Christmas Fun, circa 1968; an argument and having a gas by Geoff Le Pard – 3rd Sunday of Advent, Day 17 Advent 2017

Christmas Fun, circa 1968; an argument and having a gas by Geoff Le Pard

3rd Sunday of Advent, Day 17 Advent 2017

Maybe it’s a childhood thing but my memory of Christmas is of a happy day enjoyed by all. They were never spoilt by arguments or friction. They might be boring, they could be wacky, or hilarious, and sometimes eye opening but never was a voice raised in anger.

Apart that is, than the year my Gran, my mum’s mum, got a bit squiffy on the port and lemons, eat heartily, fell asleep during the Queen’s speech and woke up in a bit of a state.

To set the scene properly I should perhaps explain, for those reading this who gave up on the British Empire as a bad job 200 plus years ago and those others on whom the benefits of British dominion was never endowed, that this means listening to Queen Liz’s Christmas message to her subjects at 3 pm every Christmas Day. This was as much a Christmas ritual in our house, as was Mum up with the lark ‘to put the bird in’ (inserting a huge turkey in the oven at stupid o’clock so it might be ready before Christmas ended), satsumas in my Christmas stocking and Dad saying grace at Christmas dinner.

And there’s another quirk of Christmas. In our house, resolutely middle class and Southern, the meal in the middle of the day was lunch, unlike in working class households, or those north of an imaginary line between Bristol in the West and the Wash in the East where the middle of the day meal was dinner. Yet, at Christmas we passed on lunch and had Christmas dinner. I’ve never understood this other than as some sort of inverted snobbery on the part of my parents.

Where was I? Oh yes, Gran. She ate a hearty dinner, fell asleep and woke at 5 demanding food. She would only believe she’d had her turkey when she saw the destroyed carcass but swore we’d not been given her Christmas pudding…

Christmas pudding, if you’ve not enjoyed this most British of desserts is not so much prepared as evolves over several months. The ingredients, which oddly include beef suet, are mixed for the first time in about July. Over the following months the concoction is stirred – stirring is accompanied by wishes – and copious alcohol is added. On the day the pudding is steamed for hours until the outside would do Pirelli proud and the inside tastes of a pudding made over months that includes beef fat and alcohol and has been steamed for hours. It is served with rum custard and brandy butter which may explain its popularity.

On this particular day there was none left and the pudding plate had been washed so there was no evidence to show her that she had, indeed, eaten a significant portion. She was angry at what she saw as her daughter’s duplicity. She seethed and she scolded for what appeared to be hours, until my father refreshed her glass and she dozed until nearer midnight.

While Gran slept my uncle aunt and cousins came round for tea, sandwiches and games. Mostly charades. This was the time Mum and I were teamed for this ridiculous miming extravaganza but a problem was brewing. I was rather full of gas after the turkey feast and had bravely held it in check in front of my gorgeous cousins for a good hour. But there is only so much self-control a young man can be expected to maintain. As soon as we left the room to plot our team mime my muscles gave way to the seismic forces within. Mum was half a sentence into her plan when the guttering, choking bit of Wilfred Owen’s WW1 poem about Gas! Gas! got to her. She stopped, went pale and staggered back into the sitting room collapsing on the floor into a dead faint. When she had been dragged upright she pointed at me and said, ‘How can any human body convert good food to silage so quickly?’ I suppose the only thing that saved my shame was that, at that time, my cousins didn’t know what silage was.

And to cap my misery, we were disqualified as mum had spoken during our turn.

The archaeologist and me, forced to look happy…

Anyway, Christmases were and are and, I hope, will remain happy, pleasant if not often especially memorable family occasions. However Charli insists we take a different stance and this foreign air I’m imbibing has once again triggered two ideas.

First there is Mary. Here’s the link to her back story

Hanging the decorations

‘Let’s do the decorations today, mum.’ Penny rubbed her hands. She loved the tradition of dressing the tree.

While Mary fetched the box and Paul put the tree in the stand, Penny disappeared to her room. ‘Look,’ she said, ‘Uncle Rupert gave it to me. He got it from Grandpa.’

Mary googled at the hand carved Santa hanging from red string. Didn’t her half-brother realise how this much would hurt?

‘Let me,’ she said.

While Paul fixed the star and Penny the tinsel, Mary coiled the string into a noose, hiding the loop in a groove. ‘All done.’

And here’s an alternative

The stuffing

‘Reindeer? But we always have turkey.’

‘It’ll be a change.’ Patrick grinned. ‘Special offer.’

Marcie swallowed her anger. Always doing things on the cheap. ‘Patrick, it’s Christmas. Can’t we forget the cost…’

Patrick’s smug grin was almost too much to bear. ‘I know you hate waste so we’ll just have to go with it.’

Patrick was pleased when, later, Marcie began hunting for a recipe. ‘The stuffing,’ she said. ‘It has to be perfect.’

Patrick carved. Inside there was a roasting bag. ‘For you Patrick.’

He held the divorce papers in sticky fingers.

‘It won’t be cheap,’ she said.


Geoff was already a guest to this year’s calendar with “The Fourth Plinth

Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry, short fiction and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.

My father and other liars final for kindle 6 JulyMy Father and Other Liars is a thriller set in the near future and takes its heroes, Maurice and Lori-Ann on a helter-skelter chase across continents.

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Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is a coming of age story. Set in 1976 the hero Harry Spittle is home from university for the holidays. He has three goals: to keep away from his family, earn money and hopefully have sex. Inevitably his summer turns out to be very different to that anticipated.

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Life in a Grain of Sand is a 30 story anthology covering many genres: fantasy, romance, humour, thriller, espionage, conspiracy theories, MG and indeed something for everyone. All the stories were written during Nano 2015

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Salisbury SquareSalisbury Square is a dark thriller set in present day London where a homeless woman and a Polish man, escaping the police at home, form an unlikely alliance to save themselves.

This is available here

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Buster & Moo is about about two couples and the dog whose ownership passes from one to the other. When the couples meet, via the dog, the previously hidden cracks in their relationships surface and events begin to spiral out of control. If the relationships are to survive there is room for only one hero but who will that be?

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Solveig’s review

Life in a Flash is a set of super short fiction, flash and micro fiction that should keep you engaged and amused for ages Amazon.co.uk Amazon.com Smashwords

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Celebrating the Yuletide Season at Castle Vexstein by Jemima Pett – Day 10 Advent 2017, 2nd Sunday of Advent

Celebrating the Yuletide Season at Castle Vexstein by Jemima Pett

Day 10 Advent 2017, 2nd Sunday of Advent

Jemima Pett offers Solveig’s readers a glimpse into the society of her Princelings of the East series this Advent.  The books feature two princelings who leave their home castle, Castle Marsh, to have many mysterious adventures, mostly involving time travel, pirates, and new inventions.

All seven books in the series are on sale during the December-January period, leading up to the publication of book 8 on 30th January. For details see the series on the Princelings website.

The first piece (2nd December) is by Queen Kira, who plays a major part in books 2 and 3 of the series. George and Fred are the original Princelings of the East.  Fred is now King, and George is an engineer, flying ace, and inventor of new machines.

The second piece (10th December) is by Sir Pogo, who lives in a very different castle, Castle Vexstein.  Their main industry is brewing the drink Vex, which has a monopoly in brewed drinks throughout the country. It’s a complete contrast from Castle Marsh, the focus of the Princelings series, and increasingly the source of most of the troubles that are brewing.

Celebrating the Yuletide Season at Castle Vexstein,by Sir Pogo

Castle Vexstein.jpegThe Yuletide season is one of relaxation and happiness for all who belong to Vexstein, from the lowliest to the highest, currently my uncle, Baron Smallweed, who succeeded a few years ago following the death of my other uncle, the late Baron Darcy.

The relaxation stems in part to the fact that we close down production at the brewery for the ten day holiday.  This allows everyone to have a good break and for all the equipment to be thoroughly cleaned and overhauled.   So Solstice really starts with the end of the last shift, and to mark that, we have a firework display over the brewery, and a street market with vendors selling hot drinks and snacks, playing music and dancing, on the streets outside the castle walls.

The next morning we have our formal ceremony to mark Solstice, with the elders of the family processing in their correct order through the streets of the second level to the Great Hall.  We invite our best workers to the event and also, to be democratic about it, hold a lottery for the rest of the tickets among the castle inhabitants.  I have heard that these tickets are sold to others wanting to attend, but we encourage free enterprise so do nothing to spoil our citizens’ enjoyment.  It’s good to know that people are willing to pay to attend, but I dissuaded Lord Smallweed from making it a pay-to-attend event some years back.

We have a formal dinner in the evening of Solstice with Family and any visiting dignitaries, together with the Marshals of the Castle.  Marshals are the order of people who deal with the day to day running of the castle, under Lord Smallweed’s direction, of course.  It is our main way of thanking the Marshals for their hard work during the year.

Over the next few days we have a number of family get-togethers, usually involving food and wine, and some entertainments, often encouraging talent from our citizens to show their skills.  We also have a narrating competition that is held somewhere in the first or second level for the citizens who wish to attend.  I gather it’s quite popular. Actually, it is very popular, or at least it was when I slipped away from my family duties to watch it when I was much younger.  But I don’t know that officially, you understand.

When the cleaning of the brewery is finished, we inspect it and congratulate the workers with a special party for them and an extra pack of Vex to take home to their families.  Oh, I forgot to mention the children’s party we arrange for the families of all the citizens on one of the days between Solstice and Green Willow Day.

Finally we get to Green Willow Day.  We walk the circuit of every level of the castle accompanied by all those who live on it, and those above, until we have the entire castle population walking round the lowest level. Well, not the slums outside the castle but inside the walls, obviously. I’d like to clear those out and get everyone decent accommodation, but my uncle says it’s a waste of time. The walk around the castle levels is fun, though. We finish with an open air fire and hot drinks and some food, and speeches to remind people of their duty in the new year, and everyone renews their oath to serve the Baron.  Then we go back upstairs for our formal meal and a ball, and I believe the citizens have a party too.  Then we start up production at 6 am on new year’s day and get back to normal.