Category Archives: Christmas

Orbiting Jupiter

If I’d known it was a little bit Christmas related, I’d have read Orbiting Jupiter a week earlier. I reckon I wouldn’t have minded crying at Christmas. Much. It was mostly good crying. Some bad. It takes a very special kind of writer – and Gary D Schmidt is one – to dare do what he did.

This commendably short and moving book is about two boys. 12-year-old Jack, who lives on a farm (in Maine, is my guess) with his parents, and Joseph, who is a couple of years older and comes to them to be fostered. He is a troubled boy, and on top of everything else, he is a recent father.

Joseph isn’t allowed to see baby Jupiter, but it’s all he wants. He loves that baby. He’s also rather challenging, and school isn’t easy. Even Jack encounters new problems, simply by association.

There are some really dreadful children, and teachers, in that school. But there are also some very decent people, and Jack’s parents belong to the latter category. There is finally some hope for Joseph, when…

You will need that hanky out now, but you definitely want to read this book. It has some lovely cows, and it is yet more proof that librarians are worth having.

Gary D Schmidt, Orbiting Jupiter

Tree v books

Christmas tree

The tree is on its way out. It always makes me sad, because I like my Christmas tree. And after our second Christmas in the ‘new’ Bookwitch Towers, I am very satisfied with its position in the house too, while the Resident IT Consultant is less thrilled.

I like it because I see it as I exit the other downstairs rooms, since despite the grand name, Bookwitch Towers is a small bungalow, albeit double-fronted. So unlike the much larger, old BT, this one offers a long vista from one end to the other, and I rather like seeing the tree all lit up across the rooms.

The reason the Resident IT Consultant isn’t so happy is that it blocks off the reference books for four weeks every year. My feeling is that with all those mince pies needing attention, he will have no time to look things up [in books]. And if he absolutely must, he can jolly well look up what’s in the almost reachable half behind the tree.

And let’s face it; once the books are uncovered again, the reunion will be that much sweeter.

More resolutions

Sorry. I wasn’t going to do them. But the Guardian published some author resolutions on reading, and I need to air my views.

Obviously, I don’t have resolutions. I long decided the best way to go is to avoid them like the plague.

But, I would like to read more. Meg Rosoff aims to read for four hours a day. That had better be tongue-in-cheek! Even if I could, I wouldn’t. Unless temporary circumstances forced it. It feels excessive. Two hours? I could aspire to that.

Jackie Morris has a sensible idea; half an hour at each end of the day. I like that. But then I had to go and ruin it by wondering how I’d deal with those mornings when you’re up early to go to the dentist, catch a train, or something. (OK, I’d read in the waiting room to calm myself down, and the train is perfect for reading.)

In general though, I suppose it’s worth aspiring to change. I have this long term idea of a new reading challenge I could do, while recognising I will never get round to it. It’s much easier to go on as I am.

Harking back to the toddler years – Offspring’s, not mine – I felt so much better once I got re-started on reading. On the other hand, sitting is said to be the new smoking, and I do feel the need to sit during most of my reading. I should aim to bake more bread, or do the ironing; both of which are jobs done standing up, and both are good for the mind.

Or, I could go back to audiobooks. Anthony McGowan cycles round London listening to books. I have a garage full of audio books, but nothing on which to play them. Besides, I have ‘read’ them already.

In reality I imagine I will stumble from book to book the way I have been for years. And I may need to ditch my current book. It could be that it’s not gripping me enough, rather than lack of time between eating Stollen and watching Christmas television that keeps me from picking the book up.

Jigging snowflakes

I may have mentioned the Great Grandfather’s jigsaws before. Or not. I’ll mention them again, just in case.

He liked woodworky stuff and had a variety of exciting tools and made a number of things that we still have around the house. And he made jigsaws. With the jigsaw, I presume.

They are most devious, and to my mind almost impossible to do. But the in-law relatives enjoy them and swap them, and there can be big gatherings over the jigsaw board.

We didn’t have a big group of people this Christmas, but the Resident IT Consultant popped over to the late Grandmother’s flat to steal some jigsaw puzzles (what with me having placed the Christmas tree in front of the cupboard doors where we keep ours…) so he would have something to occupy himself with.

Below is what he left to ‘someone else’ to finish after a long session. Daughter pronounced it impossible, but still managed it after some mutterings. In one way it seems perfectly easy. I mean, you pick up one piece and try it in one spot, until you find the one that fits. And so you go on.

Jigsaw pieces

Looked at another way, what Daughter was left with was a pile of almost identical snowflake shaped pieces in off-white. Which is fine. I just don’t quite get how a group of snowflakes will fit and fill the remaining hole in this Chinese mining poster, despite the fact that I remember ‘helping’ to do this very jigsaw some thirty years ago. Possibly I just stood on the sidelines and cheered.

Quiz, happiness and more food

And so they lived happily ever after. With my fondness for happy endings, I was more than satisfied with the – somewhat – cheesy romantic solutions at Downton.

The big question now is, what on earth do we watch in its place?

Between eating too much Christmas dinner and attempting to finish off the food from Christmas Eve for supper, we did some quizzes again. Daughter had bought a new edition of the pub quiz book that saved Christmas a couple of years ago. It can be fun to discover how much you don’t know. Or how silly some of the questions are. (At least I recognise the lyrics to Lola, and House of the Rising Sun, despite never having heard of some of the newer names in the music business.)

This year was an unfortunate time to assert Harper Lee’s one-novel status. But, these things happen. The second quiz book, on trains and stuff, turned out to be mostly a one-horse race.

And I’ve not read a thing.

Flatpacks

We ate a lot, and at the end of the day we opened the presents (which has the added advantage that I can now reach to switch off some of my decorative lights again).

Christmas presents

They were mainly flatpacks. Hard parcels as the Swedes say. The Resident IT Consultant had already owned up to giving only books. As if we needed any more! Admittedly, I did ask for a Margery Allingham I’d discovered we didn’t seem to own.

And I actually got a piece of furniture in one of my parcels.

Daughter got the most in number, the Resident IT Consultant seemed pleased with his slippers and chocolate marmite, and Son and Dodo will be melting cheese for fondue from now on. That is if they manage to stagger home under the weight of fondue pot and cheese packs.

Have a heart

We’re having a blue Christmas this year. So that’s why I’ve got a few of the bluer hearts made for me by Mother-of-witch. They are a standard tree adornment in the Nordic countries, but no matter how I try, I cannot make one.

Blue and white heart

So one year, quite a long time ago, I asked Mother-of-witch if she could make me a few hearts, and she did.

Luckily they have lasted all this time, and I handle them with the utmost care.

Although, it appears that Daughter has the knack. These things often skip a generation. So maybe she can be relied upon to make replacements if they are needed. If I can only lay my hands on the right kind of paper…