Tell me a story about Feste, please.
It is that time of year when you blink and suddenly you’ve lost a week. When I was peedie, December seemed to drag by. It took forever to reach Christmas. We would start whispering about Christmas in secret throughout October and early November (sometimes even September), because we knew we’d be told it was Too Early. The days would creep slowly, even more so the closer it got to Christmas Day. It was almost achingly unbearable to Child Me.
Now, of course, this time of year charges on at an alarming pace. No sooner has my birthday passed in mid-November than it’s time to hoik the Christmas decorations down from the loft.
The turning point in our house – the moment we were allowed to start thinking seriously about Christmas – was always the 17th November. My birthday was the last of the year, and the day that followed marked the start of Festive Planning Proper (though there had obviously been planning in some form for weeks). Over the years, the day earned its capitals to become Nearly Christmas.
Though we never decorated until much, much closer to Christmas itself, Nearly Christmas was the point at which we could start singing carols and playing the old Christmas cassettes we had acquired (“The Stars Sing at Christmas” compilation, and a tape of Johnny Mathis singing Christmas songs) without fear of grown-ups being, well, grown-ups.
Nearly Christmas is more than just a day and a sub-season in its own right. It’s a way of thinking, an ever-present thrill of expectation. It’s the warmth that sees you through the rain and the fog, especially in those late November days before many houses have their additional Christmas sparkle to brighten up the darker nights of the year. Nearly Christmas is an institution in its own right.
What and Where
November was another busy month, with friends and family visiting us all in Croy, and a trip to Leeds (via Edinburgh) to present at the AUA Autumn Conference (tweet-write-up still pending from my session – the #AUAAutumn2019 hashtag wasn’t exactly swamped with activity, so I cut myself some slack and decided I’d wait for a pre-Christmas mop-up of 2019 projects before sending some additional thoughts out into the ether). It was great to catch up with friends and former colleagues in Edinburgh for an evening en route, and I enjoyed participating in the conference; even if I did have to duck out to head northward earlier than expected to get back to the bairn.
November culminated in a trip to Wick to see the family, and for Scapa to retrieve her dog show prize of a pet portrait (along with Orlando, who won Most Handsome Dog).
The portrait session was highly amusing. Scapa doesn’t do demure and sit-still-and-pose.
On the Bookshelf
We are now four days into December and I am thoroughly enjoying sharing ‘The Children of Green Knowe’ by Lucy M. Boston with my little family. It is a long-standing #AMurderOfCrows annual tradition to read ‘The Children of Green Knowe’ together in the run-up to Christmas (except for the occasional year when ‘The Box of Delights’ by John Masefield is chosen instead). This evening’s excerpt finished with: “‘Tell me a story about Feste, please.’”
To this day, there are sections of the book I can recite by heart. I am enjoying discovering the joy of reading it aloud to Auri, Euan, and Scapa. Sometimes, I realise I’ve used the same inflection or cadence that my Mum used (and still uses, I assume), without really thinking about it. An inherited, shared tradition. Not sure I’ll ever manage to get away with mimicking her excellent Boggis accent, though. Accents are not my forte.
In the Inkwell
This month is all about 2020’s plans and schemes. I have been spending some time rationalising what I hope to focus upon next year from a writing perspective. #NaNoWriMo was a No in the end this year. I decidedly I would cut myself some slack. Plenty of time in the coming weeks and months to get back into writing proper.
It looks like 2020 might hold some interesting projects. Some individual, some collaborative. Watch this space for an end-of-the-year look-ahead post.
And so, we are several days into Advent already. This year, we’re spending Christmas with my family (#Crowmas) and New Year with Euan’s family (#Cumbriamas). Whatever your own personal approach to belief and religion, I hope you have a wonderful festive season and enjoy the run-up to Christmas. It really is the most magical time of year.
‘til next time,
4th December 2019
Croy, Highlands, Scotland