Saturday, December 17, 2016

Silver Sound with Mervyn Kemp, 16 December 2016: Favourite Christmas Books

I was on Silver Sound with fellow-presenter Mervyn yesterday in a show devoted to all things Christmas. I had selected three of my favourite Christmassy reads. These are the ones I chose:-

The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens

What can I say? It’s Charles Dickens. Of course, his most famous Christmas story is A Christmas Carol, and very lovely it is, but my favourite happens to be the “good-humoured Christmas Chapter” (Chapter 28, continued in Chapter 29) of The Pickwick Papers. Mr Pickwick and his friends spend the holiday in the country with their friends the Wardles. The Pickwickian Christmas has got everything: Christmas cheer, kisses under the mistletoe, dancing, eating, drinking, skating. There’s a Christmas wedding. Best of all, there’s a Christmas ghost story – The Story of the Goblins who Stole a Sexton. It’s “a season of hospitality, merriment, and open-heartedness…gay and merry…Happy, happy Christmas…” What if it is Christmas as it ought to be and which it probably never is?  It’s so heart warming it’s positively incendiary. So let’s join Mr Wardle in a Christmas song and “Give three cheers for this Christmas old”.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C S Lewis

I loved the Narnia Chronicles when I was a child and still do. Narnia is ruled by the White Witch who turns her opponents into stone and “has made a magic so that it is always winter in Narnia – always winter, but it never gets to Christmas”. A tale of snow and ice, talking beasts, battles and monsters – and Turkish Delight. I always insist that my Christmas presents include a box of Turkish Delight!

Memories of Christmas, Dylan Thomas

Glorious, sublime prose from Dylan Thomas, Memories of Christmas is known in other versions as A Child’s Christmas in Wales. My favourite passage is when a fire breaks out in Mr and Mrs Prothero’s house and the narrator and his friends throw their snowballs into it in an effort to put it out. The fire brigade arrive and extinguish the blaze. “And when the firemen turned off the hose and were standing in the wet and smoky room, Jim’s aunt, Miss Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at them. Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what she would say to them. She said the right thing, always. She looked at the three tall firemen in  their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said: ‘Would you like something to read?’ ”

Christmas and books – what could be better?

You can listen to Dylan Thomas reading A Child’s Christmas in Wales in a 1952 recording at

Gerard chose poetry for his Christmas reading – Thomas Hardy’s beautiful poem The Oxen, inspired by the legend that at midnight on Christmas Eve cattle kneel down in honour of the the birth of Jesus. You can read the poem here

Mervyn’s choice was John Betjeman’s Christmas, which you can read here  

Mervyn played a lovely selection of Christmas music – including my favourite Christmas song, Otis Redding’s Merry Christmas Baby – Gerard gave us a Christmas quiz, and Penny ran the desk. It was a lovely show, and you can listen to it again here – Mervyn and Penny started the show at 10, and Gerard and I joined them from 11 to 12.

Here’s wishing all my readers and listeners a happy and peaceful Christmas! 

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