My December Books

I did’t get much of a chance to read during December due to lots of cooking/wrapping/shopping/preparation, but I did manage two new books, bringing my total for the year to 63, which I’m very pleased with. At some point I’ll be doing a post of my top ten books of the year, but for now I’m still very much in Christmas mode – lots of cooking, lots of eating, a fair amount of wine and lots of time hanging out with friends and family, but not a lot of anything else.

A Christmas Feast by Katie Fforde

I picked up this book of short stories on the book stall at the school Christmas Bazaar, and it obviously couldn’t be more perfect for a feel-good comfort read at this time of the year. I couldn’t photograph it as I’ve already lent it to a friend – which is always a good sign! I’m not normally a huge fan of short stories as I like to really get stuck into a book, but it was actually the perfect reading for very busy days and snatched 5 minutes to read while I waited for the pasta to cook or before I fell asleep each night.

The Rose Revived by Katie Fforde

Not one which counts towards my total, as I’ve read this book hundreds of times before, but it is my must-read Christmas countdown book. Actually a lot of the novel is set in autumn and spring too, but some of the key action takes place over Christmas, and it always gets me in the festive mood!

Gone West by Carola Dunn

I’ve been reading this series of detective stories set in the 1920s throughout the year, and just happened to spot this one in the library a couple of weeks ago. A very successful library visit, as I also managed to get Spot’s Christmas and Spot’s Birthday Party for a certain little girl who loves Spot and was about to turn two just ten days before Christmas. And, an even greater triumph, these books were all due back on Christmas Eve when I definitely didn’t have time to get to the library, but I managed to remember to renew them in time. I’m awarding myself a silver star for that, to be upgraded to gold if I actually manage to remember to take them back the first week in January.

Hens Reunited by Lucy Diamond

This was another find at the Christmas Bazaar, and one I was really looking forward to. I’ve read a fair bit of Lucy Diamond this year, and have really enjoyed the books. This one followed the stories of three women – Katie, Georgia and Alice – who met at university and had all been bet friends at each other’s hen nights as they made fairly disastrous marriages during their twenties. As the book is written they are in their mid-thirties, and still trying to cope with the fallout of those marriages, and the effect they have had on their future romantic relationships and their friendships with each other. Not deep and meaningful, maybe, but likeable characters and really good fun.december-books

 

 

Advertisements

Let there be peace on earth…

Like most people, I’m not going to be sad to say goodbye to 2016. The political news has gone from bad, to worse, to oh-my-god-what-is-this-living-nightmare, and we’re ending the year in a landscape of such unremitting bleakness that it is hard to see a way back.

christmas-card

Personally I had the challenge of admitting that I was struggling with mental health problems and getting help. I also faced my darkest fear one sunny Saturday afternoon when Sophia had such a severe episode of RAS that I thought she was dead. I can’t write about it without crying. It was the most terrifying episode of my life, and I just pray that it remains so. I’ve also been physically ill a fair amount – tonsillitis, arthritis flare-up, episcleritis, sinusitis, bronchitis. Maybe not unconnected to my mental health and all the external stresses.

It is hard to stay positive, but actually, that is all we can do. On Friday it was my eldest daughter’s school Christmas carol service, held in the local parish church. Anna is in the choir, and had been practising hard, and was also very nervous. Her school do these things incredibly well, and the over-arching message, told through the Nativity story and an array of modern and traditional carols, was one of peace, love and tolerance.

“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me” they sang. I cried and cried – not the socially acceptable welling up that most mums experience on these occasions, but proper gulping sobs. Luckily we were at the back, skulking in case Sophia decided to provide some unscheduled entertainment of her own. It seemed unbearably poignant to hear all these childish voices, see their innocent little faces, and reflect firstly on the children in Aleppo who know no peace, and secondly on the desperately uncertain future that Brexit, Trump and the rise of neo-fascism seem to be creating in the West.

My husband had a different, less bleak, take on it. He pointed out that these children are the future, and here in London at least, they are standing side by side – Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Hindu – all religions and none, singing a message of peace and tolerance. If they can grow up with those values and take them out into the world, then the future will not be as grim as it sometimes seems.

Building on this, I took my girls to a Christingle service yesterday. I am a lapsed and questioning Christian, my husband is agnostic; our children are not being brought up with any particular religion. But I do want them to understand a meaning of Christmas that is deeper than lots of chocolate and new toys, and for me at least the meaning of Christmas is that love is the most important gift, that anyone in a position of power should understand and experience vulnerability and that everyone, rich or poor, shepherd or king, is equal. The vicar at this service conveyed these messages beautifully, and Anna was so proud of creating her own Christingle, and enthralled by the beauty of a group of people holding lit candles processing up the church aisle. Had I not been fairly unsettled at the combination of my whirlwind toddler and a lot of naked flames I would have been similarly entranced. She had already eaten her own Christingle.

christingle

There seems to be very little that we, ordinary people, can do to influence events at the moment. All we can do is hope that tiny acts of kindness, making the effort to be positive and optimistic, and raising our children to absorb the values of peace, hope and love, as well as tolerance and inclusivity is enough.

And, if I don’t get the chance to blog again before the weekend – thank you for reading during 2016, and I hope you and your families have a happy, hopeful, peaceful and loving Christmas and New Year.