Christmas/Winter Books

I think that if you live in the UK there are lots of children’s books which make you think – Christmas – it’s because of that fabulous tradition pantomime. My local theatre always has about 2 months of panto from the beginning of December and well into January. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, Puss in Boots, Peter Pan – something different every year. All of those stories spell Christmas and if you’re lucky – as we were in Kirkcaldy, it’ll be produced and performed by a real veteran of the craft, the late Jimmy Logan was great in panto.

Oscar Wilde stories

I have a book of Oscar Wilde stories for children which is illustrated by P.J Lynch. I love the cover which as you can see is of snowy medieval rooftops and the first story in the book is The Selfish Giant who doesn’t want to share his garden and builds a huge wall around it to keep children out. It’s forever winter in his garden – The Snow covered up the grass with her great white cloak and the Frost painted all the trees silver. It’s only when he learns to share it that the garden is transformed by the spring. This is a Christian story but if like me you aren’t particularly religious it’s still worth a read, you should be able to read it here in his Happy Prince and other stories anthology.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Again, this series is very Christian, but don’t let that put you off. What is it about cold and ice, it’s always used in literature to portray evil and nastiness? It could just as well be used to mean pure and clean, but that doesn’t seem to happen. In the first book of the series, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe Lucy explains about the White Queen: She isn’t a real queen at all, she’s a horrible witch, the White Witch. She has made an enchantment over the whole country so that it is always winter here and never Christmas.

White Queen Narnia

What a ghastly thought, but fear not, at the end of the last Narnia book Father Christmas turns up! C.S. Lewis was a good friend of J.R.R. Tolkien and when Tolkien read that bit he advised Lewis to take that bit out of the book before sending it to his publisher, he felt that it spoiled it but Lewis was determined to keep it in. I’m in two minds about it.

One of my sons was obsessed with the Narnia books as a youngster, in fact I almost lost my voice reading them to him, way past the time when he could read perfectly well himself! Then he got obsessed with the Doctor Who books.

Next week, I’ll chat about some more Christmas/Winter books which I’ve enjoyed, sometimes re-reading them to get me in the mood for the season.

Hard Winters, the Tories and Narnia

I bet you don’t think that the three things in the title have anything in common, but they do, well I think they do.

I caught the back end of one of the Narnia episodes which were on TV during the Christmas holidays, it was the wicked queen doing her stuff. We used to be steeped in Narnia here as Gordon my youngest son was obsessed with the books and videos at one point. It always reminded me of the winters of 1979/80/81 which were terribly cold, worse than anything that I had ever experienced before.

When we moved down to Essex the diesel in the removal lorry’s tank froze and the men had to light a fire underneath it to thaw it out, scary stuff. This all coincided with the Conservative party getting into power – in the shape of the dreaded and evil Maggie Thatcher. So you can see why she reminds me of the wicked witch – and vice versa. Evil was stalking the land and so freezing cold winters came along to torment us, just as in Narnia when evil had the upper-hand.

So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the same thing has happened again as we now have the self-confessed ‘sons of Margaret Thatcher’ at the helm. As before, the freezing winter came just before the Tories got into power, when evil was gaining strength. I predict that as we are in the middle of our second freezing winter on the trot, we’ll probably have another one next year too. I blame all those Old Etonian millionaires. But I’m also reminded of Tom Brown’s Schooldays by Thomas Hughes. Prime Minister Cameron and all his Old Etonian pals in the Cabinet are just exactly like the dastardly Flashman and his chums, except that was set at Rugby. I suppose one English public school bunch is much the same as another.

When J.M. Barrie decided to make his Peter Pan character Captain Hook an evil Old Etonian he obviously knew exactly what he was doing. But I cheer myself up by remembering what was in store for Captain Hook!