Christmas has come and gone… What a hectic time! Being so busy at work in the lead-up, then trying to get things ready for the day in pretty short order, and then poof! All done. It’s only my family of four plus the dog here, so I try to make everything as traditional and satisfying as possible. Not sure I succeed though, really. Maybe they’d prefer more of my time and less of the material things? Nah, probably not. We managed to get the tree up and the decorating done only around ten days before Christmas, but we’re enjoying it now that it’s up, especially with the lights.
The dog found all the decorating exhausting! Here he is snuggled against the RA-themed pillow, hand-made by Guylty.
I only started my Christmas shopping on December 22nd, with the first stop at Thornton Street, then travelling on to the local mall that has a display of Christmas trees by local businesses, as well as the usual mall Santa.
While I was out shopping for others, I saw two magnets that I just had to have for myself. (Not sure where I can display the second one, but it is oh so true. Come to think of it, they both may be true!)
I was feeling a little down on Christmas, so I took a drive around the neighbourhood before I had to start cooking the turkey dinner. We didn’t have a white Christmas, but at least it wasn’t raining. In fact, the view from one of my favourite look-out points was very pretty, even if the sky was quite cloudy.
Now and then, I had a few quick chances to check out the “news” online. I had been dreading Richard Armitage’s Christmas message this year, after how preachy I had found last year’s. Don’t get me wrong… he certainly has the right to express himself in any direction he wishes, but as a fan and a grown-up, I would rather have some insight into a bit of his life and his career aspirations than be told how to live my life.
In any case, I was quite pleasantly surprised by this year’s message. He begins by being appreciative of our support over the year. I really like that he reflected on the painful and yet memorable experience of the loss of his Mum and the impact that it will have on his life. I’m excited to hear about the production company he is setting up and the plans he has to attend more events to meet fans. He does encourage us to reach out to people who may be lonely, but it comes across to me as a well-meaning bit of encouragement. And of course, in case we would like to give to some of the charities he supports, they are listed at the end for our convenience. All in all, a nice message for his fans, although as always it really depends on your own mood as to how you react to these things. (Click to enlarge.)
I also had a chance to download and listen to Audible US’s free Christmas gift to RA’s fans. The Christmas Hirelings is a Victorian-era story by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. I hadn’t heard of her before, although she was apparently quite a popular novelist in her day, turning out many books, despite having six children and five step-children and living common-law with a married man until the death of his first wife allowed them to marry! I happened upon a spoilerish review in the NY Times from December 17, 1894 which liked the print version of The Christmas Hirelings very much. I do admit that I love it when Richard Armitage performs English in the Victorian style. There’s just something in his voice that really suits it to at T. I’m also always amazed at how he manages to reflect age and gender so well in his audio performances. I was, however, a little disappointed with how he plays the youngest child, in that he does not quite put across her adamant attitude which leads her to slap tables for emphasis and come across as quite sure of herself. Instead she seems very quiet, thoughtful, and collected in her knowing remarks.
The story was intended for both children and adults and is about an older man who has no youngsters around and so finds Christmas to be a bore. His friend comes up with a scheme to hire three children to liven up the holiday, which of course manages to change the mind of the older man, while also bringing forth some circumstances that will change his future. I found the story quite amusing at the beginning, as it points out the affectations of the moneyed class. But then it goes into quite a lot of detail setting up the back history, disappointingly abandoning the humour almost entirely. Finally, the story is taken up again at the Christmas in question, with the arrival of the children. The characters of Sir John (the older man) and Moppet (the youngest child) are quite well-developed and enjoyably written, but I felt that all of the other characters are just peripheral with little attention paid, except perhaps for Tom Danby (the friend) to a certain extent. And the ending could have been explored a bit more, in terms of the impact on the various characters. Still, it makes for a nice holiday listen, if you enjoy Victorian stories.
Another story which I had the chance to read just yesterday, is a fan fiction called A Powder of Yarrow, which explores some of the emotional trauma experienced by Sir Guy of Gisborne beginning some time after his final encounter with Marian. It also introduces an original female character, placed in history as a niece of Eleanor of Aquitaine (mother of Richard the Lionheart) and who spends a short but impactful time with Sir Guy. I really enjoyed the story, which does an excellent job of exploring the damaged and not always noble Sir Guy, as well as the effect he has on this particular woman. You can find this 2018 story by Jenny Sue at Archive of Our Own.
Even though Christmas is over, I wanted to share this beautiful version of The Wexford Carol that you may enjoy, featuring Alison Krauss on vocals, Yo-Yo Ma on cello, Natalie MacMaster on fiddle, Cristina Pato on bagpipes, and Shane Shanahan on percussion. Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas or whatever seasonal celebrations you may have!