Christmas 2018

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.

Worn out Dog

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.

Christmas Day

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.)

Armitage The Christmas HirelingsI also had a chance to download and listen to Audible US’s free Christmas gift to RA’s fansThe 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 Christmas Hirelings

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.

Guy tragic 1

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!

22 thoughts on “Christmas 2018

  1. Sue I Hope even w/out a white Cmas you all had a great one! The pic you took of the skyline
    is marvelous!! Really captures the essence of the season at least for me. On a side note Poppet is apparently the nickname of Princess Charlotte that Kate gave her recently! I wonder if she borrowed it from Cmas Hirelings?
    What are you all doing for NY Eve?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. Hope your Christmas was good too. That view from the lookout is always nice. There’s a house right next to it that has that view from their windows! New Year’s Eve will be quiet at home, with some sparkling wine I bought at a winery in the summer. I think Poppet is a common nickname to call a little girl in England. I live in a neighbourhood with lots of Italians and all the little girls here are nicknamed Bella.

      Like

  2. No, I don’t think you’re off of Armitage! As energy needs rationing at the moment, I am just trying to forget his Xmas msg this year. Even though I wanted to like this message (and sympathize with him a lot on some things), I was still reeling from the previous tweet / delete episode, which was really the epitome of everything about his Twitter behavior that I despise. That, in combination with my more general mood, left me largely uninterested and in the end, feeling overall manipulated. But whatever … water under the bridge. And in general I’m just relieved the holidays are over. I haven’t listened to the “hirelings,” because I read the first forty or so pages on line and realized it was not something I’d enjoy.

    For only starting on the 22nd and feeling down on the day you got an awful lot decorated (and I assume, cooked)! You get an A for Xmas this year. And: Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I’m lucky I’m not on Twitter and only saw the tweet/delete episode from a distance. Plus I just really didn’t have time to think much about it, but I can see that it would have been really exasperating.

      I think the Hirelings is not the best example of Victorian fiction. To me it’s inconsistent in its style and not exploring the other characters just struck me as lazy writing. I somehow find RA’s voice comforting, though, regardless.

      I’m actually glad that Christmas is done too. I just didn’t feel very enthusiastic at all. Just tired and worn out. Yes, I also cooked a turkey. Thanks for the A vote! Sounds like you deserve one too, for making it through! Let’s hope the New Year brings good, peaceful times for both of us.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Braddon was a bestselling author in her time, and normally I enjoy the way Victorians build satire into their stories, but the idea of someone renting children to spend Christmas just didn’t really appeal, knowing that children are dying on the U.S. border right now. I mean, I get that that’s supposed to be part of the joke, that some of the wealthy are so clueless that they think you can rent kids like you can rent everything else, but the real idea there (“life is cheap”) is just something I can muster a lot of energy for, even in terms of black humor, at the moment.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I would have liked the satire at the beginning to flow through the rest of the book. In terms of renting children, without being too spoilerish, there’s an explanation behind the choice it that makes it more palatable. And I guess the point of the story is that there is more to life than what Sir John has limited himself to.

          Liked by 1 person

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