Thursday, 11 December 2008

Three Christmas Wishes

Season's greetings and all that stuff. I'm finally starting to feel a bit Christmassy, and doing a spot of shopping and general faffing. In return, here's what I would like for Christmas:

1. I want Woolies not to close. Here I am being a complete hypocrite, for two reasons: firstly, I hardly ever shop there. I just want it to be there, because it's always been there, and I'll miss it if it goes. It's the place I go to for Seasonal stuff: those Lindt bunnies at Easter, emergency picnic plates in the summer, Halloween masks in October, and in the winter nice cheap Christmas wrapping paper. Besides, I find it hard to imagine a world without Pic`n'Mix.

The second reason is that it's all my fault they've got into financial trouble, because one Saturday afternoon in 1973 I nicked some Outdoor Girl eyeshadow from one of their stores. I'm sorry.

2. Still on the subject of shop closures (these are hard times!) I want no more independent bookshops to close. And let's face it, if we don't all make a point of buying things from them, they might. We recently lost one in our neighbourhood, because its landlord decided one day to multiply the rent by three. It closed several months ago and guess what? The shop is still empty. Well, that's doing a power of good to the neighbourhood, isn't it?

We NEED independent bookshops. The best ones become a hub of the community, like the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green does, by inviting local authors to hold book launches in them, give readings to kids from local schools and that sort of thing. Bookworm and The Children's Bookshop are also great for children's events. Hurrah for them!

The greatest ever shop of this sort was the Turret Bookshop that used to be on Lamb's Conduit Street, WC1 (and previous incarnations as well, but that was before my time). Here are some of the people who were regulars there: Carol Ann Duffy, Satoshi Kitamura, Ralph Steadman, Brian Patten, Christopher Logue...and plenty of star-struck nobody hangers-on like me. As you will know if you've checked out my website, I did get to have a book launch there all of my very own (18 years ago!) but the only people who came were my mates, who I then forced to buy copies of my picture book, even though they didn't have any kids. Or know any. Ah, happy memories! Long may there be booksellers with the wit and imagination to do this sort of thing.

3. I want plenty of music. Christmas carols, all that stuff, I love it. Bring on the sleigh bells and the schmaltz. The three most-played albums at Christmas time in this household are:

Elvis Presley, The Wonderful World of Christmas
His Merry Christmas Baby is, without a doubt, the best Christmas song ever.

Bach Christmas Cantatas
One word: heavenly.

...And the one I'm going to tell you about now. For four years, from 2002 until 2006,
a friend of mine and her husband got together and wrote and recorded some Christmas songs, which they then sent out in CD form to their friends. Alas, 2006 was the last year as by Christmas 2007 my dear friend was dead. Her name was Siobhan Dowd and in her short life she shot to literary stardom with her novels A Swift, Pure Cry and The London Eye Mystery; Bog Child was published posthumously, and Solace of the Road is out next year. I'm not going to give a biography of any sort here, but do follow the link to read more about her.ANYWAY: lots of people know about her literary talent, but far fewer know what a great singer she was. So go and take a listen to these songs; I'm sure they will brighten your Christmases as they have ours. Floating Snowflakes, in particular, brings me out in goosepimples. I was too sad to listen to her voice last Christmas; this year I definitely will, and raise a glass in her memory.

Merry Christmas!


Anonymous said...

Oh, darling, I spent yesterday afternoon preparing for Christmas tree decorating by playing Siobhan's carols and songs over and over again, and was just wandering around the apartment humming "Merrius Berrius"! I think "Floating Snowflakes" deserves to go into the canon, no question.

- xox Helen

fionadunbar said...

I think we should raise a glass together in her memory this Christmas, Helen, even if I have to get the train down. Then we can be two old soaks singing in the Mezzanine Bar. Hang on, I think that might have happened already...

Anonymous said...

We could go that fancy bar that's hidden away somewhere in Grand Central Station. Siobhan wd've loved it! (Doesn't your train come in to Grand Central?)

After the hangover I acquired at the Academy of American Poets former and current staff gathering last week, am being more circumspect - which doesn't mean I'm not drinking!


Anonymous said...

Oh, and we were YOUNG soaks! - xH.

fionadunbar said...

Yes, and yes; it's called M├ętrazur. But time to transfer conversation to email, I think!

Luisa said...

What a wonderful post.

Happy Christmas, Fiona and friends!