How was your weekend? Mine didn't go to plan. Instead of a wedding, I sat on a sofa in Bristol nursing a poorly Olly. I left Marc, Sam and Alfie back in St Ives fighting their own war against germs. I seem to have escaped the lurgy for now, and I am thankful for that. I just don't have time to be ill. I'm trying to start the week as I mean to go on. I have the obligatory list. I have sellotape. There is no stopping me!
(edit. I have the lurgy. But I will soldier on...)
I think that one of the best things about having children is reading to them. I love it. I love snuggling up with them during the day, or the bed time book ritual. I have enjoyed the picture books, the Enid Blyton books, the Harry Potter books. I have enjoyed choosing books for them. I have got the most pleasure from finding old favourites of mine and sharing them. I have had the best time in various book shops choosing new books to read to them. I have indulged them terribly in the book department, and they have passed their books down to each other as they have grown out of them. In fact when the time has come for them to want to read on their own, I have felt quite bereft. It's true that you can't force a child to read. But you can instill in them the love of a good story. And if you're lucky they'll love to read too.
We have quite a collection of Christmas stories, and I'd like to share some with you here.
Dr Seuss is a big hit in this house. I have been reading his stories to Olly for about a year now, and he loves them. His favourite is 'The Sneetches', and he will happily sit and look at them on his own. Dr Seuss doesn't patronise children. His deceptively simple drawings and clever poetry make my boy laugh. They are books that demand to be read aloud, and I thoroughly enjoy reading them out to Olly (I am a frustrated thespian).
We read The Grinch for the first time yesterday, while Olly was in recovery. The underlying message contained in the book is subtly put; that Christmas is not about all of the excess, but about coming together and being part of a wider community. I like that.
This book was given to me by a friend for Christmas. She knew that I would enjoy the re-working of the poem 'The Night Before Christmas' and also the gorgeous illustrations. Look at the sideboard and the crockery. I am reliably informed that the original poem was published anonymously in the USA in 1823, and was later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore.
Carol Ann Duffy is one of my favourite contemporary poets, and there are some great modern references in this adaptation. Marc Boutavant is a French illustrator, whose work I also admire. I love the retro touches throughout the book. It is a feast for the senses. It's also a joy to read aloud, although I suspect Olly is still a little young to understand some of the narrative. But I think this is my personal favourite. I have copied some of the drawings before now (frustrated artist too, it would appear).
Aaah Alfie. The world would be a poorer place without Shirley Hughes and her Alfie books. An ordinary boy in an ordinary family. I bought this book last month. I was passing my local book shop on Fore Street (and if you ever do visit, your second stop after saying hello to me should be here. Great staff. Great little store), and this was in the window. I bought this for Olly - a new Christmas book.
It tells the story of the run up to Christmas as seen through the eyes of a little boy not much older than Olly. I love the normality and everyday of it; learning carols at school, writing out Christmas cards, a letter to Santa, decorating the tree. The language is simple and easy for a little one to understand. The illustrations are second to none. So clever and so much to look at and talk about. We have already read this countless times. It will be the one we read on Christmas Eve before he goes to bed.
I realise that I haven't included a traditional Christmas story. I have a beautiful book that I bought for Sam when he was when he was about seven, and I shall read it to Olly when he is a little older.
I am not a practising Christian. I am agnostic. For me Christmas has always been about being with my family. Here at Today's Stuff, we live a dis-jointed existence, what with Marc working away. So for me this time of year is one where we have uninterrupted time together as a family. There is good food, and good company. There are lovely presents to open, and walks along the beach. There are trips out in Betty, and lie ins galore. I am looking forward to it so much.
See you later alligator