I was struck by how many people responded joyfully to my mention of Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising sequence and how many of you read this wonderful fantasy series regularly. I loved the thought of it being read and enjoyed every Christmas, (as Rosie certainly does, and Chris as well and many more) and that got me thinking of all those other books which I traditionally bring out at this season to pile by the fireplace and browse through between now and the New Year. What are your festive favourites?
Top of the list for me, every year since childhood, is Dickens' Christmas Carol. At first I read it for those wonderful descriptions of a Victorian Christmas - the shops crowded, everybody full of goodwill for mankind, the delights of the Cratchits' festive table - but now I see far more in it - a plea for genuine good feeling for all our fellow creatures and a generous heart for those less fortunate than ourselves. It's been filmed many times, but nothing can beat the sheer magic of the original 1840s tale. I've read this in many editions, in many parts of the world around Christmas Eve - London, North Africa, the Tirol, Tobago, California, even Kathmandu - and it never fails.
For the past decade or so, Lucy M. Boston's The Children of Green Knowe has come out of the juvenile bookcase in early December and into a place of honour by the fire. I only discovered this classic in relatively recent years when I saw that perfect gem of a BBC production one winter. I wish, oh I wish they would repeat it, or if not, bring out a DVD; fortunately a friend had taped the series and gave me a copy, but it's not very good and I live in fear of its disintegration. The BBC film is such an exquisite interpretation of an amazing book - everybody should read of this wonderful ancient house in the Norfolk Fens where children of different centuries play together and dark dangerous powers emerge late at night.
Then of course there is the evergreen 'Twas The Night Before Christmas. I have loved this poem ever since I saw an old black and white movie version for the first time as a toddler; now I have picked out a really well illustrated large-format copy and open a different page for each day in December.
Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising volume will of course be there, with its wonderful evocation of woodlands and whisperings and strange happenings one Christmas when a young boy realises his destiny. There is so much of the old knowledge, the old wisdom in this book that I think Susan Cooper must have been - well, if not of the old religion, then certainly very well versed in it.
And another poem, one very dear to my heart, Robert Frost's Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. I've always loved that, and when, some years ago, I discovered a beautifully illustrated version in an American bookstore, I made Richard buy it for me. I could have bought it for myself, but I felt very strongly that it should be a gift. The pictures are heart-turningly lovely. I'll get Richard to copy a few and put them on for you to enjoy over the next few weeks.
I'm sure there are more but I can't think of them right now. Do tell me your festive special reads - the books you choose to curl up with when the wind is blowing outside and the fire is flickering brightly. There is something about reading that television can never replace. (Although I will admit to watching Polar Express several times during December - have it on DVD. Yes, and Ghost Train too.)
It's been a very busy couple of days, skeining up a whole bunch of glorious mohair yarns to list on eBay. I've been trying to do this for a week, but work commitments simply wouldn't let me. However, made a real push last night and eventually this morning it was just about fine enough to photograph them. Richard had to lend a hand - the watery sunshine wasn't sufficient to do justice to the colours, so he had to bring in his flash photography know-how.
Here is one of the finished results of his work:
Two fine kid mohairs there, to left and right, lavender and pale pistachio green respectively; the others are all heavier gauge. Two variegateds from the Elements range - Earth to the left, Fire to the right, with that unusual greeny-blue mohair in between (Ms. Knitingale you recognise that one, don't you?) Plus turquoise, black and a lovely silvery grey that positively shimmers like a dewy spider's web.
And here is a rare picture of the photographer in action, snapped quickly by me while he was otherwise occupied. He'll not be best pleased to see this up on the post; it is his firmly held conviction that a photographer does NOT himself get captured on screen.
All up and listed now, so I can relax on that front for a while. Next week I'll list some more sock yarns and a few colours in that lovely merino 'mousse' yarn which I think would be ideal for kimonos and the like, being soft, warm and very very light. I'm certainly going to use that for my proposed charcoal/poppy red kimono creation - WHEN I get round to it!
In the meantime, although several pairs of socks, St. Enda, Dogi Vest and Ragna are all clamouring for my attention, I am having to restrain myself forcibly from winding up dear Roggey's Seasilk, threading on the beads, and starting straight into a Swallowtail...