Christmas comes to Moominvalley

It is rather sweet. Even people who know nothing about Christmas, can get it right, completely by accident. In this case the people are the Moomin family. They hibernate, so tend not to be awake or aware of Christmas, unlike their friends and neighbours. But this time the Hemulen comes and wakes them up, because he’s fed up with all the preparations for Christmas.

Aren’t we all?

But knowing nothing, the poor Moomins are alarmed at first, worrying about this unknown monster coming for them. It needs a tree. The tree needs to be dressed. It needs food. And on top of that it requires presents.

Christmas comes to Moominvalley

Were it not for a tiny, shy creature drawn to their house by the kindness of Moominmamma, they’d know very little. With its help, they find pretty things to put on the tree, and they wrap presents, and Moominmamma gets busy in the kitchen.

After all that they do the most sensible thing of all and go back to bed.


I seem to know the story from a long time ago. However, it has been ‘adapted from the Tove Jansson classic,’ with words by Alex Haridi and Cecilia Davidsson – translated by A A Prime – and illustrations by Filippa Widlund. So I’m not sure what it is I remember.

But it is a lovely story, with pretty pictures, and who needs a star at the top of the tree when you can have a rose?

Advertisements

The burning question

It appears I’m not the only one who is exhausted. Because hard though it is to be holding on to a tiger – even a small one – by the tail, it seems that the bloggers and vloggers who make money from their online job are quickly burning out now.

I guess a tiger with money is far harder to hang on to. As long as there is no, or little money, involved, you can always let go. It might be upsetting, and disappointing. It could be the end to something you love, unless you could pick it up again after a rest.

But if it’s become your only/main source of income, and pretty decent income at that? It’s not only difficult to say goodbye to this. You need to know how to replace that income.

When I read about the vloggers and their burn-out I admit to a little schaden-freude. But not much. I think our shared experience makes for more sympathy than I’d thought I could feel for these young and beautiful online successes with their enormous followings and big bank accounts.

The stress of always having something new to talk about to an insatiable audience can be hard to deal with. Even when you do have something, you still need to whip it into shape and make it presentable. Whether that’s every day, ten times a day or once a week, the regular demands can be relentless.

I’m so glad I’m unpaid! (Besides, I wouldn’t recommend that lipstick to anyone.)

Notes On My Family

I occasionally wonder how many books you can want to read about ‘normal’ life in a family, as seen through the eyes of someone on the autism spectrum. Will it feel too same-y? Well, I suppose it’s no different from the endless friendship stories set in schools and in the family home, spiced up with a bit of romance. They, too, are ‘all the same’ and readers still enjoy them and seek them out.

Emily Critchley, Notes On My Family

Emily Critchley’s Notes On My Family is about another slightly dysfunctional family, by which I probably mean totally normal. Except Louise sees things in a different way. And she deserves a more clued-up family. Couldn’t she at least have one parent who sees her for what she is, and who is on her side? As it is, Louise gets the weirdo treatment at school, where the other girls invite her outside to beat her up.

This doesn’t improve when her father, who is the PE teacher at school, has an affair with a sixth-form girl. But no one discovers what kind of life Louise leads, because she never complains. She merely notes down what happens as though it’s all normal and to be expected.

Her mother goes somewhat bonkers over the affair, her sister dresses up for when the fire brigade is called, and her brother hides with his own problems.

Luckily, Louise has a better set of imaginary parents, and in that life she also has a dog, and is home-schooled.

Finally Louise meets another outsider at school, who might just be friendship material. If Louise only knew how to be friends.

I don’t know what the lives of aspie teenagers are like, but I hope that reading Notes On My Family will provide a welcome sense of recognition. We’re not all crazy in the same way, but hopefully it’s possible to laugh at someone else’s mad life.

Doctoring on

Graduation, McEwan Hall

Monday was exhausting! I got out of bed well before my normal comfort time, so I could be outside the McEwan Hall in Edinburgh by ten. The Resident IT Consultant and I were meeting Son and Dodo to receive our tickets for the morning’s graduation ceremony. I had to to and fro a bit with my bag and got the elderly confused witch treatment from a kind usher who’d probably seen it all before.

So with a boiled egg in my pocket, I climbed all those stairs, going round and round in a spiral. But being early, I found a seat I liked. Narrow seats, though. You have to be quite friendly with the person you sit next to.

Graduation, McEwan Hall

Anyway, a mere eleven years after arriving in Edinburgh, Son graduated for the third time, and was hit – sorry, tapped – on the head with John Knox’s breeches, and got to shake the hand of the Vice-Chancellor. By that time I’d almost nodded off, and was lucky to come to and realise a group of red-trimmed doctoral gowns were standing ready to go. I got my camera out, but as expected the results were so dreadful that I have again resorted to theft on social media. (I’m hoping most of the photos belong to Dodo. Pardon, I mean Dr Dodo.)

Graduation, McEwan Hall

Graduation McEwan Hall

Afterwards I went downstairs and was confused in front of the same usher, who remembered me from before. I’m very memorable.

Graduation, McEwan Hall - Son with supervisors

Then it was photos and chatting outside, and shaking the hands of all three of Dr Son’s supervisors. Not just the one for him. But we agreed we’d all done a great job* getting here, and I don’t just have the train journey in mind. Was also introduced to someone from Borås, which doesn’t happen all that often. (Not since early October, anyway.)

Graduation, McEwan Hall

When we’d admired each other enough, Drs Dodo and Son marched off and the Resident IT Consultant and I tried to keep pace with them, as we weren’t quite certain where lunch was to be found. (Söderbergs, a few minutes away.)

After many carbohydrates had been consumed, some of them vividly green, we walked back to Son’s university HQ for some red wine, and water, and crisps, and more chatting and shaking of – occasionally the same – hands.

And then the two oldies staggered home.

*I have read the thesis. It is actually quite good, if I say so myself. Interesting, and more readable than many such things. (Tracing the Transmission of Scandinavian Literature to the UK: 1917-2017.) Someone else, not related to him, or us, also said it wasn’t bad.

If you want to make it easy for yourself, a short version can be found in this talk in Lund earlier this year. After the first minute or so, it’s even in English.

Dead Stock

First Aid is always a useful skill. Although many of the corpses in Rachel Ward’s Dead Stock are beyond help. I suppose corpses generally are…

I was going to say that unlike most crime novels, Dead Stock doesn’t have any dead humans, but that’d be incorrect. There is one dead body, but you don’t notice it so much. The bad smell comes from other dead creatures. Look away now if you don’t enjoy dead cats.

Rachel Ward, Dead Stock

Ant and Bea are back. It’s only just past New Year, with its hangovers and disappointments. As Costsave gets ready to go in the New Year, however, the missing and/or the dead cats start making themselves noticed. But Bea is ready to solve the mystery, and Ant supposes he will help, then…

It’s always good to meet characters you know, and by now we know where we are with Bea and her mum, Ant with his family, plus the whole Costsave family, for better or for worse. And it’s not only cats, but dogs, in this whodunnit. Bea is run ragged with all the sleuthing and the caring for animals.

She has her old flame, the sleazy policeman to deal with too, as well as the new and very promising part-timer at Costsave.

The question is who is doing those things to the cats? And what does it have to do with all the rest that’s happening in Kingsleigh?

Bea is definitely the one to have on your side. She’s small, but brave. And when not brave, she still does what needs doing. (Except possibly sending her police-man properly packing.)

As usual, it’s not always the ones you think did it, who did it. But for a book about dead cats, it gets really quite exciting.

Courtenay Wright, aka Mr Sara Paretsky

One of ‘my’ dear authors, Sara Paretsky, lost her husband, Courtenay Wright, on Thursday. I was very sorry to hear about this, having felt honoured to have been able to read various bits of news about him, and the dogs, which Sara has shared over the years. You feel you get to know people you’ve never met.

The first I ever heard of him was that he’d served with Eisenhower in WWII, and my immediate reaction was that this wasn’t possible, and followed that by thinking ‘he must be really old, then.’

Yes, thankfully Courtenay got to be quite old. He was 95 last month, on the same day as Sara’s latest book was published, and he was treated to a book launch-cum-birthday party. What’s more, he looked happy and chirpy, and that pleased me very much.

When Sara shared her sad news on social media this morning, she linked again to the recent piece on her blog, where she talked about Courtenay and what he’d meant to her, first published after a second 95th celebration, with colleagues at his old university. It’s the kind of speech that makes you want to have met him even more.

He was clearly a remarkable man.

The Poet X

This is such a beautiful book! Elizabeth Acevedo has written a teen love story, a story about finding your place in the world, and a story about how to stand up to your family and a society that only sees one thing when looking at you. And she has written it as poetry. It really works.

Elizabeth Acevedo, The Poet X

I had my doubts, but I quickly lost myself in the book, realising that you don’t need all those words found in other novels. It’s perfectly doable to describe a complex story about a teenager in Harlem this way. X (Xiomara, really) likes poetry and writes a lot of it herself, keeping it to herself as well. She needs it to make sense of the world.

X’s mother is hard on her, but as an adult I could see that she loves her daughter. She just doesn’t trust anyone, and wants X to be careful and pious, not to see boys, and to go to church.

Were it not for the poems and the beauty of this book, it’d be just another teen story, set in New York, featuring girlfriends and boyfriends and enemies and bullying at school, teachers, neighbours, the priest, and so on.

I’m not a great fan of poetry, so the fact that I loved this so much, is proof how well the concept works, and what a captivating story Xiomara has to tell. I’m not at all surprised the book has been nominated for the Carnegie medal, and I hope it goes a long way, maybe even to the top.

I was also pleased to see that Elizabeth incorporated a lot of Xiomara’s Spanish home language, without always translating every word or line. There is even a whole poem in Spanish, although that does get a translation on the next page.

So very lovely, in so many ways.