Margaret at BookPlease has tagged me for this meme, and yet again, I'm posting from the train – becoming a habit! The sun rising behind Durham Cathedral this morning was very dramatic, too bright to look at and gloriously celestial.
What is your most enduring Christmas memory?
This is a difficult question for me because my most enduring memory is of the Christmas something very bad happened, and for the entire community where we lived, Christmas was more or less ignored. People just tried to make Christmas Day as happy as possible for their children, which I suppose says a good deal about its enduring power as a festival. I wondered whether to mention this at all, but decided that it’s wrong to pretend everything is always sweetness and light, and I know that for some people, their faith sustained them through the days that followed. And although I didn’t really celebrate Christmas itself that year, I saw many examples of the love and generosity that the festival should exemplify and which shone through far beyond Twelfth Night.
Do you have a favourite piece of Christmas music?
I love Christmas carols, particularly those of the 18th century and the West Gallery tradition of church music. My actual favourite probably changes from year to year (haven’t started listening this year) but “Angels from the Realms of Glory” is a must. However, give me anything played by a band with a serpent in it and I'll probably be happy!
Do you stick to the old family traditions?
A Christmas Day walk is the most important one for me. Since we moved to Northumberland we usually take the dogs to the dunes, but one year we were snowed in and could only walk along the farm track. We had days of sunshine while the snow lay deep and crisp and even, and the dogs had a glorious time. Fortunately we always buy too much food at Christmas so we were in no hurry to get out.
What makes your mouth water at Christmas time!?
My mother’s Christmas pudding. She makes one for us every year. And those little tiny sausages.
How soon do you put the Christmas tree up and when do you take it down?
We didn’t have a tree last year – first time ever – and may not again, as I can’t find an artificial one I like. What finally put us off real trees, which we all love, is the problem that our house is upside down, and the tree has to go up – and worse, come down – a rather narrow flight of stairs. Even wrapped in a dustsheet it sheds more needles than Senior Dog does hair. We may have a Christmas twig – our corkscrew willow provides some very dramatic, twisted branches on which baubles hang rather effectively – and there will be strings of lights along the beams, which do look rather pretty. Decorations never go up before the 20 December and generally come down before I start work again, so usually about 3 January. When I was a fulltime mother they stayed up until Twelfth Night, which is how it was during my childhood.
I won't tag anyone else specifically but, if you haven't already done this meme and you would like to, please do consider yourself tagged – it's such fun reading about everyone else's Christmas preparations.