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 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.


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.


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


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


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?


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 Smashwords


Christmas Time Comes with Hot Chocolate – Day 16 Advent 2017

Christmas Time Comes with Hot Chocolate

Day 16 Advent 2017

“Do you have any money for us Miss?” It must have been the 10th time on her way home from work that someone was actively asking her for money. Like the other times that evening in mid-December she shook her head, said “sorry” and tried to at least give a comforting smile. There were times when she fished a coin out of her jeans’ pocket, but she didn’t want to support alcohol or drug habits. Too often she had spotted the beggar, who sat in front of the coffee shop, in the liquor section of the supermarket. And she had grown ever warier when she had sen a man next to his cardboard checking his far more modern phone than hers, she could not afford such luxuries.

“Do you have any money for us?”
“I am really sorry, I don’t “ she lied shaking her head and smiling a comprehensive smile at the family of refugees. Her smile was answered by the little girl. Poor thing, in the cold begging.

A shiver raced down Nina’s spine. She hurried home.

When she snuggled herself into her bed with a hot chocolate and a new book, the family came back into her mind.

Without thinking, she jumped to her feet and proceeded to rummage through the kitchen cabinet. What was hot and tasty?

And she cooked.

Her kitchen was a mess. Dishes were pots were piling up in the sink. And Nina felt that she had accomplished something.

“Miss do you have some money?” The little girl asked her when Nina started to come closer to the family.

“Sorry, I don’t “ this time this was Nora lie, “but I’ve prepared you something hot to eat”.

At first, the family could not understand her. But when she opened the boxes filled with hot food their mouths started to water.

“Here, this is for you!” Nina handed a thermos to the girl. “Because even if you are in the street, Christmas time comes with hot chocolate!”

The girl’s eyes were gleaming. She nodded, not understanding the words, but understanding their meaning.

Nina got up from her knees and made a sign to tell the family that she would now leave them. Smiling they folded their hands and nodded in thanks.

After a few steps, Nina heard a “Merry Christmas!”

Merry Christmas to You by Tara Paray – Day 15 Advent 2017

Merry Christmas to You by Tara Paray

 Day 15 Advent 2017


Merry Christmas to You
by Tara Paray

If it seems rushed and hectic,
If you have to do this or that and you’re not having fun,
If you have to spend a certain amount of money or risk looking bad/cheap/Scrooge-like,
You’re doing it all wrong.

Take time to slow down, and really enjoy all the season has to offer – colorful lights, delicious treats, the company of others, the hope of peace.
The only list that’s made (or should be) this time of year is Santa’s.
And the best gifts are free.

Like a wish to you from me… and Nat King Cole.

Merry Christmas… to you.



Visit Tara at  or on twitter @Taradsf

Of Memories Of Christmas Past by Beaton – Day 14 Advent 2017

Of Memories Of Christmas Past by Beaton

Day 14 Advent 2017

Christmas is the one holiday I look forward to all year round. I see some shops have started advertising Christmas Specials, so it’s not too early to talk about the festive season………

You know it’s almost Christmas when you walk into a shop and they are playing carols and of course a Santa Claus Station where you get your photo taken, sitting on s red suited guy’s lap. This is mostly kids’ stuff. I don’t think have had my photo taken with Father Christmas since I was in kindergarten. It used to be such a big deal and you would get a gift box too, I don’t remember if our parents paid for it, if they did they never said and we never thanked them for it.

Note to myself: This year I am definitely having my photo taken with Santa or I just might be Santa my beard is practically all white I could pull off the look.

Its weird how we grow up and things that seemed to be super important when we were toddlers suddenly have less significance. All the thoughts we lose on our way to becoming adults. I can remember past Christmas holidays from my childhood as if they happened just yesterday but I can hardly remember my last Christmas.

Growing every Christmas we got new clothes, new shoes and then a gift probably a toy or board game. You would wake up on Christmas morning and you could practically smell Christmas. Christmas smells like my mum’s baking, a multi coloured cake we called The Rainbow cake. I thought it looked a touch hideous but my grandmother loved it to so every Christmas it showed up it was tradition.

I remember grandma telling me the story of how a saviour was born in a stable and lay in manger and how we must not forget the true meaning of why we celebrate Christmas, if it was not true why do all the cows and goats wake up facing east, to watch the sunrise; to honour a king. I never saw them actually do this and grandma used to laugh when I asked and told me I was not waking up early enough…. I haven’t seen them do it but I tell the story anyway….

What’s Christmas without a tree

What’s a Christmas tree without decorations

What’s Christmas breakfast without bread and jam and cake

What’s Christmas without memories like these

Christmas seems like an affair for children but don’t be fooled, the older generation are moved beyond words at a chance to see their children with their children’s children and possibly their children’s children’s children since it now seems we only ever gather like this at funerals….

Writing this post has put me in the festive spirit and this Christmas I will definitely put in the effort, I’ll even buy cards and post them, I’ll dress up in a red jump suit and give gifts, I will tell stories and create timeless memories……

Stay festive


This post was originally published on Beaton’s blog on the 25th of September 2017, check it out for some pictures.



I am an analogue man in a digital world….. Evolved to tell tales and start fires, my spirit an


imal is a dragon, and I am mastering digital storytelling…

You can read me on my blog

Facebook www.

Or find me tweeting my life away 280 characters at a time on twitter @beatonm5


Sankta Lucia by Annika Perry – Day 13 Advent 2017

Sankta Lucia by Annika Perry

Day 13 Advent 2017


TODAY in Sweden nearly every home, school, hospital, factory, workplace, church, hotel and restaurant is celebrating LUCIA.

Lucia is the Bringer of Light and is celebrated on what, in the old almanac, was the darkest day of the year. The day is one of light, hope and love. The tradition has its roots in St. Lucia of Syracuse who died as a martyr in AD304.

Whilst the dark holds its firm grip on night, households across the country waken and quietly prepare. The long white gowns will have been carefully ironed the day before, the red sash belts laid out, candles and matches placed at the ready.

Lucia herself carries a crown of candles on her head. These are often now battery powered but not too long ago normal wax candles were used. The crown was placed on a damp handkerchief on the head. As the wax melted onto the damp fabric, a sizzling sound could be heard by those closest.

As well as Lucia there are her attendants, tärnor, who are dressed in white gowns with a silver glitter circle on their heads and carrying a lit candle.

In the later years a place was also made for boys, mainly as Star boys, stjärngossar, wearing a white gown, a pointed conic hat with a star and carrying a silver star stave. Recently younger boys are also dressed as gingerbread men.

The hushed bustle of the waiting crowd falls to stillness and into the darkness comes Lucia and her train, the glittering light from the candles heralding her visit, traditional songs sending a dusting of heaven across the darkness.

At this point both men and women are tear-eyed.

As the Lucia train approaches the songs ring light and clear. One is ‘Sankta Lucia’, which is the song that epitomises Lucia. Its evocative tones weave their way into my soul. I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this.

Here is the translation of the first verse:

‘The darkness lies weightily
on fields and cottages
in places forgotten by the sun
the shadows brood.
Into our dark homes She steps
with lighted candles on her head
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.’

The spirits continue to soar as Lucia and her attendants come to a halt, either at the front of a larger gathering or if at a home in front of the rest of the family.

Now other festive songs lilt their way across the break of morning, the star boys even having their own solo performance. The mystical magical aura shimmers in the candlelight, spreading across the nation.

Being Sweden no festive occasion would be complete without its own traditional fare. Particular for this day are Lussekatter (Lucia Kitten Buns), which are made with saffron. Also on offer are pepparkakor, cinnamon/ginger biscuits. Although many in Sweden now buy theirs. To drink there is either coffee, milk or for the more daring a cup of julglögg. Please, join me today, on this special Lucia day for a cup of coffee or glögg. Help yourself to Pepparkakor. Enjoy the song below whilst you nibble away. Happy Lucia to you all!

This was originally posted on Annika’s Blog on the 13th of December 2015, find the original, with pictures here.

Midwinter by Holly Geely – Day 12 Advent 2017

Midwinter by Holly Geely

Day 12 Advent 2017




‘Tis early on midwinter’s day

And Nature is in all her glory

Never was a day more perfect

Not in any rhyme, or story.


Her beauty is beyond compare.


O see. the sparkling winter morn

With blanket white upon the ground!

Fresh footprints trail across the lawn,

And I, well…I’m still laying down.


It’s really freakin’ cold out there.

Frozen Garden by E.E. Rawls – Day 11 Advent 2017 

Frozen Garden by E.E. Rawls

Day 11 Advent 2017


“Frozen Garden”

I stand in the snow
In the garden that has turned into a world of white.
All is silent
No birds, no singing crickets
Nothing but the tiny bubbling of a frozen creak
As its waters battle to flow beneath the ice.
There are no colors around me but white
And the dark bark of trees that have fallen into slumber.
I feel alone in the silence, the stillness, the colorlessness
As if I am the only living thing that remains
As if death has taken away everyone and everything I’ve known.
The cold air bites at my skin
And I pull my scarf closer.
Winter reminds me of solitude, a beautiful sadness
And the inevitability of death
The ice freezing over living things until they surrender.
I shudder, and my exhale is like a puff of smoke in the air.
I hear a chirp sound suddenly
And I crane my neck to look up.
There before me stands a pine tree, alive and ever green
And pecking about its branches a chickadee, who merrily chirps at me.
There are deer tracks in the snow at the tree’s base
And the remnants of a pinecone decimated by squirrels.
Something is still living, I realize, still surviving despite this frozen world
And my loneliness begins to melt.
This ever green is like a symbol…
In the midst of cold, the warmth of life can be found,
In the midst of silence, the rhythm of beating hearts can be heard,
In the midst of darkness, a saving light can be seen,
In the midst of lonely winter, there is companionship with God.
Winter is silent and deadly, but Christmas is merry and alive,
It is a reminder of both, that where there is death there is also new life,
Jesus died with our sins, and rose alive from the dead.
This frigid season is not as desolate as I had thought
Even if it lacks the thrill and vibrancy of summer
Winter has its own different kind of life.
My footsteps crunch in the snow as I turn and exit the frozen garden
A garden that is still alive under the layers of snow
Waiting beneath my shoes for spring.
I smile, and know that I will view winter differently from now on.



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.

Christmas Mash-Up by Stephanie Ascough – Day 9 Advent 2017

Christmas Mash-Up by Stephanie Ascough

Day 9 Advent 2017

I hope you are all enjoying the Christmas season! Building holiday traditions with my family makes me happy. We may be slow to decorate, but the handmade ornaments, Christmas candles and fragrant evergreen tree delight us all nonetheless. We’ll enjoy looking at Christmas lights and singing carols at our church.
What has fascinated me for several years now are the many origins of Christmas celebrations. Refill your cocoa mug and light an evergreen candle, because this is gonna be fun.

IMG_1453As with most everything, most of the traditions we enjoy today during Christmas come from a variety of sources. A Christmas mash-up, in fact. Saturnalia, an ancient Roman winter celebration, is one of the biggest contributors, from which we generally acknowledge that feasting with friends and family, gift-giving and revelry started out. During these celebrations, children would be given some adult freedoms (like being served at the table) and servants and noblemen traded places. Evergreen boughs were decorated with gold ornaments, since gold represented the sun god Saturn, the festival’s namesake.
I found this one piece of information that I haven’t been able to turn up anywhere else, so take this with a grain of salt: one ancient culture believed that in order to secure their gods’ favor for another year, their king had to die. Every year, in the darkest of winter, a prisoner was chosen to act on behalf of the king-you know, to save on yearly coronation costs. The prisoner would be dressed and treated as the king. At the end of the ceremony, he would be killed instead of the king. (I kind of got chills just writing that.). Thus, it was believed that the god would hold off the powers of darkness, keeping the people safe for another year.
Anyone know anything else about this? And anyone else kind of glad we don’t celebrate winter traditions this way any more? Me too.
Then there are the German and Celtic origins of the Christmas tree. Take Krampus, Santa Claus’s evil counterpart, who appears to have been stripped of his evil behavior and absorbed by Santa in most of the Western world. Before there was Elf on the Shelf, there was Bundle of Sticks in the House, by which children were motivated to good behavior for fear of being beaten by the demon-like creature who shimmied down chimneys during Christmas time. Although, he does appear to be making a bit of a comeback. My sister saw him in a street parade.
The early church seemed to think that if they overtook Saturnalia, traditional things like orgies would disappear completely. They decided to change the date of Jesus’ birthday to December 25th, the day Saturnalia had been celebrated. The Romans could now completely stop all their festivities and gift-giving, thank you very much. (Never mind that Jesus’ birth had originally been celebrated on January 6th, and that it likely took place in the summer anyway!)
And here we are today. I celebrate Christ’s birth and sing carols that remind me of his incarnation. That’s very important to me, and it is year-round too. I’m glad that the early demands to stop gift-giving didn’t stick, that I don’t *have* to tie up bundles of sticks to scare my children into good behavior, and that prisoners are not killed for the sake of winter festivals. It certainly doesn’t hurt to take a look at holiday origins and remember that all is definitely not as 21st century America paints it to be.
Ah, Christmas. It is what you make it. How do you celebrate?

Stephanie Ascough is a writer, wife, and mother, though not exactly in that order. She loves to write children’s fiction, flash fiction, fantasy, and anything that comes from the heart. You can find her at her blog,