straighten her throughout the day. And every morning she has returned to that same drunken angle. Waving. I blame the elves. With possible feline assistance, of course.
Child’s Time for Reading at Christmas
BUT they had their own routines and took a long time negotiating the stairs. Not these exact stairs, you understand. Any stairs, including your basic semi–detached 2 storey suburban house staircase. Though at least one of the great-aunts regularly Made Entrances any diva would envy. She would have liked these stairs a lot.
Fundamentally, my mother needed me to park myself somewhere and stay there until they were all settled. And no, not in the kitchen (size of very small narrow boat galley).
Christmas Reading Then
I was deeply into historical adventure the year of the Aunts. Some came from my parents’ book shelves, some from the library. One or two were Christmas presents I’d asked for: The Children of the New Forest, The Eagle of the Ninth.
But the absolute star for that particular Christmas was a present I hadn’t asked for and rather looked askance at when I opened it – Tales of Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest.
My mother shook her head over it. Lots of fighting and competing and plotting against the enemy – not my Sort of Thing, she thought. But my parents never censored what I read. So I got to take it into my quiet corner. It kept me absolutely spellbound until the Aunts were settled and I was allowed out of my box. And every night, when Mother put me to bed, I’d tell her one of the stories. With relish.
The book is long gone, sadly. But I remember clearly that it was hardback, with a dark green cloth binding that had a design of little black fleur de lys on it. I can’t remember the paper jacket at all.
Anyway, I hated pictures on my books. I knew what Robin looked like. By the end of that Christmas I was Robin.
Time for Reading At Christmas Since
Well, I’m a lark. Pre-dawn I clean the kitchen – SO much better with no one else Being Helpful and I can sing. Well, quietly. Then I can make a pot of tea and cuddle up with cat and book in front of the fire. Bliss.
To me, it’s always a time for reading something new. Maybe it’s simply the season, the turning of the year, the faint whiff of spring and new life to come. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been racing madly not just to Get Ready for Christmas, but the hurly burly of pre-Christmas junketings with colleagues and neighbours. Suddenly all is still and you have time to think at a sensible pace again.
So my reading could be a Christmas present, for instance, like Jane Glover’s Handel in London of a few years ago. Oh, there’s whole world to walk around in inside that book.
I’m pretty sure that was how I found my first Temeraire by Naomi Novik. This is a wonderful series, a proper fantasy with dragons, philosophy, alternate history and some cracking characters. And proper heroic dilemmas that our heroes, dragon and human, have to grapple with.
The downside of borrowing, of course, is usually you can’t take the book home with you. The upside is that, when you track it down to buy, you find others in the same series or by the same author. I bought four Noviks at Hatchards the very next week!
Time for Reading at Christmas 2020? A small present to our readers
Next week’s blog is a new venture for us, starting on Boxing Day. A serial mystery story, written by me, set right here, right now, London December 2020. It’s a little bit of intrigue to take you out of yourself with your own morning coffee and cat, or relaxation of choice.
Thereafter, there will be an episode a day until Twelfth Night.
We hope it hits the spot.
This was written before the news of the virus mutation and consequent Tier 4 restrictions on so many people who will feel devastated, some of the Libertà Hive and our friends among them. Let us be gentle with each other in this dark time and nurture our dear ones in every way we can, including virtually.
The Safest and Happiest Possible Christmas from all of us at Libertà Books