Monthly Archives: December 2011

I Believe in Father Christmas…

I Believe in Father Christmas…

Once, many hundreds of years ago, I worked in a small seaside hotel in Norfolk. I was a silver service waitress that drew a short straw and had to work on Christmas Day. Actually, it was rather nice serving lots of jolly people who filled the dining room with fun and laughter and my colleagues and I bustled around spreading seasonal magic with our patrons, and each other. It didn’t feel that Christmassy to me though. Then, there was a serendipitous moment when all of  us waiting staff were in the kitchen, collecting orders, and from the radio came the opening bars of A Spaceman Came Travelling by Chris de Burgh. Without a word to each other, we all stopped and listened. To this day, those few minutes of 1982 were my Christmas and every time I hear that song, I’m transported back to that tiny island of time. But, much as I love that song, and Slade’s timeless anthem to Christmas, there is one song that I love above all others. Jona Lewie’s Stop the Cavalry runs a close second, and doesn’t it say a lot about me that both of my favourite Christmas songs are actually protest songs? Yes, my all-time top seasonal song is I Believe in Father Christmas. I was ten when this was a hit, too young you’d think to understand why Greg Lake was sitting in a desert strumming his guitar, but I wasn’t. I got it and it

chimed with something deep inside.Thank you Claire

My family skip this song on the Chrimbo CD because it’s a bit of a dirge as far as they’re concerned but my sister knows. She understands, and when the kids are absent, she’ll put it on and whack the volume up. She feels the same way I do – and yet. And yet…

Do you remember being little? Do you remember when the nights were full of magic because Father Christmas was making his final preparations?  The air positively sparked with magic – then we grew up. For  many, becoming parents and recreating that magic for our offspring is how we get it all back. But, I am not a parent, I’m an auntie. I have stood out on the back doorstep, smoking my last cigarette before bed and looking up at the night sky. There’s very little light pollution here. The stars are bright and twinkly above me, and I have tried to reach out with my mind and feel the specialness of this time of year but all I come up against is the sense that the world doesn’t care. I mean the spinning rock on which we live, not the people. The flashing lights adorning the village high street, the landing lights in the homes of small children, too afraid to sleep in  the dark, have a magic of their own but, to me, it’s not enough. Then, last night, I realised something. The magic of Christmas is inside. It’s inside my house – and the houses of every other family. In my house, it stems from my sister. She will not succumb to my bah humbug. She will not let Father Christmas fade away into the past, even though her children are old enough to doubt. She loves Christmas and because of this, Christmas is magic. It has nothing to do with religion. It has nothing to do with anyone or anything other than her. She works hard to share her vision, and we do. We bathe in her love and she has enough to share with those outside of her family. If you live near her, if you are alone and lonely, she will know. And she will invite you share what we have. That is Christmas in our house. That is the magic of Christmas, as far as I’m concerned. As Greg Lake said, the Christmas we get, we deserve. I agree. Thanks to my little sister, I have had my best Christmas ever, and it’s because she deserves the very best of all Christmases.

PS. I got her the chainsaw she’s always wanted. She got me… an electric sander! Cool!

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Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Family Life


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I’m with Tim

Tim Minchin isn’t in the Jonathon Ross Show. His Christmas song might offend someone. A friend of mine posted a link to so that those interested could hear the song. I did. I enjoyed the it but what caught my eye was an article Tim had written for the New Statesman which he’d framed around the conundrum of what to tell his daughter when she asked him directly if Father Christmas is real. His editor was Richard Dawkins and the article examines honesty and non-belief, among other things, but what caught my eye and made me want to mention his article here, is what he says about imagination and fiction.

He says he adores stories and that imagination is important. That’s a no-brainer Tim, because without your highly developed imagination, you’d be an accountant or a car park attendant. And if, as you say, fiction can educate, enlighten and free us then I’m thrilled to bits. I read fiction. I write fiction. I want to set people’s  minds ‘soaring beyond reality.’ My mind escaped reality the moment I learned to read and I love joining up disparate ideas and making them into a magical whole.

Books, films, plays, music, etc, all work on the imagination. The reader/viewer/listener absorbs the images projected by the creator and then weaves them into something new. It’s an endless chain and I am a link in that chain.

Long live the makers of fiction and the miners of imagination – my niece is one, my nephew another – and let us all give thanks for people  like Dr Seuss,  Roald Dahl, Eddie Izzard and Tim Minchin because wouldn’t the world be dull without them?

PS. Of course Father Christmas is real.

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Posted by on December 23, 2011 in Struggling Writers


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Johnny Rotten chops logs

My sister and I had a very unusual upbringing. Our brother wasn’t born until I was nearly sixteen and my sister was eleven. Until then, my father compensated by getting us to do the DIY and the ‘manly’ jobs around the house.

Fast forward to the present day and what do I get my little sis for Christmas? That’s right, a chainsaw. Oh the joy when the gales knocked over a huge beech tree in our lane. We now have fire wood for the next two years. But that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing to tell the world that my sister has named her chainsaw Johnny Rotten. She says it chews through the logs like a hot knife goes through butter and the real Mr Rotten advertises… butter.  Oh, that clears that up then. It also explains why, when she puts it away, she says ‘Thank you, farmer’s wife.’

Do you think that tree clonked her on the head when it came down?


Posted by on December 22, 2011 in Family Life


Were the Brontes like this?

My nine-year-old nephew has gone quiet on the writing front recently. It’s OK though, I’ve taught him to play Spider Solitaire, the procrastinating writer’s friend, to keep him amused. My twelve-year-old niece, however, is bashing away non-stop. Every available minute, she’s tapping away, building her word count. I am sooooooo jealous. Yesterday, she and I went for a walk down by the river. Two writers, out in the countryside, enjoying the peace and a bit of literary chat. She said she was a bit stuck with her story, and I certainly am with mine, so I thought we’d talk it all through and arrive at the mill for a hot chocolate with our heads clear and notebooks ready. Hah! I did the same with her brother about a week ago. Boy can he talk. Yak, yak, yak all the way down our lane, across the bridge and up the riverbank. He only fell quiet when he sipped his drink. And was his sister any different? Nah.

This morning, I suggested a quiet time in the front room whilst Mum was at work. The three of us had a laptop each. My nephew solved his solitaire and e-fireworks lit up his screen as a reward. My niece immediately overcame her writers’ block and disappeared into the world she has created. I played Spider Solitaire, checked my emails, played Spider Solitaire again… Then, my sister came home and rescued me.

‘Why are you stuck?’ she asked. I told her, we talked about it and I wrote down some ideas. This afternoon I went to the river alone. By the time I got to the mill, my mind was buzzing and I sat in the warm, sipping my latte and scratching away in my notebook. Hoo-flipping-rah!

What I want to know is, was life in the Haworth parsonage like this ? (Without the electricity, obviously.)

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Posted by on December 20, 2011 in Struggling Writers


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Note to Self

If I have any advice at all for would-be prose writers, it’s this: don’t worry about it. You will, of course, but in the end you must reach a point where you trust yourself to get the story across. You do need to learn your craft but you will learn. Whether it’s by practice or going on a course, you’ll hone your talents because you want to.

If you ar a plotter that needs to lay a story out in full before you write it, if you’re a seat-of-the-pants merchant who makes it up as you go along – fine. Do it your way but make sure of one thing: do your research. It needn’t be as onerous as it sounds – you may only need to look up a couple of things – but if you don’t do it, there’ll be a gap in your thinking and it’ll show in your writing.

Once you’ve got all that under your belt, sit down, take a deep breath and just start. You’ve built this story in your head, mulled it over in quiet moments, now let it flow through your fingers. Think of it as an archaeological dig. The whole structure is in your head – you are simply digging it up.

Ha ha, my niece and nephew may read that one day. Both of them are storytellers and both have mugged me for USB flash sticks recently. Mummy (my sister) has a laptop but no charger. The charger from my netbook fits it so one child gets the fully charged netbook and one gets the cable for Mum’s laptop. Apart from using me as a walking talking spellcheck, silence reigns as both children create their literary worlds. They have even taken over my bedroom, of an evening, because Mum and I were watching the soaps and it was interfering with their concentration. I love it. They don’t want to read my stuff (huh!) but all those greek myths that I acted out for them and my unique way of reading Where Wild Things Are , has obviously helped to fire up their imaginations and I’m reaping the benefit when I get to read their stories.

The cable from my laptop also fits Mum’s laptop but don’t let on to the kids. They’re like starlings. Stripping me of two USB sticks, a cable and a net-book isn’t enough, they won’t rest until they get everything!

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Posted by on December 17, 2011 in Struggling Writers


Hello world!

If you stumble across this blog and wonder what on earth is this woman going on about? All I can say is I am writing this as a way to get my head in gear. I’m in the last phase of a Creative Writing MA and my dissertation is crawling along and being overtaken by snails so if I get into the swing of things by writing this, who knows, I may turn out something worth reading…

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Posted by on December 13, 2011 in Struggling Writers

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