TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS? ONE’S ENOUGH!

I’m writing this on the so-called fifth day of Christmas. When my true love is supposed to be giving me five gold rings. Which, according to a quick search on Google, are supposed to represent the first five books of the Bible’s Old Testament. Apparently, the whole song was a secret code for Catholics when Catholicism was banned back in the day. So the first day of a Partridge in a Pear Tree represents Jesus, the two turtle doves on the second are the Old and New Testaments, up to the twelve drummers drumming, who represent the twelve points of the apostle’s creed. It makes Wink Martindale’s Deck of Cards seem almost plausible! (A song from the sixties, if you don’t know it! Made the top ten, too, which seems even less plausible! May Bygraves did a version in the UK, too.)

I’d have the decorations down as soon as the guests have left. And in COVID-infested times, when guests are few and far between, that could even have been Christmas night!

It’s bad enough finishing off the leftover turkey or nut roast, the bread sauce and the cranberry, not to mention the mountain of cheese that was bought in a frenzy the week before and sits untouched in the fridge. When Christmas is over, get the decorations down!

Using the twelve days as a marker for keeping up the decorations is a step too far for me. Tradition has them in place until twelfth night, and that it’s bad luck to leave them up for longer. Even worse would be to follow a tradition from Medieval times that has them left until the 2nd of February. None of this works, to my mind.  Christmas Day and – at a push -Boxing Day are enough.

I’d have the decorations down as soon as the guests have left. And in COVID-infested times, when guests are few and far between, that could even have been Christmas night! It’s bad enough finishing off the leftover turkey or nut roast, the bread sauce and the cranberry, not to mention the mountain of cheese that was bought in a frenzy the week before and sits untouched in the fridge. Who needs leftover tinsel, candy sticks and gaudy ornaments? Take them down!

I should say that, in principle, I love the jollity and happiness around Christmas – and I’m really very sorry for anyone reading this who was unable to enjoy it for personal reasons. But it seems to me that the celebrations should surely be the day itself – and before that, the fun of expectation and anticipation.

I used to bemoan the first decorations appearing in shops during October, with Slade blaring out not long after. I’ve since come to appreciate how they signal the approach of the joy and excitement that is the Christmas spirit. It’s all about looking forward with hope and positivity – buying the tree, putting up the decorations, searching for presents that delight, preparing for the big day.

I often used to miss out on the excitement – it’s amazing how people create artificial deadlines for just before Christmas, tying you to work, even though nothing then happened for a month or more. And there can be a load of hassle in getting organused and setting up. But despite the frenzy, it’s worth trying to take some time before the day. This is when the carols are sung, trees still smell of pine and their needles haven’t dropped, all the bulbs in the light strings are working and the batteries haven’t run out, and everyone is wishing you a ‘Merry Christmas’. The atmosphere is bright and positive. A magical time to dream of something special.

Afterwards? It’s all as stale as the rotting Roquefort, untouched, alongside the Christmas ale still chilling and the brandy cream that was never used as everyone was too stuffed to eat the Christmas pudding. 

And what a sad sight is the lights still illuminating empty streets, beaming to no-one, the party well and truly over.

Thoughts now are not on what to buy but where to put the stuff you’ve been given, what to keep, what to return or give away, and trying to eat everything before it passes its best-before date. And on going back to work, things left unfinished, new tasks, new projects.

Yet in the corner of the living room stands a sad, bedraggled tree, branches sagging, lights rarely switched on, reminding you that Christmas is over, baiting you of the things you’d hoped for that disappointed.

Of course, getting rid is interrupted by the second celebration, New Year. So invariably I resist stripping out the decorations until January. But come the 1st, I’m ready to begin. Except, while you’d think I’d relish the moment, there’s a catch. I hate taking down the decorations! It’s as tedious as it is depressing. As I’m winding the lights from the tree, with needles dropping everywhere, I find myself asking what were we doing bringing it into the house in the first place. Or why we covered it in such fragile and absurd decorations.

Worse, the very act of denuding it, heaping the baubles, angels and stars into boxes and to the back of the cupboard until next year is like abandoning the joy, happiness and goodwill they represented.

And the forlorn trees dumped on street corners are a poignant reminder of the anticipation, now replaced by the reality of the present.

Yet the longer it all remains in the house, the sadder it becomes. So my philosophy is to keep on moving forward – enjoy the build-up, make the most of the holidays, then make the removal quick and early.

And anyway, it’s not long to Easter!

If you enjoyed reading this, why not try Richard’s novel, Homeward Bound, still available in paperback and Kindle and from bookshops.

Three questions about music

“I’m now going to play some songs from my new album.”

It’s the expression that strikes fear into every concert-goer.  We want the hits, the songs we know. Why do they do it? Why do we go?

Why do people go to gigs and then spend half the time talking or at the bar?

Why do musicians spend months recording, using the best facilities, mixing on giant studio speakers, only for people to listen on a squawking Alexa speaker or on ear buds as background noise to the sound of a train?

These and other issues will be my blog for the days leading up to publication of my novel, Homeward Bound, about two people divided by time and music.

Homeward Bound

What’s it all about?’

Tara is eighteen. She’s a musician, about to start uni and hoping for her lucky break. George is seventy-nine. As Tara’s grandfather, he’s expected to be in retirement but in truth, he’s not quite ready to close the lid on his dreams.

When he finds himself on a tour of retirement homes instead of the cream tea at the seaside his family had promised, it seems his story might prematurely be over.

He finds an answer by inviting Tara to share his house, along with his memories and vast collection of vinyl records. He thinks he can teach her about music. She just wants to get on with her own life.

What unfolds are clashes and unlikely parallels between generations – neither knows how to work a dishwasher – as they both chase their ambitions. But when the past catches up with George, Tara has to make the same life-changing decisions her grand-father faced six decades before.

Where you can buy Homeward Bound

It’s published by Matador in paperback, RRP £10.99, and on Kindle ISBN: 9781838591595 online as well as all good bookshops.

What people are saying about it

Blogger What Rebecca’s ReadHomeward Bound is a funny, feel-good read that I’d highly recommend.’

Helen Tovey (Family Tree): ‘Blurbed as a story telling of the ‘clashes and unlikely parallels between the generations’ this novel caught my eye, and what unfolded was a poignant, very believable story, laced with reminiscences (particularly if you’re a music lover you’ll enjoy the references), twists in the plot, and loveable and interesting key characters in Gramps and granddaughter Tara. An enjoyable read that reminds us of the passing of time and the value of family.’

Selection of initial comments from Amazon, Waterstones and Goodreads

Peter W

 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Very enjoyable read

I really enjoyed this book. Although it will clearly appeal to music fans of my generation (over 65) who will appreciate the way Richard skillfully weaved the many music references into the story, the book will appeal to younger readers too. The central premise that young people should take every opportunity to follow their dreams is very poignant. It wouldn’t take much to turn this book into a film script.

R Mackinney

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ It was amazing Fun interesting warmly written book really enjoyed it and love the fact that there is also a Spotify playlist of all the music references available on the author’s website

Mr G.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ A pleasure to read whether as a reflection on life or a distraction from it!

A pleasure to read whether as a reflection on life or a distraction from it! Well done Mr Smith on your debut. (Format: Kindle Edition)

Chris O

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ A Great Read

Once you have started reading this book it’s hard to put down. It’s an excellent first novel with some great music references and some important messages- not least , the close relationship between two people from very different generations who have a lot more in common than they might think and the importance of having a purpose in life and taking a few risks to follow your dreams. Looking forward to the next one !

CherylWillis

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Lovely poignant novel

I really enjoyed this novel, amusing and sad all rolled into one.

Mr. S. J. Thorpe

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Great Page Turner!

When I started to read this book I didn’t really know what to expect but I very quickly became immersed in the narrative of two people united in their love for music. You get no spoilers from me but needless to say the characters are likeable and their journey is both fascinating and poignant. Highly recommend you invest some time with this novel, you won’t regret it!

Eco bunny

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Real page-turner

This book is a lot of fun – I read it in two days, finding it hard to put down. Richard Smith’s dialogue is fantastic! It’s a family drama, but will be especially good for anyone who loves music as they are sure to enjoy the parallel experiences a grandfather and his granddaughter adjust to the next stage of their lives. If you enjoyed “Elizabeth is Missing” or “The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared” then you’ll like this. Humane, witty, super-readable, enjoy.

fusionchuckle

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Wonderful first novel

What a wonderful first novel. The main character George is a loveable chap and his relationship with his granddaughter is heartwarming. Great read, looking forward to reading more from Richard Smith.

Peter Thombs

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Music lovers, enjoy! Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 25 February 2020Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase A wonderful book which took the reader on a special journey. A simple but well written story line with a musical treasure trove of memories. Couldn’t put it down.

Becky

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ It was amazing

I got this book as a gift and found it really enjoyable and hard to put down. It’s a story of music, relationships, dreams and realities.
The author managed to bring the characters to life in a way that had me totally invested – I was really annoyed by one character’s actions, which to me is a sign of a well-written book.
I really enjoyed the musical references too; some I recognised from my parent’s era, some were current that I knew and some I looked up on the book’s Spotify (available from author’s blog page) which brought the story to life further! I’d definitely recommend it and think it could also be a good one for book groups too – lots to discuss

Pat Cooper

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Couldn’t put it down

This is such an enjoyable read . The main characters are warm and believable. You feel for George and Tara and want them to be happy . The book is full of musical memories which was an added enjoyment . Overall a book about love and family and well worth reading . I am sure to read it again , I enjoyed it so much .

Claire Smith

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Engaging work from a new author

Heart-warming but not sentimental story dealing with the issues of older age and inter-family relationships particularly that of a teenage girl and her grandfather. It is told with a wry sense of humour.
Also great for people who love music as lots of references to familiar songs but all within the context of a well developed storyline. Made me dig out my old record collection and reflect on the power of music in life; and how complex and interesting family relationship are.