“Merry Christmas, Everyone” (Shakin’ Stevens)

After last week’s moany post, I have survived both work dos and I am in the Christmas spirit – joyeux noel!

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I even gifted to myself, in the shape of Karl Ove Knausgaard (if only) by going to see him interviewed for World Book Club, in the rather formal surrounds of the council chamber at the BBC (free wine! and crisps! so that’s where my licence fee goes – I approve). He was every bit as good-looking charming and erudite as I’d hoped so if you get a chance to listen to the show at some point (on in early January) I recommend it. And it warmed my post-Brexit heart to be part of such an international audience, so thank you BBC 🙂

Back to Christmas. At this time of seasonal over-indulgence, I’ve decided to exercise uncharacteristic restraint. Two Christmas stories, but both of them short stories, wee amuse-bouches that can easily be consumed by a brain threatening to slip into a vegetative state from the over-consumption of, well, everything really…

OK, I can probably manage one more Ferrero Rocher...

OK, I can probably manage one more Ferrero Rocher…

Firstly, the titular story from The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and a selection of entrees by Agatha Christie (1960). Things begin in fine Golden Age form: Poirot is asked by a mysterious government-type to find a missing ruby that a foreign prince has mislaid on Blightly’s shores, in order to avoid an international incident. Poirot is hard to persuade and the government-type is close to losing his cool:

“Mr Jesmond made a peculiar noise rather like a hen who has decided to lay an egg and then thought better of it.”

Poirot decides to leave his lovely art deco flat (I want it! I want it!) once he knows his accommodation for Christmas has oil-fired central heating:

“Again Poirot shivered. The thought of a fourteenth-century English manor house filled him with apprehension. He had suffered too often in the historic country houses of England.”

I did enjoy that little swipe at the trope of country house mysteries.  Christie’s clearly having a great time writing this, evoking a traditional country house Christmas and then throwing everything at it, from faked murders to mysterious strangers to anonymous notes left for Poirot:

“Don’t eat none of the plum pudding. One as wishes you well.”

I think I’ve eaten that plum pudding. Of course, Poirot is on top of everything and speedily resolves murder, mystery, missing jewels and that most pressing of seasonal considerations: is the plum pudding safe?

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Secondly, again the titular story of a collection, this time Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1940), set in the time before her famous comic novel, and so the Starkadder family are in full disarray.

“The Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm had never got the hang of Christmas, somehow, and on Boxing Day there was always a run on Howling pharmacy for lint, bandages, and boracic powder.”

In this short story we are treated to a portrait of Christmas at the farm, a Christmas no-one in their right mind would want. Nothing particularly happens, it is more a series of events over the course of the day to display the Starkadders in all their colourful, brutal, hilarious glory.  If you’re not familiar with the family from Cold Comfort Farm, well, firstly, away with you and read the comic treat! But if you decide to read the Christmas story first, all you need to know about the family can be gleaned from the idiosyncratic and truly disgusting charms which grace the Christmas pudding:

“Him as gets the sticking plaster’ll break a limb; the menthol cone means as you’ll be blind wi’ headache, the bad coins means as you’ll lose all yer mony, and him as gets the coffin-nail will die afore the New Year. The mirror’s seven years’ bad luck for someone, Aie! In ye go, curse ye!”

Gibbon’s driest humour is saved not for the family but for those around them, such as the vicar who has been guided to pay a Christmas Eve visit by the crate of British Port-type wine he saw being delivered to the farm (surely there’s not enough port wine in the world to get you through a festive visit with the Starkadders?) If you enjoyed Cold Comfort Farm there’s much to relish in this brief visit to the family.  A treat.

Another treat - Rufus Sewell as Seth Starkadder in the 1996 BBC adaptation. Apparently Kate Beckinsale and a bull are in this photo too - I can't see them anywhere...

Another treat – Rufus Sewell as Seth Starkadder in the 1996 BBC adaptation. Apparently Kate Beckinsale and a bull are in this photo too – I can’t see them anywhere…

To end, proof if proof were needed, that my ‘taste’ in Christmas tunes is very much of an era.  The post began with the double-denim Welsh Elvis that is Shaky, and now ends with the greatest Christmas video ever (non-debateable, as is the greatest Christmas song, Fairytale of New York). There will never come a day when I’ve seen this too many times, I love everything about it. The snow, the ski lodge, the mullets, the meaningful looks over the tinsel, the death stare down the dining table… enjoy 😀

UPDATE: It was announced on Christmas Day that George Michael had died. Rest in Peace George, and thank you for all the tunes xx

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27 thoughts on ““Merry Christmas, Everyone” (Shakin’ Stevens)

  1. Unrelated to books but important nonetheless, I noticed giant Ferrero Rochers this year (a special Christmas thing) and I thought What a top idea!’ – one (me) could slice the top off it like you would a boiled egg and then face-plant… Fairly sure that’s how you’re supposed to eat them.

    Also unrelated to books – that Wham video is one of the best music video narratives ever created. It’s got everything, but mostly fabulous sweaters and fabulous hair.

    To the books: my family tends to be of the Cold Comfort Farm variety (there’s a lot of me saying “It’ll do!” in the lead-up to the big day and even more of that on Dec 25. And, a bookish confession… I’ve never read any Agatha Christie *ducks for cover as the bookish corner of the interwebs explodes*

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read ‘Christmas at Cold comfort Farm’ a while ago after re-reading the original, and in retrospect, I should have saved it until the festive season, as it’s so funny, and quite wasted on one’s July sensibilities. I’m in total agreement with you on the video. It’s an unsurpassed mulletastic classic, and showed that the Wham boys were way ahead of their time in the extreme teeth-whitening department.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So where is the promised Shaky, Madame Bibi?? BTW, when, following your poetic descriptions of Mr Knausgaarde’s charms we scrolled to a very rumpled pooch I had to laugh!! Are you a naughty Madame Bibi?

    Cold Comfort Farm, SUCH a joy. Particularly when featuring a picture of a far from rumpled Mr Sewell. I was sufficiently restrained and stopped myself from leering

    Very merry Christmas Madame B!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Shaky provided the title! But I see what you mean – I will be sure and include the video in next year’s festive post – no-one wears a Christmas jumper as well as Shaky 🙂

      Haha! The resemblance hadn’t occurred to me (honest!) but now you mention it…

      Cold Comfort Farm is great fun, I’d forgotten how much until I read this short story. And I’m sure Rufus wouldn’t have begrudged you a little Christmas leer 😉

      A very merry Christmas to you too Lady F!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely choices, Madame Bibi! I wasn’t aware of the Christie – sounds delightful, just perfect for the festive season. In fact, I think you might have given me an idea for a last-minute stoking filler…

    Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year – looking forward to following your literary adventures in 2017!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jacqui! I’m so glad to have given you an idea for a stocking filler – I hope you have time for a sneaky read before wrapping it 😉

      Wishing you a great Christmas and New Year, and many wonderful reads in 2017!

      Like

  5. Aah, George! My heart has truly never recovered from the discovery that he’s gay and therefore unavailable to me – a relationship wrecked before it even began! I know we’d have been so right for each other too… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I replied to this comment the same day, I don’t know where it went – I do apologise! My internet has been behaving oddly the last week, I think it’s indulging in one too many Christmas tipples. What I said was – Your secret is safe with me 😉 Happy Christmas!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Happy Christmas to you! (and Rufus)

    Cold Comfort Farm is indeed a wonderful seasonal treat, although I think an evening in the same room as Karl Ove would be the best seasonal treat ever! I shall definitely be watching that 🙂

    PS. I love that video! I remember thinking how much fun it looked, a Christmas without family! Apparently in real life the gal with the curly bob really fancied Mr Michael, and only found out with the rest of us some years later that her rejection wasn’t personal 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy Christmas!

      Karl Ove was a wonderful gift to myself 😉 He really is rather dashing, and I was definitely not alone in that opinion! I hope you enjoy the programme.

      It’s such a great video, and was so different to my Christmases in the 80s, it looked impossibly glamorous. So the girl with the curly bob’s looks of longing were genuine? It adds to the brilliance 🙂 On TOTP Christmas yesterday they said Martin Kemp is somewhere in this video but I can’t spot him. I’ll just have to watch it over, and over, and over until I do…

      Liked by 1 person

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